I had a teacher once who called his students “idiots” when they screwed up. He was our orchestra conductor, a fierce Ukrainian immigrant named Jerry Kupchynsky, and when someone played out of tune, he would stop the entire group to yell, “Who eez deaf in first violins!?” He made us rehearse until our fingers almost bled. He corrected our wayward hands and arms by poking at us with a pencil.
Today, he’d be fired. But when he died a few years ago, he was celebrated: Forty years’ worth of former students and colleagues flew back to my New Jersey hometown from every corner of the country, old instruments in tow, to play a concert in his memory. I was among them, toting my long-neglected viola. When the curtain rose on our concert that day, we had formed a symphony orchestra the size of the New York Philharmonic.
I was stunned by the outpouring for the gruff old teacher we knew as Mr. K. But I was equally struck by the success of his former students. Some were musicians, but most had distinguished themselves in other fields, like law, academia and medicine. Research tells us that there is a positive correlation between music education and academic achievement. But that alone didn’t explain the belated surge of gratitude for a teacher who basically tortured us through adolescence.
We’re in the midst of a national wave of self-recrimination over the U.S. education system. Every day there is hand-wringing over our students falling behind the rest of the world. Fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. trail students in 12 other nations in science and 17 in math, bested by their counterparts not just in Asia but in Finland, Estonia and the Netherlands, too. An entire industry of books and consultants has grown up that capitalizes on our collective fear that American education is inadequate and asks what American educators are doing wrong.
My finest teachers were certainly the toughest. Of course, they also knew the curriculum inside and out.
South China Morning Post:
As far as Xia Zuhai is concerned, Mao Zedong is more than a desperately missed, great leader. The Henan province school principal thinks of the late chairman as a Buddha-like figure.
When the rain eases on the morning of September 9, the 37th anniversary of Mao’s death, Xia, 49, leads a Buddhist ceremony in honour of the Great Helmsman at his village school, on the outskirts of Sitong town, in Zhoukou city, 900 kilometres south of Beijing. In front of a huge painting of Mao on a tiled wall in the centre of the campus, he has set up a shrine with offerings of snacks, fruit and Mao’s favourite red chillies, as well as a small stack of publications, including a copy of the People’s Daily, a Southern Weekend weekly newspaper and a Yanhuang Chunqiu monthly magazine. The latter two are known for having a liberal stance.
“You should never underestimate Chairman Mao. He wouldn’t be annoyed by the criticisms inside,” Xia says, with a chuckle. After lighting a cigarette for Mao and putting it on the edge of the incense burner, Xia is joined by his 15-year-old daughter, Yuanyuan, and the two kneel side by side on a bamboo mat and kowtow 81 times.
ZIRP, which Yellen ardently supports, is trickle-down economics: Money, searching for yields higher than bonds offered under ZIRP, floods into stocks, the rising value of which supposedly creates a “wealth effect” — feelings of prosperity that stimulate spending and investing among the 10 percent who own about 80 percent of all stocks.
ZIRP also makes the Fed an indispensable enabler of big government. By making borrowing, and hence deficits, cheap, ZIRP facilitates the political class’s bipartisan strategy of delivering current benefits while deferring costs. ZIRP also provides cheap credit to big government’s partner, big business.
Originally, in 1913, the Fed’s mission was price stability — preserving the currency as a store of value. In 1977,Congress created the “dual mandate,” instructing the Fed to maximize employment. This supposedly authorizes the Fed to manipulate the stock market, part of Bernanke’s inflation of the dual mandate into “promoting a healthy economy.” Is a particular distribution of income unhealthy? The Fed will tell us.
Interestingly, the Madison School Board recently passed a 2013-2014 budget that features a 4.5% property tax increase, after a 9% increase two years ago.
Winnie Hue & Erik Spencer:
When other preschool parents bragged that their children had aced the admission test for New York City private schools with a top score of 99 in every section, Justine Oddo stayed quiet. Her twin boys had not done as well.
“It seemed like everyone got 99s,” recalled Ms. Oddo as her sons, now 7, scampered around a playground near Fifth Avenue. “Kids you thought weren’t that smart got 99s. It was demoralizing. It made me think my kids are not as smart as the rest of the kids.”
Her sons’ scores? Between them, they had one 99 and the rest 95s, which would still put them in the top 5 percent of all children nationwide.
isconsin State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Evers used the platform of his annual State of Education speech Thursday to respond to skeptics of Common Core standards, whose ranks Republican Gov. Scott Walker joined just a few days earlier.
“We cannot go back to a time when our standards were a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving too many kids ill prepared for the demands of college and a career. We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them. To do so would have deep and far reaching consequences for our kids, and for our state,” Evers said in remarks at the State Capitol that also touched on accountability for voucher schools. “We must put our kids above our politics. And we owe it to them to stay the course.”
Evers signed on to national Common Core curriculum standards for reading and math in 2010, making Wisconsin one of the first states to adopt them. School districts across the state, including Madison Metropolitan School District, are in the process of implementing them. Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has called Common Core standards “pretty wonderful,” and says they are about critical thinking and applying skills to practical tasks.
Walker had been pretty low-key about Common Core until a few days ago, when he issued a statement calling for separate, more rigorous state standards. Republican leaders of both houses of the state Legislature quickly announced special committees to weigh the Common Core standards, and public hearings on not-yet-adopted science and social studies standards will be held, according to one report.
Related: Wisconsin’s oft-criticized WKCE assessment and wisconsin2.org
I sat down last week in Washington with Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, and Mitch Daniels, the former Indiana governor and current Purdue University president, after they had met with several dozen chief executives of big companies to talk about education. Their meeting was at the office of the Business Roundtable, the corporate lobbying group, and joining us for the conversation was John Engler, the former Michigan governor who runs the Business Roundtable.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images, for The New York Time Education Secretary Arne Duncan
Mr. Duncan is a Democrat, of course, and Mr. Daniels and Mr. Engler are Republicans. But they all sympathize with many of the efforts of the so-called education reform movement. I asked them whether the country’s education system was really in crisis and what mistakes school reformers had made. A lightly edited version of the first part of our conversation follows; the second part will appear on Economix on Thursday.
Leonhardt: You always hear we’re in crisis. But what is the bad news, and what is the good news, and are we making any progress?
Duncan: I do think we have a crisis. I do feel tremendous urgency. If you look at any international comparison – which in a global economy is much more important than 30 or 40 years ago – on no indicator are we anywhere near where we want to be. Whether it’s test scores or college graduation rates, whatever it is, we’re not close. So we’ve got a long way to go. That’s the challenge.
Why I am hopeful is we have seen some real progress. Some things are going the right way. The question is how do we accelerate that progress. College graduations rates are up some. High school graduation rates are up to 30-year highs, which is a big step in the right direction.
The African-American/Latino community is driving much of that improvement, which is very, very important. There is a huge reduction in the number of kids going to dropout factories. We are seeing real progress. The question is how do we get better faster.
Daniels: I am glad that the secretary didn’t pull any punches. I don’t know any other way to read it. In Indiana, we just had, by far, the best results we’ve ever seen in our state. Everything was up. The high-school graduation rate is up 10 percent in just four years. Test scores, advanced-placement scores too. But we’re just nowhere near where we need to be. And the competition is not standing still. So we need many more years of progress at the current rate, and it still maybe too slow. I’m afraid this is a half-empty analysis, but I think it’s an honest one.
Engler: The president of Purdue and the president of the Business Roundtable – we are the consumer groups here at the table. All the products of K-12 system are either going to go to the university or they are going to the work force. The military is not here, but they’re not very different.
Related: Madison’s long time disastrous reading scores and wisconsin2.org
Claudio Sanchez (NPR)
The College Board, sponsor of the SAT, says that roughly six out of 10 college-bound high school students who took the test were so lacking in their reading, writing and math skills, they were unprepared for college level work.
The College Board is calling for big changes to better prepare students for college and career.
The average SAT score this year was 1498 out of a possible 2400. It’s been roughly the same for the last five years.
“And we at the College Board are concerned,” says David Coleman, the board’s president.
In a conference call with reporters, Coleman said his biggest concern is the widening gap in scores along racial and ethnic lines. This year Asian students had the highest overall average scores in reading, writing and math, followed by whites, and then Latinos. Black students had the lowest average scores. Coleman said it’s time to do something about it, not just sit back and report how poorly prepared students are for college and career.
“Simply put, the College Board will go beyond simply delivering assessments to actually transforming the daily work that students are doing,” Coleman says.
Coleman wants to work with schools to make coursework tougher and make sure students have access to more demanding honors and advanced placement courses, because right now, most students don’t. Most worrisome of all, Coleman says, “minority students, underrepresented students, have less access.” more
Ratan Dey, Yuan Ding & Keith Ross (PDF):
The authors investigate three high schools’ student bodies’ presence on social media; one of the more interesting findings, in a nutshell: Because some kids lie about their age to get Facebook accounts early, Facebook incorrectly perceives them as adults, while they’re still minors in high school… that provides others with more access to information about them than FB would normally reveal for a child, including information about other minor friends who hadn’t misstated their ages.
Norm Augustine, former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, former Pentagon official, former just about everything defense-related, was invited earlier this month to tackle the topic of the greatest threats to the United States. Speaking to the Johns Hopkins Rethinking Seminar Series, he delivered a forceful critique of the U.S. education system.
For the most part, he cited the figures we have oft heard but choose to not think about due to the herculean nature of reform. Test scores this year have reached a record low. U.S. students from the Class of 2011 ranked 32nd out of 34 OECD countries participating in the international PISA test. California has raised tuition and fees for higher education by 65 percent in the past three years.
Madison Teachers, Inc., via a kind Jeannie Bettner email:
MTI prevailed last year in a Circuit Court decision in which Judge Juan Colas found much of Act 10, what Governor Walker referred to as his “bomb” on public employee unions, to violate the Constitution. That decision is on appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Walker administration and his appointed Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission has simply thumbed their nose at Colas’ ruling and vowed to continue forcing unions to conduct annual elections, wherein a union is decertified if it does not receive 50%+1 of those eligible to vote, not just 50%+1 of those voting as in every other election.
In a September 17, 2013 ruling, Judge Colas told Governor Walker and the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission’s commissioners that a Circuit Court decision, while they may not like it or agree with it, is precedential and must be followed throughout the State. Colas said, “The question here is not whether other courts or non-parties are bound by this court’s ruling. It is whether the defendants are bound by it.” WERC was a named defendant in MTI’s suit, so as all defendants to a lawsuit are, and in a case in which the statute was found facially unconstitutional, they (WERC) are barred from enforcing Act 10 under any circumstances, against anyone.
Rajashri Chakrabarti and Max Livingston
A key institution that was significantly affected by the Great Recession is the school system, which plays a crucial role in building human capital and shaping the country’s economic future. To prevent major cuts to education, the federal government allocated $100 billion to schools as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), commonly known as the stimulus package. However, the stimulus has wound down while many sectors of the economy are still struggling, leaving state and local governments with budget squeezes. In this post, we present some key findings on how school finances in New York State fared during this period, drawing on our recent study and a series of interactive graphics. As the stimulus ended, school district funding fell dramatically and districts across the state enacted significant cuts across the board, affecting not only noninstructional spending but also instructional spending–the category most closely related to student learning.
Changes in our environment can actually transform the relation between our traits and the outside world.
We all notice that some people are smarter than others. You might naturally wonder how much these differences in intelligence depend on genes or upbringing. But that question, it turns out, is impossible to answer. That’s because changes in our environment can actually transform the relationship among our traits, our upbringing and our genes.
The textbook illustration of this is a dreadful disease called PKU. Some babies have a genetic mutation that makes them unable to process an amino acid in their food, and it leads to severe mental retardation. For centuries, PKU was incurable. Genetics determined whether someone suffered from the syndrome, which gave them a low IQ. Then scientists discovered how PKU works. Now, we can immediately put babies with the mutation on a special diet. Whether a baby with PKU has a low IQ is now determined by the food they eat–by their environment.
We humans can figure out how our environment works and act to change it, as we did with PKU. So if you’re trying to measure the relative influence of human nature and nurture, you have to consider not just the current environment but also all the possible environments that we can create. This doesn’t just apply to obscure diseases. In the latest issue of Psychological Science, Timothy C. Bates of the University of Edinburgh and colleagues report a study of the relationship among genes, SES (socio-economic status, or how rich and educated you are) and IQ. They used statistics to analyze the differences between identical twins, who share all DNA, and fraternal twins, who share only some.
When psychologists first started studying twins, they found identical twins much more likely to have similar IQs than fraternal ones. They concluded that IQ was highly “heritable”–that is, due to genetic differences. But those were all high SES twins. Erik Turkheimer of the University of Virginia and his colleagues discovered that the picture was very different for poor, low-SES twins. For these children, there was very little difference between identical and fraternal twins: IQ was hardly heritable at all. Differences in the environment, like whether you lucked out with a good teacher, seemed to be much more important.
In the new study, the Bates team found this was even true when those children grew up. IQ was much less heritable for people who had grown up poor. This might seem paradoxical: After all, your DNA stays the same no matter how you are raised. The explanation is that IQ is influenced by education. Historically, absolute IQ scores have risen substantially as we’ve changed our environment so that more people go to school longer.
Richer children have similarly good educational opportunities, so genetic differences among them become more apparent. And since richer children have more educational choice, they (or their parents) can choose environments that accentuate and amplify their particular skills. A child who has genetic abilities that make her just slightly better at math may be more likely to take a math class, so she becomes even better at math.
But for poor children, haphazard differences in educational opportunity swamp genetic differences. Ending up in a terrible school or one a bit better can make a big difference. And poor children have fewer opportunities to tailor their education to their particular strengths. How your genes shape your intelligence depends on whether you live in a world with no schooling at all, a world where you need good luck to get a good education or a world with rich educational possibilities. If we could change the world for the PKU babies, we can change it for the next generation of poor children, too.
American Promise, via a kind reader email:
The film will be shown at MMoCA on Thursday, October 10, at 7:00. Admission is free for MMoCA members, $7 for non-members.
Infographic, via a kind reader email:
After two years of operation, we are setting a new level of academic and behavioral expectations for our nearly 500 students. Today, our school environment promotes an atmosphere of rigor and joy and leads students to internalize important, positive lifelong values. We are proud of the progress that we have made, as we have many achievements to celebrate.
While we are excited about the work of our students and teachers in year two, we are poised to move from a turnaround school to a truly excellent school. Our mission is still alive: We will work with urgency until all of our students acquire the knowledge, skills and strength of character necessary to succeed on the path to college and to achieve their full potential. The 2013-2014 school year will be an extraordinary and critical one for our school community, as UP Academy aspires to do whatever it takes to create responsible and independent scholars.
Related: Comparing Boston, Long Beach and Madison schools, and the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.
Ryan Ekvall, via a kind reader email:
Some kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders in Madison public schools are apparently preparing for futures in either political cartooning or time on a psychiatrist’s couch.
Kati Walsh, an elementary art teacher at the Madison Metropolitan School District in July posted some of her students’ drawings of Gov. Scott Walker in jail. Walsh suggests her young Rembrandts’ ideas for their sketches popped up out of thin air.
“One student said something to the effect of ‘Scott Walker wants to close all the public schools’… So the rest of the class started drawing their own cartoons and they turned very political. They have very strong feelings about Scott Walker,” the teacher wrote on her blog.
Remarkable. I am in favor of a wide ranging, free thinking education for our future generations, after they have mastered reading….. Some teachers deal with ideology very well, others not so much.
Despite cuts to state school aid in 2010, and slower growth of school revenue limits in 2010 and 2011, Wisconsin per student spending increased 2.6% in 2010 and 3.6% in 2011. Wisconsin school spending averaged $11,774 per student in 2011, 15th highest nationally and 11.5% above the national average ($10,560).
What is not yet known (since federal data have a two year lag) is how Wisconsin will stack up with other states in light of state budget actions in 2011-13. However, researchers from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) estimate that the 5.5% cut in 2012 Wisconsin school revenue limits will trim spending to $11,126 per student, potentially shrinking the gap between school spending here and nationally. WISTAX is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization dedicated to policy research and citizen education.
The new federal figures for 2011 show that, unlike Wisconsin, many states saw declining combined aid (state and federal) to schools during 2009-11; 11 states in 2009, 17 in 2010, and 22 in 2011. By contrast, state-federal support in Wisconsin rose 3.3% in 2009, 0.4% in 2010, and 2.7% in 2011.
The difference in aid trends between Wisconsin and the nation was reflected in per pupil expenditures. U.S. school spending grew 2.3% in 2009 and 1.1% in 2010, before falling 0.5% in 2011. In Wisconsin, however, per student spending during those years rose 3.7%, 2.6%, and 3.6%, respectively.
Many states trimmed school spending during 2009-11. Two states made cuts in all three years, and another seven cut spending in both 2010 and 2011. As national figures have already suggested, retrenchment did not occur in Wisconsin until 2012.
Related: A Look at Property Taxes Around the World and Madison’s 16% increase since 2007; Median Household Income Down 7.6%; Middleton’s 16% less and Madison School Board Passes 2013-2014 Budget, including a 4.5% Property Tax Increase.
Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter, via a kind Jeannei Bettner email (PDF):
As school resumes, The Progressive Magazine is revving up the movement to save public schools. On their new web site, created specifically for the anti-voucher/save public schools project, www.publicschoolshakedown.org, The Progressive is pulling together education experts including Diane Ravich (education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education), activists, bloggers, and concerned citizens from across the country.
PUBLIC SCHOOL SHAKEDOWN is dedicated to EXPOSING the behind-the-scenes effort to privatize public schools, and CONNECTING pro-public school activists nationwide.
“Public School Shakedown will be a fantastic addition to the debate”, says Diane Ravitch. “The Progressive is performing a great public service by helping spread the word about the galloping privatization of our public schools.”
“Free public education, doors open to all, no lotteries, is a cornerstone of our democracy. If we allow large chunks of it to be handed over to private operators, religious schools, for-profit enterprises, and hucksters, we put our democracy at risk”, Ravitch adds.
That’s where Public School Shakedown comes in. While there are already groups such as the National Education Policy Center doing terrific research on education privatization and its effects, and bloggers writing pointed, hilarious reports, there is still not a great deal of understanding in the general population of how the education privatization movement works.
Teachers understand that the attack on public education is an attack on the very heart of our democracy. Yet the “school choice” movement has succeeded in setting the terms of the conversation. To the unknowing layperson, “school choice” and “education reform” sound like benign policy goals that aim to improve children’s access to high-quality education.
The time is right for a journalistic platform like The Progressive to put the pieces together.
From its base in Madison, The Progressive has made the attack on public schools a primary focus of its reporting.
Wisconsin is ground-zero for the school voucher movement. The first school voucher program started in Milwaukee back in 1990. But the last few years of the Walker Administration really brought home the importance of this issue.
The 2011 protests called attention to the public as to how much is at stake – a great public school system, open to all, and a democracy – not just a pay-as-you-go system of winners and losers that leaves the poor and middle classes behind.
Nathan Bomey and John Gallagher:
Detroit is broke, but it didn’t have to be. An in-depth Free Press analysis of the city’s financial history back to the 1950s shows that its elected officials and others charged with managing its finances repeatedly failed — or refused — to make the tough economic and political decisions that might have saved the city from financial ruin.
Instead, amid a huge exodus of residents, plummeting tax revenues and skyrocketing home abandonment, Detroit’s leaders engaged in a billion-dollar borrowing binge, created new taxes and failed to cut expenses when they needed to. Simultaneously, they gifted workers and retirees with generous bonuses. And under pressure from unions and, sometimes, arbitrators, they failed to cut health care benefits — saddling the city with staggering costs that today threaten the safety and quality of life of people who live here.
The numbers, most from records deeply buried in the public library, lay waste to misconceptions about the roots of Detroit’s economic crisis. For critics who want to blame Mayor Coleman Young for starting this mess, think again. The mayor’s sometimes fiery rhetoric may have contributed to metro Detroit’s racial divide, but he was an astute money manager who recognized, early on, the challenges the city faced and began slashing staff and spending to address them.
And Wall Street types who applauded Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s financial acumen following his 2005 deal to restructure city pension debt should consider this: The numbers prove that his plan devastated the city’s finances and was a key factor that drove Detroit to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July.