Here’s How America Uses Its Land

Dave Merrill and Lauren Leatherby:

There are many statistical measures that show how productive the U.S. is. Its economy is the largest in the world and grew at a rate of 4.1 percent last quarter, its fastest pace since 2014. The unemployment rate is near the lowest mark in a half century.

What can be harder to decipher is how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure.

Is Safetyism Destroying a Generation?

Matthew Lesh:

In recent years behaviours on university campuses have created widespread unease. Safe spaces, trigger warnings, and speech codes. Demands for speakers to be disinvited. Words construed as violence and liberalism described as ‘white supremacy’. Students walking on eggshells, too scared to speak their minds. Controversial speakers violently rebuked – from conservative provocateurs such as Milo Yiannopoulos to serious sociologists such as Charles Murray, to left-leaning academics such as Bret Weinstein.

Historically, campus censorship was enacted by zealous university administrators. Students were radicals who pushed the boundaries of acceptability, like during the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in the 1960s. Today, however, students work in tandem with administrators to make their campus ‘safe’ from threatening ideas.

Public Support Climbs for Teacher Pay, School Expenditures, Charter Schools, and Universal Vouchers

Albert Cheng, Michael B. Henderson, Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West:

Education’s political landscape has shifted dramatically over the past year. To the consternation of most school-district officials, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos used the bully pulpit to promote charter schools, vouchers, and tax credits for private-school scholarships. To the distress of teachers unions, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Illinois law requiring government workers who elect not to become union members to pay representation fees. To the chagrin of civil-rights groups, the U.S. Department of Education said that it was reviewing a letter sent to school districts by the Obama administration informing them that they were at risk of incurring a civil-rights violation if students of color were suspended or expelled more often than their peers. To the relief of Common Core enthusiasts, the politically charged debate over the standards moved to the back burner. And to the dismay of parents, teachers, and policymakers across the political spectrum, students demonstrated almost no gains in reading and math on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) over the 2015 test.

All these events were consequential, but none penetrated into the thinking of the American public as sharply as did teacher strikes in six southern and western states. Those walkouts seem to have lent new urgency to teacher demands for salary raises and increased financial support for schools.

The status of public opinion on these and other topics comprises the 12th annual Education Next (EdNext) survey of public opinion, administered in May 2018. The poll’s nationally representative sample of 4,601 adults includes an oversampling of parents, teachers, African Americans, and those who identify themselves as Hispanic. (All estimates of results are adjusted for non-response and oversampling of specific populations. See methods sidebar for further details.)

On several issues, our analysis teases out nuances in public opinion by asking variations of questions to randomly selected segments of survey participants. Respondents were divided at random into two or more segments, with each group asked a different version of the same general question. For example, we told half of the respondents—but not the other half—how much the average teacher in their state was paid before asking them whether they thought salaries should be increased, be decreased, or remain about the same. By comparing the differences in the opinions of the two groups, we are able to estimate the extent to which relevant information influences public thinking as to the desirability of a pay increase.

How To Get Kids To Do Chores: Does The Maya Method Work?

Michaeleen Doucleff:

If hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.

But there it was, right in front of me: A preteen voluntarily doing chores around the house.

There was no fuss. No nagging or whining. And there were no visible rewards.

I was visiting Maya families in the Yucatan, reporting for NPR’s special parenting series #HowToRaiseAHuman. While I was interviewing one mom her 12-year-old daughter went over to the dishes and started washing away — without being asked.

“She is old enough to understand what needs to be done around the house,” Maria de los Angeles Tun Burgos told me through a translator. “Sometime I go a way from the house, and when I come back, I find the house cleaned and everything picked up.”

The Manga Guide to Statistics

Tim Martin:

When I came across two books recently that try to make the subject more fun and approachable, I was initially quite sceptical. In my opinion, the main problem with statistics is not that people don’t spend time trying to learn it, but rather that they don’t properly comprehend the underlying principles. Too often teachers seem to be trying to make it more approachable by leaving out the mathematics, leaving just a series of “black box” techniques into which the student plugs the numbers. The problem with this is that it’s easy to plug numbers into the wrong black box.

Head first statistics Front cover
The Manga Guide to Statistics tells the story of Rui, a young girl who takes a course on statistics in order to impress an attractive teacher. The reader learns through Rui’s eyes as we observe a series of lessons. Though Rui lacks interest in the topic, she seems intelligent and the teacher strikes a good tone that avoids ever being patronising. The characters make for an entertaining read, and unlike “Head First”, the jokes actually made me laugh.

Why a Chinese Billionaire Was Studying in the U.S. Before Arrest Bloomberg


It’s not just about academic credentials. Many executives who grew up frustrated by overseas restrictions are indulging in travel freedoms. Others whose companies are exploring overseas markets hope to tap networks abroad and gain insight into their targets.

“For people like Richard Liu, it is not so much about knowing more people. It is surely for the purpose of widening his perspective, to learn new ideas, to get better understanding of the American society and market,” said Freeman Shen, an alumnus and Carlson board of overseers member who founded electric-vehicle startup WM Motor Technology Co.

Liu was arrested by the Minneapolis police on an accusation of “criminal sexual conduct” late Friday night and held about 16 hours. A Police Department spokesman says the investigation is ongoing. Joseph Friedberg, Liu’s attorney, said he is confident there will be no criminal charges and that the CEO did nothing wrong.

Liu is now back at work in his home country, a big source of scholars for American colleges. Though U.S.-China tensions are running high, the University of Minnesota continues to tout its decades-old tradition of welcoming students from the Orient. The college says it was among the first to resume exchanges after the normalization of relations with China in the late 1970s, establishing an office dedicated to maintaining ties in 1979. In 2008, it opened an office in Beijing to support that collaboration.

The “education at Minnesota is as rigorous as that in Harvard,” added Shen, who also attended the Ivy League college.

Foreign graduates and recruitment executives say one deep-seated reason for the recent surge in popularity of overseas academic programs is an urgent need to solve the problems facing a rapidly changing economy: the rich-poor divide, technology development and sustainable growth among them.

“What worked before, everybody knows will not work in the future,” said Ken Qi, a recruitment executive for Spencer Stuart. “The whole economy is under huge pressure to be transformed.”

Where the Pacific Northwest’s “Big One” Is More Likely to Strike

Miles Bodmer and Doug Toomey:

The Pacific Northwest is known for many things—its beer, its music, its mythical large-footed creatures. Most people don’t associate it with earthquakes, but they should. It’s home to the Cascadia megathrust fault that runs 600 miles from Northern California up to Vancouver Island in Canada, spanning several major metropolitan areas including Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

This geologic fault has been relatively quiet in recent memory. There haven’t been many widely felt quakes along the Cascadia megathrust, certainly nothing that would rival a catastrophic event like the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake along the active San Andreas in California. That doesn’t mean it will stay quiet, though. Scientists know it has the potential for large earthquakes—as big as magnitude 9.

Civics: Hacking a Prince, an Emir and a Journalist to Impress a Client

By David D. Kirkpatrick and Azam Ahmed

The rulers of the United Arab Emirates had been using Israeli spyware for more than a year, secretly turning the smartphones of dissidents at home or rivals abroad into surveillance devices.

So when top Emirati officials were offered a pricey update of the spying technology, they wanted to make sure it worked, according to leaked emails submitted Thursday in two lawsuits against the spyware’s maker, the Israel-based NSO Group.

Could the company secretly record the phones of the emir of Qatar, a regional rival, the Emiratis asked? How about the phone of a powerful Saudi prince who directed the kingdom’s national guard? Or what about recording the phone of the editor of a London-based Arab newspaper?

Elite School Literally Divided Over Incoming Migrant Students

Wang Lianzhang:

A century-old primary school in eastern China has divided its campus in two, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Friday: One side is for 800 children from migrant families, the other for 400 children whose parents own expensive apartments within the elite school district.

The decision to physically segregate the school in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, follows parents’ complaints of their children having to share precious educational resources with the new arrivals from lower-class households. These 800 students, most of whom are between the ages of 8 and 12, previously attended Lixin Primary School, a private school that catered chiefly to the children of migrant workers. But when Lixin’s land lease expired in June 2017, the school did not move or even try to find another site. Eventually, the land’s owner, a local education investment company, sued the school. In July 2018, a court sided with the plaintiff and ordered Lixin to leave the premises.

New York City’s new schools chancellor seems to care only about demographic representation in the classroom.

Bob McManus:

Richard Carranza has been New York City’s schools chancellor for five months now, long enough for a picture to emerge of a city official obsessed with ethnicity, yet indifferent to academic performance. Worse, he seems oblivious to the dangers embedded in racialized public-education policies—as does the man who hired him, Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Carranza made it clear before he arrived that his principal interest is ethnic equilibrium in the nation’s largest public school system, not achieving positive, across-the-board performance outcomes. The system has some bright spots—they’re moving center stage as the chancellor’s obsession with “integration” unfolds—but New York’s schools in general are a mess. As recently as two years ago, 420 of the city’s 525 high schools had prepared fewer than half of their graduates for college or a career.

Apple, Google, et al. Strike a Blow against the College Cartel

Frederick Hess and Hrant Addison:

Some of America’s biggest companies have stopped requiring college degrees for many entry- and mid-level jobs. Here’s hoping others follow suit.
Earlier this month, the job-search site Glassdoor compiled a list of 15 major companies that no longer require applicants for certain posts to have a college degree. The list included an array of entry- and mid-level jobs —everything from barista to “Apple Genius” to “senior manager of finance” — at such corporate giants as Apple, Google, Bank of America, Penguin Random House, Home Depot, Costco, Whole Foods, and Starbucks. Glassdoor lauded these firms for opening new pathways to success and recognizing “that book smarts don’t necessarily equal strong work ethic, grit and talent.” CNBC and Axios provided similar, approving coverage.

This is a praiseworthy development, to be sure. But it should also raise an obvious question: Why were firms requiring college degrees for such jobs in the first place? Is there good reason to believe that having a B.A. in sociology or women’s studies makes one more qualified to be a stocker at Costco or shift supervisor at Starbucks?

Incarceration as Incapacitation: An Intellectual History

Timothy Crimmins:

Explaining the dramatic rise of incarceration in the United States has been surprisingly difficult. Theories abound, but they are continually defeated by the vastness and complexity of the American criminal justice system. For a time, the prime suspect was the War on Drugs, which President Obama described as “the real reason our prison population is so high.” Numerically, this never made sense, given that drug offenders are a small fraction of state prisoners.1 Mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws were tangible reforms that attracted a great deal of attention. But as causal explanations they, too, wither under scrutiny. “There’s not a lot of evidence that the amount of time spent in prison has changed that much,” as law professor John Pfaff recently observed.2 Even landmark pieces of federal legislation—think of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which dogged Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign—probably had minor statistical impact.

Path to Biological Numeracy


“I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be.” William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) [Popular lectures and addresses, Vol. 1, “Electrical Units of Measurement”, 1883]

Though Lord Kelvin was unaware of the great strides that one can make by looking at bands on gels without any recourse to numbers, his exaggerated sentiment focuses attention on the possible benefits of biological numeracy.

One of the great traditions in biology’s more quantitative partner sciences such as chemistry and physics is the value placed on centralized, curated quantitative data. Whether thinking about the astronomical data that describes the motions of planets or the thermal and electrical conductivities of materials, the numbers themselves are a central part of the factual and conceptual backdrop for these fields. Indeed, often the act of trying to explain why numbers have the values they do ends up being an engine of discovery.

A neuroscientist explains what tech does to the reading brain

Angela Chen:

For anyone who has ever been a reader, there’s much to sympathize with in Maryanne Wolf’s Reader, Come Home. The UCLA neuroscientist, a great lover of literature, tries to read Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game, an old favorite, only to realize that she finds him boring and too complex. She wonders why he ever won a Nobel. And Wolf, who previously wrote Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, is horrified that this is what has happened to her ability to concentrate.

Reader, Come Home is about, as its subtitle states, “the reading brain in a digital world.” The Verge spoke to Wolf about how technology is changing the brain, what we lose when we lose deep attention, and what to do about it.

Strength Coaches in College Football Have Become Strongmen

Brian Costa,
Rachel Bachman and Andrew Beaton

The faces of America’s college football programs are its head coaches, many of whom are paid millions of dollars and wield enormous power within universities. But the authority figure that players see most while at school is one that most fans wouldn’t even recognize.

Strength and conditioning coaches have evolved from handy helpers in the gym to overlords of a season outside the season: off-season workouts. It is their domain—in weight rooms shielded even from the view of head coaches—that is increasingly under scrutiny after a series of player deaths and hospitalizations following grueling workouts.

These coaches have become among the most highly paid and influential on staffs. During the winter and summer months when NCAA rules keep head coaches and their assistants at a distance, players effectively report to the strength and conditioning coach. Those broad powers, coupled with the dangerous episodes, have raised questions about whether the coaches are sufficiently regulated.

“These guys become their own little fiefdoms,” said Rick Neuheisel, a former head coach at UCLA, Colorado and Washington.

The Strange Persistence of First Languages

Julie Sedivy:

Several years ago, my father died as he had done most things throughout his life: without preparation and without consulting anyone. He simply went to bed one night, yielded his brain to a monstrous blood clot, and was found the next morning lying amidst the sheets like his own stone monument.

It was hard for me not to take my father’s abrupt exit as a rebuke. For years, he’d been begging me to visit him in the Czech Republic, where I’d been born and where he’d gone back to live in 1992. Each year, I delayed. I was in that part of my life when the marriage-grad-school-children-career-divorce current was sweeping me along with breath-sucking force, and a leisurely trip to the fatherland seemed as plausible as pausing the flow of time.

Now my dad was shrugging at me from beyond— “You see, you’ve run out of time.”

For a ‘house church’ in Beijing, CCTV cameras and eviction

Christian Shepherd:

But in April, city authorities asked the church to install 24 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the building for “security”, Zion’s head pastor, Jin Mingri, told Reuters.

“They wanted to put cameras in the sanctuary where we worship. The church decided this was not appropriate,” Jin said over tea in his spacious, book-lined office. “Our services are a sacred time.”

When the request was refused, police and state security agents started harassing churchgoers, calling them, visiting them, contacting their workplace and asking them to promise not to go to church, according to statements from the church and interviews with attendees.

Two Years Later, the Elites Are Still Disconnected From Voters

David Winston:

So I want to share what two voters, both from competitive states, told us in focus groups — the first nearly two years ago; the second just two weeks ago.

One man demonstrated why people have such contempt for elites, telling us:

“The elites get their say every day. We get our say once every two years. To me, that’s an elite. They override my vote.”

Nearly two years later, a second man offered a similar view of the world this way:

Bureaucracy As Active Ingredient

Scott Alexander:

Organizations have a legal incentive not to deny people things, because the people involved can sue them. But they have an economic incentive not to say yes to every request they get. Seeing how much time and exasperation people are willing to put up with in order to get what they want is an elegant way of separating out the needy from the greedy if every other option is closed to you.

Google and Mastercard Cut a Secret Ad Deal to Track Retail Sales

Mark Bergen and Jennifer Surane:

For the past year, select Google advertisers have had access to a potent new tool to track whether the ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the U.S. That insight came thanks in part to a stockpile of Mastercard transactions that Google paid for.

But most of the two billion Mastercard holders aren’t aware of this behind-the-scenes tracking. That’s because the companies never told the public about the arrangement.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Mastercard Inc. brokered a business partnership during about four years of negotiations, according to four people with knowledge of the deal, three of whom worked on it directly. The alliance gave Google an unprecedented asset for measuring retail spending, part of the search giant’s strategy to fortify its primary business against onslaughts from Inc. and others.

But the deal, which has not been previously reported, could raise broader privacy concerns about how much consumer data technology companies like Google quietly absorb.

“People don’t expect what they buy physically in a store to be linked to what they are buying online,” said Christine Bannan, counsel with the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). “There’s just far too much burden that companies place on consumers and not enough responsibility being taken by companies to inform users what they’re doing and what rights they have.”

Many schools use Google services.

Boy Who Became a German Philosopher

Kwame Anyhony Appiah:

On the Kidnapped African In 1707, a boy no more than five years old left Axim, on the African Gold Coast, for Amsterdam, aboard a ship belonging to the Dutch West India Company. In those days, the trip to Europe took many weeks, but his arrival in the Dutch port was not the end of his long journey. He then had to travel another few hundred miles to Wolfenbüttel, the home of Anton Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Anton Ulrich was a major patron of the European Enlightenment. His librarian was Gottfried Leibniz, one of the leading philosophers, mathematicians, and inventors of his era, and co-creator, with Isaac Newton, of calculus; and the ducal library in Wolfenbüttel housed one of the most magnificent book collections in the world.

The child had apparently been offered as a “gift” to the duke, who, in turn, handed the boy on to his son, August Wilhelm; and we first hear of him as a member of August Wilhelm’s household. From his baptism until 1735, the boy continued to receive the patronage of the dukes of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, as Anton Ulrich was succeeded by August Wilhelm, and August Wilhelm was succeeded by his brother, Ludwig Rudolf, in turn. And, as a child, he would no doubt have met Leibniz, who lived, as he did, under their patronage.

World’s Leading Human Rights Groups Tell Google to Cancel Its China Censorship Plan

Ryan Gallagher:

A coalition of 14 organizations — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, Access Now, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, PEN International, and Human Rights in China — issued the demand Tuesday in an open letter addressed to the internet giant’s CEO, Sundar Pichai. The groups said the censored search engine represents “an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights” and could result in the company “directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations.”

The letter is the latest major development in an ongoing backlash over the censored search platform, code-named Dragonfly, which was first revealed by The Intercept earlier this month. The censored search engine would remove content that China’s ruling Communist Party regime views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. It would “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to confidential Google documents.

Google launched a censored search engine in China in 2006, but ceased operating the service in the country in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack Google’s computer systems. The open letter released Tuesday asks Google to reaffirm the commitment it made in 2010 to no longer provide censored search in China.

“It is difficult not to conclude that Google is now willing to compromise its principles.”
The letter states: “If Google’s position has indeed changed, then this must be stated publicly, together with a clear explanation of how Google considers it can square such a decision with its responsibilities under international human rights standards and its own corporate values. Without these clarifications, it is difficult not to conclude that Google is now willing to compromise its principles to gain access to the Chinese market.”

Mapping Australian higher education 2016

Andrew Norton:

Many recent science and information technology graduates are failing to find full-time work at a time when science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is a priority for government and industry.

Mapping Australian higher education 2016 shows that in 2015, only half of bachelor degree science graduates seeking full-time work had found it four months after completing their degrees, 17 percentage points below the average for all graduates.

Among recent science graduates who found full-time jobs, only half say their qualification is required or important for their job – about 20 percentage points below the average.

Although job outcomes improve over time, science bachelor degree graduates are less likely than other STEM graduates to work in high-skill managerial or professional jobs.

VOA: Authorities Force Chinese Citizens to Renounce Belief in Christianity


In recent years, the authorities across China have stepped up their efforts to suppress religious activities that are not officially permitted. Their actions have included the forced demolition of churches or the removal of church crosses, harassment and attacks on religious gatherings, and arrests of church missionaries and church members. In addition, there have been recent postings on the Internet showing that the authorities have been forcing Christian believers in China to sign a statement in which they renounce their belief in Christ. In an article, VOA published a picture of the standard renouncement form that contained the following statement: “I had limited understanding of Christianity. Taking on Christianity as my belief is also blindly following the trend. Now I have a more comprehensive understanding of religion and religious beliefs. After further studying Christianity, I have a clearer understanding of my spiritual needs. I announce that I will not participate in Christian religious activities from now on and I will no longer believe in Christianity.” Another Christian in Ma Anshan City of An Hui Province wrote the following personal statement, “After studying the regulations on religious affairs and on careful reflection, (I) promise not to believe in Christianity and will resolutely listen to the party and follow the party.” On April 3, the State Council published a White Paper reassuring that China has adopted the policy of freedom to practice one’s belief. Not long ago, however, 48 house churches in Beijing issued a joint statement criticizing the authorities for interfering in church activities and calling on the authorities to stop suppressing house churches and to respect the right of freedom of religious belief as stated in the Chinese Constitution.

Wisconsin school district considers ticketing students for cellphones

Annysa Johnson:

There are a few ways a student could snag a municipal citation at Kewaskum High School in Washington County. Disorderly conduct. Underage drinking or vaping.

Now, under a proposal up for discussion by village officials Monday, the district might soon add whipping out a cellphone in class.

The Kewaskum School District is seeking a village ordinance that would allow for the ticketing of students who violate its cellphone policy a third time. If approved, it would be one of the more draconian policies in southeastern Wisconsin. But Vice Principal Mark Bingham said it was a necessary step to rein in what has become the No. 1 discipline problem in this exurban Milwaukee high school.

“We want to try to eliminate those distractions and truly utilize that classroom time for learning,” said Bingham. “Obviously … our hope is that we don’t get to that situation where we have to involve law enforcement.”

Don’t Trust Anyone Over 21

Nicole Ault:

Freshmen entering college this fall don’t remember 9/11. I’m a senior, and for me it is only the dimmest of memories. We’re a new generation, and we’re not “millennials,” whose birth years fall between 1981 and 1996, according to Pew Research. We’re Generation Z, or “iGen,” as psychologist Jean Twenge has dubbed us. We were born in 1997 and after.

The term “millennial” has become a smear on anyone under 35, a vague indictment of selfish sloth. But iGen-ers aren’t millennials by birth year or behavior—and by lumping us in with them, older generations hold us to a distressingly low standard. We have the potential to do—and be—so much more.

Young as it is, iGen is proving itself smarter than the avocado-toast-and-Instagram stereotype. Studies have found that we’re cautious and practical, more averse to student debt. We do less drinking, take fewer drugs and have less sex than millennials did at our age. With the war on terror and the 2007-09 recession shaping our earliest memories, we’re more realistic than idealistic.

Google is on the verge of making a huge mistake with China

Chen Guangcheng:

The recent news that Google is working on a search engine for China’s highly censored Internet reminded me of a Chinese saying: “to have your spine pointed at.” Back home in China, if someone who has done something immoral or unethical is seen walking down the street, others might point at the person’s back after he passes, chastising and cursing him under their breath. Alternatively, if a person is known to be planning to do something unethical, he will be warned against “doing something that gets your spine pointed at.” And the designation is anything but temporary. Anyone who has been singled out this way should prepare for years of ostracization.

Back in 2010, Google grandly announced that it was leaving China’s vast consumer market, citing its hallowed principle of “do no evil.” The company said that it had decided to choose user privacy over profits rather than collaborate with the Communist Party regime in the surveillance of Chinese citizens. I was in prison when I heard this unfolding news, having myself been tracked, traced, spied on and kidnapped, and later tried on bogus charges and sentenced to more than four years in prison for my human rights work. In prison I labored secretly for months to secure a forbidden shortwave radio, which I kept hidden in a used milk carton. I listened to programs like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia at night while wrapped under my quilt, the speaker pressed close to my ear at the lowest possible volume. Having had my freedom denied me by the Chinese Communist Party, the news of this upstart tech company risking lost revenue to do the right thing gave me real hope.

The School Shootings That Weren’t

Anya Kamenetz:

How many times per year does a gun go off in an American school?

We should know. But we don’t.

This spring the U.S. Education Department reported that in the 2015-2016 school year, “nearly 240 schools … reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.” The number is far higher than most other estimates.

But NPR reached out to every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months and found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened. Child Trends, a nonpartisan nonprofit research organization, assisted NPR in analyzing data from the government’s Civil Rights Data Collection.

We were able to confirm just 11 reported incidents, either directly with schools or through media reports.

In 161 cases, schools or districts attested that no incident took place or couldn’t confirm one. In at least four cases, we found, something did happen, but it didn’t meet the government’s parameters for a shooting. About a quarter of schools didn’t respond to our inquiries.

“When we’re talking about such an important and rare event, [this] amount of data error could be very meaningful,” says Deborah Temkin, a researcher and program director at Child Trends.

Just how big is China’s ‘hidden’ debt pile? Beijing orders local cadres to find out

Frank Tang:

China’s ruling Communist Party and cabinet have ordered local authorities to stop amassing “hidden” debt as part of Beijing’s bigger push to head off catastrophic financial risks.

The order was sent to municipal governments throughout the country, according to official reports of cadres meeting to study the threat.

The full text of the order has not been released but the official Hunan Daily reported on Thursday that provincial governor Xu Dazhe ordered cadres “to follow requests from the central leadership to get a clear picture of hidden local government debt as soon as possible and then make plans to address it”.

Officials in Jingzhou and Yunxi county in Hubei province and the county of Kangle in Gansu also met to examine the instructions, reports on government websites said.

Zhao Quanhou, a senior researcher with the Ministry of Finance’s Chinese Academy of Fiscal Sciences, said the debt curbs were an effort to cut leverage in the economy, listed by President Xi Jinping as the country’s overriding economic priority.

“if I agree with him on so many issues and admire him as a leader, what in blazes went so wrong?”

Marc Tucker:

o this book is fascinating. On page after page, I was cheering Duncan on, agreeing with him on the issues and wishing him success. And, on page after page, I was asking myself, if I agree with him on so many issues and admire him as a leader, what in blazes went so wrong? You need to read this book because this turns out to be an important question for the United States.

Duncan is unapologetic about his program. If anything, he says, he is sorry that he did not press even harder on certain pieces of it. His big regret is that he did not do a better job of helping the public understand what he was doing and why he was doing it. I don’t think that was the problem. This book is beautifully written in highly accessible language. Arne Duncan is a great communicator. Communication is not his problem. The problem, I think, lies elsewhere.

Arne Duncan is his mother’s son. Ann Duncan spent her life running an after-school children’s center in Chicago, serving mostly very poor Black children who the Chicago schools were failing badly, “…making up for what the local schools couldn’t or wouldn’t teach…” Arne and his brother grew up in that school, in the company of these children from the projects. That was his world. After his junior year at Harvard, Duncan took a year off to work in the school and do his sociology thesis, which was, of course, on the school. Again and again, in his book, Duncan tells stories about the kids he met in his mom’s center. What comes through is his admiration for the grit and determination he found in kids living in desperate circumstances and his anger at the failure of the schools to do what his mom was doing for them, to give them a fighting chance.

He tells a story about a high schooler named Calvin who he is tutoring. Calvin has had good grades, has worked hard in school and expects to go to a good college. Then Duncan discovers that Calvin cannot read simple material or put a simple sentence together. His grades have been lies. Over and over again in the book, Duncan’s outrage against lies like these fills the pages. What makes this book so compelling is that these lies are not presented in the abstract, as a policy analyst would write about them. They come with live people like Calvin attached. They have a real cost in human lives stunted. They develop in the reader a growing anger at the system. That is what they are intended to do.

Why California’s Privacy Law Won’t Hurt Facebook or Google

Antonio Garcia Martinez:

California, that innovative economic juggernaut that so often takes the regulatory lead on matters such as automobile emissions, is once again establishing the ground rules to a vital industry. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in June, is the improbable result of a wealthy real estate investor, with the colorful name of Alastair Mactaggart, and a gang of volunteers taking an interest in consumer privacy. Mactaggart used California’s zany ballot initiative system (and his personal fortune) to get a version of a proposed privacy law onto the November ballot. Faced with the horrifying prospect of a well-funded privacy evangelist jamming regulation down the throats of the state’s golden-goose tech companies, legislators quickly devised their own alternative. This rollicking policy adventure is recounted at length in a cover story by Nicholas Confessore for The New York Times Magazine.
 Look through the rah-rah triumphalism of the piece, however and you’ll see that far from succumbing to some irresistible activist push, incumbents Google and Facebook craftily shaped the legislation to suit themselves. When in the history of American democracy have state legislators voted to severely and onerously regulate trillion-dollar companies in their home districts, motivated only by an overweening concern for consumer rights (and not donor pressure)? Never, is the answer—which is why the implications of CCPA could use some further scrutiny. (Spoiler alert: Facebook doesn’t hate the law).

Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques [PDF]:

Dear Simpson Street Free Press:

Thank you for leading the way in looking more closely at recent reports of an increase in MMSD minority student graduation rates and related issues:

Inspired by your excellent work, we decided to dig deeper.
We call the result of our efforts Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between MMSD Graduation Rates and Student Achievement.

We hope Simpson Street Free Press readers will take the time to read our brief report and reflect on its findings.

Laurie Frost, Ph.D. Jeff Henriques, Ph.D.
August 20, 2018

Much has been made about the recent (Class of 2017) increase in MMSD high school graduation rates, especially for Black students. graduation-rate-for-black-students-soars/article_daf1dc5a-d8c8-5bcc-bf2b-6687ccfbdaf6.html

The graph below displays MMSD graduation data (as reported by the DPI) for the past eight years for White, Black, and Hispanic students. As you can see, in 2016-17, Hispanic students showed a 3.3% increase in graduation rate over the previous year and Black students showed an astounding 14.1% increase. Compared to their peers in the Class of 2013 (the year prior to the implementation of the MMSD’s Strategic Framework), the Hispanic and Black students in the Class of 2017 showed an 8.2% and 19.8% increase in graduation rates, respectively.

We will leave it to others to determine what accounts for the increase in minority student graduation rates – whether it is due, for example, to procedural changes in the way high school graduates are tallied; other (possibly questionable) data reporting practices; interventions that have produced bona fide improvements in student achievement; or a lower bar for success(including graduation) due to grade inflation, non-rigorous alternative educational options, and/or watered-down credit recovery programs (practices that have been the focus of investigative reports in other parts of the country).

For us, the important question is: Has the increase in minority student graduation rates been accompanied by an increase in minority student learning and achievement? Put another way, as we graduate an increasing number of our minority students, are we graduating more minority students who are college ready? who can read and do math at grade level?

We believe the best way to determine college readiness is with the ACT, which all MMSD juniors have been required to take since 2013-14*. Though far from perfect, the ACT is a widely used standardized test with well-established and well-documented reliability and validity. It yields objective performance data in the core academic areas, data that allow for meaningful comparisons across time, geography, and demographics. Grades (and GPA), in contrast, are somewhat subjective and “squishy”. They are locally determined and, in practice, easily influenced – whether consciously or unconsciously – by the adults’ desire for success, both their own and their students’, especially during times of strong administrative and societal pressure for that success.

The ACT defines college readiness benchmark scores as the level of achievement (in terms of ACT test performance) required for a student to have at least a 75% chance of earning a C or better in an introductory college course in the same content area. Since 2013, the ACT-based college readiness benchmark score for both Reading and Math has been 22. (Before 2013, the benchmark score was 21 for Reading and 22 for Math.)

Here are the ACT-based college readiness data in Reading and Math for the MMSD Classes of 2008 through 2017.

As you can see, in the Class of 2017, 12.7% of the Black students met the college readiness benchmark in Reading (vs. 12.8% the year before and 10.4% in 2014, the first year of universal test participation in the MMSD) and 8.1% met it in Math (vs. 15.3% the year before and 8.1% in 2014). Those are the same Black students who showed the dramatic single-year increase in graduation rate of 14.1%. Clearly the increase in graduation rate for the Black students in the Class of 2017 was not accompanied by an increase in their college readiness. The same is true for their Hispanic classmates. The disconnect between minority student graduation rates and minority student achievement is, at best, puzzling (and at worst, alarming).

Question: How are we to understand increasing minority student graduation rates in the absence of an increase in minority student achievement (defined as college readiness)?

Question: More generally, how are we to understand such high minority student graduation rates in combination with such low minority student achievement?

These are questions we should all want to know the answers to.

In keeping with recent trends in education research, we wanted to know more about how the MMSD Class of 2017 fared over time, how their cohort learning profile evolved over their years as MMSD students. To that end, we looked at the percentage of students in the Class/cohort who were deemed proficient or advanced in Reading and Math from third grade on.

We undertook this effort with full awareness that a) the District uses different tests to assess grade level proficiency at different grade levels and, b) there is some variability in the students tested at each grade level (due to student movement in and out of the District, who shows up on test day each year, etc.). We moved forward with the analyses despite these obstacles because a) we believed that since all the tests are used to determine the same thing – grade level proficiency – there was enough meaningful equivalence across them to warrant the effort, and b) the changing membership of a cohort over time is a natural limitation of longitudinal data.

Perfection should not be the enemy of the good, as they say, nor should arguments about an absence of perfect data be used as an excuse to not look. We need to do the best we can with the data we have, keeping the problems in mind, but also in perspective.

Here is what we found.

This is what we accomplished with the minority students in the MMSD Class of 2017 over the course of nine years: little to nothing. No limitation in the data set can explain away these painful results.

And yet 77% of the Hispanic students and 72.6% of the Black students in the Class of 2017 earned MMSD high school diplomas. Clearly most of them did so without having grade level skills in reading and math.

We looked at the Classes of 2016 and 2018 and obtained essentially the same results.

Unfortunately, a high school diploma without high school level reading and math skills is of limited value when it comes to finding success and making a good life post-high school. Thus, despite our best efforts and multiple Doyle Building and community-based initiatives over the years, we continue to fail at preparing our minority students for life beyond the MMSD.

This is the proverbial forest. We need to look at it, long and hard. We need to take a break from looking at individual trees – or worse, single aspects of individual trees. It is critical that we take in the full landscape. No more hiding or explaining away the heartbreakingly tragic results. As a community and as a school district, we need to be honest with ourselves about how dismally we have failed and continue to fail our minority students.

Laurie A. Frost, Ph.D. Jeffrey B. Henriques, Ph.D.
August 20, 2018

A Note About the Data and Data Sources

Grades 3 – 8 proficiency data are based on WKCE test scores.

Grades 9 and 10 proficiency data are based on ACT Aspire test scores.

Grade 11 proficiency data and college readiness scores are based on ACT test scores. Source for all data (except the 2013-14 ACT Aspire data):

Source for the 2013-14 ACT Aspire data: 7%20ACT%20%26%20Aspire%20Scores%20Report%202014-15.pdf

* The MMSD implemented universal ACT test participation for high school juniors in 2013-14. Since then, the percentage of students taking the test has increased in all demographic groups. In the Class of 2017, 87.9% of White students, 64.1% of Black students, and 80.3% of Hispanic students took the ACT (vs. 67.0%, 27.1% and 47.8% for the Class of 2013, the year before universal participation was implemented).

Before universal participation was implemented, the group of students who took the ACT likely included a disproportionately high number of college-bound students (vis-a-vis the entire junior class). As a result, the percentage of students identified as college ready by the test in the years before 2013-14 was likely inflated. Had all students been taking the exam in the earlier years, it is likely that the percentage of students identified as college ready would have been lower, comparable to the percentage observed in more recent years.

Related: The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2013: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Madison spends far more than most taxpayer funded school districts. Details, here.

Uproar over ‘wacky’ plan to start baby boom in China by taxing adults under 40

Mandy Zuo:

A proposal to tax all working adults aged under 40 – with the money going to a “reproduction fund” to reward families who have more than one child – has caused uproar in China.

The idea was the most controversial among a series of measures floated by two academics from prestigious Nanjing University in an article published by Communist Party mouthpiece Xinhua Daily on Tuesday.

It comes amid a nationwide campaign to encourage people to have more children – a drastic turnaround after a one-child policy that lasted nearly four decades and only ended three years ago – as Beijing worries about a rapidly ageing society, shrinking workforce and falling birth rate creating a demographic time bomb.

Related: Choose Life.

Vocational Training Is Back as Firms Pair With High Schools to Groom Workers

Michelle Hackman:

Gabe Schorner never considered himself a good student until he enrolled in his high school’s new welding program, where, in an industrial-style classroom, Mr. Schorner found himself enchanted by the molten metal and its bright blue glow as he molded it.

The skills he picked up led directly to a full-time offer from Electric Boat, the Rhode Island-based submarine manufacturer, where he is now making $16.50 an hour. “I don’t like the idea of going to college — I wanted to avoid taking on that debt and everything else,” Mr. Schorner said. “Being out in the world is a lot more fun.”

Coventry High School established its welding program after Electric Boat, one of the state’s largest employers, declared it was looking to hire 14,000 new employees in the next decade.

The company wasn’t finding enough recruits coming out of college. So it turned to high schools — where students can be discovered early, and the training is free.

Such direct ties between big companies and local high schools are multiplying. Volkswagen is helping schools in Tennessee modernize their engineering programs; Tesla is partnering with Nevada schools on an advanced manufacturing curriculum; and fisheries in Louisiana have created courses for students to train for jobs in “sustainability.”

The renewed popularity of so-called career education programs marks a shift away from the idea that all students should get a liberal-arts education designed to prepare them for college.

Alex Usher:

For decades, Canadians interested in post-secondary education (PSE) have decried the lack of easily available, easily digestible data on the post-secondary sector. In part, this lacuna results from some very large gaps in our PSE data system, especially with respect to colleges, staff, and student assistance (in contrast, statistics on institutional finances are among the best in the world). There are also some types of statistics which take an inordinately long time to appear (data on international students, for instance, routinely take three to four times as long to appear in Canada as they do in the US, the UK, or Australia). Our decentralized, federal system is partly to blame, but mainly, Canadian governments and statistical agencies just seem not to care about good education data the way some other countries do.
That said, there actually is a considerable amount of data on Canadian post-secondary education available, but it is just not usually put in a narrative form which is easily accessible. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), for instance, puts out an invaluable annual “almanac”, but the data has a profound university skew and tends to be presented in tabular form rather than through more intuitive graphics. Universities Canada occasionally puts together some good publications on the state of the system, but these have become rarer as of late and in any case largely miss the colleges. The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) has an irregularly published system of “Education Indicators” but these are more focused on education as a whole rather than on post-secondary and fall prey to the same preference for tables over graphs. Statistics Canada produces a great deal of data (if not always very promptly), but does very little to help people interpret it.
As a result of all this, Higher Education Strategy Associates has decided to produce an annual publication called “The State of Post-Secondary Education in Canada”. We took as our model a similar set of publications produced by Andrew Norton and his colleagues at the Grattan Institute in Melbourne entitled “Mapping Australian Higher Education”. Like the Australian exercise, we expect we will take on slightly different issues in each future edition, depending on what new data come available. For the inaugural year, we chose to stick to the basics: describing the Canadian system (trickier than it sounds), detailing trends in student and staff numbers, and looking at how the system is financed, both from an institutional and a student perspective. We hope that by putting all of this information in a handy and convenient format, and providing some accompanying narrative, that we can help improve the quality of public dialogue on post-secondary education policy issues. Any and all comments or suggestions about how to improve the publication for future years will be gratefully received.

STDs continue rapid rise in U.S., setting new record, CDC says

Linda Carroll:

Experts say many factors have contributed to the rapid rise, though the biggest one may be less frequent condom use. It’s less clear whether dating apps, like Tinder, have contributed in some way to the spread of STDs, though some researchers think they have.

“We have seen steep and sustained increases over the last five years,” said Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the Division of STD Prevention at the CDC. “Usually there are ebbs and flows, but this sustained increase is very concerning. We haven’t seen anything like this for two decades.”

Betsy DeVos Plans to Overhaul Title IX, Focus on Due Process for Accusers and the Accused

Robby Soave:

According to the Times, the new rules “would add the ability for victims and their accused perpetrators to request evidence from each other and to cross-examine each other. The rules also allow the complainant and the accused to have access to any evidence obtained during the investigation, even if there are no plans to use it to prove the conduct occurred.”

Cross-examination is a key component of due process and an important tool for arriving at the truth of a dispute. But under the previous administration’s Title IX guidance, university officials were discouraged from extending this right to students accused of sexual misconduct, under the theory that scrutinizing alleged victims would be traumatizing.

The new policy would mandate cross-examination in situations where a school’s adjudication process involves a live hearing, and it would require an effective substitute in all other cases.