A Presentation on 4 Madison High School Athletic Programs, Participants, Spending and Governance

Madison Government Schools Administration (PDF):

Key Findings:

1. In total, 36% of MMSD high school students participated in interscholastic athletics, with participation rates varying by school, grade and demographic group.

2. 61% percent of interscholastic high school student athletes were white.

3. Soccer, cross country, track, and football had the greatest number of participants across the district.

4. Overall, higher percentages of interscholastic high school student athletes received no Ds (71%) or Fs (86%) than non-participants (58% and 66%).

5. All four potential eligibility models explored result in significant disparities in interscholastic athletics eligibility across student groups.

Our First College Ranking

The Economist:

The Economist’s first-ever college rankings are based on a simple, if debatable, premise: the economic value of a university is equal to the gap between how much money its graduates earn, and how much they might have made had they studied elsewhere. Thanks to the scorecard, the first number is easily accessible. The second, however, can only be estimated. To calculate this figure, we ran the scorecard’s earnings data through a multiple regression analysis, a common method of measuring the relationships between variables.


Khulia Pringle:

Every morning I woke up and got my kids dressed ready for school. They knew I was serious as a heart attack when it comes to education. I realize this isn’t what the world believes happens when they think of me. As a black mother living in an urban area I’m supposed to be disengaged. I’m supposed to be uncaring or out of touch. That’s the official story about me and others like me. I hear it from so many sources. We’re supposed to be struggling so much that we can’t be trusted to do at home what middle-class America wants us to do.

Message received. Duly noted.

For the record, that nonsense doesn’t fit me. I find it insulting and it sounds like a cheap way to ignore the problems my kids encounter in public schools. Not problems with the kids, but problems with the adults.

Deja Vu on School Police Calls: School crime stats would be included in state report cards under GOP bill

Molly Beck:

The number and type of crimes committed at high schools, at their events and on school buses would be printed on the state’s school report cards under a bill being circulated this week.

Any public high school, public charter high school or private voucher high school would be required to track reports of criminal activity beginning in the 2017-18 school year and submit the data to the state Department of Public Instruction annually under the bill authored by Rep. John Jagler, R-Watertown.

Jagler said the idea of the bill was triggered by a large fight in September at Milwaukee’s Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education. He said he subsequently learned from police department employees that Milwaukee police are often called to the school, but Jagler could not find related data from the state Department of Justice or DPI.

“I was kind of surprised that the information wasn’t there, or wasn’t easily available — and I was kind of surprised the data wasn’t being tracked,” he said. “To me, I don’t know how anybody can think this information shouldn’t be available to parents.”

Round and round we go.

Obtaining police call data required a rather involved effort several years ago. SIS August 4, 2008:

The absence of local safety data spurred several SIS contributors to obtain and publish the police call data displayed below. Attorney and parent Chan Stroman provided pro bono public records assistance. Chan’s work on this matter extended to the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office. A few important notes on this data:

13% of the records could not be geocoded and therefore are not included in the summary information. The downloadable 1996-2006 police call data .zip file is comprehensive, however.

Clicking on the numbers below takes the reader to a detail page. This page includes all matching police calls and a downloadable .csv file of same. The csv file can be opened in Excel, Numbers and many data management tools.

This summary is rather brief, I hope others download the data and have a look.

Gangs & School Violence forum.

Detroit Public Schools: 93% Not Proficient in Reading; 96% Not Proficient in Math

Terrence Jeffrey:

In the Detroit public school district, 96 percent of eighth graders are not proficient in mathematics and 93 percent are not proficient in reading.

That is according to the results of the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress tests published by the Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics.

Only 4 percent of Detroit public school eighth graders are proficient or better in math and only 7 percent in reading. This is despite the fact that in the 2011-2012 school year—the latest for which the Department of Education has reported the financial data—the Detroit public schools had “total expenditures” of $18,361 per student and “current expenditures” of $13,330 per student.

According to data published by the Detroit Public Schools, the school district’s operating expenses in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2014 amounted to approximately $14,743 per student.

Madison spends more than $15,000 per student, yet has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The Future of Work: The Rise and Fall of the Job


After a century of insisting that the secure, benefits-laden job was the frictionless meritocratic means of rewarding society’s truly valuable work and workers, today we find that half the remaining jobs are in danger of being automated out of existence. Of the 10 fastest-growing job categories, eight require less than a college degree. Over 40 percent of college graduates are working in low-wage jobs, and it isn’t in order to launch their start-up from the garage after the swing shift at Starbucks: The rate of small-business ownership among the under-30 crowd is at the lowest in a generation.

In short, the same tide that swept millions of Americans out to precarity over the 20th century is lapping at suburban doorsteps in the 21st; like that other inconvenient truth, this one can no longer be outsourced to somebody else’s kids. How few “real jobs” have to remain before we can admit that most of the world’s work has always been done under other titles, by different rules—and so take this opportunity to re-consider how we organize and reward it?

Indeed, if there is anything to be celebrated in the current jobless recovery, it is this opportunity at last to assess the job as a social contrivance, not a timeless feature of the physical universe. A dose of historical perspective helps: the job, it turns out, has only recently been considered fit for polite company, let alone transformed into one of the chief desiderata of public life. In contrast to its more venerable cousins “work” and “labor,” “job” is the red-headed stepchild in the family of human action: Prior to the 20th century, in English the term connoted fragmented, poorly executed work—odd jobs, piece-work, chance employment.

By the 17th century’s financial revolution, it also carried the moral taint of chicanery: a “jobber” dealt in wholesale securities on the nascent London Stock Exchange, the classic middleman—implicitly unscrupulous and parasitic—who connected brokers beyond the view of the public. The job knew its place: Samuel Johnson defined it in 1755 as “a low mean lucrative busy affair; petty piddling work.” And yet today the job is mourned in elegiac tones, as it flounders off into obsolescence like the exhausted polar bear swimming after a retreating ice floe.

The Needless Complexity of Academic Writing

Victoria Clayton:

“Persistence is one of the great characteristics of a pitbull, and I guess owners take after their dogs,” says Annetta Cheek, the co-founder of the D.C.-based nonprofit Center for Plain Language. Cheek, an anthropologist by training who left academia in the early 1980s to work for the Federal Aviation Commission, is responsible for something few people realize exists: the 2010 Plain Writing Act. In fact, Cheek was among the first government employees to champion the use of clear, concise language. Once she retired in 2007 from the FAA and gained the freedom to lobby, she leveraged her hatred for gobbledygook to create an actual law. Take a look at recent information put out by many government agencies such as the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—if it lacks needlessly complex sentences or bizarre bureaucratic jargon, it’s largely because of Cheek and her colleagues.

How the Common Core Is Transforming the SAT

Emmanuel Felton:

High-school students who enjoy obscure vocabulary and puzzle-like math problems might want to sign up for the SAT now, before the 89-year-old college-admissions test is revamped this March to better reflect what students are learning in high-school classrooms in the age of the Common Core.

While other standardized tests have also been criticized for rewarding the students who’ve mastered the idiosyncrasies of the test over those who have the best command of the underlying substance, the SAT—with its arcane analogy questions and somewhat counterintuitive scoring practices—often received special scorn.

Study Links Antibiotics With Weight Gain in Children

Gautum Naik::

Children given antibiotics gain weight more quickly than those who don’t take the medicines, and their weight gain can be cumulative and progressive, new research shows.

The study, which tracked nearly 164,000 children in Pennsylvania, concluded that healthy youngsters at age 15 who had been prescribed antibiotics seven or more times in their childhood weighed about 3 pounds more than those who didn’t take these medicines.

“Antibiotics at any age contribute to weight gain,” said Brian S. Schwartz, a physician and epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead author of the study. The research was published Wednesday in the International Journal of Obesity.

Why Are More Young Adults Still Living at Home?

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:

Nationally, nearly half of 25-year-olds lived with their parents in 2012-2013, up from just over a quarter in 1999. A recent article in The Regional Economist examined statistics and reviewed some of the literature on millennials moving back home.1

Economist Maria Canon and Regional Economist Charles Gascon noted that many factors have been suggested for why young adults return to or continue living at home, including significant student debt, weak job prospects and an uncertain housing market. The table below breaks down the percentage of 25-year-olds who were living at home for the period 2012-2013 in each state in the Federal Reserve’s Eighth District as well as in the country as a whole.2

The Rise and Fall of For-Profit Schools

James Suroweicki:

Today, the for-profit-education bubble is deflating. Regulators have been cracking down on the industry’s misdeeds—most notably, lying about job-placement rates. In May, Corinthian Colleges, once the second-largest for-profit chain in the country, went bankrupt. Enrollment at the University of Phoenix has fallen by more than half since 2010; a few weeks ago, the Department of Defense said that it wouldn’t fund troops who enrolled there. Other institutions have experienced similar declines.

The fundamental problem is that these schools made promises they couldn’t keep. For-profit colleges are far more expensive than community colleges, their closest peers, but, according to a 2013 study by three Harvard professors, their graduates have lower earnings and are actually more likely to end up unemployed. To make matters worse, these students are usually in a lot of debt. Ninety-six per cent of them take out loans, and they owe an average of more than forty thousand dollars. According to a study by the economists Adam Looney and Constantine Yannelis, students at for-profit schools are roughly three times as likely to default as students at traditional colleges. And the ones who don’t default often use deferments to stay afloat: according to the Department of Education, seventy-one per cent of the alumni of American National University hadn’t repaid a dime, even after being out of school for five years.

More parents, students saying ‘no’ to homework

Kathy Boccella:

Amy Clipston had a request that was a new one for her daughter’s first-grade teacher.

Many parents had marched in to demand that their children, even those who couldn’t tie their shoes yet, get more homework. Clipston was the first to request the opposite – that her daughter opt out of homework altogether.

“I felt my child was doing quite fine in school,” said Clipston, a chemist with three children, noting that her daughter’s schoolday in the highly competitive Lower Merion School District was 61/2 hours, with a 20-minute recess. “I felt 10 to 20 minutes of homework a night was not accomplishing anything.”



Depending on whom you ask, the use of the active voice over the passive is arguably the most fundamental writer’s maxim, thought to lend weight, truth, and power to declarative statements. This absolutist view is flawed, however, because language is an art of nuance. From time to time, writers may well find illustrative value in the lightest of phrases, sentences so weightless and feathery that they scarcely even seem to exist at all. These can convey details well beyond the crude thrust of the hulking active voice, and when used strictly as ornamentation, they needn’t actually convey anything at all.

As a thought experiment, let’s examine in extremely close detail a set of iterative changes that can be made to a single simple grammatical structure, turning it from a statement taken at face value into one loaded with unrealized implication. This makes for rich writing which rewards – or even demands – close scrutiny.

Why Black and Latino Parents are Placing a Premium on Education

Chris Stewart:

e results of a new Education Post poll illustrate varying perspectives on secondary education in America across racial and socio-economic lines. The 2015 Parent Poll surveyed a cross-section of over 1,000 parents and guardians of K-12 public school students on topics related to education ranging from the use of common core in schools, thoughts on improving failing schools, to the importance of college.

The poll found that parents, generally, had an optimistic outlook on education for students in poverty, with nearly 70 percent of parents believing that parents and teachers can overcome the challenges faced by needy children. This view was shared among parents at a 2-to 1 ratio and is consistent with the view of many Black parents who place high value on parental involvement and feel family units and parents are responsible for their children’s level of success in school.

Can a Video Game Teach Just as Well as a Professor?

Sarah Grant:

An experiment conducted by John Beck, Ph.D., at Hult International Business School found that a business strategy video game proved just as effective in teaching students as a professor.

Beck recruited 41 undergraduate students to take an an MBA-level course in that business strategy. Half of the group was taught by a professor. The other half spent the same amount of time playing a video game called One Day that Beck designed and developed with his consultancy, North Star Leadership Group.

Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s new school: Private, but free

Olivia Lowenburg:

The school is not a charter school, according to its website, but is “a private, non-profit school” that will partner with the Ravenswood Family Health Center, a nearby health clinic, to provide free healthcare services for students and their families.

When The Primary School opens in August 2016, it will offer parent-and-child classes for babies and toddlers and full-day pre-K classes for 3- and 4-year-olds. The school plans to add a grade level each year, slowly growing into a birth through 12th grade free, private school

Young adults are increasingly getting bankrolled by their parents, yet rarely talk about it


Jordana Gilman, a 24-year-old Ivy League graduate, is studying to be a doctor at SUNY Upstate Medical University. She has worked part-time jobs since she was 15 years old, balancing babysitter, restaurant hostess, and camp counselor gigs with heavy course loads to save money and carve out a little bit of financial independence. Yet as an adult living away from home, she gets an occasional check from her parents to cover the cost of groceries, movie tickets, and meals out.

“I feel embarrassed that I can’t support myself,” Gilman says, adding that she’s “immensely grateful” for the help. Her investment in medical school left her strapped for cash and time, she says, and it would be nearly impossible to make ends meet without her parents supplementing her income.

High quality child care is out of reach for working families

By Elise Gould and Tanyell Cooke:

recent decades most Americans have endured stagnant hourly pay, despite significant economy-wide income growth (Bivens and Mishel 2015). In essence, only a fraction of overall economic growth is trickling down to typical households. There is no silver bullet for ensuring ordinary Americans share in the country’s prosperity; instead, it will take a range of policies. Some should give workers more leverage in the labor market, and some should expand social insurance and public investments to boost incomes. An obvious example of the latter is helping American families cope with the high cost of child care.

K-12 Achievement, Tax & Spending Climate: Baby Boomers Hugely Underestimate What They Need for Retirement

Kate Davidson:

When it comes to saving for retirement, there’s a huge gap between what Americans say they want and what they’re doing to make it happen.

A new survey from BlackRock on attitudes about money and financial goals found Americans are holding nearly twice as much cash as they think they ought to in order to reach their retirement goals. Fewer than a quarter of them regularly set aside money into long-term savings or investment plans—yet 74% said they feel financially secure and “prepared to pursue their dreams.”

Baby boomers, who are retiring in droves, face a staggering shortfall. People ages 55 to 64 who responded to the online survey said they expected to have about $45,000 in annual income in retirement. But the amount they had saved would only provide an estimated $9,129—a potential $36,371 gap.

A Randomized Control Trial of a Statewide Voluntary Prekindergarten Program on Children’s Skills and Behaviors through Third Grade

Mark W. Lipsey, Dale C. Farran & Kerry G. Hofer:

The third question we addressed involved the sustainability of effects on achievement and behavior beyond kindergarten entry. Children in both groups were followed and reassessed in the spring every year with over 90% of the initial sample located tested on each wave. By the end of kindergarten, the control children had caught up to the TN‐VPK [preschool] children and there were no longer significant differences between them on any achievement measures. The same result was obtained at the end of first grade using both composite achievement measures.

In second grade, however, the groups began to diverge with the TN‐VPK children scoring lower than the control children on most of the measures. The differences were significant on both achievement composite measures and on the math subtests.

On immigrant children:
whether or not ESL children experienced TN‐VPK, by the end of third grade, their achievement was greater than either of the native English speaking groups of children.

More here and here.

Political rigidity? The left has it, too

Lynnell Mickelsen:

Education Minnesota is the largest contributor to Democratic candidates and causes. It sets the tone and parameters of our education debates, which, among elected Democrats, are now predictably rigid and scripted — and this concerns a program that consumes 42 percent of the state’s operating budget, affects hundreds of thousands of children and has shamefully racialized results.

There are so many taboo topics, so many things that cannot be said for fear of setting off our funders, so many conspiracy theories, so much dismissal of data. Instead of leading on education issues, our elected Democrats, from school board members to legislators, act a lot like — God, this is painful — Republicans trying to placate their fundie base.

Our side on the education divide ducks, dodges and mostly dissembles. We block change and innovation. We defend the traditional system no matter what. And low-income children of color pay the biggest price.

How do you change a fundamentalist culture? You mostly can’t — it’s hard-wired to resist change. But for starters, we could at least admit it’s nutty.

Initial data show students at Kipp’s Life Academy in Newark are doing better than when they went to a district school

Leslie Brody:

Ask Caleb Brooks, a 9-year-old in Newark, about his old school, and he points to a scar under his left eyebrow. He says he had to get stitches after an eighth-grader shoved his head into a table.

Caleb went to Bragaw Avenue School, a traditional public school that was one of the worst-performing in a troubled city system. Enrollment was low and more than a quarter of its students were chronically absent.

Meanwhile, Madison’s one size fits all model continues, despite its long term disastrous reading results.

Vanderbilt Takes on Federal Regs, Redux

Michael Stratford:

The nation’s colleges and universities collectively spend an estimated $27 billion each year trying to comply with federal requirements.

Or so says the latest Vanderbilt University report aimed at highlighting the burden of federal regulation on institutions of higher education.
The report, which is being published today, comes several months after the university courted controversy over how its president represented the findings of an initial review of regulatory burden on its own campus. Vanderbilt’s assertion, repeated by congressional lawmakers — that it spent some $11,000 per student on compliance costs — was widely panned as misleading. Many of the costs the university counted were affiliated with its role in medical education and treatment, with far fewer costs associated with regulations from the U.S. Department of Education.
The new study expands on the original, and looks at how an additional dozen colleges and universities of varying sizes and missions dealt with federal regulations on their campus. Included, for example, were Belmont University, Rasmussen College, De Anza Community College and the University of California at Berkeley.

How the Global Financial Crisis Drove Down Collective Bargaining

Melanie Trottman:

The decline, which follows a longer-term slide in union membership rates in many countries, reflects a variety of factors. Legislation allowed some financially troubled companies to opt out of their bargaining agreements. The recession also made it more difficult to renew existing pacts. Meanwhile, some governments made it harder to negotiate national and sector-wide agreements reached by union federations and employer groups, favoring company-level pacts instead.

The study makes the case that wage inequality is rising, so public policies are needed to shore up collective bargaining and make it more inclusive. It says that bargaining coverage varies widely across a broader group of 75 countries, ranging from one or two percent of employees in Malaysia and Ethiopia to nearly 100% in Belgium and France.

Unfree Speech on Campus

Wall Street Journal:

Williams College (Tuition and fees: $63,290) has undertaken an “Uncomfortable Learning” Speaker Series in order to provide intellectual diversity on a campus where (like most campuses) left-leaning sentiment prevails. What a good idea! How is it working out? The conservative writer Suzanne Venker was invited to speak in this series. But when word got out that an alternative point of view might be coming to Williams, angry students demanded her invitation be rescinded. It was. Explaining their decision, her hosts noted that the prospect of her visit was “stirring a lot of angry reactions among students on campus.” So Suzanne Venker joins a long and distinguished list of people—including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, George Will, and Charles Murray—first invited then disinvited to speak on campus. It’s been clear for some time that such interdictions are not bizarre exceptions. On the contrary, they are perfect reflections of an ingrained hostility to free speech—and, beyond that, to free thought—in academia.

To put some numbers behind that perception, The William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale recently commissioned a survey from McLaughlin & Associates about attitudes towards free speech on campus. Some 800 students at a variety of colleges across the country were surveyed. The results, though not surprising, are nevertheless alarming. By a margin of 51 percent to 36 percent, students favor their school having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty. Sixty-three percent favor requiring professors to employ “trigger warnings” to alert students to material that might be discomfiting. One-third of the students polled could not identify the First Amendment as the part of the Constitution that dealt with free speech. Thirty-five percent said that the First Amendment does not protect “hate speech,” while 30 percent of self-identified liberal students say the First Amendment is outdated. With the assault on free speech and the First Amendment proceeding apace in institutions once dedicated to robust intellectual debate, it is no wonder that there are more and more calls to criminalize speech that dissents from the party line on any number of issues, from climate change to race relations, to feminism and sex.

“because most young Americans cannot do tricky sums without a calculator” Sobering

The Economist:

Spurned by the elite
That leaves 4.5m young Americans eligible to serve, of whom only around 390,000 are minded to, provided they do not get snapped up by a college or private firm instead—as tends to happen to the best of them. Indeed, a favourite mantra of army recruiters, that they are competing with Microsoft and Google, is not really true. With the annual exception of a few hundred sons and daughters of retired officers, America’s elite has long since turned its nose up at military service. Well under 10% of army recruits have a college degree; nearly half belong to an ethnic minority.

The pool of potential recruits is too small to meet America’s, albeit shrunken, military needs; especially, as now, when the unemployment rate dips below 6%. This leaves the army, the least-favoured of the four services, having either to drop its standards or entice those not minded to serve with generous perks. After it failed to meet its recruiting target in 2005, a time of high employment and bad news from Baghdad, it employed both strategies zealously. To sustain what was, by historical standards, only a modest surge in Iraq, around 2% of army recruits were accepted despite having failed to meet academic and other criteria; “We accepted a risk on quality,” grimaces General Snow, an Iraq veteran. Meanwhile the cost of the army’s signing-on bonu

The 50 Most Popular MOOCs of All Time

Online Course Report:

There are now thousands of MOOCs available worldwide from several hundred colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning. For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of 50 of the most popular MOOCs, based on enrollment figures for all sessions of a course. The ranking is based on filtering enrollment data for 185 free MOOCs on various elearning platforms.

The Algorithmic Future of Education

Audrey Waters:

This is – I think (I hope) – the last keynote I will deliver this year. It’s the 11th that I’ve done. I try to prepare a new talk each time I present, in no small part because it keeps me interested and engaged, pushing my thinking and writing forward, learning. And we’re told frequently as of late that as the robots come to take our jobs, they will take first the work that can be most easily automated. So to paraphrase the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, any keynote speaker that can be replaced by a machine should be.
That this is my last keynote of the year does not mean that I’m on vacation until 2016. If you’re familiar with my website Hack Education, you know that I spend the final month or so of each year reviewing everything that’s happened in the previous 12 months, writing an in-depth analysis of the predominant trends in education technology. I try in my work to balance this recent history with a deeper, longer view: what do we know about education technology today based on education technology this year, this decade, this century – what might that tell us about the shape of things to come.

A Chance to Boost Financial Aid for Today’s High-School Sophomores

Veronica Dagher

Attention, parents of high-school sophomores: There are financial steps you may want to take before year-end to help your child get more financial aid for the freshman year of college.

A recent executive order signed by President Barack Obama will change the rules for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid beginning with aid for the 2017-18 school year. Families will complete the form based on their “prior prior year” income instead of prior-year income as they do now.

That means that current high-school sophomores who graduate in 2018 will use 2016, not 2017, as the base year in reporting family and student income on their first Fafsa form. The government form is used in determining the amount of grants, loans and other forms of financial aid.

Why Aren’t There More Black Scientists?

Gail Heriot:

Remember when Justice Sandra Day O’Connor predicted in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) that universities would no longer need race-preferential admissions policies in 25 years? By the end of this year, that period will be half over. Yet the level of preferential treatment given to minority students has, if anything, increased.

Meanwhile, numerous studies—as I explain in a recent report for the Heritage Foundation—show that the supposed beneficiaries of affirmative action are less likely to go on to high-prestige careers than otherwise-identical students who attend schools where their entering academic credentials put them in the middle of the class or higher. In other words, encouraging black students to attend schools where their entering credentials place them near the bottom of the class has resulted in fewer black physicians, engineers, scientists, lawyers and professors than would otherwise be the case.

How well do Minnesota’s education programs prepare students to be teachers? It’s almost impossible to tell

Beth Hawkins:

In 2013, the education programs at Minnesota State University-Moorhead boasted a 100 percent employment rate for its graduates. A big, round number indeed — and only an incremental uptick from 2012 and 2011, when rates were 99 percent and 98 percent, respectively.

That’s a higher rate than the one posted by Harvard Law. It’s higher than the number of Ph.D.s from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that go straight into the workforce and the number of newly minted Carlson School MBAs with job offers.

Enviable or unbelievable? The fact that it’s impossible to say makes the claim a good starting point for a discussion of exactly how hard it is to evaluate outcomes of Minnesota’s teacher-training programs, and to probe whether they are recruiting and training the right teachers.

Reinventing The Library

Alberto Manguel:

Plato, in the “Timaeus,” says that when one of the wisest men of Greece, the statesman Solon, visited Egypt, he was told by an old priest that the Greeks were like mere children because they possessed no truly ancient traditions or notions “gray with time.” In Egypt, the priest continued proudly, “there is nothing great or beautiful or remarkable that is done here, or in your country, or in any other land that has not been long since put into writing and preserved in our temples.”

Such colossal ambition coalesced under the Ptolemaic dynasty. In the third century B.C., more than half a century after Plato wrote his dialogues, the kings ordered that every book in the known world be collected and placed in the great library they had founded in Alexandria. Hardly anything is known of it except its fame: neither its site (it was perhaps a section of the House of the Muses) nor how it was used, nor even how it came to its end. Yet, as one of history’s most distinguished ghosts, the Library of Alexandria became the archetype of all libraries.

The Best Hope for Teacher Unions Is… Reform

Peter Cunningham:

America’s teachers unions probably will not put reform leaders like Newark’s Chris Cerf, Philadelphia’s William Hite, D.C’s Kaya Henderson, or Denver’s Tom Boasberg at the top of their Christmas card mailing list. But they should, because no one is working harder to improve and preserve traditional, unionized, district-run schools.

Yes, these and other reform superintendents support creating new, high-quality schools, including public charters, and giving all parents the power to choose the right schools for their children. But they and their leadership teams are most deeply committed to investing in and strengthening the existing district-run schools. No one wants these schools to work for kids more than these district leaders.

Coding Academies Are Nonsense

Stephen Nichols:

In more than 20 years of personal experience with coding, interacting with kids trying to learn code and observing users learning GameSalad, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of folks hit a wall early in the process. Academies like Code Academy boast 24 million+ users, but have few success stories, likely for the same reason. Most people fall off the wagon because they don’t understand the mind of the computer and, as such, find translating their intent into programming language hopelessly difficult.

Put succinctly, coding is writing text files in foreign languages containing instructions suitable for an absolute idiot to follow. Unlike human readers, computers cannot infer meaning from ambiguous text. So, to code, one must become very good at deconstructing problems into their most basic steps and spelling them out for the idiot box.

Apps of any appreciable complexity are constructed with a tremendous number of text files. As an example, just our GameSalad Creator app consists of 6,972,123 lines of code spread over 41,702 files. That’s equivalent to a book with 116,202 pages.

Alan Borsuk:

It’s a vastly different picture now. Many of the limitations are gone; an estimated 26,900 students who live in the city of Milwaukee are using vouchers to attend 117 private schools, the vast majority of them religious. Public spending for the current school year will exceed $190 million.

And that’s just Milwaukee. Vouchers became available in Racine four years ago, with a capped enrollment under 250. The cap is gone now and voucher enrollment is about 2,200, according to state estimates. That’s about 10% of the Racine public school enrollment.

Then there’s the statewide program. Now in its third year, the caps initially placed on it have been weakened and will fade in coming years. This fall, outside of Milwaukee and Racine, about 3,000 students are using vouchers to attend 79 private schools (out of a total of more than 650 private schools).

In total, that’s about 32,000 vouchers students, between 3% and 4% of Wisconsin public school enrollment. This year, kindergarten through eighth grade students generally bring $7,214 each to their private schools; high school students bring $7,860.

Bender said he sees a lot of parallels between the statewide program now and the Milwaukee program in its early years. And the long-term Milwaukee story has been one of changing rules to expand the program and who can take part.

Madison spends more than $15,000 per student, annually, yet has long produced disastrous reading results.

A fascinating aspect of language looks to be biologically hardwired in our brains

Thu-Huong Ha::

Does the Turkish word küçük (pronounced coo-chook) mean “big” or “small”? If you guessed the latter without knowing the language, you’re right—and there may be a cognitive explanation for your instinct.

In a study published in Cognition earlier this year, researchers tested people’s ability to guess at the meanings of words based on their sounds.

Kaitlyn Bankieris, a cognitive scientist from the University of Rochester, and Julia Simner, a psychologist and leader in the field of synesthesia, showed participants 400 adjectives from 10 languages they didn’t speak: Albanian, Dutch, Gujarati, Indonesian, Korean, Mandarin, Romanian, Tamil, Turkish, and Yoruba. The words were broken up into categories by meaning: big/small, bright/dark, up/down, or loud/quiet. Participants heard the words spoken aloud and guessed their meanings.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Ongoing Spending And Property Tax Growth….. Madison Plans Another 4.5% increase

Molly Beck:

In April, 76 percent of the referendums to exceed revenue limits passed. That compares to a typical rate of about 50 percent in years prior. This represents a changing perception of the state’s support of public schools, said Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

“This reflects a shift in public opinion due, I think, to tighter state-imposed restraint on aids and revenue limits in recent years,” Berry said. “There is one instance above all when locals will vote to tax themselves: a fear that they might lose their community’s or neighborhood’s school.”

One bill — yet to be introduced but available in draft form — would require school boards to ask voters to approve referendums only during the traditional spring or fall elections, and prohibit school boards from going back to voters for two years after a referendum is rejected.

Currently, school boards can hold special elections for referendums and can go back to voters during the next scheduled election if a question fails.

Another bill bans school boards from exceeding their state-imposed revenue limits in order to pay for energy-efficiency projects — an exception to levy limits that lawmakers created in 2009.

Compare Madison’s property tax growth and income stagnation. Despite spending more than $15,000 per student annually – double the national average, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Fall, 2015 Madison prperty tax growth rhetoric and posturing.

America’s Smart Kids Left Behind

Education News, via a kind reader::

Catching up to our global peers will require changing education policy and culture

Intel’s recent announcement that it will cease sponsoring and underwriting the prestigious Science Talent Search (which it took over from Westinghouse in 1998) is another nail in the coffin of “gifted education” in the United States.

Unlike many European and Asian countries, which are awash in academic competitions, Olympiads, and other status-laden contests that bright students (and their schools and teachers) vie to win, American K‒12 education has relatively few that anyone notices, save for the National Spelling Bee that Scripps has valiantly stuck with since 1941. But spelling bees are for middle schoolers. The big deal for high schoolers, at least those with a bent toward STEM subjects, has long been the Science Talent Search, which President George H. W. Bush called the “Super Bowl of science.”
Intel’s turnabout surprised that firm’s former CEO, Craig Barrett, and disheartened many who care about both STEM education and gifted education. It’s another sign of America’s inattention to high-ability learners, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances. That neglect is what triggered our new book, Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students. All sorts of data—from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, from research studies including the 2011 Fordham Institute report, “Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? Performance Trends of Top Students” by Robert Theaker and his colleagues, and elsewhere—have shown that high achievers made lesser gains in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era than did low achievers. Policy efforts that raised the floor and eased the achievement gap did so at the expense of strong students, who were already nudging the ceiling. Under NCLB, schools and teachers had scant incentive to work hard with kids who were already “proficient.” And so they didn’t, especially in places full of poor and minority kids, so many of whom needed extra help to become proficient.

That’s what learning feels like

Jeffrey Frderick:

None of us like to be wrong. I’ve tested this with many audiences, asking them “how does it feel when you’re wrong?” “Embarrassing”, “humiliating” or simply “bad” are among the most common answers. Stop now and try and think of your own list of words to describe the feeling of being wrong.

These common and universally negative answers are great from a teaching perspective, because they are answers to the wrong question. “Bad” isn’t how you feel when you’re wrong; it’s how it feels when you discover you were wrong! Being wrong feels exactly like being right. This question and this insight come from Kathryn Schulz’s TED Talk, On being wrong. Schulz talks about the “internal sense of rightness” we feel, and the problems that result. I think there’s a puzzle here: we’ve all had the experience of being certain while also being wrong. If the results are “embarrassing”, why do we continue to trust our internal feeling of certainty?

My answer comes from Thinking Fast & Slow. That sense of certainty comes from our System 1, the fast, intuitive, pattern recognition part of our brain. We operate most of our lives listening to System 1. It is what allows us to brush our teeth, cross a street, navigate our way through a dinner party. It is the first filter for everything we see and hear. It is how we make sense of the world. We trust our sense of certainty because System 1 is the origin of most of our impulses and actions. If we couldn’t trust System 1, if we had to double check everything with the slow expensive analytical System 2, we would be paralyzed. So we need our System 1 and we need the sense of certainty it provides. We also need to be aware it can lead us astray.

Second Acts: A Former Banker’s Crash Course in Teaching

Wall Street Journal:

A teacher’s first year in the classroom is never easy; creating lesson plans from scratch and learning the ropes requires long hours. It’s doubly hard when you start teaching at age 59, as Dora Currea did.

Ms. Currea recently finished her first year of teaching at High Point High School in Beltsville, Md., a school serving about 2,400 mostly low-income students. She was hired at High Point after participating in Teach for America, a nonprofit that trains people from diverse backgrounds to become teachers. In return, TFA participants make a two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools.

Online Mathematical Textbooks

George Cain:

The writing of textbooks and making them freely available on the web is an idea whose time has arrived. Most college mathematics textbooks attempt to be all things to all people and, as a result, are much too big and expensive. This perhaps made some sense when these books were rather expensive to produce and distribute–but this time has passed.

A Software/Design Method for Predicting Readability for ESL Students

Diana Cembreros Castaño:

The objective of this research is to present a web application that predicts L2 text readability. The software is intended to assist ESL teachers in selecting texts written at a level of difficulty that corresponds with the target students’ lexical competence. The ranges are obtained by statistical approach using distribution probability and an optimized version of the word frequency class algorithm, with the aid of WordNet and a lemmatised list for the British National Corpus. Additionally, the program is intended to facilitate the method of selection of specialised texts for teachers of ESP using proportionality and lists of specialised vocabulary.

This web application is a free and open source software system that enables ESL/ESP teachers to carry out a comprehensive speed analysis without requiring knowledge of either computational linguistics or word frequency distributions and the underlying logarithmic proportionality.

How a niche Chicago site cracked open a major schools scandal

Jackie Spinner:

That wasn’t the case two years ago when Sarah Karp, a veteran education reporter, first disclosed details of a questionable $20.5 million no-bid contract to train school administrators. Karp’s initial reporting on the contract, which ran on the website of the newsmagazine Catalyst Chicago, didn’t make much of a splash. But it caught the attention of the school district’s inspector general, who reached out to Karp to learn more. It also drew notice from federal prosecutors, whose investigation into the case became public earlier this year—the US Attorney even made reference to Karp’s 2013 article when he announced the indictment this month. A few days later, the former schools chief, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, pleaded guilty to fraud.

“Half of the top-performing schools serving low-income students in California are charters, Status Quo In Madison

Kimberly Beltran:

, according to a new analysis of scores from this year’s Common Core-aligned assessments.

In a brief report that underscores large achievement gaps between student subgroups on the state’s new standardized tests, the non-profit Education Trust-West study revealed that on lists of the top 10 highest performing schools in English language arts and mathematics, charters equaled or outnumbered traditional public schools even though charters account for only about nine percent of the total number of schools statewide.

Seven charters were among the top 10 schools based on eighth-grade student math scores while charters matched traditional schools at five for both third grade and 11th grade English language arts performance.

“It is crucial that California celebrates and learns from the schools that are yielding the strongest results for those students with the greatest needs,” Myrna Castrejon, acting CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, said in a statement. “Clearly charters are fulfilling their mission of helping historically under-served students get the education they deserve.”

A Disadvantaged Start Hurts Boys More Than Girls

Claire Cain Millee:

Boys are falling behind. They graduate from high school and attend college at lower rates than girls and are more likely to get in trouble, which can hurt them when they enter the job market. This gender gap exists across the United States, but it is far bigger for poor people and for black people. As society becomes more unequal, it seems, it hurts boys more.

New research from social scientists offers one explanation: Boys are more sensitive than girls to disadvantage. Any disadvantage, like growing up in poverty, in a bad neighborhood or without a father, takes more of a toll on boys than on their sisters. That realization could be a starting point for educators, parents and policy makers who are trying to figure out how to help boys — particularly those from black, Latino and immigrant families.

Trickle Down Academic Elitism

Will Fitzhugh:

When [mid-20th century] I was in a private school in Northern California, I won a “gold” medal for first place in a track meet of the Private School Conference of Northern California for the high jump [5’6”]—which I thought was pretty high.

My “peers” in the Bay Area public high schools at the time were already clearing 6 feet, but I was, in fact, not in their league.

As the decades went by, high school students were clearing greater and greater heights, in the same way records were falling in all other sports.

The current boys high school record, set in July 2002, by Andra Manson of Kingston, Jamaica, at a high school in Brenham, Texas, is 7 feet, 7 inches. [high jump, not pole vault].

How did this happen? Well, not by keeping progress in the high jump a secret.

A number of private schools in the Boston area have put an end to all academic prizes and honors, to keep those who don’t get them from feeling bad, but they still keep score in games, and they still report on and give prizes for elite academic performances.

It seems obvious to me that by letting high school athletes know that the record for the high jump was moving up from five feet nothing to 7 feet, 7 inches, some large group of high school athletes decided to work at it and try to jump higher, with real success since 1950.

The Boston Globe has about 150 pages a year on high school sports, highlighting best performances in and results from all manner of athletic competitions. This must fuel ambition in other high school athletes to achieve more themselves, and even to merit mention in the media.

When it comes to high school academic achievement, on the other hand, The Boston Globe seems content to devote one page a year to just the valedictorians at the public high schools in Boston itself [usually half of them were born in another country, it seems].

Why is it that we are comfortable encouraging, supporting, seeking and celebrating elite performance in high school sports, but we seem shy, embarrassed, reluctant, ashamed, and even afraid to encourage, support, and acknowledge—much less celebrate—outstanding academic work by high school students?

Whatever the reasons, it seems likely that what we do will bring us more and better athletic efforts and achievements by high school students, while those students who really do want to achieve at the elite levels in their academic work can just keep all that to themselves, thank you very much. Seems pretty stupid to me, if we want, as we keep saying we want, higher academic achievement in our schools. Just a thought.


Public Research Universities: Changes in State Funding – Note Healthcare & K-12 Tax & Spending Growth

The Lincoln Project (PDF):

Measured in inflation-adjusted dollars per full-time equiv- alent (fte) student, states have been cutting this support for well over a decade, and spending cuts accelerated in response to the Great Recession. Between 2008 and 2013, states cut appropriation support per fte student in the median public research university by more than 26 percent (overall, support per fte student at the median public institution was cut by more than 20 percent).

The decline in support in part reflects difficult choices states have made in response to manda- tory spending programs like Medicaid, rising pension contributions, and a desire to preserve k–12 education.3
Today, public research universities still rely on state appropriations for approximately 51 percent of their educational revenue, although the percentage fluctuates widely by institution—ucla, for example, receives only 7 percent of its funding from the state. For most public institutions, further cuts could be devastating.

Via Richard Askey.

Wisconsin K-12 Spending Dominates Local Transfers and Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding

Foundations of Reading Results (Wisconsin Education Schools), or MTEL arrives

Wisconsin Reading Coalition Comments:

Wisconsin’s DPI provided the results to-date of the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading exam to School Information System, which posted an analysis. Be aware that the passing score from January, 2014 through August, 2014, was lower than the passing score in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Since September of 2014, the Wisconsin passing score has been the same as those states. SIS reports that the overall Wisconsin pass rate under the lower passing score was 92%, while the pass rate since August of 2014 has been 78%. This ranges from around 55% at one campus to 93% at another. The pass rate of 85% that SIS lists in its main document appears to include all the candidates who passed under the lower cut score.

Foundations of Reading Results 9/2014 to 8/2015 (Wisconsin Education Schools)

Additional documents:

Reading results to date (.docx and .xls)

January 2014 to August 2014 (.docx and .xls)

September 2014 to August 2015 (.docx and .xls)

To Date (.docx and .xls)

Notes and links:

MTEL arrives in Wisconsin.

A Capitol Conversation.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

The Need for Public School Choice for Teachers

Kayla Vickaryous:

Eight months ago I made a major decision that some might consider a road less traveled. I consider it the only logical choice.

Last February, I accepted a job as a founding teacher at the new Destiny Middle School – the first public charter middle school in the Puget Sound region, and one of only nine charter schools in the state. As a sixth grade teacher, I have seen firsthand the challenges that are so difficult to overcome in a large, traditional school district.

I did not make this decision to join a new charter school lightly. At my former school, I worked for intelligent administrators, passionate teachers, and tenacious, bright, and resilient students. I did not leave my former position as a 6th grade English language arts teacher at a traditional public school because I didn’t believe in the good intentions of my fellow employees or the potential of my students, but because I am certain this potential was stifled by a system of inequity; a system where the seemingly simple concept of choice is diminished by competing political agendas and a prescriptive approach to teaching a multitude of diverse learners.

PBS NewsHour Issues On-Air Apology Over Success Academy Segment

Alexander Russo:

While the NewsHour regrets the decision to include that particular mother and child without providing Ms. Moskowitz with an opportunity to respond, the NewsHour stands by the report.”

As I wrote a couple of days ago, the emails posted between Merrow and Moskowitz seem to provide reassurance that she would be able to respond, and Moskowitz might not have been wise in allowing Merrow to do the story given the likelihood that it would come out critical. She is very fortunate that PBS went along with at least part of her request for a clarification. It’s not very many news outlets that would issue this kind of clarification for something that was not a matter of factual accuracy.

More from Laura Waters.

Can an App Help Detect Autism?

Emily Matchar:

Autism spectrum disorders—a group of related neurodevelopment conditions that impair communication and social interaction—are incredibly common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every 68 American children has been diagnosed with some form of autism. With intervention (the earlier the better), many autistic children flourish. Unfortunately, early diagnosis is the exception rather than the rule. Nationwide, the average age of diagnosis is four years old.

Now, a team of researchers at Duke University has released a free app, called Autism & Beyond, to mechanize part of the autism screening process. The app is available to anyone with an iPhone who is willing to take part in a Duke study.

Should we turn high school into college?


On paper, the mostly Hispanic kids in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA), located just miles from the Mexican border, have the odds stacked against them when it comes to academic success. The district is in one of the poorest congressional districts in the country and nearly 90 percent of students are low-income. Most of their parents didn’t go to college. About a quarter of those over 25 in the area didn’t even make it to high school, more than four times the national average. Statistically speaking, district kids are the kinds of students who are less likely to graduate from high school, go to college and earn a degree.

The Fact-Check: Mainstream Media Picks Up Anti-Charter Report, But Fails to Disclose Union Funding

Eric Owens:

And the real success story in charter schools is not in wealthy suburbs where comfortably middle-class kids and rich kids attend public schools with abundant resources, Mahoney stressed, but in urban areas where poor kids live and where public schools have been failing students and families for decades.

“You are beginning to see the academic outcomes the teachers unions have feared. Kids attending charter schools are learning much more, as measured by the same math and reading tests kids take in traditional public schools,” Mahoney said.

“Poverty is not a final destination for these kids. Charter schools have shown that kids from impoverished backgrounds cannot be written off.”

K-12 tax & spending climate: “Gutting Pension Reform = Gutting Education Aid”

NJ Education Aid:

Unfortunately, New Jersey is bankrupt even without having to pay COLA benefits. The state pension funds are only 38% funded, the worst in the United States. In absolute terms, New Jersey’s debt is usually estimated at $85 billion, although some measures put New Jersey’s debt at twice that. New Jersey’s debt per person is $52,300, also the worst in the United States. In terms of debt to Gross State Product, New Jersey’s debt is the second worst, after Hawaii’s.

New Jersey’s bond rating is the second worst in the US, after Illinois’, and the pension funds will start going broke in 2021, when the judiciary fund (JRS) will zero-out. The state portion of PERS will be depleted in 2014 and TPAF, the teachers fund and the biggest of all, will go broke in 2027. After a fund zeros-out, New Jersey will have no investment income to sustain pension payouts and will have to rely on contributions from active workers, localities, and regular operating revenue to meet pension obligations. As of now, if the state used regular operating revenue to pay pensions it

would cost at least $4 billion a year. $4 billion is equal to half of K-12 operating aid or 90% of all state operations.

New Jersey’s debts might be payable if the economy were robust, but New Jersey’s economy is barely growing. In 2014 New Jersey’s growth rate was 0.4% compared to a national average of 1.9%. This means that the state’s economy cannot sustain the tax increases that would be necessary to pay the full pensions, let alone pensions with COLAs.

Lest anyone simply think the economic lethargy would end if we had a Democratic governor, New Jersey’s economy has been a national laggard for the last 15 years. Since 2000, New Jersey’s economy has only grown by 0.8% a year, only half the national average and fifth from the bottom. In those fifteen years, New Jersey’s economy only outperformed the national economy twice, in 2008 and 2012.

Statistics and Biology – a match made in heaven?

Natasha Little:

The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone’s backyard” is the now infamous quote from John Tukey and it is one that I whole heartedly get on board with. I have been a medical statistician for about eight years and in that time I have had the opportunity to work on research projects that have been focussed on epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, malaria and diet and nutrition. But why does being a statistician offer us these exciting opportunities? Well I believe that statistics has to be undoubtedly one of the most important tools in scientific research and biology in particular. Biological research generates huge amounts of data, but without statistics, that data remains just data and the exercise of collecting it merely academic. It is statistics that unlocks the information within that data and allows us to examine relationships between outcomes and associated variables and make predictions about future events.

LinkedIn Cozies Up to Higher Ed Marketers

Elizabeth Woyke:

the middle of LinkedIn’s Education Connect event last week, the company flashed a message across a big screen. It read: “We are committed to higher education and investing in its future.”

It’s a message the professional networking site has spent the past 10 months preparing to deliver. It did so in-person at a New York City event that attracted more than 125 attendees, most of whom were higher education marketers.

The day’s packed agenda included an interview with Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell and panel discussions featuring marketers from Pearson and several universities. The event also featured a number of presentations by LinkedIn executives on topics such as “The Evolution of LinkedIn Marketing Services,” “How LinkedIn is Adapting its Platform for Higher Education” and “Connecting to the Student Journey with LinkedIn.”

N.J. PARCC Drill-Down: Reality Hurts and Common Core Works

Laura Waters:

The New Jersey Department of Education released the state’s first PARCC results yesterday afternoon. No surprises here: student proficiency scores were lower because the tests are actually aligned with grade-appropriate content, unlike N.J.’s now-defunct ASK and HSPA assessments. As NJ Spotlight reports, “The numbers were stark: Just 44 percent of third-graders and 36 percent of 10th-graders reached or exceeded PARCC’s grade-level marks in language arts.” In math, “just 24 percent of high schoolers met the PARCC mark in geometry test, and 23 percent achieved the standard in Algebra II. No math numbers at any grade level topped 50 percent meeting ‘expectations in the math tests.”

Or as Commissioner David Hespe told the Wall St. Journal, “We promised many years ago a more honest, accurate assessment. We have great challenges ahead.’’ Comm. Hespe also confirmed to the Star-Ledger that “the results show that high school graduation requirements are not rigorous enough for most students to be successful after graduation. The 2014-15 results set a new baseline for improving student achievement.”


Aslee Vance:

“It’s really a one-person sort of vehicle,” says Lowell Wood, right after he offers me a lift back to my hotel. His brown 1996 Toyota 4Runner, parked outside his office building in Bellevue, Washington, has 300,000-plus miles on the odometer and looks it. Garbage bags full of Lord-knows-what take up most of the back. He squeezes his paunchy, 6-foot-2-inch frame behind the wheel and, using his cane, whacks away papers, more bags, and an ’80s-vintage car phone to clear some room on the passenger side. The interior smells like pet kibble. Wood puts the keys in the ignition and then spends half a minute jiggling them vigorously until the truck finally starts. As we pull away, I wonder aloud if all the detritus crammed in his SUV could be from a hobby. “No, I don’t have time for any of that,” Wood says. He adds that he’s not terribly good with the ordinary aspects of life—paying bills, say, or car washing. He’s too consumed with inventing solutions to the world’s problems. Ideas—really big ideas—keep bombarding his mind. “It’s like the rain forest,” he says. “Every afternoon, the rains come.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: What We Know About the 92 Million Americans Who Aren’t in the Labor Force

Josh Zumbrun:

sounds like a shocking statistic: 92 million Americans don’t work but also aren’t considered unemployed by the Labor Department.

The Labor Department only classifies people as unemployed if they are actively looking for work. All those who don’t have a job and aren’t looking are lumped together under the fishy-sounding classification “not in the labor force.” The share of Americans not in the labor force has been climbing for nearly 15 years, a development that even many economists and demographers failed to anticipate.

It may sound like a giant mystery: What are these 92 million Americans doing? Actually, we do have some idea.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg, wife Chan to start private East Palo Alto school

Sharon Noguchi:

The school — announced just as the couple expects the birth of their first child — is the latest Zuckerberg-Chan donation to education, including a controversial $100 million gift to New Jersey schools, $7.5 million for college scholarships to undocumented students, and a $120 million pledge to schools in low-income Bay Area communities.

A former elementary science teacher, Chan hopes to take a holistic approach to address health and other issues that hamper children’s well-being and learning from a young age. “There is something physiologically happening early in life that changes a child’s trajectory,” said Chan, 30.

GAO: 73% of 8th Graders Don’t Know Much About Geography

Barbara Hollingsworth:

–Seventy-three percent of American eighth graders tested below the proficiency level in geography last year, according to a report to Congress by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Analyzing nationally representative test data from the U.S. Department of Education, GAO found that only 27 percent of eighth graders nationwide scored at either the proficient (24%) or advanced (3%) level on standardized geography tests in 2014.

Nearly half (48%) exhibited only partial mastery of the subject, and a quarter (25%) scored below basic competency on the geography tests.

‘Your Genome Isn’t Really Secret,’ Says Google Ventures’s Bill Maris

Eric Newcomer:

That’s because people constantly leave traces of their genomic material lying around in public. If someone really wanted the information, they don’t need to hack a server. They could just pull a cup with your saliva out of the trash and test it, said Maris, who studied neuroscience and helped form Calico, a company within Google parent company Alphabet that focuses on age-related diseases. Google Ventures is an investor in 23andMe, which sells a $99 DNA spit kit to provide customers with ancestry information.

The Burden of Debt on Black America

Paul Kiel & Annie Waldmann

On a recent Saturday afternoon, the mayor of Jennings, a St. Louis suburb of about 15,000, settled in before a computer in the empty city-council chambers. Yolonda Fountain Henderson, 50, was elected last spring as the city’s first black mayor.

On the screen was a list of every debt-collection lawsuit against a resident of her city, at least 4,500 in just five years. Henderson asked to see her own street. On her block of 16 modest ranch-style homes, lawsuits had been filed against the occupants of eight. “That’s my neighbor across the street,” she said, pointing to one line on the screen.

And then she saw her own suit. Henderson, a single mother, fell behind on her sewer bill after losing her job a few years ago, and the utility successfully sued her. That judgment was listed, as well as how one day the company seized $382 from her credit-union account—all she had, but not enough to pay off the debt.

Why states with more marriages are richer states

Jim Tankersly:

According to new research, states with a high concentration of married couples experience faster economic growth, less child poverty and more economic mobility than states where fewer adults are married, even after controlling for a variety of economic and demographic factors. The study, from the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies, also finds that the share of parents who are married in a state is a better predictor of that state’s economic health than the racial composition and educational attainment of the state’s residents.

It’s impossible to say for certain, from the research, whether higher marriage levels drive economic strength, or whether strong economies drive higher marriage levels. But the researchers say there is strong evidence that the two factors reinforce each other. “There’s a reciprocal tie between strong families and strong economies,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a University of Virginia sociologist with ties to AEI and the Institute for Family Studies, who was the lead author on the report. “That tie goes in both directions. There’s a connection between what goes on in the home and what’s happening in the larger marketplace.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Confusion & Illusion

Washington’s blog:

It seems 51% of all Generation X adults between the ages of 35 to 54, in the prime earning years of their lives, have ZERO savings, the highest among all age cohorts, with over 20% of them not even having a savings account. This is incomprehensible and reveals an almost juvenile approach to life. Approximately 70% of all 35 to 54 year old households have $1,000 or less in savings. These are people who should have been working for the last 10 to 30 years. To not have put aside more than $1,000 is beyond irresponsible, and the justification of earning no interest on savings is disingenuous as they could have earned 5% up until 2008. This shocking state of affairs can’t only be laid at the feet of the evil bankers and rich corporate titans.

Every person has to accept personal responsibility for their own life. There is one sure fire way to accumulate savings and that is to spend less than you earn. It sounds simple, but the vast majority of Americans have chosen to live beyond their means by allowing themselves to be lured into debt by the Wall Street debt peddlers and their Madison Avenue media maggots selling dreams to willfully ignorant delusional consumers. Consumer dependent corporations hawking autos, electronics, glittery baubles, fashionable attire, toxic processed sludge disguised as food, and other slave produced Chinese crap, require a vast unlimited supply of easy money debt to keep profits rolling in. And the Federal Reserve has been willing and able to accommodate them.

MOOCs Are Still Rising, at Least in Numbers

Ellen Wexler:

Compiled earlier this month by Dhawal Shah, founder of the MOOC aggregator Class Central, the report summarizes data on MOOCs from the past four years. And the data show that even as the MOOC hype has started to die down, interest hasn’t tapered off.

The cumulative number of MOOCs didn’t break 100 until the end of 2012. But by the end of 2013 that number had grown to over 800. And today the number of registered MOOC students added in 2015 is nearly equal to the last three years combined.

Maine high schoolers flock to early college programs

Noel Gallagher:

A record number of Maine high school students are getting college credit by taking college-level courses at their high school or a local college, in large part to cut the rising cost of a college degree.

Educators, students and their families, and politicians enthusiastically back these so-called “early college programs,” which are offered a number of different ways.

Some students go to a nearby college to take a class, with the state and college splitting the cost of tuition, while other students take college-approved courses at their own high schools after their teachers go through specialized training. Still other students are enrolled in smaller, highly organized, multi-year programs that result in seniors graduating with a full year of college credit at virtually no cost.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The American middle class is worse off compared to others around the world

Cristina Rivero

A new report by Credit Suisse Research Institute analyzed global wealth in 2015 and reported unequal distribution among populations. The very wealthy continue to reside in North America and Europe, but China’s increasing middle class outpaces other global regions.

Almost half of the world’s adult population with wealth over $1 million lived in North America. More than a third of adults throughout the world with wealth in the $100,000 to $1 million range resided in Europe, and China had the highest percentage of middle-class adults worldwide — 36 percent.

Madison continues to grow its K-12 spending (now more than $15,000 per student annually), despite long term, disastrous reading results.

China’s latest building binge: the education factory

Alexandra Harney:

Three decades ago, Chinese cities began turning rural land into industrial parks to attract foreign investors. Today, a new kind of project is blooming in China’s countryside: the vocational education park.

Cities around China are carving out tracts of land for school parks – dubbed “education factories” – designed to train hundreds of thousands of students.

Fuelling their drive are generous government subsidies and targets to increase the number of skilled workers, part of Beijing’s push to redirect China’s economy away from its investment-led past toward a more innovative, high-tech future.

But the expansion comes even as many existing vocational schools are struggling to live up to their promise.

“You can build as much as you want, but unless you get good teachers, good curriculum and a system that assesses and rewards high performing schools with more resources, it’s just going to be a waste of money,” says Scott Rozelle, co-director of the Rural Education Action Program at Stanford University and the author of many papers on vocational education in China.

Are college athletic programs responsible for tuition hikes?

Cathleen Chen:

A new documentary short is highlighting the exorbitant amount of money colleges and universities are spending on athletics while tuition continuously grows for students and faculty positions slowly diminish.

Titled “The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Education,” the 2-minute video cites that contrary to popular conception, 82 percent of college football programs lose an average of $11 million per year, and that universities spend nearly seven times as much on athletes as on educating students. Meanwhile, the average cost for tuition and fees has almost doubled since 2000.

Want high schoolers to succeed? Stop giving them fifth-grade schedules

Nick Stoneman:

High school students ought to manage their own time. But in the typical one-size-fits-all daily schedule known widely as “cells and bells,” students migrate from class to class every 48 minutes. Borne of necessity, cells and bells homogenize education. Complacency is a risk when students have their time managed for them, as are both absenteeism and a lack of engagement.

Having seniors in high school face the same type of schedule each day as that which defines a fifth grader’s day does not make developmental sense, nor offer the kind of preparation teens need for postsecondary education. The prevailing model does not fully develop the skills we know today’s students will need to have to be successful in the rapidly changing world they will enter.

Gov. Rick Snyder releases details of Detroit education plan


Gov. Rick Snyder will ask lawmakers to direct $70 million more a year over a decade to Detroit’s school district to address $715 million in operating debt.

Snyder says if nothing is done and the troubled state-run district has “financial defaults,” Michigan will be on the hook for more in the future. He warned Monday that every other K-12 district would face higher retirement system bills.

Snyder first outlined his plan to divide the district in two nearly six months ago. He expects to propose legislation this month and is hopeful the Republican-controlled Legislature will act by year’s end.

His plan would allow an education manager to close the city’s low-performing traditional or charter schools. Snyder is dropping plans for a mandatory common enrollment system, instead favoring a voluntary approach.

Reviewing the Madison Government Schools Superintendent

Doug Ericsson:

This year, she exceeded expectations in her relations with the board, her management of the district’s budget and operations, her management of the district’s talent pool, and her relations with the community and schools. She “met expectations” in instructional leadership and in the district’s organizational climate and culture.

According to the board, highlights this past year included passage of a $41 million referendum in April; a smooth and transparent budget process that was “the best most board members have experienced”; increased diversity and quality of central office leadership staff; and strong community support for the district.

The board identified numerous areas where it said it hopes to see growth. Those include strides in hiring a more diverse school-based staff; more grassroots community engagement; more clarity in advance on what items require a board vote; more focus on students with disabilities; more open communication between schools and the administration; and better planning, implementation and response to major changes.

In the latter category, the board mentioned the district’s behavior education plan as an example of an initiative where the implementation could have gone smoother.

“Overall, you have exceeded our expectations,” the board wrote. “You are a strong leader that brings a unique skill set, understanding that long-term systemic change requires strong support for our staff and their engagement in the change process. We want to thank you for your leadership.”

Much more on Jennifer Cheatham, here.

Lecture Me

Molly Worthen:

BEFORE the semester began earlier this fall, I went to check out the classroom where I would be teaching an introductory American history course. Like most classrooms at my university, this one featured lots of helpful gadgets: a computer console linked to an audiovisual system, a projector screen that deploys at the touch of a button and USB ports galore. But one thing was missing. The piece of technology that I really needed is centuries old: a simple wooden lectern to hold my lecture notes. I managed to obtain one, but it took a week of emails and phone calls.

Perhaps my request was unusual. Isn’t the old-fashioned lecture on the way out? A 2014 study showed that test scores in science and math courses improved after professors replaced lecture time with “active learning” methods like group work — prompting Eric Mazur, a Harvard physicist who has long campaigned against the lecture format, to declare that “it’s almost unethical to be lecturing.” Maryellen Weimer, a higher-education blogger, wrote: “If deep understanding is the objective, then the learner had best get out there and play the game.”

American Liberal Education Is Happening in Singapore

Michael Roth:

Last week, I traveled to Singapore to attend the opening of a new liberal-arts college campus. That college is Yale-NUS—the product of a partnership forged about seven years ago between Yale and the National University of Singapore. Students and faculty have been working at the institution for a few years already, but this was its official inauguration. Pericles Lewis,Yale-NUS’s founding president, joked that the campus’s coming-out party marked a rare festivity: It’s not every day that one is able to celebrate the opening of a new liberal-arts college.

Here we were, in Singapore, to launch a new American-style college, while back in the United States the principles of that model—broad, contextual, and conceptual study—were under enormous pressure. The irony wasn’t lost on any of us. Education leaders across Asia have become interested in moving away from exam-dominated curricula and their requisite memorization and toward experiential, interdisciplinary learning aimed at exploring connections between research and action. Having traditionally insisted on early vocational specialization, universities in India, Korea, and China are now considering how best to encourage the inquiry, collaboration, and experimentation that are key to the American traditions of liberal education. These are traditions that I, as the president of Wesleyan University and author of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, champion.

For 1st time, MIT’s free online classes can lead to degree

Collin Binkley:

In a pilot project announced Wednesday, students will be able to take a semester of free online courses in one of MIT’s graduate programs and then, if they pay a “modest fee” of about $1,500 and pass an exam, they will earn a MicroMaster’s credential, the school said.

The new credential represents half of the university’s one-year master’s degree program in supply chain management. As part of the pilot project, students who perform well in the online half can take an exam to apply for the second semester on campus. Those who get in would pay $33,000, about half the cost of the yearlong program.

The surprising institutions that refuse to drop the liberal arts

Jon Marcus:

Nattiel, of Dade City, Florida, isn’t focusing at West Point on military science, or strategy, or leadership. He’s majoring in philosophy.

Ramrod straight in his Army combat uniform on the historic campus, where future officers are required to take humanities and social-sciences courses such as history, composition, psychology, literature, and languages, he said that, in philosophy, “There’s no right answer, and that’s very useful in the Army, so you’re not so rigid.”

The Fall of the Meritocracy

Toby Young:

The left loathes the concept of IQ — especially the claim that it helps to determine socio-economic status, rather than vice versa — because of a near-religious attachment to the idea that man is a piece of clay that can be moulded into any shape by society

In 1958, my father, Michael Young, published a short book called The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870–2023: An Essay on Education and Equality. It purported to be a paper written by a sociologist in 2034 about the transformation of Britain from a feudal society in which people’s social position and level of income were largely determined by the socio-economic status of their parents into a modern Shangri-La in which status is based solely on merit. He invented the word meritocracy to describe this principle for allocating wealth and prestige and the new society it gave rise to.

Government vs Charter Schools In Milwaukee

Alan Borsuk:

The key to the heated controversy: Carmen is a charter school. That means war.

Carmen operates a high school a couple miles from Pulaski with a record of academic success. Carmen’s four-year graduation rates have been around 70% in recent years. Its most recent five-year graduation rate was 96%.

By the way, the Carmen high school on the south side has 367 students this fall — 103 in ninth grade, 87 in 10th, 83 in 11th, and 94 in 12th. Those numbers show little of the grade-by-grade shrinkage that is, to me, one of the big signs that Pulaski has problems.

Carmen also is in the third year of building up a middle school and high school on the northwest side, in a building where an MPS school did poorly. It’s a big challenge, but the school is making progress.

Authorized to operate by the Milwaukee School Board, the two existing Carmen schools employ their own teachers and set their own course. The fact that the schools are under the MPS umbrella is financially beneficial to MPS, compared to if they existed outside MPS.

There are two important contexts to the Pulaski battle. One is nationwide controversy over charter schools vs. conventional schools.

Is UC spending too little on teaching, too much on administration?

Kim Christensen:

Weeks after an announced increase in state funding staved off a tuition hike, the Board of Regents riled spending critics this summer by handing 3% raises to some of UC’s highest-paid employees. The number of those making at least $500,000 annually grew by 14% in the last year, to 445, and the system’s administrative ranks have swelled by 60% over the last decade — far outpacing tenure-track faculty.

Maybe you didn’t hear me. I really, really, really want it.

Sean Willams:

Child: I see. I see. So you’re saying this is dinner.

Me: It’s getting cold.

Child: But this is whole pieces of food that you’ve just … cooked.

Me: Yes. We’re eating something healthy for dinner.

Child: How can we be sure this is healthy?

Me: It’s healthy. And it’s dinner. Eat it.

Child: I had cold pizza and Skittles for breakfast, and then I got a 100 on my spelling test.

Me: You’ve stumbled into post hoc ergo propter hoc there, buddy, and that hasn’t worked since the second century.


The Problem Isn’t Student Loans–It’s Higher Education

Charles Hugh Smith:

Everyone understands soaring student debt is a problem: burdened with $1.3 trillion in student loans, young people are unable to start businesses, buy homes and start families. The high cost of housing and meeting regulations to launch businesses add additional burdens, but the weight of $1.3 trillion in debt right out of the starting gate is crushing.

The “solution” being pursued by the federal government is obvious: take over most of the student debt and then eventually bury it in the zombie-loan graveyard (i.e. defaults are ignored but the debt isn’t officially written off), write it down via forgiveness programs, or some other mechanism to reduce the burden.

If this wasn’t the plan, then why has federal ownership of student loan debt skyrocketed from zero to $900 billion in a few short years?

Immersive Coding Education For Women. No Upfront Tuition Cost.

Grace Hopper Academy:

Grace Hopper Academy is an immersive software engineering school for women with no upfront tuition cost.

You only pay tuition once you secure a job after graduating.

Our mission is to empower women in technology through affordable education, quality instruction, and individualized mentorship. We provide a world-class educational environment with an advanced curriculum developed and taught by experienced instructors. We’ll also connect you with a support network of alumnae and mentors in the tech community.

After Uses Kids Obsession With Phones To Teach Them Coding

Liz Stinson:

WHEN RAUL GUTIERREZ’S son was younger, he came up with a great name for his father’s smartphone. “He’d call it the everything machine,” says Gutierrez, founder of childrens’ app company Tinybop. “Because to him it could do everything.” The kid was onto something. A smartphone really is an everything machine. It’s a phone, a camera, a movie screen, and so much more, stuffed into a glassy rectangle that fits in your pocket.

Former Stanford dean explains why helicopter parenting is ruining a generation of children

Emma Brown:

Julie Lythcott-Haims noticed a disturbing trend during her decade as a dean of freshmen at Stanford University. Incoming students were brilliant and accomplished and virtually flawless, on paper. But with each year, more of them seemed incapable of taking care of themselves.

At the same time, parents were becoming more and more involved in their children’s lives. They talked to their children multiple times a day and swooped in to personally intervene anytime something difficult happened.

Civics: Cops are asking Ancestry.com and 23andMe for their customers’ DNA

Kashmir Hill:

Now, five years later, when 23andMe and Ancestry Both have over a million customers, those warnings are looking prescient. “Your relative’s DNA could turn you into a suspect,” warns Wired, writing about a case from earlier this year, in which New Orleans filmmaker Michael Usry became a suspect in an unsolved murder case after cops did a familial genetic search using semen collected in 1996. The cops searched an Ancestry.com database and got a familial match to a saliva sample Usry’s father had given years earlier. Usry was ultimately determined to be innocent and the Electronic Frontier Foundation called it a “wild goose chase” that demonstrated “the very real threats to privacy and civil liberties posed by law enforcement access to private genetic databases.”

Massive open online courses haven’t lived up to the hopes and the hype, professors say (a Bit Early to render Judgement)

Dan Stober:

Three years after a groundswell of online learning swept through higher education, Stanford researchers who were at the forefront of the movement have concluded that online learning has not been the cure-all that many educators had hoped for. Nonetheless, the techniques developed for online learning may lead to great advances in how students learn, both online and in conventional classrooms.

The vision was of unlimited online courses, available to virtually anyone with an Internet connection, that would dramatically reshape the standard classroom while also changing the life paths of students in developing countries, at little or no cost.

How To Help Your Child Become a Maker

Maker Kids:

Parents often ask us, how can I make my child a maker? Well the answer is, you can’t. They have to “make” their own decision to become a maker. What is a maker, you might ask? It’s just like it sounds: a maker is someone who makes things. In recent years, there has been a cultural renaissance going back to the age where many people made things themselves rather than buying them at a store or on a website themselves. People are tinkering with their computers, making websites, and in general feeling the benefits that making can bring you – confidence, meeting new people, and more We’ve seen the emergence of Make Magazine, Maker Faires (attended by hundreds of thousands of people in cities worldwide), and maker companies such as Arduino (an open source hardware prototyping platform), the Pebble smartwatch (which was prototyped on Arduino), and marketplaces to facilitate enterprise for these makers – such as Kickstarter or Etsy. We decided to jump into the mix with a kids’ makerspace called MakerKids, figuring that since childhood is the most formative stage in life, it’s the perfect time to equip them with the soft skills and technical know-how to help them become leaders of the 21st century.

Announces New ResearchKit Studies for Autism, Epilepsy & Melanoma


The latest foray into digital health: an app that aims to figure out if it’s possible to screen kids for autism through a smartphone. Autism & Beyond, out now in Apple’s ResearchKit app, plays video clips for kids and uses the front-facing camera to evaluate their reactions. If the video analysis turns out to be reliable, the Duke researchers behind the project could be sitting on a massive amount of information about autism and other developmental disorders. Apple also rolled out new ResearchKit apps to study epilepsy and melanoma.

On Government Schools

David Brooks:

Friends of mine have been raving about the documentary “Most Likely to Succeed,” and it’s easy to see what the excitement is about. The film is a bold indictment of the entire K-12 educational system.

Greg Whiteley’s documentary argues that the American school system is ultimately built on a Prussian model designed over 100 years ago. Its main activity is downloading content into students’ minds, with success or failure measured by standardized tests. This lecture and textbook method leaves many children bored and listless.

Stanford Endowment Experiment

Chief investment officer:

Of the many unflattering stories that are told about the Stanford University endowment, the one about Jason Zhang may be the worst.

It was 2005. Zhang was fresh out of Stanford’s business school and “one of those superstars,” says a former boss. Zhang had been tasked with creating an “emerging Asia” investment program for the Stanford Management Company (SMC), buying a $45 million anchor stake in a small local Chinese private equity group. This was Zhang’s first allocation. It would make the university nearly half a billion dollars. But Zhang would be long gone before that became apparent.

MTI Recertification Election Procedures Set

Madison Teachers, Inc. (PDF), via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email

After many days of detailed analysis with MMSD, the parties have agreed as to whom is eligible to vote in each of the five (5) upcoming MTI bargaining unit recertification elections. All MTI- represented employees who were identified as having actively worked for the District as of October 1, 2015 will be eligible to vote. Act 10 requires that to win recertification, the union must win 51% of all eligible voters. The following illustrates the number of eligible voters in each bargaining unit:

Madison Government Schools Plan a 4.71% Property Tax Increase

Doug Erickson:

Based on the more favorable general aid numbers, the district on Thursday reduced its 2015 tax levy to a 4.71 percent increase instead of 4.93 percent, a savings of about $6.25 for the owner of the average-priced home in the district, Barry said.

Under the latest figures, the owner of a $245,894 home will pay $2,944 in school taxes, an increase over last year’s tax bill of $105.32, Barry said. Under the old figures, the increase over last year’s tax bill would have been $111.57.

The revised tax levy figures are subject to School Board approval later this month.

While Thursday’s numbers from the state Department of Public Instruction were welcome, they still reflect a loss to the district of nearly $1.9 million in general aid compared to the prior year, Barry said. That’s a decrease of 3.44 percent. District officials had anticipated the decline and budgeted accordingly.

much more on Madison government schools’ property tax increases here.

Intro to Computer Science overtakes Econ as Harvard’s most popular class

Tom Huddleston:

The college campus that once (briefly) hosted future tech luminaries Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as students is now overrun with tech-curious scholars.

The most popular fall-semester course at Harvard is “Introduction to Computer Science I,” according to data put out by the school’s registrar’s office, with almost 820 undergraduates enrolled in the class this semester. That total is the highest in the three decades the course has been offered and it’s the biggest class offered at Harvard in at least a decade, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Government vs Public schools In Milwaukee

Annysa Johnson:

A Milwaukee Public School committee on Tuesday declined to vote on a controversial plan to house a struggling Milwaukee public school and a higher-performing charter school under one roof, instead kicking it to the full MPS board of directors for review.

The Milwaukee Public Schools’ Committee on Student Achievement and School Innovation voted 4-1 to send to the board, with no recommendation, the proposed partnership between MPS’ Casimir Pulaski High School and Carmen High School of Science and Technology on the Pulaski campus at 2500 W. Oklahoma Ave.

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Darienne Driver has proposed creating a single campus where the two schools, each with about 800 students, could collaborate in an effort to boost academic performance for both.

South Korea set to rewrite history books

Simon Mundy:

The system was introduced in 2010 to replace a state monopoly on history textbooks that was introduced by the authoritarian leader Park Chung-hee in 1974, two years after he revised the constitution to suspend democratic elections.

Park’s daughter, Park Geun-hye, is the sitting president and some of her political opponents have claimed that her government’s drive to reclaim control of the textbooks is driven by her desire to improve the standing of her father. He kick-started South Korea’s dramatic economic development but has been criticised for overseeing severe human rights violations, as well as for serving in Japan’s military during its colonial occupation of Korea.

“The Park government is trying to turn history books into government-controlled ones that glorify Japan and dictatorship,” the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy said in a statement after the announcement.

But leading figures in the ruling New Frontier party have said the return to a single government-authored history textbook is necessary to promote national unity and prevent the risk of schoolchildren developing sympathy for North Korea.