They’re Back! How to Cope With Returned College Grads

Rob Lazebnik:

Congratulations. Two months ago, your kid graduated from college, bravely finishing his degree rather than dropping out to make millions on his idea for a dating app for people who throw up during Cross Fit training. If he’s like a great many of his peers, he’s moved back home, where he’s figuring out how to become an adult in the same room that still has his orthodontic headgear strapped to an Iron Man helmet.

Now we’re deep into summer, and the logistical challenges of your grad really being home are sinking in. You’re constantly juggling cars, cleaning more dishes and dealing with your daughter’s boyfriend, who not only slept over but also drank your last can of Pure Protein Frosty Chocolate shake.

From Grandmother to Granddaughter, Passing Along Religious Traditions

Clare Ansberry:

Kathy Reveille began taking her granddaughter, Bianca, to church because no one else did.

Bianca’s mother was Catholic and her father was Baptist. They couldn’t agree on what church to attend so they didn’t go. “I really wanted to belong to a church. I didn’t care what kind,” says Bianca, who is turning 15 this week. She always felt she was missing something, she says. The absence became more pronounced after her father died.

“That’s when the big questions come up,” says her grandmother, Ms. Reveille. “I stepped into the gap.”

Bianca High received rosary beads from her grandmother after her confirmation this past spring. ENLARGE
Bianca High received rosary beads from her grandmother after her confirmation this past spring. PHOTO: KRISTIAN THACKER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Schools With Tough Tests Send More Low-Income Kids to College


Schools that that teach low-income students a notoriously demanding curriculum are almost twice as likely to see those students enroll in college, a new report shows.

This news comes on the heels of growing research suggesting that challenging assessments, which are a staple of the International Baccalaureate program featured in the report, help students develop a deeper understanding of key subjects like math and history. That “deeper learning,” in turn, may lead to more college opportunities.

The International Baccalaureate, a nonprofit organization that sells its stable of intensive coursework for various subjects to schools around the world, released the study last week, calculating that more than half of the 1,650 schools in the United States that use IB material fit the federal designation of Title I schools, which means they enroll a large low-income student population. In fact, the number of Title I schools offering IB programming increased by 50 percent between 2009 and 2013, the report said.

The IB program provides curricula tailored for specific grade levels, including the IB “diploma program” for high school students. The IB study tracked how many of its low-income diploma program students attending Title I schools enrolled in college, finding that in 2013 nearly eight in 10 went on to a postsecondary institution. The national college-going average for low-income students is 46 percent, the report notes. According to IB, about a third of the diploma program test-takers were considered low-income students. To become an International Baccalaureate school, campuses must go through the program’s authorization program.

You believe the entire structure of American college financial aid should be changed. Why?

Bob Sullivan:

Higher education doesn’t work like a normal business. It’s much harder to get the results you want out of the investments you make. In my book with Andrew Kelly, Reinventing Financial Aid, I have a chapter where I go back to the inception of the financial aid system and I work through the set of decisions that were made and put in place at the beginning. (There was the question) “Should you send aid directly to students or to schools?” The thinking at the time was – led by economists, including Milton Friedman — we should not send the money to schools, but to students. They argued that doing this would exert control over schools the way we think vouchers do today.

But the thing is (it doesn’t) end up working in the way vouchers were intended. The customers (college students) have a very hard time extracting accountability. Institutions don’t seem constrained at all. I argued in that chapter that we made a critical mistake. By not sending money to the schools we (state and government agencies) gave up the ability to hold schools accountable. But I don’t think we can back our way into that now by attaching a bunch of new rules to existing programs. I think we have to create financial aid version 2.0.

Watch Key & Peele Talk About Teachers in the Same Way SportsCenter Talks About Athletes

Key & Peele:

In a clip previewing Wednesday night’s episode of Key & Peele, the Comedy Central duo discuss teachers as if they were professional athletes. They stage a fake draft at Radio City Music Hall and critique how and why teachers call on certain people in class.

Although it’s all in good fun, the jokes about the salary differences between a teacher and a professional athlete is the most depressing part. Just imagine if a public school teacher could actually sign a contract guaranteeing a $80 million salary over the next six years with a $40 million in incentives based on test scores.

Wanderers and Homebodies

Paul John:

For instance, Elsevier’s report “International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base — 2011,” carried out for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, reveals that the 46 percent of British academics who published with overseas collaborators in 2010 garnered twice as many citations for their papers as those who collaborated only within their institution. They also had 40 percent more citations than those who collaborated with academics at other institutions in the U.K.

Kids in India Are Sparking Urban Planning Changes by Mapping Slums

Sam Sturgis:

Every kid likes to draw. But in India, young people living in slums are using their sketching skills to spur urban change.

As part of a broader civic campaign centered on “child clubs,” groups of children are creating detailed “social maps” of their marginalized neighborhoods to voice their concerns about public space, as first reported in Citiscope, a CityLab partner site.

Since 2011, UNICEF has been encouraging kids to use mobile technology and open data to map environmental and health issues near their homes. But that technology isn’t available to everyone. Instead, much of the child-led mapping campaign sweeping India today relies on old-school topography materials—paper and a rainbow-spectrum of markers.

I am an adjunct professor who teaches five classes. I earn less than a pet-sitter

Lee Hall:

Like most university teachers today, I am a low-paid contract worker. Now and then, a friend will ask: “Have you tried dog-walking on the side?” I have. Pet care, I can reveal, takes massive attention, energy and driving time. I’m friends with a full-time, professionally employed pet-sitter who’s done it for years, never topping $26,000 annually and never receiving health or other benefits.

The reason I field such questions is that, as an adjunct professor, whether teaching undergraduate or law-school courses, I make much less than a pet-sitter earns. This year I’m teaching five classes (15 credit hours, roughly comparable to the teaching loads of some tenure-track law or business school instructors). At $3,000 per course, I’ll pull in $15,000 for the year. I work year-round, 20 to 30 hours weekly – teaching, developing courses and drafting syllabi, offering academic advice, recommendation letters and course extensions for students who need them. As I write, in late June, my students are wrapping up their final week of the first summer term, and the second summer term will begin next week.

A century after his death, work of wordsmith James Murray is remembered

Hannah Somerville:

ACADEMICS, family members and fans gathered in Oxford yesterday to celebrate 100 years since the death of James Murray, chief editor of the first Oxford English Dictionary.

Wreaths were laid at the lexicographer’s grave in Wolvercote Cemetery, Banbury Road, at 11am, led by his great-grandson Oswyn Murray.

One special offering was provided by Oxford English Dictionary staff.

Lynda Mugglestone, professor of history of English at Oxford University, said: “We have taken facsimiles from the original dictionary’s font and the wreath uses those letters.

“He was involved in every single design decision and spent ages thinking about fonts, so it is really nice.”

Trusting parents to make smart choices on student data

Jules Polonetsky

With all of these benefits come risks. Some worry that the vendors providing these new technologies could use the detailed student data they hold for marketing purposes. Others worry the data could be sold. Although more than 150 companies have signed a Student Privacy Pledge, legally committing to not sell student data, federal and state lawmakers continue to seek ways to expand student privacy laws to more effectively protect student data.

One key issue has emerged as a point of contention among many of the proposed bills. Should parents have the right to tell a company holding their child’s data to enable additional services, such as sending homework information to a tutoring service or sending a transcript to a college or for a scholarship application? Should a parent be able to use the school’s network to share their child’s art portfolio with relatives or even online? Or, what if a child, with parental permission, wants to continue to maintain their school email account or use an educational app to practice test questions? Oddly, the leading state privacy law passed in California does not make allowances for parents to expressly enable new services, and the drafters of federal legislation have largely followed suit.

Sleeping Through a Revolution

Jonathan Taplain:

We have become convinced that only machines and corporations make the future, but I don’t think that is true. In thinking about the role of the humanist in our technology-driven future, I was drawn to a sermon Martin Luther King preached at the National Cathedral in Washington two weeks before he was killed. At the outset he told the story of how Rip Van Winkle had passed a sign with a picture of King George III of England on the way up the mountain where he fell into a long sleep. When he came down the mountain, the same sign bore a picture of George Washington.

With such economic power comes political power. Uber recently hired Obama campaign svengali David Plouffe to help it navigate the political lobbying waters of Washington, taking a page from Google’s bible. Google outspends all but a few financial and military firms in its lobbying efforts. The main financial backers of the Libertarian movement, the Koch brothers, have vowed to spend $900 million in the 2016 election cycle to ensure that the “no regulation, no taxes” principles of the movement are sacrosanct in the corridors of power.

The digital monopolists are not above using the rhetoric of libertarianism to spread the message that they alone are the guardians of freedom in the world. When the media companies tried (in an admittedly ham-handed fashion) to pass a law (Stop Online Piracy Act) that would require Google to block sites that were making millions off of stolen content, Google unleashed an online campaign stating this would amount to censorship. The uproar from the crowd quickly killed the bill.

I run a university. I’m also an Uber driver.

Laurence Schall:

In my day job, I run Oglethorpe University, a liberal arts college in Atlanta. Over the last 40 years, I’ve also worked in the bleached-white collar realms of law and real estate.

This summer, I added a new line to my resume: Uber driver.

I signed up because I wanted to broaden my perspective on today’s “sharing economy.” After all, my students are confronting a very different job market than I did. Since the 2008 recession, many Americans have been pushed into or chosen to join the freelance marketplace, taking jobs with no regular hours, no benefits and no office. My wife calls it “Panera World,” where she, a freelance advertising executive, joins dozens of other freelancers who spend hours in the restaurant bakery working on their computers and phones every day. Some may forgo full-time work altogether, choosing by necessity or by choice to string together a series of part-time opportunities.

Groups That Back Bloomberg’s Education Agenda Enjoy Success in Albany

Kate Taylor:

Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has been out of office for a year and a half, but his influence over New York schools is practically as strong as ever.

A group devoted to continuing his education agenda and founded in part by his longtime schools chancellor, has become one of the most powerful forces in Albany by pouring millions into lobbying and adroitly exploiting rivalries in state politics.

The organization, StudentsFirstNY, and another group with a similar focus called Families for Excellent Schools have formed a counterweight to teachers’ unions, long among the top spenders in the state capital. This year alone, the groups saw major elements of their platforms come to pass, such as tying teacher evaluations more closely to test scores, adding hurdles to earning tenure and increasing the number of charter schools, measures all unpopular with the unions.

Interview with Stephen Wolfram on AI and the future

Byron Reese:

hearing the term “artificial intelligence”?

Stephen Wolfram: That is a good question. I don’t have any idea. When I was a kid, in the 1960s in England, I think there was a prevailing assumption that it wouldn’t be long before there were automatic brains of some kind, and I certainly had books about the future at that time, and I’m sure that they contained things about them, how there would be some electronic brains, and so on. Whether they used the term “artificial intelligence,” I’m not quite sure. Good question. I don’t know.

Would you agree that AI, up there with space travel, has kind of always been the thing of tomorrow and hasn’t advanced at the rate we thought they would?

Prisons and universities are two sides of the same coin:

Eli Meyerhoff

opular narratives portray society as made up of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people. Figures of the citizen, the worker, and the graduate are contrasted with the deviant, the criminal, and the dropout. For the safety of ‘good’ people, we are supposed to put ‘bad’ people in separate places. When they are younger, those stigmatized as ‘bad kids’—as delinquents, failures, dropouts—are sent to lower tracked courses, detention, or juvenile hall. If they continue ‘down’ this criminalized life path, they are sent to jails and prisons. By contrast, those deemed ‘good’ through the categorizing and sorting of education are admitted to the place where ‘good’ people rise: ‘up’ through the school grades and into higher education.

Prisons and universities complement each other as two sides of the same coin. They are institutions for producing obedient, governable subjects—shaped in an accounting mode with incarceration for ‘debts to society’ and education for ‘credits.’ Abolitionist movements should seek to abolish this whole coin. From a decolonial, abolitionist perspective, this coin is the intersecting regimes of white supremacist, settler colonial, hetero-patriarchal capitalism. Abolitionists have organized against institutions associated with the ‘bad’ side of the dichotomy of ‘good’/‘bad’ persons—including prisons, corporal punishment in schools, the schools-to-prisons pipeline, the death penalty, and the police—as well as against the ‘redemptive’ intermediaries of the military and work. Yet, abolitionists also need to resist institutions, such as higher education, that are associated with the ‘good’ side of the coin.

Governing by Debt

Peter Gratton Review:

Brown’s Undoing the Demos and Maurizio Lazzarato’s Governing by Debt (first published in Italian in 2013) aim both to diagnose the contemporary neoliberal condition and to demonstrate the tragedy of its growing ubiquity. Brown’s is a markedly nostalgic work, at least rhetorically, since it hearkens to the imperiled values of a previous era of political liberalism before the current reign of homo oeconomicus (economic man) (her past writings are best known for demonstrating the failures of liberalism to confront the problems of patriarchy and economic inequality). Where Brown sees the promise in rejuvenating a political thought that replaces rampant economism, Lazzarato argues all forms of politics act as apparatuses for the capture of wealth by a given elite. For this reason he calls for strikes against the contemporary system, and the wholesale destruction of any economic structures that support it. This, too, is strikingly nostalgic — large-scale workers’ actions of the kind Lazzarato prescribes are modeled on an era more and more outmoded as neoliberalism spreads.

Who’s Against “College for All”?

Marc Bousquet:

Bernie Sanders has long aimed to end the influence of money in politics. Now he hopes to reduce the corrosive influence of money in higher education with the College for All Act, a federal bill that would bring back tuition-free public higher education. Like most of Sanders’ proposals – supporting Social Security, a reasonable minimum wage, investment in infrastructure – his college plan is closely aligned with the mainstream views of the US electorate. On top of the free tuition, Sanders would regulate student loans and student labor, provide financial aid for living expenses and set a national standard for tenured/track faculty, including at teaching institutions. Nothing in the plan is without abundant precedent, both in the United States and abroad.

The popularity of College for All has forced reaction from the other presidential contenders, on both sides of the aisle.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Local Governments Are The Source Of Housing Inequality

Chuck DeVore

Rognlie then makes an interesting insight; housing prices are going up because of artificial scarcity caused by land-use regulation. Put another way, the concentration of wealth is not an issue of the “1 percent” winning while the rest of us lose—it’s an issue of homeowners benefitting from government restrictions on property rights that prevent a free market in homebuilding, restricting supply and driving up prices.

If Rognlie is correct (and the data suggests he is), then the liberal prescription to address growing wealth inequality misses the mark. Further, it complicates the Left’s attempt to capitalize on Occupy populist outrage. Going after homeowners is a much different electoral and rhetorical proposition (especially if you’re still living in your parent’s basement) than going after the vilified “1 percent.

“because political leaders of both parties have ducked the biggest budget buster for state government: out-of-control health costs for public employees and Medicaid recipients”

John Torinus

The successive withdrawals of support for our once esteemed university system was necessitated because political leaders of both parties have ducked the biggest budget buster for state government: out-of-control health costs for public employees and Medicaid recipients. That under-management, or mismanagement, call it what you will, means that other priorities get crowded out. The university in one in a long list of diminished priorities.

Are the Republican leaders real fiscal conservatives when they don’t deal with the largest fiscal crisis on their plate? Real fiscal conservatives manage fiscal challenges. They aren’t just slashers.

Cathy Sandeen, the new chancellor for the colleges and UW Extension, faced up to the fiscal realities imposed by the GOP and decided to take the cuts out of administration so instruction and students would be impacted as little as possible. That means at least 83 administrative positions will be eliminated on the 13 campuses, or about six or seven per campus. For perspective sake, the West Bend campus has about eight administrative positions at present.

When the reorganization shakes out over the next five months, the University of Wisconsin – Washington County in West Bend will probably be headed by an associate dean. The campus will no longer have its own dean, a loss since UWWC deans have long been prominent leaders in the county. The likelihood is that the regional executive officer will be based at UW – Waukesha, a larger campus than West Bend or Sheboygan in the new southeast regional grouping.

Online Learning China’s Startup Boom in Online Learning

David Talbot:

China knows a thing or two about distance learning. For two decades, the country’s education ministry has used the television airwaves to broadcast agricultural lessons to more than 100 million rural students—making it the largest such program in the world. And in the early 2000s, the charitable Li Ka Shing Foundation installed satellite dishes and computers to broadcast lectures to 10,000 rural schools. Now this top-down model of online learning is being joined by a surge in new commercial and university offerings.

And it’s no longer just about reaching rural provinces. In China a rapidly rising middle class—part of a population that now totals 1.4 billion—is creating a demand for education far outpacing what traditional teachers and schools can supply. In response, Chinese startups are identifying market niches and developing entirely new products, while universities are emulating online platforms first developed in the United States.

Academy trust head ‘sick’ at school’s good Ofsted rating

Warwick Mansell:

A “good” Ofsted judgment for any school is a cause for celebration and congratulation. So why would a leading headteacher say she was “sick” when she heard of a local school being given a good report by the inspectorate?

That is a question that will be of intense interest to those following the fate of the Hewett school in Norwich, a comprehensive currently in a maelstrom of controversy over its likely takeover by a local academy chain.

Email correspondence seen by us shows the head of Inspiration Trust, a chain highly regarded by the Department for Education, admitting she was less than pleased in 2013 when the Hewett got its “good” Ofsted report.

In an email to Sir Theodore Agnew, chairman of the trust, who at the time was also a DfE director, Dame Rachel de Souza, the trust’s CEO, says: “Hewett on 42% [provisional figures for the proportion of pupils achieving five good GCSEs in August 2013] – is it vulnerable again? That good they got [from Ofsted] made me sick!”

Why The Minneapolis Schools Are Better than You Think

Sarah Lam:

The school was half the size it is today, with 400 kids who were mostly Somali, part of a sudden infusion of Africans in the mostly white Longfellow neighborhood.

No one from Longfellow sent their kids to Sanford. Instead, as busloads of kids from outside the neighborhood rolled in each morning, busloads of Longfellow kids rolled out. It was as if a color-coded invisible fence had been placed around the school.

That changed with Val Ausland. Nine years ago, her oldest son was finishing up fifth grade at Dowling Elementary and needed a middle school. Sanford’s reputation as a “tough school with lots of fights” kept neighborhood families away for years, Ausland says. But she wasn’t ready to believe the hype.

Instead, Ausland, a beaming woman with a reputation as a volunteer extraordinaire, investigated it herself. A conversation with the principal convinced her that Sanford was trying to change for the better, and that she and her neighbors could help.

San Francisco Middle Schools No Longer Teaching ‘Algebra

Ana Tintocalis:

Van Zandt admits he has high expectations for his children. He also has high expectations for San Francisco Unified, which is why he and many parents like him were outraged when they learned Algebra 1 will no longer be taught in middle school under Common Core, the state’s new academic standards.

Instead, all students will have to wait until their freshman year in high school to take the class.

Valentina says delaying Algebra 1 is going to hurt gifted students because some classes are “too easy” or “aren’t very challenging” for high-achieving students.

The shift to now require Algebra 1 in high school may seem like a subtle change, but it hits on a deep-rooted debate over when advanced math should be introduced, and to which students.

Some say Algebra 1 at a young age causes students to flounder.

Are we being over-optimistic when it comes to how well NJ’s middle-class students are being prepared for college?

Laura Waters:

These days “education reform” is a loaded phrase, evoking politically charged disruptions of cherished institutions, Christie-ish harassment of honorable educators, and testing-mania. Certainly, if our schools are fine, we don’t have to change. If they’re not but we pretend they are, then we’re doing our children a disservice. As Mark Twain said, “denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

So let’s look squarely at the data.

The median annual household income in New Jersey is $71,637. Those of us who dwell in middle-class suburban New Jersey know that our children don’t have access to schools like those in moneyed Millburn (median household income: $156,078), where 85 percent of students get more than 1550 points on the 2400-point SAT (1550 is considered a benchmark for college and career readiness) and 63 percent take an AP course, another marker for success beyond high school. But we also know that we don’t have the same concerns as families in Trenton (median household income: $36,727), where only 11 percent of high school seniors get at least a 1550 on the SAT and 4.9 percent take an AP course.

Let’s take three middle-class New Jersey communities: Nutley (Essex County), Florence (Burlington County), and Plumsted (Ocean County) and look at the most recent available data from the New Jersey Department of Education’s 2013-2014 school performance reports. All three towns have median household incomes that are average for New Jersey and all three have high schools that, according to the narrative that begins each performance report, are considered average in terms of “graduation and post-secondary readiness.”

First, Nutley, eight miles from Newark, which has a median household income of $76,167. Almost every student at Nutley High passed the High School Proficiency Assessments in math and language arts (the HSPAs, just replaced this past spring with PARCC tests). But only 35 percent of Nutley High’s graduating class got 1550 or better on their SATs and only 23 percent took an AP course. Sixteen months after graduation, 81 percent of students were enrolled in two- or four-year colleges.

Declawing the ‘tiger mom’

UCI News:

Book co-authored by UCI sociologist debunks idea that Asian American academic achievement is due to unique cultural traits or values

One in four Americans today are either immigrants or children of immigrants. As the U.S. moves from a black and white society to a potpourri of racial and ethnic groups, researchers are turning their attention to why certain immigrant and second-generation groups are more likely to succeed. Asian Americans stand out for having the highest median household income and education level of all groups, including native-born whites, according to the Pew Research Center.

It’s a demographic that’s often stereotyped as the “model minority,” who seemingly get ahead because they have the “right” cultural traits and values. But there are very specific immigration patterns, institutions and social psychological factors that foster high academic achievement among certain Asian American groups, says Jennifer Lee, UCI professor of sociology and co-author of The Asian American Achievement Paradox – a forceful rebuttal to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Want a good public education for your kids? Better be rich first.

Matthew Yglesias:

Public schools are a really nice idea. The government builds a building, right in your neighborhood, where anyone can send their kids to get an education for free. It’s simple and appealing.

But in practice, it’s quite a bit different. Land that is in the intake zone for a good school becomes more expensive, and you create a situation in which the school is open exclusively to the “public” of people who can afford a very expensive house.

Look at this chart showing the correlation between the price of a family-size house and the reading proficiency scores in the local school (the outlier, Garrison, where the reading scores are terrible and the houses are expensive anyway is my neighborhood public school):

Time for a New Strategy

Christopher Newfield:

It’s a widely noted fact that colleges and universities are under new pressure to justify their value and function. The same is true of tenure-track faculty members, who are at the heart of the higher education system whose benefits much of society now claims to find mysterious, and whose job security is increasingly criticized.

While colleges face criticism for converting most of their teaching posts to non-tenure-track status, they also face criticism for offering tenure to the rest. The final decision by the Wisconsin Legislature to weaken tenure and shared governance in the University of Wisconsin System teaches a lesson that should resonate beyond Wisconsin: the standard defense of tenure and shared governance isn’t good enough to address widespread skepticism about their public benefits.

Put the “Ph” Back in PhD

Story by Arturo Casadevall, as told to Maryalice Yakutchik. Illustrations by Xiaohua Yang:

I traveled light when I moved earlier this year from New York. The walls of my office here are still bare, and I’m debating even hanging my diplomas—except for one I’m particularly proud to display: a degree in pest control operations. My father thought that killing rats would be a good way for me to make a living. I listened to him but ultimately refused to accept that I couldn’t do better.

Some 30 years later, I feel the same way about science and the way we prepare scientists. As the new chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology (MMI), I’m eager to unpack a big, bold plan that challenges postgraduate training as we know it.

They’re Back! How to Cope With Returned College Grads A parental war plan: test interviews on, family Netflix off

Rob Lazebnik:

Congratulations. Two months ago, your kid graduated from college, bravely finishing his degree rather than dropping out to make millions on his idea for a dating app for people who throw up during Cross Fit training. If he’s like a great many of his peers, he’s moved back home, where he’s figuring out how to become an adult in the same room that still has his orthodontic headgear strapped to an Iron Man helmet.

Now we’re deep into summer, and the logistical challenges of your grad really being home are sinking in. You’re constantly juggling cars, cleaning more dishes and dealing with your daughter’s boyfriend, who not only slept over but also drank your last can of Pure Protein Frosty Chocolate shake.

The Mathiness of Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Adam Merberg:

Nassim Nicholas Taleb saw the financial crisis of 2008 coming. As pundits like Jim Cramer confidently declared that Bear Stearns was a safe investment, Taleb stood behind his warning that consolidation of banks would lead to global financial collapse – and he invested his own money accordingly. By the time the housing bubble had burst, the stock market had collapsed, and the dust had settled, Taleb had augmented his personal wealth by tens of millions of dollars – and cemented his reputation as an astute observer of financial markets.

But Taleb doesn’t just see himself as an expert on finance. He would prefer that we call him an expert on risk, more broadly. As he opined in Antifragile, the 2012 bestselling book, “everything entailing risk–everything–can be seen with a lot more rigor and clarity from the vantage point of an option professional.”

ShotSpotter: gunshot detection system raises privacy concerns on campuses

Hannah Gold

In 2014 ShotSpotter launched its SecureCampus technology, offering the sound-monitoring hookup to campuses across the country. In September of that year, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) became the first school in the nation to install ShotSpotter, and on 17 June, Newark Memorial high school’s principal, Phil Morales, a former police officer, announced it had become the first high school to plant the technology throughout its campus. So far only these two schools have bought ShotSpotter, but it probably won’t stay that way for long.

“We’ve had a variety of colleges interested in the project, from all over the country – east and west, large and small,” Journey said. “The interest seems to be growing.”

Journey would not reveal how many schools are considering adopting ShotSpotter, but he did say: “We haven’t deployed it in any elementary schools at this point in time, but we certainly know that the technology is useful in all sorts of settings.”

SmartGPA: How Smartphones Can Assess and Predict Academic Performance of College Students

Rui Wang, Gabriella Harari†, Peilin Hao, Xia Zhou, and Andrew T. Campbell:

Many cognitive, behavioral, and environmental factors im- pact student learning during college. The SmartGPA study uses passive sensing data and self-reports from students’ smartphones to understand individual behavioral differences between high and low performers during a single 10-week term. We propose new methods for better understanding study (e.g., study duration) and social (e.g., partying) behav- ior of a group of undergraduates. We show that there are a number of important behavioral factors automatically in- ferred from smartphones that significantly correlate with term and cumulative GPA, including time series analysis of ac- tivity, conversational interaction, mobility, class attendance, studying, and partying. We propose a simple model based on linear regression with lasso regularization that can accu- rately predict cumulative GPA. The predicted GPA strongly correlates with the ground truth from students’ transcripts (r = 0.81 and p < 0.001) and predicts GPA within ±0.179 of the reported grades. Our results open the way for novel interventions to improve academic performance.

Student “safety” has become a real threat to free speech on campus

The Economist:

FOR an hour or two on a foggy morning last December, some students at the University of Iowa (UI) mistook one of their professors, Serhat Tanyolacar, for a fan of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr Tanyolacar had placed a canvas effigy based on Klan robes, screen-printed with news cuttings about racial violence, on the Pentacrest, the university’s historic heart. The effigy had a camera in its hood to record public reactions.

The reaction among some black students was to fear for their safety, and that is not surprising. What is more of a puzzle—for anyone outside American academia, at least—is that students and UI bosses continued denouncing Mr Tanyolacar for threatening campus safety even after the misunderstanding was cleared up. In vain did the Turkish-born academic explain that he is a “social-political artist”, using Klan imagery to provoke debate about racism. Under pressure from angry students, university chiefs issued two separate apologies. The first expressed regret that students had been exposed to a “deeply offensive” artwork, adding that there is no room for “divisive” speech at UI. The second apologised for taking too long to remove a display which had “terrorised” black students and locals, thereby failing to ensure that all students, faculty, staff and visitors felt “respected and safe”. An unhappy Mr Tanyolacar feels abandoned by the university. He left Iowa earlier this month, when his visiting fellowship came to an end, and has suspended his teaching career.

How Academia Resembles a Drug Gang

Alexandre Afonso:

In 2000, economist Steven Levitt and sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh published an article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics about the internal wage structure of a Chicago drug gang. This piece would later serve as a basis for a chapter in Levitt’s (and Dubner’s) best seller Freakonomics. The title of the chapter, “Why drug dealers still live with their moms”, was based on the finding that the income distribution within gangs was extremely skewed in favor of those at the top, while the rank-and-file street sellers earned even less than employees in legitimate low-skilled activities, let’s say at McDonald’s. They calculated $3.30 as the hourly rate, that is, well below a living wage (that’s why they still live with their moms).

If you take into account the risk of being shot by rival gangs, ending up in jail or being beaten up by your own hierarchy, you might wonder why anybody would work for such a low wage and at such dreadful working conditions instead of seeking employment at McDonald’s. Yet, gangs have no real difficulty in recruiting new members. The reason for this is that the prospect of future wealth, rather than current income and working conditions, is the main driver for people to stay in the business: low-level drug sellers forgo current income for (uncertain) future wealth. Rank-and file members are ready to face this risk to try to make it to the top, where life is good and money is flowing. It is very unlikely that they will make it (their mortality rate is insanely high) but they’re ready to “get rich or die trying”.

Humans are underrated

Geoff Colvin:

As technology becomes more dominant in the workplace, here are the three job skills that you need to thrive.

As the Pepper robot from Softbank scurries about your home or office, it reads your emotions by your words, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. It then responds in all those ways; its hands and posture in particular are remarkably expressive. If you thought emotions were beyond the competencies of robots, you were right for a long time. But no more.

Maybe you believe that humans uniquely will always have to perform the highest-stakes, most delicate and demanding tasks in our lives, such as surgery. But researchers at the University of California at Berkeley are training a robot to identify and cut away cancerous tissue—not like today’s surgical robots, which are actually tools used by human surgeons, but entirely on its own.

Staying Afloat: Some Scattered Suggestions on Reading in College

Timothy Burke:

The first thing you should know about reading in college is that it bears little or no resemblance to the sort of reading you do for pleasure, or for your own edification.

Professors assign more than you can possibly read in any normal fashion.

We know it, at least most of us do.You have to make strategic decisions about what to read and how to read it. You’re reading for particular reasons: to get background on important issues, to illuminate some of the central issues in a single session of one course, to raise questions for discussion. That calls for a certain kind of smash-and-grab approach to reading.You can’t afford to dilly-dally and stop to smell the lilies. You might not think that’s the ideal way to learn, and I would sort of agree. But on the professiorial side of things, we feel a real obligation to cover a particular field of knowledge in the course of a semester, and we can’t do it all through lectures. Nor would I personally want to talk at my students day in and day out.

Introduction To Monte Carlo Methods

Alex Woods:

I’m going to keep this tutorial light on math, because the goal is just to give a general understanding.

The idea of Monte Carlo methods is this—generate some random samples for some random variable of interest, then use these samples to compute values you’re interested in.

I know, super broad. The truth is Monte Carlo has a ton of different applications. It’s used in product design, to simulate variability in manufacturing. It’s used in physics, biology and chemistry, to do a whole host of things that I only partially understand. It can be used in AI for games, for example the chinese game Go. And finally, in finance, to evaluate financial derivatives or option pricing [1]. In short—it’s used everywhere.

Dani See

Andrea Zani, via a kind reader:

Three days after the most recent Madison school year ended, Toki Middle School teacher Dani See was back on a bus. It wasn’t a yellow school bus, but a fancy coach bus, one of two that was taking 58 students and six staff chaperones on the school’s annual eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C.

For See, it was the 20th consecutive year she was making the trip as its coordinator and tour director. The six-day trip takes students on a whirlwind tour of the nation’s capital, with additional stops at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania and Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg. It reinforces the social studies, civics and history curricula of eighth grade in a way no classroom work can, See said.

“I tell the kids and parents that my D.C. trip safeguards our heritage and our future by providing a first-hand understanding of history,” she said. “(It) creates a ‘hands-on’ approach to learning.”

New Orleans: From Recovery to Renaissance

Andy Hawf:

That is not to say we haven’t achieved great things. We have expanded and protected parents’ right to choose their children’s schools through a citywide unified enrollment system. We have created a city in which independent charter schools and charter management organizations are enthusiastically and successfully serving a population much more at risk than that of the traditional school district. And while people in cities like New York and Washington, D.C. argue over whether charter schools should “backfill,” our charter schools are already serving all students, accepting them year-round, and creating innovative programs for students with significant disabilities.

So, what does this mean? And what does it mean for the next 10 years?

The Art Of The Audit

The Economist:

WHEN offices handle public money, said Aristotle, “there must of necessity be another office that examines and audits them.” Today’s equivalent is the “Supreme Audit Institution”, and 192 countries have one. These beancounters-cum-watchdogs check on behalf of legislatures and the public that their governments spend money cleanly and sensibly—and hold them to account when they do not. Though public, they are (or at least are supposed to be) independent of government.

In “The Art of Audit”, Roel Janssen, a veteran Dutch journalist, tells their story through conversations with former top auditors from eight countries. Number-crunching may be number-crunching, but their experiences, and the outfits they run, differ enormously.

America’s 94-year-old Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a bulky, sophisticated machine employing 3,000 people that holds the government’s feet to the fire on behalf of Congress. David Walker’s main achievement, as its head from 1998 to 2008, was to raise the alarm about America’s exploding federal debt. Running Iraq’s audit board from 2004 to 2014, Abdulbasit Turki Saeed worried more about being blown up himself. His predecessor was killed in the job, as were some people on Mr Turki’s team; he had a lucky escape when he discovered a bomb under his car.

Related: Spending issues on Madison’s last maintenance referendum lead to calls for a maibtenance audit.

Civics & we know best: Venezuelan farmers ordered to hand over produce to state

Harriet Alexander:

Venezuela’s embattled government has taken the drastic step of forcing food producers to sell their produce to the state, in a bid to counter the ever-worsening shortages.

Farmers and manufacturers who produce milk, pasta, oil, rice, sugar and flour have been told to supply between 30 per cent and 100 per cent of their products to the state stores. Shortages, rationing and queues outside supermarkets have become a way of life for Venezuelans, as their isolated country battles against rigid currency controls and a shortage of US dollars – making it difficult for Venezuelans to find imported goods.

Pablo Baraybar, president of the Venezuelan Food Industry Chamber, said that the order was illogical, and damaging to Venezuelan consumers.

American Literature Road Map

Richard Kreitner & Steven Melendez:

I am a freak for the American road trip. And I’m not alone, as some of this country’s best writers have taken a shot at describing that quintessentially American experience. “There is no such knowledge of the nation as comes of traveling in it, of seeing eye to eye its vast extent, its various and teeming wealth, and, above all, its purpose-full people,” the newspaper editor Samuel Bowles wrote 150 years ago in Across the Continent, arguably the first true American road-trip book.

Western Lit, shot to death by ‘trigger warnings’

Michael Moynihan:

Boring bien pensant opinion in Europe has long maintained that low-brow American culture — all the greasy fast food, oafish Hollywood shoot ‘em up films (often starring a muscle-bound Austrian, Belgian, or Swede), and schlock television — has done incalculable damage to highbrow European culture. And it has happened with the assent of the average European, who happily scarfs down a McRib sandwich, feet swaddled in Air Jordans, while queuing for the latest “Transformers” film.

But there is a more pernicious American cultural invasion, as irritatingly destructive as the North American gray squirrel and, unlike the Hollywood blockbuster, wholly immune from free market pressures. It was noticed in 1994 by a reporter for Reuters, who gravely reported that the scourge of political correctness, “an American import regarded by many Britons with the same distaste as an unpleasant virus, finally seems to be infecting British society.” First it poisons the local universities, then within a generation wends its way into the broader culture, wreaking havoc on the native intellectual ecosystem. It’s the most odious, implacable, and least remarked upon manifestation of American cultural imperialism.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Zero meaningful solutions to America’s $18 trillion debt.

Tom Coburn:

Yet despite their numbers, none of them is addressing in a meaningful way the greatest threat to our republic: our gigantic and rapidly growing national debt. America’s cumulative borrowing is rapidly approaching $20 trillion, while the federal government’s unfunded liabilities (future expenditures minus future tax revenue) now exceed a whopping $127 trillion — better than $1.1 million per taxpayer.

That’s not merely unsustainable; it’s suicidal.

Following a similarly risky path, Greece has now defaulted on its obligations, sending a shock wave through financial markets around the world. This was a crisis that could have been avoided through sound fiscal policy, but the Greek government has for years lacked the political will to do what it takes to secure that nation’s financial health. The nightly news showcases the unfolding Greek tragedy as though it were another TV reality show. A country on the verge of collapse, full steam ahead on a similar trajectory as the American economy — and journalists are largely silent.

Judges Revive Claim that AT&T Overcharged Schools for Internet Service

Jeff Gerth:

At issue in the court case is a rule established at the program’s inception that requires providers to set rates for schools and libraries at the lowest prices offered to comparable customers. The theory was that bargain rates would help schools in less-wealthy areas provide their students with access to the Web.

An investigation in 2012 by ProPublica found that the preferential pricing rule had been widely neglected by AT&T and the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the program. The result was that many schools were paying more than the program’s framers envisioned, draining the federal fund and limiting the reach of the subsidies.

AT&T said then, and reaffirmed in a recent email to ProPublica, that it complies with the requirement that it charge such customers what is known as the “lowest corresponding price.”

Heath, whose consulting work involves helping school districts obtain refunds from telecom overcharges, first sued Wisconsin Bell, a unit of AT&T, in 2008, alleging that the company routinely withheld information about the available lower rates from public school and library customers and billed them at higher levels. He filed it as a whistleblower case, meaning he would secure a percentage of any damages if Wisconsin Bell were found liable or reached a monetary settlement.

While that case made its way through the court system, Heath in 2011 filed another whistleblower lawsuit in Washington against AT&T and 19 of its subsidiaries for allegedly defrauding E-Rate from 1997 to 2009.

Another Student Data Privacy Act That Doesn’t Protect Student Data or Privacy

Jessy Irwin:

The story mentions that this a reaction to the industry’s attempt to self-regulate with a privacy pledge this past October, and that the legislation which will be similar to California’s SOPIPA, which prohibits targeting students with online marketing and advertising, selling student information, profiling students based on data collected, and requiring companies to put security measures in place to protect student data. (While security measures are required to protect student data, SOPIPA set no bare minimum security standards for education technology companies, and did not require companies to disclose their security measures to users.)

Survey: More than half West Allis-West Milwaukee underclassmen feel unsafe

Jane Ford-Stewart:

Fewer than half of underclassmen at the two high schools here said they felt safe at school in their responses to voluntary annual youth risk behavior surveys taken during the school year that just ended.

The 48.4 percent who said they feel safe is significantly lower than the 58.4 percent from the year before who responded that they felt safe.

The survey results also show that more than 28 percent of respondents said violence is a problem at their schools, and nearly 14 percent reported being in a physical fight at school. The percentage of respondents in fights is up a bit from the year before while far fewer students than the previous year felt that violence is a problem.
Suspensions up, too

In addition to the survey, district information shows that two of the four intermediate schools reported many more suspensions for all causes last year than the year before. Fighting and threatening behavior were the two major reasons for the increases, Daniel Weast, director of student services, told the West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board last week.

The intermediate schools seeing the signficant increases were Frank Lloyd Wright and West Milwaukee, with both still well below their 10-year highs in the number of suspensions.

In Defense of Sara Goldrick-Rab

John K. Wilson:

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of educational policy and sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, is under fire for tweeting to some incoming freshman an article about the budget cuts and attacks on tenure at her institution. The campus College Republicans started a campaign denouncing her tweets as “disgusting and repulsive” and declared, “The College Republicans of UW-Madison call on the University of Wisconsin-Madison to address the harassment of these future Badgers on Twitter.”

This is a disturbing reaction: engaging in a conversation or political debate on Twitter is not even remotely close to harassment. The fact that the College Republicans describe it as “harassment” (they replace this with the term “out-of-line actions” in their formal press release) indicates that they think it is deserving of punishment. We need to reject the very stupid notion that being exposed to an idea you disagree with is a form of “harassment.”

Silent and Independent: Student Use of Academic Library Study Space

Katharine Hall, Dubravka Kapa:

In the fall of 2012, Concordia University Libraries started planning for renovations which would result in the increase of study spaces in one of its two libraries and the reduction at the other. In order to maximize the functionality of the reduced study space footprint, a survey and focus groups were used to better understand the specific space needs of the library’s campus community. The study revealed differences in the use of the library among the respondents from different programs of study. Respondents enrolled in science programs visit the library more often but seek assistance less than the respondents in social sciences programs. The survey comments and focus groups pointed to students’ dissatisfaction with the quality of study spaces the library offers, either for individual or group study. Library users wanted larger table space, comfortable furniture, and more desktop computers. The overall ambience of study spaces proved to be rather important and a large point of dissatisfaction. The findings from the study have provided valuable information on how to prioritize targeted improvements and which aspects of the library’s space and services to highlight when promoting library services to different departments.

Feds spent $95,700 to adapt Shakespeare without words

Elizabeth Harrington, via Will Fitzhugh:

The federal government has invested nearly $100,000 to bring Shakespeare to the stage—only without the legendary playwright’s words.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and its state agency the Virginia Commission for the Arts has funded numerous shows from the Crystal City-based Synetic Theater, including a production of Hamlet without words, making the title character’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy slightly less potent.

The Wall Street Journal bemoaned the dumbing down of Shakespeare, noting Shakespeare’s plays “without puns is like French cooking without butter,” in a recent review of Synetic’s adaptations.

“The latest Shakespeare fashion, at least in the Washington area, is to invite people to a feast of language and serve nothing but grunts, grimaces and grins—with a few gyrations thrown in for dessert,” James Bovard wrote on Monday.

How Dare You Say That! The Evolution of Profanity

John McWhorter:

At street level and in popular culture, Americans are freer with profanity now than ever before—or so it might seem to judge by how often people throw around the “F-bomb” or use a certain S-word of scatological meaning as a synonym for “stuff.” Or consider the millions of fans who adore the cartoon series “South Park,” with its pint-size, raucously foul-mouthed characters.

But things might look different to an expedition of anthropologists visiting from Mars. They might conclude that Americans today are as uptight about profanity as were our 19th-century forbears in ascots and petticoats. It’s just that what we think of as “bad” words is different. To us, our ancestors’ word taboos look as bizarre as tribal rituals. But the real question is: How different from them, for better or worse, are we?

Your child’s school records aren’t as safe as you think

Ben Branstetter:

While not so concernng on its own, this means PowerSchool — and all the student data it owns — is now in the hands of a company that has failed to join the 153 education companies that have pledged to not sell student data or use targeted advertising toward students.

The slow creep of private software companies into public education has accelerated enormously since PowerSchool was first founded in 2000. According to Education Week, public schools in the U.S. spend over $3 billion providing digital services to their students. Some, like and Kahn Academy, offer individualized tutoring to help take the load off of overpopulated schools. Others, like Google, have offered their own free versions of expensive digital tools such as Microsoft Excel and Word.

“In the absence of a government subsidy, most colleges could not fill up their seats.”

Jeffrey Sellingo:

Even so, American higher education remains the envy of the world. But that respect really only extends to a few hundred universities at the most. At too many colleges attended by the vast majority of American students, costs are spiraling out of control and quality is declining. And the very worst of the institutions suffer from low graduation rates, high debt loads for students, and poor placement rates into jobs.

Last week, on a panel I moderated about the future of higher education at a conference in Nashville, Tom Angelo, an expert in teaching and learning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, called these bottom-feeder institutions a “cancer on American higher education.” In most markets, such bad players would simply go away, driven out by more-efficient and less-expensive options.

US Child Poverty Rate Grew From 18% in 2008 to 22% in 2013

Kids Count (PDF)

An Uneven Recovery for Low-Income Families
Let’s start with the good news. With 2.95 million jobs created, 2014 was the best year of job growth in the United States since 1999.1 For 12 consecutive months, from March 2014 through February 2015, the economy added more than 200,000 jobs per month.2 Although there was a drop in jobs created in March 2015, the numbers have since rebounded.3 At 5.4 percent, April’s national unemployment rate was at its lowest level since April 2008.

But there are some worrisome economic indicators for families in the bottom half of the income scale, particularly African Americans and Latinos. Although new job growth has occurred at all wage levels, it has been disproportionate in low-wage sectors, such as retail and food services, and in some of the lower-wage positions within health care and home care.5 And, a stagnating federal minimum wage has exacerbated low wages.

Student Debt Growth

Ben Mclannahan:

Navient Corp, the largest student loan servicing company in the US, gave a glimpse into worsening trends in the $1.2tn market as it reported a 40 per cent drop in profits due to a big rise in provisions and a squeeze on interest margins.

Student loans have been the only consumer debt segment to grow in the US since the Lehman crisis, with the total outstanding more than doubling since 2008. At the same time, fears have risen that the jobs market is not strong enough to support such towering amounts of debt.

Chicago Undergraduate Math Bibliography


Somehow I became the canonical undergraduate source for bibliographical references, so I thought I would leave a list behind before I graduated. I list the books I have found useful in my wanderings through mathematics (in a few cases, those I found especially unuseful), and give short descriptions and comparisons within each category. I hope that this list may serve as a useful “road map” to other undergraduates picking their way through Eckhart Library. In the end, of course, you must explore on your own; but the list may save you a few days wasted reading books at the wrong level or with the wrong emphasis.

The list is biased in two senses. One, it is light on foundations and applied areas, and heavy (especially in the advanced section) on geometry and topology; this is a consequence of my interests. I welcome additions from people interested in other fields. Two, and more seriously, I am an honors-track student and the list reflects that. I don’t list any “regular” analysis or algebra texts, for instance, because I really dislike the ones I’ve seen. If you are a 203 student looking for an alternative to the awful pink book (Marsden/Hoffman), you will find a few here; they are all much clearer, better books, but none are nearly as gentle. I know that banging one’s head against a more difficult text is not a realistic option for most students in this position. On the other hand, reading mathematics can’t be taught, and it has to be learned sometime. Maybe it’s better to get used to frustration as a way of life sooner, rather than later. I don’t know.

UW Colleges announce administrative cuts, new structure

Karen Herzog:

“While our share of the overall UW System budget cut was eventually reduced, the nearly $5 million cut that we are left with is the largest in our history,” the chancellor, who has been in the job since December, said Tuesday. “The challenge we face is not new, but it is now acute. We can no longer avoid taking significant action.”

Only $100,000 (0.25%) will be cut from the instructional budget. No faculty positions will be eliminated, and there will be no campus closures, she said.

“The reforms we are developing, with extensive and valuable input from our internal and external stakeholders, will help UW Colleges position itself for the future,” Sandeen said in a prepared statement.

Under the new model, the 13 UW Colleges campuses will be grouped into four regions, with a single executive officer/dean for each region. One associate dean will be located on each campus and will oversee day-to-day operational needs. The four regions are:

Commuter Students Using Technology

Maura Smale and Mariana Regalado:

Information and communications technology (ICT) has become indispensable in the twenty-first century and is integral to the undergraduate student experience. From standard productivity software to specialized multimedia applications, from online research to course management systems, undergraduates use technology throughout their academic experience. Despite the persistence of the digital native image in the media, however, not all college students own and use these technologies to the same extent, which can hamper their ability to use ICT effectively for academic purposes. At the same time, budget pressures and restructuring discussions mean that colleges increasingly adopt academic technologies to help address some of the challenges facing higher education. How does this rising use of academic ICT change students’ experiences?

Academic institutions and higher education research organizations use data to make decisions about student services and academic technologies, yet much of the data collected is quantitative. Although surveys can show how many students own a smartphone or how long each student commutes to campus, they tell us little about the lived experiences of our students. In contrast, qualitative research lets us hear student voices and can add valuable detail about the college experience; that, in turn, can inform and guide faculty and administrative decisions about instructional technologies for student use.

Shared Governance

Jennifer Ruth:

Bowen and Tobin argue that universities must rewrite their rules so as to meet the demands of the twenty-first century. If they intend to reclaim their role as “engines of mobility,” institutions of higher education need to feature strong leadership at the presidential level, to use technology aggressively, and to implement what they call a “professional teaching staff.” About this last, they write:

The $150 million question—what does federal regulation really cost colleges?

Jon Marcus:

In the intensifying debate over whether to reduce federal government regulations on universities and colleges, one number has been at the forefront: $150 million.

That’s what Vanderbilt University says a study found it spends each year complying with government red tape: 11 percent of the university’s entire budget.

The figure was in a report drafted by the principal higher education lobbying organization, the American Council on Education, or ACE, at the request of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. It was the headline of a news release from the committee’s chairman, Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Alexander cited it again in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. And other advocates for easing rules on colleges and universities have repeated it, adding that it averages out to $11,000 per year in additional tuition for each of Vanderbilt’s 12,757 students.

The Complex History of Public Education in the U.S.

Russell Sage Foundation:

During her time in residence at the Foundation, Elizabeth Shermer (Loyola) has worked on a book that examines the origins of the contemporary crisis in public higher education. She argues that contrary to popular belief, state universities have always been subject to market forces. Shermer finds that there was never enough government funding to create a geographically-uniform system of mass higher education, and that as a result, public universities have long been influenced by private sector interests.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Shermer discussed the complex history of the rise of public education in the U.S. and recommended policies for expanding access to higher education for low-income students.

What’s the Point of Handwriting?

Navneet Alang:

Sylvia’s handwriting was looping and crisp and clean. Though she was my girlfriend, I was, as with most girls I knew in high school, intensely jealous of her penmanship—of what seemed, at the time, like its unreachable, feminine perfection. My handwriting was, by comparison, a mess: the hand of a drunken man trying to scrawl down gibberish while riding on the back of a motorcycle, a different script every time. It wasn’t neatness or clarity on their own that I envied, though—it was the solidity and consistency of someone who wrote the same way each time, could reliably and assuredly express themselves. In the same manner, day after day, manifested on the page, they seemed to be saying: I know who I am—here, let me show you.

Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature

Gary Saul Morson

Go to just about any English department at any university, gather round the coffee pot, and listen to what one of my colleagues calls the Great Kvetch. It is perfectly summarized by the opening sentence of the philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s recent book: “We are in the midst of a crisis of massive proportions and grave global significance.” She is not speaking of looming environmental disaster or the proliferation of nuclear weapons. You see, those are threats we can discern. The danger Nussbaum is highlighting “goes largely unnoticed, like a cancer; a crisis that is likely to be, in the long run, far more damaging to the future of democratic self-government.”

When a writer invokes the insidious progress of a cancer, you know she hopes to forestall the objection that there is little visible evidence to support her argument. What is this cancer threatening democracy and the world? Declining enrollments in literature courses. Her book is titled Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities.

Teachers’ union raises stakes in battle with Mexico’s Peña Nieto

Jude Webber:

The move, co-ordinated with Mr Peña Nieto’s government, was equivalent to throwing down the gauntlet to a union that has paralysed implementation of the education reform in Oaxaca and three other states. “They will not take what is ours,” Rubén Nuñez, a leader of the Oaxaca chapter of the union, vowed at a rally in the city’smain square as the union prepared to define its full response on Wednesday.

“This is a really important, even brave announcement,” said Marco Fernández, a professor at the Tecnológico de Monterrey and researcher at the México Evalúa and Wilson Center think-tanks. “Unavoidably there will be conflict in the coming days.”

Although investors have given more attention to the government’s energy reform, lifting education standards is considered vital to Mexico’s ambitions to boost productivity and vault into the advanced, high-income economy bracket.

The biggest obstacle to achieving that was the CNTE. Though it has only about 200,000 of Mexico’s 900,000 teachers — the rest belong to the SNTE that backs the reform — about 60 per cent of CNTE members are in Oaxaca. Victory over opponents there, the government reasons, will ensure the education reform is unstoppable.

A Black Woman’s experience in the Stanford Computer Science Major

Alona King:

As a Black female CS major at Stanford, I hate walking around the halls of the Gates Computer Science Building.

It’s not because the Gates interior reminds me of 1970 even though it was built in the 1990s. It’s not because of the memories I have of CS107’s Heap Allocator turning me into a nocturnal Gates inhabitant. It’s because inevitably, whenever I walk into Gates, I always get hit with the four words every non-tech minority thinks whenever they see an unfamiliar minority in a tech space:

How to Speak American

Sarah Laskow:

Nearly a century ago, just after World War I had ended, there was a groundswell of linguistic patriotism in America. All of a sudden, scholars, writers and politicians were interested in studying, defining and promoting a distinctly “American” version of English.

In 1919, H.L. Mencken published the first edition of what would become one of his more popular books, The American Language. In the early 1920s, some of the country’s leading linguists started work on the “Linguistic Atlas of New England”, one of the first attempts to systematically document a regional dialect; in 1925, the journal American Speech published its first issue.

Teaching Uighur children in Mandarin will not bring stability to Xinjiang

The Economist:

“I CAN speak Chinese, I’m so awesome!” reads a sign on the wall of the Mingde primary school in Shufu, a town near the oasis city of Kashgar in the far western province of Xinjiang. Nearby, children’s artworks hang beneath another banner which proclaims: “The motherland is in my heart.” Though every pupil at the school is Uighur, one of China’s ethnic minority peoples, most lessons here are taught in Mandarin—a very different language from their Turkic one. It is the same at ever more schools across the region. Educating young Uighurs in Mandarin may one day help them find work—but it is also a means by which the government hopes to subdue Xinjiang and its many inhabitants who chafe at rule from Beijing.

Xinjiang began to fall under China’s control in the mid-18th century. It was then mainly populated by ethnic Uighurs, whose culture and Muslim faith set them apart from much of the rest of China; Kashgar is far closer to Kabul and Islamabad than it is to Beijing. Despite the migration into Xinjiang of Hans, China’s ethnic majority, minorities (mainly Uighurs) still make up 60% of its residents, compared with less than 10% in China overall.

Make School Wants To Build The Product University For The Masses

Donny Crichton:

College has failed, or so many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs believe. Not only are tuition costs spiraling out of control, but students are leaving college without the ability to produce … anything. We are living in the era of code, and yet, college students are graduating barely able to read or write an essay – let alone make an app.

Make School hopes to change this sordid state of affairs. Through a rigorous and lengthy two-year curriculum, the school hopes to instill deeper critical thinking skills while also providing students engineering and product skills that will allow them to be highly productive at startups and large tech companies.

The new frontier for Advanced Placement: Online AP lessons, for free

Nick Anderson:

The explosion of free online education, known mainly for targeting adults, is reaching ever further into high schools.

On Wednesday, a new sequence of lessons for high school Advanced Placement courses in calculus, physics and macroeconomics went live on a free Web site founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. The lessons, developed by Davidson College for the site called edX, represent a new step in the evolution of ties between the popular AP college-level program and the “massive open online courses” known as MOOCs.

Other MOOCs in recent months have targeted AP students in subjects such as biology, computer science and chemistry. They aim to prepare students for exams that offer potential college credit for high scores. One philanthropist, Steven B. Klinsky, has even suggested that these MOOCs can help create a pathway for students to obtain a full freshman year of college credit for free.

“but the data shows the world improving”

Oxford Research:

‘I used to be a pessimist,’ Max tells me, ‘but the data shows the world improving.’

By way of illustration, Max shows me one of his visualisers — it shows the global rise of education over time. You can see vast advances in the average number of years spent in education worldwide, with most notable increases in the east and more recently, Africa. This Good News message is not unique.

The Re-education Of Blackboard

Issie Lapowsky:

YOU REMEMBER BLACKBOARD, don’t you? It’s that not-so-sleek site you used to submit assignments to your college professors—the one you cursed to death when it failed to save that paper on Plato’s Republic you spent hours working on.

Blackboard was at turns frustrating, migraine-inducing, and burdensome. Which isn’t to say Blackboard wasn’t innovative. It was, back in the day. Unfortunately, that day was around 2004. Since then, the overgrown education technology giant has somehow managed to infiltrate most of the nation’s colleges and about half its schools. Meanwhile, Blackboard Learn—the portal where students access and turn in assignments, find their grades, and communicate with teachers and fellow classmates—has stagnated.

Self-proclaimed ‘experts’ more likely to fall for made-up facts, study finds

Rachel Feltman:

One portion of the study presented 100 subjects — all of whom had been asked to rate their knowledge of personal finances — with 15 specific finance terms. They were then asked to rate their understanding of each term, not knowing that three of them (pre-rated stocks, fixed-rate deduction, annualized credit) were totally made up.

“The more people believed they knew about finances in general, the more likely they were to overclaim knowledge of the fictitious financial terms,” lead study author Stav Atir of Cornell said in a statement. “The same pattern emerged for other domains, including biology, literature, philosophy and geography.”

The New Education Order

Richard Taylor:

The world is changing at a faster rate than we have ever witnessed. The education sector is benefiting from increasing advances in technology and the barriers to entry are lower than ever, as more people look to cash in on this growing global market.

We are not yet at the tipping point, where the old will meet the new, and I don’t believe that traditional institutional education providers are fully aware of the tsunami of competition that’s about to hit them. I am not sure whether it is a case of the old brigade burying their heads in the sand or whether they simply do not know how to become again relevant to their students.

Jobs, Never Easy, Have Become Pressure Cookers

Jennifer Howard:

A lot has changed in those two-plus decades, and Mr. Barnds’s job has expanded remarkably. Like other administrators and faculty and staff members on campuses around the country, he is learning to live in a world of tighter budgets, swelling regulations, and ever more assessment and competition.

“The pressure’s greater on enrollment officers for a whole host of reasons, but we’re not alone,” he says. “There’s increased pressure on every senior leader on a college campus.”

Self-control improves your prospects. But it may harm your health

The Economist:

IT BEGAN with some marshmallows. In the 1960s Walter Mischel, a psychologist then working at Stanford University, started a series of experiments on young children. A child was left alone for 15 minutes with a marshmallow or similar treat, with the promise that, if it remained uneaten at the end of this period, a second would be added. Some of the children, who were aged four or five at the time, succumbed to temptation before time was up. Others resisted, and held out for the reward.
Then, it was Dr Mischel’s turn to wait. He followed the children’s progress as they grew up. Those who had resisted, he found, did better at school than those who had given in. As adults they got better jobs, were less likely to use drugs and got into trouble with the law less frequently. Moreover, children’s family circumstances suggested that impulsive behaviour was as much learned as inherited. This suggested that it could be unlearned—improving the child in question’s chances in life.

WEAC Falls Below 40,000 Active Members

Mike Antonucci:

changed nothing, and Scott Walker is running for President of the United States.

In June 2012, it didn’t require a crystal ball to write , “Now that the recalls are over, we’re likely to see a WEAC in a few years that’s no better than half what it was at its peak.”

That day is here. WEAC’s 2015 membership numbers show an organization with fewer than 50,000 total members, and fewer than 40,000 who are currently employed in Wisconsin’s public school system. The downward spiral is so pronounced the union cut dues by $60 , but it does not seem to have reversed its fortunes.

Despite the rosy picture NEA attempted to paint earlier this month , the union still faces enormous membership problems, with only a handful of state affiliates slowly returning to health. I will have the full story in today’s communiqué.

Related: $1.57m for four senators.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Median Household Income Lower Than 1996..


Taken as a whole, Ms Clinton’s plan is an eclectic grab-bag. It is as if her advisors brainstormed every possible policy to boost wages, and then kept them all. Some—such as greater investment in skills and infrastructure—are welcome. Wages, ultimately, reflect workers’ productivity. Ms Clinton is also right that the impact of technology on the labour market presents a huge and perplexing challenge for policymakers. But greater union power and more protectionism are comfort-blanket polices for which the economy—and most Americans—would pay a price in the long-run. Ms Clinton’s speech contained plenty of ideas. Perhaps when Mr Sanders exits the stage, some of the duds will be dropped.

Madison, which spends double the national average per student, plans to increase property taxes by 5% this fall.

Winning formula: USA tops International Math Olympiad for first time in 21 years

Michael Miller:

Thirty-five years later, America pulled off another stunning upset this week.

But this victory involved integers, not ice skates, and was waged not by hulking Cold Warriors but by teens.

Team America has finally retaken the International Mathematical Olympiad crown. The victory this week was a historic comeback.

If winning a youth math competition seems less important than vanquishing the Soviets back in 1980, consider this: the last time America won the IMO was 1994. Back then, Bill Clinton was president and Ace of Base was top of the pop charts.

The quiet rebellion taking place in business schools

The Conversation:

If you ask most people what goes on in business schools, they would probably assume that a bunch of pointy heads tell other pointy heads how to read spreadsheets. Push a bit further and you might get some stories about foreign students, shiny buildings and courses that teach people how to be bastards and make lots of money. The financial crisis has often enough been blamed on business schools too for the ways that they spread the gospel of selfishness. But an odd thing is happening beneath the glass atrium – the academics are rebelling.

All around the world, the business school is now the fastest growing part of higher education. In many countries, particularly the UK, its expanding revenues are compensating for a decline in state funding and ensuring that the history department stays open.

How Libraries Can Compete With Google and Amazon

Sonali Kohli:

But the reach of the Queens Library extends beyond the walls of its 65 physical branches. Dotting the borough are thousands of New Yorkers logged into their own mini-libraries, using the library’s mobile app to do research for homework, or the WiFi hotspots they checked out to fill in the holes in broadband access at home, or accessing e-books on one of the libraries’ tablets they can take home.

Throughout the country, library initiatives are emerging to keep up with technological advances. And libraries are finding that one population they can serve better than anyone else is low-income Americans.

Republicans and Teachers Unions

Jonathan Chait:

In 2010, Diane Ravitch, an activist for the most militantly anti-reform wing of the teachers-union movement, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed proposing that Republicans use their newfound control of the House of Representatives to roll back the Obama administration’s education reforms. Since then, the union backlash against the Obama administration’s agenda has gained force. Yesterday, it manifested itself in a Senate vote in which Republicans and the unions worked in more open cooperation – against the Obama administration and civil-rights groups allied with it – than at any time in the past.

You should read Libby Nelson’s terrific explanation of the dynamics behind the vote. The gist of the alliance is that both the Republicans and the unions want to reduce the federal government’s ability to direct the course of education policy. Nelson detected an interesting rhetorical confluence:

Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who now leads the Senate education committee, has a favorite epithet for how Duncan has used his power. Alexander is fond of saying that Duncan created a “national school board.”
Eskelen García echoed Alexander, hardly an ideological ally, in a Thursday interview. “Nobody elected the education secretary to be the national superintendent of schools or the national school board,” she said.

Ron Johnson hosts hearing on voucher schools amid federal probe

Erin Richards:

In an interview Monday at St. Marcus School, a voucher school at 2215 Palmer St., Johnson said a staffer brought the investigation to his attention, which prompted him to write letters to U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch this summer, asking for evidence of the basis of their investigation.

The department has declined to comment, saying the investigation is ongoing.

Johnson, who was the only member of his committee at the hearing, said he invited other members to attend and bring witnesses, but all declined.

The official speaker list, then, included pro-voucher witnesses chosen by Johnson, including two former students of voucher schools: Justice Shorter, a graduate of Messmer High School who’s now in graduate school, and Diana Lopez, a graduate of St. Anthony High School who is headed to Yale. It also included Bob Smith, former principal of Messmer; John Witte, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Richard Komer, senior attorney at the Institute of Justice.

“While participating in the parental choice program, I received the same voucher as all students, which didn’t account for the extra costs of my visual impairment,” said Shorter.

Komer said the justice department held on to the disability rights complaint in 2011 instead of referring it to the Department of Education, as is custom.

The Risky Eclipse of Statisticians

Hacker Rank:

If statisticians have historically been leaders of data, why was there a need for a brand new breed of data scientists? While the world is exploding with bounties of valuable data, statisticians are strangely working quietly in the shadows. Statistics is the science of learning from data, so why aren’t statisticians reigning as kings of today’s Big Data revolution?

In 2009, when Google was still fine tuning its PageRank algorithm based on the statistical innovation Markov Chain, Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian declared statistician as the sexiest job of the decade. We’re about halfway through, and it seems that Varian missed the target.

“Professional statisticians are milling at the back of the church, mesmerized by the gaudy spectacle of [Big Data] before them.” – David Walker, statistician, Aug 2013.

An iPad gave my son with disabilities a voice – and changed his life

Kathy Bell:

For most of us, our voices emanate from our own vocal chords. For Kevin, our 20-year-old son with Mowat Wilson Syndrome – a developmental disability – his words are battery-charged, delivered by an app and wrapped protectively in royal blue silicone. And we love his voice.

By the age of two, we knew that Kevin had severe language issues. We held onto the hope that, by age 10 – an important milestone in speech development – he would have words with which to communicate. Perhaps it was naïve on our part; it didn’t happen. When he was 13, we accepted what limited progress he had made, stopped thinking about what he could not do and focused on the everyday things he could achieve.

Syria-Isis Westerners fighting for Kurds disillusioned with YPG’s ‘school trip with guns’ tactics

Sofia Barbarani:

A number of them were recently involved in the retaking of Tel Abyad on 15 June – an Arab-majority border town in northern Syria. The move, which was seen as a setback for IS, was hailed as a major victory for the Kurds, who were able to open a corridor through the town and connect two of their three autonomous cantons: Jazeera and war-torn Kobani.

NJ: “No Contracts, No Step Salary Increase”

John Reitmeyer:

Gov. Chris Christie has taken an aggressive approach to dealing with public workers and their unions since taking office in early 2010. He’s encouraged voters to reject school budgets in communities where teachers weren’t accepting pay freezes, pushed to change civil-service rules, and signed legislation that forced employees to pay more toward to their pensions and health benefits.

Now that Christie has joined the 2016 GOP presidential primary field, his administration is taking another tough stance. It recently told thousands of union members whose contracts expired June 30 that they won’t be receiving annual incremental pay increases while there’s no new deal in place.

In the past, the unions say workers have generally received their annual increases if their performance merited the bump — even without a contract in place.

Christie’s freeze affects state office workers, college professors, corrections officers, and other groups of public workers who haven’t yet reached the top of their pay scales.

Public-worker unions have been responding to the Christie administration’s new position on pay increments — something many view as a pressure tactic — by filing administrative grievances and at least one union, Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 105, has filed suit in Superior Court.

Lance Lopez, the president of PBA Local 105, said the Christie administration’s freeze affects 3,700 members of his union. The prior agreement with the state said that the rules established under a contract that expired on June 30 would be extended for a year if no new agreement was reached, he said. And the union would have had to have been informed in writing by February 1, 2015 of any change, which didn’t occur, he added.

Feds: Most States Failing To Meet Special Ed Obligations

Michelle Diamont:

their obligations under special education law.

The U.S. Department of Education says that just 19 states qualified for the “meets requirements” designation for the 2013-2014 school year. The rest of states were classified as “needs assistance” or “needs intervention.”

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Education Department must evaluate states annually on their efforts to implement special education programs.

The ratings carry significant weight. If a state fails to meet requirements for two or more years, the Department of Education must take enforcement action, which can include a corrective action plan or withholding funds, among other steps.

This is the second year that the Education Department has relied on stricter measures to assess compliance.

“Hard to make comparisons across years” 

Alex Scharaschkin:

The exams are finished and GCSE and A-level students are heading off for summer. But there are 12 weeks – and a lot of work – from “pens down” to results day

Did you hear that noise? It’s the sound of thousands of students collectively breathing a sigh of relief. If April is the cruellest month, then July is the most anticipated. The end of GCSE and A-level exams marks a rite of passage, a time for reflection, celebration – and, for some, panic. After candidates have put down their pens, examiners – usually teachers by day – remain holed up in studies, marking.

Related: WKCE.

Why the “Every Child Achieves Act” Needs a Little More Tweaking

Laura Waters:

Marianne Lombardo at Education Reform Now looks at the recent report on NAEP scores from the National Center for Education Statistics. Results show that many states have standards that are less ambitious than the concepts tested, especially in 4th grade reading. While, she says, “NAEP frameworks and benchmarks are established by the National Assessment Governing Board and are based on the collaborative input of a wide range of experts and participants in the United States government, education, business, and public sectors,” states set their own standards when creating course objectives.

These standards range across a spectrum from “Basic” to “Proficient.” Remember, most, if not all, of the data derives from pre-Common Core days. So, for instance, while New York State consistently sets its standards on the high end of proficient for all areas – 4th grade reading and math; 8th grade reading and math – “most states set standards equivalent to the “Basic” range in the national assessment. “

Sen. Mike Lee Added a Free-Range Kids Clause to Major Federal Legislation

Lenore Skenazy:

Libertarian-leaning Republican Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a supporter of the Free-Range Kids movement, has proposed groundbreaking federal legislation to protect the rights of kids who want to walk to school on their own.

That’s right: a Free-Range Kids provision made its way into the Every Child Achieves Act, a reauthorization of major federal law that governs funding and regulation of elementary education in the United States. The Free-Range Kids portion of the law would permit kids to walk or ride their bikes to school at an age their parents deem appropriate, without the threat of civil or criminal action.

Laws like this one could prevent—or at least deter—local officials from waging harassment campaigns against parents who want give their kids some autonomy. If this had been the law of the land when the Meitivs allowed their kids to walk home by themselves in Maryland, it might have forestalled the whole shebang. (Though, admittedly, the kids were coming back from the park, not school.)

A rather sad commentary on the nanny state.

Law School Scholarships Foist Surtax On The Neediest Students

Aaron Taylor:

The ABA Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education recently released its report identifying factors driving the high costs of legal education. One factor cited by the task force was law school scholarship policies based on high Law School Admis­sion Test scores, instead of financial need. These policies contribute in large part to high levels of law student debt, particularly among first-generation students. Worse yet, they result in the neediest students paying a tuition premium — a “merit surtax,” if you will — that subsidizes the attendance of their wealthier peers.

An analysis of data from the 2014 administration of the Law School Survey of Student Engagement charts how this phenomenon unfolds. The purpose of the analysis was to identify trends relating to the law school experience that were attributable to socioeconomic factors. … We found that average LSAT scores increased as parental education increased.

Linear Algebra for Data Scientists

Alex Woods:

It’s important to know what goes on inside a machine learning algorithm. But it’s hard. There is some pretty intense math happening, much of which is linear algebra. When I took Andrew Ng’s course on machine learning, I found the hardest part was the linear algebra. I’m writing this for myself as much as you.

So here is a quick review, so next time you look under the hood of an algorithm, you’re more confident. You can view the iPython notebook (usually easier to code with) on my github.

The DOJ is investing millions of dollars in research to spy on students at public schools nationwide

Privacy SOS:

The Department of Justice’s National Institute for Justice funds law enforcement research to the tune of tens of millions of dollars each year. The full list of grants, posted each year, is a valuable insight into future of law enforcement trends in the United States. NIJ funding for 2014 appears to have primarily focused on two issue areas: school safety and clearing DNA backlogs at police departments across the country.

Among the dozens of projects that focus on school safety, there are some that appear progressive, at least judging from the limited amount of information available online. But while a slice of the funding explicitly aims to examine and interrupt the school to prison pipeline using restorative justice methodologies, a lot of the money is going toward research that will probably further entrench disparate outcomes based on race in the criminalizing trend in school discipline.

One of those projects is a City of Chicago Board of Education program called “Connect and Redirect to Respect (CRR),” which aims “to use social media monitoring to identify and connect youth to behavioral interventions.” In other words, the DOJ is giving $2.1 million dollars to the Chicago public schools to conduct research on how spying on student social media can impact school discipline. In New York, police spying on youth social media has resulted in the criminalization of speech.

Former Memorial High School math whiz coaches Team USA to big international win

Doug Erickson:

A math team coached by a Madison Memorial High School graduate is getting praise from President Barack Obama and many others following its David-vs.-Goliath victory over China this week in the International Mathematical Olympiad.

The team of six teenagers, led by coach Po-Shen Loh, 33, topped more than 100 countries during the 10-day competition in Thailand.

The U.S. had not won the competition in 21 years, leading the White House to tweet celebratory congratulations and a “Go Team USA!”

As a high school math whiz, Loh attained considerable acclaim and won numerous state and national honors.

He twice represented Wisconsin in the national MathCounts competition and competed on Team USA in the 1999 International Math Olympiad.

He is now an associate professor of math at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.