Seattle Teachers’ Demands Much Like MTI’s

Madison Teacher’s, Inc. (PDF), via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email.

Last week’s MTI Solidarity! contained an article about a teacher strike in Seattle. Among the issues were wages not keeping up with inflation, “no state increase in funding for health care,” providing teachers with a greater voice regarding standardized tests, management’s proposal for a longer workday without additional compensation, and other quality of education issues.
As more details become available, the Union’s victories are obvious, including a 14.3% wage increase over three years (which includes a 4.8% cost-of-living adjustment paid by the State over two years). What a contrast to Wisconsin. The State of Washington will contribute to wages via a cost-of-living increase and contribute toward the cost of employees’ health insurance.

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant criticized the legislature and its lack of support for education. She said, “The educators’ demands are completely reasonable….For too long the legislature has ignored the needs of the children and bent over backwards to give corporations handout after handout. Boeing executives got a special session. Where is the special session for education? Teachers are faced with stagnating salaries, overcrowded classrooms, too many standardized tests, and inadequate resources. It’s high time the legislature did their job, stop ignoring the mandate by voters to lower class sizes and raise teachers’ pay. Fully fund education now!” We need more legislators like Sawant in Wisconsi

Learn Physics From Nobel Prizewinner Richard Feynman for Free

Danny Lewis:

Richard Feynman is legendary in the physics world for a lot of things, like helping develop the foundations of quantum mechanics (for which he won the 1965 Nobel Prize), working on the Manhattan Project and playing the bongos. But more than anything, Feynman was known as a fantastic educator. His knack for translating complex scientific principles into plain English earned Feynman the nickname “The Great Explainer.”

Last year, California Institute of Technology and the Feynman Lectures Website published the complete and up-to-date Feynman Lectures online, allowing anyone with an internet connection to learn physics from one of the greats. While there’s nothing like watching Feynman lecture, only a few were ever filmed. But even in text, the Feynman Lectures are a remarkable example of the teacher at work.

The University of Madison?

Noel Radomski:

However, if one scratches below the surface, questions the data provided by UW System and UW-Madison, and compares the proposal with research findings about what happens at public research universities that pursue similar enrollment flexibilities (see here and here), it becomes apparent the proposed waiver is poorly designed policy. The UW System Board of Regents should delay a vote on the proposed resolution until they have an opportunity to weigh the proposal’s advantages, disadvantages, and unintended consequences. Also, the public should have the opportunity to review and provide feedback on the proposal before current policy is changed.

Weighing the Arguments For and Against the Resolution

Below are five arguments the UW System president and UW-Madison chancellor have offered in support of the proposed waiver resolution, followed by facts that contradict these arguments.

An Inside Look at Being A Computer Science Teacher

Alfred Thompson:

Garth Flint is one of my favorite bloggers. Garth teaches computer science in a smallish private Catholic school in Montana. This week he wrote a pair of articles that I REALLY like. In fact I think they are a must read for a lot of people.

If you are the only teacher in a school these articles will help you realize that you are not alone. If you are teacher in a larger school with other CS teachers and a good tech support team you will realize how lucky you are.

Lastly if you don’t know what it is like to be a computer science teacher, don’t understand why and how being a computer science teacher is different from any other teaching job or if you want to understand more about how complicated it is to “create” more computer science teachers you really need to read these articles.

The fat city that declared war on obesity


When Velveth Monterroso arrived in the USA from her hometown in Guatemala, she weighed exactly 10 stone. But after a decade of living in Oklahoma, she was more than five stone heavier and fighting diabetes at the age of 34. This friendly woman, a mother of two children, is a living embodiment of the obesity culture cursing the world’s wealthiest country. “In Guatemala it is rare to see people who are very overweight, but it could not be more different here,” she said. “I saw this when I came here.”

As soon as she arrived in the USA she started piling on pounds – an average of half a stone each year. In Guatemala she ate lots of vegetables because meat was expensive. But working from eight in the morning until eleven at night as a cook in an Oklahoma City diner, she would skip breakfast and lunch while snacking all day on bits of burger and pizza. Driving home she would often resort to fast food because she was hungry and exhausted after a 15-hour day slaving over a hot grill. If she and her husband Diego – also a cook – made it back without stopping, they would often gorge on whatever was available rather than wait to cook a decent meal.

Mexico teachers demonstrate over reform

Jude Webber:

Teachers opposed to Mexican education reforms on Monday closed nearly two-thirds of schools in the southern state of Oaxaca, and blocked some roads and shops, in a day of protest against an overhaul the government insists is unstoppable.

Largely peaceful protests spread to the western and southern states of Michoacán, Guerrero and Tabasco, as well as Mexico City, where a march on the main Reforma avenue was planned. That rekindled memories of teachers’ demonstrations before the reform was passed two years ago.

However, in Tabasco police with shields and batons used tear gas to disperse teachers blocking a motorway toll booth. Mexico’s federal police chief vowed to use “rational force” wherever needed.

While Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has made liberalisation of the energy sector the cornerstone of his plans for economic growth and prosperity, it is his plans to improve the country’s nearly century-old public education system that he is now billing as the most transformational.

The remarkable thing that happens to poor kids when you give their parents a little money

Roberto Ferdman:

Twenty years ago, a group of researchers began tracking the personalities of 1,420 low income children in North Carolina. At the time, the goal was simple: to observe the mental conditions of kids living in rural America. But then a serendipitous thing happened.

Four years into The Great Smoky Mountains Study of Youth, the families of roughly a quarter of the children saw a dramatic and unexpected increase in annual income. They were members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and a casino had just been built on the reservation. From that point on every tribal citizen earned a share of the profits, meaning about an extra $4,000 a year per capita.

“The Prize”: The Unwritten Appendix, By Those Inside Newark’s Improving Schools

Andrew Martin:

Dale Russakoff’s “The Prize” is an unsparing chronicle of five controversial years in Newark that began in front of a cheering audience on Oprah and ended this summer with the resignation of Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson.
It is an important, thoughtful, and well-researched book, containing meaningful lessons for anyone with even a passing interest in cities, politics, or education. I echo Connor Williams’ sentiment that “If you read Russakoff’s account and find your beliefs vindicated, you’re not trying hard enough.”

But even if you are trying, what you might miss in “The Prize” is that the past five years have brought real educational gains to Newark students — from a student achievement perspective, Newark’s reforms were anything but a misguided failure. The reforms that “The Prize” treats as a cautionary tale in fact expanded access to high-performing charter schools to the city’s most disadvantaged students. As a result, the number of black students attending schools that “beat the state” in reading and math tripled.

Not enough age diversity: 1/3 of university faculty are 55 and older, compared with 20% of the rest of the workforce


could have retired five years ago, when the university offered faculty a year’s salary to step down as part of a buyout to encourage more of them to leave.

He could have retired last year, when, in yet another buyout offer, administrators dangled the equivalent of 90 percent of one full year’s salary in front of faculty who would finally agree to go.

Teaching is Selling

Liz the Developer:

When I was little, my dad taught me everything I’d need to know to be, well, me. He taught me to code when I was twelve. I worked for him full time at 14, which we’re gonna pretend is totally great parenting for the purposes of this article. But before that, starting at around 9, he taught me how to sell.

My dad was a psychologist by training, but switched at the end of his master’s to marketing. Mostly because my mom said she wouldn’t marry him if she beat him to finishing her degree, since he had a two year head start on her. So, he rushed through a few classes in marketing, and learned to do sales. Then, as a combination sales guy / hacker, he passed his skills on to me.

One of the techniques he taught me is emotional sales. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this would shape my ability to teach and lecture well from the very beginning. You should use this too, in your next conference talk or training, because it’s an amazing way to introduce new information.

The Importance of Recreational Math


The article that turned Ms. Rice into an amateur researcher was by the legendary polymath Martin Gardner. His “Mathematical Games” series, which ran in Scientific American for more than 25 years, introduced millions worldwide to the joys of recreational mathematics. I read him in Mumbai as an undergraduate, and even dug up his original 1956 column on “hexaflexagons” (folded paper hexagons that can be flexed to reveal different flowerlike faces) to construct some myself.

“Recreational math” might sound like an oxymoron to some, but the term can broadly include such immensely popular puzzles as Sudoku and KenKen, in addition to various games and brain teasers. The qualifying characteristics are that no advanced mathematical knowledge like calculus be required, and the activity engage enough of the same logical and deductive skills used in mathematics.

Blowing The Whistle On The University Of California Berkeley Math Department

Alexander Coward:

In response to the many people who have asked me whether I am leaving Berkeley, it is true that the UC Berkeley Mathematics Department has fired me. More precisely, the then Chair of the Mathematics Department, Arthur Ogus, emailed me on October 31st 2014 saying that my employment would be terminated in June 2016. I have asked the campus authorities to review the circumstances leading up to that decision and overrule it. I have filed a formal grievance, viewable here, with the aid of my union representative, and a meeting is scheduled for October 20th, 2015 with representatives from the UC Berkeley campus administration. My contract entitles me to a written response within 15 days of that meeting, by November 4th, 2015. I will be communicating the response I receive at this URL when I receive it.

Taking on TFA

T. Jameson Brewer & Sarah Matsui

For the first two decades of its existence, Teach For America (TFA) could expect fawning media coverage and unremitting praise. With founder Wendy Kopp and her band of Ivy Leaguer grads, article after article glowed, education inequity in the US had met its match. But over the last several years, the near-universal adulation has begun to wane.

Several school districts have kicked out the organization. Some professors refuse to write student recommendation letters for TFA applicants. And TFA’s high-powered PR department now seems to spend much of its time churning out statements defending itself.

Not surprisingly, the uptick in public criticism of TFA — one of corporate education reform’s totemic institutions — has tracked with increasing opposition to neoliberal education reform. Teacher organizing has been key. Taking its cues from the Chicago Teachers Union, reform caucuses have sprung up in teachers unions across the country. Bill Gates and company, if still powerful, no longer seem indomitable.

How Barbara Byrd-Bennett Worsened Racial Inequality and Hurt Public Education in Chicago

Alisa Robinson

After serving as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools from 2012 to 2015, Barbara Byrd-Bennett was recently forced to resign from her position in the wake of a scandal over her approval of a major school leadership development contract with her former employer. Now that Byrd-Bennett’s tenure at the head of the third largest school district in America has ended, it’s a good time to assess the legacy she leaves CPS.

Little about that legacy can be seen as positive. Nearly every major decision that Barbara Byrd-Bennett made as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools benefited wealthy white power brokers at the expense of poor and working-class black students, parents and teachers.

During her three years as CEO, she closed an unprecedented number of predominantly black neighborhood schools and fired hundreds of black teachers while opening charter schools run by wealthy white members of the corporate education reform movement and approving a $20.5 million contract for her former employer, SUPES Academy, an organization whose co-owner has an alleged history of using overtly racist and predatory language in emails to students.

Her time in Chicago was defined by an exacerbation of the school system’s racial and economic inequality. Time and again, wealthy whites gained while poor blacks lost. And, in spite of her position at the top of this prejudicial system, the final black loss was hers.

Why Free College Is Necessary

Tressie McMillan Cottom

Free college is not a new idea, but, with higher education costs (and student loan debt) dominating public perception, it’s one that appeals to more and more people—including me. The national debate about free, public higher education is long overdue. But let’s get a few things out of the way.

College is the domain of the relatively privileged, and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future, even if tuition is eliminated. As of 2012, over half of the U.S. population has “some college” or postsecondary education. That category includes everything from an auto-mechanics class at a for-profit college to a business degree from Harvard. Even with such a broadly conceived category, we are still talking about just half of all Americans.

Why aren’t more people going to college? One obvious answer would be cost, especially the cost of tuition. But the problem isn’t just that college is expensive. It is also that going to college is complicated. It takes cultural and social, not just economic, capital. It means navigating advanced courses, standardized tests, forms. It means figuring out implicit rules—rules that can change.

Uncovering The Secret History Of Myers-Briggs

Merve Emre

This year alone, there have been close to 100 certification sessions in cities ranging from New York to Pasadena, Minneapolis, Portland, Houston, and the Foundation’s hometown of Gainesville, where participants get a $200 discount for making their way south to the belly of the beast. It is not unusual for sessions to sell out months in advance. People come from all over the world to get certified.

In New York last April, there were twenty-five aspiring MBTI practitioners in attendance. There was a British oil executive who lived for the half the year under martial law in Equatorial Guinea. There was a pretty blonde astrologist from Australia, determined to invest in herself now that her US work visa was about to expire. There was a Department of Defense administrator, a gruff woman who wore flowing skirts and rainbow rimmed glasses, and a portly IBM manager turned high school basketball coach. There were three college counselors, five HR reps, and a half-dozen “executive talent managers” from Fortune 500 companies. Finally, there was me.

How one of America’s last free colleges screwed its students and betrayed its legacy

Felix Salmon:

The best piece of in-depth investigative reporting you’re likely to read this week comes not from any journalist, but rather from the office of Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general. His 55-page report into what went wrong at Cooper Union should be required, and sobering, reading for anybody who cares about higher education in America.

The story here is narrowly about Cooper Union, and the way in which two presidents – George Campbell first, then Jamshed Bharucha – managed to bring a great institution to its knees, destroying its most precious and unique principle. More broadly, the report is an indictment of otiose trustees, egotistical technocrats, and a culture where university administrators gone wild can effectively railroad all stakeholders, including students, faculty, alumni, and even the attorney general’s office.

Ghost Students, Ghost Teachers, Ghost School

Azmat Khan

Here in the birthplace of the Taliban, children would climb up on Joe DeNenno and hang off his Army-issued rucksack as if it were a jungle gym. “Ruckriders,” he called them.

The 24-year-old first lieutenant didn’t just play with the kids. He also tutored them. He even convinced his commanding officer to spend some of the money the military had earmarked for winning hearts and minds on building the children a school.

In that summer of 2011, as he helped negotiate with local elders and the Afghan Ministry of Education, the fighting intensified. Three men in his unit fell to gunfire, and three more were blown up by roadside bombs. And Afghans who helped the Americans, he recalled, lost their lives “in just brutal torture, decapitated, terrible ways.”

How I Teach Gerrymandering

Ben Kraft:

Of all the topics in political science that are accessible to high school students (which is many of them), why gerrymandering? I really like teaching gerrymandering because it’s something that by high school (and certainly by college or beyond), it’s something that a lot of people know a little bit about, but which has a lot of interesting complexity and subtlety that most people haven’t thought about. News reports often make it seem like gerrymandering, and redistricting in general, as being a simple matter of politicians being evil to a greater or lesser extent, when it’s actually much more interesting that. Similarly, it’s something that mathematicians and computer scientists often see and think is trivial – and there are actually a lot of interesting problems in gerrymandering to which math and CS can be applied that definitely aren’t trivial, which I’m always excited to share. And, of course, it has some other convenient properties – it can be made quite hands-on, and it’s something I know a decent bit about (mostly from various political science classes).

College Applications, Parental Exasperations

Robert Scherrer:

‘If you’re in school, stay there.” I took to heart this 1960s public-service announcement: I went away to college at 18, became a professor and never left. So when my first child applied to college, I figured I would be an expert.

Wrong. Now that child No. 3 is embroiled in college applications, I’ve been driven over the edge. How has the admissions process exasperated me? Let me count the ways:

1. College visits.​When did looking for a college turn into a modern version of the 18th-century Grand Tour? The first time I saw my college was when my parents dropped me off to start my freshman year. Now a college search involves traipsing the width and breadth of the United States. All this, when getting information is easier than ever. My children can go online and learn the course requirements for any program at any university in a matter of minutes. They can look up the content of every class offered, and check out which ones are scheduled late enough to let them sleep until noon. So why the cross-country junkets?

Treaties Violated by lack of Highly Qualified Teachers in American Indian Schools

Dan Dempsey, via a kind email:

Fact: Indian Schools cannot fill 10% of teaching positions with highly qualified teachers.
It seems that the US Government is violating treaties.

Recalling Arizona and wars and war settlements let us recall the “Long Walk of the Navajo” in 1864. Navajos were forced to walk up to thirteen miles a day at gunpoint from their reservation in what is now Arizona to eastern New Mexico. Some 53 different forced marches occurred between August 1864 and the end of 1866. Today the Navajo are on the largest Rez in the USA. Part of that Navajo treaty settlement included a commitment from USA Gov to provide schools and schooling to the Navajo nation. Perhaps Gov policy is welching on that deal.

Each year Tribal schools and Bureau of Indian Education schools have 10% of total teaching positions go unfilled by certified highly qualified teachers throughout the USA.

Moodys Predicts College Closures to Triple

Kellie Woodhouse

Closure rates of small colleges and universities will triple in the coming years, and mergers will double.
Those are the predictions of a Moody’s Investor Service report released Friday that highlights a persistent inability among small colleges to increase revenue, which could lead as many as 15 institutions a year to shut their doors for good by 2017.

The 10-year average for college closures is five annually. So far this year two colleges have closed, and in 2014 six closed. Moody’s cautions that even as closures are predicted to rise, the number will remain less than 1 percent of some 2,300 existing nonprofit colleges. Meanwhile, the number of mergers is predicted to double, reaching four to six a year, up from the 10-year average of two to three a year.
The main struggle for many small colleges — which are defined by Moody’s as private colleges with operating revenue below $100 million and public colleges below $200 million — is declining enrollment.

Problems Mount for the ‘Other’ College Debt


The bond markets are giving a new grade to America’s small colleges: A gentleman’s C.

Spooked by bad news out of the higher-education sector in recent months, including unexpected campus closures, potential mergers and poor enrollment projections, some prospective buyers are steering clear of bonds being sold by small, private colleges that don’t have national reputations, schools that rely heavily on tuition revenue, and those in regions facing population declines.

Moody’s Investors Service Inc. in September warned investors to expect closures at public and not-for-profit colleges to triple by 2017 from an average of five a year over the past decade, concentrated among the smallest schools. Some small schools have experienced several years of shrinking class sizes, which leaves fewer students paying for their relatively high fixed costs, and have lost market share to larger universities, Moody’s said.

Concerns about market forces were at play at Roseman University of Health Sciences in Henderson, Nev., when the school of about 1,500 students sought $67.5 million worth of bonds to pay for a new office and research building last spring. The process took two to three times longer than usual, said Ken Wilkins, the school’s vice president for business and finance. Standard & Poor’s had downgraded the 16-year-old school’s debt in February, and investors were asking about everything from the market viability of the school’s academic programs to its possible responses to increasingly far-fetched disaster scenarios.

A Tale of Two Schools, One Building

Nicholas Simmons:

Over the past three school years, I unintentionally participated in a tragic educational case study on the west side of Harlem. I worked in the same building as the Wadleigh Secondary School, at which 0% of students in grades six through eight met state standards in math or English. That isn’t a typo: Not a single one of the 33 students passed either exam, though many of the questions are as straightforward as “What is 15% of 60?”

Two floors above Wadleigh, I taught math at Success Academy Harlem West, a public charter school. The students there eat in the same cafeteria, exercise in the same gym and enjoy recess in the same courtyard. They also live on the same blocks and face many of the same challenges. The poverty rate at Wadleigh is 72%; at Harlem West, it is 60%. At both schools, more than 95% of students are black or Hispanic. About the only difference is that families at Harlem West won an admissions lottery.

Proficiency Matters

Foundation for Excellence in Education :

Many states are setting proficiency cut scores now, so share your state’s proficiency gap above with your friends and family. You can help start the conversation about making proficiency cut scores reflect the true knowledge and skills needed for students to be successful. Sign up to receive updates from ExcelinEd to stay informed and learn more about how you can make an impact in your state.

Civics, First Amendment and Academic Freedom: Barton Gellman at Purdue

Barton Gellman

Eugene Spafford, a Purdue professor of computer science who has held high clearances himself, wrote to me afterward. “We have a number of ‘junior security rangers’ on faculty and staff who tend to be ‘by the book.’ Unfortunately, once noted, that is something that cannot be unnoted.”

Sure enough, someone filed a report with the above-mentioned Information Assurance Officer, who reported in turn to Purdue’s representative at the Defense Security Service. By the terms of its Pentagon agreement, Purdue was officially obliged to be shocked to find that spillage is going on at a talk about Snowden and the NSA. Three secret slides, covering perhaps five of my 90 minutes on stage, required that video be wiped in its entirety.

This was, I think, a rather devout reading of the rules. (Taken literally, the rules say Purdue should also have notified the FBI. I do not know whether that happened.) A more experienced legal and security team might have taken a deep breath and applied the official guidance to “realistically consider the potential harm that may result from compromise of spilled information.”

Or perhaps not. Yes, the images I displayed had been viewed already by millions of people online. Even so, federal funding might be at stake for Purdue, and the notoriously vague terms of the Espionage Act hung over the decision. For most lawyers, “abundance of caution” would be the default choice.

Much more on Barton Gellman here.

Teaching Coding in Kenya


Earlier this year, I spent about 2 months teaching web/mobile development in Nairobi, Kenya, at a startup called Moringa School. Moringa School is re-crafting the US coding bootcamp model to fit the Kenyan and East African market and produce smart, hirable, confident developers.

This is a boon for the growing Kenyan startup scene (dubbed the region’s “Silicon Savannah”), where the selection of local tech talent has, in the past, largely consisted of ill-prepared college grads. Of course there is great tech talent latent in Kenya’s students, but their tech education isn’t strong enough to prepare the majority of them for employment.

Why police could seize a college student’s life savings without charging him for a crime

German Lopez:

But law enforcement officials may have been working within the confines of the law when they took Clarke’s money. Under federal and state laws that allow what’s called “civil forfeiture,” law enforcement officers can seize and keep someone’s property without proving the person was guilty of a crime. They just need probable cause to believe the assets are being used as part of criminal activity, typically drug trafficking. Police can then absorb the value of this property — be it cash, cars, guns, or something else — as profit: either through state programs, or under a federal program known as Equitable Sharing that lets local and state police get up to 80 percent of the value of what they seize as money for their departments.


Vijith Assar:

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.

The Adoption Paradox: Kids who are adopted have richer, more involved parents. They also have more behavior and attention problems. Why?

Oleg Khazan:

As measured by their teachers, young adoptive children were more likely than biological ones to get angry easily and to fight with other students. If a 50 percent score represents an average level of this type of “problem behavior,” adopted kindergarteners were higher than average, at 64 percent, while children with two biological parents were at 44 percent. Children in single-parent, step, and foster families all had fewer behavioral issues than adopted kindergarteners, at 58 percent, although this difference was not significant. A similar pattern (63 percent versus 43 percent) emerged for adopted and biological first graders. For his research, Zill examined a longitudinal study of 19,000 students that was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics beginning in 1998. Zill is the former head of the Child and Family Study Area at Westat, a social-science research corporation.

Mapping Neighborhood-Level Obesity in the United States

Data Innovation:

RTI International, a research institute dedicated to making data immediately useful, has created a map of obesity in the United States that shows variations in obesity by neighborhood. Since obesity varies by location, identifying more at-risk populations not only allows organizations and public health officials to better target resources to address obesity, but also gives community stakeholders a better understanding of their neighborhood’s demographics. Users can view the data in three ways: obesity by overall body mass index, obesity versus the national average, or statistically significant clusters that show pockets of dense obesity or the lack of obesity. RTI used publicly available data from a number of sources, including the 2010 Census, the 2007-2011 American Community Survey, and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The data for the Neighborhood Map of U.S. Obesity is also available for download.

Education Reform, After Arne Duncan


For years now, American K-12 education has been tied hard to the testing track. No more “soft bigotry of low expectations,” said President George W. Bush. “Race to the top,” said the Obama administration. And teachers and schools have got the message. High stakes tests. Teaching to the test. Mixed results. Now, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan has announced he will step down in December. Voices are calling for a new way. Freer. Healthier. Better, they say. This hour On Point, a call to redirect American K-12 education.

Curriculum: The great divide among education reformers

Kate Walsh:

Writing in his always-entertaining blog a few weeks ago, Whitney Tilson gave a nice nod to Dan Willingham’s New York Times op-ed addressing the sorry state of American teacher preparation. Amid effusive praise of the piece, Whitney writes, “I think morphemes and phonemes matter too but maybe not as much as Willingham does.”

This gently stated but dismissive view of the importance of reading instruction troubles me because I think it captures a viewpoint widely shared by many education reformers.

I don’t think it’s because there are many education reformers who reject the science here (unlike many in teacher preparation). Researchers long ago identified the reading methods that would reduce the current deplorable rate of reading failure from 30 percent to somewhere well south of 10 percent, if only schools would take that step. Teacher preparation programs that fail to impress upon elementary teacher candidates the integral connection between spoken sounds and written words are essentially committing malpractice.


ieee pulse:

The Engineers in Scrubs (EiS) training program at the University of British Columbia, affiliated with the Faculty of Applied Science’s Biomedical Engineering Graduate (BMEG) Program, is not a typical graduate school course. Nor does it follow a traditional master’s course rubric that culminates with a tidy end-of-year project. Rather, the course is designed to push students to prototype innovative medical devices, encourage health care collaborations, and create an unprecedented interface between technology and health care to further medicine.

AP’s ‘robot journalists’ are writing their own stories now

Ross Miller:

You wouldn’t necessarily know it at first blush. Sure, maybe reading it in the context of this story it’s apparent, but otherwise it feels like a pretty standard, if a tad dry, AP news item. The obvious tell doesn’t come until the end of an article: “This story was generated by Automated Insights.” According to AI’s public relations manager James Kotecki, the Wordsmith platform generates millions of articles per week; other partners include Allstate, Comcast, and Yahoo, whose fantasy football reports are automated. Kotecki estimates the company’s system can produce 2,000 articles per second if need be.

MIT Master’s Program to Use MOOCs as ‘Admissions Test’

Jeffrey Young:

MOOCs may soon become a prominent factor in admissions decisions at selective colleges, a way for students who may not do well on traditional measures like the SAT to prove they can hack it.
That’s the argument by officials at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which on Wednesday announced a plan to create what it calls an “inverted admissions” process, starting with a pilot project within a master’s program in supply-chain management.

Students who do well in a series of free online courses and a related online examination offered through MIT’s MOOC project, MITx, will “enhance their chances” of being accepted to the on-site master’s program, according to a university statement. Students who come to the program after first taking the MOOCs will then essentially place out of the first half of the coursework, so they can finish the degree in a semester rather than an academic year. That effectively makes the master’s program half the usual price.

Scholarship, Security and ‘Spillage’ on Campus

Barton Gellman:

Sure enough, someone filed a report with the above-mentioned Information Assurance Officer, who reported in turn to Purdue’s representative at the Defense Security Service. By the terms of its Pentagon agreement, Purdue was officially obliged to be shocked to find that spillage is going on at a talk about Snowden and the NSA. Three secret slides, covering perhaps five of my ninety minutes on stage, required that video be wiped in its entirety.
This was, I think, a rather devout reading of the rules. (Taken literally, the rules say Purdue should also have notified the FBI. I do not know whether that happened.) A more experienced legal and security team might have taken a deep breath and applied the official guidance to “realistically consider the potential harm that may result from compromise of spilled information.”


George Lorenzo:

Contrast Jessica and Zarni to Kaisa and Tapani Ruohonen from Tampere, Finland, who have two daughters, age two and five. Kaisa and Tapani are both working professional engineers for manufacturing companies. They too earn above-average incomes by Finnish standards.

Kaisa received 18 months of paid maternity leave (nine for each daughter) at about 70% of her salary. Tapani took 18 weeks (nine each) of a similarly paid paternity leave. Tapani also took advantage of an additional 11 months of leave when Kaisa went back to work—three with the first child and eight with the second child—taking a lesser-paid “parental allowance” under the Finnish government’s social welfare system—a subsidy that was equal to about 400 euros per month, taxable—or about $450 at the current exchange rate.

Former Chicago Public Schools chief to plead guilty to bribery scheme

Jason Meisner and Juan Perez Jr.:

The 23-count indictment alleges that almost immediately after Mayor Rahm Emanuel installed her as public schools chief in 2012, Byrd-Bennett began scheming with Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, co-owners of SUPES Academy, to secure the contracts to train principals and school administrators.

In return, Byrd-Bennett was promised a “signing bonus” of more than $250,000 and a job at SUPES once she stepped down as the public schools CEO, the indictment charges. She also was given meals and tickets to sporting events and expected to be reimbursed for a holiday party she hosted for CPS personnel, according to the charges.

Current Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s previous position was with the Chicago Public Schools.

Chinese University Tops MIT in Engineering


China’s prestigious Tsinghua University has bested the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to become the top school in the world for engineering research, according to a new U.S. News & World Report ranking, in a development that has renewed debate within China over the country’s educational system.
Tsinghua, which is often called “China’s MIT” and is renowned as one of the country’s top schools for studying sciences, came in first among 250 universities ranked by U.S. News in a report released this week, with Cambridge-based MIT ranking second.
Each school’s score is based on its number of publications and citations as well as its global and regional research reputation. U.S. News has released rankings of U.S. colleges for more than 30 years, but 2015 marks only the second year that it has scored universities across the globe.

China’s Nightmarish Citizen Scores Are a Warning For Americans

Jay Stanley:

China is launching a comprehensive “credit score” system, and the more I learn about it, the more nightmarish it seems. China appears to be leveraging all the tools of the information age—electronic purchasing data, social networks, algorithmic sorting—to construct the ultimate tool of social control. It is, as one commentator put it, “authoritarianism, gamified.” Read this piece for the full flavor—it will make your head spin. If that and the little other reporting I’ve seen is accurate, the basics are this:

College Applications, Parental Exasperations

Robert Sherrer:

‘If you’re in school, stay there.” I took to heart this 1960s public-service announcement: I went away to college at 18, became a professor and never left. So when my first child applied to college, I figured I would be an expert.

Wrong. Now that child No. 3 is embroiled in college applications, I’ve been driven over the edge. How has the admissions process exasperated me? Let me count the ways:

1. College visits.​When did looking for a college turn into a modern version of the 18th-century Grand Tour? The first time I saw my college was when my parents dropped me off to start my freshman year. Now a college search involves traipsing the width and breadth of the United States. All this, when getting information is easier than ever. My children can go online and learn the course requirements for any program at any university in a matter of minutes. They can look up the content of every class offered, and check out which ones are scheduled late enough to let them sleep until noon. So why the cross-country junkets?

One City Early Learning Center looks to help revitalize South Madison

David Dahmer:

Two facts that we know to be true: One, children who can read, who love to learn, and who can work effectively with others will be best prepared to lead happy lives and raise happy and healthy families as adults. Two, many children of color in low-income families don’t start their learning in accredited childcare centers and quickly fall behind their peers. Most never catch up.

Kaleem Caire, founder and president of One City Early Learning Center on Madison’s south side, knows that his new endeavor will help create opportunities for struggling young people and their parents. One City Early Learning Centers believes in the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child.

“It’s huge to be able to say that in South Madison we have this organically grown thing created by a native Madisonian from Fisher Street who was born and raised in the area,” Caire told Madison365. “It gives some inspiration to what we are doing, but the focus is really trying to get these kids ready for school.

Related: Kaleem Caire and the rejected Madison Preparatory academy IB charter school.

Online Test-Takers Feel Anti-Cheating Software’s Uneasy Glare

Natasha Singer:

Before Betsy Chao, a senior here at Rutgers University, could take midterm exams in her online courses this semester, her instructors sent emails directing students to download Proctortrack, a new anti-cheating technology.

“You have to put your face up to it and you put your knuckles up to it,” Ms. Chao said recently, explaining how the program uses webcams to scan students’ features and verify their identities before the test.

Friends don’t let friends misuse NAEP data

Morgan Polikoff:

At some point the next few weeks, the results from the 2015 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) will be released. I can all but guarantee you that the results will be misused and abused in ways that scream misNAEPery. My warning in advance is twofold. First, do not misuse these results yourself. Second, do not share or promote the misuse of these results by others who happen to agree with your policy predilections. This warning applies of course to academics, but also to policy advocates and, perhaps most importantly of all, to education journalists.

much more of the NAEP scores here.

Beyond College Rankings A Value-Added Approach to Assessing Two- and Four-Year Schools

Jonathan Rothwell and Siddharth Kulkarni:

The choice of whether and where to attend college is among the most important investment decisions individuals and families make, yet people know little about how institutions of higher learning compare along important dimensions of quality. This is especially true for the nearly 5,000 colleges granting credentials of two years or fewer, which together gradu- ate nearly 2 million students annually, or about 39 percent of all postsecondary graduates. Moreover, popular rankings of college quality, such as those produced by U.S. News, Forbes, and Money, focus only on a small fraction of the nation’s four-year colleges and tend to reward highly selective institu- tions over those that contribute the most to student success.

Drawing on a variety of government and private data sources, this report presents a provisional analysis of college value-added with respect to the economic success of the college’s graduates, mea- sured by the incomes graduates earn, the occupations in which they work, and their loan repayment rates. This is not an attempt to measure how much alumni earnings increase compared to forgoing

a postsecondary education. Rather, as defined here, a college’s value-added measures the difference between actual alumni outcomes (like salaries) and predicted outcomes for institutions with similar characteristics and students. Value-added, in this sense, captures the benefits that accrue from both measurable aspects of college quality, such as graduation rates and the market value of the skills

a college teaches, as well as unmeasurable “x factors,” like exceptional leadership or teaching, that contribute to student success.

While imperfect, the value-added measures introduced here improve on conventional rankings in several ways. They are available for a much larger number of postsecondary institutions; they focus on the factors that best predict objectively measured student economic outcomes; and their goal is to isolate the effect colleges themselves have on those outcomes, above and beyond what students’ backgrounds would predict.

The surprising things Seattle teachers won for students by striking

Valerie Strauss:

Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators walk a picket line Sept. 10 near Franklin High School in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Seattle teachers went on strike for a week this month with a list of goals for a new contract. By the time the strike officially ended this week, teachers had won some of the usual stuff of contract negotiations — for example, the first cost-of-living raises in six years — but also less standard objectives.

For one thing, teachers demanded, and won, guaranteed daily recess for all elementary school students — 30 minutes each day. In an era when recess for many students has become limited or non-existent despite the known benefits of physical activity, this is a big deal, and something parents had sought.

What’s more, the union and school officials agreed to create committees at 30 schools to look at equity issues, including disciplinary measures that disproportionately affect minorities. Several days after the end of the strike, the Seattle School Board voted for a one-year ban on out-of-school suspensions of elementary students who commit specific nonviolent offenses, and called for a plan that could eliminate all elementary school suspensions.

Related: Madison’s Schwerpunkt.

‘The 2015 Baltimore Uprising: A Teen Epistolary’ zine gathers tweets from teens during the uprising

Brandon Soderbergh:

Collectively, these tweets can teach us things. They send us back to those days when we didn’t know what was happening or what was going to happen next during the violence on Saturday, April 25 downtown, and the rioting on Monday, April 27, and amid the making-it-up-as-they-go-along week of protests prior to that. The tweets capture the larger thing that we keep calling “the uprising” and the “is a revolution happening before our very eyes” excitement and worry. One tweet just declares, “Looking at a lot of shit different now.”

These tweets counter “proper” media that for the most part totally screwed up its coverage and the kids’ candor is refreshing in the face of so much useless journalistic “objectivity.” It makes a case for teens—you know, kids not all that different from the ones who were stuck at Mondawmin because the buses all got shut down and then were confronted with police in riot gear—as a significant political voice during the uprising.

The geography of academic knowledge

Mark Graham

Our team recently had the opportunity of working with some submission data from SAGE journals. Amongst other things, the data tell us where authors of articles come from, and primary discipline of the journal they are submitting to.

We therefore decided to map out the geography of submissions for journals in five categories: Communication (n = 22), Clinical Medicine and Critical Care (51), Cultural Studies (7), Engineering and Computing (34), and Management and Organization Studies (28).

Protecting School Choice from the State

Jason Bedrick:

As economists have understood for more than half a century, government agencies charged with regulating industries are often subject to regulatory capture. Rather than protect consumers from bad actors in the industries they were created to oversee, regulators too often develop cozy relationships with industry leaders and work at their behest to advance their interests. In Free to Choose, Milton and Rose Friedman detailed a particularly egregious example: the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC).

Established in 1887, the ICC’s mission was to regulate the powerful railroad industry, which critics accused of engaging in cartel-like price fixing and market sharing. Instead, the railroad industry took almost immediate control of the ICC. The ICC’s first commissioner, Thomas Cooley, was a lawyer who had long represented the railroads and, as the Friedmans explained, many of the agency’s the bureaucrats “were drawn from the railroad industry, their day-to-day business tended to be with railroad people, and their chief hope of a lucrative future was with railroads.”

A new chapter in Nigeria’s literature

Tolu Ogunlesi:

The literary renaissance coincided with Nigeria’s return to democracy from 1999 after 16 years of military dictatorships. The newly elected civilian government introduced economic reforms, the most significant of which was breaking the monopoly of the state-run telecoms company by auctioning mobile phone licences to private companies. The reforms, combined with rising oil prices, generated growth and led to increased sponsorship budgets for banks, breweries and mobile phone companies, some of which pays for the proliferation of writing workshops, literary awards and festivals.

But much prosperity has failed to trickle down to the bulk of the population, more than half of whom live below poverty and literacy lines. Most Nigerian newspapers sell fewer than 40,000 copies a day to a population of 173m, and publishers consider a book that shifts 5,000 copies to be a bestseller.

“Structured Play” & Recess Consultants

Beena Raghavendran:

At the school, recess is made up of clear adult-facilitated activities.

On a day last week, a kindergartner said he wanted to play basketball. A recess coach explained that wasn’t a choice at the time; he decided to play another game.

Melissa Jackson, the principal at Forest, used Playworks when she was principal at Bethune Community School in Minneapolis.

She said she’s seen a positive impact on the school community.

After a few weeks at Concord, Playworks has become more routine. Students crawled through the play set and played jump rope games. A group of girls at Normandale acted out a game of television commercials on benches while others played four square.

Adults got involved in soccer and football games in other parts of the yard.

Away from direct supervision, some free-spirited girls at Normandale climbed on top of a spider structure, climbing higher and higher.

Related: Harrison Bergeron.

A Black Boy in Baltimore“If I fall, I need to get right back up because I don’t want to become the embodiment of what’s happening in my city.”

Melinda Anderson:

Sitting on the campus of a historically black college in July, Baltimore teen Scott Thompson II was in his comfort zone. In a stroke of luck and good timing, Scott’s mom, Myeisha Thompson, had been able to enroll the 13-year-old in the Maya-Baraka Writers Institute, a five-week intensive summer writing camp hosted by the college for the city’s youth. Infused with the spirit of the Institute’s namesakes—Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka, two socially and racially-conscious black storytellers—Scott set out to write a verse expressing his take on school systems and police departments that only see young, black males as problems.

This privacy activist has just won an enormous victory against U.S. surveillance. Here’s how.

Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman:

The European Court of Justice, Europe’s highest court, has just ruled that the Safe Harbor, an arrangement between the European Union and the United States allowing for the transfer of personal data, is legally invalid. Few non-specialists have heard of the Safe Harbor. Even so, this ruling is going to send shock waves through both Europe and the United States. Here’s how it happened (we talk about the implications in a separate post).
 The Safe Harbor is the cornerstone of transatlantic e-commerce
 Over the last 15 years, major U.S. e-commerce firms, such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, have developed big markets in Europe. They all rely on an arrangement called “Safe Harbor” to export personal data from Europe to the United States. The Safe Harbor was negotiated between Europe and the United States after a previous transatlantic dispute in which Europe threatened to stop transatlantic data flows. Europe has comprehensive legislation guaranteeing the privacy of E.U. citizens and preventing businesses from using their personal information in various potentially harmful ways. The United States does not have comprehensive privacy legislation (although it does protect the data of U.S. citizens against government intrusions, and provides some protections, e.g. for health data).

The Rise of Law Enforcement on College Campuses

Melissa Anderson:

Bill Taylor, the chief of police at Texas’s San Jacinto College, has spent four decades patrolling higher-education campuses. A veteran in the field, Taylor said his niche line of law enforcement dates to the 1960s and ‘70s—an era of widespread student unrest amid the Vietnam War and racial segregation, as well a growing concern that local and state police forces weren’t doing enough to mitigate the disorder. He’s seen lots of changes and improvements since then.

“What happened to students and people protesting? They got brutalized. Some of them got killed,” said Taylor, who also serves as president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, a professional trade organization. And that in turn prompted colleges and universities to rethink their approach to security. “I think a lot of places started thinking, ‘If we had a police force on the campus (it would be) more attuned to our student body … our community.”

End zero-tolerance school discipline

Malcolm Harris:

In the 2001 kids’ movie “Max Keeble’s Big Move,” the evil principal (played by Larry Miller) announces a new disciplinary policy on the first day of school. “I am upgrading my policy of zero tolerance to one of … subzero tolerance,” he says. It was funny at the time, but full decades into the zero-tolerance experiment, it’s hard to laugh: School discipline is out of control, and subzero tolerance is the reality.

When 14-year-old freshman Ahmed Mohamed was arrested and suspended from his Texas high school this month for making a clock that to some people appeared to be a bomb, the Internet couldn’t believe all those adults could act so unreasonably. But unreasonable has been the official policy of many American schools since the early 1990s. The zero-tolerance task force of the American Psychological Association (APA) defined zero tolerance as “a philosophy or policy that mandates the application of predetermined consequences, most often severe and punitive in nature, that are intended to be applied regardless of the seriousness of behavior, mitigating circumstances or situational context.”

Does the University of Illinois really need another medical school?

Deanna Isaacs:

On August 6, the same day a federal judge refused to dismiss professor Steven Salaita’s high-profile lawsuit against the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, chancellor Phyllis Wise abruptly resigned.

The next day the university released 1,100 pages of correspondence about university business from Wise’s personal e-mail, and the public got a look at why the ostensibly powerful chancellor of Illinois’s flagship campus had to go.

Tapping away on her private account, Wise had blithely (if mistakenly) explained that she was evading the reach of freedom of information requests.

“I may be getting paranoid, but since someone has FOIed…I am using my personal email,” she wrote, cautioning others to do the same. “I want us to be really careful.”

A Linguist Explains the Grammar of Shipping

Gretchen McCulloch

The word ship itself has an interesting enough grammar, not to mention its variants like OTP and broT3, but my favourite topic in the linguistics of shipping is one that has an actual academic paper written about it: The Fandom Pairing Name: Blends and the Phonology/Orthography Interface is a paper about ship names. You know, like Johnlock and Brittana and Dramione.* It was published in the Journal of Onomastics by Cara DiGirolamo, a linguist and also a friend. (To be honest, I’m pretty sure I decided we needed to become friends about 30 seconds after she mentioned she’d written this paper—and Toasties already owe her a debt of gratitude for helping me brainstorm the Bandycoot Cabbagepatch article.)

The Education of a Late Ottoman Naval Officer

Michael Talbot:

With the establishment of the Royal Naval College in 1873, Ottoman arrivals to Greenwich increased in the form of naval officers seeking education in all aspects of modern naval warfare. The Ottoman navy of the late nineteenth century was an expanding and dynamic force, and modernisation was the order of the day. In addition to bringing the imperial ships up-to-date, the Ottoman admiralty wanted their officers to be educated to the highest standard possible. It is for this reason that Ottoman naval officers were sent for education in Britain, which of course boasted a famously formidable navy in the nineteenth century, and links were developed through the efforts of Sir Henry Felix Woods, a former naval attaché to the British embassy in Istanbul and later an admiral in the Ottoman navy. One of those young officers sent to Britain was Ali Naci Bey, a sublieutenant in the early stages of his career.

A letter from the British Foreign Office to the Ottoman embassy in London from 27 September 1893 shows Ali Naci’s acceptance onto the prestigious course for foreign officers at the Royal Naval College:

The Worlds Most Multilingual Cities

Lindsey Galloway:

According to data from Ethnologue, a reference work documenting the world’s living languages, the countries with the largest number of spoken languages include Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Nigeria, India and the United States, all with more than 300 unique tongues spoken within their borders.

To understand how that language diversity impacts daily life, we sought out locals and expats in their most populous cities – where residents are most likely be exposed to a number of languages on a daily basis – and asked them what it’s like to live in a place where so many cultures and communities coincide everyday.
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Welcome to the Deep Learning Tutorial!


Description: This tutorial will teach you the main ideas of Unsupervised Feature Learning and Deep Learning. By working through it, you will also get to implement several feature learning/deep learning algorithms, get to see them work for yourself, and learn how to apply/adapt these ideas to new problems.

This tutorial assumes a basic knowledge of machine learning (specifically, familiarity with the ideas of supervised learning, logistic regression, gradient descent). If you are not familiar with these ideas, we suggest you go to this Machine Learning course and complete sections II, III, IV (up to Logistic Regression) first.

Madison’s English Language Learner Plan Hearings

via a kind reader:

Join us for this important opportunity for Spanish and Hmong-speaking families to provide input and make important decisions for their children’s education. Please help spread the word. Learn more about our draft English Language Learner Plan at and ask your school bilingual resource specialist for more information.

There are three information and feedback sessions for the community:

Oct. 7, 2015, 6-7:30 pm at Centro Hispano (810 W. Badger Rd.). In Spanish with English interpretation.

Oct. 14, 2015, 6-7:30 pm at Goodman Community Center (149 Waubesa St.). In English with interpretation in Spanish and other languages, as needed.

Oct. 15, 2015, 6-7:30 pm at Centro Hispano (810 W. Badger Rd.). In Spanish with English interpretation.

Letter to a calculus student – The Sequel

Devlin’s angle:

My name is Murray Pendergrass. I am a math student at Western Washington University, a small public liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest where I am pursuing a BS in Mathematics.

Sometime around 2006 you authored a post on Devlin’s Angle titled “Letter to a calculus student” and I suppose someone in the math department at my school enjoyed it because it has been tacked to a bulletin board on the math floor for quite sometime. I would have only been going into the 8th grade when it was originally posted, with absolutely no idea that I would ever become interested in mathematics. I did take a calculus course my junior year of high school, but I don’t think I could even briefly explain what a derivative was by the time the course was over (time well spent, obviously).

I must have first seen your article either my sophomore or junior year of college, 2014 most likely. I would have either been in precalculus or calculus I (differential calculus), and still completely unaware that I would end up declaring a math major. At that time I would have still been a member of the business school. I was probably waiting outside a professor’s office for office hours when the title caught my eye,

College Students Have Forgotten How to Fight the System

Fredrik deBoer

I can’t say that I was surprised when I heard that the latest chapter of our perpetual conversation about campus politics was playing out at Wesleyan University. Having spent my childhood there, I knew enough to know that such a controversy was always a possibility. But I must admit disappointment when I heard the particular contours of this latest story. Activists at Wesleyan have pushed the university to defund the Argus, the school’s main newspaper, in response to a commentary that questioned the tactics of the Black Lives Matter movement. The piece in question suggested that the BLM movement was responsible for cop killings, and questioned whether its tactics were actually effective in creating change. Campus activists, in turn, started a petition to defund the paper, which was signed by some 170 students—not a large number, even on a campus of 2,900 undergraduates, but still concerning. I am not disappointed that students have reacted, forcefully, in this way. I am disappointed in how they have reacted, and how much campus life have changed there since my childhood—a change the reflects a broader evolution of college politics that troubles so many.

Even those who agree entirely with the presumed politics of campus activists should be concerned.

The 1990s were a heady time to grow up at Wes, as I did as the son of a professor of theater. The campus was, then as now, known as a haven for proud weirdos, artists, and free thinkers of every stripe. Indeed, from my vantage, the campus was likely even crazier then than it is today. (A perpetual Wesleyan student complaint is that the administration is trying to de-weird the university, a claim that has perhaps been more accurate recently than it traditionally has been.) The campus in those days, like today, was bustling with activists ready to protest at a moment’s notice And yet there were some key differences then as compared to now, and they are not entirely healthy. Even those who agree entirely with the presumed politics of campus activists should be concerned.

Freshman residency rules sometimes force students to pay prohibitive costs

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel

Housing and meal plans at many colleges and universities now cost more than tuition, and the dozens of colleges that require students to live in a campus dorm and eat in dining halls for at least a year are adding a sometimes-prohibitive cost for those who struggle to pay for higher education.

At least 87 U.S. colleges and universities make first-year students attending college full time live on campus, according to the U.S. Department of Education. A vast majority are private schools such as Georgetown University in the District or Washington and Lee University in Virginia. But a number are state schools, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Missouri University of Science and Technology.

he Asian University for Women is educating an alumni of game changers

Sarah Lazarus:

As the first person in her family to go to university, Cherie Blair knows all about the transformative power of a good education.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere in my life had it not been for the opportunity to study,” says the wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair.

Cherie Blair, a leading barrister and Queen’s Counsel (QC), was in Hong Kong recently to establish a fundraising foundation and kick-start a global campaign to raise US$100 million for the Asian University for Women (AUW). A long-time champion of women’s rights, Blair has been chancellor of the university since 2011 and is one of its most passionate supporters.

The AUW is a unique institution. Located in Chittagong, a bustling seaport and Bangladesh’s second city, the university aims to offer a world-class liberal arts education to women from across the region. Its goal is to create a generation of capable and visionary female leaders.

In developing countries, universities are usually the preserve of the economic elite. AUW operates on a radically different model – it’s a meritocracy. Its mission is to educate the smartest girls, with the greatest potential, regardless of their families’ ability to pay fees. The majority of students are on full scholarships and AUW is currently entirely funded by donations.

“No Benefits From 4k”

David Kiro:

There’s still no evidence that the children benefited cognitively from preschool. They may be better socialized to school life — a skill, emphasized in preschool, that may well bring long-term benefits — but many of them haven’t mastered the three Rs. That’s terrible news, since being a proficient reader by third grade is widely regarded as the best predictor of high school graduation.

Pre-K critics will again pounce on the results. “Devastating for advocates of the expansion of state pre-K programs,” wrote Russ Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, commenting on the first-round evaluation. It’s an “I told you so” moment for Tennessee State Representative Bill Dunn, who slammed his state’s prekindergarten as “like paying $1,000 for a McDonald’s hamburger.”

When a nationwide evaluation of Head Start, the federal government’s preschool program, reported similarly disappointing outcomes three years ago, Mr. Whitehurst delivered a blistering critique. “The best available evidence raises serious doubts that a large public investment in the expansion of pre-K for 4-year-olds will have the long-term effects that advocates tout.” Pre-K was generally thought to be better than Head Start, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Tennessee.

Have the claims made for early education been overblown? Not necessarily. Consider what’s happening in Boston. A randomized study showed that prekindergartners there gained between four and seven months’ progress in reading and math, and those gains persisted: 27 percent more of Boston’s preschool children scored “proficient” or better on the state’s rigorous third-grade exams.

Why Are Little Kids in Japan So Independent?

Selena Hoy:

It’s a common sight on Japanese mass transit: children troop through train cars, singly or in small groups, looking for seats.

They wear knee socks, polished patent leather shoes, and plaid jumpers, with wide-brimmed hats fastened under the chin and train passes pinned to their backpacks. The kids are as young as six or seven, on their way to and from school, and there is nary a guardian in sight.

Parents in Japan regularly send their kids out into the world at a very young age. A popular television show called Hajimete no Otsukai, or My First Errand, features children as young as two or three being sent out to do a task for their family. As they tentatively make their way to the greengrocer or bakery, their progress is secretly filmed by a camera crew. The show has been running for more than 25 years.

The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland

Tim Walker:

“The changes to kindergarten make me sick,” a veteran teacher in Arkansas recently admitted to me. “Think about what you did in first grade—that’s what my 5-year-old babies are expected to do.”

The difference between first grade and kindergarten may not seem like much, but what I remember about my first-grade experience in the mid-90s doesn’t match the kindergarten she described in her email: three and a half hours of daily literacy instruction, an hour and a half of daily math instruction, 20 minutes of daily “physical activity time” (officially banned from being called “recess”) and two 56-question standardized tests in literacy and math—on the fourth week of school.

The rise of the private coach at university

Emma Jacobs

One morning Madeleine Kasson received an email from an undergraduate, sent at 5am. Please write my essay — it is due in today, it requested. She declined the solicitation, as she does with all such requests from students. This is a common misunderstanding of her work as a private tutor to undergraduates.

This new breed of tutors catering to undergraduates is growing (admittedly from a low base). Once the guilty secret of schoolchildren seeking to get into selective schools or gain top marks in exams, private tutors are now helping British undergraduates and even postgraduates at universities. As many teenagers and twenty-somethings start their new university terms, some will be seeking the help of tutors, like Ms Kasson. Some even assist graduates applying for jobs in banks and professional services firms.

Edd Stockwell, co-founder of Tutorfair, a non-profit organisation that also provides tutoring to children whose parents cannot afford the fees, has seen the number of requests for degree-level tutorials double in the past year. Luke Shelley, director of Tavistock Tutors, says its services for undergraduates have grown “rapidly” in the past six years.

In extreme cases this might involve intensive tutoring throughout the degree course.

Adam Caller, founder of Tutors International, describes one case where a father had forced his daughter to enrol on a business degree — rather than her original choice of English — with the aspiration that she could one day take over the family business. In order to school her in a subject that she had little interest in, a tutor taught her for five hours every working day for three years. The bill came to more than £400,000. She graduated with a 2:1.

The model minority is losing patience

The Economist:

MICHAEL WANG, a young Californian, came second in his class of 1,002 students; his ACT score was 36, the maximum possible; he sang at Barack Obama’s inauguration; he got third place in a national piano contest; he was in the top 150 of a national maths competition; he was in several national debating-competition finals. But when it came to his university application he faced a serious disappointment for the first time in his glittering career. He was rejected by six of the seven Ivy League colleges to which he applied.
“I saw people less qualified than me get better offers,” says Mr Wang. “At first I was just angry. Then I decided to turn that anger to productive use.” He wrote to the universities concerned. “I asked: what more could I have done to get into your college? Was it based on race, or what was it based on?” He got vague responses—or none. So he complained to the Department of Education. Nothing came of it. “The department said they needed a smoking gun.”

Note education issues: The Hard Lessons of Kunduz and Syria Why U.S. efforts to train and equip friendly fighters around the world so often fail.

Rosa Brooks:

If I had to pinpoint the single most important reason recent U.S. train-and-equip efforts have failed, I’d say it’s this: We consistently fail to understand that other people want to pursue what they see as their interests and objectives, not ours. We go into complex foreign conflicts with a profound ignorance of history, language, and culture; as a result, we rarely understand the loyalties, commitments, and constraints of those we train. Sure, we undertake “vetting,” but it’s remarkably shallow: If there’s no evidence of actual collaboration or affiliation with groups we don’t like, and no evidence of participation in egregious human rights abuses, a trainee or military unit is good to go.

Secret Teacher: I can’t help but judge on parents’ evening

Secret Teacher:

The long hours crammed behind a desk. The hand-shaking. The attempt to hold a polite grin when you’re desperate for a loo break. Parents’ evenings aren’t usually popular with teachers, but I love them.

It’s not praising students in front of their families that I enjoy so much. It’s not the looks on my pupils’ faces – from joy to outright fear – when I whip out their exercise books as evidence. It’s not even the crucial progress we can make in a good parental meeting, where no one can dispute what was said because everyone was there.

No, what captivates me are the glimpses into my students’ home lives because so much of their behaviour in class can be explained by simple interactions with their parents. The non-verbal cues are often more telling than the words that are spoken; the angry looks, the interruptions and the accusatory, you’re-never-there stares when homework is discussed. I once watched a mother hand over the feeding of a wriggling infant to my pupil during the meeting and suddenly had a terrifying insight into the extent of her responsibilities at home. She was in year 8. The quiet and studious child put an immense amount of pressure on herself in class, but seeing how much she had to deal with at home I suddenly realised why.

Serving School Lunch Family Style

Anne Hoffman:

When Hannah was in fourth grade, she decided to skip her school’s free lunch every day. Even though it fit under the new National School Lunch program guidelines as a healthy meal, she still opted not to eat the chef’s salad with lite Italian dressing, the meatballs and sauce, or the serving of raw veggies or fruit. She didn’t like the way it tasted, and besides, the cafeteria was chaotic, with fights that broke out soon after lunch began.

Hannah, who is rail thin and sports a ponytail so flawless that other little girls stop her to comment on it, would arrive home around 3 o’clock with a rumbling stomach. She would typically ask her mom for an early supper.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: As America’s economic supremacy fades, the primacy of the dollar looks unsustainable

The Economist:

For decades, America’s economic might legitimised the dollar’s claims to reign supreme. But, as our special report this week explains, a faultline has opened between America’s economic clout and its financial muscle. The United States accounts for 23% of global GDP and 12% of merchandise trade. Yet about 60% of the world’s output, and a similar share of the planet’s people, lie within a de facto dollar zone, in which currencies are pegged to the dollar or move in some sympathy with it. American firms’ share of the stock of international corporate investment has fallen from 39% in 1999 to 24% today. But Wall Street sets the rhythm of markets globally more than it ever did. American fund managers run 55% of the world’s assets under management, up from 44% a decade ago.

Where Black Lives Don’t Matter A TV ad highlights the racial inequality of New York’s public school system.

William McGurn:

“The facts are the facts,” responds the executive director for Families for Excellent Schools, Jeremiah Kittredge. “A half million children, almost all of color, are being forced into failing schools with no escape.”

The United Federation of Teachers’ response was a feel-good video reminiscent of those old propaganda clips featuring happy, well-fed peasants talking about the blessings of Soviet collectives. In the UFT version, smiling teachers and students are filmed “celebrating the diversity and success of New York City public schools.”

In short, New Yorkers are being presented with two starkly different narratives.

The teachers-union narrative asks the city to celebrate the “success” of a school system in which there is no hint of any challenges. Families for Excellent Schools suggests that “success” is not the word for a school system in which half a million children—478,000 to be precise—languish in failure factories.

These are defined as schools where two-thirds of the students are failing, the city’s most rotten schools. Ninety percent of the kids in these schools are children of color. Families for Excellent Schools calls this system a “pipeline to failure,” noting that a child who starts in a failing elementary school has only a 1.6% chance of ever going on to a top-performing middle school.

Colleges Don’t Need to Pay Athletes Beyond Attendance Costs

Sharon Terlep:

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that the NCAA can keep a ban on compensating athletes beyond the cost of attending school, in effect nullifying last year’s landmark decision that such rules violate antitrust law.

The decision, by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, came despite the trio’s assertion that the National Collegiate Athletic Association is “not above antitrust laws” and that its rules “have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college sports market.”


Judge: NCAA Can’t Ban Pay for Players
NCAA Weighing Next Steps After Ruling
The NCAA’s Curious Move

Honesty is the Best Policy: Early Smarter Balanced Results Provide Insight into How States Compare

Marianne Lombardo:

The Hibsty Map-when you’re given information that paints a rosier picture than what is the actual case – might be humorous if we’re talking about, but it isn’t when we’re talking about our children’s education.

The Obama administration has fought hard, against extensive criticism, to address the discrepancies between what states have been calling proficient and what students need to know and be able to do in order to enter college or a career successfully. This discrepancy is devastating for the 60 percent of students who are deemed not ready for college, frustrates the 30 percent of high school graduates who enter a job market where 40 percent of employers rate new entrants with a high school diploma as “deficient” in their workforce preparation, and even disastrous for our nation’s security as a whole: Nearly one-fourth of all high school graduates don’t get the minimum score needed to join any branch of the military.

Moody’s downgrades Haverford College, PA to A1; outlook stable


The downgrade to A1 is based on Haverford College’s relative weakening profile as very low revenue growth in recent years has contributed to ongoing operating deficits. As a result, financial resource growth has been stunted compared to peers and competitors. Operating deficits are expected to continue through at least 2017, albeit at lower levels as the college addresses current issues of fundamental financial imbalance. Financial reserves declined modestly in FY 2015 based on unaudited financial statements despite an ongoing fundraising campaign. Absent increased philanthropy and endowment growth, Haverford’s operating performance will continue to be challenged by its need-blind admissions policy.

The A1 rating positively acknowledges the college’s comparatively strong market position as an elite liberal arts institution in suburban Philadelphia. Liquidity remains ample, fundraising is good, and financial reserves still provide a strong cushion of debt and operations, providing Haverford with significant time to address its current financial imbalance.

Offsetting challenges include elevated financial leverage with minimal principal amortization until 2022 and modest cash flow providing thin debt service coverage.

“Most importantly, he appears willing to sacrifice minority children’s educational opportunities to stay within the good graces of UFT.” 

Laura Waters:

But you have to understand where I’m coming from. My parents were both UFT members (my dad was a high school teacher and my mom was a high school social worker) and we practically davened to Albert Shanker, AFT’s founder. I knew all the words to Woody Guthrie’s labor hymn, “There Once was a Union Maid” (who never was afraid of goons and ginks and company finks…). I sang it to my kids too. What do you expect from an education-obsessed New York Jew from a union household?

During the 1960’s, ‘70’s, and ‘80’s there was no divide between education reform and union fidelity. If you were a UFT member than you were devoted to improving student outcomes. Everyone, or almost everyone, was on the same side.

And now we’re here, fraught with division. De Blasio ran on a platform that explicitly opposed the “creation of new charter schools” or the “co-location of charter schools within public schools” despite a waiting list of 43,000 names. He’s made enemies of Gov. Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, almost entirely through divergent education agendas, and Eva Moskowitz, who runs the most outstanding and popular group of charter schools in the city. Most importantly, he appears willing to sacrifice minority children’s educational opportunities to stay within the good graces of UFT.

We live in a political world of lobbyists and special interests, of PAC’s and Citizens United. But elected representatives, especially the leader of one of the most educationally-troubled cities, have an absolute obligation to separate politics from policy. I think de Blasio is a good man but I think he’s crossed that line.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results despite spending double the national average per student.

Related: Madison’s schwerpunkt.

Children of the Yuan Percent: Everyone Hates China’s Rich Kids

Christopher Beam:

Emerging from a nightclub near Workers’ Stadium in Beijing at 1:30 a.m. on a Saturday in June, Mikael Hveem ordered an Uber. He selected the cheapest car option and was surprised when the vehicle that rolled up was a dark blue Maserati. The driver, a young, baby-faced Chinese man, introduced himself as Jason. Hveem asked him why he was driving an Uber—he obviously didn’t need the cash. Jason said he did it to meet people, especially girls. Driving around late at night in Beijing’s nightclub district, he figured he’d find the kind of woman who would be charmed by a clean-cut 22-year-old in a sports car.

Computer algorithm created to encode human memories

Clive Cookson:

Researchers in the US have developed an implant to help a disabled brain encode memories, giving new hope to Alzheimer’s sufferers and wounded soldiers who cannot remember the recent past.

The prosthetic, developed at the University of Southern California and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in a decade-long collaboration, includes a small array of electrodes implanted into the brain.

The key to the research is a computer algorithm that mimics the electrical signalling used by the brain to translate short-term into permanent memories.

This makes it possible to bypass a damaged or diseased region, even though there is no way of “reading” a memory — decoding its content or meaning from its electrical signal.

“It’s like being able to translate from Spanish to French without being able to understand either language,” said Ted Berger of USC, the project leader.

American education is ripe for a technology revolution to prepare students for the 21st century

Christopher Mims:

Whatever your measure—the reading and math proficiency of high-school graduates, the skills gap in the nation’s labor market, or the real value of college—there can be little argument that America’s schools, as a whole, are failing to prepare students for the 21st century.

There are countless explanations why, but here’s a significant contributing factor: Until recently, we simply didn’t know how to use technology to make teachers and students happier, better engaged and more successful.

Think about it: In every field of human endeavor, from manufacturing to knowledge work, we’re figuring out how to use technology to make humans more successful—to raise the quality of their work, if not their measured productivity.

How much do big education nonprofits pay their bosses? Quite a bit, it turns out.

Valerie Strauss:

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently finalized a rule forcing businesses to share data with workers that expose how much more their chief executives make than they do.

In that spirit, let’s take a look at the compensation of the chief executives of three very large education non-profit organizations heavily involved in standardized testing — the College Entrance Examination Board, known as the College Board, which owns the SAT college admissions exam and the Advanced Placement program; the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT and AP exams for the College Board as well as other assessments for other organizations); and ACT, Inc., which owns the ACT college admissions and also is responsible for other tests and programs.

It’s easy to mistake big non-profits such as these as for-profit companies, because they operate in similar fashion. They pay their top people a lot of money, charge fees for their services, make investments, market and lobby legislators. So how well do their executives do financially? Pretty darn well, it turns out. And many of their subordinates do just fine, too.

Life after MOOCs

Phillip Compeau, Pavel A. Pevzner:

Three years ago, Moshe Vardi published an editorial in Communications expressing concerns about the pedagogical quality of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and including the sentiment, “If I had my wish, I would wave a wand and make MOOCs disappear.”9 His editorial was followed by studies highlighting various limitations of MOOCs (see Karsenti5 for a review).

We share the concerns about the quality of early primitive MOOCs, which have been hyped by many as a cure-all for education. At the same time, we feel much of the criticism of MOOCs stems from the fact that truly disruptive scalable educational resources have not yet been developed. For this reason, if we had a wand, we would not wish away MOOCs but rather transform them into a more effective educational product called a massive adaptive interactive text (MAIT) that can compete with a professor in a classroom. We further argue that computer science is a discipline in which this transition is about to happen.

“our collective failure to even try to measure the impact professional development has on teacher performance in the first place”

Dan Weisberg:

In other words, it would be great if the biggest challenge around professional development were the exact teacher performance measures we should use to evaluate it. But we’re not even there yet. We still need school systems to ask the basic questions that these measures could help answer: Is the professional development you’re providing actually helping teachers improve? How do you know?

The good news is that those questions suggest a very practical path forward. Surely we’d be in a better place if, for example, school systems got concrete about what great teaching looks like (as Andy suggests), and made sure teachers and school leaders bought into that vision. We’d be better off if we started setting measurable goals for teacher development, aligned toward that vision of excellence, and kept track of which initiatives actually meet them. And we would do well to shed the long-held assumption that we know how to help 3.5 million individual teachers become masters of their craft, and started considering some new ideas about what schools or the teaching profession itself could look like—ideas that could have a much broader impact on instructional quality.

New Mathematica Study on KIPP Charter Schools as They Scale Up; FYI, They Don’t “Cream Off” Top Students

Laura Waters:

KIPP elementary schools have positive, statistically significant, and educationally meaningful impacts on three of four measures of reading and mathematics skills.

Consistent with prior research, KIPP middle schools have positive, statistically significant, and educationally meaningful impacts on student achievement in math, reading, science, and social studies. Average impacts of middle schools were positive and statistically significant throughout the 10-year period covered by the study, though higher in earlier years than recent years.

KIPP high schools have positive, statistically significant, and educationally meaningful impacts on student achievement for high school students new to the KIPP network. For students continuing to KIPP high schools from KIPP middle schools, impacts on achievement are not statistically significant. For this group of continuing KIPP students, KIPP high schools have positive impacts on a variety of college preparation activities and the likelihood of applying to college.

Understanding the Effect of KIPP as it Scales: Volume I, Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes.

Bubble Trouble for Standardized Testing


A few weeks ago, a new class of nearly 800 students arrived at Wesleyan University to begin their first year. Wesleyan is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top liberal-arts colleges, and admissions are competitive.

But those who have made it to the school’s leafy campus in Middletown, Conn., look pretty much like their newly minted peers at any other college in the U.S. The interesting difference is one that doesn’t show. Nearly one-third of Wesleyan’s incoming class was admitted without an SAT score. Last year, the school dropped its requirement that applicants submit a standardized-entrance-exam score, and hundreds of would-be Wesleyan students from a wide range of backgrounds took advantage of the option.

In abolishing the mandate, Wesleyan joined a growing cadre of selective schools that includes other recent defectors such as George Washington University and Wake Forest. Today, nearly 200 of the roughly 2,968 degree-granting four-year colleges in the U.S. no longer require the SAT or the ACT, while 600 more have diminished their role in the admission process, according to the antitesting organization Fair Test. Those ranks include not only elite and expensive colleges like Bates and Smith but also major state schools like the University of Arizona and regional campuses including Montclair State in New Jersey and Weber State in Utah.

NCTQ Unveils ‘Consumer’s Guide’ to Colleges of Education

Stephen Sawchuck:

The National Council on Teacher Quality has unveiled Path to Teach, an online website billed as a consumer’s guide to colleges of education.

Teacher-candidates-to-be can look up college programs and alternative programs from across the nation, comparing them by tuition costs, enrollment numbers, location, and by a quality snapshot that looks at criteria like admissions selectivity, preparation to teach in different content areas, and student-teaching quality.

Path to Teach’s A-F grades are based on the NCTQ’s project to assess elementary, secondary, and special education programs in every education school. The rankings are often fairly unsparing (“This program will not prepare you to teach young children to read,” says the typical warning for an F grade for early reading.)

The series of problems in al-Khwārizmī’s Algebra

Jeffrey Oaks:

There are two collections of problems in al-Khwārizmī’s Algebra. The first is part of what I call the “algebra proper”, and consists of the thirty-nine worked out arithmetic problems in the first half of the book. This set of problems is the object of my study. It is not to be confused with the collection of inheritance problems that make up the second half of the book, after the chapters on business arithmetic and mensuration.

I have written much more than I expected, so I will summarize my arguments here and give links to my longer study and to my translation of the whole corpus. First, the links:

“The series of problems in al-Khwārizmī’s Algebra”. 13 pages, plus bibliography. here

The College President-to-Adjunct Pay Ratio

Laura McKenna:

Economists often calculate the income disparities between companies’ CEOs and their average workers with ratios, expressing concern when the gaps grow too wide. For example, a recent report from Glassdoor, a labor-market research firm, found that Chipotle CEO Steve Ellis earned $29 million total in 2014, while the median worker serving those yummy burrito bowls earned just $19,000. That would make the median CEO-to-worker pay ratio at Chipotle 1,522 to one.

The Riskiest Student Loans Are The Smallest Ones, Study Says

Molly Hensley-Clancy:

new analysis of student loan borrowers shows that, contrary to public perception, those who borrow the least are most likely to default on their loans.
The study, which examined borrowing by community college students in Iowa, found that 31% of those with loan balances of less than $5,000 defaulted, compared with 22% of those who owed between $10,000 and $15,000. The national average default rate across all educational institutions is less than 14%.

The study adds credence to a changing understanding of the $1 trillion student debt crisis, suggesting that the riskiest borrowers are not those who have taken out tens of thousands of dollars in loans to cover high tuition costs, but those who borrow in small amounts.

So far there has been little effort by the federal government to help such borrowers, according to the study, released Monday by the Association of Community College Trustees. But that could change: the Obama administration has recently made free community college a key part of its education agenda, proposing a national program and pushing states to adopt their own initiatives.

Is college worth the cost? Many recent graduates don’t think so.

Jeffrey Selingo:

In the coming weeks, tens of thousands of young adults who graduated from college last spring will get their first payment notice for their student loans. As they look at the bill — with an average monthly payment closing in on $400 and with a decade of payments ahead of them — they inevitably will ask the question: “Was my degree worth it?”

If the results of a national survey released on Tuesday are any indication, many of them will question their investment. Just 38 percent of students who have graduated college in the past decade strongly agree that their higher education was worth the cost, according to results of 30,000 alumni polled by Gallup-Purdue Index.