St. Marcus Lutheran School celebrates groundbreaking for a second campus expansion

Milwaukee NNS: We are thrilled to be breaking ground to expand the North Campus, giving us the space we urgently need for both our students and to serve the surrounding community,” said Henry Tyson, St. Marcus’ Superintendent. “The outpouring of support from individual donors, foundations, community partners and corporations in the community has been a … Continue reading St. Marcus Lutheran School celebrates groundbreaking for a second campus expansion

How Marcuse made today’s students less tolerant than their parents

April Kelly-Woessner When Samuel Stouffer first wrote on political tolerance during the McCarthy era, he concluded that Americans were generally an intolerant bunch. Yet, finding that younger people were more tolerant than their parents, he also concluded that Americans would become more and more tolerant over time, due to generational replacement and increases in education. … Continue reading How Marcuse made today’s students less tolerant than their parents

St. Marcus model offers hope for Milwaukee schools

Alan Borsuk;

He thinks Milwaukee has advantages in shooting for success, including its size, the overall value system of the city, strong business and philanthropic support of education, and three streams of schools – public, charter and private (including many religious schools) – that each want to improve. He says he is more convinced than ever that the model being pursued by St. Marcus works and can be replicated.
These are controversial beliefs – for one thing, anything involving voucher schools remains highly charged. Tyson says politicians should focus less on such disputes and more on how to offer quality through whatever schools offer it.

Related: Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School.
and
Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending.

Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School

Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus school recently talked with me [Transcript | mp3 audio] about his fascinating personal and professional education experience. St. Marcus is one of, if not the most successful voucher school in Milwaukee.
Henry discussed student, parent and teacher expectations, including an interesting program to educate and involve parents known as “Thankful Thursdays”. He further described their growth plans, specifically, the methods they are following to replicate the organization. In addition, I learned that St. Marcus tracks their students for 8 years after 8th grade graduation.
Finally, Henry discussed special education and their financial model, roughly $7,800/student annually of which $6,400 arrives from State of Wisconsin taxpayers in the form of a voucher. The remainder via local fundraising and church support.
He is quite bullish on the future of education in Milwaukee. I agree that in 15 to 20 years, Milwaukee’s education environment will be much, much improved. High expectations are of course critical to these improvements.
I appreciate the time Henry took to visit.
Related:

Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus is working with John Ratzenberger to build interest in the skilled trades.

Jonathan Last:

Bernie Marcus is a do-it-yourself kind of guy. Sure, he knows his way around sheetrock and, yes, he can talk in great detail about remodeling a bathroom or putting in a backyard deck. But for Marcus, home improvement projects represent a part of something much more profound. Doing it yourself means being able to take control of your own life, shaping your own destiny, daring to accomplish more than you imagine possible. It’s an essential part of being an American. After all, it’s what inspired his signature project. He built a company from scratch, and turned his idea into a household name with a $60 billion market cap. Bernie Marcus built Home Depot.
“It happened because of us,” says Marcus. “I mean, we had no money. When we opened Home Depot in 1979, we were broke. I had just been fired. Some of us were on the verge of bankruptcy. But we had a great idea, and we had some people who were willing to support us. And we put in the work–we put in sweat and tears, our hearts and souls. But today Home Depot has more than 300,000 people working for it. We built it all.”

Miracle at St. Marcus

Sunny Schubert:

Henry Tyson shows how urban education can succeed in the right setting.
“I never wanted to be involved in helping the poor. My mother was born in Africa and was always very sympathetic toward the poor and people of other races. But the whole inner-city thing came about during my senior year at Northwestern,” says the superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus School.
“I was majoring in Russian, so in the summer of my junior year, I went to Russia. I absolutely hated it – just hated it. So when I got back to school, I realized I had a problem figuring out what to do next,” he remembers.
About that time, he was having a discussion with a black friend, “and she basically told me I didn’t have a clue what it was like in the inner city. She challenged me to do an ‘Urban Plunge,’ which is a program where you spend a week in an inner-city neighborhood.
“We were in the Austin neighborhood, on the West Side of Chicago. It was a defining moment for me,” he says. “I was so struck by the inequity and therefore the injustice of it all. I couldn’t believe that people lived – and children were growing up! – in such an environment, such abject poverty.”
“I knew after that week that I wanted to work with the urban poor. I felt a deep tug, like this was what I was meant to do. In my view, it was like a spiritual calling.”

DNA Testing Was Meant to Help Esmé. It Created Turmoil.

Amy Dockser Marcus: Hillary Savoie wanted clear answers. Instead, the genetic testing results for her 4-year-old daughter, Esmé, sent her reeling. “I’m pale. The bags under my eyes are purple,” she wrote in her blog started when Esmé was a baby. “My lips are drawn tight in a thin line.” Ever since the little girl … Continue reading DNA Testing Was Meant to Help Esmé. It Created Turmoil.

One City to Establish Elementary School in South Madison

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email: Madison, WI – One City Schools Founder and CEO Kaleem Caire — with support from One City parents, Board of Directors, and partners — is pleased to announce that One City’s plan to establish One City Expeditionary Elementary School in South Madison has been approved. Last Friday, One City … Continue reading One City to Establish Elementary School in South Madison

The 2018 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books

New York Times: ince 1952, we’ve convened a rotating annual panel of three expert judges, who consider every illustrated children’s book published that year in the United States. They select the winners purely on the basis of artistic merit. The judges this time were Leonard Marcus, a children’s literature historian and critic; Jenny Rosenoff, a … Continue reading The 2018 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books

Milwaukee’s Public School Barricade: The bureaucracy defies a state law on selling vacant buildings

The Wall Street Journal: Teachers’ unions and their liberal allies are desperately trying to preserve the failing public school status quo. Witness how the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system is defying a state mandate to sell vacant property to charter and private schools. Milwaukee’s public schools are a mess. Merely 62% of students graduate from … Continue reading Milwaukee’s Public School Barricade: The bureaucracy defies a state law on selling vacant buildings

How LeBron James’ new public school really is the first of its kind

Christian D’Andrea: Several reform-minded schools have carved similar paths for I Promise to follow. The Knowledge is Power Program, better known as KIPP, has created the nation’s largest network of charter schools by catering to marginalized students with longer class hours, increasing access to teachers, and a tough but accommodating schedule for students. Rocketship Public … Continue reading How LeBron James’ new public school really is the first of its kind

Universities and colleges struggle to stem big drops in enrollment

Jon Marcus: Behind the deceptive quiet of a small college campus in the summer, things are buzzing at Ohio Wesleyan University. Faculty at the 175-year-old liberal-arts school, which has about 1,700 undergraduates, are preparing new majors in high-demand fields including data analytics and computational neuroscience. Admissions officers are back from scouting out prospective students in … Continue reading Universities and colleges struggle to stem big drops in enrollment

Increasingly skeptical students, employees want colleges to show them the money

Jon Marcus: This club doesn’t organize intramural sports or plan keg parties or produce the yearbook. It pores over dense financial documents to examine how the university handles its money. One kind of risky deal they unearthed, the students in the group say, cost the school more than $130 million at a time when tuition … Continue reading Increasingly skeptical students, employees want colleges to show them the money

Universities and colleges struggle to stem big drops in enrollment

Jon Marcus: Behind the deceptive quiet of a small college campus in the summer, things are buzzing at Ohio Wesleyan University. Faculty at the 175-year-old liberal-arts school, which has about 1,700 undergraduates, are preparing new majors in high-demand fields including data analytics and computational neuroscience. Admissions officers are back from scouting out prospective students in … Continue reading Universities and colleges struggle to stem big drops in enrollment

Records show that America’s flagship universities are doling out an average of $175,088 per year for administrators tasked with leading their diversity efforts.

Anthony Gockowski: On average, each administrative position, generally identified as some variation of a chancellor, provost, or dean, earns $175,088—though at least 15 such officials earn well over $200,000 annually, including two administrators who earn more than $300,000 annually. University of Virginia Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity Marcus Martin, for instance, … Continue reading Records show that America’s flagship universities are doling out an average of $175,088 per year for administrators tasked with leading their diversity efforts.

How University Costs Keep Rising Despite Tuition Freezes

Jon Marcus: At a time when public anger is laser-focused on tuition charges that are rising three times faster than inflation, something less well understood has actually been largely responsible for pushing up the cost of college: fees. Think tuition is high? Now add fees for student activities, fees for athletics, fees for building maintenance, … Continue reading How University Costs Keep Rising Despite Tuition Freezes

Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

Erin Richards: Together, Travis Academy and Holy Redeemer have received close to $100 million in taxpayer funding over the years. The sum is less than what taxpayers would have paid for those pupils in public schools, because each tuition voucher costs less than the total expense per pupil in Milwaukee Public Schools. But vouchers weren’t … Continue reading Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

The mathematics of science’s broken reward system

Philip Ball Science has been peculiarly resistant to self-examination. During the ‘science wars’ of the 1990s, for instance, scientists disdained sociological studies of their culture. Yet there is now a growing trend for scientists to use the quantitative methods of data analysis and theoretical modelling to try to work out how, and how well, science … Continue reading The mathematics of science’s broken reward system

130+ Black Men to Support Preschool Education at Wisconsin State Capitol

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email: On Sunday, October 2, 2016 from 2pm to 4pm CST, more than 130 local Black men will participate in Madison’s Premiere Black Male Photo Shoot on the steps of Wisconsin’s State Capitol, City Hall and the Monona Terrace. The photo shoot has been organized One City Early Learning Centers … Continue reading 130+ Black Men to Support Preschool Education at Wisconsin State Capitol

The rich-poor divide on America’s college campuses is getting wider, fast

Jon Marcus and Holly K. Hacker The main dining hall at Trinity College starts you off with a choice of infused water: lemon, pineapple, strawberry, melon. There are custom-made smoothies, all-day breakfasts, make-your-own waffles, and frozen yogurt, along with countless choices of entrees hovered over by white-jacketed chefs. Sun pours in through windows overlooking the … Continue reading The rich-poor divide on America’s college campuses is getting wider, fast

The surprising institutions that refuse to drop the liberal arts

Jon Marcus: Nattiel, of Dade City, Florida, isn’t focusing at West Point on military science, or strategy, or leadership. He’s majoring in philosophy. Ramrod straight in his Army combat uniform on the historic campus, where future officers are required to take humanities and social-sciences courses such as history, composition, psychology, literature, and languages, he said … Continue reading The surprising institutions that refuse to drop the liberal arts

Not enough age diversity: 1/3 of university faculty are 55 and older, compared with 20% of the rest of the workforce

: could have retired five years ago, when the university offered faculty a year’s salary to step down as part of a buyout to encourage more of them to leave. He could have retired last year, when, in yet another buyout offer, administrators dangled the equivalent of 90 percent of one full year’s salary in … Continue reading Not enough age diversity: 1/3 of university faculty are 55 and older, compared with 20% of the rest of the workforce

The $150 million question—what does federal regulation really cost colleges?

Jon Marcus: In the intensifying debate over whether to reduce federal government regulations on universities and colleges, one number has been at the forefront: $150 million. That’s what Vanderbilt University says a study found it spends each year complying with government red tape: 11 percent of the university’s entire budget. The figure was in a … Continue reading The $150 million question—what does federal regulation really cost colleges?

Ron Johnson hosts hearing on voucher schools amid federal probe

Erin Richards: In an interview Monday at St. Marcus School, a voucher school at 2215 Palmer St., Johnson said a staffer brought the investigation to his attention, which prompted him to write letters to U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch this summer, asking for evidence of the basis of their investigation. The department has declined to comment, … Continue reading Ron Johnson hosts hearing on voucher schools amid federal probe

In Norway, where college is free, children of uneducated parents still don’t go

Jon Marcus: There’s a saying in famously egalitarian Norway that Curt Rice, the American-born incoming president of the country’s third-biggest university, likes to rattle off: “We’re all sitting in the same boat.” What it means, said Rice, is that, “To single out anyone, we’re against that. That just does not sit well in the Norwegian … Continue reading In Norway, where college is free, children of uneducated parents still don’t go

How mathematicians are storytellers and numbers are the characters

Marcus du Sautoy: Mathematicians are storytellers. Our characters are numbers and geometries. Our narratives are the proofs we create about these characters. Many people believe that doing maths is a question of documenting all the true statements about numbers and geometry – the irrationality of the square root of two, the formula for the volume … Continue reading How mathematicians are storytellers and numbers are the characters

Here’s the New Way Colleges Are Predicting Student Grades

Jon Marcus: Data algorithms cover millions of grades from thousands of students Dupaul, the associate provost for enrollment management at Southern Methodist University, is one of a growing number of university administrators consulting the performance data of former students to predict the outcomes of current ones. The little-known effort is being quietly employed by about … Continue reading Here’s the New Way Colleges Are Predicting Student Grades

Long Term Disastrous Reading Results in Milwaukee….

Dave Umhoefer: So we did our own look at reading scores at all Milwaukee schools fitting the 80/80 description, including high schools and separate elementary and middle schools that include smaller groupings of grades. Our main data source: the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Why are officials focusing on these schools at all? High-poverty schools … Continue reading Long Term Disastrous Reading Results in Milwaukee….

Status Quo Governance: 9 months after development deal, Malcolm X Academy remains empty

Erin Richards: Remember last fall when the Common Council and Milwaukee Public Schools approved plans to turn the vacant Malcolm X Academy into a renovated school, low-income apartments and commercial space? Critics at the time said it was a poorly conceived rush job designed to prevent a competing private school, St. Marcus Lutheran School, from … Continue reading Status Quo Governance: 9 months after development deal, Malcolm X Academy remains empty

Students with Special Needs Less Likely to Leave Charter Schools than Traditional Public Schools

Center for Reinventing Public Education, via a kind Deb Britt email: CRPE commissioned Dr. Marcus Winters to analyze the factors driving the special education gap between Denver’s charter and traditional public elementary and middle schools. Using student-level data, Winters shows that Denver’s special education enrollment gap starts at roughly 2 percentage points in kindergarten and … Continue reading Students with Special Needs Less Likely to Leave Charter Schools than Traditional Public Schools

How a college with 340 students lost $220 million in five years

Jon Marcus: The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, with its sleek, glass-walled buildings around a peaceful grass oval, has earned glowing international attention for the successful ways it has pioneered the teaching of undergraduate engineering. Built from scratch with hundreds of millions of dollars from a private foundation and a commitment to charging no … Continue reading How a college with 340 students lost $220 million in five years

Better Schools, Fewer Dollars We can improve education without busting the budget.

Marcus Winters:

Here’s what looks like a policy dilemma. To attain the economic growth that it desperately needs, the United States must improve its schools and train a workforce capable of competing in the global economy. Economists Eric Hanushek, Dean Jamison, Eliot Jamison, and Ludger Woessmann estimate that improving student achievement by half of one standard deviation–roughly the current difference between the United States and Finland–would increase U.S. GDP growth by about a full percentage point annually. Yet states and the federal government face severe budgetary constraints these days; how are policymakers supposed to improve student achievement while reducing school funding?
In reality, that task is far from impossible. The story of American education over the last three decades is one not of insufficient funds but of inefficient schools. Billions of new dollars have gone into the system, to little effect. Luckily, Americans are starting to recognize that we can improve schooling without paying an additional dime. In fact, by unleashing the power of educational choice, we might even save money while getting better results and helping the economy’s long-term prospects.
Over the last four decades, public education spending has increased rapidly in the United States. According to the Department of Education, public schools spent, on average, $12,922 per pupil in 2008, the most recent year for which data are available. Adjusting for inflation, that’s more than double the $6,402 per student that public schools spent in 1975.
Despite that doubling of funds, just about every measure of educational outcomes has remained stagnant since 1975, though some have finally begun to inch upward over the last few years. Student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)–the only consistently observed measure of student math and reading achievement over the period–have remained relatively flat since the mid-1970s. High school graduation rates haven’t budged much over the last 40 years, either.

Patronage for Plutocrats: Why elite colleges with the fewest low-income students get the most work-study money.

Jon Marcus:

Greg Noll, a senior at Columbia University, balances his engineering major with a federally subsidized “work-study” job at the university’s fitness center, where he fills spray bottles, wipes sweat off the machines, and picks up towels for twenty hours a week. The $9-an-hour wage he’s paid is underwritten by the federal work-study program, which was launched in 1964 to support low-income students who would not otherwise be able to afford college.
While Noll and his counterparts at Columbia and other pricey, top-tier private colleges and universities no doubt benefit from the program–Noll says he uses the money to buy books and food and to go out with his friends on the weekends–they are not necessarily the intended recipients of aid from the $1.2 billion federal program. Noll’s family, for instance, makes $140,000 a year, which he says, rightly, puts them squarely in the upper-middle class. In fact, researchers at the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, have found that only 43 percent of students who receive work study meet the federal definition of financial need as determined by whether they also receive Pell Grants. Work study “disproportionately benefits the students who need it the least,” says Rory O’Sullivan, research and policy director at the youth advocacy organization Young Invincibles.
A major source of the problem stems from the fact that the work-study program uses a fifty-year-old formula to determine how federal funds are allocated. Unlike other federal financial aid programs that distribute money according to how many students at a university actually need aid, money for the work-study program is based instead on how much a university received the previous year, and how much it charges for tuition.

College costs drive record number of high school kids to start early

Jon Marcus:

Bahiya Nasuuna hasn’t even started college, but she’s already got some academic credits in the bank that will save her time and money and give her a jump on graduating–as she hopes to–within four years.
“My parents need as much help as they can get” to cover her tuition, said Nasuuna, who lives in the outskirts of Boston, in Chelsea. She passed an Advanced Placement test in English at her public high school that she’s cashed in for college credit, using it to forgo a required introductory writing course.
In all, Nasuuna passed seven AP exams in high school, and is ready to use those, too, to keep her studies on track at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she plans to begin this fall on a path to an eventual degree in public health.
She’s one of a record number of students getting a head start on college credits while still in high school, cutting costs and speeding toward degrees–and jobs–as quickly as possible to avoid dragging out costly higher educations.
“Everyone is looking for a leg up,” said Dave Taylor, principal of the Dayton Early College Academy in Ohio, a charter high school whose students simultaneously enroll in classes at nearby Sinclair Community College to get some college credits out of the way.

States offer students an incentive to graduate: money

Jon Marcus:

Every year states hand out more than $11 billion in financial aid to college students with no certainty as to whether they’ll ever graduate.
Many states don’t track the money. They simply hand it over and hope for the best, as one educational consultant put it.
It’s a “one-sided partnership,” according to Stan Jones, the president of the advocacy organization Complete College America. “The states provide the funds, but the expectations states have of students are really pretty low.”

Against optimism about social science

Andrew Gelman:

I agree with Marcus and Rojas that attention to problems of replication is a good thing. It’s bad that people are running incompetent analysis or faking data all over the place, but it’s good that they’re getting caught. And, to the extent that scientific practices are improving to help detect error and fraud, and to reduce the incentives for publishing erroneous and fradulent results in the first place, that’s good too.
But I worry about a sense of complacency. I think we should be careful not to overstate the importance of our first steps. We may be going in the right direction but we have a lot further to go. Here are some examples:
1. Marcus writes of the new culture of publishing replications. I assume he’d support the ready publications of corrections, too. But we’re not there yet, as this story indicates:
Recently I sent a letter to the editor to a major social science journal pointing out a problem in an article they’d published, they refused to publish my letter, not because of any argument that I was incorrect, but because they judged my letter to not be in the top 10% of submissions to the journal. I’m sure my letter was indeed not in the top 10% of submissions, but the journal’s attitude presents a serious problem, if the bar to publication of a correction is so high. That’s a disincentive for the journal to publish corrections, a disincentive for outsiders such as myself to write corrections, and a disincentive for researchers to be careful in the first place. Just to be clear: I’m not complaining how I was treated here; rather, I’m griping about the system in which a known error can stand uncorrected in a top journal, just because nobody managed to send in a correction that’s in the top 10% of journal submissions.

Commentary and Misinformation on Wisconsin Test Scores: Voucher, Public and Higher Academic Standards

St. Marcus Superintendent Henry Tyson, via a kind reader’s email:

Dear supporters of St. Marcus School,


I need your help in setting the story straight. Perhaps you read the bold headline in the local section of the Journal Sentinel yesterday — “Wisconsin voucher students lag in latest state test.” That claim is not accurate. You need to understand that this is misinformation about the Choice program. I want you to know the truth — and be our voices in sharing this with others.
The state released the 2012 WKCE test scores this week, conveniently comparing the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) to all of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and showing that MPS “beat” MPCP in every subject area.
Unfortunately, this is a gross misrepresentation of reality and is not an “apples to apples” comparison. The information that was released FAILED to do the appropriate comparison of MPS low-income students to MPCP, whose students are almost ENTIRELY from low-income families. When doing an accurate comparison of MPCP to MPS’s low-income population, choice schools beat MPS in all subjects except math. (Remember MPS has many students who are not in poverty and are high-achieving. By nature, almost allMPCP students are low-income.)
Beyond the program averages, our St. Marcus students are doing tremendously well, outpacing both the MPS and MPCP numbers by wide margins:



This may seem unimportant, since people are often negative about the choice program. However, it is actually very important at this time to set the record straight. Legislators are reading this misinformation, our supporters are reading this misinformation and so is the general public. At a time when there is much debate about the amount of the choice voucher funding and the expansion of the program, it is essential that we set the record straight. We need to get correct information to our supporters and legislators immediately!
At St. Marcus, it has been demonstrated that it is possible to educate the urban poor, even very poor children, in a highly effective manner. To protect the well-being of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and to enable St. Marcus to continue to grow and deliver excellent education to more students please take ACTION:
Forward this e-mail to your friends and certainly any legislators you know.
Contact your legislator directly and encourage them to support an increase in the voucher amount for MPCP schools. (Unbelievably, the current voucher amount of $6,451 is lower than the voucher amount back in 2006!)
Thanks for acting in support of your friends at St. Marcus and the awesome students achieving great things in schools like ours.
If you have any other questions or concerns, you can contact me.
Blessings,
Henry Tyson, Superintendent
414-303-2133
henry.tyson@stmarcus.org

Listen to a 2012 interview with Henry Tyson, here.
The Wisconsin State Journal:

The lower scores do not reflect falling performance. Students just need to know more to rank as high as they used to.
Most states are doing the same thing and will benchmark their exams to international standards.
Just as importantly, the computerized assessments of the near future will adjust to the ability of students. That will give parents and educators much better, more detailed and timely information about what students know and what they still need to learn.
Some critics will disparage any and all testing, pretending it will be the only measure Wisconsin will use for success. Others have lamented the increasing role of the federal government in the process.

Phil Hands cartoon.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Lost Decade of the Middle Class

Marcus Pohlman>:

The study released last week by the Pew Research Center confirms a trend that political economists have been observing for years — the middle class, the 50% of American households earning between $39,000 to $118,000, are now headed backward in income for the first time since the end of World War II.
The bedrock of a stable society is a large and healthy middle class. They not only do the bulk of the work and pay the lion’s share of the taxes, but their level of affluence gives them a personal stake in the survival of existing political and economic orders.

Related: Madison School District 2012-2013 Budget Update; Reduced 3.47% Property Tax Increase due to Increased State Tax Dollar Spending.

Madison School Board President James Howard says parent engagement is key to black students’ success

Pat Schneider:

T: The assumption in the discussion of parent engagement and academic achievement is that it is African-American parents who are not engaged.
JH: I think that’s the reality of it. The question is: why aren’t they engaged? The latest survey we had showed that roughly 40 percent of African-American high school students were not engaged. Why? What happens to the kids? We seem to lose them over time, and we lose the parents.
CT: That’s a pernicious thing for black youth, isn’t it? Why do you think it’s happening?
JH: I think one of the things is that we need to create a culture in our schools that these kids can feel they are more a part of. For example, we don’t present “American” history — there’s a lot of African-American history that never makes it to the books. So, if we as a country, as a community, would depict the true picture and make them part of it, I think kids would remain engaged longer.

Related: An interview the Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus school.

Better Schools, Fewer Dollars We can improve education without busting the budget

Marcus Winters via a kind Rick Kiley email:

Here’s what looks like a policy dilemma. To attain the economic growth that it desperately needs, the United States must improve its schools and train a workforce capable of competing in the global economy. Economists Eric Hanushek, Dean Jamison, Eliot Jamison, and Ludger Woessmann estimate that improving student achievement by half of one standard deviation–roughly the current difference between the United States and Finland–would increase U.S. GDP growth by about a full percentage point annually. Yet states and the federal government face severe budgetary constraints these days; how are policymakers supposed to improve student achievement while reducing school funding?
In reality, that task is far from impossible. The story of American education over the last three decades is one not of insufficient funds but of inefficient schools. Billions of new dollars have gone into the system, to little effect. Luckily, Americans are starting to recognize that we can improve schooling without paying an additional dime. In fact, by unleashing the power of educational choice, we might even save money while getting better results and helping the economy’s long-term prospects.

Related: State Income Tax Collections Per Capita, Madison’s 4.95% Property Tax Increase, http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2012/05/madison_schools_79.php and 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.

New Tests for Newborns, And Dilemmas for Parents

Amy Dockser Marcus:

The familiar heel prick that newborns receive is revealing more about a baby’s health than ever before. But, as technology opens the possibility of screening newborns for hundreds of diseases, there is controversy over how much parents need to know.
Within days of an infant being born, a few drops of blood are taken from the baby’s heel and tested for signs of more than two dozen different conditions, including congenital hypothyroidism and sickle-cell diseases. In many places, babies also are given tests to identify the likelihood of hearing or vision disorders.
Some states have expanded their checks, including testing for amino-acid and metabolism disorders. Many of the new conditions being looked at have no definitive treatment or it isn’t clear whether immediate intervention is necessary. That can present an emotional dilemma for parents who may want to know if anything is wrong with their baby but in many cases have no therapy to pursue.

Competitive disadvantage: High-achieving Asian-American students are being shut out of top schools around the country. Is this what diversity looks like no

Jon Marcus:

Grace Wong has felt the sting of intolerance quite literally, in the rocks thrown at her in Australia, where she pursued a PhD after leaving her native China. In the Boston area, where she’s lived since 1996, she recalls a fellow customer at the deli counter in a Chestnut Hill supermarket telling her to go back to her own country. When Wong’s younger son was born, she took a drastic measure to help protect him, at least on paper, from discrimination: She changed his last name to one that doesn’t sound Asian.
“It’s a difficult time to be Chinese,” says Wong, a scientist who develops medical therapies. “There’s a lot of jealousy out there, because the Chinese do very well. And some people see that as a threat.”
Wong had these worries in mind last month as she waited to hear whether her older son, a good student in his senior year at a top suburban high school, would be accepted to the 11 colleges he had applied to, which she had listed neatly on a color-coded spreadsheet.
The odds, strangely, were stacked against him. After all the attention given to the stereotype that Asian-American parents put enormous pressure on their children to succeed – provoked over the winter by Amy Chua’s controversial Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – came the indisputable reality this spring that, even if Asian-American students work hard, the doors of top schools were still being slammed shut in many faces.

Rules tie up Milwaukee Public Schools real estate

Becky Vevea:

The former Garfield Elementary School building, stately and picturesque, looks as if it could be used for a movie set. That would be one way to fill the empty school with life.
For now, the century-old building at 2215 N. 4th St. sits empty.
Just down the road, construction is under way for a $7 million expansion to St. Marcus Lutheran School, one of the highest performing voucher schools in the city. But before St. Marcus raised millions of dollars, school leaders spent months in conversations with Milwaukee Public Schools about purchasing one of several nearby vacant buildings, including Garfield Elementary.
They were unsuccessful.
For MPS, one less building would mean revenue from the sale and a reduction in maintenance costs. So what happened?
“We were told we could buy them, but could not operate them as a school in competition with MPS,” said Henry Tyson, St. Marcus’ superintendent. “It became clear that the acquisition of one of those vacant MPS buildings was just not an option.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Chancellor Merkel Rebuffs President Obama’s Call to Boost Spending (and deficits)

Marcus Walker & Matthew Karnitschnig:

Chancellor Angela Merkel roundly rebuffed U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for Germans to aid the global recovery by spending more and relying less on exports, even as she warned that Europe’s own financial crisis is far from over.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in her Berlin chancellery, an unapologetic Ms. Merkel said the nations that share the beleaguered euro have merely bought some time to fix the flaws in their monetary union. She called on the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations meeting in Toronto this weekend to send a signal that tougher financial-market regulation is on its way to dispel the impression that momentum is fading amid resistance by big banks.
She took aim at an idea voiced by France, the U.S. and others that Germany could help global producers by spurring its persistently weak consumer demand. The latest call came in a letter last Friday from Mr. Obama to the G-20, in which he asked big exporters–Germany, China and Japan–to rebalance global demand by boosting consumer spending rather than exports.

Are Too Many Students Going to College?

Sandy Baum, Bryan Caplan, W. Norton Grubb, Charles Murray, Marty Nemko,Richard K. Vedder, Marcus A. Winters, Alison Wolf and Daniel Yankelovich:

With student debt rising and more of those enrolled failing to graduate in four years, there is a growing sentiment that college may not be the best option for all students. At the same time, President Obama has called on every American to receive at least one year of higher education or vocational training. Behind the rhetoric lies disagreement over a series of issues: which students are most likely to succeed in college; what kind of college they should attend; whether the individual or society benefits more from postsecondary education; and whether college is worth the high cost and likely long-term debt. The Chronicle Review asked higher-education experts to weigh in.
Who should and shouldn’t go to college?
Alison Wolf: Anyone who meets the entry criteria and is willing to pay the fees should be able to go. In one sense, that just passes the buck–politicians then have to decide how much subsidy they are willing to provide. But it shouldn’t be up to them to decide how many people go, what they study, and why.
Charles Murray: It has been empirically demonstrated that doing well (B average or better) in a traditional college major in the arts and sciences requires levels of linguistic and logical/mathematical ability that only 10 to 15 percent of the nation’s youth possess. That doesn’t mean that only 10 to 15 percent should get more than a high-school education. It does mean that the four-year residential program leading to a B.A. is the wrong model for a large majority of young people.

Special-Education Stigmatization
School vouchers may be the best way to curb abuse of public funds.

Marcus Winters & Jay Greene:

Federal law first insisted in 1975 that public schools educate disabled students. Since then, the portion of students receiving special education services has increased 64%. Today, 13.5% of all public school students have been diagnosed with a disability. Special education, it turns out, is no longer particularly special at all.
Taxpayers pay a substantial price for the growth in special education. In New York state, for instance, in 2007, the average special education student cost $14,413 more to educate than a regular-enrollment student.
What has produced such rapid growth in the percentage of American students identified as disabled? Don’t worry–it’s not “something in the water.”
Better means of identification explain part of special education’s expansion. However, a growing body of research points to a less benign cause: Schools see a financial incentive to designate low-achieving students as disabled, while they may not actually be disabled at all.

For Parents of Ill Children, a Growing Recognition of PTSD

Amy Dockser Marcus: Post-traumatic stress disorder in combat soldiers is receiving greater attention and wider societal recognition. Now doctors and researchers are trying to do the same for a group that has similar symptoms: parents of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Shelly Miller of Bridgetown, Ohio, has a teenage son named Dylan who can’t walk … Continue reading For Parents of Ill Children, a Growing Recognition of PTSD

Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room

Kevin Hartnett: Score one for the human brain. In a new study, computer scientists found that artificial intelligence systems fail a vision test a child could accomplish with ease. “It’s a clever and important study that reminds us that ‘deep learning’ isn’t really that deep,” said Gary Marcus, a neuroscientist at New York University who … Continue reading Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room

Who’s Missing From America’s Colleges? Rural High School Graduates

John Marcus and Matt Krupnik: When Dustin Gordon’s high school invited juniors and seniors to meet with recruiters from colleges and universities, a handful of students showed up. A few were serious about the prospect of continuing their educations, he said, “But I think some of them went just to get out of class.” In … Continue reading Who’s Missing From America’s Colleges? Rural High School Graduates

Who’s Missing From America’s Colleges? Rural High School Graduates

Jon Marcus and Matt Krupnick: When Dustin Gordon’s high school invited juniors and seniors to meet with recruiters from colleges and universities, a handful of students showed up. A few were serious about the prospect of continuing their educations, he said, “But I think some of them went just to get out of class.” In … Continue reading Who’s Missing From America’s Colleges? Rural High School Graduates

The Looming Decline of the Public Research University

Jon Marcus Four floors above a dull cinder-block lobby in a nondescript building at Ohio State University, the doors of a slow-moving elevator open on an unexpectedly futuristic 10,000-square-foot laboratory bristling with technology. It’s a reveal reminiscent of a James Bond movie. In fact, the researchers who run this year-old, $750,000 lab at OSU’s Spine … Continue reading The Looming Decline of the Public Research University

On the Way to a Rare-Disease Cure, Parents Tackle the High Price Tag of Research

Amy Dockser Marcus: After Luke Rosen’s 3-year-old daughter, Susannah, was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, he wanted to do what many parents increasingly have done—help accelerate the search for a treatment. Mr. Rosen, an actor who doesn’t have a science background, quickly learned many of the steps he would need to build a research … Continue reading On the Way to a Rare-Disease Cure, Parents Tackle the High Price Tag of Research

The Looming Decline of the Public Research University

Jon Marcus: our floors above a dull cinder-block lobby in a nondescript building at Ohio State University, the doors of a slow-moving elevator open on an unexpectedly futuristic 10,000-square-foot laboratory bristling with technology. It’s a reveal reminiscent of a James Bond movie. In fact, the researchers who run this year-old, $750,000 lab at OSU’s Spine … Continue reading The Looming Decline of the Public Research University

University bureaucracies grew 15 percent during the recession, even as budgets were cut and tuition increased

Jon Marcus: Post-it notes stick to the few remaining photos hanging on the walls of the University of Maine System offices, in a grand brick, renovated onetime W.T. Grant department store built in 1948. The notes are instructions for the movers, since the pictures and everything else are in the midst of being packed up … Continue reading University bureaucracies grew 15 percent during the recession, even as budgets were cut and tuition increased

Germany shows tuition-free college may not fix higher education in the US

Jon Marcus: Claudia Niessler wouldn’t have attended a university that charged tuition, though even without it her living expenses in college require her to work as many as 20 hours a week at a supermarket. Stefan Steinbock pipes in that having to pay tuition would discourage people with good grades but low incomes from getting … Continue reading Germany shows tuition-free college may not fix higher education in the US

Many clinical trials’ findings never get published. Here’s why that’s bad

Ivan Oransky & Adam Marcus New research suggests that nearly half of all clinical trials involving kids go unfinished or unpublished — either because the researchers lose interest in the work or take up more pressing projects, or, in some cases, because the companies that funded the studies don’t want the results to get out. … Continue reading Many clinical trials’ findings never get published. Here’s why that’s bad

NJ teachers union to Dems: No campaign cash for you until pension amendment vote

Samantha Marcus and Susan Livio: The constitutional amendment would require the state increase payments into the government worker pension fund. It must be approved by the voters in a public referendum. But Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) has so far declined to hold a vote on the referendum until lawmakers resolve a transportation funding impasse. … Continue reading NJ teachers union to Dems: No campaign cash for you until pension amendment vote

Learning to be a cog: Homeschooling, Socialization, and the New Groupthink

B K Marcus: I recently talked to a mom who wants to homeschool her daughter. The girl’s dad objects to the idea because, he insists, home education will fail to prepare her for “the real world.” I find it significant that this man is career military. The real world, as he knows it, is regimented, … Continue reading Learning to be a cog: Homeschooling, Socialization, and the New Groupthink

Enrollment in online courses rises, but their importance to academic chiefs wanes

Jon Marcus: About 63 percent of chief academic officers consider the likes of massive open online courses, or MOOCS, to be critical to their institutions’ long-term strategies, down from 71 percent last year, the survey, by the Babson Survey Research Group, found. Twenty-nine percent say the outcomes are inferior to those of face-to-face instruction, up … Continue reading Enrollment in online courses rises, but their importance to academic chiefs wanes

How One Family Faced Difficult Decisions About DNA Sequencing

Amy Dockser Marcus: It was a big decision, and Kathy Giusti saved the conversations about it for quiet moments. A phone call catching up with her mother. A car ride with her children. A backyard party celebrating a high-school graduation. Ms. Giusti wanted to discuss the complex, intimate and sometimes life-changing choice that many families … Continue reading How One Family Faced Difficult Decisions About DNA Sequencing

‘Outsiders’ Crack a 50-Year-Old Math Problem

Erica Klarreich: Mathematicians in these disciplines greeted the news with a combination of delight and hand-wringing. The solution, which Casazza and Tremain called “a major achievement of our time,” defied expectations about how the problem would be solved and seemed bafflingly foreign. Over the past two years, the experts in the Kadison-Singer problem have had … Continue reading ‘Outsiders’ Crack a 50-Year-Old Math Problem

High Expectations: Sports & Benton Harbor

Robert Klemko: Elliot Uzelac took over this moribund football program at a struggling school in a worse-off town with clear goals. The boys would pass their classes. They would commit their weekday afternoons to practice. And they would make the playoffs. He even wrote that word—playoffs—on a chalkboard during his first team meeting, underlining it … Continue reading High Expectations: Sports & Benton Harbor

College Faculties Have a Serious Diversity Problem

Marcus Woo: To be a professor is to belong to a select few—an insider’s club of vanishing tenured faculty positions. It’s no secret that a fancy diploma can help grads vying for those coveted spots. But while working on his PhD and contemplating his career prospects, computer scientist Aaron Clauset wanted to know just how … Continue reading College Faculties Have a Serious Diversity Problem

Google Opens Its Cloud to Crack the Genetic Code of Autism

Marcus Wohlsen: Google has spent the past decade-and-a-half perfecting the science of recognizing patterns in the chaos of information on the web. Now it’s applying that expertise to searching for clues to the genetic causes of autism in the vast sea of data contained in the human genome. On Tuesday, autism advocacy group Autism Speaks … Continue reading Google Opens Its Cloud to Crack the Genetic Code of Autism

Colleges that pledged to help poor families have been doing the opposite, new figures show

Jon Marcus & Holly Hacker: Decked out in black tie and formal dresses, guests at Mr. Jefferson’s Capital Ball finished their salmon with horseradish sauce just as the band lured them onto the dance floor with classics including “Shout” and “My Girl.” Some of the people who paid up to $400 a couple to attend … Continue reading Colleges that pledged to help poor families have been doing the opposite, new figures show

Colleges and universities charge more, keep less, new report finds

Jon Marcus: Forced to keep discounting their prices as enrollment stagnates, U.S. universities and colleges expect their slowest growth in revenue in 10 years, the bond-rating company Moody’s reports. The squeeze could threaten further cuts in services even as tuition continues to increase. A quarter of colleges and universities are projecting declines in revenue, according … Continue reading Colleges and universities charge more, keep less, new report finds

Charter Schools Get Better over Time

Patrick L. Baude, Marcus Casey, Eric A. Hanushek, Steven G. Rivkin: Studies of the charter school sector typically focus on head-to-head comparisons of charter and traditional schools at a point in time, but the expansion of parental choice and relaxation of constraints on school operations is unlikely to raise school quality overnight. Rather, the success … Continue reading Charter Schools Get Better over Time

Adult Employment and Empty Milwaukee Public Schools’ Buildings

Erin Richards: Spurred by a deal gone sour between Milwaukee Public Schools and the developer commissioned to renovate one of its empty buildings — a deal that kept a private school from buying the facility — Common Council President Michael Murphy has introduced an ordinance that would position the city to take charge and sell … Continue reading Adult Employment and Empty Milwaukee Public Schools’ Buildings

College-rating proposal shines spotlight on powerful lobby

Jon Marcus: The annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities this year had the tone of a revival meeting. “We have been under steady, unrelenting pressure,” declared the organization’s president, David Warren, who spoke of “an overreaching executive branch” he said sought to use unreliable statistics to measure the effectiveness of … Continue reading College-rating proposal shines spotlight on powerful lobby

Henry Tyson charted unlikely path to Milwaukee education debates

Bill Glauber “I’m a conformist,” said Henry Tyson, superintendent of St. Marcus Lutheran School. “I like rules and I like order.” To hear that Tyson considers himself a conformist is a surprise, given his background and his mission. How this British-born educator came to Milwaukee is the stuff of chance, circumstance and an intense personal … Continue reading Henry Tyson charted unlikely path to Milwaukee education debates

Heavy Adult Employment Focus in the Milwaukee Public a Schools

Erin Richards But after Tyson made his offer, an MPS teacher who also is a teachers’ union employee submitted a plan to reopen Lee as a district-run charter school. The School Board was said to be considering both options. It was scheduled to discuss the potential sale or lease of several empty buildings, including the … Continue reading Heavy Adult Employment Focus in the Milwaukee Public a Schools

The trouble with brain science

Gary Marcus: ARE we ever going to figure out how the brain works?  After decades of research, diseases like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s still resist treatment. Despite countless investigations into serotonin and other neurotransmitters, there is still no method to cure clinical depression. And for all the excitement about brain-imaging techniques, the limitations of fMRI studies are, … Continue reading The trouble with brain science

Poorer families are bearing the brunt of college price hikes, data show

By Jon Marcus and Holly K. Hacker: America’s colleges and universities are quietly shifting the burden of their big tuition increases onto low-income students, while many higher-income families are seeing their college costs rise more slowly, or even fall, an analysis of federal data shows.  It’s a trend financial-aid experts and some university administrators worry will … Continue reading Poorer families are bearing the brunt of college price hikes, data show

New short film exposes Milwaukee schools’ efforts to block high-performing competitors

Ben Velderman:

Hundreds of Milwaukee families have discovered in recent years that having a school voucher doesn’t mean much if your private school of choice doesn’t have the classroom space to accommodate additional children.
In Bad Faith screen grab topSuch is the case for the city’s St. Marcus Lutheran School. The high-performing private school has a long waiting list for any available seats that open up, and it’s not difficult to understand why. By virtually all measures, St. Marcus Lutheran is outperforming Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) – its government-run counterpart – by a wide margin. The most telling statistic is probably the schools’ graduation rates: St. Marcus succeeds in getting a diploma into the hands of 96 percent of its students, compared to MPS’ dismal 65 percent graduation rate.
If families who qualify for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program could flee their neighborhood government school, many of them obviously would. More than 25,000 students already have fled the district, which has caused MPS’ enrollment to crater. The attendance drop, in turn, has led to a surplus of school buildings the downsized district no longer needs.
But MPS leaders don’t want alternative schools using the empty buildings.
MPS officials believe that St. Marcus Lutheran and other high-quality voucher and charter schools pose an existential threat to the district, which is why they’ve devised a very clever plan to block the schools’ size and future growth by denying them access to the city’s vacant and unused school buildings

How to fix peer review

The Economist:

PEER review, many boffins argue, channelling Churchill, is the worst way to ensure quality of research, except all the others. The system, which relies on papers being vetted by anonymous experts prior to publication, has underpinned scientific literature for decades. It is far from perfect: studies have shown that referees, who are not paid for their services, often make a poor fist of spotting serious mistakes. It is also open to abuse, with reviewers susceptible to derailing rivals or pinching their ideas. But it is as good as it gets.
Or is it? Marcus Munafò, of Bristol University, believes it could be improved–by injecting a dose of subjectivity. The claim, which he and his colleagues present in a (peer-reviewed) paper just published in Nature, is odd. Science, after all, purports to be about seeking objective truth (or at least avoiding objective falsity). But it is done by scientists, who are human beings. And like other human endeavours, Dr Munafò says, it is prone to bubbles. When the academic herd stampedes to the right answer, that is fine and dandy. Less so if it rushes towards the wrong one.
To arrive at their counterintuitive conclusion the researchers compared computer models of reviewer behaviour. Each began with a scientist who had reached an initial opinion as to which of two opposing hypotheses is more likely to be true. The more controversial the issue, the lower the confidence. He then sends the manuscript supporting one of the hypotheses to a reviewer, who also has a prior opinion about its veracity, and who recommends either rejecting or accepting the submission. (In this simple model journal editors are assumed to follow reviewers’ advice unquestioningly, which is not always the case in practice.) Subsequently, the reviewer himself writes and submits his own paper advocating one of the hypotheses to the journal, and the process repeats itself.

Moody’s: college money woes are getting worse

Jon Marcus:

Facing stagnant enrollment and increasingly price-conscious consumers, already cash-strapped universities will continue to see their revenues fail to keep up with inflation, the bond-rating agency Moody’s Investment Service says.
The proportion of public universities with expected revenue declines has doubled over last year.
Nearly 30 percent of public and one out of five private universities will suffer declines in revenue–more than the proportion that experienced this last year, and a sign that the problem is getting worse and not better, according to Moody’s, which annually reviews the financial condition of higher-education institutions whose bonds it rates.
Nearly half of universities expect to see declines in their enrollments.
Second-tier public universities and small private universities that are having trouble persuading families and students that they’re worth the price of their tuition are in the most danger, Moody’s says–and will have to take dramatic steps to win back business.
“At this pace, tuition-dependent colleges and universities will be challenged to make necessary investments in personnel, programs, and facilities to remain competitive over the longer term,” says Karen Kedem, a Moody’s senior analyst, who authored the report.

Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools

Marcus Winters, via a kind Deb Britt email:

This study uses NYC data to analyze the factors driving the gap in special education enrollment between charter and traditional public schools. Among the findings:
Students with disabilities are less likely to apply to charter schools in kindergarten than are regular enrollment students. This is the primary driver of the gap in special education enrollments.
The gap grows as students progress through elementary grades, largely because charter schools are less likely than district schools to place students in special education–and less likely to keep them there.
The gap also grows as students transfer between charter and district schools. Between kindergarten and third grade, greater proportions of regular education students enter charter schools, compared to students with special needs.
There is great mobility among special education students, whether they attend a charter or traditional public school. Close to a third of students in special education leave their school by the fourth year of attendance, whether they are enrolled in charters or traditional public schools.

Commentary on Using Empty Milwaukee Public Schools’ Buildings

Eugene Kane:

As I regularly pass by the former Malcolm X Academy that has been vacant for years, the words of a legendary African-American educator comes to mind:
“No schoolhouse has been opened for us that has not been filled.”
Booker T. Washington said that in 1896 during an address to urge white Americans to respect the desire by most African-American parents to seek the best possible education for their children.
Fast-forward to 2013 in Milwaukee, and the issue of vacant school buildings gives a pecular spin to Washington’s words. Back then, he could never have imagined the combination of bureaucracy and politics that has some educators scrambling to find spaces to fill with African-American students.
The campaign by a local private school funded by taxpayers to buy the former Malcolm X Academy at 2760 N. 1st St. has caused some in town to question why Milwaukee Public Schools hasn’t done more to turn closed school buildings into functioning houses of learning.
In particular, some conservatives question why MPS hasn’t been willing to sell valuable resources to school choice entities that are essentially their main competition for low-income minority students.
Actually, that stance seems valid from a business standpoint; why help out the folks trying to put you out of business?

The City of Milwaukee: Put Children First!

St. Marcus is at capacity.
Hundreds of children are on waiting lists.
Over the past decade, St. Marcus Lutheran School in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood has proven that high-quality urban education is possible. The K3-8th grade school has demonstrated a successful model for education that helps children and families from urban neighborhoods break the cycle of poverty and move on to achieve academic success at the post-secondary level and beyond.
By expanding to a second campus at Malcolm X, St. Marcus can serve 900 more students.

WILL Responds to MPS on Unused Schools Issues

On Tuesday, Milwaukee Public Schools responded to WILL’s report, “MPS and the City Ignore State Law on Unused Property.” Here is WILL’s reply:
1. MPS’ response is significant for what it does not say. WILL’s report states that, right now, there are at least 20 unused school buildings that are not on the market – and practically all of these buildings have attracted interest from charter and choice schools. As far as its records reveal, MPS refuses to adopt basic business practices, such as keeping an updated portfolio of what is happening with its facilities. How is the public to know where things stand when it is not clear that MPS keeps tabs on them?
2. MPS thinks everything is okay because it has sold four buildings since 2011 and leases to MPS schools. MPS’ response is similar to a football team (we trust it would be the Bears) celebrating that they scored two touchdowns in a game – only to end up losing 55-14. Our report acknowledged that MPS had disposed of a few buildings, but when there are at least 20 empty buildings – and substantial demand for them – claiming credit for selling a few is a bit like a chronic absentee celebrating the fact that he usually comes in on Tuesdays. Children and taxpayers deserve better.

Conservative group says MPS, city not selling enough empty buildings

A conservative legal group says that Milwaukee Public Schools is stalling on selling its empty school buildings to competing school operators that seek school facility space, and that the City of Milwaukee isn’t acting on a new law that gives it more authority to sell the district’s buildings.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which supports many Republican causes, says its new report shows that MPS is preventing charter schools and private schools in the voucher program from purchasing empty and unused school buildings.
But MPS fired back yesterday, saying the legal group’s information omits facts and containts false claims.
For example, MPS Spokesman Tony Tagliavia said that this year, five previously unused MPS buildings are back in service as schools.
He said MPS has also sold buildings to high-performing charter schools. Charter operators it has sold to such as Milwaukee College Prep and the Hmong American Peace Academy are operating schools that are under the MPS umbrella, however, so the district gets to count those students as part of its enrollment.

Bill Boelter

My entire career of close to 50 years has been focused on growing a business in and close to the city of Milwaukee. This is where I have my roots. I have followed education closely over these years.
The Aug. 17 Journal Sentinel had an interesting article about conflicting opinions on what the most viable use is for the former Malcolm X School, which closed over six years ago.
The Milwaukee School Board has proposed to have the city convert the site into a community center for the arts, recreation, low-income housing and retail stores. The cost to city taxpaying residences and businesses has not been calculated. Rising tax burdens have been a major factor in the flight to the suburbs and decline of major cities across our country.
St. Marcus Lutheran School is prepared to purchase Malcolm X for an appraised fair market value. St. Marcus is part of Schools That Can Milwaukee, which also includes Milwaukee College Prep and Bruce-Guadalupe Community School. Other participating high performing schools are Atonement Lutheran School, Notre Dame Middle School and Carmen High School of Science and Technology. Support comes from private donations after state allowances for voucher/choice students.
Their students go on to graduate from high school at a rate of over 90%, compared to approximately 60% at Milwaukee Public Schools. The acquisition of Malcolm X would give an additional 800 students the opportunity to attend a high performing school and reduce waiting lists at St. Marcus.

Fancy college dorms, gyms don’t help draw applicants, research says

Jon Marcus:

Universities and colleges may be competing to build such perks as climbing walls and fancy dormitories, but the “arms race” over residence halls, food services, and fitness centers is having little effect on college applicants’ choices, new research shows.
Conducted before and after the economic downturn by economists Kevin Rask of Colorado College and Amanda Griffith of Wake Forest University, the research saysstudents are more interested in price and prestige than in amenities.
Families that do and do not qualify for financial aid are equally concerned about cost and reputation, particularly as measured by the U.S. News and World Report rankings, Rask and Griffith found after surveying high-achieving students in various income categories who started college between 2005 and the academic year just ended.

Mice, Men & Fate

Gary Marcus:

Almost fifteen years ago, in a book called “Chance, Development, and Aging,” the gerontologists Caleb Finch and Thomas Kirkwood described a truly elegant study of biology: a batch of roundworms, all genetically identical, raised on identical diets of agar. Despite having identical genetics and near-identical environments, some worms lived far longer than others. The lesson? The classical equation of “life = nature + nurture” had left out chance.
Of course, that was just worms. This week, a team of German researchers, led by Gerd Kempermann, built on a similar logic and announced in Science that they had raised forty inbred mice that were essentially genetically identical in a single complex environment, and used radio-frequency identification (RFID) implants to track every moment of their lives. Nobody could ever ethically run that sort of controlled experiment with humans, but Kempermann’s study provides convincing evidence that–in a fellow mammal with which we share a basic brain organization–neither genetic identity nor a shared environment is enough to guarantee a common fate. Different creatures, even from the same species, can grow up differently, and develop significantly different brains–even if their genomes are identical, and even if their environments are, too.
Because of the care with which Kempermann and his colleagues tracked the individual mice, the study provides considerable new insight into how we become who we are. It speaks to what the psychologist Sandra Scarr once called “niche-picking”: the idea that each individual develops a different set of talents, in order to carve out his or her own identity. Two people with initially slight differences might develop radically different skills, because they follow different paths. One child likes basketball, another painting; at first hardly anything distinguishes the two: both struggle to make baskets, and neither one can yet draw a credible house. But, from the outset, the first is slightly better at basketball, the second at art. Over time, the first child devotes herself to basketball, spends thousands of hours playing the game, and eventually becomes a professional athlete; the other applies herself equally to her chosen pursuit, and becomes a great artist. Tiny initial differences in talent, or simply in desire, become magnified over time. By tracking in detail the learning curves for forty individual mice, genetically identical and with essentially equal environmental opportunity, Kempermann and his colleagues show how the same kind of magnification can happen under carefully observed laboratory circumstances.

Madison’s public schools go to lockdown mode; no new ideas wanted

David Blaska:

Graphical user interface? I think not, Mr. Jobs. Mainframe is where it’s at. Big and honking, run by guys in white lab coats. Smart phones? iPads? You’re dreaming. Take your new ideas somewhere else.
That is the Madison School Board. It has decided to batten the hatches against change. It is securing the perimeter against new thinking. It is the North Korea of education: insular, blighted, and paranoid.
Just try to start a charter school in Madison. I dare you. The Madison School Board on Monday took three measures to strangle new ideas in their crib:
1) Preserving the status quo: Any proposed charter school would have to have “a history of successful practice.” That leaves out several existing Madison public schools – never mind new approaches.
2) Starvation: Cap per-pupil reimbursement at around $6,500 – less than half what Madison public schools consume.
3) Encrustation: Unionized teachers only need apply.
I spoke to Carrie Bonk, executive director of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association.

Related:
Madison’s disastrous reading results.

The rejected Studio charter school.

Minneapolis teacher’s union approved to authorize charter schools.

“We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.

Notes and links on the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.

Madison School District Open Enrollment Leavers Report, 2012-13.

Madison’s disastrous long term reading results..

Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School.

Madison’s School Board to Finalize “Charter School Policy”……

Dylan Pauly, Legal Counsel Steve Hartley, Chief of Staff (PDF):

It is the policy of the School Board to consider the establishment of charter schools that support the DISTRICT Mission and Belief Statements and as provided by law. The BOARD believes that the creation of charter schools can enhance the educational opportunities for Madison Metropolitan School District students by providing innovative and distinctive educational programs and by giving parents/students more educational options within the DISTRICT. Only charter schools that are an instrumentality of the DISTRICT will be considered by the BOARD.
The BOARD further believes that certain values and principles must be integrated into all work involving the conceptualization, development and implementation of a new charter school. These guiding principles are as follows:
1. All charter schools must meet high standards of student achievement while providing increased educational opportunities, including broadening existing opportunities for struggling populations of students;
2. All charter schools must have an underlying, research-based theory and history of successful practice that is likely to achieve academic success;
3. All charter schools will provide information to parents and students as to the quality of education provided by the charter school and the ongoing academic progress of the individual student;
4. All charter schools will ensure equitable access to all students regardless of gender, race and/or disability;
5. All charter schools must be financially accountable to the DISTRICT and rely on +’ sustainable funding models;
6. All charter schools must ensure the health and safety of all staff and students;
7. All externally-developed charter schools must be governed by a governance board that is registered as a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt charitable organization;
8. All charter schools must have a plan to hire, retain and recruit a highly-qualified, diverse staff;
9. All charter schools must have a clear code of student conduct that includes procedures for positive interventions and social emotional supports

Related:
Matthew DeFour’s article.
The rejected Studio charter school.
Minneapolis teacher’s union approved to authorize charter schools.
“We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.
Notes and links on the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.
Madison School District Open Enrollment Leavers Report, 2012-13.
Madison’s disastrous long term reading results..
Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School.

Music & Math

Rachel Halliburton:

Not that Marcus du Sautoy – who, as well as being a professor of mathematics at Oxford university, has succeeded Richard Dawkins as Simonyi professor for the public understanding of science – can adequately be summed up by the word “mathematician”. For a start there’s the hurricane force of his personality (journalists have a lot of fun talking about his bright clothes), and the range of his ambition (theatre is a passion, as is the desire to be a chef). We meet at his home in Stamford Hill in north London and, as he waves his arms around talking about everything from turn-of-the-century polymath Poincaré to palindromes, his enthusiasm for music makes him resemble a follically challenged Simon Rattle.
I talk to du Sautoy about the riots that greeted Schoenberg’s work. Why did atonal music disturb people so much? “I think musicians wanted to upset audiences,” he replies. “They were breaking the complacency of previous music – people were expecting to reach one destination through harmony or rhythm, and suddenly they were pulled away to somewhere completely different. What’s so exciting for me is how different that soundscape was – it was a time of complete change. In some ways one does have to go through the whole gamut of history to understand 20th-century music.”

Words: Madison’s Plan to Close the Achievement Gap: The Good, Bad, and Unknown

Mike Ford:

Admittedly I did not expect much. Upon review some parts pleasantly surprised me, but I am not holding my breath that it is the answer to MMSD’s achievement gaps. It is a classic example of what I call a butterflies and rainbows education plan. It includes a variety of non-controversial, ambitious, and often positive goals and strategies, but no compelling reason to expect it to close the achievement gap. Good things people will like, unlikely to address MMSD’s serious problems: butterflies and rainbows.
What follows is a review of the specific recommendations in the MSSD plan. And yes, there are good things in here that the district should pursue. However, any serious education plan must include timelines not just for implementation, but also for results. This plan does not do that. Nor does it say what happens if outcomes for struggling subgroups of students do not improve.
Recommendation #1: Ensure that All K-12 Students are Reading at Grade Level

The rejected Madison Preparatory IB charter school was proposed to address, in part Madison’s long standing achievement gap.
Related: Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School (an inner-city voucher school).