38 Madison high school students named semifinalists for National Merit Scholarship

Logan Wroge: Thirty-eight Madison high school seniors have been named semifinalists for the 2020 National Merit Scholarships. The students join about 16,000 other high school seniors across the country that were named Wednesday as semifinalists for the prestigious scholarship. About 90% of semifinalists are named finalists, and around half of the finalists go on to … Continue reading 38 Madison high school students named semifinalists for National Merit Scholarship

Why one university is quitting National Merit Scholarship Program

Andrew Palumbo: Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) recently confirmed to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation that we would end our participation in the National Merit Scholarship program and ceased offering scholarships to recipients of the College Board’s National Hispanic Recognition Program. Weeks earlier, when we had discussed this move with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a … Continue reading Why one university is quitting National Merit Scholarship Program

Semifinalists for 2017 National Merit Scholarship awards announced

Logan Wroge: Ninety-five Madison area students have been named semifinalists for the 2017 National Merit Scholarships. They are among approximately 16,000 high school seniors across the country who have qualified as semifinalists. Of these students, about 7,500 will eventually be offered the prestigious scholarship in spring 2017. Entering its 62nd year, the National Merit Scholarship … Continue reading Semifinalists for 2017 National Merit Scholarship awards announced

NYU Exiting National Merit Scholarship Citing Test Process

Janet Lorin:

New York University pulled out of the National Merit scholarships, becoming at least the ninth school to stop funding one of the largest U.S. merit-based aid programs, because it doesn’t want to reward students based on a standardized test.
The National Merit Scholarship Corp. distributed more than $50 million to students in the 2009-2010 year based on the PSAT college entry practice exam. Most of the money comes from almost 200 colleges, including Northwestern University and University of Chicago, to fund awards of as much as $8,000 over four years. Companies such as Boeing Co. and Pfizer Inc. also sponsor the program, primarily to benefit their employees’ children.
NYU’s withdrawal is another blow to National Merit, already ignored by many elite colleges and a subject of a critical report by a Harvard College-chaired commission. Schools are debating how to allocate scarce financial-aid dollars as tuition costs rise and the economy remains sluggish. While high schools trumpet National Merit winners, relying heavily on a standardized test is a flawed way to evaluate students, said Shawn Abbott, assistant vice president of admissions at NYU.
……….
National Merit hasn’t collected any fees from the PSAT for the past 14 years, though it is entitled to a “nominal percent” of revenue under their contract, Kauffmann said. Instead, it has reinvested the funds into the program to keep test fees low and expand access to fee waivers, he said.
The College Board gains a marketing benefit from its association with National Merit when school districts or states consider using public funds to pay for the PSAT in 11th grade or ACT Inc.’s 10th-grade test known as PLAN, according to Bob Schaeffer, a spokesman for FairTest, a nonprofit group in Boston that works to end the misuses of standardized testing. Almost 1.3 million 10th-graders nationally took the PLAN test in the 2010-2011 academic year, according to the nonprofit ACT.

Related: 2011 National Merit Cut Scores

Illinois 214
Minnesota 213
Iowa 209
Massachusetts 223
Michigan 209
Texas 215
Wisconsin 209

Madison Area National Merit Scholars

Wisconsin State Journal:

Thirty-two area students are among 112 Wisconsin students and nearly 4,800 students nationwide who received National Merit Scholarships from U.S. colleges and universities this year.
The scholarships range in value from $500 to $2,000. The recipients were selected from 16,000 semifinalists out of 1.5 million students who took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in 2009.
In Dane County the recipients were from Edgewood High: Catherine A. DeGuire of Verona and Eric J. Wendorf of Madison; from Madison East: Jesse M. Banks, Jillian M. Plane and Scott O. Wilton, all of Madison; from Madison Memorial: Nancy X. Gu of Madison; from Madison West: Abigail Cahill, Nicholas P. Cupery, Sujeong Jin, Peter G. Lund and John C. Raihala, all of Madison, and Al Christopher V. Valmadrid of Fitchburg; from Madison Shabazz: Isabel A. Jacobson of Madison; from Marshall High: Zechariah D. Meunier of Marshall; from Middleton High: Anna-Lisa R. Doebley, Rachel J. Schuh and Cody J. Wrasman, all of Middleton, and Danielle M. DeSantes of Verona; from Stoughton High: Matthew J. Doll and Alexandra P. Greenier, both of Stoughton; from Verona High: Jasmine E. Amerson and James C. Dowell, both of Verona, and Kathryn M. Von Der Heide of Fitchburg; from Waunakee High: Stephen J. Bormann of Waunakee; and from home schools: Greer B. DuBois, Margaret L. Schenk and Isaac Walker, all of Madison.
Outside Dane County the recipients were Madeleine M. Blain of Evansville, Julie Mulvaney-Kemp of Viroqua, Clara E. McGlynn of Reedsburg, Ryanne D. Olsen of Jefferson and Yvette E. Schutt of Janesville.

Many notes and links on National Merit Scholares, here.

Sixteen Madison Area students garner National Merit Scholarships

The Wisconsin State Journal:

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. announced 16 more local recipients of its college-sponsored Merit Scholarships on Monday.
This announcement revealed the second half of this year’s college-sponsored scholarship recipient group, with the first wave being released in late May. These winners will receive between $500 and $2,000 per year for up to four years to study at the university or college granting the scholarship.
Approximately 4,900 high school students nationwide received the college-sponsored scholarships from 201 higher education institutions this year.
Winners from Memorial High School in Madison are Brendan Caldwell (University of Minnesota), Yang Liu (Northwestern University), Sarah Percival (Rice University) and Andrea Rummel (University of Chicago).
From Madison West High School, Anya Vanecek (Grinnell College) and Aileen Lee (Northwestern) are scholarship recipients, as are Eric Anderson (New York University) and Amy Oetzel (Wheaton College) of Middleton High School.
Monona Grove’s two recipients are Olivia Finster (Grinnell College) and Madeline Stebbins (University of Oklahoma).
Other area winners are Emily Busam (Lawrence University) of Beloit Memorial High School, Nicolas Heisig (University of Houston) of Madison Country Day High School, and David Bacsik (New College of Florida) of Cambridge High School.
Jesse Vogeler-Wunsch (Marquette University) of Oregon High School, Eric Biggers (Macalester College) of Verona Area High School and Kari Edington(Michigan State) of Sun Prairie are also scholarship winners.

Congratulations!

27 Madison area seniors selected for National Merit Scholarships

Gayle Worland: Nearly one-third of the 54 scholarships awarded to Wisconsin students went to seniors at Madison public high schools. Those scholars include Nelson Auner of East High School; Laurel Hamers, Lindsey Hughes, Jane Lee, Sarah Prescott, Valerie Shen and Hyeari Shin of Memorial High School; and Timothy Choi, Bryna Godar, Samuel Greene, Benjamin Klug, … Continue reading 27 Madison area seniors selected for National Merit Scholarships

47 Wisconsin Students are National Merit Scholarship Winners

The Madison-area winners include: Kori Bertun, East High School (recipient of a National Merit Scholarship from Rice University); Mary Kate Wall, Edgewood High School (Indiana University, Bloomington); Nicholas Klawes, La Follette High School (Grinnell College); Elisabeth Meier, Madison Country Day School, Waunakee (University of Chicago); Emma Cornwell, Memorial High School (St. Olaf College); Bennett Naden, Middleton High School (Harvey Mudd College); Adam Schneider, Middleton High School (UW-Eau Claire); and Dianna Amasino (Macalester College) and Zachary Pekarsky (Oberlin College), both of West High School. Colleen Ziegler of Joseph A. Craig High School in Janesville won a National Merit Scholarship from Arizona State University. Joshua Campbell of Sauk Prairie High School, Prairie du Sac, won a National Merit Carleton College Scholarship, and Connor Mulcahy of Whitewater High School, Whitewater, won a National Merit University of Minnesota Scholarship.

19 Madison Area Students Earn National Merit Scholarships

Wisconsin State Journal:

Nineteen area high school seniors are among the 2,800 winners of 2009 National Merit Scholarships financed by colleges and universities. This first wave of the annual awards, valued from $500 to $2,000 for up to four years, will be followed by another group announced in July.
Madison scholarship winners include: Amy Callear (Univ. of Pittsburgh scholarship), Molly Farry-Thorn (Carleton College) and Yang He (UW-Madison) of West High School; Hannah Conley (Univ. of Minnesota) and George Otto (Univ. of Minnesota) of East High School; and Rachel Underwood (UW-Madison) of Edgewood High School.
Stelios Fourakis (Univ. of Chicago) and Annie Steiner (Carleton College) of Middleton High School also are recipients, along with Jennifer Anderson (Univ. of Oklahoma) of Sun Prairie High School, and Amanda Spencer (Washington University in St. Louis) of Verona Area High School.
Other area winners are: Kendall Schneider (Univ. of Minnesota) of DeForest Area High School; Samuel Cahill (Arizona State University) and Megan Wasley (Univ. of Minnesota) of Dodgeville High School; Barry Badeau (Univ. of Minnesota) of Evansville High School; Leah Laux (Washington University in St. Louis) of Kettle Moraine High School; Ewain Gwynne (Northwestern University) of Lodi High School; and Jonathan Means (St. Olaf College) of Watertown High School.
Nita Kopan (Case Western Reserve), of Middleton, who attends Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe, Ariz., and James Foster (Univ. of Chicago), of Verona, who attends Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., also were awarded.

Congratulations all around.

Dane County Boasts 18 National Merit Scholars

National Merit Scholarship Corporation:

The National Merit® Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®)–a test which serves as an initial screen of approximately 1.4 million entrants each year–and by meeting published program entry/participation requirements.
Student Entry Requirements
To participate in the National Merit® Scholarship Program, a student must:

  1. take the PSAT/NMSQT® in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, regardless of grade classification or educational pattern;
  2. be enrolled full time as a high school student, progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school, and planning to enroll full time in college no later than the fall following completion of high school; and
  3. be a citizen of the United States; or be a U.S. lawful permanent resident (or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law.

Press Release PDF:

This year’s competition for National Merit Scholarships began in October 2006 when more than 1.4 million juniors in over 21,000 high schools took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall, the highest-scoring participants in each state, representing less than one percent of the state’s seniors, were named Semifinalists on a state representational basis.
Only the 16,000 Semifinalists had an opportunity to continue in the competition. Approximately 15,000 Semifinalists met the very high academic standards and other requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. By the conclusion of the 2008 program, about 8,200 Finalists will earn the “Merit Scholar” title and receive a total of more than $36 million in college scholarships. NMSC, a not-for-profit corporation that operates without government assistance, was founded in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. The majority of scholarships offered each year are underwritten by approximately 500 independent corporate and college sponsors that share NMSC’s goals of honoring scholastically talented youth and enhancing their educational opportunities.
CAUTION: Any attempt to compare high schools on the basis of numbers of Merit Scholarship winners will lead to erroneous and unsound conclusions. The National Merit Scholarship Program honors individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies. The program does not measure the quality or effectiveness of education within a school, system, or state.

The Capital Times:

Local scholarship winners are:
Seth B. Mulhall, Deerfield High School, Deerfield; Meredith L. Kremer, DeForest Area High School, DeForest; Aaron L. Owen, DeForest Area High School, DeForest.
Joseph K. Carlsmith, West High School, Madison; Sara C. Crocker, West High School, Madison; Erika A. Egner, James Madison Memorial High School, Madison; Reuben F. Henriques, West High School, Madison; Kelsey E. Johnson, Memorial High School, Madison.
Lucas Manuelli, West High School, Madison; Daniel T. Neuser, East High School, Madison; Richard K. Pang, West High School, Madison; Eleanor Shoshany Anderson, La Follette High School, Madison; Alexandro E. Trevino, Memorial High School, Madison.
Benjamin H. Witkovsky, West High School, Madison; Eleanor M. Wroblewski, West High School, Madison; Mary Q. Zhang, West High School, Madison.
Aubrey E. Lauersdorf, Monona Grove High School, Monona; Michael Bethencourt, home school, Mount Horeb.

Congratulations to the students and their families.

West and Memorial lead state in National Merit scholars

Susan Troller: wo Madison high schools easily outpaced any other high schools in Wisconsin in the number of students who qualified as semifinalists for the 2008 National Merit Scholarships. Thirty-one students at West High School qualified and 24 qualified at Memorial in the prestigious scholarship competition. Schools with the next highest numbers of semifinalists were … Continue reading West and Memorial lead state in National Merit scholars

60 Madison Students Named National Merit Scholars

Madison Metropolitan School District: The third most students in Madison history — 60 — have qualified as semifinalists in competition for the 2006 National Merit Scholarship Awards. Three Madison students earned National Merit Achievement semifinalist status. This is the sixth straight year that at least 56 Madison students have achieved semifinalist status, a number not … Continue reading 60 Madison Students Named National Merit Scholars

Final recipients of National Merit, Achievement scholarships Unveiled

Wisconsin State Journal:

There were 54 scholarship recipients in Wisconsin. Local recipients included: Alyssa A. Hantzsch, Baraboo, Baraboo High School; Katarina L. Klafka and Mikko S.R. Utevsky, Madison, East High School; Tristan H. Abbott, Shoshana L. Rudin and Joanna Q. Weng, Madison, West High School; Clare M. Everts and Katherine D. Stein, Madison, Edgewood High School; Winifred B. Hoerr, Madison, St. Ambrose Academy; Eva R. Fourakis and Andrew Gilchrist-Scott, Middleton, Middleton High School; Pratyusha Kalluri, Verona, Madison Memorial High School; and Max W. Molina, Whitewater, Whitewater High School.

Stanford University data glitch exposes truth about scholarship

Nanette Asimov: Leaked documents from a Bermuda-based law firm, Appleby, show that schools have increasingly turned to secretive offshore investments, which let them swell their endowments with blocker corporations, and avoid scrutiny. (Max Whittaker/The New York Times) A student discovered in February that the files were accessible to all business school students and employees, and … Continue reading Stanford University data glitch exposes truth about scholarship

Two Madison high school students granted Achievement Scholarship awards

Wisconsin State Journal:

Two Madison high school students have won Achievement Scholarship awards through the National Achievement Scholarship Program, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced Wednesday.
Alondra P. Harris and Imani Lewis-Norelle, both from East High School, were among about 800 outstanding black American high school seniors who received the awards. Harris’ probable career field is genetics, while Lewis-Norelle chose “activism.”

Dane County National Merit Semi-finalists

Wisconsin State Journal, via a kind reader

Seventy-eight students in the Dane County area and 330 students statewide are among about 16,000 high school seniors named 2013 National Merit Semifinalists, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced Wednesday.
Semifinalists represent the top 1 percent of the approximately 1.5 million students who took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last year. About 90 percent of semifinalists become finalists who are eligible to receive one of 8,300 college scholarships totaling more than $32 million next spring.
Dane County area semifinalists include:
Belleville: Michelle V. Chalupnik.
Edgerton: Casey N. Grittner.
Lodi: Samuel J. Taylor.
Madison (home school): Peter C. Walker.
Madison Edgewood: Cassidy McDonald, John C. Merfeld, Matthew R. Molina and Kathleen S. Wall.
Madison La Follette: Sarah E. Juhlin.
Madison East: Grace A. Coleman, Theodore D. Huwe, Patrick J. McCarthy, Scout M. Slava-Ross and Amelia L. Soth.
Madison Memorial: Srikar N. Adibhatla, Joel G. Cryer, Leah M. Fulmer, Sophia L. Gerdes, Ogden R. Greene, Charles Z. He, Caroline E. Hornung, Laurel J. Hunt, Matthew J. Lee, Daniel L. Li, Isaiah P. Mitchell, Owen S. Monsma, Rachel A. Mortensen, Aaron T. Senson, Kelly Shen, Thejas S. Wesley, Bethany N. Wolkoff, Edwin Y. Wu and William Xiang.
Madison West: Luella R. Allen-Waller, Madeline M. Batzli, Micah Y. Baum, Cindy T. Cai, Colin E. Davis, Rachel G. Feldman, Zuodian Hu, Amy H. Hua, Colin P. Keating, Rowan R. Meara, Stephen N. Petty Valenzuela, Ari S. Pollack, Oliver S. Redsten, Elizabeth M. Scholz, Ansa E. Seppalainen, Yang Song, Margaret M. Stanger, Claire M. Wang and Joel Q. Weng.
McFarland: Nicholas J. Perkl and Daniel E. Reschke.
Middleton-Cross Plains: Evan L. Bauch, Christie F. Cheng, Elizabeth J. Couser, Christopher J. Eom, Alexander T. Goodsett, Michael P. Hoot, Casey O. Hutchison, Rebecca C. Jin, Suzy Kim, Laura L. Knutsen, Megan A. Phillips, Victoria T. Wang and Kimberli R. Ward.
Monona Grove: Mitchell D. Paull, Karlyn C. Russell, Grant W. Smith and Amelia M. Speight.
Mount Horeb: Laura B. Meeker and Lucy M. Wallitsch.
Portage: Michelle M. Larson.
Reedsburg: James R. Urban.
Stoughton: Timothy A. Tyson.
Sun Prairie: Thomas A. Plagge.
Waterloo: Desiree J. Klein.

Cover local scholars, not just student athletes

Steve Rankin, via a kind reader’s email:

The State Journal demonstrates once again that it values students primarily as athletes. If your gifts lie elsewhere, look for validation elsewhere.
Sunday’s paper devoted pages to the area “athletes of the year” — and that was only to cover spring sports. Every week includes “prep profiles,” again glorifying athletes.
Once a year the paper used to run a feature section on the top 4 percent of Dane County graduating seniors as scholars, but that section has been discontinued.
This year’s National Merit scholars, most of whom were announced to the press in April, are still a secret here. Music and theater are nowhere to be found, even though Madison is home to an entirely student-run orchestra. So kids, be a jock or get out of town!

26 National Merit Semifinalists from Madison West High School

Susan Troller:

It’s not supposed to be a competition among schools or states, or anything beyond the recognition of individual academic excellence. But the numbers of students from West High School ranking as semifinalists in the annual National Merit Scholarship Program are always impressive, and this year is no exception.
Twenty-six West students are on the list, announced Wednesday. Other Madison students who will be now eligible to continue in the quest for some 8,300 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $34 million, include 10 students from Memorial, six from Edgewood, five from East, one from St. Ambrose Academy and one home-schooled student. Winning National Merit scholars will be announced in the spring of 2012.
Other area semifinalists include 20 additional students from around Dane County, including seven students from Middleton High School, four from Stoughton High School, three from Mount Horeb High School and one student each from Belleville High School, DeForest High School, Monona Grove High School, Sun Prairie High School, Waunakee High School and a Verona student who is home-schooled.

Much more on national merit scholars, here.
A Deeper Look at Madison’s National Merit Scholar Results.
Madison School Board member Ed Hughes’ recent blog post:

We brag about how well Wisconsin students do on the ACT, and this is certainly good. But about 30 states have higher cut scores than Wisconsin when it comes to identifying National Merit Scholars, which means that their top 1% of students taking the test score higher than our top 1% do. (We in the MMSD are justly proud of our inordinate number of National Merit semi-finalists, but if – heaven forbid – MMSD were to be plopped down in the middle of Illinois, our number of semi-finalists would go down, perhaps significantly so. Illinois students need a higher score on the PSAT to be designated a National Merit semi-finalist than Wisconsin students do.)

Qualifying Scores for the Class of 2011 National Merit Semifinalists:

Illinois 214
Minnesota 213
Iowa 209
Massachusetts 223
Michigan 209
Texas 215
Wisconsin 209

Madison schools produce more National Merit semifinalists than any other district in state

Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison public schools produced more National Merit Scholarship semifinalists than any other school district in the state again this year.
Thirty-nine students from Madison East, West, La Follette and Memorial high schools, along with 10 other Madison seniors who receive home schooling or attend Edgewood High or Abundant Life Christian School, are among 16,000 students nationwide to receive the honor. The semifinalists, who represent fewer than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, will continue to compete for some 8,400 National Merit scholarships worth more than $36 million to be announced next spring.

View individual state cut scores, by year here. In 2010, Minnesota’s cut score was 215, Illinois’ 214, Iowa 209 and Michigan 209. Wisconsin’s was 207.
Congratulations all around!

On State Standards, National Merit Semifinalists & Local Media

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I’m not so sure we have all that much to brag about in terms of our statewide educational standards or achievement. The Milwaukee public schools are extremely challenged, to put it mildly. The state has one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation. The WKCE is widely acknowledged as a poor system for statewide assessment of student progress. Just last week our state academic standards were labeled among the worst in the country in a national study.
We brag about how well Wisconsin students do on the ACT, and this is certainly good. But about 30 states have higher cut scores than Wisconsin when it comes to identifying National Merit Scholars, which means that their top 1% of students taking the test score higher than our top 1% do. (We in the MMSD are justly proud of our inordinate number of National Merit semi-finalists, but if – heaven forbid – MMSD were to be plopped down in the middle of Illinois, our number of semi-finalists would go down, perhaps significantly so. Illinois students need a higher score on the PSAT to be designated a National Merit semi-finalist than Wisconsin students do.)

There is generally no small amount of bragging on Madison National Merit Semi-finalists. It would be interesting to compare cut scores around the country.

A Deeper Look at Madison’s National Merit Scholar Results

Madison and nearby school districts annually publicize their National Merit Scholar counts.
Consequently, I read with interest Madison School Board member Ed Hughes’ recent blog post:

We brag about how well Wisconsin students do on the ACT, and this is certainly good. But about 30 states have higher cut scores than Wisconsin when it comes to identifying National Merit Scholars, which means that their top 1% of students taking the test score higher than our top 1% do. (We in the MMSD are justly proud of our inordinate number of National Merit semi-finalists, but if – heaven forbid – MMSD were to be plopped down in the middle of Illinois, our number of semi-finalists would go down, perhaps significantly so. Illinois students need a higher score on the PSAT to be designated a National Merit semi-finalist than Wisconsin students do.)

I asked a few people who know about such things and received this response:

The critical cut score for identifying National Merit Semifinalist varies from state to state depending on the number of students who took the test and how well those students did on the test. In 2009, a score of 207 would put a student amongst the top 1% of test takers in Wisconsin and qualify them as a National Merit Semifinalist. However this score would not be high enough to qualify the student as a semifinalist in 36 other states or the District of Columbia.

View individual state cut scores, by year here. In 2010, Minnesota’s cut score was 215, Illinois’ 214, Iowa 209 and Michigan 209. Wisconsin’s was 207.

Any merit to National Merit program?

Jonathan Reider via Valeria Strauss:

I have long wondered why the National Merit scholarship program had so much cache, given the criteria necessary for winning.

The program is a competition in which kids become eligible if they do well on the PSAT, or Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which is generally taken in 11th grade though some students take it earlier. Any regular reader to this blog will know that I do not look kindly on anything in education that relies on the a single standardized test score.

Here is a critique of the program that I recently read and wanted to share. It was written by Jonathan Reider, director of college counseling at San Francisco University High School, in response to a list-serv query about how schools should display National Merit winners. His advice: Don’t.

University of Texas Drops Merit Program for Need-Based Aid

Tom Benning:

An increase in the number of students seeking financial aid has prompted the University of Texas at Austin to phase out its multimillion-dollar National Merit Scholarship program starting next year so it can use the money for need-based scholarships.
The university enrolled 281 National Merit Scholars last year — second only to Harvard University — and says it will honor all current scholarships but not offer them to freshmen next year.
Coming amid the recession and climbing college costs, the move by the state’s largest university could signal a renewed emphasis on need-based aid by the country’s colleges, experts said. Many schools have spent the past decade using scholarship money to attract high-performing students.
“This gets back to equity in college — which should be the primary goal of student aid,” said Justin Draeger, vice president of public policy at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
The National Merit Scholarships are awards that go to about 8,200 students a year, based in part on their scores on the College Board’s PSAT exam, a standardized test typically taken during the junior year of high school. The program gives winners $2,500 apiece, but corporations and some colleges also finance merit scholarships through the program. The University of Texas at Austin was one of about 200 universities that paid for merit awards, promising $13,000 over four years.

States Weigh Cuts to Merit Scholarships

Robert Tomsho:

As they grapple with crippling budget shortfalls, states are weighing whether to cut back on merit-aid scholarship programs that benefit hundreds of thousands of college students every year.
Since the early 1990s, more than 15 states have launched broad-based programs that offer students scholarships and tuition breaks based solely on grades, class rank and test scores. Supporters say such programs boost college-enrollment rates and help persuade high achievers to remain in their home states. Critics maintain that the programs siphon aid money away from students with financial need in favor of some who probably could have afforded college without the help.
The National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs, an organization of agencies responsible for state financial-aid programs, says merit grants accounted for $2.08 billion, or 28%, of all state-sponsored grants awarded in its latest tally, covering the 2006-2007 academic year. That’s up from $458.9 million in 1996-1997, when merit-aid accounted for about 15% of all state grants.
But the economic crisis has raised fears that such growth may be unsustainable, as tax revenue plunges and legislatures make drastic cuts to other state programs. And the pinch comes just as layoffs and investment losses affecting millions of families are likely to boost demand for financial aid based on need.

High School Elites (no HS history scholars need apply)

The Winning Projects
Wen Chyan won the top prize, and a $100,000 college scholarship, for his bioengineering research of antimicrobial coatings for medical devices. Mr. Chyan looked to design a specialized coating for medical devices aimed to prevent common hospital infections, called nosocomial infections, which afflict more than two million patients each year, killing more than 100,000 of those patients. Mr. Chyan’s project is entitled, Versatile Antimicrobial Coatings from Pulse Plasma Deposited Hydrogels and Hydrogel Composites.
“This research was not only a creative idea, but required a proactive approach where cross-disciplinary initiatives had to be taken. The fields of electrochemistry, material science and biology all had to be explored in depth by Mr. Chyan,” said W. Mark Saltzman, Goizueta Foundation Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at Yale University, a competition judge. “With further testing, these findings have the potential to improve a wide range of medical devices from intravascular devices at hospitals or catheters used in insulin pumps.”
Mr. Chyan would like to major in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering once in college. Upon completing his studies he would like to pursue a position in academia, preferably at a research university where he can continue conducting research and teach at the same time. His various honors in science include recognition from the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad, U.S. Biology Olympiad and Texas Science and Engineering Fair. He is the recipient of the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science Summer Research Scholarship (2008), and also founded a student chapter of the American Chemical Society at the University of North Texas. He also composes music and plays piano and violin in his spare time.
Mr. Chyan developed an interest in science with the encouragement of his parents, both scientists, whom would take him to tour their laboratories and perform demos since an early age. His mentor for this project was Dr. Richard B. Timmons, of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Sajith Wickramasekara and Andrew Guo won the team category and will share a $100,000 scholarship for their genetics research that has the potential to easily identify new chemotherapeutic drugs and greatly improve existing ones. Their project is entitled, A Functional Genomic Framework for Chemotherapeutic Drug Improvement and Identification.
“Mr. Wickramasekara and Mr. Guo used a modern way of screening for drugs with yeast to address an important problem regarding the limitations of chemotherapy including resistance, toxicity and discrimination,” said Dr. Jeffrey Pollard, Louis Goldstein Swan Chair in Women’s Cancer Research, Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a competition judge. “The project required a very large amount of work, organization, and discipline to obtain and then fully verify these results, which the team did in three ways. Sophisticated, innovative bioinformatics also enabled them to identify new therapeutic targets and potential drugs. Not only is this a process currently done by many large pharmaceutical companies, with much more resources, but my own graduate students have done similar work for their graduate theses.”
Mr. Wickramasekara is the team leader and heard about the Siemens Competition in 2006 when seniors from his high school were selected as Regional Finalists. Mr. Wickramasekara is Captain of his school’s Science Bowl and has participated in various science competitions including the 2008 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the North Carolina State Science and Engineering Fair as well as the North Carolina Junior Science Humanities Symposium. He is an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America and dreams of one day owning his own biotech startup, specializing in personalized medicine.
Mr. Guo is a Science Olympiad winner and Co-Captain of the Quiz Bowl. Mr. Guo received First Place State Team in the Goldman Sachs National Economics Challenge. Mr. Guo was captain of the 2008 State Champion Varsity Tennis Team and plays Ultimate Frisbee as part of his extracurricular activities. Mr. Guo speaks Mandarin Chinese and aspires to manage his own company one day. Mr. Guo’s mother works in the field of genetics and sparked his interest to study the sciences by discussing her work and activities at home, and he credits his father with helping him become who he is today.
Both team members co-founded the Student Journal of Research of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics; they both serve as Editors of the publication. Additionally, Mr. Wickramasekara and Mr. Guo were recently named 2009 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists.
The team’s project combined traditional genetics with cutting-edge computational modeling to streamline the gene discovery process. Their project addresses the need in the field to identify new genes to target for cancer therapy. The team worked on this project with the help of their mentor, Dr. Craig B. Bennett, Assistant Professor, Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, and their high school advisor, Dr. Myra Halpin, Dean of Science, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Durham, NC.
The other national winners of the 2008 Siemens Competition were:
Individuals

  • $50,000 scholarship – Eric K. Larson, Eugene, Oregon
  • $40,000 scholarship – Nityan Nair, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
  • $30,000 scholarship – James Meixiong, Evans, Georgia
  • $20,000 scholarship – Ashok Cutkosky, Columbia, Missouri
  • $10,000 scholarship – Hayden C. Metsky, Millburn, New Jersey
    Teams

  • $50,000 scholarship – Eugenia Volkova of South Salem, New York and Alexander Saeboe of Katonah, New York
  • $40,000 scholarship – Erika Debenedictis and Duanni (Tony) Huang of Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • $30,000 scholarship – Christine S. Lai and Diyang Tang of Acton, Massachusetts
  • $20,000 scholarship – Raphael-Joel (RJ) Lim of Indianapolis, Indiana and Mark Zhang of Sugar Land, Texas
  • $10,000 scholarship – Aanand A. Patel and William Hong of Fullerton, California
    The Siemens Competition
    The Siemens Competition was launched in 1998 to recognize America’s best and brightest math and science students. In another record setting year, 1,893 students registered to enter the Siemens Competition with a total of 1,205 projects submitted – this includes an increase of more than 10 percent in team and individual project submissions and an increase of more than 16 percent in the number of registrations. Entries are judged at the regional level by esteemed scientists at six leading research universities which host the regional competitions: California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon University; Georgia Institute of Technology; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of Notre Dame; and The University of Texas at Austin. Winners of the regional events compete at the National Finals which take place at New York University in New York City, December 5 – December 8, 2008. Please visit http://www.siemens-foundation.org/en/competition.htm for more information.
    About the Siemens Foundation
    The Siemens Foundation provides more than $7 million annually in support of educational initiatives in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math in the United States. Its signature programs, the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology and Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement, reward exceptional achievement in science, math and technology. The newest program, The Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, encourages K12 students to develop innovative green solutions for environmental issues. By supporting outstanding students today, and recognizing the teachers and schools that inspire their excellence, the Foundation helps nurture tomorrow’s scientists and engineers. The Foundation’s mission is based on the culture of innovation, research and educational support that is the hallmark of Siemens’ U.S. companies and its parent company, Siemens AG. For more information, visit www.siemens-foundation.org.
    ==================
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    Will Fitzhugh [founder]
    Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
    The Concord Review [1987]
    Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
    National Writing Board [1998]
    TCR Institute [2002]
    730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
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    www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
    Varsity Academics®

Local Students Considered for National Achievement Honors

Tamira Madsen:

Four area high school students were named semifinalists for the National Achievement Scholarship Program competition and are eligible for scholarships for Black American students through the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Middleton students Zowie L. Miles and Kristina M. Teuschler, Matthew Bowie-Wilson from Madison West and Taylor M. Behnke from Madison Edgewood, along with 13 other Wisconsin students, made the list.

More than 150,000 juniors requested consideration for the 2009 National Achievement Scholarship Program competition by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, a test which served as an initially screening of the applicants.

Memorial, West top state in National Merit semifinalists

Tamira Madsen:

Students from Madison Memorial and Madison West continued a tradition of academic excellence among their peers in Wisconsin, as semifinalists were announced Wednesday for the 2009 National Merit Scholarships. Twenty-six students each from Memorial and West qualified in the prestigious nationwide competition, the most students from any other high school in the state.
Among other Madison schools, eight students qualified from Edgewood, six from East, two from La Follette and one home-schooled student also qualified, for a total of 60 National Merit semifinalists from the city.
It’s the sixth year in a row that at least 60 or more district students have qualified at the semifinalist level. Sixty-two students qualified in 2007, 67 in 2006 and 60, 69 and 67 students the three preceding years.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said he was pleased to learn about the students’ achievements.
“It’s very exciting,” Nerad said in a telephone interview. “First of all, I think it’s a remarkable performance for these students, and obviously, we’re proud of their performance. The kids in the school district are high-performing kids, once again, we continue to see how they’re doing.

Two at Memorial get national kudos …

From The Capital Times (Weekend of September 30 – October 1, 2006): Two Madison Memorial students are among 1600 African American high school seniors being honored for their academic excellence by the National Achievement Scholarship Program. Michael McKenzie and Jarrell Skinner-Roy are designated semifinalists in the 43rd annual awards competition, which makes them eligible to … Continue reading Two at Memorial get national kudos …

The Siege of Academe

Kevin Carey:

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon on Easter, and I’m standing on a wooden deck in the Corona Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, looking out toward Nob Hill. A man is cooking large slabs of meat on a gas grill as two dozen people mingle with glasses of bourbon and bottles of beer in the cool, damp breeze blowing in off the ocean. All of these people are would-be movers and shakers in American higher education–the historic, world-leading system that constitutes one of this country’s greatest economic assets–but not one of them is an academic. They’re all tech entrepreneurs. Or, as the local vernacular has it, hackers.
Some of them are the kinds of hackers a college dean could love: folks who have come up with ingenious but polite ways to make campus life work better. Standing over there by the case of Jim Beam, for instance, are the founders of OneSchool, a mobile app that helps students navigate college by offering campus maps, course schedules, phone directories, and the like in one interface. The founders are all computer science majors who dropped out of Penn State last semester. I ask the skinniest and geekiest among them how he joined the company. He was first recruited last spring, he says, when his National Merit Scholarship profile mentioned that he likes to design iPhone apps in his spare time. He’s nineteen years old.

Old, crumbling schools are, sadly, a Wisconsin tradition

Paul Fanlund:

Last week I walked into West High School for the first time since our daughter, Kate, graduated in 2001.
I’d been warned I might be taken aback by how much the place had changed in a decade. But in fact, I had the opposite reaction. Based on my few hours there, it doesn’t seem to have changed much at all.
It had the same delightful, eclectic, intellectual vibe and ethnic diversity one would expect at the public high school located nearest the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Its student body of 2,100 — largest of the city’s four high schools — hails from 55 countries. It routinely has more semifinalists for National Merit Scholarships, 26 last year, than any school in Wisconsin.

Related: Madison School District maintenance referendums.

Beating the odds: 3 high-poverty Madison schools find success in ‘catching kids up’

Susan Troller:

When it comes to the quality of Madison’s public schools, the issue is pretty much black and white.
The Madison Metropolitan School District’s reputation for providing stellar public education is as strong as it ever was for white, middle-class students. Especially for these students, the district continues to post high test scores and turn out a long list of National Merit Scholars — usually at a rate of at least six times the average for a district this size.
But the story is often different for Hispanic and black kids, and students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Madison is far from alone in having a significant performance gap. In fact, the well-documented achievement gap is in large measure responsible for the ferocious national outcry for more effective teachers and an overhaul of the public school system. Locally, frustration over the achievement gap has helped fuel a proposal from the Urban League of Greater Madison and its president and CEO, Kaleem Caire, to create a non-union public charter school targeted at minority boys in grades six through 12.
“In Madison, I can point to a long history of failure when it comes to educating African-American boys,” says Caire, who is black, a Madison native and a graduate of West High School. “We have one of the worst achievement gaps in the entire country. I’m not seeing a concrete plan to address that fact, even in a district that prides itself on innovative education.”
What often gets lost in the discussion over the failures of public education, however, is that there are some high-poverty, highly diverse schools that are beating the odds by employing innovative ways to reach students who have fallen through the cracks elsewhere.

Related: A Deeper Look at Madison’s National Merit Scholar Results.
Troller’s article referenced use of the oft criticized WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination) (WKCE Clusty search) state examinations.
Related: value added assessment (based on the WKCE).
Dave Baskerville has argued that Wisconsin needs two big goals, one of which is to “Lift the math, science and reading scores of all K-12, non-special education students in Wisconsin above world-class standards by 2030”. Ongoing use of and progress measurement via the WKCE would seem to be insufficient in our global economy.
Steve Chapman on “curbing excellence”.

Seattle Public Schools Strategic Plan

Marie Goodloe-Johnson (Superintendent of Seattle Schools):

AT Seattle Public Schools, our primary goal is to provide an education that prepares each student to graduate from high school ready for college, careers and life.
Elliot Ransom, a National Merit scholar from Ballard High School, plans to study engineering; Kenny Setiao dropped out of Cleveland High School, but returned to receive a scholarship to South Seattle Community College; and Nicole Davis won the prestigious National Merit Scholarship. The graduation of these and thousands of other students from Seattle Public Schools is a critical measure of our success as educators.
If college-ready graduation for all students is the goal, how do we get there? First, we have to admit that what we have been doing is not working for all students. Today, almost four in 10 students in Seattle don’t graduate on time. In today’s world, the benefits of postsecondary education have never been greater.
Second, we must recognize that getting ready for college starts long before students enter ninth grade. When students meet critical milestones — entering kindergarten ready to learn, reading at grade level in third grade, taking algebra in eighth grade, and passing the WASL in 10th grade — they are more likely to make it to graduation day. Our strategic plan [636K PDF], called Excellence for All, is our guide to reach this goal.

DCPAC Dan Nerad Meeting Summary

A video tape of the entire presentation and discussion with Dr. Nerad may be viewed by visiting this internet link: http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2008/09/ madison_superin_10.php

Dan Nerad opened his remarks by stating his commitment to efforts for always continuing change and improvement with the engagement of the community. He outlined four areas of focus on where we are going from here.

  1. Funding: must balance district needs and taxpayer needs. He mentioned the referendum to help keep current programs in place and it will not include “new” things.
  2. Strategic Plan: this initiative will formally begin in January 2009 and will involve a large community group process to develop as an ongoing activity.
  3. Meet people: going throughout the community to meet people on their own terms. He will carefully listen. He also has ideas.
  4. Teaching and learning mission: there are notable achievement gaps we need to face head-on. The “achievement gap” is serious. The broader mission not only includes workforce development but also helping students learn to be better people. We have a “tale of two school districts” – numbers of high achievers (including National Merit Scholars), but not doing well with a lot of other students. Low income and minority students are furtherest away from standards that must be met. Need to be more transparent with the journey to fix this problem and where we are not good. Must have the help of the community. The focus must be to improve learning for ALL kids, it is a “both/and” proposition with a need to reframe the issue to help all kids move forward from where they are. Must use best practices in contemporary assessment, curriculum, pedagogy and instructional methods.

Dr. Nerad discussed five areas about which he sees a need for community-wide conversations for how to meet needs in the district.

  1. Early learning opportunities: for pre-kindergarten children. A total community commitment is needed to prevent the ‘achievement gap’ from widening.
  2. High schools: How do we want high schools to be? Need to be more responsive. The curriculum needs to be more career oriented. Need to break down the ‘silos’ between high school, tech schools and colleges. Need to help students move through the opportunities differently. The Small Learning Communities Grant recently awarded to the district for high schools and with the help of the community will aid the processes for changes in the high schools.
  3. School safety: there must be an on-going commitment for changes. Nerad cited three areas for change:

    a. A stronger curriculum helping people relate with other people, their differences and conflicts.

    b. A response system to safety. Schools must be the safest of sanctuaries for living, learning and development.

    c.Must make better use of research-based technology that makes sense.

  4. Math curriculum and instruction: Cited the recent Math Task Force Report

    a. Good news: several recommendations for curriculum, instruction and policies for change.

    b. Bad news: our students take less math than other urban schools in the state; there are notable differences in the achievement gap.

  5. Fine Arts: Cited recent Fine Arts Task Force Report. Fine arts curriculum and activities in the schools, once a strength, has been whittled away due to budget constraints. We must deal with the ‘hands of the clock’ going forward and develop a closer integration of the schools and community in this area.

College Panel Calls for Less Focus on SATs

Sara Rimer:

A commission convened by some of the country’s most influential college admissions officials is recommending that colleges and universities move away from their reliance on SAT and ACT scores and shift toward admissions exams more closely tied to the high school curriculum and achievement.
The commission’s report, the culmination of a yearlong study led by William R. Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard, comes amid growing concerns that the frenzy over standardized college admissions tests is misshaping secondary education and feeding a billion-dollar test-prep industry that encourages students to try to game the tests.
A growing number of colleges and universities, like Bates College in Maine, Lawrence University in Wisconsin, Wake Forest University in North Carolina and Smith College in Massachusetts, have made the SAT and ACT optional. And the report concludes that more institutions could make admissions decisions without requiring the SAT and ACT.
“It would be much better for the country,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said in an interview, “to have students focusing on high school courses that, based on evidence, will prepare them well for college and also prepare them well for the real world beyond college, instead of their spending enormous amounts of time trying to game the SAT.”
The report calls for an end to the practice of using minimum-admissions-test scores to determine students’ eligibility for merit aid. And it specifically urges the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to stop using PSAT scores as the initial screen for eligibility for recognition or scholarships. The National Merit Scholarship competition “contributes to the misperception of test scores as sole measures of ‘merit’ in a pervasive and highly visible manner,” the report says.

Media Education Coverage: An Oxymoron?

Lucy Mathiak’s recent comments regarding the lack of substantive local media education coverage inspired a Mitch Henck discussion (actually rant) [15MB mp3 audio file]. Henck notes that the fault lies with us, the (mostly non) voting public. Apathy certainly reigns. A useful example is Monday’s School Board’s 56 minute $367,806,712 2008/2009 budget discussion. The brief chat included these topics:

  • Retiring Superintendent Art Rainwater’s view on the District’s structural deficit and the decline in it’s equity (Assets – Liabilities = Equity; Britannica on the The Balance Sheet) from $48,000,000 in the year 2000 to $24,000,000 in 2006 (it is now about 8% of the budget or $20M). (See Lawrie Kobza’s discussion of this issue in November, 2006. Lawrie spent a great deal of time digging into and disclosing the structural deficits.) Art also mentioned the resulting downgrade in the District’s bond rating (results in somewhat higher interest rates).
  • Marj asked an interesting question about the K-1 combination and staff scheduling vis a vis the present Teacher Union Contract.
  • Lucy asked about specials scheduling (about 17 minutes).
  • Maya asked about the combined K-1 Art classes (“Class and a half” art and music) and whether we are losing instructional minutes. She advocated for being “open and honest with the public” about this change. Art responded (23 minutes) vociferously about the reduction in services, the necessity for the community to vote yes on operating referendums, ACT scores and National Merit Scholars.
  • Beth mentioned (about 30 minutes) that “the district has done amazing things with less resources”. She also discussed teacher tools, curriculum and information sharing.
  • Ed Hughes (about 37 minutes) asked about the Madison Family Literacy initiative at Leopold and Northport. Lucy inquired about Fund 80 support for this project.
  • Maya later inquired (45 minutes) about a possible increase in Wisconsin DPI’s common school fund for libraries and left over Title 1 funds supporting future staff costs rather than professional development.
  • Beth (about 48 minutes) advocated accelerated computer deployments to the schools. Lucy followed up and asked about the District’s installation schedule. Johnny followed up on this matter with a question regarding the most recent maintenance referendum which included $500,000 annually for technology.
  • Lucy discussed (52 minutes) contingency funds for energy costs as well as providing some discretion for incoming superintendent Dan Nerad.

Rick Berg notes that some homes are selling below assessed value, which will affect the local tax base (property taxes for schools) and potential referendums:

But the marketplace will ultimately expose any gaps between assessment and true market value. And that could force local governments to choose between reducing spending (not likely) and hiking the mill rate (more likely) to make up for the decreasing value of real estate.
Pity the poor homeowners who see the value of their home fall 10%, 20% or even 30% with no corresponding savings in their property tax bill, or, worse yet, their tax bill goes up! Therein lie the seeds of a genuine taxpayer revolt. Brace yourselves. It’s gonna be a rough ride.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue noted recently that Wisconsin state tax collections are up 2.3% year to date [136K PDF]. Redistributed state tax dollars represented 17.2% of the District’s revenues in 2005 (via the Citizen’s Budget).
Daniel de Vise dives into Montgomery County, Maryland’s school budget:

The budget for Montgomery County’s public schools has doubled in 10 years, a massive investment in smaller classes, better-paid teachers and specialized programs to serve growing ranks of low-income and immigrant children.
That era might be coming to an end. The County Council will adopt an education budget this month that provides the smallest year-to-year increase in a decade for public schools. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has recommended trimming $51 million from the $2.11 billion spending plan submitted by the Board of Education.
County leaders say the budget can no longer keep up with the spending pace of Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, who has overseen a billion-dollar expansion since his arrival in 1999. Weast has reduced elementary class sizes, expanded preschool and kindergarten programs and invested heavily in the high-poverty area of the county known around his office as the Red Zone.
“Laudable goals, objectives, nobody’s going to argue with that,” Leggett said in a recent interview at his Rockville office. “But is it affordable?”
It’s a question being asked of every department in a county whose overall budget has swelled from $2.1 billion in fiscal 1998 to $4.3 billion this year, a growth rate Leggett terms “unacceptable.”

Montgomery County enrolls 137,745 students and spent $2,100,000,000 this year ($15,245/student). Madison’s spending has grown about 50% from 1998 ($245,131,022) to 2008 ($367,806,712) while enrollment has declined slightly from 25,132 to 24,268 ($13,997/student).
I’ve not seen any local media coverage of the District’s budget this week.
Thanks to a reader for sending this in.
Oxymoron

“Rainwater’s reign: Retiring school superintendent has made big impact”

Susan Troller on retiring Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater:

Later this month, a new contract between Dr. Daniel Nerad and the Madison Metropolitan School District will signal the end of an era. For over a decade, Art Rainwater has been at the helm of Madison’s public schools, guiding the district during a period of rapid demographic change and increasingly painful budget cutting. Both admirers and critics believe Rainwater has had a profound impact on the district.
Retiring Madison schools superintendent Art Rainwater may have the name of a poet, but his first ambition was to be a high school football coach.
“I grew up loving football — still do — especially the intellectual challenge of the game. I was obsessed with it,” Rainwater explained in a recent interview.
In fact, during his early years as an educator, Rainwater was so consumed by his football duties for a Catholic high school in Texas he eventually switched from coaching to school administration for the sake of his family.
In some ways, Rainwater has been an unusual person to lead Madison’s school district — an assertive personality in a town notorious for talking issues to death. His management style grows out of his coaching background — he’s been willing to make unpopular decisions, takes personal responsibility for success or failure, puts a premium on loyalty and hard work and is not swayed by armchair quarterbacks.

A few related links:

Much more on Art here. Like or loath him, Art certainly poured a huge amount of his life into what is a very difficult job. I was always amazed at the early morning emails, then, later, seeing him at an evening event. Best wishes to Art as he moves on.

Circulation of West High School Calculus Exams in 2001

Lee Sensenbrenner:

As a sophomore at Madison West High School, Danny Cullenward tookCalculus 1, a yearlong advanced math class that put the only B on theotherwise straight-A student’s transcript.
The same happened with Sam Friedman, the former captain of West’s mathteam. Friedman, who is now at the University of Chicago, got two B’s incalculus at West but went on, as a high school student, to get an A inadvanced calculus at the University of Wisconsin.Chris Moore, who is a junior at West and is already ranked among the top 30high school math students in the United States, also had trouble in his highschool course. He got a B when he took calculus as a freshman.
UW Professor Janet Mertz knows of all these cases, and cited them in aletter to administrators. She argued, as other parents have for more than ayear, that something is not right with the way calculus students at West aretested.
It’s unfair, she wrote, and it’s hurting students’ chances to get intoelite colleges such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for whichMertz interviews student applicants.

Fuzzy Math at West High: A Capital Times Editorial:

For more than a year, a group of West High parents have beencomplaining about the way calculus students at West are tested. This week theywent public — voicing their concerns before the Madison School Board.The first complaint came from Joan Knoebel and Michael Cullenward, M.D., onbehalf of their son, now a senior at West. They decried the fact that KeithKnowles, West’s calculus teacher, reuses old tests or parts of old tests thatare available to some — but not all — students.
According to the formal complaint, “students have obtained copies fromolder siblings, prior students, through study groups, private tutors, or by awell-defined grapevine.” The school itself does not keep the tests on file.
School district administrators contend that Knowles did nothing wrong andthat there’s no evidence to conclude that having access to old tests washelpful to students.

Doug Erickson:

George Kelly, English chairman at East High School, said teachers share thesame interests as committee members — to ensure that students have access tothe tests they’ve taken and to make the playing field level for all students.But he said a districtwide policy would be cumbersome.
“There’s a larger issue here,” Kelly said. “How much micromanaging does theboard want to do in instruction and evaluation?”
West parent Joan Knoebel said Tuesday that the district continues to avoidthe real issue that her family raised, which is that a particular teacher atWest is not following the test return policy already in place at that school.Although she would like to see districtwide guidelines, she has neversuggested that the problem is widespread.
“(The district) is attacking this globally, when what you really have isone teacher who, in my opinion, is acting unethically,” she said. “They’reusing an elephant gun to shoot a starling.”

Joan Knoebel:

Common sense tells us that students with an advance copy of a test have asignificant advantage over their classmates. Assessment is meaningless underthese circumstances.This is the basis of our complaint. And this isn’t just about one teacherat West. The decisions in this case emanate throughout the Madison SchoolDistrict.
What’s the teacher’s job? To teach the principles of calculus and to fairlyevaluate whether his students learned the math. He undoubtedly knows the math,as some former students enthusiastically attest. However, because old examswere not available to all, the only thing his tests reliably measured is whoma student knows, not what a student knows.
And — this point is critical — he also couldn’t tell whether the tests heconstructed, or copied, were “good” tests. A good test is one a well-preparedstudent can complete successfully during class time. Think of it this way.Assume there were no old tests to study — all students were on a levelplaying field. The teacher gives a test. No one finishes or gets a high score.Did no one understand the material? Possibly, but many of these hardworkingstudents come to class prepared. The better explanation is that there was aproblem with the test itself; for example, it was too long or too complex tofinish within the time limit.
This mirrors the experience of students who didn’t study the old tests.Unfortunately, they were sitting alongside classmates who’d seen an advancecopy and could thus easily finish within the class period.
Ten years ago, West High enacted a test return policy. Why? Because thiscalculus teacher, among others, wouldn’t give the tests back. The policy was acompromise to give families a chance to review tests, but only underconditions that gave teachers control against copies being handed down.
This calculus teacher had a choice: offer in-school review, as is done atMemorial High, or let the tests go home under tight restrictions, including awritten promise not to copy or use them for cheating. After this policy washammered out, he elected to return his tests unconditionally yet continued tore-use his tests. The district says that was his prerogative.
What was the administration’s job here? To conduct a fair formal complaintprocess and to ensure that assessment is non-discriminatory. The “outsideinvestigator” the district appointed is a lawyer who together with her firmroutinely does other legal work for the district. Had we known of thisconflict, we wouldn’t have wasted our time. In reality, the administration andits investigator endeavored mostly to find support for the foregone conclusionthat a teacher can run his class as he wishes.
We greatly appreciate our children’s teachers, but with all due respect,autonomy does not trump the duty of this teacher, the administration and theboard to provide all students with a fair and reliable testing scheme.
The only remedy the district offers is to let students repeat the course,either at West or at UW-Madison at their own expense — $1,000 — andsubstitute the new grade. This isn’t a genuine remedy. It punishes studentsfor a problem they didn’t create. Furthermore, it is only truly available tothose who can afford UW-Madison tuition and the time.
What was the School Board’s job? To tackle public policy — in this case,non-discriminatory assessment. With one brave exception, the board ducked, andchose to protect the teacher, the administration and the union — everyoneexcept the students.
The solution is easy. If teachers are going to re-use tests or questions,safeguard them using the test return policy or make an exam file available toall. Otherwise, write genuinely fresh tests each time.
After 14 months of investigation and a 100-plus page record, it’s worsethan when we started. Now the district says that this teacher, any teacher,can re-use tests and give them back without restriction, and that it isperfectly acceptable for some but not all students to have copies to preparefrom.
For six months, we sought to resolve this matter privately and informally,without public fanfare. Confronting the dirty little secret of the calculusclass didn’t sully West’s remarkable national reputation, but openly paperingit over surely does. Simply put, this teacher didn’t do his job. Theadministration and six board members didn’t do theirs, either. “Putting kidsfirst” needs to be more than just a campaign slogan. –>
In the Madison West High calculus class, tests are the only way astudent is evaluated — not by quizzes, homework or classroom participation,just tests. The teacher admits he duplicates or tweaks old tests. He knew somebut not all students had copies, yet he wouldn’t provide samples or an examfile.
Common sense tells us that students with an advance copy of a test have asignificant advantage over their classmates. Assessment is meaningless underthese circumstances.This is the basis of our complaint. And this isn’t just about one teacherat West. The decisions in this case emanate throughout the Madison SchoolDistrict.
What’s the teacher’s job? To teach the principles of calculus and to fairlyevaluate whether his students learned the math. He undoubtedly knows the math,as some former students enthusiastically attest. However, because old examswere not available to all, the only thing his tests reliably measured is whoma student knows, not what a student knows.
And — this point is critical — he also couldn’t tell whether the tests heconstructed, or copied, were “good” tests. A good test is one a well-preparedstudent can complete successfully during class time. Think of it this way.Assume there were no old tests to study — all students were on a levelplaying field. The teacher gives a test. No one finishes or gets a high score.Did no one understand the material? Possibly, but many of these hardworkingstudents come to class prepared. The better explanation is that there was aproblem with the test itself; for example, it was too long or too complex tofinish within the time limit.
This mirrors the experience of students who didn’t study the old tests.Unfortunately, they were sitting alongside classmates who’d seen an advancecopy and could thus easily finish within the class period.
Ten years ago, West High enacted a test return policy. Why? Because thiscalculus teacher, among others, wouldn’t give the tests back. The policy was acompromise to give families a chance to review tests, but only underconditions that gave teachers control against copies being handed down.
This calculus teacher had a choice: offer in-school review, as is done atMemorial High, or let the tests go home under tight restrictions, including awritten promise not to copy or use them for cheating. After this policy washammered out, he elected to return his tests unconditionally yet continued tore-use his tests. The district says that was his prerogative.
What was the administration’s job here? To conduct a fair formal complaintprocess and to ensure that assessment is non-discriminatory. The “outsideinvestigator” the district appointed is a lawyer who together with her firmroutinely does other legal work for the district. Had we known of thisconflict, we wouldn’t have wasted our time. In reality, the administration andits investigator endeavored mostly to find support for the foregone conclusionthat a teacher can run his class as he wishes.
We greatly appreciate our children’s teachers, but with all due respect,autonomy does not trump the duty of this teacher, the administration and theboard to provide all students with a fair and reliable testing scheme.
The only remedy the district offers is to let students repeat the course,either at West or at UW-Madison at their own expense — $1,000 — andsubstitute the new grade. This isn’t a genuine remedy. It punishes studentsfor a problem they didn’t create. Furthermore, it is only truly available tothose who can afford UW-Madison tuition and the time.
What was the School Board’s job? To tackle public policy — in this case,non-discriminatory assessment. With one brave exception, the board ducked, andchose to protect the teacher, the administration and the union — everyoneexcept the students.
The solution is easy. If teachers are going to re-use tests or questions,safeguard them using the test return policy or make an exam file available toall. Otherwise, write genuinely fresh tests each time.
After 14 months of investigation and a 100-plus page record, it’s worsethan when we started. Now the district says that this teacher, any teacher,can re-use tests and give them back without restriction, and that it isperfectly acceptable for some but not all students to have copies to preparefrom.
For six months, we sought to resolve this matter privately and informally,without public fanfare. Confronting the dirty little secret of the calculusclass didn’t sully West’s remarkable national reputation, but openly paperingit over surely does. Simply put, this teacher didn’t do his job. Theadministration and six board members didn’t do theirs, either. “Putting kidsfirst” needs to be more than just a campaign slogan.

Lee Sensenbrenner: Former Students Defend Teacher:

After hearing West High graduates who had returned home for winterbreak defend their former calculus teacher, the Madison School Board decidedit would seek the advice of department heads before potentially changing anypolicies on math tests.
Noah Kaufman, a freshman at Dartmouth College, told the board Monday nightthat complaints against calculus teacher Keith Knowles — who parents sayrepeated exam material without providing universal access to the old tests –were “entirely unreasonable.””Had I memorized numbers and calculations from old exams, and passed themoff as my answers, I would have failed my class, without question,” Kaufmansaid.
“Mr. Knowles did not use the same questions on different tests. What he diddo was ask questions that involved similar applications of the concepts. Allof these concepts were explained thoroughly in the textbook, as well as by Mr.Knowles himself.
“A student could have access to the concepts and examples of applicationsby simply doing the homework and paying attention in class.”

Doug Erickson:

arents of a Madison West High School senior urged the School BoardMonday to make sure that teachers who recycle exams from year to year also tryto keep copies of the old tests from circulating among students.
Either that, or a sample test should be made available to all studentsequally, said Joan Knoebel.She said her son, Danny Cullenward, and other students were at adisadvantage during several semesters of advanced math, because the teacherrecycled tests even though he knew that some but not all students had accessto old copies. Danny said that when he privately asked for help, the teachertold him to find old tests but refused to supply them.
Said his mother: “Exams should be about what you know, not who you know.”
She said her son, a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, becamesuspicious when some students breezed through the exams while he struggled tofinish on time.

Segregation Now: In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.

Nikole Hannah-Jones: Though James Dent could watch Central High School’s homecoming parade from the porch of his faded white bungalow, it had been years since he’d bothered. But last fall, Dent’s oldest granddaughter, D’Leisha, was vying for homecoming queen, and he knew she’d be poking up through the sunroof of her mother’s car, hand cupped … Continue reading Segregation Now: In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.

[For] Crying Out Loud

September 24, 2008 By Glenn Ricketts:

Yes, yes, we know that you’ve been an outstanding high school history student and that you’d like to major in that subject in college, but we’re not sure why you’re inquiring about scholarships here. Wait, not so fast: it’s certainly impressive that you’ve had some original research published, and your grades are indeed outstanding. But if, as you say, you’re looking for a scholarship, we’d like to hear about your curve ball. Oh, you didn’t play baseball in high school? Well, then how about football or basketball? No? Lacrosse, soccer, swimming, maybe? Golf, bowling, tennis? In that case, do you sing or dance? You don’t appear to have any disabilities, not that we’d ask.
No, sorry, speaking fluent French is not really what we had in mind by “diversity.” Do you by chance play the xylophone? What’s that? History scholarships? You mean something geared specifically towards outstanding high school history students? Ho! Ho! Good one.
No, not here. Haven’t heard of ’em anywhere else, either. Where’d you come up with that idea anyway? Look, we’re not sure we can do anything for you at this point unless…wait a minute, did you say you were a cheerleader? Sit down. I think we’re finally on to something. Yes, that’s right, we have several scholarships for cheerleaders. Can you send us all of the relevant information about your high school cheerleading experience? We may also be able to direct you to other sources of support for promising college cheerleading prospects. Why didn’t you tell us this at the outset, instead of getting sidetracked with all of that stuff about history? We’re very busy in this office, you know. No doubt you’re an outstanding history student, and by all means major in it if you like, but that’s not going to get you anywhere if you’re looking for a scholarship. Good thing you mentioned the cheerleading angle, especially since we have to be careful to choose only the most outstanding applicants.
I made up this little drama, but it is based on the “true facts.” History scholarships are rare. Cheerleading scholarships are pretty common–even at colleges and universities that one might think value intellectual achievement over human pyramids.
Will Fitzhugh is a former high school history teacher who, frustrated with the lack of opportunities to showcase academic achievement among young students, in 1987 founded The Concord Review, (www.tcr.org) a quarterly journal devoted entirely to outstanding research essays by high school students. Anyone who doubts the possibility of impressive research skills and consummate writing ability among some of today’s secondary school students should read at least one issue of the Review, where future historians and teachers might well be making their first appearances. These students don’t need remedial English, and could probably be bumped up beyond the usual introductory survey courses in history to begin work as history majors on the fast track.
Trouble is, as Will has pointed out to us, the students who write in The Concord Review don’t get much recognition beyond that, to say nothing of scholarship assistance. A few colleges–most notably Reed College–have recently started supporting The Concord Review financially–which is bound to encourage some bright, highly capable students to consider attending college out in Portland, Oregon. But by and large, the prospect for students winning scholarships on the basis of outstanding ability to engage in historical scholarship isn’t very bright.

At Top Public School, Rising Stars Dodge Falling Ceiling Tiles

Diya Gullapalli: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology routinely reports among the nation’s highest average SAT results and number of National Merit Scholarship finalists. Ronald Reagan and Al Gore have addressed its students, and educators from overseas often tour the school in search of inspiration. But recently, what’s made the biggest impression isn’t … Continue reading At Top Public School, Rising Stars Dodge Falling Ceiling Tiles

Students Receive Academic Honors

Via the Capital Times: Three Madison students are among 800 high school seniors honored for their academic excellence by the National Achievement Scholarship Program, which recognizes talented African-American youths. Aubrey M. Chamberlain and Adeyinka Lesi, both seniors at West High School, and Kayla M. McClendon, a senior at Memorial High School, were named Achievement Scholarship … Continue reading Students Receive Academic Honors

The Problem With College Rankings

David Bell: As a Princeton professor, I really ought to love college rankings. The most famous of them, by U.S. News and World Report, currently places my employer first among national universities, nudging out Harvard and Yale. Forbes’s list of “America’s Top Colleges” has us at a respectable third. While Money’s brand-new “Best Colleges” ranking … Continue reading The Problem With College Rankings

Social Studies Standards: “Doing” Common Core Social Studies: Promoting Radical Activism under the Obama Department of Education

“Were the Common Core authors serious about ‘college-readiness,’ they would have taken their cue from publisher Will Fitzhugh, who for decades has been swimming against the tide of downgraded writing standards (blogging, journal-writing, video-producing). To this end, he has been publishing impressive student history papers in his scholarly journal, The Concord Review. The new (CC) … Continue reading Social Studies Standards: “Doing” Common Core Social Studies: Promoting Radical Activism under the Obama Department of Education

Madison’s education academics get involved in the argument over education reform; What is the Track Record of ties between the Ed School and the MMSD?

Pat Schneider:

“I’m an academic,” says Slekar, a Pittsburgh-area native whose mother and grandmother were elementary school teachers and who was a classroom teacher himself before earning a Ph.D. in curriculum from University of Maryland.
“I understand scholarship, I understand evidence, I understand the role of higher education in society,” he says. “When initiatives come through, if we have solid evidence that something is not a good idea, it’s really my job to come out and say that.”
Michael Apple, an internationally recognized education theorist and professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison agrees. In the face of conservative state legislators’ push to privatize public education, “it is part of my civic responsibility to say what is happening,” says Apple.
“In a society that sees corporations as having all the rights of people, by and large education is a private good, not a public good,” he says. “I need to defend the very idea of public schools.”
Both Apple and Julie Underwood, dean of the School of Education at UW-Madison, share Slekar’s concern over the systematic privatization of education and recognize a role for scholars in the public debate about it.

A wide-ranging, animated, sometimes loud conversation with Slekar includes familiar controversies hotly debated around the country and in the Wisconsin Capitol, like high-stakes testing, vouchers and Common Core standards. The evidence, Slekar says flatly, shows that none of it will work to improve student learning.
The reform initiatives are instead part of a corporate takeover of public education masquerading as reform that will harm low-income and minority students before spreading to the suburbs, says Slekar, in what he calls the civil rights issue of our time.
A 30-year attack has worked to erode the legitimacy of the public education system. And teachers are taking much of the blame for the stark findings of the data now pulled from classrooms, he says.
“We’re absolutely horrible at educating poor minority kids,” says Slekar. “We absolutely know that.”
But neither the so-called reformers, nor many more casual observers, want to talk about the real reason for the disparities in achievement, Slekar says, which is poverty.
“That’s not an excuse, it’s a diagnosis,” he says, quoting John Kuhn, a firebrand Texas superintendent and activist who, at a 2011 rally, suggested that instead of performance-based salaries for teachers, the nation institute merit pay for members of Congress.

Local Education school academics have long had interactions with the Madison School District. Former Superintendent Art Rainwater works in the UW-Madison School of Education.

Further, this 122 page pdf (3.9mb) includes contracts (not sure if it is complete) between the UW-Madison School of Education and the Madison School District between 2004 and 2008. Has this relationship improved achievement?
Related: Deja Vu? Education Experts to Review the Madison School District and When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Has UC Berkeley mortgaged itself to football?

Peter Schrag:

Release of the numbers last month, amplified by an attention-getting analysis authored by retired UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor John Cummins and graduate student Kirsten Hextrum, has sent shock waves around the campus. The department of athletics and its friends are playing full-court damage control.
Sandy Barbour, Berkeley’s director of athletics, acknowledged the problem and promises to turn things around. Early indicators of academic progress in the past year are encouraging, she says, “But, we need to do better.”
A year ago she fired football coach Jeff Tedford, in part, say her friends, because he failed to do enough to help his players succeed academically. In the sports world, the explanation was simpler: Tedford’s three losing seasons. Barbour told me it was some of both: “downward trends” both on the field and in the classroom.
But in the eyes of some Berkeley professors and administrators – and for many beyond the campus – the attention given the new numbers about athletes’ graduation rates seems to raise the specter of older and more fundamental issues.

John Cummins and Kirsten Hextrum (PDF):

This white paper is based on a larger project being conducted with the Regional Oral History Office at the Bancroft Library. The purpose of the research is to explore the history of the management of Intercollegiate Athletics at UC Berkeley from the 1960s to the present. The project began in 2009 and will include, when completed, approximately 70 oral history interviews of individuals who played key roles in the management of intercollegiate athletics over that period of time – Chancellors, Athletic Directors, senior administrators, Faculty Athletic Representatives, other key faculty members, directors of the Recreational Sports Program, alumni/donors, administrators in the Athletic Study Center and others. The interviews are conducted by John Cummins, Associate Chancellor – Chief of Staff, Emeritus who worked under Chancellors Heyman, Tien, Berdahl and Birgeneau from 1984 – 2008. Intercollegiate Athletics reported to him from 2004 – 2006. A publication of the results is underway and will be co- authored by Cummins and Kirsten Hextrum, a PhD student in the Graduate School of Education, a member and two-time national champion of Cal Women’s Crew from 2003 – 2007, and a tutor/adviser in the Athletic Study Center since 2009. This paper addresses administrative and management issues that typically concern those responsible for the conduct of a Division I-A intercollegiate athletics program. It assumes that such a program will continue for many years to come and that it provides important benefits for the Cal community. Its focus is principally with the market driven, multi-billion dollar phenomenon of the big-time sports of Men’s football and basketball, their development over time and their intersection with the academic world. The Olympic or non-revenue sports at UC Berkeley more closely resemble the amateur intercollegiate ideal with high graduation rates and successful programs. Even these sports programs, however, are gradually being pulled into the more highly commercialized model.
In the spring of 1999, a Professor in Ethnic Studies provided passing grades to two football players who did little or no work for his course. The NCAA cited Cal for academic fraud and a lack of institutional control, and placed the department on probation for five years. These kinds of incidents exact an emotional toll on the AD and the senior administration. They are a major embarrassment for the campus and remain so. In the NCAA’s own accounting of schools by major violations in its history, Cal, along with a few other schools including UCLA, with 7, ranks just behind Oklahoma (8) and Arizona State and Southern Methodist University (9). Stanford has none. Future work by these authors will investigate the nature of these violations, the culture that led to them and suggest efforts to mitigate further infractions. This paper primarily addresses the academic issues.
…..
Kasser did complete the Haas Pavilion during his watch despite the conflicts and difficulties associated with it, unquestionably a major accomplishment. He made great strides in addressing the inequities between the Men’s and Women’s programs. He upgraded the coaching in some of the Olympic Sports and his appointment of Ben Braun as the Men’s Basketball coach, who brought an inclusive, team oriented approach to management boosted the morale of the department. Kasser valued the Rec Sports program as part of the merged department and was an excellent public ambassador for Cal.
…..
The graduation rate for UC Berkeley’s revenue generating teams are the lowest in the department. Men’s basketball went four years with none of their scholarship student athletes graduating. This brought down their average to a 58% graduation rate over this eight year period. Football also has sub-par graduation rates. Over the past eight years, football graduation rates have ranged from a high of 72% to a low of 31%. Football has the lowest average team graduation rate with only 50% of their scholarship athletes graduating. The numbers are even more grim when broken down by race. In particular, the black scholarship football players, many of whom are special admits, have gone from a high of 80% to a low of 18%. The NCAA also tracks graduation rates by compiling four-year averages to even-out any anomalies. In this data set, the black graduation rates range from a high of 63% to a low of 30%. Three of the seven four-year averages mark the black graduation rate in the 30s.
…..
With a new Chancellor, a new football coach, a new stadium and high performance center, a larger and more monied conference, the present surely marks a transitional period for intercollegiate athletics at UC Berkeley. These changes all signal Cal’s continued escalation as a Big-Time sports program, and the difficult dilemmas campus administrators face. To fund an intercollegiate program of this magnitude they cannot alienate a substantial donor base. The recent blowback after the elimination, and subsequent reinstatement of five varsity sports, makes the possibility of cutting sports again as a cost saving measure extremely remote for years to come. Further, the athletic deficit places enormous pressures to win. This increases the temptation to gain an extra edge on the competition whether through newer facilities, higher-paid coaches, or longer practices. All this must be achieved on the backs of student athletes who are enrolled in a full-time course load at one of the most prestigious academic universities in the world. Rather than resolving the dilemma of how to maintain a nearly $70 million per year athletic enterprise while still providing a world-class education for the participants, campus administrators continue to muddle through.

Colleges Try Cutting Tuition–and Aid Packages

Melissa Korn:

After years of hefty tuition increases, a few colleges are cutting prices and trying to wean families from discounts.
More than a half-dozen schools have slashed their sticker prices starting this fall or next as part of simplifying the college-financing process, which has become a patchwork of aid deals and discounts for families. Administrators say the price cuts could actually make schools money by attracting more new students and helping retain cost-conscious ones.
Published tuition rates have soared in the last decade, but only a small percentage of families actually pays full freight. Between grants to needy students and merit scholarships to entice other desirable candidates, schools these days are giving back nearly 50% of gross tuition revenue in the form of aid and awards, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
Such discounting has become so widespread that many small, private colleges say they are stuck in a vicious cycle: They won’t meet enrollment goals if they charge full price, even to affluent families, but they can’t afford to continue cutting everyone a deal.

Arthur R. Jensen Dies at 89; Set Off Debate About I.Q.

Margalit Fox Arthur R. Jensen, an educational psychologist who ignited an international firestorm with a 1969 article suggesting that the gap in intelligence-test scores between black and white students might be rooted in genetic differences between the races, died on Oct. 22 at his home in Kelseyville, Calif. He was 89. His death was confirmed … Continue reading Arthur R. Jensen Dies at 89; Set Off Debate About I.Q.

Dan Nerad a Semi-Finalist for the Birmingham, MI Schools Superintendent; District spends about 10% less per student than Madison

Pat Schneider:

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad made the cut Saturday to become one of two finalists for the top job at a school district in suburban Detroit, according to an online report.
Nerad was selected as a finalist for superintendent of the Birmingham Public Schools at a special Saturday session of the School Board, the Birmingham Patch reports.
He apparently made a big impression on school board members in Michigan, particularly with his handling of controversy over the race-based achievement gap in Madison schools.

Much more on Dan Nerad, here.
A few comparisons:
Birmingham’s 2011-2012 budget is $107,251,333 for “more than 8000 students”, or roughly $13,406/student. That is about 10% less than Madison’s $14,858.40/student.
Birmingham’s per capita income is $69,151, more than double Madison’s $29,782. Birmingham’s median household income is $101,529 while Madison’s is nearly half: $52,550.
Birmingham had 6 national merit semi-finalists this past year while Madison featured 41. Michigan’s 209 cut score was identical to Wisconsin’s this past year.
Madison continues to spend more per student than most American school districts.

Brave New Dorms

George Leef:

Political indoctrination in the guise of “Residence Life” programs took a pounding during a National Association of Scholars debate.
In last week’s Clarion Call, I wrote about the debate over academic freedom at the recent National Association of Scholars conference in Washington, D.C. But equally important was the contentious final session, devoted to the agenda of the “Residence Life” movement.
That movement is a nationwide initiative that has managers of student dorms teaching a leftist political catechism to students under their control in an effort to radicalize them.
The discussion focused on the infamous ResLife program at the University of Delaware. It took some interesting turns, including opposition to the programs from AAUP president Cary Nelson. He is a man of the left, but nevertheless doesn’t want to see curriculum and instruction handed over to people who aren’t even remotely scholars.
First to speak was Adam Kissel of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). He explained the objectives of the Residence Life movement generally and concentrated on the University of Delaware, where the program was first seen in all its authoritarian splendor: prying questions, indoctrination sessions, and special “treatment” for students who were either uncooperative or, worse, had the temerity to disagree. Kissel made it clear that the ResLife agenda consists of clumsy, authoritarian indoctrination of students meant to color their thinking toward leftist bromides about the environment, capitalism, institutional racism and so forth.

Baylor Rewards Freshmen Who Retake SAT

Sara Rimer:

Baylor University in Waco, Tex., which has a goal of rising to the first tier of national college rankings, last June offered its admitted freshmen a $300 campus bookstore credit to retake the SAT, and $1,000 a year in merit scholarship aid for those who raised their scores by at least 50 points.
Of this year’s freshman class of more than 3,000, 861 students received the bookstore credit and 150 students qualified for the $1,000-a-year merit aid, said John Barry, the university’s vice president for communications and marketing.
“We’re very happy with the way it worked out,” Mr. Barry said in a telephone interview. “The lion’s share of students ended up with the $300 credit they could use in our bookstore. That’s not going to make or break the bank for anybody. But it’s sure been appreciated by our students and parents.”
The offer, which was reported last week by the university’s student newspaper, The Lariat, raised Baylor’s average SAT score for incoming freshmen to 1210, from about 1200, Mr. Barry said. That score is one of the factors in the rankings compiled by U.S. News & World Report.

Madison School District Small Learning Community Grant Application

136 Page 2.6MB PDF:

Madison Metropolitan School District: A Tale of Two Cities-Interrupted
Smaller Learning Communities Program CFDA #84.215L [Clusty Search]
NEED FOR THE PROJECT
Wisconsin. Home of contented cows, cheese curds, and the highest incarceration rate for African American males in the country. The juxtaposition of one against the other, the bucolic against the inexplicable, causes those of us who live here and work with Wisconsin youth to want desperately to change this embarrassment. Madison, Wisconsin. Capital city. Ranked number one place in America to live by Money (1997) magazine. Home to Presidential scholars, twenty times the average number of National Merit finalists, perfect ACT and SAT scores. Home also to glaring rates of racial and socio-economic disproportionality in special education identification, suspension and expulsion rates, graduation rates, and enrollment in rigorous courses. This disparity holds true across all four of Madison’s large, comprehensive high schools and is increasing over time.
Madison’s Chief of Police has grimly characterized the educational experience for many low income students of color as a “pipeline to prison” in Wisconsin. He alludes to Madison’s dramatically changing demographics as a “tale of two cities.” The purpose of the proposed project is to re-title that unfolding story and change it to a “tale of two cities-interrupted” (TC-I). We are optimistic in altering the plot based upon our success educating a large portion of our students and our ability to solve problems through thoughtful innovation and purposeful action. Our intent is to provide the best possible educational experience for all of our students.

Much more on Small Learning Communities here [RSS SIS SLC Feed]. Bruce King’s evaluation of Madison West’s SLC Implementation. Thanks to Elizabeth Contrucci who forwarded this document (via Pam Nash). MMSD website.
This document is a fascinating look into the “soul” of the current MMSD Administration ($339M+ annual budget) along with their perceptions of our community. It’s important to note that the current “high school redesign” committee (Note Celeste Roberts’ comments in this link) is rather insular from a community participation perspective, not to mention those who actually “pay the bills” via property taxes and redistributed sales, income and user fees at the state and federal level.

“No Need to Worry About Math Education”

From a reader involved in these issues, by Kerry Hill: Demystifying math: UW-Madison scholars maintain focus on effective teaching, learning Tuesday, January 30, 2007 – By Kerry Hill New generation of Math Ed Many people still see mathematics as a difficult subject that only a select group of students with special abilities can master. Learning … Continue reading “No Need to Worry About Math Education”

Standards, Accountability, and School Reform

This is very long, and the link may require a password so I’ve posted the entire article on the continued page. TJM http://www.tcrecord.org/PrintContent.asp?ContentID=11566 Standards, Accountability, and School Reform by Linda Darling-Hammond — 2004 The standards-based reform movement has led to increased emphasis on tests, coupled with rewards and sanctions, as the basis for “accountability” systems. … Continue reading Standards, Accountability, and School Reform