Is the social media bubble about to burst?

Richard Godwin:

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has of course been pivotal, prompting, at the time of going to press, shares to crash by 11 per cent, high-profile advertisers such as Mozilla and Commerzbank to withdraw support and Mark Zuckerberg to go to ground for four days before apologising on CNN after the hashtag #WheresZuck went viral to tell us that he’s ‘really sorry’ and feels ‘really bad’.

But some say the tide began to turn as recently as August 2016. That’s when Zuckerberg, under intense pressure from right-wing news organisations such as Breitbart, fired the supposedly biased humans who curated the site’s ‘Trending News’ section and replaced them with algorithms. Within days, the feed was dominated by fake news items about Hillary Clinton, pushed up the rankings by bots and trolls. We all know where that led.

Brown M&Ms and Religious Illiteracy

Rod Dreher::

The rock band Van Halen was famous for putting a rider in their contracts requiring that a bowl of M&Ms be backstage for them, and that there be no brown M&Ms in the bowl. It sounds like typical rock star vanity, but there was actually a good reason for it. The band had this provision buried in their contract as a trick to see if the local crews assisting the band had actually read the contract. In a similar way, minor mistakes like these are the brown M&Ms of journalism about religion. They reveal a fundamental carelessness that might have more serious consequences.

The problem is not just with the media, but is even internal to Christian communities. I’ve said in this space on many occasions that as I travel to Christian colleges, one of the biggest complaints I hear from faculty is that young people have next to no theological knowledge. They are the products of parishes, congregations, and (especially) youth groups that have reduced the faith to mere relationality. I was once in the presence of a college student who had been raised in the church, been involved since childhood, and had been active in a parachurch youth ministry. She knew that Jesus was her best buddy, but she did not realize that he had been physically raised from the dead.

We’re not talking about expecting laymen to explain the hypostatic union here. We’re talking about the Resurrection.

A couple of years ago, the Charlotte Observer did an interview with the author of a book about how few Americans really understood the Bible. Look at this:

Happy Easter.

More University of Tokyo alumni are seeking careers outside government and big companies

Fumika Sato:

The trend is such that Tokyo’s Hongo district, where the university’s campus is located, has earned the nickname “Hongo Valley.” Japan’s version of Silicon Valley is buzzing with startups that specialize in fields such as wealth management, health care, home sharing and space debris collection.

One of those is WealthNavi, which operates a technology-based asset management service. Founded in 2015 by former Finance Ministry bureaucrat Kazuhisa Shibayama, the startup had more than 60 billion yen ($558 million) in assets under management as of last month.

Civics: Confirmed: The U.S. Census Bureau Gave Up Names of Japanese-Americans in WW II

JR Minkel:

Despite decades of denials, government records confirm that the U.S. Census Bureau provided the U.S. Secret Service with names and addresses of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

The Census Bureau surveys the population every decade with detailed questionnaires but is barred by law from revealing data that could be linked to specific individuals. The Second War Powers Act of 1942 temporarily repealed that protection to assist in the roundup of Japanese-Americans for imprisonment in internment camps in California and six other states during the war. The Bureau previously has acknowledged that it provided neighborhood information on Japanese-Americans for that purpose, but it has maintained that it never provided “microdata,” meaning names and specific information about them, to other agencies.

This is how Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook targeting model really worked — according to the person who built it

Matthew Hindman:

The researcher whose work is at the center of the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data analysis and political advertising uproar has revealed that his method worked much like the one Netflix uses to recommend movies.

In an email to me, Cambridge University scholar Aleksandr Kogan explained how his statistical model processed Facebook data for Cambridge Analytica. The accuracy he claims suggests it works about as well as established voter-targeting methods based on demographics like race, age, and gender.

If confirmed, Kogan’s account would mean the digital modeling Cambridge Analytica used was hardly the virtual crystal ball a few have claimed. Yet the numbers Kogan provides also show what is — and isn’t — actually possible by combining personal data with machine learning for political ends.

2018 Madison School Board Election: 1 contested seat, 1 unopposed

Amber Walker:

In December 2017, Madison deputy mayor Gloria Reyes announced her candidacy for Madison School Board seat one. Incumbent Anna Moffit was elected to the seat in 2015 after running unopposed in her first election.

In February, Moffit and Reyes participated in their first candidate forum. The candidates discussed the state of arts education in Madison and fielded questions from music, visual, and multidisciplinary arts teachers across Dane County. Oscar Morales, director of Omega School and Madison’s poet laurate moderated the fourm, hosted by the Arts and Literature Lab.

A voter summary is available here.

Should We Be Concerned About Data-Opolies?

Maurice E. Stucke:

With the rise of a progressive antitrust movement, the power of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon is now topical. This article explores some of the potential harms from data-opolies. Data-opolies, in contrast to the earlier monopolies, are unlikely to exercise their power by charging higher prices to consumers. But this does not mean they are harmless. Data-opolies can raise other significant concerns, including less privacy, degraded quality, a transfer of wealth from consumers to data-opolies, less innovation and dynamic disruption in markets in which they dominate, and political and social concerns.

Data-opolies can also be more durable than some earlier monopolies. Moreover, data-opolies at times can more easily avoid antitrust scrutiny when they engage in anticompetitive tactics to attain or maintain their dominance.

Utah passes ‘free-range parenting’ law, allowing kids to do some things without parental supervision

Nicole Pelletiere:

A new law legalizing free-range parenting will soon take effect in Utah allowing children to do things alone like travelling to school.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill on March 15, which takes effect in May.

The bill redefines “neglect” in Utah law so that kids can participate in some unsupervised activities without their parents being charged, a representative from the state confirmed to ABC News Monday.

“Kids need to wonder about the world, explore and play in it, and by doing so learn the skills of self-reliance and problem-solving they’ll need as adults,” Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement to ABC News. “As a society, we’ve become too hyper about ‘protecting’ kids and then end up sheltering them from the experiences that we took for granted as we were kids. I sponsored SB65 so that parents wouldn’t be punished for letting their kids experience childhood.”

Fillmore added that there were no organized groups against the bill, and it passed unanimously out of both houses of the state’s legislature.

PHOTO: Republican Sen. Lincoln Fillmore looks on from the Senate floor at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City on Jan. 22, 2018.

On surveillance business models

Bruce Schneier:

But for every article about Facebook’s creepy stalker behavior, thousands of other companies are breathing a collective sigh of relief that it’s Facebook and not them in the spotlight. Because while Facebook is one of the biggest players in this space, there are thousands of other companies that spy on and manipulate us for profit.

Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff calls it “surveillance capitalism.” And as creepy as Facebook is turning out to be, the entire industry is far creepier. It has existed in secret far too long, and it’s up to lawmakers to force these companies into the public spotlight, where we can all decide if this is how we want society to operate and — if not — what to do about it.

There are 2,500 to 4,000 data brokers in the United States whose business is buying and selling our personal data. Last year, Equifax was in the news when hackers stole personal information on 150 million people, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.

A vanity gift? Complaints bubble after Abington agrees to rename high school for billionaire donor Schwarzman

Kathy Biccella:

When Wall Street billionaire Stephen Schwarzman announced he was donating $25 million to Abington Senior High School, he said in a release that investing in public education “yields one of the best returns imaginable – a new generation of creative, capable and collaborate future leaders…”

For the Blackstone CEO there was another, far more personal, return – his name on his alma mater, which the school board voted unanimously on Tuesday night to rename Abington Schwarzman High School.

Shortly after the board vote, the news exploded on a Facebook forum where residents vented over the move, calling it “insane,” “egotistical,” and “stupid.”

“The stadium is already named after him. That’s enough. Too much ego,” wrote one commenter.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Illinois Pension Nightmare

Taps Coogan:

Back in early 2017 we looked at every state’s level of pension underfunding, given realistic market values, relative to state tax revenues. Based on that metric, Illinois’ pension fund was in the second worst condition in the US; nearly 30% of the state’s revenues would need to be directed towards its pension to avoid a worsening of its already significant underfunding problem.

For those who wonder how Illinois’ pension system got into such trouble, the website Wirepoints recently shed some light on exactly that question:

“There’s little argument that Illinois politicians are to blame for the state’s massive pension crisis.

However, how politicians caused the crisis has long been misunderstood. Critics on both sides of the aisle typically accuse politicians – and by extension, taxpayers – of shortchanging pensions.

But a Wirepoints analysis reveals that too little money into pensions hasn’t been the issue. Instead, it’s the dramatic growth in total pension benefits promised by politicians that’s been bankrupting Illinois.

When “Free Speech” Is a Marketing Ploy

Osita Nwanevu:

On Jan. 24, it was announced that former White House adviser and Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon had accepted an invitation from University of Chicago business school professor Luigi Zingales to participate in a debate on campus. “I can hardly think of a more important issue for new citizens and business leaders of the world than the backlash against globalization and immigration that is taking place not just in America, but in all the Western World,” Zingales wrote in a statement. “Whether you agree with him or not (and I personally do not), Mr. Bannon has come to interpret and represent this backlash in America.”

Zingales and university administrators have, predictably, spent the past several weeks dealing with a backlash of their own. Over 1,000 alumni, more than 100 faculty members, the executives of student government and nearly a dozen student groups have voiced their opposition to the event in various mediums. “[W]hen speakers who question the intellect and full humanity of people of color are invited to campus to ‘debate’ their worthiness as citizens and people, ” a faculty open letter read, “the message is clear that the University’s commitment to freedom of expression will come at the expense of those most vulnerable in our community.” Off-campus, many have scorned those protesting the invitation. “The school has a long tradition of valuing free speech and thought, recognizing that a university is — wait for it — a place of ideas and learning,” the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board wrote after the announcement. “The ‘cure’ for repellent ideas, school President Robert Maynard Hutchins said generations ago, ‘lies through open discussion rather than through inhibition.’

Civics: What happens when the president goes to war with his own spies?

James Bamford:

Shortly after dawn on a July morning in 2007, a convoy of black FBI utility vehicles snaked down Ridge Road, a tranquil, leafy street lined with modest homes and manicured shrubs in the Maryland suburb of Severn. After a few twists and turns, they came to a stop at the end of a cul-de-sac opposite a two-story gray colonial. Seconds later, a dozen agents, weapons pulled from their holsters, burst into the house. Upstairs was William E. Binney, a former senior employee of the National Security Agency headquartered at nearby Fort Meade.

“They shoved my son out of the way as they rushed in with their guns drawn and charged upstairs, where my wife was getting dressed and I was in the shower,” Binney told me. “After pointing their guns at her, one of the agents came into the shower and pointed a gun directly at my head as he forcibly pulled me out. Then they took me out to the back porch and began interrogating me, attempting to implicate me in a crime.”

Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD

Marilyn Wedge:

French children don’t need medications to control their behavior.

In the United States, at least 9 percent of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5 percent. How has the epidemic of ADHD—firmly established in the U.S.—almost completely passed over children in France?

Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the U.S. In the United States, child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes. The preferred treatment is also biological—psycho stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.

French child psychiatrists, on the other hand, view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children’s focusing and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context. They then choose to treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counseling. This is a very different way of seeing things from the American tendency to attribute all symptoms to a biological dysfunction such as a chemical imbalance in the child’s brain.

Is Journalism a Form of Activism?

Danielle Tcholakian:

But I was surprised to see how many journalists came to the students’ defense, agreeing that journalism is a form of activism. They were highly respected, solid, investigative journalists. Los Angeles Times writer Matt Pearce asked, “Does anybody think that even the fairest and most diligent of investigative reporters wrote their horrifying stories hoping that nothing would change?” The Washington Post‘s Wesley Lowery asserted, “Even beyond big, long investigations, journalists perform acts of activism every day. Any good journalist is an activist for truth, in favor of transparency, on the behalf of accountability. It is our literal job is to pressure powerful people and institutions via our questions.” Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for The New York Times Magazine and arguably one of the greatest living reporters today, quoted Lowery’s tweet, agreeing with it.

Lowery’s tweet resonated with me, too. Truth, transparency, accountability — these are all words I’m comfortable with. The pursuit of truth can certainly feel like an activist endeavor under a presidential administration that lies habitually.

Still, I was cringing at the word “activism.” I have for a long time, too. Years ago, talking with a mentor in this industry, I made a face as I uttered the phrase “activist journalism.” I said I’d never want to do that; I was a news reporter.

But my mentor just smiled and when I asked why, he said, “You are an activist journalist.” Well, I never. I insisted I wasn’t, that was nonsense. I was a news reporter. I reported the news. I didn’t insert opinions into things or tell people what to think or argue for a certain side. I gave all the facts and let the chips fall where they may!

A child left behind: SF student failed every class in high school

Jenna Lyons:

He flunked all his classes in eighth grade but was still advanced to high school, Rivers wrote.

As he entered Washington High, the student felt nervous going into classrooms where he didn’t know anyone and “had no knowledge of what to do and where to go,” Rivers wrote. “This caused him to get in with the wrong crowd, which started distracting him from his studies.”

As a freshman, the boy told his high school counselor that he couldn’t focus in class and felt lost, but Rivers said the adviser was indifferent.

“The counselor (Asian) was aggressive in how she spoke with client 1 (Latino), making him uncomfortable,” Rivers wrote. “Leaving with the feeling of not being understood, respected, and discriminated against, client 1 did not seek her assistance again, nor did she seek him out.”

Marin Schools To Require Sexual Harassment Training After Teacher Complaints


In the era of #MeToo, a North Bay school district is taking action after getting complaints from teachers about being sexually harassed, not by their co-workers, but by their students.

Schools in the Tamalpais Union High School District in Marin County are requiring students to take sexual harassment training starting in April. The change comes after teachers came forward with their stories.

“When we look on the national scene and we wonder how the Harvey Weinsteins are made — we’re making them,” said Jessica Crabtree, a teacher at Redwood High School.

Marin County’s Tamalpais Union High School District spends about $16,875 per student, about 18.5% less than Madison’s nearly $20,000.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Why Are States So Strapped for Cash? There Are Two Big Reasons

Cezary Podkul and Heather Gillers:

The only speaker standing between state budget officers and the opening cocktail hour at a Washington conference was the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. What he said left no one in a celebratory mood.

Medicaid costs, said then-Secretary Michael Leavitt, were projected to grow so fast that within 10 years they would “crowd out virtually every other category of spending.” State spending on higher education, infrastructure and safety, he predicted, would all get squeezed.

Nearly 10 years after that October 2008 speech, Mr. Leavitt’s prediction—part of HHS’s first-ever annual projection of Medicaid’s costs—is looking prescient.

As state and local officials prepare their next budgets, many are finding that spending decisions have already been made for them by two must-fund line items that barely mattered when baby boomers such as Mr. Leavitt were growing up: Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled, and public-employee health and retirement costs.

These days, they consume about one out of every five tax dollars collected by state and local governments. That is the highest share since Medicaid was created in 1965. Postretirement health benefits, which are harder to quantify, add to that burden and have cumulatively cost states more than $100 billion since 2008, according to government financial disclosures compiled by Merritt Research Services.

Civics: ICE Uses Facebook Data to Find and Track Suspects, Internal Emails Show

Lee Fang:

One of the agents involved in the hunt responded that they could combine the data with “IP address information back from T-Mobile.” Another agent chimed in to say that the agency had sent the phone company an expedited summons for information.

“I am going to see if our Palantir guy is here to dump the Western Union info in there since I know there is a way to triangulate the area he’s sending money from and narrow down time of day etc,” responded Jen Miller, an ICE agent on the email thread.

Palantir is a controversial data analytics firm co-founded by billionaire investor Peter Thiel. The company, which does business with the military and major intelligence agencies, has contracted with ICE since 2014. As journalist Spencer Woodman reported last year, the company developed a special system for ICE to access a vast “ecosystem” of data to facilitate immigration officials in both discovering targets and then creating and administering cases against them.

Civics: Do Conviction Integrity Units Work?

Josie Duffy Rice:

In May 1988 on the south side of Chicago, a video store caught fire in the middle of the night. The fire spread quickly, eventually burning down seven other nearby businesses and killing two people. The police determined it was arson, and quickly identified the owner of the video store as the mastermind of a four-person plot. But it was a local repairman, Arthur Brown, who prosecutors accused of actually setting the fire, using gasoline as an accelerant. Two other people were accused of taking part, and all four were charged with first-degree murder and arson. At the first bond hearing, local prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty for three of the men, including Brown. He immediately collapsed to the floor. “I’m just emotional,” Brown said, apologizing to the judge. “I’ve never been in a courtroom before.”

Brown had signed a confession during his interrogation but steadfastly maintained his innocence afterward, continually stating that he only signed it after being beaten and threatened by the cops for over seven hours. However, in 1990, after a trial led by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Brown was granted a new trial in 2003, but was once again found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. But last November, a judge threw out his conviction and ordered a new trial based on Brown’s post-conviction petition. That petition argued that prosecutors in his second trial had not only solicited testimony they knew to be false from one of the police officers who handled his case, but “improperly relied extensively on that false testimony in its opening statement and closing argument.” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx asked her Conviction Integrity Unit to review the case. Days later, prosecutors dismissed the charges and Brown was released.

The Growing College Graduation Gap

David Leonhardt:

First, some good news: In recent decades, students from modest backgrounds have flooded onto college campuses. At many high schools where going to college was once exotic, it’s now normal. When I visit these high schools, I see college pennants all over the hallways, intended to send a message: College is for you, too.

And thank goodness for that message. As regular readers of this column have heard before, college can bring enormous benefits, including less unemployment, higher wages, better long-term health and higher life satisfaction.

Now for the bad news: The college-graduation rate for these poorer students is abysmal. It’s abysmal even though many of them are talented teenagers capable of graduating. Yet they often attend colleges with few resources or colleges that simply do a bad job of shepherding students through a course of study.

Up to 40% of DNA results from consumer genetic tests might be bogus

Technology Review:

A new study has found that direct-to-consumer genetic tests, like those marketed by 23andMe,, Family Tree DNA, and MyHeritage, can be used to obtain innacurate results.

Data dump: Most of these tests use a technique called genotyping to provide information about a person’s ancestry, risk of developing certain disorders, or status as a carrier of specific diseases. Some companies also make the raw genotyping data available to customers upon request.

Lost in interpretation: Scientists at Ambry Genetics, a diagnostics company that also interprets data from consumer DNA tests, looked at this raw genotyping data from 49 people. They found that two out of five reported genetic variants, or 40 percent, were false positives—that is, they indicated that a particular genetic variant was present when it wasn’t. Most of the false-positive calls were of cancer-linked genes.

New research is encouraging a rethink of gifted education

The Economist:

EVERY year in Singapore 1% of pupils in the third year of primary school bring home an envelope headed “On government service”. Inside is an invitation to the city-state’s Gifted Education Programme. To receive the overture, pupils must ace tests in maths, English and “general ability”. If their parents accept the offer, the children are taught using a special curriculum.

Singapore’s approach is emblematic of the traditional form of “gifted” education, one that uses intelligence tests with strict thresholds to identify children with seemingly innate ability. Yet in many countries it is being overhauled in two main ways. The first is that educationists are using a broader range of methods to identify highly intelligent children, especially those from poor households. The second is an increasing focus on fostering the attitudes and personality traits found in successful people in an array of disciplines—including those who did not ace intelligence tests.

New research lies behind these shifts. It shows that countries which do not get the most from their best and brightest face big economic costs. The research also suggests that the nature-or-nurture debate is a false dichotomy. Intelligence is highly heritable and perhaps the best predictor of success. But it is far from the only characteristic that matters for future eminence.

The Ignored Correlation Between Fatherlessness and Mass Shooters

Rachel Alexander:

New gun laws would not have stopped the Parkdale school shooter. The laws already in place should have stopped him. They failed. The people responsible to protect the public from people like the killer dropped the ball. In any case, mentally deranged killers don’t care about laws.

We would be better off looking at preventing the factors that led to the shooting. One thing Nikolas Cruz had in common with other school shooters is the lack of a father figure in his life. His father died when he was young.

Seven of the 19 shootings since 2005 were committed by young males. Peter Hasson at The Federalist observed that only one of the seven “was raised by his biological father throughout childhood.”

Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner Promised a Criminal Justice Revolution. He’s Exceeding Expectations

Shaun King:

When lifelong civil rights attorney Larry Krasner was elected in a landslide this past November to become the new district attorney of Philadelphia, to say that his fans and supporters had high hopes would be an understatement. Anything less than a complete revolution that tore down the bigoted and patently unfair systems of mass incarceration would be a severe disappointment.

Across the country, talking the talk of criminal justice reform has gotten many people elected as DA. Once in office, their reforms have often been painfully slow and disappointing. Krasner was the first candidate elected who publicly committed not just to intermittent changes, but a radical overhaul.

So far, having been in office less than three months, he has exceeded expectations. He’s doing something I’ve never quite seen before in present-day politics: Larry Krasner’s keeping his word — and it’s a sight to behold.

As Tech in Education Matures, it calls for more than Hardware

Carolina Milanesi:

Our kids might not remember what schools were like before so many started focusing on STEM, and coding. Most schools had a computer room but technology, or computer science, was very much a subject rather than a tool to use throughout the school day. We can argue whether or not technology made things better or worse but that deserves a totally separate discussion. Like it did in the enterprise market, since its launch in 2010, the iPad started making its way into education bringing technology into classrooms. It did not take long for the first one to one iPad school to get established.

The first Chromebooks hit the market in 2011 but it was not until 2013 that they started to make a considerable impact in K-12 education and they have been growing ever since across American schools and mostly at the expense of Apple.

When the iPad was first brought into the classroom it was done in schools where, by and large, budget was not an issue and teachers were empowered to invest time in finding the best way to use technology to reinvent and energize teaching. It was really about rethinking how to teach and connect with students. As technology became more pervasive, schools discovered that it was not just about teaching but it was also about managing the classroom. This is what Google was able to capitalize on. Yes, schools turn to Chromebooks because the hardware is cheaper but also because the total cost of ownership when it comes to deployment, management, and teacher’s involvement is much lower.

Fraudulent Web Traffic Continues to Plague Advertisers, Other Businesses

Alexandra Bruell:

Non-human traffic can create an “inflated number that sets false expectations for marketing efforts,” said Mr. Weinstein.
 Marketers often use web traffic as a good measure for how many of their consumers saw their ads, and some even pay their ad vendors when people see their ads and subsequently visit their website. Knowing more about how much of their web traffic was non-human could change the way they pay their ad vendors.
 Advertisers have told Adobe that the ability to break down human and non-human traffic helps them understand which audiences matter “when they’re doing ad buying and trying to do re-marketing efforts, or things like lookalike modeling,” he said. Advertisers use lookalike modeling to reach online users or consumers who share similar characteristics to their specific audiences or customers.
 Ad buyers can also exclude visitors with non-human characteristics from future targeting segments by removing the cookies or unique web IDs that represented those visitors from their audience segments.
 In addition to malicious bots, many web visits also come from website “scrapers,” such as search engines, voice assistants or travel aggregators looking for business descriptions or pricing information. Some are also from rivals “scraping” for information so they can undercut the competition on pricing.

The Justice Department Just Lost A Legal Battle Over Public Access To The Secret Surveillance Court

Zoe Tillman:

First Amendment advocacy groups do have the right to argue for access to sealed information from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a court ruled Friday afternoon.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review — the highest of the surveillance review courts, below the US Supreme Court — rejected the Justice Department’s argument that outside groups shouldn’t be able to petition the FISC at all under the First Amendment to get access to sealed portions of opinions.

The court did not address whether the groups that petitioned for access, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School, can get the information they’re after. Instead, the court tackled a critical threshold issue: Whether the groups had standing to come before the court in the first place to ask for that access. Press freedom advocates saw the case as an important test of how much the FISC’s mostly closed doors could be open to the public.

The three judges who sit on the Court of Review agreed with a lower court’s conclusion that the ACLU and Yale media freedom clinic had shown that their claim of a First Amendment right of access to the information at issue was “judicially cognizable” — that is, that a court could recognize it. The court found that the petitioners had to only clear the “low bar” of showing that their claim wasn’t “completely devoid of merit” or “wholly insubstantial and frivolous.”

Californians fed up with housing costs and taxes are fleeing state in big numbers

Jeff Daniels:

Californians fed up with housing costs and taxes are fleeing state in big numbers Californians fed up with housing costs and taxes are fleeing state in big numbers

Californians may still love the beautiful weather and beaches, but more and more they are fed up with the high housing costs and taxes and deciding to flee to lower-cost states such as Nevada, Arizona and Texas.

“There’s nowhere in the United States that you can find better weather than here,” said Dave Senser, who lives on a fixed income near San Luis Obispo, California, and now plans to move to Las Vegas. “Rents here are crazy, if you can find a place, and they’re going to tax us to death. That’s what it feels like. At least in Nevada they don’t have a state income tax. And every little bit helps.”

Senser, 65, who previously lived in the east San Francisco Bay region, said housing costs and gas prices are “significantly lower in Las Vegas. The government in the state of California isn’t helping people like myself. That’s why people are running out of this state now.”

Do School Spending Cuts Matter? Evidence from the Great Recession (2018)

C. Kirabo Jackson, Cora Wigger and Heyu Xiong:

Audits of public school budgets routinely find evidence of waste. Also, recent evidence finds that when school budgets are strained, public schools can employ cost-saving measures with no ill-effect on students. We theorize that if budget cuts induce schools to eliminate wasteful spending, the effects of spending cuts may be small (and even zero). To explore this empirically, we examine how student performance responded to school spending cuts induced by the Great Recession. We link nationally representative test score and survey data to school spending data and isolate variation in recessionary spending cuts that were unrelated to changes in economic conditions. Consistent with the theory, districts that faced large revenue cuts disproportionately reduced spending on non-core operations. However, they still reduced core operational spending to some extent. A 10 percent school spending cut reduced test scores by about 7.8 percent of a standard deviation. Moreover, a 10 percent spending reduction during all four high-school years was associated with 2.6 percentage points lower graduation rates. While our estimates are smaller than some in the literature, spending cuts do matter.


How and why to search for young Einsteins

The Economist:

EVERY year in Singapore 1% of pupils in the third year of primary school bring home an envelope headed “On government service”. Inside is an invitation to the city-state’s Gifted Education Programme. To receive the overture, pupils must ace tests in maths, English and “general ability”. If their parents accept the offer, the children are taught using a special curriculum.

Singapore’s approach is emblematic of the traditional form of “gifted” education, one that uses intelligence tests with strict thresholds to identify children with seemingly innate ability. Yet in many countries it is being overhauled in two main ways. The first is that educationists are using a broader range of methods to identify highly intelligent children, especially those from poor households. The second is an increasing focus on fostering the attitudes and personality traits found in successful people in an array of disciplines—including those who did not ace intelligence tests.

New research lies behind these shifts. It shows that countries which do not get the most from their best and brightest face big economic costs. The research also suggests that the nature-or-nurture debate is a false dichotomy. Intelligence is highly heritable and perhaps the best predictor of success. But it is far from the only characteristic that matters for future eminence.

Why the Techlash Won’t Go Away

Leon Hadar:

The irony is that much of this backlash, or “tech-lash”, has been driven by many of the same Democrats that companies like Google and Facebook had backed during the presidential campaign, when employees of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, donated US$1.6 million to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign, or about 80 percent more than the amount given by workers at any other corporation, according to The Wall Street Journal.

And Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google between 2001 and 2017, helped set up companies to analyse political data for Clinton’s presidential campaign, and “even wore a badge labelled ‘STAFF’ at Clinton’s election-night bash,” reported the Journal.

After another privacy bombshell, Facebook tells horrified users, “it’s explained right there in the app.

Maya Kosoff:

After embarking on exactly the kind of cringe-inducing apology tour one would expect following the revelation that Cambridge Analytica plundered the data of millions of Facebook users, Mark Zuckerberg has yet another mess on his hands. Over the weekend, Android owners were displeased to discover that Facebook had been scraping their text-message and phone-call metadata, in some cases for years, an operation hidden in the fine print of a user agreement clause until Ars Technica reported. Facebook was quick to defend the practice as entirely aboveboard—small comfort to those who are beginning to realize that, because Facebook is a free service, they and their data are by necessity the products.

In its current iteration, Facebook’s Messenger application requests that those who download it give it permission to access incoming and outgoing call and text logs. But, as users discovered when prompted to download a copy of their personal data before permanently deleting their Facebook accounts, a certain amount of data was covertly siphoned without explicit permissions. Buried inside those data caches was an unsettling amount of specific, detailed information—in some cases, every phone call or text message ever sent or received on their Android device. Dylan McKay, who apparently owns an Android phone, reported that for the period between November 2016 and July 2017, his archives contained “the metadata of every cellular call I’ve ever made, including time and duration” and “metadata about every text message I’ve ever received or sent.” When people like McKay agreed to share their contacts with Facebook, it appears they didn’t know the extent to which they were giving Facebook access to their personal information.

Best teacher in the world Andria Zafirakou: ‘Build trust with your kids – then everything else can happen’

The Guardian:

Andria Zafirakou has been functioning on three hours’ sleep a night for weeks, but looks radiant. “It’s adrenaline, it’s excitement, it’s everything.” Nominated by current and former colleagues for the Varkey Foundation’s annual Global Teacher prize, dubbed the Nobel for teaching, last month Zafirakou learned she had been shortlisted from a field of more than 30,000 entries. She flew out to Dubai last week to join nine other finalists from all over the world for a star-studded awards ceremony hosted by Trevor Noah, and arrived home on Wednesday the winner of the $1m prize. The nominees were judged on, among other things, the progress made by pupils, achievements outside the classroom and in helping children become “global citizens”.

Politicians and dignitaries, the media and 100 of her schoolchildren were waiting to welcome her at Heathrow, from where she was whisked straight to parliament to meet Theresa May. The prime minister and education secretary’s praise for the arts and textiles teacher could not have been more lavish; she is, declared Damian Hinds, “truly inspiring”.

Zafirakou still hasn’t made it home to Brent, north-west London, when we meet later that day. The 39-year-old has the dazed air of a woman who barely recognises herself as she stares at her photo on the front of London’s Evening Standard. “My whole life has been transformed,” she laughs breathlessly. Amid all the wonderment of her fairytale week, however, there is one obvious irony. Had Zafirakou prioritised the targets the government sets for her profession, and focused all her energies on its official performance measures, she would never have been considered for the award. She won, instead, by being the kind of teacher our education system actively discourages.

Oakland’s New Superintendent Is a Homegrown Leader for a District in Financial Turmoil

Kate Stringer:

he rage was palpable. Oakland community members packed the district room waving signs. They shouted over school board members, screaming, “No cuts!” and “Chop from the top!” They stood in line for four hours to make public comments, voices laced with emotion, all asking the same thing: Why were millions of dollars being taken away from their schools?
Whatever Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell may have been feeling during that meeting last November, she didn’t show it, even though she had the unenviable task of explaining that “why” to a room pulsing with frustration.
“Before I move any further in the presentation, I would like to say how deeply sorry I am for the current financial position we find ourselves in,” Johnson-Trammell told the crowd that night, in the steady, even tone of a seasoned teacher addressing a room of mutinous students. “I acknowledge and understand the hurt, frustration, and anger that everyone is feeling. For the sake of our children, we must do better as a district and stay committed to fiscal vitality in the long run.”

college courses literally on the Ethereum blockchain

David Gerard:

Universities have been offering legitimate courses about blockchains for a while now — there’s genuine demand from business students for introductory courses to teach them all about this “blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” bafflegab.

The courses are usually relentlessly positive. So if you find yourself anywhere in range of one of these being set up, be sure to include Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain as a key textbook. It’s got a track record as a college text!

At first I thought Woolf University was another of those — but no, it’s much sillier.

China’s New Frontiers in Dystopian Tech

Rene Chun:

Dystopia starts with 23.6 inches of toilet paper. That’s how much the dispensers at the entrance of the public restrooms at Beijing’s Temple of Heaven dole out in a program involving facial-recognition scanners—part of the president’s “Toilet Revolution,” which seeks to modernize public toilets. Want more? Forget it. If you go back to the scanner before nine minutes are up, it will recognize you and issue this terse refusal: “Please try again later.”

The End: After 30 years, geography librarian packs up books

Sydney Widell:

Where rows of books once rested, shelves are beginning to collect dust in the Science Hall Geography Library. Tom Tews, campus geography librarian, has spent the last three months dismantling the collection he’s maintained over the last 30 years of his career.

The library closed its doors more than half a semester ago, one of the first spaces to be eliminated as part of UW-Madison’s plan to consolidate its library system. Today, at first glance, the space looks roughly the same. The long tables in the reading room are still inviting places to study, and as always, Tews is a familiar presence in his corner office.

But the computers are gone and and most of the furniture has been taken to storage or redistributed across campus. Cardboard boxes full of books are piled on the floor, and in the stacks, the shelves are bare.

“It’s been hard to see that what I did for the last 30 years is not going to continue,” Tews said. “Not that it’s right or wrong, it just is.”

Now that the library is closed, Tews divides his time between the College Library Circulation Desk and curating the digital geography collection. He is working fewer hours, but he said he is alright with the change.

How Facebook Helps Shady Advertisers Pollute the Internet

Zeke Faux:

It was a Davos for digital hucksters. One day last June, scammers from around the world gathered for a conference at a renovated 19th century train station in Berlin. All the most popular hustles were there: miracle diet pills, instant muscle builders, brain boosters, male enhancers. The “You Won an iPhone” companies had display booths, and the “Your Computer May Be Infected” folks sent salesmen. Russia was represented by the promoters of a black-mask face peel, and Canada made a showing with bot-infested dating sites.
 They’d come to mingle with thousands of affiliate marketers—middlemen who buy online ad space in bulk, run their campaigns, and earn commissions for each sale they generate. Affiliates promote some legitimate businesses, such as Inc. and EBay Inc., but they’re also behind many of the shady and misleading ads that pollute Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the rest of the internet.

A New “Report” Misleads on School Vouchers

Patrick Wolf

Here are the Newspeak translations:

• “Large body” means “five studies,” selected out of 20 rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations that exist on private school choice in the U.S. The authors claim the commentary relies on six studies but one of the supposed studies is a commentary by Mark Dynarski and Austin Nichols that discusses the other actual studies. So “six”, in Newspeak, means “five,” which somehow is a “large body.” Got it?

• “All of which” means “some of which,” as the multi-year Louisiana study cited (of which I am co-author) reports no significant achievement impacts of the program after three years and the Indiana study cited reports that the initial negative results of that program turn positive in reading by year four.

• “Worse than their peers in public school” is incorrect for all five studies. For the Louisiana and DC studies, the analyses compare students who won a voucher lottery to students who lost a voucher lottery. In both places, some of the students who lost lotteries enrolled in private schools anyway but remained in the randomized control group for purposes of calculating the effects of the program. Even more of the control group members attended high-performing public charter schools in their communities after losing the lottery. True, charter schools are “public” schools, but they are special kinds of public schools and should be described as such (at least in Oldspeak). In the Indiana study, the most rigorous program estimates come from an individual fixed-effects analysis, where the achievement gains of students while in the voucher program are compared to their achievement gains when not in the program. They are not compared to their peers but to themselves. The Ohio study matched EdChoice students with descriptively similar public school students at baseline and kept every student in their original group after that, regardless of who in either group actually attended private or public schools. These studies are rigorous precisely because they do not simply compare voucher students with “their peers in public school.”

• “Especially in math” means “almost exclusively in math.” The only lasting negative reading effect in this selective set of voucher studies comes from the Ohio study. The DC study, which is the focus of the commentary, only observes negative effects in math.

The report, from the Center for American Progress.

Civics: Bi-partisan concern that government is tracking U.S. citizens

Monmouth University (PDF):

A majority of the American public believe that the U.S. government engages in widespread monitoring of its own citizens and worry that the U.S. government could be invading their own privacy. The Monmouth University Poll also finds a large bipartisan majority who
feel that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a “Deep State” of unelected government officials. Americans of color on the center and left and NRA members on the right are among those most worried about the reach of government prying into average citizens’ lives.

Just over half of the public is either very worried (23%) or somewhat worried (30%) about the U.S. government monitoring their activities and invading their privacy. There are no significant partisan differences – 57% of independents, 51% of Republicans, and 50% of Democrats are at least somewhat worried the federal government is monitoring their activities. Another 24% of the American public are nottoo worried and 22% are not at all worried

Three Countries in 14 Minutes: School Choice Lessons From Abroad Vouchers, private schools, and open enrollment in France, Sweden, and New Zealand

Emily Richmond:

School choice is one of the most contentious issues in K-12 education today. But it’s hardly an American invention. Sarah Butrymowicz of The Hechinger Report recently traveled to New Zealand, Sweden, and France to look at how school choice plays out, and whether there are lessons for the U.S. system. Why is New Zealand considered a “school choice utopia,” and how is its open enrollment policy driving programming and competition among local campuses? Sweden’s “free schools” are similar to what U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has said she envisions in a voucher program — but is that contributing to the Scandinavian country’s steady slide on international assessments? And in France, a longstanding reliance on funneling public dollars to private schools offers insights into the challenge of providing equitable education to less-affluent families. Butrymowicz, an EWA Reporting Fellow, discusses the research on school choice programs abroad, as well as tips and questions for covering the issue stateside.

Milwaukee Public School students voice concerns about racial disparities in schools

Andy Devine:

A group of Milwaukee Public School students marched into Thursday night’s school board meeting demanding racial equity.

These students want to call attention to a report from the Department of Education that revealed racial disparities when it comes to discipline at Milwaukee public schools.

MPS junior Joya Headley led the march at the MPS administration building and says she’s witnessed what she calls discriminatory discipline first hand within MPS schools.

“I have seen many students get suspended for minor offenses like talking back or even security guards called to the classroom because a teacher can’t handle a situation in the classroom,” Headley said.

Utah governor signs law legalizing ‘free-range parenting’

Lindsay Whitehurst:

So-called free-range parenting will soon be the law of the land in Utah after the governor signed what appears to be the country’s first measure to formally legalize allowing kids to do things on their own to foster self-sufficiency.

The bill, which Gov. Gary Herbert announced Friday that he’d signed, specifies that it isn’t neglectful to let kids do things alone like travel to school, explore a playground or stay in the car. The law takes effect May 8.

Utah’s law is the first in the country, said Lenore Skenazy, who coined the term free-range parent. A records search by the National Conference of State Legislatures didn’t turn up any similar legislation in other states.

Utah lawmakers said they were prompted to pass the law after seeing other states where parents had been investigated and in some cases had their children temporarily removed when people reported seeing kids p

California’s quality of life is the worst in the country: Says who?

Karen D’Souza:

California dreamin’? Flying in the face of traditional wisdom that we live on the best coast comes a stinging new U.S. News & World Report study that says we have the worst quality of life in the nation.

The coveted Best States ranking is part of an annual study that scores all 50 states on eight categories — health care, education, economy, opportunity, infrastructure, crime and corrections, fiscal stability and the most important of all for most of us, quality of life.

Sadly, Californians are in the pits by this life-quality metric, with the Golden State taking last place at No. 50. North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and South Dakota all kicked our butt in that category, according to this study.

The Other Cambridge Personality Test Has Its Own Database With Millions of Facebook Profiles

Kashmir Hill:

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock on Mars, you’ve likely heard about a little scandal involving Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. Cambridge Analytica got its hands on millions of people’s Facebook likes in 2014 by getting an academic, Aleksander Kogan, to design an app with a personality test that hoovered up data from the 250,000 or so Facebook users that took it, as well as from their millions of friends. Cambridge Analytica supposedly used all those likes combined with the magic of big data to put Donald Trump in the White House.

Now that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced in response to this a plan to “investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014,” it’s a good time to look more closely at the project that inspired Kogan and Cambridge Analytica. This whole thing wasn’t their idea, after all; they copied it from the University of Cambridge, where Kogan had been a lecturer. The U.K. university’s psychometrics department had its own personality test which had been hoovering up Facebook users’ data since 2007, but, as the New York Times reported, and Kogan recently confirmed in an email, it refused to sell the dataset to the entity that became Cambridge Analytica (inspiring them to replicate the experiment).

Cutting ‘Old Heads’ at IBM

Peter Gosselin and Ariana Tobin:

In a little-noticed paper issued in 2006 by the London office of one of the company’s consulting arms, executives praised boomers’ experience, but described them as “gray hairs” and “old heads.” While recognizing that older workers were important to high-tech employers such as IBM, it concluded that “successor generations … are generally much more innovative and receptive to technology than baby boomers.”
The paper was subsequently cited in an age discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania. Before the complaint was settled last year, the plaintiffs alleged in a filing: “IBM’s Boomer employees — being labeled by IBM’s own research as uncollaborative, skeptical of leadership, technologically unsophisticated, less innovative and generally out of touch with IBM’s brand, customers and objectives — were shown the door in droves.”
By the time IBM’s current CEO, Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, took over in 2012, the company had shifted its personnel focus to millennials.
Rometty launched a major overhaul that aimed to make IBM a major player in the emerging technologies of cloud services, big data analytics, mobile, security and social media, or what came to be known inside as CAMS.
At the same time, she sought to sharply increase hiring of people born after 1980.

Welcome to the 2018 OSEP Symposia Series: IEP

OSEP Ideas that Work:

Welcome to the 2018 OSEP Symposia Series. This year, we are discussing the importance of individualized education programs (IEPs) and the important role that high-quality IEPs play in ensuring that each child with a disability can be successful. The three symposia are interconnected. First, we will lay the policy and research foundation to establish a common understanding and set of principles. Then, we will explore what high-quality IEPs mean in practice. Specifically, we will delve into what teachers and leaders need to develop and implement high-quality IEPs, and how we can support these needs. Finally, we will learn about how education agencies, families, and other stakeholders are working together to develop and implement high-quality IEPs.

The first symposium, scheduled for April 9, 2018, is titled High Expectations and Appropriate Supports: The Importance of IEPs. During this presentation you will hear from experts, including current OSEP grantees, on what we know about:

Fear of being seen as ‘racist’ may work against good behavior in Madison schools

Karen Rivedal:

A tendency by staff to let the small stuff slide — perhaps due to fears of appearing racist — is only contributing to bigger disciplinary problems down the line in Madison public high schools, Superintendent Jen Cheatham said.

As the Madison School District grapples with a rise in suspensions, fights and classroom disruption that officials say is caused disproportionately by minority students, this “failure to warn,” she said, can be the first step on a slippery slope of escalating bad behavior that ultimately harms misbehaving students as much as anyone else.

“We’ve got this issue of students being able to kind of get away with some of the small things and then all of a sudden they escalate into things that will result in suspendable behaviors,” Cheatham said. “I hear everyone (citing concerns about) the bigger behaviors, the students who desperately need our intervention. But we also have to figure out how to address the smaller behaviors.”


Gangs and school violence forum.

Madison spends more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

State and Local Income, Sales and Property Taxes All Hit Records in 2017

Terrence Jeffrey:

State and local governments collected a record $404,509,000,000 in individual income taxes in 2017, according to the Census Bureau. Before 2017, the greatest level of individual income tax revenues collected by state and local governments occurred in 2015, when those governments collected $399,933,270,000 in individual income taxes (in constant 2017 dollars converted using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator).

New Report Suggests the Black-White Mobility Gap Is All About the Neighborhood

Kevin Drum:

So what do the authors conclude?

The black-white gap is almost entirely among men. On a wide variety of measures—wages, college education, etc.—black and white women have similar levels of intergenerational mobility.

Among families with similar incomes, family characteristics such as marital status, education, and wealth explain very little of the black-white income gap.

The same is true for differences in ability.

The gap is mostly environmental:

Boys who grow up in certain neighborhoods—those with low poverty rates, low levels of racial bias among whites, and high rates of father presence among low-income blacks—show much smaller gaps. Black boys who move to such areas at younger ages have significantly better outcomes, demonstrating that racial disparities can be narrowed through changes in environment.

As a result of this research, the authors suggest that interventions aimed at improving the conditions of a single generation won’t be very effective. The same is true of policies that focus on reducing patterns of residential segregation. The key is achieving racial integration within neighborhoods:

Related: They’re all rich white kids and they’ll do just fine, not!

Madison’s long-term, disastrous reading results.

Scene at board meeting a sign of choppy times ahead for Milwaukee public schools

Alan Borsuk:

Private schools and charter schools that educate more than a third of the city’s children are showing general stability and, in notable cases, growth, even as they are having increased problems dealing positively with MPS.

Both the charter schools (publicly funded but operating outside of the conventional MPS system) and the private schools that participate in the publicly-funded voucher program have issues to deal with. But their ships are sailing forward.

How Congress Censored the Internet

Elliot Harmon:

In Passing SESTA/FOSTA, Lawmakers Failed to Separate Their Good Intentions from Bad Law

Today was a dark day for the Internet.

The U.S. Senate just voted 97-2 to pass the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865), a bill that silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users. As lobbyists and members of Congress applaud themselves for enacting a law tackling the problem of trafficking, let’s be clear: Congress just made trafficking victims less safe, not more.

The version of FOSTA that just passed the Senate combined an earlier version of FOSTA (what we call FOSTA 2.0) with the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693). The history of SESTA/FOSTA—a bad bill that turned into a worse bill and then was rushed through votes in both houses of Congress—is a story about Congress’ failure to see that its good intentions can result in bad law. It’s a story of Congress’ failure to listen to the constituents who’d be most affected by the laws it passed. It’s also the story of some players in the tech sector choosing to settle for compromises and half-wins that will put ordinary people in danger.

Facebook and Outrage

William Davies:

There is at least one certainty where Cambridge Analytica is concerned. If forty thousand people scattered across Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania had changed their minds about Donald Trump before 8 November 2016, and cast their votes instead for Hillary Clinton, this small London-based political consultancy would not now be the subject of breathless headlines and Downing Street statements. Cambridge Analytica could have harvested, breached, brain-washed and honey-trapped to their evil hearts’ content, but if Clinton had won, it wouldn’t be a story.

The villains of the piece would no doubt agree with this assessment, but not for very plausible reasons. The exposé conducted by Channel 4 News, with the support of the Observer and the New York Times, captured the now suspended CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, bragging to someone he believed was a potential client that he’d met Trump ‘many times’ and master-minded the entire Trump campaign strategy. Nix implies that those forty thousand votes were scientifically wrested from Hillary and delivered to Trump thanks to micro-targeted advertising and some especially persuasive messaging. ‘Our data informed all the strategy,’ Nix says, with the swagger of an estate agent reporting that demand for period features is red-hot right now.

Related: Obama, Facebook (& Google) and Trump.

Analysis: The National Education Association — A $1.6 Billion Enterprise with a Red Ink Problem

Mike Antonucci:

The National Education Association is a big business, with market advantages that are the envy of other big businesses. It has a jurisdictional agreement with its only potential rival, the American Federation of Teachers, which keeps competition for members at a bare minimum. It is exempt from antitrust laws, and in 22 states can compel payments from customers who never asked for its services.

Oh, and almost all of its income is tax-exempt.

That tax exemption does come with obligations, one of which is to file an annual financial disclosure report with the Internal Revenue Service detailing its income and expenditures. According to those filings, NEA and its state affiliates collected a combined $1.6 billion in revenue during the 2015-16 school year, an $8.4 million increase over the previous year.

More money would normally be good news for the union, but it comes with more problems. As revenues have increased, NEA and its affiliates have promised its own employees more and better benefits. Now those future obligations are devouring an increasingly larger share of their current revenue.

My daughter’s disabled. Please don’t look away from her

Daniel Willingham:

I’m the father of a child who has a rare chromosomal disorder, trisomy-18. It affects about one in 5,000 births and leaves children with profound mental and physical disabilities. Life expectancy is harrowingly brief; some 90% of affected infants don’t see their first birthday.

There are many reasons why it’s important for people to know about this syndrome — to encourage more research, advance better policies for families coping with it, to “raise awareness.” But when I consider my daughter Esprit, I’m interested in a specific kind of awareness, the kind that helps people feel comfortable interacting with her. Medical details and statistics don’t put anyone at ease around a severely disabled child. But a parent’s perspective might.

Chances are, you and your children will encounter Esprit or a child who is similarly disabled at a store, or in a park. Your child will be struck by Esprit’s appearance. Typical for trisomy-18 kids, her head is small, her eyelids droop and her ears are low-set. Add the wheelchair and the braces on her feet and midsection, and you’ve got quite a sight. Older children pointedly refrain from staring (usually with a furtive peek or two), but younger children gape uninhibitedly. Embarrassed parents will try to distract their child, or drag him away, probably delivering a “don’t stare” lecture once out of sight. But you can’t blame a 4-year-old for staring at a child who looks different. His curiosity is natural.

Big-Time College Basketball in the Cross Hairs

Andrew Zimbalist:

The FBI has been investigating a subterranean recruiting scandal in college basketball for the past two years. The most successful teams in the country are in the agency’s cross hairs, and Mark Emmert, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, is shocked that there is gambling in his establishment.

Mr. Emmert says that if the claims of underground recruiting networks and impermissible benefits to athletes are true, he will initiate systemic change. The NCAA is, he says, wedded to the principle of amateurism. Say what?

More than any other organization, the NCAA has confused and obfuscated the meaning of amateurism. In its early years, the NCAA, which was founded in 1906, averred that amateurism in college sports meant athletes could get no remuneration or material benefit from playing.

The University of Denial: “Aggressive Suppression of Truth”

Amy Wax:

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away,” observed― Philip K. Dick in “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon.”

Somewhere deep in a file drawer, or on a computer server humming away in a basement, are thousands upon thousands of numbers, with names and identities attached. They’re called grades. They represent an objective reality, which exists independent of what people want reality to be. They sit silently, completely indifferent to indignation, angry petitions, irritable gestures, teachers’ removal from classrooms – all the furor and clamor of institutional politics

Related: A ‘Dubious Expediency’: How Race-Preferential Admissions Policies on Campus Hurt Minority Students :

Mounting empirical research shows that race-preferential admissions policies are doing more harm than good. Instead of increasing the numbers of African Americans entering high-status careers, these policies reduce those numbers relative to what we would have had if colleges and universities had followed race-neutral policies. We have fewer African-American scientists, physicians, and engineers and likely fewer lawyers and college professors. If, as the evidence indicates, the effects of race-preferential admissions policies are exactly the opposite of what was originally intended, it is difficult to understand why anyone would wish to support them.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Behaving Like They Are Above the Rule of Law

Cori O’Connor Petersen and Libby Sobic:

This is shocking and should send chills down the spines of state lawmakers in Madison. Republicans in Madison have worked tirelessly to roll back the administrative state. Yet, as DPI indicates, at least one state agency is finding a way to work around state law by relying on federal law. This raises significant federalism concerns.

If the education agency can get away with reporting to the federal government, what will prevent other agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources or the Department of Transportation from circumventing Wisconsin state law?

The Wisconsin agency also overstepped the rulemaking process in other ways. The guidelines for promulgating a rule require the agency to compare its rule to similar ones in its four neighboring states. Instead, DPI simply provided a paragraph explaining state requirements to comply with federal law.

A plain language analysis of what the rule-change means is another requirement. Presumably, this requirement is meant to provide curious legislators and voters with an understanding of the rule, and the tasks their tax dollars go to support. But in place of the analysis, DPI only provides a one-sentence explanation on the changes to the current administrative rule.

DPI is the agency responsible for overseeing K-12 education in Wisconsin. Everything from educator licensing to school lunches and programs such as English learners and school choice are in the agency’s wheelhouse. The agency holds vast responsibility and in a democratic government, responsibility must come with checks and balances, which the rule-making process is designed to ensure.

So why does DPI think it can exercise this authority? Perhaps it’s that DPI is directed by a state superintendent who is elected every four years in an off election year in the spring. And this has produced superintendents, such as Tony Evers, who has a track record of being hostile to education reform and the rule of law. All other agencies are led by governor-appointed officials. But a difference in agency leadership doesn’t excuse DPI from the rule-making process to which other agencies adhere very closely. Like other agencies, DPI is subject to laws passed by the state legislature.

Will Fitzhugh: Common Core, Close Reading, and the Death of History in the Schools

Diane Ravitch:

He writes:

A few years ago, at a conference in Boston, David Steiner, then Commissioner of Education for New York State, said, about History: “It is so politically toxic that no one wants to touch it.”

Since then, David Coleman, of the Common Core and the College Board, have decided that any historical topic, for instance the Gettysburg Address, should be taught in the absence of any historical context—about the Civil War, President Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg—or anything else. This fits well with the “Close Reading” teachings of the “New Criticism” approach to literature in which Coleman received his academic training. This doctrine insists that any knowledge about the author or the historical context should be avoided in the analytic study of “texts.”

The Common Core, thanks to Coleman, has promoted the message that History, too, is nothing but a collection of “texts,” and it all should be studied as just language, not as knowledge dependent on the context in which it is embedded.

Not only does this promote ignorance, it also encourages schools to form Humanities Departments, in which English teachers, who may or may not know any History, are assigned to teach History as “text.” This is already happening in a few Massachusetts high schools, and may be found elsewhere in the country.

Reading Comprehension Depends on Content Knowledge


Michael C. Zwaagstra March 13, 2018

Walk into an elementary school classroom and you will probably see a lot of books on the shelf. Take a closer look and you will often find a coloured dot, a number, or a letter on each book’s spine. Those dots, numbers, and letters show the reading level of each book.

Books are assigned these levels so students choose books that will challenge them without being too difficult for them. Instead of having the entire class read the same book, students pick books from their designated reading levels. Levelled libraries make it possible for students to find the best books to read. At least that is the theory, but the reality may be somewhat different.

In order for students to read a text effectively they must be able to do two things—decode the individual words and comprehend the sentences and paragraphs. Too often we focus on how students decode words (the ongoing phonics vs. whole language debate), but in that debate we neglect the importance of reading comprehension. A student may be able to “read” every word on a page and yet not understand what the text actually means.

I used to be an elementary school teacher so I remember doing running records with my students to assess their reading levels. However, it didn’t take long before I noticed that my students performed much better on the comprehension questions after reading an article about a sports game than after reading an article about Dr. Norman Bethune, the Canadian medical doctor who went to China in the early twentieth century, even though both articles were officially at the same reading level. The question is “Why?”

The problem with reading levels is they focus on quantitative factors such as word complexity and sentence length but fail to account for the important connection between specific content knowledge and reading comprehension. A student may be able to decode every single word in an article about Dr. Norman Bethune, but still be clueless about the article’s meaning since they know virtually nothing about Communism, the Second Sino-Japanese War, or blood transfusions.

In contrast, most students will breeze through an article about a hockey game because they already know how the game works. They have no difficulty understanding phrases like “high-sticking,” “pulling the goalie,” and “killing a penalty.” However, imagine how hard it would be for someone who had never heard of ice hockey before to understand an article that used these phrases. Prior knowledge about this Canadian game is actually more important to reading comprehension than the length and complexity of the words and sentences in the article.

Thus, it is clear that reading levels by themselves do a very poor job of matching students with the proper books to read. In fact, that was the finding of a recent peer-reviewed research study that appeared in the April 2018 edition of Reading and Writing. In this study, James W. Cunningham, Elfrieda H. Hiebert, and Heidi Anne Mesmer examined two of the most widely used reading level classification systems, the Lexile Framework and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade-Level Formula.

Both of these systems have the aura of precision because it is relatively easy to calculate the average number of syllables in words, mean sentence length, and word frequencies. However, precision does not guarantee validity, particularly when it comes to reading comprehension. Cunningham, Hiebert, and Mesmer, in fact, found that “these two text tools may lack adequate validity for their current uses in educational settings.”

By placing reading level stickers on their classroom library books, teachers may be inadvertently preventing students from reading the books that would benefit them the most. Students who know a lot about a particular topic can read almost any book about it, no matter its assigned reading level. Conversely, students who know little about a topic will struggle with books at even the simplest reading levels.

This means that schools must place a much stronger emphasis on the acquisition of subject-specific content knowledge, particularly in the early grades when students are building up their general knowledge base. Instead of spending hours working on generic reading comprehension “strategies”, students should learn as many facts as possible about science, history, and the world we live in today. Time spent classifying books into reading levels would be much better spent building up the students’ background knowledge.

The more knowledge students acquire, the more they will be able to learn in the future. This is how we can help our students become stronger readers and gain a better understanding of the world in which we live.

Will Fitzhugh: Common Core, Close Reading, and the Death of History in the Schools

Will Fitzhugh is founder and editor of The Concord Review, which publishes outstanding historical essays by high school students. I have long been an admirer of the publication and of Will for sustaining it without support from any major foundations, which are too engaged in reinventing the schools rather than supporting the work of excellent history students and teachers. You can subscribe by contacting him at

He writes:

A few years ago, at a conference in Boston, David Steiner, then Commissioner of Education for New York State, said, about History: “It is so politically toxic that no one wants to touch it.”

Since then, David Coleman, of the Common Core and the College Board, have decided that any historical topic, for instance the Gettysburg Address, should be taught in the absence of any historical context—about the Civil War, President Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg—or anything else. This fits well with the “Close Reading” teachings of the “New Criticism” approach to literature in which Coleman received his academic training. This doctrine insists that any knowledge about the author or the historical context should be avoided in the analytic study of “texts.”

The Common Core, thanks to Coleman, has promoted the message that History, too, is nothing but a collection of “texts,” and it all should be studied as just language, not as knowledge dependent on the context in which it is embedded.

Not only does this promote ignorance, it also encourages schools to form Humanities Departments, in which English teachers, who may or may not know any History, are assigned to teach History as “text.” This is already happening in a few Massachusetts high schools, and may be found elsewhere in the country.

The dominance of English teachers over reading and writing in our schools has long meant that the great majority of our high school graduates have never been asked to read one complete History book in their academic careers.

Good English teachers do a fine job of teaching novels and personal and creative writing, but it is a Common Core mistake to expect them to teach the History in which they have little or no academic background. Treating History as contextless “text” is not a solution to this problem.

The ignorance of History among our high school graduates is a standing joke to those who think it is funny, and NAEP has found that only about 18% know enough to pass the U.S. citizenship exam.

In The Knowledge Deficit, E.D. Hirsch writes that: “In a 1785 letter to his nephew, Peter Carr, aged fifteen, Jefferson recommended that he read books (in the original languages and in this order) by the following authors in History: Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon [Anabasis], Arian, Quintus Curtius, Diodorus Siculus, and Justin.”

We may no longer imagine that many of our high school students will read their History in Latin, but we should expect that somehow they may be liberated from the deeply irresponsible Common Core curriculum that, in restricting the study of the past to the literary analysis of “texts,” essentially removes as much actual History from our schools as it possibly can.

Via Will Fitzhugh.

History is taught as texts without context

Joanne Jacobs:

Who’s that man? Why is the crowd gathered? Teachers aren’t supposed to say.

Studying texts, without context, is no way to learn history, writes Will Fitzhugh on Diane Ravitch’s blog. But it’s the Common Core way.

A notorious lesson called for teaching the Gettysburg Address without discussing the Civil War. Teachers were told:

Refrain from giving background context or substantial instructional guidance at the outset. It may make sense to notify students that the short text is thought to be difficult and they are not expected to understand it fully on a first reading—that they can expect to struggle. Some students may be frustrated, but all students need practice in doing their best to stay with something they do not initially understand. This close reading approach forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all students as they seek to comprehend Lincoln’s address.

Fitzhugh created The Concord Review, which publishes historical essays by high school students. Increasingly, he sees history being taught as a literacy exercise, often by English teachers who don’t know much history.

Sandra Stotsky recently spoke to California English teachers, who were frustrated by the Common Core requirement to teach historical documents. They didn’t think they had the background to do it well. Meanwhile, history teachers are asked to teach informational texts that aren’t historical, writes Stotsky.

In the comments, Bill Honig, former superintendent of public instruction in California, praises the state’s history framework.

Another commenter, “Ponderosa,” disagrees, calling the framework “an indigestible mishmash of high-falutin’ gobbledygook” that “most teachers probably ignore.”

From the county-sponsored training workshop I’ve been to, it seems the dominant interpretation is have kids do “inquiry.” What this boils down to is: sage off the stage. Give kids a question and have them try to answer it using texts you give them. Gaining historical knowledge is not the object. The aim is to have kids “grapple” (this word was used over and over) with the text. The aim is to have kids talk to each other (the presenter called student talk “sacred”). Somehow all this grappling and talking is supposed to be beneficial, and of course there is probably some benefit. But I can tell you that if the aim is to get kids to learn history, this is not the best approach. Nothing beats lucid direct instruction for that. I guarantee you that this approach will LOWER the already low level of historical literacy among our students.

I remember learning in Sunday school that the Israelites were forced by Pharoah to make bricks, but not given straw. You need straw to hold the bricks together. Our text-grappling students, unprivileged by background knowledge, are going to have trouble building anything with those soggy lumps of clay.

Via Will Fitzhugh.

Toys R Us’s baby problem is everybody’s baby problem

Andrew Van Dam:

The decrease of birthrates in countries where we operate could negatively affect our business. Most of our end-customers are newborns and children and, as a result, our revenue are dependent on the birthrates in countries where we operate. In recent years, many countries’ birthrates have dropped or stagnated as their population ages, and education and income levels increase. A continued and significant decline in the number of newborns and children in these countries could have a material adverse effect on our operating results.

It may not have been the biggest existential threat confronting Geoffrey the Giraffe (the store’s mascot), but it’s the one with the broadest implications outside of the worlds of toys and malls.

Measured as a share of overall population, U.S. births have fallen steadily since the Great Recession. They hit their lowest point on record in 2016 — the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has comparable data.

Even adjusted for the aging population and declining share of women of childbearing age, U.S. fertility rates are at all-time lows.

That’s problematic for Toys R Us, which also operates the Babies R Us stores. The company claims in its annual report that its income is linked to birthrates, and it appears to be right.

Western Wisconsin Educators Divided On Impact Of Teacher Licensing Changes

John Davis:

Some educators in western Wisconsin aren’t completely sold yet on changes to the state’s teacher licensing, implemented in part to address a shortage of teachers.

But one rural school superintendent said the new system should work if schools maintain control over personnel decisions.

Whitehall School Superintendent Mike Beighley said he generally supports the licensing changes because of the flexibility they could provide to rural school districts.

“I can think of a small handful of folks I’ve interacted with in the past few years that don’t have education backgrounds, but they would make wonderful educators based on their knowledge, compassion, ability to learn and willingness to engage,” he said. “I can think of some folks who’ve been through teacher training programs that don’t have those skills, but (they’ve) met the requirements.”

Which states are on a hot streak coming into the 2017 NAEP release?

Michael J. Petrilli:

Since 2002, federal law has conditioned Title I funding on states’ participation in the biannual administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in math and reading in grades four and eight. This is a boon to us policy wonks because we can study the progress (or lack thereof) of individual states and use sophisticated research methodologies to relate score changes to differences in education policies or practices. That’s the approach that allowed Tom Dee and Brian Jacob, for example, to inform us that NCLB-style accountability likely boosted math achievement in the 2000s.

Over the years, NAEP has also made stars out of leading states and their governors or education leaders, and has galvanized reformers to try to learn from their successes. It started with North Carolina and Texas, which saw stratospheric increases in the 1990s, especially in math, and across all racial groups. Then it was Jeb Bush’s moment in the sun, as Florida’s scores climbed quickly from the late-1990s through the 2000s, with particular progress for black and Hispanic youngsters. Delaware, Minnesota, and even New York have also produced some big improvements at various times. And let us not forget the Massachusetts Miracle.

Civics: The Last Days of Jerry Brown

Andy Kroll:

One of Brown’s favorite sayings is Age quod agis, a Latin phrase he learned while training to be a Jesuit priest. It means: Do what you’re doing. Don’t traffic in nostalgia. Don’t fantasize about what’s next. For a man who has heeded these rules, it is striking how much he has devoted his last days to leaving his mark on California. He, of course, wouldn’t put it that way.

“I’ve probably thought more about this than almost anybody you’ve ever met,” Brown tells me. We’re back to talking about legacy. “It’s a term that journalists use because you can’t say you’re doing this to do good — that sounds too Pollyanna-ish. You can’t say you’re doing it because you’re going to enrich your friends, because that would sound illegal. You can’t say you derive pleasure from it, because that wouldn’t fit the norms of our political culture.” Legacy, to him, is simple. “It’s a way to make people feel they’re a little more important than they are and their life is not as empty as it actually is.”

In his first stretch as governor, Brown’s unorthodox approach was viewed less charitably. He was erratic and undisciplined, enthralled with the maxim (coined by the British thinker Gregory Bateson) that the new comes from the random. He kept strange hours, staying up until 3 a.m., and stranger company. His aide-de-camp was Jacques Barzaghi, a French filmmaker who famously said of Brown’s 1992 presidential run: “We are not disorganized. Our campaign transcends understanding.”
Brown preached the virtues of “creative inaction” and would put off decisions until the last moment. Or he would fixate on issues of small importance and leave larger ones to fester. Tony Kline, who served as Brown’s legal affairs secretary in those days, tells the story of a bill landing on Brown’s desk that would ban the sale of meat from a certain species of Caribbean turtle. Kline, who remains good friends with the governor, says Brown spent half a day immersed, researching turtle meat, while other bills went untouched. “It would drive us a little crazy,” Kline says.

After a decade and a half away from elected office, Brown ran for Oakland mayor in 1998 and won. It was here that friends say his political education began in earnest. He spent the next eight years learning firsthand what it was government did. He read the police reports, spoke at funerals, and wrestled with Oakland’s underperforming public schools, later opening two charter schools of his own. “He’d say that as the governor, you’re flying at 35,000 feet,” Gil Durán, Brown’s former press secretary, says, “but as mayor, you’re right in the street.”

At his final state budget press conference, Brown told a room full of reporters: “The next governor is going to be on the cliff. What’s out there is darkness, uncertainty, decline, and recession.”

Held back: How Wisconsin School of Business donors stalled efforts to revamp its programming

Pat Schneider:

News that faculty at the school had given preliminary endorsement to such a plan spread.

“The word was out there, and it went far,” said Stabio, a first-year MBA student from Texas. The Wall Street Journal wrote about it next day.

Speculation about the future of the two-year MBA at Wisconsin spawned news stories and social media posts, leading to anger and angst among donors, alumni and students. Business school officials struggled to gain control of the story on the eve of Oct. 20 homecoming festivities. Scheduled events included a reception for the school’s most prestigious benefactors.

Duke’s Felipe De Brigard examines false memories, or why we’re so sure of things we’re wrong about

Eric Ferreri:

You mean, what you want to be true?

Not necessarily. You almost never have control over the process of filling up or reconstructing your memories. Unbeknownst to you, the process operates probabilistically. Given your past experiences and knowledge, your memory system gives you the most likely thing that could have happened to help you fill any gaps at the time of retrieval. Most of the time the final product coincides with what actually happened, so it is true. But sometimes it does not, in which case we talk about false memories. I think most of our memories are reconstructed in this way, and many of them are false, we just don’t notice.

All of this made me think that when we imagine things, we also imagine how things could have occurred in the past. Say you were crossing the street and almost got hit by a car. You can’t help but imagine what would have happened if you did get hit by the car. We just slip into that kind of imagination.

Civics: At Trial of Omar Mateen’s Wife, Judge’s Questioning Reveals a Huge Hole in Prosecution’s Case and Deceit by Prosecutors

Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussein:

So it’s far from clear that no matter how much the prosecutor’s case falls apart, Salman will be acquitted. But whatever the ultimate verdict is, it is now clear that the Justice Department knew that one of its primary claims against Salman was utterly false and yet concealed that discovery from everyone – not just the public but also Salman’s lawyers and the judge, who cited that false evidence to justify keeping Salman imprisoned for the last year without any possibility of bail.

Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica problems are nothing compared to what’s coming for all of online publishing

doc searls:

Giant Irony Alert: the same is true for the Times, along with every other publication that lives off adtech: surveillance-based advertising. These pubs don’t just open the kimonos of their readers. They treat them as naked beings whose necks are bared to vampires ravenous for the blood of personal data, all ostensibly so those persons can be served with “interest-based” advertising.
 With no control by readers (beyond tracking protection which relatively few know how to use), and damn little care or control by the publishers who bare those readers’ necks to the vampires, who knows what the hell actually happens to the data? No one entity, that’s for sure.
 For one among many views of what’s going on, here’s a screen shot of what RedMorph, a privacy monitoring and protection extention in Chrome showed going on behind Zeynep’s op-ed in the Times:

Women and Math

Rafia Zakaria:

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

THE drill is well known: every time the results of some sort of worldwide survey are released, women in the Muslim world are towards the bottom. Afghan women usually occupy the lowest rungs of political participation, women in Somalia and Sudan have the lowest access to healthcare facilities, women in Iraq and Syria are forced into marriages at astoundingly young ages, and Pakistani women along with Egyptian women experience high levels of domestic violence and general misogyny.

Years of these sorts of surveys, products of complexities reduced to variables and relationship to regression, have taught those who read them to approach with caution, a degree of warranted criticism, a degree of preparedness for the disappointments to follow.

It was a pleasant surprise, therefore, to encounter a study that upended all others. In her book titled Fifty Million Rising, social scientist Saadia Zahidi found that women in many Muslim countries have a higher number of graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) fields than their counterparts in other nations. The percentages are impressive: in Iran, 70 per cent of university graduates in STEM fields are women; in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, 60pc of graduates are women, and over 40pc of science graduates in Algeria are women. According to Zahidi, the reason for the advance is that many of these Muslim countries have invested heavily in improving women’s access and education in these fields.

It’s not that they do not encounter gender stereotypes or the sort of constraints that come from being a woman in conservative and male-dominated societies, it is that women are genuinely ambitious and want to excel. In some countries, like the UAE and Jordan, girls actually expressed greater confidence in their math skills than boys at the same age and grade level. In contrast to these percentages, only 18pc of all computer science degrees at American universities are awarded to women. At the high school level, only 27pc of those who sit for the Advanced Placement Computer Science Exam are female.

Women in many Muslim countries have a higher number of graduates in STEM fields than their counterparts in other nations.

Students’ visit to gun range ‘none of your damn business,’ parents say

Steve Strunsky:

Angered by word of the disciplining of two Lacey High School students for a gun-related social media post, 200 parents, community members and other supporters of the Second Amendment on Monday let the Board of Education know they don’t want the district trampling on their rights or meddling in their home lives.

“You guys are reaching into our private life, the private life of our children,” said one parent, Lewis Fiordimondo, who has twins in pre-kindergarten and a daughter at the high school. “It’s not your place. It’s not the school’s place.”

Another dad, Frank Horvath, whose son is a senior at Lacey High, put things in blunter terms.

“It’s none of your damn business what our children do outside of school,” Horvath told the seven board members toward the end of a four-hour meeting, most of it occupied by speaker after speaker venting anger and frustration at school officials largely unable to respond due to confidentiality rules.

“Peak Civilization”: The Fall of the Roman Empire

Ugo Bardi:

In ancient societies that I studied, for example the Roman Empire, the great problem that they faced was when they would have to incur very high costs just to maintain the status quo. Invest very high amounts in solving problems that don’t yield a net positive return, but instead simply allowed them to maintain what they already got. This decreases the net benefit of being a complex society.

My Cow Game Extracted Your Facebook Data

Ian Bogost:

And yet, if you played Cow Clicker, even just once, I got enough of your personal data that, for years, I could have assembled a reasonably sophisticated profile of your interests and behavior. I might still be able to; all the data is still there, stored on my private server, where Cow Clicker is still running, allowing players to keep clicking where a cow once stood, before my caprice raptured them into the digital void.

Much more, here.

Why Equitable Maps Are More Accurate and Humane

Sarah Holder:

“For most of human history, maps have been very exclusive,” said Marie Price, the first woman president of the American Geographical Society, appointed 165 years into its 167-year history. “Only a few people got to make maps, and they were carefully guarded, and they were not participatory.” That’s slowly changing, she said, thanks to democratizing projects like OpenStreetMap (OSM).

OSM is the self-proclaimed Wikipedia of maps: It’s a free and open-source sketch of the globe, created by a volunteer pool that essentially crowd-sources the map, tracing parts of the world that haven’t yet been logged. Armed with satellite images, GPS coordinates, local community insights and map “tasks,” volunteer cartographers identify roads, paths, and buildings in remote areas and their own backyards. Then, experienced editors verify each element. Chances are, you use an OSM-sourced map every day without realizing it: Foursquare, Craigslist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Uber all use it in their direction services.

When commercial companies like Google decide to map the not-yet-mapped, they use “The Starbucks Test,” as OSMers like to call it. If you’re within a certain radius of a chain coffee shop, Google will invest in maps to make it easy to find. Everywhere else, especially in the developing world, other virtual cartographers have to fill in the gaps.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: How the Cook County Assessor Failed Taxpayers

Jason Grotto and Sandhya Kambhampati:

Amid the most tumultuous real estate market since the Great Depression, Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios produced valuations for thousands of commercial and industrial properties in Chicago that did not change from one reassessment to the next, not even by a single dollar.

That fact, one finding in an unprecedented ProPublica Illinois-Chicago Tribune analysis of tens of thousands of property records, points to a conclusion that experts say defies any logical explanation except one:

Berrios failed at one of his most important responsibilities — estimating the value of commercial and industrial properties.

What’s more, a separate analysis reveals commercial and industrial property assessments throughout Cook County were so riddled with errors that they created deep inequities, punishing small businesses while cutting a break to owners of high-value properties and helping fuel a cottage industry of politically powerful tax attorneys.

And because commercial and industrial properties as a group were not assessed properly, residential homeowners across the county were forced to carry an additional and unnecessary burden, paying more in property taxes than they would have otherwise.

State law says the assessor must revalue property every three years. Yet Berrios, using methods hidden from the public, repeatedly produced initial valuations of commercial and industrial properties — known as first-pass values — that did not change.

Chinese Companies Are Buying Up Cash-Strapped U.S. Colleges


Chinese companies are taking advantage of America’s financially strapped higher-education system to buy schools, and the latest deal for a classical music conservatory in Princeton, New Jersey, is striking chords of dissonance on campus.

Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co. agreed in February to pay $40 million for Westminster Choir College, an affiliate of Rider University that trains students for careers as singers, conductors and music teachers. The announcement came just weeks after the government-controlled Chinese company changed its name from Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Co.

The pending purchase rankles some Westminster faculty and alumni, who question what a longtime maker of steel spans knows about running an elite school whose choirs sang with maestros Leonard Bernstein, Arturo Toscanini and Seiji Ozawa. Alumni are among those suing in New York federal court to block the sale, saying it violates Westminster’s 1991 merger agreement with Rider and will trigger the choir college’s demise.

“There’s a lot of fear among people associated with the college,” said Chris Bonanni, 20, an undergraduate student.

Democrats can’t expand opportunity without reducing inequality

Elizabeth Bruenig:

But, speaking as a member of the “Bernie Sanders wing,” I don’t actually view the two focal points — opportunity and inequality — as fully separable. The impact of inequality on the overall economy and political climate means that, unless inequality itself is reduced, individual initiative won’t have much impact and conditions for ordinary people in America will continue, in key ways, to worsen.

Sanders himself agrees. “You have an economic situation where a tiny number of people have enormous amounts of wealth,” Sanders told me at his Senate office Wednesday morning, “and politically, you have the Koch brothers and a handful of billionaires buying elections.” Sanders pointed out that the top 1 percent of earners would rake in roughly 83 percent of the benefits of President Trump’s tax cuts, a series of policies for which Koch-led groups spent more than $20 million. As Yale University political scientist Jacob Hacker pointed out in The Post, the decision to supply a generous tax cut to the rich — greatly encouraged by the vast wealth of billionaire donors — is a de facto decision to reduce expenditures that help ordinary Americans, “like public investments in infrastructure, education, research and development, and the regulation of labor and financial markets.” Put simply, inequality allows the wealthiest Americans to exert undue control over politics, thereby maintaining the conditions that made them rich in the first place, and hamstringing government efforts that could increase opportunities for the rest of us.

Are school systems ready to shrink? Why Outer Suburbs in the East and Midwest Have Stopped Booming

Robert Gebeloff:

Hunterdon County, N.J., is rich. It ranks sixth nationally among counties in median household income, and has for decades exemplified the American outer-ring suburb.

But in one crucial measure, this exurban enclave 60 miles west of Manhattan resembles old mill communities in northern New England or impoverished regions of Appalachia. The measure is death as compared to birth, otherwise known by demographers as “natural increase.” In this case, it’s negative.

Hunterdon County residents gave birth to 3,590 babies between 2013 and 2016. But even more residents — 3,647 — died. Go back to a four-year period two decades earlier: 5,882 births, 2,947 deaths.

Can money attract more minorities into the teaching profession?

Michael Hansen :

Many education policymakers and practitioners across the country recognize the need to recruit and retain more racial and ethnic minorities into the teaching profession. As we’ve previously discussed in our ongoing teacher diversity series, there is credible evidence that minority teachers can boost a range of minority student outcomes, yet minorities are underrepresented among the population of public school teachers.

In light of the scarcity of minority teachers, many states and districts have begun trying ways to somehow bring more minorities into the classroom. To our knowledge, most of these methods have taken the form of targeted outreach, whether to minority communities or teacher preparation programs in universities serving high concentrations of minority students. Though it may be too soon to know whether these different strategies ultimately pan out, we ask if another type of strategy might be effective. That is, could financial incentives help diversify the teacher workforce?

In this installment, we use school- and district-level data from the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) to examine this question.[1] We explore whether districts that offer different types of financial incentives to teachers tend to have greater diversity among teachers within their schools. Based on our analysis, we see a strong association between workforce diversity and four incentive policies that may be particularly attractive for minority teachers. Though we cannot say whether these relationships are causal, the results suggest these policies are worth exploring as strategies for diversifying the teacher workforce.

Pioneers of Modern Computer Architecture Receive ACM A.M. Turing Award


ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, today named John L. Hennessy, former President of Stanford University, and David A. Patterson, retired Professor of the University of California, Berkeley, recipients of the 2017 ACM A.M. Turing Award for pioneering a systematic, quantitative approach to the design and evaluation of computer architectures with enduring impact on the microprocessor industry. Hennessy and Patterson created a systematic and quantitative approach to designing faster, lower power, and reduced instruction set computer (RISC) microprocessors. Their approach led to lasting and repeatable principles that generations of architects have used for many projects in academia and industry. Today, 99% of the more than 16 billion microprocessors produced annually are RISC processors, and are found in nearly all smartphones, tablets, and the billions of embedded devices that comprise the Internet of Things (IoT).

Hennessy and Patterson codified their insights in a very influential book, Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, now in its sixth edition, reaching generations of engineers and scientists who have adopted and further developed their ideas. Their work underpins our ability to model and analyze the architectures of new processors, greatly accelerating advances in microprocessor design.

The ACM Turing Award, often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Computing,” carries a $1 million prize, with financial support provided by Google, Inc. It is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing. Hennessy and Patterson will formally receive the 2017 ACM A.M. Turing Award at the ACM’s annual awards banquet on Saturday, June 23, 2018 in San Francisco, California.

Where is the money going? Frustrated Teacher…. (her district spends about 50% of Madison’s $20k/student)

Jay Greene::

A 7-year veteran teacher teaching in Arizona’s Paradise Valley Unified School District has created a social media firestorm by posting her pay stub on social media- $35,621. Before writing anything else, I like anyone else want to pay dedicated teachers much better than this. Teacher compensation decisions however are made at the district/campus level, and an examination of PVUSD finances just makes things look worse. Much worse.

The Arizona Auditor General reports on district finances. Paradise Valley received total revenue of $10,143 per pupil in 2017. This figure is above the state-wide average. A class of 30 students produces over $300,000 in revenue. Even with benefit costs included, teacher compensation will not even sniff 20% of the revenue generated by this class of 30. Where did the rest of the money go?

Madison has long spent more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

This, despite long standing, disastrous reading results.

Student Planning Abortion Protest After School Shooting Walkout

Lemor Abrams:

This week, Rocklin High School students are using social media to organize a pro-life walkout using the hashtag #life.

“To honor all the lives of aborted babies pretty much. All the millions of aborted babies every year,” said organizer Brandon Gillespie.

He says his history teacher inspired the idea.

As thousands of students across the country walked out of class demanding strict gun laws, in honor of the Parkland shooting victims, Benzel was placed on paid administrative leave when she asked students to consider whether there’s a double standard in the national school walkout.

“I would like a conversation about when is too much? And are we going allow this on the other side?” said Julianne Benzel

Global abortion data ( | Pew)

Gloria Reyes is the right choice for Madison School Board

The Capital Times:

So where do we see a difference? One area is safety. Both candidates stress the need for school safety, but we give the nod here to Reyes, the former police officer, who brings experience and insight to discussions of preventing violence in our schools.

We are also impressed with the life experience that Reyes would bring to the board. Reyes has faced barriers and overcome them. She says she’s running to give back to a community that never gave up on her, and we’re impressed with her passion in this regard.

Finally, as a Latina and the mother of biracial children, Reyes would bring another voice of diversity to a school board that serves a district with a large number of minority students. Reyes believes that the entire community must be involved in making our schools successful for all students, and points out that it is natural for her to reach out to minority members in our community because of her background and experience. That’s a vital recommendation for a board that must always strive to represent of the whole of the population it serves. We endorse Gloria Reyes for the School Board on April 3.

Madison Schools Project 4.58% 2018-2019 Property Tax Levy Increase

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

Budget Design Parameters:

Enrollment – slight decrease

Level total staffing (budget neutral)

Narrowing priority actions

Compensation options – first phase

Tax levy updated with 2x charter estimate built in

Using less than full levy authority ($5MM of $8MM) to manage the tax levy increase, preserve state aid eligibility, and maintain budget flexibility for 2019-20

Better Off Than Their Parents: Why Russia’s Youth Are Backing Putin

James Marson in Chelyabinsk and Thomas Grove:

Russia’s young adults are mostly disengaged from politics, broadly supportive of Mr. Putin and primarily focused on their own lives. They are largely satisfied with their lot and aware that they are living better than their parents.

“No one’s bothering me, no one is confiscating my apartment, my bread, so everything’s fine,” said Mr. Ivlev, who lives in the industrial city of Chelyabinsk east of the Ural mountains. “Politics doesn’t interest me.”

Civics: Have We Kept Madison’s Republic?

Sarah Turberville:

Over 200 years ago, our Founding Fathers faced a question: How could they build a democracy to withstand the trials of time and survive the pressures that destroyed those that came before?

Ultimately, the reasoned voice of James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” prevailed. So how is our republic holding up? Would Madison recognize our elected representatives as the guardians against factional governance that he had imagined? The short answer is no.

Madison advocated for a country led by representatives whose “wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country,” and whose “patriotism and love of justice” would moderate the passions and whims of the public. Elected representatives should be above the influence of “factions” — special interests and rival parties — whose interests are often adverse to the common good.

The Verdict Is In: AI Outperforms Human Lawyers in Reviewing Legal Documents

Kyree Leary:

It’s hard to ignore the ways artificial intelligence (AI) has already bested humans, from making incredibly convincing internet videos to beating humanity’s best Go players. AI is expected to outpace humans in a number of occupations; some of which might be a little unexpected.

A new study released this week from LawGeex, a leading AI contract review platform, has revealed a new area in which AI outperforms us: Law. Specifically, reviewing Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and accurately spotting risks within the legal documentation.

For the study, 20 human attorneys were pitted against LawGeex’s AI in reviewing 5 NDAs. The controlled conditions of the study were designed to resemble how lawyers would typically review and approve everyday contracts.

The Wizard and the Prophet: On Steven Pinker and Yuval Noah Harari written

John Faithful Hamer:

Prophet (2018), Charles C. Mann maintains that intellectual life in the 21st century is defined by a civil war between Wizards, who believe that technology will save us, and Prophets, who see various kinds of disaster on the horizon: “Prophets look at the world as finite, and people as constrained by their environment. Wizards see possibilities as inexhaustible, and humans as wily managers of the planet. One views growth and development as the lot and blessing of our species; others regard stability and preservation as our future and our goal. Wizards regard Earth as a toolbox, its contents freely available for use; Prophets think of the natural world as embodying an overarching order that should not casually be disturbed.” Steven Pinker, the author of Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (2018), is a Wizard. Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2015), is a Prophet.

How Researchers Learned to Use Facebook ‘Likes’ to Sway Your Thinking

Keith Collins and Gabrielle JX Dance:

Perhaps at some point in the past few years you’ve told Facebook that you like, say, Kim Kardashian West. When you hit the thumbs-up button on her page, you probably did it because you wanted to see the reality TV star’s posts in your news feed. Maybe you realized that marketers could target advertisements to you based on your interest in her.

What you probably missed is that researchers had figured out how to tie your interest in Ms. Kardashian West to certain personality traits, such as how extroverted you are (very), how conscientious (more than most) and how open-minded (only somewhat). And when your fondness for Ms. Kardashian West is combined with other interests you’ve indicated on Facebook, researchers believe their algorithms can predict the nuances of your political views with better accuracy than your loved ones.

As The New York Times reported