If You Sacrifice Your Child to Prove a Point about Public Education, You are a Bad Person

JD Bentley:

I have a never-ending fascination with the politics of education, principally because I drew the short end of the stick on that count. The district in which I attended school was (is) notoriously bad.
On multiple occasions, I can recall the State taking over the high school due to very poor test scores while also implementing some drastic measures, like removing administrators and scheduling mandatory reading/writing times in unrelated classes like Geometry or Physical Education.
I was so deeply affected by my education due to the inherent contradiction between what I experienced and what people told me I was experiencing.
On the one hand, I had teachers and family telling me that those were the best years of my life, that I was doing something noble and important, that I was being paid for attendance in a currency much more valuable than money-experience, knowledge, wisdom.
On the other hand, I spent most of my weekdays bored out of my mind or overly anxious about something of little consequence. I learned to game the system, doing just enough to satisfy whatever was required of me without devoting myself fully to what I ultimately found to be futile and asinine and an incredible waste of time. I never could believe those were the best years of my life. If I’d thought that had been the pinnacle of my existence, I’d have offed myself years ago.
So, that being the case, I have no sympathy for public education. It caused me nothing but trouble while blaming me for its own trouble. I don’t mean to say all public education is incompetent and ineffective (though perhaps most of it is). I only mean to give some background on why I’m opposed to the ideas presented in Allison Benedikt’s If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You are a Bad Persona.

Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce seeks boost in dual enrollment

Josh Brown:

For some high school students who want to get a head start on college, scraping together the roughly $160 needed to pay for a dual enrollment class in Tennessee can be a barrier.
Now, a coalition of business and education groups is shining light on the issue in a bid to reduce or eliminate the cost for students to participate in the classes, which count both as college and high school credit.
Earlier this year, the coalition led by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce commissioned a study to look at how to improve the state’s dual enrollment program. The study, performed by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, recommended increasing funding for the program.

Much more on dual enrollment here.

High School Journalists Successfully Test Shield Law In Cyberbullying Suicide Case

Natasha Vargas-Cooper:

A trio of Northern California students working for their high school newspaper successfully beat back a legal maneuver on Tuesday to ignore their status as reporters and have their confidential materials subpoenaed in a civil lawsuit related to the suicide of their classmate, 15-year-old Audrie Pott, that was filed by the dead teenager’s family.
The confrontation between a grieving family and school press amplifies a growing issue in the digital era, when the definition of who is or who is not a journalist has been blurred. The withdrawal of this demand, at least for the moment, lays the groundwork for the formal extension of shield laws to high school students.

How Poverty Taxes the Brain

Emily Badger:

Human mental bandwidth is finite. You’ve probably experienced this before (though maybe not in those terms): When you’re lost in concentration trying to solve a problem like a broken computer, you’re more likely to neglect other tasks, things like remembering to take the dog for a walk, or picking your kid up from school. This is why people who use cell phones behind the wheel actually perform worse as drivers. It’s why air traffic controllers focused on averting a mid-air collision are less likely to pay attention to other planes in the sky.
We only have so much cognitive capacity to spread around. It’s a scarce resource.
This understanding of the brain’s bandwidth could fundamentally change the way we think about poverty. Researchers publishing some groundbreaking findings today in the journal Science have concluded that poverty imposes such a massive cognitive load on the poor that they have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty – like go to night school, or search for a new job, or even remember to pay bills on time.

School is a prison — and damaging our kids

Peter Gray:

Parents send their children to school with the best of intentions, believing that’s what they need to become productive and happy adults. Many have qualms about how well schools are performing, but the conventional wisdom is that these issues can be resolved with more money, better teachers, more challenging curricula and/or more rigorous tests.
But what if the real problem is school itself? The unfortunate fact is that one of our most cherished institutions is, by its very nature, failing our children and our society.
School is a place where children are compelled to be, and where their freedom is greatly restricted — far more restricted than most adults would tolerate in their workplaces. In recent decades, we have been compelling our children to spend ever more time in this kind of setting, and there is strong evidence (summarized in my recent book) that this is causing serious psychological damage to many of them. Moreover, the more scientists have learned about how children naturally learn, the more we have come to realize that children learn most deeply and fully, and with greatest enthusiasm, in conditions that are almost opposite to those of school.

Hackabi Hacking Contest


The organiser of the Hackabi hacking competition is the Matriculation Examination Board of Finland.
Competition begins at 0.00 am on 7th August 2013 and ends at 23.59 pm on 1st of September 2013. Dates given are in Finnish summer time (UTC+3). Contestants are given the task of searching for vulnerabilities within the exam operating system. Competition entries have to be confirmed by aworkstation with specifications determined by the Matriculation Examination Board.

Leaving Boys Behind: Gender Disparities in High Academic Achievement

Nicole M. Fortin, Philip Oreopoulos, Shelley Phipps:

Using three decades of data from the “Monitoring the Future” cross-sectional surveys, this paper shows that, from the 1980s to the 2000s, the mode of girls’ high school GPA distribution has shifted from “B” to “A”, essentially “leaving boys behind” as the mode of boys’ GPA distribution stayed at “B”. In a reweighted Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition of achievement at each GPA level, we find that gender differences in post-secondary expectations, controlling for school ability, and as early as 8th grade are the most important factor accounting for this trend. Increases in the growing proportion of girls who aim for a post-graduate degree are sufficient to account for the increase over time in the proportion of girls earning “A’s”. The larger relative share of boys obtaining “C” and C+” can be accounted for by a higher frequency of school misbehavior and a higher proportion of boys aiming for a two-year college degree.

The Advanced Placement backlash: Is the pendulum swinging too far?

Michael and Susan Dell Foundation :

To AP or not to AP? That’s the question raised by a spate of recent stories questioning the value of Advanced Placement programs.The nut of the these stories is simple: AP is failing kids; the program is over-funded; we’ve let it grow too fast on too little evidence. Or as education reporter Liz Bowie from the Baltimore Sun frames it, AP’s expansion “has not lived up to its promise.”
Politico’s Stephanie Simon is far more blunt: AP expansion has resulted in “a lot of time and money down the drain; research shows that students don’t reap any measurable benefit from AP classes unless they do well enough to pass the $89 end-of-course exam.”
But have those dollars truly been been “wasted” as Ms. Simon contends? Or have low-income students like Destiny Miller, the dogged Baltimore County high school senior profiled by Ms. Bowie, really been unfairly “targeted” by a voraciously expanding AP program?

The 2013 Washington Monthly College Guide Is Here

Daniel Luzer:

The 2013 Washington Monthly college rankings are out.
This is our answer to U.S. News & World Report, which relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige (basically how fancy they are) for its rankings. Instead, we rate schools based on what they are doing for the country — on whether they’re improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service.
The Washington Monthly’s unique methodology yields strikingly different results.
Only two of U.S. News’ top ten schools, Stanford and Harvard, make the Washington Monthly’s top ten. Yale and Dartmouth don’t even crack our top 50
Instead, the University of California – San Diego (our #1 national university for the third year in a row) and the University of Texas – El Paso (unranked byU.S. News but #7 on our list) leave several members of the Ivy League in the dust.
While all the top twenty U.S. News universities are private, 14 of the top twenty Washington Monthly universities are accessible, affordable, high-quality public universities.

South St. Paul students hope to get a degree at same time as diploma

Christopher Magan:

A group of South St. Paul students are taking high school to the next level.
Nineteen students at the small high school will begin their senior years in early September with hopes of not just earning a diploma, but of finishing a two-year college degree. They are taking part in a partnership between their school district and Inver Hills Community College to offer not just college classes, but an associate’s degree to aspiring high schoolers.
“I don’t know what I want to do or where I want to do it, but I do know having a two-year head start will be good,” said Rachel Bakke of West St. Paul, who is enrolled in the program. “In 10 years I’ll thank myself for doing it.”

Final CAEP Standards for Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Counsel for the accreditation of educator preparation:

On August 29, 2013, the CAEP Board of Directors approved new accreditation standards based on consensus recommendations from the CAEP Commission on Standards and Performance Reporting. CAEP requires that educator preparation providers (EPPs) seeking accreditation complete a self study and host a site visit, during which site visitors determine whether or not the provider meets CAEP standards based on evidence of candidate performance, use of data in program self-improvement, and EPP capacity and commitment to quality.
In completing its standards-focused self study, a provider selects one of three pathways: Continuous Improvement (CI), Inquiry Brief (IB), or Transformation Initiative (TI). EPPs with accreditation visits scheduled for January 2014 through Spring 2016 may choose to write the self study and host the visit with (1) NCATE Standards or TEAC Quality Principles only (called legacy visits); (2) NCATE Standards or TEAC Quality Principles and CAEP’s new standards (called dual accreditation); or (3) CAEP’s new standards only(called CAEP pilots).

Finnish authorities mull forceful seizure of students’ mobile phones


New legislation may give teachers the power to forcibly remove mobile phones if they are being used disruptively during class.
Mobile phones and smartphones in particular can disrupt learning in many schools. The phenomenon is causing officials in the Ministry of Education and Culture to take a long hard look at the problem.
“The biggest issue is disruption. Students interfere with their own learning and that of others. They play games, download material, talk and send messages during classes,” explained Janne Öberg, Counselor with the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Academy Fight Song: “There is no Santa Claus”

Thomas Frank:

his essay starts with utopia–the utopia known as the American university. It is the finest educational institution in the world, everyone tells us. Indeed, to judge by the praise that is heaped upon it, the American university may be our best institution, period. With its peaceful quadrangles and prosperity-bringing innovation, the university is more spiritually satisfying than the church, more nurturing than the family, more productive than any industry.
The university deals in dreams. Like other utopias–like Walt Disney World, like the ambrosial lands shown in perfume advertisements, like the competitive Valhalla of the Olympics–the university is a place of wish fulfillment and infinite possibility. It is the four-year luxury cruise that will transport us gently across the gulf of class. It is the wrought-iron gateway to the land of lifelong affluence.
It is not the university itself that tells us these things; everyone does. It is the president of the United States. It is our most respected political commentators and economists. It is our business heroes and our sports heroes. It is our favorite teacher and our guidance counselor and maybe even our own Tiger Mom. They’ve been to the university, after all. They know.
When we reach the end of high school, we approach the next life, the university life, in the manner of children writing letters to Santa. Oh, we promise to be so very good. We open our hearts to the beloved institution. We get good grades. We do our best on standardized tests. We earnestly list our first, second, third choices. We tell them what we want to be when we grow up. We confide our wishes. We stare at the stock photos of smiling students, we visit the campus, and we find, always, that it is so very beautiful.
And when that fat acceptance letter comes–oh, it is the greatest moment of personal vindication most of us have experienced. Our hard work has paid off. We have been chosen.
Then several years pass, and one day we wake up to discover there is no Santa Claus. Somehow, we have been had. We are a hundred thousand dollars in debt, and there is no clear way to escape it. We have no prospects to speak of. And if those damned dreams of ours happened to have taken a particularly fantastic turn and urged us to get a PhD, then the learning really begins.
The disaster that the university has proceeded to inflict on the youth of America, I submit, is the direct and inescapable outcome of this grim equation. Yes, in certain reaches of the system the variables are different and the yield isn’t quite as dreadful as in others. But by and large, once all the factors I have described were in place, it was a matter of simple math. Grant to an industry control over access to the good things in life; insist that it transform itself into a throat-cutting, market-minded mercenary; get thought leaders to declare it to be the answer to every problem; mute any reservations the nation might have about it–and, lastly, send it your unsuspecting kids, armed with a blank check drawn on their own futures.
Was it not inevitable? Put these four pieces together, and of course attendance costs will ascend at a head-swimming clip, reaching $60,000 a year now at some private schools. Of course young people will be saddled with life-crushing amounts of debt; of course the university will use its knowledge of them–their list of college choices, their campus visits, their hopes for the future–to extract every last possible dollar from the teenage mark and her family. It is lambs trotting blithely to the slaughter. It is the utterly predictable fruits of our simultaneous love affairs with College and the Market. It is the same lesson taught us by so many other disastrous privatizations: in our passion for entrepreneurship and meritocracy, we forgot that maybe the market wasn’t the solution to all things.

South L.A. student finds a different world at Cal: Kashawn Campbell overcame many obstacles to become a straight-A student. But his freshman year at UC Berkeley shook him to the core.

Kurt Streeter:

chool had always been his safe harbor.
Growing up in one of South Los Angeles’ bleakest, most violent neighborhoods, he learned about the world by watching “Jeopardy” and willed himself to become a straight-A student.
His teachers and his classmates at Jefferson High all rooted for the slight and hopeful African American teenager. He was named the prom king, the most likely to succeed, the senior class salutatorian. He was accepted to UC Berkeley, one of the nation’s most renowned public universities.
A semester later, Kashawn Campbell sat inside a cramped room on a dorm floor that Cal reserves for black students. It was early January, and he stared nervously at his first college transcript.
There wasn’t much good to see.
He had barely passed an introductory science course. In College Writing 1A, his essays — pockmarked with misplaced words and odd phrases — were so weak that he would have to take the class again.
He had never felt this kind of failure, nor felt this insecure. The second term was just days away and he had a 1.7 GPA. If he didn’t improve his grades by school year’s end, he would flunk out.
He tried to stay calm. He promised himself he would beat back the depression that had come in waves those first months of school. He would work harder, be better organized, be more like his roommate and new best friend, Spencer Simpson, who was making college look easy.
On a nearby desk lay a small diary he recently filled with affirmations and goals. He thumbed through it.
“I can do this! I can do this!” he had written. “Let the studying begin! … It’s time for Kashawn’s Comeback!”
This is the story of Kashawn Campbell’s freshman year.

UW Law School 2013 Graduation Speech

Judge Barbara Crabb (PDF), via a kind Susan Vogel email:

Dear Raymond, new graduates and their proud guests.
I start today with rousing congratulations to the new graduates.
I realize that some of you may be thinking that condolences are more in order, but I don’t agree. Yes, the market is not great for new lawyers. Yes, many of you have large student loans to worry about. But you are the holders of a degree many people can only dream of acquiring. And that degree is more than a piece of paper. It is evidence that you think differently today–you’ve been taught to do so critically and analytically. You attack problems differently because you have new tools for doing so. You demand proof of propositions you used to take for granted. Best of all, you understand that every complicated problem will, when properly studied, turn out to be even more complicated.
You’ve had three years of study with some great teachers. They’ve opened your minds to new possibilities. They’ve forced you to think harder than you thought you ever could. You may have worked on a law review. You may have taken part in moot problems you might never have imagined. You may have had internships–some of which were in federal court, which has given me a chance to get to know you– and those have enabled you to put into practice your classroom learning. And now, after what loomed as an eternity three years ago, you’re joining the ranks of the legal profession.
Many people have contributed to make this day a reality: parents, spouses, partners, teachers, professors, friends, the taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin. All of them believe that their investment in you is a valuable one.
Yes, the future is uncertain. But uncertainty is a fact of life. I can assure you that you are not the first or the last class to graduate into uncertainty. I always keep in mind that Nathan Heffernan, who was chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1983 to 1995, started his career in the only job he could find at the time of his law school graduation, which was as an insurance claims adjuster.
What is certain is that the world as we know it today will not be the world of tomorrow.
Fifty years ago, people graduating from law school were worried about the war in between the words of the Constitution and the reality of life for so many of the nation’s citizens, but they had no idea of the protests that would take place in a few years as more people began to claim their rightful place in American society. In 1963, those graduates were mostly unaware of the civil rights movement that was simmering in Nashville and that would eventually change our country forever.
The world you are entering is in its usual and fractious state, although the causes and the disagreements are different. It seems possible that governmental functions will reach a permanent condition of stasis unless courageous and enlightened people can find areas in which they can cooperate and compromise. The middle east poses a multitude of threats and opportunities, as do many other areas of the world. The widening income gap in the United States is worrisome, as is the diminution of personal privacy.
The point is that life is never settled or determinable in advance. The next fifty years are as unknowable to you as the last fifty were in 1963 to those, like me, who graduated from law school then. None of us graduates with a script; we all improvise and adjust as we perform our roles in a play in which there are no rehearsals, often finding about.
But it is this very uncertainty for which lawyers are trained. Big challenges, seemingly insoluble problems, conflict of all kinds, confrontations–they’re all grist for the lawyer’s mill. Mediating disagreements, finding common ground, defending the rights of minorities, holding those in power accountable when they abuse their power, finding solutions to problems, helping businesses grow, expand and create jobs, advising nonprofit corporations, defending the Constitution–that’s what your training has prepared you to do.
It is wholly improbable that lawyers will be underemployed for long, given the need for them in every area. With your law degree, you have skills too valuable to go unused for long. Some of you will find those skills indispensable in a job outside the legal profession; some of you will take the more traditional routes of working for a firm, or the government or a nonprofit organization providing legal services. Some of you will end up teaching. Some of you will make your contribution in politics, a field perennially in need of smart, well educated lawyers who understand the world and the Constitution about finding work.
You may have to be innovators and the inventors of your own jobs, as the media keeps predicting. That seems to be part of the future: the stars of the future will be those who can invent not just new products but whole new ways of working.
For those of you with these skills, I challenge you. Imagine a way of integrating technology with legal skills and information. Think about providing legal help to the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people in our country who need lawyers and cannot afford them. It is a daunting challenge, especially because the only way to make it work is to make it profitable. But it is enormously important.
How can it be good for a democracy to have the kind of mismatch between legal needs and underutilized lawyers that we do? Consider these realities:
The vast majority of people seeking a divorce are unrepresented.
Parents who face the loss of their children in court actions to terminate parental rights have no right to appointed counsel.
Few persons facing foreclosure have counsel, including members of the armed
forces while they are deployed. Legal aid agencies are overworked and lack the funding to add lawyers.
It is clear that the present fee-for-service model isn’t working for these people. It is also clear that reliance on governmental or philanthropic funding is not an answer. We know how untreated medical problems can drag people down; unfilled legal needs can have the same effect. This country needs to learn how to help the millions of people whose lives could be improved and who could be contributors to society if their legal problems were be resolved.
Perhaps it’s time to rethink the assumption that legal services always have to be individualized. Maybe ideas like LegalZoom.com an answer–or at least a marker on the road to something better. Are there other, better ways of delivering and paying for legal services?
I challenge you to come up with new ideas for other problems and to question everything. Does law school have to be three years long? Should lawyers continue to better ways to organize and provide legal services? Can courts be more effective and productive? Are the prison and probation systems doing as good a job as they could of reducing crime rates and turning out offenders ready to take their proper place in the community?
You are in the position to take a fresh look at what is not working as well as it could be in our country. You can help effect change. You can do your part in making the words of the Constitution a reality for more people. You have the legal education and you have a big advantage most of us older lawyers do not, which is an innate awareness of the possibilities of electronic media.
On a personal note, my wish for each of you is to find work to do that will engage all of your talents, provide you challenges and satisfaction, free you from the shadow of debt–and even give you time for a life.
The law has given me unimaginable opportunities. From the vantage point of the judge’s bench, I have seen drama more exciting than any movie; I have seen lawyers of amazing talent. I have had fascinating cases to decide (along with many not so fascinating); some of these cases have been of great interest to the public; others have been important only to the parties. I have learned more about our society than I would have thought possible, about criminal schemes to defraud, about drug conspiracies, about family feuds over money and property, about patent litigation and about all forms of discrimination. I have had a glimpse into the unimaginable misery of the lives of some of the poorest and most deprived members of our society and have seen as well bits of the lives of some of the most fortunate and prominent members. I have seen firsthand how important the law is to people at every level of society and how every person values fairness and a chance to be vindicated. I have seen how lawyers have given them that chance and how hard the lawyers have worked in doing so.
I still believe that the law is an honorable profession and that those who practice it are among the luckiest people I know. Even with its flaws and shortcomings, it remains the bulwark of our society. I hope that you, too, will find your careers rewarding. I hope you will continue the work of your predecessors in improving the profession and in making legal services more accessible to more people. Good luck and congratulations.

Academic Ranking of World Universities in Mathematics – 2013

Academic Ranking of World Universities:

The 2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) is released today by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Starting from a decade ago, ARWU has been presenting the world Top 500 universities annually based on transparent methodology and reliable data. It has been recognized as the precursor of global university rankings and the most trustworthy one.

Madison Area high schools ACT results; here are the scores

Todd Milewski

Four Dane County high schools ranked among the top nine in the state for average ACT score by 2013 graduates, according to recent figures from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Madison West (fourth), Middleton (sixth), Madison Memorial (eighth) and Waunakee (ninth) all had average scores above 25 on the college admissions exam, which measures students in English, math, reading and science and has a maximum score of 36.
West had the highest state ranking among local schools in English (third) and reading (fourth). Memorial was second in Wisconsin in math, while Waunakee was fifth in science.
All of the 21 Dane County high schools scored above the national composite score of 20.9, while 16 fared better than the state composite of 22.1.

Tap on the map icons to view the percentage of students taking the ACT.
Edgewood High School’s composite ACT score is 25.7. All 146 graduates took the ACT according to its September, 2013 newsletter.

Angry teachers paralyze Mexico City with protests

Mark Stevenson:

This sprawling metropolis of honking cars and 22 million harried people has been brought to its knees, not by an earthquake or its ominous smoking volcanoes, but rather a small contingent of angry school teachers.
Some 10,000 educators protesting a government reform program have in the span of a week disrupted international air travel, forced the cancellation of two major soccer matches, rerouted the planned route of the marathon and jammed up already traffic-choked freeways.
The disruptions have shown how little it takes to push a city that is snarled on a good day over the edge.
Taxi drivers are so desperate they are refusing fares to certain frequently blocked parts of the city, and residents have turned to urban survival skills – driving the wrong way down streets, using rental bikes, clambering over fences and piling into the back of police pickups to get to their destinations.

College Football’s Grid of Shame

Rachel Bachman:

It’s easy to judge a college-football program from afar. To properly praise and ridicule, one needs hard data.
As the season begins Thursday, The Wall Street Journal presents its third annual grid of shame. Because college football is as much about scandal as it is about sport, we have rated all 125 major-college teams on two axes: how good they’re projected to be on the field and how shameful their activities have been off of it.
The ratings are systematic. To rank the teams’ 2013 prospects, we calculated a composite of four 1-through-125 rankings: Athlon, Lindy’s, the Orlando Sentinel and football guru Phil Steele. The shame component is based on five categories: each team’s four-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) figure, the metric the NCAA uses to assess academic performance; recent history of major violations and probation; percentage of athletic-department revenues subsidized by student fees; number of player arrests in the off-season, and a purely subjective, overall “ick” factor. (Sorry, Penn State.)
The results show how loudly you should crow at your next tailgate–or whether you should consider using your diploma as a coaster.
This year, the geeks are taking over. Academic stalwarts Stanford and Northwestern rank among the winners. So does Notre Dame–although the Manti Te’o fake-girlfriend fiasco sent the Fighting Irish plummeting toward the “embarrassing” axis.

Professors Union: It’s Bad Policy To Measure Whether Colleges Help Students

Gregory Ferenstein

One of the largest college teacher unions in the country has taken a rather odd education policy stance: opposition to measuring whether colleges are helping their graduates. In response to President Obama’s push to tie federal college aid to labor-market outcomes, the American Association of University Professors has issued a stern warning against the seemingly uncontentious idea of evaluating colleges before giving them money. “In reality measuring the output of our colleges and universities in a meaningful way is simply not possible,” writes President Rudy Fichtenbaum.
As someone with an advanced degree in the mathematics of social science, I fully appreciate the difficulty in quantifying post-graduate outcomes. But, Fichtenbaum’s opposition isn’t to any specific metric; it’s to the very idea of evaluation- not educational, not civic, not financial- nothing. He wants a blank check, even as colleges fail to improve student outcomes by their own standards.
“Quality education can give students skills that will be useful in helping them find jobs, but it is also about creating better human beings and giving students the knowledge to deal with the myriad of problems we face as a society. I have yet to see a test to measure whether or not someone has become a better human being.”

School is a prison — and damaging our kids: Longer school years aren’t the answer. The problem is school itself. Compulsory teach-and-test simply doesn’t work

Peter Gray:

Parents send their children to school with the best of intentions, believing that’s what they need to become productive and happy adults. Many have qualms about how well schools are performing, but the conventional wisdom is that these issues can be resolved with more money, better teachers, more challenging curricula and/or more rigorous tests.
But what if the real problem is school itself? The unfortunate fact is that one of our most cherished institutions is, by its very nature, failing our children and our society.
School is a place where children are compelled to be, and where their freedom is greatly restricted — far more restricted than most adults would tolerate in their workplaces. In recent decades, we have been compelling our children to spend ever more time in this kind of setting, and there is strong evidence (summarized in my recent book) that this is causing serious psychological damage to many of them. Moreover, the more scientists have learned about how children naturally learn, the more we have come to realize that children learn most deeply and fully, and with greatest enthusiasm, in conditions that are almost opposite to those of school.
Compulsory schooling has been a fixture of our culture now for several generations. It’s hard today for most people to even imagine how children would learn what they must for success in our culture without it. President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are so enamored with schooling that they want even longer school days and school years. Most people assume that the basic design of schools, as we know them today, emerged from scientific evidence about how children learn best. But, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

White Paper: Maintaining a Focus on Subgroups in an Era of Elementary and Secondary Education Act Waivers

Campaign for High School Equity:

The Campaign for High School Equity raises serious questions about state accountability plans under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act waiver program of the U.S. Department of Education–including whether the use of “super subgroups” could lead to fewer students of color receiving the supports and interventions they need to succeed in school.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education announced that states agreeing to certain requirements would become eligible for waivers from core accountability provisions of the current version of the ESEA–the No Child Left Behind federal education law. The waivers allow those states to create systems of accountability and improvement that differ greatly from those required under NCLB. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have received waivers.
CHSE’s analysis shows the waivers could weaken efforts to highlight inequities, narrow achievement gaps, and improve education for all students. This raises questions as to whether or not struggling students will receive the support and services they desperately need and deserve.

More, here.

Higher Higher Ed Data Central: Why is Tuition Increasing? Not for the Reasons You Think

Andrew Gillen:

The question “why does tuition keep increasing?” is one of the most important questions in all of education policy. But the most common answers to this question–that it’s a result of inadequate state funding, increases in faculty compensation, or even that it might not be rising at all, are individually and collectively inadequate. Let’s take these explanations one at a time.
First up is state funding. Hundreds, if not thousands, of articles and op-eds have attributed the increase in tuition to declines in state funding: If the government cuts funding by $1 per student, the college has to charge each student $1 more. This is logical enough, but the data doesn’t support it. The chart below shows the change in tuition from the previous year, and the change in appropriations (federal, state and local) per student for all 632 public four-year colleges with sufficient data. (Note that figures in this post are enrollment-weighted averages.) The change in appropriations is multiplied by minus one, so if a $1 decrease in state funding per student leads to a $1 increase in tuition, the two bars for each year should be exactly equal. They are not.

45th PDK/Gallup Poll on American Attitudes Toward the Public Schools

William J. bushaw and Shane J. lopez:

As 45 states stand on the brink of one of the most ambitious education initiatives in our lifetime, Americans say they don’t believe standardized tests improve education, and they aren’t convinced rigorous new education standards will help. These are some of the findings in the 45th annual PDK/ Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.
Results of the poll come in a time of unsettledness in the American education franchise. Recent major reform efforts — No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core State Standards — face uncertain futures even as the poll lays bare a significant rift between policy makers and ordinary citizens and parents.
For example:
Fewer than 25% of Americans believe increased testing has helped the performance of local public schools.
A majority of Americans reject using student scores from standardized tests to evaluate teachers.
Almost two of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards, arguably one of the most important education initiatives in decades,
and most of those who say they know about the Common Core neither understand it nor embrace it.

What is algebra?

Dr. Keith Devlin:

We hear a lot about the importance that all children master algebra before they graduate from high school. But what exactly is algebra, and is it really as important as everyone claims? And why do so many people find it hard to learn?
Answering these questions turns out to be a lot easier than, well, answering a typical school algebra question, yet surprisingly, few people can give good answers.
First of all, algebra is not “arithmetic with letters.” At the most fundamental level, arithmetic and algebra are two different forms of thinking about numerical issues. (I should stress that in this article I’m focusing on school arithmetic and school algebra. Professional mathematicians use both terms to mean something far more general.)
Let’s start with arithmetic. This is essentially the use of the four numerical operations addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to calculate numerical values of various things. It is the oldest part of mathematics, having its origins in Sumeria (primarily today’s Iraq) around 10,000 years ago. Sumerian society reached a stage of sophistication that led to the introduction of money as a means to measure an individual’s wealth and mediate the exchange of goods and services. The monetary tokens eventually gave way to abstract markings on clay tablets, which we recognize today as the first numerals (symbols for numbers). Over time, those symbols acquired an abstract meaning of their own: numbers. In other words, numbers first arose as money, and arithmetic as a means to use money in trade.

Our Design Guidelines for Teaching Programming Talkthroughs

Sophia Westwood:

As we slowly ramp up content creation for Khan Academy Computer Science, I put together this list of design guidelines as a reference point for teaching our programming talkthroughs. We’d like to use them as a starting point to spark a conversation with the teaching community.
It’s our first iteration, and we’re under no illusion that we’ve figured it all out. We know that teaching is complicated and difficult, and we’re still trying to live up to our own guidelines given the time and tool limitations. While we have to strike a balance between covering material, developing strong content, and enhancing the platform, we always like to discuss what we could do better.
So, we would love to hear reactions to these design guidelines based your experiences teaching kids programming. How can we better fulfill these guidelines? How can we support more effective learning within the talkthrough format? What are the tips and tricks you’ve picked up from your teaching or research? Please write a comment, or get in touch with us at compsci-feedback@khanacademy.org.

Cracking the Books: How Well Do State Education Departments Report Public School Spending?

CATO Institute:

Public schools are usually the most costly item in state and local budgets. Yet despite tremendous and persistent spending growth in the last half-century, the public vastly underestimates the true cost of public education.
To better understand the source of this misperception, this report examines the spending data that all 50 state education departments make available to the public on their websites. It reveals that very few state education departments provide complete and timely financial data that is understandable to the general public.
Half of all states report a “per pupil expenditures” figure that leaves out major cost items such as capital expenditures, thereby significantly understating what is actually spent. Alaska does not even report per pupil expenditure figures at all.
Eight states fail to provide any data on capital expenditures on their education department websites. Ten states lack any data on average employee salaries and 41 states fail to provide any data on average employee benefits.
When the state education departments provide incomplete or misleading data, they deprive taxpayers of the ability to make informed decisions about public school funding. At a time when state and local budgets are severely strained, it is crucial that spending decisions reflect sound and informed judgment.

UC 101: Educating Our New President – Lesson #4 Lesson #4 – Overgrown Administrative Bureaucracies

Professor Emeritus Charles:

This lesson will, incidentally, showcase two classical Methods of Inquiry that are ingrained in the academic world: the Scientific Method, involving the collection and analysis of empirical data; the Socratic Method, involving a series of questions put forward to stimulate critical thinking about some puzzle.

The particular objective here is to understand what appears to be long-term cancerous growth of the managerial sector in the University of California. The following graph shows the latest data; and the text after that conveys a sad story of official responses.
The University of California provides a regular tally of its employees, going back over many years, posted at http://www.ucop.edu/ucophome/uwnews/stat/ Here one can see twice-yearly statistics of FTE (Full Time Equivalent) counts in three major categories, with two dozen subcategories:

  • Management (Senior Management Group – SMG, Management & Senior Professionals – MSP)
  • Academic Staff (Faculty, Researchers, Librarians, Student Assistants, etc.)
  • Professional and Support Staff – PSS (Clerical, Fiscal, Health Care, Technical, Craft, etc.)

I have written up several studies starting with this data, and they are posted at http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~schwrtz under the series heading, “Financing the University.”

Biggest Changes in a Decade Greet Students

Stephanie Banchero & Arian Campo-Flores:

Millions of students heading back to school are finding significant changes in the curriculum and battles over how teachers are evaluated, as the biggest revamps of U.S. public education in a decade work their way into classrooms.
Most states are implementing tougher math and reading standards known as Common Core, while teacher evaluations increasingly are linked to student test scores or other measures of achievement. Meantime, traditional public schools face unprecedented competition from charter and private schools.
Supporters say the overhauls will help make U.S. students more competitive with pupils abroad. But others worry that the sheer volume and far-reaching nature of the new policies is too much, too fast. Already, the changes have sparked pushback.

Academic source code dust-up symptom of CS education ills

Ryan Paul:

When San Jose State University student Kyle Brady published the source code of his completed homework assignments after finishing a computer science class, his professor vigorously objected. The professor insisted that publication of the source code constituted a violation of the school’s academic integrity policy because it would enable future students to cheat. Brady stood his ground as the confrontation escalated to the school’s judicial affairs office, which sided with the student and affirmed that professors at the university cannot prohibit students from posting source code.
This conflict reflects some of the broader friction that exists between open source ideological values and an academic system in which collaboration and the ability to repurpose existing work makes it difficult to measure individual achievement. Free culture science fiction novelist Cory Doctorow shared his thoughts about the issue on Thursday in a blog post on BoingBoing. Doctorow suggests that assignments are ultimately more valuable to the students when the work that they produce can have broader purpose than merely fulfilling academic requirements. He also rightly points out that peer review of source code and studying existing implementations are both common practices in the real world of professional software development.

Fairfax County School Board often has millions in extra cash to spend;

T. Rees Shapiro:

Although the Fairfax County School Board faces projected budget deficits and each year asks the Board of Supervisors for more taxpayer money to fund its regular operations, it also has found a creative way to pay for projects and add items to classrooms: a fund filled with millions in leftover cash.
Fairfax’s school system has ended each budget year with an average of $30 million in unspent funds from the system’s budget during the past decade, a budget that topped out at $2.5 billion this past year. The leftover cash, ranging from $4 million to $55 million, is usually generated from savings — such as heating bills that are lower than projected during a mild winter — or from unforeseen revenue increases, including income that was higher than expected from county sales taxes.
The leftover money accounts for about 1 to 2 percent of the school system’s annual budget, but that portion often amounts to a considerable sum worth tens of millions of dollars that can be used at the School Board’s discretion. Over the past 10 years, the leftover funds have added up to more than $305 million.
While the board often elects to use the extra funds to balance the following year’s budget, a sizable figure has been used for what amounts to a school system wish list. The outlays in recent years have included $400,000 for BlackBerry smartphones for administrative staff, $500,000 for adding automatic external defibrillators at schools, $693,000 to place assistant principals in all elementary schools and $375,000 to expand a culinary arts program.
All while the School Board has stared down deficits. In 2015, for example, the school system must address a projected $195 million deficit driven by rising enrollment figures and compensation needs. The school system had about $55 million left over this year and will use about $10 million of that to purchase new school buses and add three positions to the system’s legal staff.
Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, said he thinks the school system’s millions of dollars in leftover cash are a symptom of a larger problem. He said the extra money, when combined with tens of millions of dollars in reserves and other “extraneous” items, suggests significant “padding” in the annual budget.
“It is suspect,” Purves said, adding that, as a “persnickety tax watchdog,” he thinks the school system budget is bloated with such expenses.

Related: Fairfax plans to spend $2,500,000,000 during the 2013-2014 school year for 184,625 students or $13,541/student, about 14.4% less than Madison’s per student spending.

How to Treat the Freshmen, 1495

Ask the past:

“Statute Forbidding Any One to Annoy or Unduly Injure the Freshmen. Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, any, who are called freshmen, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving.
A friendly reminder for the new academic year: please resist the temptation to terrify the freshmen with spooky voices, at least for the first few weeks.

Introducing ‘The Tuition is Too Damn High’

Dylan Matthews:

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average annual tuition, fees and room and board at a public college or university in 1964-65 — the first year for which there’s data — was $6,592, in 2011 dollars. By 2010-2011, that had increased to $13,297 — a 101.7 percent increase. The increase for private schools was even more dramatic. Average tuition, fees and room and board in 1964-65 was $13,233 a year; in 2010-2011, it was $31,395, an 137.2 percent increase.
That’s after accounting for inflation. But some experts think that the adjustment lets colleges off the hook — after all, the rising price of college tuition is itself a significant driver of inflation. If you don’t adjust for inflation, college tuition prices increased 297 percent from September 1990 to September 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical care prices, by contrast, only increased 152 percent.
You’d think that such enormous price increases would keep consumers away. You’d be wrong. In 1967, 4.3 million people were enrolled in full-time in colleges and universities as undergraduates, amounting to 2.2 percent of the U.S. population.

Madison School Board Passes 2013-2014 Budget, including a 4.5% Property Tax Increase

Jeff Glaze, via a kind reader’s email:

The Madison School Board adopted on Monday a $433.6 million budget for the 2013-14 school year.
The budget and levy both passed by 6-1 votes with board member Mary Burke representing the lone no vote.
The $433.6 million budget includes a $260.4 million tax levy. The levy means homeowners will pay $12.03 per $1,000 of assessed value, up 51 cents from last year.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2013-2014 budget, here.
Mr. Glaze’s article once again fails to mention Madison’s substantial increase in redistributed state tax dollar receipts one year ago… Remarkable. Perhaps a Washington Post style District investigative finance article might one day occur here.

A separate but equal school for black boys

Jill Tucker, via kind reader’s email:

Alonzo Swift has pretty much settled on Yale University.
The Oakland boy knows he needs to pass fifth grade first and that it’s cold in Connecticut, but he has heard Yale “is a good college” and he’s sure his mom would send him there with plenty of hot chocolate, marshmallows and a warm coat.
“It’s hard to get in there, so you have to be focused,” the 9-year-old said.
Where Alonzo will go to college might still be up in the air, but if he’ll go is not.
At the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Community School, every student, including Alonzo, is black, male and on the road to college.
If the public charter school is successful, it will – within a decade – significantly boost the number of African American boys graduating from high school in Oakland and heading to a four-year university.

Related: Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board.

“allowing only top students to enroll in teacher-training programs, which are themselves far more demanding than such programs in America”

Annie Murphy Paul:

This is the first hint of how Finland does it: rather than “trying to reverse engineer a high-performance teaching culture through dazzlingly complex performance evaluations and value-added data analysis,” as we do, they ensure high-quality teaching from the beginning, allowing only top students to enroll in teacher-training programs, which are themselves far more demanding than such programs in America. A virtuous cycle is thus initiated: better-prepared, better-trained teachers can be given more autonomy, leading to more satisfied teachers who are also more likely to stay on.
Kim soon notices something else that’s different about her school in Pietarsaari, and one day she works up the courage to ask her classmates about it. “Why do you guys care so much?” Kim inquires of two Finnish girls. “I mean, what makes you work hard in school?” The students look baffled by her question. “It’s school,” one of them says. “How else will I graduate and go to university and get a good job?” It’s the only sensible answer, of course, but its irrefutable logic still eludes many American students, a quarter of whom fail to graduate from high school. Ripley explains why: Historically, Americans “hadn’t needed a very rigorous education, and they hadn’t gotten it. Wealth had made rigor optional.” But now, she points out, “everything had changed. In an automated, global economy, kids needed to be driven; they need to know how to adapt, since they would be doing it all their lives. They needed a culture of rigor.”
Rigor on steroids is what Ripley finds in South Korea, the destination of another of her field agents. Eric, who attended an excellent public school back home in Minnesota, is shocked at first to see his classmates in the South Korean city of Busan dozing through class. Some wear small pillows that slip over their wrists, the better to sleep with their heads on their desks. Only later does he realize why they are so tired — they spend all night studying at hagwons, the cram schools where Korean kids get their real education.
Ripley introduces us to Andrew Kim, “the $4 million teacher,” who makes a fortune as one of South Korea’s most in-demand hagwon instructors, and takes us on a ride-along with Korean authorities as they raid hagwons in Seoul, attempting to enforce a 10 p.m. study curfew. Academic pressure there is out of control, and government officials and school administrators know it — but they are no match for ambitious students and their parents, who understand that passing the country’s stringent graduation exam is the key to a successful, prosperous life.

The Smartest Kids in The World And How They Got That Way By Amanda Ripley

Colleges Set to Offer Exit Tests

Douglas Belkin:

Next spring, seniors at about 200 U.S. colleges will take a new test that could prove more important to their future than final exams: an SAT-like assessment that aims to cut through grade-point averages and judge students’ real value to employers.
The test, called the Collegiate Learning Assessment, “provides an objective, benchmarked report card for critical thinking skills,” said David Pate, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at St. John Fisher College, a small liberal-arts school near Rochester, N.Y. “The students will be able to use it to go out and market themselves.”
The test is part of a movement to find new ways to assess the skills of graduates. Employers say grades can be misleading and that they have grown skeptical of college credentials.

New Fed Figures for 2011 Show Wisconsin Taxes 10th Highest Nationally Taxes as Percent of Income Rise to 11.8%, Rank Falls from Ninth

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (PDF):

Wisconsin’s state-local tax burden rose from 11.7% to 11.8% of income but its rank fell from 9th to 10th, according to U.S. Census Bureau fi gures. Fiscal year 2011 fi gures were released today and analyzed by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), a nonpartisan, nonprofi t policy research organization dedicated to citizen education.
In addition to Wisconsin, state-local taxes relative to income rose in 36 other states. Nationally, that percentage rose from 10.7% to 10.9%. Neighboring Illinois saw its tax burden jump from 10.3% (27th) to 11.0% (16th) of income. Minnesota’s taxes climbed from 11.3% (14th) to 11.9% (8th) of income. Minnesota’s jump in rank explains Wisconsin’s drop from 9th to 10th.
“One interesting phenomenon is the increasing similarity of states in the upper midwest,” said WISTAX President Todd A. Berry. “In 2011, ranks for Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa were bunched between 8th and 17th.”

Related: A Public Hearing on the Madison Schools’ Proposed 4.5% Property Tax Increase Monday, No Mention of Last Year’s Significant State Tax Dollar Funding Increase.

Number of Wisconsin Teachers, School Staff Increases in 2013

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (PDF):

The number of Wisconsin public school teachers rose modestly in 2013 from 59,384 to 59,540, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) said today. This ended a three-year decline in teaching positions. Despite the 2013 increase, teacher numbers declined 2.1% during 2011-13, following a drop of 2.6% during 2009-11. These are some of the important findings in WISTAX’s new report, “Post Act 10 School Staffing.” WISTAX is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to public policy research and citizen education.

Test Scores Show Familiar Tale of Two School Systems

Rhonda Rosenberg:

A few months ago we did an analysis of the college-readiness numbers of the system’s high-school graduates. That analysis showed that the system’s college-readiness rate – 22.2% — was largely attributable to a small number of high schools. The 35 schools that made up the top 10 percent of high schools contributed nearly half of the graduates ready for college, while hundreds of other high schools had college-ready rates in the single digits.
That same pattern – a “tale of two school systems” – is echoed in the results of the recent state tests on grades 3-8 based on the Common Core standards. In these most recent tests, as in the college-ready statistics, a minority of high-achieving schools helped camouflage much lower results in the majority of schools.
In these new tests based on the much more demanding Common Core standards, only about 26 percent of grade 3-8 students citywide were judged proficient in reading and 30 percent proficient in math, far below the achievement levels on previous state tests. But even this unimpressive level was not reached by the great majority of elementary and middle schools. In these schools student achievement was lower – sometimes much lower — than the citywide average.
One quarter of schools produce half to two-thirds of proficient students.

Vaccination Coverage Among Children in Kindergarten — United States, 2012-13 School Year

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) CDC:

State and local school vaccination requirements are implemented to maintain high vaccination coverage and minimize the risk from vaccine preventable diseases (1). To assess school vaccination coverage and exemptions, CDC annually analyzes school vaccination coverage data from federally funded immunization programs. These awardees include 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC), five cities, and eight U.S.-affiliated jurisdictions.* This report summarizes vaccination coverage from 48 states and DC and exemption rates from 49 states and DC for children entering kindergarten for the 2012-13 school year. Forty-eight states and DC reported vaccination coverage, with medians of 94.5% for 2 doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine; 95.1% for local requirements for diphtheria, tetanus toxoid, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccination; and 93.8% for 2 doses of varicella vaccine among awardees with a 2-dose requirement. Forty-nine states and DC reported exemption rates, with the median total of 1.8%. Although school entry coverage for most awardees was at or near national Healthy People 2020 targets of maintaining 95% vaccination coverage levels for 2 doses of MMR vaccine, 4 doses of DTaP†vaccine, and 2 doses of varicella vaccine (2), low vaccination and high exemption levels can cluster within communities, increasing the risk for disease. Reports to CDC are aggregated at the state level; however, local reporting of school vaccination coverage might be accessible by awardees. These local-level data can be used to create evidence-based health communication strategies to help parents understand the risks for vaccine-preventable diseases and the benefits of vaccinations to the health of their children and other kindergarteners.
Vaccination coverage among children entering kindergarten is assessed annually by awardees. Each school year, the health department, school nurse, or other school personnel assess the vaccination and exemption status of a census or sample of kindergarteners enrolled in public and private schools to determine vaccination coverage, as defined by state and local school requirements established to protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases. Among the 50 states and DC, 43 awardees used an immunization information system (IIS) as at least one source of data for some of their school assessment. To collect data, 33 awardees used a census of kindergarteners; 11 a sample of schools, kindergarteners, or both; two a voluntary response of schools; and five a mix of methods. Results of the school-level assessments are reported to the health department. Aggregated data are reported to CDC for public and private schools. Data for homeschooled students were not reported to CDC. All estimates of coverage and exemption were weighted based on each awardee’s response rates and sampling methodology, unless otherwise noted. Of the 50 states and DC, 12 awardees met CDC standards for school assessment methods in 2012-13.§

U.S. government sues to block vouchers in some Louisiana school systems

Danielle Dreilinger:

The U.S. Justice Department is suing Louisiana in New Orleans federal court to block 2014-15 vouchers for students in public school systems that are under federal desegregation orders. The first year of private school vouchers “impeded the desegregation process,” the federal government says.
Thirty-four school systems could be affected, including those of Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes. Under the lawsuit, the state would be barred from assigning students in those systems to private schools unless a federal judge agreed to it. A court hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 19.
The statewide voucher program, officially called the Louisiana Scholarship Program, lets low-income students in public schools graded C, D or F attend private schools at taxpayer expense. This year, 22 of the 34 systems under desegregation orders are sending some students to private schools on vouchers.

New Governance Model for the Milwaukee Public Schools?

Alan Borsuk

A recovery school district for low-performing schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system? The news that a group of civic leaders convened last week at the initiative of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce to consider such an idea gave me an instant trip to the land of MPS Structural Reform Ideas Past.
Start with the 1970s, when then-State Rep. Dennis Conta and others proposed redoing school districts in the Milwaukee area so there would be a small number of districts shaped like slices of pie, each including parts of the central city and parts of the suburbs. Caused a big stir, but, of course, it didn’t happen. (I wonder what would have resulted if it had come to pass.)
Jump to the late 1990s: Then-Gov. Tommy Thompson announced he was setting several goals for Milwaukee Public Schools, including test score and attendance improvement, and if they weren’t met, he was going to have the state take over MPS. My assumption is that he thought about it a little more, asking himself, why would I want to take on that mountainous headache? MPS, of course, didn’t meet the goals, but Thompson didn’t pursue the idea.
In 2009, then-Gov. Jim Doyle said he wanted to put MPS under the control of a board appointed by the mayor of Milwaukee. Mayor Tom Barrett kind of seemed to go along. But Doyle and Barrett didn’t do a good job of making the case, community opposition was effective and the idea came to nothing.
In 2010, then-candidate for governor Scott Walker said he thought MPS should be broken up into a set of smaller districts the size of, oh, say, Wauwatosa, where his kids went to school. Never heard any more about that idea, perhaps because Walker realized it was not doable.

Who owns the networked future of reading? The Readmill app shows how in future readers will be able to share their marginalia with others – and authors. But will corporate moneymaking come to dominate?

Damien Walter:

Some years ago, I stumbled on a battered copy of The Silence of the Lambs in a train carriage. It was during one of those lonely chunks of life when reading takes on a new importance, and I found a quite unexpected friend in that rather dark and worrisome tale. The anonymous former owner had doodled on and annotated the book before inexplicably abandoning it to its fate on public transport.
Amusing, insightful and often veering wildly from the actual text, this commentary entirely changed my reading of Thomas Harris’s story of a serial murderer and obsessive police procedure. My anonymous guide was a university student, most likely a young woman, studying the book from a feminist perspective. Harris’s novel is a superior police procedural, but still guilty of that genre’s casual sexism, picked apart by my guide with glee.
I’ve often wished that I could talk to that anonymous commentator. Today, if they were using an e-reader, I might be able to. Readmill is an e-reading app that, on the surface at least, will be familiar to anyone who has read a Kindle book on their smartphone or tablet. But what makes this scrappy indie app a potential Amazon giant-killer is how Readmill helps readers – and writers – talk to each other.

Politics: Obama’s New Education Proposal: Change, or Changed Subject?

Matt Taibbi:

But now it’s Friday, and what do we see in the news? Lots and lots of coverage of the President’s suddenly-urgent new road show around America’s college campuses, where he’s stumping for his “bold” new plan to reduce tuition costs. Obama on Monday and Tuesday was Darth Vader; today, he’s being feted in the New York Times for his ostentatiously progressive-sounding new plan to help the student demographic. From the Times editorial board this morning:
President Obama has been accused of promoting small-ball ideas in his second term, but the proposal he unveiled on Thursday is a big one: using sharp federal pressure to make college more affordable, potentially opening the gates of higher education to more families scared off by rising tuitions. While there are questions to be answered about his plan, his approach – tying federal student aid to the value of individual colleges – is a bold and important way to leverage the government’s power and get Washington off the sidelines.

Commentary on President Obama’s proposed higher education rating system

Tyler Cowen:

So far I don’t get it. There seems to be plenty of information about colleges, and I doubt if a federal rating system would improve on those ratings already privately available. To the extent that federal system became focal, the incentives to game and scheme it would become massive, and how or whether to punish the gamers, if and when they are caught, would be a political decision. I don’t see that as healthy.
Given that previous educational subsidies mostly are converted into higher rates of tuition and thus captured by the school, the second plank would simply boost the subsidy to high performing colleges. There are plenty of ways to do that and in any case it doesn’t seem to help today’s marginal students, who probably cannot do well in those environments in any case. Furthermore colleges with high graduate earnings are very often those located in or near high-paying cities. Should we be subsidizing on that basis? Should we be giving colleges an incentive to identify and deny admission to potential lower earners? Do we really want the federal government helping to crush humanities majors? And I don’t see that the kind of rating system under discussion here is measuring actual value added, ceteris paribus of course.

The Real Reason College Costs So Much

Alyssa Finley:

Another school year beckons, which means it’s time for President Obama to go on another college retreat. “He loves college tours,” says Ohio University’s Richard Vedder, who directs the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. “Colleges are an escape from reality. Believe me, I’ve lived in one for half a century. It’s like living in Disneyland. They’re these little isolated enclaves of nonreality.”
Mr. Vedder, age 72, has taught college economics since 1965 and published papers on the likes of Scandinavian migration, racial disparities in unemployment and tax reform. Over the last decade he’s made himself America’s foremost expert on the economics of higher education, which he distilled in his 2004 book “Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much.” His analysis isn’t the same as President Obama’s.

A Public Hearing on the Madison Schools’ Proposed 4.5% Property Tax Increase Monday, No Mention of Last Year’s Significant State Tax Dollar Funding Increase

More charts on Madison schools’ spending & property tax growth over the years, here.

Karen Rivedal:

The Madison School Board will hold a one-hour public hearing at 5 p.m. Monday on a preliminary $391 million budget proposal for the 2013-2014 school year, in the McDaniels Auditorium of the Doyle Administration Building at 545 W. Dayton St.
After the hearing, the board is to vote on the budget, which includes a $260.4 million property tax levy, increasing the tax bill on an average $230,831 Madison home by about $102. The board will take a final vote on the tax levy in October, after official state aid figures are known.

Related: Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers.
Finally, Rivedal’s article fails to mention this: Up, Down & Transparency: Madison Schools Received $11.8M more in State Tax Dollars last year, Local District Forecasts a Possible Reduction of $8.7M this Year. Local household income changes are unmentioned, as well (national data).
Much more on the 2013-2014 Madison schools’ budget, here.
A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38. Local efforts to significantly increase property taxes may grow the gap with Middleton..
Rivedal’s article is unfortunately a classic “low information” piece. It would not take much effort to challenge the new Superintendent’s rhetoric on “state funding decline”. The prior year’s significant increase goes unmentioned.
Is it the State Journal’s policy to simply publish rhetoric without investigation?

New Survey: Hispanic Teen Drug Use Significantly Higher Than Other Ethnic Groups, Substance Abuse Becoming Normalized Behavior Among Latino Youth

Cassie Goldberg:

The Partnership at Drugfree.org today released new research from the latest Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), a nationally projectable survey that tracks teen drug and alcohol use and parent attitudes toward substance abuse among teens. The research, sponsored by MetLife Foundation, shows that Hispanic teens are using drugs at alarmingly higher levels when compared to teens from other ethnic groups. It confirms that substance abuse has become a normalized behavior among Latino youth.
According to the new PATS data, Hispanic teens are more likely to engage in substance abuse when compared to teens from other ethnic groups and are more likely to have abused the following substances within the past year:

Raising Academic Standards: Until We Waive Them & Keep Dollars Flowing

Caitlin Emma:

An unprecedented set of recent Education Department decisions about No Child Left Behind waivers is at the least an overreach and at the very worst illegal, a chorus of critics say.
Last week, the department declared NCLB waivers for Kansas, Oregon and Washington state “high-risk” because each state has more work to do in tying student growth to teacher evaluations – a major requirement for states that want out of the more arduous provisions of the law. And in early August, the department granted waivers to eight districts in California, the first time the department bypassed states on No Child Left Behind flexibility.
Observers and analysts say the department’s high-risk waiver decision simply isn’t allowed under federal law. And they say Education Secretary Arne Duncan broke with what he told Congress in February about a preference not to grant district waivers, which these critics think are just plain bad policy. NCLB is long overdue for reauthorization. With that renewal nowhere in sight, Duncan has granted more than 40 waivers of the law to states, D.C. and the group of California districts, freeing states from requirements such as having all students reading and doing math at grade level by the 2013-14 school year.

Chris Christie and the New Jersey teachers union are at it again

Laura Waters:

For Chris Christie and NJEA, N.J.’s primary teacher union, it’s deja vu all over again. After several years of a relatively decorous detente, we’re back to the rude fisticuffs and catcalls of 2010 and 2011, and all within a matter of days. What’s behind this political and behavioral regression?
Christie’s strategy is clear. In order to secure the 2016 Republican nomination for president, he has to confirm his conservative bona fides. Thus, this week he vetoed a gun control bill that he supported last year and endorsed Tea Party nut Steve Lonegan for U.S. Senate.
Christie’s attack on N.J.’s primary teacher union NJEA last week in Boston, then, was just one more genuflection to the Ron Pauls and Rick Santorums of the GOP. During a speech to the Republican National Committee (supposedly closed to the press but leaked to a Politico reporter) Christie described NJEA’s resistance to N.J.’s 2010 passage of health and benefits reform legislation:
“The teachers union in our state collects $140 million a year in dues. … It’s a $140 million political slush fund for them to use however they wish in mandatory dues,” he said. “That’s who we’re up against. So we decided very early that we had to fix the pension and benefit problem, at least move toward fixing it. And the only way to do it was to take them on directly… My philosophy on this can be best described this way: When you come to a new school yard and you’re the new kid in school — like you are when you’re the governor and you come to Trenton for the first time — and you walk onto the schoolyard and you see a bunch of people lying on the ground bloody and beaten up, and you see one person standing there with their arms folded across their chest staring at you. That’s the bully. In New Jersey, that bully is the New Jersey Education Association.”

Who ruined English: Brits or Yanks?

Kory Stamper:

Two weeks ago, there was a literal brouhaha over news that English dictionaries around the world had finally given in and ruined English by entering the hyperbolic and figurative meaning of “literally”. While people flapped their hands and began to eulogize our fine language, lexicographers battened down the hatches and waited for the storm to pass, as it would. The death of English was literally (senses 1 and 2) old news to us.
As far back as the 15th century, English speakers were bemoaning the shortcomings of their language. The earliest worries were that English simply didn’t have enough words in it: England’s own poet laureate whinged in 1545 that his native language was so full of difficulties that he didn’t think he’d be able to find the “termes to serve my mynde”. By the 1700s, the idea that unless upright citizens who cared about grammar stepped in, “good” and “proper” English might dwindle into nothing was already well established.

Student Suspended for Refusing to Wear RFID Chip Returns to School

David Kravets:

A Texas girl suspended for refusing to wear a student ID card implanted with a radio-frequency identification chip is being re-admitted to her former high school where fall classes begin Monday, her lawyers said today.
The flap concerns Andrea Hernandez, who will be a junior at John Jay High in San Antonio. She was suspended in January and sued the Northside Independent School District on privacy and religious grounds.
She lost the case and began attending another school that did not require pupils to wear the ID badges. The girl’s lawyers said today that she is returning to the magnet school where the highly contested legal battle commenced. That’s because the district has abandoned its year-long RFID-student monitoring program.
Radio-frequency identification devices are a daily part of the electronic age — found in passports, and library and payment cards. Eventually they are expected to replace bar-code labels on consumer goods. Schools across the nation are slowly adopting them as well, despite the Northside district quietly deciding last month to discontinue RFID chips on the grounds that they were ineffective.

San Francisco, Oakland schools cut off tutoring companies

Sachiko Yoshitsugu

More than 100 companies providing federally funded tutoring services in San Francisco and Oakland public schools have been cut off from the beginning of the school year after the schools terminated the program.
On August 6 the U.S. Department of Education granted a one-year waiver allowing eight California school districts, including San Francisco and Oakland, to opt out of the No Child Behind Act. SFUSD and OUSD received $700,000 and $3.42 million respectively in supplemental education services (SES) funds for the upcoming school year. Under No Child Left Behind, schools were required to use that money to offer programs such as afterschool tutoring for struggling students. With the waiver, both districts have decided not to offer the SES program and plan to use the money in other ways to help low-income students.
Last year, there were 121 state approved SES providers for Oakland schools alone. The district expects the number of contracted SES providers to drop drastically.

Assessing the Outcomes of Charter School Students with Special Needs: Research Design Brief

Patrick Denice , Robin Lake, Betheny Gross:

How well do charter schools serve the students with special needs who choose to attend them? Finding the means to answer this question is complicated.
In March 2013, CRPE convened a group of nine experts, from leading economists to special education authorities, to determine the best ways for researchers to assess the learning and socio-emotional outcomes of charter school students with special needs.
Drawing on the panel’s conversations, this brief outlines the challenges associated with producing methodologically sound and practically useful research on how students with special needs fare in charter schools as compared to in district-run schools. These challenges include inconsistent approaches to identifying and tracking students with diverse learning needs, data and methodological limitations, and inconsistencies in state policy.
The authors include a set of recommendations for designing the kind of rigorous research needed to inform policy and practice and help policymakers and the public become wiser consumers of special education charter schools studies.

More students than ever rely on federal college aid

Libby Nelson:

Students and families are more willing than ever to borrow to pay for college and increasingly reliant on federal grants and loans to help with tuition bills, statistics released today from the U.S. Education Department show.
For the first time, a majority of undergraduates are receiving some kind of federal financial aid — 57 percent. A higher proportion than ever are taking out loans. But while the federal government gave out more grants for low-income students, colleges continued using their own money on grants for students from wealthier families. That’s a trend that concerns some who argue that colleges should do more to help students of limited means.

NJ Voters “Heart Education Reform”

Laura Waters:

New Jersey’s branch of Democrats for Education Reform has released results of a poll that shows that “[e]ight out of ten New Jersey Democrats say that Cory Booker’s support for pragmatic education reforms as Mayor of Newark make him a good choice for the United States Senate.”
The poll was conducted by Education Reform Now Advocacy and confirms that Booker’s outspoken views on expanding school choice and improving teacher quality are popular with Garden State Democrats. 49% of voters surveyed said Booker’s education platform was “very convincing” and another 29% called it “convincing.”

SPLC: If You Can’t Help Every Child, You Can’t Help Any Child

Jason Bedrick:

Most people know the story of the boy who was rescuing sea stars that had washed up on a beach by throwing them back into the ocean. When a man scoffed to the boy that his efforts didn’t make a difference since he couldn’t save all of them, the boy tossed another sea star back into the ocean and replied, “It made a difference to that one.” The little-known ending to the story is that the boy was sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for violating the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause.
Sadly, this is only a slight exaggeration. Earlier this week, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit contending that Alabama’s new scholarship tax credit program violates the Equal Protection clause and harms the low-income students attending failing public schools whom the law is intended to help:

Obama’s Plan Aims to Rank Colleges

Tamar Lewin:

President Obama plans to announce a set of ambitious proposals on Thursday aimed at making colleges more accountable and affordable by rating them and ultimately linking those ratings to financial aid.
A draft of the proposal, obtained by The New York Times and likely to cause some consternation among colleges, shows a plan to rate colleges before the 2015 school year based on measures like tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and the percentage of lower-income students who attend. The ratings would compare colleges against their peer institutions. If the plan can win Congressional approval, the idea is to base federal financial aid to students attending the colleges partly on those rankings.
“All the things we’re measuring are important for students choosing a college,” a senior administration official said. “It’s important to us that colleges offer good value for their tuition dollars, and that higher education offer families a degree of security so students aren’t left with debt they can’t pay back.”
Mr. Obama hopes that starting in 2018, the ratings would be tied to financial aid, so that students at highly rated colleges might get larger federal grants and more affordable loans. But that would require new legislation.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: States and localities owe far, far more than their citizens know.

Steven Malanga:

Maria Pappas, the treasurer of Cook County, Illinois, got tired of being asked why local taxes kept rising. Betting that the answer involved the debt that state and local governments were accumulating, she began a quest to figure out how much county residents owed. It wasn’t easy. In some jurisdictions, officials said that they didn’t know; in others, they stonewalled. Pappas’s first report, issued in 2010, estimated the total state and local debt at $56 billion for the county’s 5.6 million residents. Two years later, after further investigation, the figure had risen to a frightening $140 billion, shocking residents and officials alike. “Nobody knew the numbers because local governments don’t like to show how badly they are doing,” Pappas observed.
Since Pappas began her project to tally Cook County’s hidden debt, she has found lots of company. Across America, elected officials, taxpayer groups, and other researchers have launched a forensic accounting of state and municipal debt, and their fact-finding mission is rewriting the country’s balance sheet. Just a few years ago, most experts estimated that state and local governments owed about $2.5 trillion, mostly in the form of municipal bonds and other debt securities. But late last year, the States Project, a joint venture of Harvard’s Institute of Politics and the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government, projected that if you also count promises made to retired government workers and money borrowed without taxpayer approval, the figure might be higher than $7 trillion.

After Tragedy, Schools Turn to Technology

Meredith Rutland:

Ever since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut last December, school officials across the country have debated how best to improve safety, including whether to arm teachers.
A panic button was installed in a secret location at A.L. Burruss Elementary School in Marietta, Ga., where students make their way to class.
The debate intensified Tuesday when a gunman walked into a DeKalb County, Ga., elementary school, barricaded himself in the front office and fired multiple shots at police before being taken into custody. No one was injured.
Many schools are opening their doors this semester with an option less controversial than arming teachers: panic buttons. At least 400 schools in a dozen states, from California to Maine, are adding the devices, according to administrators.
“It’s basically a common-sense approach. Businesses have these buttons all over the place,” said Mario Civera, a county council member in Delaware County, Pa., which is installing panic buttons in its 237 schools.
Panic buttons are installed under desks, in school front offices or on pendants around administrators’ necks. When pressed, they silently alert local security companies or 911 dispatchers of a high-level emergency, signaling that authorities should be sent immediately–no questions asked.
Some panic-button systems also send text messages to administrators and announce an alert over the school’s intercom system after 911 is called. The buttons are meant for the worst type of emergencies, such as a shooting or a hostage situation, school officials say.

Daytona State, school districts reach agreements on dual enrollment

Daytona Times:

As opening days for fall classes draw near, agreements in support of dual enrollment have been reached between Daytona State College and Volusia and Flagler school districts.
The college’s District Board of Trustees on Aug. 13 approved agreements to cover the majority of the schools’ costs for services associated with dual enrollment in 2013-14.
The Volusia and Flagler school boards will vote on the agreements in upcoming weeks.
Dual enrollment provides college-credit classes on Daytona State campuses, giving college-bound students a head start on their higher education, at no cost to them.

Related:Obtaining credit for non Madison School District Courses has been an ongoing challeng. Perhaps this issue has faded away as past practices die? Madison’snon-diverse or homogeneous governance model inflictsnumerous cost, fromone size fits all curricula to growth in the ‘burbs accompanied byever increasing property taxes on top of stagnant or declining income.

Polls show mixed report card for education reforms

Stephanie Simon:

Americans have a decidedly mixed view of the education reforms now sweeping the nation, supporting moves to open up public schools to more competition — and yet wary of ceding too much control to market forces.
That’s the message that emerges from a trio of new polls on public education. Taken together, the polls out this week capture a deep ambivalence:
Parents want a degree of choice in education; they continue to back charter schools. But they’re increasingly skeptical of voucher programs that use public funds to help families pay private and parochial school tuition.
Parents are fine with high-stakes testing; in large numbers, they agree that kids should be held back a year or denied a high school diploma if they can’t pass state exams. Yet they’re less certain about tying teachers’ salaries and performance evaluations to student test scores.

Advanced Placement classes failing students

Stephanie Simon:

Enrollment in AP classes has soared. But data analyzed by POLITICO shows that the number of kids who bomb the AP exams is growing even more rapidly. The class of 2012, for instance, failed nearly 1.3 million AP exams during their high school careers. That’s a lot of time and money down the drain; research shows that students don’t reap any measurable benefit from AP classes unless they do well enough to pass the $89 end-of-course exam.
In its annual reports, the nonprofit College Board, which runs the Advanced Placement program, emphasizes the positive: The percentage of students who pass at least one AP exam during high school has been rising steadily. Because so many students now take more than one AP class, however, the overall pass rate dropped from 61 percent for the class of 2002 to 57 percent for the class of 2012.
Even more striking: The share of exams that earned the lowest possible score jumped from 14 percent to 22 percent, according to College Board data.
The trend challenges a widespread philosophy that students exposed to higher standards will find a way to meet them. Graded in part by college professors, AP exams provide a fairly objective measure of performance — and the results suggest that when the bar is raised too high, a good number of students trip.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Pay shenanigans hurt public trust

The Wisconsin State Journal:

Don’t blame retiring Madison Area Technical College president Bettsey Barhorst or state Capitol Police Chief David Erwin for scoring a sweet payout and raise, respectively.
Blame their bosses — the MATC District Board and the Walker administration, respectively. They’re the ones who offered and agreed to these deals, which are bad for taxpayers.
The State Journal reported Sunday that Barhorst, who announced her retirement in January, will receive about $88,000 for four and a half months as an on-call consultant to her successor, Jack E. Daniels, and other top MATC officials. After the first month of her consulting gig, Barhorst doesn’t even have to be available in person. She can phone it in.
That doesn’t justify the same pay as she was making before Daniels arrived on the job Monday. Yet that’s what she’ll get, courtesy of the MATC District Board. The $88,000 for 19 weeks of on-call help is based on her regular annual salary of nearly $240,000.

Help the United Way of Dane County Boost School Attendance

Wisconsin State Journal editorial

About a third of kindergartners in Madison schools miss 10 or more days of classes. And a fifth are “chronically absent,” meaning they miss 18 or more days, which is at least 10 percent of the school year.
Attendance improves by fifth grade and into middle school, then falls when students reach high school.
That’s why the United Way of Dane County this fall plans to emphasize in new ways the need for young parents to establish strong habits for children going to school every day (barring illness).
The effort — dubbed “Here!” — will stress the correlation between good attendance and academic success. It will include promotional materials at schools, follow-up calls to parents and encouragement from community leaders such as church pastors who will include the message in their sermons.
“We shouldn’t be surprised that the (high school) graduation rate is about the same as the attendance rate,” said Deedra Atkinson, the United Way’s senior vice president of community impact and marketing.
The nonprofit, as it launches its annual fundraiser today, also is committing more attention and resources to helping high school dropouts earn diplomas and find work.
The United Way does so much good work for our community that it deserves your financial support and time. The public is welcome at today’s lunch and launch of the United Way’s annual Days of Caring. So far, the number of volunteers is up about 400 people from last year, to 3,500.
The group’s annual fundraising goal is $18.1 million, up 3 percent from last year’s total collected, said campaign chairman Doug Nelson, regional president of BMO Harris Bank.
The United Way of Dane County will host its annual Days of Caring this week, starting today with a lunch and campaign kickoff at Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The public is welcome. To donate to the nonprofit’s fundraising effort go to www.unitedwaydanecounty.org or call 608-246-4350. To volunteer, visit www.volunteeryourtime.org or call 608-246-4357. Donate your time; donate your money.
Please help if you can.

Innovate or Die

Robin Lake, via a kind Deb Britt email:

A few weeks ago, after I gave a presentation on the opportunities and challenges of the portfolio model, a charter school proponent asked me, “Robin, do you really believe districts can innovate?”
Certainly not under the current governance model, which is actually hostile to innovation. By innovation, I’m not talking about buying everyone iPads and Smart Boards. I’m talking about committing to an ongoing problem-solving disposition, and relentlessly hunting down the most promising new ideas–no matter their source–for addressing learning challenges. True innovation means seeking out evidence-based solutions and adapting quickly. It means facilitating proven solutions at scale rather than one-off programs or schools.
That’s simply not possible in traditional school districts, where finance systems dictate spending based on set staffing models and class sizes, which prevent schools from experimenting with more productive uses of teachers and new student grouping strategies. Accountability systems can discourage risk-taking and diverse approaches to instruction by penalizing schools for any short-term drops in test scores. Rigid internal regulations and processes (such as procurement) make it hard to try anything new. Salary structures and work rules assign people to a school regardless of whether they believe in its approach. While no single one of these factors by itself kills innovation, the sum is a self-limiting, regulated environment that discourages experimentation with new ways to serve students.
Districts will never be capable of innovating if they don’t fundamentally restructure and downsize central offices. They won’t be capable of innovating without closing dysfunctional schools and creating new schools; without partnering with charter schools, which have the flexibility and focus that district-run schools lack; and without committing to continually assessing what works and adjusting course quickly.

College-for-all vs. career education? Moving beyond a false debate

Sarah Carr:

At New Orleans charter schools, even students in the primary grades sometimes start the day with rousing chants professing their commitment to college. “This is the way, hey!/ We start the day, hey!/ We get the knowledge, hey!/To go to college!” kids shout. During several years writing about the remaking of the school system since Hurricane Katrina, I have heard high school teachers remind students to wash their hands before leaving the restroom because otherwise they might get sick, which might cause them to miss class, which would leave them less prepared for college. College flags and banners coat the walls and ceilings of schools across the city. College talk infuses the lessons of even the youngest learners. College trips expose older kids to campuses around the country.
While particularly strong in New Orleans, the “college-for-all” movement has swept the nation over the past decade, with education reformers in different cities embracing the notion that sending more low-income students to and through college should be America’s primary antipoverty strategy. In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama echoed that theme when he asked every American to pledge to attend at least one year of college. “We will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley: Why Shouldn’t Princeton Pay Taxes?

James Piereson & Naomi Schaefer Riley:

For the latest evidence of the town-gown divide, look no further than New Jersey, where earlier this summer residents of Princeton banded together to sue the prestigious school in their backyard. The residents argued that Princeton University, which boasts the largest endowment per student in the country, should no longer be entitled to its tax-exempt status because the school makes money–from its scientific patents, ticketed concerts, on-campus eateries and more. The Ivy League school is operating like a business, the plaintiffs say, so the tax code should treat it like one.
The conflict isn’t going away. In June, a state tax court judge said the case had merit and refused the school’s request to dismiss the case. Princeton officials don’t seem worried: Reacting to the judge’s decision, a school vice president said that he expected any adjustments to its tax bill to be “quite modest.”
Perhaps, but the townies still have a point. According to the lawsuit, the university took in over $115 million from patents in 2011, of which $35 million was given to various faculty members. The lawyer for the plaintiffs told the Times of Trenton that “People in Princeton pay at least one-third more in taxes because the university has been exempt all of these years.” If all of the school’s property were taxed, the bill would come to roughly $28 million a year, instead of the roughly $10 million the university is now contributing voluntarily to town coffers.

Is Beloit College’s pop culture review a Mindset List or Mindlessness?

Karen Herzog:

For most teens starting college this fall, a chat has seldom involved talking, GM means food that’s Genetically Modified and a tablet is no longer something you take in the morning.
Each August since 1998, Beloit College has rolled out its internationally known Mindset List, originally aimed at giving faculty witty glimpses of the pop culture that has shaped the lives of incoming freshmen, so they can avoid dated references.
Over time, the list has become a public relations gold mine for the small liberal arts college in Beloit, each year generating a million hits on its website.
The Class of 2017 may be the last to have its own Mindset List, though, if two anonymous professors — one from a large public university and the other from a community college — can torpedo it.
The two — who write as “John Q. Angry” and “Disgruntled Prof” and say they have no connection to the college — launched a blog this week called Beloit Mindlessness, “dedicated to the mockery and eventual destruction of the Beloit Mindset List.”
The blog’s introduction says it will lay out the case against The Mindset List “through a thorough examination of each of the 1,000+ items that have appeared on the list over the past 16 years.”
Why all the hate?
The list “is a poorly written compendium of trivia, stereotypes and lazy generalizations, insulting to both students and their professors, and based on nothing more than the uninformed speculation of its authors,” according to Beloit Mindlessness. “It inspires lazy, inaccurate journalism and is an embarrassment to academia.”
The Mindset List is the brainchild of Ron Nief, emeritus director of public affairs for Beloit College, and Tom McBride, an English professor there.

Howard Zinn and the Art of Anti-Americanism

David Bobb

Upon the death of the Marxist-inspired historian Howard Zinn in 2010, eulogies rang out from coast to coast calling him a heroic champion of the unsung masses. In Indiana, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels refused to join the chorus and instead sent emails to his staff wondering if the historian’s “execrable” books were being force-fed to Hoosier students. The recent revelation of these emails provoked an angry backlash.
High-school teachers within Zinn’s vast network of admirers blogged their disapproval of the governor’s heresy, and leading professional organizations of historians denounced the supposed threat to academic freedom. At Purdue University, where Mr. Daniels now serves as president, 90 faculty members hailed Zinn as a strong scholarly voice for the powerless and cast the former governor as an enemy of free thought.
An activist historian relentlessly critical of alleged American imperialism, Zinn managed during his lifetime to build an impressive empire devoted to the spread of his ideas. Even after his death, a sprawling network of advocacy and educational groups has grown, giving his Marxist and self-described “utopian” vision a wider audience than ever before.
Zinn’s most influential work, A People’s History of the United States, was published in 1980 with an initial print run of 4,000 copies. His story line appealed to young and old alike, with the unshaded good-guy, bad-guy narrative capturing youthful imaginations, and his spirited takedown of “the Man” reminding middle-aged hippies of happier days. Hollywood’s love for Zinn and a movie tribute to his work has made him even more mainstream. As his acolytes have climbed the rungs of power, still seeking revolution, A People’s History has increased in popularity. To date, it has sold 2.2 million volumes, with more than half of those sales in the past decade.
In Zinn’s telling, America is synonymous with brute domination that goes back to Christopher Columbus. “The American system,” he writes in A People’s History, is “the most ingenious system of control in world history.” The founding fathers were self-serving elitists defined by “guns and greed.”
For Americans stuck in impoverished communities and failing schools, Zinn’s devotion to history as a “political act” can seem appealing. He names villains (capitalists), condemns their misdeeds, and calls for action to redistribute wealth so that, eventually, all of the following material goods will be “free–to everyone: food, housing, health care, education, transportation.” The study of history, Zinn taught, demands this sort of social justice.
Schools with social-justice instruction that draw explicitly on Zinn are becoming more common. From the Social Justice Academy outside of San Francisco to the four campuses of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, in Washington, D.C., social-justice academies relate their mission mainly in terms of ideological activism. At UCLA’s Social Justice Academy, a program for high-school juniors, the goal is that students will “develop skills to take action that disrupts social justice injustices.”
While social-justice instruction may sound to some like it might be suited to conflict resolution, in practice it can end up creating more discord than it resolves. Several years ago, the Ann Arbor, Michigan, public schools faced complaints from the parents of minority students that the American history curriculum was alienating their children. At a meeting of the district’s social-studies department chairs, the superintendent thought that he had discovered the cure for the divisions plaguing the school system. Holding up a copy of A People’s History, he asked, “How many of you have heard of Howard Zinn?” The chairwoman of the social studies department at the district’s largest school responded, “Oh, we’re already using that.”
Zinn’s arguments tend to divide, not unite, embitter rather than heal. The patron saint of Occupy Wall Street, Zinn left behind a legacy of prepackaged answers for every problem–a methodology that progressive historian Michael Kazin characterized as “better suited to a conspiracy-monger’s website than to a work of scholarship.”
Yet despite the lack of hard evidence in three-plus decades that using A People’s History produces positive classroom results, a number of well-coordinated groups recently have been set up to train teachers in the art of Zinn. Founded five years ago out of a partnership between Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change, the Zinn Education Project offers more than 100 lesson plans and teachers’ guides to Zinn’s books, among a variety of other materials, including “Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practice Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development.” Already, the project claims to have enlisted 20,000 teachers in its efforts.
Before Zinn launched his own teaching career, he became a member of the Communist Party in 1949 (according to FBI reports released three years ago), and worked in various front groups in New York City. Having started his academic career at Spelman College, Zinn spent the bulk of it at Boston University, where on the last day before his retirement in 1988 he led his students into the street to participate in a campus protest.
Today, Boston University hosts the Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series, and New York University (Zinn’s undergraduate alma mater) proudly houses his academic papers. In 2004 Zinn was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Havana, an occasion he took to excoriate the lack of academic freedom in America. As recently as 2007, A People’s History was even required reading at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for a class on “Leaders in America.”
Thanks in part to an endorsement from the character played by Matt Damon in 1997’s “Good Will Hunting,” Zinn’s magnum opus has also turned into a multimedia juggernaut. Actor Ben Affleck (like Mr. Damon, a family friend of Zinn’s), and musicians Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Eddie Vedder and John Legend all have publicly praised Zinn. A History Channel documentary produced by Mr. Damon, “The People Speak,” featured Hollywood A-listers Morgan Freeman, Viggo Mortensen, Kerry Washington and others reading from Zinn’s books. There are “People’s Histories” on topics including the American Revolution, Civil War, Vietnam and even science. Zinn die-hards can purchase a graphic novel, A People’s History of American Empire, while kids can pick up a two-volume set, A Young People’s History of the United States (wall chart sold separately).
In 2005, as a guest on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Zinn delivered his standard wholesale condemnation of America. Surprised by the unrelenting attack, host Jon Stewart gave the historian an opportunity to soften his criticism. “We have made some improvements,” the comedian asked, “in our barbarity over three hundred years, I would say, no?” Zinn denied there was any improvement.
As classes resume again this fall, it is difficult not to think that despite the late historian’s popularity, our students deserve better than the divisive pessimism of Howard Zinn.
Mr. Bobb, director of the Hillsdale College Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, in Washington, D.C., is author of Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue, forthcoming from Thomas Nelson.
A version of this article appeared August 12, 2013, on page A17 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: “Howard Zinn and the Art of Anti-Americanism.”

Taoboa’s Online Education Market Launched

Tracy Xiang:

Taobao Classmates (not official translation) , an online course market, was launched recently. Teachers, education organizations or agencies, or third-party online education services can set up Taobao stores to sell live broadcasts, recorded videos, offline courses or events, or courses on third-party sites (including Tmall) — in short, anyone is allowed to set up a store selling online educational content or related physical goods such as offline event tickets.
Just the same with buying physical goods on Taobao, consumers need to log into Taobao and pay with Alipay — not a problem to the majority of Chinese. There is, of course, no delivery fee unless a store charges you for delivering physical tickets and the like.

States continue increasing or eliminating caps on charter schools

Shari Ackerman:

In the past three years, 18 states have lifted caps on the number of charters schools allowed, another sign that lawmakers are embracing charters as valuable options in public education.
“I think there’s a growing recognition from state policymakers that charter schools are one of the pieces of the puzzle of education reform,” said Todd Ziebarth of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “They’re not the silver bullet. They’re not a panacea.”
But when charter schools are allowed to push the traditional system, they can become the labs of innovation they were designed to be, he said.
The information on caps comes in a new report from the alliance, which also looked at other changes states have made to charter school laws. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia now have charter schools, and the alliance concluded 35 of them strengthened their laws. In the alliance’s view, that could mean anything from increasing transparency of the approval process to ensuring local charter school authorizers are adequately funded.
Most of the progress was on lifting the caps, said Ziebarth, who co-authored the report and is the alliance’s senior vice president for state advocacy and support. Between 2010 and the beginning of 2013, 16 states lifted caps. Since January, Mississippi and Texas have joined the list.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Broward owes teachers for back pay over 7-period schedules

Michael Vasquez:

After an overhaul of high school schedules implemented last year — forcing some teachers to take on an additional class — the Broward school district now owes its teachers as much as $20 million in back pay.
The district doesn’t dispute its teachers are owed money, but in closed-door negotiations, officials have requested a 20-year payment plan, according to Broward Teachers Union President Sharon Glickman.
Glickman said she was astounded by the “insulting” offer, and immediately rejected it.
“I said, ‘You’re going to pay teachers when they’re in the cemetery, when they’re no longer alive?,'” Glickman said, adding that she’s received hundreds of emails from teachers who want to be paid immediately. Glickman said the school district also made a separate offer: pay the affected teachers between $2,000 and $3,000 each, over a period of a couple of years.

Lessons in How Not to Teach Math The course I took in math education methods was worse than useless.

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

I am a mathematics teacher. I majored in math and, prior to going into teaching, used it throughout my career.
My facility with math is due to good teaching and good textbooks. I fully expected the same for my daughter, but after seeing what passed for mathematics in her elementary school, I became increasingly distressed over how math is currently taught in many schools.
Optimistically believing that I could make a difference in at least a few students’ lives, I decided that after I retired, I would teach high school math. To obtain the necessary credential, I enrolled in George Mason University Graduate School for Education in the fall of 2005.
The ed school experience did have some redeeming features. Most of my teachers had taught in K-12, and had valuable advice about classroom management problems and some good common-sense approaches to teaching that didn’t rely on nausea-inducing theories.
Those theories are inescapable, unfortunately.
Specifically, many education theorists hold that when students discover material for themselves, they learn it more deeply than when it is taught directly. In this vein, the prevailing belief in the education establishment is that although direct instruction is effective in helping students learn and use algorithms and mathematical procedures, it is ineffective in helping students develop mathematical thinking.

School Has Become Too Hostile to Boys

Christina Hoff Sommers:

As school begins in the coming weeks, parents of boys should ask themselves a question: Is my son really welcome? A flurry of incidents last spring suggests that the answer is no. In May, Christopher Marshall, age 7, was suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world.”
In all these cases, school officials found the children to be in violation of the school’s zero-tolerance policies for firearms, which is clearly a ludicrous application of the rule. But common sense isn’t the only thing at stake here. In the name of zero tolerance, our schools are becoming hostile environments for young boys.

‘Where Should I Go to College?’ How to answer that question by asking another question

Mark Edmundson:

Where should you go to college–assuming you’re a high school student and getting ready for this new phase of your life? Where should you encourage your son or daughter to go–assuming that you’re a parent? As a college professor, I get asked the where-to-go question frequently, and I know that all of us teaching in colleges and universities do too. How should one answer? What is the right thing to say to someone deciding on his or her future? For myself, I’m inclined to respond by posing another question.
Are you looking for a corporate city, or are you looking for a scholarly enclave? Neither of these kinds of schools exists in its pure form. To the scholarly enclave, even the most ideal, there will always be a practical, businessy dimension. Somebody’s got to keep the books and pay the bills. And even in the most corporate of colleges, there will be islands of relative scholarly idealism.
Many, if not most, American high school students have already had a taste of the corporate city. These are students and parents who are emerging from the mouth of that great American dragon called the “good high school.” I won’t hide my prejudices: I have a lot of qualms about the good American high school. Most good high schools now look to me like credential factories. They are production centers that kids check in to every day. The motivated, success- oriented students set to work from the moment of arrival, producing something, manufacturing something. And what they produce are credentials. High schools now are credential factories in overdrive.
It doesn’t mean that students don’t have to work to get those credentials: Of course they do. It takes lots of effort, planning, and organization– and it takes some smarts– to get what students, the workers in the high school factory, are out to get. Students feel that they need to get A’s– they need to excel in their courses. They also feel they need to stimulate the goodwill of their teachers and their guidance counselors: Those recommendations are crucial. Students in high school now also need to rack up lots of extracurriculars: They need to do some community service; they need to be president (or, maybe better, treasurer) of a club or two; it’s good as well if they can play at least one varsity sport, or, if they are prone to stumbling over their own feet (as I was in high school), they can at least manage a team or keep the uniforms clean.

Christie signs two of three bills helping students with dyslexia

Diane D’Amico:

Two of three bills to help students with dyslexia and other reading disorders get more help in school were signed Wednesday by Gov. Chris Christie.
The two bills require teachers to get training in reading disabilities, and require the state Department of Education to providing training opportunities for teachers.
A third bill that has not yet been signed, and the one considered most important by advocates, would require the state to incorporate the International Dyslexia Association’s definition of dyslexia into state special education regulations. Currently the state classifies students with dyslexia only as having a specific learning disability.
A fourth bill that would require that all children be screened for reading disabilities by the end of first grade has been approved by the Senate, but not yet by the Assembly.

via a kind Wisconsin Reading Coalition email:

One requires teachers to get training in reading disabilities, and the other requires the NJ Department of Education to provide training opportunities for teachers.
Other pending legislation includes a statutory definition of dyslexia based on the definition used by the International Dyslexia Association, screening for reading disabilities by 1st grade, and developing a certificate for teachers of students with dyslexia.

Librarian suggests turning the page on longtime reading club winner

Meg Hagerty:

Tyler Weaver calls himself “the king of the reading club” at Hudson Falls Public Library. But now it seems Hudson Falls Public Library Director Marie Gandron wants to end his reign and have him dethroned.
The 9-year-old boy, who will be starting fifth grade next month, won the six-week-long “Dig into Reading” event by completing 63 books from June 24 to Aug. 3, averaging more than 10 a week.
He has consistently been the top reader since kindergarten, devouring a total of 373 books over the five contests, according to his mother, Katie.
“It feels great,” said Tyler, an intermediate scholar student at Hudson Falls School. “I think that was actually a record-breaking streak.”

Can teachers unions adapt to the changing public education landscape?

Sherman Dorn:

In June, Ron Matus introduced a short series of entries responding to his question, “Can teachers unions adapt?” Responses came from anti-union writers Gary Beckner and Terry Moe, from DFER staff member and former journalist Joe Williams, and from former Pinellas County Teachers Association head and current SUFS president Doug Tuthill.
I am a current member and former officer in the United Faculty of Florida (Florida’s college and university faculty union), but I think the most useful approach I can suggest comes from my role as an education historian. The reality is that teachers unions (or any organizations tied to schooling) have a long record of varied change in response to circumstances.
Despite occasional crass claims about an educational status quo and “industry-era education,” rough stability is a more useful concept for education history than absolute fixedness. As David Tyack and Larry Cuban argue in their wonderful history of school reform, Tinkering toward Utopia, change often happens through long-term trends rather than through the more visible and cyclical rhetoric of the reform du jour.
More importantly, the sources of relative stability derive more from shared values and long-term social dilemmas than come from either self-interest (as Joe Williams claims) or from bureaucracy. Bureaucracy has its influences and people include material self-interest as part of their identity and their role in organizations like unions. But schools have social scripts for all sorts of reasons, including our country’s bundling of education with citizenship and the common experiences adults remember from their time in schools.

Meritocracy or Bias?

Scott Jaschik:

Critics of affirmative action generally argue that the country would be better off with a meritocracy, typically defined as an admissions system where high school grades and standardized test scores are the key factors, applied in the same way to applicants of all races and ethnicities.
But what if they think they favor meritocracy but at some level actually have a flexible definition, depending on which groups would be helped by certain policies? Frank L. Samson, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Miami, thinks his new research findings suggest that the definition of meritocracy used by white people is far more fluid than many would admit, and that this fluidity results in white people favoring certain policies (and groups) over others.
Specifically, he found, in a survey of white California adults, they generally favor admissions policies that place a high priority on high school grade-point averages and standardized test scores. But when these white people are focused on the success of Asian-American students, their views change.

Are Students Really Academically Adrift? Rethinking the Assessment of “Limited Learning” on College Campuses

Sara Goldrick-Rab:

Fast forward, and after attending a presentation at this year’s ASA in New York last week, I’ve come to question my assessment–and theirs. At the time, I was looking at percentage point gains over time, and we know that these are not a good way to assess effect sizes since they do not take into account the amount of variation in the sample. Once the gains are standardized, Arum and Roksa find that students tested twice, four years apart, improve their scores on the Collegiate Learning Assessment by an average of 0.46 standard deviations. Now that’s a number we can begin to seriously consider.
Is a gain of 0.46 sd evidence of “limited learning” and something to sniff at? As I said back in 2009, we need a frame of reference in order to assess this. In the abstract, an effect size means little if anything at all.
For their part, the authors point to a review of research by Ernie Pascarella and Pat Terenzini indicating that on tests given at the time, students in the 1980s gained about 1 standard deviation. Doesn’t that mean students learn less today than they once did, and that that’s a problem? Actually, no.
Scores cannot simply be compared across different tests. The scales on tests differ and can only be linked by administering the same test to comparable people. Clearly, the CLA was not administered to students attending college in the 1980s. Nor, for that matter, were students then comparable in demographic characteristics to the students of today, or were the conditions of testing the same.

Master’s Degree Is New Frontier of Study Online

Tamar Lewin:

Next January, the Georgia Institute of Technology plans to offer a master’s degree in computer science through massive open online courses for a fraction of the on-campus cost, a first for an elite institution. If it even approaches its goal of drawing thousands of students, it could signal a change to the landscape of higher education.
From their start two years ago, when a free artificial intelligence course from Stanford enrolled 170,000 students, free massive open online courses, or MOOCs, have drawn millions and yielded results like the perfect scores of Battushig, a 15-year-old Mongolian boy, in a tough electronics course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But the courses have not yet produced profound change, partly because they offer no credit and do not lead to a degree. The disruption may be approaching, though, as Georgia Tech, which has one of the country’s top computer science programs, plans to offer a MOOC-based online master’s degree in computer science for $6,600 — far less than the $45,000 on-campus price.
Zvi Galil, the dean of the university’s College of Computing, expects that in the coming years, the program could attract up to 10,000 students annually, many from outside the United States and some who would not complete the full master’s degree. “Online, there’s no visa problem,” he said.

Facebook use ‘makes people feel worse about themselves’


Using Facebook can reduce young adults’ sense of well-being and satisfaction with life, a study has found.
Checking Facebook made people feel worse about both issues, and the more they browsed, the worse they felt, the University of Michigan research said.
The study, which tracked participants for two weeks, adds to a growing body of research saying Facebook can have negative psychological consequences.
Facebook has more than a billion members and half log in daily.
“On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it,” said the researchers.
Internet psychologist Graham Jones, a member of the British Psychological Society who was not involved with the study, said: “It confirms what some other studies have found – there is a growing depth of research that suggests Facebook has negative consequences.”
But he added there was plenty of research showing Facebook had positive effects on its users.

Afghan educators struggle for funding as US aid budget shrinks

Emma Graham-Harrison:

The United States has stopped funding for a charity that educates some of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable abuse victims, including a tortured child bride and a teenager scarred by acid after refusing to marry a militia commander.
The decision to end financing for Aid Afghanistan for Education, which provides schools for girls and women excluded from government classrooms, came despite a pledge last month to spend more than $200m (£130m) on “women’s empowerment” as foreign troops head home.
Since funds were cut off this spring teachers have been leading classes for free in the hope that the charity’s director, Hassina Sherjan, can cobble together funds to pay their modest $140 monthly wages before they have to find new jobs.

A Conversation with Morris Andrews

I am thankful that former WEAC Executive Director Morris Andrews spent time recently to discuss public education 24MB mp3 audio.
Related: WEAC: An advocate for students as well as teachers WEAC has worked with Republicans and Democrats for the benefit of children..
I thought about this conversation during a recent drive through a “de-industrialized” city. I observed beautiful buildings, boarded structures, a well attended park event via a free lunch program, a jobless center across the street, emerging strip malls and a nearby Planned Parenthood facility (with protesters).

The big problem with new evaluations of teacher prep programs

Valerie Strauss:

It takes some degree of chutzpah to evaluate teacher preparation programs with data said to be “in-depth” and “comprehensively collected” and then bury in small type the fact that some of the data isn’t actually all that trustworthy.
That’s what the New York City Department of Education did with the newly released reports that are said to grade teacher prep programs at colleges and universities in the city. The department put out a news release this week with the headline: “New York City Becomes the First Major School System in the Country to Comprehensively Collect and Analyze Data on New Teacher Hires from Post-secondary Schools of Education.” You can find individual reports on a department webpage under the title “Human Capital Data.”
The U.S. Education Department under Secretary Arne Duncan has been pushing “accountability” on teacher prep programs, using the standardized test scores of the students of the programs’ graduates as a key measure, despite warnings from testing experts that this is an unreliable way of evaluating teachers. New York is the first to do it but this effort is going to be reproduced around the country

10 Questions: Helen Gym, Advocate for Philadelphia Public Education

NBC 10:

Helen Gym is the founder of Parents United for Public Education, an organization advocating for a strong Philadelphia public school system.
What is Parents United?
Parents United for Public Education came about to engage public school parents and charter parents all across the city to stand up around a strong public school system. With all the events that have transpired in the last year or so there’s nothing more important than the quality of our schools. It’s tied to our population, our future and tied to children –getting people engaged and active and passionate about our public schools.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I’m a transplant from the Midwest, came here from college. Stayed here more permanently since the 90s. I’m a former public school teacher in the district. I was the first editor of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook. I’m a parent of three children. I helped found a charter school in Chinatown. I’m a daughter of immigrants.
What was life growing up in the Midwest?
My parents did not have that much. Everything I ever got in my life, including sports, art activities and community functions, learning to ride my bike at the park, swimming in public swimming pool came from public spaces. They have had an impact. That belief I carry with me. No matter what background you come from these public goods help all to give each other the quality and access to opportunity that many people would not have otherwise. I appreciate the fact that there was an amazing recreational center where I grew up (in Columbus, Ohio) that was public and free.

LA Superintendent Deasy: One of the Biggest Adjustments Ever

Vanessa Romo:

In Part One of a two-part interview, LA School Report contributor Vanessa Romo talks with Deasy about his relationship with teachers, the challenges of pioneering the new Common Core curriculum and the possibility that district-wide test scores might fall this year.
Q: Despite the upward trend of metrics that suggest the district is making progress – rising API scores, increasing graduation rates, and a significant reduction in suspension rates – the vast majority of respondents* to a teachers’ union survey found your performance either “below average” or “poor”, especially when it comes to morale and spending money. How do you answer your critics?
A: I can make no sense of it whatsoever. I have a fantastic relationship with the teachers of this district. Our teachers are doing a phenomenal job. I’ve been calling on the Board to give teachers and all employees a raise. I admire them, and I’m not confused about my mission, which is to lift youth out of poverty.
If you want to get technical about it, I don’t spend money. I make recommendations, and the [school] board decides. So since my recommendation is that 96 cents of every dollar go to schools, I don’t even know how to respond to that statement. I’m looking for partners to do this work with the teachers union leadership. I would love to have a partner to advance this work and recognize great teaching.

Teens and online privacy advice

Pew Internet:

American teenagers ages 12 to 17 care about their privacy. Even as youth share increasing amounts of information online (and have information about them shared by others), they also take steps to manage what can be seen and who can access it. This report asks the questions: Who do teens rely on when working their way through the privacy choices that confront them each time they go online? And when they reach a point where they need outside help, where do teens turn for advice about how to manage their privacy online? These questions have great relevance for those who want to understand who or what influences teens as they make choices about what to share and what not to share online.
In order to fully understand how teens are managing their privacy online, this project collected data in two modes – first, through a nationally-representative telephone survey fielded in the summer of 2012, and second, through a series of focus group interviews with adolescents around the country. As our focus groups show, for their day-to-day privacy management, teens generally rely on themselves to figure out the practical aspects of sharing and settings on their own. The bulk of teens are figuring out how to manage their privacy themselves, whether by being walked through their choices by the app or platform when they first sign up, or through search and use of their preferred platform. However, the national survey shows that, at some point, the majority of teens have found themselves in a situation where they needed some outside advice about how to manage their privacy online.
70% of teen internet users have asked for or sought out advice on managing their privacy online. Teens are just as likely to reach out to their friends and peers as they are to reach out to their parents for advice.

High Schoolers Hack Class Schedules With ‘WikiRoster’

Clint Flinley:

Rishi Satpathy was faced with an age-old high school problem. “I was in a class that none of my friends were in,” he says, “and I didn’t like the teacher.”
At most high schools, that’s a problem with no easy solution. Changing your schedule is like a ridiculously cruel game of Tetris where you have to go out and find the blocks yourself. You make countless calls to friends, comparing schedules one class at a time, and then there’s trip after trip to the guidance counselor as you try to fit your new set of classes together. But Satpathy and other students at the prestigious Illinois Math and Science Academy have a better way. They use a website called WikiRoster.
With the site — co-created by an IMSA alum — Satpathy can sync up with his friends and fill holes in his schedule from the web browser on his laptop. “It’s saved many, many trips to the guidance counselor,” he says.
Typically, high schools don’t post student schedules publicly due to privacy concerns, but there’s nothing to stop students from volunteering this information on a third-party website. That’s what happens on WikiRoster. Students can then instantly compare schedules and view them in a visual way that makes it all the easier to mix and match classes. Once school starts, they can also use the site to discuss homework assignments or collaborate on class projects.
Teenage founders Jason Lin, Kendrick Lau, and Jung Oh created the site while still in high school. Like many startups, it began as a way to scratch a personal itch.

Alabama fumbling ball on education

Josh Moon:

The video that was posted online appeared to be a tour of the spa area at some swanky new hotel.
There were cascading waterfalls into hot and cold pools. There was an arcade section. A smoothie bar. Flat-screen TVs adorned every open space. There were lockers the members at Augusta National would find acceptable.
This was luxury, no doubt. But it was not at a hotel.
Instead, this shaky video tour was of the inside of a college football team’s training and lounge area. Specifically, it is the training, weight room and lounge area within the Mal Moore Athletic Complex on the campus of the University of Alabama.
Pricetag: $9 million. (And that’s just for the upgrades. The original facility, which opened in 2005, cost about $50 million.)
We have lost our minds.
And I say that not simply because a college football team’s training area now has a waterfall and a smoothie bar, which would, I think, be reason enough for me to make that statement, but also because these $9 million in upgrades to facilities that were pretty darn good to start with occurred at a school that just raised tuition on the average student for the sixth consecutive year.
This year, it went up 3 percent. Last year, it jumped 7 percent.

Related: Alabama participated in the 2011 TIMSS global exam along with Minnesota and Massachusetts. Wisconsin has never benchmarked our students via the global exams. We have been stuck with the oft-criticized WKCE.

What America’s Best Teachers Think About Teaching


Today, as schools across the country wrestle with new approaches to teacher training, evaluation, development and compensation, it is critical to consider and understand the views of teachers themselves. Beyond teachers unions and newer organizations that seek to amplify the opinions of practicing teachers, education leaders and policymakers often turn to scientific polls and surveys such as the MetLife Foundation’s annual Survey of the American Teacher.
In sampling the opinions of all teachers, these surveys provide useful information–some of which we have incorporated into our own research and work–but they also cast a very wide net. While it is important to understand the views of all teachers, we believe the perspectives of our very best teachers are especially important.
Our 2012 study The Irreplaceables showed that improving our nation’s urban schools requires creating policies and working conditions that will attract more outstanding teachers and encourage them to stay in the classroom. We should be building the profession around its finest practitioners. Today, too little is known about the opinions and experiences of top- performing teachers, because researchers rarely focus specifically on them. We launched the Perspectives of Irreplaceable

Who Benefits from the Public Schools?

Charlie Martin:

Public schools in the United States, particularly in “blue” cities like New York and Washington,D.C., seem to be an ongoing slow-motion train wreck. Recently the state of the New York City schools came to the top of the recurring-news pile. While Mayor (for life) Michael Bloomberg pursued his various important concerns, CBS News reported that 80 percent of New York City high school graduates required remedial classes in reading, arithmetic, or both, before they were prepared for classroom work in New York’s own community colleges.
The report was originally headlined “80 percent illiterate” because not being prepared for college work is not the same as being actually illiterate. But then it’s appropriate to point out that the New York City schools have a graduation rate of only around 65 percent, and we can also assume that students applying for admission to the community colleges are to some extent self-selected as well. If only 20 percent of that selected population are prepared for a community college curriculum, what about the others?

Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal The federal government has made it easier than ever to borrow money for higher education – saddling a generation with crushing debts and inflating a bubble that could bring down the economy

Matt Taibbi:

May 31st, president Barack Obama strolled into the bright sunlight of the Rose Garden, covered from head to toe in the slime and ooze of the Benghazi and IRS scandals. In a Karl Rove-ian masterstroke, he simply pretended they weren’t there and changed the subject.
The topic? Student loans. Unless Congress took action soon, he warned, the relatively low 3.4 percent interest rates on key federal student loans would double. Obama knew the Republicans would make a scene over extending the subsidized loan program, and that he could corner them into looking like obstructionist meanies out to snatch the lollipop of higher education from America’s youth. “We cannot price the middle class or folks who are willing to work hard to get into the middle class,” he said sternly, “out of a college education.”
Flash-forward through a few months of brinkmanship and name-calling, and not only is nobody talking about the IRS anymore, but the Republicans and Democrats are snuggled in bed together on the student-loan thing, having hatched a quick-fix plan on July 31st to peg interest rates to Treasury rates, ensuring the rate for undergrads would only rise to 3.86 percent for the coming year.
Though this was just the thinnest of temporary solutions – Congressional Budget Office projections predicted interest rates on undergraduate loans under the new plan would still rise as high as 7.25 percent within five years, while graduate loans could reach an even more ridiculous 8.8 percent – the jobholders on Capitol Hill couldn’t stop congratulating themselves for their “rare” “feat” of bipartisan cooperation. “This proves Washington can work,” clucked House Republican Luke Messer of Indiana, in a typically autoerotic assessment of the work done by Beltway pols like himself who were now freed up for their August vacations.
Not only had the president succeeded in moving the goal posts on his spring scandals, he’d teamed up with the Republicans to perpetuate a long-standing deception about the education issue: that the student-loan controversy is now entirely about interest rates and/or access to school loans.

Have we literally broken the English language?

Martha Gill:

It’s happened. Literally the most misused word in the language has officially changed definition. Now as well as meaning “in a literal manner or sense; exactly: ‘the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the traffic circle'”, various dictionaries have added its other more recent usage. As Google puts it,”literally” can be used “to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling”.
Did we, as genuinely hundreds of people are tweeting, just break the English language? Or did we, astotally tens of bloggers are writing, prove that the English language is a beautiful, organic creature that is forever slipping out of our control? Well, no: to be precise, we have done something mildly annoying.
“Literally”, you see, in its development from knock-kneed, single-purpose utterance, to swan-like dual-purpose term, has reached that awkward stage. It is neither one nor the other, and it can’t do anything right. So to use it at all is to encounter one of several pitfalls:

Criticism and rebuttal: The main arguments regarding core curriculum

The Des Moines Register:

Here are arguments made by critics of the core curriculum, and responses from the Branstad administration:
CRITICISM: Although critics object to government telling them what their kids must learn, they also complain that the common core was developed by two private membership organizations through a process that was not subject to any freedom of information acts or other sunshine laws that government agencies must follow.
RESPONSE: “The common core standards were developed by a coalition of states led by governors and state school chiefs through their membership in the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Forty-eight states took part, drawing on the expertise of content specialists, teachers, school administrators and parents. The process was open for public comment, and more than 10,000 comments were received. The standards were created for voluntary adoption in states through their own unique processes. In Iowa, the standards were discussed and adopted by the State Board of Education at public meetings in 2010.”

UW-Madison professor says ALEC assault on public schools threatens American tradition of ‘educated citizen’

Pat Schneider:

The attack by the American Legislative Council (ALEC) threatens public education on five critical fronts, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Julie Mead explains in an article published Wednesday by theInstitute for Wisconsin’s Future.
Interviewed by The Real News Network as protesters were arrested trying to crash ALEC’s 40th annual convention in Chicago last week, Mead said that education model bills flowing out of the conservative organization introduce market forces into and privatize education, increase student testing and decrease the influence of local school districts and school boards.
“One of the things that I like to talk about is what’s public about public education, because I really do believe that that is precisely what is at stake: what is public about public education,” Mead, a professor in the department of educational leadership and policy analysis, said in the article.
Trends fueled ALEC jeopardize five essential dimensions of public education, she said: Public purpose, public funding, public access, public accountability to communities and public curriculum.

Taking care of the basic such as reading and teacher preparation, will address some of the present public education system’s governance issues.
Related When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

New Iowa law tests know-how of college faculty

Jens Manuel Krogstad:

A new Iowa law that mandates university faculty continuously improve their courses is the latest in a wave of legislation nationwide that seeks to hold public colleges accountable for their performance.
Starting this fall, faculty at Iowa’s public universities must administer tests that measure student learning to improve courses with 300 or more students.
Iowa’s legislation stands apart from broader efforts in other states because it seeks to dictate how faculty teach courses, said Daniel Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in Washington.
“This legislation is clearly an aberration from the norm, in terms of legislative intrusion on university academic matters,” Hurley said.
Iowa is one of just 10 states where legislatures are not pursuing policies that tie state funding to performance measures like graduation rates, according to a July Pew Charitable Trusts report. That trend is being driven by concerns over tight state budgets, rising tuition and a desire to improve the employment prospects of graduates, the report said. Sixteen states have policies that link dollars to performance measures. Four are in the process of implementing such measures, while 20 are considering doing so, according to the Pew report.