School Information System
Newsletter Sign Up | Send Ideas | Directory | | Sponsorships

October 31, 2007

Preteens Trading Fairy Wands for Fishnets

Brigid Schulte:

Gabby Cirenza wanted to be a referee for Halloween. The outfit she liked had a micro-mini black skirt and a form-fitting black and white-striped spandex top held together with black laces running up the flesh-exposing sides. She looked admiringly at the thigh-high black go-go boots that could be...

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:38 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Student beaten at Hayward High can sue district, appeals court says

Bob Egelko:

A man who says he was badly injured by gang members on his second day at Hayward High School while campus safety supervisors sat in their offices nearby, oblivious to the attack, has won the right to a trial in his lawsuit against the school district.

The plaintiff, identified by a state appeals court as Luis M., suffered a ruptured spleen and other injuries in the February 2003 attack, his lawyer, Robert Abel, said Monday. The state First District Court of Appeal ruled Friday that he can go to trial on his negligence claim against the Hayward Unified School District.

Abel said Luis M. was a 15-year-old sophomore and unaffiliated with any gang when the attack happened. He had just transferred from San Francisco to Hayward, where his mother thought the environment would be better for him, Abel said.

Luis M. transferred to another school after the attack and graduated but still suffers from his injuries, the lawyer said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Mom101: Mom, why'd a teacher get kicked in the head?

Bessie Cherry:

Above is a direct quote from the most recent edition of my daughter’s school newsletter, the Lapham Elementary Lookout. Parts of Madison’s Affiliated Alternatives program were moved into her K-2 school this year as a budget Band-Aid that kept Marquette and Lapham from consolidating into one large kid factory. At the time, the decision was steeped in controversy, politics, and emotion. I defaulted to the "for Affiliated Alternatives moving in" side as I vehemently opposed the consolidation option.

I like to think I’m an open-minded person, not the type of mom who’d get all freaked out about some alternative teens under the same roof as my young ‘un. I recall actually being intrigued by the idea that high school students would be attending school just one floor above my six-year-old. I know there was a moment in which I wondered why, exactly, these students needed an alternative to traditional high school, so I looked it up online. It seemed like a great program with educational options for every type of student, those who’d fallen behind in coursework, were pregnant, those who needed vocational skill training in addition to regular schoolwork, the inevitable et ceteras of adolescence. When I read the Lookout, I thought, smoking on school grounds! Tsk, tsk. Ah, well, nothing a kid couldn’t run into walking down the street. Could be worse.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Educational Octopus

Mark Perry:

Every politically controlled educational system will inculcate the doctrine of state supremacy sooner or later. . . . Once that doctrine has been accepted, it becomes an almost superhuman task to break the stranglehold of the political power over the life of the citizen. It has had his body, property and mind in its clutches from infancy. An octopus would sooner release its prey. A tax-supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state.
--Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine (1943)

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Denver Schools: Offer Birth Control

John Ensslin:

Denver Public Schools high school health clinics should be allowed to dispense contraceptives if the individual schools approve, a report on the system recommended Monday.

Birth-control options would include condoms, the morning-after pill and contraceptive pills. They would be dispensed with a parent's approval.

A 21-page report by a task force studying Denver's school- based health clinics makes several recommendations on expanding services provided by the 20- year-old system run with Denver Health. They include:

• Hiring more school nurses and part-time case managers.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Schools Raise Bar for Classes for the Gifted

Elissa Gootman:

In an effort to transform the city’s gifted and talented programs, which he has long derided as a hodgepodge of offerings that have favored children in certain neighborhoods and with well-connected parents, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced a plan yesterday to limit the programs to students who score in the top 5 percent on admissions tests.

At a news conference yesterday announcing his plan, the chancellor estimated that roughly half the children in gifted programs now might not meet the new standards because they did not score in the 95th percentile or above on admissions tests. There have been no standard citywide cutoffs on admissions exams; last year, available slots in gifted programs were filled by the top scorers in each school district, and before that the admissions process varied throughout the city.

“In some districts you’ll find that half the kids that got in wouldn’t have met the 95th percentile threshold, and in other districts you’ll find a much different number,” Mr. Klein said. “The number is significant, and if you talk citywide, about half, that could be certainly in the ballpark.”

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Scandal of College Tuition

Bruce Murphy:

Given the soaring increases in tuition, students will look for the best deal, and it’s not in Wisconsin. One way to measure that is to look at Pell Grants, which go to low-income students. Wisconsin has a net outflow of Pell recipients, meaning we lose more student grantees than we gain. Meanwhile, the percentage of students from low-income families attending UW-Madison has been dropping for two decades.

In the last decade, as the JS story noted, tuition rose from $2,860 to $6,330 at UW-Madison and from $2, 847 to $6,191 at UW-Milwaukee.

The main reason for the increase is declining state support, which must be made up by hiking tuition. Tuition is the fastest-rising of all taxes and fees in Wisconsin. Though Democrats have been somewhat resistant at times, the bipartisan approach to budget control for at least the last 15 years has been to stiff the students, passing on the highest fee increases to them. Students, you see, are less likely to vote.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Science Education Myth

Vivek Wadhwa:

Political leaders, tech executives, and academics often claim that the U.S. is falling behind in math and science education. They cite poor test results, declining international rankings, and decreasing enrollment in the hard sciences. They urge us to improve our education system and to graduate more engineers and scientists to keep pace with countries such as India and China.

Yet a new report by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, tells a different story. The report disproves many confident pronouncements about the alleged weaknesses and failures of the U.S. education system. This data will certainly be examined by both sides in the debate over highly skilled workers and immigration (, 10/10/07). The argument by Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), and others is that there are not enough tech workers in the U.S.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 30, 2007

If You Want Good High School Grades, Move to Texas

Jay Matthews:

Ten years ago, I had the good fortune to win the confidence of two energetic teachers, Cliff Gill and Don Phillips at Mamaroneck High School in Westchester County, N.Y. They told me exactly how they assessed their students.

Gill, a math teacher, was tough. If a student missed two homework assignments, five points were subtracted from the student's 100-point report card grade. A third missed assignment meant another five points off. Everyone at that school knew how hard it was to get an A in Mr. Gill's class.

Phillips, a social studies teacher, was easy. He called himself the Great Grade Inflator. If a student with poor writing skills did his best on a paper, Phillips was inclined to give the student just as high a grade as a top student who turned in college-quality work. About 90 percent of the grades in Phillips's history courses were 90 or above on that 100-point scale.

No one asked Phillips to raise his standards. No one asked Gill to ease up. Grading at Mamaroneck High, as at most of the public high schools I have visited, is considered the teacher's prerogative, a matter of academic freedom. A teacher who gives many F's may be pressured to raise some of those grades to keep parents happy, but that is about as far as principals will go in interfering with teachers' assessment decisions.

Robert M. Hartranft, a retired nuclear engineer in Simsbury, Conn., does not like this at all. He cannot understand why public school administrators, who so often declare their commitment to equal treatment of every student, put up with such outrageous and inexplicable variation in what remains the most important assessments their students get--grades on report cards.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:08 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Report Card for Parents

Catherine Donaldson-Evans:

Parents in Connecticut might be the ones getting the report cards if a proposed plan makes the grade at a Manchester public school district.

Steven Edwards, a Republican member of the Manchester Board of Education who’s up for re-election Nov. 6, wants parents to be evaluated on a handful of what he says are objective measures — including whether their children have done the homework and eaten a good breakfast.

"I tried to design something modest [measuring] things that virtually everybody would agree parents should do to help their kids," Edwards said. "We don't have our staff making any subjective evaluations."

The idea has angered parents, and the local PTA vows to fight the plan.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:48 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Principal Who Cracks Down on Stress

Sara Rimer:

It was 6:30 p.m. The lights were still on at Needham High School, here in the affluent Boston suburbs. Paul Richards, the principal, was meeting with the Stress Reduction Committee.

On the agenda: finding the right time to bring in experts to train students in relaxation techniques.

Don’t try to have them teach relaxation in study hall, said Olivia Boyd, a senior. Students, she explained, won’t want to interrupt their work. They were already too busy before or after school for the training.

No one is busier than Josh Goldman. Captain of varsity tennis, president of the Spanish club and a member of the student council and the Stress Reduction Committee, Josh was not able to squeeze in the meeting at all.

Mr. Richards noted his absence wryly. “Josh is a perfect example,” he said. “He’s got a hundred things going on.”

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

"School Choice: The Findings"

Tyler Cowen:

This new Cato book is a good introduction to the empirical literature on vouchers and charter schools. For my taste it places too much weight on standardized tests, but admittedly that is the main way to compare educational results over time or across countries. I believe the lax nature of government schooling in the U.S. often leaves the upper tail of the distribution free to dream and create, but I would not wish to push that as an argument against vouchers. If you're interested in bad arguments against vouchers, and their rebuttals, Megan McArdle offers a long post.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:41 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Gains Seen in Retooled Teacher Education

Vaishali Honawar:

A study that scrutinizes 22 teacher-preparation programs in Louisiana says that it is possible to prepare new teachers who are as effective as, or sometimes more effective than, their experienced colleagues.

Experts say the study, the first of its kind to come out of a state that has implemented a multi-pronged approach to improving its teacher training, shows that it is possible for states and universities to work hand in hand with teacher-educators to produce higher-quality teachers and consequently raise the bar for the profession.

Louisiana required all its teacher programs, public and private, to undergo a major redesign between 2000 and 2003. While the state-mandated study released last week, the first of what are to be yearly reports on their effectiveness, had data for only three of the redesigned programs—all of them alternative-certification courses—the results were encouraging. The three produced 155 new teachers in math, science, and social studies in 2005-06 who performed as well as, or in some cases outperformed, experienced teachers and entered teaching in public schools.

Complete Study: 327K PDF.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:31 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 29, 2007

Madison's charter schools offer unique options

Andy Hall:

n its fourth year, the Madison school district's Spanish-English charter school is so popular that the parents who helped found the East Side school are having trouble getting their children in and there's talk of expanding the program.

The district's other charter school, Wright Middle, is one student above capacity and this year has a waiting list for the first time.

A growing number of residents say Madison needs more places, like charter schools Nuestro Mundo and Wright, that offer unique options to students. In response, the School Board has begun probing possibilities.

"The critical issue is, 'What do we need to do to engage a broader range of students in what's happening in school?'" board member Carol Carstensen said at an Oct. 22 Performance and Achievement Committee meeting that examined ways the district could create programs or schools.

In Dane County, charter schools operate in the Madison, Verona, Middleton-Cross Plains, Monona, Marshall and Deerfield districts.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:45 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison United for Academic Excellence Meeting on Charter Schools

Please join us at the next Madison United for Academic Excellence meeting on Monday, October 29, at 7:00 p.m. in the Wright Middle School LMC, 1717 Fish Hatchery Road. Our guests will be Paula Sween and Dory Witzeling from the Odyssey-Magellan charter school for gifted students in grades 3-8 in Appleton and Senn Brown of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association. Ms. Sween was one of the founders of the Odyssey-Magellan program. She is currently the TAG Curriculum Coordinator for the Appleton school district. Ms. Witzeling is a teacher and parent at the school.

All are welcome!

Posted by Laurie Frost at 3:02 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Five minutes of glory

Virginia Heffernan:

Typically parents justify the price of these videos, which range from $300 to $5,000, as an investment against a scholarship, one that might save a kid tens of thousands on annual tuition. Student-Athlete Showcase, which was founded in 2003 by Rex Grayner, a former college baseball player, also offers clients a full-dress press package — a so-called E-Profile that includes a résumé, a highlight reel, stats and a selective bio that looks suspiciously like a pedigree (the athletic achievements of a student’s dame and sire are underscored). As a sports matchmaker, Student-Athlete Showcase now boasts of winning clients an average of $12,000 in scholarship money, or a total of $1.7 million since the site’s introduction.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Few Wisconsin Schools Receive Federal Charter Aid

Amy Hetzner:

In a move applauded by some charter school advocates, the state Department of Public Instruction has approved only 10 of 50 applications so far this year for federal funding aimed at expanding independent public schools.

Triggering the new scrutiny was a reminder this year from the U.S. Department of Education about requirements for the grants. That included ensuring Wisconsin applicants met the federal definitions for such terms as "eligible applicant" and "charter school," according to Education Department spokeswoman Elaine Quesinberry.

The 20% approval rate contrasts to previous years, when state administration of charter school grants helped fuel a boom of such schools. In 2006 alone, the DPI approved 100 of 121 applications, an 83% acceptance rate.

The federal intervention addresses concerns about the degree to which entities using the charter school title are autonomous and accountable, said Todd Ziebarth, a policy analyst with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:34 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Police calls and discipline rates - middle schools

Madison Parent:

Following on our previous post, we’ve taken a look at the same categories of data, but this time for MMSD middle schools. The same data notes from the previous post apply here, with a couple of additional notes: the police call data for Toki includes police calls for Orchard Ridge Elementary School, if any, since those schools share the same block; and enrollment dropped in many of the middle schools between the comparison years (enrollment declined about ten percent in the aggregate for MMSD middle schools; school-specific enrollment information is available at the DPI web site).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New Media Literacy And Education: What To Teach? Public Voice - Part 2

Robin Good:

New media literacy is the key missing component from our schools curricula. If you are to provide to your kids the mental tools and the manual skills required by today society you must help your sons master early in their teenage years how to express and communicate in person as well as through analog and digital media.

The teachers your government pays for are often the least media literate people you can find around, while leaving this key education component to the self-learning opportunities that the online world offers without any preparation, is akin to trying to learn singing from soccer stadium fans.

But the heart of the matter is not just the training of young mind in the skilled use of new media technologies, but rather the development of their critical thinking skills, their research and analysis methods, as well as their own individual and very personal voice: their public voice.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Real Public School Spending vs. Real Oil Prices 1929-2007


Mark Perry:

Using these data from the U.S. Department of Education and oil prices from Global Financial Data, the graph above (click to enlarge) shows expenditures per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools from 1929-2007, adjusted for inflation, and oil prices during the same period, also adjusted for inflation. Both series are price indexes set to equal 100 in 1929.

The data for public school spending are only available through the 2001-2002 school year from the Department of Education, and I was unable to find a comparable series through 2007, but I extended the series from 2002 through 2007 by assuming that the trend in spending for education would continue (about a 3% per year real growth rate).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Online Education: Tailoring, Measuring and ‘Bridging’

Andy Guess:

As information technology leaders convened for the Educause meetings Thursday in Seattle, they talked about some of the same issues that are attracting attention in higher ed outside of technology circles: links to K-12, making courses more engaging and measuring what students learn.

Looming over the proceedings was the stepped-up pressure from state governments, accreditors and the Department of Education that has led in recent years to a greater focus on assessment and learning outcomes. The implication of the accountability movement on information technology is clear in an example offered by Blackboard’s Peter Segall, the company’s president for higher education in North America: The two-year public colleges in Mississippi have adopted the company’s outcome system to track student progress against specific goals, he said. The reason? To “demonstrate accountability” to the citizens of the state.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 28, 2007

Audio: Madison School Board 2007-2008 Final $349M Budget Discussion

Listen to the Madison School Board discuss the District Administration's proposed final 2007-2008 budget: $349M, up $10M from the previously approved $339M last spring. The Board had an interesting discussion regarding the use of these new funds. Final approval is scheduled for Monday evening, 10/29/2007 @ 5:45p.m.:

Approval of Finalized 2007-08 Budget Adjustments and Adoption of the Tax Levy.
19MB mp3 audio

It will be interesting to see where these additional funds are spent, particularly in light of the annual spring ritual of reducing the budget increases. Send your thoughts to the Madison School Board:

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:36 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Teacher Credentials and Student Achievement in High School: A Cross-Subject Analysis with Student Fixed Effects

Charles T. Clotfeler, Helen F. Ladd and Jacob L. Vigdor [488K PDF]:

We use data on statewide end-of-course tests in North Carolina to examine the relationship between teacher credentials and student achievement at the high school level. The availability of test scores in multiple subjects for each student permits us to estimate a model with student fixed effects, which helps minimize any bias associated with the non-random distribution of teachers and students among classrooms within schools. We find compelling evidence that teacher credentials affect student achievement in systematic ways and that the magnitudes are large enough to be policy relevant. As a result, the uneven distribution of teacher credentials by race and socio-economic status of high school students – a pattern we also document – contributes to achievement gaps in high school.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Teach Program


Intel Teach uses a "Train the trainer" model to provide both face-to-face and online instruction to help teachers around the world integrate technology into their classrooms. Teachers create lesson plans that can be immediately implemented and that meet local and national education goals and standards.

Working with governments - national, regional or local - worldwide, Intel introduces the program in interested countries and communities, which are selected based on strength of their commitment to the program. Intel then works with an initial group of teachers to help them become Intel Teach trainers themselves. These trainers in turn are responsible for sharing their new skills with other teachers in their region.

To ensure that program curriculum maintains relevancy and reflects lessons learned from feedback and research, Intel regularly provides updated material to the Intel Teach trainers.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Iowa Governor says every district should use tougher curriculum in next two years

Pat Curtis:

Culver say nearly 50 percent of American high school graduates that want to pursue higher education, have to take a remedial course when they get to college. "In Iowa, we're much better than that," Culver said, "we do very well in terms of preparedness, but I want to be the best. One way I think to get there is to encourage districts across the state to adopt the core curriculum standards."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Parent and Teen Internet Use

Alexandra Rankin Macgill:

Parents today are less likely to say that the internet has been a good thing for their children than they were in 2004. However, this does not mean there was a corresponding increase in the amount of parents who think the internet has been harmful to their children. Instead, the biggest increase has been in the amount of parents who do not think the internet has had an effect on their children one way or the other. Fully, 87% of parents of teenagers are online -- at least 17% more than average adults.

Parents check up on and regulate their teens' media use, not just in terms of the internet, but with television and video games as well. However, those rules lean slightly more towards the content of the media rather than the time spent with the media device.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 27, 2007

Madison School Board Fine Arts Task Force Seeks Input From the Community

Dear Community Members,

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) values the arts as an integral component of a quality education for all students. Research has shown that involvement in the arts teaches children many important academic skills as well as enriches personal growth and development. Tight budgets, however, have increasingly affected the arts education we offer our children. Further, the District has monitored a downward trend in participation in arts offerings among low-income students and students of color for a number of years.

The Madison Board of Education formed the Community Fine Arts Task Force to gather information from the community and provide recommendations to the Board on MMSD’s arts education program. Specifically, the Board asked the Task Force to:

  1. Identify community goals for MMSD K-12 arts education including curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular;
  2. Recommend approaches for increasing participation in arts education for low-income students and
    students of color; and
  3. Recommend priorities for District funding of fine arts education.
October through December, the Task Force will be distributing surveys and conducting community conversations to gather information from the community on its goals for fine arts education. Your input is very important and will help inform and strengthen the Task Force’s work. The result of this work will be completed and presented to the School Board next spring.

We appreciate your participation in this important effort. To take the online survey and to learn more about the Community Fine Arts Task Force, go to .


Arlene M. Silveira, President

Posted by barb s at 2:27 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Narrowing Gap in Teacher Qualifications and its Implications for Student Achievement in High Poverty Schools

Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Jonah Rockoff and James Wyckoff: 227K PDF

No Child Left Behind, state assessment-based accountability policies and new routes into teaching have all had profound effects on the labor market for teachers. In this research we explore the how the distribution of teacher qualifications and student achievement in New York City have changed from 2000 through 2005 using data on teachers and students. We find: the gap between the qualifications of New York City teachers in high-poverty schools and low-poverty schools has narrowed substantially over this period, the gap-narrowing associated with new hires has been driven almost entirely by the substitution of teachers entering through alternative certification routes, for uncertified teachers in high-poverty schools, these changes resulted from a direct policy intervention eliminating unlicensed teachers, and perhaps most intriguing, much larger gains could result if teachers with strong teacher qualifications could be recruited.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:56 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas


Steven Berlin Johnson:

But the two stats that I found totally fascinating were "Average Words Per Sentence" and "% Complex Words," the latter defined as words with three or more syllables -- words like "ameliorate", "protoplasm" or "motherf***er." I've always thought that sentence length is a hugely determining factor in a reader's perception of a given work's complexity, and I spent quite a bit of time in my twenties actively teaching myself to write shorter sentences. So this kind of material is fascinating to me, partially because it lets me see something statistically that I've thought a great deal about intuitively as a writer, and partially because I can compare my own stats to other writers' and see how I fare. (Perhaps there's a literary Rotisserie league lurking somewhere on those Text Stats pages.)

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Giving India's Slum Children A New Sense of Class

Rama Lakshmi:

Neelamdevi Thakur lives in a working-class slum and earns a living washing dishes in middle-class homes twice a day. In the past year, two of her five children, who attend an affluent private school, have returned home speaking words that she had never heard from her other children, who study in government schools.

They have begun speaking English.

They point to the vegetables in their meal and say "turnip," "cauliflower" and "radish" in English, a language that for many Indians denotes social status and opportunity. They sing nursery rhymes in English and refuse to take the tortilla-like Indian bread called roti to school for lunch, instead demanding sandwiches and noodles. The children, ages 5 and 7, now want to cut a cake on their birthday, like the other children in their classes.

"I don't understand what they say, but my chest swells with pride every time they speak English. Their life will be far superior to mine," Thakur said, wiping her moist eyes with the edge of her blue floral sari. She compares the two with her 12-year-old son, who attends a government-run school in the neighborhood. "He comes home with bruises, scars and broken teeth. His teachers are either absent or sit in class knitting sweaters," she said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 26, 2007

iTunes U Welcomes Off-Campus Content

The Chronicle of Higher Education:

On its iTunes U portal, Apple’s digital-music store has already built up an impressive empire of recorded college lectures and events, all available for downloading. Now iTunes U is casting its gaze outside the ivory tower.

The portal has unveiled a new section, “Beyond Campus,” which collects educational material from museums, radio stations, and other public institutions. iTunes users can still watch lectures from Berkeley and guest speeches from Duke, but they can now also view live music performances from the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Sound Live series and take video walkthroughs of Richard Serra’s sculptures the Museum of Modern Art.

ars technica has more.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Law Punishes Truancy by Taking Away Teens' Car Keys

Susan DeFord:

At schools across Maryland, educators and motor vehicle officials have teamed up to enforce a new state law that is the latest strategy to deter habitual truancy.

The measure, which took effect Oct. 1, denies a learner's permit to students younger than 16 who have more than 10 unexcused absences during the prior school semester.

Whether they are in public or private school or are home-schooled, teens must submit a certified, sealed school attendance form as part of their application. The Motor Vehicle Administration will not accept forms from students if there is evidence of tampering or alteration, agency spokesman Buel Young said. The law probably will affect thousands of teenagers: In the last budget year, more than 14,500 16-year-olds earned provisional driver's licenses.

A teenager must be at least 15 years, 9 months old before applying for a Maryland learner's permit, and the driver must hold that learner's permit for at least six months, Young said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Bridging the gaps by banding together

Tracy Jan:

Jairon Arias missed more than 40 days of school in the third grade, and when he did show up, he arrived one or two hours late. His classmate Cristian Posada was a recent immigrant from El Salvador and spoke limited English. Joel Ramos, the son of Salvadoran immigrants, also struggled with reading and writing because of his limited vocabulary.

All three were chosen at the beginning of the last school year as they entered the fourth grade to participate in a school system experiment to boost state test scores among Latino and African-American boys, the lowest achieving groups in the Boston public schools. Principals at 44 elementary, middle, and high schools chose 10 academically struggling boys to keep close tabs on through the school year.

The students in the so-called "10 Boys" clubs received extra tutoring, attended group lunches, and went on outings with their principals, with the goal of creating camaraderie and a support network that would help them score at the highest levels on the MCAS tests.

The program appears to have helped to bridge a persistent achievement gap between white and Asian students and their black and Latino peers, according to tests results released yesterday by the state Department of Education.

Clusty Search: 10 Boys Boston.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Schools take hard line against public displays of affection

Stella Chavez:

A 7-year-old boy in Duncanville gets in trouble for telling a classmate to wear a darker shirt because he can see her bra strap. The school suspends him and labels the incident as sexual harassment.

In Keller ISD, school officials catch an eighth-grade girl holding hands with a friend and tell her to stop.

From bans on hugging to labeling comments as sexual harassment, schools are cracking down on anything that smacks of sex. Critics say teachers and administrators have become too fearful of lawsuits and have stopped letting kids be kids.

Recent precedent-setting lawsuits have made it clear that school officials must respond to complaints of student-on-student sexual harassment or face possible court action.

"I think it's the kind of world we live in today, but you would hope that common sense would prevail," said Jeff Horner, a Houston attorney who represents school districts.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 25, 2007

Harvest Time for Hawthorne Elementary

Susan Troller:

First grade teacher Amy Covey loves the outdoors and wants to share that passion with students.

On Wednesday morning there was a definite autumn chill in the wind as students from all grades at Hawthorne Elementary School picked up trowels, shovels, rakes and hoes to clean out the garden space Covey helped establish at the school located near Gardner Baking Company off of East Washington Avenue.

The students were delighted to pull carrots and beets from the ground, searched for a few last beans, and even sampled the leaves of nasturtiums as they pulled the plants from the garden in preparation for winter.

Some wrinkled their noses as they bit into the scalloped, edible leaves. Others grinned while they chewed, describing them as "peppery" and "spicy."

Students have been gardening at Hawthorne since 2003 when Covey and her students wrote plans and grants to establish what has become an outdoor classroom for the entire school.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Master of Science in Biotechnology Open House


The Master of Science in Biotechnology is an ideal solution for professionals in the biotechnology industry seeking to move into positions of greater responsibility or leadership.

Practical and results oriented, this two-year program provides the scientific, legal and business foundation necessary for succeeding and advancing in one of the fastest growing and most complex industries in the world.

Market research shows that professionals holding an advanced degree in biotechnology can earn up to 30% more annually than those with B.S. degrees. Furthermore, 90% of our graduates cite a significant or considerable impact on their careers pre-graduation.

Our unique program combines the most current scientific coursework and practical business practices for a productive career in biotechnology.

Learn more about Fall 2008 admission.
Informational Open House for Prospective Students
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
5:30 p.m.
MG&E Innovation Center
Conference Room 50
University Research Park
510 Charmany Drive

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:30 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison High School Police Calls & Discipline Rates:
Comparing 2001/2002 and 2005/2006

Madison Parent's School Safety Site:

When there’s violence at school, parents want answers to their questions about school safety. If parents are told “our school is safer than other schools”, where’s the data that supports that vague reassurance? Police call-for-service data (as posted on this site from time to time) is one indicator of school crime, but it’s only part of the picture, and may not be a reliable basis of comparing school to school - or even comparing whether the safety situation in one particular school is improving or deteriorating.

We looked at police call data for East, LaFollette, Memorial and West High Schools in 2001-02, and in 2005-06. (Data notes: This data was obtained by public records request to the Madison Police Department. Due to the format in which the data was provided, the call totals for each school are for calls made to the block in which each school is located, rather than the specific street address of the school. Calls for each year were tallied over a July 1 through June 30 period in order to track the corresponding school years used for comparison below. Variations in school enrollment between the comparison years aren’t reported here since they don’t appear to affect the analysis or conclusions, but that information is readily accessible on the DPI web site. The DPI web site is also the source of the discipline data presented below.)

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:45 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin Budget Delay Favors Rich Schools

Amy Hetzner:

The delay in approving a budget in Wisconsin could end up benefiting residents in the state's wealthiest communities.

Legislators were unable to meet a Sept. 28 deadline set by the state Department of Public Instruction that would have allowed them to increase general aid to school districts by $79.3 million in the 2007-'08 school year in time to reduce next year's tax bills.

So on Tuesday, when they approved the second-latest budget in state history, they did what some called the next best thing by putting the same amount into the school tax levy credit. The credit increase is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle.

That would be a boon to residents in districts such as Elmbrook and Mequon-Thiensville, where taxpayers have long complained that their money is siphoned off to support schools in other parts of the state. But it would mean less money for school systems such as Milwaukee and Racine, where the argument is that residents with less wealth need more help to ensure their children get a chance at an education on par with those in richer communities.

The reason for the difference is that, unlike general school aid, the state's school levy tax credit is distributed based on the school property tax burden in individual municipalities. That largely means the credit goes to residents in the wealthiest areas.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:34 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Too Graphic: Sex, Literature, and Our Schools

Britannica Blog:

Nate Fisher isn’t teaching English any more at Guildford High in Guildford, Connecticut. The untenured teacher resigned under pressure after being accused by a ninth-grade girl’s parents of giving her a graphic novel, Eightball #22, by Daniel Clowes, an acclaimed artist who recently drew a cartoon series for the New York Times. The book, also known as Ice Haven, depicts or discusses sex, partial nudity, and a man watching a woman in the shower.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:42 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Tension Tied to Race Percolates in Ithaca

David Staba:

Nestled in the hills near Cayuga Lake’s southern tip, surrounded by creeks, waterfalls and two of the Northeast’s more prestigious colleges, this city of about 30,000 has long prided itself on its cultural diversity.

In 1997, the Utne Reader put Ithaca — where students from Cornell University and Ithaca College boost the population to about 50,000 — atop its list of “America’s Most Enlightened Towns,” trumpeting an environment-friendly business community and a local currency system intended to support city merchants.

A popular bumper sticker here reads, “Ithaca: 10 square miles surrounded by reality.”

But as reality encroaches, residents and community leaders now concede that racial tensions have long simmered at Ithaca High School, a volatile mix of blue-collar youths from the city, children of the farms in the surrounding countryside and the sons and daughters of professors.

“This community is at the boiling point, because not only students are frustrated, so are parents,” said James Turner, founder of the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell. “There’s a broad-based lack of confidence in the leadership of the district. I’m watching this go from bad to worse.”

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Portsmouth School Board's ADHD flier draws fire

Cheryl Ross:

Last month, the School Board sent a warning to parents about the “harmful effects” of drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Much of the flier’s information was taken from the Internet, including from a Web site run by a group founded by the Church of Scientology.

This week, six national organizations and eight local groups sent a letter requesting that the School Board retract the flier and send a new one stating that ADHD is a disease that requires treatment.


Should the Portsmouth School Board have sent a controversial flier on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to parents?


View results

Latest Videos

Once-injured turtle returned to the ocean
H.S. Football: Green Run 62, Ocean Lakes 18
Yacob Hailemariam returns home
Being a war correspondent takes a lot of equipment
California Wildfires Turn Deadly
GOP Jindal Wins Louisiana Gov. Race
Drought Intensifying Tri-state Water War

See the complete Pilot, exactly as in print
- View stories, photos and ads
- E-mail clippings
- Print copies
Log in or learn more
The groups include the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Tidewater chapter of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

The flier was sent “to instill fear in parents,” said E. Clarke Ross, CEO of the Landover, Md.-based national office of CHADD. “It’s not based on published science, but on propaganda.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of this kind of propaganda being officially disseminated from a school system to its pupils,” Ross said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

In Shift, 40% of Immigrants Move Directly to Suburbs

Sam Roberts:

About 4 in 10 immigrants are moving directly from abroad to the nation’s suburbs, which are growing increasingly diverse, according to census figures released yesterday.

The Census Bureau’s annual survey of residential mobility also found that after steadily declining for more than a half-century, the proportion of Americans who move in any given year appears to have leveled off at about one in seven.

“For blacks, especially, it mimics the 50s-style suburban movement, most pronounced for married couples with children, owners and the upwardly mobile,” said William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer.

Dr. Frey’s analysis of mobility patterns found that while Hispanic and Asian immigrants were more likely to settle first in the nation’s cities, “after they get settled, they follow the train to the suburbs.”

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 24, 2007

Fixing the Milwaukee Public Schools: The Limits of Parent-Driven Reform

David Dodenhoff, PhD.:

The Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) district, like many of its big-city counterparts in other states, continues to suffer from poor student performance. Student test scores and dropout rates are at deplorable levels, both in absolute terms and in comparison with the rest of Wisconsin. This fact has led to a veritable cottage industry dedicated to improving educational outcomes in Milwaukee. The district itself has embraced two reforms in particular: public school choice and parental involvement.

Advocates of public school choice claim that by permitting parents to choose among a variety of public school options within the district, competition for students will ensue. This should improve school effectiveness and efficiency, and ultimately lead to better student outcomes.

Proponents of parental involvement argue that even first-rate schools are limited in their effectiveness unless parents are also committed to their children’s education. Thus, the parental involvement movement seeks to engage parents as partners in learning activities, both on-site and at home. Research has shown that such engagement can produce higher levels of student performance, other things being equal.

Research has also shown, however, that both reforms can be stifled in districts like MPS, with relatively large percentages of poor, minority, single-parent families, and families of otherwise low socioeconomic status. With regard to public school choice, many of these families:

  • may fail to exercise choice altogether;
  • or
    may exercise choice, but do so with inadequate or inaccurate information;
  • and/or
    may choose schools largely on the basis of non-academic criteria.
As for parental involvement, disadvantaged parents may withdraw from participation in their child’s education because of lack of time, energy, understanding, or confidence.

This study offers estimates of the extent and nature of public school choice and parental involvement within the MPS district. The basic approach is to identify the frequency and determinants of parental choice and parental involvement using a national data set, and extrapolate those results to Milwaukee, relying on the particular demographics of the MPS district.

Alan Borsuk has more along with John McAdams:
Rick Esenberg has beat us to the punch in critiquing the methodology of this particular study. As he points out, it’s not a study of private school choice, only a study of choice within the public sector.
George Lightburn:
ecently, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) released a report entitled, Fixing Milwaukee Public Schools: The Limits of Parent-Driven Reform. Unfortunately, the headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel read, “Choice May Not Improve Schools.” That headline not only misrepresented the study, it energized those who are dying to go back to the days when parents were forced to send their children to whichever MPS school the educrats thought best.

So that there is no misunderstanding, WPRI is unhesitant in supporting school choice. School choice is working and should be improved and expanded. School choice is good for Milwaukee’s children.

Here are the simple facts about the WPRI study:

1. The study addressed only public school choice; the ability of parents to choose from among schools within MPS. The author did not address private school choice.

A Capitol Times Editorial:
Credit is due the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute for releasing a study that confirms what the rest of us have known for some time: So-called "school choice" programs have failed to improve education in Milwaukee.

The conservative think tank funded by the Bradley Foundation has long been a proponent of the school choice fantasy, which encourages parents to "shop" for schools rather than to demand that neighborhood schools be improved -- and which, ultimately, encourages parents to take publicly funded vouchers and to use the money to pay for places in private institutions that operate with inadequate oversight and low standards for progress and achievement.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:44 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Violence at Lapham

Police were called to the alternative program at Lapham Elementary after a teacher tried to break up a fight on Tuesday. She fell, was kicked in the head, and taken away in an ambulance.

The Madison police Web site includes no incident report on the event.

Posted by Ed Blume at 9:07 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Dual Enrollment Courses -- Up From Obscurity

Jay Matthews:

Dual enrollment courses are usually community college or four-year college courses taken by high school students, either at the college or at their high schools with instructors paid by, or at least supervised by, the college. Looking at the records of 299,685 dual enrollment students in Florida, the researchers found that taking dual enrollment courses correlated to higher rates of high school graduation, enrollment in two-year and four-year colleges and academic performance in college. Students who took dual enrollment courses while enrolled in Florida high schools had higher college grade point averages and more college credits three years after high school graduation than similar students who had not done dual enrollment.

A review of the records of 2,303 New York students found those in the "College Now" dual enrollment program were more likely to pursue a bachelor's degree and have better college grades their first semester than students of similar backgrounds who did not do dual enrollment.

Despite the evidence that these college courses -- like AP and IB -- give high school students a taste of college rigor that can bring college success, the researchers reported that many students are being denied a chance to take them. The ill-considered limits on high schoolers who want to take college-level courses is also a big problem for AP, and suggests that most of our high school administrators and many state education officials are in dire need of an attitude adjustment.

Related from Janet Mertz:
Nash's "Guidelines" state that no credit will be permitted for non-MMSD courses whenever THEY deem they offer a comparable course (i.e., regardless of format) ANYWHERE in the MMSD. Even when the MMSD doesn't offer a comparable course, they will permit a maximum of TWO ELECTIVE credits, i.e., they can not be used to fulfill specific requirements for graduation. Thus, if these Guidelines are allowed to stand, no credit whatsoever will be permitted for any high school or college course the district offers that a student takes, instead, via WCATY, EPGY, UW-Extension, online, correspondence, etc., regardless of the student's ability to access the District's comparable course.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Little Help Can Go a Long Way for Schools

Anjuman Ali:

Madison's schools are doing a remarkable job of educating children despite challenges posed by changing demographics and shrinking budgets.
But schools need our help to keep giving kids the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in life.

I learned this by being principal for a day at Wright Middle School on the city's South Side. The program, organized by the Foundation for Madison's Public Schools, allows business and community leaders to walk a day in the shoes of principals in Madison's public schools.

At Wright, I interacted with an extraordinary group of educators and staff, including Principal Nancy Evans, observed classes and met students whose enthusiasm, creativity and challenges provided a glimpse into this city and this state's future.

A majority of children at Wright live in poverty and a majority needs help in reading and math. And their numbers are growing not just at this charter school, but also in other Madison public schools.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Texas parents, schools spar over special needs

Sarah Viren:

At age 9, Jodie threw tantrums so violent his elementary school threatened to call the police. The next year, the special education student tried to strangle an aide on the school bus, his mom said.

Diagnosed first with bipolar disorder and more recently as having Asperger syndrome, the bespectacled Kingwood boy has a history of biting, kicking, swearing and soiling himself to get attention.

Since he was in third grade, Humble Independent School District administrators have moved Jodie to at least three different schools. At one of the latest, the district's center for children with emotional disturbances, Carol Allred found her son in a timeout room covered in his own waste.

She pushed then, as before, for taxpayer-funded private schooling.

But only this year, after Jodie had fallen behind two grades in reading and spent countless hours isolated from other students because of his outbursts, did school officials agree.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin Teacher Misconduct Revocations Below National Average

Todd Richmond:

In Wisconsin, the review found the licenses of 251 teachers were revoked during that five-year period for offenses ranging from overdue taxes to sex with students to drunken driving. The 44 sexual misconduct revocations represent 18% of those revocations and only a fraction of the 100,000 or so licensed educators who worked in Wisconsin classrooms each of those years.

By comparison, 26% of the nearly 10,000 teacher license revocations the review identified nationwide during that span were for sexual misconduct.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Is That 4-Year-Old Really a Sex Offender?

Yvonne Bynoe:

Could my son be accused of sexual harassment? He's a good boy. He likes watching "Thomas the Tank Engine" on television and playing "Simon Says." Like many 3-year-olds, he's very affectionate. Unfortunately, hugging his teacher may get him suspended from nursery school.

I doubt that it will happen to my son. But the frightening fact is that it could. I recently learned that children nationwide, some of preschool age, have been suspended from school or taken to jail after being accused of sexual harassment. In their zeal to avoid lawsuits, educators seem to be ignoring important information, such as whether the accused child intended to commit a crime or even knows how to pronounce the word "harassment."

Sex education tends to be controversial, partly because parents have such varying and often strongly held beliefs about how, when and even if the topic should be introduced to their children. But if schools have the authority to brand a 3-year-old a sex offender, they also have the responsibility to provide parents with clear guidelines about appropriate physical conduct.

It's great that we are more aware than ever about sexual harassment in schools. But it is a terrible mistake to permanently label children who are barely out of diapers.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Online IPS classes help teens catch up, get ahead

Andy Gammill:

Andrea Martin needed high school credits in biology and health, but the alternative school in Indianapolis Public Schools she attends doesn't offer those classes.

Instead of forgoing the credits, Martin enrolled in IPS' new virtual school, which offers basic courses for students like her, remedial courses for those who have fallen behind, and advanced courses.

Each evening after her shift at a KFC restaurant, Martin goes home and logs on to her classes for up to five hours a night. She likes that she can go as fast or slow as she wants but sometimes wishes a teacher were there to help answer a question or clarify a point.

"It's good, but sometimes it's a little hard because you're teaching yourself, and it's hard to find the answers," she said. "It's kind of hard where you can't ask but have to do it on your own."

A teacher is available to consult with students, but the online classes are much more self-directed than a typical high school classroom. So far the costs have been small but will increase as staff and courses are added.


Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

“Colleges Bring in More Money, But Tuition Isn’t Going Down: Senators question why cost of education is still increasing”

Justin Pope:

Colleges and universities raked in money by the billions last year. But their investing success now has a price -- a movement in Congress to force the wealthiest schools to spend more of their money to keep down tuition.

In recent weeks, a string of colleges and universities have announced enviable investment results. Leading the way was Yale, which earned 28 percent over the year ending June 30, increasing the school's endowment to $22.5 billion overall.

Harvard, the world's wealthiest university with $34.9 billion, beat the market again with a 23 percent return. There also were good returns for smaller schools such as Bowdoin (24.4 percent) and William & Mary (19.2 percent).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 23, 2007

Madison School District Proposed Final 2007-2008 Budget: $349M

The Madison School District's Administration proposed a $349,562,776 final 2007-2008 budget last night [$14,404.26/student (24,268)]. This represents an increase of $10,136,058 from the adopted current year budget ($339,427,718). It also represents a $16,460,911 increase (4.94%) over the 2006-2007 revised budget. [Citizen's Budget]

MMSD Budget Amendments and Tax Levy Adoption for 2007-2008 11.6MB PDF

It will be interesting to see where these additional funds are spent. Send your thoughts to the Madison School Board:

Superintendent Rainwater mentioned last night that 55 additional students "open enrolled" out of the MMSD this year, taking their spending authority with them. The numbers are evidently "trending up".

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:43 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Smaller gangs proving deadly

Laura Maggi:

Cities across the country are facing a new kind of gang problem, involving loosely affiliated, but heavily armed, neighborhood organizations that deal drugs and ferociously defend their small turf, acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford said Monday.

Federal and local law enforcement officials have long identified such gangs as major factors in New Orleans' violent street culture. But Morford said that in recent years officials across the country are also starting to focus on these organizations, finding that they are often more violent than established groups such as the Bloods or the Crips.

"They are shooting at each other with a complete wantonness that is different than before," said Morford, who is the second-in-command at the U.S. Department of Justice. Morford, who is scheduled to give a speech today at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, met with attorneys at U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office on Monday.

These proto-gangs don't have the hierarchical structure of a traditional gang. Instead, they tend to be named after a street that the members hail from. The members are often young, sometimes juveniles, Morford said.

Because of the lack of deeply ingrained organization, law enforcement didn't always pay attention to these groups. But that has begun to change, with U.S. attorney offices leading task forces that bring local and federal law enforcement together to tackle such groups, Morford said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:01 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

UK secondary school tests RFID embedded uniforms

Conrad Quilty-Harper:

Hungerhill School, a secondary school in Doncaster, South Yorkshire is running a trial that involves tagging the uniforms of pupils with RFID tags. The tags pull up data including academic performance, the child's current location, and can even deny access to certain restricted areas -- behind the bike shed, perhaps?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Student / Staff Safety Options

Via a reader's email:

An information page on restraining orders from the Dane County Clerk of Court

The statute for harassment restraining orders is Wis. Stat. sec. 813.125. Clusty / Google / Live / Yahoo

Guide for citizens [PDF].

Madison School District Code of Conduct.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:01 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Readers Speak: Too Much Homework!

Jeff Opdyke:

It's official: Parents hated homework as kids, and now they hate their kids' homework.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the ridiculous amount of homework my son has these days -- and the toll it is taking on our family time.

My inbox has since filled up with more than 1,000 emails from parents, teachers, principals and guidance counselors who unleashed a cumulative "thank you."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

An all-boys school with an unusual Latin focus

Mensah Dean:

AT A BRAND-NEW boys school in the Cobbs Creek section of West Philadelphia, students are saying things they've never said before.
Words such as agricola (farmer), femina (woman), patria (fatherland), puella (girl), terra (earth) and silva (woods).

They are inside a classroom where the walls are decorated with maps of ancient Rome, Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia, and where there's a poster proclaiming, "Latin didn't fall with Rome."

The boys, all African-American, repeat Latin words and phrases after their teacher, Sara Flounders.

During class last week she asked them to copy this, from Ovid, the poet: Saepe creat mollis aspera spina rosas.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

When applying to college, it pays to sweat the small stuff.

Joanne Levy-Prewitt:

Most colleges require that applicants write a long essay or write an open-ended personal statement revealing unique experiences or characteristics.

But many also request short essays asking applicants to tell more about why they are applying, or about favorite activities that might not be obvious on the general application.

So while it may be tempting to shut down the word processor after the long essays are finished, remember that short essays are a crucial piece of the college application and should not be taken lightly.

The Common Application, used by more than 300 colleges nationwide (www.commonapp. org), requires a short essay that asks students to elaborate on a favorite activity. Because the essay allows only 150 words (more a paragraph than an essay), students should use only a sentence or two to identify the activity.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 22, 2007

"Reach Out and Read" Founder to Visit Madison

"Reach Out and Read" (ROR) is a national non-profit organization that promotes early literacy by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud in pediatric exam rooms across the nation. ROR founder Dr. Perri Klass will be in Madison this week to celebrate the arrival of the program here in Madison. Dr. Klass will be giving a public talk on Thursday, October 25, at 7:00 p.m. at the Harambee Center, 2202 South Park Street. All are welcome!

Posted by Laurie Frost at 8:22 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

I Just Couldn't Sacrifice My Son

David Nicholson:

When a high school friend told me several years ago that he and his wife were leaving Washington's Mount Pleasant neighborhood for Montgomery County, I snickered and murmured something about white flight. Progressives who traveled regularly to Cuba and Brazil, they wanted better schools for their children. I saw their decision as one more example of liberal hypocrisy.

I was childless then, but I have a 6-year-old now. And I know better. So to all the friends -- most but not all of them white -- whom I've chastised over the years for abandoning the District once their children reached school age:

I'm sorry. You were right. I was wrong.

After nearly 20 years in the city's Takoma neighborhood, the last six in a century-old house that my wife and I thought we'd grow old in, we have forsaken the city for the suburbs.


Megan McArdle has more.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:09 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Middleton Elementary School Lockdown?

The Daily Page Forum:

Hows this for Bureaucratic horse ____.

I got a call on Friday from my wife telling me that our daughters school, Sunset Ridge Elementary in Middleton, was on lock down. I asked her if she knew what was going on, but she said they couldn't tell her, so I left work and picked up my daughter as quickly as possible.

When I got to the school the doors were locked, and I had to show an ID to get in. (I'm fine with that part) So I got my daughter, who's 7 and has no clue why the school had to close, and I asked the after school teacher why the school was on lock down.

His reply was "I'm not really sure on the specifics"
I replied with " OK, how about what's going on minus the specifics"
Other teacher buds in "They'll be sending a note home for it."

so the weekend goes by, nothing posted on their website, or the school districts website. I take my daughter into school today instead of letting her take the bus as I wanted to find out what was going on.
So I drop my daughter off, and head to the office.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:03 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New Push for Language Skills

Encarnacion Pyle:

If Ohio wants to jump-start its sputtering economy, it should start teaching Arabic, Chinese and Spanish to children as young as preschoolers and encourage more foreign trade, according to a new blueprint created by business, education and government leaders.
Federal officials have put $333,333 behind the effort in the hope that Ohio will set a national example of the benefits of having residents interested in other languages and cultures. Oregon and Texas also were selected for the effort, backed by the U.S. departments of Commerce, Defense and Labor.

The plan, called the "Ohio Language Roadmap for the 21st Century," lists five things the state can do to better compete globally, more warmly welcome foreigners with limited English skills and strengthen state and national security. It will be formally released Thursday.

"Just think of the possibilities if more people in Ohio spoke another language," said Deborah Scherer, director of international trade for the state Department of Development.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:00 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Geography is a lost art -- really lost

Mike Nichols:

It's been reported that almost 40% of Americans can't locate Iraq - where (hint) we've been fighting a war for four years.

Half of Americans between 18 and 24 can't even point out the state of New York.

The state of bewilderment? That's easy to find.

Many of us aren't just unable to point out other people's hometowns. Many of us can't name our own.

This is not sarcasm. There are 1,259 towns, 402 villages, 190 cities, 72 counties and countless unincorporated waysides (including one actually called Wayside) in Wisconsin.

We either need more maps, more Red Bull to keep everybody up during geography class or more consolidation.

Probably all of the above because, evidence increasingly shows, we Wisconsinites are even more confused about where we sit ourselves down than Sen. Larry Craig.

Earlier this month, the Northern Ozaukee School Board was all set to appoint an applicant to its Town of Saukville seat - a woman Superintendent Bill Harbron says was an "outstanding candidate."

The only problem: A current board member had to point out that she didn't actually live in the Town of Saukville.

Although she has a Town of Saukville mailing address, she actually lives just across the border in the Town of Fredonia.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:15 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Knowing State Tests' 'Cut' Scores

Ian Shapira:

Charonda Godette and her mother are staring at a sheaf of black-and-white test reports in their kitchen, frustrated by a blunt indictment repeated over and over: "Fail/Does Not Meet." In her first three years at Potomac Senior High School in Prince William County, the 17-year-old has flunked a slew of Virginia Standards of Learning exams: Earth science. Algebra II. And geometry -- three times.

What also confounds Charonda and Carole Godette is something the reports omit. They do not show the number of correct answers required to pass the exams.

"If I know how many questions I need to get right, I can push myself more," Charonda said. "You have to have a good plant in your mind that you have to do this to pass."

With more students taking more achievement tests than ever, one of the most influential but cryptic factors driving results used to rate schools for the federal No Child Left Behind law and enforce state graduation standards is the passing, or "cut," score. Numerous Washington area students and parents said in interviews that they do not know the cut scores, information they say would help them understand the test more and help them do better. Often, the benchmarks turn out to be lower than they might have guessed.

It also turns out that Virginia publishes and explains its cut scores on a Web site of which the Godettes were unaware. Virginia officials acknowledged that the information can be hard to find but said it is useful to parents who might be confused about the exams.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:21 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A new pathway out of homelessness
Denver's mentorship program introduces struggling families to volunteers who can model another way of life.

Stephanie Simon:

Arms folded, his chair jammed against the wall, Joe Maestas glowered at the men who could help his family out of homelessness. His wife, Christina, sat at his side, pale and tense.

This meeting was their best chance to escape the filthy motel where they and their four children had lived for two years. A novel city program had offered them $1,200 to move into a decent rental.

But the money came with a catch: For six months, Joe and Christina would have to open their lives to two men assigned to coach the family out of poverty.

The Maestas children warmed to the mentors at once as they all gathered in the break room of Christina's workplace in mid-March. Corie, 9, drew them a smiling kitty. Domonic, 13, shyly asked for help with his literature homework.

Their father tugged his worn baseball cap down low, so his eyes were nearly hidden. Joe didn't like anyone presuming to help his family, no matter how good their intentions. "They tell you how to live," he said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Lesson of shootings: Schools act too late

Emily Bazaar & Marisol Bello:

As school officials in Cleveland revise their security plans after a shooting rampage by a 14-year-old gunman, professionals who study youth violence said the solution is simple: Pay attention to threatening behavior and talk.

A week before Asa Coon wounded four people and fatally shot himself at SuccessTech Academy in downtown Cleveland on Wednesday, he had threatened to blow up the school and stab students, said Doneisha LeVert, 14.

Fortifying schools with metal detectors, security guards and surveillance cameras doesn't guarantee that a gunman will be kept out, criminologists and educators said. There were no metal detectors at SuccessTech on Wednesday.

The experts said educators should learn a key lesson from the more than two dozen school shootings since Columbine in 1999: Troubled teens who plan attacks often warn of their intentions. Schools should teach staff and students to recognize and report threats, and require they be investigated, they said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

"Speaking Up for Teens"

Rahul Parikh, MD:

One afternoon I was seeing a 16-year-old boy with his mom for a check-up. As with all teenagers, during the middle of our appointment, I asked his mother to leave so he and I could talk privately. After she stepped out, I asked him, as I do just about anybody older than 12, if he ever drank, smoked, used drugs or had ever had sex.

He had smoked five to seven cigarettes a day for three years, and used marijuana twice a month. He drank at least twice a month. When he did, he would have four to five beers and/or shots of hard liquor. He had been sexually active for two years, having had four partners. He used condoms, but he had never requested testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

I counseled him about his habits (assessing how well he understood the risks of what he was doing, educating him and encouraging abstinence). I offered him testing for HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea and gave him condoms. I encouraged him to come back if he had more questions or wanted further counseling. I thanked him for his honesty and he went home.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

When getting all the attention is not the intention

Laura Shumaker:

"I'm ready now."

I turned to look at my son Matthew, who is 21 and autistic. He stood in the doorway of the kitchen looking pleased with himself, wearing grass-stained socks and sandals and a clean striped shirt tucked into shorts cinched up high with a belt. His handsome face was clean, but there were several spots he had missed while shaving that morning. His sandy blond hair was combed straight forward in a most unflattering "Dumb and Dumber" sort of way.

"All right," I said, "just comb your hair to the side and do a quick shave and we'll be on our way."

If I could just dress Matthew myself, he would look great, but I had to respect his desire to be treated like a regular 21-year-old.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 21, 2007

Study: Bullies and bullied more likely hit by crime

Wendy Koch:

As a growing number of states pass laws against bullying, new research finds that bullies and their victims are more likely than other children to be victims of crime outside of school.
"They're often victimized in the community," says Melissa Holt, research professor at the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, co-author of a new study on bullying.

The kids in the study at greatest risk are those who are both bullies and victims of bullies, Holt says. Of those, 84% had been victims of a crime, including burglary and assault, and 32% had been sexually abused. The study was based on interviews with 689 fifth-graders in 2005 in an unidentified urban, low-income school district in Massachusetts. Holt says the area's overall crime rate is higher than average, but she believes that the pattern of victimization would hold in most places.

The study found that 70% of bullies and 66% of bullying victims were crime victims, compared with 43% of kids who were neither bullies nor victims.

Holt says bullies may be less apt to walk away from fights, and therefore more likely to be assaulted, and more likely to associate with aggressive kids who would commit crimes against them. A shy or insecure child is vulnerable in and out of school, she says.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:20 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Cleveland School Gets $2.5M for Security

Joe Milicia:

The state will provide $2.5 million to Cleveland schools to upgrade security after a student gunman shot and wounded two teachers and two students before he killed himself, the governor's office said Friday.

The money would be available for security upgrades selected by the district, which has identified installing metal detectors in all of the district's 110 schools as a top priority, Keith Dailey, spokesman for Gov. Ted Strickland said Friday.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:44 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison School Board Forum - Today

Madison School Board:

The Members of the Madison School Board have agreed to attend and participate in the Northside Planning Council and the East Attendance Area Parent/Teacher Organization Coalition (NPC/EAAPTO) Forum to be held on Sunday, October 21, 2007 (3:00p.m. at the UW Memorial Union's Tripp Commons). This joint meeting of the NPC/EAAPTO Coalition and the members of the School Board constitutes an open meeting of the members of the Madison School Board for which public notice must be given pursuant to Wisconsin Statute § 19.82 through § 19.84.

Map & Directions to the UW Memorial Union. Maya Cole has more.
Andy Hall:

But do small, neighborhood schools really lead to higher achievement levels for students?

"I don 't think there 's any hard-core answer to that, " said Allan Odden, a UW-Madison education professor and nationally recognized expert in education policy and reform.

Research so far, Odden said, fails to show a clear link between achievement and school size, particularly within the range of sizes in Madison.

The district 's smallest elementary school is Nuestro Mundo, with 181 students, and largest is Leopold, with 718.

Odden does offer an opinion, though, of Madison 's turmoil over neighborhood schools.

"What I would say is the city has too many schools in some neighborhoods and it costs too much to keep some of them open, " Odden said. "The issue to me here is not effectiveness (of small schools compared to larger schools). The issue to me is budget and politics. "

The other trade-off, in some neighborhood schools, is that students may be packed into classrooms or have inferior bathrooms or gyms, compared to their peers in larger, newer buildings.

This is an issue. The classroom fixtures in new school structures (far west elementary building) are quite different than those found in most facilities.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:21 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Cell Phone Etiquette


Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

All Students Feel the Effects of Trying to Meet a Higher Standard

Jay Matthews:

What that advice overlooks is that when a school is in danger of not meeting the AYP standards, all students in the school are affected, not just those who are in danger of failing the test. Last year at our neighborhood elementary school in Silver Spring, the principal said there was a real chance the school would not meet the standard. Consequently, the entire focus of the school was on the Maryland School Assessment tests. For example:

All the students at the school, even kindergartners, were drilled on how to answer "brief constructed responses" (short written answers to essay questions), because they are an important part of the MSA. My son was in second grade last year and did not even take the assessment tests, but BCRs came home regularly in his backpack.

The focus of the leadership meetings in the school is on the MSA. I'm active in the school and attended one of those leadership meetings last year, and know from other parents who attended other meetings that most of the discussion at those meetings is on the MSA and what the school needs do to ensure it will make AYP.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Men in elementary classrooms scarce

Susan Troller:

It takes a big man to teach small children.

At 6 feet 5 inches tall, Josh Reineking towers over his kindergarten students at Stephens Elementary School, but it's actually his large heart and patient, steady manner that keep his lively charges learning, and in line.

It doesn't hurt that he finds it easy to laugh, and thinks on his feet. Oh, and he also doesn't mind folding up like a Swiss Army knife to fit in a kindergarten-size chair.

"My friends, my friends. Hands up for a message," Reineking says quietly and firmly as his class of 5-year-olds begin squirming and shoving shortly before recess.

Fourteen pairs of arms shoot up, and hands are folded above little heads. The early symptoms of an imminent scuffle disappear as all eyes are on Mr. Reineking, waiting for instructions.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

What works in education: the lessons according to McKinsey

The Economist:

THE British government, says Sir Michael Barber, once an adviser to the former prime minister, Tony Blair, has changed pretty much every aspect of education policy in England and Wales, often more than once. “The funding of schools, the governance of schools, curriculum standards, assessment and testing, the role of local government, the role of national government, the range and nature of national agencies, schools admissions”—you name it, it's been changed and sometimes changed back. The only thing that hasn't changed has been the outcome. According to the National Foundation for Education Research, there had been (until recently) no measurable improvement in the standards of literacy and numeracy in primary schools for 50 years.

England and Wales are not alone. Australia has almost tripled education spending per student since 1970. No improvement. American spending has almost doubled since 1980 and class sizes are the lowest ever. Again, nothing. No matter what you do, it seems, standards refuse to budge (see chart). To misquote Woody Allen, those who can't do, teach; those who can't teach, run the schools.

Why bother, you might wonder. Nothing seems to matter. Yet something must. There are big variations in educational standards between countries. These have been measured and re-measured by the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which has established, first, that the best performing countries do much better than the worst and, second, that the same countries head such league tables again and again: Canada, Finland, Japan, Singapore, South Korea.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 20, 2007

4GW at work in a community near you

Fabius Maximus:

Part V of this series provoked many emails requesting more symptoms showing the decline of the State (DOTS) in America. I wish all the questions I received were so easy to answer. This essay will give some general background and a specific example.

The ur-text for DOTS is Martin van Creveld’s The Rise and Decline of the State. [DNI Editor's note: See also van Creveld's "The Fate of the State"] He gives vast evidence of DOTS in America, such as the shifting of core functions like primary education and security from public to private entities – either for profit companies or non-government organizations (NGO’s).

The privatization of education is a major media story, especially efforts by the government to resist the rise of home teaching and for-profit schools. The privatization of security has occurred more quietly and is perhaps more significant. Private security detectives/guards outnumber police in America by approximately 1.1 million to 800 thousand, and their numbers are growing faster. The total number of private guards does not even include in-house guards, such as for companies and schools – nor mercs, such as those Blackwater brought in to guard the mansions of New Orleans following Katrina.

Clusty search on Fabius Maximus.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Principal for a Day Notes

Dave Zweifel:

My assignment earlier this week was to "help" Marquette Elementary School Principal Andrea Kreft run her school.

No doubt I got in the way more than I helped, but for me it was an eye-opening experience that I highly recommend to others. The occasion was the Foundation for Madison Schools' fourth annual "principal for a day" event. Dozens of local business, media and government people spent a morning with a Madison elementary, middle or high school principal to get a firsthand look at what goes on in their schools.

The experience demonstrated just how little so many of us really know about today's schools and the challenges their students and staffs face.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Vision of Students Today


Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Site Posts Videos of Autistic Behaviors


What's so unusual about a baby fascinated with spinning a cup, or a toddler flapping his hands, or a preschooler walking on her toes?

Parents and even doctors sometimes miss these red flags for autism, but a new online video "glossary" makes them startlingly clear.

A new Web site offers dozens of video clips of autistic kids contrasted with unaffected children's behavior. Some of the side-by-side differences can make you gasp. Others are more subtle.

The free site, which makes its debut Monday, also defines and depicts "stimming," "echolalia" and other confusing-sounding terms that describe autistic behavior. Stimming refers to repetitive, self-stimulating or soothing behavior including hand-flapping and rocking that autistic children sometimes do in reaction to light, sounds or excitement. Echolalia is echoing or repeating someone else's words or phrases, sometimes out of context.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

ADHD Guide for Parents

Amanda Gardner:

Two leading U.S. psychiatric organizations on Tuesday released a guide intended to help parents deal with the torrent of often confusing and frightening information on treatments for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

In addition to providing information on medications, the ADHD Parents Medication Guide, co-sponsored by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association, also offers insights into non-drug treatment options such as behavioral therapies and school services.

"When I needed information, few people had heard of ADHD and little information was available to help parents," Soleil Gregg, a parent of two children who grew up with ADHD in the 1970s and '80s, said during a teleconference to unveil the guide. "Now families are faced with just the opposite problem. There's an overwhelming and confusing array of information and misinformation on the Internet, on television and in the print media."

Experts estimate that almost 2 million children in the United States -- or about 3 percent to 5 percent of young children in the country -- have ADHD.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 19, 2007

"Reprehensible - Rejection of school-board candidate is a shameful moment for Democrats, union"

Columbus Dispatch:

tephanie Groce was not the loser on Tuesday when the Franklin County Democratic Party kowtowed to the local teachers union and withdrew its endorsement of her for the Columbus Board of Education.
The biggest loser was the county party and its top officeholders, who had a chance to demonstrate leadership by standing on principle for an independent-minded and highly qualified candidate. Instead those leaders caved cravenly.

The other loser was the Columbus Education Association, which nakedly illustrated that the union's top priority is not the welfare of students but the protection of its members against any demand for accountability and fiscal responsibility within the Columbus City Schools.

As the district contemplates asking voters next year to approve an operating levy and, possibly, a bond issue for building new schools, this is a terrible message for teachers to send to taxpayers.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:40 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Experimental School Gets Rid of Classes, Teachers


Minnesota New Country School is not your typical high school. There are no classes, no teachers and no walls. Students work on projects at their own computers. The experiment seems to be working: The school sends 90 percent of its graduates to college.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:49 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Panel to Consider Restrictions on Youth Cold Medicines

Rob Stein:

A special panel of federal advisers today is considering whether the government should restrict the use of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in children because of doubts about the effectiveness of the popular products and rising concerns about their safety.

The 22-member joint committee is debating whether to recommend a number of steps to the Food and Drug Administration, including banning some of the remedies, issuing strong new warnings about their use or more specific guidance about how to use them safely. The FDA is not bound by the committee's recommendations, which will be made later today, but the agency usually follows the advice of its advisory panels.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:41 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison School tax increase lower than expected

Jason Stein:

Madison homeowners received some good news Thursday -- a continued state budget impasse wouldn 't affect their property taxes as much as expected.

Figures released by the Madison School District show that a failure to pass a state budget for 2007-09 -- and provide more aid for schools -- could drive up property taxes by as much $12 on the average home. That 's just a fraction of an August estimate by Gov. Jim Doyle 's budget office that suggested property taxes from schools would rise by up to $48 on that same Madison home if the Legislature fails to pass a new two-year budget.

The state budget is now 110 days late.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:47 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Posing questions a start to fixing education woes

Jim Wooten:

“Systems, I am convinced, are not afraid of accountability,” he said. How much control the local boards exercise depends on how much responsibility for doing their jobs they’re willing to take. If they fail, they risk losing authority over nonperforming schools. My preference, but not a part of the commission’s expected recommendations, would be that parents be given the full state funding share to buy the services their children need from any competent and willing provider of education services.

Alford’s panel is also attempting to determine precisely how much a quality education should cost and what portion should be borne by locals and by the state. Now it’s about 55-45, state-local.

The public education and funding model does need to change. As Alford noted, the current system was designed for a homogenous world that no longer exists. Georgia has 180 school systems and three times that many critical problems with them. The solution is statewide standards and local control, with accountability and consequences, even down to the individual school level.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 18, 2007

The Need for Better PR & Madison High School Redesign Notes

Jason Shephard:

Beebe made his pitch at a meeting of the school board's communications committee chaired by Beth Moss, who says one of her top priorities this year is developing strategies to more aggressively seek changes in state funding.

"We're going to have to continue to cut the budget annually, and it's going to be worse and worse," laments Moss, a school board newcomer elected in April. She fears the district will have no choice but to begin "dismantling programs.

As for the perennial issue of school funding, Moss and others are gearing up for a Nov. 15 state Senate education committee hearing. Tom Beebe's group supports a proposal to hike state funding for K-12 education by $2.6 billion a year, based on a model developed by UW-Madison professor Allan Odden.

But as Beebe was asking the Madison district to join his group as a paying member, Rainwater expressed "serious doubts" about the plan and questioned whether Madison schools would benefit. The funding scheme, Beebe admitted, could potentially lead to an initial decrease in state funding to Madison.

"In the first year, Madison gets screwed for political reasons," Beebe told the committee — hardly the best message to send when seeking money from a cash-strapped district.

Beebe might benefit from a lesson in better communication. Or maybe he believes that sometimes, the best PR strategy is telling it like it really is.

I continue to believe that the odds of successfully influencing the State Legislature - in Madison's favor - are long. Better to spend the effort locally on community partnerships and substantively addressing the many issues facing our public schools (such as academic preparation in elementary and middle schools so that students are prepared for high school, rather than watering down high school curriculum). Madison spends more per student (about $13,997) than the average Wisconsin School District (11,085).

Tom Beebe Audio / Video.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:12 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

LaFollette High School Weapons Violation

Madison Police Department:

On October 18th around 9:05 Madison police arrested a Lafollette High School student on the above tenative charges. The student is accused of pulling a small knife from her purse and threatening another student with the knife. This happened in a math class following an argument between the two students. A teacher was able to help diffuse the situation peacefully and get the knife away from the suspect. There were no injuries

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:56 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

West High / Regent Neighborhood Crime Discussion

Parents, staff and community officials met Wednesday night to discuss a number of recent violent incidents at and near Madison West High School [map]

I took a few notes during the first 60 minutes:

Madison Alders Robbie Webber and Brian Solomon along with James Wheeler (Captain of Police - South District), Luis Yudice (Madison School District The Coordinator of Safety And Security), Randy Boyd (Madison Metro Security) and West Principal Ed Holmes started the meeting with a brief summary of the recent incidents along with a brief school climate discussion:

James Wheeler:

Police beat officer and Educational Resource Office (ERO) patrol during West's lunch period.

"There have been complaints from the houses around the school" so MPD increased patrols to "make a statement last week".

Still a relatively safe neighborhood.
3 arrests at Homecoming.
Made a drug dealing arrest recently.
People do see drug dealing going on and have reported it.
There have been additional violent incidents, especially at the Madison Metro transfer points

Ed Holmes
Behavior is atypical of what we have seen on the past . Perpetrators are new to West.

Emphasized the importance of a safe learning environment.

Make sure there are police and school consequences and that they are severe. These crimes are unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

Randy Boyd (Madison Metro)

60+ bus runs daily for the school system.
There have been some serious fights at the transfer points. Cameras are in place there.

Main problem is confidentiality due to the students age. Can track them via bus passes.

Adding DSL so that the police precinct can monitor the transfer points. Incidents are about the same as last year but the numbers are going up.

Baptist church elders have helped patrol the South Transfer Point. We are looking for more community help.

Luis Yudice
Big picture perspective:
Our community really has changed a lot within the past five years. I sense a great deal of stress within the police department.

Citywide issues
Increasing violence involving girls. He has looked at a lot of data with the District Attorney's office. Girls are extremely angry.

Angry parents are coming into the schools.

Increasing issues in the neighborhood that end up in the schools. Mentioned South Transfer Point beating and that Principal Ed Holmes mediated the situation at an early stage.

Growing gang violence issue particularly in the east side schools. We do have gang activity at Memorial and West but most of the issues are at Lafollete and East. Dealing with this via training and building relationships

What the school are experiencing is a reflection of what is going on in the community.

Parent asked about weapons in school, metal detectors and k9 units.


Do we have weapons in school? Yes we find knives in all the schools. No guns. Unfortunate fact is that if a kid wants to get their hand on a gun, they can. They are available.

Ed Holmes:

"We took away a gun once in my 18 years".

I want to get across to the students - if they see something they have to report it. We have 2100 students and 250 staff members.

Kids are afraid of the bathrooms

Another lunch assault that has not been reported.

Incidents are much higher than we know because many incidents are not reported.

A parent asked why the District/Police did not use school ID photos to help victims find the perpetrators? Ed Holmes mentioned that District has had problems with their photo ID vendor.
Madison School Board member (and West area parent) Maya Cole also attended this event.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Ten Stupid Ways to Ruin Your College Application

Jay Matthews:

Remember, these are things you should NOT do.

1. Rack up as many extra points as you can for "expressed interest" in your favorite colleges. This particular obsession was new to me. Connolly has encountered applicants who have inundated admissions offices with voicemails, e-mails and snail mail because they have heard that colleges want concrete indications of interest and don't think you can overdo it. Believe me, you can. "There is a fine line between showing adequate interest in the school and stalking," Connolly said. "Unsolicited cakes, pies, cookies, sneakers (the old 'one foot in the door' trick), a life-sized statue of you holding an acceptance letter, or a painstakingly detailed scale model of the campus clock tower will not make up for a lackluster academic record." When colleges look for "expressed interest," that means they hope that you will show up when their college reps visit your school, that you will visit their campuses and sign the visitor logs in their admissions offices and that you will get your application in on time with no loose ends. If you have a legitimate question, they are happy to receive your e-mail or telephone call. Doing more than that just makes you look desperate, and a little scary.

2. Don't worry about your postings on social networking sites -- college admissions officers understand your need for individual expression and will probably never look at them. I know, I know. What you put on Facebook or Myspace is your private business. College officials appear to share that view. They say they do not make a habit of looking up their applicants. But there are enough exceptions to make me think care should be taken when posting photos from your last rollicking beach party. Not everybody loves you. Those who don't could send anonymous notes to your first-choice school suggesting it inspect a certain Web site. There are no rules that say they can't.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Gaps broaden the mind

Sebastian Morton-Clark:

If, after leaving school in the early 1990s, you announced to your parents that you were taking some time out from the daily grind and leaving hearth and home to explore the world and broaden your mind, you would most likely have received a pair of horrified stares. This might be followed by a barrage of expletives regarding an expensive education being flushed away, and a stream of invective on a presumed new life of drug taking and trafficking.

A lot has changed in 15 years. Nowadays it is practically taboo to deride the idea of a gap year - to ban your children from taking one is close to abuse. For the majority of 18 to 24-year-olds, a year away from the pressures of the library has become a rite of passage. And whether it be spent conserving watering holes in Tanzania or drinking from them in Australia, the general consensus of clichés is that a break from education provides an opportunity to find oneself and form a wider perspective on life.

But what about taking time off after university before embarking on a career? How do would-be employers feel about all of this time out of the workplace? Are they as keen for their future workforce to be gallivanting around the world, or are those who head straight into the workplace displaying a greater work ethic and therefore more likely to land that top graduate position?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Almost a Third of U.S. Kids Use Supplements

HealthDay News:

More than 30 percent of American children take some kind of dietary supplement, mostly multivitamins and multiminerals, a U.S. National Institutes of Health study finds.
The study analyzed data on more than 10,000 youngsters from the 1999 to 2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The study found that 31.8 percent of children 18 and younger had used dietary supplements in the previous 30 days. This included 11.9 percent of those younger than 1 year, 38.4 percent of those ages 1-3, 40.6 percent of those ages 4-8, 28.9 percent of those ages 9-13, and 25.7 percent of those ages 14-18.

Among American adults, 57 percent of women and 47 percent of men take dietary supplements.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 17, 2007

Local districts considering future of race-based school integration program

Amy Hetzner:

The Menomonee Falls School Board held a closed-door session Monday to talk about the impact that decision might have on its continued involvement in the Chapter 220 integration program. The board met with attorney Steven Rynecki to talk about the potential risks for the program, board Vice President Anne Weiland said. As part of the 31-year-old Chapter 220 program, racial minorities living in Milwaukee can attend 23 suburban school districts and white students from those districts attend Milwaukee Public Schools.

"Our goal really was for him to give us his legal opinion as to how that case might or might not affect our own program, who potential litigants might be against our school district, what the likelihood of success might be if we were sued," said Weiland, who also is an attorney. "Those were kind of classic legal opinions."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:04 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

In a Competitive Middle School, Triage for Aches and Anxieties

Jan Hoffman:

Sorting fact from fiction, tragedy from comedy, fever from fevered performances is the venerable part of a school nurse’s job. But as childhood and adolescence have become increasingly medicalized, and schools have been mandated to accommodate students with an array of physical and psychological challenges, the school nurse’s role has expanded exponentially.

Now in her seventh year in this affluent suburb 20 miles west of Manhattan, Mrs. Palmieri regularly confers with the school’s social worker, guidance counselors, psychologist. A registered nurse with certification in school nursing, she is a front-line medical manager, first responder, diagnostician, confessor, shrink. She coordinates tutors for the housebound and leads Lunch Bunch sessions for girls to discuss puberty. Every year, she checks all students for height, weight, vision and scoliosis. Upon request, she checks for lice.

The lone nurse for 1,100 sixth, seventh and eighth graders, Mrs. Palmieri is also a comfort zone. At 52, this mother of four adult children has a plain-spoken, savvy warmth that calms these awkward, goofy fawns.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:00 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Statement by Madison Board of Education President Arlene Silveira on the state budget

"I am disappointed that the members of the Wisconsin Legislature are unable to do the job they were elected to do: pass a state budget. As an elected official, I take my duties and responsibilities seriously.

"In September, school started on the day it was scheduled to begin, teaching and learning is taking place in our classrooms and our school district is operating the way we planned for it to operate.

"Earlier this year, the Madison School board approved a tentative budget for the 2007-08 school year, anticipating that by October, when the Board usually sets the tax levy, we would have all the final information to finish our job. After months of partisan wrangling, our state legislators have failed to uphold their end of the partnership.

"It's unfortunate that our local property taxpayers will suffer the consequences of the Legislature's inability to pass the only bill required in a two-year session: the biennial budget."

Madison Metropolitan School District
Public Information Office
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703

Keep up with the latest state budget information via the WisPolitics Budget Blog.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:39 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Once and Future University

Jon Udell:

Mike Caulfield points to this video which, he says, “does a nice job of showing what a museum a university education has become.” The large lecture hall shown in that video certainly reinforces the point. Seeing it reminds me of a telling episode this past April. I was writing about Darwin and I recalled something I’d heard in a biology lecture I’d heard the previous spring on one of the Berkeley podcasts.

I went back to the site and wound up referring to the current year’s version of that lecture in video form. As I scrubbed back and forth on the timeline looking for the part I remembered, my daughter — who was then between high school and college — watched over my shoulder. Eventually she said: “So, the students just sit there?”

That was the first of three revelations. The second was my realization that I’d certainly absorbed those lectures more fully on a series of bike rides, breathing fresh air and soaking up sunshine, than had the students sitting in the lecture hall.

The third revelation came when I found the part I was looking for, and realized that it wasn’t as good as last year’s version, which had been overwritten by the current version.

John Schwartz:
WHEN NONENGINEERS THINK ABOUT ENGINEERING, it’s usually because something has gone wrong: collapsing levees in New Orleans, the loss of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. In the follow-up investigations, it comes out that some of the engineers involved knew something was wrong. But too few spoke up or pushed back — and those who did were ignored. This professional deficiency is something the new, tuition-free Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering wants to fix. At its tiny campus in Needham, Mass., outside Boston, Olin is trying to design a new kind of engineer. Most engineering schools stress subjects like differential calculus and physics, and their graduates tend to end up narrowly focused and likely to fit the stereotype of a socially awkward clock-puncher. Richard K. Miller, the president of the school, likes to share a professional joke: “How can you tell an extroverted engineer? He’s the one who looks at your shoes when he talks to you.” Olin came into being, Miller told me last spring in his office on campus, to make engineers “comfortable as citizens and not just calculating machines.” Olin is stressing creativity, teamwork and entrepreneurship — and, in no small part, courage. “I don’t see how you can make a positive difference in the world,” he emphasized, “if you’re not motivated to take a tough stand and do the right thing.”
Rick Perlstein:
Now, as then, everyone says higher education is more important than ever to America’s future. But interesting enough to become a topic of national obsession? Controversial enough to fight a gubernatorial campaign over? Hardly. The kids do have their own war now, but not much of an antiwar movement, much less building takeovers. College campuses seem to have lost their centrality. Why do college and college students no longer lead the culture? Why does student life no longer seem all that important?

Here’s one answer: College as America used to understand it is coming to an end.

For nine years I’ve lived in the shadow of the University of Chicago — as an undergraduate between 1988 and 1992 and again since 2002. After growing up in a suburb that felt like a jail to me, I found my undergraduate years delightfully noisy and dissident. I got involved with The Baffler, the journal of social criticism edited by Thomas Frank, who went on to write “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”; every Sunday, I trekked down to the neighborhood jazz jam session, where ’60s continuities were direct. The bass player was a former Maoist, the drummer a former beatnik.

Early in May of this year I had lunch with the beatnik, Doug Mitchell, who received his undergraduate degree in 1965 and then went to graduate school here and is now an editor at the University of Chicago Press. “I suspect I got in this university primarily because I had a high-school friend who got a pirated copy of Henry Miller’s ‘Tropic of Capricorn,’ ” he said. “I put that on my reading list. And the admissions counselor was utterly astonished: ‘How did you get this?’ It was truly banned in 1960.” He settled into an alienated suburban kid’s paradise. “We had a social life that kind of revolved around the dorm lounge, because that’s where everybody hung out after midnight. And some people got way into it and didn’t survive. They would never go to class. They would argue night and day in the lounge!”

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

Tough, Sad and Smart

Bob Herbert:

They are a longtime odd couple, Bill Cosby and Harvard’s Dr. Alvin Poussaint, and their latest campaign is nothing less than an effort to save the soul of black America.

Mr. Cosby, of course, is the boisterous veteran comedian who has spent the last few years hammering home some brutal truths about self-destructive behavior within the African-American community.

“A word to the wise ain’t necessary,” Mr. Cosby likes to say. “It’s the stupid ones who need the advice.”

Dr. Poussaint is a quiet, elegant professor of psychiatry who, in public at least, is in no way funny. He teaches at the Harvard Medical School and is a staff member at the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston, where he sees kids struggling in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable.

Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors - Amazon, Tattered Cover.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:01 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

To Catch a Cheat
The pressure is on for schools to raise test scores. Some, it seems, are willing to resort to anything.

Peg Tyre:

For a while it seemed as though Forest Brook High School in Houston was a shining example of school reform. In 2005, after years of rock-bottom test scores, results shot up: 95 percent of eleventh graders passed the state science test. Administrators praised the hard work of the teachers. The governor awarded the school a $165,000 grant. But that same year, the Texas Education Agency hired a company called Caveon Test Security to ensure that the state's standardized-test results were valid. Caveon—along with an investigative series by The Dallas Morning News—found a host of irregularities at Forest Brook. The state eventually cleared the school's administrators but made sure last year's testing was monitored by an outside agency. The scores at Forest Brook plunged Last year, only 39 percent passed science.

It's a jarring but common story. While there have always been students who crib an answer or two, lately teachers, principals and school administrators are being snared for gaming—and sometimes outright cheating on—standardized tests. Under the six-year-old federal education-reform law No Child Left Behind, scores on statewide exams have become the single yardstick by which school success is measured. Struggling schools are being penalized—and some are even slated to be taken over if tests scores fail to rise. Teachers are under pressure to show that kids are learning more, and if they do that, even by fudging the results they can help their borderline school survive. Nowhere is that pressure more intense than Texas, the state that was the incubator for the federal law. In 2005, Caveon found that 700 public schools had suspicious test scores—and though all but a few schools were cleared, the state education commissioner resigned amid the controversy and new testing regulations were put in place.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:55 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 16, 2007

Ed Hughes and Marj Passman on Madison's Small Learning Community Climate and Grant Application

I sent an email to Ed and Marj, both of whom have announced their plans to run for Madison School Board next spring, asking the following:

I'm writing to see what your thoughts are on the mmsd's high school "reform" initiative, particularly in light of two things:
  1. The decision to re-apply for the US Dept of Education Grant next month
  2. The lack of any public (any?) evaluation of the results at West and Memorial in light of their stated SLC goals?
In other words, how do you feel about accountability? :)
They replied:

Marj Passman:

I am generally supportive of small learning communities and the decision to reapply for a Federal grant. Our high schools continue to provide a rich education for most students -- especially the college bound - but there is a significant and maybe growing number of students who are not being engaged. They need our attention. The best evidence is that well implemented small learning communities show promise as part of the solution to increasing the engagement and achievement of those who are not being well served, do no harm and may help others also. My experience as a teacher backs up the research because I found that the caring relationships between staff and students so crucial to reaching those students falling between the cracks on any level of achievement are more likely to develop in smaller settings. Some form of small learning communities are almost a given as part of any reform of our high schools and if we can get financial help from the Federal government with this part of the work, I'm all for it.

I think it is important not to overestimate either the problems or the promise of the proposed solutions. The first step in things like this is to ask what is good that we want to preserve. Our best graduates are competitive with any students anywhere. The majority of our graduates are well prepared for their next academic or vocational endeavors. We need to keep doing the good things we do well. If done successfully, SLCs offer as much for the top achieving students as for any group – individual attention, focus on working with others of their ability, close connection to staff, and consistent evaluation.

You also asked about "accountability" and the evaluations of the existing SLCs. Both evaluations are generally positive, show some progress in important areas and point to places where improvements still need to be made. Neither contains any alarming information that would suggest the SLCs should be abandoned. The data from these limited studies should be looked at with similar research elsewhere that supports SLC as part of the solution to persistent (and in Madison) growing issues.

Like many I applauded when all the Board members asked for a public process for the High Schools of the Future project and like many I have been woefully disappointed with what I've seen so far. Because of this and the coming changes in district leadership I'd like to see the redesign time line extended (the final report is due in April) to allow for more input from both the public and the new superintendent.

Thanks for this opportunity

Marjorie Passman

Ed Hughes:
From what I know, I am not opposed to MMSD re-applying for the U.S. Dept. of Education grant next month. From my review of the grant application, it did not seem to lock the high schools into new and significant changes. Perhaps that is a weakness of the application. But if the federal government is willing to provide funds to our high schools to do what they are likely to do anyway, I'm all for it.

Like you, I am troubled with the apparent lack of evaluation of results at West and Memorial attributable to their small learning communities initiatives. This may seem inconsistent with my view on applying for the grant, but I do not think we should proceed further down an SLC path without having a better sense of whether in fact it is working at the two schools that have tried it. It seems to me that this should be a major focus of the high school redesign study, but who knows what is going on with that. I asked recently and was told that the study kind of went dormant for awhile after the grant application was submitted.

My own thoughts about high school are pointing in what may be the opposite direction - bigger learning communities rather than smaller. I am concerned about our high schools being able to provide a sufficiently rich range of courses to prepare our students for post-high school life and to retain our students whose families have educational options. The challenges the schools face in this regard were underscored last spring when East eliminated German classes, and now offers only Spanish and French as world language options.

It seems to me that one way to approach this issue is to move toward thinking of the four comprehensive high schools as separate campuses of a single, unified, city-wide high school in some respects. We need to do a lot more to install sufficient teleconferencing equipment to allow the four schools to be linked - so that a teacher in a classroom at Memorial, say, can be seen on a screen in classrooms in the other three schools. In fact, views of all four linked classrooms should simultaneously be seen on the screen. With this kind of linkage, we could take advantage of economies of scale and have enough student interest to justify offering classes in a rich selection of languages to students in all four high schools. I'm sure there are other types of classes where linked classrooms would also make sense.

This kind of approach raises issues. For example, LaFollette's four block system would be incompatible with this approach. There would also be a question of whether there would need to be a teacher or educational assistant in every classroom, even if the students in the classroom are receiving instruction over the teleconferencing system from another teacher in another school. I would hope that these are the kinds of issues the high school re-design group would be wrestling with. Perhaps they are, or will, but at this point there seems to be no way to know.

There are some off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts prompted by your question and by Maya Cole's post about the high school re-design study. Feel free to do what you want with this response.

Related Links: Thanks to Ed and Marj for taking the time to share their thoughts on this important matter.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:22 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Notes on "Principal for a Day"

WISC-TV sports anchor George Johnson was principal for a day at East High School.
Johnson said playing principal was a unique and eye-opening experience.

Johnson said that he was surprised to see that when the national anthem was played, none of the students stood up during it.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:05 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Changing Milwaukee Public Schools

Alan Borsuk:

Before your very eyes, ladies and gentleman, see the Incredible Shrinking School System.

Well, maybe it's not incredible. But it is certainly shrinking.

It also continues, bit by bit, to become a district where the faces of the students are those of minority children.

Official attendance figures for this fall, released by Milwaukee Public Schools officials, show that the enrollment in the traditional MPS schools is down for at least the ninth year in a row.

Since 1998, the number of students in elementary, middle and high schools has declined from 96,942 to 81,381, a 16% drop.

Between a year ago and now, the drop was 3,522, or more than 4%.

Even the alternative and "partnership" schools that contract to educate MPS children - generally run by nonprofit organizations - have had declining enrollment over the past nine years.

Notably, one area showing increases is charter schools not staffed by MPS employees but authorized to operate by the Milwaukee School Board. They had 68 children in 1998 and 3,090 this fall.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:58 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison School Board Discussion of Fund 80 Based Community Partnerships

Monday evening's Madison School Board meeting included a fascinating and quite useful discussion of the way in which the district "grants" money to (or creates partnerships with) local groups via Fund 80 (Fund 80, or "Community Services" is money sourced from local property taxes that lives outside the state revenue caps. This means that Fund 80 spending can grow as fast as the School Board approves). The growth of Fund 80 spending has been the subject of some controversy during the recent past.

Props to the school board for discussing and addressing this matter.

Audio 13MB MP3

Much more about Fund 80 here [RSS]

Another factor that will drive property taxes is the changing real estate market. I noted nearly two years ago, that Madison had about 14,000 more parcels in 2005, than 1990. This creates a larger pie to spread government and school spending across. Slower or no growth in the property tax base may mean larger tax increases per parcel than we've seen in the past (along with flat state funding). Madison is considered a "property rich" school district, therefore we receive a much smaller percentage of our budget from redistributed state taxes and fees (this approach was referred to as the "Robin Hood Act" in Texas). The MMSD's handy citizen's budget notes that 65% of its revenues arrive via local property taxes. Finally, Madison's property rich status means that any increase in spending beyond the revenue limits via referendums reduce state aids. For example, $1.00 of new referendum spending may cost local property taxpayers $1.60 or thereabouts. This concept is known as "Negative Aid".

Related: K-12 Tax & Spending Climate.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:05 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

College Application Coaches

Susan Berfield & Anne Tergesen:

Michele Hernandez boasts that 95% of her teenage clients are accepted by their first-choice school. Her price: As much as $40,000 a student

As I listened to my 8th period English teacher drone on for the third time about how Finny, a character in A Separate Peace, was indeed the main character although he was not the narrator, it finally dawned on me that this was not the exciting world of high school that I had hoped for.

Michele Hernandez boasts that 95% of her teenage clients are accepted by their first-choice school. Her price: As much as $40,000 a student

As I listened to my 8th period English teacher drone on for the third time about how Finny, a character in A Separate Peace, was indeed the main character although he was not the narrator, it finally dawned on me that this was not the exciting world of high school that I had hoped for.

This is how Andrew Garza began an essay in his application to Haverford College. It was a 1,200-word piece that established him as an intellectually curious young man. It was crafted to appeal specifically to the admissions officers at the small liberal arts school. And it was the idea of his high-priced college admissions coach, Michele A. Hernandez. Garza attended a private school in Switzerland, and that worried Hernandez: She thought he might appear to be a privileged teenager without much substance. So she advised him to write about why he had left his public high school in suburban New Jersey. "We had to make it seem like he didn't want to be around so many rich kids. We spun a whole story about him taking the initiative to leave in order to broaden his experience," Hernandez says. "It was his initiative. But he wouldn't have written about it."

Today Andrew is a senior at Haverford, studying sociology and economics. His father, John, paid Hernandez $18,000 for 18 months' worth of advice. "It is a lot of money," says Garza, a manager at Abitibi-Consolidated (ABY ) in New York. "But if you look at it as an investment, it's not a bad one."

Amazing. Michele's website. Clusty search.

Penelope Wang:

To improve her chances of getting into a good college, Caitlin Pickavance, a 17-year-old high school senior from Danville, Calif., has been working with a private college coach since her freshman year (cost: $800).

She gets tutored in math ($1,400), takes an ACT prep class ($900) and participates in afterschool enrichment activities ($1,350). Then there's the good-will mission to Belize she went on last spring ($1,375) and the classes she took this summer at the University of Salamanca in Spain ($7,000) in hopes of further buffing her résumé.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

High-quality standards, a curriculum based on critical thinking can enlighten our students

Linda Darling-Hammond:

ne of the central lessons of No Child Left Behind is that if school sanctions are tied to test scores, the testing tail can wag the schooling dog. And a key problem for the United States is that most of our tests aren't measuring the kinds of 21st century skills we need students to acquire and that are at the core of curriculum and assessment in high-achieving countries.

While a debate rages about whether our tests should be created at the national or state level, this argument is focused on the wrong issue.
We need to focus on the quality of our standards and assessments rather than fighting over who administers them. Unless we change the way we think about learning and testing, it won't matter who makes the tests. They will still be a major part of the problem of American education, rather than the solution.

The plain truth is that the United States is falling far behind other nations on every measure of educational achievement. In the latest international assessments, the United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in math - on par with Latvia - 20th in science, and 19th in reading, even further behind than a few years ago. In addition, these other countries surpass us in graduation rates and, over the last decade, in higher education participation as well.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Milwaukee Teacher Pay

Alan Borsuk:

So how much will teachers be paid in MPS under the contract proposal almost sure to be ratified by teachers and the School Board? When agreement between the bargaining teams was announced, we reported that the salary schedule for teachers would increase 2.5% this year and 2.5% next year, but we didn't give details.

So here are a few:

Under the agreement, a starting teacher with only a bachelor's degree will receive $34,858 in salary this year, up from $34,008 a year ago. A year from now, the figure will be $35,729.

A teacher with a master's degree in the seventh year of working for MPS -- a farily typical situation -- was paid $48,350 a year ago. This year that will be $49,559 and next year it will be $50,798.

The highest possible straight-pay amount for a teacher in MPS would be someone with a master's degree and 32 additional credits who is in at least the 16th year of teaching. Last year, such a teacher would have been paid $69,400; this year, the figure is $71,135; next year it is $72,913.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Failing Schools Strain to Meet U.S. Standard

Diana Jean Schemo:

As the director of high schools in the gang-infested neighborhoods of the East Side of Los Angeles, Guadalupe Paramo struggles every day with educational dysfunction.

For the past half-dozen years, not even one in five students at her district’s teeming high schools has been able to do grade-level math or English. At Abraham Lincoln High School this year, only 7 in 100 students could. At Woodrow Wilson High, only 4 in 100 could.

For chronically failing schools like these, the No Child Left Behind law, now up for renewal in Congress, prescribes drastic measures: firing teachers and principals, shutting schools and turning them over to a private firm, a charter operator or the state itself, or a major overhaul in governance.

But more than 1,000 of California’s 9,500 schools are branded chronic failures, and the numbers are growing. Barring revisions in the law, state officials predict that all 6,063 public schools serving poor students will be declared in need of restructuring by 2014, when the law requires universal proficiency in math and reading.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Spike in violence in middle schools raises concerns

Tracy Jan:

A Marlborough student was suspended for bringing a knife to school. A week later, a Concord student was arrested for putting 10 classmates on a hit list. Then there was the bomb threat at a Tewksbury school and a lockdown in Waltham where two knives were found in students' lockers, just a day after a pellet gun was discovered at another Waltham school.

The episodes all occurred within five weeks last spring, not in high schools, but in middle schools in suburban districts, where educators and law enforcement agencies are increasingly worried about violence penetrating places once considered havens.
Massachusetts suburban and rural middle schools in 2005-06 had 4,750 reports of violence - such as fights, sexual assault, and robbery - and threats of violence; 484 drug, alcohol, and tobacco offenses; 290 cases of sexual harassment, and 383 weapons found, according to a Globe analysis of school safety statistics provided by the Massachusetts Department of Education.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 15, 2007

The Math Lady

Jacquelyn Mitchard

There have been a few people, in a life cram-jammed with the opposite message, who have told my second son that he was smart.
One of them, Donna Mahr, a math tutor in our tiny town, was the first.
She died just a couple of days ago.

How many lives did she transform?
How big are the boundaries of the universe? For every child she believed in, she gave comfort to a family whose heart was broken at the core. She gave hope to a family who knew, who KNEW, that their son or daughter had gifts that didn’t fit the traditional mold....

Despite the best efforts of the rather nice public school system in our town to prevent this, our son graduated with a low B average, in part because of Donna Mahr, who was an angel before she ever got her wings.

Posted by Larry Winkler at 6:28 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison Math Task Force Expands

I've learned that parent and activist Jill Jokela and LaFollette High School Physics Teacher Charles Chapin will be named to the Math Task Force this evening.

Much more on the Madison Math Task Force here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:07 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New map for college aid drawn
Overhaul includes grant increases, interest rate cuts, loan repayment program for those who need help

Pamela Yip:

"The financial aid package gets better for those who are eligible for need-based financial aid, since interest rates are dropping," said Joseph Hurley, chief executive of, a Web site on college financing.

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which President Bush recently signed into law, has been called the largest overhaul of aid to college students since soldiers returned from World War II battlefields and headed into the classroom.

While it doesn't change the strategy and approach that families should take when shopping for college financing, it will give them more benefits to go with the financial aid options that are available.

Major provisions of the new law include:

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:43 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

"Ohio and Rogue Teachers"

Jennifer Smith Richards & Jill Riepenhoff:

How can a child rapist still have a teaching license?
Why is a teacher who married his student still in the classroom?

How can a man who has been on trial four times for molesting children be allowed to teach?

The answer is simple and stunning: Ohio's system to punish rogue teachers is flawed at all levels -- school, district and state.

It puts the rights of teachers before those of students. It hides information from parents and potential employers. It allows secret deals with troubled teachers.

A 10-month Dispatch investigation, a first-of-its-kind analysis of the system, found that 1,722 educators have been disciplined since 2000 for everything from shoplifting to murder. Two-thirds were allowed to return to the classroom or start school jobs.

Via Mike Antonucci.

More here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:35 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Milwaukee Considers Expanding Gifted Program to High School

Alan Borsuk:

What if Milwaukee's Samuel Morse Middle School expanded its programs for the gifted and talented to cover sixth through 12th grades?

What if the whole program were moved into the Marshall High School building, giving it more room, and maybe even taking the Marshall name?

Milwaukee Public Schools leaders are doing a lot of thinking along those lines, prodded by a strong desire by Morse Principal Rogers Onick and others at his school to expand into high school programming.

"There currently are discussions with the staff at Morse Middle School about relocating," MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos said. "There seems to be some interest in pursuing that."

Behind those cautious statements lies a potentially bold change in MPS. Onick says there is no high school in Wisconsin whose entire program is aimed at gifted and talented students.

And if Morse took that route, it could have an impact on high schools such as Rufus King and Riverside, generally college-bound programs that are frequently the choice of Morse graduates.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:51 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Author Finds Fault with Federal Testing

Alan Borsuk & Linda Pearlstein:

Q.You were obviously unhappy in the book at times about what kids (at Tyler Heights) weren't doing - social studies, geography, just orientation to the world, opening their minds in a broader sense. . . . What were kids missing by having this kind of testing and drill-oriented curriculum?

A. I think critical thinking. Skills that they really needed to be starting to build at that age that they weren't necessarily developing outside of school, as you would have liked. Also, engagement in what this all is about. . . . I think a lot of teachers felt sort of constrained by the sort of structure they were in and couldn't take the tangents they wanted to take to help the kids understand, and sometimes couldn't take the time they wanted when the kids needed to back up and learn some basic skills but the pacing guide insisted you need to move along. . . . It was just a very sort of structured and sometimes even Spartan day.

Q.You went to Maple Dale (School) in Fox Point yourself. Compare Maple Dale and Tyler Heights.

A. If I had to say the two things that they had in common, they were: an abundance of adults who clearly cared about the children and connected with them, and I still appreciate that to this day. That was evident at Tyler Heights. . . . The other thing was that we had resources. We had all the books we needed, we had a perfectly acceptable facility, the building was clean, and we had the equipment and tools we needed. Tyler Heights, even though the student population is low income, has a lot of resources, mainly because it is in an affluent district and it receives Title 1 funding from the federal government.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:53 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

When state proficiency standards are lowered, there will be NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND

Marshall Smith, Bruce Fuller:

Proponents of No Child Left Behind - including the odd couple of President Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - received uplifting news last month: The nation's fourth-graders had finally stirred on federal tests, showing gains in reading and math. Eighth-graders saw little progress in reading, but they did experience an uptick in math.

The news reached Capitol Hill in the nick of time, as Bush and Democratic leaders struggle to renew Washington's controversial education reforms. No Child adherents had waited five long years - and spent more than $90 billion - before seeing these tepid yet encouraging results.

Still, Bush's signature domestic policy is in deep political trouble, and even its Democratic sponsors continue to ignore its fundamental flaws.

Some business groups side with Bush and Pelosi, urging quick renewal and even tougher love for local educators, such as tying teacher pay to student learning curves.
But two recent polls reveal that a majority of Americans believe that No Child should be rewritten or simply scrapped, and are worried that the law is narrowing what children are taught and forcing them to spend countless hours getting ready for nonstop tests.
Support for No Child is weakest among suburban Democrats and independent voters, a fact not lost on Sen. Hillary Clinton and other presidential candidates who now speak harshly against the law.

Politics aside, is this massive federal experiment boosting children's achievement beyond the long-running benefits of states' own accountability programs, which focus on helping teachers instead of dinging them? Evidence to date suggests the answer is no.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

D.C. Schools Chief Wants Power to Fire Ineffective Teachers

Theola Labbe:

As D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty proposed legislation yesterday that would grant schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee the power to drastically revamp the system's central office, Rhee said she also wants more authority to fire underperforming teachers.

It was her first public statement that teachers could be ousted as part of what Fenty (D) called "wholesale changes" to the 49,000-student system.

Within a year of enacting the legislation, Fenty said, "I would be surprised if we kept more than a small percentage" of the 934 central office employees.

"We're not going to tinker around the edges," he said in an interview.

The statements by Rhee and the mayor marked an escalation in their efforts to overhaul the bureaucracy. Their attempt to acquire broader personnel authority through legislation and labor negotiations is a key test of Fenty's power as the ultimate arbiter of city education.

The Madison School District attempted to change the criteria used when teachers are surplused, transferred or laid off during the most recent negotations with Madison Teachers, Inc - without success. More here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Hand-Held Calculators' Milestone Number

Michael Alison Chandler:

In a darkened Algebra II classroom, all eyes were on an illuminated graphing calculator projected three feet high on the white board as students studied a series of graphs and talked about absolute value functions.

The weightless image of a TI-84 Plus Silver Edition graphing calculator is a far cry from early typewriter-size calculators that weighed 55 pounds and plugged into an outlet. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the moment that revolutionized not only the calculator but also the way students learn math. It was 40 years ago that three Texas Instruments scientists shrank that monstrosity and created the hand-held calculator.

To mark the milestone, the Texas company donated some historic hand-helds to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History last week as symbols of change in the United States. The devices will go alongside the table Thomas Jefferson used when he wrote the Declaration of Independence and the top hat Abraham Lincoln wore when he was assassinated.

In math classrooms, calculators mechanized finger counting, pencil-and-paper calculations and slide rules. Elementary students weaned on Little Professor calculators that can add, subtract, multiply and divide move on to graphing calculators in later grades. Future students will use programmable devices that show algebraic formulas, graphs and word problems on the same screen.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 14, 2007

A Different Look at NAEP 4th Grade Math

The NAEP 2007 reports leave me without real understanding of the results, and charts included in the reports do not help. Looking at the state and ethnic data in a slightly different but very simple way, information that seemed to be lacking in the official reports stand out.

For the first steps, we'll look at only the 4th grade math scores by state.

The following is the state (jurisdiction) data by ethnic groups which I will use throughout. I've highlighted several of our neighboring states: Wisconsin in red, Michigan in blue, Iowa in yellow, Ohio in green, Minnesota in lavendar.


Using a simple 2-level stem and leaf plot shows a general skewed normal (bell curve) distribution for each ethnic group. Scores of the states mentioned above are in a larger font, with Wisconsin further in red. The stem portion of this chart consists of the first two digits of a state's score (with a - or =), and the leaves are the final digit. A stem ending with - will have final digits of 0-4, a stem ending with = are for scores ending with 5-9.

The Hispanic score seems bi-modal, with the White distribution showing a slight tail on the high side, Blacks and Asian distribution showing low end tails. Asian scores show a definite tendency to score on the high end of states scores, while white scores are definitely skewed to the low end. What can be seen here also, but subtly, is there does not seem to be an overlap of the aggregated state scores for whites and blacks. For Blacks in Wisconsin generally, the chart visually represents the quality of education Wisconsin they are receiving here -- very poor.

Of course, this says nothing about how well individual students did on the test -- aggregation hides most information that is necessary to make data-driven decisions.


We need to spread out this chart's distributions to detect other interesting facts.

In this 5-level stem and leaf chart, the stem values end with the symbols -, t, f, s, =, where the - bin is for scores ending with 0 or 1, t for 2 and 3, f for 4 and 5, s for 6 and 7, = for 8 and 9.


Now we can see most definitely that the distributions for blacks and whites do not overlap, that Wisconsin Black scores are way out in the tail of the distribution. Looking at the extremes of these distributions show surprising results (at least to me). Notice that DC whites score at the top and might be statistical outliers, while DC Blacks are at the opposite end and also may be statistical outliers, and the NJ Asians are at the top, but unlikely to be outliers due to the wide spread of their state average scores. (Outliers are points that are numerically distant from the main distribution).

The DC results by ethnicity for whites was surprising. Looking only at the state scores without separating by ethnicity, the distribution of points look like:


A separate calculation shows that indeed, DC is an outlier when ethnicity is ignored and is only 2 points away from being an extreme outlier. (The outlier cut-score is 224 and the extreme outlier cut-score is 212, DC score is 214).

Going back to the disaggregation by ethnicity the summary calculations are


The 9-Number Summaries are used to calculate outliers, and determine drift in the distributions. Each row of the summary table is a kind of percentile. Line M is the median, H represents the low and high 25%, E is the low and high 12.5%, D is the 6.25% cut point, and R represents the range lowest and highest values. (The numbers following these letter designations are the score rank at these cut points).

With a score of 212, Wisconsin Blacks score in the lower 6% of the states (D4 is 213) but this score does not make it an outlier, but that is hardly a badge of honor given how poorly all states are doing. Wisconsin Hispanics score at the median of all Hispanics with a score of 229, and Wisconsin Asians score on the cusp of the lower 25% of all Asians at 245, and Wisconsin whites score on the cusp of the upper 25% of all whites at 250.

The drift calculations (in the Median column) do not show distribution drift, but outlier calculations do show that DC whites are high-end outliers. (A little preview of the NAEP 8th grade math: NAEP numbers show that there was not enough whites in DC public schools by 8th grade to be measured -- in our nation's capital, the public schools are fully segregated?)

Surprisingly, Hawaii (HI) in the Asian category is on the cusp of being an outlier at the low end with a state score of 233.

The HI score was surprising to me since it has a very large Asian/Pacific Islander population, and I expected this ethic group to have the political power to ensure schools would function for them. However, further reading indicates that whites are the upper class and have the power, followed by people of Chinese descent. The rest, native Hawaiians, Japanese, and other Pacific Islander groups are at the bottom of the power and wealth hierarchy. Without a better ethnic categorization, the NAEP test will not show the likely educational imbalance among franchised and disenfranchised.

Continuing with the Asian/Pacific Islander category, I was surprised to see NJ as the top state. At 267, NJ is not an outlier (the cut point is 271), but it is close. An improvement of 1/3 grade level (assuming 12 points separates one grade from the next), would bring them to high-end outlier status.

Looking at the scores for Wisconsin Blacks, it's quite clear that Wisconsin (Milwaukee schools primarily?) are doing very poorly for Blacks. It's not just a matter of how the scores rank among states, but how Wisconsin fits within the distribution of all states. The data above shows not only low rank but Wisconsin Blacks are educated with far below the efforts of other states, represented by the main body of the distribution.

Posted by Larry Winkler at 10:53 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Defense Of Public Education, Democratic Change And Charter Schools

Leo Casey:

The defense of public education is not the defense of the status quo in public schools.

This is an important and essential truth that teacher unionists and other advocates of public education need to grasp. With very real enemies targeting education of, by and for the public, the temptation is to treat every criticism of public schools as a mortal threat, and to rush to the defense of ‘actually existing school systems’ and ‘actually existing schools,’ regardless of the merits of the criticisms. When we do that, too often we become apologists — unwitting apologists perhaps, but apologists nonetheless — for much of what actually harms public education, from dysfunctional bureaucracies and out of control testing to inept district leaderships and tyrannical school leaders.

The real defense of public education is the defense of the democratic educational values and vision which are central to the idea of public education. This is not some Platonic ideal: there are ample illustrations of that idea, those values and vision, in practice, and we should be highlighting and learning from those living examples. Moreover, when school districts and schools fall far short of that idea, we need to understand why, and figure out how they can be changed to realize the full potential of public schooling. In sum, the defense of public education demands of us a vision and a strategy for changing public schools and districts for the better, for the realization of the promise of public education — not an undifferentiated apology for whatever is.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:36 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Snooze or Lose: Overscheduled Kids are Getting at Least an Hour's Less Sleep Than They Need

Po Bronson:

Mrgan is a 10-year-old fifth-grader in Roxbury, New Jersey. She’s fair-skinned, petite, with freckles across her nose and wavy, light-brown hair. Her father is a police sergeant on duty until 3 a.m. Her mother, Heather, works part time, devoting herself to shuffling Morgan and her brother to their many activities. Morgan plays soccer, but her first love is competitive swimming, with year-round workouts that have broadened her shoulders. She’s also a violinist in the school orchestra, with practices and lessons each week. Every night, Morgan sits down to homework before watching Flip This House or another show with her mother. Morgan has always appeared to be an enthusiastic, well-balanced child.

But once Morgan spent a year in the classroom of a demanding teacher, she could no longer unwind at night. Despite a reasonable bedtime of 9:30 p.m., she would lay awake in frustration until 11:30, sometimes midnight, clutching her leopard-fur pillow. On her fairy-dust purple bedroom walls were taped index cards, each with a vocabulary word Morgan was having trouble with. Unable to sleep, she turned back to her studies, determined not to let her grades suffer. Instead, she saw herself fall apart emotionally. During the day, she was noticeably crabby and prone to crying easily. Occasionally, Morgan nearly fell asleep in class.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A*'s in Their Eyes

Lisa Freedman:

It is now widely acknowledged that GCSEs don’t stretch the most able, so how do schools with only bright pupils cope?

My nephew, a bright boy, goes to the type of school where everyone gets an A* in their GCSEs. On the morning his own results were published, he couldn’t be bothered to find out what they were. Instead, he went off to play tennis.

For able children, GCSEs have become what Tony Little, headmaster of Eton, described as boy scouts’ badges. More than half of those taking this year’s edition were awarded an A* or A and, if you narrow the field down to the top selective schools, independent and state, the figure shoots up to over 80 per cent.

GCSE doesn’t distinguish sufficiently well at the top, says Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Education Research at the University of Buckingham and a special adviser to the All-Commons Education Committee. They award persistence and care, not talent and ability.

But those who teach the talented and able as well as the diligent and the careful have increasingly tried to find ways to make the exam system more relevant to their pupils.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Bad News? We Don’t Need No Stinking Bad News!

Leo Casey:

The New York City Department of Education web site has had a dramatic facelift, with almost every new whistle and bell you could want.

If you want information and data on a school, you type the name into the conveniently located search engine, and it will take you to what is called a NYC DOE portal for that school. We searched Stuyvesant High School, and we were taken here. On the left hand side of the page there is a category “Statistics,” and if you click on it, it takes you to a page that has all of the DOE’s statistical reports. You can read the Stuyvesant High School’s Learning Environment Survey, its Quality Review Report, its School Report Card, its Budget, its Weekly Attendance, its Register, its Expenditure Report, its Galaxy Budget Allocations, its Table of Organization [with budget allocation], and its Building and School Facilities Report.

Everything you could want to know, right?

Well, we went looking for the most important statistic for a high school, its graduation rate. In previous years, the graduation rate was part of the school report card. But when you go to the School Report Card from this web portal, you find a truncated report, less than 1/3 the length of the old Report Card. Here’s the previous year’s Stuyvesant report card, with all of the graduation and drop out data on the last page. The new report card tells you what Stuyvesant’s students plan to do after graduation, just like last year’s report card does, but it manages to omit the information on how many students actually reach that goal.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 13, 2007

Union Orders, on Ohio Charter Schools

The Wall Street Journal:

The concept of charter schools is popular enough that even most liberals won't attack them openly. Yet the national political assault continues behind-the-scenes, most recently in Ohio, where unions have now been caught giving orders to Attorney General Marc Dann, who has duly saluted.

Last week the Columbus Dispatch published emails showing that Mr. Dann and the Ohio Education Association are in cahoots to close down certain charter schools in the state. Mr. Dann was elected last November in a Democratic sweep that included Governor Ted Strickland and was helped by Big Labor. As a token of his appreciation, Mr. Strickland earlier this year proposed placing a moratorium on new charter schools and restrictions on private-school vouchers, only to be rebuffed by the Legislature. Now it's Mr. Dann's turn to send a thank-you.

In March, the teachers union sued the state, alleging that low-performing charters should be closed because officials had failed to monitor them properly. The Ohio Supreme Court had ruled against the union in a similar case last year. Yet Mr. Dann offered to settle the case, and the union dropped the suit after the AG's office agreed to go after charter schools on its own.

The union even advised a legal strategy for Mr. Dann, which was to use the charitable trust status of the schools to argue that they were failing in their mission to educate kids. "I know this is a long shot, but by any chance, are community schools registered as charitable trusts?" said a union lawyer in an email to the AG's office. "If not, are they exempt from registration by regulation?"

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

High-Stakes Flimflam

Bob Herbert:

Not only has high-stakes testing largely failed to magically swing open the gates to successful learning, it is questionable in many cases whether the tests themselves are anything more than a shell game.

Daniel Koretz, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, told me in a recent interview that it’s important to ask “whether you can trust improvements in test scores when you are holding people accountable for the tests.”

The short answer, he said, is no.

If teachers, administrators, politicians and others have a stake in raising the test scores of students — as opposed to improving student learning, which is not the same thing — there are all kinds of incentives to raise those scores by any means necessary.

“We’ve now had four or five different waves of educational reform,” said Dr. Koretz, “that were based on the idea that if we can just get a good test in place and beat people up to raise scores, kids will learn more. That’s really what No Child Left Behind is.”

The problem is that you can raise scores the hard way by teaching more effectively and getting the students to work harder, or you can take shortcuts and start figuring out ways, as Dr. Koretz put it, to “game” the system.

Guess what’s been happening?

“We’ve had high-stakes testing, really, since the 1970s in some states,” said Dr. Koretz. “We’ve had maybe six good studies that ask: ‘If the scores go up, can we believe them? Or are people taking shortcuts?’ And all of those studies found really substantial inflation of test scores.

“In some cases where there were huge increases in test scores, the kids didn’t actually learn more at all. If you gave them another test, you saw no improvement.”

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Part Time Wisconsin Open Enrollment

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI):

Wisconsin high school students may apply to attend one or two courses in nonresident school districts, while remaining enrolled in their resident school districts for the majority of their classes.

No later than one week before the start of the course, the resident school district is required to notify the student if the application is denied (notification is not required for approval).

The resident school district may deny a student’s application only for the following reasons:

  • the cost of the course creates an undue financial
  • the course conflicts with the individualized education program (IEP) for a student who needs special education.
No later than one week before the start of the course, the resident school district must also notify the student if the course does not meet the high school graduation requirements in the resident school district (although the student may attend the course even if it does not meet the high school graduation requirements.)

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Whatever Happened to the Class of 2005?

V. Dion Haynes and Aruna Jain:

Danielle Chappell had no reason to doubt she was a solid student. She earned decent grades, even scoring some A's in English and math, while balancing schoolwork with basketball, track and a spot on the dance team.

Then she graduated from Cardozo High School and arrived at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where she bombed the placement tests so badly that she had to take remedial English and math. She failed the makeup math course twice before passing it. Low grades overall put her on academic probation. Finally, mid-sophomore year, she was forced to withdraw.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 12, 2007

LaFollette High School Incident

Madison Police Department:

On Thursday morning October 11, 2007 seven Madison Police officers and some 30 Lafollette High School staff members were needed to breakup a disturbance at the school around 11:15 a.m.. Officers learned that two adult women and two teenage boys (one of the woman is the mother of one of the boys) came to Lafollette where they confronted another teenage boy in a hallway. The boy, who was confronted, reportedly had gotten into a fight with the other two outside of school earlier in the week. He (the boy confronted) said the group of four circled him and the two adult women encouraged the young men to fight. Staff, hearing the ruckus, responded.
Karen Rivedal has more.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:09 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

System-wide Change for All Learners and Educators (SCALE) research project at UW-Madison

I would like to direct readers' attention to our our web site where we have highlighted key concepts of the System-wide Change for All Learners and Educators (SCALE) research project here at the Wisconsin Center for Research Education, UW Madison. The vision of the SCALE partnership is to make it the rule, instead of the exception, for every student, every year, to experience high-quality teaching of core mathematics and science concepts. The partnership brings together mathematicians, scientists, engineers and education practitioners to build a new approach to reforming K-12 mathematics and science education. The partnership seeks to improve the mathematics and science achievement of all students at all grade levels in the four partner school districts (MMSD is one of them) by engaging them in deep and authentic science and mathematics instructional experiences. Simultaneously, the partnership seeks to improve pre-service and in-service mathematics and science professional learning. Finally, the partnership seeks to improve models of collaboration among K-12 and post-secondary institutions in ways that more fully integrate engineering, mathematics and science faculty. The goal is to provide a seamless K-through-Infinity education system in the service of mathematics and science education for all.

Christine Javid
Telephone 608-890-1795

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

Involving the Community (in High School Reform)

I will periodically provide updates for the community so that you can read what the Board of Education (BOE) is working on during the year. I also do so when I have particular interest in, or concerns regarding, decisions made on behalf of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD).

One area that I believe is of utmost importance and may be on the mind of the public is high school reform.

I am particularly interested in answering two questions as they relate to this issue.

First, what are the problem(s) we are trying to address as a district in our high schools?

Second, how does the current high school framework align with the skills and knowledge required by colleges and employers and in the overall reform movement of standards and accountability?

To address this issue as a board member, I look for specific timelines, benchmarks and periodic updates.

I think it would well serve the community and the entire board to know exactly where we are in the process. Originally, high school reform in MMSD was presented to the community in a BOE Special Meeting and referred to as a "blank slate."

Recently, the district submitted an application for a Small Learning Communities (SLC) federal grant. It was not awarded. It was at this time that I had requested that the BOE review the process of high school reform in MMSD at a BOE Special Meeting. I have also raised concerns that the administration has decided to apply for the grant again. The board has been told that we have a good chance that we will get the grant on the second round. I have again requested that the board meet as soon as possible.

However, as a board member of seven – there must be four BOE members willing to submit such a request to put this topic on the agenda. So far, I am the only member requesting this motion.

I raise this issue because of my firmly held belief that my role as a BOE member is to represent the community and provide, to the best of my ability, an accessible, open process when major decisions are made on behalf of the community.

It appears that as of today, the grant will be resubmitted before the only scheduled BOE meeting on high school reform on the 19th of November.

A little history. The high school reform process should be transparent and accessible to the entire community. I am trying to get a handle on this process myself. Here is a look at what has transpired so far:

On November 22, 2006 it looked like this:

The Isthmus newspaper noted that high school reform was halted in Madison:

“I believe that discussion concerning the way in which our schools prepare all students for post secondary education and employment in an increasingly global economy is too important to rush.

Interest in this topic is high and we can best serve our future students, our broader community and our beliefs as educators by taking the quality time necessary to hear from parents, students, staff, business people, post secondary institutions, and others who value what a high school education can provide.

I am asking you to cease any significant programmatic changes at each of your schools as this community dialogue progresses. We need a tableau rosa mentality that will allow for a free flow of ideas, an opportunity to solidify trust in our expertise, and a chance at a solid, exciting product at the end.”

The Capital Times reported something similar.

And by November 27, 2006 I heard this from the superintendent regarding his presentation to the Board: “Change occurs more effectively, when the broad public has something to react to.”

The video presentation for this can be found here

It appears however, that when it comes to high school reform, the public may have little to react to as we move our high schools into the SLC model.

Now I recognize that the driving force may be the reality that there are limited resources for funding improvements to our high schools. This, of course, is in direct relation to a broken public education finance system in Wisconsin. But once the SLC check is presented, who in their right mind will question taking the money or back away from the SLC model?

We will be committed to this model without adequate input from the public for the next few years and we will place this in the lap of a new superintendent.

We will be committed to this model without an accessible, district-wide set of diagnostic and longitudinal benchmark assessments that have been determined to lead to continued academic and/or professional success once our students leave high school.

District SLC Grant - Examining the Data From Earlier Grants, pt. 3

We will be committed to this model without adequate discussion in a public and open format among all members of the community.

We will be committed to this model without ever bringing to light our evaluation of current programs implemented at our high schools now so as to ensure that they are instructionally effective.

I have been told that the high school redesign is an initiative of the administration and was defined by the high school principals, the Assistant Superintendent and the Superintendent. The Board is essentially being told to wait to see what gets reported from this administrative exercise.

Much of what I have learned from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards over the past few years tells me that this should be a decision with broad community input. It is the duty of the Board to set the long-term vision of our high schools of the future first; and then, instruct the administration to make it happen.

My question as a board member is this: Is high school reform in Madison really a blank slate or has it become a black box? Community members, you tell me; I welcome public discussion.

Posted by Maya Cole at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 11, 2007

School Integration Efforts Face Renewed Opposition

Joseph Pereira:

Last spring, town officials in this affluent Boston suburb changed the elementary-school assignments for 38 streets -- and sparked outrage. Some white families had been reassigned to Tucker, a mostly black school which has historically had Milton's lowest test scores.

Among those reassigned is Kevin Keating, a white parent who is talking to lawyers about going to court to reverse the plan. I "just don't feel good putting [my son] in an inferior school," he says. His ammunition: the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling that consideration of race in school assignments is unconstitutional. Without the backing of the Supreme Court, Mr. Keating says his effort wouldn't have "much of a standing."

Five decades ago, federal courts began forcing reluctant districts to use race-based assignments to integrate schools. But in June, a bitterly divided Supreme Court reversed course, concluding that two race-based enrollment plans in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle were unconstitutional. "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," Chief Justice John Roberts declared.

Now, in an era when schools nationwide are becoming increasingly segregated, the ruling is affecting local school districts in ways large and small. Some districts are sidestepping the ruling by replacing measurements of race with household income. But many others, such as Milton, are adjusting their programs in the face of opposition that's been emboldened by the Supreme Court decision.

In Georgia, the Bibb County School District, which encompasses Macon, has decided to abandon a balancing plan between whites and minorities at one of its top magnet schools next year. A broader school-board redistricting plan aimed at promoting integration is facing a host of opposition, including a threat of legal action by a lawyer citing the Supreme Court decision.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:01 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Are Private High Schools Better Academically Than Public High Schools?

Harold Wenglinsky:

This study, based on an analysis of the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988-2000, finds that, once family background characteristics are taken into account, low-income students attending public urban high schools generally performed as well academically as students attending private high schools. The study also found that students attending traditional public high schools were as likely to attend college as those attending private high schools. In addition, the report also finds that young adults who had attended any type of private high school were no more likely to enjoy job satisfaction or to be engaged in civic activities at age 26 than those who had attended traditional public high schools.
Joanne has more.

Greg Toppo has more.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New York's Teacher Transfer Rules

Samuel Freedman:

During my own 20 years of observing and writing about public education in New York, I’ve seen firsthand how exasperatingly difficult it has been for principals to oust abusive, incapable or negligent teachers who are protected by a powerful union. Instead, some principals would privately agree to swap problem teachers in a process known as “trading turkeys.” Others would offer such teachers a positive rating if they used their seniority to transfer to a different school.

The transfer rules were ended in 2005, under an agreement between the city and the teachers’ union. That same accord also slightly streamlined the process of bringing termination cases before an arbitrator. But I’ve also reported on examples of quality teachers persecuted by insecure or dictatorial administrators for being active in the union, speaking to the press or merely having independent views on curriculum. Not every teacher in the rubber room deserves the fate, even if some surely do.

Arbitrators and courts will weigh the evidence in each case. So why are those who have been charged, but not convicted, consigned to places like the eighth-floor room at 333 Seventh Avenue, which seem intended to mete out punishment long before any verdict has been issued?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

UW-Madison: Fall Day on Campus 11/9/2007

Wisconsin Alumni Association:

12:15 p.m. Check-in and Refreshments
Check-in at the Ameritech Lounge, on the first floor of the Pyle Center, just off the lobby. Enjoy some light refreshments.

1:00 p.m. Session I
Henry Kissinger and the American Century
Jeremi Suri, Professor of History
Room 313

The Rise of China as a World Power
Ed Friedman, Professor of Political Science
Room 325

2:00 p.m. Session II
The History of Door County's Peninsula State Park
William H. Tishler, Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture
Room 313

The Private Michelangelo: The Man Behind the Art
Fred Plotkin '78, Alumnus in Residence Program
Room 325

3:00 p.m. Session III
The United Nations: Is Expenditure on Peacekeeping Missions to the Detriment of Development?
Florence Chenoweth, MS'70, Phd'86, Managing Director of the UW Human Rights Initiative; Former Food and Agriculture Office Liaison to the United Nations; past Distinguished Alumni Award Winner
Room 313

Chancellor's Q&A
John Wiley, MS'65, PhD'68, Chancellor, UW-Madison
Room 325

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New research on school choice: Winning isn't everything

Anneliese Dickman:

How many times have you heard of a lucky duck who wins the lottery, just to squander it all and return to his old work-a-day self? I'm sure those guys thought winning the lottery would turn their luck around forever.

Just like education reform proponents who are fond of calling school choice a "panacea" think that winning a voucher or attending a private school automatically results in a better student.

Well, there is new evidence that offering a choice isn't, by itself, going to effect education reform. A newly released study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (authored by Julie Berry Cullen of UC-San Diego and Brian Jacob of the University of Michigan) attempts to focus on the "lottery" effect of school choice by tracking, over time, students who won the ability to choose their Chicago public schools in Kindergarten or first grade. By also following students who did not win, they are able to avoid what is the biggest hurdle to good research on the effect of school choice...non-random selection.

Here in Milwaukee vouchers are not awarded randomly to families. In our city, parents first must find a school, then apply for a voucher seat at that school. Only if there are more applicants than seats will random selection kick in, and even then, the student is only competing against the other students who have chosen that school...they are not in a pool with students choosing other schools. Not a random situation at all. (Which is not to say it isn't in the students' and schools' best interests to operate the program that way, just that it is difficult to research rigorously due to this.)

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

China hones its English accent

Raphael Minder:

Yu Minhong attributes his decision to abandon a teaching career and go into business partly to his wife’s intense nagging.

“Some of my friends were making more money and my wife wanted me to be more successful. She felt that, compared with them, I was a loser,” he says with characteristic candour.

Mr Yu rose to the challenge, founding New Oriental and turning it into China’s biggest private education company, with English-language schools and other learning centres in 34 cities.

In the latest financial year, more than 1m students enrolled, boosting New Oriental’s revenues by 36 per cent to more than Rmb1bn ($136m).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 10, 2007

Analyzing Madison High School's WKCE Scores

"Madtown Chris":

For those folks so enamored of the various suburban "great schools" you should make sure you look at the facts. Specifically, I'm pretty amazed at the relatively poor performance of Waunakee HS. It's down in the 66th percentile statewide. That's not terrible but it's not a super-dooper school either. Contrast it with West HS which is in the 99th percentile statewide and, in fact, the 4th best high school in Wisconsin (according to my analysis, etc, etc)

Anyway for the most part, the high schools do pretty well. I would say anything above 80th percentile statewide is pretty good. Who knew that Wisconsin Heights HS was so good? I don't even know where it is! It got on this list because the district was in the area. It probably helps that they only have something like 95 students in 10th grade.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:38 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Georgia's "Appropriate Education" Financial Definition

Jim Wooten:

The work done by former state representative and school board member Dean Alford and others is groundbreaking. Three efforts are especially striking.

One — important but not all that novel — is to determine precisely how much money is needed to produce an educated child. Final numbers are about a month away, but as a start, the task force concludes that a system should be able to meet the academic needs of an elementary school child for $6,220, plus add-ons for other considerations — special needs, for example. Operation and maintenance of school buildings would add another $600 and transportation another $151.

The second significant contribution goes to the heart of the suits here and elsewhere. That is to identify wealth and tax it appropriately.

“There are probably better ways of measuring wealth than we use now,” said Jeffrey Williams, a consultant to the task force. “We only use property values now.” In the 1950s and early ’60s, he says, some measure of personal income was included. From the ’60s on, it’s been the property tax.

Williams examined 10 local systems spread throughout the state. Some were rich in property and wealth, some poor on both and some low or high on wealth or property.

The Madison School District's current 2007/2008 budget is $339,685,844, or $13,997.27 per student [24,268 students]. The latest MMSD Citizen's budget is worth a look.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:01 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Will AP or IB Really Get You College Credit?

Jay Matthews:

When the young people who run recruited me to moderate the Web site's new "Admissions 101" discussion group, they said it would be a breeze. All I had to do was come up with a few provocative topics each week and stand back. Our readers would be the ones who would make it interesting. I wouldn't have to miss any of my afternoon naps.

As proof of both the staff's honesty, and my decrepitude, take a look at this topic on the discussion group list: "Will AP or IB REALLY get you college credit?" I put it up more than five months ago, on May 22. As of yesterday, it had more than 250 posts and was still going strong. How many of those posts were mine? About five. Some of the discussion group members are irritated by my absence from their intriguing debate, for which I offer a couple of lame excuses below.

What this topic has taught me is that the battle between pro-Advanced Placement and pro-International Baccalaureate people is a bigger deal than I thought it was. AP and IB both offer college-level exams to high school students that can earn credit at many colleges. I consider the argument trivial, like comparing a Mercedes to a BMW. They are both very fine cars; whether you choose one or the other doesn't make much difference.

But I was wrong about the importance of the AP-IB choice to other people. The Admissions 101 debate indicates it is a big deal and is likely to become even more important as IB -- at the moment tiny compared to AP -- continues its rapid growth. The number of people posting on the issue is relatively small, but they are unusually articulate and well-connected advocates for their point of view. As AP and IB continue to increase their influence over the American education system, the argument is going have an impact.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Charting New Courses To Make Subjects Click

Valerie Strauss:

This is Phil-180, also known as "Philosophy & Star Trek."

"It's got a better title than 'Metaphysics, Metaphysics and More Metaphysics,' " Wetzel joked. "But seriously, the show can display the philosophy, doing the job for you in a way that a thousand words can't."

Courses such as the one Wetzel designed, which frequently attract students because they are unconventional, engage students in the learning process better than traditionally conceived classes, educators say. But, they add, there just aren't anywhere near enough of them.

"I think some courses are being designed better today, but to put that in context, that means we've moved from 10 percent to maybe 25 percent," said L. Dee Fink, an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma and an instructional development expert. "There's still a massive percentage of poorly designed courses."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 9, 2007

Singapore & Vietnam to Collaborate in the Training of Education Professionals

Singapore News:

Singapore's National Institute of Education (NIE) and Vietnam's National Institute of Education Management have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set up a centre to train education professionals in Hanoi.

Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Training Professor Dr Nguyen Thien Nhan and Singapore's Education Minister and Second Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam witnessed the signing.

The Centre will focus on leadership training for Vietnam's school principals, professional development for educational administrators and English language training.

Singapore Mathematics & Mathematics Education Academic Group.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:45 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Education system fails black pupils

Gerald Cox:

The reality is that more money and better teachers mean little to a black student if his or her parents do not instill a desire for knowledge and create a context for academic success in the home. To quote Wendell Harris, the education committee chairman of the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP, “We can’t keep making excuses for parents.” Rich school district or not, a child is only as good as the support his or her parents provide.

The number of black students admitted to our university will not substantially increase until black communities and families are unified in a determination to increase it themselves.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:38 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

No Child Left Behind Act faces overhaul, political donnybrook

Zachary Coile

In 2002, two of Congress' liberal Democratic lions - Rep. George Miller of Martinez and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy - stood behind President Bush as he signed the No Child Left Behind Act, a law they promised would shine a bright light on the failures in America's public schools and kick-start reforms.

Five years later, Miller, now chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, is still a believer. But after traveling the country - listening to complaints from parents, teachers, school administrators and governors about the law's testing regime and stiff sanctions - he now admits it needs fixing.

"We've learned a lot, and we shouldn't ignore that evidence," said Miller, who is leading the overhaul of the law in the House, which starts this week. "What we're trying to do in this reauthorization bill is to look for those changes to make this a smarter, fairer, better law."

Reform is coming to No Child Left Behind, but the question is what kind. Teachers unions, which bitterly oppose the law, are pushing to relax its rigid testing rules and penalties. Business groups, eager for better-educated workers, want to see the tough accountability measures preserved or expanded. Many states and local school districts are clamoring for more flexibility in implementing the law, which expires this year.

Miller is seeking a middle ground: He wants to keep the law's requirement of annual tests in reading and math for third- to eighth-graders and 10th-graders, but add other measurements - such as percentage of kids in college-prep classes - to help schools show they are meeting the law's demands to make yearly progress in student achievement.

Posted by Jeff Henriques at 10:15 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Hillsborough, CA:

The's first major venture in the world of K-12 education opened this week at the Nueva School in Hillsborough, CA. Called the Innovation Lab, the project is a 3500 square foot space where students in the K-8 school will develop their design thinking skills. The project cycle was rapid with needfinding in April and May, conceptual prototype in June, and full-scale prototyping at Sweet Hall in July. July's prototype sessions brought 20 kids a week to campus and deeply informed everything from how to brainstorm with 1st graders, to how high to build the tables. The team also conducted a 3-day teacher workshop with Nueva faculty where teachers reported they rediscovered the importance of play and one was quoted as saying, the Innovation Lab, "is not just a space, it's a movement."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Desired Superintendent Characteristics

The Board of Education of the Madison Metropolitan School District, after consulting staff, students, parents and community members, seeks an educational leader who is student-centered and demonstrates the following characteristics:


  • Leadership experience and demonstrated success in a diverse community and school district

  • Leadership experience and demonstrated success in challenging and engaging students at all points along the educational performance continuum

  • Effective communication skills

  • Strong collaborative and visionary leadership skills

  • Unquestioned integrity

  • Excellent organizational and fiscal management skills
Ability to:
  • Deal directly and fairly with faculty, staff, students, parents and community members

  • Be accessible, open-minded and consider all points of view before making decisions

  • Build consensus and support for a shared vision for the future

  • Develop positive working relationships with a wide variety of constituent groups
The individual selected is expected to be highly visible in and engaged with the schools and community. Successful experience as a superintendent or district level administrator in a similar urban environment and school district size is preferred.

Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd. Executive Summary 960K PDF File:

This report summarizes the findings of the Leadership Profile Assessment conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd. (HYA) for the Board of Education of Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). The data contained herein were obtained from reviewing approximately 185 completed Leadership Profile Assessment forms, 220 emailed responses and interviews with approximately 240 persons identified b y the Board, in either individual, focus group or community input settings, on September 19 and 20, 2007. The questionnaire, interviews and focus groups were structured to gather data to assist the Board in detennining the primary characteristics it might seek in its next superintendent of schools. Through this process, the consultants attempted to identify the personal and professional characteristics desired in the superintendent, as well as the skill sets necessary to maintain what constituent groups value and to address current and emerging issues which the District might be facing.

Information obtained through interviews, emails and completed questionnaires reflects similar views from all groups with respect to the multiple strengths of MMSD. Respondents were extremely proud of their District's national recognition for educational excellence. They voiced pride in their students' excellent test scores, the District's exceedingly high number of National Merit Semifinalists and its ability to provide top quality academic programs in an environment of rapidly changing demographics. Given the changes in the socio-economic, racial and ethnic make-up of the student body, residents identified as major strengths the District's commitment to reduce the achievement gap between Caucasian and minority students, its willingness to address issues of diversity and its provision of training in best practices to assist staff in meeting the special needs of a diverse student population.

Respondents also pointed to MMSD' s commitment to neighborhood schools, retention of small class sizes in most elementary schools, rigorous curriculum, support of music programs and the arts, broad range of sports and other extra-curricular activities, high expectations of a well educated parent constituency and its excellent special education program with the focus on the inclusion of students in regular classrooms. Residents cited the strong support for the District by caring, involved parents and by a community that values high academic standards and achievement. Other strengths cited included the District's bright, motivated students and its highly competent, dedicated, hard-working teachers and support staff committed to the success of all students. Building administrators were commended for their dedication, accessibility and innovative leadership in providing programs that reflect the needs of their individual school populations. All respondents cited MMSD's proximity to and partnership with UW-Madison and Edgewood College as invaluable assets.

The over-arching challenge cited by all respondents centered on the MMSD' s future ability to maintain its excellent academic programs and student performance, given the District's insufficient financial resources, significant budget cuts and ever-growing low-income and ELL student populations. These concerns are interrelated and if not addressed successfully could eventually become the self-fulfilling cause of what respondents feared the most: the exodus of a considerable number of high-performing upper/middle class students to private or suburban schools as a "bright flight" mentality overrides parental desire to provide children with a "real world" enviromnent of socio-economic, ethnic and racial diversity.

Concern over the funding issue was expressed in several ways: failure to cut the personnel costs of a "top heavy" central office, more equitable funding of the various schools, state level politics that restrict local access to property taxes and fail to increase state funding, the cost of responding to the arbitrary mandates of t he NCLB law, the future need for a referendum to increase property taxes and a strong teachers' union perceived as placing its salary/benefit issues, restrictions on management prerogatives and undue influence over the Board ahead of the District's interests. The impact of continued budget cuts strikes at the quality and reputation of the educational program, with fear of an erosion of the comprehensive curriculum and after-school activities, reduction in aides who help classroom teachers with ELL and special education students; curtailment of music, fine arts and gifted programs; increases in class size; lack of classroom supplies; postponed maintenance and renovation of aging facilities; need to update technology and the lack of long-range financial planning as the District confronts one financial crisis after another.

Concern over the impact of the changing demographics was also expressed in various ways: fear that the rising cost of responding to the special needs of an increasingly diverse student population and efforts to close the achievement gap will reduce the dollars available to maintain electives and enrichment programs for regular and gifted students; the changing school culture in which gang activity, fights between students, a pervasive lack of respect by students toward authority are perceived as the norm, which in turn generates fear that the schools are no longer as safe as they used to be; the need to provide more relevant programs for the non-college bound students and the need to address the high minority student dropout rate. Concern that students from minority group populations are disproportionately disciplined, suspended and/or expelled was also expressed.

Almost all constituent groups felt that the Board and Administration need to gain the trust of parents and the community through communication that clearly identifies the fiscal issues and the criteria on which funding and budget decisions are based. Many expressed the view that the Board and Administration's lack of transparency in district decision-making and show of disrespect toward those who question administrative proposals have eroded constituent support. A concerted effort by the Board and Administration to become more creative in publicizing the successes of MMSD's outstanding educational opportunities might encourage mor e young upper/middle class families to move into the District and convince others to remain.

Respondents agreed on many of the attributes that would assist a new superintendent in addressing the issues confronting MMSD. They want a student-centered, collaborative educational leader of unquestioned integrity with superior communication, interpersonal and management skills. He/she should have strategic plmming skills and feel comfortable with the involvement of parents, teachers and community members in shaping a vision for the District's future direction. The successful candidate should be a consensus builder who has had experience in meeting the needs of an ethnically and socio-economically diverse student population. He/she should b e sensitive and proactive in addressing diversity issues and a strong advocate of effective programs for ELL and gifted students and of inclusion programs for special education students. The new superintendent should be open to new ideas and encourage staff to take risks with research-based initiatives that engage students in learning and maintain high academic expectations as they work together toward common goals. When confronted with controversial issues, he/she should be willing to seek the views of those affected, examine all options and then make the tough decisions. The new superintendent should have the courage of his/her convictions and support decisions based on what is best for all students

The successful individual should have a firm understanding of fiscal management and budgets, K-12 curriculum and best practice and the importance of technology in the classroom. He/she should be a strong supporter of music, fine arts and after-school activities. The new superintendent should have successful experience dealing collaboratively with a Board and establishing agreement on their respective govemance roles. He/she should have a proven record of recruiting minority staff and hiring competent people who are empowered to strive for excellence and are held accountable.

He/she should b e visible in the school buildings and at school events, enjoy interacting with students and staff, be actively involved in the community and seek opportunities to develop positive working relationships with state and local officials, business and community groups. The individual should be a personable, accessible, open-minded leader who engages staff, students, parents and the community in dialogue, keeps them well informed and responds respectfully to inquiries in a timely, forthright manner.

While it is unlikely tofind a candidate who possesses all of the characteristics desired by respondents, HYA and the Board intend to meet the challenge of finding an individual who possesses many of the skills and character traits required to address the issues described b y the constituent groups. We expect the new superintendent to provide the leadership that inspires trust and unites the community in its support for MMSD's efforts to achieve an even higher level of performance for its students and staff.

Respectfully submitted,

Marvin Edwards
Jim Rickabaugh
Joan Levy

960K Executive Summary.

Posted by Arlene Silveira2 at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Diversity as Normal as Speaking Chinese

&Michael Winerip: At the ripe old age of 3, Sidney Kinsale is in her second year of learning two foreign languages. She attends a preschool here on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays where she learns Chinese. Then on Fridays, she goes to a second preschool in Scotch Plains where she learns Spanish.

“I’m not sure she’ll totally get it all,” says her mother, Carlene, whose college degree is in early childhood studies. “But our hope is she’ll have a love for language and continue Mandarin and Spanish until she’s fluent.”

The Kinsales are not alone. The Mandarin preschool here, Bilingual Buds, has grown to 110 students from 10 in three years. The Scotch Plains school, Little Lingoes, which opened 15 months ago, now serves 50 students, ages 1 to 8, teaching Spanish and Mandarin.

But while the Kinsales are delighted with the language training — Sidney was at a backyard birthday party recently, swinging and counting in Mandarin, when a Chinese-American woman commented on her “perfect” accent — that is not the only reason the parents like the two preschools.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Special school or segregation?

Amy Hetzner:

"Here, he is totally independent," said Witt, whose family moved to LaGrange a year ago. "He just fits, and he's loving that."

Witt's interpretation bumps up against a more traditional definition of special-education law that, for the last three decades, has caused massive changes in how students with disabilities are educated, including the setting where they receive their instruction.

It's that definition, which contends that disabled students should learn alongside non-disabled classmates as often as possible, that has prompted an ongoing lawsuit challenging the future of Lakeland School.

Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, managing attorney for Disability Rights Wisconsin, casts his group's case against the school as a modern-day Brown vs. Board of Education. "Separate is not equal, and it certainly is not better," said Spitzer-Resnick, whose group sued the Walworth County Board of Supervisors to prevent a new, larger home for Lakeland.

Students with disabilities who are taught separately miss the kind of social networking that helps them land jobs and become full members of their communities, Spitzer-Resnick said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A School's Autism Classes

Winnie Hu:

THE teacher held up a laminated card, and 4-year-old Ryan Murphy tried to name the object shown: strawberries, oranges, a pair of pants.

But the lesson did not end there. Every time he got one right, the teacher instructed him to look at her and clap his hands. That was because Ryan and his five classmates have autism or a related disorder in this unusual preschool class at Radcliffe Elementary School and must be taught the social niceties and everyday interactions that come naturally to most other children.

Last month, the 4,000-student district here in Essex County started its first in-house program for autistic children after years of paying for them to be educated at specialized private schools. Nutley has seen a steady increase in autistic students with 27 children this year, about twice the number of children five years ago. In 2006, the district, which has an annual budget of $52.7 million, spent $984,964 on private school tuition and busing for autistic students alone, according to district officials.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 8, 2007

Tough School Propels Inner-City Kids
Charter School's Long Hours Pay Off With Some of the Best Test Scores in the State

Via a reader's email, ABC News:

At age 13, Luis Sanchez's mother kicked him out of the house -- permanently -- for misbehaving.

"She just brought me to court and was just, like, you know, 'I don't want him,'" Luis explains.

The memory hurts. For two weeks he lived on the streets.

A year later, angry and on drugs, he arrived at MATCH in Boston, a high school where school starts at 7:45 a.m. and the day lasts until 5, or even 8 p.m. -- late hours required for any kid falling behind.

MATCH, opened its doors in September 2000, aiming to close the achievement gap by preparing inner-city students not just to get a spot in college, but to succeed in college as well.

Like other charter schools, it is a tuition-free, independent public school. MATCH receives two-thirds of its operating support from the state, and must raise the rest privately.

The school is supported by Boston University, which provides use of athletic facilities and allows students to audit courses, and with other colleges, universities and local businesses.

Students are admitted by blind lottery. Almost all of them are minorities, the majority live in poverty, and most arrive at MATCH well behind in math and reading.

MATCH provides a mix of rigorous rules, demanding academics and regular tutoring. The rules are posted everywhere at MATCH. Principal Jorge Miranda says signs dictate, "everything from the dress code, unexcused absences, tardiness, poor posture in class."

High expectations. One would think, with Madison's abundant intellectual, community and financial resources, that these kinds of opportunities should be available here.

Related, in Philadelphia.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

College Will Change

Paul Graham:

If the best hackers all start their own companies after college instead of getting jobs, that will change what happens in college. Most of these changes will be for the better. I think the experience of college is warped in a bad way by the expectation that afterward you'll be judged by potential employers.

One of the most obvious changes will be in the meaning of "after college," which will change from when one graduates from college to when one leaves it. If you're starting your own company, why do you need a degree? We don't encourage people to start startups during college, among other things because it gives them a socially acceptable excuse for quitting, but the best founders are certainly capable of it. Some of the most successful companies we've funded were started by undergrads.

I grew up in a time where college degrees seemed really important, so I'm alarmed to be saying things like this, but there's nothing magical about a degree. There's nothing that magically changes after you take that last exam. The importance of degrees is due solely to the administrative needs of large organizations. These can certainly affect your life—it's hard to get into grad school, or to get a work visa in the US, without an undergraduate degree—but tests like this will matter less and less.

As well as mattering less whether students get degrees, it will also start to matter less where they go to college. In a startup you're judged by users, and they don't care where you went to college. So in a world of startups, elite universities will play less of a role as gatekeepers. In the US it's a national scandal how easily children of rich parents game college admissions. But the way this problem ultimately gets solved may not be by reforming the universities but by going around them. We in the technology world are used to that sort of solution: you don't beat the incumbents; you redefine the problem to make them irrelevant.

The greatest value of universities is not the brand name or perhaps even the classes so much as the other students you meet there. If it becomes common to start a startup after college, people may start consciously trying to maximize this. Instead of focusing on getting internships with companies they want to work for, students may start to focus on working with other students they want as cofounders.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Should kids be forced to go to school if they don't want to?

San Francisco Chronicle:

Geoff Caldwell,
San Francisco
I believe in the technical school method that the British and French use. Academics are not for all. I have had students who had exceptional skills in what we consider trade skills. They are probably making more money now than I do as a teacher. Fourteen should be the decision age.

Alejandro Macias,
San Francisco
Yes, because education is what allows them to stand out.

Peter Carey, San Bruno
Of course they should. I had to - why not them? The downside of an unhappy child does not outweigh the benefit of an education.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 7, 2007

Spreading Homework Out So Even Parents Have Some

Tina Kelley:

The parents of Damion Frye’s ninth-grade students are spending their evenings this fall doing something they thought they had left behind long ago: homework.

So far, Mr. Frye, an English teacher at Montclair High School, has asked the parents to read and comment on a Franz Kafka story, Section 1 of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and a speech given by Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Their newest assignment is a poem by Saul Williams, a poet, musician and rapper who lives in Los Angeles. The ninth graders complete their assignments during class; the parents are supposed to write their responses on a blog Mr. Frye started online.

If the parents do not comply, Mr. Frye tells them, their child’s grade may suffer — a threat on which he has made good only once in the three years he has been making such assignments.

The point, he said, is to keep parents involved in their children’s ’ education well into high school. Studies have shown that parental involvement improves the quality of the education a student receives, but teenagers seldom invite that involvement. So, Mr. Frye said, he decided to help out.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:54 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Notes on Charter/Voucher Options and Public Schools

Scott Elliott:

The program Friday included a tour of some choice schools in Milwaukee. I’ve done tours like this in other places, including Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Michigan. They are always enlightening. We had one especially inspiring visit to a school called the Milwaukee College Preparatory School.

The school began as a Marva Collins concept school (using the teaching strategies of the famous Chicago educator) and has evolved into a K-8 program that seeks to place its graduates in top high schools in Milwaukee and prep schools around the country.

Principal Robert Rauh is a former teacher in a prep school who wanted to take the high expectations and rich curriculum he was used to into poor neighborhoods and challenge low income kids to achieve.

Joanne Jacobs:
A new study concludes that Milwaukee’s voucher program has improved public schools; another study questions the benefits of competition. says improvements leveled off after a few years.

In a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Public Economics, economist Rajashri Chakrabarti, find that public schools were motivated to improve after 1999, when religious schools were allowed to take vouchers and the public schools lost more money for every student who used a voucher to leave.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:47 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Employers Offer Help On College Admissions

Anne Marie Chaker:

Companies are rolling out a new benefit that aims to alleviate a big source of stress for many middle-aged employees: help getting their kids into college.

A number of employers are inviting former college admissions officers to lecture and offer advice to employees. Some are contracting with outside consulting firms to guide employees through the labyrinth of testing, admissions and financial aid.

This past spring, Boston-based law firm Bingham McCutchen offered its employees access to a college admissions question-and-answer hotline and one-on-one counseling sessions. Last month, Millennium Pharmaceuticals offered a seminar and individual financial-counseling sessions for employees interested in strategies on how to save for college. And accounting firm RSM McGladrey, a unit of H&R Block, has begun offering a Web-based seminar that gives an overview of college-admissions testing.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

When a Child Is Afraid to Eat: Coping With Allergy Anxieties

Sara Schaefer Munoz:

In fourth grade, Brentson Duke went grocery shopping with his mom, and when he saw a sign above the aisle that said "peanut butter," he had a bout of anxiety so severe it set off an asthma attack.

"I tried to talk him through it and said 'words won't hurt,' " says his mother, Laura, a day-care administrator outside Nashville, Tenn. But soon after that incident two years ago, Brentson grew so anxious he wouldn't return to the supermarket, and he begged to skip school. His mom says his pediatrician eventually prescribed Valium to control his frequent panic attacks.

The source of Brentson's anxiety: A couple months before, he had had an allergic reaction to peanuts at school, which made his throat swell and landed him in the emergency room.

As the number of children diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies grows, so does an insidious side effect: the extreme anxiety they can develop around eating, socializing or even a trip to the supermarket. The problems can come after a bad allergic reaction, or simply as children grow old enough to comprehend that their allergy can be fatal.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 6, 2007

SilkRoad Project

Yo Yo Ma and Laura Freid:

The Silk Road Project is a not-for-profit arts, cultural and educational organization founded in 1998 by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who serves as its artistic director, and led by Laura Freid, executive director and CEO. The Project has a vision of connecting the world’s neighborhoods by bringing together artists and audiences around the globe. Inspired by the cultural traditions of the historic Silk Road, the Silk Road Project is a catalyst promoting innovation and learning through the arts.
Curriculum for teachers:
Road Project

Along the Silk Road explores the vast ancient network of cultural, economic, and technological exchange that connected East Asia to the Mediterranean. Students learn how goods, belief systems, art, music, and people traveled across such vast distances, resulting in interdependence among disparate cultures. Yo-Yo Ma has referred to the Silk Road as the “Internet of antiquity,” and by studying this network of trading routes, students not only learn about the historical interconnectedness of people and ideas throughout the world, but also gain a new perspective on contemporary issues of globalization.

Along the Silk Road is a multidisciplinary course of study including materials appropriate for social studies, geography, art and music classes.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Does the Teach for America programme really improve schools?

The Economist:

AS THE 58,000 pupils of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) begin a new school year, their teachers are adjusting to a controversial new boss. Michelle Rhee, a rookie superintendent, is an unusual choice to run one of the worst school systems in America. She is the youngest chancellor ever of DC's public schools and the first non-black to run the system in four decades. But the most interesting aspect of Mayor Adrian Fenty's choice is that Ms Rhee is an alumna of an outfit called Teach for America.

Only about half of Americans growing up in poverty complete high school, and those who do reach only an eighth-grade standard. In an effort to solve that problem, Teach for America (TFA) recruits top college graduates—usually people without teaching qualifications or experience—and asks them to spend two years teaching some of the nation's poorest children. “We need fundamental systemic change and we believe our people can help be a force for that,” says Wendy Kopp, TFA's founder and CEO.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 5, 2007

SAS CEO Blasts Old-School Schooling; The War of Minds

James Goodnight:

But that clear and present danger is not here today. It’s a slowly growing problem that we haven’t really faced up to, that we are rapidly losing our lead in this war for minds. The Cold War is over. The arms race is over. It’s now a mind race.

Countries like China, India, and Korea have invested heavily in education over the last decade. They are now producing more scientists and engineers than we are. It is my concern that as we look to the future, innovation is going to come from the other side of the world.

Lacking a clear and present danger, the American education system is not mobilizing to support science, technology, engineering and math. Today’s generation of kids is the most technology savvy group that this country has ever produced. They are born with an iPod in one hand and a cell phone in another. They’re text messaging, e-mailing, instant messaging. They’re on MySpace, YouTube & Google. They’ve got Nintendo Wiis, Game Boys, Play Stations.

Their world is one of total interactivity. They’re in constant communication with each other, but when they go to school, they are told to leave those “toys” at home. They’re not to be used in school. Instead, the system continues teaching as if these kids belong to the last century, by standing in front of a blackboard.

Education has not changed, and that’s a problem. It was a good system when I came through, but today’s kids have changed, and that’s the part that educators are not realizing. It’s the kids that have changed, and our education system needs to change along with them.

Slashdot discussion.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:04 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Milwaukee's New Teacher Contract Changes the Hiring Process

Alan Borsuk & Sarah Carr:

A tentative teacher contract agreement announced Wednesday for Milwaukee Public Schools would mean the process of hiring teachers would start sooner each spring and operate with more of a welcome mat for people willing to work in high-needs schools or teach subjects in which there are shortages of teachers.

The agreement would change the date by which teachers give notice that they will be retiring or resigning for the next school year from April 1 to March 1 and would allow schools to begin interviewing for openings March 1 instead of May 1.

It also would allow about 40 schools with weak records to interview new applicants for MPS jobs from the start of the interviewing period. Now, only current MPS teachers can be considered in the first round of interviews. Low-performing schools and schools in less-popular neighborhoods say they have trouble attracting job candidates under the current system and are cut off from going outside the system until the summer.

The new contract also would allow any school to interview new applicants for jobs in subjects that are hard to fill - math, science, special education and bilingual instruction - from the start of the hiring process.

Tim Daly, president of The New Teacher Project, praised the changes in the contract, saying that more Milwaukee teachers could now have a say in who their colleagues are.

The Madison School District attempted to change the criteria used when teachers are surplused, transferred or laid off during the most recent negotations with Madison Teachers, Inc - without success:
FURTHER ISSUES: Matthews said another issue that is likely to cause consternation among MTI members during contract negotiations has to do with administration proposals to change the criteria used when teachers are surplused, transferred or laid off.

Matthews said the district is trying to shift the current seniority system to one that relies on the judgment of principals and administrators about where and how teachers should be assigned, and positions allocated.

"We've worked smoothly with the current system for years, and I simply don't understand why this kind of evil proposal is being brought forward," Matthews said. "It's just absurd."

More here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:35 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison Mayor's Perspective on the Schools

Mary Yeater Rathbun:

Bill Clingan will become part of a bridge between the mayor's office and the Madison School District if the City Council confirms Clingan's appointment as the director of its new Economic and Community Development Department.

As Mayor Dave Cieslewicz told the Capital Times editorial Board this week, the city has no real authority over the schools but they are crucial to the city's success in fighting crime and in promoting economic development.

"We need to find the right way to engage with the schools," he said. "Bill Clingan is part of the answer."

Clingan, 53, was a Metropolitan Madison School District board member from 2003 through 2005.

Business relocation decision are based in large part on access to a skilled work force and quality of life issues, Cieslewicz said. Both are related to good schools, he added.
"We shouldn't miss the opportunity presented by a new school district superintendent," Cieslewicz said.

He added he had already met with the consultants who are helping the school district pick a new district superintendent to replace Art Rainwater, who is retiring at the end of this school year. Rainwater has been at the head of Madison's schools since February 1999.

Outgoing School Board member Lawrie Kobza defeated incumbent Bill Clingan in April, 2005 [site history at].

Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has more.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:38 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 4, 2007

US Department of Education Response to Madison's SLC Grant Application

Angela Hernandez-Marshall 971K PDF:

We have completed our review of applications received under the Smaller Learning Communities Program (CFDA 84.215L) [MMSD SLC Application]. The Department received a total of 236 eligible applications in this competition. Of these, 38 were selected for funding. Unfortunately, your application was not selected for funding this year.

Each application received a comprehensive review b y external reviewers who had experience implementing, documenting, or evaluating policies, programs, or practices at the national, state, or district level to improve the academic achievement of public high school students. Panel members included teachers, school, district, and state administrators, technical assistance providers, education researchers and program evaluators. Using the criteria published in the Federal Register notice, three reviewers independently rated each application and documented strengths and weaknesses.

The Department does not return copies of unfunded application to the applicant but we will retain a copy of your application until the end of this calendar year in the event that you wish to discuss it with us. We are enclosing a copy of the reviewers' evaluations and comments, which you may use to strengthen your proposal for future competitions. To that end, please check our website beginning in November 2007 for information about the next Smaller Learning Communities grants competition:

We appreciate the time and thought that went into the planning and preparation of your application. Your ongoing school improvement efforts are critical to improving educational services that will meet the unique needs o f high school students. Again, we do regret that we are unable to support your application and thank you for your effort.

Please forward any further inquiries to me at

The first reviewer noted (page 3) that "(5) As part of the district's strategic planing there is no examination of the successes and weaknesses of previous SLC initiatives (pages 15-16).".

Related, via Jeff Henriques:

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:43 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Analysis of Local Schools & Districts Based on 2007 WKCE Data

Madtown Chris, via email:

The 2007 state testing data is out and I thought I'd take another look. Again I'm looking here at Dane County area schools only compared with each other and state-wide as well. The data you will see only includes non-poor students -- you can read more about why below.

Some Madison Elementary Schools are Tops

As you can see, Madison schools are simultaneously excellent and terrible. The top 8 are MMSD schools as are 6 of the bottom 10. Wow!

Not only does MMSD have top elementary schools in the area but the top 8 are above the 95% percentile statewide. That means those 8 schools are better (with respect to my measurements) than 95% of the other elementary schools in Wisconsin.

Furthermore, MMSD schools Lowell, Randall, and Van Hise are the #1, #2, and #3 elementary schools STATEWIDE. Yes you heard right. According to my ranking those are the 3 best elementary schools in the state for non-poor students.

Of the top 25 schools statewide, 7 are MMSD schools. No other area schools make the top 25.

You might consider moving to one of those attendance areas because these schools and the students in them are really, really good.

Much more on the WKCE here [RSS].

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin's Low State Test Score Standards ("The Proficiency Illusion")

Alan Borsuk:

The study found that "cut scores" - the line between proficient and not proficient - vary widely among the 26 states, casting doubt on the question of what it means when a state says a certain percentage of its students are doing well. Those percentages are central to the way the federal No Child Left Behind education law works.

The law's accountability system, which focuses on things such as whether a school or district is making "adequate yearly progress," is driven largely by how many students meet the standards a state sets for proficiency in reading and math. The goal is that all students, with a handful of exceptions, be proficient by 2014.

"Five years into implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, there is no common understanding of what 'proficiency' means. . . . This suggests that the goal of achieving '100 percent proficiency' has no coherent meaning, either," says a summary of the study, issued by the Washington, D.C.-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

To illustrate the differences among the states, the study's authors gave an example in which a fourth-grader in Wisconsin would be regarded as proficient if the child could correctly answer a fairly simple question involving cats and dogs, while a child in Massachusetts would not be proficient if he or she couldn't answer a formidable question about the meaning of a passage by Leo Tolstoy.

From the Fordham Institute report:
Cats and Dogs vs. Tolstoy

This is a fourth-grade item with a difficulty equivalent to Wisconsin's proficiency cut score (16th percentile).

Which sentence tells a fact, not an opinion?

A. Cats are better than dogs.

B. Cats climb trees better than dogs.

C. Cats are prettier than dogs.

D. Cats have nicer fur than dogs.

This is a fourth-grade item with a difficulty equivalent to Massachusetts' proficiency cut score (65th percentile).

Read the excerpt from "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" by Leo Tolstoy

So Pahom was well contented, and everything would have been right if the neighboring peasants would only not have trespassed on his wheatfields and meadows. He appealed to them most civilly, but they still went on; now the herdsmen would let the village cows stray into his meadows, then horses from the night pasture would get among his corn. Pahom turned them out again and again, and forgave their owners, and for a long time he forbore to prosecute anyone. But at last he lost patience and complained to the District Court.

What is a fact from this passage?

A. Pahom owns a vast amount of land.

B. The peasant's intentions are evil.

C. Pahom is a wealthy man.

D. Pahom complained to the District Court.

Source: Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The correct answers are B for the first item and D for the second.

Fordham Institute Study.

Much more on Wisconsin's Knowledge & Concepts Exam here [RSS], including a recent Madison School Board Performance & Achievement Committee discussion on using WKCE to "Measure Student Performance". Clusty Search on WKCE.

Ian Shapira:

A new study of state achievement tests offers evidence that the No Child Left Behind law's core mission -- to push all students to score well in reading and math -- is undermined by wide variations in how states define a passing score.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:35 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Through a Lens, Darkly

David Margolick:

During the historic 1957 desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, 26-year-old journalist Will Counts took a photograph that gave an iconic face to the passions at the center of the civil-rights movement—two faces, actually: those of 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford on her first day of school, and her most recognizable tormentor, Hazel Bryan. The story of how these two women struggled to reconcile and move on from the event is a remarkable journey through the last half-century of race relations in America.

It was a school night, and Elizabeth Eckford was too excited to sleep. The next morning, September 4, 1957, was her first day of classes, and one last time she ironed the pleated white skirt she'd made for the occasion. It was made of piqué cotton; when she'd run out of material, she'd trimmed it with navy-blue-and-white gingham. Then she put aside her new bobby socks and white buck loafers. Around 7:30 a.m. the following day, she boarded a bus bound for Little Rock Central High School.

Other black schoolchildren were due at Central that historic day, but Elizabeth would be the first to arrive. The world would soon know all about the Little Rock Nine. But when Elizabeth Eckford tried to enter Central, and thereby become the first black student to integrate a major southern high school, she was really the Little Rock One. The painfully shy 15-year-old daughter of a hyper-protective mother reluctant to challenge age-old racial mores, she was the unlikeliest trailblazer of all. But as dramatic as the moment was, it really mattered only because Elizabeth wandered into the path of Will Counts's camera.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

UC Berkeley first to post full lectures to YouTube

Greg Sandoval:

YouTube is now an important teaching tool at UC Berkeley.

The school announced on Wednesday that it has begun posting entire course lectures on the Web's No.1 video-sharing site.

Berkeley officials claimed in a statement that the university is the first to make full course lectures available on YouTube. The school said that over 300 hours of videotaped courses will be available at

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Schools Without Playgrounds

Diane Loupe:

Children’s television show host Fred Rogers understood something that, apparently, Atlanta Public Schools doesn’t.

Rogers, the late host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” said “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning. … They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.”

But the Atlanta public school system doesn’t include playgrounds or playground equipment when it builds elementary schools. Though school system officials told The Sunday Paper that their “no-playground” practice is only that—a practice and not a stated policy—it’s a practice that is taking its toll on children, parents and teachers.

In the city of Atlanta, about 42 percent of property taxes are allocated for the school system. Some of that tax money will go to maintain and fix playground equipment once it’s provided—but it’s parents, not the school system, who have to provide it.

A group of parents in East Atlanta is doing exactly that. On August 10 at 9 p.m., when patrons of the Earl pay an $8 entry fee to hear indie-rockers Deerhunter, the Spooks and Chopper, they will be helping to finance a playground at Burgess-Peterson Academy, an Atlanta public school.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 3, 2007

Update on funding for task forces

From Art Rainwater:

The Math Task Force was not funded by NSF. We have received funding from the University to conduct the Mathematics Evaluation part of the proposal that went to NSF. The rest of the proposal funded a case study of the actual process used by the Task Force we will not conduct that part.

We were notified last week that the Smaller Learning Communities Grant was not funded. We are reviewing the critique from the reviewers with plans to reapply in November.

Posted by Ed Blume at 12:24 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

West High School Homecoming Police Calls

Madison Police Department:

Both of these Police Reports did not include West High's address (30 Ash Street). The incident address can be a factor in reporting school related issues. See the Madison Parents' School Safety Site's Police call data summary from July 2006 to June 2007. NBC 15 also covered these incidents.

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

Mathiak's "concerns" about small learning communities

In response to my open records request to Lucy Mathiak for her records about small learning communities, I received a copy of the following e-mail which she sent to Jim Zellmer on July 6, 2007. I asked Lucy whether she wanted to post it or whether she'd prefer that I post it. Since she didn't respond, here's the memo:

Hi Jim,

This is provided as background only. I am not ready to go public with my concerns - yet. FWIW, tho, this is what I said to administration and the P&A committee:

Thank you for all of the hard work and time that has gone into developing the SLC grant proposal. I understand that this is an important opportunity to bring resources into the district to help focus on high school transitions and achievement.

While I am, in principle, supportive of the idea of SLC's, I confess that I am baffled and disappointed by the proposal that I received for the reasons outlined below. I apologize in advance for what has turned out to be a lengthy iteration of what I view as significant problems in the proposal and in the programs if they are enacted.

In particular, I am deeply concerned that, in the case of East, the proposed plan of action will lead to more confrontation along the lines seen last year over advanced academic programming; I also believe that taken with last year's confrontation and the gross inadequacy of the response to concerns about foreign language programming, this proposal will drive larger number of parents away from East because it underscores the perception that East is no longer a college prep environment. If I had an incoming 9th grade student, I would be among those leaving precisely because of the limp model that is presented in this proposal.
Perhaps that is what you intend. In any case, I see this as a tragic turn that can only erode the strong base of support that has traditionally fostered educational excellence in a diverse environment.

In general, I am concerned that:

The proposal involves ALL students, but is programmatically focused on the marginal and at risk population. While this may be a noble gesture, it leaves high achieving students with nothing to look forward to; it gives parents and students great incentive to turn toward home schooling, private schools, or other means to satisfy hungry minds.

While the proposal documents the serious issues of students at risk, it fails to provide evidence that the SLC's that are being designed will actually change the equation, or that they are even appropriate to the respective schools (with the exception of Memorial).

I wrote much earlier in the high school redesign process, partly in response to concerns raised at East, regarding the lack of ANY interface between the project - redesign OR SLC - and significant stakeholders in post high school success. That includes people involved in gen ed curriculum and admissions in the UW System and MATC, employers, and recent graduates. This is unacceptable.

It is not enough to claim UW-Madison partnership because the School of Ed has signed on. There is a Grand Canyon of difference between what the School of Ed brings to the table (and its ambiguous duality of research agenda and source of information) and what admissions, academic advisors, and faculty/staff/TAs see, if only because School of Ed does not get students until they have completed two years of college with high GPAs. Similarly, where is MATC in the mix? Or Edgewood, or local employers? How can we talk about success after high school if we have no connection to the people best positioned to inform us about what our
graduates need as they enter the post-K12 world?

I am aware that you put great stock in Dr. Gamoran and his research, which appears to be reflected in this model. However, I recall board members asking two years ago (I also asked) that he return and provide guidance on how his model might work in an urban public school system. He has declined to share such insights either publicly or privately, which leads me to believe that he is unable to answer that question.

It is hard to see the difference between the models proposed and glorified extended-period homerooms focused on remedial academics and behavior modification. Is this the best that we can expect for our students?

Finally, I have raised concerns publicly and privately regarding the impostion of the Memorial model on the other four schools. It is easy to tout success when the majority of students enter high school with proficient to advanced skills, and when we don't look too closely at the students who are at risk. We have not seen data-driven evidence that the SLC program works at West, nor have we heard a compelling rationale for its structure. If we are going to apply these models elsewhere, I would like to see more evidence that it is appropriate to do so.

Posted by Ed Blume at 10:17 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Our Schools Must Do Better

Via a reader's email: Bob Hebert:

I asked a high school kid walking along Commonwealth Avenue if he knew who the vice president of the United States was.

He thought for a moment and then said, “No.”

I told him to take a guess.

He thought for another moment, looked at me skeptically, and finally gave up. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t know.”

The latest federal test results showed some improvement in public school math and reading scores, but there is no reason to celebrate these minuscule gains. We need so much more. A four-year college degree is now all but mandatory for building and sustaining a middle-class standard of living in the U.S.

Over the next 20 or 30 years, when today’s children are raising children of their own in an ever more technologically advanced and globalized society, the educational requirements will only grow more rigorous and unforgiving.

A one- or two-point gain in fourth grade test scores here or there is not meaningful in the face of that overarching 21st-century challenge.

What’s needed is a wholesale transformation of the public school system from the broken-down postwar model of the past 50 or 60 years. The U.S. has not yet faced up to the fact that it needs a school system capable of fulfilling the educational needs of children growing up in an era that will be at least as different from the 20th century as the 20th was from the 19th.

“We’re not good at thinking about magnitudes,” said Thomas Kane, a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “We’ve got a bunch of little things that we think are moving in the right direction, but we haven’t stepped back and thought, ‘O.K., how big an improvement are we really talking about?’ ” Professor Kane and I were discussing what he believes are the two areas that have the greatest potential for radically improving the way children are taught in the U.S. Both are being neglected by the education establishment.

Herbert is spot on. The same old, same old (or, "Same Service") strategy at ever larger dollar amounts has clearly run its course.

Herbert's words focus on addressing teacher quality

"Concerned about raising the quality of teachers, states and local school districts have consistently focused on the credentials, rather than the demonstrated effectiveness — or ineffectiveness — of teachers in the classroom."
, and alternative school models:
The second area to be mined for potentially transformative effects is the wide and varied field of alternative school models. We should be rigorously studying those schools that appear to be having the biggest positive effects on student achievement. Are the effects real? If so, what accounts for them?

The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), to cite one example, is a charter school network that has consistently gotten extraordinary academic results from low-income students. It has worked in cities big and small, and in rural areas. Like other successful models, it has adopted a longer school day and places great demands on its teachers and students.

Said Professor Kane: “These alternative models that involve the longer school day and a much more dramatic intervention for kids are promising. If that’s what it takes, then we need to know that, and sooner rather than later.”

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Do Charter Schools Improve Behavior?

Jay Matthews:

More than 1.2 million students are attending more than 4,000 charter schools in 40 states and the District, up from 200,000 students in just 600 charter schools a decade ago. Charters are hot commodities, the public school equivalent of hybrid cars or left-handed relief pitchers. But many people are puzzled why that is so.

Charters are independent public schools that don't have to follow many school district rules. They can usually choose their own curriculums and hire and fire staff without dealing with the teachers union. Those freedoms are enough to win the support of some parents, but most, I think, also want to know what such schools would do for their children.

That is where the allure of charters becomes harder to figure out. Several studies have shown that, on average, they don't raise student achievement more than regular public schools with students of similar backgrounds. Yet many charters, even some with mediocre academic records, get lots of applications. What is going on?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Inconvenient Youths

Ellen Gamerman:

Jim and Robyn Dahlin knew replacing the roof of their home in Greenbrae, Calif., would be expensive. But they hadn't planned to spend an extra $15,000 on solar panels. For that, they have their 8-year-old son, Luke, to thank.

After Luke acted in a school play about global warming, he went on a campaign to get his parents to install the panels. He routinely lectured his dad from the backseat of the minivan about how reducing their energy consumption could help save the planet.

Mr. Dahlin says he put Luke off at first, not wanting to "just give in and sound like a big wet-noodle parent." But after doing more research about the energy savings, he relented. Luke, he says, "is proud that we're trying to do our part."

In households across the country, kids are going after their parents for environmental offenses, from using plastic cups to serving non-grass-fed beef at the dinner table. Many of these kids are getting more explicit messages about becoming eco-warriors at school and from popular books and movies.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Utah Voucher Politics Update

Bob Bernick & Lee Davidson:

Utah's powerful Republican legislative leaders have quietly formed a political issue committee aimed at defeating a referendum on November's ballot that would repeal a private school tuition voucher law passed by the 2007 Legislature.
That is not the only quiet move in the voucher battle. Loopholes in Utah campaign law are also allowing some groups on both sides of the fight to hide exactly who is providing hundreds of thousands of dollars of their funding.

The state's voucher law would provide tuition payments of between $500 to $3,000 per child, based on parents' income, to private schools. An anti-voucher citizen referendum petition drive last spring was successful, and the question of whether to repeal the new law will be on the November ballot.

With anti-voucher sentiment winning in recent public opinion polls in Utah, the GOP legislative leaders decided to take action to "educate citizens" on what the voucher law would really do, said Jeff Hartley, who has been hired by the Informed Voter Project PIC to run the leaders' campaign.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 2, 2007

Have you read “HANDS ON, FEET WET,” a fascinating story about River Crossing Environmental Charter School and its students?

Jen McCoy:

They proclaim to hate textbooks, but River Crossing Environmental School students now have a soft spot for at least one, because they are featured in it.
The "Hands On, Feet Wet," book chronicles the five-year history of the charter school through stories, photographs and a DVD. Publication was made possible through the Department of Public Instruction Charter Schools Dissemination Grant.

"I get very bored when I am sitting at a desk reading a textbook, but here I have something I can look forward to in the morning," said Aaron Christensen, 12. "There is a different way of learning."

The grant, $84,217, was used toward the book and the first phase of a math curriculum, according to Victoria Rydberg, River Crossing teacher. She submitted the grant in December 2005, and by this summer Rydberg was suffering from writer's cramp.

"If I could do it again, I would definitely recruit more help for the DVD and writing. Many of the people who contributed writing did so on a very tight timeline," Rydberg said. "It was a great experience, and I hope that next summer, I can get out on the river and kayak."

Ask Victoria Rydberg, teacher / author, to send you a FREE copy:

Students Like River Crossing

Hands On, Feet Wet


Posted by Senn Brown at 4:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A gifted student on ID'ing giftedness

Amy Hetzner:

In addition to hearing testimony at three public hearings in August, the state Department of Public Instruction also accepted written statements through the end of the last month on its proposed changes to the rule guiding the identification of gifted students in Wisconsin [PDF File].

Tucked among those 16 pages of comments was this perspective (with some editing for space):
“I am a fifteen-year-old home schooled student, and currently a full-time special student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I spent nine years at EAGLE School of Madison, and one year at James Madison Memorial HS (MMSD).

“I also belong to two organizations for gifted students: Cogito ( and Gifted Haven ( Cogito is run by the Center for Talented Youth, an organization sponsored by Johns Hopkins University. It is primarily populated by math- and science-oriented kids and teens who live in the United States, and who participated in a talent search in middle school. Membership is by invitation only. (I am not an active member of the community.)

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:41 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A return to traditional math

Kris Sherman:

Tacoma’s eighth-through-12th-grade algebra, geometry, pre-calculus and calculus students are cracking open new math textbooks worth more than half a million dollars. It’s the fourth math series to be used in the city’s high schools in the last seven years.
“Like everybody else, we’re in a constant quest to find that program that’s going to best work to get kids to standard,” assistant superintendent Michael Power said.

School district officials believe the new curriculum is easier to use, better aligned with local and state standards and gives kids a higher chance at success than previous math program.

“We weren’t getting the growth (in achievement) that we wanted to see,” said secondary math facilitator Patrick Paris. “Our scores at the high school level were relatively flat.”

Administrators realized early this year that the Saxon math program implemented last fall wasn’t working out in the upper grades. They asked a curriculum review team to find a replacement.

The team scrutinized available programs for high school study before settling on the Prentice Hall algebra-geometry-algebra series of texts and Houghton Mifflin pre-calculus and calculus books.

The School Board approved the $530,000 plus tax and shipping purchase Aug. 23.

Saxon math remains in the lower grades, where its back-to-basics approach is credited, in part, with helping raise scores this year.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Autism & Vaccines: An Update

Jeneen Interlandi:

Despite mounting scientific evidence to the contrary, thousands of families still ardently believe that vaccines containing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal are the cause of their children's autism. A study published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine concluding that there is no correlation between thimerosal and neuropsychological development in young children is unlikely to dissuade them. And two articles accompanying the new study, including one that sounds the alarm about a coming onslaught of civil lawsuits against vaccinemakers by autism families, will hardly defuse the emotionally charged issue. Together, the three journal pieces highlight the the tangle of scientific, medical and legal strands underlying one of our most enduring and complicated public-health controversies.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

“U of I, Iowa State Use Student Data to Sell Credit Cards”

Clark Kauffman:

Iowa's two largest public universities are aggressively marketing credit cards to their students as part of an arrangement that generates millions of dollars for the schools' privately run alumni organizations.

Publicly, the University of Iowa and Iowa State University have expressed concern over the debt of their students, many of whom graduate with $25,000 to $30,000 in bills to pay. The schools say they are trying to reduce that debt load.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 1, 2007

Special Education: When Should Taxes Pay Private Tuition?

John Hechinger:

A decade ago, Tom Freston, then a top Viacom Inc. executive, began a legal battle to force New York City to pay for his son's tuition at a Manhattan private school for children with learning disabilities.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments to resolve the central question of the case: Must parents of special-education students give public schools a chance before having taxpayers reimburse them for private-school tuition? How the justices respond will have broad implications for school budgets and the movement toward "mainstreaming," or educating disabled children in regular classrooms. Mr. Freston, pledging to donate any proceeds, has said the fight is about principle, not money.

Under a landmark 1975 special-education law, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school systems must provide a "free appropriate" public education to disabled students. Congress, alarmed that schools were warehousing kids with special needs in poorly equipped classrooms, said that, wherever possible, the children should be placed in the "least restrictive environment" -- often the same classrooms as their nondisabled peers. In 2005, about 54% of special-education students spent 80% or more of the school day in a regular classroom, up from 33% in 1990.

Nonetheless, the act permits parents to seek public financing for private schools if they can establish that the public schools can't meet their children's needs. About 88,000 of the nation's more than six million special-education students are educated in private schools or in private residential facilities at public expense.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:50 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Absent From Class

There are many important variables to consider in evaluating the causes for academic failure or success in the high school classroom. The training of the teacher, the quality of the curriculum, school safety, the availability of books, and so on, are factors studied extensively, and all of them play a part.

But I would argue that the most important variable in student academic achievement is student academic work, including classroom work.

Why do so many of our high school students do so little academic work? Because they can get away with it.

A close study of the academic demands on students in the vast majority of our high school classrooms would disclose, I feel certain, that one of the principal reasons for students’ boredom is that they really have nothing to do but sit still and wait for the bell.

In most classrooms, the chances of a student being called on are slight, and of being called on twice are almost non-existent. If a student is called on and has not done the required reading or other class preparation, most probably the teacher will just call on someone else. There are no real consequences for being unprepared. As a result, many, if not most, students are not contributing in class and that can only deepen their boredom.

By contrast, on the football or soccer field, every player is called on in every practice and in nearly every game. Even for players on the bench, there is a constant possibility that they will be asked to perform at any time. If they don’t know what to do then, the embarrassment and disapproval will be swift and obvious. The same also could be said for high school theater productions, performances of the band or chorus, participation in model United Nations, and most of the students’ other activities.

In extracurricular activities, the student faces a kind of peer pressure to do well that is usually lacking in the classroom. Peers in the classroom may even think it is cool for another student to “get away with” having done no preparation.

This may offer insight into findings from the 2005 Indiana University High School Survey of Student Engagement [2005 Survey PDF] [Clusty | Google Search]. Of the 80,000 students questioned, 49 percent indicated that they did only three to four hours a week of homework, and yet they still reported getting As and Bs. I cannot think of a single high school sport that asks for only three or four hours a week of practice. So little time spent preparing would easily lead to an athletic failure to match the academic failure of so many of our students.

The absence of serious academic demands on the attention and effort of students in our high school classrooms results not only in boredom and daydreaming, but allows students to spend, according to the 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation study, an average of 6.3 hours a day (44.5 hours a week) with various electronic entertainment media—not homework on the computer—but entertainment.

Somehow, in addition to all that time spent entertaining themselves, high school students usually find time for an active social life, perhaps a job, and often sports or other student activities.

While we have lots of research studies on test results, teacher training, per-pupil expenditures, new curricula, professional workshops, and a host of other educational topics, I believe there is a striking need for close study of what students actually are being asked to do while they are in class. The remarkable fact to me is not that our high school dropout rate is so high, but that so little is being asked of those who do not drop out.

We sometimes claim that if only the teacher is brilliant or entertaining enough, boredom can be banished, or if we show enough movies, PowerPoint presentations and DVDs on “relevant” subject matter, the students will not sleep in class, either with their eyes open or closed. But imagine how absurd it would be to expect students to stay committed to a sport where they spent all their time sitting in the stands while the coach told wonderful stories, showed great movies and talked amusingly about her/his personal athletic history. The students come to play, as they should, and their motivation to participate is rewarded by their chance to participate, often with sweat, strain, and even potential injury.

When we make so few demands on students in the classroom we should not wonder why so many check out, and are really “absent from class,” whether they are sitting there or not. If they have nothing to do, and nothing is asked of them, and they are not challenged academically, then really they are better off if their attention and their minds are on other things that may offer them greater rewards than sitting still and doing nothing.

The education research community should consider undertaking studies that compare the academic demands on students in the typical high school classroom with those that students face in the other activities in which they take part.

Let’s try to discover high school classrooms that resemble those in law schools or business schools, where students are expected to be prepared each day and are at risk of being called on to demonstrate that readiness at a moment’s notice, as they are in the high school games and matches in which their energy and commitment are so commonly understood to be essential.

If we want our high school students to do more academic work, let’s try to figure out how to stop boring and ignoring them in our classes. Let’s give them better reasons not to be “absent from class.”

Will Fitzhugh is the founder and president of The Concord Review, a unique international journal of academic writing by high school students, and the National Writing Board, both located in Sudbury, Massachusetts [;]

Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 9:13 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Editorial: A rather dismal first

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:

Scores on a national test amounted to a punch in the stomach for Wisconsin. Black fourth- and eighth-graders did worse in Wisconsin in reading than in any other state in the nation. What's more, nowhere else was the gap in scores between those two groups as wide as it was here.

Such bleak results are not new, and efforts to close the gap here have been intense. Yet they have yielded the same dismal outcome.

Wisconsin's future hinges on the extent to which today's kids become contributing members of society. The reading scores must serve as a rallying cry to step up the efforts - and change methods, if necessary - to improve the children's reading abilities.

But government, business, non-profit groups, churches and the black community itself must do a better job of alleviating the poverty at the root of this problem.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Family Wins Suit for Autistic Son's Health Care

NPR (Larry Abramson):

Two years ago, Jacob Micheletti was diagnosed with autism.

His parents say Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has transformed their son from a boy who was retreating into darkness into a precocious, gregarious kid.

Jake's father, Joe Micheletti, who works for the state of New Jersey, assumed the family's insurance company would cover the treatment costs. They were not, which came as a shock, Micheletti said. So he took the case to the state's highest court — facing off with fellow co-workers along the way — and won.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Against School: How Public Education Cripples our Kids, and Why

John Taylor Gatto:

How do we educate our children to be active, critical thinkers and not dumb passive consumers serving someone else interests? For however strange this may sound to you, it may have been "marketing" itself to bring us the terrible education system most civilized countries have adopted in the last century or so.

"The advent of mass production required a growth in mass consumption as well, but back then most people "considered it both unnatural and unwise to buy things they didn't actually need".

"We don't need Karl Marx's conception of a grand warfare between the classes to see that it is in the interest of complex management, economic or political, to dumb people down, to demoralize them, to divide them from one another, and to discard them if they don't conform.

Mandatory schooling was a godsend on that count. School didn't have to train kids in any direct sense to think they should consume nonstop, because it did something even better: it encouraged them not to think at all. "

Non-sense, paranoia?

Prof. Cubberley, who was Dean of Stanford's School of Education, wrote in his 1922 book entitled Public School Administration: "Our schools are . . . factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned.. . . And it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down."

The essay I present here today, "Against School" by John Taylor Gatto, is a definitive eye-opener for all those buying into our present education system without any critical perspective.

"We have become a nation of children, happy to surrender our judgments and our wills to political exhortations and commercial blandishments that would insult actual adults. We buy televisions, and then we buy the things we see on the television. We buy computers, and then we buy the things we see on the computer.


And, worst of all, we don't bat an eye when Ari Fleischer tells us to "be careful what you say", even if we remember having been told somewhere back in school that America is the land of the free. We simply buy that one too. Our schooling, as intended, has seen to it."

This is what Prof. Gatto writes without hesitation. He looks in depth at our present education system and analyzes the history and motives that have brought about "school" as we know it today.

And the more I look at it, the more I see how devastatingly negative, traditional school really is. As I have, if you are a parent to some young minds, consider well and deeply where and how to give them an education, and how to avoid the pitfalls of those paralyzing psychological handicaps that the traditional education system imposes on everyone.

"School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently. "

Read this fascinating essay in full:

Against School: How Public Education Cripples our Kids, and Why:
I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time I became an expert in boredom.

Boredom was everywhere in my world, and if you asked the kids, as I often did, why they felt so bored, they always gave the same answers: They said the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it. They said they wanted to be doing something real, not just sitting around. They said teachers didn't seem to know much about their subjects and clearly weren't interested in learning more. And the kids were right: their teachers were every bit as bored as they were.

Boredom is the common condition of schoolteachers, and anyone who has spent time in a teachers' lounge can vouch for the low energy, the whining, the dispirited attitudes, to be found there.

When asked why they feel bored, the teachers tend to blame the kids, as you might expect. Who wouldn't get bored teaching students who are rude and interested only in grades? If even that.

Of course, teachers are themselves products of the same twelve-year compulsory school programs that so thoroughly bore their students, and as school personnel they are trapped inside structures even more rigid than those imposed upon the children.

Every parent should take some time to read their children's textbooks, particularly Connected Math, which appears to take a more consumer oriented approach to math education.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas