The Concord Review: V27, No. 1, Fall

Will Fitzhugh:

TCR Singles Contains one featured essay from a previous issue of The Concord Review (TCR).

TCR contains essays from a unique international journal of exemplary history research papers by secondary students of history.

This issue features:
“Japan in Korea” was written by Min Ji Cindy Koh while attending Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts

“The Tudors” was written by Caroline Elizabeth Walton while attending The Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati, Ohio

“Twenty-Year Armistice” was written by Jack Li while attending Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, California

“Henrietta Swan Leavitt” was written by Anya Rosener while attending Clayton High School in Clayton, Missouri

“Smallpox Controversy of 1722” was written by Erin Wenokur while attending San Francisco University High School in San Francisco, California

Nudges That Help Struggling Students Succeed

David Kirk

When I was in high school, I earned A’s in all my math classes — until I took calculus. In algebra and geometry, I could coast on memorizing formulas, but now I had to think for myself.

It was disastrous, culminating in my getting a charity “C,” and I barely passed my college calculus class.

The reason, I was convinced, was that I didn’t have a math mind. I have avoided the subject ever since.

Zadie Smith: dance lessons for writers

Zadie Smith

The connection between writing and dancing has been much on my mind recently: it’s a channel I want to keep open. It feels a little neglected – compared to, say, the relationship between music and prose – maybe because there is something counter-intuitive about it. But for me the two forms are close to each other: I feel dance has something to tell me about what I do.

One of the most solid pieces of writing advice I know is in fact intended for dancers – you can find it in the choreographer Martha Graham’s biography. But it relaxes me in front of my laptop the same way I imagine it might induce a young dancer to breathe deeply and wiggle their fingers and toes. Graham writes: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”

Academia, Love Me Back

TIFFANY MARTÍNEZ

My name is Tiffany Martínez. As a McNair Fellow and student scholar, I’ve presented at national conferences in San Francisco, San Diego, and Miami. I have crafted a critical reflection piece that was published in a peer-reviewed journal managed by the Pell Institute for the Study of Higher Education and Council for Opportunity in Education. I have consistently juggled at least two jobs and maintained the status of a full-time student and Dean’s list recipient since my first year at Suffolk University. I have used this past summer to supervise a teen girls empower program and craft a thirty page intensive research project funded by the federal government. As a first generation college student, first generation U.S. citizen, and aspiring professor I have confronted a number of obstacles in order to earn every accomplishment and award I have accumulated. In the face of struggle, I have persevered and continuously produced content that is of high caliber.

Detroit school Board Election: 63 Candidates for 7 seats!

Detroit Free Press

That’s our advice to Detroit voters, who’ll be picking an entirely new school board Nov. 8.

There are 63 candidates vying for seven positions, leaving myriad possibilities for coalitions or infighting, for forward-looking governance or dwelling in the past.
Sadly, the Michigan Legislature hasn’t given full control of the district’s finances to the new board, choosing instead to empower a group of overseers to make some of the most crucial financial decisions.

Astonishing. Madison has endured a number of uncontested elections recently.

Teacher Preparation Regulation: Déjà Vu Or Real Change

Robert Pianta:

Recently U.S. Secretary of Education John King announced the Department’s new regulations for a teacher preparation program accountability system. This is the Department’s final rule concerning the Federal role in regulating teacher preparation under Title II of the Higher Education Act, with provisions very similar to prior versions. On cue, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, rejected the rules out of hand.

Will other professional groups, also opposed to prior version of these regulations, break ranks and stand down from obstructing requirements that student learning be an outcome for which teacher preparation programs should be held accountable? Instead, will they stand up and lead the profession, to ensure these regulations are implemented with rigor? If both major teachers’ unions and the association of colleges of teacher education again line up in opposition, painting these as another instance of over-valuing high stakes testing, they will have secured their position as obstructing the long-term improvement of the profession they claim to represent.

Related: Wisconsin’s “toe dip” on teacher content knowledge requirements, adopting a slice of MTEL.

Public Schools Turn to Marketing to Win Back Students From Charters

Tawnell Hobbs:

Billboards, glossy mailers and ads at movie theaters here promote the offerings available at public schools. In Los Angeles, dozens of 8-foot-high banners with photos of college-bound students line a busy road, targeting families with school-age children.

Westonka Public Schools in Minnesota sends parents a baby bag filled with a district-logoed bib, a welcome letter from the superintendent and a course catalog.

In an era of school choice, with charter schools and even other districts threatening to cut into their enrollments and funding, traditional public schools are fighting back with expensive marketing campaigns and retooled offerings to appeal to students. Some schools are even adopting the fancy uniforms associated with charters.

‘The Diversity Bargain’ Dominating Higher Education

Rose Courtreau:

Shortly after moving to New York two years ago, I began volunteering as a writing mentor at Minds Matter, a large, multi-city nonprofit that helps prepare underserved high-school students for college. Just a few months earlier, I’d graduated from a liberal-arts college I’d attended after participating in a similar program, and I felt both obliged to pay my good fortune forward and uniquely qualified to do so. If my experience had taught me anything, it was the power of a compelling personal narrative.

By the time I’d decided, mid-way through high school, that I wanted to attend college—and not just any college, but a competitive one, filled with Gothic Revival buildings and storied histories—I had to contend with a spotty transcript, virtually no extracurriculars, and an SAT math score inferior to that of many middle schoolers. Then I heard about QuestBridge, a nonprofit that connects low-income youth with top schools.

The Library Is Dead. Long Live the Library!

Daniel Penev:

1.
“Close down the lending libraries and buy every citizen an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription,” Forbes contributor Tim Worstall wrote in July 2014, arguing that his native U.K. might thus save a lot of taxpayers’ money.
Given that the amount of new digital content produced in 2011 amounts to several million times the combined contents of every book ever written, it is easy to see why technology-fascinated experts and non-specialists alike have propagated the idea that libraries will soon fall prey to Google, Amazon, and other technological giants. However, public libraries around the globe are increasingly disproving hardcore pessimists like Worstall and others who find libraries irrelevant in the modern age. Simply put, these pessimists make a fundamental mistake: They look at libraries as reactionary spaces filled with nothing but shelves.

Pediatricians revise thinking on screen time; ditch ban for kids under 2

Beth Mole:

To adjust to our digital world, the American Academy of Pediatrics rebooted its thinking on children’s media use Friday by giving parents considerably looser recommendations than those of the past.

“These are the best recommendations at this point in time based on more recent research,” Anne Francis, AAP spokesperson and general practitioner, told Ars.

Most notably, the academy ditched its strict ban on screen time for kids under the age of two, which had been in place since 1999. Now, the AAP acknowledges that not all screen time is equal, and even very young kids can benefit from certain types of media if parents and caregivers are involved.

Specifically, the AAP now says that for kids of any age—notably infants 0 to 18 months—video-chatting (e.g. Skype and FaceTime) is A-OK with supervision. There’s little data to suggest that this is beneficial, but observational studies indicate that babies younger than 18 months can indeed emotionally engage with remote relatives over video chat. This can “facilitate social connections,” the AAP notes. But, for the 0 to 18-month crowd, video-chatting is all the screen time they get.

Vouchers 2.0: Education Savings Accounts?

Alan Borsuk:

Keep this phrase in mind: Education savings accounts.

It may not be occurring at your kitchen table, but at some tables, people are talking about the future of school choice programs in Wisconsin. And these are, in many cases, important people — thought leaders and political leaders among Republicans and conservatives — who are likely to have strong roles to play when decisions are made as part of the hugely important state budget process next spring.

Among those people, education savings accounts — ESAs, in the jargon of this — are an idea of considerable interest. Vouchers 2.0, some say. The next step in giving parents power over the education of their children, rather than leaving it with school systems (even private ones), some say.

You may think we have a lot of school choice these days, and there is certainly a case for saying that. In fact, let’s summarize things a little bit since I assume only people who are paid to do this understand the landscape.

Kids Need Real Recess

Bethany Mandel

It isn’t easy being a kid these days: the school day has changed a great deal since the current generation of grade school kids’ parents were in school. With a greater emphasis on school work and testing, something in the school day had to disappear to make way for the focus on more academic pursuits like math, science and reading. For many American kids, art, music and recess are endangered parts of their day. What this means is more time trapped in desk chairs and less time moving around, fewer opportunities for open creativity and more rote memorization. It’s no wonder longtime teachers have noticed kids have a harder time sitting still now than ever before.

How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul

Matt Stoller:

One of their first targets was an old man from Texarkana: a former cotton tenant farmer named Wright Patman who had served in Congress since 1929. He was also the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Banking and Currency and had been for more than a decade. Antiwar liberal reformers realized that the key to power in Congress was through the committee system; being the chairman of a powerful committee meant having control over the flow of legislation. The problem was: Chairmen were selected based on their length of service. So liberal reformers already in office, buttressed by the Watergate Babies’ votes, demanded that the committee chairmen be picked by a full Democratic-caucus vote instead.

Ironically, as chairman of the Banking Committee, Patman had been the first Democrat to investigate the Watergate scandal. But he was vulnerable to the new crowd he had helped usher in. He was old; they were young. He had supported segregation in the past and the war in Vietnam; they were vehemently against both. Patman had never gone to college and had been a crusading economic populist during the Great Depression; the Watergate Babies were weaned on campus politics, television, and affluence.

How ‘Shock Therapy’ Is Saving Some Children With Autism

Apoorva Mandavilli:

Kyle starts to bounce on the balls of his feet. Just a small bounce at first, but higher and faster and louder as the minutes pass. He twirls the long shoelace of his toy, a tiny teal Converse sneaker speckled with white stars. When his mother comes back to check on him, he’s too agitated to even look at her. He walks away, turns his head and nips at the underside of his upper arm, then bounces some more, winding and unwinding the lace. He jiggles the handle of a door labeled “ECT Suite,” trying to get in, but it’s locked.

Finally, it’s time. Melinda Walker, the nurse he adores, comes out of the room and gives him a hug. After a brief conversation with him, she says softly, “Come on in, Kyle.”

Anti-affirmative action bake sale causes protest, sparks discussion

Van Nguyen

Update 7:02 p.m.: Among the tablers on the West Mall, the Young Conservatives of Texas held a bake sale — but instead of selling cookies for charity, they used baked goods to express their opinions on affirmative action.

The anti-affirmative action bake sale, which took place on Thursday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., led to protest from close to 300 students for several hours. Prices for baked goods were sold based on the race and gender of the purchaser, and lower prices were allocated to black and hispanic students, while Native American students were offered the sale items for free. Asian students were asked to pay the highest prices, followed by white students.

American children are drowning in self-esteem

James Astill:

To sit by our local pool in Bethesda, Maryland, at swimming-lesson time, as I do every Saturday morning, is to marvel at American ambition, positivity and derring-do. Those qualities are apparent in the enthusiasm with which my children are whooped into the water by their relentlessly upbeat instructors. They are there in the short shrift the instructors give to any whingeing. My youngest was just three when he started at the pool and liable to protest; he got a lot of warm-hearted sympathy, but no let-up. “C’mon dude, stop complaining, let’s get on with it!”

Yet my children’s experience of school in America is in some ways as indifferent as their swimming classes are good, for the country’s elementary schools seem strangely averse to teaching children much stuff. According to the OECD’s latest international education rankings, American children are rated average at reading, below average at science, and poor at maths, at which they rank 27th out of 34 developed countries. At 15, children in Massachusetts, where education standards are higher than in most states, are so far behind their counterparts in Shanghai at maths that it would take them more than two years of regular education to catch up.

How a Chinese company bought access to admissions officers at top U.S. colleges

Steve Stecklow, Renee Dudley, James Pomfret and Alexandra Harney

A major Chinese education company has paid thousands of dollars in perks or cash to admissions officers at top U.S. universities to help students apply to American schools.

And according to eight former employees of Shanghai-based Dipont Education Management Group, the company’s services didn’t end there.

Six told Reuters that Dipont employees wrote application essays for students. Another said she altered recommendation letters that teachers had written for students. One student was given access to his high school transcript and erased bad grades, one of the former employees said.

Dipont denies the allegations of application fraud but boasts of its special relationship with some 20 U.S. colleges, which include Vanderbilt University, Wellesley College, Tulane University and the University of Virginia. Their admissions officers have visited China since 2014, personally advising Dipont students at an annual summer program on how to successfully apply to U.S. colleges.

“Just once a year, current admissions officers become your exclusive consultants,” an ad from Dipont tells prospective clients. The same ad features a Wellesley student crediting the Dipont program for her early acceptance.

Civics: AT&T Is Spying on Americans for Profit

The Daily Beast

Hemisphere isn’t a “partnership” but rather a product AT&T developed, marketed, and sold at a cost of millions of dollars per year to taxpayers. No warrant is required to make use of the company’s massive trove of data, according to AT&T documents, only a promise from law enforcement to not disclose Hemisphere if an investigation using it becomes public.

Lobbying data: AT&T contributions to Russ Feingold, Jim Doyle, Tammy Baldwin, Scott Walker and Ron Johnson.

What Are Universities For?

Keri Facer

These are interesting conversations – but the reality is that we cannot begin to answer these questions unless we actually know what universities are for. And this doesn’t mean something as obvious as pointing out that they should be institutions for the public good rather than private positional benefit. Rather, it means getting into the work that they do and understanding it.

Having spent the last few years thinking about the relationship between educational institutions and social change, I’m increasingly convinced that the university does 5 key things which, when combined, make it a unique institution in helping society to think about, prepare for and create the future. These are:

If You’re Wondering Why NTT Faculty Don’t Support Tenure

John Warner:

Administrators and non-tenure-track faculty have at least one thing in common: Both groups appear comfortable with the elimination of tenure.

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, this is according to data collected for Envisioning the Faculty for the 21st Century by Adrianna Kezar and Daniel Maxey, a new-ish book that seeks to further the conversation about what shape faculty roles will take in our changing universities.

I’ve never been an administrator, but I imagine the explanation for their comfort with eliminating tenure is about power, namely, without tenure, administrators have much more freedom to operate.

I don’t attribute nefarious motives here, however. Lack of tenure means administrations could remake faculty to meet the demands of a changing higher education arena. If one sincerely believes that it’s “adapt or die,” it makes sense to desire the maximum freedom to adapt. I’m sure many administrators confronting these challenges believe that eliminating tenure would be a net good for their institutions. It doesn’t mean they’re right (or wrong), but it’s entirely explicable.

University bureaucracies grew 15 percent during the recession, even as budgets were cut and tuition increased

Jon Marcus:

Post-it notes stick to the few remaining photos hanging on the walls of the University of Maine System offices, in a grand brick, renovated onetime W.T. Grant department store built in 1948.

The notes are instructions for the movers, since the pictures and everything else are in the midst of being packed up and divided among the system’s seven campuses.

Only 20 people work here now, down from a peak of 120, and the rest will soon be gone, too, following their colleagues and fanning out to the campuses. Disassembled cubicles and crates of documents are piled in the corners of the 36,000-square-foot space, and light shines from the doors of the few lonely offices still occupied. All of the agency’s three floors in the building, in a quiet part of town near a statue of Bangor native hero and Abraham Lincoln’s first-term vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, have been put up for sale.

Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong

Matt O’Brien

America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others.

That’s because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on “enrichment activities” for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.

Warning: This Article Is Educational

Wall Street Journal:

Tech giants like Google and Facebook always deny that their platforms favor some viewpoints over others, but then they don’t do much to avoid looking censorious. This week a conservative radio host and author is wondering why YouTube classifies his educational web clips as “potentially objectionable” material.

Dennis Prager’s “PragerU” puts out free short videos on subjects “important to understanding American values”—ranging from the high cost of higher education to the motivations of Islamic State. The channel has more than 130 million views, and the spots tend to include an expert guest and background animation. As you might guess, the mini-seminars do not include violence or sexual content.

But more than 15 videos are “restricted” on YouTube, a development PragerU announced this month. This means the clips don’t show up for those who have turned on filtering—say, a parent shielding their children from explicit videos. A YouTube spokesperson told us that the setting is optional and “based on algorithms that look at a number of factors, including community flagging on videos.” Yet it’s easy to imagine a flood of users reporting a political video—microagressed college students have a lot of free time—and limiting a viewpoint’s audience.

Amity plans US campus for 10,000 ‘primarily’ American students

John Morgan

One of India’s biggest private universities, Amity University, aims to host 10,000 students “primarily” from the US at a recently purchased campus near New York, according to its chancellor.

Amity, which adds the US to its list of global campus locations and has plans to establish itself in Australia, has paid a reported $22 million (£18 million) to buy the Long Island campus of private, non-profit St John’s University.

Music Theory An Education from First Principles

Nathan:

Music Theory has never been kind to beginners. Cryptic notation, complicated maths, and an unintuitive vocabulary make sure of it.

Yet the truth is that most musicians aren’t looking for a PhD in Music Theory. They want to improvise; not be chained to their tabs. They want to compose and they want to make sense of the music they love.

This site is an attempt to teach you just enough essential music theory to take you from a tab-reader to a music creator!

Civics: On Surveillance.

Ryan Gallagher & Nicky Hager

The technology was designed by Endace, a little-known New Zealand company. And the important customer was the British electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

Dozens of internal documents and emails from Endace, obtained by The Intercept and reported in cooperation with Television New Zealand, reveal the firm’s key role helping governments across the world harvest vast amounts of information on people’s private emails, online chats, social media conversations, and internet browsing histories.

The leaked files, which were provided by a source through SecureDrop, show that Endace listed a Moroccan security agency implicated in torture as one of its customers. They also indicate that the company sold its surveillance gear to more than half a dozen other government agencies, including in the United States, Israel, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Spain, and India.

Some of Endace’s largest sales in recent years, however, were to the United Kingdom’s GCHQ, which purchased a variety of “data acquisition” systems and “probes” that it used to covertly monitor internet traffic.

Civics: China’s plan to organize its society relies on ‘big data’ to rate everyone

Simon Denyer

Imagine a world where an authoritarian government monitors everything you do, amasses huge amounts of data on almost every interaction you make, and awards you a single score that measures how “trustworthy” you are.

In this world, anything from defaulting on a loan to criticizing the ruling party, from running a red light to failing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points.

And in this world, your score becomes the ultimate truth of who you are — determining whether you can borrow money, get your children into the best schools or travel abroad; whether you get a room in a fancy hotel, a seat in a top restaurant — or even just get a date.

Why Universities Must Choose One Telos: Truth or Social Justice

Jonathan Haidt:

Aristotle often evaluated a thing with respect to its “telos” – its purpose, end, or goal. The telos of a knife is to cut. The telos of a physician is health or healing. What is the telos of university?

The harvardmost obvious answer is “truth” –- the word appears on so many university crests. But increasingly, many of America’s top universities are embracing social justice as their telos, or as a second and equal telos. But can any institution or profession have two teloses (or teloi)? What happens if they conflict?

As a social psychologist who studies morality, I have watched these two teloses come into conflict increasingly often during my 30 years in the academy. The conflicts seemed manageable in the 1990s. But the intensity of conflict has grown since then, at the same time as the political diversity of the professoriate was plummeting, and at the same time as American cross-partisan hostility was rising. I believe the conflict reached its boiling point in the fall of 2015 when student protesters at 80 universities demanded that their universities make much greater and more explicit commitments to social justice, often including mandatory courses and training for everyone in social justice perspectives and content.

Student Writing in the Digital Age

Anne Trubek:

“Kids these days” laments are nothing new, but the substance of the lament changes. Lately, it has become fashionable to worry that “kids these days” will be unable to write complex, lengthy essays. After all, the logic goes, social media and text messaging reward short, abbreviated expression. Student writing will be similarly staccato, rushed, or even—horror of horrors—filled with LOL abbreviations and emojis.

In fact, the opposite seems to be the case. Students in first-year composition classes are, on average, writing longer essays (from an average of 162 words in 1917, to 422 words in 1986, to 1,038 words in 2006), using more complex rhetorical techniques, and making no more errors than those committed by freshman in 1917. That’s according to a longitudinal study of student writing by Andrea A. Lunsford and Karen J. Lunsford, “Mistakes Are a Fact of Life: A National Comparative Study.”

In 2006, two rhetoric and composition professors, Lunsford and Lunsford, decided, in reaction to government studies worrying that students’ literacy levels were declining, to crunch the numbers and determine if students were making more errors in the digital age.

The Best Way to Not Get Tenure

blue Blog

What Are You (Not) Supposed to Do?
Junior faculty get a lot of unsolicited advice about how to get tenure, mainly in the form of many different don’ts. Don’t teach too much—​I heard that often at UB. Don’t teach too well when you are starting out, so you can create the illusion of a positive trend right before tenure—​I heard that too. Don’t try to lead a project involving senior faculty. Don’t work on a project if it might not produce a bunch of publications quickly. Don’t take on leadership roles in or work to improve the department. Don’t speak out on issues that you care about—​better not to argue with anyone.

This advice has a clear normative purpose. Tenure represents the last chance for an institution to impress its values on its faculty before it’s stuck with them for life. And, particularly for academics that have spent their entire lives pleasing a school in one way or another, the prospect of not getting tenure is scary. This is the last test that they’ll ever have to pass, so why not just keep doing what the teacher wants for a few more years? Plus, after you get tenure you can do anything you want—​right?

What Happens When What Works for Children Doesn’t Feel Good?

relinquishment:

Closing schools does not feel good: it’s painful for families, educators, and politicians.

But closing schools, and opening new better schools, can dramatically help low-income children.

Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to a child is for her school to close.

Closing Schools Led to a +.3 SD Gain for Elementary Students in NOLA

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Schools push students out of special education to meet state limit

Brian Rosenthal

A few days before school began here in 2007, district administrators called an emergency staff meeting.

The Texas Education Agency had determined that they had too many students in special education, the administrators announced, and they had come up with a plan: Remove as many kids as possible.

The staffers did as they were told, and during that school year, the Laredo Independent School District purged its rolls, discharging nearly a third of its special education students, according to district data. More than 700 children were forced out of special education and moved back into regular education. Tweet this link Only 78 new students entered services.

The Great Unbundling of Textbook Publishers

Michael Feldstein:

For most of their existence, the center of the universe for textbook publishers has understandibly been the book. Selling textbooks was a very profitable business for a very long time. Everything else that a publisher produced was called an “ancillary.” Slides? Flash cards? Digital resources? All ancillary to the dead tree product. Even when publishers figured out that they could charge money for some related products and services, they typically thought about them in terms of enhancing their book business. Homework platforms were “aligned” with particular textbooks. “Custom” publishing, where the publisher cobbles together different book sections and other resources for an individual instructor, department or institution, was seen as a means of selling more content to people who wouldn’t select the company’s book off-the-shelf.

All of that is changing. In fact, it has been changing slowly for a while now. Homework platforms have been big business since Pearson scored major success with MyMathLab. As the homework market matured, publishers have, through long process of trial and error, finally begun to hit on general-purpose digital products for disciplines that aren’t heavy in traditional homework. These products move up the value chain, solving both class management and genuine teaching problems that paper textbooks can’t. And publishers are starting to see real business success with them. For example, McGraw-Hill Education announced this year that their unit sales of digital products have overtaken print products. Cengage told IHE in the spring that they are “on track this fiscal year to see digital sales surpass print sales, both in terms of unit sales and revenue.”

Coding for Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s Technical Imagination

Linda Liukas:

I believe stories are the most formative force of our childhood. The stories we read growing up affect the way we perceive the world as we grow up. For some reason narratives haven’t been used as part of technology education, even though a lot of research suggests that stories are the best way to understand new concepts, especially in childhood but also when adults. So for me it was a natural fit. When I started drawing Ruby’s adventures, I began to see stories and characters everywhere in the technology world.

However, such a huge part of our daily lives is spent in front of a screen. I believe there’s a lot of value in parents and children exploring and interacting offline. That’s why Hello Ruby is aimed for 5-7 year olds to be read together at bedtime with the parent — kids who don’t necessarily read or write yet on their own. And there’s a wealth of knowledge about computers and computing concepts we can teach to the little ones before even opening the terminal.

World Poverty

Max Roser

In the past only a small elite enjoyed living conditions that we would not describe as a life in extreme poverty today. With the onset of industrialization and rising productive the share of people living in poverty started to decrease and kept on falling ever since. As a consequence of falling poverty, the health of the population improved dramatically over the last two centuries, and the population started to grow. The growth of the population caused the absolute number of poor people in the world to increase; only over the last decades has the absolute number of people living in poverty started to fall as well.

Madison School Board OKs “final” 2016-2017 budget of $448,900,000

Doug Erickson:

On the spending side, there also are changes since June.

The operating budget was predicted to be $376.5 million in June. It is now $380 million, in large part because School Board members have decided to spend about $2 million this school year of the $9.27 million in one-time proceeds the district is getting from a successful Downtown tax incremental financing (TIF) district.

Most of the $2 million will be spent on maintenance projects, facility improvements and technology infrastructure.

The district’s operating budget funds basic operations and includes all instructional programming. The district also has what it calls its “all funds budget,” which is $448.9 million and includes expenditures like debt service.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2016-2017 budget, here.

Per student spending is $17,791 for 25,231 students 

Texas K-12 Tax & Spending Commentary: $10K/student Vs Madison’s $18K

Ross Ramsey:

The grand total is now $10,111 — up $696 from 2008. The feds pay $1,015. The locals pay $5,209 — almost $1,000 more per student than they were paying a year ago. And the state? It pays $3,887 per student, or $339 less than it was paying 10 years ago.

Some of that shift in cost can be attributed to rising property values during a prosperous time in the state’s economic history. When more money comes in from local school property taxes, the state gets a break and doesn’t have to pay as much to keep the schoolrooms open. Some, like former state Rep. Kent Grusendorf, who works on education policy at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, think the local tax is functionally identical to a state property tax — one that is effectively controlled by the state of Texas.

It’s a complex and lumbering system, but some things — like where higher property taxes come from — are easy to figure out. State lawmakers are increasingly reliant on locally raised taxes to pay for education — and property owners shoulder that burden.

Much more, here.

Culture, Gender, and Math

Luigi Guiso, Ferdinando Monte, Paola Sapienza, Luigi Zingales:

results, we classified countries according to several measures of gender equality. (i) The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index (GGI) (10) reflects economic and political
The existence (1), degree (2), and origin (3, 4) of a gender gap (difference between girls’ and boys’ scores) in mathematics are highly debated. Biologically based explanations for the gap rely on evi- dence that men perform better in spatial tests, whereas women do better in verbal recall ones (1, 5, 6). However, the perform- ance differences are small, and their link with math test per- formance is tenuous (7). By contrast, social conditioning and gender-biased environ- ments can have very large ef- fects on test performance (8).
To assess the relative
importance of biological and
cultural explanations, we
studied gender differences
in test performance across
countries (9). Cultural inequal-
ities range widely across
countries (10), whereas re-
sults from cognitive tests do
not (6). We used data from
the 2003 Programme for
International Student Assess-
ment (PISA) that reports on
276,165 15-year-old students
from 40 countries who took
identical tests in mathematics
and reading (11, 12). The
tests were designed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Develop-
ment (OECD) to be free of
cultural biases. They are sufficiently chal- lenging that only 0.6% of the U.S. students tested perform at the 99th percentile of the world distribution.

by country (see chart, above): in Turkey, –22.6, whereas, in Iceland, 14.5. A similar variation exists in the proportion of girls over boys who score above 95%, or 99% of the country-level distribution (fig. S2A).
opportunities,
Math and reading gender gaps. In more gender-equal cultures, the math gender gap dis- appears and the reading gender gap becomes larger. (Top) Gender gaps in mathematics (yellow) and reading (gray) are calculated as the difference between the average girls’ score and the average boys’ score. A subset of countries is shown here (see SOM for complete data set and calculations). In many countries, on average, girls perform more poorly than boys in mathematics. In all countries, girls perform better than boys in reading. The gender gap in mathematics and reading correlates with country measures of gender status within the cul- ture, one of which measures is the GGI (bottom). Larger values of GGI point to a better aver- age position of women in society. Besides USA, the countries are abbreviated as their first three letters, except for PRT, Portugal, and ISL, Iceland.
The gender gap is reversed in reading. On average, girls have reading scores that are 32.7 higher than those of boys (6.6% higher than the mean average score for boys), in Turkey, 25.1 higher and in Iceland, 61.0 higher (see chart). The effect is even stronger in the right tail of the distribution. In spite of the difference in levels, the gender gap in reading exhibits a variation across countries similar to the gender gap in math. Where girls enjoy the strongest advantage in reading with respect to boys, they exhibit the smallest disadvantage (sometime even an advantage) in math. [The correlation between the average gender gaps in mathematics and reading across countries is 0.59 (fig. S4)].
0.81), our statistical model suggests that the mean score performance in mathematics of girls relative to boys would increase by 23 points, which would eliminate the Turkish gender gap in math (see table, p. 1165). In more gender-equal countries, such as Norway and Sweden, the math gender gap disappears. Similar results are obtained when we use the other indicators of women’s roles in society. These results are true not only at the mean level, but also in the tail of the distribution (table S3). In Iceland, the ratio of girls to boys who score above the 99th percentile of the country distribution in math scores is 1.17.
70 60 50 40 30 20 10
0 -10 -20 -30
0.8 0.75 0.7 0.65 0.6 0.55 0.5
TUR
Gender gap, math Gender gap, reading
KOR ITA USA PRT
Women’s emancipation (GGI)
FRA POL
NOR SWE ISL
GGI index Test score differences between girls and boys

The ‘legitimation’ crisis in the US: Why have Americans lost trust in government?

the conversation:

Elections normally decide who is to govern. This upcoming election is about the very legitimacy of the system.

At the final presidential debate, Republican candidate Donald Trump made the remarkable statement that he might not accept the outcome of the election. Even putting this rancorous and divisive presidential election aside, trust in the federal government in general has been in decline for decades.

In 1964 over 70 percent of Americans recorded having trust in the institution, according to polls conducted by the Pew Research Center. By November 2015 it had fallen to 19 percent, less than one in five of Americans. A recent Gallup Poll survey reveals only 20 percent trust in the presidency. Low. But not as low as the only six percent who trust Congress.

The truth about boys and books: they read less – and skip pages

Daniel Boffey:

Boys might claim it’s a simple matter of preferring to read magazines or the latest musings of their friends on social media rather than the classics. But two of the largest studies ever conducted into the reading habits of children in the UK have put those excuses to bed.

Boys, of every age, no matter the nature of the literature before them, typically read less thoroughly than girls.

They take less time to process the words, lazily skipping parts with abandon. And they choose books that are too easy for them, meaning they fail to move on to tougher material, it is claimed.

Keith Topping, professor of educational and social research at the University of Dundee, is behind two academic research papers: one using data from 852,295 students in 3,243 schools (a tenth of the 8.4 million children in the UK), and another examining the quiz answers relating to the comprehension of books read by 150,220 children in 967 schools. Between them, they reach a damning conclusion on boys between five and 18 years old: “What they are doing is not particularly good – and they are lagging behind.”

Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy

James Manyika, Susan Lund, Jacques Bughin, Kelsey Robinson, Jan Mischke, and Deepa Mahajan

The resulting report, Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy, finds that up to 162 million people in Europe and the United States—or 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population—engage in some form of independent work. While demographically diverse, independent workers largely fit into four segments (exhibit): free agents, who actively choose independent work and derive their primary income from it; casual earners, who use independent work for supplemental income and do so by choice; reluctants, who make their primary living from independent work but would prefer traditional jobs; and the financially strapped, who do supplemental independent work out of necessity.

Increasing Burdens On Young People

Teresa Welsh

The United States is supposed to be a land of opportunity where young people can expect their quality of life will be better than their parents’. But the U.S. isn’t even in the top 20 countries when it comes to opportunities for young people.

The U.S. ranks 23 on a list of 183 countries based on 18 indicators that measure progress for youth ages 15 to 29. Eight of the top 10 countries are in Europe, plus Australia and Japan.

Perils of Eroded civic Knowledge

Karoli Kuns transcribes Souter:

It is a product of civic ignorance.

What I worry about is a remark that Benjamin Franklin made and Susan Leahy quoted Jefferson at the beginning about how “an ignorant people can never remain a free people.”

Democracy cannot survive too much ignorance.

Franklin, in effect, had a comment to which the Jefferson comment is a kind of an answer or a response. You’ve probably heard this but it bears repeating.

Franklin was asked by someone I think on the streets of Philadelphia shortly after the 1787 convention adjourned in what kind of government the constitution would give us if it was adopted. Franklin’s famous answer was “a republic, if you can keep it.” (edited)

You can’t keep it in ignorance. I don’t worry about our losing republican government in the United States because I’m afraid of a foreign invasion. I don’t worry about it because I think there is going to be a coup by the military as has happened in some other places.

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking

Julia Angwin

When Google bought the advertising network DoubleClick in 2007, Google founder Sergey Brin said that privacy would be the company’s “number one priority when we contemplate new kinds of advertising products.”

And, for nearly a decade, Google did in fact keep DoubleClick’s massive database of web-browsing records separate by default from the names and other personally identifiable information Google has collected from Gmail and its other login accounts.

But this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand – literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate by default. In its place, Google substituted new language that says browsing habits “may be” combined with what the company learns from the use Gmail and other tools.

Aberfan: The mistake that cost a village its children

BBC News:

The phrase is one of the most enduring and quoted of modern literature, an almost proverbial reference to the archaic and bygone.

It is the opening line of LP Hartley’s 1953 novel The Go-Between, an eerie story set 50 years on from a tumultuous experience of an adolescent boy; an experience so devastating it propelled him prematurely into adulthood and ruined the rest of his life.

College buyer’s remorse is real

Jessica Dickler

Many millennials don’t know what they owe on their student loans, what interest rate they are paying or whether college was worth it, according to a survey released Thursday by Citizens Bank.

A startling 6 in 10 millennials said they have no idea when their loans will be paid off and more than a third don’t even know the interest rate they are paying. On average, graduates owed about $41,000 in student loans, the report said.

“It is very uncommon for consumers to have such a large amount of debt and yet not know their interest rate or how long their payments are going to last,” said Brendan Coughlin, president of consumer lending at Providence, Rhode-Island-based Citizens Bank, which surveyed over 500 college graduates ages 18 to 35 with student loans.

College presidents see opportunities in ‘disruptions’ of higher education

Derek Quizon:

A panel of university presidents, past and present, talked about the future of higher education at a discussion at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education on Thursday.

Online education, affordability and state funding were all topics of discussion at the panel, titled “Disruption in Higher Education.”

Like many college presidents today, former UVa President John T. Casteen III was forced to adapt to a major disruption during the 1990s. During the decade, state funding to the university dropped dramatically, and Casteen and his administration began focusing on private fundraising.

Five myths about genius

Eric Weiner

It’s not always easy to know when we’re in the presence of “genius.” In part, that’s because we barely agree on what it means. In Roman times, genius was not something you achieved but rather an animating spirit that adhered itself to people and places. In the 18th century, Romantics gave genius its modern meaning: Someone with special, almost divine abilities. Today, we’re quick to anoint a “marketing genius” or a “political genius,” oblivious to the fact that true genius requires no such modification. In truth, real geniuses transcend the confines of their particular domains. They inspire and awe. Which is precisely why we should use the word sparingly, lest it lose some of its magic. That’s not the only misconception. Here are some others.

Myth No. 1

Genius is mostly about genetics.

In 1869, a British polymath named Francis Galton published a popular book called “Hereditary Genius.” As the title suggests, Galton argued that genius is determined by genetics, or what he called “inheritance.” That idea stuck. “Genes appear to have a big role in our intelligence and talents,” one website declares. Others breathlessly report that scientists have uncovered a gene that makes some people brilliant.

The truth, though, is that genius is not transmitted genetically like blue eyes or baldness. Genius parents don’t beget genius babies, and there’s no “genius gene.” Genetics is part of the mix, but only part. “Much of the literature concludes that hereditary factors play a minor role at best in the determination of creativity,” University of Minnesota psychologist Niels Waller wrote in Psychological Inquiry.

There are other factors, too. One is hard work — the “drudge theory” of genius. Others suggest that attitude matters as well. A study of young musicians found that it was not the number of practice hours students racked up that determined their success but rather their “long-term commitment .” In other words, genius requires a certain mind-set, an unflappable persistence.

Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation

Judith Scott-Clayton and Jing Li

The moment they earn their bachelor’s degrees, black college graduates owe $7,400 more on average than their white peers ($23,400 versus $16,000, including non-borrowers in the averages). But over the next few years, the black-white debt gap more than triples to a whopping $25,000. Differences in interest accrual and graduate school borrowing lead to black graduates holding nearly $53,000 in student loan debt four years after graduation—almost twice as much as their white counterparts. While previous work has documented racial disparities in student borrowing, delinquencies, and defaults, in this report we provide new evidence that racial gaps in total debt are far larger than even recent reports have recognized, far larger now than in the past, and correlated with troubling trends in the economy and in the for-profit sector. We conclude with a discussion of policy implications.

Commentary (seems to lack data…) on Madison’s K-12 Tax & Spending Increase Referendum

It is unfortunate two recent articles on the upcoming Madison School District tax & spending increase referendum lack data, such as:

Doug Erickson:

To offset cuts in state aid and the tightening revenue caps, Act 10 eliminated collective bargaining over benefits. State employees and other public workers without an existing contract were required to start contributing to their pensions. Once a district’s collectively bargained contract expired, the district also could do things such as switch insurance providers, increase employee benefit contributions, and change work rules — all without needing union approval.

“It took the handcuffs off school boards,” Nygren said.

In Madison, Act 10 ushered in significant changes. Faced with the state-imposed cuts but before Act 10 took effect, employee unions agreed during contract negotiations to major concessions in 2011-12. That included a salary freeze (saving $4 million) and a requirement that employees begin contributing 5.8 percent of their salary toward their state pensions (saving $11 million).

The union also agreed to drop Wisconsin Physicians Service as an insurance provider in 2012, a $5 million savings. WPS was the most costly plan the district offered, and employees who had opted for it had been paying a portion of their monthly premiums.

Union members also had agreed back then to begin paying a percentage of the premiums for the three other insurance options, although the School Board chose not to go that route at that point. That changed this year. The School Board is, for the first time, now requiring all employees to pay something toward their monthly health insurance premiums.

The percentage varies by employee group, with teachers paying 3 percent (6 percent if they don’t participate in the district’s wellness program). This followed the expiration of the district’s final union contract over the summer.

Doug Keillor, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., the district’s teachers union, said Act 10 alienated public employees and took a “wrecking ball” to public schools.

“The district could keep cutting pay and could keep increasing health insurance contributions, so from that standpoint, the district has not transferred as much of the costs onto the backs of employees as they could,” he said. “But you have to first back up and say, ‘How do you build a quality public school district?’ A district needs to attract people into this profession and keep them. The Legislature didn’t give school boards the tools to do that.”

Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, a member of the Senate Education Committee, argues that most of the discussions about public school funding are wrongly framed from a perspective that more money automatically means higher student achievement.

“Our reforms are working,” she said. “We’ve given the school districts through Act 10 the tools to do more with the resources they have. Those districts that have embraced that are doing really well.”

Amber Walker:

Public education advocates are organizing in support of the upcoming K-12 operational referendum for the Madison Metropolitan School District, which is necessary to maintain a quality education for local students, they say.

On Nov. 8, the district is asking voters to permanently raise its revenue limit authority by $26 million.

The district proposes that this change happens incrementally over the next four school years. MMSD seeks an additional $5 million per year for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years and an additional $8 million per year for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.

Commentary on redistributed state tax collections and spending.

Madison School District 2016 tax & spending increase referendum content. Channel 3000.

I’ve not seen total Madison School District spending data, much less history, amongst the referendum content.

2,000 Seattle teachers wear ‘Black Lives Matter’ shirts to class

Paige Cornwell:

About 2,000 Seattle educators wore Black Lives Matter shirts at their schools Wednesday to call for racial equity in education.

Schools across the district held “Black Lives Matter at School” rallies before classes began for the day. Students, parents and teachers also wore stickers and buttons emblazoned with the “Black Lives Matter” slogan.

The purpose of the day was to affirm that “black lives matter in the public schools,” according to organizers, who are members of Social Equality Educators, a group of educators within the Seattle teachers union. Teachers also wanted to show their support for John Muir Elementary, which had its “Black Men Uniting to Change the Narrative” event canceled last month after receiving a threat over teachers’ plans to wear Black Lives Matter shirts.

Before school started Wednesday at Chief Sealth International High School, dozens of educators and students gathered outside the building and held up banners and signs.

Feeling the Squeeze: Pension Costs Are Crowding Out Education Spending; The Focus On Adult Employment

Josh McGee

Taxpayer contributions to teachers’ retirement plans are expected to grow substantially over the next decade. But the underfunding shortfall is so large that aggregate pension debt will also continue to grow. Retirement costs per pupil are already approaching 10% of all education expenditures. Without meaningful reform, these costs, as well as the aggregate pension debt vowed to teachers’ plans, will continue to rise and continue to crowd out education spending on the state and local levels.
Per-pupil spending on equipment, facilities, and property fell by 26% between 2000 and 2013, likely resulting in a growing backlog of expensive repairs and replacements that will need to be made sometime down the road.

+Spending on instructional supplies (e.g., textbooks) declined by 10% per pupil. More than half of states (29) spent less per pupil on instructional supplies in 2013 than in 2000; in several states, the decline was substantial: Arizona (37%), California (30%), Michigan (39%), and Oklahoma (30%). Teachers’ salaries overall were basically flat between 2000 and 2013, and retirement benefits were reduced in almost every state, sometimes by very large amounts.

The vast majority of taxpayer contributions into teachers’ pension plans are now used to pay down pension debt owed for past service rather than to pay for new benefits earned by today’s teachers. As the value of this debt has increased, most current teachers have experienced stagnant salaries and reduced retirement benefits, while pending on classroom supplies, equipment, and building upkeep has declined relatively or even absolutely.

Related: A focus on adult employment.

Here’s a new college ranking, based entirely on other college rankings

Nick Anderson:

Start with two lists from U.S. News and World Report: national universities and national liberal arts colleges. These rankings, which are based in part on selectivity, wealth and reputational surveys, for decades have been the most prominent in the market.

For the national universities, add:

National university rankings from Washington Monthly, which aim to gauge their contribution to the public good.

Rankings from the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education, which include a focus on outcomes such as graduation rates, salaries and student engagement.

Rankings from Times Higher Education world university analysts, only of schools within the United States, which focus on research prowess.
Rankings from Money and Forbes magazines, which in different ways seek to measure value and outcomes. Both include data on salaries of alumni.
Take the sum and divide by six (the number of rankings in play). Order the

The Other Mental Health Crisis

Scott Jaschik

In 2005, a study found that 10 percent of graduate and professional students at the University of California at Berkeley had contemplated suicide. More than half reported feeling depressed a lot of the time. While concerns about undergraduates’ mental health were already growing then and have only increased since, the finding about graduate students surprised and alarmed many experts. And because of Berkeley’s prominence in educating future Ph.D.s and professors, the study was widely circulated.
Ten years later, the graduate student government at Berkeley is releasing a new study. It too finds a high percentage of graduate students showing signs of depression.

The new study is not strictly comparable to the one of a decade ago. This time the Berkeley graduate students were asked a series of questions to measure their life satisfaction and depression levels, rather than asking them if they felt depressed. The graduate students were also asked a series of other questions about their lives so researchers could note apparent relationships between certain factors and good mental health.

Germany shows tuition-free college may not fix higher education in the US

Jon Marcus:

Claudia Niessler wouldn’t have attended a university that charged tuition, though even without it her living expenses in college require her to work as many as 20 hours a week at a supermarket.

Stefan Steinbock pipes in that having to pay tuition would discourage people with good grades but low incomes from getting university degrees. Eliminating financial stress means he can focus on his academics.

But Peter-André Alt contends that being unable to charge tuition means universities are overcrowded and thinly stretched. Meanwhile, hard-pressed taxpayers are unfairly forced to fill the void, even if they don’t go to college or have kids who do.

Niessler and Steinbock are students at Freie Universität in Berlin; Alt is the university’s president. Together, they embody the surprising ambivalence, unexpected nuances, and general pros and cons of tuition-free university in Germany, a model proposed in the US by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The Meaningless Politics of Liberal Democracies

Emma Green

But Hamid also thinks there’s something lacking in Western democracies, that there’s a sense of overarching meaninglessness in political and cultural life in these countries that can help explain why a young Muslim who grew up in the U.K. might feel drawn to martyrdom, for example. This is not a dismissal of democracy, nor does it comprehensively explain the phenomenon of jihadism. Rather, it’s a note of skepticism about the promise of secular democracy—and the wisdom of pushing that model on other cultures and regions.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” – Psalm 111:10.

Civics: Taser Explores Concept of Drone Armed With Stun Gun for Police Use

Zusha Elenson

The day when police zap suspects from the sky with drones carrying stun guns may be nearing.

Taser International Inc., known for its stun guns and body cameras, is exploring the concept of a drone armed with a stun gun for use by police. This week, the company held discussions with police officials about such a device during a law-enforcement conference here.

Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said the company’s advanced research team met with law enforcement customers “to discuss various future concepts” to get feedback.

Thankful and lucky to have helped build Khan

Ben Karen’s:

I volunteered until Sal turned Khan Academy into a real, more-than-one-person company, at which point I joined as our first engineer. I felt deep pride in using the engineering and management lessons I’d learned from Joel and Fog Creek to build a team pointed at KA’s epic mission: “A free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.”

Now we’re a company of ~120 people. And that group has been steadily adding momentum to the pursuit of our mission, increasing Khan Academy’s impact a little here and a lot there…making me thankful while I just try to hold on:

We serve over 10M active learners monthly (37M+ registered students, 1.5M+ registered educators).

We’ve made thousands and thousands of educational videos, articles, and interactive exercises available for free to all learners (forever). Either by creating ‘em ourselves or partnering with exciting folks like Pixar and Crash Course.

All the content’s available in many different languages across many devices. And we’re aiming at larger and larger learner populations next.
We partnered with College Board to provide free, official SAT test prep, and within one year there’s been a 19% drop in the number of students who paid for SAT prep.

64% of first-generation students at top universities said that Khan Academy played a meaningful role in their education (survey by an independent group).

Laurene Powell Jobs’s $100 Million Mission to Disrupt American High School

Lisa Miller

Since 2001, about $15 billion has been spent by taxpayers and philanthropists trying to boost academic achievement in American public schools. These efforts have largely failed — especially in high school. For the average 17-year-old, reading and math scores have not budged since 1971. On standardized tests, white 17-year-olds still outscore black 17-year-olds by 20 points or more — a stubborn gap, unchanged for 30 years.

Laurene Powell Jobs is undaunted by these facts. To her, the cause of the failure is clear: High schools fail to serve American kids because they were designed a hundred years ago for an industrial society that has ceased to exist. “You can pull all the disaggregated data that you want and get depressed about it,” she told me in June, as we sat drinking wine in the lobby of a downtown Chicago hotel — but what high school needs is a “completely changed design in 25,000 places.” Powell Jobs, who is the widow of Steve Jobs and worth about $18 billion, proposes the overhaul of all high schools neutrally, as though she’s suggesting something ordinary, like a cleanup of the garage. “That’s what we need to do.”

“We should have the best education system in the world!” she continues. “We should! We shouldn’t just have the best military. We shouldn’t just have the best economy. We should have the best education system. Of course we should! Every single person would agree to that!” It is perhaps not surprising that Powell Jobs holds a version of her husband’s disregard for Establishment institutions. But whereas the myth of Jobs portrays him as an enfant terrible, his widow is his opposite: low-key, disciplined, self-contained. At about six feet tall, she looks like a Valkyrie and comports herself like a queen. It’s her insistent optimism, even in the face of dire realities, such as the failure of a generation of school reformers to achieve any substantive gains, that betrays her defiance.

Last month, Powell Jobs announced the details of a $100 million investment in American high school through a contest she helped design called XQ: The Super School Project. She is not naïve to how venture philanthropists can be perceived by the people in the trenches, as unwelcome intruders or self-regarding colonizers. But she has lived in Silicon Valley for half her life, and in her world, “people actually get excited about solving problems. I feel very strongly that the problems we get to solve are really hard, otherwise they would have been solved. Now it’s our turn. We’re going to bring in people from all different disciplines who think about things a little different. Sometimes, they take it to the extreme, so — if we were to do this, which is not plausible, but if we were to colonize Mars, what would be our first step? And so you backwards map. After a couple of decades of living there, you think, Well, this shouldn’t be insurmountable. It’s a lot harder to have an early detection of all cancers than it is to give an excellent education to every kid in our country

Civics: ACLU takes on Fisa court over secret decisions on surveillance laws

Spencer Ackerman:

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging a secret court to effectively turn its back on deciding the meaning of a broad swath of surveillance and cybersecurity laws without public disclosure.

A motion the ACLU is filing on Wednesday before the controversial foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court, a panel that operates in secret, argues that the first amendment requires the release of numerous classified decisions between 2001 and 2015 that have established a legal foundation for expanding the government’s surveillance activities.

Among the Fisa court opinions sought is an interpretation of the seminal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 that many suspect will shed light on a reported Yahoo program to scan vast amounts of users’ emails.

Critics of the court, most prominently Oregon Democratic senator Ron Wyden, have said its classified rulings amount to a body of “secret law” that discard congressionally enacted privacy restrictions. The court and its supporters in government rejoinder that the extraordinary sensitivity around US surveillance practices for national security objectives necessitate the secrecy.

The Anti-Helicopter Parent’s Plea: Let Kids Play!

Melanie Thernstrom:

It was a Friday afternoon at Mike Lanza’s house in Menlo Park, Calif., and the boys were going crazy. There were boys playing ball in the street, while in the backyard, boys were skittering along the top of the fence while others were wrestling on the trampoline. The house itself is nothing special — a boxy contemporary, haphazardly furnished — but even by the elevated standards of Silicon Valley, the Lanzas’ play space is extraordinary. It boasts a map of the neighborhood painted on the driveway, a fabulous 24-foot-long play river — an installation art piece, designed for children’s museums — and a two-story log-cabin playhouse with a sleeping loft, whiteboard walls inside for coloring and really good speakers, blasting Talking Heads.

Leo Lanza, who was 5 at the time, was taunting my kids, claiming they were too scared to climb 12 feet to the playhouse roof, using the toe holds, and then leap onto the trampoline, which has no surrounding netting. My daughter, Violet, the only girl there, continued to decorate the playhouse walls with a purple marker. “I don’t care if you get hurt,” she responded airily. Her twin brother, Kieran, scrunched up his round face, turning pink. “That’s not true!” he wailed. “I am not scared.”

U. Michigan hosts racially separate forums, white student reporter booted from one for non-whites

Dave Huber:

Last week the University of Michigan held “diversity” forums sponsored by the Residential College (RC), but some were irked that the events were separated by race — one was for people of color, the other “open to all.”

Because it was geared “to create an open dialogue geared specifically to all people of color involved in the program,” a reporter from The Michigan Daily was asked to leave the forum for non-white students.

The reporter was permitted to attend the other event.

Parents deserve school choice

Kristen Graham

Estelle B. Richman believes teachers – especially those in struggling neighborhoods – need ample resources, and that parents ought to have choices about where their children attend school.

The public servant who was once a licensed school psychologist is well aware of the challenges the School Reform Commission faces.

And, she said, she’s up for it.

The Ivy League Doesn’t Need Taxpayers’ Help

James Pierson & Naomi Schaefer Riley:

Donald Trump criticized universities last month for hoarding their endowments, saying that they “use the money to pay their administrators, to put donors’ names on their buildings.” He added that “many universities spend more on private-equity fund managers than on tuition programs.” Mr. Trump suggested that he would work with Congress to encourage colleges to direct more of their investments toward students.

That’s a laudable—and achievable—goal. Many of the schools with large endowments, such as those in the Ivy League, will protest that they are private institutions, and that the government shouldn’t tell them how to spend their money. But these colleges also receive massive cash transfers from the federal government, giving Washington a way to impel them to put their endowments to more responsible use.

Parents must not become enslaved by the education system – their views need to be heard again

Henry Price:

These are the words of RH Tawney, quoted by the Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan in his renowned Ruskin College Speech on the 18 October 1976 as an answer to the question, ‘what do we want from the education of our children and young people?’

Exactly 40 years on, it is vital that parents ask this question with their heads and their hearts and make their voices heard to influence the state.
We are now used to Prime Ministers speaking out on education, yet Callaghan was aware of the new turf upon which he was treading and makes reference to those who inundated him with advice before the speech; “some helpful and others telling me less politely to keep off the grass”. 

Speaking in the recent aftermath of events around William Tyndale School, Callaghan had touched on tensions between progressive and traditional approaches to education, casting doubt on “new, informal methods of teaching”, yet looking askance at “those who claim to defend standards, but who in reality are simply seeking to defend old privileges and inequalities

Massive school building proposals stand out on Nov. 8th ballot

Barry Adams:

Just six years ago, Sun Prairie opened a new high school for students in 10th through 12th grades, part of a successful $96 million referendum in 2007.

The district now has 2,379 high school students, including ninth-graders who are in a different building. That gives Sun Prairie the second-largest high school population in the state, behind only Kenosha Indian Trail, and voters could be asked to build another high school in two years.

Six of the Sun Prairie School District’s seven elementary schools are over capacity, and more than 1,600 students could be added over the next decade in a city whose population has swelled 57 percent since 2000 to more than 32,000.

Australian students to be taught about ‘male privilege’

BBC

A state in Australia has launched an education programme designed to smash gender stereotypes and tackle the root causes of domestic violence.

The “respectful relationship” curriculum will be mandatory in all schools in Victoria from next year.

Students will explore issues around social inequality, gender-based violence and male privilege.

However, a report on a 2015 pilot trial accused it of presenting all men as “bad” and all women as “victims”.

Pay inequality, anger management, sexual orientation and the dangers of pornography will be among the topics explored by students in the programme, costing A$21.8m (£13.5m; $16.5m).

Less than half of Wisconsin public school students proficient or advanced in math and language arts

Doug Erickson:

On the latest round of statewide tests, fewer than half of Wisconsin public school students in grades three through eight scored proficient or better in English language arts or math.

The results, released Tuesday by the state Department of Public Instruction, showed 42.5 percent of students scored in those top two categories in English language arts, while slightly fewer, 42.3 percent, scored proficient or advanced in math.

The state simultaneously released scores from the ACT college readiness assessment, now required of all high school juniors in Wisconsin. In this second year of the requirement, the composite ACT score for public school students was 20.1 out of a possible 36, up one-tenth of a point from the prior year.

Erin Richards

The results are the latest picture of how publicly-funded students are performing in core subjects statewide.

A 2-year-old statewide ACT exam administered to all juniors offered a look at performance at high schools funded by taxpayers. Juniors in public schools posted an average composite score of 20.1, close to the same as last year. Juniors using taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private high schools posted a lower overall ACT score — 18.2 — than public schools but made comparatively more improvement from last year.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction made test-score results for all public schools and districts available on the department’s searchable data portal Tuesday. The private-school results can be found in separate spreadsheets on the department’s website.

“The federally required tests give us a look at how kids are doing when compared to a rigorous standard,” DPI Spokesman Tom McCarthy said. “They are not trying to assess whether a student is passing or failing a given grade.”

High-School Graduation Rate Rises in U.S.

Tawnell Hobbs

The U.S. high-school graduation rate is at a high, with gains by minority students narrowing the gap with white students, according to figures released Monday by the White House.

Still, graduation rates among black and Native American students continue to lag white students by double digits, the numbers show.

The overall graduation rate reached 83.2% in 2014-15—up from 79% in 2010-11, the first school year all states used a consistent measurement.

Want college to pay off? These are the 50 majors with the highest earnings.

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel:

Engineering and technology are among the most challenging fields of study in college, but all of that hard work apparently is paying off, as many of the top-earning entry-level jobs are tied to related majors, according to a Glassdoor study released Monday.

The job search engine analyzed more than 500,000 resumes and self-reported salaries to determine which majors pay the most during the first five years after graduation. Eight of the 10 most-bankable majors are tied to engineering or technology, such as computer science, electrical engineering and information technology. Nearly half of the majors listed are in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, though business-related majors, such as accounting and marketing, crack the top half of the 50 majors listed.

College President Salaries

Alex Usher

The President of Iowa State University was recently reprimanded for crashing one school-owned airplane, overusing the other, and charging the cost to the institution. The institution’s Board is asking serious questions: such as “why they were paying for the President to go back and forth to his family-owned Christmas Tree business in North Carolina,” but not, apparently, “why in God’s name does our university own two aeroplanes?” As one does.

1000 more people shot in Chicago compared with same time last year

Chicago Tribune:

A thousand more people have been shot in Chicago this year compared with the same time last year after a weekend that saw eight people killed and at least 40 wounded, according to police and data compiled by the Tribune.

At least 3,475 people had been shot in the city as of shortly after midnight Monday compared with 2,441 people shot this time last year, an increase of 1,034, according to Tribune data. There have been at least 595 homicides this year compared with 409 this time last year, an increase of 186.

The gun violence over the weekend was at levels usually seen in the summer when shootings typically spike.

Trenton pays out $1.7M to school administrators for unused vacation days

David Foster

A month after Trenton Public Schools outlined its doomsday budget earlier this year, the top brass of the district received fat bonuses.

According to documents obtained by The Trentonian, 55 administrators received a combined $1.7 million in unused vacation time in February and May, and kept working for the district.

That type of payout is generally only made to retiring employees, but this time around, a one-time payment was agreed upon between the Board of Education, the state Department of Education fiscal monitor, and the Trenton Administrators & Supervisors Association (TASA) in the union contract.

Rethinking the Political Economy of Automation

Frank Pasquale

The White House recently released two important reports on the future of artificial intelligence. The “robot question” is as urgent today as it was in the 1960s. Back then, worry focused on the automation of manufacturing jobs. Now, the computerization of services is top of mind.

At present, economists and engineers dominate public debate on the “rise of the robots.” The question of whether any given job should be done by a robot is modeled as a relatively simple cost-benefit analysis. If the robot can perform a task more cheaply than a worker, substitute it in. This microeconomic approach to filling jobs dovetails with a technocratic, macroeconomic goal of maximizing some blend of GDP and productivity.

Competitive School Board Races! Minneapolis, home of a diverse K-12 climate – Compared To Madison’s Monoculture

Erin Hinrichs

Bob Walser’s induction into Minneapolis school board politics has been pleasant, so far. A newbie to the campaign trail, he secured the endorsement of the DFL Party and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers last spring and has been encouraged by the well-wishes he’s received from constituents in District 4.

“When the community comes together, it’s really, really heartwarming. That’s been the joy of it,” he said, noting people were very positive and supportive of his candidacy at a recent fall festival event. “People are grateful. That’s really affirming.”

A majority of the Madison School rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.

Wisconsin posts largest white-black graduation gap

Erin Richards

State Superintendent Tony Evers announced Monday that as part of the next budget, he’ll ask the Legislature to change state law to allow MPS to start the academic term earlier than Labor Day so that Superintendent Darienne Driver can pursue an aggressive slate of credit-recovery programs for high school students.

“It’s time to look at doing some things differently for Milwaukee Public Schools,” Evers said. “If they can do credit recovery in a robust way, that could raise the graduation rate.”

The achievement gap is so stark in Wisconsin because graduation rates are very high for white students and very low for black students. Almost 93% of white students earn diplomas on time in Wisconsin, which ranks just behind white students in New Jersey (94%) and Texas (93.4%). But Wisconsin’s graduation rate for black students is 64.1%, which ranks 6th lowest among states. Nevada is the worst, with a 55.5% black graduation rate, and Minnesota ranks fourth-lowest, at 62%.

Nationally, 74.6% of black students graduate on time.

Madison School District MAP Scores Report 2015-2016

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

1. The percent of students that tested advanced or proficient on the math portion increased 1% (45% to 46%) and increased 2% on the reading portion (40% to 42%) of the spring MAP test.

2. Proficiency gaps exist between demographic groups on MAP reading and math scores. These gaps are similar to disparities on other standardized tests.

3. All demographic groups saw the same or an increase in the percent of students achieving proficiency in reading and math from fall to spring during both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

4. Students in each demographic group met their growth goal at more similar rates than the percent achieving proficiency. All demographic groups saw the same or an increase in the percent of students meeting reading growth goals. This is encouraging because students who have a lower score must grow more over the year to meet their goal.

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) has administered the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test in grades 3-8 for the past five school years: 2011-12 through 2015-16. This report focuses on progress made on the percent of students testing at least proficient in math and reading for each of the fall and spring administrations of the test during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years and the fall to spring growth of students during each of these school years.



2011-2012 Madison MAP assessment data.

February, 2016:

Almost all schools set goals for MAP growth that aligned with a district recommendation: 5%, 10%, or 15%. In addition, we see that very few schools actually achieved growth improvements of 5% or more, with changes in growth generally clustering around 0%.

Notes and links, here.

Chicago, interestingly, publishes extensive school data, here.

Researchers have measured the cost of using a smartphone around your kids

Lila MacLellan:

Before we had smartphones and iPads, parents ignored their children by getting lost in a newspaper story or keeping one eye on the television. Now parents are distracted by mobile technology more than anything else, according to new research, and the consequences are worse.

In a recent study of caregivers, child-behavior specialists at University of Michigan and Boston Medical Center found that parents feel their phones and tablets command more of their attention than other distractions, in way that’s unpredictable and requires more emotional investment. As a result, their interactions with their kids suffer.

Not in my locker room: Texas HS football coaches give players the Trump talk

Charles Scudder:

In the locker room chaos before school Tuesday morning, the young men of Grapevine High School’s football team scrambled to get ready for a last-minute team meeting.
“Hurry up, hurry up,” head coach Randy Jackson shouted. “Something really important to talk about today, so let’s go!”

The teenage boys who were dressed grabbed folding chairs and set up in the main space of the locker room. Usually, they don’t step on the big red Mustang in the center of the room, but today they needed all the space they could get. Both the junior varsity and varsity squads crammed in to hear what the coach had to say, some lining the halls and craning their necks to see.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Millions of Men Are Missing From the Job Market

New York Times

The working paper by Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist, casts light on this population, which grew during the recession that started in 2007. As of last month, 11.4 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 — or about seven million people — were not in the labor force, which means that they were not employed and were not seeking a job. This percentage has been rising for decades (it was less than 4 percent in the 1950s), but the trend accelerated in the last 20 years.

Surveys taken between 2010 and this year show that 40 percent of prime working-age men who are not in the labor force report having pain that prevents them from taking jobs for which they are qualified. More than a third of the men not in the labor force said they had difficulty walking or climbing stairs or had another disability. Forty-four percent said they took painkillers daily and two-thirds of that subset were on prescription medicines. By contrast, just 20 percent of employed men and 19 percent of unemployed men (those looking for work) in the same age group reported taking any painkillers.

The Inequality Fight Dividing Hillary Clinton’s Hometown: Chappaqua, NY

Dana Goldstein

On a hot Thursday afternoon in August, Tatlin McLeod sat on a shaded bench at the Chappaqua train station, sipping an iced drink out of a takeout cup. McLeod lives in the Bronx and commutes to this Westchester County suburb, 35 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. She has been working as a nanny for various Chappaqua families for 13 years. She is black and an immigrant from Jamaica.

Tucked into a set of forested hills, Chappaqua is a hamlet of 1,400 residents, famous as the adopted home of Bill and Hillary Clinton. I grew up in a neighboring village called Ossining, but to me, Chappaqua has always seemed a world apart; almost like the movie set version of a 19th century American suburb. Stately colonials and Victorians are situated on large plots, nary a McMansion in sight. (The Clintons live on a street called Old House Lane.) Many residents can walk from their homes to the train station, where there is an upscale restaurant and coffee shop. Property values reflect the fact that the public schools in Chappaqua are considered some of the best in the nation. The average home price here is more than $840,000, compared with $340,000 in Ossining.

Wisconsin Redistributed Tax Dollars will help taxes, not classrooms

Erin Richards:

About 60% of school districts will get a boost in state aid in 2016-’17, but the money will flow through to property tax relief instead of funding for classrooms, according to new state figures.

Meanwhile, costs to taxpayers for the Milwaukee voucher program and costs to nearly all districts for the expense of running independent charter schools have both dropped. Those changes benefit Milwaukee as well as taxpayers in most other districts getting more aid.

“More state aid doesn’t provide us more money, but it is good news for our Pewaukee taxpayers,” said Pewaukee Schools Superintendent JoAnn Sternke, whose district will see a 19% increase in aid.

In total, $4.58 billion was appropriated for general school aid in 2016-’17, according to figures from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. The money to be distributed is an increase of about $122 million from last year, thanks in part to lawmakers changing the way independent charter schools and private voucher schools are funded.

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax and Spending Policies

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

The report by Dave Umhoefer and Sarah Hauer was the result of a study of the five-year impact of Act 10 during a nine-month O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism through the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.

Among the report’s findings:

Teachers are moving from district to district, creating a year-round cycle of vacancies and turnover as fewer people enter the profession.

An “arms race” for teachers is rewarding the most sought-after educators with five-figure signing bonuses and giving better-paying districts an edge in luring away top talent. Taxpayers win because of a state cap on school spending but that cap has undermined some districts’ ability to fend off the poaching of their teachers.

Underachievers are being rooted out and districts are slowly but steadily linking pay to performance and prizing skill over seniority.

By eliminating the most important elements of collective bargaining, Act 10 gutted unions, which have lost strength and membership and left many veteran teachers demoralized over past influence and compensation.

Not all its effects are bad, and the impact of Act 10 on educational quality statewide may be negligible so far.

The foreign words that seem like English – but aren’t

Matthew Anderson

Before a special night out, a glamorous Parisienne might treat herself to un brushing, at which her hair will be blow-dried and styled. In Moscow, would-be clubbers must first make it past feyskontrol (‘face control’), to ensure that only the beautiful people come in. And those Berliners who just can’t let the party end can carry on at eine Afterhour until well after the sun comes up.

These words – brushing, feyskontrol, Afterhour – seem odd to English ears. We recognise them, sort of, but we’d never use them ourselves – not in those ways, at least. They are borrowed from English but their meanings are new and different; linguists call them pseudo-anglicisms. Sometimes they are English words used to mean something else, other times they are combinations that native speakers find plain weird. Occasionally they’ve been made up to sound like English, but have nothing to do with the language of Shakespeare at all.

Civics: How a Facial Recognition Mismatch Can Ruin Your Life

Ava Kaufman:

t was just after sundown when a man knocked on Steve Talley’s door in south Denver. The man claimed to have hit Talley’s silver Jeep Cherokee and asked him to assess the damage. So Talley, wearing boxers and a tank top, went outside to take a look.

Seconds later, he was knocked to the pavement outside his house. Flash bang grenades detonated, temporarily blinding and deafening him. Three men dressed in black jackets, goggles, and helmets repeatedly hit him with batons and the butts of their guns. He remembers one of the men telling him, “So you like to fuck with my brothers in blue!” while another stood on his face and cracked two of his teeth. “You’ve got the wrong guy,” he remembers shouting. “You guys are crazy.”

Talley was driven to a Denver detention center, where he was booked for two bank robberies — the first on May 14 and the second on September 5, 2014, 10 days before his arrest — and for assaulting an officer during the second robbery.

Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes on racism, Malcolm X and his new leg tattoo

Andrew Maraniss

Do you think technology is a key to improving the situation, since people can now see it?

Definitely. When you listen to the great speakers or the great peacemakers of the world, the great problem-solvers, the one thing they always rely on to fix any problems is education. Social media is definitely a great way to spread information. I can put out a tweet, and if it goes viral, up to a million people or more can see it.

5 Simple Math Problems No One Can Solve

Avery Thompson:

Pick any number. If that number is even, divide it by 2. If it’s odd, multiply it by 3 and add 1. Now repeat the process with your new number. If you keep going, you’ll eventually end up at 1. Every time.

Mathematicians have tried millions of numbers and they’ve never found a single one that didn’t end up at 1 eventually. The thing is, they’ve never been able to prove that there isn’t a special number out there that never leads to 1. It’s possible that there’s some really big number that goes to infinity instead, or maybe a number that gets stuck in a loop and never reaches 1. But no one has ever been able to prove that for certain.

Last art history A-level axed after Michael Gove cull of ‘soft’ subjects

Maev Kennedy

The Association of Art Historians called the decision a significant loss of access to a range of cultures, artefacts and ideas for young people.

It added: “Being able to signpost educational opportunities such as an A-level in art history to students who may never have considered this an opportunity, forms a significant part of our campaign work with partners across west Yorkshire, Bristol, Brighton and Sussex. The loss of that A-level means that for many prospective students of the subject that door will close and future opportunities [will be] lost.”

Maths becomes biology’s magic number

Tom Fielden:

“If you want a career in medicine these days you’re better off studying mathematics or computing than biology.”

This pithy aside was delivered by Sir Rory Collins, the head of clinical trials at Oxford University, in the middle of a discussion about the pros and cons of statins.

It is a nice one-liner, but I didn’t think much more about it until a few days later, when I found myself sitting in a press conference to mark the launch of a new initiative on cancer.
Rubbing shoulders on the panel with the director of the Institute of Cancer Research, Professor Paul Workman, was a scientist I didn’t recognise, but it soon became clear this was exactly what Sir Rory had had in mind.

Dr Andrea Sottoriva is an astrophysicist. He has spent much of his career searching for Neutrinos – the elusive sub-atomic particles created by the fusion of elements in stars like our sun – at the bottom of the ocean, and analysing the results of atom smashing experiments with the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Geneva.

Universities have turned over hundreds of patents to patent trolls

Harden Katz:

In recent decades, universities have expanded their efforts to patent academic research. It’s not exactly clear, however, who licenses or buys university patents and how they get used.

In 2007, several universities signed a statement promising to be mindful of public interests when licensing or selling their patents. The signatories, including Stanford, MIT, Harvard and the University of California, agreed that public interests wouldn’t be served by turning over patents to companies who “rely primarily on threats of infringement litigation to generate revenue.” In other words, it was conceded that patents shouldn’t be given away to patent trolls. Unfortunately, not all universities have kept their promise.

When Librarians Are Silenced

Francine Prose:

Search the Internet for news stories about public libraries in America and chances are that, sooner or later, the phrase “on the front lines” will come up. The war that is being referred to, and that libraries have been quietly waging since the September 11 attacks, is in defense of free speech and privacy—two concepts so fundamental to our democracy, our society, and our Constitution that one can’t help noting how rarely their importance has been mentioned during the current election cycle. In fact quite the opposite has been true: Donald Trump has encouraged the muzzling of reporters and the suppression of political protest, while arguing that government agencies aren’t doing enough spying on private citizens, especially Muslims. Hillary Clinton has failed to be specific about what she would do to limit surveillance, while her running mate, Tim Kaine, has promised to expand “intelligence gathering.” Meanwhile, public libraries continue to be threatened by government surveillance—and even police interference.

In the most recent such incident, a librarian in Kansas City, Missouri was arrested simply for standing up for a library patron’s free speech rights at a public event featuring a former US diplomat. Both the librarian and the patron face criminal charges. The incident took place last May, but went largely unnoticed until several advocacy groups called attention to the situation at the end of September. In cooperation with the Truman Presidential Library and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City, the Kansas City Public Library had invited Dennis Ross—a former advisor on the Middle East to Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, and to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and currently a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy—to speak about Truman and Israel at its Plaza Branch. The library hosts between twelve and twenty speakers each month, and though some of the topics and speakers have been controversial, the events have always been peaceful.

Commentary On Milwaukee Schools’ Academic Performance

Alan Borsuk

Or maybe, maybe, it’s all just a way of repackaging the same concerning results — too many kids who can’t read well, do math well or graduate high school are not ready for the world. And maybe it’s just intended to reduce the (sometimes counterproductive) pressure for change.

The letter from Evers was specifically relevant because it said that for at least the foreseeable future, MPS will not have to face the Republican-created law it dreaded, the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program that was going to give Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele control of efforts to turn around a few “failing” MPS schools.

Evers said that when the new report cards come out, MPS will not have a rating that would trigger the Opportunity Schools intervention.

Frankly, that Opportunity Schools part of last week’s news didn’t interest me much because I considered the idea dead — no pulse, no breathing — since the resignation in June of the volunteer commissioner, Demond Means, who was also the superintendent of Mequon-Thiensville Schools (no, I never did understand this arrangement).

Juggling Books in Chicago Chicago averts a teachers’ strike with strange pension financing.

Thomas Donlan:

Here’s how it works (watch the mirrors): The school district keeps paying 7% of current teachers’ salaries into their pension fund, but it won’t make pension payments for new teachers. Instead, it pays new teachers 7% more and bills 7% for their pensions.

It’s not a wash, the city hopes: To make savings happen, the city will create a new incentive for experienced teachers to retire—$1,500 per year of service.

If it hangs together, the deal might reduce total spending on salaries for a couple of years, until raises come in the third and fourth contract years, while increasing long-term spending on pensions. It’s perfect for politicians who think only in the short term.

Neither the school district nor Mayor Rahm Emanuel could provide a cost estimate for the new contract.

Mob Rule or Wisdom of Crowds?

Susan Fiske

Our field has always encouraged – required, really – peer critiques. But the new media (e.g., blogs, twitter, Facebook posts) are encouraging uncurated, unfiltered trash-talk. In the most extreme examples, online vigilantes are attacking individuals, their research programs, and their careers. Self-appointed data police are volunteering critiques of such personal ferocity and relentless frequency that they resemble a denial-of-service attack that crashes a website by sheer volume of traffic.
Only what’s crashing are people. These unmoderated attacks create collateral
damage to targets’ careers and well being, with no accountability for the bullies. Our colleagues at all career stages are leaving the field because of the sheer adversarial viciousness. I have heard from graduate students opting out of academia, assistant
professors afraid to come up for tenure, mid-career people wondering how to protect their labs, and senior faculty retiring early, all because of methodological terrorism. I am not naming names because ad hominem smear tactics are already damaging our field. Instead, I am describing a dangerous minority trend that has an outsized impact and a chilling effect on scientific discourse. I am not a primary target, but my goal is to give voice to others too sensible to object publicly.