The post text future

Farhad Manjoo:

THIS MULTIMEDIA INTERNET has been gaining on the text-based internet for years. But last year, the story accelerated sharply, and now audio and video are unstoppable. The most influential communicators online once worked on web pages and blogs. They’re now making podcasts, Netflix shows, propaganda memes, Instagram and YouTube channels, and apps like HQ Trivia.

Consider the most compelling digital innovations now emerging: the talking assistants that were the hit of the holidays, Apple’s face-reading phone, artificial intelligence to search photos or translate spoken language, and augmented reality — which inserts any digital image into a live view of your surroundings.

These advances are all about cameras, microphones, your voice, your ears and your eyes.

Together, they’re all sending us the same message: Welcome to the post-text future.

A Brief History of NAEP Cohort Math Gains-The Low Hanging Fruit Already Picked

Matthew Ladner:

My guess is that reformers picked the low-hanging fruit of education reform in the early aughts. The introduction of standards and testing in the early days seems to have produced a bump in achievement. Over time however this effect may be fading.

Political Science 101 teaches that organized interests defeat diffuse interests 99 times out of a hundred, so the ability of states to employ a cat o’ nine tails and whip schools into improvement has limits. Dozens of decisions taken daily in the musty basements of State Departments of Education and obscure measures voted on by State Boards of Education can slowly but surely defang and/or subvert state accountability systems.

If there are two things that the organized employee interests of adults working in schools are expert at it is passive resistance and bureaucratic infighting. In my book, much of the reform crowd chose to fight their opponents on ground they did not choose wisely, and upon which they have little chance to prevail. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.

Mike Petrilli recently and correctly imo noted that the 2017 NAEP would be a pretty definitive test on the efficacy of the Obama year projects- promoting Common Core and teacher evaluation, student discipline reform. Top down directives have a funny way of not working out, even backfiring. Let’s see what happens next.

I’ve Taught in a School With Zero Accountability, It’s Terrible

Zachary Wright:

We must be honest with ourselves. We cannot say out of one side of our mouths that teaching is among our society’s most important professions, and then not ensure that our teachers are effective. We cannot insist that education is a major lever of social justice and equity, and then resist holding our schools accountable for educating our most at-risk youth.

To be clear, accountability needs to be more than simply a yearly state exam. These one-off exams are vulnerable to many of the arguments hurled against accountability; in addition to not only running the risk of being socially biased, the massive importance placed upon one such exam can incentivize teachers and schools to teach students to pass an exam, rather than master a concept. This risk, however, ought not push us to eliminate accountability, but rather increase and diversify our methods of measuring effectiveness.

In my school, I am held accountable to a variety of measures that do not just include student test performance, but also take into account in-class observations, student surveys, and student growth algorithms that emphasize student growth alongside student proficiency.

Portland Teachers Union Wants To Restrict Access To Public Records

Peter Cook:

Over the past few years, a series of troubling scandals have shaken Portlanders’ trust in their public school system.

In 2016, it was revealed that district officials had withheld lab test results showing that most of the city’s public schools had elevated levels of lead in their drinking water. Last year, in-depth investigations by The Oregonian found that the district had helped conceal allegations of sexual misconduct against two teachers – Mitch Whitehurst and Norm Scott – who later went on to assault at least a dozen female students. A subsequent investigation in the Portland Tribune uncovered that Andrew Oshea, a special education teacher who had been placed on administrative leave in 2015 after he was charged with drunk driving and assault, was still on the district’s payroll. In fact, Oshea continued to collect paychecks while serving time in jail for a violating a restraining order filed by his ex-girlfriend.

These scandals make clear that Portland Public Schools has a serious transparency problem. Yet the Portland Association of Teachers is now trying to limit access to public records in the district and they’re using their new collective bargaining agreement to do it.

What’s new in education research? Impact evaluations and measurement – January 2018 round-up

David Evans:

Here is a selected round-up of recent research on education in low- and middle-income countries, with a few findings from high-income countries that I found relevant. This is mostly but not entirely from the “economics of education” literature. If I’m missing recent articles that you’ve found useful, please add them in the comments!

What is education good for?
Education saves lives, but only some of them! “Education is strongly associated with better health and longer lives.” But is that mere correlation, or is a causal link? It depends! This review finds no impact on obesity, inconsistent impact on smoking, and “an effect of education on mortality exists in some contexts but not in others, and seems to depend on (i) gender; (ii) the labor market returns to education; (iii) the quality of education; and (iv) whether education affects the quality of individuals’ peers” (Galama, Lleras-Muney, and van Kippersluis).

How to improve student educational outcomes


To understand what matters in student achievement, we applied analytics to data from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These reports take on a few of the most active debates: Do mindsets matter? If so, to what extent? What teaching practices work best? Does technology help?

Why the hysteria around the ‘fake news epidemic’ is a distraction

Cas Mudde:

Ever since Brexit and Trump took the political establishment by surprise, its representatives have been claiming that we are living in a “post-truth” world, where facts and experts are no longer trusted, and information is dominated by “fake news”. This is an understandable, if self-serving, coping mechanism of liberals and establishment conservatives to deal with their shocking loss of political power. It is also simplistic and self-defeating.

Let’s look at the evidence.

At first sight, recent studies seem to provide a solid basis for the popular assertion that populism and fake news are closely connected, and have therefore been widely cited in the media. Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) found that “on Twitter, a network of Trump supporters shares the widest range of junk news and circulates more junk news than all other political audience groups combined”.

Direct Instruction: The Rodney Dangerfield of curriculum

Robert Pondisco:

Did you hear the one about a curriculum with fifty years of research that actually demonstrates its effectiveness? There’s a new meta-analysis in the peer-reviewed journal the Review of Educational Research that looks at over five hundred articles, dissertations, and research studies and documents a half-century of “strong positive results” for a curriculum regardless of school, setting, grade, student poverty status, race, and ethnicity, and across subjects and grades.

Ready for the punchline? That curriculum is called “Direct Instruction.”

Hey, wait. Where’s everybody going? I’m telling you, Direct Instruction is the Rodney Dangerfield of education. It gets no respect.

I know what you’re thinking. “Direct Instruction? DISTAR, Corrective Reading and Reading Mastery? Basal programs? Scripted curriculum? That stuff’s been around since the Earth cooled. It’s not just old school, it’s the oldest school. Who cares about ‘DI’ when there’s so much cool, cutting edge, and disruptive stuff going on education? This is the age of ed tech, personalized learning, and competency-based progressions. The future is here and it’s OER, social media integration, virtual reality, and makerspaces. Direct instruction!? You gotta be kidding me. See you at SXSW EDU!”

Who Killed More: Hitler, Stalin, or Mao?

Ian Johnson:

This might have resulted in no more harm than local officials’ falsifying statistics to meet quotas, except that the state relied on these numbers to calculate taxes on farmers. To meet their taxes, farmers were forced to send any grain they had to the state as if they were producing these insanely high yields. Ominously, officials also confiscated seed grain to meet their targets. So, while storehouses bulged with grain, farmers had nothing to eat and nothing to plant the next spring.

Compounding this crisis were equally deluded plans to bolster steel production through the creation of “backyard furnaces”—small coal- or wood-fired kilns that were somehow supposed to create steel out of iron ore. Unable to produce real steel, local party officials ordered farmers to melt down their agricultural implements to satisfy Mao’s national targets. The result was that farmers had no grain, no seeds, and no tools. Famine set in.

When, in 1959, Mao was challenged about these events at a party conference, he purged his enemies. Enveloped by an atmosphere of terror, officials returned to China’s provinces to double down on Mao’s policies. Tens of millions died.

No independent historian doubts that tens of millions died during the Great Leap Forward, but the exact numbers, and how one reconciles them, have remained matters of debate. The overall trend, though, has been to raise the figure, despite pushback from Communist Party revisionists and a few Western sympathizers.

Is There a Gifted Gap? Gifted Education in High-Poverty Schools

Christopher Yaluma, Adam Tyner, Ph.D., Amber M. Northern, Ph.D. and Chester E. Finn, Jr. :

Schools have long failed to cultivate the innate talents of many of their young people, particularly high-ability girls and boys from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. This failure harms the economy, widens income gaps, arrests upward mobility, and exacerbates civic decay and political division.

To address these issues, researchers Christopher Yaluma and Adam Tyner examined the extent to which access to and participation in gifted programs vary for different groups of students nationally and in each state, particularly in high-poverty schools. Here’s what they found:


TAG Complaint

English 10

Small Learning Communities

Scandinavian Women Do Not Have It All

Jordan Weissmann:

On paper, Denmark looks like a paradise for working mothers. There’s the ample paid leave. Danish families are entitled to 52 weeks of it after the birth of a child, meaning parents have a year to care for their new baby without having to worry about their job or their ability to pay rent. Once a mom decides to go back to work, there’s generously subsidized public day care—the government picks up at least three-quarters of the tab—to help them juggle a job and kids. More than 90 percent of children younger than 6 end up enrolled.

Here in America, by comparison, mothers get a paltry 12 weeks of unpaid time off to bond with their infant, and day care can cost more than college. It’s enough to give you an acute case of Scandi envy. Remember when Bernie Sanders said America could stand to be more like Denmark? Their family-friendly approach to government was a big reason why.

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone

Bryan Caplan:

I have been in school for more than 40 years. First preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, and high school. Then a bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley, followed by a doctoral program at Princeton. The next step was what you could call my first “real” job—as an economics professor at George Mason University.

Thanks to tenure, I have a dream job for life. Personally, I have no reason to lash out at our system of higher education. Yet a lifetime of experience, plus a quarter century of reading and reflection, has convinced me that it is a big waste of time and money. When politicians vow to send more Americans to college, I can’t help gasping, “Why? You want us to waste even more?”

How, you may ask, can anyone call higher education wasteful in an age when its financial payoff is greater than ever? The earnings premium for college graduates has rocketed to 73 percent—that is, those with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, 73 percent more than those who have only a high-school diploma, up from about 50 percent in the late 1970s. The key issue, however, isn’t whether college pays, but why. The simple, popular answer is that schools teach students useful job skills. But this dodges puzzling questions.

Faculty groups slam UW System President Ray Cross for secretly planning sweeping restructuring

Karen Herzog:

Another faculty backlash is brewing against University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross because Republican lawmakers got a heads-up about his far-reaching plans to restructure the two-year colleges while faculty, staff and students were kept in the dark.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported last fall that Cross wanted to cluster two-year colleges with four-year campuses by region as part of a plan to stem rapid enrollment declines on the UW’s two-year campuses. The restructuring is the biggest shift for the UW System since its creation by the Legislature in 1971.

Young Americans’ Disdain for Capitalism Misplaced

Harper Lanier:

A substantial number of young Americans hold negative views towards the term “capitalism.” As a millennial, this is troubling. This negative attitude is pervasive among our cohort and is frequently referenced in both in-person discussions and on social media. Indeed, there have been plenty of references to “late stage capitalism” and the ever-sardonic joke that millennials will not be able to afford to buy houses in the future because of our affinity for avocado toast. A 2016 study conducted by researchers at Harvard University found that 51 percent of 18 to 29 year olds reject the term “capitalism.” A similar 2016 Gallup poll showed that millennials are the only age group to view capitalism more negatively than socialism. So, what is the reason for this animosity?

Millennials have a more pessimistic perception about their current and future financial situations than older generations have about their own. In 2013, the Brookings Institution published a report whose authors stated that 58 percent of millennials believe they are worse off than their parents. For comparison, 51 percent of Generation X-ers perceive themselves to be worse off than their parents and 45 percent of Baby Boomers believe that they are worse off. In 2011, researchers at the Pew Research Center published a study indicating that the more affluent and Republican members of the public are twice as likely to hold a favorable view of capitalism. Researchers noted in another Pew study that “faith in capitalism is another victim of the Great Recession.” It is reasonable to conclude that those who are pessimistic and have negative financial perceptions have less faith in their own economic system.

Spain cracks King Ferdinand’s 500-year-old secret code


A 500-year-old secret code used in letters between one of Spain’s most famous monarchs and a military commander has been cracked.

Ferdinand of Aragon’s letters have tantalised historians for centuries.

Constructed using more than 200 special characters, they were deciphered by the country’s intelligence agency.

He was behind the final recapture – Reconquista – of Spain from the Moors in 1492 and Columbus’s journeys to the Americas.

The letters between Ferdinand and Gonzalo de Córdoba include instructions on strategy during military campaigns in Italy in the early 16th Century. They were written using secret code in case they fell into enemy hands.

East High School could see $2.8M gym renovation with mix of private, public dollars

Karen Rivedal:

The high school has raised $1.3 million in donations, staff said, including $1 million from one East High graduate who wants to remain anonymous, and $300,000 from a group of alumni. The district would commit up to $1.5 million in public funds, or a 55 percent cost share, whichever is less.

Barry said the district’s portion of the project could be found through careful budgeting over three fiscal years.

Maintenance referendem spending issues at East High School became the subject of a potential audit a few years ago.

People Aren’t Having Babies Because The Rent Is Too Damn High

Eillie Anzilotti:

In a recent paper co-authored with Harvard Kennedy School PhD candidate Lauren Russell, Daniel Shoag, a Kennedy School and Case Western Reserve professor, found “a significant relationship between land-use restrictions and fertility rates across all measures and geographies.” Shoag and Russell determined the relative restrictiveness of a city’s land-use policies by the number of cases brought to court around housing issues; they crossed that data with listings like the Wharton Residential Land Use Index to arrive at a complete picture of a city’s zoning codes and housing stock. When overlayed with fertility data from the CDC, they found that the cities and towns that actively stifle or restrict development are seeing fertility rates, especially among young women, plummet.

Mr Robot

Katrina Onstad:

For more than 30 years, Geoffrey Hinton hovered at the edges of artificial intelligence research, an outsider clinging to a simple proposition: that computers could think like humans do—using intuition rather than rules. The idea had taken root in Hinton as a teenager when a friend described how a hologram works: innumerable beams of light bouncing off an object are recorded, and then those many representations are scattered over a huge database. Hinton, who comes from a somewhat eccentric, generations-deep family of overachieving scientists, immediately understood that the human brain worked like that, too—information in our brains is spread across a vast network of cells, linked by an endless map of neurons, firing and connecting and transmitting along a billion paths. He wondered: could a computer behave the same way?

The answer, according to the academic mainstream, was a deafening no. Computers learned best by rules and logic, they said. And besides, Hinton’s notion, called neural networks—which later became the groundwork for “deep learning” or “machine learning”—had already been disproven. In the late ’50s, a Cornell scientist named Frank Rosenblatt had proposed the world’s first neural network machine. It was called the Perceptron, and it had a simple objective—to recognize images. The goal was to show it a picture of an apple, and it would, at least in theory, spit out “apple.” The Perceptron ran on an IBM mainframe, and it was ugly. A riot of criss-crossing silver wires, it looked like someone had glued the guts of a furnace filter to a fridge door. Still, the device sparked some serious sci-fi hyperbole. In 1958, the New York Times published a prediction that it would be the first device to think like the human brain. “[The Perceptron] will be able to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its existence.”


Robert Weissberg:

The gist of Professor Caplan’s case is that there is way too much education, students waste hundreds of hours and millions of government-supplied dollars learning material that adds nothing of productive value or personal enrichment. Yes, high schools and colleges may occasionally produce a genius who invents Microsoft Word, but such accomplishments are exceedingly rare and cannot justify society’s massive investment in schooling. Learning history, for example, is only valuable for future history teachers, and how many history courses enrollees will pursue that vocation? Nor does the college experience broaden student cultural horizons. Most students, Caplan claims, are bored by “high culture” and even those who ace English Literature quickly forget everything.

Is It Just ‘Signaling?

Wastefulness understood, why do millions embrace the “more education” and “college-for-all” mantras? Is everybody delusional regarding the alleged financial payoff of a high school diploma or a college BA? Caplan explains this oddity with the concept of “signaling.” That is, a student’s educational record tells a potential employer a great deal about a person’s intelligence, conscientiousness, and conformity, so students will invest prodigious (or minimal) effort to demonstrate worthiness largely independent of what is substantively acquired in the classroom.

Nearly 1 in 5 female college students are single moms

Alex Baumhardt and Emily Hanford:

At the age of 21, Robyn Young was in and out of jobs, living on friends’ couches, and struggling to take care of her daughter.

“I recognized that education was a way out,” she says.

Young enrolled in college, but she couldn’t keep up with the child care bill. So she dropped out.

According to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), the number of single mothers in college more than doubled between 2000 and 2012, to nearly 2.1 million students.

“There are more single mothers than there used to be,” says Barbara Gault, vice president and executive director at IWPR. “Another reason is that for-profit colleges have aggressively recruited single mothers to attend their programs.”

Only 28 percent of single mothers who start college complete degrees, and there has been no systematic effort to address the obstacles they face. The Trump administration wants to cut a federal aid program that provides money for campus-based child care programs, the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS).

Scandal threatens UAW solidarity

Michael Wayland:

The UAW’s cornerstone principle of solidarity among its membership is under growing pressure as a federal corruption investigation widens and more details emerge about the luxuries purchased with millions of dollars intended to train workers.

Three rank-and-file members sued the union in January, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars for what they claim was collusion with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Separately, former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, who oversaw 2015 contract negotiations, became implicated in the scandal.

The latest revelations come with Monica Morgan, the widow of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield, expected to plead guilty this week to reduced charges in Detroit federal court. That could allow authorities to move forward with actions against more players in the $4.5 million scheme.

Jewell, who abruptly retired at the end of last year, has not been formally named or charged with any crimes.

A plea deal released Jan. 22 between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and former FCA US labor relations chief Alphons Iacobelli alludes to Jewell but does not name him directly. It also identifies a charity run by Jewell as one of several to receive restricted funds.

Traditional K-12 teacher union “Collective Bargaining Agreements” are often based on the UAW model.

Kenyon professor calls off original play about cultural insensitivity amid criticism that it’s culturally insensitive.

Colleen Flaherty:

A Kenyon College professor of drama called off her original play after some on campus complained about how it portrayed Latinos.
Wendy MacLeod, a Kenyon alum and its James Michael Playwright-in-Residence, released her script for The Good Samaritan last month with a planned April premiere. The play is inspired by a true story in which a group of Guatemalan minors were forced to work on an Ohio egg farm; three of their captors were convicted and a fourth was indicted last year. MacLeod’s play imagines what might happen if one of the youth escaped to a nearby liberal arts college and encountered a group of less-than-culturally-sensitive white undergraduates.

When Our Faces Are Our “Papers”

Matthew Feeney:

A passenger on a bus at Fort Lauderdale’s Greyhound station recently recorded disturbing footage of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers walking up the bus’ aisle and asking for proof of citizenship. Although nothing new, it’s sad to see American law enforcement conducting the kind of “Papers Please” stops that many Americans usually associate with foreign authoritarian governments. Thanks to advances in facial recognition technology, CBP and other law enforcement agencies will soon not have to ask us for identification. Our faces will be our papers.

The Death of Clothing

Lindsey Rupp, Chloe Whiteaker, Matt Townsend and Kim Bhasin:

The apparel industry has a big problem. At a time when the economy is growing, unemployment is low, wages are rebounding and consumers are eager to buy, Americans are spending less and less on clothing.
 The woes of retailers are often blamed on Inc. and its vise grip on e-commerce shoppers. Consumers glued to their phones would rather browse online instead of venturing out to their local malls, and that’s crushed sales and hastened the bankruptcies of brick-and-mortar stalwarts from American Apparel to Wet Seal.
 But that’s not the whole story. The apparel industry seems to have no solution to the dwindling dollars Americans devote to their closets. Many upstarts promising to revolutionize the industry drift away with barely a whimper. Who needs fashion these days when you can express yourself through social media? Why buy that pricey new dress when you could fund a weekend getaway instead?
 Apparel has simply lost its appeal. And there doesn’t seem to be a savior in sight. As a result, more and more apparel companies—from big-name department stores to trendy online startups—are folding.

On writing, and on English style.

Dominic Geen:

I have been reading books on writing style. My teachers at Beechwood Park Preparatory School for Boys taught me to avoid writing in the first person whenever possible, so up with that opener one shall not put, though of course, nowadays only the Queen uses the Nob’s Pronoun. Begin again.

This reader has been reading books on writing style. But that is a tautology: all readers read, and all writing has style, good or bad. Worse, I have blundered into the bog of elegant variation. Henry Fowler, coining elegant variation in The King’s English (1906), filed it under “Airs and Graces,” as a kind of unmanly vice. Beechwood Park Preparatory School for Boys was a hotbed of unmanly vices, but inelegant variation was not one of them. I was taught that elegant variety was a mark of learning and taste, and a necessary technique for avoiding confusion. Begin again, again.

Data Portability

Jeni Tennison:

Earlier in the year I went to an OECD workshop on enhanced access to data. The workshop covered four general themes: open data, data sharing communities, data marketplaces and data portability. The discussion on the implications of data portability were particularly interesting.

Data portability is a new right under the EU-level General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) due to come into force in May 2018 and a version of which will be written into UK law through the Data Protection Bill currently going through parliament.

The data portability right is a version of the existing data access right (which gives you the right to get hold of data about you held by an organisation). It is both more powerful, in that it gives you the right to have that data given to you or a third party of your choice in a commonly used machine readable format, and has a narrower scope in that it doesn’t apply to everything the organisation captures about you. It only applies to data captured automatically, and when it is either explicitly provided by you (eg when you fill in a form on a website) or generated as part of your activity (eg the records of your bank transactions). It does not apply to data that is inferred about you based on this data (eg if they’ve guessed that you’re gay or pregnant) or that they’ve got about you from other sources (eg your credit rating).

The U.S. government is set to borrow nearly $1 trillion this year, an 84 percent jump from last year

Heather Long:

It was another crazy news week, so it’s understandable if you missed a small but important announcement from the Treasury Department: The federal government is on track to borrow nearly $1 trillion this fiscal year — Trump’s first full year in charge of the budget.

That’s almost double what the government borrowed in fiscal year 2017.

Here are the exact figures: The U.S. Treasury expects to borrow $955 billion this fiscal year, according to a documents released Wednesday. It’s the highest amount of borrowing in six years, and a big jump from the $519 billion the federal government borrowed last year.

Treasury mainly attributed the increase to the “fiscal outlook.” The Congressional Budget Office was more blunt. In a report this week, the CBO said tax receipts are going to be lower because of the new tax law.

On Randomness

Yohan John:

How long has randomness been an element in the periodic table of ideas? For ancient people, chance was wrapped up with the concepts of fate and divine will. “Divination” comes from the Latin for “to be inspired by a god”. For the Romans, chance or luck was personified by the goddess Fortuna. To tell a person’s fortune was to determine the hidden intentions of Lady Luck. The ancient Chinese used yarrow stalks, coins, and dice when consulting the 4000-year-old I Ching, or Book of Changes. Divination either led to, or co-evolved with, games of chance. The earliest known board game is Senet, which was played by ancient Egyptians as early in the 30th century BCE. The game seems to have involved casting two-sided tokens. A 5000 year old backgammon set,complete with dice, was excavated at a site in Iran. Dice from 2000 BCE have also been found at sites that were part of the Indus Valley civilization [1].

Ancient peoples seem to have attached great meaning to chance events — even in the context of games. Confronted with the sheer unpredictability of nature, ancient people populated their pantheons with gods and demons who were capricious in the extreme. They seem to have believed that participating in chance events of their own invention could give them a glimpse into the otherwise inscrutable ways of divine beings [1]. Or perhaps they reasoned that they could become like gods through imitation of their ludicrous whims. The word “ludicrous”, incidentally, derives from the Latin root ludus,which means “game” or “play”. At some point in the past few hundred years,the word came to mean “ridiculous” — perhaps the Enlightenment made Europeans look unfavorably upon frivolity and play. There are streams within Hinduism, however, that preserve an echo of the ancient worldview — in some scriptures the universe is described as as lila, or divine play. The gods, according to this view, engage in creation and destruction for fun or sport. In India the term lila did not pick up any connotations of ridiculousness: it is a well-known theological concept, as well as a popular name given to girls.

How Chinese overseas students are learning harsh life lessons

Eric Fish:

When 22-year-old Langou Lian looks back at her decision to study in the United States, one influence sticks out: Disney Channel movie High School Musical.

“I hated Chinese education,” Lian says, the high-pressure, test-centred schooling in her native Sichuan province. High School Musical presented an alternative: a carefree atmosphere where even adolescent students are independent, free to speak their mind and have a palette of social activities to choose from.

But after she arrived in the US, that rosy image became complicated.

“The one word that describes my impression of America before coming is ‘freedom’,” says Lian, who currently studies at the University of California, Irvine. “[But] after I studied here for a while, I started to kind of understand American society. My impression went from good to bad.”

And that had a knock-on effect, on her as it had on others. “A lot of [Chinese] students become more patriotic,” Lian says.

New book explores the deep impact of geography on politics, psychology, behavior

Liz Mineo:

Understanding geography is fundamental to understanding the world, says Ryan Enos, associate professor of government and a specialist in American politics. People often classify places or neighborhoods simply by who lives in them, he says, and build their allegiances by asking, “Are they one of us?”

In his new book “The Space Between Us,” Enos discusses the strong influence of social geography on psychology, behavior, and politics, and explains how an “us versus them” mentality can be tightly connected to a “here versus there” paradigm of place. The Gazette interviewed Enos, a specialist on race and ethnic politics, about his book and talked about what people might do to overcome the power of geography on the mind in order to increase inclusion in American cities, many of which are increasingly segregated through gentrification.

2018 Wisconsin Election: Act 10 Commentary

Molly Beck:

The polling also showed 60 percent of public sector employees favor returning to collective bargaining, compared with only 39 percent in the private sector. Nearly 70 percent of union members favor bargaining, while only 38 percent of non-union members support it. Those polled in the city of Milwaukee and Madison media markets favor collective bargaining while the rest of the state, to different degrees, do not, Franklin said.

Timing the message
“(Focusing on Act 10) would be a good primary tactic but for the general election, I don’t think so,” said Joe Heim, a longtime political science professor at UW-La Crosse. “By the general election, the union people and anybody who opposes Act 10 would know exactly where they are going. If you are trying to get some crossover supporters who generally think Act 10 was not a bad idea, but don’t necessarily like Walker, reminding them of that time is not a good idea.”

Republicans have touted how the law saved state and local governments billions of dollars, though that’s based mostly on provisions of the law separate from bargaining that required public employees to contribute to pension and health insurance premiums. Democrats say it has contributed to a statewide teacher shortage, though school districts are facing shortages across the country.

“You don’t need to remind anyone of it,” Heim said. “Time to move on and I would hope the Democrats are smart enough to look forward.”

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin did not respond to a request for comment on whether the issue will be prominent in the 2018 campaign.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Walker’s campaign cited Act 10 as the catalyst for a “Wisconsin comeback” that resulted in $5 billion in savings to local governments.

“The extreme Democrat candidates running in the wide-open field for governor have a choice: raise taxes to pay for undoing the governor’s reforms, or accept that he fixed the financial crisis their party created,” spokesman Brian Reisinger said.

Much more on Act 10, here.

Did Ancient Greeks Sail to Canada?

Rebecca Boyle:

The story of the European settlement of North America usually features a few main characters: red-headed Norsemen who sailed across an icy sea to set up temporary outposts, Spanish conquistadors, white-collared English separatists, French trappers, and Dutch colonists. Now a team of Greek scholars proposes another—and much earlier—wave of European migration: the Hellenistic Greeks, in triremes powered by sail and oar in the first century CE, nearly a millennium before the Vikings.

These ancient Greeks regularly visited what is now Newfoundland, the study’s authors say. They set up colonies that lasted centuries, and they mined gold. They made recurrent trips every 30 years. Some travelers would return home after only a brief stay, but for others the voyages were one way—they came to know the North Atlantic, not the warm Aegean, as their home waters.

To be clear, there is no firm evidence of the ancient Greeks’ purported voyages. There are no known physical remains of these historic Greek settlements in North America, nor are there first-hand descriptions of such journeys in anything but one account from antiquity. The idea is based entirely on a new examination of a dialogue written by the influential Roman author Plutarch, who lived from 46 to 119 CE.

“Our intention is to prove, with modern science, that it was possible for this trip to be made,” Ioannis Liritzis, an archaeologist at the University of the Aegean who proposed that the ancient journeys took place, wrote in an email. Liritzis presents his argument in a new paper, co-authored with astronomer Panagiota Preka-Papadema, philosopher Konstantinos Kalachanis, meteorologist Chris G. Tzanis, and information technology consultant Panagiotis Antonopoulos.

Where Dutch directness comes from

Olga Mecking:

I’d only been living in Amsterdam for a year when we met my husband’s friends in one of the many cafes and bars in the city’s famous Vondelpark.

We chose our seats and waited, but the waiter was nowhere to be seen. When he finally materialised, seemingly out of nowhere, he didn’t ask ‘What would you like to order’, or ‘What can I get you?’. He said ‘What do you want?’. Maybe it was the fact that he’d said it in English, or maybe he was just having a bad day, but I was shocked nonetheless.

My Dutch teacher later explained that the Dutch are very direct – and nowhere are they so direct as they are in Amsterdam.

What It’s Like to Live in a Surveillance State

James Millward:

As multiple news outlets have reported, he has also deployed high-tech tools in the service of creating a better police state. Uighurs’ DNA is collected during state-run medical checkups. Local authorities now install a GPS tracking system in all vehicles. Government spy apps must be loaded on mobile phones. All communication software is banned except WeChat, which grants the police access to users’ calls, texts and other shared content. When Uighurs buy a kitchen knife, their ID data is etched on the blade as a QR code.

This digitized surveillance is a modern take on conventional controls reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ’70s. Some Uighurs report getting a knock on their door from security agents soon after receiving a call from overseas. Last autumn one Uighur told me that following several such intimidating visits over the summer, his elderly parents had texted him, “The phone screen is bad for our old eyes, so we’re not using it anymore.” He had not heard from them since.

Xinjiang authorities have recently enforced a spate of regulations against Uighur customs, including some that confound common sense. A law now bans face coverings — but also “abnormal” beards. A Uighur village party chief was demoted for not smoking, on grounds that this failing displayed an insufficient “commitment to secularization.” Officials in the city of Kashgar, in southwest Xinjiang, recently jailed several prominent Uighur businessmen for not praying enough at a funeral — a sign of “extremism,” they claimed.

Any such violation, or simply being a Uighur artist or wealthy businessman, can lead to indefinite detention in what the government euphemistically calls “political training centers” — a revival of punitive Maoist re-education camps — secured by high walls, razor wire, floodlights and guard towers. A revered Uighur Islamic scholar is said to have died in one of those centers this week.

Once a national model, now D.C. public schools target of FBI investigation

Peter Jamison, Fenit Nirappil:

The scandal is reverberating far beyond the District, as a busy cottage industry of education policy analysts takes stock of whether the inflated graduation rates point to basic flaws in reforms the city has exported to other struggling school districts.

Jack Jennings, founder of the Center on Education Policy and former general counsel for the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, said school leaders across the country are paying “a great deal of attention” to what is happening in the District — especially because high graduation rates have been so heavily emphasized by reformers as a measure of success.

A guide to greater Madison’s black history for teachers, students and parents

Michael Johnson

Here are some indicators on how the black community has influenced the Greater Madison region and Wisconsin for more than 175 years. Attached is a timeline created by the Cap Times, Madison 365, myself and leaders from the African-American community.

One additional note: this is not a list of every black Madisonian who has done or is doing great things. There are far too many people doing great work than we could possibly recognize. This is simply our best attempt to outline the rich history of our community, the important moments, the firsts and the pioneers for those who might not know these important stories.

Academics Accuse Howard Dean of Repeating Falsehoods About Halloween Costume Scandal

Andy Ngo:

One of the professors at the center of the 2015 Yale Halloween costume controversy, who publicly accused the former governor of Vermont and Democratic leader, Howard Dean of dishonesty for his remarks at a free speech panel held at an Ohio college last year, is finding support among other prominent academics.

Nicholas Christakis, a physician and sociology professor at Yale University, slammed the former Democratic National Committee Chair for spreading “off-base and reckless” misinformation about him and his wife at the “Free speech, Civil Discourse” conference at Kenyon College in a series of tweets.

Dutch university scraps Chinese campus degree plans

David Matthews:

A Dutch university has scrapped plans to offer full degrees on a new campus in China following a row in the Netherlands about academic freedom and high costs.

The University of Groningen said on 29 January that it had decided not to seek approval from the Dutch minister of education, culture and science as there was “insufficient support” from the university council.

In 2015, the university announced plans to create a joint campus in Yantai, a port city south-east of Beijing, with China Agricultural University, offering degrees at undergraduate, master’s and PhD level. They hoped to reach 3,000 students within three years of opening.

On its website, Groningen says that a “large part” of the new campus has “already been developed”.

With St. Paul teacher strike looming, school board unwilling to ‘swoop in and save the day’

Josh Verges:

A St. Paul Public Schools teacher strike sidelining more than 4,000 employees and some 34,800 students could be less than two weeks away.

The St. Paul Federation of Teachers said all three bargaining units voting Wednesday easily authorized their leadership to strike. That includes 85 percent of voting teachers, 90 percent of educational assistants and 82 percent of school and community service professionals.

The union said it would give notice of intent to strike Thursday, starting a 10-day cooling off period before a strike can begin. They’re considering walking off the job as early as Feb. 13.

Commentary on Student Fees

Sandor Farkas:

A conservative group at Rutgers University has launched a campaign to help students request a refund for the semesterly fee they are forced to pay towards a liberal-leaning publication.

Rutgers’ left-leaning student newspaper The Daily Targum is a private corporation, but the majority of its funding comes from a seemingly mandatory student fee that the Rutgers Conservative Union is now combating.

“The majority of students who gave us a negative reaction revealed to us that they ‘worked for The Targum.’”

Since 1980, The Targum has existed independently of Rutgers, though the public school still collects $11.25 from each student on their semesterly bill, which it then turns over to the private newspaper.

Considering Rutgers has roughly 49,000 students, The Targum collects an estimated $1 million every year, according to the Rutgers Conservative Union.

The Era of Quantum Computing Is Here. Outlook: Cloudy

Philip Ball:

There is now talk of impending “quantum supremacy”: the moment when a quantum computer can carry out a task beyond the means of today’s best classical supercomputers. That might sound absurd when you compare the bare numbers: 50 qubits versus the billions of classical bits in your laptop. But the whole point of quantum computing is that a quantum bit counts for much, much more than a classical bit. Fifty qubits has long been considered the approximate number at which quantum computing becomes capable of calculations that would take an unfeasibly long time classically. Midway through 2017, researchers at Google announced that they hoped to have demonstrated quantum supremacy by the end of the year. (When pressed for an update, a spokesperson recently said that “we hope to announce results as soon as we can, but we’re going through all the detailed work to ensure we have a solid result before we announce.”)

It would be tempting to conclude from all this that the basic problems are solved in principle and the path to a future of ubiquitous quantum computing is now just a matter of engineering. But that would be a mistake. The fundamental physics of quantum computing is far from solved and can’t be readily disentangled from its implementation.

The Language of Data: Analyzing the State of the Union

Data Science @ Berkeley :

The data from speeches can be used to compare more than just overall values like reading level. For example, it’s easy to predict that the economy will come up in a State of the Union address. But data shows that presidents tend to talk about taxes more than jobs, and jobs more than banks. Also, among presidents since Wilson, Harry Truman talked about the economy the most — 2.9 percent of his speech was made up of words like “business,” “debt,” and “dollar.”

Overall, education isn’t talked about as frequently. Of the words listed, President Roosevelt only said “education” once, and Wilson mentioned “schools” just one time as well.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending nearly $20k per student.

“Growing our Trusted Flagger program into YouTube Heroes” “Big Corporate Power and freedom of speech

Google Youtube:

YouTube has always allowed people to report content they believe violates our Community Guidelines and we often hear questions about what happens to a video after you’ve flagged it. When a flag is received, the reported content is always reviewed by YouTube before being removed. We have internal teams from around the world who carefully evaluate reports 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and these teams remove content that violates our policies or are careful to leave content up if it hasn’t crossed the line.

Why Did a Billionaire Give $75 Million to a Philosophy Department?

Brian Gallagher:

Last week, for the first time in recent memory, a news story in this troubling period had me, a bachelor of arts in philosophy, sitting up straight in stunned delight. Johns Hopkins University was gifted $75 million to expand its philosophy department to near-twice its size—more professors (13 to 22 over a decade) and postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, as well more undergraduate courses. It’s apparently the largest donation any philosophy department has ever received, and for Johns Hopkins, it’s the largest gift the university has ever received for one of its humanities departments.

The giftee isn’t remaining anonymous; the philosophy department, which gave birth to American pragmatism in the late 19th century, will be named after the star investor, and former Johns Hopkins philosophy graduate student, William H. “Bill” Miller III, who you may remember making a bullish-on-banks blunder as “Bruce” Miller in The Big Short. Miller attributes “much” of his success—beating the Standard & Poor’s 500 for 15 consecutive years, from 1991 to 2005—to the “analytical training and habits of mind” his philosophical study at Johns Hopkins inculcated. The way he sees it, more students should have the chance for that intellectual stimulation. Miller agrees with the president of Johns Hopkins University, Ronald J. Daniels, when he says, “Philosophy matters…The contemporary challenges of the genomics revolution, the rise of artificial intelligence, the growth in income inequality, social and political fragmentation, and our capacity for devastating war all invite philosophical perspective.”

Education reform is off track. Here’s how to fix it

Robert Pondisco:

A blog post by Kate Walsh, the longtime leader of the National Council on Teacher Quality, asks if the education reform movement has “lost its way.” She’s overtired of conferences where reformers “plead for forgiveness for our narrow-minded approach” and agree to “exchange our convictions for anything that will suggest just how broad-minded we now are—as long as we de-emphasize academic goals.” If we expand the scope of reform efforts “to include the social, economic, racial, and political contexts of students’ lives, we’ll surely be more successful,” she writes, taking care not to be dismissive of those goals, but noting how “their collective impact leaves me limp and rudderless, rather than inspired. This job was hard enough.”

‘Unsolvable’ exam question leaves Chinese students flummoxed


An apparently unsolvable exam question on a Chinese maths paper has left both students and social media stumped.
Primary school students at a school in the Chinese district of Shunqing were faced with this question on a paper: “If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship’s captain?”
The question appeared on a recent fifth-grade level paper, intended for children around 11 years old.
Pictures of the question, along with students’ valiant attempts at answers, surfaced this week on Chinese social media – where it triggered debate and quickly went viral.

Education officials later said the question was not a mistake, but meant to highlight “critical awareness”.

America Is Not a Democracy How the United States lost the faith of its citizens—and what it can do to win them back

Yascha Mounk:

Outlets from The Washington Post to Breitbart News cited this explosive finding as evidence of what overeager headline writers called American oligarchy. Subsequent studies critiqued some of the authors’ assumptions and questioned whether the political system is quite as insulated from the views of ordinary people as Gilens and Page found. The most breathless claims made on the basis of their study were clearly exaggerations. Yet their work is another serious indication of a creeping democratic deficit in the land of liberty.

To some degree, of course, the unresponsiveness of America’s political system is by design. The United States was founded as a republic, not a democracy. As Alexander Hamilton and James Madison made clear in the Federalist Papers, the essence of this republic would consist—their emphasis—“IN THE TOTAL EXCLUSION OF THE PEOPLE, IN THEIR COLLECTIVE CAPACITY, from any share” in the government. Instead, popular views would be translated into public policy through the election of representatives “whose wisdom may,” in Madison’s words, “best discern the true interest of their country.” That this radically curtailed the degree to which the people could directly influence the government was no accident.

Education savings accounts give families more options

Matt Ladner:

The Department of Education found that state and district officials actively subverted federal special education law for students with disabilities by creating incentives for districts to deny services. Between 2004 and 2016, Texas public schools added more than a million students, but the total number of students receiving special-needs services actually dropped during this period.

A 2004 Texas Education Agency Policy led schools to illegally delay or deny special education services to students statewide. The TEA created a de-facto cap on the percentage of students who could receive special education services of 8.5 percent. The agency subjected districts that went above this cap with bureaucratic harassment and penalties. This cap subverted federal civil rights statutes for students with disabilities that create the duty for public schools to identify and serve all students with disabilities.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Trump’s SOTU Ignores a $20 Trillion Time Bomb

Eric Boehm:

n the long term, the largest driver of the national debt are entitlement programs that run on autopilot, without needing to be renegotiated as part of each new congressional budget. In fiscal year 2016, $2.47 trillion of the federal government’s $3.66 trillion in non-interest expenses—in other words, 67 percent of every dollar spent that wasn’t going to payments on the national debt—went toward “mandatory spending” on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Within a decade, those three programs will consume $4.14 trillion annually, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Congress, meanwhile, can hardly scrape together the votes for a months-long continuing resolution. Even with full Republican control, passing an actual budget—a budget that would affect only that other 33 percent of federal spending—seems like an impossible dream. Tackling entitlement costs will be an even bigger fight.

Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the debt last night was on-brand for him. During the campaign, he rarely talked about entitlements except to make promises about saving Social Security. He meant that he would protect the national pension program from cuts, but anyone serious about “saving” America’s entitlement programs should recognize that insolvency is a bigger threat.

And that’s true not only for entitlements, but for the entire economy.

“Large and growing federal debt over the coming decades would hurt the economy and constrain future budget policy,” the Congressional Budget Office warned in March of last year. “The amount of debt that is projected…would reduce national saving and income in the long term; increase the government’s interest costs, putting more pressure on the rest of the budget; limit lawmakers’ ability to respond to unforeseen events; and increase the likelihood of a fiscal crisis.”

Texas board considers Mexican-American studies course, after two failed attempts at a textbook

Aliyya Swaby:

The State Board of Education is considering creating standards for an official Mexican-American studies high school course after two failed attempts to approve a textbook for the subject.

Advocates, including many professors and teachers, urged the board Tuesday to set coherent curriculum and graduation requirements for a course they said is already being taught to hundreds of students across the state and that is important for the state’s majority-Hispanic student body. The hearing comes almost two months after the board voted not to approve a Mexican-American studies textbook submission from a local publisher, leaving teachers with no state-approved resources to offer the course.

Currently, schools can offer Mexican-American studies as a social studies elective, but teachers and districts must put in additional effort to build a specific course structure and choose materials and they are offering drastically varied versions of the class. With no state-approved standards or textbooks for an official course, smaller districts with fewer resources are facing an uphill battle to get a class started.

Some Elite Colleges Review an Application in 8 Minutes (or Less)

Melissa Korn:

As application numbers surge, admissions officers at some elite colleges say they don’t have time to read an entire file.

Instead, staffers from more schools—including the Georgia Institute of Technology, Rice University and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania—now divvy up individual applications. One person might review transcripts, test scores and counselor recommendations, while the other handles extracurricular activities and essays.

They read through their portions simultaneously, discuss their impressions about a candidate’s qualifications, flag some for admission or rejection, and move on. While their decision isn’t always final, in many cases theirs are the last eyes to look at the application itself.

Program helps Newark students envision themselves in college

Leah Mishkin, via a kind reader:

Students at People’s Preparatory Charter School in Newark are getting on buses to visit different colleges and universities in the tri-state area. It’s something they do a couple times a year.

“My brother, he didn’t go to college, so I want to be the first one to go to college out of my family,” said ninth grader Kahleeah Murphy.

Murphy says living in Newark isn’t always easy, but nothing will stop her from becoming a lawyer.

“They have a lot of shootings and stuff but you know you have to go to college and get out of Newark so you can help your family out and get out of the bad areas,” said Murphy.

Madison to see up to two independent charter schools open in fall 2018

Karen Rivedal:

Independent charter schools are free to attend and open to all students, but Madison has never had any. Bennett’s office, opened in April 2016 within the UW System by state statute, has the ability to bypass local school boards and authorize charter schools in Madison and Milwaukee.

Bennett said he liked the idea of adding a Montessori School, organized around self-driven learning and project work, to Madison’s public education landscape. He also wanted to provide more high quality early childhood education, he said, with both options more accessible to low-income parents through the charter process.

Bennett said he hoped the IMA charter school could be rolled into the Madison School District eventually if it demonstrates it can be successful and financially sound.

Related: A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School.

The Madison School Board rejected the proposed Montessori (quasi) charter school.

Despite spending nearly $20,000 per student, we in Madison have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

What I learned from three months of Content Moderation for Facebook in Berlin

Burcu Gültekin Punsmann :

Germany has become one of Facebook’s most important hubs for content moderation – also fueled by a controversial new law that requires social media companies to effectively remove hate speech and violence. In Berlin and Essen more than 1000 people work as Facebook Content Moderators, most of them employed by the outsourcing company Arvato, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, one of Germany’s most powerful companies. Yet the work and the rules of content moderation is done in secrecy. In a year-long investigation, our reporters Hannes Grassegger and Till Krause spoke to dozens of current and former content moderators working for Facebook in Germany and have written several award-winning reports (»Inside Facebook«) that made the working conditions and deletion rules (»The secret rules of Facebook«) of Facebook public. Recently they have been contacted by Burcu Gültekin Punsmann, a former employee who, for the first time, gives a personal account of her work as a content moderator. We have slightly shortened and edited her piece for clarity.

As a new comer to Berlin in July 2017, I found myself in a job in content moderation at Arvato. Curiosity has a been a main driver. I accepted the very unappealing job offer and entered into a world I haven’t suspected the existence of. I was recruited as an outsourced reviewer and became one of the thousands of Facebook Community Operations team members around the world working in some 40 languages. Berlin, draining well-educated multilingual cheap labor from all over the world, has recently developed, as I would learn, as new center for Facebook content moderation, as the German government toughened the legislation against hate speech.

I quit the job after a three-month period. I feel the need today to take time to reflect on this very intense professional and personal experience. This is mainly an exercise of self-reflection and learning. I consider it as well as a way to dissociate myself from the very violent content I have been handling on a daily basis. I wish through my account to add transparency and to contribute to discussions on content moderation practices. I don’t intend to violate the employee non-disclosure agreement I signed. I will not dig into the polices developed by Facebook. Through my relatively short work experience, I learned that these policies are constantly re-evaluated, highly dynamic and reactive. I couldn’t perceive well enough, from my vintage point, the factors that impact on these sets of policies.

The Slowdown in Bay Area Charter School Growth: Causes and Solutions

Robin Lake, Trey Cobb, Roohi Sharma, Alice Opalka:

Why Is Charter Growth Slowing? Lessons From the Bay Area

Since 2013, charter school growth has slowed significantly across the country, and the trend is similar in the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, the 2016-2017 school year marked the first time in at least 10 years when more Bay Area charter schools closed than opened.

Three reasons for the slowdown

Our research has revealed three interlocking factors contributing to slower charter school growth:

Too few school facilities that new schools can afford.

Increased competition for resources from well-established charter networks and schools.

Political opposition from districts, some of which block access to facilities, bring lawsuits against growing schools, or make charters’ compliance with state regulations more difficult.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: millennial’s and death

Joel Kotkin:

It’s been seven years since I wrote about “the screwed generation.” The story told has since become familiar: Millennials, then largely in their twenties, faced a future of limited economic opportunity, lower incomes, and too few permanent, high-paying jobs; of soaring college debt and structural insecurity (PDF). The Census Bureau estimates that, even when working full-time, they earn $2000 less than the same age group made in 1980 (PDF). More than 20 percent of people 18 to 34 live in poverty, up from 14 percent in 1980 (PDF).

Incredibly, many pundits applauded these conditions and credited millennials, forced by economic circumstances into difficult choices, for fulfilling the old boomer dreams that the boomers themselves had long since abandoned of a less materialistic, greener future in dense and heavily planned urban environments.

The environmental magazine Grist envisioned “a hero generation” that will escape the material trap of suburban living and work that engulfed their parents. “We know the financial odds are stacked against us, and instead of trying to beat them, we’d rather give the finger to the whole rigged system,” the millennial author concludes. An editor at the same magazine declared herself a part of the GINK generation (as in “green inclinations, no kids”) that she said meant not only a relatively care-free and low-cost adult life, but also “a lot of green good that comes from bringing fewer beings onto a polluted and crowded planet.”

Discover the data behind the Times Higher Education World University Rankings

Shereen Hanafi and Sacha Boucherie :

The rapid growth of the international higher education system has seen global competition emerge among colleges and universities, with each keen to secure top talent and funding. This has sparked a requirement for new, data-driven ways to understand and compare these institutions.

Founded in 2004, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings are one of the most globally recognised university ranking systems; they help students decide where to study, lecturers plan their careers, and policymakers plan funding programs.

Today, an extension of Times Higher Education’s 2014 partnership with Elsevier was announced; Scopus will remain the exclusive data source powering the flagship World University Rankings and derived rankings, including Asia University Rankings, BRICS & Emerging Economies , World Reputation Rankings, Young University Rankings, US College Rankings , US College Rankings, Japan University Rankings and Latin America Rankings.

Sad and Lonely is a Bad Look-Even More Than Usual When You Lead in Gains

Matthew Ladner:

When the 2015 NAEP results came out, Matt Ladner, senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, made a startling discovery. Arizona students led the country in gains between 2009 and 2015.

According to the NAEP administrators, who work for the federal government, Arizona results for students as a whole in 8th grade reading and math were now “not significantly different” from the national average. Arizona white students now score above the national average for white students. As do Arizona Latinos compared to Latino students elsewhere.

This should be very big news. It should have catalyzed an intense discussion and inquiry about what was happening in Arizona classrooms that yielded such astonishing results, particularly during a period when the schools were on starvation rations when it came to resources.

Instead, these remarkable results have created barely a ripple in the discussion of K-12 education in Arizona.
Robb gives yours truly too much credit as their were others who noticed the Arizona gains earlier than me. I simply dug into the details and subgroups trends. In any case, Robb does an admirable job of describing the climate in Arizona. The dedication in some quarters to what seems to be an entirely self-defeating and irrational strategy is truly astounding.

The strategy strikes many of us as follows: how many entrepreneurs attempting to raise investment capital would make the argument that even vaguely sounds like “our product is HORRIBLE and you should be ASHAMED unless you give us more money. Buy our stock or you are a bad person!” How do we imagine such a strategy would work out?

Southern Illinois Chancellor Hired Family Members for Posts Created for Them, Newspaper Reports

Julian Wylie:

In response to documents revealing Montemagno’s hiring decisions, Rae Goldsmith, director of communications and marketing, told the student newspaper that “it’s not unusual because that’s part of what you do to negotiate to get the people you want here.” She said there was an oral agreement between the chancellor and the system’s president, Randy J. Dunn, to “bring aboard family.”

Montemagno’s daughter, Melissa Germain, is now assistant director of university communications, Goldsmith said. Her husband, Jeffrey Germai

Google and Facebook are watching our every move online. It’s time to make them stop

Gabriel Weinberg:

To make any real progress in advancing data privacy this year, we have to start doing something about Google and Facebook. Not doing so would be like trying to lose weight without changing your diet. Simply ineffective.

The impact these two companies have on our privacy cannot be understated. You may know that hidden trackers lurk on most websites you visit, soaking up your personal information.

What you may not realize, though, is 76 percent of websites now contain hidden Google trackers, and 24 percent have hidden Facebook trackers, according to the Princeton Web Transparency & Accountability Project. The next highest is Twitter with 12 percent. It is likely that Google or Facebook are watching you on many sites you visit, in addition to tracking you when using their products.

Report Shows Urgent Need For Southern States To Improve K-12 Schools For Every Child


In a new report, seven nonpartisan organizations in the South — including the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) — call for their states to take swifter action to improve K-12 public education for every child with an emphasis on support for students with the greatest needs.

Accelerating The Pace: The Future Of Education In The American South recommends greater urgency in efforts by Southern states to raise the overall quality of education. The report shows that while the South has made major advances in education in recent decades, some “achievement gaps” between more affluent students and historically underserved classmates widened between 2005 and 2015.

The report and the accompanying results of The Education Poll of the South are from the Columbia Group, an informal network of organizations that work to improve education in their respective states. The Columbia Group’s members are:

Organized Labor’s Growing Class Divide

Alana Samuels:

Lately it seems that, every week, a new group of media employees votes to join a union. On Tuesday, a majority of employees at Slate voted to join the Writers Guild of America, East. This came a few days after newsroom employees of the Los Angeles Times voted to join the NewsGuild–Communications Workers of America. Two weeks before that Vox Media recognized the Writers Guild of America, East, as the union representative of their editorial and video staff.

These efforts are the latest in a slew of successful campaigns to unionize educated workers, not the traditional targets for labor organizers. In the past three years, employees of Vice Media, ThinkProgress, HuffPost, The Intercept, Salon, Thrillist, and the now-defunct Gawker have all joined unions. Graduate students at Columbia, Yale, Tufts, and Brandeis have also voted to join unions. Adjunct professors at Seattle University formed a union in 2016, and employees at the legal group Lambda Legal voted to form a union in December.

Related: Act 10.

Marquette and the First Amendment

Wall Street Journal:

A political-science professor who says Marquette University violated his employment contract’s guarantee of academic freedom will get his day in court. Though a judge for a lower state court earlier ruled for the university, last week the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to John McAdams’s request that it bypass the appeals courts and take up his suit directly.

Professor McAdams is now in his seventh semester outside the classroom because of a November 2014 post on his Marquette Warrior blog. The post criticized a graduate instructor, Cheryl Abbate, for telling a student with more traditional views that she would tolerate no dissent on same-sex marriage in her class on ethics.

After the post Ms. Abbate received several ugly emails. Mr. McAdams was blamed and punished, though he had nothing to do with those messages. The university contends that Mr. McAdams’s offense is having identified a student by name—Ms. Abbate. The characterization is telling, because though Ms. Abbate was indeed a grad student she was also a paid employee of the university teaching a course. If any student was harmed here, it was the Marquette undergraduate who was told there was no room for his views in Ms. Abbate’s classroom.

No one forced Marquette to enter into an employment contract with Mr. McAdams. But it did. And that contract says he cannot be fired for exercising a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. By any reasonable standard that would include the First Amendment—even at a Jesuit university.