Genetics outweighs teaching, Gove adviser tells his boss

Patrick Wintour:

Education in England is no better than mediocre, and billions of pounds have been wasted on pointless university courses and Sure Start schemes for young children, Michael Gove’s special adviser has said in an outspoken private thesis written a few weeks before he is due to step down from his post.
Dominic Cummings, the most influential adviser to the education secretary in the past five years, also argues in a revealing 250-page paper that “real talent” is rare among the nation’s teachers – and, eye-catchingly, says educationists need to better understand the impact of genetics on children. The adviser, known for making fierce demands of civil servants, writes that the endgame for the Department for Education should be to reduce its role to acting as accountants and inspectors, employing hundreds and not thousands of civil servants – and creating an environment in which private and state education would be indistinguishable.
The Cummings manifesto claims that “the education of the majority even in rich countries is between awful and mediocre”, and that the quality of maths education, in particular, is poor.
“In England, few are well trained in the basics of extended writing or mathematical and scientific modelling and problem-solving,” he writes.
One of the best-known and most controversial of many special advisers working in government, Cummings is due to leave Gove at the end of the year. He worked in the department for two years, having previously advised Gove before the election, although his appointment within the department was initially blocked by David Cameron’s then director of communications, Andy Coulson, who regarded Cummings as untrustworthy.

What Is It Like to Be a Mathematician?

Edward Frenkel:

What is wrong with the way most of us are introduced to math?
The way mathematics is taught is akin to an art class in which students are only taught how to paint a fence and are never shown the paintings of the great masters. When, later on in life, the subject of mathematics comes up, most people wave their hands and say, “Oh no, I don’t want to hear about this, I was so bad at math.” What they are really saying is, “I was bad at painting the fence.”
So what is it really like to be a mathematician?
You don’t discover something beautiful every day. Most of the time, you work on something for weeks or months, only to realize that it doesn’t work. But you never give up, you go back and try to analyze the data that you have, and try to see the analogies and connections to try to come up with a new hypothesis. Then you try to test that.
What is the ultimate goal of all these efforts?
Another analogy is solving a jigsaw puzzle. Imagine that somebody gives you a puzzle, but they don’t give you the box, just the pieces. You take those different pieces and try to put them together to create something of value, something beautiful and powerful. You can think of mathematics as the grand project of building this enormous jigsaw puzzle, with different groups of people working on different parts. Then, every once in a while, somebody finds a bridge between two parts, a way to assemble pieces together so that big chunks of the puzzle connect.

The End Of The Library

M G Siegler:

A simple link. That’s all it took to unleash a hailstorm of angry emails, messages, tweets, and comments. Why? I dared wonder if libraries will continue to exist in the future.
I mean, it’s not that crazy a notion, right? (If you’re a librarian, you’re not allowed to answer that.)
Last Monday, I linked to this piece by Art Brodsky for Wired from my blog. In it, he argues that beyond the recent hoopla around e-book pricing, the real problem with e-books is what they’re doing to libraries. That is, killing them.
As Brodsky notes:

Imagine walking into a library or bookstore and needing three or four pairs of different glasses to read different books manufactured to specific viewing equipment. Or buying a book and then having to arbitrarily destroy it after say, two weeks. That’s just nuts. But it’s the current situation we’re in with ebooks.

The future of inequality

John McDermott:

“Life is better now than at almost any time in history”, Angus Deaton writes in The Great Escape. The Princeton economist’s account of health and wealth is a fundamentally positive story. Lives are longer, healthier, richer and more satisfying than ever before. To take one statistic from this compendium of progress: in every country in the world, infant and child mortality is lower than it was in 1950. On average, humankind is having a pretty good run.
Our incomplete flight from deprivation and early death is, however, more than a story of averages. Deaton’s lucid book celebrates the riches brought by growth while judiciously explaining why some people are always “left behind”. He draws a distinction between the inequalities that are opened up by advances in knowledge and those caused by flawed political systems. For it is humanity’s lot that, ultimately, “inequality is the handmaiden of progress”.

Removing my children from the Internet

Ryan Mclaughlin:

About a week ago I began deleting all photos and videos of my children from the Internet. This is proving to be no easy task. Like many parents, I’ve excitedly shared virtually every step, misstep and milestone that myself and my children have muddled our way through.
To be honest, aside from making sure my Facebook privacy permissions were set, I hadn’t given a whole lot of thought about sharing photos of the kids online. I’ve run this blog (in various formats) for about a decade, and sharing stuff on it was just what I did. What I’ve always done. It’s sort of the point of it. And when in the last few years I’ve started blogging less and posting on Facebook more, I carried that same sense of “my life is an open book” with me to the social network.
My view on sharing photos of the kids has always been that the advantages of having an easy, centralized way of sharing photos with an extended family that are thousands of kilometres away outweighed the largely fictional threat of creepy people having access to them.

Common Core & “Local Control”

Michael Hancock and Kevin Johnson, Angel Taveras and Julian Castro:

Lagging far behind their international peers. Shamefully low reading and math competency. A staggering achievement gap. We’ve heard the alarming statistics about the trajectory of American students. After 10 years, No Child Left Behind has failed to put American children back on a competitive academic track.
But we are beginning to see real results in America’s cities, the epicenters of innovation, including the four we lead: Denver; Providence, R.I.; San Antonio; and Sacramento, Calif.
Long before we entered the political arena, each of us lived in the city we now lead. We attended public schools and sat at those desks — and through that connection, we know that public education can work.
One lesson is that education doesn’t need to be a partisan battleground. Far from Washington, smart education policy is uniting even the most strident opponents.
Take the Common Core curriculuma which was first promoted by the National Governors Association and has now been adopted by 45 states. Common Core improves on NCLB by putting more influence into the hands of those on the ground, breathing new life into an old Tip O’Neill axiom: Not only is all politics local, but effective education policy is even more local.

Ten Statements About Teaching

Kevin Werbach:

I’m participating in the #WWEOpen13 MOOC about open online teaching. For the first unit, we were asked to post our “teaching philosophy.” These kinds of questions typically tie me in knots. They seem inherently circular and unsolvable: to say how I should teach, I need to know what students need to learn, which isn’t something I can just declare. For whatever reason, this time I was able to tap out ten statements. I don’t know that I’d call them a philosophy, but they ring true as commitments I feel comfortable with.
Good teaching is good learning… for both the student and the instructor. Learning means new connections and themes and lessons that weren’t there at the beginning.
I believe in a balance between what the instructor and the students contribute. Teaching shouldn’t be a monologue, but it also shouldn’t be purely a peer conversation: students want the guidance and validation and knowledge that the instructor can orchestrate.
Every student should feel they are part of the experience and encouraged to contribute their unique perspectives. In particular, students should not be unfairly disadvantaged by factors such as gender, race, national origin, language, or disability.

Oregon high school students rip schools as too easy, too prone to keep bad teachers

Betsy Hammond:

Oregon high school students are broadly dissatisfied with their public education experience, saying school isn’t challenging enough, too many teachers are careless or incompetent and too many students are falling through the cracks.
Those are among the findings of a survey of 200 Oregon high school students representative of the geographic, grade-level and racial/ethnic make-up of the state’s high school population. The small sample means the survey has a margin of error of about 7 percentage points.
The survey, done by survey firm DHM Research and non-profit education advocacy group The Chalkboard Project, was designed to inject the student voice into the adult-dominated conversation about education reform in Oregon.

Just one in five children are ‘connected to nature’ says study

Matt McGrath:

A new study from the RSPB suggests that large numbers of children in Britain are missing out on the natural world.
The three-year projectfound that only 21% of children aged 8-12 were “connected to nature”.
Girls were much more likely than boys to be exposed to the great outdoors, while children in Wales had the lowest score across the UK.
The RSPB says that a perception among some adults that nature is dangerous or dirty could be holding children back.
There has been an increasing amount of research in recent years underlining the lack of contact and experience with nature among modern children.

How to Get Involved in the Teaching Movement That Could Transform Education

Mark Robinson:

In the weeks leading up to the publication of our cover story about Sergio Juárez Correa and the students of José Urbina López Primary School, it became clear that WIRED could help. We decided to sponsor the school and Juárez Correa, providing them with supplies and equipment they need, like a projector, printer, and laser pointer.
But there also are powerful ways you can get involved with the burgeoning student-centered style of learning and teaching. Whether you want to bring this approach into an existing school, start a program of your own, donate to a program, or find a teacher who has asked for specific help, we’ve got suggestions. Here are four ways to take action:
1. Last year, the TED prize gave $1 million to Sugata Mitra, one of the movement’s leading thinkers. If you are interested in supporting Mitra and his School in the Cloud project or make contributions payable to:

What I learned when I attended the EdReformies


What were you most surprised by?
The open bar. Just kidding! When I asked the people I talked to about how they got involved in the education reform movement nearly all could point to a transformative event in which they’d confronted some frustrating aspect of the education bureaucracy. I was struck by how similar their stories were to the ones that teachers tell me–and fascinated by how it is that we could have arrived at such different analyses of both the problem and the solution. For example, one of the reasons I’m so passionate about teachers having some kind–any kind–of job protections is because I’ve seen how often they have to get up in the grill of their principal or other administrators to advocate for their students. But that’s a topic for another day. You want to know if I spotted any celebs…

City school board seeks evaluation of Teach for America recruits

Erica Green:

The Baltimore City school board has requested that the district follow through on a plan to assess the effectiveness of teachers who are alternatively certified through programs like Teach for America that for years have funneled teachers into the city’s struggling schools.
The city school board approved last week the $880,000 contract to hire and train 125 to 150 Teach For America teachers for the 2013-2014 school year.
The board also approved a $735,000 contract to hire the same amount of teachers from the Baltimore City Teaching Residency, a program similar to Teach for America that has more rigorous certification requirements.

Keep Your Own “Personnel” Records

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

Record keeping by an employee is important. Don’t wait for trouble to start before you begin to compile your own personnel records. Having good records is also very important, should you become involved in a grievance over your Contract rights or benefits, or in a matter involving discipline or dismissal. To enable the Union to provide the best possible protection and representation, every employee should maintain his/her own “personnel” records.
One’s file should contain such documents as: college transcripts, evaluations, accumulated sick leave and days used, direct deposit (wage) records, records of student disciplinary referrals, Wisconsin Retirement System (DETF) records, personal leave, documentation of honors and awards, notes on student accidents and confrontations with parents or administrators, copies of all correspondence with supervisor(s) and administrators, and for teachers – individual teacher contracts for each year, licenses, and teaching assignments by year with subjects taught.

Be wary of following America’s lead on tuition fees

Mark Vandevelde:

The ancient university that has been seated at Oxford at least since Norman times has little in common with the modern one at Loughborough in the English Midlands that is descended from a council-run technical college. Yet one thing that is the same in both places is the £9,000-a-year fee. Britain’s universities are barred from charging more than that, and only a quarter of them opt to charge less.
Andrew Hamilton, Oxford’s vice-chancellor, detects that something is amiss. Noting the oddity of “a market in which every item, virtually regardless of content and quality, is the same price”, he argues that universities should have the freedom to charge more.
Yet America’s experience of allowing universities to set their fees is a cautionary tale. In real terms, tuition at US universities costs on average five times more than it did 30 years ago. Annual fees can run to $45,000 (roughly £28,000). Two-thirds of students who graduated in 2011 had gone into debt, borrowing an average of $26,000.

What science teachers need to know

Daniel Willingham:

The results of this experiment probably won’t surprise you. What surprised me was the fact that we didn’t already have data like this in hand.
The researchers (Sadler et al., 2013) tested 181 7th and 8th grade science teachers for their knowledge of physical science in fall, mid-year, and years end. They also tested their students (about 9,500) with the exact same instrument.
Each was a twenty-item multiple choice test. For 12 of the items, the wrong answers tapped a common misconception that previous research showed middle-schoolers often hold. For example, one common misconception is that burning produces no invisible gases. This question tapped that idea:

Glendale boy becomes youngest African-American Eagle Scout ever

Jesse Ritka:

There are six new sets of bleachers at Kletzsch Park, and a 12-year-old is responsible. It’s a project that’s helping him make history.
Standing next to the bleachers he helped build, James Hightower III recited the Scout Oath “On my honor I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
His father, James Hightower II, tells TODAY’S TMJ4’s Jesse Ritka how much being in The Boy Scouts means to the Hightower family, “We believe in scouting. Where else can a young man, at the age of 10 or 11 start a oath by saying ‘on my honor’? It starts with saying ‘on my honor’ and those are very powerful words and words to live by.”
They’re words that the Glen Hills 7th grader takes seriously. James joined The Boy Scouts when he was eight years old and now he is the youngest African-American Eagle Scout in the country. An accomplishment the now twelve-year-old is proud of, “It’s awesome, it’s… I’ve impressed myself.”

2 Hours Per Week for Homework, but 8 ½ per day Stabbing Girls and Other Media Fun.

Bill Korach, via Will Fitzhugh:

A new video war game “Call of Duty” integrates women as the objects of violence while time spent on homework declines to about two hours per week. This is not a formula designed to produce an educated literate society that will be competitive in the global economy. On the other hand, spending 8 ½ hours per day on media including games of shocking violence is a formula that will continue to coarsen our culture and even produce real violence. Recall that the Columbine killers were avid video game players.
The Kaiser Foundation reported in January 2010, that:
“Over the past five years, there has been a huge increase in media use among young people. Five years ago, we reported that young people spent an average of nearly 61/2 hours (6:21) a day with media–and managed to pack more than 81/2 hours (8:33) worth of media content into that time by multitasking. At that point it seemed that young people’s lives were filled to the bursting point with media. Today, however, those levels of use have been shattered. Over the past five years, young people have increased the amount of time they spend consuming media by an hour and seventeen minutes daily, from 6:21 to 7:38–almost the amount of time most adults spend at work each day, except that young people use media seven days a week instead of five. [53 hours a week]”

Why college costs will soon plunge

A. Barton Hinkle:

“My goal,” says the candidate, “is a healthier America. That is why I am setting an ambitious target of sending 1 million more Americans to the hospital in the next five years. To make sure they get there, I am announcing a new, low-interest loan program to help them pay for their treatment. This will ensure that hospital costs stay within reach of the typical American family.”
If you heard a speech like that, you probably would start scratching your head. Sure, people with acute medical conditions need hospital care. But most people don’t have to lie for weeks in a hospital bed to get healthy. And lavishing more money on hospital care will simply drive the price up — just as giving everyone a $2,000 vehicle subsidy would jack up prices for cars and trucks.

Teachers more likely to develop speech and language disorders, study finds

Tara Bahrampour:

Teachers are significantly more likely than people in other professions to be diagnosed with progressive speech and language disorders, according to a new Mayo Clinic study.
Speech and language disorders, or SLDs, affect patients’ ability to communicate through speaking or writing, rendering them unable to come up with words, produce sentences with correct grammar or articulate properly. It is different from Alzheimer’s dementia, which primarily involves loss of memory. SLDs become progressively more severe over time, with death occurring on average between seven and 10 years after onset.
The study, whose results were published this month in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, came about after Mayo Clinic doctors noticed that a high percentage of their SLD patients were educators.
Using Alzheimer’s patients as a control group, the study found that the odds of being a teacher with SLD were 3.4 times higher than being a teacher with Alzheimer’s dementia. For other occupations, there was no statistical difference between the SLD group and the Alzheimer’s group. The study controlled for the percentage of teachers in the general population as counted in the U.S. Census.

Vermont Report: Shaping the Soul of a School

Deborah Fallows:

I found Principal Brian Williams in the lunchroom of the Sustainability Academy, a pre-K – 5 magnet school in the Old North End of Burlington, Vermont. He was easy to spot, the biggest guy in the room, sitting on a very small chair, talking with an 8-year-old tousled-haired boy who was having trouble with his writing. It was noontime, and Principal Williams asked me if I would like some of today’s lunch: “Beef stew. I made it myself.”
I was about to chuckle a “Sure, sure” when I stopped and thought that actually, maybe he had made the stew himself. It seemed like such a place where the principal might also be the cook.
Just 5 years ago, the Sustainability Academy (SA) was known as the Lawrence Barnes Elementary School, one of two failing schools (the other was H.O. Wheeler) in the needy, sketchy part of Burlington, where about 95% of the kids were on free or reduced lunch (the nation’s most reliable proxy for poverty), test scores were very low and enrollment was declining. The school’s neighborhood is home to a mix of the down-and-out, the frontier-pushers, and is also the first stop for many of Burlington’s constant influx of refugees and immigrants.

The Burlington, VT school district will spend $59,615,950 to education about 3,600 students during the 2013-2014 school year, or $16,559.98 per student. Madison will spend about $15k/student this year, about twice the national average.

Despite cosmetic changes, concerns about education years ago still linger

Alan Borsuk:

I had a depressing experience a few nights ago. (Don’t worry, I’ll end on a more optimistic note.) Someone sent me an email, asking for a copy of a story about him that ran in the Milwaukee Journal in 1986. He said I wrote it. This was totally news to me, but it turned out the guy was right. Glad to help.
My life was better organized in those days. I kept scrapbooks. In the course of trying to help this person, I found one with stories I wrote in 1986. I paged through it and came upon a story from September of that year about the gap in success between black students and white students in Milwaukee. The story was based on observations in classrooms, data and interviews.
The depressing part: With some cosmetic changes, that story could appear right here, right now. No one would think it was out of date. Twenty-seven years ago! In the big picture, so little has changed.
Here are some of the central points from the 1986 article:
“Many black children are not getting support from their homes that would help them do well in school.”
“Economic poverty is connected to academic poverty.”
“While some teachers are excellent, others can hardly control a classroom.”
“The dominant classroom characteristic of many students is indifference, not misbehavior.”
“Extremely high pupil turnover within schools impairs the progress of children.”
The story described a middle-grade class where students were engaged and doing good work under one teacher. Her period ended and the next teacher took over the same class — and disorder reigned.

Why We Can’t Get Anything Done in an Open-Plan Office

Drake Bennett:

Yesterday I got back from a vacation on which I broke my noise-cancelling headphones, snapping off one of the ear cups when I crammed them into my suitcase. I had originally bought the headphones for trips, for blocking out the roars of jet engines (which, apparently, are deadly), snoring neighbors, and the klaxon wails of babies reacting (in a way I myself would sometimes like to) to the traumatizing experience of modern air travel. But as I was reminded upon my return, what I really use the headphones for, what I need them for, is getting anything done at work.
Like many people, I work in an open-plan office. There are rows of long shared desks, as on a bond trading floor. That means that at any one time, I am within earshot of approximately three dozen phone conversations–it would be more if one of my neighbors wasn’t a laser printer. In addition, from where I sit, there are six TV screens within my line of sight, which are usually tuned (soundlessly, thank God) to 24-hour news channels. There’s a Kurt Vonnegut short story set in a dystopian future in which everyone is supposed to be exactly equal, mentally and physically, so smart people have to wear little devices in their ears that blast horrible noises every 20 seconds to disrupt their thinking. That is how my office sometimes feels. And so yesterday I found myself groping repeatedly for the spot on my desk where the noise-canceling headphones used to sit–and breaking into a cold sweat when I couldn’t find them.

Madison’s Thoreau Elementary School originally featured an open plan design. No longer.

Problem Solving: Moving from Routine to Nonroutine and Beyond

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

An important part of the job of teaching math in K-12 is to stretch students–to teach them creative and personal engagement with the material. At some point this must involve expecting students to come up with previously unfamiliar steps on their own for new problems that do not lend themselves to known algorithms, prescribed methods, and predictable approaches. An effective way of doing this is to extend routine problems that students know how to solve into nonroutine problems.
Over the past two decades, however, disagreements between advocates of traditional or conventional math teaching and the math reform movement have resulted in a fragmented approach to teaching math. A key area of disagreement centers on the distinction between “exercises” and “problems”. Math reformers generally believe that conventional math teaching consists mainly of routine problems that are nonthinking, repetitive, tedious and do not lead to students learning to solve nonroutine problems.

‘There’s an insidious prejudice against older teachers’

Valerie Strauss:

he Guardian newspaper in England published a post in its Secret Teacher blog, written by teachers who write anonymously, with this headline: “There’s an insidious prejudice against older teachers.’ The piece refers to a program in England called “Teach First,” which, it turns out, is a founding partner with Wendy Kopp’s Teach For America in a growing network of dozens of organizations in countries around the world that try to change the teacher corps. It’s called Teach For All, which I wrote about in this post:
Teach for All is a network of like-minded school reform organizations in countries around the world that, as the website says, “all recruit outstanding university graduates and young leaders of a variety of disciplines and career interests to commit two years to teach in high-need areas, providing a critical source of additional teachers who ensure their students have the educational opportunities they deserve, despite socioeconomic factors.”
Teach First, whose patron is Prince Charles, is having the same effect on many veteran teachers in England as Teach For America is having in the United States, at least according to this Secret Teacher blog post. Here’s part of it:
Until not so long ago I was a happy classroom teacher, with happy pupils in a happy school. A teacher who had been officially and consistently recognised as teaching successfully over a long period of time, by many different professionals – leaders and colleagues, visiting headteachers and Ofsted inspectors. Now, despite years of successful practice, I am feeling vulnerable and hunted….

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: America’s default on its debt is inevitable

James Grant

“There is precedent for a government shutdown,” Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, remarked last week. “There’s no precedent for default.”
How wrong he is.
The U.S. government defaulted after the Revolutionary War, and it defaulted at intervals thereafter. Moreover, on the authority of the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the government means to keep right on shirking, dodging or trimming, if not legally defaulting.
Default means to not pay as promised, and politics may interrupt the timely service of the government’s debts. The consequences of such a disruption could — as everyone knows by now — set Wall Street on its ear. But after the various branches of government resume talking and investors have collected themselves, the Treasury will have no trouble finding the necessary billions with which to pay its bills. The Federal Reserve can materialize the scrip on a computer screen.
Things were very different when America owed the kind of dollars that couldn’t just be whistled into existence. By 1790, the new republic was in arrears on $11,710,000 in foreign debt. These were obligations payable in gold and silver. Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the Treasury, duly paid them. In doing so, he cured a default.

Legislation could boost old Madison Prep proposal

Chris Rickert:

More important than whether UW-Madison might take a chance on Madison Prep, though, is whether such a school chartered by UW-Madison would work. Caire said “higher education institutions tend to be more careful about who gets a charter and tend to charter some high-quality schools.”
There appears to be some evidence of this. Ten of 11 UW-Milwaukee-authorized charters have an average state report card score some 14 points higher than the Milwaukee Public Schools generally, with one charter school not rated.
The MPS and charter schools have comparable rates of poverty, although MPS schools have higher proportions of disabled students and English language learners. A special state test for disabled students and other accommodations can help mitigate the negative effect on a school’s overall performance but not necessarily completely, according to James Wollack, an associate professor and expert in testing and evaluation at UW-Madison.

Much more on the Madison Preparatory Academy, an IB charter school proposal rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board.
Madison’s non-diverse K-12 governance model spends about double the national average per student yet has sustained disastrous reading results for some time. The “same service” governance model has long run its course.

“You wrote a book about life lessons you’d like to pass on to your kids. What would you tell young Americans today?”

Kopin Tan:

You’ve got to learn a foreign language. At least one! This is not 1953. America’s relative position in the world will continue to decline, and Americans must know about and engage the rest of the world. If I can do just one thing, I would shake up the American education system and make Americans learn more about the world. We have the largest debt in the world. The days when we can get away with not caring about the world are coming to an end.

How machines will choose the best workers in the future

Aki Ito:

“You have this enormous pool of people that’s being missed because of the way the entire industry goes after the same kinds of people, asking, did you go to Stanford, did you work at this company?” said Erik Juhl, head of talent at Vungle Inc.
They can drive cars, win Jeopardy and find your soon-to-be favorite song. Machines are also learning to decipher the most human qualities about you — and help businesses predict your potential to be their next star employee.
A handful of technology companies from Corp. to Evolv Inc. are doing just that, developing video games and online questionnaires that measure personality attributes in a job applicant. Based on patterns of how a company’s best performers responded in these assessments, the software estimates a candidate’s suitability to be everything from a warehouse worker to an investment bank analyst.
Welcome to hiring in the age of big data, an ambition marrying automation with analysis in the race to better allocate talent. Having people work at what they do best would make them more productive, bolstering the economy’s capacity to expand, according to Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at theMassachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Overscheduled Children: How Big a Problem?

Bruce Feiler:

Now that the school year is under way, my wife and I are busy managing our children’s after-school schedules, mixing sports practices, music lessons, homework and play dates. It can be a complicated balancing act for our elementary-age daughters, as some days end up overstuffed, some logistically impossible, some wide open. Still, compared to when we were children, the opportunities they get to sample on a weekly basis is mind-blowing.
There’s only one problem: To absorb the conventional wisdom in parenting circles these days, what we’re doing to our children is cruel, overbearing and destructive to their long-term well-being. For years now, a consensus has been emerging that a subset of hard-driving, Ivy-longing parents is burdening their children with too many soccer tournaments, violin lessons and cooking classes. A small library of books has been published with names like “The Over-Scheduled Child,” “The Pressured Child,” “Pressured Parents, Stressed-Out Kids” and so on.

Power of words pivotal in Toki teacher’s classroom

Charlotte Deleste:

At a far west Madison school, the News 3 Topnotch Teacher for October 2013 is imparting on students the power that words can have on others.
In early October, Dana Munoz’ sixth-grade class at Toki Middle School was working on its class contract, an agreement about how the students are going to interact with each other for the school year.
“Those usually include things they believe about themselves or they believe about the world and that they really want to happen,” Munoz said. “It sets the tone or the foundation for the rest of the year. I refer to it all the time.”
Munoz, who’s been working at Toki for five years, teaches language arts and likes to emphasize to her students that words, whether written or spoken, can be quite powerful in good or bad ways.
“The words we say, the impact we have on others can make or break someone’s day,” Munoz says. “Not only is it important to read and write, how we relate to one another can change the world.”
Munoz chose to use her words to change the world through teaching. The University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate admits it’s not always easy.

Toki Middle School “Report Card” (PDF).

Why are children shorter in India than in Africa?

Jayachandran and Pande:

Height-for-age among children is lower in India than in Sub-Saharan Africa. This presents a puzzle since India is richer than the average African country and fares better on most other development indicators including infant mortality. Using data from African and Indian Demographic and Health Surveys, we document three facts. First, among firstborns, Indians are actually taller than Africans; the Indian height disadvantage appears with the second child and increases with birth order. Second, investments in successive pregnancies and higher birth order children decline faster in India than Africa. Third, the India-Africa birth order gradient in child height appears to vary with sibling gender. These three facts suggest that parental preferences regarding higher birth order children, driven in part by cultural norms of eldest son preference, underlie much of India’s child stunting.

How to Get College Tuition Under Control

Douglas Belkin:

In the past decade, college tuition has risen three times as fast as the consumer-price index and twice as fast as medical care.
To answer those questions, The Wall Street Journal invited three economists with distinctly different orientations within higher education to discuss the issue.
Rudy Fichtenbaum teaches at Wright State University, Fairborn, Ohio, and is president of the American Association of University Professors, which promotes academic freedom and shared governance on college campuses. Katharine Lyall was president of the University of Wisconsin System from 1992 to 2004. Richard Vedder is director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Washington, D.C., which researches cost and efficiency in higher education.
This conversation was conducted by email between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3. Here are edited excerpts.

Too Many Kids Are Coming to College Unprepared

Wall Street Journal:

What explains the high, and rising, cost of college in the U.S.?
JON ERICKSON: Among the obvious factors affecting the rising costs of a college education in the U.S. are declining state funding coupled with increased services. However, there are other factors that may not be so apparent.
Among these factors are the staggering costs of remedial education. Our data show that far too many high-school graduates arrive on college campuses ill-prepared to succeed in standard first-year courses. According to some studies as many as 40% of college students must take at least one remedial course. Conservative estimates just within Texas put the cost at nearly $250 million.
Since remedial courses don’t count toward degree attainment, this also places a significant strain on students, delaying graduation, costing them more money in tuition and fees, and deferring the salary they will earn after they obtain their degree. Improving the college readiness of our high school graduates could help reduce college costs for many students.

Is Music the Key to Success?

Joanne Lipman

CONDOLEEZZA RICE trained to be a concert pianist. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a professional clarinet and saxophone player. The hedge fund billionaire Bruce Kovner is a pianist who took classes at Juilliard. Multiple studies link music study to academic achievement. But what is it about serious music training that seems to correlate with outsize success in other fields? The connection isn’t a coincidence. I know because I asked. I put the question to top-flight professionals in industries from tech to finance to media, all of whom had serious (if often little-known) past lives as musicians. Almost all made a connection between their music training and their professional achievements.
The phenomenon extends beyond the math-music association. Strikingly, many high achievers told me music opened up the pathways to creative thinking. And their experiences suggest that music training sharpens other qualities: Collaboration. The ability to listen. A way of thinking that weaves together disparate ideas. The power to focus on the present and the future simultaneously. Will your school music program turn your kid into a Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft (guitar)? Or a Woody Allen (clarinet)? Probably not. These are singular achievers. But the way these and other visionaries I spoke to process music is intriguing. As is the way many of them apply music’s lessons of focus and discipline into new ways of thinking and communicating — even problem solving.
Look carefully and you’ll find musicians at the top of almost any industry. Woody Allen performs weekly with a jazz band. The television broadcaster Paula Zahn (cello) and the NBC chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd (French horn) attended college on music scholarships; NBC’s Andrea Mitchell trained to become a professional violinist. Both Microsoft’s Mr. Allen and the venture capitalist Roger McNamee have rock bands. Larry Page, a co-founder of Google, played saxophone in high school. Steven Spielberg is a clarinetist and son of a pianist. The former World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn has played cello at Carnegie Hall.
“It’s not a coincidence,” says Mr. Greenspan, who gave up jazz clarinet but still dabbles at the baby grand in his living room. “I can tell you as a statistician, the probability that that is mere chance is extremely small.” The cautious former Fed chief adds, “That’s all that you can judge about the facts. The crucial question is: why does that connection exist?” Paul Allen offers an answer. He says music “reinforces your confidence in the ability to create.” Mr. Allen began playing the violin at age 7 and switched to the guitar as a teenager. Even in the early days of Microsoft, he would pick up his guitar at the end of marathon days of programming. The music was the emotional analog to his day job, with each channeling a different type of creative impulse. In both, he says, “something is pushing you to look beyond what currently exists and express yourself in a new way.”
Mr. Todd says there is a connection between years of practice and competition and what he calls the “drive for perfection.” The veteran advertising executive Steve Hayden credits his background as a cellist for his most famous work, the Apple “1984” commercial depicting rebellion against a dictator. “I was thinking of Stravinsky when I came up with that idea,” he says. He adds that his cello performance background helps him work collaboratively: “Ensemble playing trains you, quite literally, to play well with others, to know when to solo and when to follow.”
For many of the high achievers I spoke with, music functions as a “hidden language,” as Mr. Wolfensohn calls it, one that enhances the ability to connect disparate or even contradictory ideas. When he ran the World Bank, Mr. Wolfensohn traveled to more than 100 countries, often taking in local performances (and occasionally joining in on a borrowed cello), which helped him understand “the culture of people, as distinct from their balance sheet.”

Continue reading Is Music the Key to Success?

Madison School District’s Outbound Open Enrollment Increases to -1206 (-836 net out)

Michael Barry (PDF):

MMSD financial results for 2012-13 were favorable in comparison to budget expectations. The General Fund Balance, which was budgeted to decrease by ($5.5) million to support several one-time expenditures, actually decreased by just ($1.6) million. This puts the District’s balance sheet in a stronger opening position for 2013-14. The primary reason for the favorable result was an unbudgeted revenue influx of $3.2 million from Medicaid reimbursements.
However, the Food Service Fund struggled in 2012-13, recording a net loss of $386,000 on total revenues of $10.5 million. Labor cost overages were the primary cause of the net loss. The Business Office is working closely with the Food Service department on budgetary expectations for 2013-14. Overall participation in the program decreased slightly last year.
Open enrollment results show 370 students enrolling in to MMSD from elsewhere and 1,206 MMSD residents enrolling outside of the district. The net out is -836. (Enrollment background data & District statistics)
(Last year, MMSD had 379 students enrolling in and 1,118 enrolling out, for a net out of -739.)

Much more on open enrollment here.
Suburban Districts vs. Madison, 1995-2012.
Madison School District: Private/Parochial, Open Enrollment Leave, Open Enrollment Enter, Home Based Parent Surveys (June, 2009).

Evidence Matters: Proving whether school reforms make a difference for kids

Christine Campbell & Betheny Gross, via a kind Deb Britt email:

When people lament that innovation is not possible in “regular” districts–ones that are overseen by elected school boards and working with active teachers unions–we at CRPE often point to Denver Public Schools. We’re not alone in noticing Denver–cities around the country have heard about its energy, new ideas, and solid implementation. Last year alone, more than a dozen city teams visited Denver to try to bring some of its ideas back to their own communities.
But this enthusiasm is not universal. In a recent Denver Post article about the challenges facing Superintendent Tom Boasberg in the upcoming school board race, one interviewee remarked that his “national notoriety is pinned more to the change that DPS has been willing to initiate and less on the results that it has produced.”
Actually, Denver has produced results. During Boasberg’s tenure, graduation rates rose and dropout rates fell. According to a 2012 study by a local foundation, over four years, 68 percent of new charter schools and 61 percent of new innovation schools exceeded the district median in student growth. Independent researchers found that the district’s teacher compensation reform was associated with improved student achievement. And the district’s new enrollment system, which allows families to apply for any of the city’s public schools with a single application, matched 83 percent of students to one of their top three choices and, as hoped, showed that families across the city demand high-performing schools.
Concerns remain, of course–but the city is working to address them. When the foundation report revealed that only 32 percent of the city’s turnaround schools performed above the district average, the district sought to open new schools rather than rely on turnarounds. Researchers found that the high-quality schools that families prefer aren’t evenly distributed across the city; local civic leaders are keeping a close eye on the progress of the district’s landmark effort to improve schools in the historically underserved Far Northeast section of the city.

Khan Academy and Phillips Academy break ground with innovative partnership


“Our mission is a world-class education for anyone anywhere, and when people think of world class, they think of places like Phillips Academy…”
One night last August, Bill Scott sent a new batch of math problems to Khan Academy from his home computer in Andover. By then, the chair of Phillips Academy’s math department was beginning to get the hang of things, turning out 30 problems for the website in a matter of hours rather than days. He turned off his computer and headed to bed, with the latest problem set–graphs, functions and their derivatives–still on his mind.
In the morning, Scott logged on to the Khan Academy website–and could see that Sal Khan himself had uploaded the problem set to the live site at 9:20 a.m. (that’s 6:20 a.m. for Khan in Silicon Valley). Scott checked back three hours later to find that Khan already had created four new videos to accompany Scott’s lesson. “That guy is incredible,” Scott marveled. “He’s got a lean and mean operation.” So, too, does PA’s math department, whose members have been mining, finding and organizing their favorite BC calculus problems to help beef up Khan Academy’s highest-level math offerings as part of an unprecedented partnership with the online learning site. “This is the first time we’ve partnered with a high school to substantively drive a lot of our core content,” said Khan.

Business Leaders Push More Privatization in Milwaukee

Diane Ravitch:

Some critics of my book “Reign of Error” say that “reformers” are not privatizers. Who, me, they say, in all innocence?
I invite them to read this post by veteran reporter Bobby Tanzilo in Milwaukee. Here is a city with a thriving voucher program, a thriving charter sector, and a shrinking public school system (that contains disproportionate numbers of students with disabilities and English learners who are unwanted by the other two sectors).
All of this competition among the three sectors was to produce dramatic improvement, but it didn’t. Milwaukee has had school choice for 23 years. Today, it is one of the lowest performing urban districts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
But the business leaders of Milwaukee, Tanzilo writes, want more choice. They want more privatization. They want the entire city school district turned into a “Recovery School District,” to emulate those in New Orleans and Memphis.

Most Colleges Aren’t All That Expensive

Wall Street Journal:

What explains the high, and rising, cost of college in the U.S.?
KARL ULRICH: Higher education does not have to be costly. Utah Valley University, a fast-growing school with an enrollment of more than 30,000, educates students for about $8,000 per year. That’s one third less than the average cost of educating a high-school student in the U.S.
Most of the noise about the cost of higher education surrounds the flagship state universities and the elite private institutions. Those schools are very costly. For instance, Haverford College, where my son is a student, spends $68,000 per year for each of its students. (Note that the average student pays less than $30,000 at Haverford because of financial aid.)

Why I Stopped Writing Recommendation Letters for Teach for America

Catherine Michna:

For the past nine years, I’ve been an instructor, a Ph.D. student, adjunct professor, and post-doctoral fellow in humanities departments at several different universities. During this time, many students have asked me to write recommendations for Teach for America. My students generally have little to no experience or training as teachers, but they are lured by TFA’s promises that they can help close the education gap for children in low-income communities. For humanities majors, TFA is a clear path to a job that both pays a living wage and provides a stepping stone to leadership positions in a cause of national importance.
I understand why my students find so much hope in TFA. I empathize with them. In fact, I’m a former Teach for America corps member myself. But unless they are education majors–and most of them aren’t–I no longer write Teach for America letters of recommendation for my students. I urge my higher-ed colleagues to do the same.
There is a movement rising in every city of this country that seeks true education reform–not the kind funded by billionaires, corporations, and hedge funds, and organized around their values. This movement consists of public school parents and students, veteran teachers, and ex-TFA corps members. It also consists of a national network of college students, such as those in Students United for Public Education, who talk about the damage TFA is inflicting on communities and public schools. These groups and others also acknowledge the relationship between the corporatization of higher education and the vast impact of corporate reform on our youngest and most needy children. It is these children who are harmed by the never-ending cycle of under-trained, uncertified, first- and second-year teachers that now populates disadvantaged schools, and by the data-obsessed approach to education that is enabled by these inexperienced teachers.

Riverside Cop Tricks Autistic Teen into Buying Pot

Amanda Winkler:

We felt like our family was totally violated by the sheriff’s department and the school district,” says Doug and Catherine Snodgrass of Temecula, California. Last December their 17-year-old autistic high school son was arrested after twice buying marijuana for an undercover Riverside county police officer.
The undercover operation, titled “Operation Glass House,” spanned a few months and included undercover officers in three area high schools: Chaparral, Temecula Valley, and Rancho Vista Continuation. The officers posed as regular high school students and would ask other students for drugs. Twenty-two students were arrested – the majority of them are reported to be special needs students like the Snodgrass’ son.
Their son, who wished to remain unnamed, is noticeably handicapped and has been diagnosed with autism as well as bipolar disorder, Tourettes, and several anxiety disorders.
“Everyday is a challenge for him,” says his father.
Their son’s list of disabilities have many in the community wondering why he was targeted in this undercover drug operation.

What College Will Be Like in 2023: Imagine a university without textbooks and classes without calendars. But still costing a lot of money.

Gabriel Kahn:

Ten years from now college might not look too different from the outside–the manicured quads, the football games, the parties–but the learning experience students receive will probably be fundamentally different from the one they get today.
Textbooks. Lecture halls. September-to-spring calendars. Over the next decade, technology may sweep away some of the most basic aspects of a university education and usher in a flood of innovations and changes. Look for online classes that let students learn at their own pace, drawing on materials from schools across the country–not just a single professor and a hefty textbook.
All those changes probably won’t make a university education cheaper–alas–but they will likely upend our perceptions about how we value it. Traditionally, schools have been judged by how many prospective students they turn away, not by how many competent graduates they churn out.
“Those are status rankings, driven by exclusivity and preservation of an old model,” says Michael Crow, the president of Arizona State University. But as new technologies seep into the classroom, it will be easier to measure what students actually learn. That will “make universities more accountable for what they produce,” Dr. Crow says.

Leftist Educator Diane Ravitch Meets Her Match: An Important Critique by Sol Stern

Ron Radosh via Will Fitzhugh:

Do you know who Diane Ravitch is? If not, you should. No other educator has been acclaimed in so many places as the woman who can lead American education into the future. Her new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, had a first printing of 75,000 copies and quickly made the New York Times non-fiction best seller list.
Recently, the leading magazine for left-liberal intellectuals, The New York Review of Books, featured a cover story about Ravitch by Andrew Delbanco. He compares the approaches of the educator most despised by the Left, Michelle Rhee, with Ravitch. He calls Ravitch “our leading historian of primary and secondary education.” Having established that, he goes on to note Ravitch’s condemnation of Rhee, which he says “borders on contempt.” Delbanco also dislikes Rhee. He does not agree with what he calls her “determination to remake public institutions on the model of private corporations.” Rhee is pro-corporate, a woman who wants “to introduce private competition (in police, military, and postal services, for example) where government was once the only provider.” In other words, Rhee stands with the enemies of the Left who want school choice for poor children, vouchers, charter schools, and competition, rather than more pay for teachers, smaller classes, and working with and through the teachers’ unions.

Madison Elementary School iPad Newspaper Article

Andrea Anderson:

Jennifer Cheatham, Madison School District superintendent, said what type of devices and how much funding the plan will need has not been determined.
“We believe that in order to be college-, career- and community-ready they need to know how to use the technology available to them,” Cheatham said.
At Sandburg, the iPads are used in lesson plans daily and stay with the students through the end of elementary school. By the end of the year, about 70 percent of the instruction and learning involve an iPad, according to Coblentz. Currently, students are not allowed to take them home.
The students start using the iPads in second grade with access to seven educational apps and no access to the Internet or the camera. Week by week the students learn how to use the iPad in additional subjects.
Coblentz and Wilfrid said the limited functionality is intentional. They want the younger students to learn how to correctly use the camera and Internet, and have students realize it is a privilege to use the devices and to demonstrate they are ready for other features.

I disagree somewhat with the Superintendent’s sentiment. The iPad per se is not terribly important at this point. Rather, reading continues to be job one along with math and science.
The third grader using an iPad today will be interacting with information in a very different way in tech school or college. Accomplished reading, math, science and critical thinking skills are far more important.

The fallacy of success

Mustapha Abiola

It is perfectly obvious that in any decent occupation (such as bricklaying or writing books) there are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding. One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating. Both are much too simple to require any literary explanation. If you are in for the high jump, either jump higher than any one else, or manage somehow to pretend that you have done so. If you want to succeed at whist, either be a good whist-player, or play with marked cards. You may want a book about jumping; you may want a book about whist; you may want a book about cheating at whist. But you cannot want a book about Success. Especially you cannot want a book about Success such as those which you can now find scattered by the hundred about the book-market. You may want to jump or to play cards; but you do not want to read wandering statements to the effect that jumping is jumping, or that games are won by winners. If these writers, for instance, said anything about success in jumping it would be something like this: “The jumper must have a clear aim before him. He must desire definitely to jump higher than the other men who are in for the same competition. He must let no feeble feelings of mercy (sneaked from the sickening Little Englanders and Pro-Boers) prevent him from trying to do his best. He must remember that a competition in jumping is distinctly competitive, and that, as Darwin has gloriously demonstrated, THE WEAKEST GO TO THE WALL.” That is the kind of thing the book would say, and very useful it would be, no doubt, if read out in a low and tense voice to a young man just about to take the high jump. Or suppose that in the course of his intellectual rambles the philosopher of Success dropped upon our other case, that of playing cards, his bracing advice would run-“In playing cards it is very necessary to avoid the mistake (commonly made by maudlin humanitarians and Free Traders) of permitting your opponent to win the game. You must have grit and snap and go in to win. The days of idealism and superstition are over. We live in a time of science and hard common sense, and it has now been definitely proved that in any game where two are playing IF ONE DOES NOT WIN THE OTHER WILL.” It is all very stirring, of course; but I confess that if I were playing cards I would rather have some decent little book which told me the rules of the game. Beyond the rules of the game it is all a question either of talent or dishonesty; and I will undertake to provide either one or the other-which, it is not for me to say.

The architecture of autism

Michael Tortorello:

Here is a truth about children with autism: they grow up to become adults with autism. Advocates estimate that over the next decade some 500,000 such individuals will come of age in the United States.
No one can say for sure what adulthood will hold for them. To start, where will everyone live and work? A 2008 Easter Seals study found that 79 percent of young adults with autism spectrum disorders continue to reside with their parents. A solid majority of them have never looked for a job.
And yet the life expectancy of people with autism is more or less average. Here is another truth, then, about children with autism: they can’t stay at home forever.
This realization — as obvious as it is worrying — has recently stirred the beginnings of a response from researchers, architects and, not least, parents. In 2009, a pair of academics, Kim Steele and Sherry Ahrentzen, collaborated on “Advancing Full Spectrum Housing,” a comprehensive design guideline for housing adults with autism. (An expanded book on the topic is scheduled to come out next year.)

Low Skills to Hamper Spain, Italy Revival, OECD Says

Paul Hannon:

Workers in Spain and Italy are the least skilled among 24 developed countries surveyed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a deficit that is likely to impede the ability of those two countries to boost their competitiveness as part of efforts to overcome the euro-zone fiscal crisis.
In a report that covered a wide range of countries, the OECD also concluded that in both the U.S. and the U.K., younger people are significantly less-skilled relative to their peers than older people, while Japan and Finland boast the most-skilled workers.
Most assessments of the quality of human capital available to national economies have focused on time spent in education. The OECD’s study is the most extensive effort to date to measure the skills acquired during education.


Integrating Programming with Core Curriculum

Jennifer Roland:

There has been a steady and growing call for more students to learn computer programming. In an app-centric world, many see the immediate possible benefits of a more highly skilled workforce that can create the computer-based tools we all depend on. And tech companies love the idea. Adobe’s Worldwide Education Programs Lead Tacy Trowbridge said coding is “an important and increasingly relevant form of creative expression” that has been instrumental in the growth of their business model to the cloud.
As they try to answer that call, some educators are looking beyond stand-alone lessons or separate programming classes and integrating coding into their core curriculum.
Beaver Country Day School (BCDS), a private school for students in grades 6-12 located just outside Boston, launched a school-wide coding initiative this academic year to help prepare their students for a new world of work and to, they hope, encourage more students to study computer science in college.
However, rather than just offering required stand-alone computer science courses, said Math Teacher and Department Head Rob MacDonald, they are integrating it into the core curriculum.
“I’ve actually been teaching a very successful coding elective for several years now,” he said, “but I was thrilled when I got the okay to integrate coding into our core math courses.”
MacDonald said he had been interested to hear about “interesting work around coding that was being done in schools, makerspaces, and extra-curricular programs, but very few places seemed willing to take the leap and make coding universal.”

How Intense Study May Harm Our Workouts

Gretchen Reynolds via a kind John Dickert email::

Tire your brain and your body may follow, a remarkable new study of mental fatigue finds. Strenuous mental exertion may lessen endurance and lead to shortened workouts, even if, in strict physiological terms, your body still has plenty of energy reserves.
Scientists have long been intrigued by the idea that physical exertion affects our ability to think, with most studies finding that short bouts of exercise typically improve cognition. Prolonged and exhausting physical exercise, on the other hand, may leave practitioners too worn out to think clearly, at least for a short period of time.
But the inverse possibility — that too much thinking might impair physical performance — has received far less attention. So scientists from the University of Kent in England and the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, known as INSERM, joined forces to investigate the matter. For a study published online in May in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, they decided to tire volunteers’ brains with a mentally demanding computer word game and see how well their bodies would perform afterward.

Colleges Try Cutting Tuition–and Aid Packages

Melissa Korn:

After years of hefty tuition increases, a few colleges are cutting prices and trying to wean families from discounts.
More than a half-dozen schools have slashed their sticker prices starting this fall or next as part of simplifying the college-financing process, which has become a patchwork of aid deals and discounts for families. Administrators say the price cuts could actually make schools money by attracting more new students and helping retain cost-conscious ones.
Published tuition rates have soared in the last decade, but only a small percentage of families actually pays full freight. Between grants to needy students and merit scholarships to entice other desirable candidates, schools these days are giving back nearly 50% of gross tuition revenue in the form of aid and awards, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
Such discounting has become so widespread that many small, private colleges say they are stuck in a vicious cycle: They won’t meet enrollment goals if they charge full price, even to affluent families, but they can’t afford to continue cutting everyone a deal.

The Graduate Glut

Kate Allen:

South Korea is perhaps the most over-educated country in the world.
More people are enrolled in its universities and colleges than are in the target age group for tertiary education. This is probably due to older people and foreigners.
Although the proportion of students who are foreign is low – just 1.6 per cent in 2011 according to the OECD – their numbers are increasing fast. In the past decade they’ve grown more than a thousandfold. In particular Korea attracts a lot of Chinese students.
Although it’s the most extreme example, it’s not the only country to see people pour into higher education over the past decade. Plenty of other developed nations are seeing education levels soar. A recent paper found that half of American and European workers’ education level is mismatched with their current job – the majority of whom are over-educated, and under-employed.

Concussions in high school sports are a growing concern, but with no state oversight, who’s counting?

Todd Milewski:

Scott Rohlfing left Verona’s football game at Madison La Follette feeling like his brain was going to bulge out of his eye sockets.
The senior offensive lineman and team captain doesn’t remember much about the Sept. 12 game, but knows he took a pretty good hit to the helmet in the second quarter. He continued to play, but well into the second half, the pain was too much.
“I just could not stand it,” Rohlfing said. “The lights were getting extremely bothering. At some point probably midway through the fourth quarter, I ended up just pulling the plug on it and talked to the trainer.
“I sat on the sideline with cotton balls in my ears and basically with my eyes closed and my head down, watching as much as I could just because the sound and lights were pretty intense.”
Rohlfing was diagnosed with a concussion. His doctor ordered him to avoid electronics and school work. And state law forbid him from practicing or playing until he received written clearance from a health care provider.

Related: League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.

Skill up or lose out

Andreas Schleicher:

For the first time, the Survey of Adult Skills allows us to directly measure the skills people currently have, not just the qualifications they once obtained. The results show that what people know and what they do with what they know has a major impact on their life chances. On average across countries, the median wage of workers who score at Level 4 or 5 in the literacy test – meaning that they can make complex inferences and evaluate subtle arguments in written texts – is more than 60% higher than the hourly wage of workers who score at or below Level 1 – those who can, at best, read relatively short texts and understand basic vocabulary. Those with poor literacy skills are also more than twice as likely to be unemployed. In short, poor skills severely limit people’s access to better-paying and more-rewarding jobs.
It works the same way for nations: The distribution of skills has significant implications for how the benefits of economic growth are shared within societies. Put simply, where large shares of adults have poor skills, it becomes difficult to introduce productivity-enhancing technologies and new ways of working. And that can stall improvements in living standards.
Proficiency in basic skills affects more than earnings and employment. In all countries, adults with lower literacy proficiency are far more likely than those with better literacy skills to report poor health, to perceive themselves as objects rather than actors in political processes, and to have less trust in others. In other words, we can’t develop fair and inclusive policies and engage with all citizens if a lack of proficiency in basic skills prevents people from fully participating in society.

Serving Healthy School Meals

Pew Health

Over the past four decades, the obesity rate among children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 has more than tripled.This has increased the risk of young people developing health problems such as cardiovascular disease, depression, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, sleep disorders, and high cholesterol. More than 31 million U.S. children participate in the National School Lunch Program each school day, and many students consume up to half of their daily calories at school. As a result, schools have the potential to help reverse the national childhood obesity epidemic.
In January 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, proposed updated nutrition standards for school meals to align them with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and current information on children’s nutrient requirements. USDA’s standards call for schools to offer more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and to serve only fat-free and low-fat milk. In addition, the standards place limits on calorie and sodium levels, and eliminate foods with trans fatty acids, or trans fats. Schools were required to implement the new standards for lunches in school year, or SY, 2012-13 and for breakfasts in SY 2013-14.
As school food authorities,* or SFAs, work to implement the new meal standards, they may face challenges,including limitations in existing kitchen equipment and infrastructure, and in the training and skills of food service staff. In January 2012, the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project–a joint initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation–began conducting the first national study to assess the needs of SFAs. The Kitchen Infrastructure and Training for Schools study examined challenges SFAs encountered in implementing the new meal requirements under the National School Lunch Program, and collected data on their reported needs for new equipment, infrastructure changes, and staff training.

West Middleton reading program reaches students globally

Andrea Anderson:

Pernille Ripp needed a change.
The West Middleton Elementary School teacher was unhappy with her teaching methods, felt she wasn’t doing her students justice and had no idea how she was going to fix it.
Then, one summer night in 2010, Ripp and her husband, Brandon, were driving down a road in Lodi listening to author Neil Gaiman speak about his One Book, One Twitter project in which people read the same book and discuss it on Twitter using the same hashtag.
“I looked at my husband and said that would be so cool to do with kids,” Ripp said. “And he was like, ‘Yeah, you should do that.'”
And so she created the Global Read Aloud Program that now has 132,000 students globally and revitalized her love for teaching.

The Oaxaca Teachers’ Union

Carlos Puig:

On Sunday the teachers’ union from Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s poorest states, decided that all 70,000 of the state’s teachers should go back to class — some seven weeks after the rest of the country resumed school.
The strikers headed home after spending five months protesting in Mexico City, trying and failing to stop sweeping education reforms, including new evaluation rules for hiring, promoting and dismissing teachers.
For a time they camped out in front of the National Palace in the Zócalo, the capital’s — and the country’s — main public square. After they were dislodged by the police on Sept. 13, they resettled on Revolution Square, a couple of blocks away.
Throughout the summer they demonstrated in Mexico City’s main avenues. They blocked access to the airport and to Congress. They marched to the president’s official residence.
At first they were asking Congress not to pass the proposed laws. When Congress passed the laws, they asked it to repeal them. When Congress didn’t repeal the laws, they decided to go back to work.

Dual-enrollment key to lowering higher education costs, Gov. Rick Snyder says

Lindsay Knake:

When Gov. Rick Snyder was a student at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek, he started taking college courses at Kellogg Community College.
He had 23 credits by the time he was a senior. But the credits didn’t count toward his high school graduation, he said after speaking Oct. 4 at an event at Saginaw Valley State University promoting science, math, engineering and technology instruction as key to preparing public-school students for the careers of the future.
Now, Snyder is a proponent of dual-enrollment for high school students as a means to save money on their college educations. He would like the college credits to also count toward a high-school diploma.
“It’s a great opportunity. Students could complete a year of college before they graduate high school,” he said.
That would save them 25 percent on a degree at a four-year university or 50 percent toward an associate’s degree at a community college, Snyder said.

Related: Credit for non-Madison School District Courses.

Move to Common Core standards brings more questions than answers

Alan Borsuk:

A lot of the currently hot controversy over the Common Core State Standards for kindergarten through 12th grade has to do with the role of standardized testing. Being a contrary kind of person, that leads me to offer this highly unstandardized test, including a few comments on some of the questions:
One: Do you have any idea what we’re talking about?
This really interests me. Just about every school in Wisconsin is deep into some pretty important changes in the goals for what kids should learn and how they should be taught when it comes to reading, language arts and math. This is part of a nationwide effort called the Common Core State Standards, launched several years ago by the National Governors Association and the organization of education chiefs of each state, with backing from major business leaders. Forty-five states are taking part. But opposition to the standards has been rising. An eight-hour public hearing Thursday before a legislative committee in Madison was called largely so foes of the standards could air their views. Three more hearings around the state (none in the Milwaukee area) are scheduled this month.

Making Sure Teachers Are Classroom-Ready

Adrienne Lu:

Professor Susan Gibbs Goetz, left, videotapes St. Catherine University student and aspiring teacher Jasmine Zeppa, right, during a science lesson at Crossroads Elementary in St. Paul, Minn. A growing number of states are judging aspiring teachers based on their performance in the classroom. (AP)
Most candidates for a teaching license in the United States have to pass written exams testing their knowledge of teaching theory and specific subject areas, such as English or biology.
Now, a growing number of states and teacher preparation programs are focusing more on how an aspiring teacher performs in the classroom. The goal is to ensure that teachers are able to translate book learning into effective instruction.
“This is what a beginning practitioner must know and be able to do,” said Sharon Robinson, head of theAmerican Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. “This is somebody who can be entrusted with the responsibilities of beginning practice.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Why do so many Americans live in mobile homes?

Tom Geoghegan:

An estimated 20 million Americans live in mobile homes, according to new Census figures. How did this become the cheap housing of choice for so many people?
“From the state where 20% of our homes are mobile ’cause that’s how we roll, I’m Brooke Mosteller, Miss South Carolina.”
Not the usual jaunty PR message you expect to hear at Miss America. And Mosteller caused a minor storm for presenting what some South Carolina natives felt was a negative slight on the state.
A few days after her comments, US Census figures confirmed that her state did indeed have the highest proportion of mobile homes – also known as trailers or manufactured housing – though the figure is closer to 18% than 20%.
Mobile homes have a huge image problem in the US, where in many minds they are shorthand for poverty. But how accurate is this perception?

Chinese companies move into supply chain for Apple components

Sarah Mishkin:

Chinese companies are increasingly designing sophisticated components for Apple’s iPhones and iPads instead of just supplying low-cost labour for assembling the high-tech devices.
The shift is an indication of how Chinese companies’ rising technological capabilities are threatening the Taiwanese, Japanese and South Korean companies that now dominate the global electronics supply chain.
The number of Chinese companies supplying Apple with components such as batteries has more than doubled from eight in 2011 to 16 this year, according to Apple’s published lists of suppliers and research from the brokerage CLSA.
“There are very, very serious companies emerging in China” that are beginning to see the pay-off of many years of rapid growth in their spending on research, said Nicolas Baratte, regional head of technology research for CLSA.

Australian Universities Learning From Asia’s Tiger Moms

Rachel Pannett:

At the request of strict Asian parents, the days of college as an opportunity to work hard and play hard are fast being replaced by a new regime of alcohol-free dorms and gender-segregated floors. The University of New South Wales in Sydney offers nightly bed checks for younger students to ensure they are in their rooms by 10 p.m.–and alone.
“My mom’s happy about the fact that our apartments are under 24/7 campus security coverage,” said Mike Lin, a 22-year-old commerce student from Fuzhou, in southern China, who is studying at the university. “I do think domestic students tend to party a bit much at university-they seem to enjoy the university life better than us.”
Alarmed by a sharp decline in foreign students, Australian universities are upending the traditional college model to meet the standards of strict Asian parents. Residential dorms now offer prayer rooms and private en-suites. Newly built studio apartments gleam with hotel-style bathrooms and kitchenettes, the latest in IT technology and soundproof rooms for study groups, as well as 24-hour security and a telephone hotline for parents.

Wisconsin Senate Proposal would let charter schools rise independent of districts

Erin Richards:

Darling’s proposed amendment to Senate Bill 76 would allow the University of Wisconsin System two- and four-year campuses, as well as technical colleges and regional state entities known as Cooperative Educational Services Agencies, to approve charter schools to operate independent of school districts. It would also allow independent charter schools performing 10% higher in achievement than their local districts for two years in a row to automatically add new campuses. And it would allow charter schools that do not employ district staff to opt out of the state’s new educator evaluation system.
The legislation has the support of the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), as well as business groups and charter school advocates, who believe independent charter schools should have more opportunities to expand and replicate.
The state Department of Public Instruction, the associations that represent school boards and superintendents in Wisconsin, and the state’s largest teachers union are all against the proposal.
“This bill takes money out of the budgets of schools in western Wisconsin,” Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) said.

WILL Develops Website to Help Teachers Exercise their Rights under Act 10

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty:

Today, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty – along with Education Action Group – have launched a website that will make it easier for teachers in Wisconsin to exercise their rights. A new website,, helps teachers opt out of their public unions.
After filling out a short questionnaire on the website, an opt- out letter is automatically created. The teacher then must mail the signed letter to his or her union officer. “ serves as a tool to enable teachers to leave their union if they so choose,” explains Rick Esenberg, WILL President and General Counsel.
“Under Act 10, teachers can resign from their labor union and choose to stop paying union dues, saving money in the process. For the first time, teachers are free agents and not bound to the rigid union employment rules,” he continued.

In China, parents bribe to get students into top schools, despite campaign against corruption

William Wan:

BEIJING — For years, Yang Jie’s friends warned her to save up for her daughter’s education. Not for tuition or textbooks, but for the bribes needed to get into this city’s better public schools.
A strong-willed, self-made businesswoman, Yang largely ignored their advice. “Success in life,” she told her daughter, “is achieved through hard work.”
But now, with her daughter entering the anxiety-filled application process for middle school, Yang is questioning that principle. She has watched her friends shower teachers and school ­administrators with favors, ­presents and money. One friend bought a new elevator for a top school. His child was admitted soon after.

Jennifer Cheatham’s Chicago contingent well received in Madison

Pat Schneider:

Kelly Ruppel grew up on a dairy farm outside Racine, headed to the west coast for college and worked in Washington D.C. before moving back to the Midwest and becoming a private consultant to the embattled Chicago Public Schools system.
When she received a job offer from new Madison Schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, whom she met when Cheatham was a top administrator at Chicago Public Schools, she and her husband packed their bags.
Today Ruppel is Cheatham’s chief of staff, one of five top administrators hired by Cheatham with ties to Chicago since taking the reins of the Madison School District in April.
In addition to Ruppel, a former principal at Civic Consulting Alliance, they include:
Alex Fralin, assistant superintendent for secondary schools and former Deputy Chief of Schools for CPS
Rodney Thomas, special assistant to the superintendent and former director of Professional Development and Design for the Chicago Board of Education
Nancy Hanks, deputy assistant superintendent for Elementary Schools and a former Chicago public elementary school principal
Jessica Hankey, director of strategic partnerships and innovation, formerly manager of school partnerships at The Field Museum in Chicago.

Fascinating. Are these new positions, or are the entrants replacing others? 10/2013 Madison School District organization chart (PDF).
Related: “The thing about Madison that’s kind of exciting is there’s plenty of work to do and plenty of resources with which to do it,” Mitchell said. “It’s kind of a sweet spot for Jen. Whether she stays will depend on how committed the district is to continuing the work she does.”

Comments & Links on Madison’s Latest Teacher Union Agreement

Andrea Anderson:

Under the new contracts clerical and technical employees will be able to work 40-hour work weeks compared to the current 38.75, and based on the recommendation of principals, employees who serve on school-based leadership teams will be paid $20 per hour.
Additionally, six joint committees will be created to give employees a say in workplace issues and address topics such as planning time, professional collaboration and the design of parent-teacher conferences.
Kerry Motoviloff, a district instructional resource teacher and MTI member, spoke at the beginning of the meeting thanking School Board members for their collective bargaining and work in creating the committees that are “getting the right people at the right table to do the right work.”
Cheatham described the negotiations with the union as “both respectful and enormously productive,” adding that based on conversations with district employees the contract negotiations “accomplished the goal they set out to accomplish.”

Pat Schneider:

“Madison is in the minority. Very few teachers are still under contract,” said Christina Brey, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Fewer than 10 of 424 school districts in the state have labor contracts with teachers for the current school year, she said Wednesday.
And while Brey said WEAC’s significance is not undermined by the slashed number of teacher contracts, at least one state legislator believes the state teacher’s union is much less effective as a resource than it once was.
Many school districts in the state extended teacher contracts through the 2011-2012 school year after Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s law gutting collective bargaining powers of most public employees, was implemented in 2011. The Madison Metropolitan School District extended its teacher contract for two years — through the 2013-2014 school year — after Dane County Judge Juan Colas struck down key provisions of Act 10 in September 2012.
The contract ratified by the members Monday will be in effect until June 30, 2015.

Andrea Anderson:

On Thursday, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty emailed a letter to Cheatham and the School Board warning that a contract extension could be in violation of Act 10.
Richard Esenberg, WILL president, said he sent the letter because “we think there are people who believe, in Wisconsin, that there is somehow a window of opportunity to pass collective bargaining agreements in violation of Act 10, and we don’t think that.”
If the Supreme Court rules Act 10 is constitutional all contracts signed will be in violation of the law, according to Esenberg.
Esenberg said he has not read the contract and does not know if the district and union contracts have violated collective bargaining agreements. But, he said, “I suspect this agreement does.”

Pat Schneider:

The contract does not “take back” any benefits, Matthews says. However, it calls for a comprehensive analysis of benefits that could include a provision to require employees to pay some or more toward health insurance premiums if they do not get health care check-ups or participate in a wellness program.
Ed Hughes, president of the Madison School Board, said that entering into labor contracts while the legal issues surrounding Act 10 play out in the courts was “the responsible thing to do. It provides some stability to do the important work we need to do in terms of getting better results for our students.”
Hughes pointed out that the contract establishes a half-dozen joint committees of union and school district representatives that will take up issues including teacher evaluations, planning time and assignments. The contract calls for mediation on several of the issues if the joint committees cannot reach agreement.
“Hopefully this will be a precursor of the way we will work together in years to come, whatever the legal framework is,” Hughes said.
Matthews, too, was positive about the potential of the joint committees.

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty:

WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg warns, “The Madison School Board is entering a legally-gray area. Judge Colas’ decision has no effect on anyone outside of the parties involved. The Madison School Board and Superintendent Cheatham – in addition to the many teachers in the district – were not parties to the lawsuit. As we have continued to say, circuit court cases have no precedential value, and Judge Colas never ordered anyone to do anything.”
He continued, “If the Madison School District were to collectively bargain in a way that violates Act 10, it could be exposed to litigation by taxpayers or teachers who do not wish to be bound to an illegal contract or to be forced to contribute to an organization that they do not support.” The risk is not theoretical. Last spring, WILL filed a lawsuit against the Milwaukee Area Technical College alleging such a violation.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty’s letter to Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF).
The essential question, how does Madison’s non-diverse K-12 governance model perform academically? Presumably, student achievement is job one for our $15k/student district.
Worth a re-read: Then Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

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

8 states where student debt is out of control

Kurtis Droge:

Rising levels of student debt have raised alarm bells in the minds of economists and recent college graduates alike. With a bachelor’s degree virtually indispensable in today’s workplace — and a master’s necessary in many fields, as well — many people, be they fresh out of high school or not, have found themselves needing to a seek a higher education in order to pay the bills.
The problem is that these days, college is far from cheap. Tuition for a four-year college can cost easily more than $10,000 per year, ranging all the way up to $50,000 or even more for top-of-the-line institutions. With many inbound college students finding themselves strapped for cash, their only option — aside from obtaining federal aid — is to seek loans to cover the difference between the costs of college and living and any income they might obtain in the meantime. This can amount to a crippling debt load by the time students graduate.
However, student debt rates are not the same across the nation: In fact, there is a surprising amount of variance, according to numbers collected by College In Sight. The average graduate of a four-year institution (or higher) with student debt has less than $20,000 of debt in Utah or Arizona. Let’s take a look at eight states at the other end of the spectrum, those with the highest amounts of student debt in the country.

On Voucher Schools & Students

Stephanie Simon:

Ever since the administration filed suit to freeze Louisiana’s school voucher program, high-ranking Republicans have pummeled President Barack Obama for trapping poor kids in failing public schools.
The entire House leadership sent a letter of protest. Majority Leader Eric Cantor blistered the president for denying poor kids “a way into a brighter future.” And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accused him of “ripping low-income minority students out of good schools” that could “help them achieve their dreams.”
But behind the outrage is an inconvenient truth: Taxpayers across the U.S. will soon be spending $1 billion a year to help families pay private school tuition — and there’s little evidence that the investment yields academic gains.
In Milwaukee, just 13 percent of voucher students scored proficient in math and 11 percent made the bar in reading this spring. That’s worse on both counts than students in the city’s public schools. In Cleveland, voucher students in most grades performed worse than their peers in public schools in math, though they did better in reading.
In New Orleans, voucher students who struggle academically haven’t advanced to grade-level work any faster over the past two years than students in public schools, many of which are rated D or F, state data show.

Notes and links on Simon’s Politico article here. Fascinating.

MTI Perseveres, Gains Contracts Through June, 2015

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

n a very strong turnout – the most in many years – members of MTI’s five (5) bargaining units met last Wednesday and ratified Collective Bargaining Agreements covering the 2014-15 school year. While MTI President Peg Coyne chaired the meeting, the Presidents of each MTI bargaining unit made comments from the podium and conducted the vote by their respective bargaining units. They are: Erin Proctor (EA-MTI), Kristopher Schiltz (SEE-MTI), David Mandehr (USO-MTI) and Jeff Kriese (SSA-MTI).
For the current school year, MTI is fortunate to be one of four unions of school district employees which is able to continue to assure members of the rights, wages and benefits which they have available through MTI’s Collective Bargaining Agreements. Prior to Governor Walker’s Act 10, which he verbalized as designed to destroy negotiated contracts for public employees, all 423 school districts had Contracts with their employees’ unions. Those guarantees in MTI members’ employment are now assured through June, 2015.
MTI’s legal challenge of Act 10 continues to provide the right of all public employee unions (except State employees) to bargain. That right is because Judge Juan Colas found that Act 10, in large part, violated the Constitutional rights of employees and their unions. Unfortunately, most Wisconsin school boards refuse to honor Colas’ ruling. While the Governor has appealed Colas’ decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has yet to schedule oral arguments in the case. In a related case, the Commissioners of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission are charged with contempt of court for not abiding by Colas’ Order.

Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy

Joanne Barkan, via a kind email:

Big philanthropy was born in the United States in the early twentieth century. The Russell Sage Foundation received its charter in 1907, the Carnegie Corporation in 1911, and the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913. These were strange new creatures–quite unlike traditional charities. They had vastly greater assets and were structured legally and financially to last forever. In addition, each was governed by a self-perpetuating board of private trustees; they were affiliated with no religious denomination; and they adopted grand, open-ended missions along the lines of “improve the human condition.” They were launched, in essence, as immense tax-exempt private corporations dealing in good works. But they would do good according to their own lights, and they would intervene in public life with no accountability to the public required.
From the start, the mega-foundations provoked hostility across the political spectrum. To their many detractors, they looked like centers of plutocratic power that threatened democratic governance. Setting up do-good corporations, critics said, was merely a ploy to secure the wealth and clean up the reputations of business moguls who amassed fortunes during the Gilded Age. Consider the reaction to John D. Rockefeller’s initial request for a charter from the U.S. Senate (he eventually received one from New York State):

Jennifer Cheatham takes charge of Madison schools

Catherine Capellaro:

Jennifer Cheatham doesn’t have the countenance of someone who has stepped into a maelstrom. Madison schools superintendent since April, Cheatham, 41, has already visited every school in the district and rolled out a “Strategic Framework” to tackle some of the district’s thorniest issues, including the achievement gap. So far she’s generated considerable excitement around her plans and raised hopes, even among skeptics.
Kaleem Caire has even put off plans to file a federal civil rights complaint against the district for the school board’s rejection of a charter school geared toward low-income minority students. The CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, which spearheaded the proposal, says he’s now content to play a “facilitative, supportive role” and get behind Cheatham’s plan to “bring order and structure” to the district.
“Personally, I’ve been hanging back, letting her get her space,” says Caire. “The superintendent should be the leader of education. All of us should be supporting and holding that person accountable.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Fortune Asks ‘Why Does America Hate Silicon Valley?’

Tom Foremski:

I’ve lived here since the mid-1980s and self-awareness is a very rare quality among the tech companies and techno-elite. They don’t see much and they fantasize about doing great things on a grand scale but achieve nothing locally. Hypocrisy runs rampant.
For example, Twitter execs a couple of years ago were making public comments about how they were changing the world and how Twitter was empowering individuals and communities and how the Arab Spring was a great example. Yet at the same time they were willing to hold San Francisco hostage, threatening to move hundreds of jobs unless they received special tax relief on payroll taxes and on profits from an IPO. The city government gave in and Twitter got what it wanted and it agreed to move into the mid-Market/Tenderloin area, one of the poorest neighborhoods, that the city has been trying to gentrify for decades.
But there’s not much gentrification going on, since Twitter keeps hundreds of staff inside, with free gourmet meals, plus a slew of free services, dry cleaning, even cleaning staff apartments. It is competing with local businesses rather than helping support them — it’s the opposite of gentrification.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Robots to kill Australian mining gravy train, where drivers earn $224,000

Elisabeth Behrmann:

Train drivers employed by Rio Tinto Group to haul iron ore across Australia’s outback make about the same money as surgeons in the U.S. It’s little wonder the mining company will replace them with robot locomotives.
The 400-plus workers in the remote Pilbara region who earn about A$240,000 ($224,000) a year probably are the highest-paid train drivers in the world, according to U.K.-based transport historian Christian Wolmar. Australia’s decade-long mining boom has sucked up skilled workers, raising wages for engineers to drivers at Rio, the second-largest exporter of the mineral, and its closest competitors, Vale SA (VALE) and BHP Billiton Ltd.

‘Designer Babies:’ Patented Process Could Lead to Selection of Genes for Specific Traits

Gautama Naik:

A personal-genomics company in California has been awarded a broad U.S. patent for a technique that could be used in a fertility clinic to create babies with selected traits, as the frontiers of genetic enhancement continue to advance.
The patented process from 23andMe, whose main business is collecting DNA from customers and analyzing it to provide information about health and ancestry, could be employed to match the genetic profile of a would-be parent to that of donor sperm or eggs. In theory, this could lead to the advent of “designer babies,” a controversial idea where genes would be selected to boost the chances of a child having certain physical attributes, such as a particular eye or hair color.
The technique potentially could also be used to create healthier babies, by screening out donors with genes that are predisposed to disease, either on their own, or in combination with the recipient’s genes.

The Bizarre, Misguided Campaign to Get Rid of Single-Sex Classrooms

Christina Hoff Summers:

Wealthy families have always had the option of sending their children to all-male or all-female schools, but parents of modest means have rarely had that choice. That changed in 2001, when four female senators sponsored legislation that sanctioned single-sex classes and academies in public schools. Today, there are more than 500 public schools that offer single-sex classes and 116 public all-girl or all-boy academies. Many are in struggling urban neighborhoods and many have proven to be hugely successful.
The Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School in Dallas opened in 2004 and enrolls 473 girls in grades six through 12. More than 70 percent of the students are from economically disadvantaged homes and more than 90 percent are minorities. Its success has been dazzling. In less than a decade, the school has won multiple academic achievement awards and, according to U.S. News & World Report, is one of the top public schools in Texas.
In 2011, Dallas opened a comparable public school for young men: the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy. Before opening its doors, the principal, Nakia Douglas, spent a year visiting schools throughout the United States–including many boys’ schools–to determine best practices for educating young men. More than half the teachers at BOMLA are male and there is massive focus on areas where many boys need extra help: organizational skills, time management, self-control, perseverance, and above all, academic achievement. Wearing ties and blazers, the students are instructed in the art of becoming young gentlemen. The principal’s research taught him that boys will go to astonishing lengths to defend their team. So (inspired in part by his reading of Harry Potter), he divided the academy into four houses–Expedition, Justice, Decree, and Alliance–which compete against one another for points earned through good grades, community service, reading books, and athletics. Douglas and his colleagues have created a school where young men can’t help but flourish. There is now a long waiting list for entry into this academy.

Inside the Rainbow: how Soviet Russia tried to reinvent fairytales

Marina Lewycka:

REDS ARE RUINING CHILDREN OF RUSSIA” raged a New York Times headline in June 1919. Lenin and the Bolsheviks had seized control of Russia’s provisional government two years previously, to the consternation of the US, and now stories were circulating about the changes wrought by the Soviet power, including a new education policy.
The newspaper revealed the instigator of this “system of calculated moral depravity” as Anatoly Lunacharsky, first head of the Soviet People’s Commissariat for Enlightenment, a department known as Narkompros (after the second world war, it became the more prosaic Ministry of Education).
According to the article, in the new “Red” Russia, religious instruction “is strictly forbidden”, “lessons are supplanted by dancing and flirtations”, and, lest you should think that sounded fun, the journalist warned, “It is a deliberate part of the Bolshevist plan to corrupt and deprave the children … and to train them as future propagandists of Lenin’s materialistic and criminal doctrine.”
The reality is more complex, as illuminated in a book to be published next month by London’s Redstone Press. Inside the Rainbow is a fascinating collection of Soviet literature for children, featuring stories, picture book illustrations and rhymes published between 1920 and 1935 – an exhilarating and dangerous time. The early days of Bolshevik rule, before Lenin’s death in 1924, while often chaotic, hungry and cruel, were also marked by great optimism and idealism. A new society was to be built from scratch. How to mould and inspire human beings fit for this wonderful new world was a challenge for artists and educators alike. Avant-garde writers, artists, cinematographers and musicians, many of them commissar Lunacharsky’s friends, were eager to be part of the great experiment.

How the Market Can Rein in Tuition Costs

Dave Girouard:

With the costs of higher education rising and almost a third of the outstanding $1.2 trillion in student debt in default, it’s time for imaginative solutions. One of the more promising ideas comes from Oregon, where the state senate this summer passed a bipartisan bill to test a new system called “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back.”
Students attending public universities in the state would pay no tuition at all. Instead, they would commit to repaying 3% of their income for the next 20 years into a fund that would support the next generation of students.
The idea is attracting attention. Stephen Sweeney, president of the New Jersey state senate, has proposed a similar concept for his state, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) says he will soon introduce a bill proposing the same “pay it forward” concept for federal student loans.
Income-based loan repayments are a promising idea, but lawmakers should proceed with caution. On the positive side, borrowers don’t generally default on loans because they’re irresponsible. They simply have times in their life, perhaps after losing a job, when they can’t afford to pay. Income-based repayments sidestep the problem: When you earn less, you pay less. When you earn more, you pay more. And by design, these loans are always affordable.

Documentary “American Promise” to air at MMoCA on 10/10

Madison Museum of Contemporary Arts, via a kind reader:

The series kicks off Thursday, October 10 with American Promise. Filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson turned the camera on themselves and began documenting their five-year-old son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, as they started kindergarten at the prestigious Dalton School. Their cameras followed both families for another twelve years as the paths of the two boys diverged–one continued private school while the other pursued a different route through the public education system.
American Promise is an epic and ground-breaking documentary charged with the hope that every child can reach his or her full potential and contribute to a better future for our country. It calls into question commonly held assumptions about educational access and what factors influence academic performance. Stephenson and Brewster deliver a rare, intimate, and emotional portrait of black middle-class family life, humanizing the unique journey of African-American boys as they face the real-life hurdles society poses for young men of color, inside and outside the classroom. (Description from the Sundance Film Festival)

On Madison’s Lack of K-12 Governance Diversity

Chris Rickert:

Similarly, when I asked Madison School Board member T.J. Mertz — a critic of nontraditional public education models — about the bill, he framed it as a question of “local control.”
“The big issue in this bill is the loss of local control,” he said. “It allows for the authorizing of charters without any role for elected boards and mandates the approval of replicant charters, regardless of the needs of the community.”
It’s a funny notion, this “local control.”
Used by tea partiers to object to the new “common core” standards and by liberals to object to charter and voucher schools, the principle of “local control” tends to be so dependent on circumstance as to be not much of a principle at all.
True local control would dictate that if a state university is to refrain from authorizing charter schools, it should refrain from authorizing many of their affiliated centers and institutes because they use public money but lack direct public oversight, too.
True local control would mean electing Madison School Board members by geographic districts, not by randomly assigned at-large “seats.”
The state’s most recent school report cards show the Milwaukee school district scoring 14 points lower than 10 of the 11 charters authorized as of last year by UW-Milwaukee (one wasn’t rated). This despite very similar student poverty levels — 82.3 percent for Milwaukee and 75.96 percent for the charters.

Related: A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School. I am somewhat surprised that the Madison Prep rejection has not been challenged via legal venues.

Pay Raises for Teachers With Master’s Under Fire: “Paying teachers on the basis of master’s degrees is equivalent to paying them based on hair color”

Stephanie Banchero:

The nation spends an estimated $15 billion annually on salary bumps for teachers who earn master’s degrees, even though research shows the diplomas don’t necessarily lead to higher student achievement.
And as states and districts begin tying teachers’ pay and job security to student test scores, some are altering–or scrapping–the time-honored wage boost.
Lawmakers in North Carolina, led by Republican legislators, voted in July to get rid of the automatic pay increase for master’s degrees. Tennessee adopted a policy this summer that mandates districts adopt salary scales that put less emphasis on advanced degrees and more on factors such as teacher performance. And Newark, N.J., recently decided to pay teachers for master’s degrees only if they are linked to the district’s new math and reading standards.
The moves come a few years after Florida, Indiana and Louisiana adopted policies that require districts to put more weight on teacher performance and less on diplomas.
“Paying teachers on the basis of master’s degrees is equivalent to paying them based on hair color,” said Thomas J. Kane, an economist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and director for the Center for Education Policy Research.
Mr. Kane said decades of research has shown that teachers holding master’s degrees are no more effective at raising student achievement than those with only bachelor’s, except in math. Researchers have also shown that teachers with advanced degrees in science benefit students.
Mr. Kane and other critics suggest that schools alter pay plans to reward teachers on other accomplishments, such as advancing student achievement.

Lunch with Michelle Rhee

Edward Luce:

If you want to enliven a parent-teachers evening in Washington, DC, raise the subject of Michelle Rhee, the city’s former schools chancellor. Most education officials toil in obscurity. Rhee is a national celebrity. Some see her as an unflinching champion of US education reform and a bold opponent of the powerful teachers’ unions. Others revile her as a mouthpiece of billionaire philanthropists and advocate of school privatisation. People tend to have strong views about Rhee.
In 2008, when Rhee was in the midst of overhauling Washington’s classrooms, she was pictured on the cover of Time magazine holding a new broom – “How to Fix America’s Schools”, it said. Anyone who failed to grasp the symbolism was disabused two years later by Waiting for “Superman”, an award-winning documentary by Davis Guggenheim that depicted the rise of the US charter school movement – union-free, publicly-funded schools that select students by lottery. Many are also privately-funded. Rhee, who promoted the spread of charter schools in DC, was one of the movie’s stars. In one scene she offers to fire a public school principal on camera. She goes ahead and sacks the unfortunate woman. No shrinking violet is Rhee.
I await her arrival in some trepidation. We are meeting at DC Coast, a well-heeled modern American restaurant in downtown Washington that was one of Rhee’s haunts before she moved to Sacramento, where her husband, Kevin Johnson, the former basketball star, is mayor. She also has a home in Nashville where her two children live with her former husband, Kevin Huffman, who is education commissioner of Tennessee – the same role Rhee played in DC. She spends much of her life flying between the two cities.
I have taken a table upstairs away from the clamour of the main dining area. Rhee, who is 43, turns up precisely on time. Dressed in a smart blue and cream business suit, she shakes my hand briskly and sits down. I apologise for plonking my smartphone under her nose and mutter something banal about how the iPhone’s audio now rivals the best tape recorders. “Samsung seems to be holding its own as well,” she replies.
Rhee, who was raised in Toledo, Ohio, by first generation Korean parents, is fluent in the language and clearly proud of her heritage. As a child she was sent to Korea for a year, where she says she learnt the virtue of hard work. “They were tough with the children but it didn’t affect their self-esteem,” she says. “Coming from America I was used to being told everything I did was great. Korea was a shock to my system.” Lately, Korean-Americans have flourished in the US almost as much as South Korea has on the world stage. I suggest that Rhee must be the most famous Korean-American around. “Oh, I don’t think so,” she says looking a little flustered. “There’s, um, comedian Margaret Cho,” she says. “Then there’s that guy who heads Dartmouth College, what’s his name?” Jim Yong Kim, now president of the World Bank? “Yes, that’s the one.”

Children & Devices

Benedict Evans:

Ofcom, the UK’s media regulator, has published a fascinating research report on UK children’s use of media and digital devices (PDF here). It’s long and covers a wide range of topics, from TV consumption and awareness of advertising to use of games consoles (which is falling), but there are a couple of data sets around mobile devices that I want to pull out.
First, ownership and access. Over 70% of 15 year olds have a smartphone, and over half of 13 year olds (the notional cut-off for social networks).

A few Comments on Education

Omenti Research:

Write a short piece (one to a few paragraphs) on one or two significant bits from your k12 (or equivalent for those outside of the US) education. What made it good or bad? Was the focus right? How does it compare with your perception of today? How does it compare with other countries?… anything you want. Sign it anonymous if you like, but give the country where it took place and the half decade when you graduated (early 70s, late 80s, …)

Voevodsky’s Mathematical Revolution

Julie Rehmeyer:

On last Thursday at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, Vladimir Voevodsky gave perhaps the most revolutionary scientific talk I’ve ever heard. I doubt if it generated much buzz among the young scientists in advance, though, because it had the inscrutable title “Univalent Foundations of Mathematics,” and the abstract contained sentences like this one: “Set-theoretic approach to foundations of mathematics work well until one starts to think about categories since categories cannot be properly considered as sets with structures due to the required invariance of categorical constructions with respect to equivalences rather than isomorphisms of categories.”
Eyes glazed over yet?

Completion Rates – A False Trail to Measuring Course Quality? Let’s Call in the HEROEs Instead

Alastair Creelman & Linda Reneland-Forsman:

Statistics are often used to reveal significant differences between online and campus-based education. The existence of online courses with low completion rates is often used to justify the inherent inferiority of online education compared to traditional classroom teaching. Our study revealed that this type of conclusion has little substance. We have performed three closely linked analyses of empirical data from Linnaeus University aimed at reaching a better understanding of completion rates. Differences in completion rates revealed themselves to be more substantial between faculties than between distribution forms. The key-factor lies in design. Courses with the highest completion rates had three things in common; active discussion forums, complementing media and collaborative activities. We believe that the time has come to move away from theoretical models of learning where web-based learning/distance learning/e-learning are seen as simply emphasizing the separation of teacher and students. Low completion rates should instead be addressed as a lack of insight and respect for the consequences of online pedagogical practice and its prerequisites.

Deciding who sees student data

Natasha Singer:

WHEN Cynthia Stevenson, the superintendent of Jefferson County, Colo., public schools, heard about a data repository called inBloom, she thought it sounded like a technological fix for one of her bigger headaches. Over the years, the Jeffco school system, as it is known, which lies west of Denver, had invested in a couple of dozen student data systems, many of which were incompatible.
In fact, there were so many information systems — for things like contact information, grades and disciplinary data, test scores and curriculum planning for the district’s 86,000 students — that teachers had taken to scribbling the various passwords on sticky notes and posting them, insecurely, around classrooms and teachers’ rooms.
There must be a more effective way, Dr. Stevenson felt.

Bridging the Gap Between High School and College, at a Price

Alica Tugend:

MY older son is about a month into his freshman year at college, and like most of his classmates, is adjusting to new roommates, classes and doing his own laundry.
But not all his friends are engrossed in campus life. One is doing volunteer work in South America. Another is preparing to go to Israel.
They’re taking gap years, a break between high school and college that traditionally begins in the fall. There are no national statistics on the number of students taking gap years, but there’s no question the idea — and the number of companies offering gap year programs — is growing in popularity.
USA Gap Year Fairs began in 2006 with seven fairs at high schools. About 10 companies and several hundred people showed up, said Robin Pendoley, chief executive of Thinking Beyond Borders, a nonprofit group that arranges gap year programs. His company also helps organize the fairs.
In six years, that number grew to 30 fairs in 28 cities with about 40 organizations and 2,500 students attending. This January and February (when the events are typically held), 35 fairs attracted 50 organizations and about 4,000 students.

Despite Repression, Mexican Teachers Continue to Resist Education Reform

Andalusia Knoll

This year’s Mexico independence celebration came with an extremely high cost, and we’re not talking about the fireworks budget. In preparation to “liberate” Mexico City’s central plaza, the Zócalo, the government deployed 3,600 riot police, a water tank and two Black Hawk helicopters to evict a teacher’s encampment. Ironically the government violently evicted the monthlong legal protest encampment to scream “El Grito de Dolores” – a scream traditionally emitted by the president to commemorate the start of the Mexican War of Independence.
The teachers, who are part of the CNTE, the National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers, largely hail from the southern state of Oaxaca, whose population is largely indigenous and rural with alarmingly high rates of poverty. The CNTE occupied the Zócalo to voice its opposition to the new education reform and urge the government to negotiate with them. The teachers have criticized the reform – stating that it chips away at their labor rights, fails to recognize the diverse needs of students in rural indigenous communities and tries to impose a one-size-fits-all evaluation model. And, yes, these are the same teachers who seven years ago sparked a large uprising in opposition to Oaxacan Gov. Ulises Ruiz in which a popular assembly camped out in the main plaza of Oaxaca and installed protest barricades throughout the city for more than 7 months.

Getting Medieval on Tuition

Alex Usher:

Here’s a great story you may have missed: at the University of Toronto, students have created their own exchanges where they can pay students who are enrolled in a class which is full to drop out, thus opening space for themselves. In other words, a secondary market in class spaces has spontaneously emerged (as markets do).
Most people’s reaction to this is either shock/horror (costs to students, more inequality, yadda yada), or mild amusement. But I think it raises some interesting questions: other than administrative convenience, why do we have a single price for all classes in a faculty, anyway?
From time immemorial, until sometime in the nineteenth century, professors actually charged their own tuition with no interference from “the university”. They charged whatever the market would bear, which often wasn’t very much. But it kept a market discipline on the profession. Professors who couldn’t help students pass their exams didn’t just get bad teaching reviews – they got less money.
(Just once, when someone talks about how neo-liberalism is eroding the eternal values of the medieval concept of the university, I want them to include guaranteed professorial pay as one of the modern vices that needs to be rejected in favour of its medieval antecedents. Just once. Please.)

How Taxpayers Are Helping to Finance Harvard’s Capital Campaign

Kevin Carey:

Public funds for higher education are hard to find. States have slashed billions from university budgets while the federal government is struggling to keep the Pell Grant program afloat. So it came as a shock when government officials on Saturday announced plans to give $2-billion in taxpayer funds over the next five years to a single private university that mostly educates rich people and already has an endowment bigger than the gross domestic product of Bolivia.
Well, actually, government officials didn’t do the announcing. Harvard University did it for them, by launching a $6.5-billion capital campaign, the largest ever.
Harvard, which has an endowment of more than $30-billion, is a “nonprofit” organization, according to a close, technical reading of the law. That means donations to the campaign are tax-deductible. If we conservatively estimate a 28-percent marginal federal income-tax rate for donors (the top rate is 39.6 percent), and a similar effective rate for corporate donations, that’s $1.8-billion in forgone revenue. State income-tax rates vary from zero to more than 10 percent; assuming 5 percent, on average, yields $325-million more, or $2.1-billion total.

School first, sports second

Berkeley Faculty Association:

The Berkeley Faculty Association deplores the disruption of the university’s academic mission by the occupation of Kroeber Plaza by Fox Sports TV earlier this month. The Fox Sports booths, television screens and other advertising paraphernalia were set up on a Friday, even as students and faculty were trying to attend classes and access the library and art studios. Faculty were not consulted about the event beforehand — which was especially problematic when departments in Kroeber Hall, including the anthropology library and art practice workshops, were forced to close on Saturday due to increased traffic — a result of poor planning and lack of adequate security. Academics were not merely interrupted but trumped by Cal Athletics and its corporate partners.
This past weekend’s event comes in the wake of several years of deepening faculty concern about the place of athletics at UC Berkeley. First, the construction of a $321 million, debt-financed stadium and a pattern of misinformation from Intercollegiate Athletics about revenues from tax-deductible seat sales. Then, news of the additional $124 million debt incurred to build the Simpson Student-Athlete High Performance Center, a facility available to less than 1 percent of the student body. Now, the plan to construct a new Aquatics Center, again not for the general use of the campus community, but for the exclusive use of Intercollegiate Athletics. These issues merely add to ongoing concern about the huge sums from the Chancellor’s Discretionary Fund that have been used to cover yearly operating deficits of Intercollegiate Athletics — nearly $100 million in the past decade — and recent news that UC Berkeley still ranks last in the Pac-12 Conference in graduation success rates of students playing men’s basketball (“up” from 20 percent in 2009 to the current 33 percent and next-to-last in football).
We are not anti-athletics. We understand that intercollegiate competition contributes to institutional pride and plays an important role in maintaining the loyalty of students and alumni. We believe in the educational place of an athletics program that fosters student fitness, physical well-being and camaraderie. But despite scandal after scandal under different chancellors, the proper management of IA has eluded the best efforts of campus administration. The continuing conflicts between IA and the primary mission of the university — excellence in education, research and public service — makes us wonder whether the time has come to separate Cal Athletics — financially, administratively and geographically — from UC Berkeley’s academic endeavors and locales.

Lessons from the Collection IV: Teaching While Black (Part I)

written unwritten:

Robyn Magalit Rodriguez has put together an impressive list of essays that should be read by women of color in higher education and, perhaps more importantly, anyone who wants to actively support meaningful diversity. Her list covers a range of important issues, and you can see it here, but I’ve pulled out essays that deal with a specific problem that can be debilitating to faculty of color–how students react to them in the classroom. As the essays here evince, and I’ve noted in my conversations with women of color from around the country, faculty of color are judged more harshly than their white counterparts in college and university classrooms. They consistently receive lower evaluations from students, particularly at Predominately White Institutions. In addition to being demoralizing, especially for those who become academics because they want to teach, the institutional implications of such attitudes can have material consequences. Put simply, poor teaching evaluations can damage a candidate’s chances for tenure. They can become part of a narrative to prove that a candidate is not a good “fit” when the real problem might be that the candidate is simply different than those evaluating her personnel file.

Bill allowing higher fees for high-demand college classes advances

Carla Rivera:

As Long Beach City College officials see it, a state plan allowing two-year schools to charge more for high-demand classes would help move students more quickly toward transfer and graduation.
Students at the campus, however, argue that such a move would be unfair, and they have launched a statewide petition drive and video campaign to block the legislation.
“Long Beach City College has one of the largest populations of poor students in the state,” said Andrea Donado, the student trustee in the Long Beach Community College District. “This bill will create two classes of students, those who can pay and finish and those who can’t. It’s not the mission of a community college to be like a private college.”
Legislation that has passed both the state Senate and Assembly would create a pilot project allowing colleges to charge all students non-resident tuition — as much as $200 per unit — for high-demand classes during summer and winter terms. Those classes include transfer-level English, algebra and history, which typically have long waiting lists.

New report catalogs “extreme” racial disparities in Dane County

Judith Davidoff:

There’s a contradiction in Dane County that is becoming hard to ignore. While the community is known for its high standard of living, educated workforce and progressive values, multiple studies have found African Americans here have one of the highest arrest and incarceration rates in the country, do poorly in school relative to whites, and live far more often in poverty.
Trying to get to the bottom of these seemingly incompatible truths inspired a report by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families that measures the “extent and pattern” of racial disparities in Dane County.
“The desire to understand the seeming paradox between reputation and reality was an important motive behind the creation of the Race to Equity Project,” the authors wrote in their introduction. “Could a place as prosperous, resourceful and progressive as Dane County also be home to some of the most profound, pervasive and persistent racial disparities in the country?”
Project director Erica Nelson acknowledges that Race to Equity: A Baseline Report on the State of Racial Disparities in Dane County, to be released formally Wednesday at the annual YWCA Racial Justice Summit, did not produce the answer to the “paradox.”

Private Schools Balance Open Culture With Need for Security

Sophia Hollander:

For more than a decade, a lifelike statue of a security guard nicknamed Alphonse has whimsically stood watch over York Prep, a private school on New York’s Upper West Side.
But in today’s grimmer age, he and his equally fake dog have become the fourth line of defense for students–provided a would-be shooter peers in and thinks they are real.
In the aftermath of last December’s Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Conn., private schools across New York City are re-evaluating and revamping their security systems.

On being a tenure-track parasite of adjunct faculty

Terry McGlynn:

My job, as a tenured associate professor of biology, wouldn’t be possible without a sizable crew of adjunct instructors in my department.
Here is some context about the role of adjuncts in my particular department: At the moment, the ratio of undergraduate majors to tenure-line faculty is about 100:1. This isn’t unprecedented, but is on the higher end of laboratory science departments in public universities. Because we have so few tenure-line faculty, and so many lectures and labs to teach, we hire a slew of adjuncts every semester.
It’s not like the adjuncts are there to make life easier for tenure-line faculty. They’re here to keep the department from falling apart and to teach classes that otherwise we would be unable to teach. One thing that keeps us tenure-line faculty busy is advising. All of our majors required to be advised every semester in half-hour appointments, one-on-one with tenure-line faculty, in order to be able to register for the subsequent semester. In addition to our base teaching assignment of four lecture courses per semester and the standard research and service expectations, we’re worked mighty heavily.

Behavioural geneticists must tread carefully to prevent their research being misinterpreted.


Intelligence tests were first devised in the early twentieth century as a way to identify children who needed extra help in school. It was only later that the growing eugenics movement began to promote use of the tests to weed out the less intelligent and eliminate them from society, sparking a debate over the appropriateness of the study of intelligence that carries on to this day. But it was not the research that was problematic: it was the intended use of the results.
As the News Feature on page 26 details, this history is never far from the minds of scientists who work in the most fraught areas of behavioural genetics. Although the ability to investigate the genetic factors that underlie the heritability of traits such as intelligence, violent behaviour, race and sexual orientation is new, arguments and attitudes about the significance of these traits are not. Scientists have a responsibility to do what they can to prevent abuses of their work, including the way it is communicated. Here are some pointers.
First: be patient. Do not speculate about the possibility of finding certain results, or about the implications of those results, before your data have even been analysed. The BGI Cognitive Genomics group in Shenzhen, China, is studying thousands of people to find genes that underlie intelligence, but group members sparked a furore by predicting that studies such as theirs could one day let parents select embryos with genetic predispositions to high intelligence. Many other geneticists are sceptical that the project will even find genes linked to this trait.

Gone Too Far


Kyle Thompson likes playing football, playing video games, and hanging out with his friends. He’s also been under house arrest since last March and barred from school for six months. Why? His teacher wanted to see a note he had written, and she tried to take it from him. He thought she was teasing him about it and was playfully trying to get the note back. When he realized this wasn’t play, he immediately let her have the note. That misunderstanding got Kyle thrown in jail, and placed under house arrest.
Kyle is part of a national trend where children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished and pushed out. “Zero-tolerance” policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in school lead students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.