Charter High Schools and the “Backfill” Debate

Paul Hill & Tricia Maas, via a kind Deb Britt email:

A debate about “backfill”—whether charter high schools should add students to replace those who drop out—has just begun (see here, here, and here). Some argue that successful charter school models should not have to deviate from their focus by admitting children who don’t enter at the beginning of 9th grade. Others believe that a school is inherently inequitable if it closes its doors to any subset of the local population. The current debate is raw and polarized between the extremes that schools should never have to backfill students, or that they be legally required to replace every student they lose.

As usual, the extremes are unrealistic. There is no way to completely relieve charters of any pressure to backfill, because lost enrollment means lost revenue. On the other side, it makes no sense to require schools to fill every vacancy, no matter when it occurs and no matter whether the newly admitted student has any chance to earn enough credits and skills to graduate.

A Response to “Breaking the Mold”

Paul Hill and Ashley Jochim

Mike Kirst’s review of our book, A Democratic Constitution for Public Education, is insightful and constructive and raises important questions about how our proposal would work in practice.

He correctly points out that public school principals are not trained for the roles we propose — setting priorities, making hiring decisions and budget tradeoffs (e.g. between salaries and purchase of on-line instruction), making the school attractive to families and teachers, and leading continuous improvement. But, as we argue, principals and potential principals won’t ever have these capacities unless and until the job changes, so that people wanting to take full responsibility seek it, and people wanting to avoid full responsibility avoid it. The same is true with pre-service training: it won’t cover a more ambitious set of skills until the job requires them.

When the school job changes (as it did in England where school heads got hiring and budget authority, and in New York City under Joel Klein’s school autonomy policy) the principal pool changes. Some school leaders use capacities they always had but couldn’t use, others learn what they need, and others quit and are replaced by people attracted to the new, more demanding job. This isn’t instantaneous but natural turnover allows steady replacement of people who don’t want to or can’t adapt. The system we have proposed also relieves principals of a lot of burdens, e.g., the many central office demand to attend meetings and be “trained” (or arrange staff training) in whatever the central office is peddling. How to prepare/retrain/select school leaders requires careful analysis, and happily there are exemplars in the places above.

True, changes in principal capacity will require new forms of training and support. But, these needs are finite, and they will be met only if the job changes.

Paul Hill & Ashley Jochim

Andy characterized this arrangement as a continuation of the district and predicted that the transition would never be made, based on the leopard/spots metaphor. But under our plan, the district would be replaced by an entirely new entity, based on new law and established with a totally different set of powers than local school boards now have. It is hard to see how this is the old “district” unless the term is used equivocally (i.e., at one time to describe an organization that operates schools directly and at another time to refer to a geographic area).

Andy also thinks that the role we assign the CEC in overseeing the transition to the new system will preserve the old district. Again, we disagree.

Though the replacement of school boards with CECs would be complete and instantaneous, schools that operated under the old school board would still need to exist to serve the children enrolled in them. This would continue until the CEC either authorized replacements or recognized them as independent school providers eligible to operate under the new rules.

Educators who worked in those schools, or in the central office created by the now-defunct school board, would need to make a transition to the new system. Teachers and principals would transition from being district employees to employees of newly independent schools; their jobs would then depend on those schools’ continuation. Central office employees would have the opportunity to form or join new nonprofit assistance providers who could offer services to schools (which could decide what and whether to buy) or find new lines of work.

Changes in the Madison Teacher Transfer Process

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

Attention is called to two significant changes regarding the transfer process for members of MTI’s teacher bargaining unit. While surplus can be declared up to July 1, this year the District acted early. Thus, reassignment from surplus is expected to be substantially completed before May 1. After that date, vacancies will be posted for internal transfer through July 15. New this year is a modification enabled by Governor Walker’s Act 10, i.e. all applicants for a vacant position will be considered equally, whether the applicant is internal or a new hire.

Positions will be filled on the basis of qualifications as determined by the District. Given that internal and external applicants will be considered at the same time, the District will require internal applicants to complete a pre- screening application in order to be considered for transfer. One must complete an online form and participate in a phone interview with a Human Resources Analyst before he/she can be referred to an interview for a specific vacancy. The pre-screening application only needs to be completed once per school year for any subsequent transfer opportunity.

The pre-screening process is focused on a set of eight “competencies” that have been developed by the District. Information about this process, including the list of “competencies,” has been sent to all members of MTI’s teacher bargaining unit and can be found on the MMSD website: adison.pdf.

April 7, 2015 newsletter (PDF).

NJEA and Heritage Foundation: Perfect Together

Laura Waters:

Almost everyone is finding something to like in the new U.S. Senate bill that would replace No Child Left Behind, titled the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015. (Here’s a summary.) Conservatives, Tea Partiers, and local control devotees coo at the diminution of federal oversight while liberals and progressives approve of the bill’s preservation of disaggregated data, which allows schools and states to spotlight the academic growth of children in poverty and those with disabilities.

There’s a chief dissenter, however, among the celebrants. Teacher union leaders, especially, those from the National Education Association (NJEA’s parent) despise the bill’s retention of annual standardized tests in third to eighth grade and once in high schools. NEA has fought stridently (AFT more softly) for “grade span testing” — once in elementary school, once in middle school, once in high school — and, judging by the draft bill, the country’s largest teacher labor union appears to have lost this battle.

Weakening Standardized Tests Amounts to ‘Killing the Messenger’

Eva Moskowitz:

This week, 1.1 million children in New York State will take Common Core-aligned standardized tests amidst a growing national revolt against testing.

Standardized tests don’t measure real learning, just superficial test-taking skills, and our obsession with them is destroying our nation’s schools by taking away from real learning.

As the mother of a high school student who just took the SATs, I can empathize with those holding such views. But, as the head of a network of charter schools, I know these tenets of the anti-testing movement to be false.

My schools are known for our students’ high test scores. Although we admit students by lottery, 94 percent of our eighth graders pass the English exam compared to 14 percent in central Harlem, where most of these students come from. Some believe we accomplish these results by a laser-beam-like focus on test prep at the expense of overall education. They’re wrong.

The Challenges of Beginning a Scholarly Debate in the 21st Century

Jo Guldi

C. P. Snow’s The Two Cultures (1959) began a critical debate about the role of the humanities in an increasingly scientific world. It was also the receipt of such enormous criticism that Snow later wrote The Two Cultures: A Second Look (1963). In the last few months David Armitage and I have experienced a technologically-accelerated version of the same. In the 21st Century, this debate happens not only between colleagues, but also via pseudonymous blogs and retweeted punchlines.

When we published The History Manifesto in October, we set out to rouse a debate in the university, and in history departments in particular, about the methods and ambitions of our profession in a moment of global warming, growing inequality, academic specialization, and short-term thinking. The debate took off beyond our wildest dreams; usually positive, sometimes controversial, and even occasionally dipping into extreme ire as individual personalities took issue with our text, some of them choosing to duel in the footnotes instead of to engage the substantive, positive vision that we wrote to offer. A deliberation of this variety and passion on all sides is evidence, we believe, of a healthy engagement by the profession. Like others creatures, when historians are aroused, they experience emotions, sometimes violently.

The case for letting taxpayers choose whether their money goes to schools or the police or Medicaid.

David Boaz:

A taxpayer who thinks that $600 billion is too much to spend on military in the post-Cold War era could choose to allocate less to that function than the government requested. A taxpayer who thinks that Congress has been underfunding Head Start and the arts could allocate double the requested amount for those programs.

There would be quite a bit of debate, of course, over how to list programs in the 1040-D program. Spending interests would want to use broad categories–national defense, health, education, job training. Opponents of spending would prefer to narrow the categories so taxpayers can see what they’re really buying– defense of Japan and Korea, war in Iraq, farm subsidies, mass-transit “demonstration” projects in West Virginia, and so on. Libertarians and the arts establishment might agree on listing just “arts,” while the religious right might lobby to have the category broken into “fine arts,” “pork-barrel arts,” and “obscene art.” Language would be an issue – “corporate welfare” or “loans for small businesses”?

The Quantified Baby

Anna Prushinskaya:

During my pregnancy, the birth of my son, and the early months of parenthood, technology has been there to mediate every step of the way. I often wonder, as I spend time with my baby, my phone always nearby, what the experience would be like without it. Though I strive to be mindful, rarely am I actively deciding to use the phone or not; I often pick it up as a reflex.

I suppose it all started with trying to get pregnant. I am rather neurotic, and though I had no reason to believe that I would have trouble getting pregnant, when it came time to try, I found myself Googling my way to various online “communities.” Did you know that there are apps and forums for tracking basal body temperature? A BBT increase often indicates that ovulation has occurred, which is the optimal time to try to make a baby. On these forums, people share their temperatures, charts, qualitative descriptions of cervical mucus, so that all may benefit from the resulting database of knowledge. The month I got pregnant, I was diligently charting my own bodily symptoms on one such site: waking up each morning, running to the bathroom to take my temperature and make the attendant observations, logging onto the site to record it all. My chart is now forever part of that structure of information. A woman might compare her chart to mine, hoping for a similar outcome—I did get pregnant, after about five months of doing this.

Is it a student’s civil right to take a federally mandated standardized test?

Lyndsay Layton:

The nation’s major civil rights groups say that federally required testing — in place for a decade through existing law — is a tool to force fairness in public schools by aiming a spotlight at the stark differences in scores between poor, minority students and their more affluent counterparts.

And they are fighting legislative efforts to scale back testing as lawmakers on Capitol Hill rewrite the nation’s main federal education law, known as No Child Left Behind.

“Removing the requirement for annual testing would be a devastating step backward, for it is very hard to make sure our education system is serving every child well when we don’t have reliable, comparable achievement data on every child every year,” Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, said in recent testimony before the Senate education panel. Her group joined 20 civil rights organizations to lobby Congress to keep the requirement to test all children each year in math and ­reading.

The surprising downsides of being clever

David Robson:

The first steps to answering these questions were taken almost a century ago, at the height of the American Jazz Age. At the time, the new-fangled IQ test was gaining traction, after proving itself in World War One recruitment centres, and in 1926, psychologist Lewis Terman decided to use it to identify and study a group of gifted children. Combing California’s schools for the creme de la creme, he selected 1,500 pupils with an IQ of 140 or more – 80 of whom had IQs above 170. Together, they became known as the “Termites”, and the highs and lows of their lives are still being studied to this day.

As you might expect, many of the Termites did achieve wealth and fame – most notably Jess Oppenheimer, the writer of the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Indeed, by the time his series aired on CBS, the Termites’ average salary was twice that of the average white-collar job. But not all the group met Terman’s expectations – there were many who pursued more “humble” professions such as police officers, seafarers, and typists. For this reason, Terman concluded that “intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated”. Nor did their smarts endow personal happiness. Over the course of their lives, levels of divorce, alcoholism and suicide were about the same as the national average.

Has America gone lunatic on the subject of unattended children?

Megan McArdle:

Why has America gone lunatic on the subject of unattended children? Parents hover over their kids as if every step might be their last. If they don’t hover, strangers do, calling the police to report any parent who leaves their child to run into the store for a few minutes. What’s truly strange is that the parents who are doing this were themselves left to their own devices in cars, allowed to ride their bikes and walk to the store unsupervised, and otherwise given the (limited) freedom that they are now determined to deny their own kids. The police are making arrests that would have branded their own parents as criminals. To hear people my age talk about the dangers of unsupervised children, you would think that the attrition rate in our generation had been at least 30 percent.

Even people who haven’t gone crazy are afraid of the Pediatric Patrol. A mom of my acquaintance whose house backs up to a school playground, with a gate that lets her children walk straight into the schoolyard, is afraid to let them go through the gate without an adult, for fear that someone would call the same nutty CPS that has taken to impounding the Meitiv children. She compromises by letting them play alone in the playground only when she is in the backyard, so that she can intervene if the police arrive.

Are master’s degrees on their way out? Alternatives grow as enrollment fades

Jeffrey Sellingo:

When George Washington University announced last week that it was laying off nearly 50 employees to reduce costs, the university’s president, Steven Knapp, blamed a decline in enrollment in graduate and professional programs.

Graduate degrees and professional certificates have been the fastest-growing segment of higher education in recent years, and the thinking has always been that when the economy improves, fewer people go back to school for such credentials because they can more easily get jobs instead.

Into this environment, the UW-Madison Chancellor has raised tuition, substantially.

This Is What the Fourth Industrial Revolution Looks Like

Daniel Oberhaus:

The fourth industrial revolution, more commonly known as “Industry 4.0,” derives its name from a 2011 initiative spearheaded by businessmen, politicians, and academics, who defined it as a means of increasing the competitiveness of Germany’s manufacturing industries through the increasing integration of “cyber-physical systems,” or CPS, into factory processes.

CPS is basically a catch-all term for talking about the integration of smart, internet-connected machines and human labor. Factory managers are not simply reimagining the assembly line, but actively creating a network of machines that not only can produce more with fewer errors, but can autonomously alter their production patterns in accordance with external inputs while still retaining a high degree of efficiency.

In other words, Industry 4.0 is the production-side equivalent of the consumer-oriented Internet of Things, in which everyday objects from cars to thermostats to toasters will be connected to the internet.

This would be a “completely new approach to production,” according to a rep​ort released in 2013 by the Industrie 4.0 Working Group, a conglomerate of major industrialists, artificial intelligence experts, economists and academics.

Lack of vocational education stifles US mobility

Sam Fleming:

“If we care about social mobility in America we can’t just dismiss this,” says Mr Holzer, who released a report for Brookings on the topic this month. “It requires America to be more serious about career and technical education than it has been in a long time.”

Economic debate has been dominated by discussion of the “hollowing out” of the middle of the workforce because of new digital technologies and globalisation. This narrative, which is leaving its mark on the UK general election as well as US politics, suggests that opportunities will be concentrated in very highly skilled jobs and the lower end of the wage spectrum such as food service, where recent hiring has been rapid.

But in the US experts say this understates the significance of middle-skilled jobs which require some postsecondary training but not necessarily a university degree.

Cheryl’s Birthday: Singapore’s maths puzzle baffles world

Tessa Wong:

A school maths question posted on Facebook by a Singaporean TV presenter has stumped thousands, and left many asking if that’s really what is expected of Singaporean students.
The question asks readers to guess the birthday of a girl called Cheryl using the minimal clues she gives to her friends, Albert and Bernard.

Cheryl’s Birthday was initially reported to be an examination question for 11-year-olds.
Students stressed by tough examinations is a perennial issue here, and Cheryl’s Birthday reignited concerns that the education system was too challenging.

Kenneth Chang and Alex Bellos.

Related: The infliction of Connected Math on our children is worth a deep dive.

Classroom disorder increases in Milwaukee and Madison after school administrators unveil a new discipline policy

Dave Daley (PDF), via a kind reader:

Lunch break over, students at a Madison high school file into class. The bell rings. Only a little more than half the students are in their seats, but the teacher starts anyway, ticking off homework assignments.

Two students trickle in, one carrying a bag from a fast-food chain, the other a basketball under his arm. “Hey, man — gimme some fries,” calls out a stu- dent. The kid with the fast-food bag saunters over, bag open, warning his hungry classmate
not to take too many. More students join in, begging for fries, too.
At the front of the room, the teacher struggles to stay on topic and get his students’ focus

back on the lesson. The student with the fries is making his way to his seat, kids reaching into his bag as he passes, snatching fries, joshing him — “Wow, you are old!” — about his generosity.

The student is the center of attention. The teacher stares at him as he finally slides into his seat. The teacher picks up the lesson, just as three more late students trickle in, one eating a bag of Cheetos, a second munching a candy bar.
More calls ring out. “C’mon — some chips, dude, bring ’em over here.” The teacher stops. No one is listening anyway. Everyone’s attention is on still more late-arriving kids, half a dozen this time, the students laughing and calling out to one another as they saunter to their seats.

One of the late students sees the hard look on the teacher’s face. “Sorry, I’ll be quiet now,” he offers as he sits down.

Hunched over their desks, the top performing students — the good kids — are reading their books or doing homework, trying to concentrate as the hubbub swirls around them. Finally, 15 minutes after the bell rang, everyone is seated, and the teacher can pick up the lesson.

No one is disciplined for tardiness. Or for bringing food into the classroom. Or for disrupt- ing class. The teacher does not bother writing up the late students — repeat offenders — even though habitual tardiness is an infraction of the school’s discipline code. There is no point filling out an office referral form; the teacher knows administrators will just ignore it.


The Madison Metropolitan School District, the state’s second
largest with more than 27,000 students, is in its second semester of a kid-friendly discipline policy aimed at keeping rule-breaking students in school. But some are questioning it.

“Utter chaos,” says the teacher who struggles every day to get his students seated after the bell rings. “It feels like the inmates are running the institution.”
Madison’s new suspend-as-a-last-resort discipline policy mirrors a shift by schools across the country from tough zero-tolerance to a far less punitive approach that tries to keep kids in school under the mantra that children don’t have a chance of learning if they’re not in the classroom.

That more relaxed approach, which emphasizes teaching kids positive behaviors, is already in place in the Milwaukee and Racine school districts, where it is dramatically cutting suspension rates.

Like many schools across the country, Milwaukee is using the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports concept, which emphasizes teaching students what behavior is expected rather than meting out punishment after bad behavior.

K-12 Tax And Spending Climate: The federal debt is worse than you think

Ron Haskins:

Of all the failures of recent Congresses and Presidents, none is more important than their failure to deal with the nation’s long-term debt. Although Congress tied itself in knots trying to address the problem, the growth of debt remains, in the words of the Congressional Budget Office, “unsustainable.”

Debt figures tell part of the story. When the Great Recession hit, the federal debt was equal to about 40 percent of GDP. But to fight the recession, Congress enacted an $800 billion dollar stimulus bill. Stimulus spending, combined with already enacted spending and tax policy, resulted in four years of trillion dollar deficits. As a result, the debt ballooned to 78 percent of GDP in 2013, almost twice the pre-recession level. The annual deficit is now declining at a stately pace, but by 2016 it will begin increasing again, and by 2020 under CBO’s alternative fiscal scenario, we will once again return to annual deficits above a trillion dollars, thereby once again greatly increasing the national debt.

Chess grandmaster kicked out of competition for using smartphone in the bathroom

Stan Schroeder:

Georgian national chess champion, grandmaster Gaioz Nigalidze was kicked out of a tournament in Dubai after it was discovered he was using a smartphone in the bathroom during a game, the BBC reports.

Nigalidze’s opponent, Armenian champion Tigran Petrosian, complained to the officials that Nigalidze was visiting the bathroom a little too regularly. Nigalidze always used the same cubicle for extended periods of time; after investigating, the officials found a smartphone buried in the trash bin.

‘Free-range’ parents plan to file lawsuit after police pick up children

Donna St. George & Brigid Schulte:

A D.C-based law firm will file suit and pursue “all legal remedies” to protect the rights of the Maryland parents whose two young children were taken into custody for more than five hours Sunday after someone reported them as they made their way home unsupervised from a Silver Spring park, the firm said Tuesday.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv were “rightfully outraged by the irresponsible actions” of Maryland Child Protective Services and Montgomery County police, said attorney Matthew Dowd, of the firm Wiley Rein, in a written statement.

‘Free-range’ kids and our parenting police state

Petula Dvorak:

“The police coerced our children into the back of a patrol car and kept them trapped there for three hours, without notifying us, before bringing them to the Crisis Center, and holding them there without dinner for another two and a half hours,” their mom, Danielle Meitiv, said to her Facebook friends. “We finally got home at 11 pm and the kids slept in our room because we were all exhausted and terrified.”

What a pathetic way to fight about parenting styles. Because the kids are the biggest victims in all this.

Imagine the cops telling two young children to get into the car as they argue that they know their way home, they know where they are going and that their dad said they could walk home. This is what happened in December. And Rafi and Dvora had nightmares about police snatching them that time, their mom told me.

Mom and Dad were dragged into court for that incident, and the nation debated whether they are good or bad parents. Montgomery County ruled that they were guilty of unsubstantiated child neglect. Which means no one could decide who was right.

The new paperless revolution in Chinese reading

David Moser:

Two decades ago, after I had studied Chinese for about four years, I suddenly realized that I had never read a novel in Chinese. In fact, I had not read any Chinese book in its entirety – the task was just too daunting. This would be a rather embarrassing admission for a fourth-year student of, say, Spanish, but back then this was a pretty common situation for us learners of Chinese.

I had fairly good spoken Mandarin and a fair sense for the written language. Yet reading Chinese literature was virtually impossible. There were so many unfamiliar characters on virtually every line of the text that there was no way I could look them all up. So usually I would give up in despair after a frustrating few paragraphs of: “Here, Second-Elder-Sister, quickly take this (something) that our father (something) to Old Chen when his (something) was so tragically (something, something) during the Japanese (something), and never speak of this (something) to a soul (something something), I beg you!” You know the feeling.

At that time Qian Zhongshu’s famous novel Weicheng《围城》was having a revival of popularity, partly due to a TV series adaptation of the novel. My friends at Peking University were all raving about it, so I decided to read the book myself – and I mean really read it. My goal was to understand every word, every idiom, and every unfamiliar character, getting as close to a full understanding of the text as I possibly could.

A tuk tuk road trip across India in aid of charity Educate Girls

Paul Niel:

Immediately, we are surrounded by children and other curious locals. Clare gets chatting to Shanthi, a school teacher and organiser of a helpline that assists girls forced into child labour, and within minutes we are invited for tea, where we are given first-hand insights into how the school system works in southern India. Shanthi tells us of the pride she has for her district, where almost all the children have attended at least elementary school and literacy levels are high. However, she confirms that lots of girls leave school between the ages of 10 and 12, to get married or to work to help their families.

Back on the road, our adventure takes another unexpected turn – beach roads have turned into windy mountain roads, palm trees into jungle. Cruising down a steep lane, our rickshaw loses its way on a dangerous hairpin turn and goes straight into a stone wall. With no seatbelts or airbags, Tom and I are sent flying, but it is the tuk tuk that comes off worse – the windshield, axis and entire front end are broken. We convince a mechanic in a nearby village to repair it, but it will take a few days.

Sagar, in Karnataka – the huge state in southwest India – is a sleepy town and it takes a while to find accommodation. We decide to visit a local school and are welcomed with open arms and big smiles. Classes are stopped as hundreds of schoolchildren listen to our presentation, the highlight of which is a short geography lesson about our five home nations – we can’t get enough of all those curious faces.

“he hadn’t ever worked in education”

Erin Richards:

“Our model was: Let’s get aggressive. Accountability. Testing. Internal reviews. Let’s improve,” he said.

Rodriguez created a new board to focus specifically on academics and fundraising for St. Anthony. He oversaw the development of an on-campus medical clinic for families and the opening of a day care and 3-year-old kindergarten in 2013, as well as the expansion of the new high school as it added a grade each year.

Like most urban schools serving predominantly low-income students in Milwaukee, overall state test scores for St. Anthony were and still are low. In the fall of 2010, just 7% of children could read proficiently, and about 10% could do math on grade level.

State data shows they jumped considerably by the fall of 2013: 12% of children were proficient in reading; 19% were proficient in math. That beat the average math proficiency score for all voucher schools but was the same for reading.

St. Anthony scores about the same as Milwaukee Public Schools; score comparisons vary, depending on whether all students or just low-income students are compared.

“I feel like I’ve been called to effect change for underserved kids,” Rodriguez said.

He’s been a visible figure for doing that at St. Anthony.

America’s most controversial educator

Robert Pondsco:

If you don’t live in New York City or within the education policy universe, Eva Moskowitz might not be on your radar screen. She should be. With a recent front page piece in The New York Times about the extraordinary results posted by her network of 32 Success Academy charter schools and how those results were achieved, Moskowitz is the most controversial figure in American education today.

She’s also a devastatingly effective political player whose name is on every credible short list of candidates to be New York’s next mayor, and deservedly so. Her successful battles with incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasioare becoming legendary.

But she’s as much educator as politico. When New York adopted more rigorous, Common Core-aligned tests two years ago, scores slumped statewide, including at most of Gotham’s successful charter schools. But Success Academy soared. While just 29 percent of New York City students met the new, higher English standards last year, 64 percent of those attending Success Academies were proficient; in math, they nearly tripled the weak city-wide performance. A stunning 94 percent of Success Academy students, mostly low-income children of color, made the grade.

China’s Dickensian Boarding Schools

Dexter Roberts:

In the U.S. the words “boarding school” conjure images of children attending class in ivy-covered buildings, eating in oak-paneled dining halls, and exercising on well-manicured sports fields. An increasing number of these fortunate students come from wealthy families all over the globe—many from China.

That cosseted world is unimaginable to the 33 million children living and studying in China’s 100,000 rural boarding schools—a number roughly equal to two-thirds of all children enrolled in U.S. public schools. At a rural elementary school in a poor, mountainous region of Shaanxi province in China’s northwest, the 60-odd students, age 5 to 14, sit for their lessons in dirty, concrete-walled classrooms. Meals, cooked on wood-fired stoves, are spare; meat is a once-a-week extravagance. Eighteen boarders sleep in bunks in unheated rooms.

Setting Off a Race for Fiscal Transparency

Josh Mandel & Fineas Baxandall:

An open government is one in which citizens are empowered to hold their elected officials accountable. Even in today’s atmosphere of hyper-partisanship, leaders from across the political spectrum can agree that advancing the cause of transparency is integral for enabling taxpayers to follow the money.

In 2010, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) developed a scorecard to grade all 50 states’ online-transparency initiatives, and specifically how well they provide public access to checkbook-level spending data. The goal was to spark competition that would inspire, motivate and in some cases publicly pressure state-government leaders across the country to improve the transparency of their fiscal operations.

U.S. PIRG’s state rankings for 2015 were recently released, and nowhere was there a better turnaround story than in Ohio. Two years ago, Ohio had received a grade of D-plus. Taken aback by that grade — which dropped again in 2014, to D-minus — the Ohio treasurer’s office (led by one of the authors of this column, state Treasurer Josh Mandel) set out to meet and even surpass best practices for making budgets, contracts, subsidies and “off-budget” expenditures open to public scrutiny. That effort has paid off dramatically, raising the state’s transparency ranking from a dismal 46th last year to first in the nation in 2015, with Ohio earning the first-ever A-plus grade.

From the Boardroom to the Classroom: Can Corporate America Inform Teacher Evaluation?

Angela Minnici and Jenni Fipaza:

Deloitte recently quizzed executives about their views on performance management. A whopping 58 percent of those who took the public survey believe that their current performance management approach “drives neither employee engagement nor high performance.”

Sounds a bit like the national conversation about teacher evaluation systems across the United States, right? As tempting as it is to think that business has identified the silver bullet to improving employee performance, apparently leaders from that world don’t think so.

Instead, it seems like we’re all struggling to find better ways to engage employees, move them from average to exceptional performance, and keep high performers from leaving. But as policymakers and wonks debate the merits of teacher evaluation systems, are there at least some lessons learned from corporate America that we should be paying attention to?

Finland’s Latest Educational Move Will Produce a Generation of Entrepreneurs

David Hill:

Silander said about 70 percent of Finnish high school teachers have already received training in the “phenomenon-based” approach, which began testing two years ago. So far student outcomes have improved and teacher response has been positive.

Marjo Kyllonen, Helsinki’s education manager, who leads the initiative said, “We really need a rethinking of education and a redesigning of our system, so it prepares our children for the future with the skills that are needed for today and tomorrow.”

The new approach aims to encourage different kinds of learning, shifting from facts to problem solving, individual work to collaboration. In other words, instead of skill-oriented instruction, this topical structure prioritizes the four Cs—communication, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration—skills that are central to working in teams, a reflection of the ‘hyperconnected’ world we live in today.

Interestingly, this approach is similar to a homeschooling method called Unit Studies, a throwback to the one-room schoolhouse with students of multiple ages working together but at different skills and levels of understanding. Of course, this method is convenient for homeschooling families with multiple children and minimal resources, but modern workplace teams also consist of people at various skills levels with limited budgets. Additionally, U.S. homeschoolers don’t always have access to the latest technologies beyond the Internet. Curiously, this parallels the Finnish school systems, which have relied on innovative teaching methodologies instead of educational technologies to consistently perform better than American students.

Do Financial Responsibility Scores Reflect Colleges’ Financial Strength?

Robert Kelchen:

In spite of the vast majority of federal government operations being closed on Thursday due to snow (it’s been a rough end to winter in this part of the country), the U.S. Department of Education released financial responsibility scores for private nonprofit and for-profit colleges and universities based on 2012-2013 data. These scores are based on calculations designed to measure a college’s financial strength in three key areas: primary reserve ratio (liquidity), equity ratio (ability to borrow additional funds) and net income (profitability or excess revenue).

A college can score between -1 and 3, and colleges that score over 1.5 are considered financially responsible without any qualifications and can access federal funds. Colleges scoring between 1.0 and 1.4 are considered financially responsible and can access federal funds for up to three years, but are subject to additional Department of Education oversight of its financial aid programs. If a college does not improve its score within three years, it will not be considered financially responsible. Colleges scoring 0.9 or below are not considered financially responsible and must submit a letter of credit and be subject to additional oversight to get access to funds. A college can submit a letter of credit equal to 50% of all federal student aid funds received in the prior year and be deemed financially responsible, or it can submit a letter equal to 10% of all funds received and gain access to funds but still not be fully considered financially responsible.

Harvard and Stanford’s business schools don’t look as good as Brigham Young’s when you account for debt

Max Nisen

Most business school rankings have one of Harvard or Stanford on top, their graduates command the highest salaries, and benefit from particularly powerful networks. But a report from student lender M7 Financial puts them below Brigham Young’s Marriott School, and alongside less prestigious schools including Ohio State’s and the University of Washington’s, while Bloomberg Businessweek’s top-ranked program, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, is in the second-lowest tier.

The difference between M7’s methodology and others is that it focuses entirely on an average student’s ability to pay back typical loan obligations after graduation. The list leaves out quite a few highly regarded schools, including Wharton, Columbia, and the University of Chicago, because they didn’t provide debt figures to US News, which is where M7 drew its debt data from.

The report doesn’t explicitly rank schools, it groups them by rating. Brigham Young is the only A+, meaning it typically leaves attendees with a “modest” debt burden. Pepperdine and the Thunderbird School of Global Management are the only programs to get a “B,” the lowest rating, indicating a “demanding” debt burden.

Common problems with Common Core reporting

Alexander Russo:

“Something big is happening in New Jersey,” PBS NewsHour special correspondent John Merrow intones ominously at the start of last week’s NewsHour segment on standardized testing in New Jersey and elsewhere. “It’s happening in Newark … . It’s happening in Montclair … . And it’s happening in the state capital.”

The “something big,” according to PBS and other media outlets, is growing grassroots resistance among parents and students to a new set of tests being administered nationwide for the first time.

But so far, at least, much of the media’s coverage of this spring’s Common Core testing rollout has been guilty of over-emphasizing the extent of the conflict, speculating dire consequences based on little information, and over-relying on anecdotes and activists’ claims rather than digging for a broader sampling of verified numbers. The real story—that the rollout of these new, more challenging tests is proceeding surprisingly well—could be getting lost.

The Career With the Biggest Financial Payoff

Akane Otani:

To figure out how return on investment for a bachelor’s degree varies with career choices, PayScale tracked the median salary for people in the U.S. who completed its salary survey online who had graduated between 1995 and 2014. For each career, it looked at the difference in 20-year earnings between someone who had a bachelor’s degree and someone with only a high school diploma. From that differential, it then subtracted the cost of college to arrive at the ROI number.

The analysis excluded careers that require advanced degrees, like law and medicine—which explains in part why health care, otherwise a field that can pull in sky-high salaries, was middling on PayScale’s list.

The Average Student Debt Load in D.C. is a Whopping $40,885

Josh Mitchell

The nation’s student-debt tab has more than doubled since the recession to roughly $1.3 trillion, but the burden varies greatly by state.

The nation’s capital of Washington, D.C.—one of the most educated cities in the U.S. and home to high-priced private schools–is the most indebted compared with states when it comes to average federal student-loan debt. Some 140,000 borrowers in D.C. owe a whopping average of $40,885, according to new data released by the White House. Georgia is second on the list with 1.45 million residents owing an average $30,443. North Dakota sits at the bottom, with 114,000 borrowers owing an average $22,379.

Finding Schools That Work

Alan Borsuk:

I asked Dan McKinley, as he reaches retirement, what he has learned in nearly a quarter-century of involvement in efforts to improve the education of high-needs children in Milwaukee. He gave me four answers, and we’ll get to those.

Then, a few days later, he sent me a fifth lesson — the most important one, he said.

“It really is all about love,” he said. “When you visit a school, if you can’t feel the love, you know there is something missing in the educational program. The school may be working hard, but outcomes of all that work are probably not that good.

“This is what the policy-makers miss: In the end, it is not about teacher data or management techniques. It is about a community of people dedicated to high ideals who work every day to bring out the best in the children they love.”

McKinley and the organization he headed all these years, PAVE, have been good at spotting the love and spotting the quality in schools.

For years, while the State of Wisconsin was allowing schools of hugely varying quality to receive public money through the private school voucher program or independent charter programs, and while voucher advocates took a pass on getting involved in quality, PAVE picked the places it supported financially with care and smart eyes.

Mediocre schools and especially those that were just horrible got almost nothing from PAVE, which was a conduit for millions of dollars in scholarship help, no-interest loans and other help to many of the most promising schools in the city.

The Rejected Madison Preparatory IB Academy Charter School, In The News

Chris Rickert:

A reader with a much keener sense of irony than I emailed this week to point out that the site identified 3 1/2 years ago for the aborted Madison Preparatory Academy is slated to become home to a new police station by 2017.

That’s right. In a city with some of the highest rates of black incarceration in the country, a police station is taking the place of a school aimed at improving the prospects of poor, minority students.

The Madison Prep charter school was the brainchild of the Urban League of Greater Madison and its then-CEO, Kaleem Caire, and was to occupy the former Mount Olive Lutheran Church building at 4018 Mineral Point Road.

Madison Prep would have featured single-sex classrooms, longer school days, required parental involvement and other strategies not usually seen in a Madison public schools system that has struggled to educate black children.

In December 2011, it was voted down by a majority white, uniformly liberal school board over concerns about its cost, accountability to taxpayers, and use of nonunion employees. Madison’s overwhelmingly white teachers union opposed the school.

Now, Madison appears to be moving ahead with a plan to demolish the church and an adjoining house and replace them with a $9 million police station that will increase the number of stations from five to six and, police said, relieve pressure on officers serving the populous West Side.

Much more on the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school

A Letter To Parents Supporting “No Teacher Left Behind”

New Jersey Mom:

I’m one of you – except that I didn’t opt my children out of PARCC testing. But otherwise, I am. I am white, a progressive Democrat, and pay a lot of property taxes. We moved to our town because the schools lead New Jersey and the nation’s list of best schools. I’ve got kids in the public schools, which makes me an oddity amongst my neighbors. But, despite the warts, I believe in public schools. And yes, I do value teachers. I believe them to be well meaning, seeking to do their best on behalf of my children.

But they are not infallible. And it is my role as a parent to monitor their work with my children. I don’t always believe that they know what’s best. And truth be told, I often wonder about their mastery over the content that they teach. Many of our family’s dinnertime conversations have centered on correcting the day’s mistakes. For instance, my child’s third grade math teacher taught that the “product of three sixes” was 18 (3 x 6) versus the actual product of three sixes, i.e., 6 x 6 x 6. A teachable moment at home that night with our eight year old: “No one – not even your teacher – is always right. Question everything.”

How to negotiate a better financial aid package

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel

Your high school senior is basking in the glow of college acceptance letters. Three or four schools want her to join their class of 2019, and nothing can bring her down, except for the cost.

Unless you’re one of those lucky families whose kid receives a full ride, chances are the scholarships and grants schools offer will fall short of what your child actually needs. And that means you might want to start negotiating.

Many families don’t realize it, but there is often a little wiggle room in financial aid awards. FAFSA, the form the government and colleges use to determine need- and some merit-based aid, doesn’t capture all circumstances that might affect a family’s ability to pay for school. For instance, there’s no line to include the cost of caring for an elderly parent or special needs child, the kind of expenses that could warrant more aid, said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of, a college planning Web site. So if you weren’t able to share that kind of information with the school, now is the time to bring it up to see if that shakes free some more assistance.

Expectation and Variance from High School to Grad School

Count Bayesie:

Here many people stop learning about probability. This is sort of any annoying place to stop. At this point we are stuck with this muddled idea of a random variable (ie a variable that behaves randomly), that by this level in mathematical progress should seem pretty confusing. The randomly behaving variable is okay for students that don’t have much experience with math, but variables should not be ‘random’. What started as a teaching aid has become something that’s both magical and confusing.

Additionally we have the problem that we need two separate models for Discrete and Continuous Probability Distributions. An even bigger issue is that we never talked about a third type of probability distribution that involves both discrete and continuous components!

Fortunately, we have the answers to all these issues in the development of rigorous probability with measure theory! We introduce the formalized idea of a Random Variable, generalize both discrete and continuous probabilities as a sample space Ω (Omega), and use the Lebesgue Integral to sum up over the sample space. Formally Ω is a set of possible events. And the Lebesgue Integral can be understood simply as a generalization of the Integral covered in basic calculus that is more robust. Our mu is finally E[X] and our generalized form of expectation is:

American students head to Germany for free college

by Kirk Carapezza, Produced by Mallory Noe-Payne:

Despite the high cost of college in this country, most American students will choose to go to school here. But a growing number of students are getting their degrees in other countries, like Germany, where taxpayers pick up the tab. WGBH’s On Campus team recently traveled to Cologne to explore this higher education defection, and the implications for the United States.

At a cafe just around the corner from the University of Cologne, students sink into big armchairs and sip lattes.

This is Rachael Smith’s favorite place to spend down time between classes. The 26-year-old is working on her master’s degree and has been living in Germany for almost two years.

The John Oliver / Snowden and political Disengagement

Glenn Greenwald:

The data on American political apathy is rather consistent, and stunning. Begin with the fact that even in presidential election years, 40 to 50 percent of the voting-age public simply chooses not participate in the voting process at all, while two-thirds chooses not to vote in midterm elections.

Even more striking is what they do and do not know. An Annenberg Public Policy Center poll from last September found that only 36 percent of Americans can name the three branches of government, and only 38 percent know the GOP controls the House. The Center’s 2011 poll “found just 15 percent of Americans could correctly identify the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, while 27 percent knew Randy Jackson was a judge on American Idol.”

On social media, mom and dad are watching

George Gao:

On Facebook, Parents Are Friends with Their TeensBut that doesn’t mean parents aren’t monitoring their teenagers’ behaviors in other ways. With so much of a teenager’s social activities now happening online, parents have had to adapt. Today, 60% of parents say they’ve checked their teenagers’ profile on a social networking site, including roughly similar shares of moms (62%) and dads (58%), according to new Pew Research Center data.

Parents are especially aware of their teens’ behavior on Facebook, the largest social media platform. Among Facebook users, the vast majority of parents (83%) say they’re “Facebook friends” with their teenager, according to a new survey conducted during the fall of 2014 and winter 2015. (For more on teens’ use of Facebook, see our latest report.)

W.H. Auden’s 1941 Literature Syllabus Asks Students to Read 32 Great Works, Covering 6000 Pages

Open Culture:

Grimes’ reference to a report card is relevant, since what we’re discussing today is the instruction in grand themes and “great books” represented by W.H. Auden’s syllabus above for his English 135, “Fate and the Individual in European Literature.” Granted, this is not an intro lit class (although I imagine that his intro class may have been punishing as well), but a course for juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Taught during the 1941-42 school year when Auden was a professor at the University of Michigan, his syllabus required over 6,000 pages of reading in just a single semester (and for only two credits!).

Wisconsin Regents OK tuition boost, rip legislator’s comments on Blank

Karen Herzog:

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents finalized tuition increases for nine campuses on Friday, and pushed back against a key lawmaker who blasted UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank for proposing a 35% tuition increase over four years for nonresident undergraduates.

UW-Madison will boost tuition for nonresident undergraduates 11.75% next year. Wisconsin resident undergrads at UW-Madison and all other UW campuses will not see tuition increases; their tuition has been frozen for the past two years and likely will remain frozen for the next two years.

UW-Madison also is raising tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students in business graduate programs, the doctor of nursing practice program and the professional schools of pharmacy, medicine and veterinary medicine to bring them closer to their peers in the Big 10. Those increases range from 9% to 20%.

Nonresident undergraduate tuition for the flagship campus this fall will increase by $3,000, to $28,523. International students will pay the same increase, plus $1,000. The other tuition increases range from 9% for all pharmacy school students to 20% for nonresident veterinary medicine students.

Blank proposed a four-year plan for tuition increases. The regents only gave the green light to the first two years, but indicated support for the four-year plan.

Blank’s plan would boost nonresident undergraduate tuition by a total $10,000 over four years — $3,000 each of the first two years and $2,000 each of the following two years. Nonresident undergrads this year paid $25,523, while resident undergrads paid $10,410. The new nonresidnet tuition rate does not apply to Minnesota students, who attend UW schools under the decades-old Minnesota-Wisconsin Interstate Tuition Reciprocity Agreement.

The Algorithmic Self

Frank Pasquale:

At a recent conference on public health, nutrition expert Kelly Brownell tried to explain our new food environment by making some striking comparisons. First, he contrasted the coca leaf—chewed for pain relief for thousands of years by indigenous people in South America, with little ill effect—with cocaine, a highly addictive, mind-altering substance. Then he contrasted a cob of corn with a highly processed piece of candy derived from corn syrup. Nutritious in its natural state, the concentrated sugar in corn can spark unhealthy, even addictive behaviors once poured into candy. With corn and with coca, the dose makes the poison, as Paracelsus put it. And in the modern era of “food science,” dozens of analysts may be spending millions of dollars just to perfect the “mouthfeel” and flavor profile of a single brand of chips.1

Should we be surprised, then, that Americans are losing the battle of the bulge? Indeed, the real wonder is not that two-thirds of the US population is overweight, but that one-third remains “normal,” to use an adjective that makes sense only in relation to an earlier era’s norms.2

Investigating Cooper Union’s Governance

James Stewart:

In what should be a ringing alarm for nonprofit boards across the country long accustomed to minimal scrutiny or accountability, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York has signaled that the laissez-faire approach to nonprofit governance is over.
Mr. Schneiderman’s office has sent letters to the board members of Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the prestigious college founded in Manhattan in 1859 by the philanthropist Peter Cooper on the premise that it be “open and free to all.” Last year, after the school said it faced financial ruin otherwise, it began charging tuition.
The investigation, reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, is focusing on the board’s management of its endowment; its handling of its major asset, the Chrysler Building; its dealings with Tishman Speyer Properties, which manages the skyscraper; and how it obtained a $175 million loan from MetLife using the building as collateral, according to people involved. (All are issues I highlighted when I examined the Cooper Union endowment almost two years ago.)

This mom is coding iPad apps to help her autistic child explore the world

Daniela Hernandez:

Lee and her husband, who was getting his doctorate in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered their son’s condition was serious enough that they wouldn’t be able to go back to the life they had as game developers in South Korea. The family decided to stay in the U.S. Lee started toying with the idea of creating iPhone apps for children with special needs.

“Maybe I can develop something for my child to help him learn and help him explore the world,” Lee remembers thinking. But kids with autism sometimes have trouble with coordination and Lee found the iPhone screen was too small to support apps with which her son could interact. But when Apple launched the iPad with its bigger screen in April 2010, Lee and her husband saw an opening. They started a company, LocoMotive Labs, to develop a suite of iPad apps designed especially for children with autism. When he was about five, their son had been diagnosed with autism.

Colleges Launch Food Pantries to Help Low-Income Students

Miriam Jordan:

For several months last year, between her classes at the University of California campus here, Sierra Henderson stopped in at a tiny basement room to pick up free canned vegetables, pasta and cereal.

“If the pantry wasn’t here I might have had to consider taking time off school to work full-time,” said the 21-year-old food-science major.

Food pantries, where students in need can stock up on groceries and basic supplies, started cropping up on campuses in large numbers after the recession began in 2007. More than 200 U.S. colleges, mostly public institutions, now operate pantries, and more are on the way, even as the economy rebounds.

Among factors driving the trend: Tuition has soared 25% at four-year public institutions since 2007, according to the College Board, and costs such as housing, books and transportation have also risen significantly in recent years.

Meanwhile, more students from low-income families are attending college. For instance, four out of every 10 undergraduates in the UC system, which includes UC Berkeley and UCLA, now hail from households with an annual income of $50,000 or less.

New Jersey education politics

Caren Chesler:

To illustrate his point, the Newark-born governor turned to Camden, still the nation’s poorest large city. “There is no better example of what we can achieve if we put aside party and pettiness than the results we are seeing in Camden,” Christie said. He described a new, enlarged county police force that cut the city’s murder rate in half and reduced violent crime by 22 percent. He heralded a reformed school system that has brought new leadership and more accountability to troubled city classrooms and new schools to long-neglected neighborhoods. A medical school has opened downtown and fresh investment by Rutgers University is bringing “bright new citizens” to Camden’s neighborhoods, the governor said.

“Hope and optimism are up — fear of failure is down,” Christie said.

A studied politician who has long had his eye on Washington, Christie knows that his Camden story makes for great national newspaper stories and even better television. But how true is his rendition and how much does it reflect his larger policy priorities and governing approach? Has Chris Christie actually been good for New Jersey’s cities? That’s what Next City and NJ Spotlight have come together to find out in this collaborative exploration of the governor’s record on job creation and economic development, transportation infrastructure, housing, education, and crime in the state’s urban centers. While we have focused on five of New Jersey’s oldest and most notable cities — Camden, Newark, Jersey City, Trenton, and Paterson — our findings are relevant across the state and region, not only as indicators of Christie’s leadership but also as indicators of what should be considered in the next gubernatorial election. With 1,195.5 people per square mile in 2010, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country. Given the density, it’s not all that surprising that 94 percent of the population lives in urban areas, making it one of the two most citified states in the nation, tied with California, according to the U.S. Census. New Jersey will never prosper until its cities do. And when those cities finally thrive, the state as a whole will see benefits that until now have been out of reach.

Cheating in Atlanta: A Teachable Moment

Jason Riley:

You’ve probably heard that a jury last week convicted 11 Atlanta public-school educators of racketeering for their roles in what prosecutors described as one of the largest test-cheating scandals in U.S. history. You may not have heard that George W. Bush is to blame. Confused? I’ll explain.

The state decided to investigate cheating in the public schools after an analysis of test results by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found suspiciously high gains in math and reading proficiency. “A miracle occurred at Atherton…

Of K-12 Talkers and Doers

Rick Hess:

This has all struck me again over the past few weeks as folks have reacted to my new book The Cage-Busting Teacher. What’s particularly striking is how some talkers seem to regard attention to the stuff of doing as a show of insufficient “reform” ardor. I’ve heard self-proclaimed reformers dismiss any concern for teachers frustrated by idiotic accountability systems as “pandering.” They’ve scoffed at the notion that timid, inept district management shares the blame for problematic staffing, telling me that this just “excuses the unions.” They quietly insist that focusing on cage-busting teachers is “fine” but distracts from the more pressing business of “getting the policies right.”

I couldn’t disagree more strongly with such sentiments. As someone who’s been an unapologetic school “reformer” since last century, back before it was cool, I can confidently say they reflect a vision of “reform” that I regard as misguided. To my mind, a healthier view embraces a few simple tenets governing the relationship between talkers and doers.

The future Of The Post Doc

Kendall Powell:

By the time Sophie Thuault-Restituito reached her twelfth year as a postdoctoral fellow, she had finally had enough. She had completed her first postdoc in London, then moved to New York University (NYU) in 2004 to start a second. Eight years and two laboratories later, she was still there and still effectively a postdoc, precariously dependent on outside grants to secure and pay for her position. Her research on Alzheimer’s disease was not making it into high-profile journals, so she was unable to compete for academic positions in the United States or Europe. She loved science and had immense experience, but with two young children at home, she knew she needed something more secure. “My motivation was gone. I was done with doing research,” she says.

So in 2013, Thuault-Restituito moved into a job as a research-laboratory operations manager at NYU, where she coordinates building renovations and fosters collaboration between labs. She enjoys the fact that her staff position has set hours, as well as better pay and benefits. But at the time of the move, she mourned the loss of a research career and she regrets the years wasted pursuing one. “I stayed five years more than I should have,” she says.

Thuault-Restituito is the face of a postdoctoral system that is broken. These highly skilled scientists are a major engine driving scientific research, yet they are often poorly rewarded and have no way to progress in academia. The number of postdocs in science has ballooned: in the United States alone, it jumped by 150% between 2000 and 2012. But the number of tenured and other full-time faculty positions has plateaued and, in some places, it is even shrinking (see Nature 472, 276–279; 2011). Many postdocs move on to fulfilling careers elsewhere, but those who want to continue in research can find themselves thwarted. They end up trapped as ‘permadocs’: doing multiple postdoc terms, staying in these positions for many years and, in a small but significant proportion, never leaving them. Of the more than 40,000 US postdocs in 2013, almost 4,000 had been so for more than 6 years (see ‘The postdoc pile-up’).

Mapped: Where England’s best schools are pushing up house prices

Peter Spence:

Many parents are willing to invest thousands of pounds in school fees, hoping to offer their children the best start in life. Even for those who don’t opt to send their children to private school, a good education can come at a cost.

This map illustrates where house prices have been bumped up by good local schools.
Each dot represents a school in England. The larger the dot, the greater the relative cost of homes around the school compared to the rest of the region. This premium indicates where good school could be driving up nearby house prices.

The colour of each dot represents how well pupils perform in exams. The darker the shade, the better the grades. Use the “visible layers” toggle to switch between views of schools by GCSE and A-level performance.

The data, compiled by Savills in its report The Education Equation, show that for many the “most cost efficient option is to tap into high performing state schools, without school fees to worry about”.

University of Florida admits 3,000 students — then tells them it is only for online program

Valerie Strauss:

The 3,118 applicants accepted this way to the university — above and beyond the approximately 12,000 students offered traditional freshman slots — did not apply to the online program. Nor were they told that there was a chance that they would be accepted with the online caveat. They wound up as part of an admissions experiment.

The new program, begun in 2015, is called the Pathway to Campus Enrollment, or PaCE, and according to Steve Orlando, senior director of the university’s media relations, it “allows us to offer admission to additional qualified applicants with academic potential and demonstrated success.”

Literature and Money

Dora Zhang:

When I try to explain to my students this mysterious thing called “close reading,” I often use a metaphor. Books are like people, I say. They’re complicated and multilayered, and they take time to get to know. Like people, they’re not always upfront about (or even aware of) their intentions and motivations. You have to listen carefully and observe closely and read between the lines.

I was introduced to this metaphor as a graduate student during a talk on pedagogy by a brilliant, beloved English professor, and I remember how apt it seemed. Some of my favorite people have always been novels. They were my steady companions through adolescence and heady crushes in college, and I went to graduate school because I wanted to get to know them more intimately. Embarking on a doctorate seemed like the natural way to take our relationship to the next level.

Teaching Math As An Art form

Karen Herzog:

The numbers reflect her success. So does the admiration of her students and colleagues. Stalder will be honored at Friday’s UW System Board of Regents meeting with one of three annual Regents Teaching Excellence Awards, based on letters of recommendation from colleagues and students. Professor Gregory S. Aldrete of UW-Green Bay’s Department of History and the UW-La Crosse Department of Mathematics were also selected.

Stalder and colleague Paul Martin of UW-Marathon County — who was among those who nominated her for the award — developed a course that’s so successful and promising for teaching college students who struggle with math, it’s being used with impressive results at UW-Milwaukee, where more than 36% of freshmen require developmental math to prepare them for college-level math.

A version of the course also is being adapted for the UW System’s new competency-based Flex Option degree program for adult learners who set out to finish a degree started years ago, but who may have forgotten math they learned in high school.

The birth of a zombie statistic – Teacher Data

Sam Freedman:

This matters because the 40% figure creates a false narrative about a profession in crisis. I agree with ATL that teacher workload is too high – often driven by nonsense compliance rules around marking and planning. I agree that it’s a very stressful and tiring job and that many first year teachers don’t get the support they need. But the vast majority of those who start teaching do stay and succeed. Exaggerating the problem through dodgy statistics risks putting off new entrants to the profession – which we really can’t afford to do at the moment given an improving economy and changes to teacher training are creating serious recruitment issues.

More, here.

College freshmen flunk financial literacy 101

Jillian Berman:

The same teens saddled with thousands of dollars in debt to attend college have little understanding of how to put themselves in the best position to pay it back.

On average, freshmen at four-year colleges could only answer about two out of six questions correctly about topics like the right amount of money to set aside in case of a financial emergency, the conditions placed on student loan borrowers and how long a late payment remains on your credit history, according to a study released Thursday.

A Texas Solution To The Nation’s College Debt Crisis?

Tom Lindsay:

But there could be better news on the horizon. The Texas Legislature is currently considering a bill—the “I CAN” Bill (“Incentivizing College Affordability Now”)—that would take statewide a new initiative called the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program (TABP), which offers targeted college degrees for far less than what Texas public university students currently pay.

The breakthrough can’t come fast enough for students. According to a recent summary of data compiled by the Texas comptroller’s office, “In 2012, 20.5 percent of . . . [Texas’s] student loan borrowers were more than 90 days delinquent, surpassing the national rate of 17 percent and marking the 10th highest rate in the country.” The comptroller’s report adds, “Particularly worrying is the fact that rising tuition rates are driving an equally steep increase in college loan debt. . . . Many Texas college graduates and former students are entering adult life hobbled by years and even decades of crippling debt.”

An Honest College Admissions Rejection Letter

Mimi Evans:

The Admissions Committee has carefully considered your application and we regret to inform you that we will not be able to offer you admission in the entering class of 2015, or a position on one of our alternate lists. The applicant pool this year was particularly strong, and by that I mean the Admissions Committee once again sent candidates like you multiple enticing pamphlets encouraging you to apply, knowing full well we had no intention of accepting you.

However, you will be pleased to know that you have contributed to our declining admissions rate, which has helped our university appear exclusive. This allows us to attract our real candidates: upper-class kids and certified geniuses who will glean no new information from our courses or faculty, whose parents can incentivize us with a new swimming pool or lacrosse stadium.

Via Paul Brody.

Tablet computers and an online curriculum were supposed to help revolutionize schools. That hasn’t happened

Laura Colby:

“After all of these years of investment, it would really behoove them to show some wins,” said Tim Nollen, an analyst at Macquarie Capital USA in New York who has a “neutral” rating on News Corp. shares. “So far, I haven’t seen any.”

Joel Klein, Amplify’s chief executive officer, said he always considered the company a long-term bet. “I wish that things would move more quickly,” said Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “But when these things move quickly, sometimes you wind up creating a lot more problems.” (Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, which competes with News Corp. in delivering financial news.)

Technology often takes longer to implement than expected, but the changes, too are larger than originally thought.

“Parental Cooperativeness”

Brendan Foley & Jane Miller:

In December the district blamed a projected $2 million shortfall for FY2016 on ‘skyrocketing’ out of district costs, and said that it could not implement a proposed free full-day kindergarten program as a result. That action generated distrust and backlash by the special education community, and this most recent release of data has parents ready to file complaints at the state and federal levels.

The seven-page memo from Rick Pelletier, Director of Student Services, to the Superintendent was included in the School Committee packet as part of its budget justification package last week. The memo includes a spreadsheet that listed all the students with out of district placements – and also included a ranking on ‘parental cooperativeness.’ The amount of data included could indicate a violation of state and federal law.

The list, which replaces student names with numbers, remains in alphabetical order. Information included the student’s current grade, the out-of-district school, the last school attended, the year the student began attending the new school, information on whether or not the decision was made by the IEP team, a legal settlement (typically kept strictly confidential), or if the student moved in from another town, and miscellaneous detail such as the involvement of the Department of Children and Families, passage of MCAS assessments, and more.

The office of Student Services also published its rating of parents according to their ‘cooperativeness with the district.’ Parents rated a ‘1’ are cooperative, ‘2’ somewhat cooperative, and those rated ‘3’ are ‘not cooperative.’

Colleges, how in good conscience can you do this to kids?

Chris Lehman:

This year has been a fantastic year for Science Leadership Academy college acceptances. We’ve seen our kids get into some of the most well respected schools in record numbers – and many of our kids are the first SLA-ers to ever get accepted into these schools.

Whether or not they are able to go to is another question.

Today, I was sitting with one of our SLA seniors. She’s gotten into a wonderful college – her top choice. The school costs $54,000 a year. Her mother makes less than the federal deep poverty level. She only received the federal financial aid package with no aid from the school, which means that, should she go to this school, she would graduate with approximately $200,000 of debt.

She would graduate with approximately $200,000 of debt – for a bachelor’s degree.

Related: How much should you pay for a degree?

Now, how in good conscience could a college do that? I’ve sat with kids as they’ve opened the emails from their top choice schools. Watching the excitement of getting into a dream school is one of the real joys of being a principal. It’s just the best feeling to see a student have that moment where a goal is reached

What Can Quebec Teach Us? A Preliminary Analysis of the University as a Site of Struggle

William Clare Roberts:

Though the basic course of events in Que­bec over the past sev­eral months has been widely reported, I want to address two ques­tions that might be of greater inter­est to those strug­gling in and around uni­ver­si­ties elsewhere.

First, I want to look at how the Que­bec stu­dent strike artic­u­lates, on the one hand, the con­flict and inter­play between the social­ist aspi­ra­tions and cor­po­ratist real­i­ties of a pub­lic uni­ver­sity sys­tem, and on the other, the pres­sures put on that sys­tem by the dreams of dol­lar bills float­ing through the heads of admin­is­tra­tors and the “aus­ter­ian” belt-tightening of gov­ern­ments. These are not sim­ple real­i­ties; uni­ver­sity admin­is­tra­tors hop­ing to open the flood­gates of tuition and donor dol­lars are con­tin­gently allied with gov­ern­ment min­is­ters con­vinced by fear that fis­cal aus­ter­ity is the only way for­ward. I believe that a Marx­ist analy­sis of the university’s place in the cap­i­tal­ist econ­omy will clar­ify the stakes of the stu­dents’ strug­gle against this con­tin­gent alliance of hope and fear within the admin­is­tra­tive apparatus.

Sec­ond, I want to ask, very briefly, whether this analy­sis has any trac­tion out­side of Que­bec. What con­di­tions have pro­duced these 100 days of increas­ingly wide­spread and increas­ingly ambi­tious clamor? Can these con­di­tions be repli­cated by oth­ers elsewhere?

March Madness Makers and Takers

David Ingold and Adam Pearce:

Twenty five years ago, the NCAA decided something had to be done about March Madness money. The year before, CBS agreed to pay a record $1 billion to broadcast the 1991-1997 tournaments. That was fine with the powerhouse basketball schools that routinely made it into the postseason: Under the rules at the time, they divided most of the revenue based on the number of games they won.

Conference officials feared that without a change, a handful of schools would get rich while others got nothing, and the student athletes competing in the tournament would face increasing financial pressure to win games.

What’s on a third grader’s mind? Find out at Young at Art

Gayle Worland:

Every art teacher in a Madison public school was invited to submit up to three works of art from among their students for Young at Art. MMOCA staff picked up the art works, prepared them for display and designed the exhibition based on what teachers selected.

“We don’t edit anything. Whatever is submitted to the exhibition is installed in the exhibition,” Castelnuovo said. “We leave it to (the teachers) to decide what is going to best reflect what’s going on in the schools in terms of the art education curriculum.”

Bill Increasing Power of Student School Board Member Seems Poised for Passage

Louis Peck:

There has been a student member of the county school board since the late 1970s, elected by middle and high school students throughout the county and who serves for a year alongside seven adult board members. A 1989 law gave the student member limited voting rights, and the pending legislation would expand those rights to include issues such as capital and operating budgets, collective bargaining, changes in school population boundaries and school closings. At least one other major jurisdiction in the state, Anne Arundel County, now accords similar powers to the student school board member.

Under the bill, the one area in which the student member would continue to be barred from voting involves so-called negative personnel matters, such as disciplinary action against teachers and other school employees.


James Mollison:

For school kids, recess is the big release in a sometimes-tedious day of sitting still, paying attention, keeping quiet and leaving one’s neighbors alone. It’s a collective blowing off of steam and nervous energy that, one has to think, is necessary to prevent all-out mutiny.

During these periods of outdoor recreation, small collections of students engage in all manner of self-guided activity, from sports to games to climbing and innocent flirtation. There are injuries and frustrations and conflicts that kids have to work through. These small scenes of joy and drama are captured beautifully in James Mollison’s latest book, Playground, published this month by Aperture.

In Mollison’s photographs, playground landscapes from schools all over the world—Britain, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Kenya and the U.S., among many countries—are filled with young people who are fully engaged, oblivious to the camera. The images are scenic and delightful, illustrating both the common activity of recreation and the differences in the places children have available to them. Some are wooded, others paved and urban. Some look posh, others hardscrabble. Some are majestic. Some aren’t playgrounds at all. The work is a continuation of Mollison’s interest in the lives of children around the world, which began with his book Where Children Sleep, a bestseller that depicted children of different nationalities, from widely varying socioeconomic backgrounds, in their bedrooms.

OpenLearning targets 1M users and US$10M Series A in 2015

Michael de Waal-Montgomery:

Australian-based massive open online course (MOOC) platform OpenLearning raised a US$1.3 million seed round in February from undisclosed Australian and Asian investors. It has been appointed as the official MOOC by the Malaysian Ministry of Education for public institutions for higher education, and is now aggressively expanding in Southeast Asia and China.

The ed-tech startup’s Co-founder Adam Brimo was in Singapore last week and spoke to e27 about his beliefs, the journey so far, and where it’s all headed from here — including plans for a US$10 million Series A.

Warwick Uni to outsource hourly paid academics to subsidiary

Fighting Against Casualisation in Education:

Teach Higher is a company which will effectively outsource hourly paid academic staff, whereby they will no longer be employed directly by the university but by a separate employer: ‘Teach Higher’. Teach Higher has been set up by Warwick University-owned ‘Warwick Employment Group’, and is about to be piloted at Warwick University. But it is a national company, which intends to be rolled out across UK universities.

(In this sense it is very similar to Uni Temps, which mainly employed, catering, cleaning and security staff at universities. We don’t know why Warwick decided to set up a separate company for outsourced academic staff, except that they possibly felt the need for ‘re-branding’ because it slightly more difficult to impose hyper-casualised positions on a previously more prestigious type of work such as academia.)

For retired principal, a faith-based after-school program feeds a religious calling

Doug Erickson:

After Chris Hodge retired as principal of Allis Elementary School in Madison in the spring of 2006, she lounged around exactly zero days before throwing herself into her next project.

Three months later, she was back educating children, this time as founder of a free after-school academic program at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on the city’s South Side.

“Education is a religious calling to me, because I feel God gave me this talent and I need to use it, not just sit around,” said Hodge, 73, who has led the program without pay for nine years.

On this Easter, as Christians mark the holiday that commemorates the resurrection of their savior, the State Journal looks at how Hodge and three others live out their faith in service to others. Through their actions, the four hope to be examples of Christ’s teachings.

“When I was a classroom teacher, I wanted the underdogs, those kids everyone else had written off as losers,” Hodge said. “To me, that’s what Christianity is about, giving and loving.”

The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much

Paul Campos:

In fact, public investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s. Such spending has increased at a much faster rate than government spending in general. For example, the military’s budget is about 1.8 times higher today than it was in 1960, while legislative appropriations to higher education are more than 10 times higher.

In other words, far from being caused by funding cuts, the astonishing rise in college tuition correlates closely with a huge increase in public subsidies for higher education. If over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition, the average new car would cost more than $80,000.

Some of this increased spending in education has been driven by a sharp rise in the percentage of Americans who go to college. While the college-age population has not increased since the tail end of the baby boom, the percentage of the population enrolled in college has risen significantly, especially in the last 20 years. Enrollment in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs has increased by almost 50 percent since 1995. As a consequence, while state legislative appropriations for higher education have risen much faster than inflation, total state appropriations per student are somewhat lower than they were at their peak in 1990. (Appropriations per student are much higher now than they were in the 1960s and 1970s, when tuition was a small fraction of what it is today.)

Financial literacy by State

Brandon Ballenger:

There’s not much data on financial literacy, because not enough people take it seriously. That may be why American 15-year-olds have lower financial literacy levels than their counterparts in China, Estonia, and the Czech Republic. But this map shows everything we could find — from state laws on teaching the subject to financial habits and how well people perform on financial literacy quizzes. Hover your cursor over a state to see how it ranks overall, and click it for more details. Check it out, then see our methodology below.

Thinking too highly of higher ed

Peter Thiel:

Perhaps the least controversial thing that President Obama ever said was that “in the coming decades, a high school diploma is not going to be enough. Folks need a college degree.” This vision is commonplace, but it implies a bleak future where everyone must work harder just to stay in place, and it’s just not true. Nothing forces us to funnel students into a tournament that bankrupts the losers and turns the winners into conformists. But that’s what will happen until we start questioning whether college is our only option.

Via Dave Winer.

The Education of Detained Chinese Feminist Li Tingting

Eric Fish:

ever taken more flak for walking into a men’s room than Li Tingting.

In the run-up to Women’s Day in 2012, the feminist college student was distressed by the one-to-one ratio of public restroom facilities for males and females. She believed that women’s longer wait times necessitated legislation to enforce giving women twice as many toilets. Determined to correct the oversight, she organized demonstrations for true “toilet parity.”

The “Occupy Men’s Room” movement involved some 20 women who took over male public restrooms periodically over the course of an hour in Guangzhou and Beijing. Outside they distributed fliers and held signs with slogans like “Care for women, starting with toilets.”

The two events were small and cheeky, causing no more trouble than a little embarrassment for a few men. Most onlookers just laughed it off and expressed support for the cause. Li Tingting did not figure that her action could draw the wrath of authorities. She could not have been more wrong.

“We didn’t think it was sensitive,” she laughed. “But I guess we can’t gauge the risk since the government is so strange.”

High expectations At success Academy charter school

Kate Taylor:

At most schools, if a child is flailing academically, it is treated as a private matter.

But at Success Academy Harlem 4, one boy’s struggles were there for all to see: On two colored charts in the hallway, where the students’ performance on weekly spelling and math quizzes was tracked, his name was at the bottom, in a red zone denoting that he was below grade level.

The boy, a fourth grader, had been in the red zone for months. His teacher, Kristin Jones, 23, had held meetings with his mother, where the teacher spread out all the weekly class newsletters from the year, in which the charts were reproduced. If he studied, he could pass the spelling quizzes, Ms. Jones said — he just was not trying. But the boy got increasingly frustrated, and some weeks Ms. Jones had to stop herself from looking over his shoulder during the quizzes so she would not get upset by his continued mistakes.

Locally, Madison lacks a diverse K-12 environment, as evidenced by the rejection of the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.

Ms. Reformer Speaks

Caroline Bermudez:

One of the biggest lies generated by critics of education reformers is our dismissal of the effects of poverty on children. This is a straw man, a canard devised to mask the cynicism prevalent among people who throw out lines like “too hard to teach” or “not everybody should go to college.”

And I can think of one prominent figure in particular who has erected enough straw men to populate a wheat field.

Recently, Diane Ravitch, a person who has yet to meet an education reform she didn’t used to like, gave a talk at the Lehigh University College of Education.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a talk so much as an imaginary debate with a character of her own creation dubbed “Mr. Reformer.” It brings to mind the condescending stunt pulled off by Clint Eastwood at the 2012 Republican National Convention when he addressed an empty chair onstage filled by an invisible President Obama.

Ravitch’s “debate” was no less disingenuous, or in the words of a Lehigh education professor who attended the event, “her depiction of Mr. Reformer was superficial at best, disrespectful at worst.”

Then again, she was honest about this from the very beginning when she said, “It won’t be a fair debate because I will always get the last word.”

We will pay for our lack of respect for teachers, Disresepect in education

Deborah Loewenberg-Ball:

Teaching matters. We know that it can make the difference between a child learning to read by third grade, being confident in math, and developing the mindset necessary for success. Yet skillful teaching is not commonplace, and it’s hurting our society. Three reasons stand out:

We do not agree on a minimum competency level to enter the teaching profession.

We do not have a professional system for preparing teachers.

Our teaching force does not reflect the diversity of our nation’s school-age population. Although 44% of schoolchildren are students of color — a number expected to rise to 55% by 2023 —only 17% of teachers are from communities of color.

Luke Palmer:

The theme tying these anecdotes together is disrespect. I do believe that teachers have the best intentions for their students, and in many cases love them. But if you respect your students, you would not give them as a word problem a situation you have never come across to convince them that math is useful in the world. Why not give them a problem of algebra similar to problems people actually face — how much should a tech company expand its datacenter capacity given a projection of its growth; when will it cost more energy to drill for oil than the energy it returns; should a company with a given amount of capital build its own infrastructure at a fixed up-front cost or lease it at a monthly rate? The fact that the “real world” presented to students is one of travel times, house building, and saving and spending sends a strong message to them about what they can become. Algebra is used in engineering, science, and business, not purchases of milk and eggs at the grocery store. You will ignite a student’s passion for math when she understands that she can use it to become something, not that it is (pretending to be) an essential skill for a consumerist greyface. Conversely, if the student has no interest in engineering, science, or business, he is right to be disinterested in math class; let him do something useful with his time.

I felt disrespected that my teachers felt I was squandering my potential by failing to do the work that was assigned to me. I felt disrespected when I couldn’t use my creation to assist me with my homework. I felt disrespected when, despite getting high test scores, I was punished for not doing the work assigned “to help me learn”. No attention was paid to my developing programming skills or my talent for music — they never asked what I did with my time instead of doing homework. (I wonder what they thought?) This was all confusing to me at the time, and I rebelled from my heart, not my intellect; now that I have a more acute awareness of society, I am grateful that I rebelled. In retrospect the message shines through with clarity: school is not for me. I had assumed that I was there to learn the content and the teachers were all just blind or crazy — I know now that I was there to learn to follow orders, and my education is for the ones who give them. When teachers talk of my squandered future, they refer to a future of subservience to authority. (If I’m going to squander a future, please let it be that one!) The disrespect for my personal autonomy was pervasive enough that the idea that I could be an entrepreneur, an artist, or a leader were not even considered possibilities.

My Byline Is A Lie

Evelyn Rusli:

Fourteen years ago, I asked my father about my last name, “Rusli.” I wanted to know about its origin and if it was common in Indonesia, the country where my parents are from.

He wasn’t sure about the meaning, he said, half shrugging, but it didn’t matter. Rusli, he explained, wasn’t our family’s real last name. It was changed during the era of president Suharto, when the ethnic-Chinese were pushed to adopt “Indonesian-sounding” names.

Apathy & School Board Elections

Alan Borsuk:

Fatigue, indifference, apathy, resignation — they’re in the mix. There are supporters and loyalists, but, frankly, a lot of them are employees of the system.

More important, so much of the power to make hefty decisions shaping MPS — and school districts in general — really lies in Madison and (to a declining degree) in Washington.

With finances and politics the way they are in both Milwaukee and Madison, there doesn’t seem to be much willpower or much of a way to take bold action by the MPS board. For the most part, the thrust of decision making (or lack thereof) involves trying to hold on to what MPS has — buildings, programs, practices, kids — for fear change will be for the worse.

In fairness, there are good things to say about the current school board. It is a less contentious group than boards of 10 or 15 years ago, more focused on getting its business done. It has handled some things well — the MPS financial picture isn’t as gloomy as a few years ago, some better programs (Montessori, for example) are expanding, and the board made a swift but well-grounded choice of a new superintendent, Darienne Driver, in 2014. MPS continues to have some high performing schools and many dedicated, talented teachers.

But the big picture is low on energy and so are these elections.

To the degree there is a policy issue at stake Tuesday, it involves the future of charter schools that are authorized by the school board but operated by separate organizations, not employing MPS teachers.

MPS’ attitude toward these schools has run hot and cold over the years. But lately, the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association has been turning up its opposition, and so has the board. Even in the post-Act 10 world, the union remains a powerful force.

Madison has two uncontested candidates on the April 7 ballot.

NJ’s Dept of Ed is becoming a bottleneck for charter schools’ potential

Laura Waters:

Last week, the Paterson Charter School of Science and Technology held its annual enrollment lottery. There were 1,437 applicants for 99 openings, and so each student had less than a 10 percent chance of selection. Edwin Rodriguez, whose seven-year-old daughter, Natalie, and five-year-old son, Juelz, attend School 6, one of the worst-performing schools in the state, was one of the unlucky parents. He told The Record, “our name is on the waiting list but there are hundreds of names on the waiting list.”

This week the New Jersey Department of Education announced that, after a careful review of its most recent pool of charter applicants, it would authorize the opening of just one new charter school. As such, the D.O.E., as well as the Christie Administration, demonstrates an overabundance of caution that ignores the plight of children like Natalie and Juelz Rodriguez.

But let’s not be too harsh. The politics of charter school authorization in New Jersey is a contact sport. Some suburban voters hate these independent public schools because they envision them siphoning cash from depleted district budgets like petty criminals huddled over the gas tank of an SUV. NJEA leaders and other anti-choice lobbyists describe the growth of charters in urban districts like Paterson (although in this case they were referring to Camden) as an “out-of-control corporate takeover.” N.J.’s 20 year-old charter school law is flawed and obsolete, but the D.O.E. may feel threatened by some proposed revisions skulking around the Statehouse that would further curtail charter expansion. Or maybe this was just a particularly weak pool of contenders.

Introverts as Leaders (Briefly)

Michael Lopp:

Introverts are professional listeners. Their natural state is to observe and gather data from the world around them as opposed to their extroverts counterparts who enjoying spending their time talking about the state of the world and all the fascinating data in the world… endlessly. This listening skill is amplified by the fact that introverts don’t much want to talk about themselves, so out of necessity they’ve developed a good conversation toolkit to get others to talk about themselves thus lessening their talking burden.

The revolution in gender roles reshapes society in ways too disturbing to see

Fabius Maximus:

That man is not made to be alone is all very well, but who is made to live with him? This is why men and women hesitated before marriage, and courtship was thought necessary to find out whether the couple was compatible, and perhaps to give them basic training in compatibility. No one wanted to be stuck forever with an impossible partner. But, for all that, they knew pretty much what they wanted from one another. The question was whether they could get it (whereas our question today is much more what is wanted). A man was to make a living and protect his wife and children, and a woman was to provide for the domestic economy, particularly in caring for husband and children. Frequently this did not work out very well for one or both of the partners, because they either were not good at their functions or were not eager to perform them.

In order to assure the proper ordering of things, the transvestite women in Shakespeare, like Portia {The Merchant of Venice} and Rosalind {As you Like It}, are forced to masquerade as men because the real men are inadequate and need to be corrected.

Diminishing Returns in Wisconsin K-12 Education Spending Growth

Tap to view a larger version of these images.

Martin F. Lueken, Ph.D., Rick Esenberg & CJ Szafir, via a kind reader (PDF):

Robustness checks: Lastly, to check if the estimates from our main analysis behave differently when we modify our models, we conduct a series of robustness checks in our analysis. We estimate models with alternate specifications, disaggregate the spending variable by function, and examine an alternate data set that includes one year of school-level expenditures. Details about these approaches and their results are described and reported in Appendix B. As with our main analysis, we did not find conclusive evidence to indicate that marginal changes in spending had a significant impact on student outcomes.

Conclusion: We do not find reliable evidence in the data that a systematic relationship exists between additional spending and student outcomes. These results are similar to a larger body of research on the effectiveness of spending. Economist Eric Hanushek (2003), for example, systematically reviewed research on the effectiveness of key educational resources in U.S. schools. In examining the impact of per-pupil educational expenditures, he tallied the statistical significance and impact of 163 estimates on the impact of spending on student outcomes and found that 27% of these estimates were positive and statistically significant, while 66% were not statistically significant, meaning no impacts were detected.

Advocates for keeping the status quo argue for increasing education spending to solve problems with our education system. But, it is not the case that resources alone will bring about improvement – even substantial infusions of resources, as was the case with Kansas City’s experience. One plausible explanation may be that districts have reached what economists call diminishing returns. This occurs when an organization reaches a point where additional dollars spent do not produce proportional benefits, holding everything else constant. For example, a dollar spent on education in developing counties, such as India, is more likely to have a greater impact than in Wisconsin – or elsewhere in the United States – which spends more than most of the developed world.

This raises a question for policymakers: Has Wisconsin hit a wall where an additional dollar in education spending will not bring improvements in student outcomes? The results of our research indicate that this may be the case.


Funding disparities between schools
As Figure 8 shows, significant disparities in public funding exist among traditional public schools and both private schools in the choice program and independent public charter schools. The amount that independent charters and choice schools receive is set by state law. Currently, the amount of a voucher for the choice programs is $7,210 for K- 8 and $7,856 for grades 9-12.

Independent charters in Milwaukee receive the same amount (state law reflects that). Public school districts, on average, receive $12,512 per pupil. Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) receives $14,333 per pupil (Figure 8).

This disparity is not new. Since 2000, expenditures increased for public schools statewide by 3% while it decreased for independent charter and private schools in the parental choice program by 7% to 8% (adjusted for inflation, i.e. “real”).43 Notably, revenues for MPS increased by 15% in real terms.

Locally, Madison spends double the national average per student, or more than $15K annually, yet has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

A revolt is growing as more people refuse to pay back student loans

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel:

Remember those 15 people who refused to repay their federal student loans? Their “debt strike” has picked up 85 more disgruntled borrowers willing to jeopardize their financial future to pressure the government into forgiving their student loans.

And the government is starting to listen. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has invited the group to Washington on Tuesday to discuss their demand for debt cancellation. Although the CFPB doesn’t have the power to grant that request, the agency’s overture shows that the strike is being taken seriously.

It’s been a month since 15 former students of the failing for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges said they would not pay a dime of their student loans because the school broke the law.

The use of mathematics in economics and its effect on a scholar’s academic career

Espinosa, Miguel and Rondon, Carlos and Romero, Mauricio (2012):

There has been so much debate on the increasing use of formal mathematical methods in Economics. Although there are some studies tackling these issues, those use either a little amount of papers, a small amount of scholars or cover a short period of time. We try to overcome these challenges constructing a database characterizing the main socio demographic and academic output of a survey of 438 scholars divided into three groups: Economics Nobel Prize winners; scholars awarded with at least one of six prestigious recognitions in Economics; and academic faculty randomly selected from the top twenty Economics departments worldwide. Our results provide concrete measures of mathematization in Economics by giving statistical evidence on the increasing trend of number of equations and econometric outputs per article. We also show that for each of these variables there have been four structural breaks and three of them have been increasing ones. Furthermore, we found that the training and use of mathematics has a positive correlation with the probability of winning a Nobel Prize in certain cases. It also appears that being an empirical researcher as measured by the average number of econometrics outputs per paper has a negative correlation with someone’s academic career success.

American students head to Germany for free college

Kirk Carapezza:

“I love it here. I really like the city. I love the culture,” she says. “Cologne is a very open city, a very friendly city. I definitely get the vibe that Germans appreciate a foreign presence in the city.”

Smith is one of almost 100 Americans studying at the University of Cologne. And, like everyone else, she’s doing it tuition-free.

“I wouldn’t have studied my master’s in the United States — just the cost was not an option,” Smith says. “I have enough debt from studying my undergrad, so I didn’t want to pile that on. But when I found this program, I realized it could be an actual option.”

Over 50 and Back in College, Preparing for a New Career

Kerry Hannon:

A month before turning 60, Helen White received her master’s degree in sport management at George Washington University, and now teaches basketball and pickleball and organizes recreational programs and tournaments for older adults throughout the Washington area.

“I wanted to change the stereotype of older adults by getting them to move and enjoy the power of play,” Ms. White said. “The degree opened opportunities for me to do that.”

In a way, it was a back-to-her-roots time for Ms. White, who played basketball and tennis competitively throughout her high school and college years, obtaining her first degree in physical education and recreation. But it was also a bet on her future after leaving AARP, where she had been a manager of information services. Ms. White, who lives in Arlington, Va., spent about $24,000 as a part-time student for four years to prepare for her new life.

Massive study on MOOCs

Harvard Gazette:

Today, a joint Harvard and MIT research team published one of the largest investigations of MOOCs (massive open online courses) to date. Building on their prior work — a January 2014 report describing the first year of open online courses launched on edX, a nonprofit learning platform founded by the two institutions — the latest effort incorporates another year of data, bringing the total to nearly 70 courses in subjects from programming to poetry.

“We explored 68 certificate-granting courses, 1.7 million participants, 10 million participant-hours, and 1.1 billion participant-logged events,” said the study’s co-lead author, Andrew Ho, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and chair of the HarvardX research committee. The research team also used surveys to ­gain additional information about participants’ backgrounds and intentions.

Ho and MIT’s Isaac Chuang, professor of physics, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and senior associate director of digital learning, led a group effort that delved into the demographics of MOOC learners, analyzed participant intent, and looked at patterns that “serial MOOCers,” or those taking more than one course, tend to pursue.

Lawrence, 5 other colleges to develop courses including online instruction

Fox 11:

Lawrence University is one of six colleges to receive grant money to develop course involving online instruction.

The $335,000 grant comes from the Teagle Foundation, which is based in New York City.

University leaders say they will work with Albion College, DePauw University, Grinnell College, Hope College and Wabash College to develop what they call hybrid courses. Teams of faculty from several disciplines are tasked with developing the courses during the rest of this year, with the first courses begin offered in spring of 2016.
While the courses may include some online components, the instruction will still be mostly face-to-face.

Via Noel Radomski.

Secret Teacher: we have one of the best jobs in the world, so stop moaning

Secret Teacher:

In recent years the internet has provided an undeniably wonderful platform for teachers to share advice, ideas and experiences. But it has also provided a soapbox for tireless negativity and tiresome self-regard.

The corner of the staffroom where the moaners always congregate – elaborating on how much better things could be – has always been reassuringly easy to avoid. However, give these people a screen and a keyboard and they’ll exercise their thumbs until everyone’s as miserable as them.

It’s worth taking a step back and remembering that teaching is up there with the best jobs in the world. I’m loathe to say the best, for fear of sounding like one of those people who are paid vast amounts of money to come in and fill up half an inset day with disarmingly facile platitudes. Every day is different, every day is a step forward and even when you feel like you’re in a rut, the longest you have to wait for a change is September.

The Myth of Universal Pre-K: There is little proof that universal pre-K programs fulfill their promises for disadvantaged children.

Katharine Stevens:

The problem is that there’s no evidence that universal pre-K comes even close to its touted capacity to move the needle for disadvantaged children. Pre-K advocates widely cite two well-run demonstration projects from a half century ago – Perry Preschool and the Abecedarian Project – as proof that pre-K has lasting benefits for low-income kids. Perry Preschool, run from 1962 to 1967 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, placed a total of 64 three- and four-year-old poor children in morning preschool for two-and-a-half hours per day and made weekly home visits to their mothers. Abecedarian, run from 1972 to 1975 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, placed a total of 57 poor children in a full-time, full-year, high-quality childcare/preschool setting from infancy through age five. Both programs had major positive impacts on participants’ educational and life outcomes, sustained for decades into adulthood, with big economic benefits to society through lower social welfare costs, decreased crime rates and increased tax revenue over the lifetimes of program participants.

Skeptics point out that Perry and Abecedarian were small, boutique programs, carried out decades ago, with limited applicability to large-scale pre-K in 2015. But perhaps the most important problem is that the design of those programs bears little resemblance to pre-K – much less universal pre-K – in the first place. Perry could just as well have been called the Perry Home Visiting Project, since the weekly home visiting component of the program was at least as intensive as the 15-hours-per-week preschool part. And Abecedarian wasn’t even a pre-K: Children were enrolled full-time starting when they were infants, not at the preschool age of three or four.

Perry and Abecedarian clearly show that it’s possible for early intervention (in the case of Abecedarian, starting shortly after birth), when done correctly, to significantly change the lives of poor children for the better, with considerable benefits to society. But they show absolutely nothing about universal pre-K.

The End of History, Part II

Lynne Cheney:

No one worried much about the College Board having this de facto power over curriculum until that organization released a detailed framework—for courses beginning last year—on which the Advanced Placement tests on U.S. history will be based from 2015 onward. When educators, academics and other concerned citizens realized how many notable figures were missing and how negative was the view of American history presented, they spoke out forcefully. The response of the College Board was to release the sample exam that features Ronald Reagan as a warmonger.

It doesn’t stop there. On the multiple-choice part of the sample exam, there are 18 sections, and eight of them take up the oppression of women, blacks and immigrants. Knowing about the experiences of these groups is important—but truth requires that accomplishment be recognized as well as oppression, and the exam doesn’t have questions on subjects such as the transforming leadership of Martin Luther King Jr.

The framework requires that all questions take up sweeping issues, such as “group identity,” which leaves little place for transcendent individuals. Men and women who were once studied as inspirational figures have become examples of trends, and usually not uplifting ones. The immigrant story that the exam tells is of oppressed people escaping to America only to find more oppression. That many came seeking the Promised Land—and found it here—is no longer part of the narrative.

Critics have noted that Benjamin Franklin is absent from the new AP U.S. history framework, and perhaps in response, the College Board put a quotation from Franklin atop the sample exam. Yet not one of the questions that were asked about the quotation has to do with Franklin. They are about George Whitefield, an evangelist whom Franklin described in the quote. This odd deflection makes sense in the new test, considering that Franklin was a self-made man, whose rise from rags to riches would have been possible only in America—an example of the exceptionalism that doesn’t fit the worldview that pervades the AP framework and sample exam.

Stop Giving Everyone a Student Loan

Megan McArdle:

A group of student-loan borrowers has declared that they’re not going to repay their student loans, and they are asking the Department of Education to cancel their debt.

They are former students — perhaps I should say “victims” — of a for-profit college operator that lost eligibility for federal student loans last year and has been purchased by a company that specializes in … collecting student-loan debts. The students claim that before the denouement, the school did everything but turn them upside down and shake the loose change out of their pockets. They’re now deeply in debt, with degrees that don’t seem to be worth much. And that’s those who graduated; those who didn’t are in even worse shape. So they want the Department of Education to forgive their loans and allow them to get back on their feet.

I feel their pain acutely. Years ago I paid a five-figure sum in today’s dollars for technical training to a for-profit school, financed not by student loans but by my day job as a secretary and my credit card. That’s how I discovered what too many students have learned since then: My impressive-sounding certification (CNE, for tech types who want to cringe in sympathy) was basically worthless without work experience. Happily, I lucked into a job that was mostly secretarial, with a bit of network admin thrown in, and that gave me just enough experience to get a full-time job in tech consulting when that company went out of business. But most of my classmates were not so lucky. They basically paid a lot of money, much of it borrowed, for a credential they never used. It was a terrible scam, and it has permanently tainted my view of for-profit education services. But I still have to ask: Should the government really have made us whole?

Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers

Scott Samuelson:

Once, when I told a guy on a plane that I taught philosophy at a community college, he responded, “So you teach Plato to plumbers?” Yes, indeed. But I also teach Plato to nurses’ aides, soldiers, ex-cons, preschool music teachers, janitors, Sudanese refugees, prospective wind-turbine technicians, and any number of other students who feel like they need a diploma as an entry ticket to our economic carnival. As a result of my work, I’m in a unique position to reflect on the current discussion about the value of the humanities, one that seems to me to have lost its way.

As usual, there’s plenty to be worried about: the steady evaporation of full-time teaching positions, the overuse and abuse of adjunct professors, the slashing of public funding, the shrinkage of course offerings and majors in humanities disciplines, the increase of student debt, the peddling of technologies as magic bullets, the ubiquitous description of students as consumers. Moreover, I fear in my bones that the supremacy of a certain kind of economic-bureaucratic logic—one of “outcomes,” “assessment,” and “the bottom-line”—is eroding the values that undergird not just our society’s commitment to the humanities, but to democracy itself.

Push for Private Options in Education Gains Momentum

Caroline Porter:

A growing number of statehouses are considering measures that would allow school districts, parents and students increasingly to use taxpayer funds to explore alternatives to traditional state-backed public education.

The flurry of new bills—which range from supporting private-school options to putting education dollars directly into parents’ hands—comes amid concerns of federal overreach in schools and a backlash against the widespread implementation of common education benchmarks and standardized testing.

It has also gained momentum from elections last November that increased state legislatures’ numbers of Republican lawmakers—traditionally backers of school choice.

A bill that passed in the Nevada Assembly Thursday proposes tax credits for businesses that support private-school scholarships. Meanwhile, a measure to establish so-called education savings accounts, which put state funds into special savings accounts for some parents to pay for certain services directly, on Thursday passed in both chambers in Mississippi. This latest form of flexibility has caught the eyes of legislators in many states since Arizona and Florida began programs in recent years.

No Girls, Blacks, or Hispanics Take AP Computer Science Exam in Some States

Liana Heitin:

In fact, no African-American students took the exam in a total of 11 states, and no Hispanic students took it in eight states, according to state comparisons of College Board data compiled by Barbara Ericson, the director of computing outreach and a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech.

The College Board, which oversees AP, notes on its website that in 2013 about 30,000 students total took the AP exam for computer science, a course in which students learn to design and create computer programs. Less than 20 percent of those students were female, about 3 percent were African American, and 8 percent were Hispanic (combined totals of Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic).

Deborah Davis, spokeswoman for the College Board, wrote in an email, “We were not surprised by Barbara Ericson’s findings because unfortunately, computing courses have historically been dominated by white, male students.”

Even so, Ericson’s breakdown of the test-takers offers a stark illustration of gender and racial inequities at the high school level. And it comes at a time when the College Board has stepped up its focus on seeing that traditionally underrepresented groups of students have access to AP courses and tests.

Manual Labor, All Night Long: The Reality of Paying for College

Alana Semuels:

One day earlier this month, for instance, she attended a lab from 3 p.m. to 6:45, went to dinner with her mother, and then at midnight went in to work at UPS, where she sorts packages from midnight to 4:30 a.m.

McLin, 21, is training to be a teacher, and so after she got off work and had some breakfast, she drove to an elementary school at 7:40 a.m to observe classes for four hours. That afternoon, she attended a parent-teacher conference, capping off more than 24 straight hours of work and school with no sleep.

It wasn’t an unusual day for McLin, who is attending the University of Louisville for free through a program that pays her tuition if she works the overnight shift at UPS and keeps her grades above a “C.” The program, called Metropolitan College, has been held up as a model of a public-private partnership, helping students pay for school while filling holes in the workforce.