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July 31, 2006

Acting White

Donna Ford, Ph.D., and Gilman Whiting, Ph.D., both of Vanderbilt University, are two leading African American education scholars who have dedicated their professional lives to the issue of minority achievement. Professor Ford is a nationally recognized expert in gifted education, multicultural education, and the recruitment and retention of diverse students in gifted education. Professor Whiting is a nationally recognized expert in African American male achievement and under-achievement. Professors Ford and Whiting made a two-part visit to the MMSD earlier this year, the result of an invitation from Diane Crear, recently retired MMSD Special Assistant to the Superintendent for Parent-Community Relations. As part of their program for minority parents, Professors Ford and Whiting talked about the research that attests so clearly to the importance of books in the home, reading to our children, talking with our children in intellectually stimulating ways, and taking an active interest in our children's educational experience. They also showed the following segment from a June, 1999, episode of ABC's "20/20." The segment is entitled "Acting White" and was filmed at our own Madison East High School. It is thought-provoking, to say the least, and generated a lot of discussion amongst those in the audience last March when it was shown. We offer it to SIS readers for their thoughtful consideration.



For more on the work of Drs. Ford and Whiting, here are two recent papers:

Ford, D. Y. & Whiting, G. W. (2006). Under-Representation of Diverse Students in Gifted Education: Recommendations for Nondiscriminatory Assessment (Part 1). Gifted Education Press Quarterly, 20(2), 2-6.

Moore, J. L., Ford, D. Y., & Milner, R. (2005). Recruitment Is Not Enough: Retaining African American Students in Gifted Education. Gifted Child Quarterly, 49, 51-67.

Posted by Laurie Frost at 4:03 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Digital Curricula

Jeffrey Goldfarb:

What began as a long-shot attempt last year by Pearson Plc to sell California educators digital materials to teach history and politics, collectively known in U.S. schools as social studies, has become reality in what could be the first large-scale step to eliminate books from classrooms.

Pearson, the world's biggest publisher of educational materials, disclosed on Monday with its half-year results that about half the state's elementary school students will learn about the American Revolutionary War and Thomas Jefferson using an interactive computer program.

The company also said its success in California, where about 1.5 million students aged 5-11 will use the program in classrooms this year, has led it to plan the same approach in additional states and with more subjects.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:40 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Complex Relationship Between Nature, Nurture, and Intelligence

After the Bell Curve
David L. Kirp
The New York Times

When it comes to explaining the roots of intelligence, the fight between partisans of the gene and partisans of the environment is ancient and fierce. Each side challenges the other’s intellectual bona fides and political agendas. What is at stake is not just the definition of good science but also the meaning of the just society. The nurture crowd is predisposed to revive the War on Poverty, while the hereditarians typically embrace a Social Darwinist perspective.

A century’s worth of quantitative-genetics literature concludes that a person’s I.Q. is remarkably stable and that about three-quarters of I.Q. differences between individuals are attributable to heredity. This is how I.Q. is widely understood — as being mainly “in the genes” — and that understanding has been used as a rationale for doing nothing about seemingly intractable social problems like the black-white school-achievement gap and the widening income disparity. If nature disposes, the argument goes, there is little to be gained by intervening. In their 1994 best seller, “The Bell Curve,” Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray relied on this research to argue that the United States is a genetic meritocracy and to urge an end to affirmative action. Since there is no way to significantly boost I.Q., prominent geneticists like Arthur Jensen of Berkeley have contended, compensatory education is a bad bet.

But what if the supposed opposition between heredity and environment is altogether misleading? A new generation of studies shows that genes and environment don’t occupy separate spheres — that much of what is labeled “hereditary” becomes meaningful only in the context of experience. “It doesn’t really matter whether the heritability of I.Q. is this particular figure or that one,” says Sir Michael Rutter of the University of London. “Changing the environment can still make an enormous difference.” If heredity defines the limits of intelligence, the research shows, experience largely determines whether those limits will be reached. And if this is so, the prospects for remedying social inequalities may be better than we thought.

Posted by Laurie Frost at 7:28 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

California School Districts Try to Cope With Declining Enrollment

Catherine Saillant:

Statewide, public school enrollment was down slightly this year, for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century. And though officials aren't quite sure of all the reasons behind the drop, they are sure that the cost of housing is one of them.

In Santa Barbara, school administrators worry about lost revenue, because funding is tied to enrollment.

Already, administrators said, the decline has cost the district millions annually. Now, having made small, less-painful cuts, they are considering larger steps, such as selling off vacant property or building housing to sell to teachers at below-market value.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:27 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

"Training Teachers Is Our Society's Achille's Heel: The Demise Of Schools Of Education"

Robin Good:

Question: What big idea of 2006 will be extinct in 2036?
Answer: Modern teacher training

By 2036, the forms of teacher preparation that currently prevail in Western nations will have sunk into oblivion.

We will have discarded schools of education, the pedagogies they teach, and the certification apparatus that they serve. Such schools, pedagogies, and certifications have clung to life stubbornly for the better part of a century despite ample evidence of their unsuitability.

Why predict that in the next 30 years they will finally follow the giant ground sloth into the La Brea tar pit of history?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:25 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

July 30, 2006

Are You a Toxic Parent?

Marc Fisher:

True or False:
  • Kids are going to drink anyway, so they might as well do it at home, under adult supervision

  • Restricting teenagers makes no sense when they'll be on their own in college soon enough

  • You'd rather be your child's friend than an authority figure

If you answered 'true' to any of the above, you are not alone.

But that doesn't mean you're right

Lots of parents sign the pledge, often because of peer pressure: If everyone else is signing, how would it look if your name were not on the list? Who opposes keeping kids safe? But it's something else entirely actually to pick up the phone and call other parents, especially when your kid is 15, 16, 17 years old.

Nancy Murray calls. She calls even though her kids are "so embarrassed." She calls even when -- especially when -- she doesn't know the parents who are hosting the party. She calls and runs through her questions: Will you be there? Will you be in the room? Will you be checking who comes in the door?

The host parents answer, sometimes readily, sometimes grudgingly. But, however the parent on the phone responds, Murray has concluded, "you really don't know, no matter what they say." Murray, who has two kids in high school and two already finished, has learned not to trust other parents, even those she knows fairly well. "These are people I socialize with," she says. "And they say, 'Well, they're going to drink anyway, they might as well do it at my house, where I can watch them and know they're safe.' I tell them that's against our rules, and they say, 'Oh, you're being naive.'"

Few parents realize until they are deep into the battle to keep their kids safe that the enemy is often other parents.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:55 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Projections of High School Graduates by State, Income, and Race/Ethnicity, 1988-2018

Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education [176K PDF]:

Wisconsin was among the low- to average-growth states in the nation between 1990 and 2000, falling considerably below the national growth rate over that period. Following a period of decline in the number of public high school graduates in the state from 1987-88 through 1991-92, minimal growth characterized the years to 2001-02 (see Figure 2). Increases of 1 to 7 percent were seen during several years prior to 2001-02. By the end of the 14-year period between 1987-88 and 2001-02, Wisconsin had gone from 58,438 public high school graduates to 60,575. But the growth trend of the 1990s is not projected to continue. Between 2002-03 and 2017-18, Wisconsin will see several years of losses in the number of graduates, punctuated by a few years of increases. Annual declines that range from less than 1 to over 3 percent during this period will offset increases. The number of public high school graduates is expected to decrease to 58,109 in 2017-18, a 4.1 percent decline over 2001-02. Nonpublic high school graduates accounted for 9 percent of all Wisconsin high school graduates in 1987-88; by 2001-02, that share had decreased to 8 percent, or 5,302 nonpublic graduates. Although the number of nonpublic graduates is expected to decline through 2017-18 to approximately 5,000, their share is projected to remain at about 8 percent.
Flat or declining enrollment has financial implications as Wisconsin's school funding formula rewards districts with growing populations while penalizing those experiencing declines.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:38 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Redrawing the College Map

The NY Times latest "Education Life" takes a look at a number of college topics:

  • Off the Beaten Path:
    Twenty colleges worth a trip, or at least a detour. Visiting Ann Arbor? Do Kalamazoo, too.
  • Degrees of Acceptance:
    For adults entering the job market, online diplomas make sense. But what do employers really think about them?
  • A Father's Lot:
    For $35,000, all I'm asking is a place to put my car for 30 minutes.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:32 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

July 29, 2006

Math Camps Spread for Kids Who Can't Get Enough

John Hechinger:

A college math student might grapple with this topic in an advanced elective. Ryan was stretching his elementary-school mind at MathPath, perhaps the nation's toughest summer camp for numerical prodigies.

Math camps are multiplying in part because families are seeking an edge in competitive college admissions and worry about the quality of U.S. math instruction. Last summer, parents paid $280 million to send 120,000 children to academic summer camps, with math among the most popular subjects, according to Eduventures, a Boston research firm, which estimates enrollment is climbing 10% a year. Sylvan Learning Centers, the big tutoring company, says participation in summer math programs, including day camp, jumped 23% last year -- twice the rate of other subjects.

The American Mathematical Society counts two dozen "challenging summer math programs" -- twice as many as seven years ago. Most focus on high-school students. MathPath caters only to middle-school kids, age 10 to 14. It is also smaller -- and more selective -- than some better known programs.

About 80,000 kids in second through eighth grade, for example, take part in the annual "talent search" run by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth. Through the search, about 70% qualify for summer camps across the country and some 10,000 enroll in a given year.

Another example of the "Brave New World" referenced in Marc Eisen's recent words. Neal Gleason comments.

Links: MathPath, Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:12 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

July 28, 2006

Not to Worry: Neal Gleason Responds to Marc Eisen's "Brave New World"

Neal Gleason in a letter to the Isthmus Editor:

I have long admired Marc Eisen's thoughtful prose. But his recent struggle to come to grips with a mutli-ethnic world vvers from xenophobia to hysteria ("Brave New World", 6/23/06). His "unsettling" contact with "stylish" Chinese and "turbaned Sikhs" at a summer program for gifted children precipitated first worry (are my kids prepared to compete?), And then a villain (incompetent public schools).

Although he proclaims himself "a fan" of Madison public schools, he launches a fusillade of complaints: doubting that academic excellence is high on the list of school district pirorities and lamentin tis "dubious maht and reading pedagogy." The accuracy of these concerns is hard to assess, because he offers no evidence.

His main target is heterogeneous (mixed-ability) classes. He speculates that Madison schools, having failed to improve the skills of black and Hispanic kids, are now jeopardizing the education of academically promising kids (read: his kids) for the sake of politically correct equality. The edict from school district headquarters: "Embrace heterogeneous classrooms. Reject tracking of brighter kids. Suppress dissent in the ranks." Whew, that is one serious rant for a fan of public schools.

Eisen correctly observes that "being multilingual" will be a powerful advantage in the business world; familiarity and ease with other cultures will be a plus." Mare than 20 years ago, my kids began to taste this new world in the diverse classrooms of Midvale-Lincoln Elementary, and continued on through West High with its 50-plus nationalitities and a mix of heterogeneous and advanced classes.

They did just fine in college and grad school, emerged bi-and tri-lingual with well worn passorts, and started interesting careers at high tech internationl companies. How will Eisen's kids acquire modern cultural skills if they are cloistered in honors classes, sheltered from daily contact with kids of varied ability?

Neal Gleason


Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:59 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

"Teachers’ dissatisfaction with Leopold principal reaches boiling point"

Kurt Gutnecht writing in the Fitchburg Star: [96K PDF]

The management of Principal Mary Hyde has prompted a near revolt among teachers and staff members at Leopold Elementary School.

Discontent among teachers has been simmering for years and came to the forefront recently when Hyde, who’s been principal at the school for six years, decided to terminate a shared teaching arrangement that had previously been praised by Hyde and others.

Sue Talarczyk, who has had such an arrangement with Sue Wagner for seven years, unsuccessfully sought a fuller explanation for Hyde’s decision. Ninety-one teachers and staff members at the school signed a petition asking Hyde to reconsider the termination.

Appeals to district administrators to review Hyde’s decision were also unsuccessful.

Several teachers characterized Hyde as insensitive, intimidating and inconsiderate. All except Talarczyk asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

Teachers interviewed for this article said Hyde made decisions unilaterally, without weighing the opinions of teachers and staff members. had actively solicited parents’support.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:22 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

July 27, 2006

Guggenheim Study Suggests Arts Education Benefits Literacy Skills

Randy Kennedy:

In an era of widespread cuts in public-school art programs, the question has become increasingly relevant: does learning about paintings and sculpture help children become better students in other areas?

A study to be released today by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum suggests that it does, citing improvements in a range of literacy skills among students who took part in a program in which the Guggenheim sends artists into schools. The study, now in its second year, interviewed hundreds of New York City third graders, some of whom had participated in the Guggenheim program, called Learning Through Art, and others who did not.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:32 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Community service levies climb since cap lifted

Five years after state legislators released them from state-imposed revenue caps, school districts' community service tax levies have nearly tripled, reaching $49 million this year.

The rampant growth in these property taxes - earmarked for community-based activities - took place as the total levies for schools statewide rose by 22.7%.

That has raised concerns about school districts skating around revenue limits and has prompted one lawmaker to request an audit of the program.

State Rep. Debi Towns (R-Janesville) said she is curious why property taxes that pay for recreational and community activities offered by school districts have grown so much since the 2000-'01 school year. In that time, the number of school districts raising taxes for such services has doubled to 240.

"I'm not saying anyone's misspending. I'm just saying the fund has grown tremendously, and the purpose never changed," said Towns, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee. In November, Towns called for the Legislative Audit Bureau to study how select school districts use their community service levies.

"So that, of course, leads to a natural questioning of what are they doing differently now than they were doing before," she said.

The growth in the community service levies is expected to continue next year.

Arts, police, pools

Already, Milwaukee Public Schools has launched a arts education program through its recreation centers that it expects to fund with $1 million in community service funds. The Mukwonago School District plans to keep a police officer in its high school, despite the recent loss of a grant, with a $60,000 boost in property taxes from its community service levy.

The Menomonee Falls School District, which has not raised its levy for recreation and community activities in more than a decade, is counting on a $180,000, or 63%, increase next school year to continue operating one of its two pools.

School administrators say they have a simple explanation for why they are turning to their community service levies more now than they did when they were capped - it didn't matter before. Because both the general and community service funds were restricted by revenue caps and eligible for state aid, it was simply an accounting preference whether a district paid for it from one fund or the other.
Athletics or academics?

But once the Legislature removed the caps on the community service levies for the 2000-'01 school year and gave school districts an opportunity to keep their recreational activities from conflicting with educational programs, more took advantage of it.

"I think - when you look at districts across the state - that's really what caused the jump," said Art Rainwater, superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District, which in 2005-'06 had the largest community service levy in the state.

Like some of the bigger community service funds, Madison's supports a full recreation department with adult and youth programming. But it also helps pay for television production activities, after-school activities, a gay and lesbian community program coordinator and part of a social worker's time to work with low-income families, Rainwater said.

The School District's community service levy is expected to grow to $10.5 million in the coming school year. In contrast, the same levy for Milwaukee Public Schools - which serves nearly four times as many children in its educational programs - is expected to reach $9.3 million, said Michelle Nate, the district's director of finance.

Although the state Department of Public Instruction has issued guidelines to school districts on how they should use their community service levies, it leaves it up to local residents to decide whether their school boards do so wisely and legally.

In the Greendale School District, which at $990,000 had the sixth-largest community service levy in the state last school year, business manager Erin Gauthier-Green acknowledges that her school system has gotten good use out of the fund.

But she also said the School District plans to reduce the property taxes it levies for community services by $300,000 next year now that it has completed some repair projects and before taxpayers complain.

"We know it can be a hot-button issue," Gauthier-Green said.

July 22, 2006

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 2:31 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

In Kindergarten Playtime, a New Meaning for ‘Play’

Clara Hemphill:

THE word “kindergarten” means “children’s garden,” and for years has conjured up an image of children playing with blocks, splashing at water tables, dressing up in costumes or playing house. Now, with an increased emphasis on academic achievement even in the earliest grades, playtime in kindergarten is giving way to worksheets, math drills and fill-in-the-bubble standardized tests.

Nowhere are the demands greater than at Achievement First East New York Charter School in Brooklyn, which holds classes through this month. On a recent Friday morning, 20 kindergartners in uniforms of yellow shirts and blue jumpers or shorts, many yawning and rubbing their eyes, filed into the classroom of Keisha Rattray and Luis Gonzalez. Some sat in plastic chairs lined up before the teachers for phonics and grammar drills, while others sat at computer screens, listening through headphones to similar exercises.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:19 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

July 26, 2006

National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools (2005-06)

For the third year, The National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools was released to Education Week by Educational Research Service as part of a research partnership.

The survey of more than 600 school districts conducted by ERS, a nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, Va., that has been conducting the survey for more than 30 years, revealed that district size has a more pronounced effect on the salaries of superintendents than any other staff category.

The strong relationship between district size and salary for more senior administrators weakens among lower-paid education professionals. On average, assistant principals, teachers, counselors, and librarians earn the highest salaries in mid-sized districts serving between 2,500 and 25,000 students.

Full survey [292K PDF]

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:00 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

11 Sex Offenders Eligible To Teach

Daniel de Vise:

State auditors told legislators yesterday that they had found 11 convicted sex offenders who were certified as teachers and eligible to be hired by Maryland public schools.

None of the 11 was actually working as a teacher. But all remained in a database of teachers with valid certification from the Maryland State Department of Education because of inadequate communication between the state agency and some of the 24 local school systems, the auditors said, speaking to the Joint Audit Committee of the Maryland General Assembly.

A routine audit of the public school system, completed last month, found a similar lapse in the oversight of school bus drivers. In one school system, which the auditors did not name, a driver remained on the job after failing a drug or alcohol test and was subsequently involved in two accidents.

In each case, auditors faulted the state school system for failing to properly update a database, which included lists of certified teachers and of drivers who had tested positive for drugs or alcohol. The audit covered a three-year span ending June 30, 2005.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:53 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

July 25, 2006

What's the MMSD doing for 10th graders who can't read?

Not much in any systematic way.

Twenty-four percent of Madison's 10th graders read at a minimal or basic level, i.e., below grade level.

Posted by Ed Blume at 8:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Don't Give Exit Exam a Pass

Former La Mayor Richard Riordan:

IN HIS EYE-OPENING book, "The World Is Flat," New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman warns that the United States is in a "quiet crisis" and that "we should be embarking on an all-hands-on-deck, no-holds-barred, no-budget-too-large crash program for science and engineering education immediately." If we don't, Friedman points out, our society will not be able to compete with such countries as India and China in today's unprecedented open market. Millions of American jobs could be at risk.

This is the crucial context of the California high school exit exam. Right now, in order to graduate, seniors in the state need to pass a test — a test, mind you, that they can take as many as six times before the end of senior year. This exam only assesses whether students have attained 8th-grade math levels and 10th-grade English skills. That's correct; students only need to demonstrate middle school math skills to pass a high school exit exam. And we hope to prepare our next generation for the fierce global job competition ahead?

Bold Added

Marc Eisen raised similar points recently: "Brave New World: Are our kids ready to compete in the new global economy? Maybe not".

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:17 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

ED.Gov: New Report Shows Progress in Reading First Implementation and Changes in Reading Instruction

US Department of Education:

Children in Reading First classrooms receive significantly more reading instruction and schools participating in the program are much more likely to have a reading coach, according to the Reading First Implementation Evaluation: Interim Report, released today by the U.S. Department of Education. The report shows significant differences between what Reading First teachers report about their instructional practices and the responses of teachers in non-Reading First Title I schools, which are demographically similar to the Reading First schools.

"The goal of Reading First is to help teachers translate scientific insights into practical tools they can use in their classrooms," Secretary Spellings said. "The program is helping millions of children and providing teachers with high-quality, research-based support. As we push towards our ultimate goal of every child reading and doing math on grade level by 2014, Reading First is a valuable help to our efforts."

The report shows Reading First schools appear to be implementing the major elements of the program as intended by the No Child Left Behind legislation. Reading First respondents reported that they made substantial changes to their reading materials and that the instruction is more likely to be aligned with scientifically based reading research; they are more likely to have scheduled reading blocks and spend more time teaching reading; they are more likely to apply assessment results for instructional purposes, and they receive professional development focused on helping struggling readers more often than non-Reading First Title I schools in the evaluation.

Reading First funds, subject to some controversy, were rejected by the Madison School District a few years ago. UW's Mark Seidenberg wrote a letter to Isthmus addressing reading last year (.doc file). More on Seidenberg.

Madison School Board Superintendent Art Rainwater wrote an email responding to a Wisconsin State Journal's Editorial.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:31 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Legalizing Markets in Happiness and Well-Being

Michael Strong:

Four years ago I moved my family to Angel Fire, New Mexico, to create a charter high school. Two teachers with whom I had previously worked ten years earlier in Alaska moved to New Mexico to work at the school I was creating. By the second year of the school, we had the created the highest ranked public high school in New Mexico based on Jay Mathews’ Challenge Index. The third year, we ranked among the “Top 100 Best Public High Schools” on Newsweek’s list.

But at that point, I had been forced out by the state of New Mexico because I was not a licensed administrator. When I had moved to New Mexico charter school administrators did not need a license. But the law had changed, and I would have needed seven years’ experience as a licensed public school teacher in order to enter an administrative licensure program. Despite the fact that my work as an educator has been praised by leading educational theorists and practitioners, and despite the fact that I have achieved spectacular results, it is not legal for me to lead a charter school in New Mexico. Moreover, beyond spectacular academic results, my focus as an educator is always first and foremost on developing adolescent happiness and well-being. It is inexcusable that it is not legal for me to lead schools. We need to legalize markets in happiness and well-being.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:07 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

July 24, 2006

Education Spending and Changing Revenue Sources

Sonya Hoo, Sheila Murray, Kim Rueben:

Real per capita school spending increased by about 50 percent between 1972 and 2002. Spending levels fell in the late 1970s and early 1980s, reflecting declines in student populations and funding that grew more slowly than inflation. However, those real declines were reversed by the mid-1980s.

Although school districts are the primary supplier of education services, they do not always have independent authority to set spending levels or raise revenues. The ability to set expenditure levels depends in part on the taxing authority of school districts. School districts in 36 states are designated independent, meaning they may generate their own revenues, usually by setting property tax rates. In the other states, some school districts are dependent on a city, town, or county to raise revenues. For example, most school districts in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are city- or towndependent, while districts in Maryland and North Carolina are primarily dependent on counties. Other states have a mix of both dependent and independent school districts, with dependent school districts generally found in larger cities. Most dependent school districts are on the East Coast.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:52 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Research Center to Scour States’ Data Troves

Debra Viadero:

The Urban Institute and six universities have joined forces to start a federal research center to mine the wealth of long-term data now piling up in state education databases.

The newly created Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, or CALDER, is being launched with a five-year, $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

The job of the center, which the Urban Institute announced last week, is to tap into the trove of statistics that states are amassing through new data-collection systems that use unique “identifier” numbers so that students—and teachers—can be tracked anonymously over time as they move from classroom to classroom or district to district.

Center researchers intend to focus their efforts for now on studying issues related to teacher quality—who teaches what kinds of students, what determines quality, and how hiring, compensation, and retention policies affect student achievement.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:48 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Most States Fail Demands Set Out in Education Law

Sam Dillon:

Most states failed to meet federal requirements that all teachers be “highly qualified” in core teaching fields and that state programs for testing students be up to standards by the end of the past school year, according to the federal government.

The deadline was set by the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush’s effort to make all American students proficient in reading and math by 2014. But the Education Department found that no state had met the deadline for qualified teachers, and it gave only 10 states full approval of their testing systems.

Faced with such findings, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who took office promising flexible enforcement of the law, has toughened her stance, leaving several states in danger of losing parts of their federal aid.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:42 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

One classroom, many classes

Kate Grossman:

"There are high expectations" for the top students, "and expectations that we'll perform miracles on the low end." -- Third-grade teacher Natalie Brady

In the first six weeks of school, Leigha Groves, whose daughter is one of Brady's top students, asks for a syllabus repeatedly and meets with Brady several times. Early on, she only saw math homework coming home and dismissed it as simple.

"When you hear the University of Chicago, you know they want the best, but it's not a gifted program," says Groves, a 39-year-old police officer and college grad. "I wondered where the challenge would come from."

Her daughter, Aleigha, transferred from a gifted program at South Loop elementary. Groves also wanted her daughter with more black students.

Nicole Miller says she thinks her son is changing, for the worse

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:05 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

More students, fewer spaces

Megan Twohey:

Flash back 25 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and you'd find admissions standards that are sure to shock aspiring Badgers of today.

The university guaranteed admission to all high school graduates in the top half of their class. It accepted more than 80% of applicants.

"I walked upright," Dan Conley, a 1981 graduate, said with a chuckle. "That's how I got in."

How times have changed.

Now students are discouraged from applying without a grade-point average from 3.5 to 3.9, an ACT score of at least 26 and a class rank in the 85th to 96th percentiles. The acceptance rate for Wisconsin residents is 65%. No student is guaranteed a spot in the freshman class, no matter how good his or her grades are.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:02 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Grammar Sheriff

Sam Whiting:

On the root of the problem:

I only learned within the last year that they stopped teaching rules of grammar in the '60s. They taught people what to say but not why. No wonder why people make so many mistakes. They can't go back in their minds and say, "This is transitive, this is intransitive." It's the "lie, lay" thing.

SPELL's website.

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C.W. Nevius:

When 24-year-old Mindy Zyskowski began dating someone new, she had to make an awkward confession. She was still living at home in Sonoma with her parents.

No problem, her new friend said. He was still living with his.

Doesn't it seem like they all are? Who are these puzzling, 20ish tweeners who don't want to leave home? They're not really adults, at least by traditional standards, and they certainly aren't kids any more.

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July 23, 2006

"Community Services Levies Climb Since Caps Lifted"

Amy Hetzner:

Lawmaker requests audit as school districts across state raise taxes to support programs.

Five years after state legislators released them from state-imposed revenue caps, school districts' community service tax levies have nearly tripled, reaching $49 million this year.

The rampant growth in these property taxes - earmarked for community-based activities - took place as the total levies for schools statewide rose by 22.7%.

That has raised concerns about school districts skating around revenue limits and has prompted one lawmaker to request an audit of the program.

State Rep. Debi Towns (R-Janesville) said she is curious why property taxes that pay for recreational and community activities offered by school districts have grown so much since the 2000-'01 school year. In that time, the number of school districts raising taxes for such services has doubled to 240.

"I'm not saying anyone's misspending. I'm just saying the fund has grown tremendously, and the purpose never changed," said Towns, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee. In November, Towns called for the Legislative Audit Bureau to study how select school districts use their community service levies.

The Madison School District's Community Service "Fund 80" has grown significantly over the past few years. Lucy Mathiak summarized Fund 80's tax and spending increases here ($8.5M in 2005/2006, up from $3.5M in 2001/2002 - Milwaukee's 05/06 tax levy was slightly less: $8M). Carol Carstensen notes that Fund 80 is worth our support.

Much more on Fund 80 here.

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July 22, 2006

SAT Group Can do Better

Karen Arenson:

The College Board should acquire better scanning software, increase training for test center personnel and make other improvements in its procedures to help prevent errors in scoring SAT exams, according to a report released yesterday.

The report, by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, was commissioned by the board after more than 5,000 SAT exams were incorrectly scored last October, some by as many as 450 points out of a possible 2,400 points. The College Board owns and manages the SAT.

The report said the board had already taken significant steps to improve scoring processes since March, when the errors were disclosed. But it said further changes could be made, like improving the manual procedures used to check whether SAT answer sheets have been scanned properly.

Gaston Caperton, the College Board president, said that he welcomed the report’s conclusions and that its recommendations were “very executable.”

But critics of the College Board questioned the independence of Booz Allen, which received $5.2 million in consulting fees from the board in the year ending June 30, 2005, according to a board filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

“This isn’t the outside independent scrutiny” that is needed, said Brad MacGowan, a college counselor in Newton, Mass.

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"Is the Democratic elite turning against the teachers' unions?"

Mickey Kaus:

Eduwonk thinks so. Some evidence (and not just from Eduwonk): 1) Democratic Governor-in-waiting Eliot Spitzer of New York has endorsed opening more independent charter schools--which are typically not unionized to the same degree as public schools--after a study showed many of them to be doing better than their traditional public competitors.** 2) Speaking at the recent fancy Aspen Institute event, former Clinton official (and now New York City schools chancellor) Joel Klein made a "case that teachers-union contracts are the main obstacle to improving urban education," according to Mort Kondracke:

"The contract protects the interests of adults at the expense of kids," he told a rapt audience, describing how it bars pay differentials based on student performance and service in difficult schools; makes it impossible for principals to fire underperforming teachers; and allows teachers to choose their own professional development tracks, regardless of supply-and-demand needs, such as those for more math and science teachers.

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July 21, 2006

Pittsburgh Outsources Curriculum

Joanne Jacobs:

Pittsburgh has hired a private company to write a coherent curriculum for city schools, reports the Post-Gazette.

Because course content is uneven and out of sync with state standards, the Pittsburgh Public School district is paying New York-based Kaplan K12 Learning Services $8.4 million to write standardized curricula for grades six through 12.

. . . Teachers in other districts have complained that Kaplan's detailed curriculum turned them into automatons and deprived them of time to cover material in adequate detail or help students with individual needs.

. . . Pittsburgh school officials cite an urgent need to bring coherence and rigor to what's taught and tested in the district's classrooms.

Interesting. Perhaps an RFP looking for different ideas might be useful. Public and private organizations could respond. One only has to look at the "Cathedral and the Bazaar" to see the power of a community vs a top down approach. Leadership, particularly that which embraces the community is critical - as Lucy Mathiak recently pointed out:
Later, she added: "I think one of the fundamental questions facing our district is whether we treat parents as resources or problems. Any parent who is concerned about safety, discipline or academic issues needs to feel confident that their concerns are going to be heard. We have to court the parents. The future of our schools depends on their confidence that we are working as partners with them."
Here's a parent's perspective on curriculum and school climate. Another. A vast majority of the UW Math Department's perspective (35 of the 37 signed this letter). Marc Eisen offers still another perspective.

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Learnings Per Share

Denis Doyle:

If education is funded without measuring results decisions are based on impulse and sentiment, a risky business that. Yet if education is to be funded on results we need a high degree of social consensus on what results are desirable (and measurable).

As it happens, this sentiment does not respect party lines. Former Minnesota DFL Senator John Brandle famously said – more than 20 years ago – “there will be more dollars for education when there is more education for the dollar.”

Conceptually, the task is straightforward: identify what value schooling adds and measure it. While most people associate the value add of schooling with academic progress, there is also a social dimension, ranging from socialization to custodial care. These too can be measured.

Take year ‘round schooling as an example. Students who attend 240 days (rather than the typical US 180-day year) are likely to escape “summer learning loss.” While preliminary evidence suggests that with poor children in particular, summer learning loss is diminished significantly with year ‘round schooling, it is an empirical question. Risk-taking school districts could offer year ‘round schooling on a pilot basis and measure what happens – who enrolls, how popular is the program, and what are the results? (One prediction: working parents will love it.)

Alternately, 13 180-day years equals 2,340 days from K to graduation. Taken in 240 day installments, a typical student could graduate in 10 rather than 13 years. This too is an empirical question. Are there answers? Certainly Japanese experience suggests that there is. The Japanese school year is 240 days long and the typical graduate (after 13 years) is reputed to have completed the equivalent of two years of a good American college.

What business or industry would close for one-third of the year? What other human capital intensive activity -- health care facility, for example --- would shut its doors one-third of the year?

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"Education Just a Click Away"

Mindy Hagen:

In South Carolina, several large school districts such as Richland 2 and Lexington 1 offered online courses. For example, Richland 2's virtual school employed 27 teachers and had students register for a total of 559 online courses last year, said Margaret Walden, the district's instructional technology coordinator.

Despite the efforts of individual districts, no statewide program existed to help students in rural areas keep pace.

"This levels the playing field," Appleby said. "These online courses are available to any student in any district in the state."

The virtual school has been able to cut down on costs by relying on the same technical software used by teachers for online professional development.

Students at Charleston high schools such Academic Magnet and North Charleston have experience with online courses, but the state's program will expand access, district spokeswoman Mary Girault said.

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July 20, 2006

Half of State Tests Don't Draw on State Standards, AFT Study Finds

Education Week:

Only 11 states met the union’s criteria for strong standards and tests that “align” with them, it says, and 20 states “have much work to do”—beefing up their standards, matching up tests with standards, or showing what they have done online.

“The systems in those states aren’t smart enough yet to bear the weight of the accountability functions they are asked to serve,” said Antonia Cortese, the AFT’s executive vice president. As one example of such a function, she cited the “in need of improvement” label applied to schools if they don’t meet measures of adequate yearly progress, or AYP. The label triggers a series of consequences for the schools.

In their study, the AFT researchers looked for standards to be clear, explicit by grade level, and rooted in the knowledge and skills for the particular subject, as well as accessible on the Web. Similarly, documentation of the relationship between the standards and the tests had to be available online.

The researchers contend that such “transparency” helps teachers do their jobs and builds trust in the system among educators and the public.

The union, which from 1995 to 2001 published an annual report evaluating states’ academic standards, found significant progress on that front. The standards that relate to NCLB testing are more specific and more often set out by grade levels—a help to teachers and test-makers—than the across-the-board standards examined five years ago, the report says. The progress is particularly noteworthy because of the pressure on state education departments to respond quickly to the sweeping federal law’s mandates, which include annual tests in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and once in high school and, starting next year, three tests of science spread across grade levels.

Full PDF study can be found here. The report noted that only 1 to 25% of Wisconsin's state tests aligned to "strong content standards".

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NYC: Charter Students Outperform Nearby Public Schools

Carl Campanile:

Charter schools in the city are vastly outperforming public schools in their neighborhoods, according to a bombshell state report obtained by The Post.
The just-released study by state Education Department found students in 11 of 16 city charter schools outscored kids in nearby public schools on the state's fourth-grade English and math exams in 2005.

The academic gap widens in the upper grades, the report said, with kids in five of six upper-grade charter schools faring better on eighth-grade English and math exams.

Charters are privately managed but publicly financed schools that have more flexibility in developing a curriculum, hiring personnel and establishing work rules than traditional schools.

New York State Department of Education website.

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July 19, 2006

Comparing Low Income with Teacher Attributes

The question was recently asked on this site as to how teacher experience compared with poverty levels by school. Using the 2004-05 school data provided in the 2005-06 detailed budget, I compared low-income percentages with: number of years’ experience; % of teachers with advanced degrees; student / teacher ratio. Below are summary charts for all schools in the MMSD.

The first chart compares each school’s low-income percentage with the average number of years of experience their teachers have. Each pink data point represents a different school within the district. For example, the highest point on the chart represents Schenk Elementary School, which had 51% low-income (reading from the x-axis), and an average teachers’ experience of 22.8 years (reading from the y-axis). The black line is the Excel-generated trend line depicting the relationship between teacher experience and school poverty levels. Notice that the points in the chart are widely scattered - they are not closely surrounding the trend line. This dispersion implies a very weak relationship between teacher experience and poverty levels. The very weak relationship that does exist suggests teacher experience declines slightly as low-income levels increase. The oft-stated lament in this country is that as teachers become more experienced, they gravitate toward the “easier” schools with fewer low-income kids. In the MMSD at least, that gravitation appears to be occurring at a remarkably slow rate.

The second chart compares low-income percentages by school with the percentage of teachers that possess advanced degrees. For the MMSD, as school poverty levels increase, there is a slight increase in the percentage of teachers with advanced degrees. However, the relationship is virtually non-existent. Nonetheless, the general literature in this country would suggest teachers with advanced degrees tend to gravitate to schools with lower poverty levels.

Finally, the third chart compares school poverty levels with the student / teacher ratio. Here there is a very clear relationship: the student/teacher ratio declines as low-income levels increase; (i.e. there are more teachers per student as poverty increases). Unfortunately, there is one important caveat here: schools with higher levels of poverty typically have more students requiring special education or English as a Second Language. To a certain extent, the lower student/teacher ratios reflect the higher number of teachers required to meet those additional needs. Therefore, one has to be careful precisely how to interpret this chart

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What to do About Homework....

Dan Green:

There is an interesting post and series of comments about homework at The Daily Grind.

I agree that homework needs to be assigned every class period. But, like every teacher, I've struggled with how to best hold students accountable for not just completing it, but understanding it. In our freshmen math courses (Algebra 1, Numeracy), we give students full credit on an assignment if it is completed and turned in on time (we don't assess it for correctness at all). We also don't accept late work, unless students have an excused absence. The purpose of this is to build the ethic of doing homework and turning it in - as many students seem to come to high school with out having done much - if any - homework in the past. We are pretty successful at getting students to turn in their work by the end of freshman year. Getting them to really think about it, try hard on questions they don't understand, and seek help when they have difficulties is another thing altogether.

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Education Makes You Healthier

David Cutler & Adriana Lleras-Muney:

There is a large and persistent association between education and health. In this paper, we review what is known about this link. We first document the facts about the relationship between education and health. The education ‘gradient’ is found for both health behaviors and health status, though the former does not fully explain the latter. The effect of education increases with increasing years of education, with no evidence of a sheepskin effect. Nor are there differences between blacks and whites, or men and women. Gradients in behavior are biggest at young ages, and decline after age 50 or 60. We then consider differing reasons why education might be related to health. The obvious economic explanations – education is related to income or occupational choice – explain only a part of the education effect. We suggest that increasing levels of education lead to different thinking and decision-making patterns. The monetary value of the return to education in terms of health is perhaps half of the return to education on earnings, so policies that impact educational attainment could have a large effect on population health.
Tyler Cowen has more.

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Public vs. Private School

NY Times Editorial:

The national education reform effort has long suffered from magical thinking about what it takes to improve children’s chances of learning. Instead of homing in on teacher training and high standards, things that distinguish effective schools from poor ones, many reformers have embraced the view that the public schools are irreparably broken and that students of all kinds need to be given vouchers to attend private or religious schools at public expense.

This belief, though widespread, has not held up to careful scrutiny. A growing body of work has shown that the quality of education offered to students varies widely within all school categories. The public, private, charter and religious realms all contain schools that range from good to not so good to downright horrendous.

What the emerging data show most of all is that public, private, charter and religious schools all suffer from the wide fluctuations in quality and effectiveness. Instead of arguing about the alleged superiority of one category over another, the country should stay focused on the overarching problem: on average, American schoolchildren are performing at mediocre levels in reading, math and science — wherever they attend school.

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July 18, 2006

Conspiracy to end public schools?

Does the Bush administration want to undermine and eliminate public education?

To my amazement, I was told today that many people in education would emphatically answer yes.

What are the thoughts of people who post on or read

Ed Blume

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Measured Progress: A Report on the High School Reform Movement

Education Sector:

Requiring students to take greater numbers of rigorous courses that are more likely to prepare them for college does not necessarily lead to lower graders or higher dropout rates, if the courses are taught by capable teachers, the new research suggests.

Intensive "catch-up" courses help a significant percentage of students who enter high school well behind their peers reduce their chances of dropping out and get on the track to college.

But researchers have found that though creating more supportive educational environments for students is critical, doing so produces more significant improvements in student learning when combined with high expectations and rigorous instruction. Improving school climates alone is not the answer.

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"Basic Facts About the US Education System"

Center on Education Policy [PDF Report]:

This report highlights the important facts concerning the U.S. education system and how things have changed– and will continue to change — over time.

The primer provides a comprehensive picture of the nation’s public schools with data about students, governance, funding, achievement, teachers, and non-instructional services.

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Parents Want Tougher Policy on Sex Offenses

Susan Troller:

Nancy Greenwald, an attorney and one of the parents involved in the complaint, urged the board to accept Superintendent Art Rainwater's recommendation that Vazquez be fired and to turn over all relevant files to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, which has begun an investigation that could lead to the revocation of Vazquez's teaching license.

In addition, Greenwald said, "We need you to do more. We urge you to step in and turn this administration around. From the beginning, the administration tried to push this complaint under the rug."

Kelly Fitzgerald, PTO president at Jefferson, said in an interview after the meeting: "It has been arduous and painstaking. That it took this long for the administration to recommend removing this teacher is obscene."

Board member Lucy Mathiak, chair of the district's Partnerships Committee, said that supporting and enhancing relationships with parents would be a priority for her committee.

Later, she added: "I think one of the fundamental questions facing our district is whether we treat parents as resources or problems. Any parent who is concerned about safety, discipline or academic issues needs to feel confident that their concerns are going to be heard. We have to court the parents. The future of our schools depends on their confidence that we are working as partners with them."

WKOW-TV has more:

Parent Nancy Greenwald is still troubled about what it took to get Vazquez out of the classroom.

"We found the system seriously flawed."

Greenwald and other parents say school investigators originally failed to connect the dots of Vazquez's alleged pattern of sexual harassment.
Sandy Cullen:
"The recommendation finally reached after 13 months included an independent investigation and an evaluation by a psychotherapist who was asked to determine whether or not Mr. Vazquez poses a danger to our children," Greenwald said, adding that if the psychotherapist's evaluation "is one reason for the superintendent's recommendation, as we believe it is, then the initial dismissal of our concerns by the administration was not only wrong, it was dangerously wrong."

"It should not take the yearlong efforts of a large group of parents that happens to include two attorneys to get the administration to do the right thing," Greenwald said. "Students who are the victims of sexual harassment are often vulnerable, needy children with little support at home. Who's going to protect them?"

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Madison School Board Superintendent Review Discussion

The Madison School Board discussed the Superintendent review process Monday evening. 46MB Video | 7MB MP3 Audio. The discussion included references to curriculum.

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Madison School Board Wellness Presentation / Discussion

Monday evening's Madison School Board meeting included a discussion of the proposed Nutrition Policy. 84MB Video | 13MB MP3 Audio.

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Madison School Board Passes a New Advertising Policy


he Madison Metro School District's "no advertising" policy is now a thing of the past. Tonight they voted unanimously to allow some advertising at certain venues. They say in the face of limited resources and cutting programs, the district needs to find ways of generating revenue outside the taxpayer.

"The district right now has a menu of things to look at...the website...not really targeting toward kids, but targeting toward the community that would be sporting events, that would be community events that we have," says board president Johnny Winston Jr.

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July 17, 2006

Don Severson / Vicki McKenna Discussion on Local School Climate, the School District Budget and the Fall Referendum

WIBA's Vicki McKenna and Active Citizens for Education's Don Severson discussed a variety of topics today, including Judy Newman's series on Madison's changing economic landscape, the Madison School District's budget process and the planned November referendum for a new far west side school, Leopold Elementary school expansion and debt consolidation. 17MB MP3 audio.

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Board and committee goals - 2006

Johnny Winston, Jr. provided a summary of the board's June 19th discussion of board and committee goals.

I found two of the board's priorities particularly noteworthy.

One priority under Performance and Achievement reads:

Math and Literacy and Curriculum
• Review the appropriateness of the goal of completion of algebra and geometry in high school in view of test scores in math (and sub categories) at 4th and 10th grades
• Develop specific, measurable goals regarding the district’s strategic priorities: “offering challenging, diverse and contemporary curriculum and instruction”
- Include input from community
• Initiate public discussion and dissemination of MMSD information that explains:
- What curriculum is used and why
- Evidence base for choosing curriculum and teaching methodologies
- Evaluation of student outcomes associated with changes/use of specific curriculum/methodologies
• Curricular review with input from parents and K-12 post secondary educators and employers
• Cost effectiveness of reading recovery
• Math curriculum
• Review math and reading curriculum to assess impact on high school

The summary also includes the following priorities for the budget process:

• Board—Year long budget process to establish benchmarks for data, standards terms resulting in strategic plan for fiscal resource management
• Budget process that protects school and in school services first
• Review budget timeline and process
• Monthly budget reports
• Development of a budget process that is
1. continual
2. customer friendly
3. incorporates a 2 way communication mechanism so community input is solicited in the process and results are communicated back out to the community
• Budget timeline
• Budget document
• Review and revise if necessary the board’s oversight of fund balances per recommendations from the Department of Public Instruction as follows:
1. As part of the budget process, the board must determine fund balance amounts to be retained for working cash needs and amounts to be used to fund expenditures of the next fiscal period.
2. The board must make a policy decision as to the extent that they will borrow for cash flow rather than maintain a working cash balance
3. More information available at
• Cut cell phone use to save $$

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Antonucci Commentary on Public vs. Private School NAEP Scores

Mike Antonucci on the recent Education Department report comparing private and public school math and reading scores:

If I read the wonderfully titled report Comparing Private Schools and Public Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling correctly, there is virtually no difference between the math and reading test scores of public and private school students when corrected for various characteristics of students, teachers and schools.

This is bad news for private schools (and when the same results exist for charters, for them as well). If you are going to sell yourself as the superior alternative to traditional public schools, you have to produce results. Reading and math scores on the NAEP tests are excellent measures of academic results, though -- as my friends at NEA and AFT always tell me -- not the only measures.

National Education Association President Reg Weaver was correct when he told the New York Times that had the results been different, "there would have been press conferences and glowing statements about private schools."

Where Reg went wrong, however, was when he said that the results showed public schools were "doing an outstanding job." Standardized test scores are the measures used by the bad guys -- you know, people like me -- to evaluate schools. What about all the measures the unions claim are important?

Private schools spend about two-thirds what public schools spend.

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Taxes and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:

The board voted to eliminate from the school district's 2006-'07 budget $7,000 for the association's membership dues. It is now the only school board of the 425 boards in Wisconsin that is not a member.

Part of the reason was financial: Like most boards throughout the state, New Berlin is trying to get a handle on expenses in tough financial times and is cutting extraneous items.

But part of the reason was political: According to board Vice President Matt Thomas, the final straw for him involved a column written by Ashley and published in Wisconsin School News that bloggers were ridiculing for comparing support for the Taxpayer Protection Amendment with 1930s Germany.

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Math & Science Teacher Supply & Demand

LA Times Editorial:

L.A. Unified plans to spend millions to train, recruit and keep math and science teachers, who are a hot commodity nationwide.

Recognizing the critical need to boost math and science test scores, the Los Angeles Unified School District has taken several steps — including offering bonuses — to attract and keep teachers in those fields at the district's neediest schools.

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July 16, 2006

Moving Away from Uniformity

Frederick Hess & Andrew Rotherham:

Perhaps the most encouraging trend in public education today is the growing willingness of educators and policymakers to embrace choices and customization, while turning away from the notion of one-size-fits-all corporatism that dominated 20th century school reform. In education, though, no good deed long goes unpunished. In a barely coherent 5-2 decision, Florida's Supreme Court used recklessly broad language to overturn the state's private school voucher program. In doing so, it set an unfortunate precedent that stretches far beyond the question of school choice.

Florida's Opportunity Scholarship program is the oldest, and smallest, of three private-school choice plans in Florida and has been the focal point of the legal and political battle between school choice proponents and opponents in Florida. In deciding to declare the program unconstitutional, the court read the constitutional requirement that the state provide a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education” as decreeing a constitutional “uniformity” in operations. The decision was greeted with great fanfare by the National School Boards Association, the NAACP, and the teachers unions.

Rotherham has more.

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God and Man in School

Ms. Cornelius:

Dennis has a lovely post discussing the myth that God has abandoned the public schools over at his place. It is beautifully written. I hope you go over and read it; it is really well-crafted and obviously comes straight from the heart. Here's the intro: Dennis was sent one of those chain emails:

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Who is to Blame?

Walter Williams:

Let's look at the recent "Nation's Report Card," published annually by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

Nationally, in reading, only 13 percent of black fourth graders, and 11 percent of black eighth graders score as proficient. Twenty-nine percent achieve a score of "basic," defined as a partial knowledge and skills needed to be proficient in the grade. Fifty-nine percent score below basic, lacking necessary knowledge and skills. It's the same story for black eighth graders, with 40 percent scoring basic and 49 percent below basic.

In math, it's roughly the same story. For black fourth graders, 12 percent score proficient, 47 percent score basic and 40 percent below basic. For black eighth graders, 8 percent score proficient, while 33 percent score basic and 59 percent score below basic; however, 1 percent of black fourth graders and eighth graders achieved an advanced score in math.

Teachers and politicians respond to this tragic state of affairs by saying more money is needed. The Washington, D.C., school budget is about the nation's highest with about $15,000 per pupil. Its student/teacher ratio, at 15.2 to 1, is lower than the nation's average. Despite this, black academic achievement in D.C. is the lowest in the nation. Reading scores for D.C.'s fourth-grade black students are: 7 percent proficient, 21 percent basic and 71 percent below basic. For eighth-graders, it's 6 percent proficient, 33 percent basic and 58 percent below basic.

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Best Practices Studies

National Center for Educational Accountability:

This report explores the possibility of reaching higher standards for all students in all schools and suggests the principles and practices for doing so. Of course, moving any school system from knowing what high-performing systems do, to doing what high-performing systems do is a complex process. Strong agreement about what high-performing systems do will begin to bring some order to that process.

One practice, which relates to the Framework theme of Curriculum and Academic Goals, is the pursuit of rigorous course content across a broad range of academic levels in high-performing schools. This includes higher expectations for the work of students characterized as "average" or "below average," more aggressive efforts to enroll borderline students in advanced classes, and more frequent access to the school's top teachers for average students. At Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in Florida, educators said that the "culture of high expectations is applied to students at all performance levels, not just to the academically advanced." Students in all academic courses expect homework assignments that require approximately two hours of time each day to complete for each class.

via Joanne.

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July 15, 2006

Kids Today

Stanford Alumni Magazine:

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"Public vs. Private Schools: Pupils Perform Almost Equally"

Diana Jean Schemo:

The Education Department reported on Friday that children in public schools generally performed as well as or better than comparable children in private schools in reading and mathematics. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private school counterparts fared better.

The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores in 2003 from nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 530 private schools, also found that conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind public schools on eighth-grade math.

The study, carrying the imprimatur of the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department, was contracted to the Educational Testing Service and delivered to the department last year.

National Center for Education Statistics:
This study compares mean 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and mathematics scores of public and private schools in 4th and 8th grades, statistically controlling for individual student characteristics (such as gender, race/ethnicity, disability status, identification as an English language learner) and school characteristics (such as school size, location, and the composition of the student body). In grades 4 and 8, using unadjusted mean scores, students in private schools scored significantly higher than students in public schools for both reading and mathematics. But when school means were adjusted in the HLM analysis, the average for public schools was significantly higher than the average for private schools for grade 4 mathematics and not significantly different for reading. At grade 8, the average for private schools was significantly higher than the average for public schools in reading but not significantly different for mathematics. Comparisons were also carried out between types of sectarian schools. In grade 4, Catholic and Lutheran schools were compared separately to public schools. For both reading and mathematics, the results were similar to those based on all private schools. In grade 8, Catholic, Lutheran, and Conservative Christian schools were each compared to public schools. For Catholic and Lutheran schools for both reading and mathematics, the results were again similar to those based on all private schools. For Conservative Christian schools, the average adjusted school mean in reading was not significantly different from that of public schools. In mathematics, the average adjusted school mean for Conservative Christian schools was significantly lower than that of public schools.
Complete Report [680K PDF].
Leo Casey has more along with Kevin Drum.

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July 14, 2006

Commentary on the New Jersey Voucher Lawsuit

Kristen Graham:

Organizers called the suit an important step in the civil-rights movement, pointing out that many students in the defendant districts are poor and minorities.

"This lawsuit today is as important as the Montgomery bus boycott of the mid-1950s," said the Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, executive director of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, which joined in the suit. "This, too, will launch a national effort."

Also supporting the suit are Excellent Education for Everyone, a pro-voucher group with offices in Newark and Camden; the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey; and the Alliance for School Choice, a national organization based in Phoenix.

Voucher programs have been implemented with varying success in Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. They have been unsuccessful in California, Georgia, Illinois, and New York.

Jim Wooten has more.

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Court Allows District to Pay More Than Union Scale

Mike Antonucci:

The North Dakota Supreme Court let stand a ruling that the Kenmare school district could offer and pay more money to fill a speech-language pathologist position. The district's action was the subject of a lawsuit by the Kenmare Education Association (KEA).

The union filed suit in July 2005, after a state fact-finding committee recommended the district be allowed to offer an additional $15,000 in salary to find a taker for the hard-to-fill position. The union asserted that paying a pathologist more money than was proscribed by the salary scale violated the collective bargaining agreement.

Last November, a state district court judge upheld the district's action, prompting KEA President Donna Schmit to say, "For one individual to be allowed to negotiate up to $15,000 additional salary is wrong."

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Meadville High Commencement Speech

FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras [PDF]:

I have yet to see a “blamer” – someone who fails to stand up and take responsibility – who is truly successful or satisfied. This is because blaming, while easy, is contrary to who we are as Americans. It runs contrary to our fundamentals. As author Philip Howard put it in his book The Death of Common Sense, “taking responsibility was, of course, the basic premise of the republic.”4 And in a recently published book, America Against The World, the authors reported that in a survey of 44 nations, the United States was among the top in believing that those who fail have themselves, not society, to blame.5 These authors describe us as “a people who are more personally freewheeling, self-reliant, and adverse to government involvement” than peoples of most other nations. This tells me that taking responsibility is still fundamentally engrained in our culture and in our beings.

When you stand up and take responsibility, you will show yourself as a leader and as one who deserves respect.

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High School Online Classes

Pauline Vu:

The majority of statewide virtual schools, which mostly are geared toward high school students, offer courses that supplement traditional brick-and-mortar schools. But a growing number of virtual charter schools are offering high schoolers the option of earning their diploma the digital way, without ever stepping foot in a classroom.

There are now 24 states with statewide programs that offer credit for online courses, according to John Watson, researcher for the annual Keeping Pace [PDF File] report that tracks virtual programs.

And more states are hopping on the virtual bandwagon. This year, Missouri and South Dakota enacted laws paving the way for a statewide virtual learning program. In April, Michigan made an online class a high school requirement, starting with the class of 2011. Georgia, which had its inaugural virtual education program in the last school year, enacted a new law to allow for cyber charter schools, while Illinois will open its first public virtual elementary school this fall.

The largest state programs are Utah’s Electronic High School, which opened in 1993 and taught a course to about a third of the state’s recent graduating class, and Florida Virtual School, which serves grades 6-12 and opened in 1997.

Utah’s program has more than 52,000 students. Florida’s program has 31,000 students and 65,000 course enrollments, the most in the country.

Many of the schools’ students are making up credits, trying to graduate early, or taking classes their schools don’t offer. Students in rural districts that don’t offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses, for example, can take those classes online.

The article includes links to course examples.

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July 13, 2006

Pittsburgh High School Graduation Rate Study

John Engberg and Brian Gill:

Graduation and dropout rates are difficult to calculate. These difficulties arise because of both conceptual ambiguities and imperfect data. In this paper, the authors review some of these challenges, discuss how the challenges have been approached when using cross-sectional data, and describe a method that analyzes longitudinal, student-level data to provide an improved estimate of graduation and dropout rates. They then apply that method to estimate graduation and dropout rates for the Pittsburgh Public Schools district-wide and for each high school in the district.
Joe Smydo and Tim Grant have more:
City school board members angrily denounced a study that estimates 35 percent of high school students -- including nearly half of all black male students -- drop out of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

"It's very incendiary to put something like this out there when there's so much gray area and speculation," board member Randall Taylor said at a meeting last night. "For us to tell the city we are not graduating this many students, this is devastating to the city."

Andrew Rotherham notes that "It's the PR, Stupid"...... "The report also offers a nice walk-through of some of the issues surrounding calculating grad rates."

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Upper Grades, Lower Reading Skills

Lori Aratani:

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based education policy research and advocacy group, estimates that as many as 6 million middle and high school students can't read at acceptable levels. It's an issue for students well above the bottom of the class. A report released in March that looked at the reading skills of college-bound students who took the ACT college entrance exam found that only 51 percent were prepared for college-level reading.

"That is what is the most startling and troubling," said Cyndie Schmeiser, ACT's senior vice president of research and development. "The literacy problem affects all groups -- not exactly in the same ways, but it's affecting all groups regardless of gender, income or race."

Alliance for Excellent Education Adolescent Literacy Site.

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Menomonee Falls Schools "Efficiency Study"

Amy Hetzner:

Among the audit's findings:
  • With 17 administrators, the Menomonee Falls district is at the high end of comparably sized districts, which have 14.5 to 17 administrators. But its licensed teaching staff exceeded staffing at similar districts by the equivalent of 40 to 60 full-time employees in the 2005-'06 school year. In particular, specialty courses at Menomonee Falls High School often have smaller class sizes than other districts or even other district schools, Germain found. The board already is planning to reduce its staff by 10 full-time teachers in 2006-'07.
  • Departments and teachers are "pushed" to spend the money the district budget provides annually by the end of the school year. "That is, purchase orders are rushed into the Business Office during April in an attempt to spend any remaining budget dollars so that when next year's budget is prepared their budget level is not reduced," according to the study.
  • The district's building structure - separate middle schools for sixth- and seventh-graders and for eighth- and ninth-graders and a 10th- through 12th-grade high school - contributes to more administrative staffing, time lost for traveling teachers and small class sizes for courses such as foreign languages.
More commentary.

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Raising the Bar?

Elia Powers:

One of the largest community college systems in the country is looking into creating an honors college with free tuition and fees for high-achieving high school students who are looking to transfer to competitive four-year institutions.

Houston Community College System
administrators have discussed the possibility of starting the program by fall 2007, but the governing board has yet to formally discuss the plan, which calls for a centralization of existing university-level courses and high admissions standards.

Whereas Houston Community College accepts any Texas student with a high school diploma, the honors college would probably require students to have at least a 3.5 grade point average and an equivalent SAT score, said Maria Straus, director of learning initiatives at the college.

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Schoolbooks Are Given F’s in Originality

Diana Jean Schemo:

Just how similar passages showed up in two books is a tale of how the largely obscure $4 billion a year world of elementary and high school textbook publishing often works, for these passages were not written by the named authors but by one or more uncredited writers. And while it is rare that the same language is used in different books, it is common for noted scholars to give their names to elementary and high school texts, lending prestige and marketing power, while lesser known writers have a hand in the books and their frequent revisions.

As editions pass, the names on the spine of a book may have only a distant or dated relation to the words between the covers, diluted with each successive edition, people in the industry, and even authors, say.

In the case of the two history texts, the authors appeared mortified by the similarities and said they had had nothing to do with the changes.

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July 12, 2006

Summer leisure and Drop-out Students

My 13 year old son was complaining the other day about how "hard" it was he had to get up and swim at 7 a.m. for his local swim club. (7 is a little early when it's cold but...) He then complained about umpiring a Little League game because a coach yelled at him.

As a calm and understanding parent I lost my temper, "They created summer for farm children to get up at sun rise and pick corn, cotton, etc... and all you have to do is play sports and relax. I had to haul hay and clean rental homes for my dad, you need to work more that is your problem!" Which of course, as a parent I am completely guilty of making this life too easy for my children, and I will be correcting that problem next motto now is if they are bored give them a chore.......

Which reminded me of an idea I had when I was in high school, and again when I was teaching high school, and again when I recently read an article in Newsweek...

In North Carolina there are several school districts that have an agreement with their local community colleges (MATC) that allows Junior and Senior students in high school to receive credits for both a skill and high school. When these students graduate they have a degree from High School and an associates degree in whatever interest them. WOW! That was my idea 20 year ago. I noticed when I was in high school that many of my friends and myself left school at 3:00 and went to work. Some were so interested in work and the skills they learned they left school to make money and pursue a more interesting skill.

We could reduce the drop out rate if we arranged a similar association with MATC for our students not bound for college. They would be ready for a job, have a diploma, and excited about their future. If they changed their mind they still have a H.S. degree and could go to college. 16 and 17 year olds get into trouble because they are bored....and they are bored because we wait until they are 18 to treat them as participants in society. We assume they are all interested in calculus and becoming lawyers, of course that is not true. Most other industrialized countries realize this and have created "prep" schools for those that will attend college. The great part about the N.C. plan is they will have a degree and can change their direction or mind to attend college, because 16 is a young age to decide your future, but at least they would have a skill to fall back on.

I remember how busy I was the last two years of high school, not studying but doing all kinds of activities, taking college courses, working a couple of jobs, and I was not even away from home yet. We need to advance these capable students forward to an area that interests them. Utilize their endless energy. Let's look at this model and see if this would help resolve our gap, dropout rate and problem students for MMSD. We have the community college right here and plenty of educators.....this is an issue that should be discussed.

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Create public ARTS school in Madison

Please help to make  THE STUDIO SCHOOL  --  an option for parents and children within the public school district.
You're invited to attend a planning meeting of local parents, educators, community leaders and others:   
Date:    July 19 ( Wednesday )
Time:    6:00 - 8:00 pm 
Site:     MADISON Library - Sequoya Branch
513 South Midvalle Blvd. [Map]  -- 
See the summary description of the proposed school  --   executive summary
BRYAN GRAU, co-founder of Nuestro Mundo Community (charter) School in Madison, has been invited to the July 19 meeting to discuss the charter school authorization and implementation process.
Here’s additional background info for your review …..  
Creating a Charter School  -- 
DPI - Charter Schools in Wisconsin -- 
Academy of Fine Arts  -- 
Reggio Emilia-based Schools  -- 
The Growing Place  -- 
The Arts & Technology Academy  -- 
PreSchool of the Arts  -- 
Elements of Effective Charter Schools  -- 
Please RSVP to:
Wisconsin Charter Schools Association
P.O. Box 628243
Middleton, WI 53562
  Tel: 608-238-7491   Fax: 608-663-5262
  Email:   Web:

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Revenue Caps Affect Middleton

Budget Hangs On Enrollment Middleton Watching Numbers
The Capital Times Tuesday, July 11, 2006
By Christopher Michaels
Increased enrollment in the weeks preceding the start of the school year could mean more state aid for the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. It also could mean an easing of planned staff reductions of special concern to one of the district's elementary schools.

Teachers and parents from Park Elementary School in Cross Plains are asking the School Board to do what it can to avoid staff cuts at their school, which has a number of special needs students.

In a preliminary 2006-07 district budget approved by the School Board Monday, the tax rate remains unchanged from the 2005-06 school year. However, state revenue limits mean the district has had to reduce its budget by about $1.4 million compared to last year.

That reduction is taking its toll on programs and staffing with about 15 positions districtwide being eliminated, said Superintendent Bill Reis. Some of those positions, including two teachers and available hours for educational assistants, are at Park.

Karla Freimuth, a third-grade teacher at Park, said that although the board faces tough budget decisions, special education students have high needs and can be dramatically helped by adding back one teacher.

"With your cutting the special needs teachers it's like cutting the electricity," said Jodi Green, the parent of a special needs child at Park. "You can cut sports or something instead of cutting something that is really needed for our children."

Board member Bob Green said he's concerned that the lateness of budget approval will give teachers at Park trouble dealing with reduced staffing. "I understand the concerns the teachers are bringing. I understand the concerns the parents are bringing. But we don't have the money here," he said.

Reis said that as of Monday the district was 75 students short of enrollment projections for next year. With state aid tied to enrollment, if none of those students show up, it could mean a loss of revenue of $200,000, he said. If more students enroll in the district before the start of the school year, that could have a positive effect on staffing.

He said it's difficult to commit to numbers on staffing without having a clearer enrollment figure. The administration may have a better picture before the August 14 board meeting, he said.

"It's not the way we want to do it, but we have to because of budget constraints," said board member Ellen Lindgren. She emphasized that like many school districts, Middleton-Cross Plains has to wait for budget finalizations before hiring but still manages to hire excellent teachers in August.

Before the budget vote, Reis explained a change in revenue since the board last examined the budget June 26. Additional shared revenue from the state incorporated into the budget July 1 reduced the district's estimated 2006-07 tax levy by more than $1 million. This leaves the district's projected 2006-07 tax rate the same as last year at $9.25 per $1,000 in valuation.

Reis characterized the additional state aid as "very good news," as well as the holding of the tax rate.

If approved in a final budget, the tax rate would mean the owner of a $200,000 home can expect to pay $1,850 in school taxes. The tax rate is based on an estimated 8 percent increase in property valuation over last year.

The district will conduct a budget hearing at its annual meeting August 21. Final budget approval and certification of the tax levy come after the start of the school year.

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Soglin on Allied Drive, Gangs

Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin:

he future for Allied Drive and the City of Madison appears bleak. WMTV-15 reported two nights ago:

Allied Drive Crowds a Growing Concern for Police

Madison police say they have needed to call for backup three times within the last week due to troublesome crowds of people in the Allied Drive neighborhood. And that's draining resources from other parts of the city.

Police report groups of 20 to 80 people shouting, sometimes pounding on squad cars while officers try to make an arrest...

This report is not from Milwaukee, or even the Town of Madison but the city of Madison, the self-avowed hotbed of progressive leadership. For those interested in verbose, lengthy analysis, go to to any of my posts under the category of gangs.

Last Fall's Gangs and School Violence Forum is a must watch (listen - mp3 audio). Participants included representatives from law enforcement, principals and county/state service employees.

Forum notes can be found here along with a number of background links

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What Billions Can Buy

Andrew J. Coulson:

Mr. Buffett and the Gateses are not the first to invest over a billion dollars in an ambitious school reform plan. Ambassador and TV Guide mogul Walter Annenberg trod this path during the 1990s, donating $500 million of his own money and another $800 million in matching funds to the "Annenberg Challenge."

Mr. Annenberg's goal was to create exemplary schools and districts that would act as models for the nation. He sought not incremental change, but systemwide transformation. He didn't get it. Though some Annenberg Challenge projects showed promise, at least for a time, their impact on the system as a whole was negligible.

Why? The Wreck of the Annenberg can be attributed to a single fundamental flaw in the ambassador's approach: he assumed that excellence, once demonstrated, would automatically be imitated.

It is easy to see why people who have amassed riches in the private sector might assume that successful models are always mimicked on a broad scale. That is what happens in competitive markets – including competitive education markets.

More on the Annenberg Challenge.

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July 11, 2006

Home starts here remain weak

Home building in Dane County remains the weakest it has been this century, according to the latest figures from MTD Marketing.

There were just 129 permits issued for single-family homes and duplexes here in June, well below the 222 last year and at least 39 below every June since 1999, the earliest year for which MTD reported figures. The June permits did have a record average value of $243,038. The average square footage was 2,357, behind only the 2,379 a year ago.

Year-to-date through June, there were 822 permits in Dane County, 414 below a year ago and at least 167 below every year since 1999. This year's permits had a record average value of $250,444, up from the prior record of $239,166 a year ago. The average square footage was a record 2,480, edging out the 2,477 in 2004.

From The Capital Times, July 10, 2006

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 11:18 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

UK 'Brains register' for bright children

'Brains register' for bright children
By Nick Hodgson, PA
Published: 11 July 2006
A register of talented pupils in England is being launched by the Government.

Head teachers at every secondary school will get letters this week asking them to register their brightest and most talented pupils with the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (Nagty), according to the BBC.

The aim is to help children from poorer backgrounds fulfil their potential.

Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said: "We must stop the terrible waste of talent when children don't reach their full potential.

"This register will ensure they are spotted early and don't lose out because they come from a deprived background.

"Our brightest children should be helped to reach the top and use their gifts. The pursuit of excellence which benefits the whole country should be open to children of all backgrounds, not just a privileged minority."

The scheme will involve having specially-trained teachers in every secondary school and in groups of primary schools.

But the plans have been criticised.

Former chief inspector of schools Chris Woodhead said the problem was not identifying the bright pupils, but offering them appropriate support.

Mr Woodhead, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, said: "The problem is doing something for them and if secondary schools are not doing enough for the brightest children now why are they going to do anything for them if they are on a register?"

He said if there were more grammar schools gifted children would prosper anyway because "there, bright children are educated in schools for bright children".

The register follows research from education charity the Sutton Trust which suggested just one-in-five children from poorer homes go on to higher education compared with half of those from the top three social classes.

The Government wants schools to identify the top 5% of 11 to 19-year-olds who are eligible for Nagty membership.

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"Competition the Cure for Health Care"

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge:

Last month HBS Working Knowledge offered an excerpt from Redefining Health Care: Creating Value-Based Competition on Results, by Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter and Elizabeth Olmsted Teisberg. The U.S. healthcare system is dysfunctional, a Rube Goldberg contraption that rewards the wrong things and doesn't create value for the consumer. In this Q&A, Porter discusses his research.

Roger Thompson: What went wrong with the American model? On paper it looks ideal. It's private, it's competitive, yet it doesn't seem to work.

Michael E. Porter: The United States has a system with the wrong kind of competition, on the wrong things. Instead, we have a zero-sum competition to restrict services, assemble bargaining power, shift the cost to others, or grab more of the revenue versus other actors in the system.

Zero-sum competition does not create value; it can actually destroy value by adding administrative costs and leads to structures involving health plans and providers and other actors, which are misaligned with patient value. In a world of zero-sum competition, for example, providers will consolidate into provider groups to gain clout against insurers. But, as we point out in our book, the provider group doesn't create any value, but value is not created by breadth of services but excellence in particular medical conditions.

NPR's OnPoint recently interviewed Harvard's Michael Porter: [20MB MP3 Audio]

Health care expenses have been much discussed with respect to the Madison School District's $332M+ budget.

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Weighted Student Funding

Fordham Institute:

Everyone agrees that education funding today is a mess. Most disadvantaged students don't receive the funding they need; red tape and overhead waste time and money; and new types of education options, like charter schools, are starved for dollars. Unfortunately, until now, so-called solutions have consisted of nothing more than soothing slogans and gimmicks.

But a broad, bipartisan coalition now urges a new method of funding our public schools--one that finally ensures the students who need the most receive it, that empowers school leaders to make key decisions, and that opens the door to public school choice. It's a 100 percent solution to the most pressing problems in public school funding--and it's called Weighted Student Funding.

Nancy Salvato comments on the report.

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Magical Teachers Can Change People's Lives

William Wineke:

"When I was in high school I had a teacher that really helped me," nephew Tommy wrote. "His name is Gerald Krause. He is now retiring after 28 years of being a shop teacher at Verona High School. I know that being sappy isn't my forte, but he has helped out our community more than most any teacher I know. He has taken the bottom 10 percent and kept them in school with his personality and flexibility of punishment."

Well, I don't truly believe my nephew was in the bottom 10 percent of anything, but that doesn't make any difference.

What makes a difference is that when Tommy was a teenager and struggling with the meaning of life, he found a teacher who convinced him that he did have some skills and qualities worth developing and that he did have something to contribute in life.

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July 10, 2006

Confronting the transition to high school

Ms. Cornelius:

Mr.McNamar posted some excellent points at The Daily Grind regarding the struggle of freshmen as they transition to high school, and Graycie has a thought-provoking post of her own on the same subject entitledTransition Years.

This subject has been of great interest to me, since I was a middle school teacher for many years. Anyone who has been following this blog from its inception knows that while I adore middle school kids, I am no fan of the "middle school philosophy." I don't think we help our kids get an education by allowing them to coast academically for several years while they try to get their heads on straight-- I don't believe that should be the primary goal of education.

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July 8, 2006

MMSD board goals for 2006-2007

According to Johnny Winston, Jr.:

On June 19th the board held a “brainstorming session” to discuss future district directions. This included developing agenda items for the board and committees. For the ‘06-‘07 school year, the entire board will focus on: 1) Attendance, Dropouts, Truancy and Expulsions; 2) Budget Process; 3) Math & Literacy; and 4) Equity. Many items were discussed for committee agendas and the committees themselves will prioritize them

More than once in the last several weeks, I asked Carol Carstensen via e-mail whether she'd support a task force or pilot program to look at more effective reading programs than those used by the district, and she has not given me an answer.

Here is what I posted on May 26:

Carol Carstensen provided the third grade reading scores for students who had been in Reading Recovery in first grade. According to the 2003-04 WRCT results of former Reading Recovery students, only 57% scored at or above grade level, not 89% as Carol suggested in a comment. . . .

I suggested to Carol that it might be wise for the district to pilot a curriculum stressing systematic, direct, and explicit instruction, since Reading Recovery does little of those. A pilot would tell the board whether another curriculum would help students even more.

She'll probably say no way.

Her silence loudly says, "No way."

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Publishing Industry Statistics - Interesting Reading Numbers

Dan Poynter:

One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. Many do not even graduate from high school.

58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.

42% of college graduates never read another book.

80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57% of new books are not read to completion.

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July 7, 2006

"Working Teens are a Dying Breed"

Angela Nissel:

Commentator Angela Nissel recalls her summer and after-school jobs. She examines how teenagers who once would have spent their summers working at McDonalds or life-guarding are now spend their time at cello camp or internships.
Morning Edition - audio.

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A Historical Look at Student Debt

Inside Higher Ed:

The landscape for student borrowing has changed significantly in the last 15 years, in several ways: The federal government now has different rules for who can borrow (and how much debt they can take on), and, of course, the price of college has continued to shoot ever skyward. For those and other reasons, it’s difficult to fully gauge the implications for today’s borrowers of a study on student indebtedness released Wednesday by the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. But the report found that most borrowers who finished college in the early 1990s were able to manage their student loan burden without enormous strain.

The report, “Dealing With Debt: 1992-93 Bachelor’s Degree Recipients 10 Years Later,” taps into one of the government’s most vibrant databases of student outcomes, the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study, to examine the debt burdens and repayment histories of students who graduated with four-year degrees during the 1992-93 academic year.

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Top Science Blogs


Weblogs written by scientists are relatively rare, but some of them are proving popular. Out of 46.7 million blogs indexed by the Technorati blog search engine, five scientists' sites make it into the top 3,500. Declan Butler asks the winners about the reasons for their success.
50 Popular Science Blogs. Via Steve Rubel.

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Academic Competitiveness and National SMART Grants

US Department of Education:

To meet the growing need for improved math and science instruction, on Feb. 8, 2006 President Bush signed into law two new student grant programs--the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (National SMART Grant) Programs.

$790 million is set aside for the 2006-07 academic year for these grants, which were created by the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005. The grants will encourage students to take more challenging courses in high school--making success in college more likely, according to research--and to pursue college majors in high demand in the global economy, such as science, mathematics, technology, engineering and critical foreign languages.

Academic Competitiveness Grants will be available to students for their first and second academic years of college. National SMART Grants will be available to students for their third and fourth academic years of college.

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US Dept of Education: Academic Competitiveness Grants

US Department of Education:

Participation in a rigorous secondary school program of study may qualify a postsecondary student to receive an ACG, if otherwise eligible. The Secretary recognizes at least one rigorous secondary school program of study for each state annually. States may submit proposals for recognition or may elect to accept rigorous secondary school programs of study pre-recognized by the Secretary. The following are recognized rigorous secondary school programs of study for each state for the 2006-07 award year.
Wisconsin [PDF]:
  • A set of courses similar to the State Scholars Initiative
  • Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses and test
  • Wisconsin Coursework Requirements.
  • Wisconsin Dual Enrollment Program.

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"Mentors give new teachers a real education"

Jessica Blanchard:

Scott Anstett thought his college classes and student teaching had prepared him for his first substitute-teaching job at Denny Middle School in West Seattle.

Then, on his first day of school, a couple of his rowdier students jumped out the windows of his portable classroom.

"They were going a bit nuts," he said recently. "They knew I was a sub, so they put me to the test. ... It was a culture shock."

Anstett stuck with it, and spent four years in a string of substitute jobs in Seattle Public Schools. But he might have given up on the profession if he hadn't landed a permanent job last fall, teaching art at Aki Kurose Middle School, and if he hadn't met Don "Mac" MacInnes.

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July 6, 2006

Clear, high goals help schools close the achievement gap

Kati Haycock, interviewed by Alan Borsuk:

Q. The gap is a huge issue in Milwaukee. What would you do if you had full power to do something about things here?

A. When we look at the districts that are making the biggest gains, in terms of both overall achievement and narrowing gaps between groups, what seems to set them apart is their focus. They have very, very clear and high goals for kids. They focus a lot on instruction.

More on Kati Haycock.

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"Who's Standing in the Schoolhouse Door, Now?"

Shavar Jeffries:

It is well beyond time for people of color to challenge vehemently the educational policies of the Democratic leadership that have failed our children for decades. Too many Democrats would prefer to deny poor folk the opportunity to make educational decisions for themselves - notwithstanding these Democrats wouldn't permit their own children to be educated in city schools. At the same time, Democrats, by and large, continue to lord over urban school systems that have consigned generation after generation of children of color to an educational genocide that threatens the very survival of the Black community.

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Foundation for Madison Public Shools

Susan Troller:

From the beginning, the independent community organization's unusual strategy was to raise money for an endowment that will continue to provide increasing funding every year to sustain and enhance programming outside of the regular curriculum.

In addition, each school in the district currently has its own endowment of at least $10,000 that is earmarked for helping fund special events or programs. A foundation goal is to get every individual school's endowment to $50,000, returning at least $2,500 to that school for grants each year.

More on John Taylor and the FMPS.

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July 5, 2006

"Suggestions for Setting Up Your Classroom"

"Ms. Cornelius":

I feel that it is my duty as an official Wizened Veteran of the Classroom (I prefer this term to Ancient Hidebound Broad) to share the knowledge I have gained through sweat, toil, and personal peril lo, these many years, as a lion-tamer pedagogue. Several of my edusphere friends have also generously contributed their insight. This post has now become a kind of "Carnival of Classroom Survival," in fact!

First, oh paduan, consider classroom management.

Have only the rules you are willing to consistently enforce, and consistently enforce the rules you have. Have general classroom expectations written up in a succinct style, avoiding "Don't"s, and hand them out the first day of school. Try to keep the expectations to five.

Post the learning goal and agenda for the day on the board every day. Include homework to be assigned and due date.

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NEA Convention Notes

Mike Antonucci:

Wisconsin Education Association Council President Stan Johnson agreed to shave off his moustache if his delegates raised a certain level of PAC contributions. They did, and thousands of people watched as he shaved it off. So I owe an apology to education reporters all over the country for my previous criticism of their not covering the NEA convention. With each one you miss, you show better judgment than mine.

* The shave took longer than the debate on Resolution B-10.

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'Academic Redshirting' Is Getting a Mixed Report Card

Michelle Keller:

Many parents and educators swear by the practice of "academic redshirting" — waiting an extra year before enrolling a child in kindergarten in hopes of giving the kid more confidence, greater size or perhaps an academic edge.

But does it really work?

New research — including a federal study of 21,000 youngsters released in May — suggests that the benefits are a mixed bag, both academically and socially. As often happens with education techniques, redshirting appears to help some, harm others or have no effect at all.

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101 Great Books for College Bound Readers

The College Board.

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July 4, 2006

Friedman on Public School Centralization and Vouchers

Bob Sipchen:

“The schooling system was in much better shape 50 years ago than it is now,” says Friedman, his voice as confident as reinforced concrete.

A big fan of freedom, Friedman objects to public schools on principle, arguing — as he says most classic liberals once did — that government involvement by nature decreases individual liberty. But it’s the decline of schooling at the practical level, especially for the poor, that seems to exasperate him.

Friedman puts much of the blame on centralization.

“When I went to elementary school, a long, long time ago in the 1920s, there were about 150,000 school districts in the United States,” he says. “Today there are fewer than 15,000, and the population is more than twice as large.”

“It’s very clear that the people who suffer most in our present system are people in the slums — blacks, Hispanics, the poor, the underclass.”

When I ask him about the “achievement gap” separating low-scoring black and Latino students from better-scoring whites and Asians, he blames my “friends in the union.”

“They are running a system that maximizes the gap in performance. . . Tell me, where is the gap between the poor and rich wider than it is in schooling? A more sensible education system, one that is based on the market, would stave off the division of this country into haves and have-nots; it would make for a more egalitarian society because you’d have more equal opportunities for education.

Jonathan Kozol, author of “Savage Inequalities” and other books of education journalism, has noted that the parents who whine that “throwing money at education” doesn’t solve the problem are usually those spending $15,000 or $30,000 a year to send their kids to private schools. I ask Friedman about the obvious implications of that.

“In the last 10 years, the amount spent per child on schooling has more than doubled after allowing for inflation. There’s been absolutely no improvement as far as I can see in the quality of education. . . . The system you have is like a sponge. It will absorb the extra money. Because the incentives are wrong.

Additional LAT comments on this article.

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July 3, 2006

A better math idea? Check the numbers

Robert Miller:

He created Reasoning Mind because he had a dismal opinion of American education, from kindergarten through high school.

This Web-based math program "does not merely incorporate technology into teaching. It is based in technology and capitalizes on the power of technology to deliver information and content," Dr. Alexander R. "Alex" Khachatryan said.

The results from a pilot program during the 2005-06 school year were impressive. At-risk students at a Houston school and advanced math students at a school in College Station were introduced to Reasoning Mind.

"At the inner-city school, the test group's average improvement from the pre-test to the post-test was 67 percent, while the control group improved 6 percent," Dr. Khachatryan said.

"The test group students also demonstrated extraordinary results – a 20 percent higher passing rate – on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, despite the fact that only three out of 48 problems directly checked students' knowledge of the two math units covered by RM in the pilot," he said.

Reasoning Mind website.

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Teachers Matter

NY Times Editorial:

The U.S. Department of Education soft-pedaled the teacher quality requirement in the early years, probably because of pressure from the states. But as of this month, states and districts that wish to keep receiving federal school aid must file plans with the Department of Education explaining how they intend to reach the teacher quality goal. Meanwhile, the importance of that goal was just underscored by a nonpartisan Washington think tank, the Education Trust, in a study on the effects of teacher training and experience on student performance.

Skeptics have often expressed doubt that good teachers would make any difference in the lives of the country's poorest students, who typically show up in first grade not at all prepared to learn. The Education Trust study, which draws on a treasure-trove of data from several states, clearly refutes this notion. The most important data set comes from Illinois, where researchers scrutinized the work and qualifications of 140,000 teachers, all of whom were assigned quality ratings based on several indicators, including where they attended college and how much experience they had.

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Civics in Mexico

Yesterday, Sunday, Mexicans voted for a president to succeed Vincente Fox.

Many people returned to their home towns and stood in line in the blazing sun for up to eight hours to vote.

While not necessarily an education issue, it's impressive to know how seriously other people take their right to vote.

Ed Blume

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How to Educate Young Scientists

NY Times Editorial:

The United States could easily fall from its privileged perch in the global economy unless it does something about the horrendous state of science education at both the public school and university levels. That means finding ways to enliven a dry and dispiriting style of science instruction that leads as many as half of the country's aspiring scientists to quit the field before they leave college.

The emerging consensus among educators is that students need early, engaging experiences in the lab — and much more mentoring than most of them receive now — to maintain their interest and inspire them to take up careers in the sciences.

Some universities have already realized the need for better ways of teaching. But this means revising an incentive system that has historically rewarded scientists for making discoveries and publishing academic papers, not for nurturing the next generation of great minds.

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"Why Should I Learn Math"

Dan Greene:

The average incoming level for our freshmen is around 5th grade. Our mission is to get them to a 4-year college. This requires not just development of their academic skills, but it also requires a shift in their thinking and self-perception. Our students come in with comparable literacy levels; however, in our society, it seems much clearer to people that being able to read and write is an essential skill. There are plenty of well-educated people who happily admit that they can't do math, but none that laugh about their inability to read a book.

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Madison School Board "Progress Report" Week of July 3rd

Via a Johnny Winston, Jr. email:

Welcome to the week of July 3rd edition of the Madison school board’s “Progress Report.” I hope everyone is enjoying the summer

First, upcoming business...On Monday July 10th several committees of the board are meeting: Partnerships at 5 p.m.; Finance & Operations at 6 p.m.; Communications at 7 p.m. and Long Range Planning at 8 p.m
The general meeting on July 17th will include a drama performance from youth involved in MSCR arts program

Next, a few notes on what was accomplished last month
On June 19th the board held a “brainstorming session” to discuss future district directions. This included developing agenda items for the board and committees. For the ‘06-‘07 school year, the entire board will focus on: 1) Attendance, Dropouts, Truancy and Expulsions; 2) Budget Process; 3) Math & Literacy; and 4) Equity. Many items were discussed for committee agendas and the committees themselves will prioritize them

On June 22nd the board approved a one year total package increase of 3.98% for MMSD administrators with 2.18% of that increase going to base salary. The district will investigate whether the current level of health insurance benefits can be provided at a lower cost, which would result in cost savings

Upcoming agenda items include: Food/Wellness; Animals in the Classroom; and Advertising & Sponsorship policies; and the Superintendent’s Evaluation.

Citizen Members Needed for Communications Committee: This is a new committee that replaced the Legislative committee. The focus will be on increasing public engagement in legislative policy and on public understanding of legislative policy impacts. Arlene Silveira is the committee chair. If interested in serving, please send name, address, telephone number and a statement of 500 words or less explaining qualifications and interest to me at 545 W. Dayton St. Madison, WI (03) or Email me.

District Notes:
Congratulations to Vaunce Ashby for being selected as the new principal for Kennedy Elementary School
Ten school libraries will keep their doors open to readers this summer to provide easy access for city elementary age students to check out books from school libraries. Libraries are open to elementary students throughout the city attending public and private schools. For more information go to:

Did You Know:
The Madison school board has been receiving very positive accolades in the local press lately. This is truly a team effort. I want to thank my board colleagues, district staff, parents, and community members for their support and dedication to the MMSD. Together, we educate and build a better community!

Johnny Winston, Jr.
President, Madison School Board

Want district information? Go to
Write to the entire school board at
Sign up for MMSD communications at
Watch school board meetings and other district programs on MMSD Cable Channel 10 & 19. It is really – reality TV!

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July 2, 2006

Teachers Selling Lesson Plans

Ben Feller:

For all those teachers who take work home at night, creating lessons they hope kids will like, the reward is a good day in class. Now there could be another payoff: cash. Teachers are selling their original lectures, course outlines and study guides to other teachers through a new Web site launched by New York entrepreneur Paul Edelman.

The site,, aims to be an eBay for educators. For a $29.95 yearly fee, sellers can post their work and set their prices. Buyers rate the products.

Via Tyler Cowen.

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The School Testing Dodge

NY Times Editorial:

Many of the nations that have left the United States behind in math and science have ministries of education with clear mandates when it comes to educational quality control. The American system, by contrast, celebrates local autonomy for its schools. When Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, it tried to address the quality control problem through annual tests, which the states were supposed to administer in exchange for federal dollars. But things have not quite worked out as planned.

A startling new study shows that many states have a longstanding tradition of setting basement-level educational standards and misleading the public about student performance. The patterns were set long before No Child Left Behind, and it will require more than just passing a law to change them.

Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), a research institute run jointly by Stanford and the University of California, showed that in many states students who performed brilliantly on state tests scored dismally on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is currently the strongest, most well-respected test in the country.

The study analyzed state-level testing practices from 1992 to 2005. It found that many states were dumbing down their tests or shifting the proficiency targets in math and reading, creating a fraudulent appearance of progress and making it impossible to tell how well students were actually performing.

Read Wisconsin's "Broad interpretation of how NCLB progress can be "met" through the WKCE", Alan Borsuk's followup article, including Wisconsin DPI comments and UW Math Professor Dick Askey's comments on "Madison and Wisconsin Math Data, 8th Grade".

PACE Report: Is the No Child Left Behind Act Working? "The Reliability of How States Track Achievement" [PDF]

Andrew Rotherham has more.

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Sun Prairie Cuts Health Care Costs & Raises Teacher Salaries - using the same Dean Healthcare Plan

Milwaukee reporter Amy Hetzner:

A change in health insurance carriers was achieved by several Dane County school districts because of unique circumstances, said Annette Mikula, human resources director for the Sun Prairie School District.

Dean Health System already had been Sun Prairie's point-of-service provider in a plan brokered by WEA Trust, she said. So, after WEA's rates increased nearly 20% last year and were projected for a similar increase this year, the district negotiated a deal directly with Dean.

When the Dean plan goes into effect Sept. 1, the district's premiums will drop enough that it can offer a starting salary $2,000 above what it paid last school year and yet the health plan will stay the same, Mikula said. Several other Dane County districts also have switched to Dean.

"I don't see that our teachers made a concession because really the only thing that's changing in theory is the name on the card," she said. "But for the name on the card not to say WEA is huge."

According to the school boards association, fringe benefits made up 34% of the average teacher's compensation package in the 2004-'05 school year vs. 24% less than two decades before.

Sun Prairie School District website.

Jason Shephard noted earlier this year that the most recent attempt by the Madison School District to evaluate health care costs was a "Sham(e)":
Last week, Madison Teachers Inc. announced it would not reopen contract negotiations following a hollow attempt to study health insurance alternatives.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but anyone who suggests the Joint Committee on Health Insurance Issues conducted a fair or comprehensive review needs to get checked out by a doctor.

The task force’s inaction is a victory for John Matthews, MTI’s executive director and board member Wisconsin Physicians Service.

Losers include open government, school officials, taxpayers and young teachers in need of a raise.

From its start, the task force, comprised of three members each from MTI and the district, seemed to dodge not only its mission but scrutiny.

Hoping to meet secretly until Isthmus raised legal questions, the committee convened twice for a total of four hours – one hour each for insurance companies to pitch proposals.

No discussion to compare proposals. No discussion about potential cost savings. No discussion about problems with WPS, such as the high number of complaints filed by its subscribers.

The Madison School Board recently discussed their 2006/2007 goals (my suggestsions). The Wisconsin State Journal noted that there are some early positive signs that things might change.

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Have We Forgotten Civic Education?

LA Times Editorial:

Two centuries after Jefferson, social studies are lacking at public schools.

IN THE EARLY AFTERNOON of July 4, 1776, church bells rang out in Philadelphia celebrating the official adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress.

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July 1, 2006

Milwaukee Schools Increase Low Performing School Curriculum Oversight

Alan Borsuk:

Andrekopoulos said in his speech that from about 1988 through 2000, the leadership of MPS made it a priority to decentralize control of the district, allowing many schools to operate more independently and choose approaches to education. Some schools flourished as a result, but many did not, he said, and the focus was not on student achievement.

Now, he said, the focus must be on student achievement, and the central office must make sure that good teaching is going on in schools.

"We need to move away from a system of schools to a school system," he said, reversing one of the catch phrases that was used by advocates of decentralization - including Andrekopoulos himself, when he was principal of Fritsche Middle School.

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