No more elite training classes for ‘smart’ kids? Chinese tiger parents are not impressed

Raymond Li:

Tang Wanyuan, the father of a sixth grader in Beijing, said he has not paid much attention to the Communist Party’s decision to ban the practice of putting the elite pupils in special classes. Like most young parents, he has little faith in such initiatives.
The resolution of the Central Committee’s third plenum earlier this month said that educational authorities should no longer designate elite classes or elite schools for pupils who outperform their peers, or come from privileged families. The move was part of an effort to address inequality in the access to quality teaching.
“These schools are almost certain to continue operating the way they have, only under a different name such as ‘model schools’ or ‘schools with special characteristics’,” Tang said.
“If anything, parents want transparency over enrolments at elite schools. That way we’ll know what chance, if any, we stand of having our children admitted. Parents want policies that don’t cause more stress for us.”
Tang is more concerned about where his son will attend middle school, where standards of teaching differ tremendously.
These schools are almost certain to continue operating the way they have, only under a different name.

Don’t Give Up on the Lecture

Abigail Walthausen:

Students in a lecture class can give the impression of lethargy: Maybe a student sleeps in the back of the classroom, maybe others fidget and doodle. The students who are paying attention may be too focused on their notebooks to flash a look of understanding and inspiration.
Perhaps because of this negative initial impression, lectures are under attack these days. The Common Core standards place far greater value on small-group discussion and student-led work than on any teacher-led instruction. The term “lecture” is entirely out of fashion, as is the unqualified word “lesson.” On recent planning templates released by New York’s Department of Education, only the term “mini-lesson” is used. The term gets its diminutive status because of the fact that only 10 to 15 minutes on the hour are allotted for teacher-disseminated information, while the rest of the class period is focused on student-centered practice in groups or project based learning. But the mini lesson is not even accepted as the most progressive way of teaching. Champions of the “flipped classroom” relegate lectures to YouTube channels. In a recent interview here at The Atlantic, futurist David Thornburg declared that lectures created a depressing experience for him in school.
The tendency to see lecture-based instruction as alienating and stifling to student creativity is not altogether new. In Paulo Friere’s 1970 Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the lecturing teacher was cast as an arrogant imperialist. Alison King coined the flip expression “sage on the stage” in a 1997 article and, although more than half of King’s article consists of ideas for working small group approaches into otherwise lecture-centric courses, demonstrating that she was in no way looking to eliminate the lecture entirely, everyone from Common Core advocates to edtech disrupters has co-opted “sage on the stage” as license to heckle the “out-of-touch expert.” Nevertheless, there is immense value in lecture, and it must not be written off as boring and ineffective teaching.

Black Scholars: Explaining Your Work May Mean Fighting For It

Noliwe Rooks:

“You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have.” It’s a line familiar to many African Americans, but when the political fixer Olivia Pope delivered it last month in an episode of ABC’s Scandal, black Twitter and Facebook came to life anyway.
I couldn’t help thinking that it was resonant for academics, too. It’s not necessarily the case that “blackademics” have to put in twice as many hours of literal toil as others seeking promotion, tenure, and a successful academic career. But too often, we have to work twice as hard to convince powerful committee members that our scholarly work has value. This is especially true when our work touches on subjects that are controversial, challenge or–worse yet–almost completely foreign to those whose approval we need.
After almost 20 years in the highly racialized terrain of the academy, I know that support and consent are no small things. At most four-year institutions, fewer than 10 percent of professors are people of color, so when it comes to promotion and tenure, those professors aren’t often in positions of authority. The problem this creates is clear: If we aren’t able to convince the faculty powerbrokers we do have that the subjects we want to pursue, familiar or not, are worthy of support, we may not get as far down the road as we want to go.


Academics face the cybercreeps alone

Chris Parr:

Universities do not have effective systems to help staff who have been subjected to online bullying and sexual harassment.
This is the opinion of Sara Perry, lecturer in cultural heritage management at the University of York, who surveyed professionals about their experiences of being harassed online after she was herself targeted by colleagues in the higher education sector.
“In one case, I was sent a message about my appearance, which included…photographs [of a sexual nature] detailing the things that they would like to do to me if we were not in a professional context,” she told Times Higher Education.
“Subsequent to that I moved institutions and had the same thing happen – first with a person in the university and then with someone from a different university. Some of them were academics, others were…supporting my work.”

Pop-Up Schools Could Radically Improve Global Education

Dayo Olopade:

Most of the buildings in Machakos, the former capital of Kenya, are made of concrete, with neat fences, informal gardens, indoor plumbing, and electricity, however erratic. By contrast, the local schoolhouse of Bridge International Academies is beyond basic: walls of corrugated tin, a plywood frame. There’s no electrical wiring in sight. A pair of latrines adjoin an open courtyard that doubles as a lunch and recreation area. A few young children loll on the patchy grass, engaged in unhurried conversation.
Yet this school is by no means a failure — in fact, it recently passed a 700-point inspection and is running exactly as planned. This is just one of 212 Bridge Academies that have opened in Kenya during the past four years. Bridge’s “schools in a box” spring up seemingly overnight: In January of 2013, the company launched 51 schools at once, while in September it opened another 78. Bridge now educates roughly 50,000 students in Kenya every day, and its global aspirations may transform the entire project of education for poor youth around the world.

(2013 version) Why does Finnish give better PISA results?

Taksin Nuoret:

Ever since December 2001, when the results of the first PISA survey were made public, the Finnish educational system has received a lot of international attention. Foreign delegations are flocking to Finland, in the hope of discovering Finland’s secrets. Finland is also trying to take advantage of its PISA success by exporting its knowledge in education [1]; this strategy is supported by talks given in international events by representatives of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture [2].
The explanation widely accepted is that the Finnish educational system is better. For example, the following aspects have been pointed out:
Schools routinely provide tutoring for weak students.
Each school has a social worker (“koulukuraattori”).
Substitute teachers are often provided when the teacher is ill.
Teachers are seldom on strike.
The methods used for teaching mother tongue are solid. Finnish first graders learn to read first by learning letters, then syllables, then words, then sentences. For example, throughout grade 1 (and most of grade 2), words are often printed with syllables separated by hyphens [3]. Adventurous approaches (such as starting with words or sentences as wholes) are not used.
Schools have more autonomy than in many countries. For example, schools can dismiss teachers if they are not satisfied with their work.
The profession of teacher is better recognized than in many countries.
Transition from low to high grades of the Finnish curriculum is smoother than in many countries.
Finnish students have a free canteen at their disposal.
Explanations not related to the educational system have also been proposed, including:
The Finnish society is homogeneous. The number of foreigners is lower than in most OECD countries (3.6% at the end of 2012 [4]), which makes the teachers’ job easier.
Finnish spelling is regular, thus easing Finnish students’ task.
Foreign TV programs are subtitled, instead of dubbed as in many OECD countries, thus easing acquisition of foreign languages.

How to Raise Thankful Kids

Melinda Wenner Moyer:

A few nights ago, after cleaning up from the play date I had organized for my 2½-year-old, changing his diaper, and refilling his water, I was about to start cooking him dinner before giving him a bath when the subject of Thanksgiving came up. He didn’t know what it was, so I tried to explain it to him. But somewhere between It’s a special day when we all think about how grateful we are for what we haveand So, basically, it’s all about giving thanks, my son took off to terrorize our dog, and I was left stirring pasta that, five minutes later, I had to remind my son to thank me for.
My husband and I are incredibly lucky to be able to give our son what he needs and often what he wants, and we are raising him in a wonderful town in which many families do the same. Yet he’s growing up in a bubble, and that terrifies me. If he never truly struggles for things–important things–and he doesn’t spend much time with people who do, will he ever realize he’s got it so good? And will he ever want to do anything to make the world better? I know–rich/white/entitled people problems. This is the upper-middle-class parent’s existential enigma: How can we lovingly provide for our kids without turning them into spoiled brats? How can I teach my child to be thankful?

Lincoln on Thanksgiving.

Art Makes You Smart

Brian Kisida, Jay Greene & Daniel Bowen:

FOR many education advocates, the arts are a panacea: They supposedly increase test scores, generate social responsibility and turn around failing schools. Most of the supporting evidence, though, does little more than establish correlations between exposure to the arts and certain outcomes. Research that demonstrates a causal relationship has been virtually nonexistent.
A few years ago, however, we had a rare opportunity to explore such relationships when the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Bentonville, Ark. Through a large-scale, random-assignment study of school tours to the museum, we were able to determine that strong causal relationships do in fact exist between arts education and a range of desirable outcomes.
Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions.
Crystal Bridges, which opened in November 2011, was founded by Alice Walton, the daughter of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. It is impressive, with 50,000 square feet of gallery space and an endowment of more than $800 million.

This Is What America’s School Lunches Really Look Like

Maria Godoy:

School lunch has never been the stuff of foodie dreams. I’m still haunted by the memory of my elementary school cafeteria’s “brain pizza” – a lumpy oval thing topped with fleshy white strips of barely melted mozzarella that clumped together like neurons.
And it looks like America’s school cafeterias are still turning out the culinary abominations, judging by the images on , a fascinating online project showcasing school lunch photos submitted by students across the country.
The project is the brainchild of Farah Sheikh, who manages education campaigns for , a nonprofit group that helps organize young people to take action around social change. She got the idea, she said, while researching student dropout rates. Nutrition, she noticed, “has a pretty big impact on student concentration and student performance in school,” she tells The Salt.

The Audacity: Thrun Learns A Lesson and Students Pay


Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity, one of the most high-profile private sector attempts to “disrupt” higher education discovered inequality this week. Thrun has spent the last three years dangling the shiny bauble of his elite academic pedigree and messianic vision of the future of higher education before investors and politicos. He promised nothing short of radically transforming higher education for the future by delivering taped classroom lessons of elite professors through massive open online courses.So what went wrong?
After low performance rates, low student satisfaction and faculty revolt, Thrun announced this week that he has given up on MOOCs as a vision for higher education disruption. The “godfather of free online education” says that the racially, economically diverse students at SJSU,”were students from difficult neighborhoods, without good access to computers, and with all kinds of challenges in their lives…[for them] this medium is not a good fit.” It seems disruption is hard when poor people insist on existing.
Thrun has the right to fail. That’s just business. But he shouldn’t have the right to fail students like those at San Jose State and the public universities that serve them for the sake of doing business.

Free Education for All?

Angus Johnston:

I’ve been saying for years that we need to have a national debate about whether we want to have a public higher education system in this country, and that our failure to have that debate is killing public higher ed. I believe that to be true. With taxpayer support for many public colleges sliding toward single-digit percentages, with out-of-state tuition at some public universities approaching Harvard’s, with in-state applicants losing seats to make room for those out-of-state revenue streams in students’ clothing, we’re abandoning the idea of public higher education without giving that idea the respect of saying so.
And yet something curious is happening as a result. Slowly, haltingly, but with growing confidence, voices are beginning to rise in support of the concept of a higher education that is not merely public, but actually free. Economist Jeffrey Sachs claimed in a 2011 book that we could eliminate tuition at public colleges and universities nationwide for an investment of little as $15 billion a year, and since then the idea has been popping up more and more frequently in public discussion.
It’s not a new idea, of course. As a delegate to the US Student Association’s congresses in the early 1990s I remember ritually endorsing an end to tuition in resolutions every summer. But in those days the idea felt more than a little pro forma. Of course college should be free, we’d say, and then we’d go back to fighting tuition hikes and lobbying against Pell Grant cuts.

Public universities should be free

Aaron Bady:

Public education should be free. If it isn’t free, it isn’t public education.
This should not be a controversial assertion. This should be common sense. But Americans have forgotten what the “public” in “public education” actually means (or used to mean). The problem is that the word no longer has anything to refer to: This country’s public universities have been radically transformed. The change has happened so slowly and so gradually — bit by bit, cut by cut over half a century — that it can be seen really only in retrospect. But with just a small amount of historical perspective, the change is dramatic: public universities that once charged themselves to open their doors to all who could benefit by attending — that were, by definition, the public property of the entire state — have become something entirely different.
What we still call public universities would be more accurately described as state-controlled private universities — corporate entities that think and behave like businesses. Whereas there once was a public mission to educate the republic’s citizens, there is now the goal of satisfying the educational needs of the market, aided by PR departments that brand degrees as commodities and build consumer interest, always with an eye to the bottom line. And while public universities once sought to advance the industry of the state as a whole, with an eye to the common good, shortfalls in public funding have led to universities’ treating their research capacity as a source of primary fundraising, developing new technologies and products for the private sector, explicitly to raise the money they need to operate. Conflicts of interest are now commonplace.

Notes on a War-Torn Childhood

Sara Nović:

I’m ten the night my house explodes. The sound isn’t a sound, just a vibration so strong it rattles my chest. I come-to face down on the floor, impossibly unharmed, and pull myself on my elbows across the carpet and into the hallway. A section of the house–the part where my parents’ bedroom is supposed to be–is missing. I run. In the street, the pavement is warped from the treads of tanks that have plowed through the neighborhood. I spot a trench, jump down, and follow its rutted path toward the city center.
Deep underground in the public shelter I bypass the cluster of my classmates who are vying for their turn on the stationary bicycle that lights this airless cement box–surrogate playtime, a welcome distraction from boredom and fear. They let me cut the line, and I pedal fast until the lights glow full-strength and my joints stiffen with shock. It’s only when I stop that I notice the blood trickling from my ears and down my neck in thin red escape routes. Other people’s mothers ask me if I’m okay. I don’t like to talk about it.
People in the city are disappearing. People have been forced to walk east; people have become hemic vapor amidst the midnight explosions. We are fortunate they’ve blown up the TV tower, that we cannot turn on the news and see the images the rest of Europe is now viewing and ignoring: pictures of our neighbors, bald and emaciated in camps that the Serbian government is claiming, in the same broadcast, do not exist.
In the morning I run to my best friend Davor’s house. When I get there I double back, thinking I’ve missed it, the landscape rendered unrecognizable by shellings. I don’t find it, but eventually I find Davor. I ask him what happened to his family and he says nothing for the rest of the day.
Everyone left uniforms up into various shades of olive. Even we’ve been issued the smallest soldier-like attire obtainable–camouflage t-shirts and caps smuggled in from Hungary in vans with curtained windows. Davor and I line up with the rest of the town in front of the police barracks, where the sergeant is issuing weapons to people much stronger than us. I tuck my hair under my hat and hope the dirt on my face covers any traces of girlhood.

Technology didn’t kill middle class jobs, public policy did

Dean Baker:

Given the evidence compiled by Mishel et al, it would be difficult to maintain that technology has been the main culprit in the upward redistribution of income that we have seen.
It is not difficult to identify other potential culprits – trade would certainly rank high on the list. A trade policy that quite deliberately puts factory workers in direct competition with low-paid workers in the developing world, while protecting doctors and other highly paid professionals, would be expected to redistribute income from the former to the latter.

Help Us Investigate Segregation at Secondary Schools

Blair Hickman:

Middle schools and high schools often offer an array of classes and programs in order to serve students with a variety of educational needs. They include talented and gifted, special education, honors and advanced placements, career and technical education and basic courses. ProPublica is investigating whether these courses have also become a means of segregating students by race.
Help us investigate this issue by filling out the form below. We promise any personally identifying information will remain confidential. If you’d rather, you can also reach out to reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones directly at

Related: English 10.

Moody’s: college money woes are getting worse

Jon Marcus:

Facing stagnant enrollment and increasingly price-conscious consumers, already cash-strapped universities will continue to see their revenues fail to keep up with inflation, the bond-rating agency Moody’s Investment Service says.
The proportion of public universities with expected revenue declines has doubled over last year.
Nearly 30 percent of public and one out of five private universities will suffer declines in revenue–more than the proportion that experienced this last year, and a sign that the problem is getting worse and not better, according to Moody’s, which annually reviews the financial condition of higher-education institutions whose bonds it rates.
Nearly half of universities expect to see declines in their enrollments.
Second-tier public universities and small private universities that are having trouble persuading families and students that they’re worth the price of their tuition are in the most danger, Moody’s says–and will have to take dramatic steps to win back business.
“At this pace, tuition-dependent colleges and universities will be challenged to make necessary investments in personnel, programs, and facilities to remain competitive over the longer term,” says Karen Kedem, a Moody’s senior analyst, who authored the report.

Few NY Districts Apply For State Grants

Jessica Bakeman:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is offering schools millions of dollars for academic initiatives that are overwhelmingly supported by education experts, and for the second time, districts aren’t interested in the money.
The vast majority of eligible school districts didn’t apply for Cuomo’s $75 million competitive grants this year, which would fund the creation of full-day pre-kindergarten, extend the school day or year, create “community schools,” where at-risk students can get health care, counseling and other services, and reward high-performing teachers in high-need districts.
Experts offered a variety of explanations for why participation in Cuomo’s programs is so low, after a first round of grants also drew a relative few applications. Mainly, schools don’t want to build programs they’ll have to dismantle when grants expire, leaders said.

History is AWOL

The Common Core National Education Standards are, they say, very interested in having all our students taught the techniques of deeper reading, deeper writing, deeper listening, deeper analysis, and deeper thinking.
What they seen to have almost no interest in, is knowledge–for example knowledge of history, especially military history. As far as I can tell at the moment, their view of the history our high school students need to know includes: The Letter From Birmingham Jail, The Gettysburg Address, and Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.
While these are all, of course, worthy objects for deeper reading and the like, they do not, to my mind, fully encompass the knowledge of the Magna Carta, the Constitution of the United States, the Battle of the Bulge and of Iwo Jima and of Okinawa, or the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, or the U.S. transcontinental railroad, or the Panama Canal, or woman suffrage or the Great Depression, or a number of other interesting historical circumstances our students perhaps should know about.
Nor does it seem to call for much knowledge about William Penn, or Increase Mather, or George Washington, or Alexander Hamilton, or Robert E. Lee, or Ulysses S. Grant, or Thomas Edison, or Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or Dwight David Eisenhower, or several hundreds of other historical figures who might be not only interesting, but also important for students to be familiar with.
In short, from what I have seen, the Common Core Vision of necessary historical knowledge includes what any high school Junior ought to be able to read in one afternoon (i.e. three short “historical documents”).
Ignorance of history has, it may be said, been almost an American tradition, and many Americans have discovered in their travels, and to their embarrassment, that people in other countries may know more about our history than they do.
We have, many times in the past, even invaded countries our soldiers knew next to nothing about, and sometimes that has been a disadvantage for us. But if the Common Core doesn’t care if our students know any United States history, they are certainly not going to mind if our students don’t know the history of any other country either.
But even in schools were history is still taught, and where the Common Core has not yet sunk its roots, one area of history is perhaps neglected more than any other. Was it Trotsky who said: “You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in you.”?
And Publius Flavius Vegetius argued that: “If you want peace, prepare for war.” In many of our school history departments, military history is regarded as “militaristic,” and the thought, apparently, is that if we tell our students nothing about war, then war will simply go away.
History doesn’t seem to support that notion, and if war does come to us again, it might be useful for students in places other than our Military Academies to know something about military history. In addition, military history tells absorbing stories of some of the most inspiring efforts ever made in the history of mankind.
We talk a fair amount these days about our Wounded Warriors and about what we owe to our veterans, past and present, but for some odd reason, that seldom translates into the responsibility to teach military history, at least to some minimal extent, to the students in our public high schools.
It is quite clear to me that ignorance of history does not make history go away, and ignorance of the lessons of history does not make us better prepared to understand the issues of our time. And certainly, in spite of whatever dreams and wishes are out there, ignorance of war has not ever made, and quite probably will not make, war go away.
We want to honor our veterans, but we do not do so by erasing knowledge of our wars, past and present, from our high school history curriculum, whatever the pundits who are bringing us the Common Core may think about, and plan for, the teaching of history.
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What Happens When Great Teachers Get $20,000 to Work in Low-Income Schools?

Dana Goldstein:

Teacher merit pay. It’s one of those perennially popular policy ideas that, historically, hasn’t worked very well.
A few years ago, New York City offered teachers in select schools $3,000 if the entire school’s test scores went up. But scores at the merit pay schools did not improve any faster than scores at control schools. (In some of the merit-pay schools, scores actually went down.) In Nashville, teachers who volunteered for a merit pay experiment were eligible for $5,000 to $15,000 in bonuses if kids learned more. Students of those teachers performed no better on tests than students in a control group. And in Chicago, teachers were paid more if they mentored their colleagues and produced learning gains for kids. Again, students of the merit-pay teachers performed no better than other kids.
That’s why the results of a new study, the Talent Transfer Initiative, financed by the federal government, are so important. Surprisingly, this experiment found merit pay can work.
In 10 cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Houston, researchers at Mathematica identified open positions in high-poverty schools with low test scores, where kids performed at just around the 30th percentile in both reading and math. To fill some of those positions, they selected from a special group of transfer teachers, all of whom had top 20 percent track records of improving student achievement at lower poverty schools within the districts, and had applied to earn $20,000 to switch jobs. The rest of the open positions were filled through the usual processes, in which principals select candidates from a regular applicant pool.

New Refrain at Kean U.: Just Saying No to Tenure

Robin Wilson:

Kean University’s president will ask the institution’s board next month to reject two-thirds of the professors up for tenure this year, further antagonizing a faculty that has been at odds with the administration for years.
Kean’s faculty union said…

Reading need not be fun

Esther Cepeda:

With not a small amount of disdain, my youngest son — the one who’s addicted to his Xbox video game console — said to his parents the other day: “That’s all you two ever do: work and read.”
A lot of good it’s done us. How we managed to raise two boys who detest reading is beyond me.
Reading to them at bedtime every night, going to story time at our library and encouraging them to read everything from newspapers to magazines, comic books, read-along “books,” audio books, e-books — none of it has made much of a difference.
Some of our biggest professional disappointments also have revolved around not being able to inspire some of our students to love reading, too. But as with our own kids, love ultimately has nothing to do with it. Reading is too important to be left to taste or affinity.
My husband and I both determined long ago that for kids and students who don’t love books, the only solution is to treat reading like fruits, vegetables and time off from electronics: a non-negotiable requirement since they don’t think there are any books they’d enjoy.
This is anathema to today’s literacy experts who insist on making reading “easy,” “fun,” “personally meaningful” or “culturally relevant” instead of treating it as what it is: A challenging skill that must be approached with the same rigor and discipline that an algebra or chemistry teacher approaches abstract and symbolic reasoning.

Texas education board rejects charter school proposed for Irving

Terrence Stutz:

State Board of Education members vetoed a proposed charter school in the Dallas area Friday after complaints were raised that its operator has a history of catering to white students from more affluent families.
Board members voted, 9-6, to deny a state charter to Great Hearts Academies. The group had hoped to establish at least four campuses in the Dallas area, beginning with Irving.
The board approved a Great Hearts charter school in San Antonio last year, but that campus won’t open until next fall.
Great Hearts was one of four independent charter schools that Education Commissioner Michael Williams authorized in September, subject to the board’s approval.
The three other schools, in Austin, El Paso and San Antonio, won board approval Friday.
Board member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, noted that the 15 Great Hearts charter schools in Phoenix — where the charter operator is based — have a much higher percentage of white students than the regular public schools in the Phoenix area. While 42 percent of the public school students are Hispanic, only 13 percent of the enrollment at the Great Hearts schools is Hispanic.

Government books $41.3 billion in student loan profits

David Jesse:

The federal government made enough money on student loans over the last year that, if it wanted, it could provide maximum-level Pell Grants of $5,645 to 7.3 million college students.
The $41.3 billion profit for the 2013 fiscal year is down $3.6 billion from the previous year but it’s a higher profit level than all but two companies in the world: Exxon Mobil cleared $44.9 billion in 2012, and Apple cleared $41.7 billion.
“It’s actually neither accurate nor fair to characterize the student loan program as making a profit,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said during a July conference call with reporters after the Free Press and other news media reported on profits from student loans. The department did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment this week.
The numbers track the entire fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. They come as concern continues to mount about the level of indebtedness by college students and graduates. Estimates show more than $1.2 trillion in student loan debt across the nation, more than the nation owes on credit cards.

Are Kids Too Coddled?

Frank Bruni:

AT a middle school near Boston not long ago, teachers and administrators noticed that children would frequently return from a classmate’s weekend bar mitzvah with commemorative T-shirts, swag that advertised a party to which many fellow students hadn’t been invited.
So administrators moved to ban the clothing.
They explained, in a letter to parents, that “while the students wearing the labeled clothing are all chatting excitedly,” the students without it “tend to walk by, trying not to take notice.” What an ordeal.
Many parents favored the ban, a prophylactic against disappointment.
Some did not, noting that life would soon enough deal the kids much worse blows along these lines. And one observer, in a Facebook thread, said this, according to a local TV station’s report: “Perhaps they should dress the children in Bubble Wrap and tie mattresses to their backs so they don’t get hurt.”
I assume that’s facetious.
But these days, you never know.

Moocs are no magic bullet for educating Americans

Edward Luce

Optimists have scoured the dictionary for superlatives to describe the future of internet education. But the cult of the Mooc – massive online open courses – took a blow last week when one of its leading Silicon Valley pioneers, Sebastian Thrun, described it as a “lousy product”.
Students taking Mr Thrun’s online courses at Udacity performed far worse – and dropped out in far higher numbers – than those with a human instructor. Mr Thrun, who invented the self-driving car, is at least temporarily dropping out of the business. Luddites everywhere will be feeling vindicated.
Yet the need to reinvent US education is more pressing than ever. If America’s college dropout rates are not persuasive enough – nearly half of US students fail to complete their four-year degree within six years – the fate of those who make it ought to be. Graduate earnings have fallen 5 per cent since 2000. The college premium is still there but only because the earnings of those with a high-school diploma have dropped by far more. Meanwhile, the costs of getting a degree continue to rise, which means the trade-off of taking on ever larger debt to boost future earnings keeps getting weaker.
This is where online education comes in. Moocs can drive down costs to almost zero. Yet they will be hard-pressed to fix the cost problem if more than 90 per cent of their enrollees lose interest, which was the outcome of Udacity’s much-hyped experiment. This is twice the attrition of mainstream students.
Yet it makes only marginal difference whether a student gets his or her education from a computer or a real live human if the content is irrelevant to the jobs market. As the economist Tyler Cowen argues in his seminal book, Average is Over, there is a larger crisis in what US students are being taught. Content, rather than medium, is the problem.

Apple Valley (MN) neighborhood unhappy about planned school

Erin Adler:

Residents of an Apple Valley neighborhood aren’t happy with the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District’s plans to build a new early childhood and adult education center, citing worries about traffic and declining property values if the project proceeds.
They also believe the district hasn’t been completely clear about its plans and is rushing to build the facility, despite 14 meetings between December 2012 and the Nov. 12 school board meeting at which updates on the center were shared.
“As a neighborhood, we felt like we were blindsided,” said Steve Budnik, who lives on 144th St. W.
“I think it’s a lack of partnership with the neighborhood, it really is,” said Steve Robbins, who lives off 144th St. W. on Drumlin Court.
The district is already clearing the land for the proposed building, a two-story, 54,000-square-foot school that will house early childhood and adult education programs, currently held in leased spaces. Construction will begin in late winter, with completion planned in December 2014.
Residents’ reactions at the meeting were surprising, said Rob Duchscher, school board member.

Wake County school board talking student achievement; Spends 9K/student vs. Madison’s $15k and not student assignment

T. Keung Hui:

Has the conversation in the Wake County school system switched from student assignment to student achievement?
As noted in today’s article, Wake has seen a spike in the number of high-poverty schools in the past few four years, helping to produce some pretty low proficiency rates under the new state exams. But members of the board’s Democratic majority say they need to focus on core instruction and not student assignment to address the situation.
“What we intend to do over the next year or so is to focus on core instruction, raising achievement and improving student outcomes,” said school board Chairman Keith Sutton. “The new exams give us a good starting point.”
Sutton said a balanced approach is needed now.
“We can’t rely solely on assignment to balance student achievement,” Sutton said. “We can’t rely solely on magnet programs to balance student achievement. You can’t rely only on an infusion of additional money. There’s not a single bullet.”
Sutton said they need more time to consider how they’ll implement the changes made to the assignment policy this year.

Wake County Schools spends $1,378,298,829 for 153,152 students, or $9,000 per student. Madison spends 67% more per student at around $15,000 each.

Most MOOC Users Well-Educated, Study Finds

Geoffrey Fowler:

College-level courses distributed free online have much more to do before they achieve their proponents’ hopes of eliminating economic, geographic, racial and gender barriers to higher education, according to a University of Pennsylvania study published Wednesday.
The university surveyed nearly 35,000 students from more than 200 countries and territories who participated in the 32 massive open online courses, or MOOCs, it distributes through Coursera, the largest provider of the free courses. Researchers found that most of the students were already well educated, and most were young men looking for new skills to advance their careers.
More than 80% of the U.S.-based students, for example, already had a college degree, compared with about 30% of the general U.S. population. Across the board, Penn’s MOOC students already far exceeded average educational standards in their countries, the study said.
The economic elite are often first adopters of new technologies, particularly on the Internet. The study found that the “educational disparity is particularly stark” in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, where almost 80% of the MOOC students came from the wealthiest 6% of the population.

Parents Serving as Emergency Support for Adult Kids

Neil Shah:

Older Americans can be a burden on the economy — but for cash-strapped families, they’re a lifeline.
Roughly one in four adults 25 years old and over got $100 or more from parents in 2011, according to Judith Seltzer, a sociology professor at UCLA who analyzed Census data and the June 2012 Survey of Consumers. The average gift was $6,500. Better-educated parents were more likely to give: Nearly 37% of adults with college-educated parents received assistance.
Grandparents also provide child care. About 28% of grandparents provided at least 50 hours of care per year for grandchildren they didn’t live with, and nearly one-third of grandmothers who live with a grandchild have primary responsibility for them. More affluent grandparents, meanwhile, tend to help adult children with mortgage costs, house down-payments and education, greasing the wheels of economic mobility for their grandchildren, research shows.
The upshot: Older people are quietly serving as an emergency-support system for adult children struggling with a weak economy and high joblessness — and indeed, with years of slow wage growth and declining economic mobility.
Marjorie Price, of Boise, Idaho, is among those helping out. The 80-year-old widow and mother of five, known as “the Jelly Lady” locally, wanted to shutter her business of selling jams and jellies at farmers’ markets a few years ago. Instead, she’s continuing to produce 5,000 jars a year to earn extra income and help her daughter Ann, who has two twenty-something daughters of her own.

Federal analysis of school grants shows mixed results

Lyndsey Layton:

A federal program that pumped a record $5 billion into failing schools is showing mixed results, with students at more than one-third of the targeted schools doing the same or worse after the schools received the funding, according to government data released Thursday.
The Obama administration has handed out $5.1 billion to states to improve academic performance at about 1,500 schools since 2009, the largest federal investment ever targeted at failing schools.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement that the numbers point toward success.
“The progress, while incremental, indicates that local leaders and educators are leading the way to raising standards and achievement and driving innovation over the next few years,” Duncan said. “To build on this success in our disadvantaged communities, we must expand the most effective practices to accelerate progress for students and prepare them for success in college and careers.”

International test scores: Getting the data straight

Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein:

Earlier this year, we published an analysis of international test score data in which we showed that these data hide many complex issues, and that glib conclusions regarding the meaning and policy implications of international test data should be avoided. We showed that it is more appropriate to compare student performance across countries by comparing students with similar social class backgrounds, and we showed that comparative information is more useful if it includes test data trends over time as well as levels in the current year. We also presented apparent anomalies in test data (for example, periods in which performance on one international test goes up but performance on another international test, purporting to measure the same subject, goes down, or carelessness in sampling methodology) that should caution analysts from relying too heavily on test score data.
Upon the release of our report, we were attacked by several promoters of the conventional idea that international test data show that American schools are in collapse and are threatening our economic security. Prominent among these was Marc Tucker, president of one of the leading education-scold organizations, the National Center on Education and the Economy. Tucker attacked our report without having bothered to read it, and was subsequently forced to issue an apology for misrepresenting our findings (“We misstated the conclusions presented by Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein in the report described in this newsletter. We believe we have stated those conclusions accurately here, and apologize to the authors for the error.”).


Madison School Board Policy on Policies

The Madison School District (PDF):

BOARD POLICIES and PROCEDURES represent the BOARD’s vision for the DISTRICT and set the general direction for the DISTRICT. It is an essential function of the BOARD to establish BOARD POLICIES and the BOARD PROCEDURES necessary to eaffect those POLICIES and PROCEDURES. In order to carry out this function in an effective, efficient, consistent and transparent manner, the BOARD believes it is imperative to have a well-defined procedure for creating, maintaining and modifying such POLICIES and PROCEDURES as needed.

Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, except for POLICIES and PROCEDURES that are reviewed on an annual basis, see IV.H, below, the SUPERINTENDENT or his/her designee shall review all BOARD POLICIES and PROCEDURES shall be reviewed pursuant to the following three-year review cycle:
Year 1: Chapter 4000 (Pupils), Chapter 5000 (Auxiliary Services), Chapter 6000 (Operations)
Year 2: Chapter 2000 (Administration), Chapter 3000 (Instruction), Chapter 7000 (Community Relations), Chapter 10000 (Charter Schools)
Year 3: Chapter 1000 (Board of Education), Chapter 8000 (Personnel), Chapter 9000 (Ethics)
Following said review, the SUPERINTENDENT shall present his/her recommendations at a WORK GROUP meeting for review and approval by the BOARD. The review cycle does not preclude the BOARD from taking action on any POLICY determined to be in need of revision.
During the course of the three-year review cycle, all
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POLICIES and PROCEDURES shall be translated into Spanish and additional languages, as possible. Translated POLICIES and PROCEDURES shall be subject to the same revisions as their English-language counterparts.

One Man’s Mission to Save City College of San Francisco

Jim Carlton & Caroline Porter:

The fate of City College of San Francisco, one of the nation’s largest community colleges, rests largely on the surgically repaired shoulder of a state-appointed trustee named Robert Agrella.
The 70-year-old former community-college president is in a race against time to slim down the bureaucratic behemoth with 80,000 students and 1,900 faculty before it implodes.
“In community colleges in general, we tried to be all things to all people,” he said. “We cannot afford to do that any longer.”
In July, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, said it plans to revoke the school’s accreditation at the end of the school year, giving the college a year to prove that it can turn around or be shut down.

Are New Jersey’s latest national test scores good news or bad news?

Laura Waters:

Last week the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released results of 2013 state tests. While many other standardized tests get no respect, the NAEP assessments, also called “The Nation’s Report Card,” are highly regarded by educators, offering an accurate profile of state progress in reading, math, and science for public school students, including those enrolled in charter schools. You can’t cheat on NAEP tests. They’re weighted properly for socio-economics, disabilities, and English Language Learners. The country’s harshest test critics, including doyenne Diane Ravitch, refers to NAEP as the “gold standard” of standardized testing.
New Jersey’s scores were flat, one statistically insignificant point lower than last year’s NAEP results. Forty-nine percent of 8th graders were proficient in math and 47 percent were proficient in reading. Our achievement gaps, historically larger than most states, were static, about 20 points between white and Hispanic children and 25 points between white and black children.
Diane Ravitch herself commented in the Huffington Post, “New Jersey…actually lost ground.”

Via Laura Waters.

In Philadelphia schools, is the ‘right to know’ the new ‘pay for play’?

Helen Gym:

“Pay to play” is a widely reviled practice in government, but that’s effectively what the District’s legal argument would establish through its challenge of an open records case in state court.
For more than 10 months, Parents United for Public Education and our lawyers at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia have been fighting to make public the Boston Consulting Group’s list of 60 schools recommended for closure and the criteria it used for developing the list. In 2012, BCG contracted with the William Penn Foundation to provide “contract deliverables,” one of which was identifying 60 public schools for closure. William Penn Foundation solicited donations for this contract, including some from real estate developers and those promoting charter expansion. The “BCG list” was referred to by former Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen in public statements. But District officials refused to release the list, saying that it was an internal document and therefore protected from public review.

A Mother Lets Her 4-Year-Old Finish Her Drawings. She Never Thought It Would Lead To This.


At first, artist Mica Angela Hendricks didn’t want her four-year-old daughter near her new sketchbook. She is serious about her art, and she knew little Myla would want to scribble all over the pages. Then, her daughter said the words that changed everything.
“If you can’t share, we’ll have to take it away.”
She had used her own mother’s words against her, and now Mica had no choice but to indulge Myla. She let her daughter finish one of her sketches, and pretty soon, they had a whole collection of collaborations.

3rd-grade readers show promise with full-court SPARK approach

Alan Borsuk:

A woman who was part of a group I spoke to one evening last week in Fox Point said she volunteered to tutor high school students in Milwaukee who were struggling with reading. It went badly. The teens were far below grade level. They were not interested in school, not interested in reading, not interested — period.
Contrast that with what I saw one morning recently at Engleburg School, a Milwaukee Public Schools elementary at 5100 N. 91st St. A classroom has been set aside for the SPARK Early Literacy Program of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, a project aimed at getting more kids on track as readers early on.
About 45 first- and second-graders at Engleburg are participating this fall. Two or three times a week, each spends a half-hour in the SPARK room, working one-on-one with tutors, many of them trained college students working under the federally funded Americorps program.
Little kid and big kid, almost shoulder to shoulder, with the big kid following a very specific program for what to do minute by minute. And behind that, collaboration between classroom teachers and SPARK staff to build up results. And behind that, mountains of research that shows that kids who do not get a good start on reading by third grade are much more likely to have poor long-term outcomes, both in school and beyond.
But — and this is important — the in-school work is just one of three parts of SPARK. The students are also involved in after-school reading sessions several times a week. And SPARK works with the families of the students, including making home visits, to coach parents and involve them in helping their kids become good readers. That includes providing books they can own and read together at home.

Commentary on Virginia’s “New” A-F School Grading System

Valeria Strauss:

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has now pushed through a new evaluation system that will assign A-through-F grades to each public school, based largely on students’ standardized test scores. The state Board of Education just approved criteria (see below) for the new scheme, which was part of the governor’s 2013 school reform efforts. What Virginians don’t know, because McDonnell hasn’t mentioned it, is that the system he used as a model for his plans is in tatters.
The system was pioneered in Florida when Jeb Bush was governor from 1999 to 2007 as part of Bush’s push for corporate-influenced, standardized test-based reform, and it was used as a model in some 15 other states. The scheme involves more than simply assigning grades to schools; high stakes are involved, as schools can be closed if they get too many successive low grades.
When McDonnell was trying to sell the grading system to the Virginia legislature earlier this year, he sought help from Bush; the former governor praised McDonnell’s plans in a teleconference, saying that the scheme had helped improve schools in Florida. In reality, the Florida system has been so plagued with problems that the Florida Association of District School Superintendents on Thursday urged state officials to revamp the system and released a proposal to eliminate the letter grades. The association’s Web site says:

Newark district and charter schools join together for universal enrollment plan

Peggy McGlone:

A reference to nuclear warheads may seem out of place at a meeting of Newark educators, but not when you consider what’s at stake.
The Newark Public School district and the city’s charter schools are considering a plan that would blow up the status quo in what they say is an effort to provide equity to the city’s schoolchildren.
School officials are creating what some say is a first-in-the-nation voluntary effort to offer universal enrollment for students citywide to all of Newark’s 71 public schools and 21 public charter schools.
Under the plan, there would be one application, one timeline and one central clearing space for information about all city schools. Essentially, it would eliminate the need for parents to go from school to school filling out applications and participating in separate lotteries in the hopes of getting a spot in a particular school.

Via Laura Waters
Related: a majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.

Education in a Free Society

C. Bradley Thompson:

In “The New Abolitionism: Why Education Emancipation is the Moral Imperative of Our Time” (TOS, Winter 2012-13), I argued that America’s government school system is immoral and antithetical to a free society, and that it must be abolished–not reformed. The present essay calls for the complete separation of school and state, indicates what a fully free market in education would look like, and explains why such a market would provide high-quality education for all children.
The Need for Separation of School and State
What is the proper relationship of school and state? In a free society, who is responsible for educating children? Toward answering these questions, consider James Madison’s reasoning regarding the proper relationship of government and religion–reasoning that readily applies to the issue of education. In 1784, in response to Patrick Henry’s call for a compulsory tax to support Christian (particularly Episcopalian) ministers, Madison penned his famous “Memorial and Remonstrance,” a stirring defense of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. The heart of his argument can be reduced to three principles: first, individuals have an inalienable right to practice their religion as they see fit; second, religion must not be directed by the state; and third, religion is corrupted by government interference or control. Few Americans today would disagree with Madison’s reasoning.
One virtue of Madison’s response to Henry’s bill is that its principles and logic extend beyond church-and-state relations. In fact, the principles and logic of his argument apply seamlessly to the relationship of education and state. If we substitute the word “education” for “religion” throughout Madison’s text, we find a perfect parallel: first, parents have an inalienable right to educate their children according to their values; second, education must not be directed by the state; and third, education is corrupted by government interference or control. The parallel is stark, and the logic applies equally in both cases.
Just as Americans have a right to engage in whatever non-rights-violating religious practices they choose, so Americans have a right to engage in whatever educational practices they choose. And just as Americans would not grant government the authority to run their Sunday schools, so they should not grant government the authority to run their schools Monday through Friday.
Parents (and guardians) have a right to direct the education of their children.1 Parents’ children are their children–not their neighbors’ children or the community’s children or the state’s children. Consequently, parents have a right to educate their children in accordance with the parents’ judgment and values. (Of course, if parents neglect or abuse their children, they can and should be prosecuted, and legitimate laws are on the books to this effect.) Further, parents, guardians, and citizens in general have a moral right to use their wealth as they judge best. Accordingly, they have a moral right and should have a legal right to patronize or not patronize a given school, to fund or not fund a given educational institution–and no one has a moral right or properly a legal right to force them to patronize or fund one of which they disapprove. These are relatively straightforward applications of the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness–the rights on which America was founded.

Wisconsin Reading Coalition: 2013 Reading Report Card

Wisconsin Reading Coalition (PDF), via a kind email:

he National Center for Education Statistics has released the 2013 scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the “Nation’s Report Card.” While the press has rightly focused on Wisconsin’s scores for black students (lowest in the country) and the black-white gap (largest in the country), the data indicates many other areas of concern. Here are some major takeaways from the critical 4th grade reading performance:

  • Wisconsin’s average score (221) in 2013 is identical to 2011, and is statistically unchanged from our first NAEP score (224) in 1992.While we have remained stagnant, many other jurisdictions have seen statistically significant increases.
  • Wisconsin ranked 31st out of 52 jurisdictions that participated in NAEP this year. In 1994, we ranked 3rd.
  • Since 2007, the number of jurisdictions scoring significantly lower than Wisconsin has shrunk from 21 to 11. The number scoring significantly higher has grown from 8 to 15. Wisconsin sits in the lower half of the “middle” group of 26 jurisdictions.
  • Only 8% of Wisconsin students scored at the advanced level, while 32% were below basic, the lowest level.
  • Compared to their peer groups nationwide, Wisconsin’s white, black, Hispanic, Asian, low income, and disabled students all scored below their respective national averages.
  • Wisconsin had the lowest scores for black students in the nation.
  • Wisconsin had the largest gap between white and black students in the nation.

How will Wisconsin respond?
Social and economic disadvantages affect achievement for many students, but other states do better at mitigating those realities. Wisconsin must look within the education system itself for improvement opportunities, starting with teacher preparation. Beginning in 2014, the Foundations of Reading exam will require prospective teachers to understand the science of reading that is woven through the Common Core State Standards and that is necessary for successful intervention with struggling readers. As DPI revises the regulations governing educator licensure and preparation program approval, it will be important to align them with the only comprehensive guidelines available, the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (Moats, Carreker, Davis, Meisel, Spear-Swerling, Wilson, 2010), and to encourage independent, objective program reviews for campuses. Equally important, our state and districts need to provide practicing teachers with that same knowledge of language structure and reading acquisition, and to track the impact of professional development on student performance outcomes. Programs like LETRS from Sopris Learning and the online coursework and coaching offerings from the Science of Reading Partnership deserve attention. Only then can we hope to see student outcomes begin to reflect the efforts of our dedicated educators.
The pie charts below show the breakdown of proficiency levels of Wisconsin students as a whole and broken into sub-groups. The line graphs show the trend over time in Wisconsin scores compared to Massachusetts, Florida, and Washington, D.C., where the science of reading has found a greater acceptance in education, as well as the changes in national ranking for Massachusetts, Florida, and Wisconsin.

Related: Madison’s disastrous reading results and Wisconsin adopts the MTEL-90 (Massachusetts) elementary teacher English content knowledge requirements.

53.1% of Madison’s $393,698,456 Budget Spent on Instruction; 18% on Administration

“Management’s Discussion and Analysis” (PDF):

Page 30: As provided in applicable negotiated contracts, certified District employees meeting a minimum age and length of service requirement may participate in the District’s group health and insurance program upon retirement. The District bears the cost of the employee’s participation up to the maximum amount it pays for active employees. For the year ended June 30, 2013, there were 1,138 participants and expenditures on a pay-as- you-go basis were $4,288,615. The District’s sick leave liability at June 30, 2013 was $77,017,949, which represents $47,848,809 for currently active employees and $29,169,140 for retirees.
As provided in applicable negotiated contracts, certified District employees meeting a minimum age and length of service requirement are eligible to receive early retirement benefits of 19% of the employee’s salary for three years. For the year ended June 30, 2013, there were 352 participants and expenditures on a pay-as-you-go basis were $3,547,011 After applying a discount rate of 3%, the present value of the District’s early retirement liability at June 30, 2013 was $7,054,700.
The District contributes 100% of the current year premium for teachers and non- administrative employees electing coverage and all other nonadministrative employees covered under one of three health plans. Administrators contribute 10% to the plans. The net OPEB obligation at June 30, 2013 was $8,471,005.
Page 36:
The Food Service Fund had an excess of actual expenditures over budget for the year ended June 30, 2013 of $455,570. The Capital Projects Fund had an excess of actual expenditures over budget for the year ended June 30, 2013 of $4,019,807 due to QZAB and Energy Efficiency financing and related capital expenditures. Special Revenue funds were in excess of budget by $374,390.
Page 44:
Administrator’s Retirement Plan
The District has an administrators’ retirement plan which covers eligible administrators with over 10 years of experience with the District. The plan requires contributions by administrators electing to participate in the plan. The District is required to make a defined contribution ranging from $30,000 to $36,000 annually to the plan upon the administrators’ retirement for administrators with at least 15 years of service. The District contributed $181,446 to the plan for the year ended June 30, 2013.

2012-13 External Financial Audit Presentation (PDF).
“Using a Zero Based Budget Process” (PDF)

States are starting to test teachers

The Economist:

IN THE film “Bad Teacher”, Cameron Diaz’s character says she entered the profession “for all the right reasons: shorter hours, summers off, no accountability”. No one is threatening to take away the first two agreeable perks, but several states are eyeing the third.

In the past, teachers were judged solely on their level of education and the number of years they had spent in the classroom–neither of which tells you whether their pupils are learning anything. But this is changing. A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a research group, finds that most states now demand that student achievement should be a significant factor in teacher evaluations (see chart). Only Alabama, California, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Texas and Vermont have no formal policy.
The expansion of teacher evaluation is broadly good news. Work published in 2011, from Columbia and Harvard, showed that pupils assigned to better teachers are more likely to go to college and earn decent salaries, and less likely to be teenage mothers. If teachers in grades 4 to 8 are ranked according to their ability to add value (ie, teach) and those in the bottom 5% are replaced with ones of average quality, a class’s cumulative lifetime income is raised by $250,000. Bill Gates once said that if every child had mathematics teachers as good as those in the top quartile, the achievement gap between America and Asia would vanish in two years. (His lecture has been watched 1.5m times online.)

Much more on teacher content knowledge requirements, here.

Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, poverty thoughts

Killer Martinis:

There’s no way to structure this coherently. They are random observations that might help explain the mental processes. But often, I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why. We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it’s rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of.
Rest is a luxury for the rich. I get up at 6AM, go to school (I have a full courseload, but I only have to go to two in-person classes) then work, then I get the kids, then I pick up my husband, then I have half an hour to change and go to Job 2. I get home from that at around 1230AM, then I have the rest of my classes and work to tend to. I’m in bed by 3. This isn’t every day, I have two days off a week from each of my obligations. I use that time to clean the house and soothe Mr. Martini and see the kids for longer than an hour and catch up on schoolwork. Those nights I’m in bed by midnight, but if I go to bed too early I won’t be able to stay up the other nights because I’ll fuck my pattern up, and I drive an hour home from Job 2 so I can’t afford to be sleepy. I never get a day off from work unless I am fairly sick. It doesn’t leave you much room to think about what you are doing, only to attend to the next thing and the next. Planning isn’t in the mix.
When I got pregnant the first time, I was living in a weekly motel. I had a minifridge with no freezer and a microwave. I was on WIC. I ate peanut butter from the jar and frozen burritos because they were 12/$2. Had I had a stove, I couldn’t have made beef burritos that cheaply. And I needed the meat, I was pregnant. I might not have had any prenatal care, but I am intelligent enough to eat protein and iron whilst knocked up.

TAG Best Practices

Madison School District PDF:

#1: Good teaching needs to be seen as including those students who are already grade-level proficient
– Lesson plans (coherent instruction) – Curricular alignment
– Accountability
#2 Needs-Based Learning
• What a student is learning should be based on his or her current level of mastery
• This may or may not correspond with age-level norms

This would seem to make sense for all students.
Related: Some states begin to add teacher content knowledge requirements to the licensing process.
Much more on Madison’s Talented & Gifted program along with a recent parent complaint.

For the first time in memory, adults in the United States under age forty are now expected to be poorer than their parents; Cloud Formations Take Physical Shape: Implications for Status Quo K-12 Models

Balaji Srinivasan:

Yet the technical prerequisites are already well underway. Machine translation of signs, text, and speech brings down language barriers and facilitates ever more cross-cultural meetings of like minds. Immersive headsets, input devices, and telepresence robots further collapse space and time, allowing us to instantly be alongside others on the other side of the globe. Mobile technology makes us ever more mobile, increasingly permitting not just easier movement around a home base but permanent international relocation.
Technology is thus enabling arbitrary numbers of people from around the world to assemble in remote locations, without interrupting their ability to work or communicate with existing networks. In this sense, the future of technology is not really location-based apps; it is about making location completely unimportant.
When physical goods themselves can’t be digitized, our interface to them will be.

This is why location is becoming so much less important: technology is enabling us to access everything we need from our mobile phone, to find our true communities in the cloud, and to easily travel to assemble these communities in person. Taken together, we are rapidly approaching a future characterized by a totally new phenomenon, the reverse diaspora: one that starts out internationally distributed, finds each other online, and ends up physically concentrated.
What might these reverse diasporas be like? As a people whose primary bond is through the internet, many of their properties would not fit our pre-existing mental models. Unlike rugged individualists, these emigrants would be moving within or between nation states to become part of a community, not to strike out on their own. Unlike would-be revolutionaries, those migrating in this fashion would be doing so out of humility in their ability to change existing political systems. And unlike so-called secessionists, the specific site of physical concentration would be a matter of convenience, not passion; the geography incidental and not worth fighting over.

Status quo governance of our agrarian era $15k/student public education structures are unlikely to survive the era of pervasive networks and cheap computing.

Madison explores ways to improve classroom access to arts education

Catherine Capellaro:

For a city its size, Madison has a thriving arts community. And all artists start out as students in the schools. But it doesn’t take an Einstein (or a Yo-Yo Ma) to note that a student in the Allied Drive neighborhood doesn’t have the same exposure to the arts as a Shorewood kid.
Now, amid a growing consensus that the arts are a critical element of educational success, Madison has become a demonstration city for boosting access to arts education for all students.
In July, the Washington, D.C.-based Kennedy Center designated Madison as the 12th Any Given Child city, following in the footsteps of Austin, Baltimore, Portland (Ore.) and Sacramento. As the first step in a two- to three-year process, the Kennedy Center has already partnered with the Madison Metropolitan School District, the city of Madison and the Overture Center to convene a new Community Arts Team, charged with improving “access and equity” to arts education for all K-8 students in the Madison schools.
“There are certain communities around the United States that realize the arts are as important as the other areas,” said Kennedy Center vice president Darrell Ayers at a July press conference in Madison that announced the initiative. “We can ensure that every child in the school system, not just those who can afford it, can have the arts in their classroom.”

Middleton teachers argue for new contract, more pay Board of Education decides to delay talks; teachers circulate petition

Mary Jo Ola:

The Middleton Education Association made one request to open negotiations with district officials in September and another request in October.
“We believe the recent Circuit Court ruling or the ruling Judge Colas made last year still allows us to bargain a complete or full master contract for the 2014-2015 school year. We also believe they are able to provide more of an increase,” Chris Bauman, MEA president, said.
The Board of Education voted unanimously to delay any talks.
“We’ve requested to delay negotiations on a base salary partly because of our budget unknowns, enrollment, a variety of other things in terms of our total budget expenditures that are required for 2014-2015,” MCPASD Superintendent Don Johnson said.
While the board decided to delay talks, some teachers at Middleton High School have begun circulating a petition in hopes of getting their message across.
Recently, the board approved an overall wage increase of $1,078 per year for teachers.
However, a number of teachers say the increase is not enough, considering their personal contributions to retirement and health care. In some people’s opinion, the increase penalizes teachers who have been around for years.

Related: Madison Schools’ Budget Updates: Board Questions, Spending Through 3.31.2013, Staffing Plan Changes, Middleton-Cross Plains School Board to appeal ruling on teacher fired for viewing porn at work and Commentary on Madison and Surrounding School Districts; Middleton’s lower Property Taxes.

Competency Gains More Traction

Michael Stratford:

Two Democratic U.S. senators are giving a boost to the growing interest from members of both parties in Congress to make it easier for alternative models of higher education — such as competency-based education — to gain access to federal funding.
Sens. Christopher Murphy of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii said Thursday that they planned to introduce legislation next month that would create a competitive pilot program to fund innovations in higher education that would bring down costs and reduce the time needed to complete a degree.
“We’re at the very early stages of the competency-based learning ecosystem,” Murphy told reporters Thursday. “But the federal government should be a bigger partner in helping to develop these new innovative ecosystems around shorter-timeframe degree programs.”
He said the fund would be aimed at innovations in online courses, competency-based degrees, dual-enrollment programs and accelerated degrees.

Tuition Crunch Takes Big Toll: Net Revenue at Nearly Half of Colleges Loses Ground to Inflation in New Survey

Douglas Belkin:

Nearly half of the nation’s colleges and universities are no longer generating enough tuition revenue to keep pace with inflation, highlighting the acceleration of a downward spiral that began as the recession ended, according to a new survey by Moody’s Investors Service.
The survey of nearly 300 schools reflects a cycle of disinvestment and falling enrollment that places a growing number at risk. While schools for two decades were seeing rising enrollments and routine increases of 5% to 8% in net tuition, many now are facing grimmer prospects: a shrinking pool of high-school graduates, depressed family incomes and precarious job prospects after college.
The softening demand for four-year degrees is prompting schools to rein in tuition increases while increasing scholarships. Those moves are cutting into net tuition revenue–the amount of money a university collects from tuition, minus school aid.
For 44% of public and 42% of private universities included in the survey, net tuition revenue is projected to grow less than the nation’s roughly 2% inflation rate this fiscal year, which for most schools ends in June. Net tuition revenue will fall for 28% of public and 19% of private schools.

Tougher on teachers: One in four aspiring (Michigan) teachers pass new teacher test

Ron French:

Becoming a teacher in Michigan just became a lot more difficult.
Only one in four aspiring teachers passed a beefed-up version of Michigan’s teacher certification test – an exam that teachers must pass to be hired to lead a classroom – when the new test was administered for the first time last month.
The initial pass rate for the old version of the test was 82 percent; In October, with more difficult questions and higher scores needed to pass, the pass rate was 26 percent.
That means that three out of four students who completed what is typically a four- or five-year college program will have to retake the test or find another career.
The toughened certification tests are an effort to assure that only the most highly-qualified teachers are leading Michigan classrooms.
“Just like we’d want the best and most effective doctor,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said in a news release about the new, low pass rates. “The same applies to teaching Michigan’s students.”
Bridge Magazine raised concerns about the ease of teacher certification tests in October. At the time, aspiring Michigan teachers had a similar pass rate on certification tests as cosmetologists.
That story was part of a series examining the crucial role of teacher preparation in increasing learning in Michigan classrooms, where test scores show students are falling behind students in other states.

Related NCTQ study on teacher preparation and When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?.
UW-Madison School of Education Dean Julie Underwood continues her “status quo” advocacy via this latest op-ed.
Madison Literary Club Talk: Examinations for Teachers Past and Present

California teacher preparation reform

Jackie Mader:

For years, California has attempted to reform its teacher preparation programs to better prepare new teachers for the classroom. Alternative routes have popped up to offer aspiring teachers, in many cases, a less expensive and faster route to teaching. The state’s extensive performance exams for teacher candidates have served as a model for the rest of the nation.
Now, a teacher preparation program in California is pledging career-long support to its graduates. On Thursday, the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education launched a free helpline for its 25,000 alumni that will connect struggling graduates with a “rapid response team” of nine full-time faculty members. That team will diagnose problems, build individual plans for alumni, and offer solutions that range from site visits, to coaching, to professional development resources.

Related NCTQ study on teacher preparation and When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?.

Education and the Future of MOOCs

Steve Wildstrom:

Maybe online course aren’t going to remake the face of higher education after all.
After a fast start, reality seems to be closing in on the world of the massive, open, online courses that were supposed to replace traditional lectures and recitations and make free, or at least very cheap, higher education available to everyone. San Jose State University has slowed down a move to deliver introductory undergraduate courses through MOOC provider Udacity.
Udacity itself, one of several MOOC providers that have sprung up in the last couple of years, is refocusing its activities on corporate training. Sebastian Thrun, Stanford computer scienctist and founder of Udacity, told Fast Company, “We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product. It was a painful moment.”
No surprise. I’m not surprised. I’ve been a skeptical enthusiast for online education since MIT started its Open Courseware initiative a few years back, and over the last year or so, I have enrolled in several offerings, mostly from Coursera, like Udacity, a for-profit provider of open courses. My experience has been a very mixed bag, but one that has taught me a lot about where the approach does and doesn’t work. A couple of general observations. First, the technology has a long way to go and on one seems to have figured out a completely effective way to deliver lectures on video. I’ve seen a number of approaches, from video recording regular blackboard lectures, to slide-based presentations in which the instructor only occasionally appears, to a course that used cartoony “virtual students” to asked questions in computer synthesized voices. None worked completely, though the last was the most annoying. Online lectures today remind me of the earliest days of television, when shows were “radio with pictures.” No one has quite cracked the medium yet.

New Evidence Raises Doubts on Obama’s Preschool for All

Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst

Last week legislation was introduced in the Senate and House to create federally funded universal pre-k for 4-year-olds. The details of the legislation are largely consistent with the White House proposal, called Preschool for All, that was announced in the president’s state of the union address in February.
The rhetoric around the introduction of the legislation includes the by now entirely predictable and thoroughly misleading appeal to the overwhelming research evidence supporting such an investment. For example, Senator Harkin, the lead author of the Senate version of the legislation, declared that “Decades of research tell us that … early learning is the best investment we can make to prepare our children for a lifetime of success.”
By way of background, I’m a developmental psychologist by training and spent the majority of my career designing and evaluating programs intended to enhance the cognitive development of young children. For instance, I directed a national Head Start Quality Research Center; created a program, Dialogic Reading (which is a widely used and effective intervention for enhancing the language development and book knowledge of young children from low-income families); and authored an assessment tool, the Get Ready to Read Screen, that has become a staple of early intervention program evaluation. My point is that I care about early childhood education and believe it is important – as witnessed by how I spent my professional life for 30 years.
My career since 2001 has largely been about advancing evidence-based education, which is the endeavor of collecting and using the best possible evidence to support policy and practice in education. Since the president’s state of the union address, I’ve been writing that the evidence is decidedly mixed on the impact of the type of preschool investments the president has called for and that we now see in the legislation introduced in Congress. It may seem in the pieces I’ve written that I’m wearing only my evidence-based education hat. But in fact if you’re an advocate of strengthening early childhood programs, as I am, you also need to pay careful attention to the evidence – all of it. Poor children deserve effective programs, not just programs that are well-intentioned.

Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays

Peter Turchin:

Complex human societies, including our own, are fragile. They are held together by an invisible web of mutual trust and social cooperation. This web can fray easily, resulting in a wave of political instability, internal conflict and, sometimes, outright social collapse.
Analysis of past societies shows that these destabilizing historical trends develop slowly, last many decades, and are slow to subside. The Roman Empire, Imperial China and medieval and early-modern England and France suffered such cycles, to cite a few examples. In the U.S., the last long period of instability began in the 1850s and lasted through the Gilded Age and the “violent 1910s.”
We now see the same forces in the contemporary U.S. Of about 30 detailed indicators I developed for tracing these historical cycles (reflecting popular well-being, inequality, social cooperation and its inverse, polarization and conflict), almost all have been moving in the wrong direction in the last three decades.
The roots of the current American predicament go back to the 1970s, when wages of workers stopped keeping pace with their productivity. The two curves diverged: Productivity continued to rise, as wages stagnated. The “great divergence” between the fortunes of the top 1 percent and the other 99 percent is much discussed, yet its implications for long-term political disorder are underappreciated. Battles such as the recent government shutdown are only one manifestation of what is likely to be a decade-long period.
How does growing economic inequality lead to political instability? Partly this correlation reflects a direct, causal connection. High inequality is corrosive of social cooperation and willingness to compromise, and waning cooperation means more discord and political infighting. Perhaps more important, economic inequality is also a symptom of deeper social changes, which have gone largely unnoticed.

A gilded goodbye for many private college leaders

Todd Wallack:

When Brandeis University president Jehuda Reinharz stepped down three years ago, he moved back into his old faculty office.
But unlike most history professors, Reinharz does not teach any classes, supervise graduate students, or attend departmental meetings. He did not bother posing for the department photo. The chairwoman for Near Eastern and Judaic Studies said she did not even know whether he was officially a member of her department.
Yet Reinharz remains one of the highest paid people on campus.
He received more than $600,000 in salary and benefits in 2011, second only to the new Brandeis president, according to the school’s most recent public tax returns. And that’s on top of the $800,000 Reinharz earned in his new job as president of the Mandel Foundation, a longtime Brandeis benefactor.

The Lost Art of Letter-Writing

Simon Garfield:

From Cicero to John Keats, Virginia Woolf to Jack Kerouac –how would these masters of the letter have taken to the inbox and junk folder? Would they have withheld their jewels of prose behind passwords and defunct operating systems? Would they have been cloud-savvy enough to pass on their attachments and YouTube links to future generations?
These aren’t frivolous questions. We have grown used to the fact that we no longer write letters as we used to, but I’m not sure we have fully contemplated what this means to future generations. We love email, as we should–for its brilliant speed, its global reach, its free transmission of vast amounts of information. Its terrors (the cc’ed indiscretions, the “always-on” culture, the Big Brother scenarios) have not lessened its use. But how much have we really sacrificed on this altar of swiftness and efficiency?

Naps & Your Brain

Belle Beth Cooper:

Naps aren’t for everyone, though. I’ve heard lots of people say naps don’t make them feel better, so I wanted to explore how naps affect your brain and whether they really are good for you or not.
How sleep affects us
Better sleeping is known to provide lots of health benefits. These can include better heart function, hormonal maintenance and cell repair as well as boosting memory and improving cognitive function. Basically, sleeping gives your body a chance to deal with everything that happened during the day, repair itself, and reset for tomorrow.
Sleep deprivation, therefore, actually harms us in several ways. One of the most obvious harms is that we have trouble focusing when we’re sleep deprived. Buffer cofounder Leo Widrich wrote about this before:

New York to shorten math, English exams

Jessica Bakeman:

The state Board of Regents fleshed out proposals to reduce and reform testing in New York schools at their regular meetings Monday and Tuesday, including a plan to shorten math and English exams.
The state plans to cut down the amount of time students spend taking math exams by 20 minutes in all grades and will also cut the number of questions to relieve concerns about students not being able to finish.
In grades five through eight, the state will reduce questions on English exams, but maintain the maximum testing time, giving students more time for each question.
The state is moving forward seeking a federal waiver to relieve eighth graders in advanced Algebra from taking both the eighth-grade and the high school-level assessments. While about 57,000 students would be affected by that change, the state is expanding the waiver request to include another 2,000 students, including seventh graders who are also taking the algebra course as well as eighth graders who are taking high-school geometry.

Truth in Advertising in the School Portfolio Strategy

Robin Lake, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Portfolio cities are not all created equal. Some, like New Orleans, have been able to advance quickly. Others are slowed down by the public reactions to school closures or school board turnover or other political or technical realities. District leaders like the idea of accountability for schools, but avoid creating clear performance criteria. They like the idea of new schools, but don’t want to close low performers. They like the idea of partnering with a few charter schools, but they don’t want to upset the unions by partnering with more. They like the idea of school-level decisionmaking, but don’t want to shrink their central offices.
Civic leaders and philanthropists who want to support portfolio efforts need to be skeptical of people who adopt the word “portfolio” without really being serious about carrying out the reform. It’s also easy for even the most well-intentioned portfolio leaders to get caught up in day-to-day policymaking and implementation and lose sight of whether their efforts are panning out in meaningful changes for students.

Police tried to spy on Cambridge students, secret footage shows

Rob Evans and Mustafa Khalili

Police tried to spy on Cambridge students, secret footage shows Officer is filmed attempting to persuade activist in his 20s to become informant targeting ‘student-union type stuff’
Police sought to launch a secret operation to spy on the political activities of students at Cambridge University, a covertly recorded film reveals.
An officer monitoring political campaigners attempted to persuade an activist in his 20s to become an informant and feed him information about students and other protesters in return for money.
But instead the activist wore a hidden camera to record a meeting with the officer and expose the surveillance of undergraduates and others at the 800-year-old institution.
The officer, who is part of a covert unit, is filmed saying the police need informants like him to collect information about student protests as it is “impossible” to infiltrate their own officers into the university.
The Guardian is not disclosing the name of the Cambridgeshire officer and will call him Peter Smith. He asks the man who he is trying to recruit to target “student-union type stuff” and says that would be of interest because “the things they discuss can have an impact on community issues”.

The unpaid internship for credit must end

Malcolm Harris:

When Federal District Court Judge William H. Pauley III ruled in June that Fox Searchlight Pictures should have paid two interns who worked on its award-winning film “Black Swan,” he did not leave a lot of room for interpretation. Pauley concluded that unpaid internship programs were in clear and near-universal violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Interns whose labor benefits their employer are workers and are thereby entitled to minimum wage. The judge was not creating new law; he was simply enforcing what has been on the books. The ruling has already convinced some employers to decide how to handle their unpaid help, and interns to organize efforts to recover their stolen pay.
Hollywood is not the only industry paying attention; university administrators are worried as well. The common practice of granting class credit for completed internships has contributed to the dramatic increase of unpaid internships. According to a survey-based study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), a record 63 percent of 2013 graduates had completed an internship. A similar study by the college recruiting consultancy Intern Bridge found that just under half of interns received school credit. Credits are what universities are selling. Since outsourcing the actual teaching to employers saves money — it is cheaper to certify than instruct — American universities have jumped on the intern bandwagon.

CRISPR gene therapy: Scientists call for more public debate around breakthrough technique

Steve Connor:

Scientists are calling for a wider public debate on a new development in genetics that could allow the simple and accurate manipulation of the human genome, as revealed yesterday by The Independent.
The technique, known as CRISPR, could revolutionise human gene therapy and genetic engineering because it allows scientists for the first time to make the finest changes to the DNA of the chromosomes with relative ease.
One Nobel scientist, Craig Mello of the University of Massachusetts, said that the “jaw dropping” technique has the potential to transform the study and manipulation of genes and “lowers the barrier” to genetic engineering of human IVF embryos – something he would oppose.
Professor George Church of Harvard University, who was the first scientist to get the process working in human cells and mouse embryos, said that it was important to air the social and ethical implications of the technique to the wider public.
“Talking about the future is better than letting it sneak up on us. We need to do more of this or we will be left with very limited vocabulary in the space between positive and negative hype,” Professor Church said.

Schools safe as ever despite spate of shootings, scares

Greg Toppo:

In the 11 months since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., another school attack or safety scare seems to unfold almost weekly.
Three students — two 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old — were shot and wounded Wednesday near a Pittsburgh high school as they walked to their car after classes. A 20-year-old man armed with an AK-47-style rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition entered an elementary school in Decatur, Ga., on Aug. 20 and fired a few rounds but surrendered before anyone was injured. A 45-year-old teacher was shot to death, allegedly by a 12-year-old student, at Nevada’s Sparks Middle School on Oct. 21. The next day, a Massachusetts high school math teacher was stabbed to death with a box cutter, allegedly by a 14-year-old student.
It’d be easy to conclude that school has never been a more dangerous place, but for the USA’s 55 million K-12 students and 3.7 million teachers, statistics tell another story: Despite two decades of high-profile shootings, school increasingly has become a safer place.
The trend is playing out against a backdrop of jitters over school security that have accumulated since Newtown. Schools in some states are urged to issue concealed handgun permits to teachers and buy them bulletproof whiteboards and desk calendars. An Ohio company sells a $100 Kevlar insert it says will make any backpack bulletproof. Educators attend training sessions in which they’re advised to charge armed attackers.
“I think (the concern) has to do with the psychological impact of some of these incidents,” says David Esquith, director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students, which oversees school security. “(The shootings) are so upsetting and traumatic, it reinforces a perception that schools are experiencing a spike in violence and victimization, when in fact they’re not.”

Act 10: “Attorney General to Public Employees: We Will Crush You”

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

Last Monday’s Supreme Court hearing, scheduled for 90 minutes, went almost four hours, given numerous comments and questions from the Justices – all seven participating to some degree. The resultant responses caused tension, such as Attorney General Van Hollen’s response to Justice Ann Walsh Bradley’s comment, “aren’t the parties’ arguments like ships passing in the night?” Van Hollen retorted that the two ships, “… are on a collision course” and “the State has a bigger ship and we shall win!”
As The Progressive editor Ruth Conniff wrote of the exchange, “That pretty much sums up the Walker Administration’s attitude toward the teachers, janitors, clerks, and municipal employees it seeks to disempower through Act 10. The state is bigger and stronger, Walker, Van Hollen, and their allies argue, and will not be deterred by public outcry, mass protests, or even the courts.”
MTI legal counsel Lester Pines, when presenting the Union’s argument resurrected the ship analogy, telling Van Hollen that, “The Titanic was a big ship too, compared to the relatively small iceberg that caused it to sink.” Pines added that the administration’s Act 10, like the Titanic, has hit an iceberg, and that the iceberg in this case is the Wisconsin Constitution.
In his argument, Pines told the Court that the fundamental argument came down to Constitutional rights. Pines’ claim led to Van Hollen claiming, “There is no constitutional right to collective bargaining.”

The Pedagogy of Negating the Institution

Jakob Jakobsen:

In 1962, a group of people at the Gorizia Mental Hospital in northern Italy began dismantling the fence that surrounded the institution. Footage from a documentary by the Italian film-maker Sergio Zavoli shows what appears to be patients and staff cutting and pulling down sections of the high metal fence – a fence built with the clear purpose to both demarcate a specific area of a building and to keep people from getting over it. Significantly, we see the fence that defined the boundary of the hospital being dismantled from inside the compound, and the faces of those pulling each segment of it to the ground express relief, even joy. In Italian, the voiceover of the film describes the action:
In November 1962, the psychiatric team directed by Dr Franco Basaglia opened up the first ward of the hospital and inaugurated a therapeutic community. Hospital life will be regulated by ward assemblies and by general assemblies. The patients are regaining a human and social role, as they get to take care of themselves and their existence through an ongoing communication with the people treating them. Once the prison-like nature of the institution has been abolished, the nature of its ideology can be studied.
Dr Franco Basaglia had been made director of the Gorizia Mental Hospital the previous year. He initiated the demolition of the containment structure devised to keep the patients inside the hospital which had, according to the new director, operated more like a prison camp than a place intended for treatment and care. The fence was not just there for the sake of the patients; it existed to protect society from the insane and insanity. Now the fence was coming down.

Short Cuts

John Lanchester:

When Ferran Adrià, the Spanish maestro who is undisputedly the most influential chef of the last two decades, gave up cooking at his restaurant El Bulli, he announced that he was going to be starting a number of projects. One of them is intended to be a foundation dedicated to the study of himself. Another was a collaboration on the subject of food and science with Harvard. I think quite a few people, on first hearing about that, scratched their heads and wondered what a joint venture between the two might be like. On the one hand, seawater sorbet and ampoules of reduced prawn head bouillon (two Adrià signature dishes). On the other, Helen Vendler. Outcome not obvious.
What we outsiders didn’t know is that all undergraduates at Harvard are required to take at least one class in science. As a result, the university offers some courses designed to be appealing to the kinds of student who wouldn’t be studying science unless they had to. Once that’s known, it makes a lot of sense to involve Adrià, who is rock-star famous in the world of food, in a course designed to appeal to the clever and curious and artily-minded young. So here it is: SPU27, an acronym standing for Science of the Physical Universe 27. Spelled out in English, the name of the course is Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science. The person who thinks it’s funny that SPU sounds like ‘spew’? Harvard isn’t cross with you. Just … disappointed.
Once upon a time, to take a course like SPU27, you had to be young enough and lucky enough in all the relevant ways to get to Harvard. Today, all you need is to be lucky enough to have access to a computer with an internet connection. SPU27 is part of a remarkable experiment in open access university education called EdX, a collaboration between Harvard and MIT, which gives away entire courses, online, for free. The type of course is known as a MOOC, for Massive Open Online Course, and is a big growth area in the field of education, with a truly extraordinary amount of material now available, almost entirely from American universities.​* One of the leaders in the field is Stanford, creator of the first MOOCs.

Vouchers must be monitored to ensure school integration, U.S. says

Danielle Dreilinger

The U.S. Justice Department says Louisiana’s private school voucher program must be monitored to make sure it doesn’t make public school segregation worse. To that end, it wants the state to submit extensive student and school demographics each year.
Moreover, federal lawyers say that after 25 years of working together, Louisiana has largely stopped cooperating with the federal government on efforts to ensure racial equality in schools. They made the case in a memo filed Friday with Judge Ivan Lemelle in federal District Court in New Orleans.
The lawyers wrote that “the United States’ requests for information in this case are not an attack on the voucher program.” However, the demand is likely to raise Gov. Bobby Jindal’s hackles once more in this high-profile court case that has drawn support from prominent national Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, both of whom visited New Orleans voucher schools this month.

Behind the numbers, more to the story of a rare rise in MPS enrollment

Alan Borsuk:

In mid-October, Milwaukee Public Schools announced that enrollment for this year was up from a year ago, “reversing a decline that lasted nearly a decade.”
Which is true, except it comes with a big asterisk. When it comes to the roster of schools most people think of when they think of MPS, the enrollment decline continues, and that trend is of great importance when you try to envision where we’re going with the whole education enterprise in Milwaukee.
Now that all the official enrollment counts have been posted for schools where Milwaukee children receive publicly funded education, this is the central fact:
The percentage of children in schools outside the mainstream MPS system has, for the first time, crossed 40%. In other words, two out of every five Milwaukee children whose education is paid for by tax dollars are not being taught by MPS teachers. The percentage has been going up one to two points a year, and that happened again this year.
In short, the main body of MPS continues to lose kids, which ultimately means money, employees and vitality, and the array of other streams of local schools continues to gain strength, which ultimately means — well, actually, I don’t know what that ultimately means, which is one reason why keeping an eye on the trends is important.
How is the MPS statement about increased enrollment accurate? Simple: With Superintendent Gregory Thornton as a key advocate, MPS is increasingly embracing the change in Milwaukee’s remarkably complex school landscape. Which is to say, there was a sharp increase in students in charter schools run by organizations independent of the MPS structure, not staffed by MPS principals and teachers, but authorized to operate by the Milwaukee School Board.

‘White moms’ remark fuels Common Core clash

Stephanie Simon:

“Do we want more for our kids, or do we want less?” Duncan said. “Do we want higher standards or not?”
That’s the debate that Duncan dearly wants to have.
It’s not, however, the debate he’s getting.
To the immense frustration of Common Core supporters, an eclectic array of critics have raised sustained and impassioned objections about the new standards. From New York to Florida to Michigan to Louisiana, their voices are so loud and their critiques so varied that they have muddied the narrative around Common Core. It’s no longer a focused national debate about high standards; it’s hundreds of local debates, about everything from student privacy rights to cursive handwriting to computerized testing to the value of Shakespeare.
Over the summer, Duncan complained that opponents were “fringe groups” who make “outlandish claims” about “really wacky stuff” such as “mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping.” There is undoubtedly some of that.

Madison schools should offer universal free breakfast and lunch for students

Catherine Capellaro:

A couple of weeks ago, Leo, a freshman at East High School, carried a plate of spaghetti through the school lunch line. But the food service worker said he couldn’t keep the food on his tray.
The money in Leo’s lunch account had run out, and his “temporary meal status” had expired.
Leo left the line, but something compelled him to go back up. He asked what they were going to do with his lunch, and the woman said she had to throw it away.
“Can I just have it then?” he asked. But policy is policy. Leo’s lunch went to the landfill.
Leo’s brother Julian gave him some bread.
This story would upset me if I heard it about any kid. But Leo’s my son, so I really couldn’t shake the image. Mother mammals want their kids to be fed. I called the 9th grade office, and I called the Food & Nutrition office, and gave them both a piece of my mind.
They said they should have given Leo something to eat. Like more than half of the kids in the Madison school district, our kids are eligible for free and reduced lunch.
It happened again Tuesday. This time, he tried to get a hamburger, but his “status” only entitled him to a sandwich, milk and fruit. Leo waited five minutes for the sandwich. Then he gave up.

Voucher Commentary

Dave Zweifel:

On its face, sending money to religious schools ought to be unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s prohibition against promoting religion. The designers of vouchers cleverly got around that by sending “vouchers” to families who meet certain financial guidelines and who, in turn, pay for tuition at a private school.
So now Jewish taxpayers are helping fund Christian schools, nonbelievers are contributing to devout fundamentalists, and scientists are helping pay for evolution deniers.
Worse, though, is that the proliferation of vouchers is eating at the very fabric of the American public education system — a system in which children of all beliefs, creeds and colors learn about each other, share experiences and explore conflicting ideas so that they can intelligently engage in the complexities of American democracy.
That’s what is so dangerous about vouchers. Using taxpayer dollars, they promote putting people who look alike and think alike with each other. That may be your view of the world, but don’t ask others to pay for it.

Related: Sweden’s voucher system.

Lectures Didn’t Work in 1350–and They Still Don’t Work Today

Hope Reese:

“Of all the places I remember from my childhood,” David Thornburg writes, “school was the most depressing.” The now award-winning educational futurist and creator of the “educational holodeck,” Thornburg’s early experience in the classroom prompted him to help others rethink traditional classroom design. In his latest book, From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments, Thornburg outlines four learning models: the traditional “campfire,” or lecture-based design; the “watering hole,” or social learning; the “cave,” a place to quietly reflect; and “life”–where ideas are tested.
I spoke with Thornburg about his project-based approach to learning, why traditional models of teaching fail, and how to incorporate technology into education to teach students how to think creatively. Here’s a transcript of our conversation, condensed and edited for clarity.

All of a Sudden Students Have Stopped Paying Their Loans, Again–Why?

Jordan Weissmann:

The first six months of 2013 brought us a small measure of good news about student loans: the delinquency rate, while still far too high for comfort, was falling.
Sadly, that’s no longer the case. As shown on the graph below, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that 11.8% of outstanding loan balances were 90 days or more past due by the end of September, a new post-recession high.
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Adults in charge of education are acting like children

John Krull:

One of the most important lessons good parents teach toddlers is that not getting one’s way is no excuse for behaving badly.
It appears that much of Indiana’s educational and political leadership never got that valuable piece of developmental training.
On Wednesday, a meeting of the Indiana Board of Education descended into — well, chaos would be too kind a term. Some hybrid of blood feud and epic temper tantrum would be closer to the mark.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz closed and then walked out of the meeting after a board member made a motion Ritz said was inappropriate and illegal. The board members, all of whom were appointed by Republican governors, accused Ritz of thwarting reform and unfairly using her position as chair to stifle discussion. Ritz accused Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, of attempting to deny the will of the voters and take over education. Pence responded with a statement and an op-ed piece that made it seem as if Ritz’s conduct were something he needed to scrape off the bottom of his shoe.

Reactions to Sebastian Thrun’s Fast Company hagiography

Kris Olds:

Who is troubled by this week’s Sebastian Thrun hagiography (‘Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, Godfather Of Free Online Education, Changes Course‘) in Fast Company, as well as this announcement (‘Launching our Data Science & Big Data Track built with Leading Industry Partners‘) via the Udacity blog (both posted on 14 November 2013)? A lot of committed open education thinkers and practitioners, so it seems, and not merely because of the hype machine Thrun so evidently cultivates (I’ll leave aside the possible negative reaction to Thrun getting photographed in Lycra tights through a filter borrowed from a 1970s Swedish cinematographer, or the journalist’s attempt to throw in a clichéd Matrix reference):

This School Is All Business

Anne Kadet:

Taking the No. 6 train downtown Friday morning, Kelman Ramirez looks like any New York office drone. He’s got the red paisley tie, the black lace-up shoes, the worn building pass lodged in his wallet. When he arrives at the Capital Group in Rockefeller Center, he gives his receptionist the usual polite hello. Ho-hum. But here’s the twist: Mr. Ramirez is only 17 years old.
He attends Cristo Rey New York, a small Catholic school in East Harlem where students pay their tuition by working as corporate serfs. Dressed in jackets, ties and little black suits, the students, some as young as 14, fan across the city to the cubicles and board rooms of companies such as McKinsey, Deloitte and Morgan Stanley, where they shred documents, file trade confirmations and reconcile expense reports. Their earnings, billed at roughly $19 an hour, fund nearly half the school’s budget.
At Cristo Rey, it’s all business–the place is even decorated to look like an office. The Rev. Joseph Parkes, the school’s president (“Like the CEO!” he says) gave me a tour last week. It’s the cleanest, sparest school you’ve ever seen. There are beige walls, framed art prints and slate-blue carpets. The classrooms look like corporate training rooms, with smartboards and long gray tables. There are no bells, says Father Parkes, because there are “no bells in the corporate environment.”

Maryland excluded large number of special-education students from NAEP

Liz Bowie:

Maryland’s scores on a national reading test may have been inflated because the state’s schools excluded a higher percentage of special-education students than any other state, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.
The National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the test, estimates that Maryland’s scores were 7 points higher for fourth-grade reading and 5 points higher for eighth-grade reading because of the exclusion.
Maryland has always earned high scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and its steady increases in test scores over the years has helped earn it the ranking of No. 1 in the nation by Education Week, an often-quoted measure.
“When exclusion rates are higher, average scores tend to be higher than if more children were tested,” said Larry Feinberg, assistant director for reporting and analysis for the National Assessment Governing Board, an independent body that sets policy for NAEP.

MTI’s Act 10 Case before Supreme Court Today (Recently)

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

In February 2011, Governor Walker, as he described it, “dropped the bomb” on Wisconsin’s public employees, the birthplace of public employee bargaining, by proposing a law (Act 10) which would eliminate the right of collective bargaining in school districts, cities, counties, and most of the public sector. Collective Bargaining Agreements provide employment security and economic security, as well as wage increases, fringe benefits, and as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Holmes said many years ago, an effective voice for employees in the workplace. Unions had achieved these rights and benefits in a half-century of bargaining. Ostensibly proposed to address an alleged budget shortfall, the Governor’s proposed Act 10 not only called for reductions in economic benefits for public employees (e.g. limits on employer contributions toward pensions and health care), but prohibited public employers from bargaining with nearly all public employees over any issue, other than limited wage increases, under which no employee could recover losses due to the increase in the Consumer Price Index. For example, under Act 10, teacher unions can no longer bargain over issues of school safety, class size, planning and preparation time, and health insurance; educational assistants can no longer bargain over salary progression, insurance coverage or training; clerical/technical workers can no longer bargain over work hours, vacation benefits or time off to care for sick children; and state workers can no longer bargain over whistle-blower protections. The intent of the Governor was to silence public employees on issues of primary importance to them and those they serve, and to eliminate their political activity. His stated extreme, no compromise, “divide and conquer” approach was to gain full power over employees. That resulted in MTI members walking out for four days to engage in political action. Soon thereafter thousands followed MTI members, resulting in the largest protest movement in State history.
MTI legally challenged Walker’s law and in September, 2012, MTI, represented by Lester Pines, and his partners Tamara Packard and Susan Crawford, prevailed in an action before Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas, wherein Colas found that most of Act 10 is unconstitutional. In ruling on MTI’s petition, Colas agreed that Act 10 is unconstitutional as it violates MTI members’ freedom of association and equal protection, both of which are guaranteed by the Wisconsin Constitution. This enabled MTI to bargain Contracts for its five (5) bargaining units for 2014-15. MTI’s are among the few public sector contracts in Wisconsin for 2014-15.

Florida Mother Outraged After School Puts Son on Honor Roll

Neetzan Zimmerman:

When Beth Tillack learned that her son had made his middle school’s honor roll, she immediately took away his computer privileges and called the school to demand a retraction.
The shocking reaction to something most parents celebrate by defacing their car’s bumper was prompted by a D that Douglas got in civics.
“The bottom line is there is nothing honorable about making a D,” the Pasco County, Florida mom told a local news station. “I was not happy, because how can I get my child to study for a test when he thinks he’s done enough.”
Dade City’s Pasco Middle School places students on its honor roll based on their Grade Point Average.
In addition to the D, Douglas also got three A’s and a C, giving him a GPA of 3.16 — more than enough to be counted among the school’s best and brightest.
But thanks to his mom, the Pasco County schools superintendent has announced that the honor roll policy will be changed to allow only students with all A’s or A’s and B’s to be considered for inclusion.

Finland Eyes Programming Classes for Elementary School Students

Samanth Murphy Kelly:

Elementary school students in Finland could be adding coding and programming to their nightly homework routine in the near future.
Potentially following in the footsteps of neighboring country Estonia, Alexander Stubb — the Finnish Minister of European Affairs and Foreign Trade — told Mashable that teaching basic programming skills to young kids in the classroom is on the country’s radar.
“It would be a great idea to have coding as a voluntary or otherwise subject in school,” Stubb says. “Kids today are growing up as natives to technology, and the sooner they get going, the better. It starts with games and familiarizing themselves with gadgets, and coding is a big part of that.”

F is for Favorite


Students can sometimes be the very best advocates for the teaching profession. Here’s a few shout-outs to MPS teachers from none other than their appreciative students.
Dear Mrs. Grant,
Thank you for everything! You have supported me through a lot. All the time you have helped me I am so grateful for. You are one of my memorable and favorite teachers!
From, Alyana Castrejon
You are my favorite teacher I ever met even though I get in trouble.
my favorite teacher
Ms. Cynthia Wilder is my favorite. She’s a peaceful woman. She is very nice. She is always helping me with my work. When i feel like I want to give up on something she’ll say to never give up, always keep trying. You’ll never get to where you want to be if you give up.
Dear Ms. Carney,
Thank you for making this the best year yet. You are one of my favorite teachers and I truly appreciate everything you do every day. When I first came into seventh grade I didn’t understand anything but you made it easy for me, so thank you for that. I wish all the best of luck next year when you get your new students.
-Alondra Corro

Why Isn’t Harvard Training More Teachers?

Eleanor Barkhorn:

About one in five Harvard seniors applies to Teach for America. However, only a “minuscule” percentage of the class actually studies education, according to Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James Ryan.
What accounts for this difference? Why are so many of America’s brightest students apparently interested in teaching but not availing themselves of the training their school has to offer?
Part of what’s to blame is a long-standing institutional snobbery toward teaching. As Walter Isaacson put it at this year’s Washington Ideas Forum, there’s a perception that “it’s beneath the dignity of an Ivy League school to train teachers.”
Teach for America has helped change that perception. “I think TFA has done a lot in terms of elevating the profession of teaching and elevating the importance of public education and education generally,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in conversation with Isaacson, CEO of The Aspen Institute, and Ryan.
But Harvard and other schools like it haven’t made it a priority to encourage students to pursue teaching–and so students are looking for opportunities elsewhere. As Ryan put it, “There’s a tremendous demand for teacher training–and the main outlet is TFA.”

Knowledge for earnings’ sake; Good teachers have a surprisingly big impact on their pupils’ future income

The Economist:

Across schools, however, better pupils are assigned to slightly better teachers on average. The common practice of “tracking” pupils (filtering good ones into more advanced courses) could be to blame, the authors reckon, though they abstain from drawing firm conclusions. Whatever the cause, getting more effective teachers to instruct better-performing pupils naturally exacerbates the gap in achievement. Making the best teachers work with the worst pupils could go a long way toward minimising the yawning differences in attainment within a school system, the authors contend.
At the very least, that change would be lucrative for the pupils who benefit from it, according to the researchers’ second paper. They compare their measure of teacher quality against pupils’ fortunes as adults, after again controlling for pupils’ previous test scores and demography. (Pupils from the earliest years of their sample are now in their late 20s.) Unsurprisingly, exposure to better teachers is associated with an increased probability of attending university and, among pupils who go on to university, with attendance at better ones, as well as with higher earnings. Somewhat more unexpectedly, good teachers also seem to reduce odds of teenage pregnancy and raise participation in retirement-savings plans. Effects seem to be stronger for girls than for boys, and English teachers have a longer-lasting influence on their pupils’ futures than maths teachers.
The authors reckon that swapping a teacher at the bottom of the value-added spectrum with one of average quality raises the collective lifetime income of each class they teach by $1.4m. That rise would apply across all the teacher’s classes and over the whole of his or her career.

Measuring the Impacts of Teachers I: Evaluating Bias in Teacher Value-Added Estimates and Measuring the Impacts of Teachers II: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood.

The Robots Are Here

Tyler Cowen:

saac Asimov, the astonishingly prolific science fiction writer, died in 1992, but he foresaw much about American politics today. One of his most profound works is the neglected short story “Franchise,” written in 1955, in the days when computers were bulky, room-sized machines powered by vacuum tubes and operated by a high priesthood of punch card-wielding technicians. For a work of fiction, it is stunningly prescient.
In Asimov’s tale, set in November 2008, democratic elections have become nearly obsolete. A mysterious supercomputer said to be “half a mile long and three stories high,” named Multivac, absorbs most of the current information about economic and political conditions and estimates which candidate is going to win. The machine, however, can’t quite do the job on its own, as there are some ineffable social influences it cannot measure and evaluate. So Multivac picks out one “representative” person from the electorate to ask about the country’s mood (sample query: “What do you think of the price of eggs?”). The answers, when combined with the initial computer diagnosis, suffice to settle the election. No one actually needs to vote.
Asimov was on to something: American political campaigns have indeed become extraordinarily sophisticated data-mining operations driven by smart computers, harvesting and sifting through vast virtual warehouses of demographic information and consumer preferences to manipulate and shape the electorate. They may not do the voting for us, but this new generation of intelligent machines can do just about everything else. And when it comes to humans actually casting their ballots, well, we hardly are surprised by the results: Computer-powered data jocks such as Nate Silver can predict the outcomes of most races and often the margins of victory as well. We’re not too far off from the world of Asimov’s protagonist, an Indiana department-store clerk dragooned into being America’s lone “voter.” “From the way your brain and heart and hormones and sweat glands work, Multivac can judge exactly how intensely you feel about the matter,” the machine operators tell him. “It will understand your feelings better than you yourself.”

Ravitch Unraveling: A Gold Standard Abandoned

Eric Lerum:

As a pundit, Diane Ravitch is nothing if not prolific. That aptly describes her constant stream of blog posts, tweets, speeches to teacher unions and anti-reform crowds, and promotional book tour stops and media interviews. It also describes her flow of incompatible viewpoints.
Take her view on NAEP test scores, for example. In a New York Times op-ed from 2005, Ravitch called NAEP “the gold standard,” and in a 2006 WSJ piece with Chester Finn, she said “NAEP’s role as honest auditor makes state officials squirm.” Just three years ago, she touted NAEP as “more trustworthy than state exams.” She used NAEP score comparisons as the foundation for her argument against charter schools and No Child Left Behind in the 2010 WSJ op-ed she penned explaining her change of heart.
And in her most recent book, which critics have argued “trades fact for fiction,” she bases her critique of Michelle Rhee’s record as DCPS Chancellor on the foundation that NAEP scores illustrate Rhee “did not turn it into the highest-performing urban district in the United States.”
Yet last week, when 2013 NAEP scores were released, she found the “statistical horse race utterly stupid.” She completely dismissed commending the historic gains made in DC and Tennessee as “nonsense” and “hype,” asking, were “students in the states with the biggest gains getting better education or more test prep?” This despite the fact that she wrote in her just-published book “there is no way to prepare for NAEP.”

Pop-Up Schools Could Radically Improve Global Education

Daho Olopade:

Most of the buildings in Machakos, the former capital of Kenya, are made of concrete, with neat fences, informal gardens, indoor plumbing, and electricity, however erratic. By contrast, the local schoolhouse of Bridge International Academies is beyond basic: walls of corrugated tin, a plywood frame. There’s no electrical wiring in sight. A pair of latrines adjoin an open courtyard that doubles as a lunch and recreation area. A few young children loll on the patchy grass, engaged in unhurried conversation.
Yet this school is by no means a failure — in fact, it recently passed a 700-point inspection and is running exactly as planned. This is just one of 212 Bridge Academies that have opened in Kenya during the past four years. Bridge’s “schools in a box” spring up seemingly overnight: In January of 2013, the company launched 51 schools at once, while in September it opened another 78. Bridge now educates roughly 50,000 students in Kenya every day, and its global aspirations may transform the entire project of education for poor youth around the world.

Exporting Education

Anya Kamenetz:

Time zones away from the quads of Cambridge, Mass., and Palo Alto, Calif., there’s a curious educational evolution happening.
Though the modern massive open online course movement (MOOCs) originated in North America, two-thirds of their users live abroad–in places like Rwanda, China, and Brazil.
Foreign users are adapting the courses produced at Harvard, MIT, and Stanford to fit their local communities and cultures. And in the process, they’re creating an entirely new education model. Instead of toiling at MOOCs alone with the dim light of a laptop, communities around the world are combining screen time with face time. In these small-group, informal, blended-learning environments, students work with the support of peers and mentors and compete online on a level playing field with the new elite of the world. “It gave me a taste of what is first world education,” said Alejandra B., a 21-year-old studying business at a Catholic university in La Paz, Bolivia, and a MOOC participant in such a setting, told me.

Artists, students call Joseph Gatto ‘great educator of the arts’

Ari Bloomekatz:

Artists and art students from around Greater Los Angeles remembered art teacher Joseph Gatto, who was found shot to death in his Silver Lake home, as a great educator and promoter of the arts.
Artist Robert Vargas, who did the mural in downtown L.A. on the corner of 6thand Spring streets, said Gatto “was a pillar in my foundation as a young artist.”
Vargas was a student at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and graduated in 1993. The most important class he remembered with Gatto was figure drawing in which half of the class would draw and the other half critique.
“His teaching style was very honest; it was very direct. I think his honesty and his intentions were always sincere,” Vargas sad. “He challenged and inspired us to pull from within ourselves and not be afraid of that path of discovery, wherever that may lead us.”

Learned Luddites: Many professors are hostile to online education

The Economist:

SOME people hope that the internet will revolutionise higher education, making it cheaper and more accessible to the masses. Others fear the prospect. Some academics worry that they will be sacked and replaced by videos of their more photogenic colleagues. Others argue that MOOCs (massive open online courses) are nowhere near as good as a class taught face-to-face.
Earlier this year academics at Amherst, a liberal-arts college, decided not to offer MOOCs. Professors in the philosophy department at San José State University wrote a letter of complaint because they were encouraged to use a popular online Harvard course, “JusticeX”, as part of their own curriculum. Even at Harvard, which has invested $30m in MOOCs, much of the faculty is prickly. In May 58 professors wrote to the dean of arts and sciences to demand greater oversight of MOOCs.

America’s dumbest idea: creating a multiple-choice test generation

Erika Sanchez:

A few years ago, I met with my former high school social studies teacher to catch up over drinks. “Miss F” was one of my favorite teachers and we hadn’t seen each other in about 12 years. As we reminisced about our field trips, my other classmates, and my hilariously unfortunate fashion choices, she revealed to me that she and many of my former high school teachers refer to that time as “the golden era”. I was shocked. How could it be that the school district had become worse since I graduated?
My high school, which is located in a working class Latino suburb bordering Chicago, was overpopulated, underfunded, and in my opinion, incredibly stifling. Needless to say, I resented going there. I felt we were disenfranchised and were not given the same opportunities that affluent schools provided their students.
I should have realized how lucky I really was when I was in college, however. Unlike many of my classmates, I cranked out papers with little difficulty because I knew how to synthesize information and formulate an argument. Writing a thesis statement was a freaking breeze. But at the time I had no idea that these skills were a luxury.

A Fine-Arts Degree May Be a Better Choice Than You Think

Daniel Grant:

Think that art school dooms graduates to a life of unemployment? The numbers paint a very different picture.
“Artists can have good careers, earning a middle-class income,” says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “And, just as important and maybe more, artists tend to be happy with their choices and lives.”
Not Exactly Starving
A 2011 report from the center found that the unemployment rate in the first two years for those graduating with bachelor of fine arts degree is 7.8%, dropping to 4.5% for those out of school longer. The median income is $42,000.
“Artists’ income is comparable to other liberal-arts majors,” he says. “They do a little better than psychology majors, since counseling and social work is a very low-wage occupation.”
For artists who go on to graduate degrees, the most common of which is the master’s of fine arts, the unemployment rate for recent graduates drops to just under 5%, and their median yearly income increases to roughly $50,000.

Ads Could Soon Know If You’re an Introvert (on Twitter)

Tom Simonite:

Technology that derives personality traits from Twitter updates is being tested to help target promotions and personalize customer service.
Trying to derive a person’s wants and needs–conscious or otherwise–from online browsing and buying habits has become crucial to companies of all kinds.
Now IBM is taking the idea a step further. It is testing technology that guesses at people’s core psychological traits by analyzing what they post on Twitter, with the goal of offering personalized customer service or better-targeted promotional messages.
“We need to go below behavioral analysis like Amazon does,” saysMichelle Zhou, leader of the User Systems and Experience Research Group at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in California, which developed the software. “We want to use social media to derive information about an individual–what is the overall affect of this person? How resilient is this person emotionally? People with different personalities want something different.”

U.S. Private Colleges Face Enrollment Decline

Douglas Belkin:

Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., was founded in 1830. It has graduated governors and admirals. Martin Luther King Jr. praised it for its early efforts at integration in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
None of that august history protected it from plummeting enrollment last year. So, to induce prospective students to consider its $170,000 sticker price for a four-year education, Spring Hill began offering $1,000 scholarships for taking a campus tour.
“We’re at a time when enrollment is the No. 1 driver,” said Bob Stewart, the school’s vice president for admissions and financial aid. “We needed to have some game changers to bring in new students.”
Spring Hill was caught in the same tailspin that many U.S. private colleges are facing as they endure plummeting enrollment among price-conscious students.

Influx of Chinese boosts Wisconsin, national college enrollments

Karen Herzog:

A record number of international students studied at American colleges and universities last year, including in Wisconsin, driven largely by an influx of young scholars from China, according to U.S. data released Monday.
University of Wisconsin-Madison enrolled 5,291 international students last year — 12.5% of its total 42,463 enrollment.
That’s up from 4,840 in 2011-’12 and 4,647 the previous academic year.
International students boost the diversity among student populations and contribute significantly to the bottom line for public universities because they pay higher out-of-state tuition.

Beyond Zero Tolerance


Beyond Zero Tolerance focuses on two forms of exclusion from school that many Pennsylvania public school districts rely upon heavily: out-of-school suspensions (OSS) and removal from school by police, a category that includes arrests and summary offenses.
In this first-time analysis of statewide school discipline data for Pennsylvania, we found that Black and Latino students and students with disabilities have been disproportionately removed from school.
For both forms of exclusion from school, we report our findings and suggest evidence-based best practices.
DOWNLOAD: Beyond Zero Tolerance (Full Report)

A Challenge to high cost credentialism

Alexis Baird:

As part of our Direct-to-Profile Certifications pilot program with premier online education companies, including Coursera, EdX,, Pearson, Skillsoft, Udacity and Udemy, LinkedIn is making it easy for members to update their profiles.
How does it work? After the completion of a course with a participating provider, you will receive an email with a link that will present you with an automatically populated certification field, complete with the details of the course you just completed. When you click “Save,” it will seamlessly add the certification or completed course work to your LinkedIn Profile.

I am not a fan of their data mining. Alternative and far lower cost credential methods are inevitable and will change the present high cost systems.