Commentary on K-12 Tax, spending and Outcomes: Kansas City and Madison

2018 – Kansas City Star Editorial: Taylor was blunt in linking educational attainment with dollars spent. “The analysis finds a strong, positive relationship between educational outcomes and educational costs,” Taylor concluded. She also said a 1 percentage point increase in graduation rates is associated with a 1.2 percent increase in costs in lower grades and … Continue reading Commentary on K-12 Tax, spending and Outcomes: Kansas City and Madison

School Funding Rhetoric & Legal Battles; Remember Kansas City’s Spending Explosion…

Samantha Winslow, Alexandra Bradbury Washington teachers waged rolling one-day strikes calling attention to decades of underfunding. Photo: WEA. Lawmakers in Washington state are scrambling to get ready for a special session after the state’s highest court announced it will start charging a penalty of $100,000 per day while legislators continue illegally underfunding the public schools. … Continue reading School Funding Rhetoric & Legal Battles; Remember Kansas City’s Spending Explosion…

Apartheid, just less black and white: ‘Inequality is the new apartheid. “Your life path is largely determined before birth’; Kansas City & Madison per student spending fails to address the gap

Simon Kuper I especially see apartheid in the US. True, the country has made racist speech taboo. Use a racial epithet in public and your career combusts. That’s lovely. However, American school taxes are usually raised locally, and many neighbourhoods are segregated, and so most poor black children attend underfunded schools where they learn just … Continue reading Apartheid, just less black and white: ‘Inequality is the new apartheid. “Your life path is largely determined before birth’; Kansas City & Madison per student spending fails to address the gap

Missouri Education Commissioner Outlines Options for Kansas City Schools

infozine:

Citing a critical need to not underestimate the stakes at hand, Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro presented to the State Board of Education today her analysis of ways the state could assist the Kansas City Public Schools in regaining accreditation.
The State Board met in Branson on Dec. 1-2, where discussion of the Kansas City Public Schools was part of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s recommendation for revamping a statewide system of support. This system would identify risk factors and target limited resources to assist unaccredited school districts and those that are at risk of becoming unaccredited. Currently, nearly one dozen schools would receive focused attention.

Kansas City, Mo., School District Loses Its Accreditation

A.G. Sulzberger:

The struggling Kansas City, Missouri School District was stripped of its accreditation on Tuesday, raising the possibility of student departures and a state takeover. The action follows weeks of tumult that included another round of turnover of top leadership.
Though not entirely unexpected, the move was a painful return to reality for the city after a period of optimism that difficult choices were finally being made to confront longstanding problems in the school district, most notably the closing of nearly half the schools in response to a huge budget deficit.
The Missouri Board of Education cited the continued failure to improve academic performance and the continued instability in district leadership as driving its decision. The district has been provisionally accredited for nearly a decade after a two-year period during which it was unaccredited.
“We’ve given Kansas City more time than maybe we should have to address the problems,” said Chris L. Nicastro, the state education commissioner, who had recommended the move. “Over a sustained period of time, student performance has not met state standards.”

Former Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater formerly worked for the Kansas City School District.
The great schools revolution Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned.
Money & School Performance is well worth a read.
It is a rare organization that can reinvent itself, rather than continuing to atrophy.

Rift between Kansas City school board, superintendent appears to be closing

Joe Robertson:

The chasm that had separated Superintendent John Covington and the Kansas City school board over charter and contract schools appears to be closing.
The board is now considering policy changes that would require the superintendent’s recommendation before it could bring independent schools into the district fold.
Until the change is approved, however, the leaders of a pair of civic groups are standing by letters sent to the board last week warning that they believed it had assumed authority that could return it to its micromanaging habits of old.
Board president Airick Leonard West said he wants the conversation to refocus on the district’s vision of a portfolio of schools that are held accountable for their performance.

In Kansas City, tackling education’s status quo “We’re not an Employment Agency, We’re a School District”

George Will:

John Covington hesitated before becoming this city’s 26th school superintendent in 40 years. A blunt-talking African American from Alabama, he attended the Broad Superintendents Academy in Los Angeles, which prepares leaders for urban school districts, and when he asked people there if he should come here, their response, he says, was: “Not ‘no,’ but ‘Hell, no!’ ” He says they suggested that when flying across the country he should take a flight that does not pass through this city’s airspace.
How did this pleasant place become so problematic? Remember the destination of the road paved with good intentions.
This city is just 65 miles down the road from Topeka, Kan., from whence came Brown v. Board of Education , the fuse that lit many ongoing struggles over schools and race. Kansas City has had its share of those struggles, one of which occurred last year when Covington took office with a big bang: He closed 26 of the district’s 61 schools. Kansas City had fewer students but twice as many schools as Pueblo, Colo., where Covington had been superintendent.
Thirty-five years ago, Kansas City’s district had 54,000 students. Today it has fewer than 17,000. Between then and now there was a spectacular confirmation of the axiom that education cannot be improved by simply throwing money at it.
In the 1980s, after a court held that the city was operating a segregated school system, judicial Caesarism appeared. A judge vowed to improve the district’s racial balance by luring white students to lavish “magnet schools” offering “suburban comparability” and “desegregative attractiveness.” And he ordered tax increases to pay the almost $2 billion bill for, among other things, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a planetarium, vivariums, greenhouses, a model United Nations wired for language translation, radio and television studios, an animation and editing lab, movie editing and screening rooms, a temperature-controlled art gallery, a 25-acre farm, a 25-acre wildlife area, instruction in cosmetology and robotics, field trips to Mexico and Senegal, and more.

Related: Money And School Performance:
Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment
:

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.
Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.
The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.
The Kansas City experiment suggests that, indeed, educational problems can’t be solved by throwing money at them, that the structural problems of our current educational system are far more important than a lack of material resources, and that the focus on desegregation diverted attention from the real problem, low achievement.

Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater served in Kansas City prior to taking a position with the local schools.

Kansas City Don Bosco Charter to close

Mara Rose Williams:

A second Kansas City charter school today announced it will close at the end of this school year.
Don Bosco Charter High School is shuttering its doors for good after operating more than a decade as a school for students at risk of dropping out.
School officials said this morning that because of poor student attendance they were unable to generate the revenue needed to continue operating the high school. State funding for public schools is based on a formula heavily weighted by the average student daily attendance.
But school leaders were quick to defend their students.
“It would be very easy to blame students, but I don’t want to do that,” said Al Dimmitt, chairman of the Don Bosco Charter High School Board of Directors. “We are dealing with a student population faced with a lot of challenges in life and attendance in school does not always arise to their top priority,”

Push for math, science education stumbles amid beleaguered Kansas City districts’ pressures

Joe Robertson

Five years ago, alarms sounded over America’s rapidly falling stature in STEM education.
That’s science, technology, engineering and math — the keys to our nation’s prosperity. But U.S. schools weren’t keeping up in the fast-changing fields.
Governors dispatched task forces. New programs were launched. Foundations poured in funding. And schools started to make gains.
Now, however, signs are emerging that the momentum of the mid-2000s is slipping away, even as students’ needs continue to grow.

An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria by Janet Mertz.

School Districts Losing Public Support: Kansas City

Nicholas Riccardi:

The Kansas City, Mo., district is closing nearly half its campuses after 10 years of dwindling student population. It’s what happens when a district loses support of the public it is meant to serve.
During the warm months, when students at Westport High School got too hot, they cooled down by moving to one of the many vacant classrooms on campus. It was one of the advantages of having 400 students assigned to a school that could hold 1,200.
The downside became apparent last week, though, when the Kansas City school board voted to close Westport and 25 other schools — nearly half of the district’s campuses.
Big-city districts shutter schools all the time. Cities such as Denver and Portland, Ore., have seen childless young families repopulate their urban cores and have adjusted accordingly.
But what is happening in Kansas City is different in scale than anywhere else in the country. It’s an extreme example of what happens when a school system loses the support of the public it’s meant to serve.

Kansas City Adopts Plan to Close Nearly Half Its Schools

Susan Saulny:

The Kansas City Board of Education voted Wednesday night to close almost half of the city’s public schools, accepting a sweeping and contentious plan to shrink the system in the face of dwindling enrollment, budget cuts and a $50 million deficit.
In a 5-to-4 vote, the members endorsed the Right-Size plan, proposed by the schools superintendent, John Covington, to close 28 of the city’s 61 schools and cut 700 of 3,000 jobs, including those of 285 teachers. The closings are expected to save $50 million, erasing the deficit from the $300 million budget.
“We must make sacrifices,” said board member Joel Pelofsky, speaking in favor of the plan before the vote. “Unite in favor of our children.”

Getting Tough in Kansas City

Frederick Hess:

Across the nation, districts are only enduring the first phase of what is likely a several-year stretch of tough budgets. Why? First, property taxes account for so much of school spending, residential real estate prices are only now bottoming, commercial properties will be falling into 2011, and states adjust valuation on a rolling basis. This means the impact of the real estate bubble likely won’t fully play out until 2014 or so. Second, thus far, districts have been cushioned by more than $100 billion in stimulus funds. Third, going forward, K-12 is going to be competing with demands for Medicaid, transportation, public safety, and higher education–all of which have been squeezed and will be hungry for fresh dollars when the economy recovers. And, fourth, massively underfunded state and local pension plans will require states to redirect dollars from operations. All of this means that the funding “cliff” looming in 2010 to 2011 is steeper and likely to be with us longer than most district leaders have publicly acknowledged.
Early responses to this situation have been inadequate, to put it mildly. Districts first took out the scalpel and turned up thermostats, delayed textbook purchases, and reduced maintenance. Now they’re boosting class sizes, raising fees, and zeroing out support staff and freshmen athletics. It’s going to take a lot more for districts to thrive in their new fiscal reality. It would behoove them to take a page from the playbook of new Kansas City Superintendent John Covington.

Kansas City considers closing 31 of 61 schools

Greg Toppo:

n the pantheon of unpopular moves by school superintendents, perhaps none rivals what John Covington wants to do.
Faced with declining enrollment and a $50 million budget shortfall, the Kansas City, Mo., schools chief wants the school board to close as many as 31 of the city’s 61 schools and lay off one-fourth of its employees — including 285 teachers.
Covington wants it done by the time school starts in fall. A vote could come in March.
“The bottom line is the quality of education we’re offering children in Kansas City is not good enough,” he says. “One reason it’s not good enough is that we’ve tried to spread our resources over far too many schools.”
Closing schools in shrinking urban districts is nothing new: It’s happening in dozens of cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Memphis, San Antonio and Washington, D.C. But the scope of Covington’s plan sets it apart from even the most cash-strapped school districts.

Much more on Kansas City’s school closing plans here.

Kansas City Public School closings are painful but needed

Kansas City Star:

Superintendent John Covington has offered a painful but bold proposal to close about half the schools in the Kansas City School District. The radical surgery is needed for the district to survive and improve its chances of providing better public education.
Covington and other officials announced on Saturday that up to 31 of the district’s schools could close, including Westport High School and possibly Northeast High School. The central office at 12th and McGee streets also will be for sale.
The proposed reductions are fiscally sound and clearly necessary. The schools on average are operating at only half capacity. The months-long decision-making process evaluated each school’s age, costs, efficiency and durability, as well as the best transfer possibilities for students to get a good education.
Covington and his administrative team deserve high marks so far for involving the public in the decision process, beginning last year. Parents, students, district workers, and business, faith, civic and community leaders were invited to “Right Sizing the District” forums.

Covington’s bold Kansas City school-closing plan

Yael T. Abouhalkah:

Congratulations to Kansas City School District Superintendent John Covington.
He’s just take the courageous and correct step of saying the district needs to shutter more than two dozen schools in the ever-shrinking district.
From 74,000 students about 40 years ago to 17,000 now, the district has no reason to continue to operate so many buildings at less than 50 percent capacity.
Covington, however, also must get rid of a proportionate number of administrators at the downtown office building, which has been bloated with staff for many years.
If more than 200 teachers are going to receive pink slips in closed buildings, the downtown administrators should share in the pain.
Read The Star story, which includes other aspects of Covington’s proposal.

Related: Money And School Performance:

Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment:

or decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.

Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.

The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

The Kansas City experiment suggests that, indeed, educational problems can’t be solved by throwing money at them, that the structural problems of our current educational system are far more important than a lack of material resources, and that the focus on desegregation diverted attention from the real problem, low achievement.

Former Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater served in Kansas City prior to his time in Madison.

This is rather astonishing, given the amount of money spent in Kansas City.

K-12 tax & spending climate: We’ve Built Cities We Can’t Afford

Strong towns: In this sense, Kansas City, Missouri is no different than most communities in the United States and Canada. In the last 70 years, the physical size of Kansas City has quadrupled while the population has remained relatively stable. (Put another way, every resident of Kansas City is on the hook for maintaining four … Continue reading K-12 tax & spending climate: We’ve Built Cities We Can’t Afford

Top officials at Milwaukee Public Schools don’t apply or interview for jobs

Casey Geraldo: The I-TEAM verified with a district spokesperson who clarified in an email that “the superintendent has the ability to appoint these positions regardless of an application process or not.” He continued, writing “I’d be curious to learn if that is common practice for other large districts.” We called other similar-sized districts. Both Kansas … Continue reading Top officials at Milwaukee Public Schools don’t apply or interview for jobs

University demands student pay $500 for public records on its Chinese propaganda institute

College Fix: Under scrutiny from lawmakers of both parties and academic groups, universities have been closing their Chinese government-run centers at a brisk pace. The University of Kansas has not publicly moved to shutter its Confucius Institute, however, and a KU student wanted to know if administrators had discussed the possibility. He filed a public … Continue reading University demands student pay $500 for public records on its Chinese propaganda institute

The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids Is Not What We Expected

Nellie Bowles: The parents in Overland Park, Kan., were fed up. They wanted their children off screens, but they needed strength in numbers. First, because no one wants their kid to be the lone weird one without a phone. And second, because taking the phone away from a middle schooler is actually very, very tough. … Continue reading The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids Is Not What We Expected

Commentary on Edina’s curriculum and climate

powerline: Katherine Kersten is a Senior Fellow at Center of the American Experiment, the think tank that I run. In the Fall 2017 issue of our magazine, Thinking Minnesota, she wrote a long, thoroughly documented expose of leftist political indoctrination and bullying of nonconforming students, teachers and staff in the Edina, Minnesota public school system. … Continue reading Commentary on Edina’s curriculum and climate

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

Despite pushback, education panel votes to close five schools in de Blasio’s turnaround program

Alex Zimmerman: “They buried us while we were breathing,” said Deidre Walker, a math teacher at J.H.S. 145, a Bronx middle school that will now close at the end of the school year. “The resources weren’t given.” All five schools are part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Renewal initiative, a program designed to flood them … Continue reading Despite pushback, education panel votes to close five schools in de Blasio’s turnaround program

Spending More & Getting Less: Here’s why $7 billion didn’t help America’s worst schools

Caitlin Emma: The difference between the schools was in their readiness to make use of the sudden infusion of money. In Miami, school district officials had prepared for the grants. They had the support of teachers, unions and parents. In Chicago, where teachers fought the program and officials changed almost yearly, schools churned through millions … Continue reading Spending More & Getting Less: Here’s why $7 billion didn’t help America’s worst schools

Diminishing Returns in Wisconsin K-12 Education Spending Growth

Tap to view a larger version of these images. Martin F. Lueken, Ph.D., Rick Esenberg & CJ Szafir, via a kind reader (PDF): Robustness checks: Lastly, to check if the estimates from our main analysis behave differently when we modify our models, we conduct a series of robustness checks in our analysis. We estimate models … Continue reading Diminishing Returns in Wisconsin K-12 Education Spending Growth

How babbling to babies can boost their brains

The Economist: THE more parents talk to their children, the faster those children’s vocabularies grow and the better their intelligence develops. That might seem blindingly obvious, but it took until 1995 for science to show just how early in life the difference begins to matter. In that year Betty Hart and Todd Risley of the … Continue reading How babbling to babies can boost their brains

The Problem With Youth Activism

Courtney Martin:

“Do you think this is the right color ribbon?” asked a petite brunette, her hair pulled back in a haphazard ponytail, her college sweatshirt engulfing her tiny frame. “And do you think these are the right length of sections I’m cutting? I don’t want it to be all funky when we pin them on.”
“Mmm … I’m not sure,” said the guy next to her, sucking on a lollipop, his football-player physique totally evident in his tight band T-shirt.
“Looks good to me,” his roommate said without even glancing over at the ribbon or the girl.
Meet the college anti-war movement.
I just got back from a two-week campus speaking tour during which I had the privilege of hanging out in a women’s center at a Catholic college, eating bad Mexican food with Mennonite feminists, and chatting with aspiring writers and activists at a college in which half the students are the first in their families to experience higher education. I heard the stories of transgender youth in Kansas City, jocks with food addictions in Jacksonville, and student organizers who are too overwhelmed to address all the world’s problems in Connecticut.

At hearing of Missouri House committee, KC officials weigh in on education

Mara Rose Williams:

On the same day that state officials left Kansas City Public Schools unaccredited for now, Mayor Sly James and Superintendent Steve Green asked state lawmakers to support their efforts to improve education in the city.
At a public hearing before 18 members of the 22-member Missouri House Interim Committee on Education, the conversation ranged from a push for early childhood education to support for the mayor’s city-wide reading initiative. The potential transfer of students from unaccredited Kansas City schools to surrounding suburban districts also was discussed.
The committee, which is traveling the state hearing from educators and residents, said its plan is to put together a report on what people across Missouri say is needed to improve education and present it to other legislators.

Much more on the Kansas City schools, here.

Barbara Thompson Did Not Make the Madison School Board’s Final Two Superintendent Candidate Beauty Contest

I applaud the Wisconsin State Journal’s efforts to dig deeper into the Madison Superintendent search process. A kind reader pointed out to me how “shocking” it is that Barbara Thompson was NOT one of the two finalists.
The Madison School Board named these two finalists:

Jennifer Cheatham – apparently selected.
Walter Milton, Jr. – withdrew under a cloud of controversy.
from a larger group that included:

  • Joe Gothard, Madison’s assistant superintendent for secondary education.
  • Barbara Thompson, a former Madison principal and New Glarus superintendent who is currently superintendent in Montgomery, Ala.
  • Tony Apostle, a retired superintendent from the Puyallup School District near Tacoma, Wash.
  • Curtis Cain, administrator of the Shawnee Mission School District near Kansas City, Mo.
  • Sandra Smyser, superintendent of Eagle County Schools in Eagle, Colo.

Madison School Board releases files on search for new superintendent

Matthew DeFour:

The newspaper sought the names of all candidates interviewed by the School Board and background material provided. The district disclosed those names along with background materials for the two finalists it named publicly, Milton and Cheatham.
The other finalists were:
Joe Gothard, Madison’s assistant superintendent for secondary education.
Barbara Thompson, a former Madison principal and New Glarus superintendent who is currently superintendent in Montgomery, Ala.
Tony Apostle, a retired superintendent from the Puyallup School District near Tacoma, Wash.
Curtis Cain, administrator of the Shawnee Mission School District near Kansas City, Mo.
Sandra Smyser, superintendent of Eagle County Schools in Eagle, Colo.
Cheatham and Milton were the only finalists the board named on Feb. 3. They were scheduled to appear together at a community forum on Feb. 7, but Milton abruptly dropped out two days before the event amid questions about his background.

Prince George’s Schools considers copyright policy (!) that takes ownership of students’ work

Ovetta Wiggins:

A proposal by the Prince George’s County Board of Education to copyright work created by staff and students for school could mean that a picture drawn by a first-grader, a lesson plan developed by a teacher or an app created by a teen would belong to the school system, not the individual.
The measure has some worried that by the system claiming ownership to the work of others, creativity could be stifled and there would be little incentive to come up with innovative ways to educate students. Some have questioned the legality of the proposal as it relates to students.
“There is something inherently wrong with that,” David Cahn, an education activist who regularly attends county school board meetings, said before the board’s vote to consider the policy. “There are better ways to do this than to take away a person’s rights.”
If the policy is approved, the county would become the only jurisdiction in the Washington region where the school board assumes ownership of work done by the school system’s staff and students.
David Rein, a lawyer and adjunct law professor who teaches intellectual property at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, said he had never heard of a local school board enacting a policy allowing it to hold the copyright for a student’s work.

Orwellian.
Related: Aaron Swartz:

On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by federal authorities in connection with systematic downloading of academic journal articles from JSTOR.[8][9] Swartz opposed JSTOR’s practice of compensating publishers, rather than authors, out of the fees it charges for access to articles. Swartz contended that JSTOR’s fees were limiting public access to academic work that was being supported by public funding.[10][11]

Betty Hart Dies at 85; Studied Disparities in Children’s Vocabulary Growth

William Yardley
Betty Hart, whose research documenting how poor, working-class and professional parents speak to their young children helped establish the critical role that communicating with babies and toddlers has in their later development, died on Sept. 28 in Tucson. She was 85. The cause was lung cancer, said Dale Walker, a colleague and longtime friend. Dr. Hart was a graduate student at the University of Kansas in the 1960s when she began trying to help poor preschool children overcome speech and vocabulary deficits. But she and her colleagues later concluded that they had started too late in the children’s lives — that the ones they were trying to help could not simply “catch up” with extra intervention.
At the time, a prevalent view was that poor children were essentially beyond help, victims of circumstances and genetics. But Dr. Hart and some of her colleagues suspected otherwise and revisited the issue in the early 1980s, beginning research that would continue for a decade. “Rather than concede to the unmalleable forces of heredity, we decided that we would undertake research that would allow us to understand the disparate developmental trajectories we saw,” she and her former graduate supervisor, Todd R. Risley, wrote in 1995 in “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” a book about their findings, which were reported in 1992. “We realized that if we were to understand how and when differences in developmental trajectories began, we needed to see what was happening to children at home at the very beginning of their vocabulary growth.”
They began a two-and-a-half-year study of 42 families of various socioeconomic levels who had very young children. Starting when the children were between 7 and 9 months old, they recorded every word and utterance spoken to them and by them, as well as every parent-child interaction, over the course of one hour every month. It took many more years to transcribe and analyze the data, and the researchers were astonished by what they eventually found. “Simply in words heard, the average child on welfare was having half as much experience per hour (616 words per hour) as the average working-class child (1,251 words per hour) and less than one-third that of the average child in a professional family (2,153 words per hour),” Drs. Hart and Risley wrote.
“By age 4, the average child in a welfare family might have 13 million fewer words of cumulative experience than the average child in a working-class family,” they added. They also found disparities in tone, in positive and negative feedback, and in other areas — and that the disparities in speech and vocabulary acquisition persisted into school years and affected overall educational development.
“People kept thinking, ‘Oh, we can catch kids up later,’ and her big message was to start young and make sure the environment for young children is really rich in language,” said Dr. Walker, an associate research professor at Kansas who worked with Dr. Hart and followed many of the children into their school years.
The work has become a touchstone in debates over education policy, including what kind of investments governments should make in early intervention programs. One nonprofit program whose goals are rooted in the findings is Reach Out and Read, which uses pediatric exam rooms to promote literacy for lower-income children beginning at 6 months old.
Prompted by the success of Reach Out and Read, Dr. Alan L. Mendelsohn, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Bellevue Hospital and New York University Langone Medical Center, pushed intervention even further. He created a program through Bellevue in which lower-income parents visiting doctors are filmed interacting and reading with their children and then given suggestions on how they can expand their speaking and interactions. “Hart and Risley’s work really informed for me and many others the idea that maybe you could bridge the gap,” Dr. Mendelsohn said, “or in jargon terms — address the disparities.”
Bettie Mackenzie Farnsworth was born on July 15, 1927, in Kerr County, Tex. (She spelled her name Betty even though it was Bettie on her birth certificate.) Her family moved to South Dakota when she was a girl, and her mother died when she was quite young, Dr. Walker said. Dr. Hart, who lived in Kansas City, Kan., graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1949, and later taught in a preschool laboratory at the University of Washington directed by Sidney W. Bijou, a psychologist who helped establish modern behavioral therapy for childhood disorders. She accepted a research position at the University of Kansas in the mid-1960s, and received her master’s degree and Ph.D. there. She married John Hart in 1949; they divorced in 1961. Her three siblings are deceased, Dr. Walker said.
“Today, much of her research is being applied in many different ways,” said Dr. Andrew Garner, the chairman of a work group on early brain and child development for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “I think you could also argue that the current interest in brain development and epigenetics reinforces at almost a molecular level what she had identified 20 years ago.”

Administration Memo on the Madison Superintendent Search

Dylan Pauly, Legal Services:

Dr. Nerad recently announced his retirement effective June 30, 2013. Consequently, over the next few months this Board will be required to begin its search for the next District leader. While some members of the Board were Board members during the search that brought Dr. Nerad to Madison, many were not. A number of members have asked me to provide some background information so that they may familiarize themselves with the process that was used in 2007. Consequently, I have gathered the following documents for your review:
1. Request for Proposals: Consultation Services for Superintendent Search, Proposal 3113, dated March 19, 2007;
2. Minutes from Board meetings on February 26,2007, and March 12,2007, reflecting Board input and feedback regarding draft versions ofthe RFP;
3. Contract with Hazard, Young and Attea;
4. A copy of the Notice of Vacancy that was published in Education Week;
5. Minutes from a Board meeting on August 27, 2007, which contains the general timeline used to complete the search process; and,
6. Superintendent Search- Leadership Profile Development Session Schedule, which reflects how community engagement was handled during the previous search.
It is also my understanding that the Board may wish to create an ad hoc committee to handle various procedural tasks related to the search process. In line with Board Policy 1041, I believe it is appropriate to take official action in open session to create the new ad hoc. I recommend the following motion:

Dave Zweiful shares his thoughts on Dan Nerad’s retirement.
Related: Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.

The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

The Madison Superintendent position’s success is subject to a number of factors, including: the 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. contract, which may become the District’s handbook (Seniority notes and links)…, state and federal laws, hiring practices, teacher content knowledge, the School Board, lobbying and community economic conditions (tax increase environment) among others.

Superintendent Nerad’s reign has certainly been far more open about critical issues such as reading, math and open enrollment than his predecessor (some board members have certainly been active with respect to improvement and accountability). The strings program has also not been under an annual assault, lately. That said, changing anything in a large organization, not to mention a school district spending nearly $15,000 per student is difficult, as Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman pointed out in 2009.

Would things improve if a new Superintendent enters the scene? Well, in this case, it is useful to take a look at the District’s recent history. In my view, diffused governance in the form of more independent charter schools and perhaps a series of smaller Districts, possibly organized around the high schools might make a difference. I also think the District must focus on just a few things, namely reading/writing, math and science. Change is coming to our agrarian era school model (or, perhaps the Frederick Taylor manufacturing model is more appropriate). Ideally, Madison, given its unparalleled tax and intellectual base should lead the way.

Perhaps we might even see the local Teachers union authorize charters as they are doing in Minneapolis.

Madison School Board rates Superintendent Nerad barely ‘proficient’;

Matthew DeFour:

If Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s job performance were judged like a student taking the state achievement test, he would score barely proficient, according to the Madison School Board’s most recent evaluation.
The evaluation, completed last month and released to the State Journal under the state’s Open Records Law, reveals the School Board’s divided view of Nerad’s performance.
School Board President James Howard said he expects the board to vote later this month on whether to extend Nerad’s contract beyond June 2013. The decision has been delayed as Nerad’s achievement gap plan is reviewed by the public, Howard said.
Soon after that plan was proposed last month, Howard said he would support extending Nerad’s contract. Now, Howard says he is uncertain how he’ll vote.
“It’s probably a toss-up,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues on the table in Madison. It’s time to resolve them. All this kicking-the-can-down-the-road stuff has to stop.”
Nerad said he has always welcomed feedback on how he can improve as a leader.

Related: Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.
The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

The Madison Superintendent position’s success is subject to a number of factors, including: the 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. contract, which may become the District’s handbook (Seniority notes and links)…, state and federal laws, hiring practices, teacher content knowledge, the School Board, lobbying and community economic conditions (tax increase environment) among others.
Superintendent Nerad’s reign has certainly been far more open about critical issues such as reading, math and open enrollment than his predecessor (some board members have certainly been active with respect to improvement and accountability). The strings program has also not been under an annual assault, lately. That said, changing anything in a large organization, not to mention a school district spending nearly $15,000 per student is difficult, as Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman pointed out in 2009.
Would things improve if a new Superintendent enters the scene? Well, in this case, it is useful to take a look at the District’s recent history. In my view, diffused governance in the form of more independent charter schools and perhaps a series of smaller Districts, possibly organized around the high schools might make a difference. I also think the District must focus on just a few things, namely reading/writing, math and science. Change is coming to our agrarian era school model (or, perhaps the Frederick Taylor manufacturing model is more appropriate). Ideally, Madison, given its unparalleled tax and intellectual base should lead the way.
Perhaps we might even see the local Teachers union authorize charters as they are doing in Minneapolis.

Narrowing Madison’s Achievement gap will take more than money

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Madison school chief Dan Nerad’s plan to close the district’s achievement gap is certainly bold about spending money.
It seeks an estimated $105 million over five years for a slew of ideas — many of them already in place or attempted, just not to the degree Nerad envisions.
The school superintendent argues a comprehensive approach is needed to boost the academic performance of struggling minority and low-income students. No one approach will magically lift the district’s terrible graduation rates of just 48 percent for black students and 57 percent for Latinos.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Related:

Listen to most of the speech via this 25mb .mp3 file.

Well worth reading: Money And School Performance:
Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment
:

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.
Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.
The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

And, In Kansas City, tackling education’s status quo “We’re not an Employment Agency, We’re a School District”

School reform proposals are in limbo in Missouri General Assembly

Jason Hancock:

Missouri lawmakers are facing increasing pressure to deal with a potential flood of student transfers stemming from the loss of accreditation in urban school districts like Kansas City’s.
But looming over this year’s legislative session is a pledge by House Speaker Steve Tilley, a Perryville Republican, that any plan to deal with school transfers to suburban districts, or adjustments to the state’s school funding formula, be coupled with ideas that have doomed previous reform efforts.
Those include controversial measures such as expanding charter schools, eliminating teacher tenure, basing teacher pay on student achievement and offering tax credit vouchers to parents who want to send children to private schools.

Keep KC’s school board, but get it plenty of help

The Kansas City Star

No one wants to see the Kansas City School District recover just enough to regain provisional accreditation and limp along in wounded form for another decade or so.
Kansas Citians are looking for an administrative structure capable of running schools that meet the state’s expectations and prepare students for college and jobs.
With the school district scheduled to become unaccredited on Jan. 1, the Missouri Board of Education is contemplating structural changes. Chris Nicastro, the education commissioner, has spent considerable time trying to figure out what to recommend to the board when it meets Thursday and Friday. At one point, she asked members of the Kansas City school board if they’d be willing to step aside in favor of an appointed board. Most would prefer to remain in charge.
School board governance has not served Kansas City well in recent decades. Candidate choices have mostly been weak. Voter participation in elections has been abysmal. Boards have been factious and meddlesome.

Money And School Performance:
Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment by Paul Cioti:

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.
Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.
The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.
The Kansas City experiment suggests that, indeed, educational problems can’t be solved by throwing money at them, that the structural problems of our current educational system are far more important than a lack of material resources, and that the focus on desegregation diverted attention from the real problem, low achievement.

Real answer to poverty, and poor schools, has to be the power to chose

Chuck Mikkelsen:

The Star article, “Poverty tightens its grip in cities,” described a recent Brookings Institution study on the increasing concentration of poverty in cities, including Kansas City.
Poor public schools, such as the Kansas City School District, are a major factor in creating pockets of poverty. Those with enough resources move out of underperforming districts leaving the poorest of the poor behind.
Reversing this trend requires, among other things, fixing the school district problem. A number of solutions have been proposed, most of which will be as effective as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Real change requires something more fundamental: What the left calls giving “power to the people” and what the right calls being “free to choose.”

Educational diversity is essential to progress.

Selling out public schools: Millions of dollars are changing face of education

Bill Lueders:

“School choice” is a broad term that refers to a wide range of alternatives, including themed charter schools that are entirely under the control of their home school districts. Forty states and the District of Columbia have those in place, according to the American Federation for Children, a national school choice advocacy group.
But it is the voucher programs, in which public funds are used to send children to private schools, that are the focus of much of the energy around the choice movement. Seven states and the District of Columbia have those, and Milwaukee’s voucher program is the first and largest of its kind in the country. That makes Wisconsin a key national battleground.
“Wisconsin has a high level of value to the movement as a whole,” says Robert Enlow, president of the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, a nonprofit group that advocates for school choice. The state, he says, is notable for “the high level of scholarship amounts that families can get.”
Milwaukee’s voucher program had 20,300 full-time equivalent voucher students at 102 private schools in 2010-11, compared to about 80,000 students at Milwaukee’s public K-12 schools. The total cost, at $6,442 per voucher student, was $130.8 million, of which about $90 million came from the state and the rest from the Milwaukee Public Schools.
Critics see the school choice program as part of a larger strategy — driven into high gear in Wisconsin by the fall election of Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans — to eviscerate, for ideological and religious reasons, public schools and the unions that represent teachers.

It would be interesting to compare special interest spending in support of the status quo, vs groups advocating change, as outlined in Bill Lueders’ article. A few links:

  • WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

    How much do election-year firewalls cost to build? For the state’s largest teachers union, $1.57 million.
    That’s how much the Wisconsin Education Association Council said last week it will spend trying to make sure four Democratic state senators are re-elected – enough, WEAC hopes, to keep a Democratic majority in the 33-member state body.
    Although there are 15 Democratic candidates running for the state Senate, and 80 Democrats running for the state Assembly, the latest WEAC report shows that the teachers union is placing what amounts to an “all in” bet on saving just four Democratic senators who are finishing their first terms.
    In an Oct. 25 report to the Government Accountability Board, the 98,000-member union reported that it will independently:

  • Wisconsin teachers union tops list of biggest lobbying groups for 2009-10, report shows

    The statewide teachers union led in spending on lobbying state lawmakers even before this year’s fight over collective bargaining rights.
    The Wisconsin Education Association Council spent $2.5 million on lobbying in 2009 and 2010, years when Democrats were in control of all of state government, a report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Board showed.
    WEAC is always one of the top spending lobbyists in the Capitol and they took a central role this year fighting Gov. Scott Walker’s plan curbing public employee union rights, including teachers.
    Back in 2009, when Democrat Jim Doyle was governor and Democrats controlled the Senate and Assembly, WEAC wasn’t helping to organize massive protests but it was a regular presence in the Capitol.

  • Spending in summer recall elections reaches nearly $44 million

    Spending in the summer’s recall elections by special interest groups, candidates and political action committees shattered spending records set in previous elections, with $43.9 million doled out on nine elections, according to a study released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
    Spending by six political action committees or special interest groups topped the $1 million mark. We Are Wisconsin was the top spender.
    The union-backed group spent roughly $10.75 million, followed by the conservative-leaning Club for Growth at $9 million and $4 million in spending from the Greater Wisconsin Committee.

  • Kansas City School District Loses its Accreditation

Judge Bars School Tax Increase in Kansas

Stephanie Simon:

A federal judge in Kansas on Friday ruled against a group of suburban parents who sought to put a property-tax increase on the ballot in order to raise funds for their public schools.
Kansas, like a handful of other states, caps the amount of money that local school districts can raise from property taxes, in an effort to enforce a rough parity in spending across the state. Parents in the Shawnee Mission School District, which serves mostly affluent suburbs of Kansas City, sued to lift that cap. They were opposed in court by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration and a coalition of superintendents representing mostly poor and rural districts.
U.S. District Judge John W. Lungstrum dismissed the case on the grounds that the cap was a crucial and integral part of the state’s complex formula for distributing education funds in a manner meant to ensure that wealthy school districts don’t pull far ahead of poorer districts. “If the plaintiffs were to prevail on their claim that the cap is unconstitutional, the entire [school funding] scheme would be struck down,” Judge Lungstrum wrote.

Closed KC district schools under eye of “repurposer”

Joe Robertson

As the newly hired “repurposer” of the Kansas City School District’s closed schools, Shannon Jaax will try to do what no one has been able to do for a long time.
Her job: Lead a successful campaign to turn vacant school properties back into community assets.
Jaax, a lead planner with the city’s planning department, inherits a landscape littered with decaying buildings, some of them having stood empty for more than a decade.
The effort takes on more urgency since the district has added 21 buildings to a closure list that now totals 35.
The district will be engaging all the community and city resources it can to make the process work, she said.

Missouri auditor affirms KC district’s drastic steps

Joe Robertson:

After two dozen school closings and more than 1,000 job cuts in the Kansas City School District, Missouri Auditor Susan Montee issued a reassuring message Thursday night.
Drastic measures were indeed necessary.
Without them, the district would have been in a “financially distressed position,” Montee said.
In a prelude to a full audit report, the state retraced the old ground of poor financial decisions.
Many people, aware of the ongoing audit, had been asking the auditor’s office if the wholesale cuts were necessary, Montee said.
She jumped out early with a partial report, she said, “because it might help people’s confidence in the district.”

Complete auditor’s report; 223K PDF.

U.S. education secretary calls on NAACP to focus on schools

Mara Rose Williams:

Calling education “the civil rights issue of our generation,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Wednesday issued a national challenge for whole communities to get involved in improving public education.
“The only way to achieve equality in society is to achieve it in the classroom,” Duncan told NAACP delegates meeting in Kansas City for the group’s annual convention.
“This is not just a moral obligation; it is our economic imperative,” he said. “Everyone has a responsibility. Every one can step up. Education is our national mission. Education is our best hope.”
He said community leaders “must be at the table when decisions are made about how to improve struggling schools.”
The Obama administration is making $4 billion available to improve the 5 percent worst-performing schools in the country, Duncan said.

Forget grade levels, KC schools try something new

Heather Hollingsworth:

Forget about students spending one year in each grade, with the entire class learning the same skills at the same time. Districts from Alaska to Maine are taking a different route.
Instead of simply moving kids from one grade to the next as they get older, schools are grouping students by ability. Once they master a subject, they move up a level. This practice has been around for decades, but was generally used on a smaller scale, in individual grades, subjects or schools.
Now, in the latest effort to transform the bedraggled Kansas City, Mo. schools, the district is about to become what reform experts say is the largest one to try the approach. Starting this fall officials will begin switching 17,000 students to the new system to turnaround trailing schools and increase abysmal tests scores.

Commentary: It’s change or die for the Detroit Public Schools

Nolan Finley:

Robert Bobb’s vision for radically restructuring Detroit’s failing education system is validated by the decision of Kansas City to shutter half of its schools.
Bobb intends to tear apart the Detroit Public Schools and rebuild the district on a foundation of small, nimble schools that are responsive to the needs of all children and fully accountable for how students perform. Everything will change, from how schools are managed to how teachers teach, and schools that don’t perform will be quickly shut down.
His proposals are raising howls from the special interests that benefit from keeping things as they are, as well as from some parents who aren’t willing to endure the sacrifice — closed schools and more rigorous standards — to make the changes possible.

One Classroom, From Sea to Shining Sea

Susan Jacoby:

AMERICAN public education, a perennial whipping boy for both the political right and left, is once again making news in ways that show how difficult it will be to cure what ails the nation’s schools.
Only last week, President Obama declared that every high school graduate must be fully prepared for college or a job (who knew?) and called for significant changes in the No Child Left Behind law. In Kansas City, Mo., officials voted to close nearly half the public schools there to save money. And the Texas Board of Education approved a new social studies curriculum playing down the separation of church and state and even eliminating Thomas Jefferson — the author of that malignant phrase, “wall of separation” — from a list of revolutionary writers.
Each of these seemingly unrelated developments is part of a crazy quilt created by one of America’s most cherished and unexamined traditions: local and state control of public education. Schooling had been naturally decentralized in the Colonial era — with Puritan New England having a huge head start on the other colonies by the late 1600s — and, in deference to the de facto system of community control already in place, the Constitution made no mention of education. No one in either party today has the courage to say it, but what made sense for a sparsely settled continent at the dawn of the Republic is ill suited to the needs of a 21st-century nation competing in a global economy.

Does the Size of a School Matter?

Herbert J. Walberg, Don Soifer, Leonie Haimson, Valerie E. Lee, professor, Rudy Crew:

Facing low enrollment and a $50 million budget deficit, the Kansas City Board of Education announced on Wednesday that it would close almost half of the city’s public schools. The “Right-Size” plan will mean closing 28 of the city’s 61 schools and eliminating 700 out of 3,000 jobs.
National education experts have said that the Kansas City schools were not responding to demographic changes and academic failure. District officials say the closings will improve achievement by allowing the system to focus its resources.
How much does school size matter? And what are the lessons learned from Kansas City?

What’s next after K.C. school closures?

Barbara Shelley:

Faced with a deficit and troubled school system, Kansas City’s Board of Education voted to close 28 out of 61 schools. Barbara Shelley, columnist for the Kansas City Star, talks with Kai Ryssdal about what led to the decision and its impact.
TEXT OF INTERVIEW
KAI RYSSDAL: The board of education in Kansas City, Mo., took a vote last night on how to save their city’s long-troubled school system. It was close. But by the end of the evening a plan to shut down 28 of the district’s 61 schools and lay off 700 people did pass. The vote was 5-4. The district says the plan should cut $50 million from the budget.
Barbara Shelley is a columnist for the Kansas City Star. She’s been writing about schools there and the city itself for quite a while. Barb, it’s good to have you with us.
BARBARA SHELLEY: Good to be here.
RYSSDAL: What’s the reaction in town today after this announcement?
SHELLEY: Well, I think you have two different reactions. You have the reaction from people that are going to be directly affected. And that’s the families and the teachers and the students. And there’s a lot of anguish in that group. You have another reaction from I would say business types and people that see this as a hope that a smaller, more streamlined school district will mean better performance and a better academic potential for the district.

We must right-size KC School District, now

Airick Leonard West:

At first glance, the right-sizing of the Kansas City School District just feels wrong.
It feels wrong to close more schools in struggling neighborhoods, to punish scholars with longer bus rides home, to let teachers go with little more than “we wish we didn’t have to,” to take beautiful buildings that stood for community and put boards in their windows, to ask families to bear the burden of a solution after years of school boards — which now include myself — failing to fix the problems. In the storm of controversy, it is easy to overlook what is right in the journey we are on.
Beyond all that may feel wrong, there is so much that is right in our district and with the right-sizing plan. We should celebrate that our superintendent has led a thoughtful, data-driven, six-month, three-stage process to arrive at the plan.

KC District parents, students make pitch to keep their schools open Read more: KC District parents, students make pitch to keep their schools open & Interesting Comments

Joe Robertson:

For many of the 400 people who came out to defend their schools from Kansas City’s chopping block Tuesday night, this was their first time for one of these hearings.
Not for those from McCoy Elementary.
They’d been through this before, most recently a year ago. And the school’s supporters were back again in their orange shirts with their neighbors, teachers and a popular principal.
“It’s the best school on the planet — McCoy,” 7-year-old Edwin Lopez declared to a round of cheers.
With the district pushing its longest list of possible closings ever, McCoy supporters know it will be hard for the school to escape one more time.
But as Superintendent John Covington and his staff started the community tour Tuesday night, he left everyone in the crowd with some hope that his plan to close half of the district’s 60 schools could change. He also left them with the reality that many of their schools will be closed.

Much more on Kansas City here.

Covington calls for closing up to 31 schools

Joe Robertson:

Kansas City Superintendent John Covington this afternoon unveiled his sweeping plan to close half of the district’s schools, redistribute grade levels and sell the downtown central office.
Covington presented his proposal to the school board in advance of a series of forums next week where the community will get to weigh in on what would be the largest swath of closures in district history, as well as a major reorganization.
“Folks, it’s going to hurt,” Covington told an overflow audience. “It’s going to be painful, but if we work together, we’re going to get through it.”
Covington wants to be able to complete the public debate and present a final plan for a vote by the board at its Feb. 24 meeting.
The board and the community have a lot to digest over the next 10 days.
The proposal calls for:
•29 to 31 of the district’s 60 schools would close, including Westport High and Central Middle.

Related: Money And School Performance: Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment:

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.
Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.
The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.
The Kansas City experiment suggests that, indeed, educational problems can’t be solved by throwing money at them, that the structural problems of our current educational system are far more important than a lack of material resources, and that the focus on desegregation diverted attention from the real problem, low achievement.

Former Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater served in Kansas City prior to his time in Madison.
This is rather astonishing, given the amount of money spent in Kansas City.

No decision on Kansas school funding litigation

Lori Yount:

Leaders from about 60 school districts made no decision Friday about whether to sue the state over education funding.
Most of the discussion by members of the Schools for Fair Funding coalition was in a one-hour session that was closed to media and other spectators.
“They’re being very deliberate about this and taking it seriously,” said John Robb, lead attorney for the coalition.
“They want to get more folks on board.”

Paul Ciotti:

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.
Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.
The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.
The Kansas City experiment suggests that, indeed, educational problems can’t be solved by throwing money at them, that the structural problems of our current educational system are far more important than a lack of material resources, and that the focus on desegregation diverted attention from the real problem, low achievement.

Charter Schools ‘Market Share’ Growing; Exceeds 20% in 14 Communities

Reuters:

Public charter schools’
presence in K-12 schooling continues to grow, according to the latest Top 10 Charter Communities by Market Share report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. In fact, charters now enroll more than one in five public school students in 14 communities – including major cities like Detroit, St. Louis, and Kansas City.
Demand remains strongest in urban areas – and as a result, charter “market share” is growing rapidly in cities and adjacent suburbs, even while the overall number of students remains a modest portion of nationwide enrollment.
“Charter schools are working at scale in a growing number of American cities,” according to Nelson Smith, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Chartering is becoming well-established as a key component of the public education delivery system,” he added.

Support for extending school hours or school year is growing

Eric Adler:

Teacher Kristin Bretch snaps instructions to her young charges, reading words from her teacher’s guide, pacing in front of the white board like a drill sergeant.
“We’re on word three: ‘belt.’ Spell ‘belt,’ everyone.”
The pupils are second- and third-graders, almost all poor and many of whom could barely speak English when they arrived in Kansas City as refugees from countries like Burundi and Sudan, Vietnam and Somalia. They reply, almost shouting, in unison.
B-E-L-T. Belt.
Here, at the Della Lamb Charter Elementary School, these lessons go on for 227 days, compared with the average 180 days of most U.S. school districts.
The reason is clear:
“To make us smarter. To give us better brains,” said Abdirihman Akil, age 9.
Exactly, said President Barack Obama. He and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, have reiterated support for the idea of adding hours to the school day to boost academic achievement and compete with other nations.

Private sector investing in charter schools

David Twiddy:

Charter schools, already seeing a surge in students, are getting attention from another group – private investors.
Entertainment Properties Inc., known mostly for sinking its money into movie theaters and wineries, recently bought 22 locations from charter school operator Imagine Schools for about $170 million. The real estate investment trust acts as landlord, while Imagine operates the schools and is using the investment to expand its chain of 74 locations.
“They really are an effective source of long-term financing that we can rely on and enables us to do what we’re best at, which is running schools, and do what they’re best at, which is long-term real estate ownership,” said Barry Sharp, chief financial officer for Arlington, Va.-based Imagine. “It’s a good fit.”
Charter school supporters hope the move by Kansas City-based Entertainment Properties is the first of many such partnerships as they deal with increased interest from parents but not more money to build or expand their facilities.

Babysitting has figured in much of society’s angst over teen culture and the changing American family

Laura Vanderkam:

Like many girls, I began my adventures in babysitting when I was 11 years old. It was in the late 1980s, after I had taken a Red Cross course to become “babysitter certified,” acquiring expertise in dislodging an object from a choking baby’s throat and learning to ask parents for emergency phone numbers. During my roughly four-year career, there were highs, like using my babysitting contacts to co-found a lucrative summer day camp in my neighborhood, and lows: bratty children and stingy parents, such as one mom who would have me come over 45 minutes early but wouldn’t start the clock until she left and always wrote out a check when she got back — even though, considering my $2-per-hour rate, she probably could have paid me from change in the bottom of her purse.
My experiences were fairly typical of those encountered by millions of young women, as I might have suspected at the time and as I am thoroughly convinced after having read “Babysitter: An American History,” a scholarly examination of the subject by Miriam Forman-Brunell. Ms. Forman-Brunell is a history professor at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, but she is also a mother who reports that she has hired a bevy of babysitters.
Babysitting, the author says, has always been a source of tension: “Distressed parent-employers have suspected their sitters of doing wrong ever since the beginning of babysitting nearly one hundred years ago.” Before that, extended families or servants ensured that someone was watching the kids, but with the rise of the suburban nuclear family, parents looking to preserve adult intimacy in their marriages were forced to seek help elsewhere. Since most either weren’t willing to or couldn’t pay adult wages, the labor supply was reduced to young teens who wanted money but didn’t have other ways of earning it.

Report: Missouri charter school students outperform peers

Mara Rose Williams:

Missouri charter school students, on average, do better in reading and math than students in their peer traditional public schools, according to a national study released today.
The report done by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University does not mention specific schools in Kansas City or St. Louis — the only two places in the state allowed by law to operate charters.
The report’s authors say they found great variation in academic achievement among each state’s charters.
“An important part of the story is the variations,” said Margaret Raymond, director of the Center and lead author of the report.

A Family Illness, and Fewer Friends Who Can Help

Vanessa Fuhrmans:

Chris and Vickie Cox’s health insurance never covered the full cost of treating their children’s bone-marrow disorder. They relied on donations from their church, neighbors and family to plug the holes in their coverage, which ran as high as $40,000 a year.
That safety net is now unraveling. The slumping economy is pulling down fragile networks of support that in better times could keep families with insurance but big bills from falling into a financial hole.
The three Cox children have a rare disease called Shwachman Diamond Syndrome, which curtails the production of bacteria-fighting blood cells and digestive enzymes needed to absorb nutrients properly. It can lead to life-threatening infection, bone-marrow failure or a deadly form of leukemia.
After Samuel, 7, Grace, 12, and Jake, 15, were diagnosed with the genetic disease earlier this decade, landing a job with good health benefits became the biggest priority for Mr. Cox. He gave up plans to run his own home respiratory-care business to work as a salaried medical-equipment salesman. In 2006, the family moved to North Carolina from Kansas City to be closer to specialists at Duke University.

The ABCs of federal tax breaks for college education expenses

Kathy Kristof:

If you’re paying for a college education, you may need an advanced degree to figure out how to claim federal tax breaks for those expenses.
Congress in recent years has approved myriad special credits, deductions and other tax breaks for people paying tuition bills and related costs, and new breaks and twists were added in the recent stimulus bill.
The tax breaks can be generous, saving you as much as $2,500 per student. But how much you can claim depends on your income, the student’s educational status and how and when you paid the bill.
“We call it complexification,” said Jackie Perlman, an analyst at H&R Block’s Tax Institute in Kansas City, Mo. “We hear people saying that they would like the tax law simplified, but simplifying means eliminating tax breaks. It’s really simple when there’s nothing to claim.”

The ABCs of federal tax breaks for college education expenses

Kathy Kristof:

You can save as much as $2,500 per student, but how much you claim depends on your income, the student’s educational status and how and when you paid the bill.
If you’re paying for a college education, you may need an advanced degree to figure out how to claim federal tax breaks for those expenses.
Congress in recent years has approved myriad special credits, deductions and other tax breaks for people paying tuition bills and related costs, and new breaks and twists were added in the recent stimulus bill.
The tax breaks can be generous, saving you as much as $2,500 per student. But how much you can claim depends on your income, the student’s educational status and how and when you paid the bill.
“We call it complexification,” said Jackie Perlman, an analyst at H&R Block’s Tax Institute in Kansas City, Mo. “We hear people saying that they would like the tax law simplified, but simplifying means eliminating tax breaks. It’s really simple when there’s nothing to claim.”
There’s no worry of anything simple when it comes to college costs. Among the education-related breaks for 2008 are two tax credits, two deductions and at least two significant “income exclusions.” And for 2009 there’s a new and improved tax credit.
Tax credits provide a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the tax you owe. Deductions reduce the income that’s subject to tax. Income exclusions, like deductions, reduce the amount of income that’s subject to tax.

The High School Dropout’s Economic Ripple Effect

Gary Fields:

Mayors Go Door to Door, Personally Encouraging Students to Stay in the Game for Their Own Good — and for the Sake of the City
As the financial meltdown and economic slump hold the national spotlight, another potential crisis is on the horizon: a persistently high dropout rate that educators and mayors across the country say increases the threat to the country’s strength and prosperity.
According to one study, only half of the high school students in the nation’s 50 largest cities are graduating in four years, with a figure as low as 25% in Detroit. And while concern over dropouts isn’t new, the problem now has officials outside of public education worried enough to get directly involved.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors [PDF Report] is focusing its education efforts on dropouts. Mayors in Houston and other Texas cities go door to door to the homes of dropouts, encouraging them to return to school. Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin meets on weekends with students and helps them with life planning. Other cities, like Milwaukee and Kansas City, Mo., have dropout prevention programs.
Some new studies show far fewer students completing high school with diplomas than long believed. “Whereas the conventional wisdom had long placed the graduation rate around 85%, a growing consensus has emerged that only about seven in 10 students are actually successfully finishing high school” in four years, said a study by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, a nonprofit group based in Bethesda, Md. It was released this year by America’s Promise Alliance, a nonpartisan advocacy group for youth. In the nation’s 50 largest cities, the graduation rate was 52%.

Urban school superintendents hard to hang onto

Betsy Taylor:

t. Louis is looking for its eighth school superintendent since 2003. Kansas City is on its 25th superintendent in 39 years.
Despite good salaries and plenty of perks, a recent study found that the average urban superintendent nationwide stays on the job only about three years — which educators say isn’t enough time to enact meaningful, long-lasting reform.
“Would you buy Coca-Cola if they changed CEOs every year?” asked Diana Bourisaw, who left as St. Louis superintendent in July after two years in the top job. “The answer is no. I wouldn’t.”
On Friday, Kelvin Adams signed a three-year contract with the St. Louis district worth $225,000 annually plus bonus incentives, a day after his hiring was approved by a state-appointed board that oversees the district.
Adams figures he can buck the trend of superintendent turnover.
“I am absolutely focused on one thing — student achievement,” Adams said.

Packers Launch Anti-Steroid Initiative in 7 Wisconsin High Schools

Green Bay Packers:

The Green Bay Packers will partner with seven Wisconsin high schools to implement the NFL ATLAS & ATHENA Schools Program, a nationally-acclaimed initiative designed to promote healthy living and reduce the use of steroids and other drugs among high school athletes.
The high schools, Ashwaubenon, Columbus, De Pere, Gibraltar, New Holstein, Two Rivers and West De Pere, will complete the program sessions during the 2008-09 school year. The schools were chosen based on interviews with program administrators and school-wide commitment from the principal, athletic director and coaches.
This local opportunity was created as a result of a $2.8 million grant from the NFL Youth Football Fund to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). The Green Bay Packers, other NFL teams and the NFL Players Association all contribute to the NFL Youth Football Fund. The NFL grant is one of a series of improvements to the NFL and NFL Players Association’s policy and program on anabolic steroids and related substances. It will be used to disseminate ATLAS and ATHENA to 36,000 high school athletes and 1,200 coaches in 80 high schools during the 2008-2009 school year. Participating teams include the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, and Washington Redskins.

Chicago Urban League Lawsuit makes school funding a civil rights matter

via a kind reader’s email. Matt Arado:

Illinois courts refused twice in the 1990s to enter the school-funding debate, saying the matter belonged with state lawmakers, not the judiciary.
The Chicago Urban League, which filed a new school-funding lawsuit against the state this week, believes it can make the courts rethink that position.
The lawsuit characterizes the school-funding question as a civil rights matter, alleging that the current system, which uses property taxes to fund schools, discriminates against low-income minority students, especially blacks and Hispanics.
Using civil rights law should ensure that the courts will hear the case this time around, Urban League Executive Vice President Sharon Jones said.
“Courts have been deciding racial discrimination cases for years,” she said, adding that the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 didn’t exist during earlier school-funding cases.

Maudlyne Ihejirika:

A day after a civil rights lawsuit called the state’s school funding system discriminatory, those who have been battling inequities in the Chicago Public Schools were optimistic, pointing to a historic win in New York.
“The New York suit was successful, and very similar, so we’re hoping that case will set precedent,” said Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education.
As in Illinois, previous suits challenging New York State’s school funding system had failed. But in 1993, a coalition there filed suit alleging for the first time that the system had a “disparate racial impact” based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
After 10 years and several appeals, New York’s highest court ruled in 2003 in favor of the plaintiffs. Further appeals by New York’s governor ended with the Court of Appeals upholding the ruling in 2006 and ordering the state to meet a minimum funding figure. That new funding level was finally enacted in April 2007.
Those involved in two previous lawsuits in Illinois said that without the new “disparate impact” claim, the Chicago Urban League’s suit would face bleak prospects.

Links:

Notes and links on funding and education from Kansas City (where a judge ordered a massive spending increase during the early 1990’s and Texas.

As Program Moves Poor to Suburbs, Tensions Follow

Solomon Moore:

rom the tough streets of Oakland, where so many of Alice Payne’s relatives and friends had been shot to death, the newspaper advertisement for a federally assisted rental property in this Northern California suburb was like a bridge across the River Jordan.
Ms. Payne, a 42-year-old African-American mother of five, moved to Antioch in 2006. With the local real estate market slowing and a housing voucher covering two-thirds of the rent, she found she could afford a large, new home, with a pool, for $2,200 a month.
But old problems persisted. When her estranged husband was arrested, the local housing authority tried to cut off her subsidy, citing disturbances at her house. Then the police threatened to prosecute her landlord for any criminal activity or public nuisances caused by the family. The landlord forced the Paynes to leave when their lease was up.
Under the Section 8 federal housing voucher program, thousands of poor, urban and often African-American residents have left hardscrabble neighborhoods in the nation’s largest cities and resettled in the suburbs.
Law enforcement experts and housing researchers argue that rising crime rates follow Section 8 recipients to their new homes, while other experts discount any direct link. But there is little doubt that cultural shock waves have followed the migration. Social and racial tensions between newcomers and their neighbors have increased, forcing suburban communities like Antioch to re-evaluate their civic identities along with their methods of dealing with the new residents.

Why is crime rising in so many American cities? The answer implicates one of the most celebrated antipoverty programs of recent decades by Hanna Rosin @ the Atlantic Monthly:

Lately, though, a new and unexpected pattern has emerged, taking criminologists by surprise. While crime rates in large cities stayed flat, homicide rates in many midsize cities (with populations of between 500,000 and 1 million) began increasing, sometimes by as much as 20percent a year. In 2006, the Police Executive Research Forum, a national police group surveying cities from coast to coast, concluded in a report called “A Gathering Storm” that this might represent “the front end … of an epidemic of violence not seen for years.” The leaders of the group, which is made up of police chiefs and sheriffs, theorized about what might be spurring the latest crime wave: the spread of gangs, the masses of offenders coming out of prison, methamphetamines. But mostly they puzzled over the bleak new landscape. According to FBI data, America’s most dangerous spots are now places where Martin Scorsese would never think of staging a shoot-out–Florence, South Carolina; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Reading, Pennsylvania; Orlando, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee.
Memphis has always been associated with some amount of violence. But why has Elvis’s hometown turned into America’s new South Bronx? Barnes thinks he knows one big part of the answer, as does the city’s chief of police. A handful of local criminologists and social scientists think they can explain it, too. But it’s a dismal answer, one that city leaders have made clear they don’t want to hear. It’s an answer that offers up racial stereotypes to fearful whites in a city trying to move beyond racial tensions. Ultimately, it reaches beyond crime and implicates one of the most ambitious antipoverty programs of recent decades.

Related:

The Next Kind of Integration: Class, Race and Desegregating American Schools

Emily Bazelon:

In June of last year, a conservative majority of the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, declared the racial-integration efforts of two school districts unconstitutional. Seattle and Louisville, Ky., could no longer assign students to schools based on their race, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his lead opinion in Meredith v. Jefferson County School Board (and its companion case, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1). Justice Stephen Breyer sounded a sad and grim note of dissent. Pointing out that the court was rejecting student-assignment plans that the districts had designed to stave off de facto resegregation, Breyer wrote that “to invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown.” By invoking Brown v. Board of Education, the court’s landmark 1954 civil rights ruling, Breyer accused the majority of abandoning a touchstone in the country’s efforts to overcome racial division. “This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret,” he concluded.
Breyer’s warning, along with even more dire predictions from civil rights groups, helped place the court’s ruling at the center of the liberal indictment of the Roberts court. In Louisville, too, the court’s verdict met with resentment. Last fall, I asked Pat Todd, the assignment director for the school district of Jefferson County, which encompasses Louisville and its suburbs, whether any good could come of the ruling. She shook her head so hard that strands of blond hair loosened from her bun. “No,” she said with uncharacteristic exasperation, “we’re already doing what we should be.”
Todd was referring to Louisville’s success in distributing black and white students, which it does more evenly than any district in the country with a comparable black student population; almost every school is between 15 and 50 percent African-American. The district’s combination of school choice, busing and magnet programs has brought general, if not uniform, acceptance — rather than white flight and disaffection, the legacy of desegregation in cities like Boston and Kansas City, Mo. The student population, which now numbers nearly 100,000, has held steady at about 35 percent black and 55 percent white, along with a small and growing number of Hispanics and Asians.

Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater was a principal and assistant Superintendent in Kansas City.

Education Plays a Crucial Role in Economic Curriculum

Tammy Worth:

Bob Marcusse calls the link between education and economic development a virtuous circle — good educational programs attract new business, which leads to more financing for schools, which attract more people to an area to work at those companies.
“We and (educators) clearly understand the symbiotic relationship between education and economic development,” said Marcusse, CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council.
Educational resources act as an economic driver in numerous ways. Schools are obviously responsible for producing the work force in any given area, but they also help recruit businesses and residents, foster research that can generate money and spawn new business, and directly funnel money back into the economy through building projects and tourism dollars.

Tax base expansion (as opposed to tax rate increases) are a good idea.
Related: Money Magazine Puts City on Notice:

Back in 1996, Money credited Madison schools for high test scores and parent satisfaction. But this week, Money cited Madison for below average test scores in math. Reading scores also fell behind cities on the list.
Madison ‘s property taxes weren ‘t mentioned as a problem back in 1996. But this week, Money listed them as $600 higher than the average city on its list.

Best Places to Live, 2008.

Experimental audio/visual therapies help some schools teach students to focus

Greg Toppo:

A small but growing number of schools are using experimental therapies to retrain students’ hearing and vision, in essence reteaching them to hear and see. It’s a bid to reverse problems with the ability to focus and learn brought on by years of excessive TV, poor nutrition and, for some, in vitro drug exposure.
At Gordon Parks Elementary School, a charter school in Kansas City, Mo., 60% of kindergartners in 2004 failed a visual-skills test. Most had 20/20 vision, but they struggled to focus on moving objects, track lines of print and refocus from near to far.
That fall, Gordon Parks began regular lessons in visual skills. Therapist Cheryl Steffenella says dangerous neighborhoods and the ubiquity of TV and video games means many of her students “aren’t doing kid things” — climbing trees, jumping and running — that help develop visual and motor skills. Even playing video games that require a lot of eye movement exercises children’s vision minimally, she says.

Looking Back With Retiring Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater

Neil Heinen:

Before he leaves his post as head of the Madison Metropolitan School District, Art Rainwater reflects on the past, present and future of public education for all in a city and a school system that look and feel very different than the ones he was introduced to a decade-and-a-half ago
For an Arkansas native who grew up professionally in Kansas City–and who still looks like he’d be right at home on a Southern high-school football field–it’s hard to imagine Madison schools without Art Rainwater at the helm. The guy’s right up there with Soglin and Alvarez: They hail from somewhere else but if you didn’t know it you’d think they’ve been Madisonians all along.
But just as our collective recollection of his predecessor Cheryl Wilhoyte’s tumultuous term as schools superintendent has faded, so too will our familiarity with the large and at times imposing personality of Rainwater, sixty-five, after he retires in June. What will fade more slowly is the impact he has had on the Madison school district.
While it remains one of the best school districts in America, MMSD faces profound challenges that the next superintendent will inherit from Rainwater, who arrived in Madison almost fourteen years ago to design and implement the district’s first magnet school. He came from the Kansas City, Missouri School District, where he started as a principal in 1987 and finished as special assistant to the superintendent, the number-two position in the district. If Rainwater has seemed comfortable in the eye of the storm, it’s because his career matured amid the extremely difficult and sometimes ugly stress of one of America’s most bitter desegregation battles–a battle that in 1994 looked like it might flare anew.

School boundary initiative likely would boost test scores in seven affected buildings

Mike Sherry:

If a school boundary initiative in western Independence and Sugar Creek succeeds, test scores in the seven contested buildings may indeed increase right off the bat.
But that won’t necessarily demonstrate that the Independence School District is superior to the Kansas City School District.
A Kansas City Star analysis of test-score data suggests that Independence would generally inherit more of the higher-performing students from the seven buildings, leaving more of the tougher educational challenges to the Kansas

“PROXIMITY is not destiny, educationally speaking”

Joanne Jacobs: A generation of experience with racial integration has taught a clear lesson: Sitting black kids next to white kids in school is not a silver bullet that zaps unequal achievement. However, the faith that proximity leads to equal achievement remains the cargo cult of education. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court barred school … Continue reading “PROXIMITY is not destiny, educationally speaking”

Housing Slump Strains Budgets of Cities, States

Amy Merrick: Tremors from the housing market’s slump are straining the budgets of state and local governments from coast to coast, sending officials scrambling to plug gaps. Rising defaults on subprime home loans are boosting the inventory of unsold homes and driving sale prices lower. That’s cutting into housing-related revenues from building-permit fees, taxes on … Continue reading Housing Slump Strains Budgets of Cities, States

Notes and Links on the Madison K-12 Climate and Superintendent Hires Since 1992

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past. The Madison School District’s two most … Continue reading Notes and Links on the Madison K-12 Climate and Superintendent Hires Since 1992

More Discussion on Spending & Education Quality

Ryan Boots: From time to time I’ve mentioned the disastrous Kansas City experiment, which tends to be a rallying point for those who dare to contradict the Kozol doctrine that increased spending will cure all that ails American education. Looks like somebody didn’t get the memo, because we have a Kansas City for the new … Continue reading More Discussion on Spending & Education Quality

States Help Schools Hide Minority Scores

Frank Bass, Nicole Ziegler Dizon and Ben Feller: States are helping public schools escape potential penalties by skirting the No Child Left Behind law’s requirement that students of all races must show annual academic progress. With the federal government’s permission, schools aren’t counting the test scores of nearly 2 million students when they report progress … Continue reading States Help Schools Hide Minority Scores

AFRICAN-AMERICAN BOYS: THE CRIES OF A CRISIS By E. BERNARD FRANKLIN

This message was sent to me by Mazie Jenkins an MMSD employee. This trend needs to STOP. I’m committed to changing this. I need your support on Monday nights and every single day!!! If there is not major intervention in the next 25 years, 75 percent of urban young men will either be hopelessly hooked … Continue reading AFRICAN-AMERICAN BOYS: THE CRIES OF A CRISIS By E. BERNARD FRANKLIN

Stossel: How the Lack of School Choice Cheats Our Kids Out of A Good Education

John Stossel: And while many people say, “We need to spend more money on our schools,” there actually isn’t a link between spending and student achievement. Jay Greene, author of “Education Myths,” points out that “If money were the solution, the problem would already be solved … We’ve doubled per pupil spending, adjusting for inflation, … Continue reading Stossel: How the Lack of School Choice Cheats Our Kids Out of A Good Education

High Schools Nationwide Paring Down

“Whenever you have a reform that has been successful in some places and then it�s scaled up quickly, with a lot of people who only understand it superficially, there�s a lot of danger that some people will do it poorly and that the idea will go down in flames,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University who is an expert in small-school design.