Devastating Budget Cuts Still Look Like Increases So Far

Mike Antonucci:

Devastating Budget Cuts Still Look Like Increases So Far. The National Center for Education Statistics issued its “First Look” at comprehensive school district revenues and expenditures for the 2009-10 school year. It’s a welcome report, though not exactly a “first look” since it uses U.S. Census Bureau figures available since last fall.
According to the authoritative National Bureau of Economic Research, America’s “Great Recession” began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Because of the vast number of agencies involved, it takes years to gather and report definitive public education revenue and spending data. So while we may eventually see figures that corroborate the tales of woe we hear from those quarters, that time has not yet arrived. Quite the contrary, in fact.
Here are a few of the center’s findings:
School districts reported $599.9 billion in total revenues.
That was an increase of 0.8 percent from the previous year, in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Current expenditures per-pupil, however, rose 1.0 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

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.

Feds’ voucher requirements could cut both ways

Chris Rickert:

If Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed expansion of the state’s school voucher program wasn’t dead already, a letter from the feds calling into question the program’s legality could be the final nail in the coffin.
Among other things, the April 9 letter requires the Department of Public Instruction to monitor voucher schools to make sure they are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and to report complaints they get from parents who allege the voucher program discriminated against their disabled children.
For the American Civil Liberties Union and Disability Rights Wisconsin, whose complaint led to the letter, “this is a big win,” said Julie Mead, a professor of educational leadership and policy analysis at UW-Madison.
And a big loss for voucher proponents, who detest the kind of government oversight and bureaucracy the feds are requiring. Even worse for them is that the feds’ criticism is just one more reason for Republicans who were already iffy on Walker’s expansion to oppose it.
Now the question is whether the state’s existing voucher program — which has proven popular with parents, or at least with parents of non-disabled students — can survive the federal order.

About Value-Added And “Junk Science”

Matthew DiCarlo:

One can often hear opponents of value-added referring to these methods as “junk science.” The term is meant to express the argument that value-added is unreliable and/or invalid, and that its scientific “façade” is without merit.
Now, I personally am not opposed to using these estimates in evaluations and other personnel policies, but I certainly understand opponents’ skepticism. For one thing, there are some states and districts in which design and implementation has been somewhat careless, and, in these situations, I very much share the skepticism. Moreover, the common argument that evaluations, in order to be “meaningful,” must consist of value-added measures in a heavily-weighted role (e.g., 45-50 percent) is, in my view, unsupportable.
All that said, calling value-added “junk science” completely obscures the important issues. The real questions here are less about the merits of the models per se than how they’re being used.
If value-added is “junk science” regardless of how it’s employed, then a fairly large chunk of social scientific research is “junk science.” If that’s your opinion, then okay – you’re entitled to it – but it’s not very compelling, at least in my (admittedly biased) view.

Coming Attractions: Who Owns Teachers’ Work?

Andrew Rotherham

Last year at TIME I took a look at the new websites where teachers can share their work – in some cases for personal profit and in some cases under circumstances where vendors can profit. The idea has great potential – especially with Common Core – for teachers to share work in an anytime/anywhere manner. But as the column noted – greatly upsetting some readers who thought there should simply be no question – there are also a complicated set of legal questions swirling around these sites about who owns content teachers produce in the course of their work. [You can read some terms of use language from key sites here] Not a lot of case law yet but a New York court ruled that school districts own the rights to lesson plans teachers create as part of their employment and with employer provided tools. That’s a generally accepted, if infrequently enforced, standard.
Now the National Education Association has released its new statement on digital learning and it includes a statement about the ownership issue seeking to create a new standard – and include this issue in collective bargaining:

…education employees should own the copyright to materials that they create in the course of their employment. There should be an appropriate “teacher’s exception” to the “works made for hire” doctrine, pursuant to which works created by education employees in the course of their employment are owned by the employee. This exception should reflect the unique practices and traditions of academia.

On the need for unions and seniority

Kelly Amis:

“I’m pro-union (for jobs in which people are nearly powerless and easily replaced, like farm or factory workers, I’m just not sure it is helping teaching as a profession).” Regarding unions, I think it’s not only a matter of skill and replaceability, but also power imbalances. Teachers I know and hear from in non-unionized states describe the arbitrary and punitive use of power to silence troublemakers and embolden poor, unethical, even illegal practices in administration and school governance. There’s also considerable political pressure and involvement in education that necessitates the strength in numbers that comes with unions. Think of the science teachers who dare to teach about evolution as a fact, health teachers who mention birth-control, LGBTQ teachers harrassed or silenced, or teachers who dare to suggest that a student with two moms comes from a family every bit as normal as others, journalism teachers pressured to restrict their students’ First Amendment rights, librarians who allow students to check out controversial books, English teachers who use controversial books or creative writing assignments, social studies teachers who teach students about the Islamic Golden Age… Think about the teachers who give the starting point guard an F that will remove him from the playoffs, teachers who bust the school board member’s child for plagiarism, teachers who say something unpopular in the public sphere, signing anti-war petitions or letters to the editor, etc.
These are not hypothetical issues – they happen all the time. Daily. A vinidictive (or intimidated) administrator has so much power over a teacher – even with union support. A principal can ruin a teacher’s year, ruin a career, run their their health and morale into the ground. Removing the union actually makes it harder for most of us to do good work in difficult circumstances, harder to speak up on behalf of students and families. I think the overall educational outcomes in union vs. non-union states and countries undercut your suggestion that unions do not help education. True, I’ve also heard stories about local associations and union reps who are bad for schools and kids. It happens. But I don’t see those exceptions as an argument against unions – it’s an argument for better governance, management, and ethical decision-making by those individuals.

Madison Teachers, Inc. “Patch Through” Voucher Phone Bank May 9

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

Thanks to the volunteers who helped make phone calls at MTI on April 23. With few volunteers, 51 callers were “patched through” to leave a message for Senator Sheila Harsdorf that voucher expansion is bad for Wisconsin and that public schools must be fully funded. The Governor’s proposed budget will take $96 million from public schools to fund private and parochial “voucher” schools and private charter schools.
This program was a great success in other Senate Districts as well, generating well over 200 contacts last week. Any member interested in giving this a try, another night of calling is being considered for Thursday, May 9, 4:30 – 7:30 p.m., at MTI. The constituents we are calling are targeted based on their likelihood to respond positively and include WEAC members and voters favorable to public schools. This fight is critical because if we lose, voucher schools will be coming to Madison, whether we want them or not, with slick marketing campaigns designed to lure tax dollars into their pockets by denigrating our public schools. Don’t let this happen! We need seven confirmed volunteers to make this set-up worthwhile.
If you can join us next Thursday, please contact Jeff Knight ( / 257-0491).

Spring Harbor team wins African American History Challenge Bowl

The Madison School District:

It came down to a very close finish but in an overtime session the Spring Harbor Middle team overtook the O’Keeffe Middle team at the African American History Bowl held on Saturday, April 13.
As first-place finishers, team members (pictured below l-r) Odoi Lassey, Russell McGee, James Horton (alternate), Shania Weaver (backup alternate) and Coach Sara Johnson will travel to New Orleans on an all-expenses paid trip to complete in the 100 Black Men National History Bowl Challenge in June.

America’s most challenging High Schools – 2013

Jay Matthews:

The index score is the number of college-level tests given at a school in 2012 divided by the number of graduates that year. Also noted are the percentage of students who come from families that qualify for lunch subsidies (Subs. lunch) and the percentage of graduates who passed at least one college-level test during their high school career, called equity and excellence, (E&E). A (P) next to the school’s name denotes a private school.

While Middleton (#1097) and Verona (#1529) made the 2013 index, no Madison high schools were included. Interestingly, thirteen (13) high schools from the Austin, Texas area were included along with two from Minneapolis, MN, two from St. Paul, MN, one from Ann Arbor, one from Portland, one each from Mobile and Birmingham, AL.
Jay Matthews:

I have been ranking the most challenging schools in the country and this region for 15 years. Rarely have I encountered anything like the American Indian Public Charter High School of Oakland, Calif., the No. 1 school on my 2013 list. It has risen to the top just as its city school board is trying to shut it down.
I visited the high school and its two American Indian charter middle schools two months ago. They hold classes in offices downtown and in a run-down residential part of the city, where they set an extraordinary standard of achievement.
The students enroll in Advanced Placement courses in the ninth grade and eventually take more of those college-level classes and exams per student than any high school in the Washington area. In their white shirts and dark slacks and skirts, the 243 students bustle around their little campus. Eighty-one percent of them are from low-income families, but their AP test-passing rate of 41 percent is higher than any D.C. school except Wilson and the School Without Walls, which have mostly middle-class students.
The three Oakland charter schools are in trouble because Ben Chavis, the unorthodox educator responsible for their success, has been charged by the school district with misappropriating public funds. Chavis denies doing anything wrong. He left the school in late 2011 to tend his cattle farm in North Carolina, leaving parents and new school leaders — with their own internal disputes — to fight for survival. The city school board voted last month to withdraw the schools’ charter by a narrow 4 to 3 margin, but the county or state school board could overrule that decision.

Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading

Carolyn Miller, Kathryn Zickuhr, Lee Rainie and Kristen Purcell:

The vast majority of parents of minor children — children younger than 18 — feel libraries are very important for their children. That attachment carries over into parents’ own higher-than-average use of a wide range of library services.1
The ties between parents and libraries start with the importance parents attach to the role of reading in their children’s lives. Half of parents of children under age 12 (50%) read to their child every day and an additional 26% do so a few times a week. Those with children under age 6 are especially keen on daily reading with their child: 58% of these parents read with their child every day and another 26% read multiple times a week with their children.
The importance parents assign to reading and access to knowledge shapes their enthusiasm for libraries and their programs:

Thousands fail high school math finals in Montgomery County Schools

Donna St. George:

Thousands of students in Montgomery County failed final exams in high school math courses last semester, according to data that raise questions about how well students have learned the material and whether there is a disconnect between the test and the course work.
Recently released figures show failure rates of 62 percent for high school students taking the county’s geometry final and 57 percent for those taking the Algebra 2 exam. Among students taking the same courses on the honors level, 30 percent to 36 percent failed the end-of-semester tests in January, according to data from the school system.
The numbers have alarmed parents in the high-performing school system, where nearly 16,000 high school students in seven math courses did not pass their finals — a majority of the roughly 30,000 students taking those tests.
Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said a work group would begin meeting this summer to unravel the reasons behind the poor test results, which he said could involve issues of teaching, student support, or alignment between the curriculum and the exam.

Foreign students arriving in US will face tighter scrutiny at customs

Associated Press:

The US Department of Homeland Security, criticised for failing to check the student status of a Kazakh man charged in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, has tightened procedures for admitting foreigners with student visas, a US official said
The new procedure is the government’s first security change directly related to the attacks last month.
The order, effective immediately, was issued by a senior official at US Customs and Border Protection, David Murphy. It was circulated on Thursday, a day after the Obama administration acknowledged a student from Kazakhstan accused of hiding evidence for one of the Boston bombing suspects was allowed to return to the United States in January without a valid student visa.
The student visa for Azamat Tazhayakov had been terminated when he arrived in New York on January 20. But the border agent in the airport did not have access to the information in the Homeland Security Department’s student and exchange visitor information system, called SEVIS.

Madison Schools’ Read 180/System 44 Mid-Year Gains Report

Lisa Wachtel:

MMSD offers Read 180 and System 44 as a reading intervention to adolescent students who are two or more years behind their grade level in reading in regular education, special education and the English as a Second Language program. Read 180 and System 44 are integrated into the District’s Response to Intervention (RtI) plan to provide students with access to these research-based intervention materials in all district secondary sites, including middle schools, high school and alternative programs.
Read 180 is an intensive reading intervention program that meets the needs of struggling adolescent readers whose reading achievement is below proficient. The program addresses individual needs through differentiated instruction, adaptive and instructional software, high-interest literacy and explicit instruction in reading, writing and vocabulary development.
The Read 180 instructional model provides a way to organize instruction and classroom activity. Each session begins and ends with whole-group teacher-directed instruction. During the class, there is a structure for the use of time including whole group and small student groups. In the small group time, students rotate among three stations, including:
Computer center – students use the READ 180 software independently, providing them with intensive, individualized skill practice;
Small group – students receive diagnostically informed instruction where individual needs can be met;
Independent center – students read from READ 180 paperbacks and audiobooks. Journal writing, reader responses and reading strategies are applied.
System 44 is an intervention program that is designed for struggling adolescents that need basic support in letter sounds, decoding, word recognition, word-level fluency and strategies for unfamiliar words. System 44 helps middle and high school students “crack the code” on the 44 sounds and 26 letters in the English language. It is intended to be a short term intervention, with students only remaining in the program until they have mastered the sounds of the English language. When student master the decoding, skills as determined by the Scholastic Phonics Inventory, they may advance to Read 180 or another intervention if appropriate. System 44 incorporates a screening tool for reading and phonics to assist with the proper identification of students into either System 44 or Read 180. While MMSD has used Read 180 for several years, System 44 was made available district-wide in 2012-13.

Data issues regarding READ 180 and System 44 by Andrew Statz

Because of these discrepancies and uncertainty over which students actually received the READ 180 or System 44 curriculum, any data staff of READ 180 and System 44 updates generated by MMSD would be misleading and could lead to improper estimates of the results these programs produce, which could in turn lead to misinformed decisions about the direction and effectiveness of these programs. As a result, the Research & Program Evaluation Office cannot report on these programs until data discrepancies are resolved in the future.
Next Steps. District staff are working with teachers and school staff to correct the errors in READ 180 and System 44 participant lists for the 2012-13 school year.
This process includes identifying specific students whose records are inconsistent and attempting to standardize their records, as well as meeting with middle and high school schedulers to emphasize the importance of consistent record keeping for these programs and discuss plans to make sure accurate records are maintained in the future. In, addition, district staff will conduct quarterly audits of READ 180 and System 44 participation to compare transcript and SAM records and correct disparities as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, because SAM only stores a current list of READ 180 and System 44 participants, it is not known if there is a way to repair errors in historical MMSD data on these two programs. More exploration with the vendor is needed to determine what history, if any, can be recovered.

Voucher advocates, opponents fight to win over public, key Senators

Matthew DeFour:

At a recent rally in a Latino community center in Waukesha, Gov. Scott Walker urged a group of mostly private school parents, students and administrators to advocate for his proposal to expand vouchers beyond Milwaukee and Racine.
“I need your help,” Walker told a crowd of about 350 people, the majority of them children, on April 25. “We need you to help us spread that message to other lawmakers in our state Capitol, because they need to understand this is not a political statement; this is not a political campaign. … This is about children.”
A week earlier at First United Methodist Church in Downtown Madison, representatives from the Department of Public Instruction and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards laid out the arguments against voucher expansion to a group organized by Grandparents United for Madison Public Schools.
“This is a Waterloo moment for public education,” WASB lobbyist Joe Quick told about 60 people.
“You’ve got good schools here,” concurred DPI financial adviser Jeff Pertl. “We’ve got to fight to protect them.”
In recent months, in gymnasiums, libraries, churches and offices across Wisconsin, both sides in the voucher debate have ramped up their efforts to sway public opinion, especially in the districts of a handful of key Republican senators.

Madison Schools’ Talented & Gifted Updates

Sue Schaar, Madison Schools’ TAG Coordinator:

The Compliance Plan, including the timeline with benchmarks, is being drafted to outline the activities and processes that will take place in the next 13 months in order to bring MMSD into full compliance with DPI by May 31, 2014. A final document will be scheduled for Board review before the May 31, 2013 submission to DPI.
This document highlights areas of infrastructure that must be addressed as we move forward, including instructional design at the school level and consistent messaging from central office with measures of accountability incorporated. Clearly, our efforts in this area must be aligned with other improvement efforts as we move forward.
Issues around which decisions have been made:
Fine Arts and TAG will be creating a portfolio system to be utilized in the identification processes in areas of Leadership, Creativity, and Visual/Performing Arts
MMSD will incorporate the use of USTARS and utilize local norms into the identification processes for all 5 areas
Professional development regarding the characteristics of advanced learners, including those from typically under represented groups, will be accomplished at the local school level through a 45 minute DVD that the TAG department will create over the summer. This professional development should take place at all schools prior to winter break in 2013-14. Schools will have a menu of choices about how to deliver this PD.
Discussion is still occurring around:
Incorporation of advanced interventions into multi-tiered system of support and how to incorporate in School Improvement Plans
A review of consistent, qualitative difference between High School core courses and embedded and/or other Honors Courses as demonstrated by a review of the syllabi
The tension between implementing interventions for advanced learners through clusters, flexible groups or enrichment periods coupled with differentiated instruction throughout the school day

Hopes, Fears & Reality Overview: New Frontiers

Robin Lake:

Watch for the seventh edition of Hopes, Fears, & Reality, releasing May 9, 2013.
The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has been producing Hopes, Fears, & Reality since 2005, after a set of major studies showed conflicting results about charter school performance and caused quite a dustup. CRPE created this annual report and its overall research program on charter schools with two goals in mind: (1) to provide an even-handed assessment of charter school outcomes to date so that people involved in policy and practice can make sense of the research without having to rely on simplistic headlines or read complex and conflicting journal articles, and (2) to create a forum for leading thinkers to push charter sector leaders to look to the future and improve on the past.
We at CRPE are quite proud of the data and essays that have appeared in Hopes, Fears, & Reality across the years. With support from the National Charter School Resource Center at American Institutes for Research, we are excited that the report can continue to reach new audiences through this venue. If you are new to this series, please look at the past editions. I hope you will find them useful–even surprising and provocative. As a research organization, CRPE is committed to following the evidence wherever it leads. For that reason, our work points out both the beauty marks and the warts of the charter sector. Because we believe that students urgently need better public school options, CRPE commissions essays that push policymakers and charter leaders to anticipate issues that few people are thinking about now but that could greatly enhance the sector’s effectiveness and reach.

Stepping Up for Success: The State of Education in Rhode Island 2013

Deborah A. Gist:

I am enthusiastic about the passion that all of us feel about public education, and I welcome the diversity of viewpoints among us. All of us understand that our schools – and our children – represent the future of Rhode Island. All of us understand that every step we take to advance public education will help advance the economic prosperity of our state.
As we work together to transform our schools, there is an important factor that has remained constant: the unwavering support from the membership and the leadership of this General Assembly. House Speaker Fox, Senate President Paiva Weed, and you, the members of the General Assembly, have been steadfast allies of our schools, our teachers, and our students. My colleagues in other states are envious of the support we receive from our elected officials in Rhode Island – and I am very grateful. Speaker Fox and President Paiva Weed: Thank you for your leadership.
You have many important education matters before you this session, including a package of bills on school safety. Above all else, our schools must be safe places for teaching and learning. These bills, which Representative McNamara and Senator Gallo have sponsored, will help us better ensure the safety of our teachers and students.
We must also ensure that our communities have the resources they need as we work to transform education in our state. Governor Chafee is a champion of education. Even in these difficult economic times, he has consistently maintained support for education funding. This year, Governor Chafee’s budget again supports Year Three of our Funding Formula, including important categorical funding:

Boston Charter Schools: Give The People What They Want

Andrew Rotherham:

Something you hear a lot from charter school opponents is that they’d be OK with charters if the schools more consistently produced gains for students. Yet in places that have done a good job with charter quality the opposition from special interests remains. Some new polling data that will become public next week in Massachusetts casts a light on this issue.
The poll of 625 registered voters in Boston found that just 23 percent of respondents supported keeping current limits on charter schools while 64 percent are in favor of expanding charters. 66 percent think the city should lease vacant buildings to charters and 67 percent think charters should get state funding for construction and renovation. Perhaps most interesting, 73 of voters said they support allowing charter schools with a proven record of success to expand – essentially a “smart cap” idea (pdf).

Market-Oriented Reforms Really Don’t Work. What Should We Do Instead?

Elaine Weiss:

As many of us have long suspected, the impacts of popular market-oriented reforms are not as positive as their proponents would have us believe. Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and then-CEO and now-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who ran the school systems in New York, Washington, DC and Chicago, respectively, along with the mayors who controlled the school systems they led, all exaggerated their successes. In fact, the report I recently co-authored as National Coordinator of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, “Market-Oriented Reforms’ Rhetoric Trumps Reality,” discovers that using student test scores to make high-stakes decisions did little good and more than a little harm.
We found that across all three cities, student NAEP test scores rose less than they did in comparable high-poverty urban districts. In Chicago, reading scores, already below average, fell further. New York City students achieved the second-lowest average test score growth across fourth and eighth grade reading and math of the ten districts studied, beating only Cleveland. And Washington, DC students, who had been gaining ground in both subjects, saw that growth stop or even begin to fall. Moreover, what small gains did accrue went heavily to white and higher-income students, so many achievement gaps grew rather than narrowed. Closing schools neither helped students nor saved money, and drove teacher turnover, not teacher quality.

Three part article on the Common Core “Standards for Mathematical Practice”

Barry Garelick, via a kind email

The tendency to interpret the standards along the ideological lines of the reform movement can be seen most readily in how the Standards for Mathematical Practice are interpreted. The SMP themselves are sensible and few mathematicians or teachers would disagree with their principles. Their interpretation and implementation is another matter, however.

Standards for Mathematical Practice: The Cheshire Cat’s Grin.
Standards for Mathematical Practice: Cheshire Cat’s Grin, Part Two
Standards for Mathematical Practice: Cheshire Cat’s Grin, Part Three

Is Online Learning for Steerage?

Peter Sacks:

In my 1996 book Generation X Goes to College, I predicted that virtually anyone with a computer and a modem would have access to the storehouse of human knowledge. As a result, higher education as we know would become an anachronism, if not obsolete. The university’s status would diminish because it would lose its competitive advantage in disseminating information.
The recent emergence of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), however, raises obvious questions. Are these new teaching methods as effective, in terms of student performance, as real-life classrooms? Can these new technologies bring down higher education costs? Former Princeton president William G. Bowen takes on these questions and others in his new book Higher-Ed in the Digital Age. Once a skeptic, Bowen now concludes that online learning programs will reduce the cost of higher education without harming student learning outcomes.
His conversion is inspired by the findings of ITHACA, a non-profit organization that conducted “the most rigorous assessment to date” on the economics of online learning technology. That study demonstrated that student learning outcomes, as measured by standardized tests, are no worse in online courses than in traditional classes. Not better, just not worse. Though these results might sound unimpressive, Bowen asserts that they are “very important” because they disprove the common prediction that online education will harm students.

Milwaukee teacher’s linguistics class an example of valuable, enterprising course

Alan Borsuk:

Think of all the different ways you can say the word interesting. Different inflections carry different messages. Different accents change what letters are sounded or the number of syllables and can hint at your background. Probe the word and it can become really interesting – and educational.
Here’s another thing that’s interesting, educational and, I would add, a special jewel in Milwaukee education: The linguistics class at the Milwaukee School of Languages taught by Suzanne Loosen.
If I had taken this class when I was in high school, I would remember it to this day, 45 years later. Which got me thinking about two questions:
What makes a high school class especially memorable and valuable? What are we doing to encourage, support and respect classes such as this one and teachers such as Loosen?
A few things are special about Loosen’s class:
First, the course itself. Linguistics – “the scientific study of language,” as Loosen teaches her students – is normally a college-level subject. Best as Loosen knows, the course, an elective for 10th through 12th-grade students, is the only high school class in the nation devoted entirely to the subject, although many teachers include linguistics as part of broader courses.
Second, the enterprising aspects of creating the course. There are pluses to the increasingly standardized, regulated and monitored world of education. But there are minuses, like not seeing very often what Loosen offers: the creativity and zest of teaching a beloved subject that is a bit off the conventional path.

20 years later: the immorality of test security, revisited

Grant Wiggins:

The title of this post refers to the title of an article I wrote twenty years ago: The Immorality of Test Security. It is basically immoral to hold people accountable for improved results on tests that are so secure that teachers aren’t even allowed, in some cases, to see them. And as more states back off releasing tests and allowing teachers to score them, it seems timely to revisit the argument. (See this and this article on the changes to make the Regents exam no longer teacher scored).
As I have long written, I have no problem with the state doing a once-per-year audit of performance. But what far too many policy-makers and measurement wonks fail to understand is that if the core purpose of the test is to improve performance, not just audit it, then most test security undercuts the purpose. Look, I get the point of security: you can get at understanding far more easily and efficiently (hence, cheaply) if the student does not know the specific question that is coming; I’m ok with that. But complete test security after the fact serves only the test-makers: they get to re-use items (and do so with little oversight), and they make the entire test more of a superficial dipstick, using proxies for real work, than a genuine test of transparent and worthy performance.

Is This the Best Education Money Can Buy?

Jenny Anderson:

Parenting in a pathologically competitive, information-saturated city can make anyone crazy, even those parents lucky enough to be worried about fennel burgers in school lunches. And while Avenues offers its students every imaginable educational benefit — a 9-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, a Harvard-designed “World Course” — it has also tapped into an even deeper, more complicated parental anxiety: the anxiety of wanting their kids to have every advantage, but ensuring that all those advantages don’t turn them into privileged jerks.
As Manhattan, and particularly downtown, is transformed by a staggering infusion of wealth, there is a growing market for creating emotionally intelligent future global leaders who, as a result of their emotional intelligence, have a little humility. In fact, when the nearby Grace Church School was researching whether to start its own high school, it asked top college-admission officers what was lacking in New York City applicants. The answers coalesced around the idea of values, civic engagement, inclusiveness and diversity — in a word, humility.
And so Avenues students may run to their “Empire State of Mind: Thinking About Jay-Z in a New Way” “mini-mester” while passing a Chuck Close self portrait, but they do so with the intent of being “humble about their gifts and generous of spirit,” as the school’s mission statement puts it. “We wanted a school that was innovative and wouldn’t force our kids into any particular mold,” says Sheree Carter-Galvan, an Avenues parent and a general counsel at Yale University. Or, as Ella Kim, mother of a 4-year old, explains, Avenues took the anxiety of a New York parent — albeit of a certain type — “and designed a school around that.”
Last winter, a group of Avenues 4-year-olds ventured out to the 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel in Chelsea to view the work of John A. Parks, an English painter, who fingerpainted his childhood memories. Schulman thought it segued seamlessly with a unit they were doing on abstract art, which included studies of Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Schulman, who always seems to be brimming with excitement, explained how the subject matter and the field trip were perfect for the immersion classes. “You can use the vocabulary in both languages,” she said, to learn about the art.

Much more on Avenues, here.

A New Database on Educational Quality


I frequently have my undergrad and grad students read Bill Easterly’s excellent book, The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics. They are often a bit depressed after reading the chapters on growth, noting how little we seem to know about growth in the real world. It is the education chapter, however, which really gets to them. In it, Easterly points out what has been known for ages but is rarely mentioned in print (see Lant Pritchett’s “Where has all the education gone?” for a refreshing exception), namely, that education is not positively and significantly related to economic growth for most samples. Sometimes you can find a weakly positive t-stat in a sample of OECD countries, but you are lucky if you merely find zero correlation (instead of a negative and significant) in the developing world.


Report: Profit Still Rare, Expenses Still Rising at Athletic Programs

Inside Higher Ed:

There are more than 120 programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision – the top level of National Collegiate Athletic Association competition – but only 23 of them turned a profit in 2012, according to a new NCAA report on athletic department finances. That is despite upward movement in generated revenues: a 4.6 percent increase at FBS programs and a 9.06 percent increase at the smaller Football Championship Subdivision ones. While the median spending at FBS programs is $56 million, for other institutions, it hovers around $14 million. FBS median expenses increased 10.8 percent above the previous year, compared to 6.8 percent at FCS programs and 8.8 percent at Division I institutions without football. The report also notes the gap in the growth of expenses between institutional and athletics spending. At FBS programs, the median athletics expenses increase was 4.4 percent higher than the institutional increase. At FCS and Division I no-football colleges, the gap was 3 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively.

The Autistic Brain: The origins of the diagnosis of autism–and the parental guilt-tripping that went along with it.

Temple Grandin and Richard Panek:

The following article is adapted from The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, out now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
I was fortunate to have been born in 1947. If I had been born 10 years later, my life as a person with autism would have been a lot different. In 1947, the diagnosis of autism was only four years old. Almost nobody knew what it meant. When Mother noticed in me the symptoms that we would now label autistic–destructive behavior, inability to speak, a sensitivity to physical contact, a fixation on spinning objects, and so on–she did what made sense to her. She took me to a neurologist.
Bronson Crothers had served as the director of the neurology service at Boston Children’s Hospital since its founding, in 1920. The first thing Dr. Crothers did in my case was administer an electroencephalogram, or EEG, to make sure I didn’t have petit mal epilepsy. Then he tested my hearing to make sure I wasn’t deaf. “Well, she certainly is an odd little girl,” he told Mother. Then when I began to verbalize a little, Dr. Crothers modified his evaluation: “She’s an odd little girl, but she’ll learn how to talk.” The diagnosis: brain damage.

Verona superintendent apologizes for confusion during manhunt lockdown

George Hesselberg:

Some Verona grade school boys may remember the “hard lockdown” Thursday at their elementary school as the day they got to pee in a bucket in a janitor’s closet.
Verona Area School District Superintendent Dean Gorrell emailed a frank letter of apology to parents Friday for “not having adequate (or any) communication” about the lockdown while authorities searched for a dangerous suspect nearby.
As for the boys and their temporary bathrooms, that was simply a matter of protocol, safety and expedience, as the elementary school gymnasium where staff and students were under lockdown has no immediate access to bathrooms.
Gorrell said he had received no complaints about that as of Friday afternoon. The children were not allowed to go to bathrooms outside of the gym because it would have required their presence in a hallway, and staff “made provisions for students to relieve themselves in private,” he said.
On the topic of communication to parents and others about the lockdown, Gorrell said a new notification system called SchoolReach Instant Parent Contact has already been purchased and should be online for the next school year.

Evidence doesn’t support choice program expansion, Comparing Per Student Spending

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Legislators should be skeptical of a proposal by Gov. Scott Walker to sharply expand the school voucher program. There isn’t much evidence that students in voucher schools are better educated; in fact, they seem to perform at about the same level as their peers in mainline public schools.
We also remain deeply skeptical of the move by the Legislature two years ago to open up the program to lower middle-income families. If there is any justification for the voucher schools, it’s to give impoverished families a “choice.” We have long supported choice for the poor and believe the program should be limited to those families. Republicans essentially are advocating a shadow school system. Why not work harder to adequately fund and hold accountable the system we have?
Walker’s plan would expand private voucher programs to at least nine other districts outside Milwaukee and Racine. Families with income of to about $70,000 a year would be eligible.
Before they act, legislators should take a close look at outcomes.
In a report released last month, the state Department of Public Instruction found that students attending voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine scored lower than public school students in Milwaukee Public Schools and the Racine Unified School District on the state standardized achievement test.

Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending

I find discussions of the per-pupil funding level of different types of Milwaukee schools usually turns into a debate on how to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of per-pupil support for the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). While basic differences in MPS and MPCP schools and their cost-drivers make any comparison imperfect, the following is what you might call a green apples to red apples comparison.
DISCLAIMER: if you not interested in school funding, prepare to be bored.
Per-pupil support for MPS
Note I am not trying to calculate per-pupil education funding or suggest that this is the amount of money that actually reaches a school or classroom; it is a simple global picture of how much public revenue exists per-pupil in MPS. Below are the relevant numbers for 2012, from MPS documents:
Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

Estimating the Resource Costs of Minority and Disadvantaged Student Programs

W. Lee Hansen, via a kind reader’s email:

This paper presents estimates of the full resource costs of Minority and Disadvantaged Student Programs for UW-Madison and the UW System. It shows that for 2008-09 the total resource costs of M/D programs are almost 60 percent higher than the published expenditure figures for UW-Madison and more than 75 percent higher than the published expenditure figures for the UW System. It provides several alternative estimates of the per student resource costs of these programs. Finally, it cumulates the value of the resources committed to M/D programs during Plan 2008 and in the years subsequent to 2008. These differences occur because the UW System’s Minority and Disadvantaged Student Annual Report (M/D Report) fails, without explanation, to include the full array of M/D program costs even though it openly acknowledges these omissions.
Based on the full resource costs estimates developed here, these costs range from as little as $1,000 per student to as much as $80,000 per student, depending on which groups of students receive the most benefit from these programs.
The results presented here for 2008-09 provide at best a snapshot view of the resource costs of M/D programs. Additional perspective comes from cumulating the resource costs of M/D programs for UW-Madison and for the UW System during the decade-long Plan 2008, and from estimates of these costs for the duration of Plan 2008 plus the first five years under UW’s new diversity plan called Inclusive Excellence.
The constant-dollar estimates of the resource costs incurred by UW-Madison during Plan 2008 total $280,000,000, and they approximate $500,000,000–half a billion dollars–for the 15-year period beginning in 1998-99 and continuing through 2012-13. Comparable estimates for the UW System are substantially greater, totaling $680,000,000 during Plan 2008 and approximating $1,150,000,000–more than one billion dollars–for this same 15-year period.
By understating the resource costs of its M/D programs and failing to provide evidence on the success of its M/D programs, the UW System fails to meet its commitments to transparency and accountability, and in the process compromises its institutional integrity.

“Sadly, many teachers working with our children at the start of their mathematical journeys are not themselves comfortable with the mathematics they are trying to teach.”

Susan Schwartz Wildstrom:

I am moved to respond to Sol Garfunkel’s “Opinion” article.1 I am a long-time high school mathematics teacher in a public school. I started teaching around the time of SMSG and have been in the trenches throughout several of the math wars. I know Dr. Garfunkel’s fine work in creating interesting modeling projects and his outspoken opinion that using technology to solve problems that apply the mathematics we are teaching will better concretize students’ understanding of the underlying mathematics. It sounds like a fine idea, but the reality is often very different.
Our problems in teaching mathematics begin in elementary school. Sadly, many teachers working with our children at the start of their mathematical journeys are not themselves comfortable with the mathematics they are trying to teach. They often only know one way to teach an idea and they may not fully understand how that method works and why it gives the right answers. Such a teacher confronted with an alternate creative method (perhaps suggested by a clever child or a seasoned colleague) may reject the alternative rather than trying to see how and why two methods produce the same result. Beyond stifling the creativity of students and discouraging them from trying to see how the mathematics works, such an approach is not fertile ground for applications and modeling projects in which creative exploration and possibly unorthodox methods are encouraged as a means of truly understanding what is happening. Teachers who lack confidence in their own understanding of the ideas may not want to include these sorts of activities in their classrooms.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

K-12 Influence Spending in Wisconsin Political Races

Daniel Bice:

Rarely has the political payoff for a special interest group been as quick or blatant.
The American Federation for Children, one of the leading advocates for school choice in the country, brags in a recent brochure that it spent more than $325,000 – far more than the group has previously made public – to help elect state Sen. Rick Gudex in a closely contested Wisconsin race last fall.
Gudex won his seat by less than 600 votes.
Then, last week, the freshman lawmaker joined two other Senate Republicans in saying they were drawing a line in the sand by vowing to oppose a state budget bill if it doesn’t include an expansion of the state’s school voucher program.
“The American Federation of Children got exactly what they wanted,” said Mike McCabe, head of the left-leaning election watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “They want legislators who will go to the mat and make expanding the voucher program the bottom line.”
Just as interesting, McCabe said, is that the school choice organization is saying in its own material that it spent twice as much helping Gudex as it reported to state regulators. McCabe said his group is looking into filing an election complaint.
A source familiar with the American Federation’s political spending in Wisconsin called such a complaint “frivolous.” The organization, the source said, had abided by Wisconsin election laws.

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

Diagnosing the ‘Flutie Effect’ on College Marketing

Sean Silverthorne:

Boston College’s greatest marketing campaign lasted about six seconds.
It’s called the “Flutie Effect.” In a 1984 game against the University of Miami, BC quarterback Doug Flutie threw a last-second “Hail Mary” pass 48 yards that was miraculously caught for a game-winning touchdown–a climactic capper on one of the most exciting college football games ever.
The play put BC on the map for college aspirants. In two years, applications had shot up 30 percent.
Ever since, marketing experts and school deans have acknowledged the power of the Flutie Effect’s ability to transfer a successful collegiate athletic program into a hot ticket for admission. Georgetown University applications multiplied 45 percent between 1983 and 1986 following a surge of basketball success. Northwestern University applications advanced 21 percent after winning the Big Ten Championship in football.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The systemic plight of labor

Felix Salmon:

This manages to be both incomprehensible and incredibly offensive at the same time. I have no idea what Friedman thinks he’s talking about when he blathers on about disappearing protective floors; I can only hope that he isn’t making a super-tasteless reference to the recent disaster in Bangladesh. But it’s simply wrong that today’s world is “tailored” for anybody who happens to be “self-motivated”. Both the self and the motivation are components of labor, not capital, and as such they’re on the losing side of the global economy, not the winning side.
Friedman is a billionaire (by marriage) who — like all billionaires these days — is convinced that he achieved his current prominent position by merit alone, rather than through luck and through the diligent application of cultural and financial capital. His paean to self-motivation recalls nothing so much as Margaret Thatcher’s “there is no such thing as society” quote: “parenting, teaching or leadership that ‘inspires’ individuals to act on their own will be the most valued of all,” he writes, bizarrely choosing to wrap his scare quotes around the word “inspires” rather than around the word “leadership”, where they belong.
True leadership, in a society where the workers are failing to be paid even half the fruits of their labor, would involve attempting to turn the red line in Blodget’s chart around, and to spread the nation’s prosperity among all its citizens. Rather than telling everybody that they’re “on their own” and that if they’re not a success then hey, they’re probably just not “self-motivated” enough.

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.

McDonald’s University: A Degree in Burgerology

The Economist:

BRITISH universities can be depressing. The dons moan about their pay and students worry they will end up frying burgers–or jobless. Perhaps they should try visiting McDonald’s University in London’s East Finchley.
Students are often “rough and ready”, with poor qualifications and low self-esteem. But ambition-igniting murals display the ladder of opportunity that leads from the grill to the corner office (McDonald’s chief executives have always started at the bottom). A map of the world shows the seven counterpart universities. Cabinets display trophies such as the Sunday Times award for being one of Britain’s best 25 employers.
McDonald’s is one of Britain’s biggest trainers. It gets about 1m applicants a year, accepting only one in 15, and spends £40m ($61m) a year on training. The Finchley campus, opened by Margaret Thatcher, then the local MP, in 1989, is one of the biggest training centres in Europe–many of the classrooms are equipped with booths for interpreters. It is part of a bigger system. An employees’ web-portal, Our Lounge, provides training as well as details about that day’s shifts, and allows employees to compete against each other in work-related video games.

Dirksen Congressional Center’s Communicator Update

Cindy Koeppel, via a kind email:

* NEW SPECIAL PROJECT * “Civility in the Golden Age, 1959-1969”
On April 16, 2013, Dirksen Center staff member delivered remarks entitled “Civility in the Golden Age, 1959-1969” to a conference, “Returning Civility to Our Public Discourse,” funded by The Center and sponsored by the Institute for Principled Leadership at Bradley University.
Mackaman used documents from Everett Dirksen’s papers to illustrate the nature of civil discourse among the political leaders in the 1960s.
Read the remarks at:

So why haven’t we ensured that all children get a rigorous, supportive education? Fear Factor: Teaching Without Training

Lisa Hansel, via a kind reader’s email:

So why haven’t we ensured that all children get a rigorous, supportive education?
This is a question I ask myself and others all the time. I think it’s more productive than merely asking “How can we?” Those who ask how without also asking why haven’t tend to waste significant amounts of time and resources “discovering” things that some already knew.
Okay, so I’ve partly answer the why question right there. Much better answers can be found in Diane Ravitch’s Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms, E. D. Hirsch’s The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, and Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.
But still, those answers are not complete.
Right now, Kate Walsh and her team with the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) are adding to our collective wisdom–and potentially to our collective ability to act.
NCTQ is just a couple months away from releasing its review of teacher preparation programs. The results may not be shocking, but they are terrifying. Walsh provides a preview in the current issue of Education Next. In that preview, she reminds us of a study from several years ago that offers an insiders’ look at teacher preparation:

The most revealing insight into what teacher educators believe to be wrong or right about the field is a lengthy 2006 volume published by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Studying Teacher Education. It contains contributions from 15 prominent deans and education professors and was intended to provide “balanced, thorough, and unapologetically honest descriptions of the state of research on particular topics in teacher education.” It lives up to that billing. First, the volume demonstrates the paucity of credible research that would support the current practices of traditional teacher education, across all of its many functions, including foundations courses, arts and sciences courses, field experiences, and pedagogical approaches, as well as how current practice prepares candidates to teach diverse populations and special education students. More intriguing, however, is the contributors’ examination of the dramatic evolution of the mission of teacher education over the last 50 years, in ways that have certainly been poorly understood by anyone outside the profession.
Studying Teacher Education explains the disconnect between what teacher educators believe is the right way to prepare a new teacher and the unhappy K-12 schools on the receiving end of that effort. It happens that the job of teacher educators is not to train the next generation of teachers but to prepare them.

Huh? Really? How exactly does one prepare without training? Walsh goes on to explain that. But the only way to prepare yourself to comprehend the teacher educators’ reasoning is to pretend like “prepare them” actually means “brainwash them into believing that in order to be a good teacher, you have to make everything up yourself.” Back to Walsh:

Harking back perhaps to teacher education’s 19th-century ecclesiastical origins, its mission has shifted away from the medical model of training doctors to professional formation. The function of teacher education is to launch the candidate on a lifelong path of learning, distinct from knowing, as actual knowledge is perceived as too fluid to be achievable. In the course of a teacher’s preparation, prejudices and errant assumptions must be confronted and expunged, with particular emphasis on those related to race, class, language, and culture. This improbable feat, not unlike the transformation of Pinocchio from puppet to real boy, is accomplished as candidates reveal their feelings and attitudes through abundant in-class dialogue and by keeping a journal. From these activities is born each teacher’s unique philosophy of teaching and learning.
There is also a strong social-justice component to teacher education, with teachers cast as “activists committed to diminishing the inequities of American society.” That vision of a teacher is seen by a considerable fraction of teacher educators (although not all) as more important than preparing a teacher to be an effective instructor.

Kate Walsh:

Nowhere is the chasm between the two visions of teacher education–training versus formation–clearer than in the demise of the traditional methods course. The public, and policymakers who require such courses in regulations governing teacher education, may assume that when a teacher takes a methods course, it is to learn the best methods for teaching certain subject matter. That view, we are told in the AERA volume, is for the most part an anachronism. The current view, state professors Renee T. Clift and Patricia Brady, is that “A methods course is seldom defined as a class that transmits information about methods of instruction and ends with a final exam. [They] are seen as complex sites in which instructors work simultaneously with prospective teachers on beliefs, teaching practices and creation of identities–their students’ and their own.”
The statement reveals just how far afield teacher education has traveled from its training purposes. It is hard not to suspect that the ambiguity in such language as the “creation of identities” is purposeful, because if a class fails to meet such objectives, no one would be the wiser.
The shift away from training to formation has had one immediate and indisputable outcome: the onus of a teacher’s training has shifted from the teacher educators to the teacher candidates. What remains of the teacher educator’s purpose is only to build the “capacity” of the candidate to be able to make seasoned professional judgments. Figuring out what actually to do falls entirely on the candidate.
Here is the guidance provided to student teachers at a large public university in New York:
In addition to establishing the norm for your level, you must, after determining your year-end goals, break down all that you will teach into manageable lessons. While so much of this is something you learn on the job, a great measure of it must be inside you, or you must be able to find it in a resource. This means that if you do not know the content of a grade level, or if you do not know how to prepare a lesson plan, or if you do not know how to do whatever is expected of you, it is your responsibility to find out how to do these things. Your university preparation is not intended to address every conceivable aspect of teaching.
Do not be surprised if your Cooperating Teacher is helpful but suggests you find out the “how to” on your own. Your Cooperating Teacher knows the value of owning your way into your teaching style.

Related: When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?.
Wisconsin has recently taken a first baby step toward teacher content knowledge requirements (something Massachusetts and Minnesota have done for years) via the adoption of MTEL-90. Much more on teacher content knowledge requirements, here.
Content knowledge requirements for teachers past & present.

You’ll Be Shocked by How Many of the World’s Top Students Are American

Jordan Weissmann:

When you look at the average performance of American students on international test scores, our kids come off as a pretty middling bunch. If you rank countries based on their very fine differences, we come in 14th in reading, 23rd in science, and 25th in math. Those finishes led Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to flatly declare that “we’re being out-educated.”
And on average, maybe we are. But averages also sometimes obscure more than they reveal. My colleague Derek Thompson has written before about how, once you compare students from similar income and class backgrounds, our relative performance improves dramatically, suggesting that our educational problems may be as much about our sheer number of poor families as our supposedly poor schools. This week, I stumbled on another data point that belies the stereotype of dimwitted American teens.
When it comes to raw numbers, it turns out we generally have far more top performers than any other developed nation.
That’s according to the graph below from Economic Policy Institute’s recent report on America’s supply of science and tech talent. Among OECD nations in 2006, the United States claimed a third of high-performing students in both reading and science, far more than our next closest competitor, Japan. On math, we have a bit less to be proud of — we just claimed 14 percent of the high-performers, compared to 15.2 percent for Japan and 16.2 percent of South Korea.


Learning Goals Spur Backlash New Standards Adopted by Nearly All States Are Finding a Growing Group of Foes

Stephanie Banchero:

Classrooms across the country roll out universal math and reading standards, a growing group of critics are pressing officials to slow their implementation or dump the learning goals entirely.
This is the first school year that most states are using voluntary academic standards known as Common Core, which lay out what students should know from kindergarten through 12th grade. Written by a group of governors, state school officials and other experts with the goal of better preparing students for college and careers, the standards have been adopted entirely by 45 states and the District of Columbia since 2010. A 46th state, Minnesota, has adopted only the language-arts portion.
Now, the Common Core effort is under attack from an unlikely coalition: conservatives who decry the implementation costs and call the standards an intrusion into local education decisions; union leaders who worry that states have tied, or plan to tie, teacher evaluations to new Common Core exams; and some parents who contend their children are ill-prepared for the Common Core tests.

California Governor Jerry Brown as Robin Hood

George Skelton:

Now we know what Gov. Jerry Brown really cares about — what gets him riled and raring to rumble.
“The battle of their lives,” he promises opponents. “This is a cause.”
When a governor bares his soul like that, not only is he waving a nasty stick, he’s tacking up a big sign that reads, “Name your price.”
Brown’s passion: pouring more tax money into inner-city schools at the expense of the suburbs.
It’s not that simple, of course. Nothing about California school finance is.
Not all urban districts would benefit from Brown’s school funding redistribution scheme. Oakland Unified, for example. Brown’s hometown, where he was mayor, would get shortchanged.
Oakland’s schools would receive $228 less per pupil under his plan when fully implemented than under the current funding formula, according to the state education department. The governor’s own budget office also shows Oakland as a loser.
So the governor might want to tweak his proposal to eliminate at least one unintended consequence.
Brown’s plan would allot significantly more money for districts with large percentages of poor children — those eligible for subsidized lunches — and English learners. But that would mean less than otherwise for middle-class and better-off districts where the vast majority of kids speak English at home.
Among the 50 largest districts, more than half would be losers under Brown’s plan, based on education department calculations.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Proposed Sacramento Pension Changes

Ryan Lillis:

But Shirey said he would withdraw that recommendation if the Sacramento Police Officers Association, the union representing city police officers and sergeants, does not agree to have its members pick up the full employee contribution into their pensions by July 1.
Most city employees pay an employee share of pension contributions; the city picks up an employer share. The police union is the largest in the city that does not pay into its retirement plan.
Dustin Smith, the head of the police officers union, said the organization and city officials are in “active bargaining sessions” and that more talks are planned.
“We’re still hoping we can bargain some type of deal that works out for both the community and the officers who serve it,” he said.
The City Council will receive its first formal briefing on the budget at its May 7 meeting and is scheduled to adopt the budget June 11.

Top teachers merit more

The Wisconsin State Journal:

School principals should know who their best teachers are, and those top performers deserve higher pay.
Jeff Charbonneau, honored last week by President Barack Obama at the White House as national teacher of the year, helps show why.
Charbonneau teaches chemistry, physics, engineering and architecture at Zillah High School in Zillah, Wash.
“I fight a stigma,” Charbonneau wrote in his award application. “Students hear the words ‘quantum mechanics’ and instantly think ‘too hard’ and ‘no way.’ It is my job to convince them that they are smart enough, that they can do anything.”
He’s succeeding. About two-thirds of juniors and seniors at the small, rural school are signing up for chemistry and physics. And nearly every student is graduating with some college credit, according to the Associated Press.
Charbonneau can award college credits to his high school students because he attained adjunct faculty status with local universities, and many of his fellow teachers at Zillah now are doing the same. Zillah offers 72 classes that can lead to college credits, and 90 percent of students go on to college, an apprenticeship or the military.

Much more, here.

PolitiFact sorts only some of the “truth” on voucher schools, leaves out key objections to program’s expansion

Jay Bullock:

Back when I used to blog about politics, I was a constant critic of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PolitiFact operation. Or, as I called it, Politi”Fact,” with the emphasis on the sarcasm quotes.
Why? Because PolitiFact Wisconsin, as the local franchise is known, tries to set itself up as a neutral arbiter, and so it usually plays the “both sides do it” card. It can’t be too critical of one side, even if that one side plays far more fast and loose with the facts than the other side does. (Also: there are only two sides, so the truth must lie in the middle!)
This kind of faux-neutrality is the hallmark not of fact-checkers but of a distant, entitled media, hoping to maintain an “above it all” reputation and the good graces of the folks who generously douse the state’s largest media operation with significant political ad buys every couple of years.
In Monday’s paper, the PolitiFact crew examines some claims made about school vouchers by groups both favoring the program’s expansion (including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker) and opposing it, claiming it is “sorting out the truth” about voucher schools. It should be no surprise that I oppose expansion, though I am not personally involved in the anti-voucher groups cited in this story.

Advocating Wisconsin School Choice: A Letter to Senator Mike Ellis

David Blaska:

The Madison School Board recently voted 7-0 to encourage the state Legislature to say no to school choice. The surprise would have been had they voted otherwise.
I suspect Madison’s school board is like yours in Neenah and others throughout the state. Given their druthers, they’d just as soon have no competition. Makes management ever so much simpler.
Of course, those who can afford to do so can send their children to private schools – but first they must pay the monopoly school district, or move out of town. What a business model! Kim Jong-un would approve!
Our school board has the firm backing of the teachers union – the same one that unilaterally closed down Madison schools for a week during the Siege of the Capitol in February-March 2011. It should! The union elected them!

Researchers: Stop using the word ‘bullying’ in school

Greg Toppo:

Schools that want to do a better job fighting bullying ought to start with one key step, a group of researchers said Tuesday: Stop using the term “bullying.”
Because it’s “being used for everything from rolling eyes to ‘not wanting to be your friend’ to sexual assault, the word ‘bullying’ has really obscured our ability to focus on what’s happening” to children, said Dorothy Espelage of the University of Illinois.
Educators have been “spinning our wheels for decades” in a bid to treat bullying, but they’re often hampered by policies that require mistreatment to be repetitive, for example, part of the classic definition of bullying. That focus also obscures whether specific acts are happening more or less, she said.

Florida Teen Charged with Felony for trying Science

The Urban Scientist, Scientific American
News of Kiera Wilmot’s arrest has seriously unnerved me. She is the Florida high school student who was experimenting with common household chemicals in science class that resulted in a minor explosion. There were no injuries and no damage to school property; however, she was taken away in handcuffs, formally arrested and expulled from school.
I acknowledge that too little information has been provided on the case. We have NO idea what was happening in the class. Where was the teacher? Were students involved in a laboratory activity at the time? I have spent time in the high school classroom. I know the shenanigans (and havoc) these pre-adults can cause. It is no laughing matter. Even if this were a prank, say something akin to my generation’s idea of setting off smoke bombs in the hall during the passing of classes, my gut reaction stands.
I don’t like what our public education (and justice) systems do to urban youth (e.g. the discipline gap with Black kids). I worry about urban kids who don’t (tend) to have access to social capital that advocates for them and gives them a chance after stupid mistakes. I worry what this will mean to her family financially. What will it mean for her future? Will graduating from an alternative school prevent her from attending college? Will she be marked as a trouble maker? Will she have a criminal record that prevents her from gainful employment and a meaningful life? More immediately, will she get locked away for 20 years? Shit like that happens to kids who look like her.

A Governance Disaster: the tragedy of Cooper Union

Felix Salmon:

Peter Cooper understood this well. A wealthy man, he owned a lot of land in Manhattan — including the land underneath what is now the Chrysler Building — and he knew that land would, literally, produce healthy rents in perpetuity. A philanthropist, Cooper knew exactly what he wanted those rents to be spent on: he created the Cooper Union, a college with the defining characteristic that it would charge its students nothing. It was — and is — a noble cause. And in the early days, its trustees quite literally bought into that cause: they helped out with its endowment, and covered its deficits in years where it lost money.
Cooper understood that free education doesn’t really scale. If you’re charging, then extra students provide extra income which can pay for extra teachers and administrators and buildings. But if you’re giving education away for free, then it’s imperative that you operate strictly within your means. The only way to grow is if you persuade some new generations of wealthy benefactors to contribute their own money or land. But at Cooper Union, that hasn’t happened for many decades.
As a result, Cooper Union has always been an extremely special educational institution, the kind of place where a little went a very long way. The faculty was not well paid; the facilities were bare-bones. But the students were fantastic, because Cooper could pick the very best of the very best. And the college’s overriding social mission engendered a huge amount of loyalty and love for the institution, as well as being reflected deep in its curricula. Here’s Sangamithra Iyer, for instance:

Turmoil swirling around Common Core education standards

The Washington Post:

As public schools across the country transition to the new Common Core standards, which bring wholesale change to the way math and reading are taught in 45 states and the District, criticism of the approach is emerging from groups as divergent as the tea party and the teachers union.
The standards, written by a group of states and embraced by the Obama administration, set common goals for reading, writing and math skills that students should develop from kindergarten through high school graduation. Although classroom curriculum is left to the states, the standards emphasize critical thinking and problem solving and encourage thinking deeply about fewer topics.
But as the common core shifts from theory to reality, critics are emerging. State lawmakers are concerned about the cost, which the Fordham Institute estimated could run as high as $12 billion nationally. Progressives fret over new exams, saying that the proliferation of standardized tests is damaging public education. Teachers worry that they haven’t had enough training and lack the resources to competently teach to the new standards. And conservatives say the new standards mean a loss of local control over education and amount to a national curriculum. They’ve begun calling it “Obamacore.”
On Tuesday, the head of the American Federation of Teachers and a strong supporter of the Common Core standards will warn that the new approach is being poorly implemented and requires a “mid-course correction” or the effort will fall apart.
“The Common Core is in trouble,” said Randi Weingarten, the union president who is slated to speak Tuesday in New York about the issue. “There is a serious backlash in lots of different ways, on the right and on the left.”

The List: University Challenge

Jess Cotton:

Described as the “Alex Ferguson of University Challenge”, for 16 years librarian Stephen Pearson has been the driving force behind the rigorous selection and training procedures of Manchester University’s quiz team, leading them to three victories since 2005. Ahead of tonight’s final between Manchester and UCL, he gives five insights into what makes a successful team.
1. Fingers on buzzer
The ability to buzz in on starter questions is actually more important than pure knowledge. The starters are the key to a team’s success – even if a contestant has copious amounts of general knowledge, if they don’t have the instinct to buzz in straightaway, they’re simply not going to get the starter points. Contestants should buzz in even if they are not 100 per cent sure of the answer.
2. Team building
A cohesive team is essential. When picking the contestants I ensure that there’s at least one candidate who’s strong on literature, history, geography and science. The training sessions allow the contestants to understand when to leave certain questions to the expert in that field. The first practice session is for them to get to know each other as people as much as anything else. I use a similar format to business team-building exercises – there should be lots of bonding and harnessing of team spirit. I’m getting a bit old for it now, but I know that after the practice sessions current and previous contestants will go to the pub for, I’m told, informal mentoring over drinks.
3. The classics
Many of the University Challenge questions include clues which refer to the Latin and Greek derivations of words – particularly scientific terms. This means that people who know their classics can respond even if they’ve got no idea about the science involved. Kwasi Kwarteng, now an MP for the Conservative party, showed this to great effect in his performance as part of the winning Trinity College Cambridge team of 1995.

California School Brawl: Planned Funding Overhaul Pits Low-Income Districts Against Wealthier Ones

Vauhini Vara:

A battle is heating up in California over Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to boost funding for all schools, but funnel more money to districts where many students are poor and struggle with English and less to wealthier districts.
Since Mr. Brown, a Democrat, unveiled the “weighted funding” plan in January, school chiefs in poorer areas have pushed hard for the state legislature to pass it.
But superintendents in richer districts argue that the proposed redistribution is unfair and that they want a bigger slice of the pie now that the state’s finances have improved, thanks to a stronger economy and a tax increase.
Public schools in California, as in other states, are financed by a mix of federal, state and local dollars. Local funding includes property taxes and donations, which tend to bring in more money in wealthier areas.Federal funding, which includes Title I funding for low-income districts, generally brings more money to low-income districts.

Tiny private school stands out for taking anyone, charging nothing

Doug Erickson

As the Rev. Richard Sunderlage entered the elementary classroom at Resurrection Lutheran School one recent morning, all five students shot up out of their desks.
Students at the school are required to stand whenever an adult enters the room. They also must address their elders as “ma’am” or “sir.”
Such rules set the school apart, but so do many other things. It is tiny — just 12 students in first grade through high school — and it is not affiliated with a church. Even rarer, it charges no tuition or fees.
“We don’t want there to be any barriers,” said Sunderlage, the school’s driving force.
Now in its third year, the school appears to be the only no-tuition, no-fees, first-through-12th-grade private school in the state. Matt Kussow, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Religious & Independent Schools, said he is not aware of any others.
Good Shepherd Lutheran School in Wisconsin Rapids also is tuition-free, but it stops at eighth grade, charges a book fee and caps enrollment at 15. Resurrection Lutheran turns no one away. It has had as many as 33 students and could hold up to 100.

Shortchanging Illinois School Kids

The Chicago Tribune:

Indiana lawmakers are proposing huge increases in state education funding this year. Ditto those in Wisconsin.
Here in Illinois, The Deadbeat State? Just the opposite. Education funding is being strangled by the same python that is strangling the rest of state government’s finances: pension obligations. Every day that the Legislature delays the enactment of pension reform, the unfunded liability of the state’s five pension funds grows by $17 million, according to Gov. Pat Quinn’s office.
In this state, we’re not arguing about how to, say, give more money to schools because great schools drive growth and innovation, attract businesses, create jobs.
No, we’re arguing instead about which school kids will get cheated more than other school kids because state lawmakers dither on a pension fix — kids from richer districts or those from poorer districts? That’s the depressing debate we’re having.
Here’s why: In Illinois, the Legislature sets a “foundation” funding level that the state says every student needs for an adequate education. That’s the starting point for a calculation that determines how much state aid each district receives. The calculation considers each district’s local taxing ability to meet that foundation level, and also looks at how many students in the district need extra support because they’re from low-income families. Districts that have relatively lower revenue and educate relatively more higher-need students receive more state aid.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary Speech:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

An outdoor odyssey for Wingra School students

Pamela Cotant:

Students at Wingra School only needed to travel across the street for a day in the outdoors as part of its annual all-school unit called Outdoor Odyssey.
Last week, students ages 5 to 14 culminated the unit by working in multi-age teams to complete a variety of challenges throughout the UW Arboretum, across Monroe Street from the school.
The challenges, created by Wingra teachers and UW Arboretum naturalists, included identifying animal skin and bones, a scavenger hunt, identifying scat and measuring the weather with different instruments made by the students.
Wearing a matching raincoat and boots with a bug design, kindergartener Leo Langer, 5, used a trowel to dig up invasive plants under the supervision of teachers and Arboretum staff. He said it was his favorite activity so far that day.
“I learned a new way to dig out (dame’s rocket) instead of just pulling stuff out with your hands,” he said.

Tuba City schools combine Navajo traditions, public education

Mary Beth Faller:

Harold Begay drives around Tuba City, on the Navajo Reservation, showing a visitor boarded-up buildings and ramshackle houses abandoned by the federal government and left to rot.
Begay, who is superintendent of Tuba City Unified School District, tells his visitor about high unemployment on the reservation and the sense of alienation in many young people who feel cut off from their culture and the traditional Arizona classroom. Like most Arizona districts on American Indian reservations, Tuba City’s is struggling.
Begay is familiar with the disconnect between the traditional values of the Navajos and modern education.
A quiet man whose soft speech is inflected with the tones of his native Navajo language, Begay spent his childhood tending his family’s corn and sheep a few miles from where his Tuba City office now stands. He greeted the sunrise with prayers and ended evenings with a family meal and stories about what it means to be Navajo, or “Dine” as they call themselves.
After enduring troubles in school on the reservation, Begay joined the Marines and, after leaving the military, drove a school bus. He eventually went back to school, earned a doctorate and traveled the world before being drawn back to Tuba City, a few square miles of modest homes on the mesas of the Painted Desert, 75 miles north of Flagstaff.

Madison West High School Named State Science Olympiad Champions

The Madison School District:

The team from West High School won at the Wisconsin Science Olympiad State Tournament on Saturday April 13th at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The team competed against high school teams from across the state. West High performed at a high level, winning many individual medals (8 first place medals) and the overall team championship. West followed up last year’s win with back to back titles. They also won the honor to represent the state of Wisconsin at the national tournament where the top Math and Science high schools will compete for national honors. Hamilton Middle School will also attend the national tournament.