Reading and Curricular Suggestions & Links as the school year begins

Wisconsin Reading Coalition via a kind email:

With the beginning of a new school year, here is some timely information and inspiration.

You can make a difference: At WRC, we are often focused on top-down systemic change that can improve reading outcomes for students across our state. However, bottom-up, individual efforts are equally important. A letter from Colin Powell, Alma Powell, and Laysha Ward in the Washington Post reminds us that as individuals we can be part of the solution. “Imagine that you have an envelope beneath your chair, containing the name of a child in need and within your reach. He or she is heading back to school now but is at risk of not finishing. There are students like this in every community across the country, just waiting for someone to connect with them. This school year, we challenge you to find your Nico Rodriguez: Reach out directly to your local school, parent-teacher association or a relevant nonprofit with an offer to volunteer. . . Whatever path you choose, know that everybody can do something, starting today.” If you are in the Milwaukee area, please consider volunteering for one of the reading tutor pilots through Milwaukee Succeeds. We at WRC have a personal investment in programs at St. Catherine’s School at 51st and Center and Northwest Catholic School at 41st and Good Hope. With as little as an hour a week, you can participate in providing Orton-Gillingham-based intervention to struggling K5-2 students. Contact Audra Brennan at 414-336-7038, or

​Adult literacy issues: In his recent article, Time to knock out illiteracy, James Causey of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlighted the reading difficulties of boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, and suggested that Mayweather address his reading issues and become a “better role model for black boys across America, who have the worst reading scores of any group in the nation.” Rapper 50 Cent and disc jockey Charlamagne Tha God have publicly humiliated Mayweather by pointing out his reading difficulties. Causey states: “It’s hard to feel sorry for Mayweather because he loves playing the bad guy in the ring and he’s made enough money to afford the best tutors and educators in the world. Which begs the questions, why hasn’t he learned to read yet?” Mary McFadden, a Milwaukee adult basic education tutor, responded in an opinion comment: “I can think of a few reasons. Reading difficulties are not the result of a lack of intelligence or a lack of effort. Unfortunately, effective programs for adults with learning disabilities or learning challenges are available but not very prevalent. Also, seeking help means having to tell someone you have a problem, which is difficult for many people. . . . I believe that greater pressure should be applied to 50 Cent to become a role model by educating himself on learning disabilities, apologizing for his cruel behavior and encouraging people to celebrate each other’s strengths while showing empathy and compassion as we all struggle with our weaknesses.”

You can’t learn if you’re not there: Wisconsin Superintendent Tony Evers sent some important information to school principals concerning the importance of student attendance, particularly in the early years of school. Resources and strategies for improving attendance are included. “The evidence from Wisconsin is irrefutable: students with good attendance in Kindergarten through Grade 2 have higher rates of reading and math proficiency in later grades. Good attendance in the early years also predicts good attendance rates throughout a student’s K-12 education. Data reveal that repeated early absence has negative educational implications for children.”

Setting the bar on Smarter Balanced assessment: Anyone with opinions on appropriate and fair cut scores for the upcoming Smarter Balanced assessments may participate in the achievement level setting process. An online national panel requires just three hours over two days during a window from October 6 through 17. Don’t complain if you don’t participate. Click here to register.

A win for the good guys: The Federal Trade Commission recently announced a settlement of its action against Infant Learning, Inc. and its owner for false educational claims related to its “Your Baby Can Read” product. The final order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California imposes monetary judgements exceeding $185 million, which will be suspended after the owner pays $300,000. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Focus on dyslexia: Wisconsin FACETS offers a free telephone workshop on September 24 from 12-1 PM. The program, titled “Red Flags of a Struggling Reader,” will be presented by Cheryl Ward. Register online at, or contact Sandra McFarland at 877-374-0511 or Also, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), has dyslexia basics, a free dyslexia toolkit, top 10 resources, and more on its website. A video on the dyslexic brain is also available.

It’s a big job: Lest we forget, effective reading intervention is not an easy or quick fix, particularly when begun at third grade or later. A recent New York Times article discusses the third-grade retention movement in multiple states, and the summer school programs that are seeking to avoid that outcome for students. It highlights the importance of teaching reading the right way from the start, and intervening early when problems surface. (Note: you may have to close numerous pop-up windows to read this article.)

Literate Nation Virtual Boot Camp: The Literate Nation organization will offer a free virtual boot camp on how to create literacy change in your community. This is a live webcast of a 1-1/2 day event in Denver, CO, that runs from Saturday, October 18 through Sunday, October 19. Participate individually or form your own group. Click here to register.

The Boy with Half a Brain

Michael Rubino:

Inhale. Exhale. Jeff Buttars looked around the tiny pre-surgical room and reminded himself to keep breathing. As his chest rose and fell, so did his spirits. His wife, Tiernae, appeared calm, confirmation that this decision was the right one. His infant son, William, stirred and beamed, a soft expression that landed hard. I’m leading a lamb to slaughter, Jeff thought. Inhale. Exhale. The sound of his measured breaths drowned out the room’s ambient beeping and buzzing but could not hush the ripple of doubt.

Jeff gathered the baby in his arms, and the family made its way toward a set of swinging metal operating-room doors. On the ground a few feet in front of the doors, a swath of yellow tape marked the threshold to the unknown. In the days leading up to William’s surgery, the choice the yellow line represented had seemed clear, but as they walked forward, it now appeared blurred.

Are you praying hard enough? Jeff’s brother had asked, meaning well. Are you listening for the answer? The prayers—are they the right ones? As though there existed a combination Jeff had not yet considered. A financial professional who worked in the home-loan sector, Jeff made it his business to eyeball numbers, size-up odds, and foresee outcomes. Probability begat prophecy in his world. Now little of that mattered. The decision he was making with his wife affected not a stranger but their baby, and the potential outcomes (slow death, fast passing, a medical miracle), he believed, were in the hands of God.

Acting French: It’s hard to learn a new language. But it’s way harder to learn a new culture.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

spent the majority of this summer at Middlebury College, studying at l’École Française. I had never been to Vermont. I have not been many places at all. I did not have an adult passport until I was 37 years old. Sometimes I regret this. And then sometimes not. Learning to travel when you’re older allows you to be young again, to touch the childlike amazement that is so often dulled away by adult things. In the past year, I have seen more of the world than at any point before, and thus, I have been filled with that juvenile feeling more times then I can count—at a train station in Strasbourg, in an old Parisian bookstore, on a wide avenue in Lawndale. It was no different in Vermont where the green mountains loomed like giants. I would stare at these mountains out of the back window of the Davis Family Library. I would watch the clouds, which, before the rain, drooped over the mountains like lampshades, and I would wonder what, precisely, I had been doing with my life.

I was there to improve my French. My study consisted of four hours of class work and four hours of homework. I was forbidden from reading, writing, speaking, or hearing English. I watched films in French, tried to read a story in Le Monde each day, listened to RFI and a lot of Barbara and Karim Oullet. At every meal I spoke French, and over the course of the seven weeks I felt myself gradually losing touch with the broader world. This was not a wholly unpleasant feeling. In the moments I had to speak English (calling my wife, interacting with folks in town or at the book store), my mouth felt alien and my ear slightly off.

What your 1st-grade life says about the rest of it

Emily Badger, via a kind reader:

In the beginning, when they knew just where to find everyone, they pulled the children out of their classrooms.

They sat in any quiet corner of the schools they could claim: the sociologists from Johns Hopkins and, one at a time, the excitable first-graders. Monica Jaundoo, whose parents never made it past the eighth grade. Danté Washington, a boy with a temper and a dad who drank too much. Ed Klein, who came from a poor white part of town where his mother sold cocaine.

They talked with the sociologists about teachers and report cards, about growing up to become rock stars or police officers. For many of the children, this seldom happened in raucous classrooms or overwhelmed homes: a quiet, one-on-one conversation with an adult eager to hear just about them. “I have this special friend,” Jaundoo thought as a 6-year-old, “who’s only talking to me.”

Later, as the children grew and dispersed, some falling out of the school system and others leaving the city behind, the conversations took place in McDonald’s, in public libraries, in living rooms or lock-ups. The children — 790 of them, representative of the Baltimore public school system’s first-grade class in 1982 — grew harder to track as the patterns among them became clearer.

Poison Ivy

Nathan Heller

William Deresiewicz, a former professor of English at Yale, believes that choices must be made. Shortly after leaving the university, six years ago, he published a widely discussed essay in The American Scholar describing élite college students as whiz careerists caught up in a system that “rarely asked them to think about something bigger than the next assignment.” Now, some pointed essays later, he has sought to thread together his complaints into a prickly graduation tassel of a book. “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life” (Free Press) is an attack on college culture in this overscheduled age. The sheep are the students—he also calls them “Super People,” “an alien species,” and “bionic hamsters”—and he thinks that, with respect to their education, everything they do right puts them in the wrong.

Children with autism ‘have too many synapses in their brain’

Medical News Today:

new study by researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, NY, finds that children and adolescents with autism have too many synapses in their brain, which can affect their brain function. Furthermore, the team believes it may be possible to reduce this excess synapse formation with a drug, paving the way for a novel autism treatment strategy.

Asian-Americans and SCA-5: Here’s why many oppose it

Michael Wang:

For high school students aiming to attend a top college, July is filled with exam prep, community service, lab work, internships, music and athletic camps. With Stanford taking only 5.1 percent of applicants and Yale just 7.1 percent, the odds are so uncertain that no effort is spared to build a competitive profile.

Applying to college is an anxiety-filled rite-of-passage for students and parents alike. For Asian-American families, however, the anxiety is mixed with dread. They know that their race will be used against them in admissions, and there is nothing they can do but over prepare.

I experienced this when I applied last year. I grew up in a Chinese-American family in Union City, where my parents are educators and encouraged me to pursue my interests broadly. I sing and play the piano. My choir performed at the San Francisco Opera and President Obama’s first inauguration.

Why textbooks cost so much

The Economist:

STUDENTS can learn a lot about economics when they buy Greg Mankiw’s “Principles of Economics”—even if they don’t read it. Like many popular textbooks, it is horribly expensive: $292.17 on Amazon. Indeed, the nominal price of textbooks has risen more than fifteenfold since 1970, three times the rate of inflation (see chart).

Like doctors prescribing drugs, professors assigning textbooks do not pay for the products themselves, so they have little incentive to pick cheap ones. Some assign books they have written themselves. The 20m post-secondary students in America often have little choice in the matter. Small wonder textbooks generate megabucks.

But hope is not lost for poor scholars. Foreign editions are easy to find online and often cheaper—sometimes by over 90%. Publishers can be litigious about this, but in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that Americans have the right to buy and resell copyrighted material obtained legally. Many university bookstores now let students rent books and return them. Publishers have begun to offer digital textbooks, which are cheaper but can’t be resold. And if all else fails, there is always the library.

25 Maps That Explain College a Football

Jason Kirk:

In 1869, students at Rutgers invited students from Princeton over for sport. They played an evolving New England game sort of like soccer and sort of like rugby and mostly just brawling in a field. A week later, a rematch. And they wanted to have a tie-breaker, but faculty complained about the students spending all their time brawling in fields. And so ended the first season of American football. Since then, not much has really changed, other than it now being inconceivable that academics could ever stop a college football game from happening. And yes, Princeton claims to have won the 1869 national championship.

How to Game the College Rankings

Max Kutner:

In 1996, Richard Freeland looked across the sea of crumbling parking lots that was Northeastern University and saw an opportunity few others could. As the school’s new president, he had inherited a third-tier, blue-collar, commuter-based university whose defining campus feature was a collection of modest utilitarian buildings south of Huntington Avenue, with a sprinkling of newly plant.

The university had been a victim of many things, most notably federal cutbacks—rolled out in the mid-’80s—that had left many colleges scrambling for money to close their budget gaps. These cutbacks, combined with dwindling enrollment, had forced Northeastern’s previous president, Jack Curry, to slash the budget and cut 875 jobs in the early 1990s. When he announced the layoffs to his staff, Curry burst into tears. “To say it was an institution in turmoil would be an understatement,” says a vice provost from that time.

But Freeland, the man who had helped successfully launch UMass Boston over the previous two decades, had a plan. Freeland believed that if Northeastern could justify its increased costs to students and parents, it could be saved. And one gauge consistently determined a college’s value: its position on the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings. Freeland observed how schools ranked highly received increased visibility and prestige, stronger applicants, more alumni giving, and, most important, greater revenue potential. A low rank left a university scrambling for money. This single list, Freeland determined, had the power to make or break a school.

Bright foreigners like to study in America. Shame they can’t stay

The Economist:

THE number of foreign students at universities in America reached a new high of 819,644 last year. Many of them came from China on F-1 visas, which are reserved for students. Chinese studying in America now number 200,000, up from 16,000 in 2003. Students from India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia also flock to America’s top-notch universities.

Foreign students contribute over $30 billion to the American economy, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution, a think-tank. But few are invited to stay past their studies. The number of H-1B visas, which are given to skilled foreign workers, has barely budged over the past decade (see chart). America is not trying to poach bright young minds, say officials. Research has shown that foreigners who study in America bring liberal values back home with them.

Turkey’s education row deepens as thousands placed in religious schools ‘against their will’

Hurryet Daily News:

Turkey’s secondary education examination row has deepened, amid reports that thousands of students, including some non-Muslims, have been placed in Islamic vocational schools for the upcoming school year.

After the results for the national primary to secondary education (TEOG) examination were announced earlier this month, there were a number of reports that around 40,000 students had been placed in religious “imam-hatip” schools against the will of their families.

Education Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Muhterem Kurt confirmed that a total of 9,802 students had been placed in schools far away from the districts where they live, but stressed that there was “no need to panic.” Kurt told daily Milliyet that there would be an opportunity for re-allocation in mid-September.

According to the new system, students failing to get into their top-preferred school as a result of the exam are placed in schools nearest to their area. However, many claim that too many regular schools have been turned into imam-hatip schools in recent years, making it difficult for some children to avoid a religion-focused education even if they do not want it.

College Tuition Costs Soar: Chart of the Day

Michelle Jamrisko and Ilan Kolet:

The cost of higher education has jumped more than 13-fold in records dating to 1978, illustrating bloated tuition costs even as enrollment slows and graduates struggle to land jobs.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows that tuition expenses have ballooned 1,225 percent in the 36-year period, compared with a 634 percent rise in medical costs and a 279 percent increase in the consumer price index.

My advice for kids: The 1,000-hour rule

Philip Guo:

I’m not yet qualified to give general life advice to kids, but I would like to share one simple piece of advice that I would’ve liked to hear when I was a kid:

Find something you genuinely enjoy doing for its own sake, stick with it, keep learning more about it, and after a decade or so, you can’t help but get good at it and feel proud of yourself.

This is my own personal take on the popular 10,000-hour rule, which claims that it takes around 10,000 hours of intense practice to become an expert in a particular topic. For instance, top-notch musicians, artists, athletes, scientists, and other experts in their respective fields all share a common experience: They practiced consistently and with high intensity for over 10,000 hours, often starting at a young age. That amounts to practicing for 4 hours every weekday for a decade straight, which takes tremendous passion and perseverance.

Medicine’s Uncomfortable Relationship With Math Calculating Positive Predictive Value

Arjun K. Manrai, AB; Gaurav Bhatia, MS; Judith Strymish, MD; Isaac S. Kohane, MD, PhD, Sachin H. Jain, MD:

In 1978, Casscells et al1 published a small but important study showing that the majority of physicians, house officers, and students overestimated the positive predictive value (PPV) of a laboratory test result using prevalence and false positive rate. Today, interpretation of diagnostic tests is even more critical with the increasing use of medical technology in health care. Accordingly, we replicated the study by Casscells et al1 by asking a convenience sample of physicians, house officers, and students the same question: “If a test to detect a disease whose prevalence is 1/1000 has a false positive rate of 5%, what is the chance that a person found to have a positive result actually has the disease, assuming you know nothing about the person’s symptoms or signs?”

Student Apps Teach Colleges a Thing or Two

Ariel Kaminer:

Vaibhav Verma was frustrated that he could not get into the most popular courses at Rutgers University, so he decided to try a new approach.
He didn’t sleep outside classrooms to be first in line when the door opened, or send professors a solicitous note. Instead, he built a web-based application that could repeatedly query the New Jersey university’s registration system. As soon as anyone dropped the class, Mr. Verma’s tool would send him a message, and he would grab the open spot.

“I built it just because I was a little bit bored,” he said.

By the next semester, 8,000 people had used it.

America’s public schools remain highly segregated, by choice?

Reed Jordan:

Fifty million children will start school this week as historic changes are under way in the U.S. public school system. As of 2011 48 percent of all public school students were poor* and this year, students of color will account for the majority of public school students for the first time in US history.

What is surprising about these shifts is that they are not leading to more diverse schools. In fact, the Civil Rights Project has shown that black students are just as segregated today as they were in in the late 1960s, when serious enforcement of desegregation plans first began following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Despite our country’s growing diversity, our public schools provide little contact between white students and students of color. We’ve mapped data about the racial composition of US public schools to shed light on today’s patterns at the county level. These maps show that America’s public schools are highly segregated by race and income, with the declining share of white students typically concentrated in schools with other white students and the growing share of Latino students concentrated into low-income public schools with other students of color.

Related: Madison has long supported wide variation in school demographics.

Summer Jobs Are Slowly Disappearing

Ben Casselman:

Maurice Brown has spent the summer doing something that’s increasingly unusual for American teenagers: going to work.

Brown, 17, works 25 hours a week as a fry cook at a McDonald’s down the street from where he lives in Holyoke, Massachusetts. While classmates were at the beach or the mall, Brown was learning life skills — how to behave in a professional workplace, how to multitask when the lunch rush started, how not to talk back when his managers criticized him. He said he hopes the experience will help him get a job after college. And though the pay was low, he was able to buy his own school clothes and save some money toward a car.

“I was tired of having to wait for my mom and ask her for things,” Brown said.

Research has shown that teenagers — and especially teenage boys — who work are more likely to graduate high school, more likely to go to college and less likely to get into trouble with the law. They also gain valuable work experience that can make it easier to get a job and get promoted more quickly in adulthood. But for a variety of reasons — fewer job opportunities, more emphasis on schooling, changing societal expectations — fewer young people are getting summer jobs.

Closed shop at the top in deeply elitist Britain, says study

Andrew Sparrow:

Britain is “deeply elitist” because people educated at public school and Oxbridge have in effect created a “closed shop at the top”, according to a government report published on Thursday.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said its study of the social background of those “running Britain” was the most detailed of its kind ever undertaken and showed that elitism was so embedded in Britain “that it could be called ‘social engineering'”.

Looking at the Numbers: What Scales in K-12, Anyway?

Alex Hernandez:

Last week, I heard the following exchange between an education entrepreneur and a philanthropist for 9,358th time:

Education entrepreneur: “I want to start a [insert new idea].”

Philanthropist: “Great. How is it going to scale?”

I work for an education philanthropy with the word “growth” in its name. I love the scale. And even I finally cracked. What do we mean when we say “scale” in education?!

I haphazardly started listing out K12 organizations, programs, policies and ideas, along with estimates of the number of students reached per year. Student reach statistics were drawn from the National Center for Education Statistics, organizational websites, articles and other general web research, and spanned 2012 to 2014. (Disclaimer: this is an informal thought exercise, not a PhD dissertation). Here’s what I came up with:

Pisa tests to include many more Chinese pupils

Sean Coughlan:

There will be a much wider sample of Chinese pupils taking part in the next round of the international Pisa tests.

Shanghai took part in the most recent tests and had the highest results.

But there were claims that the city was not representative of schools in other parts of China.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which runs the tests has announced that Beijing, Jiangsu and Guangdong will take part, alongside Shanghai.

The Pisa tests, taken every three years by 15-year-olds, have become one of the most influential international benchmarks for education standards.

On Equality

Nicholas Eberstadt:

Is the human condition becoming more unequal? Many assert it is, but their focus is almost exclusively on economic inequality. This is problematic for two key reasons.

First, even in data-rich America, statistics on wealth distribution are at best rudimentary. Measured economic equality differs dramatically depending on whether one looks at income (pre- or post-tax? by the year or over a lifetime?), or at personal consumption, which seems to be distributed much more equally.

More crucially, income is not the only important measure of human well-being and life chances. Consider two global revolutions that are improving the human condition and making it more equal.

The first is how long people live. In 1751, according to the Human Mortality Database, Sweden’s overall life expectancy at birth was barely 38 years. But this was an arithmetic average for a population within which survival prospects were wildly, brutally disparate. Roughly a fifth of all Swedes died in their first year of life; by age 5 only 70 Swedes were still alive of every 100 born. But about half of those who made it to age 5 lived to 60 and beyond.

2018 List

Beloit College:

Students heading into their first year of college this year were generally born in 1996.

Among those who have never been alive in their lifetime are Tupac Shakur, JonBenet Ramsey, Carl Sagan, and Tiny Tim.

On Parents’ Weekend, they may want to watch out in case Madonna shows up to see daughter Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon or Sylvester Stallone comes to see daughter Sophia.

For students entering college this fall in the Class of 2018…

1. During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center.

2. Since they binge-watch their favorite TV shows, they might like to binge-watch the video portions of their courses too.

When Chinese children forget how to write

Celia Hatton:

In China, it takes blood, sweat and months of studying dictionaries to become a Character Hero.

Millions tune in every week to watch teenagers compete for the title. Character Hero is a Chinese-style spelling bee, but in this challenge, young contestants must write Chinese characters by hand.

Every stroke, every dash must be in the correct spot.

After two tense rounds, Wang Yiluo is bumped from the contest. She bows to the panel of celebrity judges and quickly exits the bright lights of the television studio.

Backstage, she admits that she spent months studying dictionaries to prepare for the contest. The stakes were high; at 17, this was the last year she could appear on the show.

“I wanted to compete before I was too old,” she explained.

College Rankings That Aren’t Ridiculous – Washington Monthly’s 2014 College Guide, now online

Paul Glastris:

Today the Washington Monthly releases its annual College Guide and Rankings. This is our answer to U.S News & World Report, which relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige for its rankings. Instead, we rate schools based on what they are doing for the country — on whether they’re improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service. This fall, the Obama administration will release its plan to rate America’s colleges and universities based on measures of access, affordability and outcome, similar metrics to those used by Washington Monthly for years.

The Washington Monthly’s unique methodology yields striking results.

* Only two of U.S. News’ top ten schools, Stanford and Harvard, make the Washington Monthly’s top ten. Yale, Columbia, Brown and Cornell don’t even crack our top 50.
* Instead, the University of California – San Diego (our #1 national university for the fifth year in a row) and the University of Texas – El Paso (unranked by U.S. News but #8 on our list) leave several members of the Ivy League in the dust.
* While all the top twenty U.S. News universities are private, 14 of the top twenty Washington Monthly universities are accessible, affordable, high-quality public universities.

Statistics: Losing Ground to CS, Losing Image Among Students

Norman Matloff:

The American Statistical Association (ASA) leadership, and many in Statistics academia. have been undergoing a period of angst the last few years, They worry that the field of Statistics is headed for a future of reduced national influence and importance, with the feeling that:

The field is to a large extent being usurped by other disciplines, notably Computer Science (CS).

Efforts to make the field attractive to students have largely been unsuccessful.

I had been aware of these issues for quite a while, and thus was pleasantly surprised last year to see then-ASA president Marie Davidson write a plaintive editorial titled, “Aren’t We Data Science?”

Good, the ASA is taking action, I thought. But even then I was startled to learn during JSM 2014 (a conference tellingly titled “Statistics: Global Impact, Past, Present and Future”) that the ASA leadership is so concerned about these problems that it has now retained a PR firm.

This is probably a wise move–most large institutions engage in extensive PR in one way or another–but it is a sad statement about how complacent the profession has become. Indeed, it can be argued that the action is long overdue; as a friend of mine put it, “They [the statistical profession] lost the PR war because they never fought it.”

In this post, I’ll tell you the rest of the story, as I see it, viewing events as statistician, computer scientist and R activist.

Teacher Evaluations in an Era of Rapid Change: From “Unsatisfactory” to “Needs Improvement”

Chad Aldeman & Carolyn Chuong:

Over the last four years, states implemented remarkable changes to their teacher evaluation systems. Rather than rating all educators as either “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” school districts use new multi-tiered evaluation systems to identify their best (and weakest) teachers. States now require districts to incorporate measurements of student academic growth and rubrics from higher-quality classroom observations into their ratings of teachers and principals. And teachers and principals are starting to receive financial incentives or face potential consequences based on these evaluation results.

But after the initial rush of reforms, progress stalled. The rollout of new evaluation policies slowed down as districts faced implementation challenges and increasing public backlash against teacher evaluation reforms.

Via Laura Waters.

Drugging our Kids

Karen De Sa

They are wrenched from abusive homes, uprooted again and again, often with their life’s belongings stuffed into a trash bag.

Abandoned and alone, they are among California’s most powerless children. But instead of providing a stable home and caring family, the state’s foster care system gives them a pill.

With alarming frequency, foster and health care providers are turning to a risky but convenient remedy to control the behavior of thousands of troubled kids: numbing them with psychiatric drugs that are untested on and often not approved for children.

An investigation by this newspaper found that nearly 1 out of every 4 adolescents in California’s foster care system is receiving these drugs — 3 times the rate for all adolescents nationwide. Over the last decade, almost 15 percent of the state’s foster children of all ages were prescribed the medications, known as psychotropics, part of a national treatment trend that is only beginning to receive broad scrutiny.

“We’re experimenting on our children,” said Los Angeles County Judge Michael Nash, who presides over the nation’s largest juvenile court.

Reinventing American K-12 Education

Mary Dooe & Genevieve Wilson:

How do we reinvent American education?

An Unconventional Education Toolbox

You can start at the very beginning, with preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Dr. Roberta Ness, author of “Genius Unmasked” and Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Texas, explains why Maria Montessori’s method for teaching was so successful. Montessori schools, which have a bit of a cult following in Silicon Valley, encourage creativity and inquisitiveness in a way that traditional schools don’t.

‘Building a Better Teacher’ and ‘Getting Schooled’

Sebastian Stockman:

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” The greeting-card pithiness of this maxim obscures what is in fact a useful metaphor, and in “Building a Better Teacher,” Elizabeth Green introduces us to educators who stick to their kindling. Her project is both a history of the research on effective teaching as well as a consideration of how that research might best be implemented. What emerges is the gaping chasm between what the best teachers do and how we go about evaluating what they’ve done.

Green outlines the teacher-training debate as one between proponents of accountability on one side and autonomy on the other. She points out that both sides assume what she calls “the myth of the natural-born teacher.” The accountability folks want to use test scores to ­identify these gifted teachers and winnow out the others; the autonomy advocates want to give them creative control over their classrooms. Green, a journalist and the editor of Chalkbeat, an education news organization, argues that good teaching is largely “the result of extraordinary skill, not inborn talent.” If lighting a fire is a skill, it can be learned, and it can be taught.

School Boards: “a frog at the bottom of a deep well trying to guess what is going on above based on leaves and birds flying by”

Laura Waters:

Late Sunday night yet another Trenton Board of Education member resigned, leaving only four members of the nine-member, mayor-appointed group, one less than a quorum and, thus, unable to approve any district appointments, allocations, contracts, or programming initiatives. According to the Trenton Times, Roslyn Council sent in her formal letter of resignation to Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson, following the lead of Sasa Olessi-Montano and Mary Taylor Hayes, who both resigned earlier this summer. Another member resigned earlier in the year.

But not to worry: While the Times notes that “[i]n the meantime the school board will be unable to take action on any school district items with the start of the school year two weeks away,” the district attorney, Kathleen Smallwood Johnson said “there is nothing that is essential to the start of the school year that would require board approval.” Mayor Jackson will, accordingly, take his time and appoint new members in “another week or so.”

Actually, at the meeting on Monday that was cancelled due to lack of a quorum, the published Agenda has 91 pages of recommendations, including approval of annual contracts with preschool providers, a “Proposal for Bilingual/English as a Second Language Department for the 2014-2015 school year at a cost not to exceed $272,812.00,” updated math curricula, and new supervision and intervention programs at various city schools intended to “provide students…with a safe environment before and after the regular school day.”

A Teenager’s Study Suggests Public Colleges Get Less Times Attention

Margaret Sullivan:

Last year, as a college freshman, Jack Fischer decided to put some casual observations to the test.

He had noticed during his college search that public colleges and universities seemed to get short shrift in many publications, including The Times, while the Harvards and Dartmouths of the world were celebrated and constantly mentioned.

As the 19-year-old recalls: “It just seemed like there wasn’t much being said about a lot of public institutions, especially in light of the intense coverage of similar private schools. I don’t know who said it, but there’s a quote that goes something like ‘The most exciting thing isn’t ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny …’.”

Where are first graduates of Chicago’s Urban Prep?

Lolly Bowean:

As a student in the first class of Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, Tyler Beck found himself enveloped in a nurturing environment where teachers came in early and stayed late to help tutor struggling students. There, the boys formed a brotherhood and learned affirmations that kept them pumped up to achieve.

“We were taught, ‘Each one reach one,’ and ‘It takes courage to excel.’ We all learned to help each other because we all wanted to succeed,” Beck said. “There were people who could say they’d been right where you were from and they could say they knew what your life was like.”

But four years later, at the idyllic East Coast private college to which Beck was accepted, the atmosphere was dramatically different. And even though he had earned a full academic scholarship to attend, Beck was not prepared.

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

Teaching Math-Conversations on the Rifle Range 7: Winds and Currents, Formative Assessments, and the Eternal Gratitude of Dudes

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

All my classes were getting ready to take their first quiz later in the week. My second period class was the second-year Algebra 1 class. We were working on systems of linear equations covering the various ways of solving two equations with two unknowns.

I was preparing for my second period class by looking over the upcoming quiz and identifying the questions that most students would likely get wrong. As I reached the disturbing conclusion that this would be almost all the questions, Sally, the District person who talked to the math teachers about Common Core the day before school began, stuck her head in the door and asked if I had done any of the activities she had talked about that day. These were discovery-oriented projects that lead students to explore certain topics (specifically: probability, repeating decimals, and solving systems of equations) while allowing teachers to do formative assessments. Which means evaluating students by observing them “communicate and defend their thinking”.

Three reasons college textbook prices are out of control

Libby Nelson:

University of Wyoming professor Peter Thorsness didn’t used to pay much attention to how much the introductory biochemistry textbooks on his syllabus cost. He knew they were expensive, but he expected that students would use them over and over as a reference.

Then his daughter went to college. Since then, “I know what things cost,” Thorsness said. And that’s changed how he thinks about his own textbook assignments.

Recently, Thorsness and other faculty members picked one textbook — Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry — that students could use for three courses in sequence, so they wouldn’t have to spend more each semester. And Thorsness knows the exact bookstore price: $277.

The price of college textbooks has been rising rapidly for decades — much faster than consumer prices:

Why meritocratic elites and SAT whizzes are so shaken by Pres Obama’s failures

Tom Donnelly:

It is remarkable, considering the transformational, ocean-healing promise once attributed to Barack Obama’s rise, how America and the world seem to be coming apart at the seams. The Davos Men — and our president is, more than anything else, a representative of the soi-disant “meritocratic” elite — are flummoxed and getting panicky.

The Islamic State, surging out of the deserts of eastern Syria and western Iraq, underscores how brittle the confidence of the chattering class has become. The threat is “beyond anything we’ve seen,” frets Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “We must prepare for everything.”

Hagel has a point. The rapid success of the Islamic State is a direct refutation of the let-it-burn approach to the Middle East that is not only Obama administration policy but would likely be amplified should Rand Paul ever become president. Looking at the world more broadly — including other unpleasant realities like Vladimir Putin’s slow-motion dismemberment of Ukraine and China’s bullying of America’s East Asian allies and friends — the elites see, as Huffington Post writer Robert Kuttner put it, “events of stupefying complexity.”

Credentialism run amok in some ways.

Generation Later, Poor Are Still Rare at Elite Colleges

Richard Perez-Pena:

As the shaded quadrangles of the nation’s elite campuses stir to life for the start of the academic year, they remain bastions of privilege. Amid promises to admit more poor students, top colleges educate roughly the same percentage of them as they did a generation ago. This is despite the fact that there are many high school seniors from low-income homes with top grades and scores: twice the percentage in the general population as at elite colleges.

A series of federal surveys of selective colleges found virtually no change from the 1990s to 2012 in enrollment of students who are less well off — less than 15 percent by some measures — even though there was a huge increase over that time in the number of such students going to college. Similar studies looking at a narrower range of top wealthy universities back those findings. With race-based affirmative action losing both judicial and public support, many have urged selective colleges to shift more focus to economic diversity.

Adjunct professors fight for crumbs on campus

Colman McCarthy:

We are the stoop laborers of higher education: adjunct professors.

As colleges and universities rev for the fall semester, the stony exploitation of the adjunct faculty continues, providing cheap labor for America’s campuses, from small community colleges to knowledge factories with 40,000 students. The median salary for adjuncts, according to the American Association of University Professors, is $2,700 per three-credit course. Some schools raise this slightly to $3,000 to $5,000; a tiny few go higher. Others sink to $1,000. Pay scales vary from school to school, course to course. Adjuncts teaching upper-level biophysics are likely to earn more than those teaching freshman grammar.

Via Fabius Maximus.

1 in 3 Black Students Chronically Absent from Madison Schools

Molly Beck, via a kind reader:

One in three black students was chronically absent from school during the 2013-14 school year, according to a Madison School District report.

Thirty-six percent of the district’s black students have an attendance rate lower than 90 percent. That corresponds to missing, on average, one half day of school every week, or 18 days during the year. The rate has remained steady for the past three school years.

Overall, 20 percent of students were chronically absent last school year, up from 19 percent during the two previous school years, according to the report, which was presented to the School Board on Monday. The district’s total attendance rate was 93 percent.

Nearly one in three students from low-income households was chronically absent compared to one in 10 students who didn’t qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham and board members said the data illustrate the need to further emphasize school attendance — especially as the district seeks to close the achievement gap between white and minority students and as it works to increase academic rigor in middle and high schools.

“On average the district does pretty well, but we have subgroups that we simply need to be sure they are in school more,” said James Howard, board vice president. “You can’t learn if you’re not in school — it’s just that simple.”

How to Get Kids to Class: To Keep Poor Students in School, Provide Social Services

FOR the 16 million American children living below the federal poverty line, the start of a new school year should be reason to celebrate. Summer is no vacation when your parents are working multiple jobs or looking for one. Many kids are left to fend for themselves in neighborhoods full of gangs, drugs and despair. Given the hardships at home, poor kids might be expected to have the best attendance records, if only for the promise of a hot meal and an orderly classroom.

But it doesn’t usually work out that way. According to the education researchers Robert Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes at Johns Hopkins, children living in poverty are by far the most likely to be chronically absent from school (which is generally defined as missing at least 10 percent of class days each year).

Amazingly, the federal government does not track absenteeism, but the state numbers are alarming. In Maryland, for example, 31 percent of high school students eligible for the federal lunch program had been chronically absent; for students above the income threshold, the figure was 12 percent.

Thanks to groundbreaking research compiled by Hedy Nai-Lin Chang, the director at Attendance Works, we have ample proof that everything else being equal, chronically absent students have lower G.P.A.s, lower test scores and lower graduation rates than their peers who attend class regularly.

The pattern often starts early. Last year in New Mexico, a third-grade teacher contacted the local affiliate of Communities in Schools, the national organization that I run, for help with a student who had 25 absences in just the first semester. After several home visits, we found that 10 people were living in her two-bedroom apartment, including the student’s mother, who had untreated mental health issues. The little girl often got lost in the shuffle, with no clean clothes to wear and no one to track her progress. Nor was there anything like a quiet place to do homework.

Henry Tyson charted unlikely path to Milwaukee education debates

Bill Glauber

“I’m a conformist,” said Henry Tyson, superintendent of St. Marcus Lutheran School. “I like rules and I like order.”

To hear that Tyson considers himself a conformist is a surprise, given his background and his mission.

How this British-born educator came to Milwaukee is the stuff of chance, circumstance and an intense personal faith to live, work and educate children in the inner city.

Tyson’s ability to shake up the education establishment in recent years has made him a target of critics, who see him as an interloper.

Even those who are not intimately involved in the hothouse of education politics in Milwaukee may have heard of Tyson’s so-far unsuccessful quest to buy empty Milwaukee Public Schools buildings and expand the private voucher school he oversees.

On Friday, St. Marcus announced a deal to lease space for an early childhood education center at a non-MPS building, the Aurora Weier Educational Center building at 2669 N. Richards St.

The move marks a truce, of sorts. Yet the fight likely isn’t over. For his part, Tyson has been stung by criticism.

“What absolutely shocked me is that I became the nemesis of public education,” Tyson said. “Like I have always articulated, we will not move this city forward enough, or at least significantly, until the fighting stops.”

Last week, the fall term began at St. Marcus’ main campus at 2215 N. Palmer St. The sparkling facility buzzed with the energy of 730 students in grades K-8 and more than 100 staff. Nearly all of those students — 93% — attend on a taxpayer-paid voucher. The student body is 89% African-American, Tyson said.

Listen to an interview with Henry Tyson.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham “exceeds expectations” in school board’s first evaluation

Molly Beck:

Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has “brought a fresh lens to the district,” and exceeded the School Board’s expectations, according to her first evaluation by the board.

The work completed in the district under Cheatham is “moving in the right direction,” board members wrote in a seven-page evaluation.

Cheatham was hired in the spring of 2013.

There will be no changes to Cheatham’s pay or benefits associated with the evaluation, according to district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson. Cheatham is currently paid $235,000 annually.

Cheatham exceeded expectations in the areas of organizational climate and culture, instructional leadership, talent performance and management and in relations with the Madison community.

“You stepped into the leadership role of an organization experiencing many stresses,” board members wrote. “You did not shy away from taking control and setting direction.”

Communication with board members, budget and operations management were areas where Cheatham “met expectations.”

Much more on Superintendent Reviews, here.

4 new Milwaukee schools are showing the grit it takes to succeed

Alan Borsuk:

Grit — it’s been a hot term in education. To succeed, students need grit, meaning determination, persistence, the capacity to deal with challenges, and resilience when something doesn’t go right.

Schools need grit, too. That’s true in any circumstance, but it’s especially true for schools starting up in places where the challenges are bigger.

Sure enough, grit is one of the character traits highlighted on a wall near the entrance of the Milwaukee Environmental Sciences School, 6600 W. Melvina St., which used to be the Sixty-Fifth Street School of Milwaukee Public Schools.

The goal of opening a school such as this is to add something better and different to the education scene. But launching a school is tough for something like 10,000 reasons, and growing it to fulfill its goals is even harder.

A year ago, I singled out three new schools that I thought were especially worth following. I should have made Milwaukee Environmental Sciences the fourth. As a new school year gets started, I decided to check up on the four — and the reports seem fairly encouraging.

Math wars: Rote memorization plays crucial role in teaching students how to solve complex calculations, study says

Joseph Brean:

In a finding sure to inflame the math wars, a team of neuroscientists has revealed the crucial role played by rote memorization in the growing brains of young math students.

Memorizing the answers to simple math problems, such as basic addition or the multiplication tables, marks a key shift in a child’s cognitive development, because it helps bridge the gap from counting on fingers to complex calculation, according to the new brain scanning research.

The progression from counting on fingers to simply remembering that, for example, six plus three equals nine, parallels physical changes in a child’s brain, in which the hippocampus, a key brain structure for memory, gradually takes over from the pre-frontal parietal cortex, an area of higher order reasoning.

Related: Math Forum.

Are Courses Outdated? MIT Considers Offering ‘Modules’ Instead

Jeffrey Young:

People now buy songs, not albums. They read articles, not newspapers. So why not mix and match learning “modules” rather than lock into 12-week university courses?

That question is a major theme of a 213-page report released on Monday by a committee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology exploring how the 153-year-old engineering powerhouse should innovate to adapt to new technologies and new student expectations.

Textbook Prices: Don’t Shop Online

Carl Staumshein:

Faculty members at George Washington University are once again free to tell students they can save money by buying their textbooks online, after the university initially urged professors to stop pointing students to sources other than the campus bookstore.

In a letter dated July 17, the university reminded faculty members of its “contractual obligation” with Follett, which runs the campus bookstore. Since the company has the “exclusive right” to provide textbooks and other course materials for all of the university’s courses, “alternative vendors may not be endorsed, licensed or otherwise approved or supported by the university or its faculty.”

The letter irked many faculty members — not only did it prevent them from helping students save some money on textbooks, but it also seemed to prohibit them from listing on their syllabuses open educational resources, online exercises and other content that could help students understand the material.

Healthcare cost growth pushed to faculty

Colleen Flaherty:

Institutions say complying with the Affordable Care Act has caused them to pass on some costs to employees, according to a new survey from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

Since the act began to take effect, some 20 percent of institutions have made changes to benefits in an effort to control associated costs, the survey says. About the same percentage of colleges are considering making changes, or making further changes, in the year ahead. Of those institutions that have made changes so far, 41 percent have increased employees’ share of premium costs. Some 27 percent have increased out-of-pocket limits, while about one-quarter increased in-network deductibles or dependent coverage costs, or both. Some 20 percent increased employees’ share of prescription drug costs.

Healthcare spending has long been a significant issue in the Madison Schools. 25.62% (!) of the District’s 2014-2015 budget ($402,464,374) is spent on benefits.

Don’t Speak Out: The Message of the Salaita Affair

David Perry:

Until a few weeks ago, Steven G. Salaita was on his way to join the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a tenured professor in its American Indian studies program. He had left his position at Virginia Tech and was prepared to move across the country with his family. All that was left was the usually pro-forma step in which the chancellor sends the appointment to the university’s board for approval. In this case, shockingly, Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise decided to block his appointment. The alleged reason was that he was too rude when criticizing Israel on Twitter.

This case has arrived in the wake of numerous others in which online speech has resulted in censure and, in some cases, the enactment of new policies intended to restrict public speech. The decision to void Salaita’s hiring over criticizing Israel, already a polarizing topic in American academic culture, escalates the situation.

I come to this topic not as a partisan in the specifics of Salaita’s situation but as an advocate for faculty engagement with the public. Over the last year, I have written periodic columns for The Chronicle about the ways that academics can and should write for general audiences. Recently, I even suggested that “sustained public engagement” of any sort should count for hiring, tenure, and promotion.

Ferguson’s Schools Are Just as Troubling as Its Police Force

Tracey Meares:

Ad ay after his visit to Ferguson, Missouri, Attorney General Eric H. Holder stated in a press conference that, “History simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson.” To what history was he referring? Many assumed General Holder meant the longstanding tensions between the mostly black residents of Ferguson and the mostly white police force, but I believe General Holder meant a deeper and broader history that goes well beyond policing. The anger in Ferguson is not just in reaction to shabby treatment by the police, but also the city’s housing, educational, and other civic institutions.

The history of racial mistrust in Ferguson can be found in the legacy of residential segregation in the St. Louis metropolitan area, enforced from the early to the middle twentieth century through mechanisms such as racially restrictive covenants, zoning laws, realtors agreements, and assessors ratings, as research by Professor Colin Gordon demonstrates. Because of these longstanding policies, black Ferguson residents today are disproportionately renters without a strong political stake in the town’s governance and geographically concentrated in areas without economic power.

L.A. Unified school police to stop citing students for minor offenses

Teresa Watanabe:

Michael Davis experienced firsthand the negative effects of campus discipline when he received a police citation for tardiness in middle school and later was removed from class for failing to wear the school uniform at Manual Arts High in South Los Angeles.

After years of fighting for change, Michael and others Tuesday celebrated the unveiling of a groundbreaking move by Los Angeles Unified school police to stop giving citations for fighting, petty theft and other minor offenses. Students instead will be referred to counseling and other programs.

“So often students are just thrown to the cops and put in handcuffs without getting to the root of their problems,” said Michael, a 17-year-old senior. “This new policy is such an accomplishment and will definitely make a difference.”

The hunger crisis in America’s universities

Ned Resnikoff:

Hungry students don’t enter the on-campus food pantry at New York’s LaGuardia Community College; instead they sit in an office in the college’s financial services center while a staff member or volunteer runs upstairs to get their food, bringing them unmarked grocery bags to take home.

Little more than an unlabeled office, containing a series of unmarked file cabinets, the pantry goes undetected to most – and that’s the point.

Dr. Michael Baston, the college’s vice president of Student Affairs, says the whole process is designed to be invisible.

“We did this because we feel like it is a stigma reducing strategy,” he said. “Because we want students to feel like whatever the resource they need to sustain themselves, that would be available to them.”

Battling stigma is a challenge for food pantries of all stripes, but the struggle appears to be especially pronounced on college campuses. After all, universities are supposed to be islands of relative privilege. If you can afford to spend thousands of dollars a year on a college education, the thinking goes, you can’t possibly be hungry enough to require emergency food assistance.

The Hi-Tech Mess of Higher Education

David Bromwich:

Andrew Rossi’s documentary Ivory Tower prods us to think about the crisis of higher education. But is there a crisis? Expensive gambles, unforeseen losses, and investments whose soundness has yet to be decided have raised the price of a college education so high that today on average it costs eleven times as much as it did in 1978. Underlying the anxiety about the worth of a college degree is a suspicion that old methods and the old knowledge will soon be eclipsed by technology.

Indeed, as the film accurately records, our education leaders seem to believe technology is a force that—independent of human intervention—will help or hurt the standing of universities in the next generation. Perhaps, they think, it will perform the work of natural selection by weeding out the ill-adapted species of teaching and learning. A potent fear is that all but a few colleges and universities will soon be driven out of business.

It used to be supposed that a degree from a respected state or private university brought with it a job after graduation, a job with enough earning power to start a life away from one’s parents. But parents now are paying more than ever for college; and the jobs are not reliably waiting at the other end. “Even with a master’s,” says an articulate young woman in the film, a graduate of Hunter College, “I couldn’t get a job cleaning toilets at a local hotel.” The colleges are blamed for the absence of jobs, though for reasons that are sometimes obscure. They teach too many things, it is said, or they impart knowledge that is insufficiently useful; they ask too much of students or they ask too little. Above all, they are not wired in to the parts of the economy in which desirable jobs are to be found.

American Horror, Ivy League Edition

Alexander Nazaryan

In 1911, the fictional Dink Stover arrived at Yale, “leisurely divested himself of his trim overcoat” and coolly strolled into campus life. “He had come to conquer,” writes Owen Johnson in the 1912 novel called Stover at Yale, “and zest was in his step.” Stover’s zest has little to do with intellectual inquest, as Johnson makes perfectly clear: “Four glorious years, good times, good fellows,” this was in store for Stover. Much of the novel is indeed concerned with Stover’s jockeying for social position, even if, by the end of the affair, he tires of the “unnecessary fetish” of the secret societies that defined life in New Haven for much of its tercentenary existence.

William Deresiewicz arrived at Yale nearly 90 years after Stover did, a real person who reveled in fictional things: an English professor. He taught in Yale’s vaunted English department for the next 10 years. In the half-decade since, he has been writing about higher education, most notably in The American Scholar, where two of his essays, “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education” and “Solitude and Leadership,” garnered the kind of attention that suggests that he’d hit not a raw nerve but a diseased organ. Now comes his book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, whose title makes crushingly clear just what Deresiewicz thinks of Johnny Harvard and his buddies in the Ancient Eight. To say the least, Stover’s “great university dedicated to liberty of thought and action” has become, in this telling, little more than a funnel into the junior ranks of Goldman Sachs. An excerpt from Deresiewicz’s book was recently a New Republic cover story, illustrated by a burning Harvard flag. “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” that cover said.

A review of William Deresiewicz’s book: Excellent Sheep.

Guest Post: Why Students Prefer Google, and Why They Should Favor Teacher-Librarians

Emily Gover

Here at EasyBib, we research, discuss, and write a lot about how students conduct research in high school and college. We are constantly analyzing data from our 42 million users to see how they approach research, and using that data to improve our services.

Research shows that the overwhelming majority (96%) of students use Google in course-related contexts. Unfortunately, this is probably an unsurprising statistic for many of you. School and college librarians play an integral role in student academic success, yet students (and, from what we’ve heard, even some fellow faculty members!) don’t take fundamental research skills very seriously.

Here are just a few (out of many!) reasons why students should rely on their awesome teacher-librarians instead of the ubiquitous search engine, and consider basic information literacy skills and academic integrity as a natural part of their research, writing, and education.
Plagiarism goes beyond the classroom.

Through analyzing our user data, many of our student users are not even aware that they should cite paraphrased sources. Yikes! Students may not care about citing their sources now, because they believe that once they graduate, no one will care about whether or not they included a citation in their research papers, anyway. Explaining to students that plagiarism is a serious issue that has negatively impacted many professional lives can put the harsh consequences of plagiarism into a clear perspective.

We recently created a list on the EasyBib blog about celebrity plagiarism accusations. It’s likely that students have more interest in stories about rock stars and actors than, say, a politician dropping out of a Senate race. Placing plagiarism into a context that students can relate to can help them not only understand the consequences of committing plagiarism, but also see that acknowledging other people’s work is a lifelong practice.

Making School Choice Work Requires Leadership

Robin Lake, via aaa kind Deb Britt email:

This commentary was originally published in Education Week on August 18, 2014.

It’s a truism in public policy that every solution breeds a new problem. School choice has created new possibilities for families desperate for better options, but it can also create serious access challenges for disadvantaged families. In localities where many state and local agencies can sponsor schools, fragmented governance makes solving those challenges difficult. This is evident in cities where parents now have many school choices and districts must compete for students.

New and promising schooling options exist via charter and private schools, but many families still can’t make them work for their children. Districts and charter authorizers protect their own schools from closure, so weak schools persist, and overall quality stagnates. Recognizing that the best schools have little advantage over weaker ones, the best educators and charter providers go elsewhere.

The Center for Reinventing Public Education, which I direct, recently conducted research in high-choice cities and unearthed both good and bad news for school choice advocates. We found that many parents, including many from highly disadvantaged backgrounds, are now actively choosing their children’s schools and getting access to their first or second choices.

Yet our research also shows that too many parents face serious barriers to finding good schools. They report having trouble getting high-quality information to inform their choices, navigating different eligibility and application requirements, and finding adequate transportation.Parents with the least education and those who have children with special needs report the most-significant barriers to the choice process.

A recent Detroit Free Press series exposed such problems in Detroit’s charter schools. Michigan’s choice system was designed to break up dysfunctional district monopolies as quickly as possible by creating many different statewide charter authorizers. But these entities, funded by fees from the schools they authorize, have little incentive to close low-performing schools. This has created a fragmented governance system in which no one agency has the incentive to care about all of the city’s students.

The Future of College Is Not As Bleak As You Think

Judith Shulevitz:

Few magazine editors—myself included—can resist a dash of apocalypse in a cover line, which is why I don’t fault writer Graeme Wood for the question on the front of this month’s Atlantic: “Is College Doomed?” I’ll answer that question anyway: no. The appetite for college is huge. A larger percentage of Americans are pursuing some sort of post-high-school degree than ever before—70 percent in 2009, compared to 45 percent in 1960—and that number keeps rising. Undergraduate education isn’t going away any time soon.

Wood’s article, actually titled “The Future of College?,” is a profile of the Minerva Project, a new, low-cost, for-profit university that offers intensive seminars on a cool new online “proprietary platform.” It’s Ben Nelson, Minerva’s 39-year-old founder and CEO, who says that colleges as we know them are doomed, because his half-online, half-bricks-and-mortar university is going to disrupt and replace them. Wood is seduced by the prospect, although ultimately he doubts that Nelson could or even should succeed. In describing what makes Nelson’s pitch appealing, however, Wood accepts several premises about the dismal state of higher education that are now so widely held that perhaps he didn’t feel it necessary to defend them. If the following three premises are true, then it is indeed possible that “a whole category of legacy institutions” will have to be liquidated, in Wood’s phrase. But they are not true.

There’s something a lot more valuable you can do in college than getting good grades

Derek Thompson:

When I was 17, if you asked me how I planned on getting a job in the future, I think I would have said: Get into the right college. When I was 18, if you asked me the same question, I would have said: Get into the right classes. When I was 19: Get good grades.
But when employers recently named the most important elements in hiring a recent graduate, college reputation, GPA, and courses finished at the bottom of the list. At the top, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, were experiences outside of academics: Internships, jobs, volunteering, and extracurriculars.

A Driving School in France Hits a Wall of Regulations

Suzanne Daley:

Alexandre Chartier and Benjamin Gaignault work off Apple computers and have no intention of ever using the DVD player tucked in the corner of their airy office. But French regulations demand that all driving schools have one, so they got one.

Mr. Chartier, 28, and his partner, Mr. Gaignault, 25, are trying to break into the driving school business here, using computer technology to match teachers and students across France and to offer cut rates.

But they are not having an easy time. The other driving schools have sued them, saying their innovations break the rules. Their application for an operator’s license for their school, Ornikar, has been met with total silence at the prefecture.

“It seems like the idea is to wait us out until we run out of money,” Mr. Gaignault said recently. “There is an effort to just destroy us.”

The Learning Myth: Why I’m Cautious About Telling My Son He’s Smart

Salman Khan:

My 5-year-­old son has just started reading. Every night, we lie on his bed and he reads a short book to me. Inevitably, he’ll hit a word that he has trouble with: last night the word was “gratefully.” He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.” I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell­-tale signs of a “growth­ mindset.” But this wasn’t by accident. Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones. What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

How to properly fund education (hint: not more taxes)

Jonathan Butcher:

First, Arizona should stop paying for ghost students.

Arizona schools can apply for additional funding for current-year enrollment growth, but they do not have to adjust for enrollment decreases in the same year. Traditional school payments are generally not updated until the following year, which means schools get funding for students who aren’t in their classrooms anymore.

As Goldwater Institute research has reported, the state pays about $125 million for empty seats every year.

Traditional school payments should be based on the number of students in the classroom, with payments updated accordingly throughout the year.

Taxpayers already pay more for schools in the lowest-performing districts than the highest-achieving districts. According to data from the Arizona Auditor General’s Office, the average expenditure per child in a “D” district (Arizona has made it nearly impossible to earn an “F”) is $11,900. For districts that earned an “A” on their report card, the average taxpayer expense per child is $9,200.

• The second step the Legislature should take is to eliminate seat-time requirements.

The late Sen. Chester Crandell was a visionary when it came to updating Arizona’s school-finance formula in this way. Two years ago, he led the passage of legislation that created a performance-funding pilot program for Arizona schools. Instead of paying schools based on how long students sit behind their desks each year, Crandell’s program based up to half of participating schools’ funding on how well students are learning.

Heavy Adult Employment Focus in the Milwaukee Public a Schools

Erin Richards

But after Tyson made his offer, an MPS teacher who also is a teachers’ union employee submitted a plan to reopen Lee as a district-run charter school.

The School Board was said to be considering both options. It was scheduled to discuss the potential sale or lease of several empty buildings, including the Lee building, in closed session Tuesday night.

Despite enrollment declines of 1,000 or more students each year for nine years — before an increase in 2013-’14 — the School Board and district administration have been averse to selling their public property to nondistrict school operators. Voucher and nondistrict charter school operators compete with the district for students, and more students attending those schools means potentially fewer students — and less state aid money — coming to MPS.

Supporters of successful private voucher and independent charter schools believe there shouldn’t be so many roadblocks to those schools obtaining building space to expand. St. Marcus’ state achievement test scores are some of the highest in the city for schools with predominantly low-income, minority students.

St. Marcus will be paying around $80,000 a year to lease the Aurora Weier site, which will be called the St. Marcus Early Childhood Center, North Campus. Tyson said they may eventually buy the building.

Up to 250 young children could be served at the new site by next year, Tyson said.

This year, even with the new early childhood site opening, Tyson said about 200 children remain on the waiting list to get into St. Marcus.

An interview with Henry Tyson.

21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math

Karen Herzog:

Regent Margaret Farrow said K-12 must be a strong partner in preparing high school students for college. “We’re not, quite frankly, creating this situation we’re trying to solve.”

Starting next year, all 11th graders in Wisconsin pubic schools will be required to take the ACT college-readiness exam that universities use in their admissions process, Farrow noted. She said she’s concerned about what those test results will show.

“I think we’re doing all we can, but we need help because these are our kids,” Farrow said. “If they aren’t making it, this state and this country aren’t making it. … This is an emergency. This is a tragedy happening.”

The UW’s freshman math remediation rate of 21% is below the national average of 25% to 35%, according to Cross.

UW Regent Jose Vasquez bristled at the UW System taking on “a problem that is really our cohort’s problem,” referring to K-12. “The problem was not created by the university and I’m not convinced we can solve it within the university.”

He advocated earlier intervention in high school.

However, “it’s in all of our best interest to work together on this,” Cross said.

Related: Math Forum.

Madison’s math review task force. Have the results of the task force made a difference?

College Board Erases the Founding Fathers. Protect the Spirit of ’76.

Patrick Jakeway

The classic novel Brave New World describes a future in which people have lost all of their liberty and in which they have become drugged robots obedient to a central authority. It also details how this control was first established. First, the rulers had to erase all history and all the people’s memory of a time before their bondage.

Today, the history of George Washington’s leadership has been erased in the new Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History test/curriculum, taking effect in the fall of 2014. The College Board, the organization that publishes the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT) and AP tests, has also decided to completely blot out Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, among others. In this newly revised course, General Washington merits one fleeting mention in one sentence, in reference to his Farewell Address.

American history without George Washington? That is like the Beatles without Paul McCartney or the Super Bowl without Vince Lombardi. A former AP U.S. history teacher, Larry Krieger, provides insightful analysis of these sweeping changes here. The rebuttal of Trevor Parker, senior vice president for AP programs at the College Board, can be found here, and Mr. Krieger’s defense here. As an aside, it should be noted that the College Board’s new president, David Coleman, is also one of the major architects of Common Core.

The 98-page College Board AP U.S. History curriculum framework can be read here. Mr. Krieger’s analysis makes clear that this deletion was by design and not by accident. The new College Board U.S. history defines the USA as a racist, genocidal, imperialist nation. Their whole point is that America is bad so of course they leave America’s heroes out.

Some examples of this theme can be observed in the “Key Concepts” of the framework enumerated in each historical period as key guidelines for teachers:

Period 1: 1491-1607

Key Concept 1.1. Before the arrival of Europeans, native populations in North America developed a wide variety of social, political and economic structures based in part on interactions and each other. (Page 31)

Translation: American Indians lived in a natural state of peace in harmony with nature before the Europeans arrived. No mention of brutal inter-tribal wars and practices such as scalping.

Period 2: 1607-1754

Key Concept 2.1 Differences in imperial goals, cultures and the North American environments that different empires confronted led Europeans to develop diverse patterns of colonization.

Section II, A: English colonies attracted both males and females who rarely intermarried with native people or Africans, leading to the development of a rigid racial hierarchy. (Page 35)

Translation: The colonizing of the New World was one large imperialist, racist scheme. No mention of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower seeking religious freedom here.

Key Concept 2.2 European colonization efforts in North America stimulated intercultural contact and intensified conflict between the various groups of colonizers and native peoples.

Section II, A: “Continuing contact with Europeans increased the flow of trade goods and diseases into and out of native communities. Teacher’s example: population collapse of Catawba Nation” (Page 38)

Translation: The imperial efforts at cultural conquest resulted in genocide of the Native Americans. Left unmentioned are the millions of people who fled European wars in the 1600s, such as the “Pennsylvania Dutch” settlers fleeing the 30 Years’ War in Germany. Not exactly an imperialist effort.

Section II, B: “The resulting independence movement was fueled by colonial elites, as well as some grassroots movements.” (Page 42)

Translation: This war was mainly driven by a lot of well-connected, self-interested rich guys. Apparently, the overthrow of a monarchy by citizen militiamen seems not to merit as overthrowing “elites.”

Sample Test Questions:

Question 1: Some historians have argued that the American Revolution was not revolutionary in nature. (Page 114)

Sample Good Answers (Page115):

“Individuals who were wealthy, powerful and influential before the event continued to possess wealth, power and influence later. George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson could serve as examples.”

Translation: The poor continued to be oppressed by the rich. George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were rich bad guys.

“Other good responses might analyze the absence of revolutionary change for groups such as women, slaves, and Native Americans following the Revolution.” (Page 115)

Translation: The Revolution was actually bad. The Founding Fathers were racist and sexist.

So what does this “brave new history” hold for our children?

After suffering the blizzards of Valley Forge, improbably enduring for five years against the world’s superpower at that time, Great Britain, and prevailing at Yorktown, the victorious General Washington rejected all power after the War of Independence, rebuked those who would have made him king, and simply retired to his farm in Virginia. How could the College Board convince our children that our country is founded upon and hell-bent on conquest after learning about the father of our country? The answer is they could not. So the College Board had to erase the story of George Washington’s inimitable life.

The College Board explicitly instructs teachers to teach the history of the United States from the first settlers through the Declaration of Independence and into the present as being one long continuous period of racist, imperialist conflict. Thomas Jefferson is omitted from the framework. Yet “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” captured the spirit and hearts of a people yearning for freedom. In the words of John Adams, “the Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.” You cannot teach young people that our nation is inherently racist and also conduct an in-depth review the historical impact of Thomas Jefferson’s writing of the Declaration of Independence, up to and including its influence on the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. So Thomas Jefferson had to be erased. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also was deleted.

After gaining our liberty, James Madison was one of the key people responsible for the creation of the world’s first limited government of the people, by the people and for the people. This explains leaving James Madison out of this “brave new history.” You can’t omit the founding of the American republic based on individual liberty and limited government with a Bill of Rights if you discuss James Madison’s work. So “the Father of the Constitution” had to be erased.

This is more than just an academic spat among history teachers. America today is the freest, most prosperous land the world has ever known. Everything everyone has in this country exists because of the original gift of liberty bequeathed to us by General George Washington and our Founding Fathers. Let’s also not forget that hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people around the globe owe their current freedom to the United States of America and, by extension, to our Founding Fathers.

Benjamin Franklin was asked a question upon exiting Independence Hall after finishing the Constitution. “What kind of government have you given us, Dr. Franklin?” He replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” If your child never learns about Benjamin Franklin’s story or about how the Revolutionary War was won or about the Gettysburg Address or about the D-Day landing at Normandy (all erased in this “brave new history”), then he will never know that it is up to us to keep our Republic. It is for us the living never to forget our forefathers, who fought and sacrificed for us that we might live a life of liberty. It is for us to be dedicated here to the unfinished work they so nobly advanced.

Erasing the Founding Fathers from the premier U.S. history course for secondary students is unconscionable and intolerable. We must protect them from being erased. The list of people who make up the College Board’s Board of Trustees can be found in the Appendix below, listed alphabetically by state. Many of them are employed by public secondary school systems or state universities.

I suggest the following course of action:

If you are a parent of high school age students, boycott AP U.S. History with them together, and do not enroll.
Call-write your governor and state representatives and demand that they pass a resolution to drop the AP U.S. History course offering until the curriculum change is reversed.
Tell your state representatives that they should require each member of the Board of Trustees of the College Board who is a public employee (see list below) to renounce the new AP U.S. History course curriculum and vote to abolish it as a condition of his or her continued employment.
Consider the ACT as an alternative to the SAT for your college-bound teenager. The SAT has a dominant market position and has a powerful hold on the American mind as “the” vehicle to college. The security of this dominant position has bred arrogance in the College Board. I would not advocate that someone put his or her child’s future educational opportunities at risk; however, nowadays, universities readily accept both the ACT and SAT.

Our national anthem ends with a question. The College Board has answered and will be directing the teachers of America to instruct your children and mine that the USA is the land of the imperialist and the home of the racist. Now, you might ask yourself: will that star-spangled banner yet wave over the land of the free, or will it hang limp over the Brave New World? As for me and my children, I can confirm that the spirit of ’76 will not be erased.


College Board of Trustees:

Arizona: Karen Francis-Begay, Asst. Vice President, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

California: Nathan Brostrom, Executive Vice President, University of California, Oakland, CA

California: Karen Cooper, Director of Financial Aid, Stanford University

Connecticut: Caesar Storlazzi, Director of Financial Aid, Yale University

D.C.: Daniel J. Rodas, Isaacson Miller

Florida: Luis Martinez-Fernandez, Professor of History, University of Central Florida

Hawaii: Belinda W. Chung, Director of College Counseling, St. Andrew’s Priory School, Honolulu

Indiana: Pamela T. Horne, Associate Vice Provost, Purdue University, Lafayette, IN

Indiana: Mary Nucciarone, Director of Financial Aid, Notre Dame University

Illinois: Margareth Etienne, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois

Illinois: Von Mansfield, Superintendent, Homewood-Flossmor High School, Flossmor, Illinois

Minnesota: Pam Paulson, Senior Director, Perpich Center for Arts Education, Golden Valley, MN

New Mexico: Margie Huerta, Special Assistant to the President, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

New York: Shun Fang Chang, Assistant Principal, Bronx High School of Science, Bronx, NY

North Carolina: Shirley Ort, Vice Chair, Associate Provost, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Oklahoma: Paul W. Sechrist, Oklahoma City Community College

Pennsylvania: Maghan Keita, Chair, Villanova University, Philadelphia

Pennsylvania: Daniel Porterfield, President, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA

Rhode Island: Jim Tilton, Director of Financial Aid, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

South Carolina: Scott Verzyl, Associate Vice President, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

Texas: Terry Grier, Superintendent, Houston Independent School District, Houston, TX

Texas: Michael Sorrell, President, Paul Quinn College, Dallas, TX

Texas: Paul G. Weaver, District Director of Counseling, Plano Independent School District, Plano, TX

Washington: Philip Ballinger, Associate Vice Provost, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Washington: Chio Flores, Assistant Dean of Students, Washington State University, Pullman, WA

via Will Fitzhugh.

The Concord Review Announces Coaching for Exceptional Students

Bill Korach:

Will Fitzhugh, Publisher of The Concord Review, told The Report Card: “Exceptional students are often left to their own devices to develop their unique gifts. TCR surveys show that public school teachers don’t have the time to cultivate exceptional student. So we are announcing a coaching program to help these students develop superb writing and research skills.”

Mr. Fitzhugh should know, fully 42% of students published in The Concord Review are accepted at Ivy League schools and in addition, other top schools like The University of Chicago, and Stanford. Harvard agrees with Mr. Fitzhugh:
William R. Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard College, has written: “All of us here in the Admissions Office are big fans of The Concord Review.”

The Harvard Classics: Download All 51 Volumes as Free eBooks

Open Culture

In addition to these options, Bartleby has digital texts of the entire collection of what they call “the most comprehensive and well-researched anthology of all time.” But wait, there’s more! Much more, in fact, since Eliot and his assistant William A. Neilson compiled an additional twenty volumes called the “Shelf of Fiction.” Read those twenty volumes—at fifteen minutes a day—starting with Henry Fielding and ending with Norwegian novelist Alexander Kielland at Bartleby.

What may strike modern readers of Eliot’s collection are precisely the “blind spots in Victorian notions of culture and progress” that it represents. For example, those three harbingers of doom for Victorian certitude—Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud—are nowhere to be seen. Omissions like this are quite telling, but, as Kirsch writes, we might not look at Eliot’s achievement as a relic of a naively optimistic age, but rather as “an inspiring testimony to his faith in the possibility of democratic education without the loss of high standards.” This was, and still remains, a noble ideal, if one that—like the utopian dreams of the Victorians—can sometimes seem frustratingly unattainable (or culturally imperialist). But the widespread availability of free online humanities certainly brings us closer than Eliot’s time could ever come.

Colleges in Boston required to release off-campus addresses

Jenn Abelson:

The Boston City Council on Wednesday voted to require colleges with a presence in Boston to provide a list of off-campus addresses where students are residing, in a step intended to fight chronic overcrowding and protect the health and safety of the thousands of students living in the city.

The measure was approved three months after a Boston Globe Spotlight Team investigation, “Shadow Campus,” revealed that illegal, overcrowded apartments with hazardous conditions riddle the city’s university neighborhoods, including a large number in violation of a zoning rule that prohibits more than four full-time undergraduates from sharing a house or apartment.

Eight Years of College Lets Finns Hide From Labor Market

Eero Vassinen:

Easing the long years in college is the fact that students aren’t required to pay tuition. The state also provides grants of as much as 500 euros ($670) a month plus meal support and loans of as much as 400 euros a month. While education is a safe haven for students, the economy suffers when they put off joining the job market and don’t have skills the labor market needs, said Hannu Kaseva, an economist at ETLA research institute in Helsinki.

“Our education system is generating more bums for us,” he said by phone. “Think about the wasted investment when just half of all graduates find work suitable for their education.”

Encouraging universities to cooperate with potential employers would reduce the theoretical nature of studies and help bridge the skills gap, he said. The country doesn’t train enough doctors, nurses and dentists, according to the Economy Ministry. Finland has an oversupply of office workers and IT engineers after Nokia’s success making mobile phones in the early 2000s soured, culminating in the sale this year of its flagship handset unit to Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)

Fixing Our National Accountability System

National Center on Education & The Economy:

In this new report, Marc Tucker, NCEE’s President, calls for replacing the current system of test-based accountability with a system much more likely to result in improvements in student performance. Tucker points out that the current system has not only failed to improve the performance of the at-risk students it was designed to help, but has alienated the best of our current teachers and created an environment in which able young people choosing careers are less likely to choose teaching.

The report explains that the countries in which student performance is outstripping the achievement of American students are not using accountability systems like ours, which they view as more appropriate for industrial-era blue-collar workers than the kind of professionals they want in their schools.

Fixing Our National Accountability System argues for a much needed alternative to the kind of punitive accountability measures now dominating American policy. Fixing accountability will not just require a different accountability system but a different kind of education system altogether.

More Education “Waivers”… Education Department to Give Schools Leeway on Test Scores

Caroline Porter:

In a conciliatory move to appease opponents of recent testing policies, the U.S. Department of Education will give some states leeway in tying teacher evaluations to students’ test scores for the coming school year.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement during a back-to-school meeting on Thursday with teachers at a District of Columbia public school.

In a blog post summarizing the news, Mr. Duncan said “the bottom line is that educators deserve strong support as our schools make vital, and urgently needed, changes.”

After Congress failed to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, the Obama administration granted waivers from the legislation to 43 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Those waivers require that states make certain reforms, including tying student test scores to teacher evaluations.

Under the new policy, states can request a one-year delay in implementing the new evaluations, as long as they agree schools will collect student test scores and growth metrics and that schools will still share those metrics with teachers.

Not every state with a waiver will be able to take advantage of this delay, which only applies to the some 40 states that are transitioning to new tests this spring.

MIT Offers STEM Institute for Middle School Students

Joshua Bolkan:

Students entering grades 6-9 in the Boston, Cambridge and Lawrence, MA area recently had an opportunity to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts thanks to a STEM Summer Institute offered by MIT’s Office of Engineering Outreach Programs.

The institute was taught by 15 instructors, mostly graduate and undergraduate students, who “worked closely with expert mentors to prepare their curricula, and academic advisors provided additional student and instructional support,” according to an MIT news release.

The Talk How black parents prepare their young sons for life in America

Bijan Stephen:

I remember the talk. (The Talk? It certainly carried the psychological weight of a proper noun.) I guess it was never actually one Talk — it was more that I heard a series of smaller talks from my parents, both of whom are Caribbean immigrants. They’d couch it in the language of difference, and it now occurs to me that they were trying to instill in me a sense — a niggling unease, maybe, or a vague nausea — of when situations might not be safe for me, as a young black male growing up in small town East Texas.

“Don’t stay out too late. Nothing good happens after midnight,” my mom would say. “You have to protect yourself! When the police show up, who do you think is going to get in trouble — you or those little white girls you’re hanging around with?”

I’d always argue with her when she said things like that. Not because she was wrong; because she was right, and her rightness hurt me somewhere deep and inarticulate. American society has indelibly marked my body as exotic, as dangerous, as uncontrollably lustful, as rage-filled, as a symbol of every single societal ill. Black. Nigger.

Residency program tries to solve problem of teacher burnout

Liz Bowie:

As principal of a small Southeast Baltimore school, Anthony Ruby has guided an array of first-year teachers, from the stars who seem to have an innate sense of how to handle a class to those who were so ineffective he declined to renew their contracts.

When teachers aren’t effective, he said, “it is not fair to our kids,” many of whom are low-income and immigrant.

Hundreds of teachers are hired each year to fill vacancies in Baltimore, and the majority will be newcomers to the profession. In urban districts, where many are assigned to teach children with some of the greatest challenges, the national burnout rate is astonishing. Fifty percent of new teachers leave the profession in the first three years.

The Advantages of Dyslexia

Matthew Schneps:

“There are three types of mathematicians, those who can count and those who can’t.”

Bad joke? You bet. But what makes this amusing is that the joke is triggered by our perception of a paradox, a breakdown in mathematical logic that activates regions of the brain located in the right prefrontal cortex. These regions are sensitive to the perception of causality and alert us to situations that are suspect or fishy — possible sources of danger where a situation just doesn’t seem to add up.

Many of the famous etchings by the artist M.C. Escher activate a similar response because they depict scenes that violate causality. His famous “Waterfall” shows a water wheel powered by water pouring down from a wooden flume. The water turns the wheel, and is redirected uphill back to the mouth of the flume, where it can once again pour over the wheel, in an endless cycle. The drawing shows us a situation that violates pretty much every law of physics on the books, and our brain perceives this logical oddity as amusing — a visual joke.

S.F. teachers miss more school than students on average

Jill Tucker:

If last year’s numbers hold steady, the 4,100 teachers in San Francisco, on average, will each be absent about 11 times this school year, about once every three weeks. That’s four to five days more than a typical student, out of 180 days total.

About seven of those days were for sick or personal leave, and the rest were training days offered or required by the district.

Tenure Gap

Scott Jashick:

A study presented here Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association finds that those assumptions may be untrue in some disciplines. The study compared tenure rates at research universities in computer science, English and sociology — and then controlled for research productivity.

Not only are men more likely than women to earn tenure, but in computer science and sociology, they are significantly more likely to earn tenure than are women who have the same research productivity. In English men are slightly (but not in a statistically significant way) more likely than women to earn tenure.

Diane Ravitch: Campbell Brown Shouldn’t Worry Her Pretty Little Head About Education Policy

Jonathan Chait:

Paul Farhi profiles Campbell Brown, the former CNN anchor turned education-reform activist, who is working to end strict teacher tenure protections. Naturally, this enrages teacher-union evangelist Diane Ravitch, who not only disagrees with Brown’s position, but expresses offense that anybody should listen to Brown at all:

“I have trouble with this issue because it’s so totally illogical,” says Diane Ravitch, an education historian. “It’s hard to understand why anyone thinks taking away teachers’ due-process rights will lead to great teachers in every classroom.”

Abolishing the Broken US Juvenile Justice System

Hannah Gold:

By the time I was 7 years old I knew drugs were bad. I didn’t need a parent to sit me down on their knee and tell me this because Saturday morning cartoons were frequently interrupted by an advertisement brought to me by Partnership for a Drug-Free America in which an 18-year-old Rachael Leigh Cook smashed an egg, and then her entire kitchen, and told me this was so.

I didn’t know this mid-90s commercial was a revamp of an even more famous 1987 advertisement featuring a white, male authority figure and that same sinister egg. I didn’t know about the war on drugs, but I knew that Cook had the haircut I wanted. I couldn’t have known from this advertisement that kids not too much older than myself, swept up in the hysterical rhetoric of an inner-city epidemic of drugs and violence, were being locked up in droves, and that increasingly, these were children of color. The advertisement said drugs crack kids’ brains on stovetops; the other, silent reality was that the war on drugs cracked kids’ brains in solitary.

Make a minimum contribution to Truthout and receive Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison. Obtain it by clicking here.

That’s still the reality today. In the United States, it tends to be the case that the real wars we’re fighting are behind walls. The war on children has been one of those, and is, perhaps, the country’s greatest shame.

According to Nell Bernstein’s new book, Burning Down the House, there are currently 66,332 young people confined in juvenile facilities, two-thirds of them in long-term placement. Her impressive and immersive new book focuses on the criminalization of American young people, from the mid-80s when the trend first exploded to the present day when the United States incarcerates more of its kids than any other industrialized nation.

Tuition Politics

Ry Rivard:

Over much of the past half-century, state governors have helped keep public college tuition artificially low during gubernatorial election years, according to a new peer-reviewed article. But the study suggests more is at play than a governor’s own career.

The study, published in the June issue of Empirical Economics by Kent State University Professor C. Lockwood Reynolds, found inflation-adjusted tuition is 1.5 percent lower in gubernatorial election years than in other years.

“If you’re a sitting governor up for re-election you would prefer that voters are receiving good signals about the state of the state,” Reynolds said. “And one of those might be tuition at a four-year institutions, because it’s announced pretty close to an election, and lots of people want to send their kids to college, and they probably don’t want to pay for it.”

For a natural control group, Reynolds, an economist, looked at private college tuition during the same period, from 1972 to 2003. It didn’t follow the same pattern as in-state tuition sticker prices at all. Instead, he found that private college tuition went up slightly more in gubernatorial election years than in non-election years, although the percentage increase was statistically insignificant.

State Employee Health Plan Spending

Pew Trusts

This report provides a first-of-its kind analysis of the costs and characteristics of state employee health plans, and offers a nationwide benchmark against which states can be compared.

Collectively, states spent about $31 billion to insure 2.7 million employee households in 2013, a slight uptick in spending from 2011 and 2012 after adjusting for inflation. The average per-employee per-month premium for employees’ and dependents’ coverage was $963. States paid $808 (84 percent) of the total on average, and employees covered the remaining $155 (16 percent). However, this average masks sharp differences across the states, due to factors such as plan richness, average household size, provider price and physician practice patterns, as well as the age and health status of enrollees.

In wake of (Wisconsin) Act 10, school districts changing teacher pay formulas

Edgar Mendez:

The goal in Wauwatosa was to better attract and retain top-flight educators; the method was to change the way teachers are compensated.

A new compensation model, approved in February, calls for teachers to earn anywhere between $40,000 and $80,700 a year, based largely on their performance.

But teachers had concerns: Would principals alone determine the initial salary they’d start at in the new model? Did years of service matter at all anymore? Or was everything based on performance evaluations?

Those concerns still linger as Wauwatosa and other Wisconsin districts roll out new teacher compensation models this fall, thrusting the issue of teacher pay back in the spotlight.

The new compensation models are a result of Act 10, the legislation passed three years ago that limited collective bargaining and allowed districts to untether themselves from salary schedules in union contracts that called for pay increases based solely on years spent teaching and on higher-education credits.

Some districts, such as Hartland-Lakeside and Cedarburg, were early adopters of new performance-based models resembling what people often see in the private sector.

But many more districts are debuting new models this year. The timing coincides with a new statewide educator evaluation system rolling out this year.

Compton, California School Board Approves AR-15 Rifles for Campus Police

Conor Friedersdorf:

The school board in Compton, California, has voted to arm campus police officers with AR-15 rifles, according to the Los Angeles public radio station KPPC. Some parents and students are expressing discomfort, citing the same sorts of concerns sparked by the militarized police force of Ferguson, Missouri. In Compton, the local police union says its officers are hardly alone in seeking such weapons:

Currently, the following School Districts authorize their Police Officers to deploy these weapons; Los Angeles School PD, Baldwin Park School PD, Santa Ana School PD, Fontana School PD, San Bernandino School PD.

The police union goes on to defend the semi-automatic rifle for campus police officers:

Hunger in America: 2014 National Report

Nancy S. Weinfield, Gregory Mills, Christine Borger, Maeve Gearing, Theodore Macaluso, Jill Montaquila, Sheila Zedlewski (PDF):

Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization, has conducted the most comprehensive study of hunger in America every four years since 1993. Like the prior studies, Hunger in America 2014 (HIA 2014), the latest iteration, documents the critical role that the charitable food assistance network plays in supporting struggling families in the United States. Study results are based on surveys of food programs in the charitable food assistance network supported by Feeding America, and clients that access services through that network in 2012-2013.1 In addition to this report on the Feeding America national network, this study has resulted in 42 state reports and 196 food bank reports detailing network activities on local levels.

The current assessment occurs in a period with historically high demand for food assistance. Unemployment and poverty rates have remained high since the Great Recession of 2008,2 and the number of households receiving nutrition assistance from the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has increased by approximately 50 percent between 2009 and 2013.3 Demand for charitable food assistance has also expanded. HIA 2014 finds an increased number of individuals relying on charitable assistance to access nutritious foods for themselves and their families.

California lieutenant governor wants ADs’ jobs tied to academics

Steve Berkowitz:

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the jobs of college athletics directors at the state’s public schools to be tied to athletes’ academic performance.

In letters this week to the chief executive officers of the University of California and the California State University system, Newsom that AD’s contracts “should stipulate aggressive benchmarks for improvement in graduation and academic progress rates” and make the AD’s subject to dismissal if those benchmarks aren’t met.

An “athletic director’s contract should stipulate aggressive benchmarks for improvement in graduation and academic progress rates or face termination, period,” the letter said

The letters went out as three Division I schools in the state — Cal-Berkeley, Fresno State and Sacramento State — are looking for new athletics directors. Andrea Koskey, a spokeswoman for Newsom, said he is seeking to have this stipulation included in the contracts of the new hires, then added to other deals as deals are renewed or vacancies occur.

“More Rigor is Needed” – Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham; Possible?

Pat Schneider:

Middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District have become caring environments for students, but aren’t rigorous enough to prepare them for high school academic work, says Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.

“We know there are quite a few things that highly effective schools do that we have not been doing in both our middle and our high schools,” Cheatham told Madison School Board members Monday during a review of a district report on coursework in the high schools.

“We haven’t established a coherent approach to instruction, as you’ve heard me say again and again, but we are making progress. We’ve all spent quality time in our middle and high school classrooms, and in middle schools in particular, we’ve made tons of progress in creating very caring environments, but the level of rigor and academic challenge isn’t where it needs to be,” Cheatham said.


Madison’s High School Coursework Review

English 10

Connected Math and″>Everyday Math

High School Redesign & Small Learning Communities.

At the end of the day, given the District’s long term disastrous reading results, is it possible to see meaningful achievement improvement with an agrarian / Frederick Taylor era structure?

Imagine you are a Palestinian academic or a student

Nazmi Al-Masri:

Over the one-year period from July 2013 to July 2014, I was supposed to participate in six international academic conferences and meetings as a partner in four international projects: three EU-funded projects (two from Erasmus-Mundus, one Tempus) and one British Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project. Because of the siege and the current war, I could not participate in any of these academic gatherings, which were held in the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Jordan, and Cyprus. Many other colleagues have similar problems.

The Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) is currently a partner in four Erasmus Mundus exchange projects and about 50 students and staff members have won full scholarships to join about 30 universities in 14 European countries including the UK, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Greece, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Cyprus, Belgium, Austria and Czech Republic. All these grant holders were supposed to get visas in July and join their orientation and study programs in August or September, but it seems this is not going to happen.

On Saturday 2nd August 2014, the Islamic university of Gaza (IUG) was deliberately attacked as described by the Israeli “Defense” Minister Moshe Yaalon in a press conference held on the same day. The arts and education faculties, the university personnel and finance departments and other departments were reduced to rubble in a matter of minutes. This is not the first time Israel has destroyed higher education facilities in Gaza: in December 2008, two other buildings hosting the engineering and science faculties were leveled to the ground.

The Invisible Force Behind College Admissions

Maggie McGrath:

Despite the windowless, bunker-like atmosphere inside the Erie conference room of the Sheraton in downtown Chicago, Galen Graber has to be impressed by his audience: a swath of the 1,500 top admissions and financial aid officials from 635 different schools who have gathered to set policies that determine which kids get into which college and how much money they’ll receive.

Cutting to the chase, Graber, a consultant, launches by taking a poll: “How many of you would say that the primary motivation for offering students merit scholarships is to reward academic achievement?”

Not a single person raises his or her hand.

That response goes a long way to explain college tuition rates that have risen 12% in the last decade while median household income has declined 6% over the same period. And why student debt levels have hit $1.2 trillion, a burden that surpasses even U.S. household credit card debt.

Elite universities like Harvard, Stanford and others on the top of the FORBES list exist in their own orbit–they admit students without factoring in need, their multibillion-dollar endowments providing generous grants for the middle-class and poor. (Get into any Ivy League school with a family income of less than $60,000 and you can pretty much expect a free ride.)

University of California steps up out-of-state recruiting

Alexei Koseff:

Last spring, representatives from the University of California, Davis, made 20 trips to China to encourage admitted students to accept their offer to study in the United States.

The director of admissions at UC Santa Cruz met one young man in New Delhi, India, who had traveled hundreds of miles to make the case that he belonged at the coastal university thousands of miles from his home.

Overseas students interested in UC Riverside can request a Skype appointment with one of six international admissions counselors.

Pushed to look for alternative sources of revenue amid the deep budget cuts of the economic recession, schools in the UC system increasingly are recruiting nonresident applicants, who likely will make up a fifth of all freshman for fall 2014.

Even as state funding has begun to recover, campuses rely on substantial additional fees paid by out-of-state and international students who have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars for the university system in recent years.

Despite criticism from some parents and politicians, admissions officers at UC’s nine undergraduate campuses defend the shift as a mutually beneficial strategy, allowing them to broaden the undergraduate population with diverse perspectives and subsidize more seats for California students.

Walter Robinson, who directs undergraduate admissions at UC Davis, said it’s a necessary strategy in the current higher education environment.

‘Getting-by girls’ straddle gap between academic winners and losers

University of California-Berkeley:

Everyone notices the academic superstars and failures, but what about the tens of millions of American teens straddling these two extremes? A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, has spotlighted a high school subculture that has made an art of slacking – even with ample educational resources – and may be destined to perpetuate the nation’s struggling lower-middle class.

UC Berkeley sociologist Michele Rossi studied white teenage girls in their last year of a well-funded high school. What she found was a group she dubbed “getting-by girls,” whose coping strategies include paying attention in class, placating teachers and other authority figures, copying one another’s schoolwork or cheating, avoiding challenges and bringing home B-average report cards.

But while getting-by girls put in just enough effort to meet the demands of schoolwork, athletics, school clubs and partying, their practice of sufficing keeps them from making the most of the academic resources at their disposal. The U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that reading, math and social science scores among 17-year-olds have flatlined since the 1980s while scores among middle school and elementary students have risen. Peer groups and school culture are said to have a major impact on academic achievement, particularly in high school, and Rossi’s two-year investigation reinforces this dynamic.

When Did We Start Caring About “Hopefully”? 250 Years of English Usage Advice

Robin Straaijer:

There’s a fair chance that at some point you’ve been told that you’re using hopefully wrong: Purists insist that it can only mean “in a hopeful manner” and not “it is to be hoped that.” But who are these purists, and when did people first start giving this advice? More generally, there’s a lot of advice about English usage that we largely take for granted, from split infinitives to dangling participles, but where did anyone get these ideas in the first place?

We can trace back this history to sources much older than your eighth-grade English teacher by looking at usage guides. These books that tell you how you should write English range from the venerable, like Henry Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, to the modern, like Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage. When usage guides from different eras or countries agree or disagree with each other, this tells us something about which changes in the English language were happening when and how noticeable they were.

But we can do better than merely comparing a few guides offhand. For the past two and a half years, I’ve been working on a database of more than 75 usage guides and 123 usage problems in the English language, spanning a period of nearly 250 years. My two assistants and I call this project the Hyper Usage Guide of English or HUGE database and it’s based out of Leiden University in the Netherlands.

“poor white British children do worse in school than those of any other group save Romany gypsies”

The Economist:

This also makes the town fashionable in Westminster, where the travails of Britain’s white working class are causing concern. Underscoring how stubbornly they languish, a recent parliamentary study confirmed that poor white British children do worse in school than those of any other group save Romany gypsies. But this fresh attention to the issue is also because it is election season and winning working-class love is, for differing reasons, a preoccupation of all the main parties. For David Cameron’s ruling Conservatives, getting such Britons off welfare and into work is a fiscal and moral mission and a test of Britain’s ability to endure austerity. For Labour, they represent an identity crisis.

Though increasingly drawn from and oriented towards middle England, where most voters reside, Britain’s main opposition still finds its cherished moral authority in a romantic association with the working-class people for whom it was formed. That is why Labour’s unexpected losses to the populist UK Independence party (UKIP) in recent local elections, in hard-up places such as Tilbury, sent the party’s leader Ed Miliband scuttling to Thurrock, the Tory-held marginal in which the town falls. There is now an argument within Labour over how to avoid a repeat of this disaster in next year’s general election, for which Thurrock is UKIP’s number two target seat; some want to ape UKIP with a more populist, especially anti-immigration, message.

Facts Are More Important Than Novelty: Replication in the Education Sciences

Matthew C. Makel & Jonathan A. Plucker:

Despite increased attention to methodological rigor in education research, the field has focused heavily on experimental design and not on the merit of replicating important results. The present study analyzed the complete publication history of the current top 100 education journals ranked by 5-year impact factor and found that only 0.13% of education articles were replications. Contrary to previous findings in medicine, but similar to psychology, the majority of education replications successfully replicated the original studies. However, replications were significantly less likely to be successful when there was no overlap in authorship between the original and replicating articles. The results emphasize the importance of third-party, direct replications in helping education research improve its ability to shape education policy and practice.

The Right to Parent, Even If You Are Poor

Sarah Jaffe:

Carolyn Hill still remembers the night, two years ago, when the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) came to take her nieces away. The girls, ages 1 and 2, had been placed with her about a year earlier, after being removed from their mother’s custody due to her mental health issues. Hill thought she’d begun the process of adopting the girls: She’d taken parenting classes at the request of the agency and had begun paperwork so that she could go forward with adoption.

But on Tuesday April 3, 2012, Hill got a call from the Lutheran Children and Family Service (LCFS), a nonprofit that had taken over her case the previous fall (Philadelphia’s DHS farms out its caretaking services to a number of nonprofits). The caller said that she needed to speak with Hill that day. The social worker who had called Hill arrived at her home after 5pm and, without prior warning, took Hill’s nieces away. “She didn’t even let them finish eating—I had stopped to get them some food, but she just took them right on out,” Hill tells In These Times. (LCFS did not return a request for comment.)

When Hill called DHS to find out why the girls had been removed from her care, she was told that everyone was on Easter vacation (Easter would fall on the following Sunday, a full five days away). “It felt like it was a set-up for them to come get the kids [at a time] when I can’t get in touch with anybody,” she says. Hill went to court the following Monday. She says she was not informed by the agency of how she could fight the removal: “I was supposed to go within 30 days [of the court hearing] and file an appeal—file for standing—but nobody told me about that.”

Two years later, she still isn’t sure why the girls were removed from her custody. The answers, she says, keep changing. The agencies brought up a drug conviction for which she served six months’ probation in 1999—something the city knew about when she first took custody of her nieces, she says—and accused her of having mental health issues because she possessed Ambien to help her sleep. They also complained that she did not have a GED.

Why Teach English?

Adam Gopnik:

Whence, and where, and why the English major? The subject is in every mouth—or, at least, is getting kicked around agitatedly in columns and reviews and Op-Ed pieces. The English major is vanishing from our colleges as the Latin prerequisite vanished before it, we’re told, a dying choice bound to a dead subject. The estimable Verlyn Klinkenborg reports in the Times that “At Pomona College (my alma mater) this spring, 16 students graduated with an English major out of a student body of 1,560, a terribly small number,” and from other, similar schools, other, similar numbers.

In response, a number of defenses have been mounted, none of them, so far, terribly persuasive even to one rooting for them to persuade. As the bromides roll by and the platitudes chase each other round the page, those in favor of ever more and better English majors feel a bit the way we Jets fans feel, every fall, when our offense trots out on the field: I’m cheering as loud as I can, but let’s be honest—this is not working well.

The defenses and apologias come in two kinds: one insisting that English majors make better people, the other that English majors (or at least humanities majors) make for better societies; that, as Christina Paxson, the president of Brown University, just put it in The New Republic, “ there are real, tangible benefits to the humanistic disciplines—to the study of history, literature, art, theater, music, and languages.” Paxson’s piece is essentially the kind of Letter To A Crazy Republican Congressman that university presidents get to write. We need the humanities, she explains patiently, because they may end up giving us other stuff we actually like: “We do not always know the future benefits of what we study and therefore should not rush to reject some forms of research as less deserving than others.”

Next stop for 16-year-old Milwaukee whiz is the Ivy League

Edgar Mendez:

Standing out is not easy at Rufus King International High School, recently named the third best high school in Wisconsin by U.S. News and World Report and one that consistently produces top scholars.

Meet Helen Fetaw. Last year’s senior class president. Swim and forensics team member. Head of a student organization and member of the Youth Health Service Corps.

And one other thing: She’s just 16 years old.

In a few weeks, the high-achieving Fetaw will be a freshman at the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania.

“I’ve never had one so young,” said Jill Boeck, guidance counselor at King, as she discusses the many successful students that walk through her door.

Boeck, who counsels 400 other college aspiring students a year, said to stand out among them, students have to work a little harder, and be more insistent.

“She seeks out opportunities when she sees them,” Boeck said. ‘She’s puts evertything into what she does.”

It’s a trait she learned from her parents, Fetaw said. They’re originally from Eritrea, which borders Sudan and Ethiopia, but emigrated to Italy, where Helen was born, before moving to the U.S. when she was 3.

Like many immigrants, her parents didn’t wait for opportunities to improve the family’s prospects. They went out and worked hard, she said.

Fetaw said she’d watch while her mother, Maria, sat for hours a day in the small kitchen table of their northwest side home, poring over her nursing books for school, all while also caring for Helen and her two sisters.

Underemployed, With Degrees

David Matthews:

“Graduates in non-graduate occupations” are such a clear trend in Britain that they now have their own acronym: “gringos.” But according to two academics, graduates working in pubs and call centers might be more to blame for their own fates, rather than the shaky state of the economy.

For those who have graduated in Britain since the 2008 financial crash, job hunting has often been a tale of woe – almost half of employed recent graduates in 2013 were working in what the Office for National Statistics classes as a “non-graduate role.”

Gringos see their non-graduate jobs as a “stepping stone” to a better position in the future, which stops them worrying about their career, according to Tracy Scurry, a lecturer at Newcastle University Business School, and John Blenkinsopp, a professor at Hull University Business School.

Unfortunately, this means that many do not hunt for roles that use their skills gained through higher education, they write in the latest edition of Graduate Management Trends, published by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit.

Why the zen of starting a charter school eludes Wisconsin

Alan Borsuk:

The zen of how to start a school.” That was one of the things Larry Rosenstock wanted to talk about at an elegant luncheon in June 2013 at the private University Club in downtown Milwaukee.

“You want to keep it simple,” he told an audience of 150 or so, including business leaders and philanthropists. He said you don’t want a school to be too stuck in its ways, and you want it to be a place that has, as he put it, a lot of oxygen.

Rosenstock was a carpenter, a lawyer and a business executive before becoming a nationally recognized education innovator.

He was the founder of High Tech High in San Diego. It opened with 200 students in 2000 and now has about 5,000 students in 12 schools. Its unusual program is built in large part on students learning by doing projects, and its student body is intentionally highly diverse by income and race. Data on student success is impressive and educators have come to observe from across the United States.

Rosenstock was at the luncheon in Milwaukee to support an idea, then called the Forest Exploration Center, that would include an eye-catchingly different school and other programs, based in a historic building on what is known now as the Innovation Campus in Wauwatosa.

He said such projects are exactly what is needed to get many teens on the path to success in education and careers. “We are all in with these folks,” he said.

That was the next to last time I heard anything about the plan that suggested forward movement. The last time was a short time later when the Legislature changed law provisions related to charter schools to make the idea feasible.

Other than that, what I heard was all about problems: The concept and leadership changed. It was tough getting support. There was a lot of resistance from officials in Wauwatosa who thought this was going to take away students and money from their school system.

Our higher education system fails leftist students

Michael Munger:

Too often, American college students face a one-question test, one based not on facts, but on ideology. The test: “Are you a liberal, or conservative?”

The correct answer is, “I’m a liberal, and proud of it.” That concerns me.

However, the nature of my concern may surprise you. I’m not worried much about the students who get it wrong; for the most part, they actually get a pretty good education.

I’m worried about those who get it right. The young people that our educational system is failing are the students on the left. They aren’t being challenged, and don’t learn to think.


Ben Hewitt:

In early September, in a clapboard house situated on 43 acres just outside a small town in northern Vermont, two boys awaken. They are brothers; the older is 12, the younger 9, and they rise to a day that has barely emerged from the clutches of dark. It is not yet autumn, but already the air has begun to change, the soft nights of late summer lengthening and chilling into the season to come. Outside the boys’ bedroom window, the leaves on the maples are just starting to turn.

Commentary on the Teaching Climate, Cost Disease & Curriculum

David Kirp:

The same message — that the personal touch is crucial — comes from community college students who have participated in the City University of New York’s anti-dropout initiative, which has doubled graduation rates.

Even as these programs, and many others with a similar philosophy, have proven their worth, public schools have been spending billions of dollars on technology which they envision as the wave of the future. Despite the hyped claims, the results have been disappointing. “The data is pretty weak,” said Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an investor in educational technology companies. “When it comes to showing results, we better put up or shut up.”

While technology can be put to good use by talented teachers, they, and not the futurists, must take the lead. The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then, that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools — there is simply no substitute for the personal element.

Related: Since 1950, US schools increased their non-teaching positions by 702%; rank #2 on non teacher staff spending.

Cost Disease“.

Thinking different in Oconomowoc.

‘Vergara’ decision signals start of third wave of education reform

Joshua Lewis:

The June court ruling against teacher employment laws in California was the opening salvo in a battle that already has moved to New York and likely will spread from there. It also could mark the beginning of a third great era of U.S. education reform – one that focuses not on inputs or outcomes but on the workings of schools themselves.

Moments before closing arguments began in the landmark case Vergara v. California, Judge Rolf Treu asked those in his courtroom to stand, turn and look at two portraits: one of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, the other of California Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Wright. He reminded everyone that Warren led the high court to unanimity in Brown v. Board of Education, which marked the beginning of the end of segregation in U.S. public schools. Then he noted that it was Wright who led the state Supreme Court when, in Serrano v. Priest, it invalidated California’s uneven school financing system. “Both decisions have an impact on what we’re doing here today,” he noted.

Not long afterward, Treu added Vergara to that pantheon. In the most explosive education-related court ruling in a generation, he invalidated several laws dear to California teachers’ unions, including statutes that provide their members generous tenure rights and seniority protections and specify elaborate and costly procedures required to fire a teacher.

The judge’s words were as striking as his verdict: The dismissal statutes prevent firing even “grossly ineffective” teachers whose effect on students “shocks the conscience”; the logic of the “last in, first out” law that prevents job performance from being a factor in layoff decisions is “unfathomable.” Taken as a group, he said, the Vergara statutes particularly harm the most vulnerable: the poor, minority, non-English-speaking students often clustered in low-performing schools.