CUNA Mutual & Madison School District Financial Partnership grows again

Molly Beck

CUNA Mutual Group has promised more than $1 million to a new program aimed at training and keeping new teachers developed by the Madison School District and the UW-Madison School of Education.

Officials announced the company’s $1.2 million commitment Thursday at Wright Middle School. It is the largest grant the organization has awarded, said CUNA Mutual Foundation executive director Steve Goldberg.

“This is also the largest opportunity we’ll ever have to make a difference in the future trajectory of our community and especially the young people who live here,” Goldberg said.

The money will fund the mentoring of 150 new teachers starting this fall and for the next three years. District spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said the district will “be working to develop a sustainable model for years” after that.

The project, dubbed “Forward Madison,” would provide mentors and coaches for new teachers, improve professional development for teachers, and create a program for district students to become teachers to diversify teaching ranks. The CUNA Mutual grant only pays for the mentoring.

CUNA funds have been involved in a number of Madison School District programs over the years. How have they performed?

My sense is that Madison has added many “programs” over the years, yet the District’s long term disastrous reading problem, remains.

Madison Schools’ Administration has “introduced more then 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”.

I asked a former Madison Superintendent if the program, coaching and “professional development” program growth reflected an inability to address the core issues? The then Superintendent responded that “there is some truth to that”.

Perhaps the monolithic structure has run its course.

The Miseducation of America: The movie ‘Ivory Tower’ and the rhetoric of crisis and collapse

William Deresiewicz

While I was watching Ivory Tower, a documentary about the state of college in America that appears in select theaters this month (the movie also airs on CNN this fall), it occurred to me that of the many problems with higher education these days, not the least concerns the way we talk about it. “Efficiency,” “art-history majors,” “kids who graduate with $100,000 in debt,” “the college bubble,” the whole rhetoric of crisis and collapse: The public discourse is dominated by sound bites, one-liners, hearsay, horror stories, and a very great deal of misinformation.

Higher ed is not unique in this respect, of course, but it is particularly bad. College, as the movie points out, was always treated as a black box: 18-year-olds were inserted at one end, 22-year-olds came out the other, and as long as the system appeared to be working, no one bothered to inquire what happened in between. Americans, as a result, have very little understanding of what college is about—how it works, what it’s for, what larger social benefits it offers—and those employed in higher education have had very little practice in explaining it to them. The debate has been left to the politicians, the pundits, and increasingly, the hustlers and ideologues. Few who talk about college in public understand it, and few who understand it talk about it.

Ivory Tower, for the most part, is an honorable exception. The movie, directed by Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times), covers a lot of territory, and it covers it patiently, clearly, and thoughtfully. The headline issues of ballooning tuition and student debt are placed in their historical context: institutional competition, expansion, and borrowing; administrative bloat; the rise of the “party track” and its concomitant amenities as public universities have turned to full payers from out of state to deal with budgetary shortfalls; and the long-term withdrawal of public funding—the shift from taxes to student loans—that has been the fundamental factor in creating the entire mess.

Americans think we have the world’s best colleges. We Don’t

Kevin Carey:

Americans have a split vision of education. Conventional wisdom has long held that our K-12 schools are mediocre or worse, while our colleges and universities are world class. While policy wonks hotly debate K-12 reform ideas like vouchers and the Common Core state standards, higher education is largely left to its own devices. Many families are worried about how to get into and pay for increasingly expensive colleges. But the stellar quality of those institutions is assumed.

Yet a recent multinational study of adult literacy and numeracy skills suggests that this view is wrong. America’s schools and colleges are actually far more alike than people believe — and not in a good way. The nation’s deep education problems, the data suggest, don’t magically disappear once students disappear behind ivy-covered walls.

The standard negative view of American K-12 schools has been highly influenced by international comparisons. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, for example, periodically administers an exam called PISA to 15-year-olds in 69 countries. While results vary somewhat depending on the subject and grade level, America never looks very good. The same is true of other international tests. In PISA’s math test, the United States battles it out for last place among developed countries, along with Hungary and Lithuania.

Firing Bad Teachers: A Superintendent and a Teacher’s Union Official Debate

Conor Freidersdorf:

Dr. John E. Deasy, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, supports the California lawsuit against the state’s tenure, layoff and termination rules. He believes that the current system has a disparate impact on the quality of education offered to poor students and minorities, and is therefore unconstitutional.

Randi Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers (a separate entity from the California Teacher’s Association, which represents Golden State teachers). Her organization opposed the lawsuit. “While teachers led their classrooms, a judge in a Los Angeles courtroom said that for students to win, teachers have to lose,” the AFT stated after the plaintiffs won the case, which is being appealed. “Vergara v. California was a blow to public education everywhere, but especially demoralizing to hundreds of thousands of teachers who dedicate their lives to lifting up California’s students…Our opponents have spent months—and millions—vilifying California teachers to push a political agenda. We’re fighting back—in the media, on the ground, in the legislature and in the courts.”

These two shared a stage in Aspen this weekend, where they debated the lawsuit, teacher tenure, accountability, and related issues. The video of the entire panel is here:

Why Teenagers Act Crazy

Richard Friedman:

ADOLESCENCE is practically synonymous in our culture with risk taking, emotional drama and all forms of outlandish behavior. Until very recently, the widely accepted explanation for adolescent angst has been psychological. Developmentally, teenagers face a number of social and emotional challenges, like starting to separate from their parents, getting accepted into a peer group and figuring out who they really are. It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to realize that these are anxiety-provoking transitions.

But there is a darker side to adolescence that, until now, was poorly understood: a surge during teenage years in anxiety and fearfulness. Largely because of a quirk of brain development, adolescents, on average, experience more anxiety and fear and have a harder time learning how not to be afraid than either children or adults.

Facebook has conducted a secret massive psychology experiment on its users to find out how they respond to positive and negative messages – without telling participants

Harriet Alexander:

Over 600,000 Facebook users have taken part in a psychological experiment organised by the social media company, without their knowledge.

Facebook altered the tone of the users’ news feed to highlight either positive or negative posts from their friends, which were seen on their news feed.

They then monitored the users’ response, to see whether their friends’ attitude had an impact on their own.

“The results show emotional contagion,” wrote a team of Facebook scientists, in a paper published by the PNAS journal – Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists of the United States.

Anatomy of a Swim Meet

Juliana Miner:

I have three kids, and they all swim on a swim team every summer. I decided to capture my experience at a morning swim meet, for those of you not in the water cult.

6:00 a.m.: Wake up, drink coffee. Wake up grouchy children.

6:45 a.m.: Arrive at pool. Parking lot is already full. Let the kids out and park far away. Carry/drag chairs, bags and a cooler as if I were large pack animal. It occurs to me suddenly that as mother of three there is no denying that I am a large pack animal.

6:58 a.m.: Small miracle occurs. I find a great place to set up chairs, etc. Next to friends. With a good view of the pool. In full shade. Wish I’d brought a sweatshirt actually, it’s kind of chilly.

7:00 a.m.: Kids jump into the freezing cold pool for warm-ups and exchange looks with each other like — WHY DO WE DO THIS AGAIN?

7:30 a.m.: Children begin harassing me for money for the snack bar. I try to hand them something healthy from the cooler. Suddenly every other kid at the swim meet is eating large, chocolate-frosted doughnuts.

Over 100,000 African-American Parents Are Now Homeschooling Their Children

Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu:

We hear so much about the plight of Black children and their low test scores. We have not heard that African American children who are homeschooled are scoring at the 82% in reading and 77% in math. This is 30-40% above their counterparts being taught in school. There is a 30% racial gap in schools, but there is no racial gap in reading if taught in the home and only a 5% gap in math.

What explains the success of African American students being taught by their parents? I believe that it’s love and high expectations. I am reminded of Booker T. Washington High School. They were honored several years ago for producing the greatest turnaround as a Recovery school. The principal had the opportunity to pick and choose her staff and emphatically stated, “If you want to teach in this school you must love the students”. Researchers love promoting that the racial gap is based on income, marital status, and the educational background of the parents. Seldom, if ever, do they research the impact of love and high expectations.

Since the landmark decision, Brown vs. Topeka in 1954, there has been a 66% decline in African American teachers. Many African American students are in classrooms where they are not loved, liked, or respected. Their culture is not honored and bonding is not considered. They are given low expectations – which helps to explain how students can be promoted from one grade to another without mastery of the content.

There are so many benefits to homeschooling beyond academics. Most schools spend more than 33% of the day disciplining students. And bullying has become a significant issue. One of every 6 Black males is suspended and large numbers are given Ritalin and placed in Special Education. These problems seldom, if ever, exist in the Homeschool environment.

Another major benefit is the summer months. Research shows that there is a 3 year gap between White and Black students. Some students do not read or are involved in any academic endeavor during the summer. Those students lose 36 months or 3 years if you multiply 3 months times 12 years (grades first -12) Homeschool parents do not allow academics to be forsaken for 3 months.

Finally, in the homeschool environment, parents are allowed to teach their children

Related: Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Why I’m No Longer a Professor

John Beck:

I have been a professor for 25 years—most of my professional life. Even when I had full-time corporate jobs, I always took salary cuts to be able to maintain my professor role…because teaching has given me about as much joy as anything in my life. Watching students learn, improve, and gain confidence is an amazing thing! But, last spring, for the first time in three decades—since I first imagined emulating my favorite high school teachers—I realized I have no compulsion to ever be in front of a classroom ever again.

The morning after I realized the joy had gone out of my work, I saw a news article about suicides among 50-something men in the US going up by 50%. And I understood.

I now comprehend how others who have lost their passion for their jobs might lose their passion for life at the same time. If I had always defined myself and my worth by my teaching profession, the realization that teaching is no longer offering me any joy came as an awful discovery.

Fortunately, I am not on the verge of sharpening straight razors and filling bathtubs. My whole life, I’ve been a bit of a…a…and I’m going to make up a word here: a polyopus. In other words, I’ve always had multiple jobs at any given time. Though I’m giving up on teaching, I’m not giving up on life. I still love writing and advisory work—I’m sure I’ll continue those.

Still, leaving the classroom is heartbreaking; teaching has always been a big part of my life. As an adjunct, visiting, or full professor, I’ve taught in more than a dozen business schools around the world—all these job comings and goings because of one event twenty-five years ago.

So where did the joy go?

I think it went where the joy of work goes for many people of my age. It wasn’t just one thing; it was an accumulation. Perhaps the work itself—if it could be done in a vacuum—would continue to be attractive and even fun. But organizations, bosses, and coworkers impinge in ways that subtract more and more from the joyful (or good) parts until there is none left. I think there’s also less resilience toward all those interferences as I age. In the process, joy eventually became a casualty.

It’s important to note two things: 1) I am one of the lucky teachers working in higher education where I could exercise a lot of autonomy compared to teachers in primary and secondary schools; and 2) that none of the interventions in the stories above had much to do with my real job of preparing young people to be leaders of tomorrow’s organizations. But today’s organizations get in the way—impeding, what I believe is, my pretty damn hallowed calling of being a teacher. My obligation is to impart to students all the most important things that I’ve ever learned in my life—then challenge them to be better and smarter than I ever hoped to be.

Wealth by degrees The returns to investing in a university education vary enormously

The Economist:

IS A university degree a good investment? Many potential students are asking the question, especially in countries where the price of a degree is rising, as a result of falling government subsidies. Recent research suggests that the conventional wisdom remains true: a university degree pays handsomely. In America and the euro zone, for example, unemployment rates for graduates are far below average. Yet the benefit of university varies greatly among students, making an investment in higher education a risky bet in some circumstances.

The value of a degree, like so much else in economics, boils down to supply and demand. The gap between average pay for university graduates and those with secondary-school degrees is commonly called the “college wage premium”. When firms are hungry for skilled workers their demand for university graduates grows, and the premium tends to rise. When the supply of graduates grows faster than that of less-educated workers, in contrast, the premium will stabilise or fall.

The Rise Of The A**hole Sports Dad (And How To Avoid Turning Into One)

Drew Magary:

Children, in general, suck at sports. And as a parent, watching them suck evokes all kinds of emotions—fierce protectiveness, embarrassment, self-loathing (Oh God, I gave them those genes)—which many of us have difficulty handling. My kid played second-grade basketball this winter, and when she failed to make a shot the entire season, it took everything in my power not to storm the court, clear out an area around the basket with police tape, and let her shoot until she got the fucking thing in.

Being a sports parent is a remarkable test of self-restraint. We’re so used to being sports fans and watching pro and college sports played at a high level that it’s jarring to witness children flail as they learn the idea of sports: competing, knowing the rules, positioning yourself to make a play, etc. This is assuming your child even wants to learn. Half the time, my kid stood at midcourt chatting with friends, only to have the ref come up and say, “Hey, guys, you have to actually play now.” And this is before you factor in all the other parents and coaches acting like dicks and raising your blood pressure even more.

That’s when the yelling begins. That’s when you go from silently clapping to breaking the ice with a “Get back on D, son!” to going Full Pitino. That crazy dad next to you, drenching everyone in frothed spittle? He was you once. And if you aren’t careful, you could become him. Here’s how to keep that from happening.

1. Only the coach gets to coach. He (or she) is the one who volunteered his time for the gig. He’s the one who planned the practices and coordinated the schedule and reserved court time at the nearby Sportsthunderplex. He’s the one who drags that big-ass mesh bag filled with balls from his car every weekend. If you’re not willing to make that sacrifice, you don’t get to show up on game day and act like you’re Nick Saban.

2. Don’t get too jealous of that one good kid on the field. Every kiddie game features at least one child who is a genetically superior mutant sent from the future. She can make shots. She plays tight defense. She runs fast. She never gets distracted by shiny whistles. This mini Bron-Bron will NEVER be your kid. Your kid will look like an invalid by comparison, and that is (deep breath) okay. At this level, every sports league is an experiment. Some kids get the hang of it right away. Some kids are late bloomers. And some kids want practice to end so they can go watch Frozen for the sixtieth time. So don’t get discouraged when a ringer comes along. Chances are that kid will burn out and become an alkie by 17, and you’ll have the last laugh!

How a Russian mathematician constructed a decision tree – by hand – to solve a medical problem


Here’s an excerpt from Love and Math, a book by Edward Frenkel. The author writes about mathematics and his career. One of the stories is about how during his studies in the 80s he built a decision tree to help with kidney transplants. There was no machine to learn from data so humans had to do the work.

The third, and last, medical project I worked on was the most interesting one for me. A young doctor, Sergei Arutyunyan – who also needed help to analyze his data for a thesis – and I had a great rapport. He was working with patients whose immune systems were rejecting transplanted kidneys. In such situation the doctor has to make a quick decision whether to fight for the kidney or remove it, with far-reaching consequences: if they kept the kidney, the patient could die, but if they removed it, the patient would need another one, which would be very difficult to find.

Madison “Strategic Framework Process” Update; a few tweets

Meeting agenda, here.

Related: Superintendnet Cheatham’s Rotary Club Talk – 2013

There are no free lunches: not even ‘free’ school lunches

Chris Rickert:

Madisonians usually aren’t too keen on doling out public subsidies to people who don’t need them.

There’s that old saw about “tax breaks for millionaires,” of course, but also past outrage over a proposed taxpayer loan for Edgewater hotel renovators and brewing discontent over a potential taxpayer loan for the Judge Doyle Square developer.

Providing government-funded breakfast and lunch to every student in seven Madison public schools, though, probably won’t inspire similar objections about welfare for the schools’ middle- and upper-class children.

Free meals for some 2,800 children at Allis, Falk, Lake View, Leopold, Mendota, Sherman and Wright schools could start next year through a 4-year-old federal program to provide meals to all students at schools in high-poverty areas. On average, about 77 percent of students at the seven Madison schools were “economically disadvantaged” last school year, according to data from the state Department of Public Instruction. That means about 2,100 students were already eligible for subsidized meals though the federal government’s long-standing — and necessary — free-and-reduced-price lunch program.

But if the schools are accepted into the program, parents of the rest will no longer have to buy the Cheerios, juice boxes, and peanut-butter-and-jelly fixings they’ve proved capable of buying until now.

Assuming a 10 percent increase in meals, up to $1.5 million in federal dollars would cover the cost-shifting, according to district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson. That would make the program cost-neutral for the district — if not for taxpayers at large.

Creative destruction: A cost crisis, changing labour markets and new technology will turn an old institution on its head

The Economist:

HIGHER education is one of the great successes of the welfare state. What was once the privilege of a few has become a middle-class entitlement, thanks mainly to government support. Some 3.5m Americans and 5m Europeans will graduate this summer. In the emerging world universities are booming: China has added nearly 30m places in 20 years. Yet the business has changed little since Aristotle taught at the Athenian Lyceum: young students still gather at an appointed time and place to listen to the wisdom of scholars.

Now a revolution has begun (see article), thanks to three forces: rising costs, changing demand and disruptive technology. The result will be the reinvention of the university.

Off campus, online

Higher education suffers from Baumol’s disease—the tendency of costs to soar in labour-intensive sectors with stagnant productivity. Whereas the prices of cars, computers and much else have fallen dramatically, universities, protected by public-sector funding and the premium employers place on degrees, have been able to charge ever more for the same service. For two decades the cost of going to college in America has risen by 1.6 percentage points more than inflation every year.

Madison Schools Propose a $24,000,000 Maintenance Referendum & Property Tax Increase; above $402M budget; 4%+ tax increase looms

The Madison School District (1.4MB PDF).

“All elementary boundaries are due for a long term review”. Agreed. A look at the maps below along with the wide demographic variation across Madison public public schools indicates that addressing boundaries is job #2 – after dealing with the long term disastrous reading results.

Going to referendum prior to addressing boundary and demographic issues appears to be a “cart before horse” strategy.

It will be interesting to see how gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke addresses this question.

Presentation slides (tap to view a larger version):

Related: Open questions from the 2005 maintenance referendum lead to calls for an audit.

UCLA math star Terence Tao wins $3-million prize

Larry Gordon:

UCLA mathematics professor Terence Tao already has a bevy of prestigious awards for his work in such fields as number theory and harmonic analysis. Now he is adding one more lucrative prize.

Tao, 38, has been named one of five winners of the new Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, an award that provides $3 million to each of its recipients from a fund established by high-tech titans in Silicon Valley and Russia.

The $124,421 Man How to pay off a mountain of student debt in six (long) years

Chadwick Matlin:

The debt began the same way all debts do: in the hollow space between what one wants and what one has.

I picked Tufts University because it seemed impressive enough. Friends like me—Jewish, precocious, pimpled—were already enrolled, and they liked it just fine. Plus, the grounds were well kept during my visit. What else does a 17-year-old, especially one who’s prone to making inarticulate decisions, need? For whatever reason, Tufts felt like somewhere I should stay for a while.

In December 2002, the winter before graduation, Tufts agreed, tossing in a freshman-year grant of $12,000 based on my financial need. I happened to be on a bus heading for Boston when I got the good news. I sank down in my seat, relieved that it could be that easy.

Months later, in the basement of my house in a middle-class town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, I found a letter addressed to me that I hadn’t seen before. Someone had already opened it, and there was a notice inside.

Michigan spends $1B on charter schools but fails to hold them accountable

Jennifer Dixon:

Michigan taxpayers pour nearly $1 billion a year into charter schools — but state laws regulating charters are among the nation’s weakest, and the state demands little accountability in how taxpayer dollars are spent and how well children are educated.

A yearlong investigation by the Detroit Free Press reveals that Michigan’s lax oversight has enabled a range of abuses in a system now responsible for more than 140,000 Michigan children. That figure is growing as more parents try charter schools as an alternative to traditional districts.

In reviewing two decades of charter school records, the Free Press found:

Are all publicly funded schools held to the same oversight standards?

Commentary on Wisconsin’s Recent K-12 Spending; No mention of Substantial Growth During Recent Decades

Pat Schneider:

Wisconsin has had the second deepest slash in per-student spending in the nation since 2008 — second only to Alabama — according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Spending per pupil in Wisconsin was down $1,038 from 2008 for the school year just ended. Alabama cut per-pupil spending by $1,242.

Alabama and Wisconsin led the list of at least 35 states providing less funding per student than they did before the recession hit.

Wisconsin spending per pupil is 15.3 percent lower than in 2008, making it among 14 states where per-pupil spending remains at least 10 percent lower than before the economic recession.

The state cuts to education leave local school districts forced to cut services, raise taxes or both, notes the study. The cuts also hamper economic recovery by reducing the number of teaching jobs and school district workers’ buying power, the authors say.

A deeper dive: Wisconsin K-12 Spending Dominates Redistributed Tax Dollars.

More, here.

Lastly, the article lacks any discussion of K-12 spending effectiveness. Compare state NAEP performance, here.

California voters reject tenure, layoff rules for public school teachers

Marill Bassallone:

The PACE/USC Rossier School of Education Poll showed that two-thirds of voters (68 percent) agree that the state should do away with “Last In, First Out,” a policy that requires the newest K-12 teachers be laid off first, regardless of merit. Just 17 percent said California should continue to conduct teacher layoffs in order of seniority, according to the poll. PACE stands for Policy Analysis for California Education.

California voters also largely opposed the state’s tenure laws for public school teachers, according to the poll. Six in 10 California voters said teachers should not continue to receive tenure, as it makes firing bad teachers difficult. Twenty-five percent of voters said the state should keep tenure for public school teachers to provide them job protections and the freedom to teach potentially controversial topics without fear of reprisals.

One-time Jindal ally blasts Common Core move

Stephanie Simon:

A longtime ally of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is accusing the governor of violating the civil rights of poor children with his abrupt decision last week to renounce the Common Core academic standards.

State Superintendent John White has previously said the governor had no authority to scrap the Common Core or to pull out of a federally funded consortium that has been developing new reading, writing and math tests aligned to the academic standards.

On Wednesday, he ramped up his rhetoric considerably, telling POLITICO in an interview that Jindal is breaking the law, trampling the state constitution — and crushing the dreams of low-income minority students.

What The $1+ Trillion Student Debt Bubble Is Being Spent On

Tyler Durden:

By now everyone knows there is an unprecedented student debt bubble, amounting to well over $1 trillion and rising at a rate of nearly $200 billion per year. However, what is far less known, is what all these hundreds of billions in government loan proceeds are being spent on. The following two charts should shed some light on this all important matter just how Government money goes from Point A to Point B, using indebted to the hilt students as a pass-thru.

First, the change in the number of higher education employees since the mid-1970s, broken down by job category. One can almost see why preserving the status quo of the Keynesian religion is the lifetime goal of most professors.

And then, the change in average salaries across the higher education spectrum. It would appear the only thing Krugman would want more than being a tenured op-ed writer, pardon professor, is CEO of a private college.

Maths and science ‘should be studied up to age 18’: UK Royal Society Report by committee of education experts recommends baccalaureate-style qualification, and better-equipped laboratories

Richard Adams:

All pupils should study maths and science until the age of 18 as part of a broad-based, baccalaureate-style qualification, the Royal Society has recommended in a report on the future of education.

The report, written by a committee of scientists, education experts, teachers and former education secretary Charles Clarke, calls for increased investment in practical and problem-solving work in science and mathematics education from reception until sixth form, including access to adequately equipped laboratories and well-trained teachers.

Obama alums join anti teachers union case

Stephanie Simon:

Teachers unions are girding for a tough fight to defend tenure laws against a coming blitz of lawsuits — and an all-out public relations campaign led by former aides to President Barack Obama.

The Incite Agency, founded by former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and former Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, will lead a national public relations drive to support a series of lawsuits aimed at challenging tenure, seniority and other job protections that teachers unions have defended ferociously. LaBolt and another former Obama aide, Jon Jones — the first digital strategist of the 2008 campaign — will take the lead in the public relations initiative.

The involvement of such high-profile Obama alumni highlights the sharp schism within the Democratic Party over education reform.

Teachers unions have long counted on Democrats as their most loyal allies. But in the past decade, more and more big-name Democrats have split with the unions to support charter schools, tenure reform and accountability measures that hold teachers responsible for raising students’ scores on standardized tests.

The national legal campaign is being organized by Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who told POLITICO that she has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent months to get the effort off the ground. She intends to start with a lawsuit in New York, to be filed within the next few weeks, and follow up with similar cases around the country. Her plans for the New York lawsuit were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

eBooks vs Paper

Joseph Bagnini:

Choosing books to take on holiday has got more difficult in recent years. Now it is a question not just of what to read but how – on paper, tablet, e-reader, or perhaps even a phone – and people have strong opinions on which is best. But is there any more to the decision than cost and convenience? On this question, the answer suggested by numerous studies into the neuroscience and psychology of reading in different formats is an emphatic yes.

There is no shortage of people warning of the risks attendant on the rise of “screen culture”, as the neuroscientist Susan Greenfield calls it. Greenfield has repeatedly expressed concern that, as technology takes us into unknown territory, “the brain may be adapting in unprecedented ways”. Though she tends to stress that these changes might be good or bad, that hasn’t stopped her more negative speculations being picked up in the media and amplified in far more strident terms.

On the other side of the two cultures divide, the novelist and critic Will Self recently argued that the connectivity of the digital world was fatal for the serious novel, which requires all the reader’s attention. Looking ahead 20 years, he posed a question: “If you accept that by then the vast majority of text will be read in digital form on devices linked to the web, do you also believe that those readers will voluntarily choose to disable that connectivity? If your answer to this is no, then the death of the novel is sealed out of your own mouth.”

E-reading is certainly on the rise. The Pew Research Center reports that, as recently as 2010, hardly anyone in the US had an e-reader or tablet. Now half do. The proportion of the population who have read an ebook in the past year rose from 17 per cent in 2011 to 28 per cent just three years later. In the UK, figures from Nielsen, which monitors book sales, showed that one in four consumer titles bought in 2013 was an ebook, up from one in five a year earlier.

Surprising Findings on Two-Year vs. Four-Year Degrees Return on Investment Holds Steady at About 15% for Recent Graduates

Mark Peter & Douglas Belkin:

A college degree is worth it even as the cost of going to school rapidly escalates and real wages decline for graduates, WSJ’s Mark Peters reports on Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero. Photo: Getty

Who earns more, a recent graduate from a flagship state university with a bachelor’s degree or one who finishes a two-year program at a little-known community college?

The answer isn’t so clear.

As states for the first time mine graduates’ salary data from public colleges, they are finding that paychecks for holders of associate degrees in a technical field are outstripping many grads with four-year degrees, at least early in a career.

The growing body of data, from states including Texas, Colorado and Indiana, provides a sober new look at the value of a postsecondary education in a slowly recovering economy.

Overall, the findings reinforce the belief that a college degree is worth the investment. But they highlight the reconsideration of a long-held article of faith that a four-year college degree guarantees at least a middle-class life, while an associate degree is its poor country cousin.

In Indiana, figures show that after a year in the workforce there, a graduate of Ivy Tech Community College makes more on average than a graduate of Indiana University.

All Policy is Local: Education in the Governor’s races

Stephanie Simon:

GOOD MORNING! Welcome to the first installment of our monthly edu-lection newsletter, a new feature of our POLITICO series “All Policy is Local: Education.” Over the next five months, we’ll keep you in the know on all the ways education plays out in key races at the local, state and federal levels. We’ve got a full slate of stories planned, too, so check in often at the series home page for updates: You might also want to bookmark the POLITICO Polling Center, which tracks the latest in races across the country:

This month, we’re going to take a close look at the governor’s races. We’ve already seen nasty nicknames flying, attack ads airing, money pouring in…and cute kids being used as backdrops in TV spots. In other words: Buckle up.

OUR FIRST STOP: PENNSYLVANIA, where polls show Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is in trouble – and unions smell blood. The American Federation of Teachers and its local affiliates have been relentless in attacking Corbett all spring and a senior AFT official told us this race is their No. 1 target for the fall.

– Education polls as a top issue for Pennsylvania voters and unions see it as a huge vulnerability for Corbett. They accuse him of slashing $1 billion in education spending to pay for a tax cut and point to districts across the state that have laid off teachers, increased class sizes, eliminated full-day kindergarten and more. Democratic challenger Tom Wolf has put forth a detailed education agenda [ and also ] that draws sharp contrasts with Corbett. In the K-12 arena, he wants to crack down on the state’s low-performing online charter schools. In higher ed, he’d like to offer in-state tuition and extensive support for veterans at state colleges and universities. Wolf also wants to build partnerships with the private sector to provide more financial aid and counseling for low-income and first-generation college students.

– Corbett rejects the slam that he’s cut funding. On the contrary, he notes that Pennsylvania is spending more than ever on basic education. (His opponents say that’s because the total sum includes mandatory state contributions to the underfunded teacher pension plan – money that technically supports education but doesn’t go into the classroom.) Corbett’s campaign has sought to win over parents by reminding them – in this video [ ] and others – that the silver-haired governor used to work as a public school teacher (for one year, before he went to law school). Corbett has also proposed a big jump in education funding in the coming budget, including $25 million for college scholarships for the middle class.

Things you love are Made with Code

Google Code:

Miral is a hip hop dancer and choreographer who lights up stages across the country. Danielle is a cinematographer at Pixar, helping to bring beloved characters like Nemo and Merida to life. Erica is a humanitarian fighting malaria around the world.

These are all women with cool, amazing jobs. But, more important, they’re all women who use computer science, and an ability to code, to do those cool, amazing jobs. They couldn’t do what they do without having learned not just to use technology, but to build it themselves. Unfortunately, there are far too few women like them and far too few young girls following their paths. In fact, fewer than one percent of high school girls express interest in majoring in computer science.

This is an issue that hits home for me. My school-age daughter instinctively knows how to play games, watch videos and chat with friends online. She understands technology. And she likes using technology. But, she never expressed any interest in creating it herself.

Silicon Valley and the Edtech Revolution

Geoff Ralston:

Silicon Valley holds a certain mystique among entrepreneurs and investors. More cool technology was born here, more wealth created, and more technology revolutions begun, than anywhere else on the planet. The Valley’s formula for success has been the subject of debate and business school cases for decades. It certainly helps to have excellent local universities churning out scores of engineers and entrepreneurs. It also helps that founding a company, whether it be a success or failure, is viewed as acceptable and even desirable by the community. When the folks you bump into at the local watering hole, the supermarket, and cocktail parties are all starting companies and changing the world, it feels like anyone can.

But one tech revolution that escaped the influence of Silicon Valley the first time around was education technology. Although the past is littered with efforts to make technology matter in K-12 education, few of those companies came from the Valley, and even fewer were successful. The Valley’s bold investors have generally stayed far from the space.

In the past several years, however, there has been a major realignment in the edtech world. Silicon Valley is once again leading the charge in a technology revolution, and this one might just have the greatest impact of all. Ironically, the revolution was kicked off by a hedge fund analyst in Boston, who got funding from Silicon Valley and then Bill Gates to create–not the next edtech Google–but rather, a non-profit: the Khan Academy. Nearly singlehandedly, Sal Khan made competent teaching available to any child in the world at any time. He based his new organization in Mountain View, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley and in the five years since there has been an explosion of edtech ideas, companies, and investment emanating from the Valley.

The idea that great education was never for the few and should always be available to all led to the creation of MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, led by Silicon Valley companies like Coursera and Udacity. New school models like Rocketship Education and Summit Public Schools bet on “blended learning” curricula that merge traditional teaching with individualized, adaptive learning technologies. More recently a tech founder from Google and Aardvark, Max Ventilla, founded a new kind of school called AltSchool to rethink how children are taught. Companies like Edmodo, ClassDojo, and Remind (formerly Remind101) are rethinking how communities of parents, teachers, and students can connect and collaborate on learning and related skills. And new classes, notably in programming and computer science, began spreading from Silicon Valley and out to the world via companies like CodeHS.

Beauty in Ugly Dorms

Daniel Chambliss:

Apartment-style dorm rooms are the Hot New Thing at some colleges nowadays. Single rooms instead of doubles or even quads, exterior doors instead of crowded hallways, private bathrooms instead of gang showers and those icky shared toilets, even mini-kitchens instead of the noisy dining hall – all have an undeniable appeal for incoming freshmen looking to maximize the more adult features of undergraduate life.

Many contemporary students grew up with their own bedrooms, and perhaps even their own bathrooms, and may recoil from sharing their personal spaces with that mysterious stranger, the roommate or hallmate. So colleges and universities, particularly sensitive to the preferences of full-pay students, are starting to move away from traditional long-hallway dorms to more individualized rooms, some with generous amenities. Prospective students seem to love the idea.

Teachers’ Job Security More Important than Kids’ Futures?

Nat Hentoff:

Having organized a labor union at a Boston candy store when I was 15, during the Depression — where students worked nights and weekends for 35 cents an hour — I am not anti-labor union. Threatening a strike as Christmas business neared, we won our 50 cents an hour.

But in recent years, as a reporter on education, I have found teachers’ unions bullishly and contractually protective of their members’ jobs, most commonly at the expense of low-income and minority students.

For one example, “The dismissal process for grossly ineffective teachers in California is so complex and costly that it does not work; many districts do not even bother trying” (“A historic victory for America’s kids,” Campbell Brown, New York Daily News, June 11).

The “historic victory” was in Vergara v. California, a case brought by nine student plaintiffs, decided on June 10 (“Historic Victory for Students in Vergara v. California: Court Strikes Down Five Provisions of the California Education Code as Unconstitutional,”

This decision, from Judge Rolf M. Treu of the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, is not final. He had to order a stay pending an appeal — inevitable in this case.

Nonetheless, as news of this potentially huge setback for other states’ teachers’ unions spreads, many parents of public school students are organizing to bring this life-changing equal-protection reform to their children.

Do the Benefits of College Still Outweigh the Costs?

Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz:

In recent years, students have been paying more to attend college and earning less upon graduation—trends that have led many observers to question whether a college education remains a good investment. However, an analysis of the economic returns to college since the 1970s demonstrates that the benefits of both a bachelor’s degree and an associate’s degree still tend to outweigh the costs, with both degrees earning a return of about 15 percent over the past decade. The return has remained high in spite of rising tuition and falling earnings because the wages of those without a college degree have also been falling, keeping the college wage premium near an all-time high while reducing the opportunity cost of going to school.

The Art of Data: Literary Cities

Nick Danforth & Evan Tachovsky

This map uses data provided by Google’s Ngram service to map the frequency with which the names of American cities appeared in print over the last two centuries. How surprising you find the results will depend on your preconceptions.

Las Vegas, it appears, carries less cultural weight than nearby Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Boston, having ceded its dominant role in American literary life nearly a century ago, continues to hold its own: with barely 300,000 people, it still looms larger in the language than LA. But more than anything, this map shows the enduring dominance of New York City, towering over the cultural landscape in a way that the map, with its pseudo-logarithmic scale can’t even do justice to. Were these letters written according to a more ordinary geometric scale (making Tucson visible to the naked eye) New York would blot out the entire Eastern Seaboard. And though it also proved impossible to show, for most of the 19th century Brooklyn appeared as often as Manhattan. That may in part have been on account of people simply referring to Manhattan as New York.

The map also reveals the unsurprising geography of America’s cultural development. New England had pride of place in the late 19th century, not only cities associated with the era’s high culture like Boston and Hartford (where Mark Twain moved in his later life) but also, say, Pittsburgh. Portland, Oregon’s prominence in this period is most likely the result of its post gold rush high, combined, one suspects, with the fact that its east coast eponym was also enjoying a period of maritime relevance at the time.

The Reality of Student Debt Is Different From the Clichés

David Leonhardt:

The deeply indebted college graduate has become a stock character in the national conversation: the art history major with $50,000 in debt, the underemployed barista with $75,000, the struggling poet with $100,000.

The anecdotes have created the impression that such high levels of student debt are typical. But they’re not. They are outliers, and they’re warping our understanding of bigger economic problems.

In fact, the share of income that young adults are devoting to loan repayment has remained fairly steady over the last two decades, according to data the Brookings Institutions is releasing on Tuesday. Only 7 percent of young-adult households with education debt have $50,000 or more of it. By contrast, 58 percent of such households have less than $10,000 in debt, and an additional 18 percent have between $10,000 and $20,000.

8 Education Technology Books Every Leader Should Read

Nick Grantham:

Everyone has their own reading style. My long held reading rule is to have two books on the go. One trashy thriller to tune out the world with, and one “mind nourishing” non-fiction to make sure I am not letting life float by (it’s also a bit less embarrassing to pull out on the train). Luckily for you, this post will focus on the mind-nourishing half of my literature diet.

Over the past few years I have read a fair collection of winners, a fair collection of losers and far too many mediocre education technology books. The aim here is to share the ones that have been so highly recommended they are considered must reads. Each of these has been a recommendation from someone within my PLN and so comes from very good authority and credibility. And of course, to continue learning from this PLN please do add your own suggestions and must-reads in the comments below.

Grammar & Writing for Creators

Richard of Stanley:

The elementary, intermediate, and advanced rules and errors that matter most;

How to identify and fix the weaknesses in your writing;

More than a dozen techniques and instructions on how to write skillfully;
Specific techniques (including dozens of new ones) to write impressive and eloquent prose;

New techniques (inspired by Voltaire, Socrates, Dr. King, Bertrand Russell, and others) to write compelling essays and blog posts—alternatives for the worn-out five-paragraph essay(Jason Friedman);

Techniques for how to move and direct men’s and women’s feelings, including a new powerful figure of speech like the metaphor;

Don’t worry if you are not fluent in English. The book comes with a Primer, a separate booklet for non-native English speakers.

Changing Fertility Regimes and the Transition to Adulthood: Evidence from a Recent Cohort.

Andrew J. Cherlin Elizabeth Talbert and Suzumi Yasutake:

Recent demographic trends have produced a distinctive fertility regime among young women and men in their teenage years and their twenties — a period sometimes called early adulthood. Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort, show that by the time the cohort had reached ages 26-31 in 2011, 81% of births reported by women and 87% of births reported by men had occurred to non-college graduates. In addition, 57% of births had occurred outside of marriage for both men and women. Moreover, 64% of women (and 63% of men) who reported a birth had at least one child outside of marriage, a figure that rose to 74% among women (and 70% among men) without 4-year college degrees. It is now unusual for non- college-graduates who have children in their teens and twenties to have all of them within marriage. The implications of these developments are discussed in light of the differing transitions to adulthood of non-college-graduates versus college-graduates and the growing social class inequalities in family patterns.

Trial Balloon on Raising Madison’s Property Taxes via another School Referendum? Homeowners compare communities…..

Molly Beck

There’s been little movement since mid-March when Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposed asking voters in November for $39.5 million in borrowing to upgrade facilities and address crowding.

The proposed referendum’s annual impact on property taxes on a $200,000 Madison home could range from $32 to $44, according to the district.

After discussing the idea, School Board members said that the always contentious idea of changes to school boundaries would at least have to be publicly vetted as a possible solution to crowding before moving forward with a referendum. There have not been any public discussions on the matter since.

Spending and accounting problems with the last maintenance referendum (2005) lead to a discussion of an audit.

I recently met a young “Epic” husband and wife who are moving from their Madison townhouse to the Middleton/Cross Plains area. I asked them what prompted the move? “Costs and taxes per square foot are quite a bit less” as they begin planning a family. See “Where have all the students gone“.

Their attention to detail is unsurprising, particularly with so many young people supporting enormous student loans.

Madison spends double the national average per student. I hope that District seeks more efficient use of it’s $402,464,374 2014-2015 budget before raising property taxes.

Dive deeper into the charts, here.

OneCity Early Learning Centers: A New Plan for South Madison Child Development Incorporated (DRAFT)

OneCity Early Learning Centers by Kaleem Caire and Vivek Ramakrishnan (PDF), via a kind reader

In the fall of the 2013-14 school year, public school children across Wisconsin completed the state’s Knowledge and Concepts Exam, an annual test that measures their knowledge, ability and skills in reading and mathematics in grades 3 through 8 and 10, and in language arts, science, social studies and writing in grades 4, 8 and 10. Just 13% of Black and 15% of Latino children who completed these assessments were reading at grade level (proficient or advanced) in elementary schools across Dane County. The numbers are even more striking than the percentages: just 207 of the 1,497 Black children and 266 of 1,688 Latino children enrolled in grades 3, 4 and 5 were reading at grade level. Despite better outcomes among White and Asian students, their rates of 51% and 48% reading at grade level are disturbing as well.

Tap for a larger version.

We need your help. We have a plan to facilitate greater educational and life success among children and their families in Dane County and hope you will join us in our efforts. That is why you are receiving this paper. We hope that when you are finished reading it, you will call or email us and say, “Yes, I’m signing up to assist you with establishing One City Early Learning Centers so that many more children in our community are ready to read, compute and succeed at grade level by the time they enter first grade, regardless of their race, ethnicity or socio- economic pedigree.”

In April 2014, after months of consideration, the Board of Directors of South Madison Child Development Incorporated (CDI), one of Dane County’s oldest and most heralded childcare providers, decided that it was time to reorganize, rebrand and re-launch its Center with a new mission, new leadership, a new educational program, and new plans for future expansion. Beginning in the fall of 2014, South Madison CDI will become One City Early Learning Centers Incorporated and will change the name of its centers located at 2012 Fisher Street on Madison’s South Side and the Dane County Job Center.

The five trillion dollar question

John Fallon:

And if the “doubling” part may seem a little ambitious, remember this. If every class in every school in every country that participates in PISA could get even close to the highest performing comparable ones, you would comfortably achieve that goal of doubling learning outcomes.

This is the challenge: how can we help to replicate educational excellence at scale? And, in doing so, what’s the balance to be struck, to use the language of the moment, between sustaining and disruptive innovation?

Take one of the world’s best known education institutions, Harvard Business School, as an example. It is grappling with its biggest strategic decision in 90 years: should it move online, and risk devaluing its on-campus education? Or stand apart and risk being left behind?

This absolute juxtaposition of “sustaining innovation” versus “disruption” is, I would argue, a false dichotomy that we can add to the long list that already bedevil the world of education: teachers versus technology, knowledge versus skills, outcomes versus process, to name a few.

At Pearson, when we ask ourselves how we can help to achieve that goal of doubling the amount of really high value learning, we think about four things.

Mapping the New Jersey High School Class of 2013

Colleen O’Dea:

It’s graduation season in New Jersey’s nearly 400 public and charter high schools and, if last year’s trend holds true this June, about 93,000 seniors will have received diplomas by the end of the month — according to the state Department of Education.

In 2013, New Jersey’s graduation rate was 87.5 percent. The state likely won’t release the exact numbers of graduates until the fall, but odds are that greater percentages of Asian and white students finished high school than Hispanic or blacks. And students from wealthier communities, regardless of race or ethnicity, were more likely to get a diploma than those from low-income households.

Earlier this year, America’s Promise Alliance, founded by former Gen. Colin Powell to improve the lives of young people, released a report showing that low-income students graduate at much lower rates than the typical student. It reported that in 2011-2012 in New Jersey, 75 percent of low-income students graduated, while 90 percent of students at mid- and upper-income levels finished high school.

“Far too many young people still do not earn a high school diploma, and the number of non-graduates remains alarmingly high among young people of color and those from low-income communities,” wrote Powell and his wife Alma in a letter opening the 2014 report Building a Grad Nation released by America’s Promise Alliance in conjunction with several other groups. “In other words, a young person’s chances for success still depend too much on his or her zip code and skin color and too little on his or her abilities and effort.”

Via Laura Waters.

A ‘Wimpy’ Plan to Save the Physical Book

Sona Charaipotra:

Jeff Kinney, the man behind the astonishingly powerful Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, is leading the revolution.

That’s been the theory behind the bestselling author’s just-announced plans to open up an indie bookstore in tiny Plainville, Massachusetts. It’s been framed as a call-to-arms against Amazon in the wake of its strong-arming tactics in negotiating with the big five publishing houses, starting with (fellow giant) Hachette.

Take back the power, fight the system, and all that, right?


If Kinney’s stoking a counterculture, it’s to harken back to the past. In his Plainville shop, he imagines a cozy, well-worn space with old tomes and tea, frequented by locals and writerly souls. “A physical book has a heft, a permanence that you don’t get digitally,” says Kinney in an interview. “So our hope is that the bookstore will remain a vital, important part of communities across the country and the world.”

He’s not the only author to venture into the territory; others include the renowned Ann Patchett, who owns Parnassus Books in Nashville.

But they are few, notably because most published authors know the bottom line: increasingly slim profit margins and shuttered doors mark publishing’s recent history, with the closing of Borders, several branches of Barnes & Nobles, and smaller brick-and-mortar stores nationwide

What elite universities can learn from high fashion

Adrienne Hill:

Harvard Business School is launching an online program today. And , no, you’re not going to be able to get your MBA for free.

The school is rolling out something it calls HBX Core. For $1,500, students take three basic business classes. The program is being billed as a pre-MBA.

And it’s the latest attempt by an elite university to open up classes to more people—without diluting its brand. It’s a trick the fashion industry has gotten very good at over the years.

You may not remember French designer Pierre Cardin. But in the ’60s and ’70s, his name was synonymous with very high fashion. Models in Vogue posed in his futuristic dresses. He dressed The Beatles.

These days, you can walk into Sears and find Pierre Cardin men’s shirts stacked on a table. Poly-cotton blends; marked down to $17.99.

You see, Cardin’s haute- couture was not his only claim to fame. He was also the first high-end designer to expand his brand to the masses. Over the years, he put his name on everything, from baseball caps to toilet-seat covers.

“He took a very powerful, designer, marquee brand and diluted it to the point it had no value and no meaning,” said Mark Cohen, a professor of retail marketing at Columbia Business School.

Teachers’ Unions: Moment of Truth

Marc Tucker:

War appears to be imminent. A California judge has ruled that tenure, seniority rights and other core provisions of the typical teachers’ contract are unconstitutional in the state, because they subvert students’ constitutional right to competent teachers. The teachers will, we presume, appeal. On the other side is a determined and very well funded coalition that sees an opportunity to critically weaken if not completely eviscerate the unions, not just in California, but nationally. In their eyes, the unions may be the single most important obstacle to real education reform.

The opponents have the inestimable advantage of being able to frame the issue. Traditionally, democrats and liberals have been dependably in the camp of the unions. But, in this case, as the judge pointed out, they have to choose between the unions and poor and minority children. Faced with that choice, they are bolting to the children, leaving the unions isolated.

This Is Your Brain on Writing

Carl Zimmer:

A novelist scrawling away in a notebook in seclusion may not seem to have much in common with an NBA player doing a reverse layup on a basketball court before a screaming crowd. But if you could peer inside their heads, you might see some striking similarities in how their brains were churning.

That’s one of the implications of new research on the neuroscience of creative writing. For the first time, neuroscientists have used fMRI scanners to track the brain activity of both experienced and novice writers as they sat down — or, in this case, lay down — to turn out a piece of fiction.

The researchers, led by Martin Lotze of the University of Greifswald in Germany, observed a broad network of regions in the brain working together as people produced their stories. But there were notable differences between the two groups of subjects. The inner workings of the professionally trained writers in the bunch, the scientists argue, showed some similarities to people who are skilled at other complex actions, like music or sports.

China: Students Use High Tech ‘James Bond’ Spy Devices to Cheat in College Exams

David Sim:

Nearly 10 million high school students sat China’s national college entrance exams last weekend. The ‘Gaokao‘ is a fiercely competitive, make-or-break test that determines the path of a student’s life. Some tried to improve their chances by using high-tech equipment straight out of a James Bond film.

Police have released photos of some of the devices they confiscated, such as a camera hidden in a pair of glasses and a tiny receiver that looks like a coin.

A hidden coil in a shirt, two batteries, a mobile phone and a receiver are displayed after being found on a student about to take an exam, in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China.Reuters

Teaching college is no longer a middle-class job, and everyone paying tuition should care.

Rachel Riederer:

When Mary Margaret Vojtko died last September—penniless and virtually homeless and eighty-three years old, having been referred to Adult Protective Services because the effects of living in poverty made it seem to some that she was incapable of caring for herself—it made the news because she was a professor. That a French professor of twenty-five years would be let go from her job without retirement benefits, without even severance, sounded like some tragic mistake. In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed that broke the story, Vojtko’s friend and attorney Daniel Kovalik describes an exchange he had with a caseworker from Adult Protective Services: “The caseworker paused and asked with incredulity, ‘She was a professor?’ I said yes. The caseworker was shocked; this was not the usual type of person for whom she was called in to help.” A professor belongs to the professional class, a professor earns a salary and owns a home, probably with a leafy yard, and has good health insurance and a retirement account. In the American imagination, a professor is perhaps disheveled, but as a product of brainy eccentricity, not of penury. In the American university, this is not the case.

Most university-level instructors are, like Vojtko, contingent employees, working on a contract basis year to year or semester to semester. Some of these contingent employees are full-time lecturers, and many are adjunct instructors: part-time employees, paid per class, often without health insurance or retirement benefits. This is a relatively new phenomenon: in 1969, 78 percent of professors held tenure-track positions. By 2009 this percentage had shrunk to 33.5. The rest of the professors holding jobs—whether part time or full time—do so without any job security. These are the conditions that left Vojtko in such a vulnerable position after twenty-five years at Duquesne University. Vojtko was earning between $3,000 and $3,500 per three-credit course. During years when she taught three courses per semester, and an additional two over the summer, she made less than $25,000, and received no health benefits through her employer. Though many universities limit the number of hours that adjunct professors can work each semester, keeping them nominally “part-time” employees, teaching three three-credit courses is certainly a full-time job. These circumstances are now the norm for university instructors, as the number of tenured and tenure-track positions shrinks and the ranks of contingent laborers swell.

Google Sells Parent Status to Advertisers

Larry Kim:

If you’ve ever read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, you probably didn’t notice a chapter about Google tracking your parental status in AdWords. Well, this is exactly what Google is doing, as Parental Status is now a demographic subset that advertisers can explicitly target.

This feature went live within the past 12 hours or so, and Google has yet to make an official announcement. However, we’ve already seen it in action, as you can see in the following figure:

Note that many schools, including Madison, use google email and other services.

Unblinking Eyes Track Employees

Steve Lohr:

A digital Big Brother is coming to work, for better or worse.

Advanced technological tools are beginning to make it possible to measure and monitor employees as never before, with the promise of fundamentally changing how we work — along with raising concerns about privacy and the specter of unchecked surveillance in the workplace.

Through these new means, companies have found, for example, that workers are more productive if they have more social interaction. So a bank’s call center introduced a shared 15-minute coffee break, and a pharmaceutical company replaced coffee makers used by a few marketing workers with a larger cafe area. The result? Increased sales and less turnover.

Somewhat related: TeacherMatch.

New, New Inner City Fatherhood

Dana Goldstein :

When 15-year old Andre Green found out that his ex-girlfriend, Sonya, was pregnant with his child, he was living with six members of his extended family in a small row house in Camden, New Jersey. His mother was a drug addict. His father, in Andre’s words, was a “dog” who had never even told Andre that he had several half-brothers kicking around the neighborhood. (The boy found out gradually, when he noticed similar-looking children in school and at the supermarket, and asked them who their father was.) Yet despite his poverty, lack of parental support, and the fact that his romantic relationship with Sonya had ended, Andre was excited—even thrilled—to become a father.

“I was like, “Yes! Thank you, Jesus!” he told sociologists Kathryn Edin and Timothy Nelson. Indeed, within several months of his daughter’s birth, Andre had dropped out of school to become Jalissa’s primary caregiver. He took great pride in keeping her well fed, nicely dressed, and even taking her to church. There, despite his youth and joblessness, Andre was celebrated as a devoted dad. “People say, ‘Oh Andre, you’re doing a beautiful job,’” he told the researchers. “They’re like, ‘Andre, I’m very proud of you.’”

How has technology changed the life of a historian

Michael Hogan:

It has transformed it in many ways. Digitisation of archives means we can search records and primary source material from the comfort of our own offices. Some old-school historians are furious about this, actually. A perk of the job used to be that you could travel abroad and work in an archive somewhere quite glamorous for weeks on end. Now we stay at home and do it online. For me, though, even more exciting is how it has allowed us to reach out to people. It’s made history collaborative and accessible. I can tweet about what I’m working on, and people will suggest ideas or come up with documents. It has opened a pipeline between geeky history people like me and the rest of the world. We used to just publish in academic journals, now we can share our research with huge numbers of people. And I love showing off and telling people what I’m up to!

Has it changed making history for TV?
Massively. I’ve made programmes with dramatic reconstruction, CGI, stop-frame, everything. I’ve just finished making a BBC film about myths of the first world war and the whole thing is CGI animation. It doesn’t involve me walking around a field, being a bore. There are visual representations of how many people died, action sequences, funny bits, cool music … It’s profoundly exciting. But the beauty of it is, man or woman walking around a field hasn’t died out either. That’s still going on. So are radio lectures. A rising tide floats all boats. Technology just gives you more choice. It allows you to work out the best way to engage an audience and bring alive what you’re trying to describe.

What’s the most impressive hi-tech artefact you’ve come across?
If you’re interested in innovation and technology, that applies to all eras. When you handle an 18th-century Brown Bess musket or a first world war Vickers machine gun – weapons spring to mind because they’re often at the cutting edge of technological change – or John Harrison’s marine chronometer, they take your breath away. It’s unbelievably exciting to witness something that has changed our world.

Via Farshad Nayeri.

Self-Delusion Spreads from Professional to Graduate Education; Consternation Curiously Absent

Bernie Burk:

I want to be clear at the outset: I love literature. I was an English major, and I’ve never regretted it for a moment. I seriously considered pursuing a Ph.D. in English. I could not have a deeper faith in the liberal arts as a path to the betterment of all mankind.

So imagine my dismay at some recent reportage in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Graduate programs in languages and literature are suffering troubles all too familiar to the readers of these pages: In these straitened times, the tenure-track academic appointments for which a doctoral degree is the traditional and necessary preparation are available for only about 60% of the recipients of doctorates in language or literature (a number chillingly reminiscent of the 56%-57% of the last two law-school graduating classes who managed to find a full-time, long-term job requiring a law license within 9-10 months of graduation, though when you exclude school-funded and self-employed positions as well as a few other confounders and irrelevancies, that number is closer to 53%). The Modern Language Association (a trade group for college and graduate educators and scholars in language and literature analogous to AALS) recently released a report conceding “[w]e are faced with an unsustainable reality.”

Chess Site Now Accessible to Visually Impaired People


Thanks to recent improvements, it is really easy to start playing chess games through Lichess using screenreader. The first thing you need to do is to press “Enable blind mode” button, which should be one of first elements you encounter on the site. It is not really possible to play games without blind mode turned on.

If blind mode is on, you are offered textual description of moves and you are presented with labelled buttons. Now it is really easy – pick a player or just choose to play against computer and fun begins. During the game there is a heading called “Textual representation” and following this heading are following information:

More School, Less Summer?

Naomi Schaefer Riley:

High-performing charter schools like KIPP, Democracy Prep and Success Academy confront this problem head-on: They not only have significantly longer school days, but also school years.

In terms of math and science knowledge, though, all American kids fall behind over the summer. Columbia economist Howard Steven Friedman found that students in countries with longer school years tend to perform better on standardized tests.

Top-performing South Korea, for instance, requires 220 days of school — 22 percent more than our measly minimum of 180 days.
“When it comes to learning math and science,” Pondiscio explains, “more is more.”
Which makes it particularly disheartening to see that New York City’s new teachers contract may actually reduce the time kids are in school.
Thanks to some convoluted new provisions, at least one Brooklyn elementary school is letting kids out a half-hour earlier, even if it’s not technically shortening instructional time. It gives you a sense of just how stingy the union leaders are with the kids who need classroom time the most.

Of course, the unions are also reason No. 1 why, no matter how much sense a longer school year might make, it’s a distant dream for any public school around here.

Why Free Play Is the Best Summer School

Jessica Lahey:

Most schools across the nation have marked the end of another academic year, and it’s time for summer. Time for kids to bolt for the schoolhouse doors for two long months of play, to explore their neighborhoods and discover the mysteries, treasures, and dramas they have to offer. This childhood idyll will hold true for some children, but for many kids, the coming of summer signals little more than a seasonal shift from one set of scheduled, adult-supervised lessons and activities to another.

Unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health. The value of free play, daydreaming, risk-taking, and independent discovery have been much in the news this year, and a new study by psychologists at the University of Colorado reveals just how important these activities are in the development of children’s executive functioning.

Executive function is a broad term for cognitive skills such as organization, long-term planning, self-regulation, task initiation, and the ability to switch between activities. It is a vital part of school preparedness and has long been accepted as a powerful predictor of academic performance and other positive life outcomes such as health and wealth. The focus of this study is “self-directed executive function,” or the ability to generate personal goals and determine how to achieve them on a practical level. The power of self-direction is an underrated and invaluable skill that allows students to act productively in order to achieve their own goals.

The First Two Years

Stephen Buzrucha:

The life-course perspective in particular is out of the public eye. Looking more deeply into research on the effects of early life, it is possible to estimate that roughly half of our health as adults is programmed from the time of conception to around two years of age. The importance of these “first thousand days” is the subject of increased interest and study, and explains a lot about the difficulties of focusing on short-term interventions to improve health. Countries with healthier populations structure this formative period by making it easier for parents to parent. In practical terms, this means that in modern societies where most people work outside the home, providing paid parental leave is the single most effective social intervention that can be undertaken for improving health. It can be thought of in the same light as public sanitation systems that make water safe to drink. We all benefit, rich and poor alike, from clean water, from sewage treatment, from immunizations, and other public health measures.

Everyone in a society gains when children grow up to be healthy adults. The rest of the world seems to understand this simple fact, and only three countries in the world don’t have a policy, at least on the books, for paid maternal leave—Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and the United States. What does that say about our understanding, or concern, about the health of our youth?

Kaleem Caire is working on an early childhood program in Madison.

The EdTech Failings of Silicon Valley

Christopher Nyren:

In the last three month period, EdTech attracted $690 million of venture capital, reaching $4 billion of total private investment for the year, up two thirds from the previous year and quadruple two years prior.

This was the trendline for EdTech venture capital investment at the end of 2000.

After the dotCom crash, it would be another decade until 2012 when EdTech would again draw in $1 billion of total private investment, repeating in 2013 and likely again in 2014, with nearly $600 million raised in Q1 2014 alone. The leanest post-Bubble years of 2002 – 2005 would see less than $100mm of annual venture capital inflow, with 2005′s haul perhaps just $50 million, a pathetic 3.5% CAGR from the $30 million of total private investment generated 15 years prior in 1990 at the industry’s dawn.

While the Internet Bubble and its burst were extreme events, the 1997-2001 period does present several interesting parallels with the current market, with capital flowing freely across all sectors (from K-12 through “MOOCs”) and a diverse range of investors, from mission aligned super angels including the co-founders of the leading technology companies (e.g., Microsoft, Oracle, Netscape, AOL), education funds like New Schools Venture Fund (founded then by Jim Barksdale and Steve Case) and the venture funds of ”Silicon Valley” (not to mention “Silicon Alley” and Boston) that are still leading the tech markets today (i.e., KPCB, Accel, Bessemer, Charles River Ventures, Warburg, Maveron, Sequoia, etc). Only the individual names involved differ from then: Paul Allen then and Bill Gates today; Jim Barksdale then and Marc Andreessen today; John Doerr then…and, well, John Doerr still again.

UW-Madison’s Julie Underwood says controversial teacher education rankings “don’t mean much”

Pat Schneider:

“So whether the ratings are lackluster, or horrible, or great doesn’t mean much to me,” she said.

UW-Madison School of Education programs in secondary education were deemed to be in the bottom half nationwide and were not ranked.

Underwood is not the only educator skewering the NTCQ ratings released this week that discredit Wisconsin teacher training pretty much across the board, as charted in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article.

The Wisconsin Association of Colleges for Teacher Education rejected the evaluations in a statement this week, calling Washington-based NCTQ “a private political advocacy organization” with no standing to review teacher preparation programs in Wisconsin.

“However well-intentioned NCTQ’s review process may be, it does not reflect good practice in program evaluation, is not sensitive to the particular needs of this state, and represents a politically-motivated intrusion into the state’s rights and responsibilities to oversee its education system and licensing practices,” the association concluded.

Underwood was less optimistic about the intentions of the ratings.

When A stands for average: students at the UW Madison school of education received sky-high grades. How smart is that?.


Julie Underwood.

Wisconsin takes a baby step toward teacher content knowledge requirements via MTEL elementary language standards.

As much as I respect NAEP, I submit that the essays in TCR are better indicators of the highest academic ability than scores on NAEP. Read some of them to see if you agree.

Walt Gardner, via Will Fitzugh:

Elitism is a dirty word in education in this country.

Just why, I don’t understand because supporting students with academic ability is as important as supporting students with special needs.

I thought of this as I read the news about the latest NAEP results (“U.S. ‘report card’: stagnation in 12th-grade math, reading scores,” The Christian Science Monitor, May 8). The closely watched report showed that high school seniors did no better in reading and math than they did four years ago. The head of the National Assessment Governing Board, which was created by Congress in 1988 to create and measure standards for student performance, warned that too few students are achieving at a level to make the U.S. internationally competitive.

I urge him to look over the index of The Concord Review from 1988 to 2014. For those readers not familiar with TCR, its founder and publisher is Will Fitzhugh. He has provided a forum for essays written overwhelmingly by high school students in this country (and to a small extent to those abroad) on a wide variety of subjects. They range from ancient history to modern issues. I’ve read many of them. They are not only meticulously researched but gracefully written.

I realize that the students who have been published in TCR constitute only a tiny percentage of high school seniors in this country (and in 39 other countries). But I maintain that far more students are capable of writing informative and lively papers than we believe. As much as I respect NAEP, I submit that the essays in TCR are better indicators of the highest academic ability than scores on NAEP. Read some of them to see if you agree.

I don’t know if the almost total focus on students below average is the result of anti-elitism or of sheer ignorance. But TCR serves as compelling evidence that we are squandering talent. Many of these students will go on to make a name for themselves in their various fields of specialization. They’re the ones who can make the U.S. highly competitive in the global economy. Yet we feel extremely uncomfortable supporting them.

We don’t have to choose democratization or differentiation. There is room for both in our schools. But so far, most of our resources are earmarked to achieve the former. Only in the U.S. does that happen. Most countries have no compunction about identifying and nurturing their academically gifted students.

“Teach with Examples”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

An update on Madison’s 2014-2015 $402,464,374 budget

We recommend adopting a Preliminary Budget for 2014-15 which includes the budget changes recorded in the companion document MMSD 2014-15 DPI Recommended Format for Budget Adoption. The changes are related to student fees and technology. With this recommendation we restate our strategy to address health insurance, salaries, and tax levy as a package in the fall Final Budget.

There are several advantages to addressing health insurance, salaries, and tax levy as a package in the fall Final Budget:

Key financial data, including enrollment, revenue limit, equalization aid, tax levy and tax base will be available in October.

The insurance committee will have time to meet with the HMO’s and build on the work accomplished by the administration this spring.

The wellness plan design can be further developed and factored into the larger discussion of health insurance and compensation.

A piecemeal approach to salary/wage increases, employee contributions to health insurance, the wellness plan, and the fall tax levy is unlikely to produce the best result.

Much more on the 2014-2015 budget, here.

Mark Cuban Warns That A Housing Bubble-Like Bust Is Coming To America’s Colleges

Myles Udland:

In a clip on, Mark Cuban says that colleges are going to go out of business.

In the clip, Cuban talks about the student loan bubble, which he says will burst and end badly for colleges.

The end of the student loan bubble, Cuban says, will be like the housing bubble, where tuition collapses the way the price of homes collapsed.

These collapses will put colleges out of business.

MTI Preserves, Gains Contracts Through June, 2016

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

Last fall, MTI asked the District to bargain Contracts for multiple years. They refused, and a Contract was negotiated for the 2014-15 school year.

After hundreds of MTI members, sporting their MTI red shirts, attended two school board meetings in late May, the Board had a change of heart – and also a change in leadership with Arlene Silveira replacing Ed Hughes. Several MTI members addressed the Board at its meetings on May 26 and 29. The Board agreed to bargain. After five days of bargaining, terms were reached for Contracts for MTI’s five bargaining units, AFSCME’s two bargaining units, and that of the Building Trades Council.

In the new Contracts, MTI was successful in retaining members’ employment security and economic security provided by Contract salary schedules and fringe benefits.

MTI’s Contracts for 2014-15 and 2015-16 are the only contracts with Wisconsin school districts, for those years. A synopsis of the new Contracts is available on MTI’s webpage
MTI members ratified the Contracts last Tuesday evening

Madison Teachers, Inc. Synopsis (PDF):

HANDBOOK: Among the topics addressed in our 2013 negotiations was how the Act 10 mandated “Employee Handbook” would be developed. In last year’s negotiations MTI gained agreement with the District, that while most school boards acted unilaterally to develop the Handbook, MTI has 5 appointees to the Committee which will develop the Handbook. That agreement also provides that MTI’s 2014- 15 Collective Bargaining Agreements serve as the foundation for the Handbook. That has now been amended to provide that the 2015-16 Contracts will serve as the foundation for the Handbook. Some school boards have rolled back employee rights to the 1950’s or 1960’s, when unilaterally creating the Handbook for their school districts. For example, teachers in some districts cannot wear sandals, open-toed

shoes and women must wear skirts or dresses at least to the knee. The Janesville School Board just eliminated wages for any credits or
degrees beyond the BA.

Empowering the Future through our kids: South Madison Child Development

Kaleem Caire, South Madison Child Development:

We are embracing the future and the need to change to ensure that more of Greater Madison’s children are ready to read, compute and succeed educationally by the time they begin first grade. Please join us on Monday, June 23, 2014 at 5:30pm at South Madison Child Development Incorporated on Madison’s South Side for our announcement about our plans to reorganize, re-brand and re-launch our center as One City Early Learning Centers beginning in the fall 2014.

South Madison CDI is located at 2012 Fisher Street, Madison, WI 53713. For more information regarding the reorganization or announcement, please call us at 608-251-3366 or email Kaleem Caire at To RSVP, please email Danielle Mathews at A copy of the concept paper for One City will be made available at CDI on Monday. We look forward to seeing you!

Violent and Legal: The Shocking Ways School Kids are Being Pinned Down, Isolated Against Their Will

Heather Vogell:

Carson Luke, a young boy with autism, shattered bones in his hand and foot after educators grabbed him and tried to shut him into a “scream room.” Kids across the country risked similar harm at least 267,000 times in just one school year.

he room where they locked up Heather Luke’s 10-year-old son had cinder block walls, a dim light and a fan in the ceiling that rattled so insistently her son would beg them to silence it.

Sometimes, Carson later told his mother, workers would run the fan to make him stop yelling. A thick metal door with locks—which they threw, clank-clank-clank—separated the autistic boy from the rest of the decrepit building in Chesapeake, Virginia, just south of Norfolk.

The room that officials benignly called the “quiet area” so agitated the tall and lanky blond boy that one day in March 2011, his mother said, Carson flew into a panic at the mere suggestion of being confined there after an outburst. He had lashed out, hitting, scratching and hurling his shoes. Staff members held him down, then muscled him through the hallway and attempted to lock him in, yet again.

LIFO keeps N.J. from true teacher tenure reform

Laura Waters:

Public school calendars may be winding down, but education rhetoric is heating up after a startling ruling last week in Los Angeles that, some pundits say, has national implications. In a case called Vergara v. California, nine Los Angeles public school students argued in County Superior Court that state tenure laws, which require schools to lay off teachers in order of seniority, had violated their constitutional rights by depriving them of effective teachers. Judge Rolf Treu ruled that the students were right.

But New Jerseyans who deplore seniority-based job security, also known as LIFO or “last in, first out,” shouldn’t get ahead of themselves. The Vergara ruling is important and will continue to inform discussions about improving America’s teacher quality and educational equity. But Los Angeles’ tenure laws are so far off the bell curve that they’re hardly a test case for the rest of the nation, even in the 11 states in the country that still adhere to the practice of seniority-based lay-offs.

But don’t underestimate the power of Judge Treu’s declaration that “evidence has been elicited in this trial of the specific effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed it shocks the conscience.”

Conversations on the Rifle Range, I: Not Your Mother’s Algebra 1 and the Guy Who Really Knows

Out in Left Field, via a kind Barry Garelick email:

Barry Garelick, who wrote various letters under the name Huck Finn and which were published here is at work writing what will become “Conversations on the Rifle Range”. This will be a documentation of his experiences teaching math as a long-term substitute. OILF proudly presents the first episode:

Those familiar with my writing on math education know me from my previous incarnations as John Dewey and Huck Finn, whose adventures I recounted in a book called “Letters from John Dewey/Letters from Huck Finn”. I am in a second career which for lack of a better title is known as “trying to obtain a permanent math teaching position in a desirable area of California.” I retired a few years ago and obtained a math teaching credential. Although I have applied for various math teaching jobs, I have only managed to get two interviews, so I’ve had to make do by being a substitute teacher. This situation may be due to age, or perhaps my views on math education are becoming known, or both.

In the course of the 2013-14 school year, however, I took on two long-term substitute assignments. The first one was for six weeks at a high school which started at the beginning of the school year. The second was for an entire semester at a middle school, starting in January and ending in June.

Both assignments took place amidst the media hype that focused on the 50th anniversary of events occurring in 1963 and 64 including but not limited to the Kennedy assassination, the Beatles’ arrival in the US and performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Not mentioned by the press but every bit as important is the fact that it was also the 50th anniversary of my taking Algebra 1. And while I am not an outright proponent of the philosophy that “If you want something done right, you have to live in the past”, when it comes to how to teach math there are worse philosophies to embrace.

As if to keep me from delving too far into my past, my teaching assignments occurred during a year of transition to the Common Core standards. In both assignments, I came to know the person from the District office, who I shall call Sally, whose role was to get the teachers—as part of the transition effort— to try various Common Core type activities with their students. I met her for the first time on the teacher workday held before the first day of school.

Sally started out the meeting by telling us that she had been meeting with the person in charge of putting together the California “Framework” for Common Core. “So he REALLY KNOWS what’s going on,” she said. This stated, she then talked about this in-the-know person’s view of Common Core’s Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMPs).
– See more at:

Students with Special Needs Less Likely to Leave Charter Schools than Traditional Public Schools

Center for Reinventing Public Education, via a kind Deb Britt email:

CRPE commissioned Dr. Marcus Winters to analyze the factors driving the special education gap between Denver’s charter and traditional public elementary and middle schools.

Using student-level data, Winters shows that Denver’s special education enrollment gap starts at roughly 2 percentage points in kindergarten and is more than triple that in eighth grade. However, it doesn’t appear to be caused by charter schools pushing students out. Instead, the gap is mostly due to student preferences for different types of schools, how schools classify and declassify students, and the movement of students without disabilities across sectors.

Among the key findings:
Students with special needs are less likely to apply to charter schools in kindergarten and sixth grade: In the gateway grades, when students are most likely to choose schools, those with disabilities are significantly less likely to apply to charter schools than are students without disabilities. This difference explains the majority of the gap in middle school grades, particularly for certain categories of disability.

The gap grows significantly between kindergarten and fifth grade: 46% of the growth occurs because charter schools are less likely to classify students as special education, and more likely to declassify them; 54% is due to the number of new general education students enrolling in charter schools, not from the number of students with special needs going down.

Students with special needs in charter schools change schools less often than those in traditional public schools: Five years after enrolling in kindergarten, about 65 percent of charter students with special needs are still in their original schools, while only 37 percent of traditional public school students with special needs are still in their original schools.

What the NJEA Is Not Telling Its Members

Bury Pensions:

In the fight over getting New Jersey to make its pension contributions the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is urging its members to contact their legislators to ‘uphold the law’ and offering a Q & A for NJEA members on “The New Jersey Pension Crisis” where they cover the pertinent Qs but their As are mostly wrong or deceptive. My suggestion for more accurate (and helpful) answers to the questions they pose:
How much does the state contribute to the pension system?

Whatever they damn well please. There are no funding rules and contribution amounts are manufactured to politicians’ specifications. (nb: the NJEA in their answer left out completely any mention that the contributions also include an amortization of the shortfall which for a variety of reasons is the biggest chunk of those contributions).

Does the state always make its required contribution?

The state never makes its required contribution and even that required contribution is based on willfully deceptive assumptions.
What happens when the state skips payments or makes only partial payments?

Nothing – to the state but your pensions will be summarily and arbitrarily reduced when the money runs out.

Why Boarding Schools Produce Bad Leaders

Nick Duffell:

In Britain, the link between private boarding education and leadership is gold-plated. If their parents can afford it, children are sent away from home to walk a well-trodden path that leads straight from boarding school through Oxbridge to high office in institutions such as the judiciary, the army, the City and, especially, government. Our prime minister was only seven when he was sent away to board at Heatherdown preparatory school in Berkshire. Like so many of the men who hold leadership roles in Britain, he learned to adapt his young character to survive both the loss of his family and the demands of boarding school culture. The psychological impact of these formative experiences on Cameron and other boys who grow up to occupy positions of great power and responsibility cannot be overstated. It leaves them ill-prepared for relationships in the adult world and the nation with a cadre of leaders who perpetuate a culture of elitism, bullying and misogyny affecting the whole of society.

Nevertheless, this golden path is as sure today as it was 100 years ago, when men from such backgrounds led us into a disastrous war; it is familiar, sometimes mocked, but taken for granted. But it is less well known that costly, elite boarding consistently turns out people who appear much more competent than they actually are. They are particularly deficient in non-rational skills, such as those needed to sustain relationships, and are not, in fact, well-equipped to be leaders in today’s world

Mommy-Daddy Time

Zoë Heller:

The reputation of parenthood has not fared well in the modern era. Social science has concluded that parents are either no happier than people without children, or decidedly unhappier. Parents themselves have grown competitively garrulous on the subject of their dissatisfactions. Confessions of child-rearing misery are by now so unremarkable that the parent who doesn’t merrily cop to the odd infanticidal urge is considered a rather suspect figure. And yet, the American journalist Jennifer Senior argues in her earnest book about modern parenthood, it would be wrong to conclude that children only spoil their parents’ fun. Most parents, she writes, reject the findings of social science as a violation of their ‘deepest intuitions’. In fact, most parents – even the dedicated whingers – will say that the benefits of raising children ultimately outweigh the hardships.

Senior’s characterisation of parenthood as a wondrous ‘paradox’ – a nightmare slog that in spite of everything delivers transcendent joy – has gone down very well in America, where parents seem reassured to find a cheerful, pro-kids message being snatched from the jaws of sleep deprivation and despondency. The book spent six weeks on the bestseller list and has earned Senior the ultimate imprimatur of a lecturing gig at the TED conference. ‘All Joy and No Fun inspired me to think differently about my own experience as a parent,’ Andrew Solomon observed in his New York Times review. ‘Over and over again, I find myself bored by what I’m doing with my children: how many times can we read Angelina Ballerina or watch a Bob the Builder video? And yet I remind myself that such intimate shared moments, snuggling close, provide the ultimate meaning of life.’

K-12 Tenure Declared Unconstitutional in California: Could Higher Ed be Next?

Changing Universities:

One of these myths is the idea that students from low-income areas perform poorly because they don’t have the best teachers. What this view rejects is any understanding of the different economic, psychological, and social forces affecting young people. Not only does this myth repress the role that poverty plays in shaping every aspect of these students’ lives, but it also neglects the advantages given to the wealthier students. Instead of looking at school funding or how the lack of good healthcare prevents students from going to school, the judge is highly invested in the current idea that a great teacher can overcome all social and personal obstacles facing a low-income student.

The ruling begins by citing Brown v Board of Education to point to the important value of providing equal education to all races. In two other cited cases, the theme is once again the equality of educational opportunity. Although it would be hard to argue against this egalitarian ideal, it is clear that self-segregation and white flight have made schools very unequal. Moreover, while the Governor has pushed through a new plan to redistribute funds to low-income schools, this plan has yet to come into full effect.

Diane Ravitch comments.

King’s College London to cut jobs to fund university buildings

Claire Shaw and Michael Allen:

Staff at King’s College London (KCL) are in dispute with their university over plans to cut up to 120 jobs in the health schools to help fund buildings and equipment, amounting up to £400m.

The vast majority of jobs under threat are in the schools of medicine and biomedical sciences, and the institute of psychiatry. The university says it plans to reduce academic staff costs by 10% which could see 120 out of 777 staff in the health schools face redundancy.

Staff have been told that these cuts are a way to compensate for the changes to the funding of higher education, which have seen universities experiencing a reduction in public funding for capital projects, such as new buildings and infrastructure.

“The proposals are not about raising money for buildings alone,” says a KCL spokesperson.

“The changes to the external funding environment for higher education mean that any investment we wish to make – whether to maintain the existing estate, to provide world class research facilities with cutting edge equipment, an excellent student learning environment supported by the latest technology, high-quality halls of residence, or scholarships and bursaries – we have to fund ourselves.

Colleges are full of it: Behind the three-decade scheme to raise tuition, bankrupt generations, and hypnotize the media

Thomas Frank:

The price of a year at college has increased by more than 1,200 percent over the last 30 years, far outpacing any other price the government tracks: food, housing, cars, gasoline, TVs, you name it. Tuition has increased at a rate double that of medical care, usually considered the most expensive of human necessities. It has outstripped any reasonable expectation people might have had for investments over the period. And, as we all know, it has crushed a generation of college grads with debt. Today, thanks to those enormous tuition prices, young Americans routinely start adult life with a burden unknown to any previous cohort and whose ruinous effects we can only guess at.

On the assumption that anyone in that generation still has a taste for irony, I offer the following quotation on the subject, drawn from one of the earliest news stories about the problem of soaring tuition. The newspaper was the Washington Post; the speaker was an assistant dean at a college that had just announced a tuition hike of 19 percent; and the question before him was how much farther tuition increases could go. “Maybe all of a sudden this bubble is going to burst,” he was quoted as saying. “How much will the public take?”

Oh, we would take quite a lot, as it happened. It was 1981 when the assistant dean worried in that manner—the very first year of what was once called the “tuition spiral,” when higher ed prices got the attention of the media by outpacing inflation by a factor of two or three. There was something shocking about this development; tuition hadn’t gone up like that during the 1970s, even though that was the heyday of ascending consumer prices.

The Most Comprehensive Review of Comic Books Teaching Statistics

Rasmus Bååth:

As I’m more or less an autodidact when it comes to statistics, I have a weak spot for books that try to introduce statistics in an accessible and pedagogical way. I have therefore collected what I believe are all books that introduces statistics using comics (at least those written in English). What follows are highly subjective reviews of those four books. If you know of any other comic book on statistics, please do tell me!

I’ll start with a tl;dr version of the reviews, but first here are the four books:

High-School Dropouts and College Grads Are Moving to Very Different Places

Richard Florida:

The ability to attract skilled workers is a key factor, if not the key factor, in the growth of cities and metro regions. Cities themselves are understandably keen to tout when their populations are growing, but just tracking overall population can mask the underlying trends that will truly shape the future of our metro areas.

A few weeks ago, I looked at the different places both recent immigrants and U.S.-born Americans are moving since the recession began. But, as I noted then, even these big-picture figures tell us little about the educational levels and skills of the people that are moving and staying. Writing in The Atlantic several years ago, I pointed out that the “means migration”—the movement of highly educated and highly skilled people—is a key factor that shapes which cities will thrive and which will struggle.

What the United States has been seeing is, so to speak, a big talent sort. There have been very different patterns of migration by education and skill, with the highly educated and highly skilled going some places and the less educated and less skilled going to others.

Michael Gove, school swot. The UK Tory education secretary stirs strong feelings. That is largely to his credit

The Economist:

Bagehot did not mean to write to the courteous IT consultant from Nashville, Tennessee, whose e-mail address he mistakenly saved to his phone. He was after another Michael Gove, the British education secretary, who hardly anyone would wish to be confused with just now.

This Mr Gove is one of the most disliked men in British politics—unfairly, in Bagehot’s view, and worryingly. For it is an indicator of how diminished is the radical centrism that David Cameron’s coalition government once promised and of which he is the last undaunted exponent.

The battering comes from all sides. The opposition Labour Party calls his effort to free schools from local-authority control a wrecking job. A senior Liberal Democrat, the coalition’s junior partner, calls Mr Gove an “ideologically obsessed zealot”—a phrase that denigrates him without quite dissociating the Lib Dems from reforms they helped pass. A petition calling for Mr Gove’s sacking has over 120,000 signatures, and more will be added. Hating Mr Gove unites not only the self-righteous teachers’ unions but also the legions of teaching assistants, caretakers, dinner ladies, lollipop men and parents—half of society, at least—who come under their influence. “It’s amazing how many people loathe him,” says a Tory high-up.

For Mr Gove and his small band of diehard supporters, the abuse is an unpleasant sort of vindication. It reflects how entrenched and widespread are the interests they are attacking: a complacent and self-serving education establishment, whose ill-deserved privileges Mr Gove has dedicated himself to removing. Besides liberating existing schools and allowing parents to launch new ones, he has accordingly pushed performance-based pay for teachers while shaking up exam boards, the curriculum and the schools inspectorate. In the process he has reversed a long demise in foreign language and science teaching, and brought many smaller changes besides. He has done so, moreover, while repeatedly demonstrating that he is not the high-handed elitist his critics describe. Mr Gove is a high-handed liberal, who sees good, state-provided education as a form of social justice. Having enjoyed a poor start in life—he was given up for adoption as the newborn baby of an unknown mother—he is messianic in his regard for education’s transformative power, especially among the poor.

Starbucks to Provide Free (online) College Education to Thousands of Workers

Richard Perez-Pena:

Starbucks will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement with Arizona State University, the company and the university will announce on Monday.

The program is open to any of the company’s 135,000 United States employees, provided they work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State. For a barista with at least two years of college credit, the company will pay full tuition; for those with fewer credits it will pay part of the cost, but even for many of them, courses will be free, with government and university aid.

“Starbucks is going where no other major corporation has gone,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive of the Lumina Foundation, a group focused on education. “For many of these Starbucks employees, an online university education is the only reasonable way they’re going to get a bachelor’s degree.”

2014 Teacher Prep Review Findings

National Council on Teacher Quality:

Our Approach
There’s widespread public interest in strengthening teacher preparation — but there’s a significant data gap on what’s working. We aim to fill this gap, providing information that aspiring teachers and school leaders need to become strategic consumers and that institutions and states need in order to rapidly improve how tomorrow’s teachers are trained.

Our strategy
Our strategy is modeled on Abraham Flexner’s 1910 review of medical training programs, an effort that launched a new era in the field of medicine, transforming a sub-standard system into the world’s best.

How we’re doing it
NCTQ takes an in-depth look at admissions standards, course requirements, course syllabi, textbooks, capstone projects, student teaching manuals and graduate surveys, among other sources, as blueprints for training teachers. We apply specific and measurable standards that identify the teacher preparation programs most likely to get the best outcomes for their students. To develop these standards, we consulted with international and domestic experts on teacher education, faculty and deans from schools of education, statistical experts and PK-12 leaders. We honed our methodology in ten pilot studies conducted over eight years.
Our goals

Currently, high-caliber teacher training programs go largely unrecognized. The Review will showcase these programs and provide resources that schools of education can use to provide truly exceptional training. Aspiring teachers will be able to make informed choices about where to attend school to get the best training. Principals and superintendents will know where they should recruit new teachers. State leaders will be able to provide targeted support and hold programs accountable for improvement. Together, we can ensure a healthy teacher pipeline.

Wisconsin took a very small step toward teacher content knowledge requirements by adopting Massachusetts’ MTEL requirements for elementary teachers – in English only.

Much more on NCTQ, here.

Adults lying to them

Clay Shirky:

A year or so ago, I was a guest lecturer in NYU’s Intro to Journalism class, 200 or so sophomores interested in adding journalism as a second major. (We don’t allow students to major in journalism alone, for the obvious reason.) One of the students had been dispatched to interview me in front of the class, and two or three questions in, she asked “So how do we save print?”

I was speechless for a moment, then exploded, telling her that print was in terminal decline and that everyone in the class needed to understand this if they were thinking of journalism as a major or a profession.

The students were shocked — for many of them, it was the first time anyone had talked to them that way. Even a prompt from me to predict the date of Time magazine’s demise elicited a small gasp. This was a room full of people would would rather lick asphalt than subscribe to a paper publication; what on earth would make them think print was anything other than a wasting asset?

And the answer is “Adults lying to them.” Our students were persuaded to discount their own experience in favor of what the grownups who cover the media industry were saying, and those grownups were saying that strategies like Kushner’s might just work.

People who ought to have known better, like Ryan Chittum at Columbia Journalism Review and Ken Doctor at Nieman, wrote puff pieces for Kushner, because they couldn’t bear to treat him like the snake-oil salesman he is.

Related: the human price of collectivism.

The Tuition Puzzle

Paul Campos

This is the first of what will probably be several posts about the extraordinary increases in law school tuition over the past half century (In this as in so many other respects, law school is merely a particularly extreme version of something that has happened all across higher education in America).

First, some numbers:

Law School Transparency has done a nice job graphing what has happened to law school tuition since 1985, in both current and inflation-adjusted dollars. Private law school tuition has gone from just over $16K to just under $42K in 2013 dollars. Public resident tuition has gone up even more sharply, from $4,300 to $23,000, again in constant inflation-adjusted dollars.

These numbers are startling enough, but they obscure the extent to which by the mid-1980s tuition had already skyrocketed over the course of the previous 25 years. LST is using data the ABA posts on its web site, which only go back to 1985. Looking back to 1960, private law school tuition averaged around $7000 in 2013 dollars, while public law school tuition was perhaps a third of that, i.e., essentially nominal (These estimates are based on Harvard’s and Michigan’s law school tuition at the time. They assume that tuition at HLS was around 20% higher than at the average private law school, which has been the norm over the past three decades, and that Michigan’s resident tuition was typical of state law school resident tuition. If anything this latter estimate probably overstates public law school resident tuition in the 1960s).

This is, in the context of normal economic activity, a remarkable situation. People often speak these days of a “tuition bubble,” but a classic price bubble involves a sharp short-term run-up in prices, followed by an even more sudden collapse when the bubble bursts. For example, the US housing market was relatively stable between 1970 and 2000, with median home prices staying between $150,000 and $180,000 in real terms. The housing bubble featured a five-year run up, during which the median price rose by nearly 70%, before falling back to pre-bubble levels just three years after the peak.

Year later, much has been learned about school closings Chicago Public Schools say attendance, grades didn’t suffer

Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah:

Nerves were a little shakier than usual when the 2013-14 school year started in Chicago, as parents and city officials anxiously watched thousands of children heading off to classrooms in unfamiliar neighborhoods because of the district’s move to close almost 50 elementary schools.

But when classes let out Friday, most of the fears of September were unrealized. The Safe Passage program to protect kids on their way to and from those schools appears to have performed as promised. And Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Friday said there was an uptick in performance at schools designated to take in students whose buildings were closed.

Madison tried to consolidate school facilities in 2007, unsuccessfully. Bricks and mortar are largely irrelevant if one has great teachers.

The White Teachers I Wish I Never Had

Mia McKenzie:

I was born Black in a Black family in a Black neighborhood. My early childhood was an entirely Black experience. Besides what I saw on television and in movies, my whole world was Black people. My family, my friends, my babysitters, my neighbors and my teachers were all Black.

From Head Start through third grade, I had exclusively Black teachers. As a very bright, gifted Black girl, having Black teachers, mostly Black women, who saw my giftedness and encouraged and nurtured it, meant everything. These were teachers who could look at me and see themselves. They could see their children, their hopes, their dreams. These were teachers who could be as proud of me when I did well as my own family was, who could understand me when I talked about my life, and who knew how to protect the spirit of a gifted Blackgirlchild in a world they knew would try to tear her apart every chance it got.

I thrived in those early years in school. I loved learning, I had a very high capacity for it, and it showed. My teachers challenged me creatively and intellectually, supported my growth, and rewarded my efforts. My second and third grade teacher, Ms. Lucas (who goes down in history as the best and most influential teacher I ever had) gave me my first paid work as a writer. In third grade, after I wrote the best poem about springtime (“…sometimes words can never say the things that flowers say in May…”), she brought me ice cream! She, like the other Black teachers I had, recognized, and helped me to see, my extraordinariness. Seeing it, I soared. I felt confident and self-assured. I believed I was the smartest, most talented kid ever!

College radio is dying — and we need to save it

Garrett Martin:

WRAS 88.5 FM in Atlanta was the first radio station to play Outkast. It was one of the first few stations in the country to play R.E.M., Deerhunter and the Indigo Girls. It’s been a crucial, student-run force in independent music both locally and nationally for decades. But later this month, a backdoor deal will replace all of its daytime programming with “Fresh Air” simulcasts and “Car Talk” reruns.

This is a huge blow for the students who run WRAS, for Atlanta’s art and music communities and for the entire independent music industry. WRAS is one of the most powerful college radio stations in the nation. Its signal is as strong as the law will allow; those 100,000 watts cover all of Atlanta’s sprawling metropolitan area. And the closure of WRAS is just the latest in a long string of colleges failing to preserve their cultural institutions and selling their radio signals off to outside interests. It happened at Rice in 2011, at Vanderbilt between 2011 and 2014, and now it’s happening at Georgia State University, home of one of the most important college radio stations in the nation.

In early May, GSU announced an agreement to hand over WRAS’s signal to Georgia Public Broadcasting for 14 hours a day, from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. The student-produced programming that WRAS has broadcast during those hours since 1971 will now be confined to an Internet stream. The students who run the station weren’t included in negotiations, which stretch back to 2012. The station’s student management only learned about the deal shortly before the public did. The larger GSU student body didn’t get to vote on the deal or have any input in the agreement. It feels similar to another recent ugly scene in Atlanta, as the neighboring Cobb County resorted to banana republic tactics to squelch public debate on its plan to give the Atlanta Braves hundreds of millions of dollars for a new stadium.

Greased palms and dried fruit

The Economist:

OBESITY, according to a government-sponsored report, could make the current generation of Americans the first in history to live shorter lives than the previous one. A major change in food habits is needed to reverse the trend of widening waistlines (a development which we recently illustrated on our blog Graphic detail). Recognising that people’s dietary preferences develop at an early age, John List of the University of Chicago and Anya Savikhin Samek of the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined in a recent study whether children can be “nudged” (or incentivised) to eat more fruits and less sweets. Their results suggest that the answer is yes.

In a field experiment carried out in Chicago over several weeks, Mr List and Ms Savikhin Samek tested the impact of giving kids an incentive to choose food they normally would not. During after-school programmes dubbed “Kids’ Cafes” in 24 different locations across the city, children aged 6-18 were offered a free snack and could select either a cup with dried fruit (dried banana with acai or dried mango) or a cookie (such as snickerdoodle or chocolate chip). A group of the Kids’ Cafes was randomly selected to offer the children at their particular site an incentive to pick the cup; each time an individual chose the dried fruit over the cookie and ate it in the cafeteria, he or she would receive a small prize worth 50 cents or less (for example a wristband, pen or keychain).

In Defense of Laptops in the Classroom

Rebecca Schuman:

Years later, as a professor, I feel embarrassed by that interaction, and not just because I lost my cool and used the F-word to a U-grad. The laptop is now endemic in the modern classroom, with most students using them—purportedly—to take notes and access course materials. Of course, they’re also (often primarily) used to do anything but classwork: games, Snapchat, shopping—even porn. Thus many professors police the ways students use their laptops, and some are banning them outright. But what good does that do? The Laptop Police just seems like one more way of helicoptering students instead of letting them learn how to be students—indeed, how to be adults.

The case for a laptop-free classroom is indeed strong. Last week on The New Yorker’s website, Dartmouth professor Dan Rockmore wrote that he’s banned laptops for years, explaining that “any advantage that might be gained by having a machine at the ready, or available for the primary goal of taking notes, was negligible at best” for his curriculum. What surprised him, though, was that most of his computer science department agreed. No computers in a CompSci class! But, Rockmore argued, research—such as Cornell’s 2003 landmark study “The Laptop and the Lecture” and recent studies out of UCLA and Princeton—shows over and over that students simply learn better when taking notes in old-fashioned chicken scratches.

Want better schools America? Make it harder to become a teacher.

Amanda Ripley

So far this month in education news, a California court has decimated rigid job protections for teachers, and Oklahoma’s governor has abolished the most rigorous learning standards that state has ever had. Back and forth we go in America’s exhausting tug-of-war over schools—local versus federal control, union versus management, us versus them.

But something else is happening, too. Something that hasn’t made many headlines but has the potential to finally revolutionize education in ways these nasty feuds never will.

In a handful of statehouses and universities across the country, a few farsighted Americans are finally pursuing what the world’s smartest countries have found to be the most efficient education reform ever tried. They are making it harder to become a teacher. Ever so slowly, these legislators and educators are beginning to treat the preparation of teachers the way we treat the training of surgeons and pilots—rendering it dramatically more selective, practical, and rigorous. All of which could transform not only the quality of teaching in America but the way the rest of us think about school and learning.

Over the past two years, according to a report out Tuesday from the National Council on Teacher Quality, 33 states have passed meaningful new oversight laws or regulations to elevate teacher education in ways that are much harder for universities to game or ignore. The report, which ranks 836 education colleges, found that only 13 percent made its list of top-ranked programs. But “a number of programs worked hard and at lightning speed” to improve. Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas now have the most top-ranked programs. This summer, meanwhile, the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation is finalizing new standards, which Education Week called“leaner, more specific and more outcomes-focused than any prior set in the 60-year history of national teacher-college accreditation.”

L.A. Unified suspension rates fall but some question figures’ accuracy

Teresa Watanabe:

IIn the heart of Watts, where violence in nearby housing projects can spill over onto campuses, two of the city’s toughest middle schools have long dealt with fights, drugs and even weapons.

Administrators typically have handled these problems by suspending students. But this year Markham and Gompers middle schools have reported marked reductions in that form of discipline — as has the L.A. Unified School District overall, where the suspension rate dropped to 1.5% last year from 8% in 2008.

The drop came after the Los Angeles Board of Education and L.A. schools chief John Deasy called for fewer suspensions as concern grew nationwide that removing students from school imperils their academic achievement and disproportionately harms minorities, particularly African Americans.

But have suspensions really become rarer?

The Privatization of Special Education

Katie Osgood:

Like so much else in education and beyond, we are seeing the familiar pattern of defunding, claiming crisis, and then calling for privatization in special education.

This past week in Chicago, our unelected Board of Education recently voted to expand contracts with private, for-profit organizations to meet the growing needs of our children with special needs as well as at-risk populations.

Of course, this move is nothing new in the world of special education. In Illinois, there are a multitude of private operators (both non-profit and for-profit, though the tax status is mostly irrelevant in practice.) Some of these schools are beautiful places. Some have lovely sounding websites, covering up truly horrible, poorly-run warehouses for students with special needs. But they are almost all very very expensive.

In fact, as these schools expand in number, investors understand there is a huge profit margin to be had on the backs of these vulnerable students. Districts, by federal law, must pay for these placements if it is determined to be the best environment for the student.

The Case for Academic Gossip

Lili Loofbourow:

One foggy fall day, I came across a savage review of an academic book. The book was written by someone I know well. The reviewer seemed delighted by his own vitriol, and as I read, I got irritated, on the author’s behalf, at what struck me as an ungenerous misreading of the work. Was this review being well-received? Did it have merits I didn’t see? What effect do reviews have socially and professionally? How was this affecting public perception of my acquaintance’s work? I reached almost automatically for my keyboard and typed in the name of the author and critic. I wanted to tap into my field, get some alternate perspectives. I wanted to see smart people hash out the merits of the review and, by extension, the book.

The review was published nearly a year ago in a respectable academic publication. I’d heard nothing at all about it, but surely others in my field had. Someone somewhere must have posted a response, or a discussion, or something. Both parties were fairly prominent in their field, and a direct attack is the kind of thing academics chatter about incessantly in the halls. Some of that must have leaked online!

So I did what I usually do when something of interest turns up: I Googled the two names to see who was discussing the review, its merits, and anything else of interest that might arise in connection with the review, which felt like the opening salvo in an intellectual battle.

How one unvaccinated child sparked Minnesota measles outbreak

Amy Norton

A measles outbreak in Minnesota offers a case study of how the disease is transmitted in the United States today: An unvaccinated person travels abroad, brings measles back and infects vulnerable people — including children who are unprotected because their parents chose not to vaccinate them.

That’s the conclusion of a report published online June 9 in Pediatrics that details the 2011 outbreak that sickened 19 children and two adults in the state.

It began when an unvaccinated 2-year-old was taken to Kenya, where he contracted the measles virus. After returning to the United States, the child developed a fever, cough and vomiting. However, before measles was diagnosed, he passed the virus on to three children in a drop-in child care center and another household member. Contacts then multiplied, with more than 3,000 people eventually exposed.

NJ civil rights lawyers should sue over teacher seniority rules

New Jersey Star Ledgee:

A California judge ruled this week that a poor kid’s equal right to a quality education isn’t just a matter of funding — it’s also about the barriers to success that lawmakers have imposed on the system. This includes tenure, seniority and other employment policies that make it unduly hard to fire a bad teacher.

They’ve helped perpetuate a hierarchy in which the best teachers generally wind up at the most desirable schools, and some of the worst ones at high-poverty schools, where it can take years of bureaucracy and tens of thousands of dollars to get rid of them.

Not only is this absurd, the judge argued; it’s unconstitutional. It violates a clause in many state constitutions, including New Jersey’s, that assures students a “thorough and efficient education.” This was the same clause under which advocates sued in the famous 1985 New Jersey Supreme Court case, Abbott v. Burke, to challenge the lack of equal funding for students in the poorest districts.

To improve our schools, we need to make it harder to become a teacher.

Amanda Ripley:

So far this month in education news, a California court has decimated rigid job protections for teachers, and Oklahoma’s governor has abolished the most rigorous learning standards that state has ever had. Back and forth we go in America’s exhausting tug-of-war over schools—local versus federal control, union versus management, us versus them.

But something else is happening, too. Something that hasn’t made many headlines but has the potential to finally revolutionize education in ways these nasty feuds never will.

In a handful of statehouses and universities across the country, a few farsighted Americans are finally pursuing what the world’s smartest countries have found to be the most efficient education reform ever tried. They are making it harder to become a teacher. Ever so slowly, these legislators and educators are beginning to treat the preparation of teachers the way we treat the training of surgeons and pilots—rendering it dramatically more selective, practical, and rigorous. All of which could transform not only the quality of teaching in America but the way the rest of us think about school and learning.

Wisconsin took one very small step toward teacher content knowledge, MTEL a few years ago.

Related: the National Council on a Teacher Quality has been reviewing schools of education.

South Korea’s Millionaire Tutors: The vast sums spent on preparing children for tests are causing unease

Simon Mundy:

Kim Ki-hoon has risen to stardom of a sort that exists in few places outside South Korea. As the country’s highest-earning celebrity English tea­ch­er, he estimates he made about $4m last year from his online language lessons – and then there is the income from his educational publishing company, which turned over about $10m.

The star tutor says about 1.5m South Koreans have taken his classes in the past 12 years. He attributes his success to his engaging teaching style and clever marketing: he selects his television appearances carefully, and made a pop song aimed at nervous university candidates with a chorus urging “Trust me!”.

Mr Kim’s earnings are a fraction of the estimated $20bn spent an­nually on private tuition in South Korea. Yet he, like others in the industry, ex­presses unease at the scale of the system that paid for his Porsche. “There should be no need for private education,” he says.

The fierce debate in South Korea over the national education system – in particular, the huge industry of private crammers (hagwons) and online study providers – might surprise its foreign admirers. Figures such as US President Barack Obama and Michael Gove, UK education secretary, have hailed South Korean education as a model, pointing to its children’s impressive showing in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development tests of maths, literacy and science.

Teaching our kids government dependency

Christian Schneider:

If asked to identify the most urgent problem with Milwaukee Public Schools, few people would likely say “too much parental involvement.”

In fact, over the years, public schools have been forced to take on more of the duties normally reserved for pupils’ parents. For this, MPS deserves some sympathy — as more children are raised in households with absent or disinterested parents, teachers have had to fill in the gaps in more kids’ upbringing.

But it appears that once a dollar bill is dangled in front of the district, it is more than happy to take over traditional parental responsibilities. Last week, MPS announced that it would be applying to provide free meals to all of the district’s children regardless of the kids’ family income.

Under the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, school districts where as few as 40% of the students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches can apply for federal aid to feed the remainder of the students, regardless of their family’s economic standing.

In Wisconsin, 43.3% of all students qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches, and in MPS, 82% of students are currently eligible. Yet it appears the district will not rest until every one of its students is dependent on the government for his or her nourishment, whether the student needs the aid or not.

For years, giving out free meals has been a cash cow for school districts. A decade ago, the Miami-Dade school district determined that the number of kids receiving free breakfasts would factor into a school principal’s performance review. The district began making automated phone calls to households in the district to urge their kids to eat breakfast at school.

Related: 2005 Forum on Poverty & Education.

Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes

Javier Hernandez:

He could have written about the green toy truck he kept hidden in his room, a reminder of Haiti, a place he did not yet fully understand.

He might have mentioned the second-place trophy he had won for reciting a psalm in French at church — “le bonheur et la grâce m’accompagneront tous les jours de ma vie…” — his one and only award.

He could have noted his dream of becoming an engineer or an architect, to one day have a house with a pool and a laboratory where he would turn wild ideas about winged cars and jet packs into reality.

But on a windy April afternoon, as the first real sun of spring fell on Public School 397 in Brooklyn, and empty supermarket bags floated through the sky, Chrispin Alcindor’s mind was elsewhere.

much more on the Common Core, here.

Commentary on Madison’s Achievement Gap

The Capital Times:

The statistics on African-American achievement have been so grim throughout the years that in 2010, Kaleem Caire, at the time the CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, put forth a proposal for a charter school designed to help African-American students surmount the achievement gap. It was ultimately rejected by the Madison School Board in 2011 after a bitter fight.

It’s against this backdrop that Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham took over the top job in spring 2013. In her first year, Cheatham earned favorable remarks from many in the community for her smart, focused and flexible approach, with a talent for connecting with teachers, the School Board, parents and city leaders alike.

Madison School District superintendent Jennifer Cheatham listens during a meeting at Madison Central Library.

In the 2013-2014 school year, she revised the discipline policy to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions in favor of practices that let students stay in school, own up to misconduct, and learn how to better conduct themselves in the future. Many education equity advocates see changes in school discipline policies, like those adopted under Cheatham, as key to closing the achievement gap.

Related: Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results.

2004: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

Will California’s Ruling Against Teacher Tenure Change Schools?

Dana Goldstein:

On Tuesday, a California superior-court judge ruled that the state’s teacher tenure system discriminates against kids from low-income families. Based on testimony that one to three percent of California teachers are likely “grossly ineffective”—thousands of people, who mostly teach at low-income schools—he reasoned that current tenure policies “impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.” The ruling, in Vergara v. California, has the potential to overturn five state laws governing how long it takes for a teacher to earn tenure; the legal maneuvers necessary to remove a tenured teacher; and which teachers are laid off first in the event of budget cuts or school closings.

Tenure has existed in K-12 public education since 1909, when “good-government” reformers borrowed the concept from Germany. The idea spread quickly from New Jersey to New York to Chicago and then across the country. During the Progressive Era, both teachers unions and school-accountability hawks embraced the policy, which prevented teaching jobs from being given out as favors by political bosses. If it was legally difficult to fire a good teacher, she couldn’t be replaced by the alderman’s unqualified sister-in-law.