The trickle-down effect

Della Bradshaw:

For decades companies have faced the conundrum of how to ensure managers can implement what they have learnt at business school when they are back at work. Management guru Henry Mintzberg, scourge of business school complacency, sums it up succinctly: “You should not send a changed person back into an unchanged organisation, but we always do.”
Now Mintzberg’s Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, among others, is addressing the issue of how to ensure the dollars invested in the classroom convert into dollars for the corporate bottom line.
One idea gaining currency is that of “cascading”, in which every manager who has been on a campus-based course has to teach a group of more junior colleagues back in the workplace. It has been more than a decade since Duke CE, the corporate education arm of Duke University, North Carolina, US, promoted the concept, but advances in workplace technology are accelerating its adoption.
“The leader as teacher is very effective,” says Ray Carvey, executive vice-president of corporate learning at Harvard Business Publishing. “The leader goes back and cascades [what he or she has learnt].”

L.A. Schools Rethink Suspensions

Erica Phillips:

Damien Valentine was suspended from school for the first time as a seventh-grader in South Central Los Angeles, after arguing with a math teacher who had asked him to change seats.
Mr. Valentine, now a 16-year-old sophomore, said he was sent home for a day-and-a-half for “willful defiance,” a term encompassing a variety of misbehavior that California schools can use as reason to remove students from the classroom.
This week, the Los Angeles Unified School District–the second-largest in the nation–decided to end the practice of suspending or expelling students for “willful defiance,” starting this fall. District officials said the practice disproportionately affects minority students’ education and leads to more disciplinary problems for students down the line.

How Could a Sweet Third-Grader Just Cheat on That School Exam?

Sue Shellenbarger:

When Kaci Taylor Avant got caught cheating on a test a few months back, the teacher called her mother, who was nothing less than stunned. After all, Kaci always does her homework and gets mostly As in school. Mother and daughter had already had “the talk” about how cheating was wrong. And then there’s Kaci’s age.
“I had to ask myself, ‘Wow, really? She is only 8!’ ” says her mother Laina Avant, a Paterson, N.J., network engineer.
As school-testing season heats up this spring, many elementary-school parents are getting similar calls.
The line between right and wrong in the classroom is often hazy for young children, and shaping the moral compass of children whose brains are still developing can be one of the trickiest jobs a parent faces. Many parents overreact or misread the motivations of small children, say researchers and educators, when it is actually more important to explore the underlying cause.

How to escape education’s death valley

Sir Ken Robinson:

Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish — and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational “death valley” we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility.
Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we’re educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence. Full bio »

Greek Civil servants strike as teachers forced to work

Civil servants are to walk off the job on Tuesday in a bid to express solidarity with secondary school teachers after the government issued a civil mobilization order to force teachers to work on Friday when they had planned an anti-austerity strike.
Civil servants are to hold a rally on Tuesday, starting at 10 a.m. outside the main entrance to Athens University, following a small demonstration in the city center on Monday by teachers. ADEDY has also joined forces with the main private labor union, GSEE, in planning a work stoppage for Thursday, from noon until the end of the workers’ shifts.
The government on Monday issued civil mobilization papers to some 88,000 teachers who face arrest and possible dismissal if they fail to turn up for work from Wednesday, when the order comes into effect.
The Education Ministry reportedly made a concession, however, withdrawing a presidential decree foreseeing thousands of compulsory transfers of teachers – one of the key points of contention of protesting teachers – for revision.

Closing California’s education gap

Michele Siqueiros:

California has proved to be a land of opportunity where hard work delivers prosperity and nurtures innovation. Its human capital has helped the state develop into the world’s ninth-largest economy, which attracts nearly half of the venture capital in the nation.
But this opportunity and success have not reached everyone, and the California dream is in danger of slipping away.
Today, California ranks first in the country in the number of working low-income families. “Working Hard, Left Behind,” a new study conducted by the Campaign for College Opportunity, found that millions in the state are working hard but are increasingly left behind. More than a third of California’s working families are considered low income, earning less than $45,397 a year for a family of four.
There is a solution. The study also found that higher education is a proven pathway from poverty to prosperity for working Californians. And it can work, even in these difficult economic times, if there is a will for reform and investment in the state’s higher education system.

General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis Email About Being ‘Too Busy To Read’ Is A Must-Read

Geoffrey Ingersoll:

Security Blog “Strife” out of Kings College in London recently published Mattis’ words with a short description from the person who found it in her email.
Their title for the post:
With Rifle and Bibliography: General Mattis on Professional Reading
[Dear, “Bill”]
The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.
With [Task Force] 58, I had w/ me Slim’s book, books about the Russian and British experiences in [Afghanistan], and a couple others. Going into Iraq, “The Siege” (about the Brits’ defeat at Al Kut in WW I) was req’d reading for field grade officers. I also had Slim’s book; reviewed T.E. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”; a good book about the life of Gertrude Bell (the Brit archaeologist who virtually founded the modern Iraq state in the aftermath of WW I and the fall of the Ottoman empire); and “From Beirut to Jerusalem”. I also went deeply into Liddell Hart’s book on Sherman, and Fuller’s book on Alexander the Great got a lot of my attention (although I never imagined that my HQ would end up only 500 meters from where he lay in state in Babylon).

Wifi in Schools is a Potential Health Hazard


One of the bigger names in Canadian technology has come forth to speak out on a highly controversial topic. Frank Clegg, who worked at Microsoft for 15 years and was president of Microsoft Canada from 2000 to 2005, is opposed to wireless internet in schools.
“There are already children who can’t go to school because of headaches, nausea and heart problems from the wireless systems,” says Clegg. “Some of these kids have a doctor’s note to prove it. This is a real hazard.”
On Wednesday the American Academy of Environmental Medicine announced that medical doctors are treating patients who have fallen ill from school wireless systems. Clegg plans to address parents and teachers at a public meeting in Mississauga tonight at 7pm.

Madison Superintendent on Proposed Teacher Union Contract Extension

Pat Schneider:

Madison teachers are eager to nail down another labor contract — through June 2015 at least — while the door to legally do so is open.
But it’s going to be a while before Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is ready to consider sitting down with them.
Madison Teachers Inc. hopes to negotiate a contract beyond the one-year pact quickly approved by School Board members last fall after a local judge ruled parts of Act 10 unconstitutional, delaying implementation of the state law curbing collective bargaining rights.
“I’m just starting” on the job, Cheatham told a crowd of 150 gathered at West High School last week to talk with the superintendent, who took the helm of the Madison School District on April 1. “I need to finish this entry plan before I would be willing to consider, with (MTI Executive Director John Matthews) and our colleagues at MTI, entering into negotiations.”

Are School Vouchers Worth It?

Express Milwaukee:

Are taxpayers really getting their bang for their buck when it comes to funding school vouchers?
The short answer from the Forward Institute is no.
The new, progressive public policy research organization released its comprehensive report today on Wisconsin’s education funding and poverty and it’s well worth a close read.
A portion of the report examines taxpayer funding for voucher schools and their performance.
Now, this isn’t easy to do since schools that accept vouchers don’t have to provide the kind of data that fully public schools provide, even though the state has enhanced some of the voucher schools’ accountability measures.
That said, the Forward Institute chose to look at state aid per pupil and the percentage of students that test proficient or advanced on state tests. (You’ll find all of this on page 46 of the report.)
Let’s just acknowledge here that both public schools and voucher schools take in money from other sources. Both types of schools typically spend more per pupil than what they receive from state taxpayers.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Racism and immigration policy: The Richwine affair

The Economist:

JASON RICHWINE, a co-author of the widely trashed Heritage Foundation study on the the costs of immigration, “resigned” his post at Heritage Friday after his doctoral dissertation on immigration and IQ fell under a shadow of suspected racism. Harvard awarded Mr Richwine a PhD in 2009 for work arguing that Hispanic immigrants are less intelligent than non-Hispanic white Americans, that this gap has a genetic basis, and that immigration policy should discriminate against less intelligent groups of people, albeit under the cover of the language of “low skill” and “high skill” immigrants. Is this really racist?
Following a useful summary of Mr Richwine’s thesis, Robert VerBruggen of National Review makes a plea for letting science, rather than social opprobrium, settle scientific questions:

A Team Approach to Get Students College Ready

David Bornstein
When Parker Sheffy, a first-year teacher in the Bronx Leadership Academy II, a high school in the South Bronx, talks shop with friends who are also new teachers, he often hears about the problems they are facing: students not showing up to class on time, not understanding their work, not doing homework. “I’m thinking: I don’t have that problem… I don’t have that problem…” Sheffy recalled. In his ninth grade integrated algebra class, he estimates that 80 to 90 percent are on track to pass the Regents exam, more than double last year’s figure.
“But I have to remind myself that this is not just because of me,” Sheffy said. “I’m one of six people who have created this class.”
Sheffy’s school is one of three New York City public schools working with an organization called Blue Engine, which recruits and places recent college graduates as full-time teaching assistants in high schools, helps teachers shift to a small-group classroom model with a ratio of one instructor for roughly every six students, uses data tracking to generate rapid-fire feedback so problems can be quickly addressed, and provides weekly instruction in “social cognition” classes, where students are introduced to skills and concepts — such as the difference between a “fixed” and a “growth” mind-set — that can help them grasp their untapped potential.
Blue Engine also targets algebra, geometry and English language arts in the ninth and 10th grades because performance in these so-called “gateway” courses is associated with college success.
Despite its modest size and short track record, Blue Engine has already seized the attention of educators and attracted notice from President Obama. Last year, in its schools, as a result of the program, the number of students who met the “college ready” standard — scoring above 80 on their Regents exams in algebra, geometry or English language arts — nearly tripled, from 49 to 140.
Katherine Callaghan, the principal of the Bronx Leadership Academy II, who has worked in the school for more than 10 years, said: “Blue Engine has moved a huge number of our students in a way that nothing else that we’ve ever tried has been able to do.” She added: “Last year we had a 44 percent pass rate on the integrated algebra Regents, with two kids scoring above an 80. This year, we’re on track for 75 or 80 percent passing, with 20 kids hitting the college-ready mark. We’re close to doubling our pass rate and multiplying by a factor of 10 our college-ready rate.”
Gains like this are not often seen in education. So it’s worth taking note. What’s happening?

Read more here.

An avalanche is coming: Higher education and the revolution ahead

Michael Barber, Katelyn Donnelly, Saad Rizvi:

‘Our belief is that deep, radical and urgent transformation is required in higher education as much as it is in school systems. Our fear is that, perhaps as a result of complacency, caution or anxiety, or a combination of all three, the pace of change is too slow and the nature of change too incremental.’
‘Should we fail to radically change our approach to education, the same cohort we’re attempting to “protect” could find that their entire future is scuttled by our timidity.’
David Puttnam, MIT, 2012
This wide-ranging essay aims to provoke creative dialogue and challenge complacency in our traditional higher education institutions.
‘Just as globalisation and technology have transformed other huge sectors of the economy in the past 20 years, in the next 20 years universities face transformation.’
With a massive diversification in the range of providers, methods and technologies delivering tertiary education worldwide, the assumptions underlying the traditional relationship between universities, students and local and national economies are increasingly under great pressure – a revolution is coming.

What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools?

Pasi Sahlberg:

“To prepare young people for a more competitive economy, our school systems must have less competition.”
Many governments are under political and economic pressure to turn around their school systems for higher rankings in the international league tables. Education reforms often promise quick fixes within one political term. Canada, South Korea, Singapore and Finland are commonly used models for the nations that hope to improve teaching and learning in their schools. In search of a silver bullet, reformers now turn their eyes on teachers, believing that if only they could attract “the best and the brightest” into the teaching profession, the quality of education would improve.
“Teacher effectiveness” is a commonly used term that refers to how much student performance on standardized tests is determined by the teacher. This concept hence applies only to those teachers who teach subjects on which students are tested. Teacher effectiveness plays a particular role in education policies of nations where alternative pathways exist to the teaching profession.
In the United States, for example, there are more than 1,500 different teacher-preparation programs. The range in quality is wide. In Singapore and Finland only one academically rigorous teacher education program is available for those who desire to become teachers.
Likewise, neither Canada nor South Korea has fast-track options into teaching, such as Teach for America or Teach First in Europe. Teacher quality in high-performing countries is a result of careful quality control at entry into teaching rather than measuring teacher effectiveness in service.
In recent years the “no excuses”‘ argument has been particularly persistent in the education debate. There are those who argue that poverty is only an excuse not to insist that all schools should reach higher standards. Solution: better teachers. Then there are those who claim that schools and teachers alone cannot overcome the negative impact that poverty causes in many children’s learning in school.
Solution: Elevate children out of poverty by other public policies.
For me the latter is right. In the United States today, 23 percent of children live in poor homes. In Finland, the same way to calculate child poverty would show that figure to be almost five times smaller. The United States ranked in the bottom four in the recent United Nations review on child well-being.

Related: MTEL 90: Teacher Content Knowledge Licensing Requirements Coming To Wisconsin…..

How to Reinvent College

Nick Romeo:

An undergraduate having to pay off $120,000, and a university that has more than $165 million in debt? Paying adjuncts less but having them teach more, and instructors who give As 43 percent of the time? Nick Romeo on a new book that critiques how higher education has changed, and what needs to be done to save it.
Ask a 17-year-old about college and you’ll probably hear the word “fit.” It’s the most pervasive and elusive metaphor of the college search: a quasi-religious, quasi-romantic sense of rightness that descends on students as they tour the manicured lawns of the perfect school, the one that feels, in some mystical way, like a good fit.
The hazy imprecision of this notion is a triumph of college marketing. Many colleges hope that whims and intangibles will guide student decisions. It’s simply not in their interest to encourage students to think closely about the economics of their choice.

Connecticut Governor’s Education Package Faces Funding Hurdle

Joseph De Avila:

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s determination to build on his signature legislative achievement last year–an education package worth about $100 million–now faces hurdles as the state’s leaders address a $1.5 billion budget shortfall.
Last year’s legislative package set up several initiatives including a network to aid underperforming schools, statewide teacher evaluations and more spending on new state charter schools.
Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, wants to spend another $61 million to further expand those programs over the next two fiscal years. But the appropriations committee, controlled by the governor’s fellow Democrats, wants to reduce that amount by $47 million and shift that money to other education pursuits such as after-school programs and health clinics based at schools.

Two D.C. high schools dare to require deep research

Jay Matthews:

I often despair over the sorry state of writing and research in our high schools. Only private schools and public schools with the International Baccalaureate diploma program require research papers of significant length. Two million new high school graduates head to college every year — but only 10 percent, by my reckoning — have had to write a long paper or do a major project.
The only traditional public school in this region requiring that for all students is Wakefield High School in Arlington County. It is a remarkable feat for a school in which half the students are from low-income families.
Recently I discovered that two public charter schools are doing this in the District, providing more encouragement to those of us who think working through a complex, long-form research problem is the essence of a good education.
The Capitol Hill and Parkside campuses of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy require all seniors to write a 12- to 15-page paper on a policy issue of their choice and then defend it before a panel of outside experts. Eighty percent of students at the two schools are from low-income families.

Are You Attending a University With Bad Credit?

Thierry Godard :

There’s an ongoing debating about the actual value of higher education. Countless articles and studies depict the declining return on investment for students and families. Simply put college graduates are not generating enough income to justify their expensive degrees.
In the same way, some universities are also struggling to manage their finances. To highlight the universities having some of the biggest issues, we took a look at those with the lowest credit ratings… and we were pretty surprised by who we found.
What’s in a credit rating?
A university is just like a large company, or country. It borrows money frequently to cover its operating costs like salaries of the professors, maintenance, maintaining the dormitories, making sure the library is stocked, and keeping the sports program in tip top shape.
In order to finance these and new projects like the addition of new buildings or the development of new curriculum, universities issue bonds. The bonds are then traded on public markets to raise capital. For investors and lenders to know how worthy (or unworthy) the institution is, credit rating companies like Moody’s and Standard & Poors issue them a score.
Moody’s is the current leader in the university credit rating industry. It examines the finances of nearly all the 4,495 title-iv degree granting universities in the United States. According to its estimates only 11% (500) of the total number of universities are currently financially stable enough to stave off economic, demographic and technological shifts.

‘An Open Letter to Professor Michael Sandel From the Philosophy Department at San Jose State U.’

The Chronicle:

Professors in the philosophy department at San Jose State University wrote the following letter to make a direct appeal to Michael Sandel, a Harvard professor whose MOOC on “Justice” they were being encouraged to use as part of the San Jose State curriculum. (See a related article and a response from Mr. Sandel.)
San Jose State University recently announced a contract with edX (a company
associated with MIT and Harvard) to expand the use of online blended courses.
The SJSU Philosophy Department was asked to pilot your JusticeX course, and we
refused. We decided to express to you our reasons for refusing to be involved with this course, and, because we believe that other departments and universities will sooner or later face the same predicament, we have decided to share our reasons with you publicly.
There is no pedagogical problem in our department that JusticeX solves, nor do we have a shortage of faculty capable of teaching our equivalent course.
We believe that long-term financial considerations motivate the call for massively open online courses (MOOCs) at public universities such as ours. Unfortunately, the move to MOOCs comes at great peril to our university. We regard such courses as a serious compromise of quality of education and, ironically for a social justice course, a case of social injustice.

Academic publishing Free-for-all Open-access scientific publishing is gaining ground

The Economist:

AT THE beginning of April, Research Councils UK, a conduit through which the government transmits taxpayers’ money to academic researchers, changed the rules on how the results of studies it pays for are made public. From now on they will have to be published in journals that make them available free–preferably immediately, but certainly within a year.
In February the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy told federal agencies to make similar plans. A week before that, a bill which would require free access to government-financed research after six months had begun to wend its way through Congress. The European Union is moving in the same direction. So are charities. And SCOAP3, a consortium of particle-physics laboratories, libraries and funding agencies, is pressing all 12 of the field’s leading journals to make the 7,000 articles they publish each year free to read. For scientific publishers, it seems, the party may soon be over.

How To Teach History

Larry Cuban:

Here is how a journalist described a class she watched a few months ago in a Northern California high school.
In the 1986 comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ben Stein famously plays a high school teacher who drones on about the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act while his students slump at their desks in a collective stupor. For many kids, that’s history: an endless catalog of disconnected dates and names, passed down like scripture from the state textbook, seldom questioned and quickly forgotten.
Now take a seat inside Will Colglazier’s classroom at Aragon High School in San Mateo. The student population here is fairly typical for the Bay Area: about 30 percent Latino, 30 percent Asian and 40 percent white. The subject matter is standard 11th grade stuff: What caused the Great American Dust Bowl?
Tapping on his laptop, Colglazier shows the class striking black-and-white images of the choking storms that consumed the Plains states in the 1930s. Then he does something unusual. Instead of following a lesson plan out of the textbook, he passes out copies of a 1935 letter, written by one Caroline Henderson to the then-U.S. secretary of agriculture, poignantly describing the plight of her neighbors in the Oklahoma panhandle. He follows that with another compelling document: a confidential high-level government report, addressed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, decrying the region’s misguided homesteading policies.

2001: A School Odyssey

Nick Case:

Over the last twelve years, I’ve gone from rote learning in an Eastern education, to a fast-track Western education, to mentorship as an intern, to self-direction in a startup incubator.
They announced the 2013 Thiel Fellows this week, one of whom is yours truly. The Thiel Fellowship is an annual $100k award for twenty teenagers to stop school and start something.
That’s not to say school is worthless.
Switching schools, and switching countries, has exposed me to many teaching philosophies and cultures. I’ve learned things more valuable than anything found in one curriculum alone. Leaving school behind, I must remember those lessons.
My academic life has ended, and this post is its eulogy.

Education and the French mindset Bangalore-sur-Seine?

The Economist:

WHEN French entrepreneurs decided in March to launch a swanky new school for software developers, they thought they were on to something. But even they were startled by its popularity. For 1,000 student places starting this autumn on a three-year course, they have fully 50,000 applications.
France has a skills mismatch. Joblessness has reached 10.6%, a 14-year high. For the under-25s, it is 26%. Yet, according to a poll by the French Association of Software Publishers and Internet Solutions, 72% of software firms are having trouble recruiting–and 91% of those are seeking software engineers and developers.
Such frustrations spurred Xavier Niel, the billionaire founder of Iliad, a broadband firm, and his business pals to set up the new school–which is wilfully disruptive of France’s highly centralised, state-dominated education system. It is privately financed–Mr Niel is investing €70m ($92m)–but will be free for students. It will lead to no state-recognised diploma and applicants need no formal qualifications, although the admissions literature warns would-be students that they “will have to work hard”.

Salaries of public college chiefs rise, median tops $400,000

Atossa Araxia Abrahamian:

Salaries of presidents of U.S. public universities rose almost 5 percent in the last fiscal year, even as tuition rose and student debt soared, with the median pay package topping $400,000, according to a report released on Sunday.
Penn State’s Graham Spanier was the top earner last year at the time he was fired over the Jerry Sandusky scandal, according to the study by the Chronicle of Higher Education, though his compensation was inflated by $2.4 million in severance pay and deferred compensation.
The median total compensation for the public university presidents in fiscal year 2011-2012 was $441,392, the study found. Four of the presidents earned more than $1 million, and the median base pay jumped 2 percent to $373,800.
Spanier received total compensation of $2.9 million, the same fiscal year that he was fired for his handling of the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Student Debt Slows Growth as Young Spend Less

Annie Lowrey:

The anemic economy has left millions of younger working Americans struggling to get ahead. The added millstone of student loan debt, which recently exceeded $1 trillion in total, is making it even harder for many of them, delaying purchases of things like homes, cars and other big-ticket items and acting as a drag on growth, economists said.
Consider Shane Gill, a 33-year-old high-school teacher in New York City. He does not have a car. He does not own a home. He is not married. And he is no anomaly: like hundreds of thousands of others in his generation, he has put off such major purchases or decisions in part because of his debts.
Mr. Gill owes about $45,000 in federal student loans, plus another $40,000 to his parents. That investment in his future has led to a secure job with decent pay and good benefits. But it has left him with tremendous financial constraints, as he faces chipping away at the debt for years on end.
“There’s this anxiety: what if I decided I wanted to get married or have children?” Mr. Gill said. “I don’t know how I would. And that adds to the sense of precariousness. There’s a persistent, buzzing kind of toothache around it.”

Rarely As Simple As It Seems – Pension Reform Edition

Andrew Rotherham:

In April there was a dust-up in the finance and education worlds when the American Federation of Teachers called out Dan Loeb, founder and CEO of a hedge fund, for simultaneously investing teacher pension fund assets while serving on the board of StudentsFirst’s chapter in New York, which advocates for pension reform, and advocating reform of teacher pensions himself. The whole episode was part of an enemies list exercise (pdf) by the AFT to put money mangers on notice if they deviated from the union’s line on pension reform. And it was, of course, easy fodder for one dimensional takes.
But as is often the case the reality was more complicated. For starters, because of multiple issues including irresponsible decisions by state legislators and unsustainable benefit schemes demanded by public employee unions (yes there is plenty of blame to go around) there is an enormous problem with financing pensions (pdf). But, for the most part, so far reforms have come at the expense of teachers, generally new teachers, rather than comprehensive efforts to reform how we finance retirement for educators. We need a richer conversation about how to simultaneously address the fiscal problems and modernize teacher retirement for today’s more mobile labor market. The choice facing policymakers is less a binary one between defined benefit pensions (those that pay participants a pre-defined benefit) and defined contribution plans (401k-style plans that provide benefits based on contributions and investment choices/performance) than it is about a subset of choices about employer and employee contributions, risk allocation, vesting rules, and issues like portability for participants. In some states Social Security participation is also an issue.

Hispanic high school graduates pass whites in college enrollment rate

Valerie Strauss:

It just so happens that in the same week that a co-author of a Heritage Foundation immigration study resigned for suggesting that Hispanics have lower IQs than whites, the Pew Research Hispanic Center released a new analysis showing that Hispanic high school graduates have passed whites in the rate of college enrollment.
In a report by Richard Fry and Paul Taylor, the center says that “a record seven-in-ten (69%) Hispanic high school graduates in the class of 2012 enrolled in college that fall, two percentage points higher than the rate (67%) among their white counterparts.”
Furthermore, the center’s analysis of new data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that according to the most recent available data, in 2011, “only 14% of Hispanic 16- to 24-year-olds were high school dropouts, half the level in 2000 (28%).”
A recent comprehensive investigation of high school graduation rates finds that 78% of Hispanics graduated from high school in 2010, an increase from 64% in 2000.

Driving students into science is a fool’s errand

Colin Macilwain:

The United States spent more than US$3 billion last year across 209 federal programmes intended to lure young people into careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The money goes on a plethora of schemes at school, undergraduate and postgraduate levels, all aimed at promoting science and technology, and raising standards of science education.
In a report published on 10 April, Congress’s Government Accountability Office (GAO) asked a few pointed questions about why so many potentially overlapping programmes coexist. The same day, the 2014 budget proposal of President Barack Obama’s administration suggested consolidating the programmes, but increasing funding.
What no one asked was whether these many activities actually benefit science and engineering, or society as a whole. My answer to both questions is an emphatic ‘no’.
Students with autism gravitate toward STEM majors
Taken individually, of course, these programmes are all very cuddly and wonderful. They are keenly pursued by governments around the world — particularly in countries that fret about their economic competitiveness, such as the United Kingdom and the United States.
But taken together, these schemes — which allocate perhaps $600 to each child passing through the US education system — constitute bad public policy. Government promotion of science careers ultimately damages science and engineering, by inflating supply and depressing demand for scientists and engineers in the employment market.

A Life of Science Was in the Cards

Anjelica L. Gonzalez

I AM a proud member of a small, emerging class of minority women with careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — the STEM fields for short. As a professor at Yale University and a scientist in the field of tissue engineering, or regenerative medicine, I’m often asked how I got to where I am. I usually respond with stories of my early interest in problem-solving and puzzles.
But if I really reflect on how I, a Latina from Las Vegas, was able to become a scientist at an elite university, it wasn’t my own curiosity. It was the influence of a blackjack dealer who also happens to be my mother.
My mother may not know the ins and outs of academia, but she taught me the essential ingredients needed to make it as a scientist in a white, male-dominated field.
A blackjack dealer works for tips. As you can imagine, a stodgy personality will not do well in a profession where you have to entertain a diverse clientele. My mother can interact with wealthy families from faraway continents as capably as she does with the locals.
As a professor and researcher, I interact with students and colleagues from all over the world, and I must communicate with each of them in an intellectual yet relatable manner. If I fail to do so, the far-reaching implications of my work are lost on the audience.
My mother’s most powerful weapon is her sense of humor. Her smile draws customers to the table, and once they are there she can gently tease a shy person into conversation or draw guffaws from an abrasive personality with a crude joke.
Likewise, whether dealing with an egotistic colleague or an insecure or disengaged student, the ability to find common ground and laugh together is the closest thing that we in academia have to a magic bullet.
My students can easily become bored or distracted when I discuss the chemistry behind metal oxidation. However, when I relate the science to descriptions of “bling-blinging rims” on car wheels, I am guaranteed a look of shock, an outburst of laughter and enough attention to relate the basics of the oxidative process. These kinds of interactions have led to the most professionally and personally rewarding experiences I’ve had as a professor.
My mother never gave up. She raised my brother and me on her own. I cannot recall a time in my life when she did not work. As a single mother, she provided the only source of income to our small family. I know there were days that she wanted to walk out of the casino and never return. Anyone who has worked in the service industry for over 30 years, as she has, knows the feeling. But an overriding sense of responsibility stopped my mom from doing so. I recall asking her, after she had spent a long night bent over the blackjack table, “How do you deal with all of those personalities every day?”
“What choice do we have?” she answered, referring to our family.
Even though I love my work, there are days when I want to run out of the lab or classroom, too. While not every day at work is the best, I stay for the “we,” just like my mom. I’ve made a commitment to myself, my employers, my students, my own family, and anyone else who relies on my accomplishments. I don’t have the choice to give up because I’m not really an “I” after all.
My mother was the first innovator I knew. Considered by her friends and family to be a creative genius, she can sew, crochet, paint, cook, sculpture, and do woodworking and metalworking. As fashion trends came and went, it was impractical for my mother to purchase name-brand designer clothes that I would outgrow within a season. She made me some harem pants that would have made MC Hammer jealous!
THE ingenuity and imagination behind this talent have become extremely valuable in my approach to engineering tissues and biomedical tools. In a field where inventiveness and innovation are keys to success, reallocating existing technologies and developing highly effective, yet low-cost, solutions to biomedical problems is what I have come to do best. It’s a little embarrassing now to think back on those harem pants, but I’ll never regret witnessing my mom’s ingenuity growing up.
Though she is not college educated and has been a blue-collar worker all of her life, my mom provided a model for much of my professional development. What are the odds?

This piece brings to mind Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World.

Georgia Tech’s new $7000 online masters degree in computer science

Ry Rivard:

The Georgia Institute of Technology plans to offer a $7,000 online master’s degree to 10,000 new students over the next three years without hiring much more than a handful of new instructors.
Georgia Tech will work with AT&T and Udacity, the 15-month-old Silicon Valley-based company, to offer a new online master’s degree in computer science to students across the world at a sixth of the price of its current degree. The deal, announced Tuesday, is portrayed as a revolutionary attempt by a respected university, an education technology startup and a major corporate employer to drive down costs and expand higher education capacity.
Georgia Tech expects to hire only eight or so new instructors even as it takes its master’s program from 300 students to as many as 10,000 within three years, said Zvi Galil, the dean of computing at Georgia Tech.

Meanwhile, in Madison, the K-12 status quo (presently $15k/student annually) continues.

What’s at Stake With Grade Inflation?

Robert Zaretsky

“By the time my students reach my classes, they’ve been deeply handicapped by a secondary-school system that teaches testing, not writing, and a culture that discourages what we once understood to be thinking.”
Truth, we’re told, is the first casualty of war. But as I hunker in my office bunker, the dull thud of history term papers landing on my desk, columns of sleep-deprived and anxiety-ridden students trudging past the door, I’m convinced that truth is also the first casualty of undergraduate paper writing. It is not only the historical truths trampled in the mangled and muddied papers written by my students. More insidiously, a deeper truth also suffers. Only tatters remain of the contract, implicit but immemorial, that teachers will grade student papers fairly and honestly. This shared conviction, that the students’ level of writing can be raised only if the teacher levels with them, now seems a historical artifact.
At the start of the spring semester, as with every semester, I told my students that while this was a history course, the most important thing I could teach them in 15 weeks was not the nature of the French revolutionary tradition, but instead to be better writers. Channeling George Orwell, I told my students that slovenliness of writing leads to foolish thoughts. Referring to France’s “mission civilisatrice,” I declared that to write well is not just a crucial skill: It is also a moral duty. They could not hope to think clearly, I intoned, if they could not write clearly. Failing this, I continued, we will also fail as citizens.
As I climbed into higher dudgeon, I said I would hold them to the highest standards–that if their writing was as sloppy at the end of the semester as it was at the start, I would have failed as a teacher. And…well, you get the idea.
To be honest, I’ve mostly failed. It is not, I think, for want of effort. I urge students to hand in rough drafts. Invariably, few take me up on the offer, and those rough drafts I receive I cover in red ink. As for the first batch of papers, I’m no less generous with corrections and suggestions. And just as my comments are in red, so too is the red line of grades: A’s are rare, C’s are common. I’ve drawn the line, and I mean business!
But, to be honest, I mean mostly funny business. Many of the final papers are as garbled as the first papers. As for the good papers, they are mostly the work of students who knew how to write when they arrived. And yet, an odd alchemy begins to crackle and pop. While the tenor of my comments remains as sharp as ever, the paper grades begin to rise toward the heavens. Or, more accurately, the grading standard–the one supposedly locked in that empyrean place–begins to sink earthward.
This has little to do with the papers, and everything to do with me.
I’ve discovered I’m weaving a fairy tale that will let me sleep at night. Not only must I believe I can repair failing writing skills and push against the tides of an increasingly post-literate popular culture, but I must also believe in my relevance as a teacher. But the future of my relevance is yoked to my students’ immediate pasts in our national high schools. By the time my students reach my classes, they’ve been deeply handicapped by a secondary-school system that teaches testing, not writing, and a culture that discourages what we once understood to be thinking.
Our mad rush to testing is, of course, the perverse consequence of our laudable determination to hold schools responsible for our children’s education. But the tests do little more than transform our schools into educational Potemkin villages. Our administrators affirm the necessity of standards, but when they are not lowering the bar, they are busily stripping from their curricula a sustained and serious apprenticeship in writing. As the graduation rate becomes the bottom line for our high schools, the pressure to pass grows irresistible–this is perhaps the most decisive factor in the “grade” the schools in turn receive every year.
Is there a similar logic at work with university professors? That the “grade” we receive in student evaluations, based on the grades we distribute, determines the making or breaking of our classes? Short of transforming my upper-level history classes into writing-composition courses–a class that my history majors do not need for their major any more than my Ph.D. in history trained me to teach–I become the students’ accomplice, not their instructor, and society’s enabler, not its critic.
Yes, this means that truth is a casualty. But we must not lose sight of who is really suffering: our students. Last year the National Assessment of Educational Progress released its “report card” on the performance in 2011 of our nation’s schools. They are flunking. Less than a quarter of high-school students performed at a proficient level of writing; only 3 percent rose to an advanced level. Increasingly, professors are called upon to teach remedial English, but often in courses based on the student’s ability to write (and read) at a proficient or advanced level. Neither student nor professor is willing to confront that truth, so we join hands in ignoring it.
The result, of course, is not the shattering of the illusions fostered by our testing culture, but their reinforcement. As Orwell sighed, we are all complicit in making lies sound respectable.

Robert Zaretsky, a professor of French history at the University of Houston Honors College, is the author of Albert Camus: Elements of a Life (Cornell University Press, 2010). His next book, A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning, will be published this fall by Harvard University Press.

A Quick Look At “Best High School” Rankings

Matthew DiCarlo:

Every year, a few major media outlets publish high school rankings. Most recently, Newsweek (in partnership with The Daily Beast) issued its annual list of the “nation’s best high schools.” Their general approach to this task seems quite defensible: To find the high schools that “best prepare students for college.”
The rankings are calculated using six measures: graduation rate (25 percent); college acceptance rate (25); AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student (25); average SAT/ACT score (10); average AP/IB/AICE score (10); and the percentage of students enrolled in at least one AP/IB/AICE course (5).
Needless to say, even the most rigorous, sophisticated measures of school performance will be imperfect at best, and the methods behind these lists have been subject to endless scrutiny. However, let’s take a quick look at three potentially problematic issues with the Newsweek rankings, how the results might be interpreted, and how the system compares with that published by U.S. News and World Report.
Self-reported data. The data for Newsweek’s rankings come from a survey, in which high schools report their results on the six measures above (as well as, presumably, some other basic information, such as enrollment). Self-reported data almost always entail comparability and consistency issues. The methodology document notes that the submissions were “screened to ensure that the data met several parameters of logic and consistency,” and that anomalies were identified and the schools contacted for verification. So, this is probably not a big deal, but it’s worth mentioning briefly.

The 21st century skill students really lack

Daniel Willingham:

Most teachers t think that students today have a problem paying attention. They seem impatient, easily bored.
I’ve argued that I think it’s unlikely that they are incapable of paying attention, but rather that they are quick to deem things not worth the effort.
We might wonder if patience would not come easier to a student who had had the experience of sustaining attention in the face of boredom, and then later finding that patience was rewarded. Arguably, digital immigrants were more likely to have learned this lesson. There were fewer sources of distraction and entertainment, and so we were a bit more likely to hang in there with something a little dull.
I remember on several occasions when I was perhaps ten, being sick at home, watching movies on television that seemed too serious for me–but I watched them because there were only three other TV channels. And I often discovered that these movies (which I would have rejected in favor of game shows) were actually quite interesting.
Students today have so many options that being mildly bored can be successfully avoided most of the time.

Debunking Five Common Myths About School Choice

Christian D’Andrea:

Recently, Step Up for Public Schools (SUPS) released a pamphlet titled “The Truth about Vouchers and Privately Run Charters.” Unfortunately, a better title for their flier would have been “Half-Truths.” SUPS raises several tired talking points about school choice in Wisconsin that have been repeatedly debated, disproven, and regurgitated over more than two decades of voucher discussion.
Today, we’ll break down their “Fast Facts” on how the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Parental Private School Choice Program (Racine) have affected education in the Badger State. While there are also some interesting statements about non-instrumentality charter schools (the same schools that regularly outscore both regular public schools and instrumentality charter schools in Milwaukee, we’ll save that for another day. Let’s look at what the SUPS has to say about Wisconsin’s voucher programs.
1. Students in the taxpayer-funded private school voucher program do not perform better than their peers in neighborhood public schools.
A: In more than 20 years of operation, there has only been one apples to apples comparison of student growth between similarly matched students from MPS and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). That study – the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) – showed very few statistically significant differences between the two groups of pupils. What they did find was that voucher students were 4-7 percent more likely to graduate, attend a four-year college, and stay in that college than their peers. While factors like parental involvement may have played a role, the study strongly suggests that these schools were a significant force behind the improved attainment of the students that chose vouchers.
One thing is clear – there’s no evidence that these voucher schools are hurting students, despite having only 50 percent or less of the funding that their traditional public school peers have had in Milwaukee. As the state’s data collection and standards improve and we learn more about student growth and the impact that individual teachers have, we’ll develop a better understanding of where MPS and MPCP schools stand in terms to serving students on a year-to-year basis.

The IQ Test Jason Richwine’s friends warned him about researching connections between race and intelligence years ago. The Heritage Foundation scholar should have listened.

David Weigel:

Four years ago, long before he’d join the Heritage Foundation, before Marco Rubio was even in the Senate, Jason Richwine armed a time bomb. A three-member panel at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government accepted Richwine’s thesis, titled “IQ and Immigration Policy.” In it, Richwine provided statistical evidence that Hispanic immigrants, even after several generations, had lower IQs than non-Hispanic whites. Immigration reformers were fools if they didn’t grapple with that.
“Visceral opposition to IQ selection can sometimes generate sensationalistic claims–for example, that this is an attempt to revive social Darwinism, eugenics, racism, etc,” wrote Richwine. “Nothing of that sort is true. … an IQ selection system could utilize individual intelligence test scores without any resort to generalizations.”
This week, Heritage released a damning estimate of the immigration bill, co-authored by Richwine. The new study was all about cost, totally eliding the IQ issues that Richwine had mastered, but it didn’t matter after Washington Post reporter Dylan Matthews found the dissertation. Heritage hurried to denounce it–“its findings in no way reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation”–and Richwine has ducked any more questions from the press.

The Voucher Lobby: Lobbying for school choice provides big money for Republicans

Bruce Murphy:

The word was out last year that Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald intended to retire and make the big money working as a lobbyist. Two days after his term was up, he signed up as a lobbyist for School Choice Wisconsin.
Fitzgerald’s decision underlined the ironic facts of life in Wisconsin. Choice Schools may be badly underfunded, getting just $6,442 per pupil in public funding (about half of what public schools get), and may often pay lousy salaries to teachers. But those who lobby for school choice are doing just fine, thank you. Indeed, the pay is so good that three former Republican Assembly Speakers now do lobbying and advocacy for school choice.
The first to jump aboard the gravy train was former Speaker (and key figure in the legislative caucus scandal) Scott Jensen, who works for two Washington D.C.-based groups that work to increase School Choice funding: the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice, two sister organizations located at the same address, 1660 L Street NW, Suite 1000. Both groups have a key consultant, Chartwell Strategic Advisors, the one-man consulting company run by Jensen from his Brookfield home. In 2011, the most recent for which these groups filed federal income tax forms, Jensen earned $202,972, including $102,7346 from the American Federation for Children and $100, 236 from the Alliance for School Choice.
These groups have often worked to influence issues and elections in Wisconsin. A report by the American Federation for Children bragged that “With expenditures of $2,392,000, [AFC] engaged in hard-fought, successful battles to ensure educational choice majorities in both chambers of the Legislature” in Wisconsin, as the the Badger Herald reported.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

One of the few things educators and administrators agree on: charter schools need multiple authorizers

Laura Waters:

One of the few things educators and administrators agree on: charter schools need multiple authorizers
Here’s a rarity within New Jersey’s education reform community: consensus. The NJ Education Association, Gov. Chris Christie, Commissioner Chris Cerf, Education Law Center, and NJ Charter Association concur that the state’s charter school law is broken. In response, several members of the state Legislature are working on overhauls, and last week a draft of the bill Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) is putting together was leaked to NJ Spotlight.
Critics of our 14-year-old charter school law are buttressed by various national research organizations that evaluate state charter school legislation and find ours lacking. The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), for example, ranks New Jersey 31st out of 42 states with charter school laws.
We lose points on funding inequities between traditional (district) and independent (charter) public schools and a certain lack of transparency. Most critically, New Jersey relies on a single entity to authorize new charters (the education commissioner), despite mounds of data that proves that effective laws invest “multiple authorizers” with approval authority.

A major school reformer’s ‘Nixon goes to China’ moment

Valerie Strauss:

A discussion on school reform in New York took a surprising turn this week when Paul Vallas, a pioneer of the current era of school reform, said, “We’re losing the communications game because we don’t have a good message to communicate.”
That’s something for Vallas, who is now superintendent of the public schools in Bridgeport, Conn., (earning $234,000 a year, according to this article). As a reputed expert in turning around failing school systems, he led the school districts in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans and was a champion of many of the reforms that critics believe are leading to the privatization of public education and doing nothing to actually improve schools.
Vallas has been at the forefront of modern school reform. For example, back in 2002 when he was in charge of Philadelphia’s schools, he oversaw what at that time was the largest exercise in allowing private managers — including for-profit companies — to run public schools. In New Orleans, where he was hired after Hurricane Katrina to supervise the reconstruction of the ravaged school system, he oversaw the creation of a collection of charter schools. Many of them were staffed with Teach For America recruits, who are given five weeks of summer training before being sent into classrooms with high-needs students.

Local Political Commentary on Vouchers

Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, represents District 48 in the Assembly:

By now, most people have heard about Scott Walker’s proposal to expand the voucher school system to new districts, including Madison, yet many people aren’t clear as to what this means for our students as well as the administrators, teachers and parents. I’ve been asked by numerous constituents to give an explanation of how this would apply, in real terms, to our public education system.
The best way to break this down is in three parts: the fiscal effect on taxpayers and our public schools; a comparison between public school and private school accountability; and a comparison of the performance of students in voucher schools and public schools.
FINANCES: Madison currently has 4,202 private school students. Based on a conservative assessment of income levels, 1,387 of these students would be eligible for the voucher program. So what does this mean for Madison taxpayers?
If 1,387 private school students become voucher students, Madison taxpayers would subsidize private schools for about $3.8 million and see a reduction in state aid of that amount. The Madison district’s taxpayers would have to pay more to replace the $3.8 million, or the district would have to make $3.8 million worth of cuts in services for public school students. One thing that has been made abundantly clear to me by my constituents and other community members is Wisconsinites don’t like the idea of their taxpayer dollars going toward private education.

State Senator Fred Risser, Representative Jon Erpenbach, Representative Mark Miller:

As legislators, we hear about many important issues that will impact our state’s future. No issue we face has an impact as far reaching as the education of Wisconsin children. Providing future generations with the skills to be productive and successful must be a top priority.
Unfortunately, in the proposed state budget, corporate special interests won out over Wisconsin children.
In the proposed budget, the governor has chosen to increase voucher program funding by $94 million. The proposal also expands the voucher program to school districts with two or more “failing schools.”
Based on this language, the Madison School District would as failing, and therefore open to voucher expansion. As a result, Madison tax dollars would be invested in private, unaccountable schools, rather than its public schools.
We believe that just isn’t right. Every time a student leaves the public school and enters the voucher program, the state withholds $2,200 in funding from the public school. While it may mean one fewer student to educate, the school’s fixed costs remain the same, and the district is forced to raise property taxes to cover the difference.

Much more on vouchers, here. Madison’s long-term, disastrous reading scores.

Who Rises to the Top? Early Indicators

Harrison J. Kell, David Lubinski, and Camilla P. Benbow:

Youth identified before age 13 (N = 320) as having profound mathematical or verbal reasoning abilities (top 1 in 10,000) were tracked for nearly three decades. Their awards and creative accomplishments by age 38, in combination with specific details about their occupational responsibilities, illuminate the magnitude of their contribution and professional stature. Many have been entrusted with obligations and resources for making critical decisions about individual and organizational well-being. Their leadership positions in business, health care, law, the professoriate, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) suggest that many are outstanding creators of modern culture, constituting a precious human-capital resource. Identifying truly profound human potential, and forecasting differential development within such populations, requires assessing multiple cognitive abilities and using atypical measurement procedures. This study illustrates how ultimate criteria may be aggregated and longitudinally sequenced to validate such measures.

Energizing Education literacy program expanding to Michigan Center schools next year

Leanne Smith:

Energizing Education strives to have all students reading at grade level by third grade in an effort to boost their success for the future. It’s produced success at Jackson’s Frost Elementary School this year, and now Michigan Center schools want to use it too, said Kriss Giannetti, the program’s grant coordinator.
“The intent always was to take the program countywide,” Giannetti said. “We know to make a real difference, we have to reach out to all children.”
An Energizing Education presentation is part of the Monday, May 13 Michigan Center School Board meeting. The district plans to offer it to students at Arnold Elementary School in the 2013-14 school year, said Superintendent Scott Koziol.
“We believe this program will offer confidence and support for our students who might be struggling a little bit,” Koziol said. “We believe once they are in this program, which offers positive adult support, their learning will take off.”

Related: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

Are Universities Above the Law?

Peter Berkowitz:

Corporate governance is a much-discussed topic, and the operation of corporations has proven a fertile field for investigative journalism. But even though many colleges and universities are multibillion-dollar-a-year operations, the subject of university governance has been largely neglected. This is unfortunate because university governance raises fascinating questions of great public interest involving the complex intersection of law, morals, and education. Nasar v. Columbia is a case in point.
On May 6, Columbia University submitted a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it in mid-March in the Supreme Court of New York by Sylvia Nasar, the John S. and James L. Knight professor of business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Nasar’s complaint alleges, among other things, that “from 2001-2011, Columbia illegally misappropriated and captured for its own purposes income generated by a $1.5 million charitable endowment” established by the Knight Foundation. Columbia contends that Nasar’s suit is without merit and that even if all her allegations were true, the university could not be found to be in violation of the law. But if all of Nasar’s allegations are true and the courts of New York are unable to grant relief, it would mean that New York state law permits university administrations to disregard their written agreements with impunity and behave deceitfully when called to account.
A distinguished New York Times journalist and author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated biography A Beautiful Mind (made into a major Hollywood film), Nasar was appointed in 2001 to the Knight chair as a tenured Columbia professor. She has built an esteemed program in business journalism at Columbia and in 2011 published the bestselling Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius.
Nasar learned of irregularities in Columbia’s management of Knight chair funds in 2010. She protested to Columbia and alerted the Knight Foundation, which promptly initiated an audit performed in the autumn of 2010 by Big Four accounting firm KPMG. According to the KPMG audit, “it appears that the Graduate School of Journalism did not abide by the original terms and spirit of the grant agreement.” The audit concluded that at least $923,000 of expenditures were “unallowable” and claims against Columbia could total as much as $4.5 million.

A road map for education reform

Frederick Hess & Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj:

As much as any city in America, Milwaukee has played a pioneering role in educational choice. More than two decades after establishing the nation’s first urban school voucher program, Milwaukee offers families a raft of options, including district schools, charter schools and publicly funded private school scholarships.
Yet, this dramatic expansion of options has not yet translated into dramatic improvement. Student performance and graduation rates have not moved as reformers once hoped, and the achievement of low-income students continues to languish. On the 2011 urban National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 10% of Milwaukee eighth-graders were judged proficient in math and just 12% in reading. Especially disturbing is that the vast majority of public and private high school graduates who go on to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee do not complete college.
But this should be cause for renewed energy, not despair. After all, the Milwaukee Public Schools district has displayed a willingness to find ways to turn around struggling schools and to tackle long-standing fiscal challenges. Milwaukee’s charter school authorizers have shown themselves willing to hold low-performing schools accountable. Schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program increasingly have embraced accountability for performance. Across all three sectors, there are instances of high-performing schools where even Milwaukee’s most challenged pupils can excel.

Lauren Pongan discusses Stoughton High School’s fab lab on WORT’s In Our Backyard


Stoughton High School is only the second high school in the country to have a state-of-the-art digital fabrication laboratory that can supposedly create anything. The $206,000 facility will debut with formal classes this fall, and features a computer-controlled large and small milling machines, laser and vinyl cutters, and a 3D printer.
Isthmus contributor Lauren Pongan reports on the project in the May 9 issue and discussed her story on the May 8 installment of WORT’s In Our Backyard.
Listen to the interview.

Understanding School Finance in Wisconsin: A Primer

Michael Ford:

A fundamental tension between state and local control lies at the heart of Wisconsin’s school finance system. For much of Wisconsin’s history, schools boards were responsible for deciding how much to spend on education, and how much revenue to raise via the property tax levy to fund spending. However, the balance tipped in favor of the state in the 1993-’94 school year, when the state imposed revenue limits.
Revenue limits cap how much additional money school districts can raise for each pupil through a combination of state aid and property tax. Since their inception, revenue limits have increased annually at roughly the rate of inflation. The imposition of revenue limits defined one basic attribute of education finance in Wisconsin: Maintaining the status quo. Consider:
Increases in revenue limits use the previous year as a base, ensuring that the largest predictor of spending is how much a district spent in the previous year.
Revenue limits increase at roughly the rate of inflation, keeping overall school finance formula revenues, in inflation-adjusted dollars, relatively constant.
The distribution of total state and local spending by school district remained steady between 1999 and 2012.
In 1999 the 100 districts receiving the most state and local revenue per student received 117% of the state average of state and local revenue. In 2012 that number was 119%. Similarly, the 100 districts receiving the least state and local revenue received 88% of the state average of state and local revenue. In 2012 that number was 87%.
A state aid program called special adjustment aids ensures districts cannot receive less than 85% of the state aid they received in the previous year.
The enrollment number used to generate payments to schools is a three-year average. It is designed to cushion districts against sudden increases and decreases in enrollment.

Madison Schools’ Budget Updates: Board Questions, Spending Through 3.31.2013, Staffing Plan Changes
Wisconsin K-12 Tax Spending Dominates Local Transfers

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter

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

What’s the first ingredient necessary to address workplace concerns? The opportunity to talk with colleagues to identify areas of common concerns and brainstorm about possible solutions. That’ s the conclusion reached by the clerical and technical employees who attended the March 20 SEE-MTI General Membership meeting. In response, SEE-MTI President Kris Schiltz and MTI staff rep Doug Keillor agreed to schedule monthly membership organizing workshops to provide: 1) an opportunity to get together to talk and 2) to further develop an organizing approach to problem-solving. The first workshop was held on April 24, and the next workshop will be held soon with notice in MTI Solidarity!.
The organizing workshops are structured to provide a brief update on what is happening across the district relative to SEE unit concerns (e.g. surplus declarations, budget proposals, etc.) and then those present breakout (e.g. elementary, middle, high, administration) to discuss their concerns, facilitated by their unit rep. Following the small group discussions the participants reconvene to report on topics of discussion and organizing relative to the identified issues.
While MTI has used similar organizing models on a smaller scale for years, the monthly SEE-MTI member organizing workshops are an attempt to further institutionalize this approach, engaging more Union members in the process and leading to better potential outcomes.
All SEE-MTI members are welcome and encouraged to attend. Join your fellow Union members in working for positive change in the District!

A worthwhile look at the global education market


Why they are wrong
The average person in a developed country does not think about education the way a well educated VC or entrepreneur thinks about education.
VCs and entrepreneurs tend to be well educated. Well educated people think about education as an investment. You put as many of your resources in to an investment as you can. It may take 20 years to pay off, but if the return-on-investment is high (which it is for education) then you invest. This group of people — if you’re reading this, you fall into this group — generally understand that education is an investment, and as a result are price insensitive and will optimize for quality (a higher return on investment). For this group of people, quality is the primary driver of a purchasing decision, not cost.
The average, middle class person thinks about education as an expenditure, not an investment. It’s something they have to do because it’s mandated and the lack of the highest quality education hasn’t negatively impacted their lives in a meaningful way. Step back for a second before you judge. Imagine it’s 2005, and you live in a small town in the middle of Ohio (where I grew up) and you don’t get a college degree. If you get a factory job and make $25k/year and your wife gets a factory job and makes $25k/year, you’re making $50k/year. But houses only cost $90,000 and food is affordable and you can get a loan for a car for $300/month. So you’re not doing terribly and the default state for your children is the same life. You can afford a house, food, have a car, and have weekends off.
So, what has the lack of an education done to the typical American’s life? It’s removed job security, screwed your retirement, and maybe set you up to go bankrupt if you get sick. There are no immediate consequences, there are no immediate consequences for your children, but there is an immediate cost. So the average person thinks of education as an expenditure. If you get sick when you’re 70, you’re screwed. Or if you don’t save in your 401k, you may have to work till you’re dead. Or maybe your children won’t be as competitive in a global workforce 30 years. Don’t believe me? Only 15% of kids taking the SAT pay for an out of school test prep course like Kaplan. Over 50% of Americans don’t have beyond a high school degree.
This fundamental investment vs. expenditure mindset changes everything. You think of education as fundamentally a quality problem. The average person thinks of education as fundamentally a cost problem.

To the Class of 2013: Resist Simplicity

Stephen Carter:

Members of the Class of 2013, I salute you.
As everyone keeps telling you, you are graduating at a difficult and even frightening time. I wish it were otherwise — that my generation was bequeathing you a finer world. We aren’t. The world into which you are entering is rich with challenges. Many are scary.
This does not make your generation unique. Through the nation’s history, America’s colleges and universities have sent forth graduates in times of war, of fear, of economic risk. Eighty years ago, the world was mired in a four-year-old economic depression. Seventy years ago, many schools skipped commencement exercises entirely because their graduates were all heading off to World War II. Fifty years ago, Bull Connor was setting fire hoses and police dogs on civil-rights marchers in Birmingham, Alabama. And 45 years ago, today’s exercises would have been sandwiched between the murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
In short, there was never a golden age — a period when new graduates could step into the world and simply start building careers and families without worry.
So what is the great challenge of your generation? Protecting the environment? Increasing equality? Abating poverty? Achieving world peace?

U.S. Students Rank Worst in New Sleep Study

Mackenzie Yang:

It’s hard to master math when you’re too tired to keep your eyes open in class. While nutrition and family income have previously been associated with academic performance, now quantity of sleep has also been shown to play a role, according to a Boston College analysis reported on by the BBC. The study, which draws on data culled from tests taken by more than 900,000 students in 50 countries, found that the U.S. has the greatest proportion of students whose academic performance, particularly in math and science, suffers due to poor sleep, with 73% of 9 and 10-year-olds and 80% of 13 and 14-year-olds affected. Those rates are significantly higher than the international average of 47% and 57%, respectively.
The top 5 countries where poor sleep hampers learning are:
United States
New Zealand
Saudi Arabia

Another look at University of Wisconsin system finances

John Torinus:

The flap in Madison over the appropriate level of reserves for the UW System tees up an opportunity for a broader look at the financing of what may be the state’s finest asset.
First, an observation: if the auditors had found deficits or fund shortages, the flap would be a lot more serious and even more politically combustible. So, at least we have a problem of too much money on the books, not too little.
Further, there is even more money floating around the system than the Legislative Fiscal Bureau discovered in an audit of its general accounts. It’s in the off-balance sheet accounts of organizations like the UW Foundation, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and other foundations like the UW Madison Hospital Foundation and University Research Park.
Take WARF as an example. It has assets of $2.5 billion, not counting the present value of its flow of royalty income. Those assets are included on the balance sheet of other major universities, but not in Wisconsin.
WARF brings in royalty income from patents
of more than $50 million per year, and, at a modest 5% return on its portfolio, another $125 million per year. That’s $175 million per year. (It probably does better than 5% in most years.)
Its mission is to support UW – Madison, so it gave $48.3 million in research awards on the campus in 2010-11. The question arises as to where the rest of the dollars go. Some supports its staff, and some gets plowed back to build its principal. That’s how it got to $2.5 billion.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Money to burn The muddle-headed world of American public-pension accounting

The Economist:

SLOWLY but surely the cost of America’s public-sector pension promises is becoming clear. Last year the best estimate of the shortfall was more than $4 trillion. To deal with its deficit, a giant Californian pension fund, CalPERS, recently announced plans that will increase contributions by employers (in effect, taxpayers) by up to a half, starting in 2015-16.
Final-salary pension costs have risen for decades because workers are living longer and the retirement age has barely budged. The bill was disguised in the 1980s and 1990s by good asset returns. But dismal equity markets have since forced many private providers to close final-salary schemes to new members and switch to less lavish defined-contribution plans.

Testing California’s Commitment to Education

Michael Malone:

Just a generation ago, California’s schools were the pride of American education (it’s one of the reasons my parents moved with me to California in the early 1960s). Today, tracking with the economic woes of the rest of the Golden State, California’s schools rank 30th in the country . . .and falling.
Now it could get much worse – and quickly -as one of the few bright spots of California public education is at risk of disappearing. The implications to the state’s high education enclaves, such as Silicon Valley, are frightening. But for California’s low-income, high-unemployment regions in places like the Central Valley and the state’s urban centers, the impact could be devastating. Indeed, what lingering hope there is that California can recover its old luster in less than a generation may evaporate as well.
The program is called the International Baccalaureate. If you haven’t heard of it it’s probably because the program has done a far better job at helping elementary and high school students than it has at promoting itself or its confusing name. In retrospect, it probably should have spent more time on the latter, because now as California cuts its educational budget the program – at least its California operation of more than 200 schools across the state – is facing a dangerous shortfall of its $2.5 million annual budget.
International Baccalaureate is actually a huge operation. Founded in 1968, IB is (as its name suggests) a global program, well-established in nearly 150 countries, serving more than a million students. Everywhere the goal is the same: to take young students from every economic level and bring them to the highest levels of analytical thinking in order to prepare them for college and a successful career This has been true for IB students in Botswana and Bangladesh, in Canada and – at least until now, in California.

Biting commentary A new company is trying to make school meals healthier

The Economist:

THE day a girl fainted from hunger was the final straw for Emmanuel George, the principal of Democracy Prep charter school in Harlem. She had refused to eat the “nasty food” served at his school. Her distaste was shared widely: many went hungry, and those who did eat mostly chose junk food. So in January Mr George switched to a supplier of healthy lunches called Revolution Foods. Since then the proportion of children choosing to accept free meals has gone from less than half to over 85%. Visits to the school nurse plummeted, and complaints of stomach-ache and headaches have almost vanished. Teachers say everyone works better in the afternoons.
Everyone from Michelle Obama to Jamie Oliver is trying to improve children’s diets, but doing so has proved difficult. It is, then, particularly interesting that a solution is emerging from the private sector. Revolution Foods, which is based in Oakland, California, serves 1m meals a week in nearly 1,000 schools across America. Most of its customers are public schools.

Why parents should leave their kids alone

Jay Griffiths:

I felt as if I were an unwilling accomplice to torture. Echoes of the victim’s screams rang off the varnished walls. The door, tight shut though it was, could not block the cries of panic. A baby, alone and imprisoned in a cot.
The baby’s mother was visibly disturbed, too, pale and tearful. She was a victim herself, preyed on by exponents of controlled crying, or Ferberisation – that pitiless system, cruel to them both.
Controlled. Crying. The words speak of the odious aim: a bullying system controlling the feelings of a baby. The mother had been told the situation was the reverse, that the baby was trying to force her will on the mother, but all I could see was a one-year-old demented by abandonment. One American mother wrote poignantly on the internet: “Is Ferberisation worth my heartache or am I truly torturing my child? It seems like cruel and unusual punishment.”

Education struggle goes on for Howard Fuller

Alan Borsuk:

After the Louisiana Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the financing of a far-reaching private school voucher program, Howard Fuller sent a message to his 2,855 Twitter followers:
The Louisiana decision, important as it may be, is not my subject today. Fuller is. I suggest that, in a couple ways, “The struggle continues” is a great motto for Fuller’s career and an important way to get a handle on understanding the person who I suggest has been the most significant figure on Milwaukee’s education scene over the last generation.
There are two important ways to apply the word “struggle” to Fuller, and, more broadly, to Milwaukee and national efforts to improve education.
One is to look at Fuller’s continuing deep involvement in education and his refusal to give up. Like him or not – and there are long lists for each – you have to be humbled by the fact that he’s 72, still intense about education, still traveling the country frenetically as an advocate, and still deeply involved in the school he has made his special project, CEO Leadership Academy, an independent charter school at 3222 W. Brown St. Fuller knows intimately every reason to be pessimistic. But, for him, the struggle continues.
In the other definition, “struggle” means how hard it has been to make general progress, especiall

Against optimism about social science

Andrew Gelman:

I agree with Marcus and Rojas that attention to problems of replication is a good thing. It’s bad that people are running incompetent analysis or faking data all over the place, but it’s good that they’re getting caught. And, to the extent that scientific practices are improving to help detect error and fraud, and to reduce the incentives for publishing erroneous and fradulent results in the first place, that’s good too.
But I worry about a sense of complacency. I think we should be careful not to overstate the importance of our first steps. We may be going in the right direction but we have a lot further to go. Here are some examples:
1. Marcus writes of the new culture of publishing replications. I assume he’d support the ready publications of corrections, too. But we’re not there yet, as this story indicates:
Recently I sent a letter to the editor to a major social science journal pointing out a problem in an article they’d published, they refused to publish my letter, not because of any argument that I was incorrect, but because they judged my letter to not be in the top 10% of submissions to the journal. I’m sure my letter was indeed not in the top 10% of submissions, but the journal’s attitude presents a serious problem, if the bar to publication of a correction is so high. That’s a disincentive for the journal to publish corrections, a disincentive for outsiders such as myself to write corrections, and a disincentive for researchers to be careful in the first place. Just to be clear: I’m not complaining how I was treated here; rather, I’m griping about the system in which a known error can stand uncorrected in a top journal, just because nobody managed to send in a correction that’s in the top 10% of journal submissions.

Voucher Commentary from Madison’s new School Board President

2013-2014 Madison School Board President Ed Hughes:

The proponents of the proposed expansion of Wisconsin’s private-school voucher program have run out of substantive arguments. Governor Walker’s “This is about children” illustrates how vacuous their efforts at persuasion have become.
When Governor Walker’s budget was first announced, his initial talking points in support of his voucher expansion plan featured the claim that schools in the nine targeted school districts were failing and vouchers were necessary to provide a lifeline to students who needed help to pursue other schooling options. Neither the governor nor his supporters are pushing that argument any more. It seems that they got the point that it is not a smart move politically for the governor to go around trashing the public schools in some of the larger urban areas of the state.
While proponents have claimed that students in voucher schools do better academically, the wind has gone out of the sails of that argument as well. DPI has reported that students in voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine performed worse on the WKCE than students in the public schools in those communities. Voucher school advocates can point to data that supposedly support their view, opponents can counter with contrary figures, and at best the evidence on improved student performance is a wash. There is no reason to think that students in the nine districts targeted for voucher expansion would do any better in the private schools in their area than they would in their neighborhood public schools. No one has offered an argument to the contrary.
Voucher proponents sometimes try to construct a cost-savings argument around the fact that the per-pupil amounts that voucher students would receive are less than the average per-pupil expenditures by their school districts. But this argument goes nowhere because no one is proposing that the public schools shut down as voucher schools expand. Consequently, there’s really not much of a response to the observation credited to former Governor Tommy Thompson that “We can’t afford two systems of education.”
Additionally, voucher schools have not discovered a magic bullet that allows them to educate students across the spectrum of needs more economically. Here’s a telling excerpt from an op ed by the Choice Schools Association advocating for much higher voucher payments and posted on line by the right-wing MacIver Institute:

Vouchers are hardly an existential threat to the Madison School District. Rather, the District’s long term disastrous reading scores are the essential issue, one that merits endless attention and improvement.
2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before.

Study: Schools And Colleges Are Teaching The Wrong Type Of Math

John O’Connor:

Community college students are needlessly assigned to remedial math classes to learn lessons they won’t use during their studies, according to new research from a Washington, D.C. group.
And the study also found that many high school graduates are not learning subjects they will need to use in their careers.
The study was produced by the Washington, D.C.-based National Center on Education and the Economy and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“What these studies show is that our schools do not teach what their students need,” the authors wrote, “while demanding of them what they don’t need; furthermore, the skills that we do teach and that the students do need, the schools teach ineffectively. Perhaps that is where we should begin.”

Related: Math forum audio/video.

Poor Little Tiger Cub The first major study of tiger moms is out. The kids have worse grades, and they are more depressed and more alienated from their parents

Paul Tullis:

When Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother came out in 2011, it sparked controversy among many people but especially psychologists and experts in child development. The book, they felt, had lodged in the culture certain stereotypes about an Asian parenting style that was not well-studied or well-understood and certainly not ready to be held up as some kind of model.
Chua’s book was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek memoir of her experiences raising her two daughters with her (non-Asian) husband, which involved hours of forced music practice every day, severe restrictions on extracurriculars, outright bans on social activities like sleepovers, and punishment and shaming on the rare occasions her children failed to attain their mother’s high expectations. Chua eased off as her kids grew older, and she admitted that she might have been wrong in some instances. (Mainstream media coverage portrayals were somewhat less nuanced). Nonetheless, the story of a Yale-professor mother who had pushed her child until she landed at Carnegie Hall seemed to confirm that Asian-American parents are tough, demanding–and they consistently produce whizzes.
When Chua’s book first hit the transom, Su Yeong Kim thought, “Oh my God! I actually have data for this!” An associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas, Kim had been following more than 300 Asian-American families for a decade when the book came out. In March, she published her results; they will no doubt surprise Chua and her admirers. Children of parents whom Kim classified as “tiger” had lower academic achievement and attainment–and greater psychological maladjustment–and family alienation, than the kids of parents characterized as “supportive” or “easygoing.”

Some of England’s best-known private schools are rushing to set up satellites abroad. But the market may be reaching saturation point

The Economist:

CRICKET, boarding-house names reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts and ancient and peculiar customs are among the hallmarks of Britain’s leading private schools. Now they can be found in Singapore and Kazakhstan. As the domestic market softens, some of the most famous names in British education are building far-flung outposts.
Harrow led the way in 1998 by setting up a school in Bangkok, where its straw boaters greatly amused the locals. It now has schools in Beijing and Hong Kong too. Sherborne, a private school in Dorset, has opened a branch in Qatar. From next year Wellington, a boarding school in Berkshire, will compete for Shanghai’s pupils with Dulwich, a south London day school, which already has a franchise there.


Grumps Voucher Commentary

Mad City Grumps (PDF):

Wisconsin is marching inexorably down a path toward two separate publicly-funded education systems for our k-12 students. One is our traditional public schools; the other, private voucher schools largely funded by taxpayer dollars.
The school voucher program began in 1990 under Governor Tommy Thompson with a modest investment in Milwaukee. 337 students, all low-income, used vouchers valued at $734,000 ($2,178/voucher) to attend seven private, nonsectarian schools. Since then, the voucher program has grown exponentially. Funding last year equaled $158M and provided vouchers worth $6,442 to 24,000 students who attended private/parochial schools in Racine and Milwaukee.
In the next two years, the program expansion, if approved by the State legislature, will spread to at least nine more school districts, including Madison. 29,000 students will participate. Funding will increase to $209M – an almost 300-fold increase since inception. Public school funding, over that time span, has increased only three-fold.
Vouchers will be available to a family of four with an income of almost $78,000/year. In addition, these students may always have been private school students. Once students secure a voucher, they have that voucher in subsequent years no matter how high the family income. This policy generates a separate system, subsidizing private education at taxpayer expense with no accountability to, nor approval from, that taxpayer.

Much more on Grumps, here.

Little Miss Geek inspires schoolgirls to pursue tech careers

Natalie Futter:

Technology is for geeky men and fashion is for beautiful women. This is of course not the case, but unfortunately it is the perception of a large percentage of schoolgirls around the age of 13. It is just this that caused Belinda Parma to set up Little Miss Geek and start her mission of teaching girls, classroom by classroom, that a career in technology is not just accessible but appealing. She uses a team of great speakers who use their own careers to prove to the girls how the fashion and technology worlds have now collided.
On 26 April Little Miss Geek re-visited St Saviour’s & St Olave’s School in London for the second time to prove to a select group of Year 9 girls that careers in technology can be fascinating and the scope for creativity within them. Belinda cherry picked the following three inspirational speakers who are successful examples of women who work in or with technology.
Clara Mercer who heads up Marketing at the British Fashion Council, cited examples of big fashion brands who are using technology in interesting new ways, such as Diane Von Furstenberg’s catwalk show that featured models wearing Google glasses, Burberry’s virtual rain at their fashion show in Taiwan and live streaming through their store windows. She concluded that technology has become the most exciting part of her job and that it will never stop evolving and changing the nature of the fashion industry.

Advocating “Too Big to Fail” Bank interest Rates for Student Borrowers

Sarah Muller:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to help college students drowning in debt by putting them in the same boat as the big banks.
“We do this for the banks because we believe that this is going to help the economy, right, help us on shaky recovery. Same thing is true for our students,” Warren said in an exclusive interview on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednesday. “The big banks have got an army of lobbyists out there, they’ve got an army of lawyers to fight for them. Our students have just their voices and they call on us to do the right thing and that’s what we need to do.”
The new Democratic senator from Massachusetts introduced her first bill Wednesday, the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act, offering students temporary relief from the burden of high interest rates on loans.
“If the Federal Reserve can float trillions of dollars to large financial institutions at low interest rates to grow the economy, surely they can float the Department of Education the money to fund our students, keep us competitive, and grow our middle class,” Warren said during a speech on the Senate floor, her second one so far.

Stupidly subsidizing TBTF banks is bad policy. The student loan bubble will surely not be helped by further debt expansion.
More, here.

Where Private School Is Not a Privilege

Tina Rosenburg:

In the United States, private school is generally a privilege of the rich. But in poorer nations, particularly in Africa and South Asia, families of all social classes send their children to private school. The private schools within reach of the poor, however — usually a single classroom a woman runs in her house — are not a big improvement. But two school systems — Bridge International Academies in Kenya and BRAC in Bangladesh — are offering something different: they are making decent education accessible to the world’s poorest on a giant scale.
Both BRAC and Bridge are large and getting larger. BRAC has more than 1.25 million children in its schools in Bangladesh and six other countries, and it is expanding. Bridge is smaller, with 50,000 children, but it is only four years old, and it is opening a new school in Kenya every 2.5 days and is moving into other countries. BRAC puts its schools mainly in remote rural villages, Bridge in urban slums. They both serve the poor — and serve them relatively well. But that is about all they have in common.
The two school systems have diametrically opposing philosophies, methods and business models. Anyone familiar with the debate in the United States about American education would recognize these polar opposites. Bridge is a for-profit company which draws income solely from school fees; to be profitable it must keep class size at 50 or larger. One of its investors is Pearson, the media and education company whose tests have proven so controversial in New York. Bridge relies on standardization and technology. At 11 a.m. for example, every single second-grade teacher in every Bridge academy will be teaching the exact same lesson, supplied with a word-for-word script from Bridge headquarters delivered by Nook e-reader.

A College Degree May Not Be Worth the Cost

Brooke Berger:

More Americans are going to college than ever before. Many graduates, however, are buried in debt with few job prospects. In “Is College Worth It? A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education” conservative pundit William Bennett weighs the relevance of a four-year degree against rising tuition costs. The Reagan administration official recently spoke with U.S. News about what prospective students should be thinking about, what they get for their buck and why a bachelor’s degree is no longer synonymous with success. Excerpts:
Should Americans keep sending their kids to college?
Sometimes. But they shouldn’t automatically or reflexively send their kids to college. They should pause and stop and think. It’s not like deciding to have breakfast or go to bed. It’s more like, say, to get married. It’s a big decision. [There are] a lot of consequences, a lot of costs, a lot of ups and downs. Investigate it with your eyes open.

Deja vu: Madison West High electives vs one size fits all?

Pat Schnieder:

The rumor that a national school reform effort moving through Madison would wipe out treasured class electives at West High School has been buzzing in that community for years.
Parents and students got a chance to bring their concerns about the implementation of Common Core standards to the top Thursday evening, during a conversation with new Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, held in the school library after her day-long visit to West High.
It was the second in a series of four public meetings being held at the city’s public high schools this spring to allow Cheatham, who started work in the district on April 1, to hear community concerns.
Cheatham told the crowd of 150 or more that she had heard a lot that day from students and staff about the “amazing potpourri” of elective courses at West.
“They think they are a major asset of the school. I think so too,” she said.
West High School’s elective courses are so popular among students that speculation the Common Core standards would be their death knell fueled a sit-in of some 500 students in fall 2010, the year the state adopted the standards. Today, many of Madison’s public schools are still figuring out a way to incorporate the standards, about which confusion reigns among students, parents and teachers.
Lynn Glueck, a school improvement coordinator at Memorial High School, said this week that Common Core focuses on developing key skills needed for college and career readiness. The standards related to English language arts, for example, are about “close reading, critical thinking and argumentative writing where students pull evidence out of the text,” Glueck said.
In the instances where Common Core has been used at Memorial, which some say is leading the district in implementing the standards, “students are really engaging in it,” she said.

Fascinating. 2006: The movement toward one size fits all via English 10. 2013: “West High School’s elective courses are so popular among students”.
Additional and informative background here.

Poor little rich kids

Chrystia Freeland:

If you doubt that we live in a winner-take-all economy and that education is the trump card, consider the vast amounts the affluent spend to teach their offspring. We see it anecdotally in the soaring fees for private schools, private lessons and private tutors, many of them targeted at the pre-school set. And recent academic research has confirmed what many of us overhear at the school gates or read on mommy blogs.
This power spending on the children of the economic elite is usually — and rightly — cited as further evidence of the dangers of rising income inequality. Whatever your views about income inequality among the parents, inherited privilege is inimical to the promise of equal opportunity, which is central to the social compact in Western democracies.
But it may be that the less lavishly educated children lower down the income distribution aren’t the only losers. Being groomed for the winner-take-all economy starting in nursery school turns out to exact a toll on the children at the top, too.
First, the data on parental spending on education. There is a lively debate among politicians and professors about whether the economy is becoming more polarized and about the importance of education. Dismissing the value of a college education is one of the more popular clever-sounding contrarian ideas of the moment. And there are still a few die-hards who play down the social significance of rising income inequality.
When you translate these abstract arguments into the practical choices we make in our personal lives, however, the intellectual disagreements melt away. We are all spending a lot more money to educate our kids, and the richest have stepped up their spending more than everyone else.

Madison Schools’ Budget Updates: Board Questions, Spending Through 3.31.2013, Staffing Plan Changes

Steve Hartley, Madison Schools Chief of Staff:

Attached is a spreadsheet listing questions received from BOE members to date and some of our responses. Over the course of the next two months, we will continue to collect your questions and respond at both Operational Support and Regular Board meetings.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

The draft budget included several new positions for the Board’s consideration. After refining and prioritizing with staff and vetting with principals, we are only asking for approval of two essential positions at this point. The position changes represent a savings of just over $2 million from the draft budget.
As we prepare for next year, we must keep our efforts and resources focused on providing supports to schools to improve instruction. We must also be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars by reducing the impact of our budget.
To get to these recommendations, we conducted a rigorous examination of positions funded in the draft budget to decide what we believe is absolutely necessary right now. Much of the work we need to do next year is about improving the systems and structures for how we serve students, not adding additional resources. It will be critical going forward that we narrow our focus to the strategies that we know work, implement them well and sustain the focus over time.
So far, we have only considered the position decisions that we need the Board to approve. Over the next two months, we will continue to work through the draft budget in order to reduce the tax impact and align with our efforts for next year. Also, we have only reviewed positions based on the draft budget. Next year, we plan to engage in a more thorough, zero-based budgeting process.
Position Additions from Draft Budget that are No Longer Recommended
There are several positions included in the draft budget that we are no longer recommending at this point. In looking at specific positions, we considered our ability to carry out necessary work through more efficient systems and in some cases, the need to pause and re-consider our approach.
With that in mind, we are no longer recommending going forward with the following position additions that were included in the draft budget. Because these were new positions in the draft budget, they do not have staff in them currently and do not require any layoffs.
Mental Health Coordinator: Through redistribution of work in student services, we will be able to provide support to implementation of the Mental Health Task Force’s work.
Safety Coordinator: We will continue to coordinate efforts across the organization to ensure safety.

Perhaps a positive sign “we must keep our efforts and resources focused on providing supports to schools to improve instruction”. Reading is surely job one, as the District’s long term disastrous reading scores illustrate.

March, 2013 Madison Schools’ financial reports (PDF).
Related: Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.
Commentary on Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes’ Teacher Salary Increase Words.

The paradox of the proof

Caroline Chen:

On August 31, 2012, Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki posted four papers on the Internet.
The titles were inscrutable. The volume was daunting: 512 pages in total. The claim was audacious: he said he had proved the ABC Conjecture, a famed, beguilingly simple number theory problem that had stumped mathematicians for decades.
Then Mochizuki walked away. He did not send his work to the Annals of Mathematics. Nor did he leave a message on any of the online forums frequented by mathematicians around the world. He just posted the papers, and waited.
Two days later, Jordan Ellenberg, a math professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, received an email alert from Google Scholar, a service which scans the Internet looking for articles on topics he has specified. On September 2, Google Scholar sent him Mochizuki’s papers: You might be interested in this.
“I was like, ‘Yes, Google, I am kind of interested in that!'” Ellenberg recalls. “I posted it on Facebook and on my blog, saying, ‘By the way, it seems like Mochizuki solved the ABC Conjecture.'”
The Internet exploded. Within days, even the mainstream media had picked up on the story. “World’s Most Complex Mathematical Theory Cracked,” announced the Telegraph. “Possible Breakthrough in ABC Conjecture,” reported the New York Times, more demurely.

How the Russians came to Hogwarts

Luke Harding:

The number of Russians at British private schools is rising as the rarefied world of Harry Potter is increasingly seen as a fashionable passport to a better life.
It is summer term at Maidwell Hall prep school. The boys and girls are back from holidays. Among them, and fresh off the plane from St Petersburg, is a new Russian pupil, Gosha Nikolayev. “I’m a bit scared and a bit excited,” Gosha says. His father, Sergei, has come to the UK with his 11-year-old son to drop him off. If all goes well Gosha will spend two years here before moving to a top boarding school. Dad has ruled out Eton, so this could be Charterhouse or Stowe.
Gosha’s new school near Northampton is a vision of how foreigners must imagine the land of Harry Potter. The main building is a dreamy turreted mansion overlooking its own boating and fishing lake. Maidwell Hall’s website shows pupils reading on the lawn under a perfect blue sky, playing rounders, or sharing a mealtime joke. The ethos is old-fashioned: boys wear tweed jackets, corduroy trousers and ties. Good manners are encouraged; mobile phones banned.
“We are trying to create a country- house atmosphere,” says headmaster Robert Lankester. “It always existed in prep schools before but has been lost in many cases.” He adds: “Parents from abroad love the tradition. They want to buy into something British.” Gosha is the school’s second Russian; the first – “a lovely chap, loads of friends”, the head says, cheerfully – is happily settled at Stowe.

Are Vouchers Dead?

Abby Rapaport:

When news broke Tuesday that the Louisiana Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s voucher system, which uses public dollars to pay for low-income students to go to private schools, the fight over vouchers made its way back into the headlines. The Louisiana program, pushed hard and publicly by Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, offers any low-income child in the state, regardless of what public school they would attend, tuition assistance at private schools. It’s something liberals fear will become commonplace in other states in the future if conservative lawmakers get their way on education policy.
Yet conservatives have been dominating legislatures since 2010 and there has been little success in creating voucher programs. Louisiana is one of only two states with such a broad program in place. After the 2010 Tea Party wave there was “a big spike in the number of states considering voucher legislation,” says Josh Cunningham, a policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). But most of those states didn’t actually pass any bills. Since 2010, four states have created new voucher programs. This year alone, according to NCSL, voucher bills have failed in seven states. While vouchers were once a key piece of the school choice agenda, they now play second fiddle to more popular education reform policies. But are they dead?
“Charter schools are the main thing at this point in time,” says William J. Mathis, managing director at the National Education Policy Center, which studies educational policy. “Vouchers just never seemed to grab traction.”

Much more on vouchers, here.
Sweden’s voucher system.

Gallup’s College and University Presidents’ Panel – Inaugural Report

Gallup Education (PDF)

Gallup has launched a panel focused on U.S. college and university presidents to track and understand their opinions on important topics and issues facing higher education. Gallup surveys these leaders every quarter on an annual basis. This report contains the key findings from the inaugural study.
Despite not being excited about the future of higher education in general, the majority of university presidents are excited about the future of their institution, many suggest enrollment will increase in the near future and that graduation rates will increase in the distant future.
A large number of college and university presidents — 62% — say they are excited about the future of their institution. In contrast, only two in 10 (20%) are excited about the future of higher education.
Even with the growth of online universities, presidents are not strong supporters of MOOCs when it comes to improving learning, solving financial challenges that colleges face, or reducing the cost of education for students.
Three percent (3%) of presidents strongly agree when asked if they consider MOOCs to be a solution to the following: Improving the learning of all students.
Only 2% of presidents strongly agree when asked if they consider MOOCs to be a solution to the following: Solving the financial challenges that colleges now face.
Eight percent (8%) of presidents strongly agree when asked if they consider MOOCs to be a solution to the following: Reducing the cost of education for students.
Few presidents (5%) believe that higher education institutions are not adequately preparing students for success in a global economy. This finding suggests that the presidents believe strongly in the importance of graduating from college and the ability to obtain a good job.
Only 8% of presidents believe higher education is affordable to everyone who needs it.
When asked what percentage of students graduate from high school prepared to enter college, nearly five in 10 (47%) say 25 to less than 50 percent are prepared to enter college.
Nearly seven in 10 (68%) say not being academically prepared is the biggest barrier for high school students in pursuing higher education.

Madison area students advance to national finals of history competition

Bill Novak:

ine Madison area middle and high school students have made it to the national finals of a history competition.
The nine are among 60 Wisconsin students to earn their way to the National History Day finals June 9-13 at College Park, Md., according to a news release from the Wisconsin Historical Society.
The students include Ameya Sanyal, Sanjaya Kumar, Anna Stoneman, Kristin Kiley and Lucas Voichick from the EAGLE School in Fitchburg; Manlu Liu, Madeline Brighouse-Glueck and Sara Triggs from West High School; and Eliza Scholl from Hamilton Middle School.

Cutting Down Student Debt Obama Plan Would Ease Burden, but Critics Say It Could Promote Overborrowing

Josh Mitchell & Douglas Belkin:

The White House proposes that the government forgive billions of dollars in student debt over the next decade, a plan that cheers student advocates, but critics say it would expand a program that already encourages students to borrow too much and stick taxpayers with the bill.
The proposal, included in President Barack Obama’s budget for next year, would increase the number of borrowers eligible for a program known casually as income-based repayment, which aims to help low-income workers stay current on federal student debt.
Borrowers in the program make monthly payments equivalent to 10% of their income after taxes and basic living expenses, regardless of how much they owe. After 20 years of on-time payments–10 years for those who work in public or nonprofit jobs–the balance is forgiven.

The Triumph of Suburbia

Joel Kotkin:

The “silver lining” in our five-years-and-running Great Recession, we’re told, is that Americans have finally taken heed of their betters and are finally rejecting the empty allure of suburban space and returning to the urban core.
“We’ve reached the limits of suburban development,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan declared in 2010. “People are beginning to vote with their feet and come back to the central cities.” Ed Glaeser’s Triumph of the City and Alan Ehrenhalt’s The Great Inversion–widely praised and accepted by the highest echelons of academia, press, business, and government–have advanced much the same claim, and just last week a report on jobs during the downturn garnered headlines like “City Centers in U.S. Gain Share of Jobs as Suburbs Lose.”
There’s just one problem with this narrative: none of it is true. A funny thing happened on the way to the long-trumpeted triumph of the city: the suburbs not only survived but have begun to regain their allure as Americans have continued aspiring to single-family homes.
Read the actual Brookings report that led to the “Suburbs Lose” headline: it shows that in 91 of America’s 100 biggest metro areas, the share of jobs located within three miles of downtown declined over the 2000s. Only Washington, D.C., saw significant growth.
To be sure, our ongoing Great Recession slowed the rate of outward expansion but it didn’t stop it–and it certainly didn’t lead to a jobs boom in the urban core.

New Jersey Bill aims to End School District Employee “Double Dipping”

Mark Lagerkvist:

A New Jersey lawmaker is pushing a bill to stop retired school administrators from double-dipping by collecting both pensions and salaries from post-retirement school jobs.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, cited an investigation by New Jersey Watchdog and NBC 4 New York that found 45 retired superintendents employed as interim school administrators, collecting $4 million a year in pension pay plus their executive salaries.
“There are retirees who are earning generous salaries while collecting pensions, and the worst part is that they are not breaking any laws because the current system allows this to happen,” said Caputo. “The state is in no position to just be giving away money.”
For example, Ralph E. Ross collected $292,272 last year – $149,256 in salary as interim superintendent of Deptford Township schools in Gloucester County, plus $143,016 from pension as retired superintendent of Black Horse Pike Regional schools in Camden County.
“I don’t apologize for any money I get,” said Ross, who now pockets his pension plus $136,500 in salary as interim chief at Monroe Township schools in Gloucester County. “My services are worthwhile and appreciated.”

Laura Waters has more.
This Practice is certainly not limited to New Jersey. Madison has also had some “double dipper” employees.

Are They Really Ready To Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied

The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management (PDF):

The future U.S. workforce is here–and it is woefully ill-prepared for the demands of today’s (and tomorrow’s) workplace. So say employers in a unique study by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, Partnership for 21 Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management, which looks at the readiness of new entrants to the workforce. Knowing how employers view these new entrants is an important first step in enabling both these new entrants and U.S. business to succeed on the global economic playing field.
The four participating organizations jointly surveyed over 400 employers across the United States. These employers articulate the skill sets that new entrants–recently hired graduates from high school, two-year colleges or technical schools, and four-year colleges–need to succeed in the workplace. Among the most important skills cited by employers:
Professionalism/Work Ethic
Oral and Written Communications
Teamwork/Collaboration and
Critical Thinking/Problem Solving.
In fact, the findings indicate that applied skills1 on all educational levels trump basic knowledge and skills, such as Reading Comprehension and Mathematics. In other words, while the “three Rs” are still fundamental to any new workforce entrant’s ability to do the job, employers emphasize that applied skills like Teamwork/Collaboration and Critical Thinking are “very important” to success at work.

Rural Republicans want more money for Wisconsin public schools

Jack Craver:

It’s been clear for weeks that Gov. Scott Walker’s budget faced major challenges in getting through the state Senate, where a small group of veteran, moderate Republicans has advocated for higher funding of public education and protested loudly a budget provision that would expand private voucher schools in nine cities across the state.
The state Assembly, where Republicans hold a 20-seat majority and which is dominated by conservatives swept into office in the tea party wave of 2010, has largely been dismissed as a rubber stamp for Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
On Tuesday, however, 13 Assembly Republicans made clear that they have serious concerns about the Walker budget’s funding for public education.
In an open letter to Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, the co-chairs of the budget-crafting Joint Finance Committee, the group implored the committee leaders to provide more money to local schools:
“Collectively, we have heard from parents and schools in our districts that the budget proposal should provide more funding for public schools. We’re sure you have heard similar comments. We all know that Wisconsin has a strong history of quality education for our youth. To keep that tradition, we agree that the public schools in our districts would benefit from an increase in K-12 funding and an increase in revenue limits.”

Colleges Soak Poor Students to Funnel Aid to Rich

John Hechinger & Janet Lorin:

U.S. colleges such as Boston University are using financial aid to lure rich students while shortchanging the poor, forcing those most in need to take on heavy debt, a report found.
Almost two-thirds of private institutions require students from families making $30,000 or less annually to pay more than $15,000 a year, according to the report released today by the Washington-based New America Foundation.
The research analyzing U.S. Education Department data for the 2010-2011 school year undercuts the claims of many wealthy colleges that financial-aid practices make their institutions affordable, said Stephen Burd, the report’s author. He singled out schools — including Boston University and George Washington University — that appear especially pricey for poor families.
“Colleges are always saying how committed they are to admitting low-income students — that they are all about equality,” Burd said in a phone interview. “This data shows there’s been a dramatic shift. The pursuit of prestige and revenue has led them to focus more on high-income students.”

An interactive chart can be viewed here.

Janesville schools retool graduation requirements Educators hope to better prepare students for college, careers

Margo Spann:

Janesville School District leaders are retooling the school day and graduation requirements to give students a competitive edge outside the classroom. The initiative is called Project Redesign.
Right now Janesville students only need 22.5 credits to graduate from high school. Students in seventh grade this year will be required to earn 26.5 credits during their high school stints to get a diploma.
Craig High School’s principal, Dr. Alison Bjoin, is one of many who helped design the district’s new graduation requirements.
“This whole initiative is about making sure that our students leave Craig and Parker high schools ready to compete,” Bjoin said.
The school will be adding credits in four core areas: science, math, social studies and English. Bjoin said Project Redesign is about giving students the skills to compete after high school.
“[They’ll be] able to compete in college, in the military, in [careers],” Bjoin said. “Making sure students get additional credits in those core areas is going to help them on that path.”
The additional credit requirements will be phased in starting in 2014.

Wisconsin students decline, international students rise as percentage of most recent UW-Madison freshman class

Dan Simmons:

UW-Madison’s incoming freshman class last fall included the lowest percentage of Wisconsin students and by far the highest percentage of international students in at least a decade, the latter fueled by a doubling of Chinese freshmen from the previous year.
Also for the first time last year, the university enrolled a higher percentage of sons and daughters of alums — called “legacies” — than first-generation college students.
The findings, drawn from university admissions data, were compiled by a 16-member university committee over the last school year and presented to the Faculty Senate this week. The authors called on the university to redouble efforts to enroll the state’s best students, among many recommendations.
“Between 2002 and 2012, the fraction of new freshmen from Wisconsin declined from 64 percent to 56 percent,” the report reads. “We now enroll a smaller fraction of in-state students than many of our peers, and believe that in order to fulfill our mission to the state of Wisconsin this trend should be reversed.”
Paul DeLuca, UW-Madison provost, said the university faces new challenges as the number of high school graduates in Wisconsin declines, a trend expected to continue for the next five years.

A look at UW-Madison freshman enrollment from Madison area high schools, 1983-2012.

Data via the UW-Madison registrar’s office.

Colleges Cut Prices by Providing More Financial Aid

Ruth Simon:

Private U.S. colleges, worried they could be pricing themselves out of the market after years of relentless tuition increases, are offering record financial assistance to keep classrooms full.
The average “tuition discount rate”–the reduction off list price afforded by grants and scholarships given by these schools–hit an all-time high of 45% last fall for incoming freshmen, according to a survey being released Monday by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
“It’s a buyer’s market” for all but the most select private colleges and flagship public universities, said Jim Scannell, president of Scannell & Kurz, a consulting firm in Pittsford, N.Y., that works with colleges on pricing and financial-aid strategies.
It is likely that some private colleges will be forced to be even more generous with discounts this fall. As of the May 1 deadline for many high-school seniors to commit for their freshman year of college, early reports suggest some non-top-tier schools fell 10% to 20% short of enrollment targets, said Mr. Scannell.

How Autism Is Different in Girls vs. Boys

Shirley Wang:

Why do boys get diagnosed with autism four times as often as girls?
New research, including some of the latest data from the International Society for Autism Research annual conference last week, addresses this question, one of the biggest mysteries in this field. A growing consensus is arguing that sex differences exist in genetic susceptibility, brain development and social learning in autism–and they are meaningful to our understanding of the disorder and how it will be treated.
Yale University researchers presented results showing that being female appears to provide genetic protection against autism. Meanwhile, scientists at Emory University showed in preliminary work that boys and girls with autism learn social information differently, which leads to divergent success in interactions with other people.

A Nation at Risk: 30 years later it remains relevant to the state of education

Laura Waters:

A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform” just had its 30th birthday, so it seems appropriate to pay our respects. After all, this report, issued by the Reagan Administration’s National Commission on Excellence in Education, continues to inform current educational debates and is just as relevant now as it was a generation ago.
To give you a taste of the document, here’s a line from the introduction: “If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”
Not much nuance there, but a lot of clout. Over the last 30 years Americans have gradually accepted the premise of “A Nation at Risk” and many agree that our system of public education needs to be reformed. That’s a huge change in perception, especially for a system so resistant to change: remember, schools in America still follow an agrarian calendar and most classrooms look no different than school houses in the 19th century, 25 kids or so with a teacher in the front, modeled after schools that Horace Mann saw in Prussia in 1843.

Legislature and lawsuit help public education go in exactly the wrong direction. Again.

Laurie Rogers:

I was asked recently to articulate to a legislator my thoughts and concerns about public education funding and accountability. Ah, so much to say … about funding; accountability, the Common Core initiatives, and the McCleary Decision on education funding.
Legislators love to give more of our tax dollars to K-12 education, but they aren’t good at pursuing accountability or transparency from administrators and school boards. That’s partly because they listen too much to the Edu Mob, and not enough to We, the People.
What legislators hear from the Edu Mob is usually contrary to what actually needs to be done for the children, so we advocates have little hope of ever nailing down solutions. After six+ years of advocacy, I’m profoundly tired of hearing legislators state, year after year, “Education needs more money!”
Question #1: What basis do legislators have for saying that K-12 education is underfunded, or that funding has been cut, or that more money will produce a better education system?

Great and timely. Listen to or read an interview with Laurie Rogers, here.

You’ll Never Learn! Students can’t resist multitasking, and it’s impairing their memory.

Annie Murphy Paul:

Living rooms, dens, kitchens, even bedrooms: Investigators followed students into the spaces where homework gets done. Pens poised over their “study observation forms,” the observers watched intently as the students–in middle school, high school, and college, 263 in all–opened their books and turned on their computers.
For a quarter of an hour, the investigators from the lab of Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University-Dominguez Hills, marked down once a minute what the students were doing as they studied. A checklist on the form included: reading a book, writing on paper, typing on the computer–and also using email, looking at Facebook, engaging in instant messaging, texting, talking on the phone, watching television, listening to music, surfing the Web. Sitting unobtrusively at the back of the room, the observers counted the number of windows open on the students’ screens and noted whether the students were wearing earbuds.
Although the students had been told at the outset that they should “study something important, including homework, an upcoming examination or project, or reading a book for a course,” it wasn’t long before their attention drifted: Students’ “on-task behavior” started declining around the two-minute mark as they began responding to arriving texts or checking their Facebook feeds. By the time the 15 minutes were up, they had spent only about 65 percent of the observation period actually doing their schoolwork.

Republicans Should Love ‘Common Core’ National standards can revive the way we teach math and science.

Edward Frenkel & Hung-Hsi Wu:

The Common Core State Standards are a set of rigorous academic standards in mathematics and English language arts. They are the culmination of a meticulous, 20-year process initiated by the states and involving teachers, educators, business leaders and policy makers from across the country and both sides of the aisle.
The standards form a foundation for a high-quality education, have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, and are slated for full implementation in 2014.
Unfortunately, the Republican National Committee recently adopted a resolution rejecting the Core Standards, calling them a “nationwide straitjacket on academic freedom and achievement.” This resolution and efforts under way to repeal the Core Standards in several states are misguided and have to be resisted.
Mathematical education in the U.S. is in deep crisis. The World Economic Forum ranks the quality of math and science education in the U.S. a dismal 48th. This is one of the reasons the 2010 report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” by the National Academies warned that America’s ability to compete effectively with other nations is fading.

Is preschool declining in its overall effectiveness?

Greg Duncan and Katherine Magnuson:

Programs beginning before 1980 produced significantly larger effect sizes (.33 standard deviations) than those that began later (.16 standard deviations). Declining effect sizes over time are disappointing, as we might hope that lessons from prior evaluations and advances in the science of child development would have led to an increase in program effects over time. However, the likely reason for the decline is that counterfactual conditions for children in the control groups in these studies have improved substantially. We have already seen in Figure 1 how much more likely low-income children are to be attending some form of center-based care now relative to 40 years ago. This matters because, though center-based care programs have varying degrees of educational focus, most research suggests that center-based care is associated with better cognitive and achievement outcomes for preschool age children (NICHD Early Childcare Research Network and Duncan 2003).
Even more impressive are gains in the likely quality of the home environment provided by low-income mothers, as indexed by their completed schooling. In 1970, some 71 percent of preschool age children in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution had mothers who lacked a high school degree, while only 5 percent of the mothers had attended at least some postsecondary schooling…

The value of arts in a time of austerity

Peter Bazalgette:

When people who fundamentally agree purport to disagree, you have a non-debate. This was the upshot a few days ago when Maria Miller, secretary of state for culture, sensibly asked the arts sector to help her make the economic case for arts funding.
Everyone agrees the arts are not a commodity; you can’t reduce it all to money; pure instrumentalism is the enemy of creativity. Indeed, John Maynard Keynes – the economist instrumental in setting up the Arts Council – spoke of “enjoyment” and “serious and fine entertainment”. He did not refer to endogenous growth theory. So, to be clear, no one disputes that we invest in the arts to fire our imaginations, stimulate our culture and assure our quality of life. But there is an economic benefit, too.
Had Keynes been discussing what we can afford in a time of austerity, I am confident he would have pointed to the benefits of our world-class arts and culture, including the way they regenerate our communities and plant our flag on the world stage. And I am sure he would not have failed to point out that they return 0.4 per cent of UK gross domestic product on less than 0.1 per cent of government spending.

The Death of Truth

Chris Hedges:

A tiny tip of the vast subterranean network of governmental and intelligence agencies from around the world dedicated to destroying WikiLeaks and arresting its founder, Julian Assange, appears outside the red-brick building on Hans Crescent Street that houses the Ecuadorean Embassy. Assange, the world’s best-known political refugee, has been in the embassy since he was offered sanctuary there last June. British police in black Kevlar vests are perched night and day on the steps leading up to the building, and others wait in the lobby directly in front of the embassy door. An officer stands on the corner of a side street facing the iconic department store Harrods, half a block away on Brompton Road. Another officer peers out the window of a neighboring building a few feet from Assange’s bedroom at the back of the embassy. Police sit round-the-clock in a communications van topped with an array of antennas that presumably captures all electronic forms of communication from Assange’s ground-floor suite.

An Insider’s Educational Experience

Mark Lavers:

Among the major benefits of being a teacher in a foreign country are the opportunities it provides for meeting and speaking with the “natives”. Over my “career” in Japan, I’ve interacted with a broad spectrum of students: from 2 year-old children (and younger) to people in their 80’s, from office ladies and blue collar workers to professionals and company presidents. Students’ motivations for studying have ranged from being forced to study by their parents (or company) to viewing the acquisition of a second language as a vehicle to a better life. During these 15 plus years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of Japanese about a vast array of topics, including education. As a former teacher in my native country, education has always been a topic of profound personal interest. Recently, I spoke at length with a young student, whom I have been teaching for 5 years, about his educational experiences, first in elementary school, which he attended in North America, and his subsequent experiences upon returning to Japan. The conversation was very enlightening, for several reasons.
The first example of the difference in education “styles” occurred shortly after he started school back in Japan. About 1 month after school started, his parents received a letter from the school instructing them to instruct their son to stop asking “why” questions during class. Basically, the letter said that their son was asking too many questions and was a disruptive influence in the classroom.
“WE”, NOT “ME”
My student’s first major “social” adjustment was the necessity of being aware of, and thinking about, the “feelings” of others. He spoke of becoming physically ill due to the stress caused by having to “learn” to restrain himself from speaking or acting “impulsively”, how he had to constantly reign in his “normal”, natural “impulses, and instead, reflect on how his actions might potentially “hurt” someone. Essentially, he said, his initial response was to become almost paranoid about speaking or “participating” in class.

To College Grads: It’s A Different Economy

Charles Hugh Smith:

The economy has changed in structural ways; preparing for the old economy is a sure path to disappointment.
Millions of young people will be graduating from college over the next four years, and unfortunately, they will be entering an economy that has changed in structural ways for the worse. It’s easy to blame politics or the Baby Boomers (that’s like shooting fish in a barrel), but the dynamics are deeper than policy or one generation’s foolish belief in endless good times and rising housing prices.
1. Getting a college degree, even in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, no longer guarantees a job. As I have often noted, producing more graduates does not magically create jobs. The economy can only support a certain number of jobs in any one field. Producing 10 times as many graduates in that field does not create 10 times more jobs.
According to this analysis of supply, employment, and wage trends in information technology (IT) and other high-tech fields, Guestworkers in the high-skill U.S. labor market (via B.C.), only half of those graduating with STEM degrees get jobs in STEM fields.

The Digital Campus 2013: My Modern Experience Teaching a MOOC

Michael Roth:

My Coursera course, “The Modern and the Postmodern,” might have been labeled “course least likely to become a MOOC.” In many ways, it is an old-fashioned “great books” course, although I prefer to call it a “good-enough books” course, and in the 20 years I’ve been teaching it, it has always relied heavily on student interaction in the classroom.
We’ve always started in the late 18th century, usually with Kant and Rousseau, and then wound our way through 200 years of mostly European intellectual history–Karl Marx, Gustave Flaubert, and Friedrich Nietzsche in the 19th century, Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, and Michel Foucault in the 20th. In recent years we’ve finished up with the philosophers Kwame Anthony Appiah, Judith Butler, and Slavoj Zizek. We are interested in what happens when the modern search for the “really real” is replaced by the postmodern embrace of intensity and difference. We explore how modernist artists and writers have looked for a foundation that will ground their ideas and formal experimentation, while postmodernists have given up the search for a firm base.
Last summer my institution, Wesleyan University, where I am president, became the first liberal-arts college to join Coursera. I’d been discussing online education with the faculty, students, and board members, and I had a notion that we should start our own program. But after reading about Coursera’s success in attracting large numbers of students to courses taught by talented professors at strong universities, it seemed to me that we should become a partner. The Coursera folks wanted to know which classes we would offer, but at that point summer was half over, and I wasn’t certain who among my colleagues would want to participate. I knew I could volunteer myself for starters, and so that’s what I did. Eventually, professors from six different departments agreed to join me in offering courses.

“I can’t do math…”

Michael Molinsky:

Why is it that you, without embarrassment, publish the fact that 70% of the staff of your Washington office can’t perform simple arithmetic? One can go into virtually any office and find someone who will freely admit that ‘I can’t do math.’
— John C. Nelson, in a letter to the Wall Street Journal
“I can’t do math.” It’s probably one of the most common statements I hear as a teacher, and it would be difficult for me to come up with a statement that irritates me more (although saying “my bad” when you mean “my mistake” comes close). It is especially irritating because the person who says it invariably sounds happy and content with this assertion of inability. And it isn’t merely students; last year, I sat in a meeting while four Tennessee Wesleyan College personnel smiled cheerfully and told me one after the other that they couldn’t “do” math.
Stating that you can’t “do” math, it seems to me, is roughly equivalent to stating that you can’t read and can’t write. And while illiteracy is a serious concern (according to a 1993 report from the U.S. Department of Education, about 23% of all citizens of the United States are functionally illiterate), you are not likely to find many college students (or college personnel, for that matter) bragging with a grin that they can’t read a sentence or write their own name. And if someone told you that they couldn’t “do” history, you probably wouldn’t pat them on the head and say, “There, there, I can’t do history, either.” But this is exactly what happens in mathematics.

MOOC Mania: Debunking the hype around massive open online courses

Audrey Watters:

In the fall of 2011, Stanford University offered three of its engineering courses–Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Introduction to Databases–for free online. Anyone with Internet access could sign up for them. As Sebastian Thrun, the director of Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, tells the story, he assumed just a handful of people would enroll in his graduate-level AI class. Instead, more than 160,000 students registered. A massive number.
That’s when the enormous hype began about massive open online courses, better known as “MOOCs.” Since then, Thrun and his fellow lab professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng have founded education organizations that offer free online classes. Thrun’s start-up is called Udacity (in part, a takeoff on the word “audacious”), and Koller and Ng’s is Coursera. In December 2011, in response to Stanford’s initiatives, MIT launched its own effort, called MITx (short for “Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange”), and a few months later joined forces with Harvard, drolly changing the name of the organization to edX. A consortium of British universities has also created its own MOOC platform, Futurelearn. So far, more than 90 universities worldwide have teamed up with one or more of these MOOC providers, prompting the New York Times to crown 2012 as “The Year of the MOOC.”
Although it’s clear that there’s a flurry of interest in MOOCs among universities, higher-ed students, the tech industry, and pundits, these free online courses are also likely to have a significant impact on K-12 librarians and other educators. As Joyce Valenza, a teacher librarian at Springfield Township High School in Pennsylvania, pointed out on her SLJ blog, “Never Ending Search,” MOOCs “can reach tens of thousands of students of all ages, regardless of geography or social class. They have the potential to be equalizers. MOOCs have the potential to disrupt traditional education platforms. And experts predict they will.”

U.S. Education Secretary’s stern challenge to entrepreneurs: ‘We have so far to go’

Christina Farr:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke frankly to a roomful of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors about the state of the nation’s education system.
At the NewSchools Summit this afternoon, the former head of Chicago’s public schools said he believes that technology not only improves access to education but also graduation rates. In a discussion with Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, Duncan referred to many schools and universities as glorified “dropout factories” and called for teachers and parents to “knock at his door or the governor’s door” and demand better for their children.
Duncan has made significant steps in his tenure as education secretary — although his efforts have incurred significant criticism from the National Education Association. Duncan has secured increases in Pell grants for students to attend college, and he is a supporter of innovation through programs like “Race to the Top” and “Investing in Innovation.” Additionally, he has helped secure an additional $10 billion to avoid teacher layoffs and $500 million for a national early learning competition.
But these efforts are not nearly enough, and Duncan conceded that “we have so far to go.”


Last In, First Out: When A Policy’s Shortcoming Is Its Strength

Eric Horowitz:

I’ve been making my way through Richard Kahlenberg’s biography of Albert Shanker, and one of the recurring themes that jumps out at me is the way long-lasting policies can emerge from the confluence of short-lived circumstances. Previously I wrote about this kind of “policy stickiness” in the context of higher salaries for teachers with master’s degrees, but you can also see it play out with regard to dismissing teachers based on seniority, a practice known as “last in, first out” (LIFO).
Recently, reformers have attempted to do away with LIFO because it’s an arbitrary, albeit straightforward, way of determining whom to dismiss. But according to Kahlenberg, 30 years ago the climate of discrimination in the country was so bad that Shanker felt we needed LIFO because it was arbitrary.

Shanker and the AFT argued that seniority was worth preserving. Seniority “has proven to be the most effective mechanism for protecting workers–regardless of race, religion, sex or age–against capricious and arbitrary actions of their employers,” the union said. Seniority prevented racist employers from firing blacks first. And it also protected workers “from the whims and prejudices of their employers” not related to race. Finally, seniority was important as a union principle because it “prevents divisiveness among working people by distributing scarcity in a way that is objectively fair and therefore perceived to be fair.” (p. 241)

Wisconsin Kindergarten Reading Readiness Results

Matthew DeFour:

About 10 percent of Wisconsin kindergartners weren’t prepared for classroom reading instruction, according to the results of a test administered for the first time statewide last fall.
The main purpose of the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening, or PALS test, is to identify students who struggle with certain literacy fundamentals and need intervention, said Patrick Gasper, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Instruction.
Teachers can use the results to tailor their reading instruction, he said.
“A child not meeting the benchmark could be (a sign of) inadequate experience with literacy, a special education need, or it could be general slow development,” said Beth Graue, a UW-Madison education professor and expert on early childhood education.
Gov. Scott Walker has proposed $2.8 million in his biennial budget to add the test in grades 1 and 2 and 4-year-old kindergarten starting in fall 2014.
The State Journal obtained the results under the state’s Open Records Law. DPI doesn’t plan to publish the information because the test is a tool for classroom instruction and not meant to compare students, schools and districts, Gasper said.

In the Madison area, 92% of Middleton’s Kindergarten students met the benchmark while Verona students scored 87%, Madison 84%, Waunakee 97%, Monona Grove 98%, Oregon 97%, McFarland 93%, DeForest 92% and Sun Prairie 88%.
Related: Madison’s disastrous reading results.