“”The measure would allow the district to permanently exceed state-imposed revenue limits by $26 million each year into perpetuity. “

Doug Erickson

Tommy Badger Aug 30, 2016 8:51am

Our school board is living in the past. The state is not going to raise financial support for public schools. Our school board was given tools to make changes to operate in the new Republican reality. They refuse to use these new tools and continue to expect the taxpayers to cover them.

How many charter schools do we have? How many students do we have to lose to Oregon and Verona due to the overcrowded Leopold campus?

This school board doesn’t deserve our support until they make some changes in how they operate.
Middle Man Aug 30, 2016 8:34am

Act 10 works for the vast majority of school boards, puts them in check. Unfortunately for us here in tax town, this school board doesn’t know how to balance a check book, so they blame SW and understand the tax base is socialist Bernie supports…heck you could raise taxes to 75 percent and still blame Walker and get away with it.
KickiceWis Aug 30, 2016 8:58am

“heck you could raise taxes to 75 percent and still blame Walker and get away with it.”

There is plenty to blame Walker for. A 75% tax rate isn’t necessary.

And keep one tiny little tidbit in mind when you laud Act 10 and how school districts raise taxes. Districts raise taxes on average every 10 years. In 2010, with the fear of Act 10 being implemented, 80 of the states school districts raised tax levies. So just because few have since, don’t assume Act 10 was the reason. Time will tell.
Middle Man Aug 30, 2016 9:21am

On average every 10 years, so tell me how MMSD rates on the law of averages. Not lauding Act 10, don’t assume its SW fault either.
array1 Aug 30, 2016 11:54am

So other Wi school districts have not increased taxes to make up for the walker cuts?
KickiceWis Aug 30, 2016 8:32am

Nobody wants to pay more in taxes. And like others, I agree there is some funding that can come from other wasteful spending.

But people freak out when taxes go up to support schools. Schools. Can we find any better way to spend tax dollars than educating our children? The average tax increase on school spending is $60 a year on an average $250,000 home. That is $5 a month. Seriously people, is $5 a month going to break you? This is a whole lot of whining for $5 a month.
joe Aug 30, 2016 9:04am

I think the concern is more about whether the school is using the money wisely, not whether schools are important.

Much more on the Madison School District’s nearly $18k/student budget, here.

Why America’s MOOC pioneers have abandoned ship.

Jonathan Rees

Even if Daphne Koller and company are not yet willing to admit this fact publicly, with all that MOOC hype fading quickly into the rear-view mirror their actions speak louder than their previous once ever-so-optimistic words. MOOCs and other forms of automated online education may persist as long as there’s a surplus of money in Silicon Valley anxious to disrupt higher education for the sake of capital rather than students. That ship may sail on indefinitely, but compared to the inflated rhetoric that once blew through their sails, MOOCs are destined to remain ghost ships floating on the open ocean, without the lost crew that had such high hopes to transform education forever at the start of their long journeys.

The new, new thing always takes awhile to emerge. Legacy institutions presumably understand the history of innovation along with long term information trends….

Emanuel Says Teachers Deserve Some Praise For Test Scores

Sarah Karp

Over the past weekend, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools announced that results from the NWEA assessment show that 60 percent of students are performing above the national average in reading and 50 percent in math. This is an improvement since last year and the best the district has done since it began using the NWEA in 2013.

One wonders how Madison (about $18k), which spends substantially more than Chicago per student, compares?

What I Learned In My Women’s Studies Classes

Toni Airaksinen:

When I first discovered women’s studies, I was lulled into a comforting sense that I had discovered the “truth.” It was as if my veil of ignorance had been yanked away, and I was blissfully seeing the world for what it really was.

I have taken seven women’s studies classes; initially at a nondescript state university and later at a women’s college in Manhattan. After taking those classes, I realize that not only was I deluded, but I was led into an absurd intellectual alcove where objective truth is subordinate to academic theories used as political propaganda.

Indeed, since knowledge itself is considered a patriarchal construct, feminist theories are the organizing principles of classes.

The theoretical backbone of women’s studies is grounded in three main conjectures: that of the patriarchy, intersectional oppression, and social constructionism.

None of these contentions can be proven or falsified. Yet, as a student, good grades are contingent on agreeing with them. So what do they actually represent?


Oppression does indeed exist. But, oppression is complicated, far more complicated than can be distilled in an undergraduate academic setting. And teaching students how to view the world through the lens of oppression isn’t just dangerous, but cruel. Nothing is more oppressive than having your professors teach you that you’re a victim.

Which degrees give the best financial returns?

The Economist

 THE economies of the rich world increasingly depend upon skilled workers, and college degrees are in high demand. In 1972 a university-educated man aged 25-34 could expect to earn 22% more than a peer without a degree, according to the Urban Institute, a think-tank. Today that premium has risen to 70%. But if university pays, its benefits are not spread evenly across all graduates. A new report from PayScale, a research firm, calculates the returns to higher education in American universities. Its authors compare the career earnings of college graduates with the present-day cost of a degree at their alma maters, after taking account of financial aid.

“Content Delivery Specialists”

Graham Brown-Martin

We operate our schools as teacher-centred, subject knowledge focused systems and continually test around that. Not just the students but we also have teachers spending as much time evidencing their practice within these metrics rather than by the kids whose curiosity and wonder they’ve ignited by great teaching.

No wonder excellent teachers are leaving the profession in droves when they have been reduced to content delivery specialists and rewarded on the basis of grades rather than inspiring young minds. The craft of teaching is rapidly diminishing given all it takes is a 6 week course on top of 2:1 degree to call yourself a teacher. In some cases you don’t even need the 6 week course. Imagine if that’s all it took to become a doctor. There would be riots.

Online homework programs burn holes in student pockets

Joe Timmerman

Certain classes at this university require students to use an online program to complete and submit their homework — for instance, Accounting 100, Finance 100 Economics 101 and Physics 202. There are certainly some advantages to online homework, like faster feedback and much less work for professors and teaching assistants. However, at what expense? For many of these programs, there are two ways to gain access: either purchase the textbook new or purchase an access code for the program separately. In some cases, access to the online program can cost more than $100 – as much or more than the new textbook itself.

Considering that online coursework programs are priced in such a ludicrous manner, it becomes clear this is nothing more than an attempt by textbook companies to quash the used textbook market.

But why would professors choose to use these types of programs? After all, professors have been through their fair share of school. They understand how budget-busting purchasing textbooks can be. While I’m not a mind reader, allow me to hazard a few guesses.

Sub-Saharan Africa and Emerging Asia lead the pack over an 8-year term in improving its citizens lives, while Western Europe remains at the top of the current index

Josh Robinson:

The SEDA, or Sustainable Economic Development Assessment ranks more than 160 countries across 10 areas including economic stability, health, governance and environment. It uses two measures, the first a current score taking into the most recent data and a rolling score that assesses how countries can convert economic growth into well-being over an eight year period from 2006 to 2014.

A charter-school education for John Oliver

Charles Sahm

By painting all states with a broad brush, Oliver presented a one-sided story. A more nuanced, thoughtful take would note that many states take charter accountability seriously and that those states employing the “serious, slow and steady” approach produce better results.

Are PhD Students Irrational?

Aaron Hanson:

THE MOST RECENT National Science Foundation (NSF) “Survey of Earned Doctorates” raises eyebrows, not because it paints a predictably bleak picture for the job prospects of humanities PhD students, but because people are surprised that prospects for engineering and science PhDs aren’t looking so good either.

In a fascinating way, the NSF data challenges a long-standing narrative about job opportunities by field of study. We’re used to thinking of — more accurately, maligning — humanities students as idealistic, unsystematic dreamers prone to “Peter Pan syndrome,” irrationality, and reality avoidance. Humanities PhDs struggling to find sustainable employment don’t garner much societal sympathy, largely because it’s considered axiomatic that a person with a humanities PhD has no business thinking she possesses economic value. But when the scientists and engineers — the ones confirmation bias demands we view as rational and pragmatic — are caught in a rough job market flirting with something that looks like quixotic delusion, we’re forced to rethink our assumptions. Once it appears that it’s not just humanities students making unadvisable career choices, it suddenly becomes more difficult to victim-blame unemployed doctors (of philosophy) as a whole.

The New Cheating Economy

Brad Wolverton

Fifteen credits were all he needed. That’s what the school district in California where Adam Sambrano works as a career-guidance specialist required for a bump in pay. But when he saw the syllabus for a graduate course he’d enrolled in last year at Arizona State University, he knew he was in trouble.

Among the assignments was a 19-page paper, longer than anything he’d ever written. The idea of that much research worried Mr. Sambrano, who also spends time serving in the Army National Guard.

Before the class started, he went on Craigslist and enlisted the service of a professional cheater. For $1,000 — less than the monthly housing allowance he was receiving through the GI Bill, he says — Mr. Sambrano hired a stranger to take his entire course.

Via Steve Crandall.

The Sixteen Most Innovative People in Higher Education

Gilad Edelman

Last year, we profiled ten college and university presidents who, in our judgment, were doing things differently, and better, than their peers. Instead of using their positions to increase their endowments and recruit a “better” sort of student in order to move their schools up the U.S. News & World Report rankings, these leaders were turning their institutions into laboratories of innovation in a hunt for better ways to deliver higher ed—providing quality degrees at lower cost, getting more students to graduate, and so on. One of those presidents, Michael Sorrell of Paul Quinn College, is the subject of a longer feature in this issue (see Matt Connolly, “Labor of Love”).

Feds use Rand formula to spot discrimination. The GOP calls it junk science

James Rufus Koren:

If you have a credit card, a car loan or almost any type of debt other than a mortgage, there’s a chance your name and address have been run through Elliott’s algorithm, a complex formula that crunches data from the Census Bureau.

But as it has become more widely used, Elliott’s work and the CFPB’s application of it have found their way into the middle of a fight between the federal consumer watchdog and politicians who want to scrap the agency. Some congressional Republicans have gone so far as to call the CFPB’s use of Elliott’s system “junk science.”

His algorithm is a tool that estimates the probability that someone is white, black, Asian or Hispanic based only on their address and last name. The CFPB has relied on it to accuse some of the country’s largest auto lenders, including the financing arms of Toyota and Honda, of discrimination.

Car dealerships often add an extra bit of interest, called a markup, on top of the rate charged by a lender, ostensibly to pay the dealership for its work arranging the loan. The CFPB, using Elliott’s system to look at tens of thousands of loans, has alleged that dealers charge larger markups to minority borrowers.

“Five years ago, (Chicago) began reporting year-over-year change on the NWEA math and reading tests” Madison?


The way we assess school quality is changing fast. When Chicago last ranked public schools, in 2012, we followed standard practice at the time and threw a lot of weight on test scores. For one thing, they were a widely available and consistently reported measure of performance. For another, standardized test results—typically expressed as a percentage of students who meet or exceed state standards on a given exam—offered nice, clean, ostensibly meaningful numbers that could be compared at a glance.

Via Chan Stroman.

Berkeley Suspends Its ‘Global Campus’ Because of Budget Deficit

Arielle Martinez:

The University of California at Berkeley has indefinitely suspended its proposed “global campus” because of its budget deficit, the East Bay Times reported on Friday, even though the Berkeley chancellor said earlier this year that the project would be off-limits to budget cuts.

The chancellor, Nicholas B. Dirks, said in an open letter to the campus in February that although Berkeley was considering cuts to close a $150-million deficit, the planned global campus would be “entirely supported by philanthropy and external partnerships.”

The global campus, which Berkeley proposed in January 2015, was supposed to be built in Richmond Bay, just 10 miles from the university’s main campus. The project was pitched as a research hub at which partner universities from around the world would offer programs for students both from the United States and abroad.

Second-grade teacher’s unique homework policy goes viral

Jennifer Earl:

Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher at the school, passed out a letter to every parent at a “Meet the Teacher Night” ahead of the start of the school year to explain her new homework policy — or should we say, no-homework policy.

A pleased parent posted a photo of the letter on her Facebook page, and it went viral with more than 59,000 shares.

“Brooke is loving her new teacher already!” Samantha Gallagher captioned the picture.

The mother of 7-year-old Brooke was thrilled to know that her daughter won’t be overwhelmed with homework this year.

“There will be no formally assigned homework this year,” Brandy Young explained in the letter. “Rather, I ask you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.”

Why should children program – a review of Seymor Paperts Mindstorms

Daniel Näslund:

I have done some programming exercises from code.org together with my six year old daughter. Why? I have mixed feelings about putting a child in front of a computer: On one hand I’m worried about the attention addiction that I see in her peers, they spend way too much time in front of their tablets and tv:s. Do I really want my daughter to start using the computer at this early age. I hear some parents argue that learning to use a computer is a valuable skill, but what does that mean? Understanding the machine? Understanding common UI idioms? Understanding how to access games?

I guess, I’m hoping for her to get a head start, I want her to be able to build things on her own, not just consume what others have created. But what exactly is it that I want her to build? I see her and her younger brother spending a lot of time with their Lego bricks, creating houses, boats, cars and fantasy castles. What is it beyond that, that I’m hoping for her to learn by using a computer?

The Financial Catastrophe Looming Over Chicago Public Schools, in 6 Numbers

The 74:

The financial perils threatening Chicago Public Schools are highlighted in the following six numbers.


The size of the CPS’s long-term debt as of June — prior to its request Wednesday to continue to borrow. The district also had $870 million of outstanding short-term debt as of June.


The board approved CPS’s request for a $1.5 billion credit line on Wednesday, which will require setting aside another $35 million for interest payments. Since last August, all three major credit agencies had rated the district’s debt as “junk.” As a consequence, CPS will be forced to pay higher interest on future loans.


The board also approved CPS’s request to borrow $945 million for capital improvement projects, including school construction and improvement. Some analysts questioned the district’s plan, noting it already sold $725 million worth of bonds earlier this year to investors at an extraordinarily high 8.5 percent interest rate. That debt won’t be paid off until 2044.


After a year-long stalemate, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and lawmakers agreed in June to approve a stopgap budget that will keep the state afloat for six months and allow school districts to open their doors this fall. The deal allowed the board to levy an additional property tax in Chicago estimated to yield $250 million to cover teachers’ pensions. (The district will still need the state and teachers union to help with pension payments, per below.)

Yellowstone: Safety In The Age Of The Helicopter Parent

Jonathan Last:

boys have need of some recklessness. If they do not come by it naturally, it must be bred into them. The trick is titrating just enough of the stuff so that they are game for life’s adventures but not liable to do something catastrophically stupid, like going to law school. And so it was in this moment, as I stood on Lee Street, that I resolved to put more adventure into his life.

In the end, I settled on taking Cody to Yellowstone for a week of camping and communing with nature in all her brutal splendor. I emphasize that this trip would be for his benefit, not mine. Because while I enjoy nature, in measured doses, I have matured to the point where I have certain needs. For instance, there is only one pillow on which I can sleep—it is almost completely flat, with small indentations perfectly conformed to my neck from three decades of use. Also, I require a double espresso every morning, before 6:30 a.m. This is a partial list of what my wife delicately refers to as my “eccentricities.”

But parenthood requires sacrifice—the two words are practically synonyms—so in early June, I packed up my son, and a great deal of gear, and took him to Yellowstone, one of the last places in America where you can still have real adventure.

Real adventure requires real risk, and Yellowstone has that in spades. The week before we got to the park, there were two “geyser accidents.” In one, a 13-year-old was burned at a thermal area near Old Faithful. The injuries were severe enough that he was hospitalized. In another, a 23-year-old fell into an acidic, scalding-hot spring near Porkchop Geyser. He died in so grisly a manner that rangers were unable to recover a body.

Financial Aid, Debt Management, and Socioeconomic Outcomes: Post-College Effects of Merit-Based Aid

Judith Scott-Clayton, Basit Zafar:

Prior research has demonstrated that financial aid can influence both college enrollments and completions, but less is known about its post-college consequences. Even for students whose attainment is unaffected, financial aid may affect post-college outcomes via reductions in both time to degree and debt at graduation. We utilize two complementary quasi-experimental strategies to identify causal effects of the WV PROMISE scholarship, a broad-based state merit aid program, up to 10 years post-college-entry. This study is the first to link college transcripts and financial aid information to credit bureau data later in life, enabling us to examine important outcomes that have not previously been examined, including homeownership, neighborhood characteristics, and financial management (credit risk scores, defaults, and delinquencies). We find that even as graduation impacts fade out over time, impacts on other outcomes emerge: scholarship recipients are more likely to earn a graduate degree, more likely to own a home and live in higher-income neighborhoods, less likely to have adverse credit outcomes, and are more likely to be in better financial health than similar students who did not receive scholarships.

Inequality: Construction Unions Stymie Low-Income Housing Plans in California, New York

Eliot Brown

Legislative efforts in two of the country’s most populous states to boost urban housing construction are facing a common barrier: resistance from construction unions.

In California last week, legislators and interest groups declared dead a measure pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown to allow certain apartments with some low-income units to sidestep the state’s environmental review process. That followed a failed effort by state lawmakers in…

Why Black Men Quit Teaching

Christopher Emdin:

How can we help black boys succeed in school? One popular answer is that we need more black male teachers.

The logic appears simple: Black boys are not faring well, and the presence of black men as teachers and role models will fix this problem. The former secretary of education, Arne Duncan, brought this theory to national attention with a number of speeches at historically black colleges and universities. His successor, John King Jr., has taken up the argument, often repeating the statistic that only 2 percent of our nation’s teachers are African-American men.

The argument may be well intentioned, but it is a cop-out. Schools are failing black male students, and it’s not because of the race of their teachers. These students are often struggling with the adverse effects of poverty, the inequitable distribution of resources across communities and the criminalization of black men inside and outside of schools. Black male teachers can serve as powerful role models, but they cannot fix the problems minority students face simply by being black and male.

Can American Colleges Be Fixed?

Peter Lawler

Last week, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson lashed out at what he called the “higher education cartel” of tenured professors for blocking reforms that could reduce ballooning tuition and fees: “We’ve got the Internet—you have so much information available. Why do you have to keep paying different lecturers to teach the same course? You get one solid lecturer and put it up online and have everybody available to that knowledge for a whole lot cheaper? But that doesn’t play very well to tenured professors in the higher education cartel. So again, we need disruptive technology for our higher education system.” Johnson went on to suggest that students could learn as much and more efficiently by watching Ken Burns’s documentary The Civil War than by taking a history class.

It’s a common complaint among conservatives that many tenured professors “radicalize” students with Marx and gender theory while living royally off of state funding and federal student loans. Online and competency-based education will fix both, according to critics like Johnson and Scott Walker, by limiting professors’ unchecked power and improving efficiency with market-based solutions.

There’s just one problem, according to Peter Augustine Lawler, the Dana Professor of Government at Berry College and a regular contributor to National Review, Modern Age, and many other conservative publications: It won’t work.

The number of administrative staff it takes to provide the lifestyle students expect and oversee the increasing amount of paperwork for accreditation is huge. Lawler doesn’t provide any figures, but they are relatively well-known. To give just one example: The number of full-time faculty in the California State University system increased slightly between 1975 and 2008, from 11,614 to 12,019, while the number of administrators nearly quadrupled during the same period, from 3,800 to 12,183.

How Investment Banks Cash in on School Construction

Paul Perry

With the assistance of George K. Baum & Co., Mapleton’s school board won approval from voters in November 2010 to issue approximately $32 million in debt to match a state grant the district received for $22 million.

The Mapleton Public Schools received more state funding than is typical. On average, local districts contribute about 80% of the fiscal burden—through bond measures—for school construction projects, with the state typically chipping in the other 20%. The federal government has little to no role in the financing of such projects.

Civics: FBI’s massive porn sting puts internet privacy in crossfire

Mike Carter

Defense attorneys and some legal scholars suggest the FBI committed more serious crimes than those they’ve arrested — distributing pornography, compared with viewing or receiving it.

Moreover, the FBI’s refusal to discuss Operation Pacifier and reveal exactly how it was conducted — even in court — has threatened some of the resulting criminal prosecutions. Last month, a federal judge in Tacoma suppressed the evidence obtained against a Vancouver, Wash., school district employee indicted in July 2015 on a charge of receiving child pornography because the FBI refused to reveal how it was gathered.

Similar motions are pending in other prosecutions in Washington and elsewhere around the country.

During the two weeks the FBI operated The Playpen, the bureau says visitors to the site accessed, posted or traded at least 48,000 images, 200 videos and 13,000 links to child pornography. At the same time, agents deployed a secret “Network Investigative Technique,” or NIT, to invade their computers, gather their personal information and send it back to the FBI.

Commentary On K – 12 Tax And Spending Policies

Ben Casselman:

The larger challenge for schools, however, may be longer-term: attracting teachers. Tight school budgets — and the broader pushback against public-sector payrolls in many states — have squeezed teacher salaries. Average weekly wages for public school teachers have dropped 5 percent over the last five years, according to a new analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Moreover, teacher salaries are falling further behind those of other professions that require a college degree; the trend holds up even after accounting for more generous public-sector benefits. The growing gap could have serious consequences: As my former colleague Hayley Munguia wrote last year, evidence shows that fewer top students are going into, or staying in, teaching.

The economic recovery could ease funding pressure in the next few years. But the longer-term picture is darker. The aging of the baby boom generation will put pressure on budgets at the federal, state and local levels as governments struggle to pay for health care and other costs associated with a graying population. Much of the debate over education in recent years, including on the campaign trail, has focused on expanding access to college and preschool. But ensuring adequate funding for the years in between could prove just as important.

Spending continues to grow in Madison, now approaching $18,000 per student.

Chicago Schools Publish Full MAP Results. Madison?

Chicago Public Schools:

This past school year, CPS students achieved record attainment levels on math and reading, and exceeded national averages of student growth. These results are all-time high scores for CPS, and prove that the hard work of our students, educators, and families is paying off.

More than half of CPS students are meeting or exceeding national achievement averages on this test. This year’s scores represent a jump of 13.5 percentage points in Reading and 9.5 percentage points in Math since 2013 – continuing the exceptional progress our students have made in recent years.

Besides shattering District records, these scores show CPS students outpacing their peers nationally in academic growth. This success can be traced to their own dedication, the commitment of their teachers and principals, and a record-high attendance rate of 93.4 percent in the 2015-2016 School Year.


Doug Erickson:

The annual report is a selective rather than exhaustive view of the district, with only some grades and some demographic groups highlighted in detail.

Like. Flirt. Ghost: A Journey Into the Social Media Lives of Teens

Mary Choi

Lara has just updated her Instagram with a picture. It’s of her and her twin sister, Sofia, in bathing suits, doing the backstroke in crystalline water. It’s shot from afar, from a height, and the girls look like synchronized swimmers or else mermaids. They’ve taken dance classes since they were three—jazz, hip hop, and ballet—and the grace and confidence with which they move their long limbs in tandem is hypnotizing. The likes are immediate. The first comment is a classic—emoji with the heart eyes—the second, “cuties.” The third features three emoji with heart eyes.

Lara and Sofia are shy, almost painfully so, with people they don’t know. They move around in the world with heads close, chatting conspiratorially. This belies how substantial their Instagram reach is. Each 16-year-old has more than 1,000 followers, especially surprising when you realize that their feeds are locked, and the girls say they at least vaguely know every single person that follows them. Perhaps more impressive, though: Each post on their feeds has at least 300 likes—meaning that roughly a third of their followers have signaled their approval. Just to give you an idea, only a fraction of Kim Kardashian’s 78 million followers actually like her photos, about 2 percent.

Black and Proud: MLK, BLM, and Today’s Education Reformers

Robin Harris:

Sunday marks the 53rd anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Parts of that speech—specifically, the part that asks for judgement based not on the color of one’s skin but the content of one’s character—have come to define King and the Civil Rights Movement, privileging a message of unity, hope, and peace. For years, that dominant narrative of racial collaboration and non-violence has persisted.

Now another civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter, has emerged. It begs comparison. So, we instinctively turn to what we know best, highlighting the portion of King’s dream that made its way onto inspirational posters and glazing over the gritty parts of that speech—the urgency, the fierceness, the discontent, the “rude awakening” and “whirlwinds of revolt,” the “marvelous new militancy.” And so it’s much more common to hear the Black Lives Matter movement described by how it differs from the civil rights activism of the 1960s, instead of similarities and lessons to be learned. Instead of seeing a continuum, we see conflict: the content of one’s character is pitted against the particular status of black lives.

An alarming number of scientific papers contain Excel errors

Christopher Ingraham:

A surprisingly high number of scientific papers in the field of genetics contain errors introduced by Microsoft Excel, according to an analysis recently published in the journal Genome Biology.

A team of Australian researchers analyzed nearly 3,600 genetics papers published in a number of leading scientific journals — like Nature, Science and PLoS One. As is common practice in the field, these papers all came with supplementary files containing lists of genes used in the research.

Majority of mathematicians hail from just 24 scientific ‘families’

David Castelvecchi:

Most of the world’s mathematicians fall into just 24 scientific ‘families’, one of which dates back to the fifteenth century. The insight comes from an analysis of the Mathematics Genealogy Project (MGP), which aims to connect all mathematicians, living and dead, into family trees on the basis of teacher–pupil lineages, in particular who an individual’s doctoral adviser was.

The analysis also uses the MGP — the most complete such project — to trace trends in the history of science, including the emergence of the United States as a scientific power in the 1920s and when different mathematical subfields rose to dominance1.

Maths whizz solves a master’s riddle
“You can see how mathematics has evolved in time,” says Floriana Gargiulo, who studies networks dynamics at the University of Namur, Belgium and who led the analysis.

FBI raids home of ex-College Board official in probe of SAT leak

Renee Dudley & John Shiffman:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation seized computers and other material on Friday from Manuel Alfaro, who left his job as executive director of assessment design and development at the College Board in February 2015. The FBI is investigating alleged computer intrusion and theft against an unidentified “victim corporation” involving “confidential or proprietary information,” including tests, test forms and internal emails, according to a search warrant issued in the case.

Alfaro had contacted officials of seven state governments in recent months, accusing the College Board of making false claims about its tests when bidding for public contracts with the states. The College Board, he alleged, misled the states about the process it used to create questions for the new version of the SAT, resulting in an inferior exam. He also aired those allegations publicly, largely through postings on his LinkedIn account.

Poor and Uneducated: The South’s Cycle of Failing Higher Education

Timothy Pratt:

Southern states have been disproportionately cutting spending on public higher education. In a region where the poorest families already face some of the nation’s highest poverty rates, forced tuition increases make their colleges and universities among the least affordable, a slew of recent data show.

This contributes to falling enrollment in states already struggling with some of the nation’s lowest percentages of residents with college educations.

It’s “a vicious circle,” said Dave Spence, the president of the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board, or SREB. “You’ve got a region that’s poor. Why? Because it’s undereducated.” Yet budget cuts keep pushing university and college degrees out of the reach of many.

Spatial Economics: The Declining Cost of Distance

Bain & Company PDF

For centuries, the cost of distance has determined where businesses produce and sell, where employers locate jobs and where families choose to live, work, shop and play. What if this cost fell dramatically, thanks to new technologies? How would the global economy change if manufacturers could produce locally in small batches, without incurring excess cost? Would existing business models and supply chains, for instance, suddenly become uncompet- itive? If people could work from anywhere, would crowded neighborhoods start to thin out?

That change already has begun in the world’s advanced economies and is gathering momentum. Over the next two decades, the cost of distance will decline sharply, according to Bain research, altering the way we live and work—faster than most people expect and more broadly than many imagine. This next big economic shift will create an astonishing array of opportunities for businesses and investors—and unexpected risks.

The catalyst for this historic shift is an array of new platform technologies that have pushed the cost of distance to the tipping point. Multibillion-dollar investments in robotics, 3-D printing, delivery drones, logistics technology, autonomous vehicles and low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites are giving rise to new products and services that sharply erode the cost of moving people, goods and information. As these technologies combine and converge, change will accelerate.

For leaders steering companies through this transition, the change will feel turbulent and unfamiliar. Risks will multiply for industries of all kinds. As the very nature of growth shifts, some of the underlying assumptions of existing business models may no longer be valid, leaving many companies with assets stranded in the wrong locations or with businesses that are becoming obsolete.
Growth opportunities, in particular, will shift dramatically. Today’s high-growth emerging markets, the main focus of business investment for over a decade, are likely to struggle. In contrast, advanced economies will have the poten- tial to embark on a period of sustained expansion.

Embattled STAAR Test Vendor Facing $20 Million Fine

Kiah Collier:

The issues — scoring delays, in particular — prompted Morath to drop grade advancement consequences for fifth and eighth graders and exclude exams affected by the computer glitch from school accountability ratings. But despite pleas from school superintendents to throw out all scores for the purposes of rating schools, Morath has suggested the issues were not widespread or severe enough to do so.

“ETS apologizes for the operational shortcomings during this year’s STAAR program,” the test vendor said in a news release Tuesday. “Our most important goal is to deliver the high-quality program the students and educators of Texas deserve, and we will continue to improve programs and processes to achieve that objective.”

The company, which administers national exams including the SAT, spent an additional $20 million providing support to school districts and charters as they attempted to resolve testing issues, according to an education agency news release. It noted that those costs will be assumed by the company and are “above and beyond” its state contract, worth $280 million over four years.

The 5-year-old needed a hand. She got one at Clear Lake’s library.

Kyrie O’Connor:

Buying a 3-D printer was out of the question, of course. “Our next option was to find somebody who had one,” she said.

This is where the Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library, and its staff members Jim Johnson and Patrick Ferrell, came in.

Ferrell manages the Maker Space at the library, part of the Harris County Public Library system, which is a workshop area where patrons can use laser cutters and 3-D printers and the like. It’s the only such library space in Southeast Texas. “It’s just another way libraries can offer new services,” Ferrell said. They see everyone from astronauts to artists to schoolchildren come in to use the equipment.

Get Gray Matters sent to your inbox. Sign up now!

Gray Matters

An artist’s rendering of NoLo Studios, a residential development planned for artists in Acres Homes.
Race, gentrification, Houston and the de Menil legacy
1973: COLLEGE STATION, TX – JUNE 10: Driver Bobby Allison holds up a confederate flag with Miss Winston, Noneen Hulbert, before the Alamo 500 race at the Texas World Speedway in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Dozier Mobley/Getty Images)
White-trash pride: Working-class whites are having a moment
You know those blue, white and green flags with a tree you’ve been seeing at soccer games? That’d be Cascadia. (The regional MLS championship is the Cascadia Cup and uses the “Doug” flag, hence the confusion.) Depending on who is talking, this secession scheme would have British Columbia, Washington and Oregon as well as bits of the surrounding states and provinces break away to form a Pacific Northwest republic. Note: An earlier version of this item included a photo of Seattle Sounders fans holding the Cascadia Cup. My sincere apologies to those who were offended by being associated with the secessionist movement. Those who corrected me have my thanks. – Levi Pulkkinen, seattlepi.com
Secession: It’s not just a Texas thing
In this composite photo, Renan Brandao, a store manager for two Mattress Firm stores on Rice Boulevard, looks for things to do, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, in Houston.
The loneliness of the mattress salesman
ZIP code: 77028 Births: 3,357
Unzipped: Shrinking in 77028

But Katelyn’s hand was different.

Ferrell and his team of volunteers had never made anything like it.

The Vincik family drove the two-plus hours to Clear Lake to make sure the hand would be measured and scaled correctly.

“We had to do a lot of analyzing,” said Ferrell.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climates: Illinois Plans 43 to 55% Health Insurance Increases

Lisa Schencker:

Illinois consumers are one step closer to facing sky-high increases for individual health insurance plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace.

The Illinois Department of Insurance said Wednesday it has submitted rate increases to the federal government that for some types of plans average 43 percent to 55 percent.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services will decide rates. But the numbers released Wednesday confirm the fears of consumers, who’ve already watched a number of insurance companies withdraw from the Obamacare exchange because of financial losses, limiting choices as people prepare to enroll for 2017.

Rates could increase by an average of 44 percent for the lowest-priced bronze plans, 45 percent for the lowest-priced silver plans and 55 percent for the lowest-priced gold plans, according to a preliminary analysis released by the state Wednesday.

Here’s what those percentages mean: A 21-year-old nonsmoker buying the lowest-priced silver plan in Cook County next year could pay a premium of $221.13 a month, up from $152.42 a month this year.

How Law Professors Handle Law Student Freakouts During Final Exam Reviews


Most of the time, my students are awesome. There are times, however, when there is that one student who seeks to have drama in his or her life. That drama sometimes comes in the form of a final exam review that goes wrong.

Ordinarily, I’m happy to review final exams with students. Ordinarily, students come to discuss their exams in order to learn what mistakes they made, and how to improve next time. There are times, however, when the exam discussion is not about those two things. In those bad discussions, the issue is the grade, and the student’s very skewed self-perception. After a prolonged discussion, my patience depletes. Here are REAL COMMENTS students have made to me about their exams. What I say to them is in quotations, and what I’m thinking is in italics. I’m not so proud of my thoughts in these times. I very clearly need to work on practicing my patience.

An Appalachian people offers a timely parable of the nuanced history of race in America

The Economist:

The story of the Melungeons is at once a footnote to the history of race in America and a timely parable of it. They bear witness to the horrors and legacy of segregation, but also to the overlooked complexity of the early colonial era. They suggest a once-and-future alternative to the country’s brutally rigid model of race relations, one that, for all the improvements, persists in the often siloed lives of black and white Americans today. Half-real and half-mythical, for generations the Melungeons were avatars for their neighbours’ neuroses; latterly they have morphed into receptacles for their ideals, becoming, in effect, ambassadors for integration where once they were targets of prejudice.

The two big questions about them encapsulate their ambiguous status—on the boundaries of races and territories, and between suffering and hope, imagination and fact. Where did the Melungeons come from? And do they still exist?

Last of the Phoenicians

At a recent gathering of the Melungeon Heritage Association (MHA), in Vardy, a hamlet in the valley, and over in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, family trees and photographs of swarthy ancestors were compared. But the underlying preoccupation was the Melungeons’ origins—a subject comprised more of legend than of evidence. They are said to be the progeny of Phoenicians who fled the Roman sacking of Carthage, or of pre-Columbian Turkish explorers (making them America’s first Muslims). They descend from wayward conquistadors, from a doomed colony established on Roanoke Island by Sir Walter Raleigh, or from Moorish galley slaves abandoned there by Sir Francis Drake. They were sired by shipwrecked pirates or by Madoc, a 12th-century Welsh explorer. They are a lost tribe of Israel.

Native Americans often feature as consorts in these narratives, such as the fable in which Satan briefly cohabits with a Cherokee woman in the mountains of Tennessee. Etymology is as vexed as genealogy. The name Melungeon derives from mélange, an appellation bestowed by early French settlers on the Clinch river. Alternatively, Italian pioneers in Virginia used their word for aubergine to disparage the Melungeons’ skin colour. It comes from melas, Greek for dark or black, from the Turkish expression melun can, meaning “cursed soul”, or from melungo, a West African term for shipmate. Or from an old English word for trickery found in Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene”.

One of the most widespread beliefs is that they are offspring of Portuguese mariners who arrived in early colonial times; or, as some 19th-century Melungeons would have put it, on the rare occasions when they spoke for themselves, they were “Portyghee”. A newspaper report of 1848 said the community was established by “a society of Portuguese Adventurers”, and now lived in “a delightful Utopia” of primitive disinhibition. (The Melungeon story has mostly been told in the calumnies and hearsay of outsiders.) A sub-theory sees them as exiled conversos, Iberian Jews who hid their faith to escape the Inquisition before fleeing to the New World.

A black father’s lessons in getting sons in school’s gifted program

Sonja Isger:

Eric Davis is black. His twin sons, Nigel and Elgin, are black. When they loaded their backpacks and headed for first grade years ago, Davis made sure they walked into a racially diverse elementary school in suburban Boynton Beach.

And yet in their classroom then and for the next eight years, Nigel and Elgin didn’t have any classmates who looked like them – no other black boys.

That’s because from elementary through middle school the twins were in the gifted program. Despite being in separate classes, their experience was similar in one way: the program’s overwhelming whiteness.

Their father, a school police officer at the time who visited the campus to deliver lessons on bullying, couldn’t help but notice.

Exercises in Unreality: The Decline in Teaching Western Civilization

Anthony Esolen

There’s a chilling image from my youth that I’ve never been able to scrub out of my mind. It might not seem at first glance to amount to much. It was a blue spiral spray-painted on our street, a sort of insect with enormous eyes, with a caption suggesting LSD. In those days, the newspapers were filled with war and rumors of worse than war—of the wholesale collapse of the social order. It was when the Students for a Democratic Society engaged in their violent demonstration against that inoffensive, old-fashioned liberal Hubert Humphrey at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. “Off the pigs,” cried the Black Panthers, whose tongues were not in their cheeks when they said it; rather their thumbs were ready to cock their pistols if any “pig” of a policeman were to get in their way.

A Look At College Student Migration

Nick Strayer

In Texas, only the top 10 percent of each high school’s graduating class is promised admission to a public university. Many high-performing students who just miss the cut-off leave for Oklahoma and Arkansas, according to Catherine Horn, the executive director of the Institute for Educational Policy Research and Evaluation.

The Chicago School of Free Speech

Wall Street Journal

For a change, we come not to bury a college president but to praise him. His name is Robert Zimmer, and nearby the University of Chicago president defends the educational and societal virtues of free speech on college campuses. Let’s hope he wears body armor to the next faculty meeting.

Mr. Zimmer’s public coming out is all the more notable because it appears to be part of a university-wide message. The school’s dean of students, Jay Ellison, has written a letter to incoming freshmen noting that the desire for “safe…

Teens Who Say No to Social Media

Christine Rosen:

When 14-year-old Brian O’Neill of Washington, D.C., wanted to find out what his friends had been up to over summer vacation, he did something radical: He asked them. Unlike most kids his age, Brian isn’t on social media. He doesn’t scroll through his friends’ Instagram shots or post his own, nor does he use Facebook or Snapchat. “I don’t need social media to stay in touch,” he says.

Such abstention from social media places him in a small minority in his peer group. According to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center, 92% of American teenagers (ages 13-17) go online daily, including 24% who say they are on their devices “almost constantly.” Seventy-one percent use Facebook, half are on Instagram, and 41% are Snapchat users. And nearly three-quarters of teens use more than one social-networking site. A typical teen, according to Pew, has 145 Facebook friends and 150 Instagram followers.

But what if a teen doesn’t want to live in that networked world? In a culture where prosocial behavior happens increasingly online, it can seem antisocial to refuse to participate. Are kids who reject social media missing out?

Geography & Economics

Joel Kotkin:

There’s little argument that inequality, and the depressed prospects for the middle class, will be a dominant issue in this year’s election, and beyond. Yet the class divide is not monolithic in its nature, causes, or geography. To paraphrase George Orwell’s Animal Farm, some places are more unequal than others.

Housing represents a central, if not dominant, factor in the rise of inequality. Although the cost of food, fuel, electricity, and tax burdens vary, the largest variation tends to be in terms of housing prices. Even adjusted for income, the price differentials for houses in places like the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles are commonly two to three times as much as in most of the country, including the prosperous cities of Texas, the mid-south and the Intermountain West.

These housing differences also apply to rents, which follow the trajectory of home prices. In many markets, particularly along the coast, upwards of 40% of renters and new buyers spend close to half their income on housing. This has a particularly powerful impact on the poor, the working class, younger people, and middle class families, all of whom find their upward trajectory blocked by steadily rising housing costs.

In response to higher prices, many Americans, now including educated Millennials, are heading to parts of the country where housing is more affordable. Jobs too have been moving to such places, particularly in Texas, the southeast and the Intermountain West. As middle income people head for more affordable places, the high-priced coastal areas are becoming ever more sharply bifurcated, between a well-educated, older, and affluent population and a growing rank of people with little chance to ever buy a house or move solidly into the middle class.

Ironically, these divergences are taking place precisely in those places where political rhetoric over inequality is often most heated and strident. Progressive attempts, such as raising minimum wages, attempt to address the problem, but often other policies, notably strict land-use regulation, exacerbate inequality.

The other major divide is not so much between regions but within them. Even in expensive regions, middle class families tend to cluster in suburban and exurban areas, which are once again growing faster than areas closer to the core. Progressive policies in some states, such as Oregon and California, have been calculated to slow suburban growth and force density onto often unwilling communities. By shutting down the production of family-friendly housing, these areas are driving prices up and, to some extent, driving middle and working class people out of whole regions.

Civics: Baltimore police respond to report they secretly spied on city with aerial surveillance tech from Iraq War

Xeni Jardin:

A report out this week from Bloomberg says that since January, 2016, people in the city of Baltimore, Maryland have secretly and periodically been spied on by police using cameras in the sky. Authorities today effectively admitted that the report is accurate.

In response to Tuesday’s Bloomberg article, Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith today said not to worry unless you’re a “criminal,” and that the flights by a specially equipped spy plane were “effectively, a mobile citywide camera.”

In a feature released on Tuesday, Bloomberg Businesweek reported that police in the mostly black city used a Cessna airplane carrying an ultra-wide-angle camera array developed for use during the Iraq War. The police surveillance flights spent hours flying overhead, sending footage back to massive hard drives.

Monte Reel’s report for Bloomberg begins outside the Baltimore courthouse where ‘not guilty, all counts’ messages were popping up on reporters’ phones, in the Freddie Gray death by police case.

14 Years After Decriminalizing All Drugs, Here’s What Portugal Looks Like

Zeeshan Aleem:

In 2001, the Portuguese government did something that the United States would find entirely alien. After many years of waging a fierce war on drugs, it decided to flip its strategy entirely: It decriminalized them all.

If someone is found in the possession of less than a 10-day supply of anything from marijuana to heroin, he or she is sent to a three-person Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, typically made up of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker. The commission recommends treatment or a minor fine; otherwise, the person is sent off without any penalty. A vast majority of the time, there is no penalty.

Fourteen years after decriminalization, Portugal has not been run into the ground by a nation of drug addicts. In fact, by many measures, it’s doing far better than it was before.

Sexual harassment of students by university staff hidden by non-disclosure agreements

Sally Wealle & David Batty:

Universities’ use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in sexual harassment cases involving staff and students is allowing alleged perpetrators to move to other institutions where they could offend again, according to academics, lawyers and campaigners.

They warn that the prevalence of harassment is being masked because of the use of confidentiality clauses in settlements, which prevent any of the parties discussing what has happened.

Universities that find themselves at the centre of sexual harassment allegations are accused of prioritising their own reputations in an increasingly competitive higher education marketplace over their duty of care to vulnerable students. Those who described concerns include:

Count One More Gold For The U.S. — In Math

Jody Avirgan

Learning new ways to think about math

Jody Avirgan: I read that one of your innovations as coach was bringing in people from the rest of the world to train in the U.S.

Po-Shen Loh: Yes. In fact, when I was on the team in 1999 … [we were] brought to train with the Romanians, in Romania, because the national coach of the United States at that time had grown up [there]. That was very impactful for me. It was really interesting to meet our compatriots from other countries — not in a competitive atmosphere, but a collaborative one.

Avirgan: Are there differences in the way that different countries approach mathematical thinking? I imagine that a lot of people think of math as fairly standardized and universal. So what do you actually learn from another country’s mathematicians?

Loh: You learn things in the same way that you learn from meeting another country’s “X.” Meeting someone from another country automatically broadens your worldview. And especially in the next century, which [these kids] are going to be living in, they will be living in an increasingly globalized environment. So I thought it would be good and healthy for people to start thinking of the world as something much bigger than just the United States.

Friday Reading List: The Original Sin of Schooling As We Know It Is Property Taxes. Seriously.

Justin Cohen

Everyone needs to read Alana Semuels’s long piece in the Atlantic about the historical roots of using property taxes to fund schools. The piece uses Connecticut as a case study:

The discrepancies occur largely because public school districts in Connecticut, and in much of America, are run by local cities and towns and are funded by local property taxes. High-poverty areas like Bridgeport and New Britain have lower home values and collect less taxes, and so can’t raise as much money as a place like Darien or Greenwich, where homes are worth millions of dollars … In every state, though, inequity between wealthier and poorer districts continues to exist. That’s often because education is paid for with the amount of money available in a district, which doesn’t necessarily equal the amount of money required to adequately teach students … the fact remains that delegating education funding to local communities increases inequality.

I am a radical on this issue, as I believe that the link between property taxes and schooling revenues needs to be abolished. I get annoyed when defenders of the education status quo say that we need to “fully fund” schools, not because I don’t want schools to have more resources, but because that’s only part of the problem; the words “fully fund” are meaningless if the definition of “fully” is predicated on the whims of local school boards in segregated, suburban communities, which is where most of the power in public schooling currently sits. This system takes an already classist and racist education system and exacerbates it with all the classism, racism, and segregation built into our country’s housing apparatus. In Connecticut, like many states, plaintiffs are using clauses in the state constitution to argue that a funding system based on property taxes in unconstitutional. Because the US constitution is silent on education, state courts are probably the best current venue for remedies, but the system is inequitable to its core.

K-12 Achievement Analysis: We are now entering the Age of Stupid. How did our voters become so credulous?

Janet Daley:

Politics has passed through many epochs. There have been eras of isolationism, or imperial conquest, or egalitarianism, or nationalist aggression. Now, in the transatlantic sphere at least, we seem to be entering a new historical phase: the Era of Stupid.

American and British politicians at the highest level appear to be engaged in a competition to see who can utter the most defiantly ill-informed, aggressively ignorant statements about precisely the issues that governments have traditionally regarded as life-and-death matters. Somehow, this brazen guilelessness – the shameless display of the failure to understand even the basic meanings of significant words – seems to be offered as a bond with the common man, as if not understanding complicated things was a measure of authenticity.

More on the Sex Panic at Yale

KC Johnson:

The bizarre procedures of Yale’s sprawling sexual assault bureaucracy may well be the worst in the nation. We have come to realize this because Yale is the only university to publicly document all campus allegations of sexual assault, the result of a 2012 agreement with the Obama administration. Reports issued by Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler don’t provide much detail, but with each new report, we see more clearly a campus environment characterized more by witch hunts than a pursuit of justice.

Consider this item: “An administrator informed a Title IX Coordinator that a Yale College student reported that another YC student made unwanted advances.” On the basis of this third-hand allegation, a current Yale student is being investigated.

The most recent Spangler Report, just published, says 20 Yale undergraduates were accused of sexual assault in the first six months of 2016. Twenty-six undergraduates filed sexual assault complaints. Assuming all were female (the source of around 99 percent of campus complaints), it would mean an annual violent crime rate for Yale undergraduate women of 1.9 percent, without taking into account any attempted murder or felony assault claims. That would be just under the annual violent crime rate for the city FBI stats deem the most dangerous in the country, Detroit.

ACT Scores Drop as More Take Test

Scott Jaschik:

Average ACT scores are down this year. ACT officials attribute the drop to the increasing percentage of high school seniors who have taken the test.

The average composite score for those who graduated from high school this year was 20.8, down 0.2 points from last year and representing a five-year low. (The highest possible score on each part of the ACT is 36, and the composite is an average of the four scores.) ACT data show that 64 percent of high school seniors in the Class of 2016 took the ACT this year, up from 59 percent last year and 52 percent in 2012. Generally, when a larger share of students take a test — in some cases encouraged by state requirements more than the students necessarily being college ready — scores go down. Score drops were the largest in states that have just started to require all students to take the ACT.

More from Melissa Korn and the Journal-Sentinel:

Nearly two-thirds of this year’s high school graduates took the ACT college entrance exam, and their scores suggest that many remain unprepared for the rigors of college-level coursework.

The testing company said Wednesday that only 38% of graduating seniors who took the exam hit the college-prepared benchmark in at least three of the four core subjects tested — reading, English, math and science — down from 40%. And 34% did not meet any of the benchmarks, which are designed to measure a strong readiness for college.

The four tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The composite is the average of the four scores. The vast majority of colleges use the composite in admissions.

Of the ACT-tested high school graduates this year, 61% met the college-readiness benchmark of 18 points for English, which indicates a student is likely ready for a college composition course and would earn a “C’’ or better grade. In addition, 44% met the 22-point mark in reading, 41% met the 22-point threshold for math and 36% hit the 23-point benchmark in science. Thirty-four percent of 2016 grads nationally did not meet any of the four benchmarks.

Weeks called that number alarming, and an indication that those students are likely to struggle with first-year courses and end up in remedial classes that will delay degree completion and increase college costs.

6 key facts about the New Orleans school unification plan (and 5 for geeks)

Danielle Dreilinger

The unified Orleans Parish School Board central office will be a lean organization that sets standards instead of running schools — even as it absorbs 49 state takeover charters from the Recovery School District.

Orleans Parish schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. is presenting the roadmap Thursday evening (Aug. 25), describing how the district will take on its new responsibilities over the next two years.

In this, New Orleans is doing something unique. Traditional local school systems have been around for a long time; none has ever been designed for charters. The planning team “started with a blank sheet of paper and built up the organization,” CFO Stan Smith said Wednesday.

School officials provided an advance copy of the 72-page plan for reporters. The takeaways:

University of Chicago: ‘We Do Not Support Trigger Warnings’


In a letter, the incoming class at the University of Chicago were given a strong mandate by the institution they have elected to join: “Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”

Relaxing Privacy Vow, WhatsApp Will Share Some Data With Facebook

Mike Isaac & Mark Scott

SAN FRANCISCO — When Facebook bought the start-up WhatsApp in 2014, Jan Koum, one of WhatsApp’s founders, declared that the deal would not affect the digital privacy of his mobile messaging service’s millions of users.
 “We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address,” Mr. Koum wrote in a blog post at the time. “None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.”
 Two years later, in a move that is rankling some of the company’s more than one billion users, WhatsApp will soon begin to share some member information with Facebook.
 WhatsApp said on Thursday that it would start disclosing the phone numbers and analytics data of its users to Facebook. It will be the first time the messaging service has connected users’ accounts to the social network to share data, as Facebook tries to coordinate information across its collection of businesses.

Black Families in Georgia Are Rejecting Public School

Annie Holmqvist:

During the 1950s and 60s, America’s black families fought a difficult battle to integrate the public schools, hoping to give their children a better education. Because of this hard-won victory, many black parents have been strong supporters of public schools in the subsequent decades.

But that support may be changing.

According to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, an increasing number of black families are leaving public schools for the same reason they once embraced them, and are instead gravitating to homeschooling.

Quoting a former public-school-teacher-turned-homeschool-mom named Nikita Bush, The Monitor explains this movement:

A Texas teacher stopped assigning homework. The Internet gave her an A+.

Lindsey Bever:

Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Godley Independent School District, not far from Dallas-Fort Worth, passed out a letter to parents, telling them that she will not be assigning homework to students this year.

“After much research this summer, I am trying something new,” she wrote in the letter, which was posted on Facebook. “Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.

“Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside and get your child to bed early.”

Will UC-San Diego keep hiding witnesses that could prove accused students innocent?

Greg Piper:

The University of California-San Diego routinely hides the identity of witnesses that could help students accused of wrongdoing exonerate themselves, departing from its own rules on who is “relevant” to an investigation.

This policy, which has been applied against accused students for at least the past five years, was not publicly known until 11 months ago. A state appeals court fleshed out its existence in a due-process lawsuit against the school by a student who was found responsible for cheating and expelled.

That court struck down UCSD’s ruling against Jonathan Dorfman, saying it had no legal reason to withhold the identity of “Student X” – whose test answers Dorfman allegedly copied – from him.

The School-Security Industry Is Cashing In Big on Public Fears of Mass Shootings

Sasha Abramsky:

“Security was the number-one factor for me in choosing a school,” explained one of the mothers I met late last winter at a Montessori preschool in an affluent suburb of Salt Lake City. A quality-control expert at a dietary-supplement company, the woman said she vividly remembers the jolt of horror she felt when she first learned of the Columbine massacre in 1999. So when the time came to send her child to preschool, she selected one that markets itself not only as creative, caring, and nurturing, but also as particularly security-conscious.

To get the front door of the school to open, visitors had to be positively ID’d by a fingerprint-recognition system. In the foyer, a bank of monitors showed a live feed of the activity in every classroom. After drop-off, many parents would spend 15 minutes to half an hour staring at the screens, making sure their children were being treated well by their teachers and classmates. Many of the moms and dads had requested Internet access to the images, but the school had balked, fearing that online sexual predators would be able to hack into the video stream. All of the classroom doors had state-of-the-art lockdown features, and all of the teachers had access to long-distance bee spray—which, in the case of an emergency, they were instructed to fire off at the eyes of intruders. The playground was surrounded by a high concrete wall, which crimped the kids’ views of the majestic Wasatch Mountains. The imposing front walls, facing out onto a busy road, were similarly designed to stop predators from peering into the classrooms.

School District Economic Segregation

Fault Lines

The chasms between our school districts are growing wider. Today, half of America’s children live in high-poverty school districts, where they are more likely to experience poor health, be exposed to violence, and attend schools in decaying buildings. This is not always due to a lack of resources in the area, however; often, these high-poverty districts border affluent areas where better-off students benefit from greater funding.

In 1974, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case Milliken v. Bradley that actually strengthened the hand of segregationists: the justices held that integration plans may not be enforced across school district borders. This outcome cleared the way for district borders to be used as lawful tools of segregation.

Because property taxes play such an important role in school funding, well-off communities have an interest in school district borders that fence off their own neighborhoods from lower-wealth areas and needier students—and most states’ laws allow this kind of self-segregation.

ironically, Madison is currently expanding its least diverse school: Hamilton.

John Oliver Whiffs On The K-12 World

Jon Gabriel

On the most recent episode of “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver took on the 6,000 charter schools in the US and everyone involved with them. (Content warning on that link, natch. When he thinks he’s losing the studio audience, Oliver says a curse word which makes them giggle.) By attacking this popular K-12 option, he isn’t just hitting the few bad operators in the segment, but is setting his sights on the parents, teachers, and students who’ve decided that charter schools are their best option.

Why Do We Judge Parents For Putting Kids At Perceived — But Unreal — Risk?

Tania Lombrozo:

Many parents who grew up playing outdoors with friends, walking alone to the park or to school, and enjoying other moments of independent play are now raising children in a world with very different norms.

In the United States today, leaving children unsupervised is grounds for moral outrage and can lead to criminal charges.

What’s changed?

One possibility is that the risks to children have changed. What was safe in the past may be unsafe today, placing children in genuine danger. But, for the most part, the data don’t support this. Statistics from the National Crime Victimization Survey, for example, suggest that violent crime rates have decreased since the 1970s (and not only when it comes to children, whom one could argue are benefiting from the increased oversight).

Parents Give Their Kids’ Schools High Marks

Rasmussen Reports

Americans remain critical of U.S. public schools in general, but parents are more positive than ever about the performance of their children’s schools.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 85% of adults with school-aged kids give the performance of their child’s school good or excellent marks, including 47% who say it does an Excellent job. Only five percent (5%) say their child’s school performs poorly.

Remarkable. An academic friend mentioned this phenomena some time ago: “parents believe that their children’s school is doing well, but not others”.

Interview – James Der Derian

e-international relations:

Where do you see the most exciting research and debates happening in the field of critical security studies?

I really think the most exciting research on peace and security has been happening outside of any single academic discipline. I mean, if you want to learn about the greatest cyberwar since STUXNET, do you go to any of the academic journals, or even Foreign Affairs or Foreign Policy? No, the story of Nitro Zeus, the plan to take down Iran’s infrastructure, was broken by a filmmaker, Alex Gibney, at the Berlin Film Festival. Political science is too busy looking in the rear view mirror, to prove how we got here with models and numbers, to deal with now. Meanwhile forecasting in security studies has become monopolized, even militarized, in the form of computer simulations and wargames. The future might be unwritten, but you’ve got to engage in some risk-taking, you have to look over the horizon, look beyond the disciplinary boundaries. The future is looking pretty dire, so there’s always work to be done.

One of the reasons why I felt compelled to start Project Q with the Carnegie Corporation was because of this failure to speculate, to get outside the groupthink of academic disciplines, especially the fixation on whether great powers are rising or falling. I think it’s time to give the ‘Thucydidean trap’ and ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ a rest. I mean, it’s been years since my students at the Massachusetts State Prison were flattered but also befuddled that such a tired metaphor was being treated as some kind of universal heuristic. It’s also why I’ve done my best to steer clear of political science departments in favour of interdisciplinary international studies centres. And by interdisciplinary that doesn’t mean gathering ten political scientists and one economist, as someone put it at the Q Symposium today. We bring together physicists, biologists, historians, and social scientists as well as extra-disciplinary thinkers and actors, like novelists, filmmakers, artists, performers and, as you saw at Q, a bunch of guys in uniforms – the Royal Australian Navy has a thing for quantum.

Hillary Clinton’s Free College-Tuition Plan Short on Specifics

Laura Meckler

Hillary Clinton, who prides herself on the details of public policy, has said little about what is now the most ambitious and expensive proposal on her agenda: making public college tuition free for most Americans.

On the campaign trail, she typically offers a sentence, maybe two, about the plan. Sometimes it goes unmentioned altogether. Her campaign has offered few specifics about how the program would work, hasn’t said how much money states would have to provide or where the program would fall on her list of priorities.

The campaign website no longer lists a cost for the program, though campaign aides said they estimate it would take $500 billion in new federal spending over 10 years, $150 billion more than the college plan she put out last summer. Others estimate the costs would be much higher.

The Black Intellectual Tradition and the Myth of Objectivity

Brandon Byrd:

As Du Bois’s biographers have noted, that question became unavoidable on April 24, 1899. On that day, Du Bois walked along Mitchell Street towards downtown Atlanta. He carried a letter of introduction addressed to Joel Chandler Harris, an editor at the Atlanta Constitution. He also held a proposed editorial protesting the recent lynching of Sam Hose, a black farmhand accused of murdering his employer before raping the employer’s wife. Du Bois, familiar with the work of anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, knew that the charges were false. He would expose the truth: that Hose killed his employer in self-defense and had not raped the wife. He would demonstrate through objective research that Hose’s only “crime” was being black in America.

Who Decides What Must Be on a Syllabus?

Colleen Flaherty:

Most professors probably have learning outcomes for their students — it would be hard to know what to teach and how to assess students without them. But whether professors write down those desired outcomes is a different question. And it’s a question at the heart of a new lawsuit against the College of Charleston by a faculty member who says he’s being booted for refusing to include learning outcomes in his syllabus.

The plaintiff, Robert Dillon, a longtime associate professor of biology at Charleston, is by all accounts an independent thinker, and his lawsuit alleges that numerous personal animosities were at the play in his case. Dillon has organized a popular Darwin Week on campus for the last 16 years, for example, and he alleges that his supervisors feel “threatened” by his challenges to state lawmakers over K-12 science standards in his role as president of South Carolinians for Science Education. But aside from his past clashes with his superiors, his suit raises questions about the role of learning outcomes in course syllabi, and, especially, in the accreditation process.

To Black Parents Visiting Earth

Letter #2 from Janet Stickmon

So before my husband and I even chose her name, the inoculation started when we decided to buy her African and African American children’s books. I was 11 weeks pregnant when I began our collection with a handful of books from Ashay by the Bay owned by vendor Deborah Day at the Ashby Flea Market in Berkeley. By the time Baby Girl was born, our collection included books like Shades of Black—A Celebration of Our Children, I Like Myself, Please, Baby, Please, and Book of Black Heroes: Scientists, Healers and Inventors. These were among several books we read to her while she was still in the womb.

On Handwriting

Anne Trubek:

When the Common Core standards were released in 2010, handwriting took a back seat to typing. Schools were told to ensure that all students could “demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills” by fourth grade, but they were required to teach students “basic features of print” only in kindergarten and first grade. Cursive was left out entirely.

This infuriated many teachers, parents and lawmakers. At least nine states and numerous districts have lobbied, successfully, to reintroduce cursive into public and publicly funded charter schools, and others have bills pending.
People talk about the decline of handwriting as if it’s proof of the decline of civilization. But if the goal of public education is to prepare students to become successful, employable adults, typing is inarguably more useful than handwriting. There are few instances in which handwriting is a necessity, and there will be even fewer by the time today’s second graders graduate.

If printing letters remains a useful if rarely used skill, cursive has been superannuated. Its pragmatic purpose is simple expediency — without having to lift pen from paper, writers can make more words per minute. There have been cursive scripts since the beginning of writing: The Egyptians invented one of the first, demotic, which allowed scribes to take notes on business transactions and Pharaonic laws faster than they could using hieroglyphics

NSA’s 2016 Puzzle Periodical


Intelligence. It’s the ability to think abstractly. Challenge the unknown. Solve the impossible. NSA employees work on some of the world’s most demanding and exhilarating high-tech engineering challenges. Applying complex algorithms and expressing difficult cryptographic problems in terms of mathematics is part of the work NSA employees do every day.

Try your hand at this month’s problem written by a member of our expert workforce.

Are they students? Or are they employees? NLRB rules that graduate students are employees.

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel:

Stanford University, the Massachusetts of Institute of Technology and the entire Ivy League submitted a brief arguing that involving students in the bargaining process would disrupt operations if negotiations included the length of a class, amount of grading or what’s included in curriculum. Bringing more people to the table, they said, could lead to lengthy and expensive bargaining, potentially to the detriment of all students.

“If a union is allowed to bargain about what teaching and research assistants do, that would in effect be interfering with the educational requirement of many of these schools,” said Joseph Ambash, a Boston attorney who filed the brief on behalf of the schools and represented Brown in 2004. “That would have a dramatic impact on higher education.”

Paraplegics learn to walk after years with the help of virtual reality and exoskeleton

Ananya Bhattacharya:

The chances of recovery for paraplegic patients were once considered nearly nil. But in 2014, 29-year-old Juliano Pinto, who faced complete paralysis below the chest, literally kicked off the opening match at the FIFA World Cup. Researchers had created a brain-machine interface (BMI) that allowed Pinto to control a robotic exoskeleton for the symbolic kickoff at São Paulo’s Corinthians Arena.

Fast forward two years, the Walk Again Project (WAP), the same nonprofit international research consortium that designed Pinto’s exoskeleton, is now using virtual reality to help paraplegic people regain partial sensation and muscle control in their lower limbs. According to a study published Aug. 11 in Scientific Reports, all eight patients who participated in the study have already gained some motor control.

‘Get me off the Google,’ UC Davis Chancellor Katehi urged communications staff

Diana Lambert & Sam Stanton

In the end, UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi was done in largely by pepper spray and ego.

Although she faced serious allegations when UC President Janet Napolitano suspended her in April, the investigative report into her actions that was released Tuesday found the most damning evidence was a near-obsession with her own reputation, something that began when she first assumed the chancellor’s post in 2009 and escalated following the November 2011 pepper-spraying of students by campus police.

The Intellectual Conceit of IQ Ideology

Jeffrey Tucker:

The cultural fascination with the idea of an “intelligence quotient” or IQ seems to be experiencing a resurgence. Relentless testing is a feature of schooling and school admissions, and tests are used for a variety of occupational screenings. The practice reflects an intuition we all have: some bulbs are brighter than others. Surely there is nothing wrong with knowing, measuring, and acting on that information, however difficult it might be to assess.

Where matters become elusive is in codifying those skills, reducing them all to a single quantitative number, aggregating them based on other demographic traits, assessing the variability of the results, comparing the results across large population groups, determining the variety of causal factors – genetic, environmental, sheer personal determination – that make up what we call intelligence, and cobbling together a plan for what to do with the results.

teachers are laborers, not merchants

Frederick de Boer:

I got an email request to talk about online-only education and why I’m such a skeptic that it can replace physical education. I’ve written about this before but let me try to sum it up.

Here’s the model that the constant “online education will replace physical colleges” types advance: education is about gaining knowledge; knowledge is stored in the heads of teachers; schooling is the transfer of that knowledge from the teacher’s head to the student’s head; physical facilities are expensive, but online equivalents are cheap; therefore someone will build an Amazon that cuts out the overhead of the physical campus and connects students to teachers in the online space or, alternatively, cuts teachers out altogether and just transfers the information straight into the brains of the student.

Vernont Law School Seeks Federal Loan to Ease Debt Costs

Vermont Law School is hoping to borrow $15 million from the federal government to help restructure its debts and take advantage of lower interest rates.
VLS officials said the school has put the worst of its financial woes behind it, and the proposal would fund a land-lease transaction involving its 15-acre South Royalton campus.

“It means significant operating savings for VLS,” said Lorraine Atwood, vice president of finance at the school, which she said currently spends about $1.2 million annually to service about $13.5 million in debt.

The school, which has an annual budget of $28 million, is hosting a public information meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday at Oakes Hall about the plan, which would create a land-lease agreement with a separate entity, VLS Campus Holdings LLC.

The law school would continue to own its land and 22 buildings, which have a combined net book value of $22 million, according to Atwood.

Holding On to What Makes Us Human

LD Burnett:

The overpriced and understudied behemoth from “Intro to Econ” was easy to part with. And my well-used grammar and exercise books from French I and II? How useful could they be in our tiny apartment, on our tiny budget, with me staying home to take care of our tiny baby? In such straitened circumstances, I didn’t need those books taking up room in my life; I needed whatever money they might bring.

But those were not the only books I culled from my little library. I gathered up Robert Lowell and Alice Walker, Edmund Spenser and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lucretius and Virginia Woolf, Lorraine Hansberry and Aristotle, Montaigne and Nietzsche, Flaubert, Boethius and Baudelaire, and many others besides — most of them authors I had never so much as heard of before I set foot on the Stanford campus.

How to stop your children catching ‘rich kid-itis’

Hugo Greenhaigh:

“Enough to give them opportunity, but not to induce a sense of complacency,” is how Gavin Oldham, philanthropist and founder of The Share Centre summed it up. Gerald Ratner confessed that it did his children “quite a bit of a good when I was in my wilderness years” following the infamous speech that cost him his job, as their inheritance was no longer assured.

The property tycoon Sir Jack Petchey said his children and grandchildren knew he was a “50:50 man”, explaining: “If they really believe in something and are prepared to raise 50 per cent themselves, then I would consider backing them too.” But the author Lesley Pearse said that beyond help with property and education, she intended to “spend as much as possible”, adding: “If I have to stay in a nursing home, it will be a posh one.”

As you wrangle with this question for yourself, you must determine when and how you intend to pass on wealth to your children. Will you leave a certain sum in trust for your heirs when they turn 18 or will they inherit the bulk of your estate when you die?

Will you choose to invest in the best education money can buy — and perhaps their first home — but then leave them to plough their own financial furrow?

Warren Buffett has it nailed. “A very rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing,” he once said. How much this will be is almost impossible to answer: somebody whose parents are worth £1bn will be used to a different lifestyle from those with £10m to leave to their children.

Sometimes, the answer can be as simple as understanding your children’s character, says Alexandra Ruffel, a private wealth partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell. “You may have a child who’s lovely, but not the sharpest tool in the box when it comes to finances,” she says. “You have to recognise that.”

And at what age are they ready to inherit? Many trust structures will mature on a child’s 18th birthday, but parents should ask themselves if their teenage children will possess sufficient financial maturity at this age.

“It is a concern of a number of our clients,” says Chris Shepard, a partner in the private client tax department at Smith & Williamson, the accountancy and investment management group.

In Favor Of Open Education

David Mulroney:

What I consider my third year of higher education, from September, 1975, to June, 1976, was spent travelling around the world. It was a deeply influential experience that neatly separated my first two years at the University of Toronto, in which I was making the transition out of my high-school self, from my last two years as an undergraduate, when I began to grow emotionally and intellectually, developing the skills and inclination to be a lifelong learner.

My travels were partly financed from money I made delivering imported Italian delicacies to the corner grocery stores and pizzerias of Sydney, Australia – a stop on the first leg of my travels. I was a beneficiary of one of the earliest versions of the now-familiar working-holiday program for student travellers. The program was based on the assumption that international experience could be, as we said then, “broadening.” The idea was to extend your intellectual horizons, becoming aware of the depth, complexity and sheer richness of the world.

Commentary On Texas Charter School Study

Neerav Kingsland:

II. Walking Through Low Effect Size and High Effect Size Schools

The famous Anna Karena quote goes something like this: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

I think the opposite is true of schools.

When I visit low effect size schools, I am often saddened by the level of dysfunction. Students walk the halls aimlessly, teachers seem woefully unprepared for working in a low-income environment, and the principal generally spends her day putting out fires.

When I visit high effect size schools, I’m often struck by how different they are. While most hit the basics of a calm culture and thoughtful instruction, they vary greatly in atmosphere, curriculum, and staffing models – as well as the overall student experience. A Summit school is very different than a Collegiate Academies school, despite both achieving high effects. Even No Excuses schools can feel fairly different from each other, though the do tend to gravitate around some core practices (that Fryer has helped illuminate).

I also think I would struggle mightily in a blind walk through of .1 and .2 effect size schools; it is highly unlikely I would be able to tell you which school has which effect.

So while it’s easy to identify schools that are a total mess, it’s a little difficult to tease out what’s going well in non-dysfuctional schools, as well as to distinguish between high-performing and very-high-performing schools.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Everything You Need to Know About the National Debt

Fix the Debt:

What are the effects of a high national debt?

The effects of the national debt on the economy are far from abstract. High levels of federal debt will cause:

Higher costs of living: Large amounts of debt mean higher interest rates on everything from credit cards to mortgage loans.

Slower wage growth: In normal economic times, every dollar an investor spends buying government debt is a dollar not invested elsewhere in the economy. That is, high debt “crowds out” more productive investments, leading to slower economic growth and lower wages.

Generational inequality: By not making responsible debt choices, we are placing higher debt burdens on our children and threatening their standard of living and retirement.

Reduced fiscal flexibility: Our debt levels doubled between 2008 and 2013 from 35 percent of GDP to over 70 percent, a result of and in response to the Great Recession. We can’t afford another recession. With an already high debt, the government has less room to respond to future crises such as international events or economic downturns.

Fiscal crises: Unchecked debt growth could eventually lead to a fiscal crisis, as recently occurred across Europe. At that point, investors in U.S. debt will demand higher returns, driving up interest payments, and leading to a debt situation spiraling out of control.

Princeton HR department: Don’t use word ‘man’

Jeremy Beaman:

The Princeton University HR department has largely wiped the word “man” from its vocabulary.

The relatively new policy in effect at the Ivy League institution spells out the directive in a four-page memo that aims to make the department more gender inclusive.

Instead of using “man,” employees are told to use words such as human beings, individuals or people.

The Latest Big Education Fad, Social-Emotional Learning, Is As Bad As It Sounds

Jane Robbins, via a kind Will Fitzhugh email:

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) longs to plumb the psyches of our children (as its own reports reveal – see here and here), and it enjoys the eager complicity of state education establishments. As reported by Education Week, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) recently announced that eight states will “work collaboratively to create and implement plans to encourage social-emotional learning in their schools.” These states are jumping on a bandwagon that threatens to roll over innocent children and their privacy.

CASEL is the big gorilla in the zoo of social-emotional learning, or SEL. Having proved so adept at (or perhaps having given up on) teaching students English, math, science, and history, state progressive-education establishments are joining CASEL to explore more esoteric pursuits. Better to diminish academic content knowledge and push SEL: “self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.”

The average parent might object, “Wait, that’s what my child learns from me and from Sunday school.” But CASEL & Co. believe the government should take over in case the parents and church don’t do it right — perhaps teaching the wrong attitudes and mindsets.
CARTOONS | Henry Payne
View Cartoon

Suppose the government decides a child will be a more acceptable student, citizen, and worker bee if he learns to acquiesce to the “consensus” of the group, regardless of his own moral standards, or if she learns to accept that all commands of the government must be obeyed. The student may fulfill the standard by developing the correct attitudes, but under whose authority does the government presume to instill attitudes that may conflict with parents’ desires?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California Business Departures

Joseph Varnish:

In California, costs to run a business are higher than in other states and nations – largely due to the states tax and regulatory policies – and the business climate shows little chance of improving. It is understandable that from 2008 through 2015, at least 1,687 California disinvestment events occurred, a count that reflects only those that became public knowledge. Experts in site selection generally agree that at least five events fail to become public knowledge for every one that does. Thus it is reasonable to conclude that a minimum of 10,000 California disinvestment events have occurred during that period.

The report has been designed to rely only on public sources of information – primarily news reports and company reports to several government agencies. Each disinvestment event can be substantiated simply by checking the entries against sources of information available on the Internet. The nearly 2,600 endnotes in this report would ease any such effort.

This report provides a catalog of disinvestment events, which is why the bulk of Chapters 16 through 23 are fact-filled, listing actions by companies large and small. The entries show that some companies left the state entirely while others declined to grow their in-state facilities but invested in expansions elsewhere. A few companies that planned to locate in California decided against doing so – performing a “U-Turn,” so to speak.

Why so many businesses are fleeing California for Austin — and why a lot more may be on the way

Are parents trying too hard with their children?

Isabel Berwick:

Parents are struggling, it seems. We are obsessed with the job of “parenting”, trying to mould our children so that they are happy, garlanded with top grades and achievements, and ready to take on the future — even though that future is unknowable to us. Meanwhile, the frightening wider world lurks, chaotically, beyond our control. And to minimise our own fear and worry, we try to protect our young people so that a middle-class childhood now lasts until college, and often beyond.
There is an impossible mismatch between modern micromanagement inside the home and the unknowables outside. To assuage this crisis, parents (meaning, in my experience, anxiety-prone middle-class mothers) lap up advice from books telling us how to fix our family life so as to engineer more successful futures for our kids.

The standout among these manuals in capturing the parenting zeitgeist was Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011). This memoir by a Chinese-American mother of bringing up two high-achieving girls details how a traditional Asian regime can work wonders. Its key mantras include: be very strict, enforce music practice, don’t allow free expression through drama, sport — or sleepovers. Overnight, “tiger mother” became shorthand for a woman who turns parenting into a high-stakes management career.

Common Core Links

Richard Phelps, via a kind email:

Drilling through the Core:

“The federal Department of Education’s coercion of states to join Common Core sought to preempt a necessary debate at the state and local level. Nevertheless, that debate is now raging in state capitals across the country and Pioneer has been at the forefront of the discussion with thoughtful critiques on every aspect, from the notion of common standards, to the specific standards as written, and the process by which they were adopted. This book is a valuable resource for parents or anyone else who wants to understand the criticisms of Common Core.” – U.S. Senator Charles Grassley


The Common Core K-12 standards have gone from “inevitable” to “poisonous.” A new book adds to the woes of Common Core’s supporters by bringing together academic critiques from over a dozen scholars who provide an independent, comprehensive book-length treatment of this national standards initiative. The book arrives at a moment when popular support for the Common Core is declining.

Two national polls show widespread opposition; repeal and rebranding efforts are underway in numerous states; it has become toxic for presidential candidates; and the number of states participating in Common Core-aligned testing consortia has dwindled. The Common Core standards have lost credibility with the general public, parents, and teachers.

Common Core Math Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Courses:

Common Core math standards (CCMS) end after just a partial Algebra II course. This weak Algebra II course will result in fewer high school students able to study higher-level math and science courses and an increase in credit-bearing college courses that are at the level of seventh and eighth grade material in high-achieving countries, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

Study Finds Common Core Math Standards Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Math Courses, Dumb Down College Stem Curriculum

The framers of Common Core claimed the standards would be anchored to higher education requirements, then back-mapped through upper and lower grades. But Richard P. Phelps and R. James Milgram, authors of “The Revenge of K-12: How Common Core and the New SAT Lower College Standards in the U.S.,” find that higher education was scarcely involved with creating the standards.

Fordham’s PARCC v. MCAS Report Falls Short:

The Fordham Institute has long been at work on a study of the relative quality of tests produced by the two Common Core-aligned and federally funded consortia (PARCC and SBAC), ACT (Aspire), and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MCAS). What Fordham has produced is only in the most superficial way an actual analysis – in fact, it reads more like propaganda and lacks the basic elements of objective research.

It takes only a little digging under the surface to reveal pervasive conflicts of interest, a one-sided sourcing of evidence, and a research design so slanted it cannot stand against any scrutiny. In developing their supposedly analytic comparisons of PARCC, SBAC, Aspire and MCAS, the authors do not employ standard test evaluation criteria, organizations, or reviewers. Instead, they employ criteria developed by the Common Core co-copyright holder, organizations paid handsomely in the past by Common Core’s funders, and predictable reviewers who have worked for them before. The authors also fill the report with the typical vocabulary and syntax of Common Core advertising – positive-sounding adjectives and adverbs are attached to everything Common Core, and negative-sounding adjectives and adverbs are attached to the alternatives.

Study: Poor Performance of Other States in PARCC Consortium Would Translate to Lower Standards for Mass.

“If too many students fail to reach the new threshold and are denied diplomas, our education system seizes up,” said Dr. Richard P. Phelps, author of “Setting Academic Performance Standards: MCAS vs. PARCC.”

Massachusetts’ bar for scoring “proficient” on MCAS is currently the second highest in the nation for 4th grade math, third highest for 4th grade reading, fourth highest for 8th grade math and 23rd for 8th grade reading. The composite rankings for rigor associated with definitions of proficiency in the 11 states that were still part of the PARCC consortium in August (it has since dropped to seven states and Washington, D.C.) was 27th in 4th grade math, 20.5 in 4th grade reading, 25.3 in 8th grade math and 25.1 in 8th grade reading.

In this case, the inevitable reversion to the mean would translate to a one-half year drop in performance expectations for 4th grade math and reading and 8th grade math in Massachusetts.

The Education Writers Association casts its narrowing gaze on Boston, May 1-3
April 28, 2016

Many billions have been spent, and continue to be spent, promoting the Common Core Standards and their associated consortium tests, PARCC and SBAC. Nonetheless, the “Initiative” has been stopped in its tracks largely by a loose coalition of unpaid grassroots activists. That barely-organized amateurs could match the many well-organized, well-paid professional organizations, tells us something about Common Core’s natural appeal, or lack thereof. Absent the injection of huge amounts of money and political mandates, there would be no Common Core.

The Common Core Initiative (CCI) does not progress, but neither does it go away. Its alleged primary benefit—alignment both within and across states (allegedly producing valid cross-state comparisons)—continues to degrade as participating states make changes that suit them. The degree of Common Core adoption varies greatly from state to state, and politicians’ claims about the degree of adoption even more so. CCI is making a mess and will leave a mess behind that will take years to clean up.

How did we arrive in this morass? Many would agree that our policymakers have failed us. Politicians on both sides of the aisle naively believed CCI’s “higher, deeper, tougher, more rigorous” hype without making any effort to verify the assertions. But, I would argue that the corps of national education journalists is just as responsible.

Too many of our country’s most influential journalists accept and repeat verbatim the advertising slogans and talking points of Common Core promoters. Too many of their stories source information from only one side of the issue. Most annoying, for those of us eager for some journalistic balance, has been some journalists’ tendency to rely on Common Core promoters to identify the characteristics and explain the motives of Common Core opponents.

An organization claiming to represent and support all US education journalists sets up shop in Boston next week for its annual “National Seminar”. The Education Writers Association’s (EWA’s) national seminars introduce thousands of journalists to sources of information and expertise. Many sessions feature journalists talking with other journalists. Some sessions host teachers, students, or administrators in “reports from the front lines” type panel discussions. But, the remaining and most ballyhooed sessions feature non-journalist experts on education policy fronting panels with, typically, a journalist or two hosting. Allegedly, these sessions interpret “all the research”, and deliver truth, from the smartest, most enlightened on earth.

Fordham report predictable, conflicted:

On November 17, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will decide the fate of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and the Partnership for Assessment of College Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in the Bay State. MCAS is homegrown; PARCC is not. Barring unexpected compromises or subterfuges, only one program will survive.

Over the past year, PARCC promoters have released a stream of reports comparing the two testing programs. The latest arrives from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in the form of a partial “evaluation of the content and quality of the 2014 MCAS and PARCC “relative to” the “Criteria for High Quality Assessments”[i] developed by one of the organizations that developed Common Core’s standards—with the rest of the report to be delivered in January, it says.[ii]

Much more on the Common Core, here.

Amid STAAR Test Backlash, School Performance Stable

Kiah Collier:

The number of Texas school districts and charter schools considered failing under the state’s accountability system increased slightly in 2016, though the number of individual campuses that received that label decreased somewhat, according to ratings the Texas Education Agency released Monday.

Last year, 55 school districts and charters — or 4.5 percent — fell under the failing, or “improvement required” category; this year, it’s 66, or 5.5 percent. Forty-four of those failing are traditional school districts, while 22 are charter schools.

At the same time, the number of individual campuses labeled as failing fell to 467 in 2016, from 603 last year.

The accountability ratings — in which schools are generally labeled “met standard” or “improvement required” — are based mostly on how students perform on the controversial state-required STAAR exams, a rigorous testing regime implemented in 2012.

Will Wissert has more.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin’s Utility Costs

Judy Newman:

Wisconsin’s average electric rates are highest among eight Midwest states for the first time since 2006, according to the SEA, at 10.97 cents per kilowatt-hour. The other states’ average rates range from 8.65 cents in Iowa to 10.87 cents in Michigan. The U.S. average is 11.02 cents per kilowatt-hour, the report says.

For industrial customers, rates are also highest in Wisconsin at 7.81 cents per kilowatt-hour compared with those in other Midwest states, ranging from 6.06 cents to 7.25 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Students And Savings


Apparently, some of the folks most tortured about retirement are still struggling through algebra I. Almost three-quarters of 15-to-19-year-olds, the oldest members of Generation Z—that’s the gang behind millennials—are focused on saving for a distant future, according to a Lincoln Financial Group…

Explainable Artificial Intelligence

David Gunning:

Dramatic success in machine learning has led to a torrent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications. Continued advances promise to produce autonomous systems that will perceive, learn, decide, and act on their own. However, the effectiveness of these systems is limited by the machine’s current inability to explain their decisions and actions to human users. The Department of Defense is facing challenges that demand more intelligent, autonomous, and symbiotic systems. Explainable AI—especially explainable machine learning—will be essential if future warfighters are to understand, appropriately trust, and effectively manage an emerging generation of artificially intelligent machine partners.

The Explainable AI (XAI) program aims to create a suite of machine learning techniques that: