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January 31, 2008

People Making A Difference: Connie Ferris Bailey


Nationally, about half a million teens drop out of school every year. Without a diploma, many can't find work, some end up in jail.

A Madison-based charity gives troubled teens hope for a better future.

Connie Ferris Bailey is the executive director of "Operation Fresh Start". The local charity strives to keep teens in school, employed and out of trouble.

In 37 years, 7,000 young people helped build 190 affordable homes in Dane County.

Typically, these young adults come from low-income families, struggle with school, and may have a criminal record.

Teens commit to at least 900 hours of paid work. They also receive a minimum of $2,365 for college.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:19 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Brave new world for Chicago schools

Kayce Ataiyero & Carlos Sadovi:

No school district in the nation has yet managed what Chicago officials proposed last week: a sweeping, simultaneous overhaul of a cluster of failing schools.

Experts say the plan to fire the staffs of eight schools and replace them with better qualified educators is somewhat of a gamble, one that will require an almost perfect alignment of stellar principals, committed teachers and re-invigorated curriculum and programs to succeed.

But that's no guarantee.

"No one knows if turnarounds work," said Andrew Calkins of the Mass Insight Education and Research Institute. "We spent two years looking at turnarounds and could not find a single example of turnaround work that was successful and sustained and done on scale, not just one school."

As Chicago parents began to digest the proposal first reported in the Tribune on Thursday, many seemed willing to roll the dice -- in part, an acknowledgment that even partial success is better than what their children face now.

Fara Bell, a Morton Career Academy parent, said turning around both Orr High School and Morton, an elementary school that feeds into it, is the only way to guarantee wholesale change.

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A Tough Choice For LA Teachers

Alan Warhaftig:

As an urban high school teacher, I'm ceded the moral high ground in most encounters with people in more highly compensated fields; invariably, they tell me how much they admire what I do. Although they rarely say so explicitly, they regard my work -- the students -- as difficult and cannot imagine themselves in my shoes, just as I can't imagine rushing into burning buildings as a firefighter.

These same people frequently characterize my employer, the Los Angeles Unified School District, as an unmanageable failure. There's some truth in that, but our schools' mission is far more difficult than critics understand. If it were easy to educate children raised near or below the poverty line, most from homes in which English is not spoken, then L.A.'s public schools would produce better results.

Still, despite its shortcomings, I feel a deep affinity with the district, in whose schools I was educated. I feel far less connection to United Teachers Los Angeles, which represented my father before me and to which I pay nearly $700 a year in dues. Cynics say UTLA is the union that the LAUSD deserves -- ineffective and one-dimensional -- and they're not wrong.

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A Look at Maryland Test Scores after a Significant Increase in Spending

Liz Bowie:

A record $3.3 billion in new local and state school spending during the past five years largely has gone toward the hiring of new teachers, raising salaries and lowering the ratio of students to teachers, according to a new report to the Maryland General Assembly.

At the same time, the number of students passing state reading and math tests has increased in every county.

Those increases have been significant even for minority and special-education students and particularly for students learning English for the first time.

The 2002 legislation behind these increases, known in education circles as Thornton, increased state and local education funding by nearly 50 percent and was designed in part to even the playing field between wealthy and poor school systems.

MGT of America was hired through a $2 million, three-year Maryland State Department of Education contract to find out where all the new money was going and whether it was making a difference. The report released yesterday at the state school board meeting was interim.


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January 30, 2008

We're Failing Our Kids

Garrison Keillor:

Reading is the key to everything. Teaching children to read is a fundamental moral obligation of the society. That 27 percent are at serious risk of crippling illiteracy is an outrageous scandal.

This is a bleak picture for an old Democrat. Face it, the schools are not run by Republican oligarchs in top hats and spats but by perfectly nice, caring, sharing people, with a smattering of yoga/raga/tofu/mojo/mantra folks like my old confreres. Nice people are failing these kids, but when they are called on it, they get very huffy. When the grand poobah Ph.D.s of education stand up and blow, they speak with great confidence about theories of teaching, and considering the test results, the bums ought to be thrown out.

There is much evidence that teaching phonics really works, especially with kids with learning disabilities, a growing constituency. But because phonics is associated with behaviorism and with conservatives, and because the Current Occupant has spoken on the subject, my fellow liberals are opposed.

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Denver School Seeks Freedom From District & Union Rules

Jeremy Meyer:

Teachers at a school in northeast Denver seeking freedom from union and district rules will move forward with their autonomy plan, despite failing to get wholesale approval from their union.

Teachers and administrators at Bruce Randolph School want control over the school's budget, teacher time, incentives and hiring decisions and to be free from union and district red tape that they say is impeding student progress.

Denver's school board last month agreed to the Bruce Randolph autonomy proposal, but the teachers union balked Tuesday at permitting much of the school's request — which sought waivers from 18 articles of the union contract and parts of six other articles.

Joanne has more information. Los Angeles recently set a few schools "free" as well.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:56 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

1/28/2008 Charter School Policy & Youth Options Discussion

Madison School Board: Performance & Achievement Committee Video.

The Long Range Planning Committee also met and discussed the proposed west side boundary changes (video). More on the boundary changes here.

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Why Arts Education Matters

Stephanie Perrin:

or years, we have watched arts classes give way to the seemingly more “practical” courses that politicians and policymakers assume have a direct link to professional and economic success. But in an increasingly globalized economy, one in which an ability to innovate and to imagine new possibilities is critical to America’s ability to compete, we still train our young people very narrowly to work in an industrialized society.

As the country contemplates reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, political and policy leaders must recognize that an education in and through the arts, as a central part of a total school program, allows schools to better address these challenges than a curriculum that defines success as aptitude in literacy and math only.

A recent study from the Center on Education Policy [3.1MB PDF] indicates that the No Child Left Behind law, with its limited focus on standardized-test scores, has led, over the last six years, to a 16 percent decline in the time devoted to art and music instruction in public schools. Some may view this as unfortunate but necessary. But the loss of the arts, and all that is learned through participation in the arts, severely limits the kinds of skills and capacities children develop in school. In a word, students are learning less, and what they are learning is only part of what is needed to build a strong workforce and a vibrant citizenry.

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

January 29, 2008

Bad Parents Don't Make Bad Schools

Jay Matthews:

A Washington Post poll this month revealed, once again, that D.C. residents put the most blame for their failing public schools on apathetic and uninvolved parents. Many Americans feel the same way about the same school troubles in their areas. They are wrong, but in such a convoluted way that it is difficult for us parents to get a good grasp on what role we play in making our schools bad or good.

Do unsupportive parents create pathetic schools or do pathetic schools create unsupportive parents? It is the most frustrating of chicken-and-egg questions. Many education experts will say it is a bit of both, but that's a cop-out. Most of our worst schools are full of low-income children in our biggest cities. No one has yet found a way to revive those schools in any significant way by training the students' parents to be more engaged with their children's educations. It is too hard to do and too unlikely to have much impact on the chaotic school district leadership.

What has worked, again and again, is the opposite: Bring an energetic and focused leader into the school, let that person recruit and train good teachers and find ways to get rid of those who resist making the necessary changes. Great teaching makes great schools, and once you have a good school, parents become engaged and active.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:51 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Notes and Links on Madison's New Superintendent: Daniel Nerad

Andy Hall:

"Certainly I feel excitement about this possibility, but I also want you to know that this has not been an easy process for me, " Nerad told reporters Monday night at a Green Bay School Board meeting as he confirmed he was ending a 32-year career in the district where his two children grew up.

"My hope is that I have been able to contribute to the well-being of children in this community -- first and foremost, regardless of what the role is. "

Nerad conditionally accepted the position Monday, pending a final background check, successful contract negotiations and a visit by a delegation from the Madison School Board, President Arlene Silveira said at a news conference in Madison.

Susan Troller:
Green Bay schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad has been chosen to succeed Art Rainwater as head of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

School Board President Arlene Silveira said Monday night that Nerad, 56, was the board's unanimous top choice. She said they offered him the job on Saturday, following board interviews with finalists last week and deliberations on Saturday morning.

Silveira said Nerad asked the board to delay announcing its choice until he was able to meet with members of the Green Bay School Board Monday at 6 p.m. Silveira made the announcement at 7 p.m. in Madison.

"This is a very, very exciting choice for the district, and for the Board," Silveira said.

"Dr. Nerad overwhelmingly met every one of the desired superintendent characteristics that helped guide the hiring process," she added.

Kelly McBride:
Many of Nerad's challenges as Madison schools chief will mirror those he has faced in Green Bay, Silveira said, including changing student demographics and working within the confines of the current state funding formula.

Both the Green Bay and Madison school districts are members of the Minority Student Achievement Network, a nationwide coalition of schools dedicated to ensuring high academic achievement for students of color.

Network membership is one way Nerad and Rainwater became acquainted, Rainwater said in an interview earlier this month.

Nerad said Monday he regrets that more progress hasn't been made in advancing the achievement of minority students during his tenure. But he believes it will happen, he said.

The next head of the Green Bay schools also will inherit the aftermath of a failed 2007 referendum for a fifth district high school and other projects.

A community-based task force charged with next steps has been working since summer, and its work will continue regardless of who's at the helm, School Board vice president and task force member Katie Maloney said Monday.

Still, Maloney said it won't be easy to see him go.

Audio, video, notes and links on Daniel Nerad's recent Madison public appearance.

I wish Dan well in what will certainly be an interesting, challenging and stimulating next few years. Thanks also to the Madison School Board for making it happen.

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

Author Reinvents Science Textbooks as Lively, Fun Narratives

Valerie Strauss:

To middle school teacher Chad Pavlekovich, most science textbooks are dull and lack the context students need to understand scientific principles. That's why he is exposing students in the town of Salisbury on Maryland's Eastern Shore to three new textbooks that are unorthodox in concept, appearance and substance.

The "Story of Science" series by Joy Hakim tells the history of science with wit, narrative depth and research, all vetted by specialists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The first book is "Aristotle Leads the Way," the second is "Newton at the Center" and the third is "Einstein Adds a New Dimension." The series, which has drawn acclaim, chronicles not only great discoveries but also the scientists who made them.

"These books humanize science," Pavlekovich said.

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Have Kid, Will Travel: Meet the parents who still like trips

Janis Cooke Newman,Bonnie Wach:

This week the Travel Section kicks off a monthly column dedicated to the idea that just because you've become a parent, it doesn't mean you have to become an armchair (or playground-bench) traveler.

The column will be written alternately by two moms who've refused to let babylust sublimate wanderlust: Bonnie Wach, former editor of Where Magazine, travel book author and a regular contributor to the Chronicle and; and Janis Cooke Newman, a frequent contributor to these pages, as well as to the travel sections of the Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News and the Miami Herald. For this first column, Bonnie and Janis write about why - despite the fact that neither can afford to employ Brangelina's nanny staff - they believe in the credo "Have Kid, Will Travel."

Bonnie: Ten minutes into a six-hour flight across the country, with my infant son shrieking in my ear as he yanked the hair of my elderly seatmate and stomped cheerfully on my husband's loins, the words of those sage philosophers, Johnson & Johnson, became painfully prescient: Having a baby changes everything. Especially the part of everything that involved me thinking that kids under 2 in their parents' laps for six hours constitutes a "free" ride.

It occurred to me suddenly that I was anchored to a wailing little ball of carry-on luggage, and that my grand notions of not letting a child get in the way of my travel plans was absurd.

We managed to weather that first bout of turbulence through the good graces of Ernest & Julio Gallo and my seat neighbor's mercifully defective hearing-aid battery, and when I got home, I considered my options: Obviously, I couldn't give up my child, but as a journalist who has dedicated a good part of her career to writing about travel, I was also not willing to give up my traveling.

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Yale Lecturer Advises: Flush the Prozac and Hack Your Own Happiness

Josh McHugh:

Sometime in the 1990s, the concept of better living through chemistry turned a corner, thanks to drug companies' efforts to synthesize antidotes for every possible mood swing. So writes Yale lecturer Charles Barber in his new book, Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation. An OCD sufferer himself, Barber spent a decade working in places like New York City's Bellevue Hospital. He knew something was wrong when he discovered that his colleagues' perfectly functional, $300-an-hour Upper West Side clients were taking the same potent pills as his own schizoid, homeless, crackhead patients. "I would spend part of the day in shelters dealing with seriously ill people," Barber says. "Then I'd go to cocktail parties and find out that the people there were on the same medications." He proposes that we just say no to multinational drug peddlers and heal ourselves with cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies — "talk therapy" techniques that minimize pill pushing, dispense with Freudian dream analysis, and engage patients in actively reprogramming their own brains. It's like "a highly selective carpentry of the soul," Barber writes — therapy as self-engineering.

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

January 28, 2008

More on Madison West Side Boundary Changes


Parents on the west side are speaking out about proposed plans that would change school boundaries for more than 100 children.

The Madison School Board drew up four possible plans that would affect students attending Falk, Stephens and Crestwood elementary schools, and all possibilities drew a lot of criticism.

The school board said their "plan A" would divide 151 students living in the Valley Ridge neighborhood between Crestwood and Falk elementary schools. That plan, released in December, garnered strong opposition, leading the board to propose three new plans.

Their "plan B" would call for Valley Ridge students to stay at Stephens Elementary and move students from other neighborhoods, including Spring Harbor and Junction Road.

Their "plan C" calls for the pairing of Stephens and Crestwood schools and "plan D" would call for Crestwood and Falk pairing up.

School board officials said if any of the schools were paired, students would attend one school from kindergarten through second grade, and then move to the other school for grades three through five.

Much more, here.

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Nerad Selected As Madison School District's New Superintendent


Green Bay school superintendent Daniel Nerad has been chosen to become the Madison school district's next superintendent.

The Madison Metropolitan School District's Board of Education announced on Monday night that it unanimously selected Nerad as the new superintendent. Nerad has conditionally accepted, pending a final background check, contract negotiations and a site visit by a board delegation, according to a district news release.

Nerad is currently the superintendent of the Green Bay Area Public School District.

Nerad will replace current Superintendent Art Rainwater, who turned 65 on New Year's Day, and is scheduled to retire on June 30. Nerad is scheduled to take over on July 1.

A Madison School District spokesman said school board members voted unanimously to select Green Bay Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad as the next superintendent of Madison's public schools.

District spokesman Ken Syke said Nerad has conditionally accepted the position, pending a background check, contract negotiations and a site visit to Green Bay by a delegation from the school board.

The offer to Nerad was reported exclusively by, hours before the school district spokesman's announcement.

School Board members had identified Nerad, Miami-Dade Public Schools administrator Steve Gallon, and Boston Public Schools Budget Director James McIntyre as the three finalists for the position.

Nerad, 56, is a Wisconsin native who was named state superintendent of the year in 2006.

Kelly McBride:
The Madison Metropolitan School District has chosen Green Bay school superintendent Daniel Nerad to be its next superintendent.

Madison School Board president Arlene Silveira made the announcement tonight during a 7 p.m. news conference in Madison, saying Nerad was a unanimous choice for the job.

Nerad, 56, who has almost 33 years experience with the Green Bay district, would replace retiring Madison superintendent Art Rainwater. He is expected to begin work in Madison on July 1. Rainwater retires June 30.

Nerad has been superintendent in Green Bay since 2001.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:08 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Gallon drops out of Madison superintendent race

Andy Hall, via a reader's email:

high-ranking Miami-Dade Public Schools official says he withdrew his candidacy to become superintendent of the Madison School District, leaving just two educators from Green Bay and Boston in the running to head Wisconsin's second-largest school district.

"My withdrawal is in no fashion any reflection on the people of Madison or the school district," Steve Gallon III, who oversees Miami-Dade's alternative education schools and programs, said Monday afternoon.

Gallon said he believes the School Board was notified of his decision before it began its deliberations Saturday to name its top pick to succeed Superintendent Art Rainwater, who is retiring on June 30.

Gallon, a Miami native, said "people in Wisconsin were great" last week during his visit. He said it would be "presumptuous" of him to discuss his reasons for stepping aside, and Board President Arlene Silveira "would be a better position to share" the details.

Silveira said according to the school board's consultant Gallon took another superintendent's job.

Related: WKOW-TV report on the MMSD's offer to Dan Nerad.

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Green Bay Superintendent Offered Madison Position


Two sources close to the process of selecting a new Madison Schools Superintendent tell 27 News the position has been offered to Green Bay School District Superintendent Daniel Nerad.

Green Bay School District spokesperson Amanda Brooker told 27 News Nerad, 56, would not comment Monday on the selection process.

Madison School Board President Arlene Silviera also declined comment.

School Board members had identified Nerad, Miami-Dade Public Schools administrator Steve Gallon, and Boston Public Schools Budget Director James McIntyre as the three finalists for the position.

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Middle School Report Cards Future?

I just received an e-mail from a parent stating the Middle School report cards are converting to the elementary format of 1 - 4 and they are dropping the A - F grading system. She spoke to Lisa Wachtel, Head of Teaching and Learning to confirm that this is the direction the district is headed.

DO any of you have any info on this? They claim it is on the website but other than the Standards Base System info, which is pretty general I can not locate this info. This greatly concerns me if it is true.

Related: Can We Talk 3: 3rd Quarter Report Cards.

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Educating Teen Parents; Keeping Them In School


It's difficult to juggle homework and parenthood. More than 6,000 Wisconsin teens gave birth in 2006. Nationally, about half of teenagers who get pregnant will drop out of school.

Teen moms in Madison have another option.

The School Age Parent Program or SAPAR was founded almost four decades ago to help teen moms stay in school.

The full-day program allows teen moms to successfully juggle class, doctor's appointments and motherhood.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Texas School District Challenges State "Robin Hood" Finance System

Terrance Stutz:

Protests from this small school district nestled in the Texas Hill Country are reverberating across the state's school finance landscape.

School board members – backed by parents and local business owners – have decided to say "no" when their payment comes due next month under the state's "Robin Hood" school funding law.

Wimberley is one of more than 160 high-wealth school districts – including several in the Dallas area – that are required to share their property tax revenue with other districts. But residents here insist that their students will suffer if they turn the money over to the state.

"We're not going to pay it," said Gary Pigg, vice president of the Wimberley school board and a small-business owner. "Our teachers are some of the lowest-paid in the area. Our buildings need massive repairs. We keep running a deficit – and they still want us to give money away.

"It's unconstitutional – and I'm ready to go to jail if I have to."

Mr. Pigg and the rest of the Wimberley school board voted last fall to withhold the payment of an estimated $3.1 million in local property taxes – one-sixth of the district's total revenue – that was supposed to be sent to the state under the share-the-wealth school finance law passed in 1993. The law was passed in response to a series of court orders calling for equalized funding among school districts.

Wisconsin's school finance system takes a similar approach: High property assessement values reduce state aids. Unlike Texas, Wisconsin simply redistributes fewer state tax dollars to Districts with "high" property values, such as Madison. Texas requires Districts to send some of their property tax receipts to the state to be redistributed to other districts. School finance has many complicated aspects, one of which is a "Robin Hood" like provision. Another is "Negative Aid": If Madison increases spending via referendums, it loses state aid. This situation is referenced in the article:
Regarding the possibility of a tax hike, Mr. York noted that an increase would require voter approval – something that is not likely to happen with residents knowing that a big chunk of their money will be taken by the state.

One of the many ironies in our school finance system is that there is an incentive to grow the tax base, or the annual assessment increases. The politicians can then point to the flat or small growth in the mill rate, rather than the growth in the total tax burden.

Finally, those who strongly advocate for changes in Wisconsin's school finance system must be ready for unintended consequences, such as reduced funding for "rich" districts, like Madison. Madison's spending has increased at an average rate of 5.25% over the past 20 years, while enrollment has remained essentially flat (though the student population has changed).

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

School For Autistic Children Raising $250,000 For Operational Costs


WISC-TV first told the story of Common Threads back in October when the school opened.
Common Threads is a place where children can learn to overcome some of the communications challenges of autism.

It also provides support and services for families who aren't able to get it anywhere else.
"I don't know what else we'd do," said mother Krysia Braun. "Honestly I'd probably have to go to preschool with him in order to make sure that he was getting the most out of it. If you're going to spend money to go to private school, the kids need the support, and we find it at Common Threads"
On Sunday, the school held a fundraiser hoping to raise the $250,000 needed for the school's operational costs.

"It's necessary to help with our operating expenses during the first year of startup," said Common Threads executive director Jackie Moen. "We are assimilating the children in slowly so they are fully supported and then they feel comfortable and understood and then we'll bring in perhaps one to two children a week."

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Nuestro Mundo's Principal Leaving School

Wisconsin State Journal:

Nuestro Mundo Principal Gary Zehrbach, who has headed the Madison School District's only English-Spanish charter school since its opening in 2004, is leaving his post at the end of this school year.

District officials hope to name his replacement in April.

"It has been a very difficult decision to make, and yet the time has come for me to return to Arizona to be closer to my family," Zehrbach said Tuesday in a letter to parents.

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Bill Strickland: Rebuilding America, one slide show at a time


With subtle accompaniment by longtime friend Herbie Hancock, and a slide show that has opened the minds (and pocketbooks) of CEOs across the country, Bill Strickland tells a quiet and astonishing tale of redemption through arts, music and unlikely partnerships.

Why you should listen to him:

Bill Strickland's journey from at-risk youth to 1996 MacArthur 'genius' grant recipient would be remarkable in itself, if it were not overshadowed by the staggering breadth of his vision. While moonlighting as an airline pilot, Strickland founded Manchester Bidwell, a world-class institute in his native Pittsburgh devoted to vocational instruction in partnership with big business- and, almost incidentally, home to a Grammy winning record label and a world class jazz performance series. Yet its emphasis on the arts is no accident, as it embodies Strickland's conviction that an atmosphere of high culture and respect will enervate even the most troubled students.

With job placement rates that rival most universities, Manchester Bidwell's success has attracted the attention of everyone from George Bush, Sr. (who appointed Strickland to a six year term on the board of the NEA) to Fred Rogers (who invited Strickland to demonstrate pot throwing on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood). And though cumbersome slide trays have been replaced by PowerPoint, the inspirational power of his speeches and slide shows are the stuff of lecture circuit legend.

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

The Boy in The Window

Jane Hammons:

By the end of the 2007 school year, he had grown faint. The wide toothy smile and copper-colored skin less defined, the baseball cap diminishing into the background of the poster-sized photograph. Dead for more than a year, Juan Carlos Ramos greets everyone from the window at the corner of Portland and Masonic streets in Albany. As August rolled around and parents began buying new backpacks and school supplies, readying their children for the 2007 school year, the family of Juan Carlos Ramos looked for a new picture to replace the one from which he had begun to fade. In September mylar balloons floated from the railing in front of the window and a colorful Feliz Cumpleaños banner hung across the window celebrating the birth of a young man who will never grow older, who will always be 19.

News of the February 2006 stabbing at the unsupervised party held by an Albany High School student at her parents' home in the Berkeley Hills arrived on Saturday, a day after the stabbing. Ron Rosenbaum, then principal of Albany High School, sent an e-mail to the AHS e-tree that described in very general terms what had happened. At the time, my older son was a junior at AHS. He was on a camping trip with the Student Conservation Association, a group he volunteers with. When he returned on Sunday, I talked with both of my sons, the youngest a ninth-grader, telling them what had happened, asking them if they knew either Juan Carlos Ramos or the Oppelt children who had held the party. The answer was no to both.

They were not interested in discussing the event in any length, and I had little information. But I reminded them that if they were ever to find themselves in a similar situation that they had an obligation to call 911, whether or not they were implicated in any wrongdoing. I imagined that students would be talking about the party, and I warned my sons against participating in gossip. What I did not anticipate was that on Monday morning, the grassy median in front of Albany High School would be covered with local news vans and reporters, no doubt because the murder had happened in the Berkeley Hills and not in Richmond or Oakland, where similar events rarely attract such attention.

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

January 27, 2008

It isn't smart to cheat our brightest pupils

Len LaCara

You don't need to be an Einstein to know Ohio is cheating its most promising students.

Last week, The Plain Dealer wrote a story about the sorry state of gifted education in Ohio. Consider these facts:

  • 31 states require school districts to provide special services for children identified as gifted. Ohio does not, even though a sixth of its pupils have that classification.
  • Three-fourths of the state's gifted students receive no special services, according to the Ohio Department of Education. Many of the rest only get partial services.
  • Ohio spends more than $8 billion a year on educating students. But less than 1 percent of that amount - roughly $47 million - goes toward gifted education.
Does this strike you as, well, smart?
Posted by Jeff Henriques at 9:01 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

On Madison Boundary Changes

Dear Board,

As the opening of a new school is coming close, I was surprised to some extent that the plans were changed with such a short amount of time left before the new year.

So...........I dug up my West Side Long Term Planning Binder and reviewed all the data presented to us, as a member of that committee, and remembered the HOURS we spent debating and reviewing the pros and cons of each plan. I believe this is a very hard process and I am sad it is being altered at this late date.

I think one thing many of us felt on the Long Range Planning Committee was even with the new school and addition to Leopold we did not devise a Long Term Plan. My #1 suggestion to the board would be to revisit the plan of "making the map look better" and balancing the income levels but TO MAKE IT A LONG TERM plan and say in 6 years this is what we are going to do. (and stick to it) I think when you spring it on families that in a few months Johnny has to switch schools, we parents are too invested and comfortable with the school and protest the change. But if a 6 Year Plan was in place with some options to start at the new school, grandfather for a couple of years the protest would be great but families would have lots of time to accept the change and deal with it. It would also be a LONG TERM PLAN.

As far as the new plans I have to LAUGH at the school pairing idea. This was the number one presentation from Mary and the administration. They clearly loved the idea of pairing and attempted to pair Chavez/Leopold, Crestwood and Stephens, Crestwood/Falk, Chavez/Lincoln, Thoreau/Lincoln...................
Each time the committee shot it down. We did not, from a community few point find it appealing. Notice of the 12 or so plans we came up with not one pairing survived. I know it is more convenient for downtown and their numbers but let me tell you our thoughts at the time.

  1. Pairing two schools has worked for Marquette/Lapham and Franklin/Randall primarily because they are similar in their make-up of families and because they are neighborhood schools (0 bus). While Stephens and Crestwood are similar in make-up they happen to be two of the most "bused" schools in the district. Crestwood is at 7 buses and Stephens I believe has 8 or so. That means if Johnny is in 1st grade and Sally is in fifth, they could both take two buses to and from school, or there will have to be two different buses come pick up these two siblings. Either way it is different than the Johnny walk to school and then takes a bus to the "other" school, and it seems like it would increase the transportation cost. But at least these schools are close in proximity.

  2. Pairing will reduce parental participation. At the middle school (as PTO president) I find people feel it takes a year to learn the ropes, and many do not want to get involved because the investment of time is so reduced. 6 years at Crestwood getting to know a principal, staff, etc is different than 3 at Crestwood and 3 at Stephens. We also use the older students for reading buddies, snow suit helpers, etc.... I love having my kids at one school not 2 and since I have more than two kids 3. Three principals, 3 rules, 3 different PTO's, 3 different places to drive. I currently have this situation (high school, jr. high, elementary) and it's not fun.

  3. Pairing schools to solve the high low income numbers did not work at Midvale/Lincoln. It was an interesting experiment but in 1991 Lincoln had a low income of 51% and in 2005 they were at 69% combined currently it is 64%, and Midvale in 1991 was 42% and 2005 it was at 64%. I know many claim this was for odd reasons but the pairing of Falk/Crestwood to solve the low income I predict would have the same impact and we would loss families as we did in Midvale. These schools are too different. Falk has 0 or one bus. Most families walk to school. You would then bus them to school. Crestwood families would again have to take two buses I suppose to get to Falk. Also as with the problem of moving low income families to a school far away, you cause this same transportation problems. These kids may not be able to get to school if they miss the bus, etc due to parental lack of transportation. Pairing two school so far from each other makes little sense too me for this reason.

  4. Pairing two school such as Falk/Crestwood from two different Middle School boundaries also creates problems with where they go after elementary. Do you separate kids that go to elementary together?
    I hope the district is prepared to lend Jefferson an enormous amount of resources if the pair go to Jefferson. Since Crestwood and Stephens will increase their high needs students from Allied, the Wexford community already attends Jefferson and then add many high needs from Falk, I expect Jefferson would require greater resources. If you send them to Toki, my children who currently walk to school would take a bus to school.
These were just a view of the complaints, concerns I can remember, or I took from my notes. I know NONE of these issues are simple. To be frank moving high income families to a low income schools creates problems and can cause the district to lose families. Moving low income to high income schools causes problems with transportation for those kids and families. Once families are invested in a school far away or close they tend to like that school best, which speaks volumes to the individual schools and their staff and principals. I felt the original plan had the best balance of moving families to fill schools and balance some of the stress at Falk. For whatever reason that was changed. But to me the plan to move Spring Harbor to Crestwood makes the most sense and then do a 6 YEAR plan to address the low income needs and take that $90,000 to bus kids to and from Falk and put it into extra staff support where it is needed at Falk. We can't solve the changing demographics overnight. I truly understand the difficultly involved in changing boundaries and do not take your job lightly, but as an enormous amount of hours were spent on this issue by many members of the community I felt you should also not take our input too lightly.

Thanks for your attention,
Mary Kay Battaglia
mom at Crestwood, Jefferson, and Memorial (3 schools is too much!!!)

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A Look At Alexandria's Superintendent Search

Daniela Deane:

School Board Chairman Claire M. Eberwein said that 18 people have formally applied for the job Perry left Jan. 18 and that search consultants indicate eight are highly qualified. More possible candidates have been identified from a pool of 141 people who expressed interest. The application deadline is Feb. 19.

Experts aren't surprised that the job is drawing interest despite Perry's abrupt exit after more than six years. They credit the attractiveness of Alexandria and the surrounding region as a place to work and live.

In May, the board voted 5 to 4 to seek a new schools chief. The way Perry was suddenly removed caused consternation among some residents. Minutes after she left, a locksmith changed the locks.

"There was widespread dismay at how the process went," said Kitty Porterfield, a 29-year employee of Northern Virginia school systems and author of a new book, "Getting It Right: Why Good School Communication Matters." She said, "The community is very wary now."

Looking ahead, William Campbell, a PTA president and a member of the superintendent advisory search committee, said he wants a superintendent who did not rise through the traditional school ranks, perhaps a chief executive of a business.

Houston said some school systems have recruited such candidates recently with mixed results. "Some of them have been a disaster," Houston said. "The jury's still out on that model."

Finding a superintendent these days isn't easy, despite the hefty salary the position commands, experts say. For the Alexandria job, the board is advertising an annual salary of about $230,000 and a "comprehensive and competitive" benefits package.

"The superintendency has lost a lot of its luster," said Jay P. Goldman, editor of the school administrator association's magazine. "There was a time, not that long ago, when the pinnacle of one's career would be to rise to superintendent. That day is gone."

Goldman said many educators now view the top job in a school district as "an impossible, can't-win position. They're often brought in as the knight in shining armor. Expectations are unreal. Communities expect overnight success and every ill solved in a year or two."

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Cram to Pass Online School Bill

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

The Legislature may actually complete an important assignment quickly and on time, earning high marks from voters.

Yes, we are talking about the Wisconsin Legislature, the same group of truants who logged one of the longest and latest budget stalemates in state history last year.

Maybe the Capitol gang is finally learning the importance of punctuality and cooperation.

Let 's hope so.

Key lawmakers announced a compromise bill Thursday that will keep open a dozen online schools in Wisconsin. The proposal also seeks to improve the quality of learning delivered via computer to educate more than 3,000 students in their homes.

The state Court of Appeals had put the future of virtual education in jeopardy last month. The District 2 Court in Waukesha ruled that the Wisconsin Virtual Academy, based in suburban Milwaukee, violates state laws controlling teacher certification, charter schools and open enrollment.

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At Elite Prep Schools, College-Size Endowments

Geraldine Fabrikant:

When Curtis Thomas, a 14-year-old from a poor family living in St. Rose, La., arrived here two years ago to attend Phillips Exeter Academy, he brought little more than a pair of jeans and two shirts. That would hardly do at a 227-year-old prep school where ties are still required for boys in class.

So Curtis’s history teacher, armed with Exeter funds, took him shopping for a new wardrobe.

That outlay was just a tiny fraction of what Exeter spends on its students. With its small classes, computers for students receiving financial aid, lavish sports facilities and more, Exeter devotes an average of $63,500 annually to house and educate each of its 1,000 students. That is far more than the Thomas family could ever afford and well above even the $36,500 in tuition, room and board Exeter charges those paying full price.

As a result, like the best universities to which most of its students aspire, Exeter is relying more and more on its lush endowment to fill the gap.

Despite Exeter’s expanding commitments, which include a new promise to pay the full cost for any student whose family income is less than $75,000, the school’s endowment keeps growing. Last year — fueled by gifts from wealthy alumni and its own successful investments — it crossed the $1 billion mark, up from just over $500 million in 2002.

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January 26, 2008

Endgame: Madison Superintendent Candidate Summary

Andy Hall:

The Madison School Board will meet behind closed doors this morning to begin determining which of the three finalists it'd like to hire to replace Superintendent Art Rainwater, who retires June 30.

Three men from Miami, Boston and Green Bay who share an obsession for education but offer sharply differing backgrounds visited Madison this week to compete for the job of heading Wisconsin's second-largest school district.

Candidate details, including links, photos, audio and video:We'll soon see what the smoke signals from the Doyle building reveal.

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Child Tax Credit #3

Gerald Prante:

Regardless of whether one supports a stimulus package, the agreed-upon package by the House leadership and the White House could almost rival AMT in terms of the amount of complexity it adds to the 2008 tax system. Not only do we have the government sending out checks to those who have no income tax liability (thereby requiring some method to reduce their tax liability), the proposal calls for yet another child tax credit. Yes. Make it three child tax credits.

We have the regular child tax credit, which gives everyone $1,000 per child with a floor at zero income tax liability (which is phased-out at $110,000). Then we have the additional child tax credit for those who are hit by that floor, thereby making the child tax credit refundable. But now we have a new child tax credit for $300 per child available to all, which is subject to different phase-out ranges than the current child tax credit. Furthermore, this is in addition to the personal exemption that a tax return gets for each child (which for someone in the 15 percent bracket is worth $525 for 2008) and other credits that are linked to children such as education credits, the credit for child and dependent care expenses, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

nd if last night's Republican debate is any guide to the future of child tax credit policy, it may someday be the case that if you have a child, you just won't have to file a tax return at all. In all seriousness, though, what is the difference between these child tax credits and the government establishing a program called "Paying You to Have Kids" whereby HHS would write out checks to every family, paying each one $2,000 per child?

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Democracy works for virtual schools. Hallelujah

Jo Egelhoff:

Congratulations to virtual school students, virtual school families, forward-thinking school districts around the state**, and to all Wisconsinites dedicated to high quality education for all. As reported in several news outlets yesterday, legislators have agreed to a compromise that guarantees the survival of virtual schools in Wisconsin.

**Thank you Lee Allinger, AASD Superintendent, and your staff, for preparing testimony in support of continuation of Wisconsin Connections Academy.

Thank you and congratulations to the Coalition of Virtual School Families, who issued this press release of thanks (and relief) yesterday.

But mostly, hallelujah! for democratic process and to kids and families who made a difference. Kids and families – 1100 of whom showed up in Madison last week to plea for their cause. Wow.

And congratulations to State Rep. Brett Davis and Senator John Lehman, who were able to reach across the aisle (political pressure didn’t hurt – see above) and find a solution.

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January 25, 2008

Parents Fight Plan To Shift Kids To Falk

Andy Hall:

The new elementary school being built on Madison's Far West Side, already mired in controversy over its name, now is part of a second emotional debate: Which students should be uprooted from their current schools when school attendance boundaries are redrawn this year to accommodate the new school and recent population changes?

A well-organized group of dozens of Stephens Elementary parents is fighting the Madison School District's proposal to move 83 students from Stephens to Falk Elementary. The students would be among 524 at seven elementary and middle schools affected by the proposal, which is known as Plan A.

Parents in the Valley Ridge neighborhood contend their children, most of whom are from middle-class backgrounds, would receive an inferior education at Falk because the school already has an extraordinarily high number of low-income and other students who need extra attention.

Fifty-three percent of Falk's students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, compared to an average of 36 percent at elementary schools in the Memorial High School attendance area.

More here.

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New York Measuring Teachers by Test Scores

Jennifer Medina:

New York City has embarked on an ambitious experiment, yet to be announced, in which some 2,500 teachers are being measured on how much their students improve on annual standardized tests.

The move is so contentious that principals in some of the 140 schools participating have not told their teachers that they are being scrutinized based on student performance and improvement.

While officials say it is too early to determine how they will use the data, which is already being collected, they say it could eventually be used to help make decisions on teacher tenure or as a significant element in performance evaluations and bonuses. And they hold out the possibility that the ratings for individual teachers could be made public.

“If the only thing we do is make this data available to every person in the city — every teacher, every parent, every principal, and say do with it what you will — that will have been a powerful step forward,” said Chris Cerf, the deputy schools chancellor who is overseeing the project. “If you know as a parent what’s the deal, I think that whole aspect will change behavior.”

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"Some People Never Learn"

The Future of Things:

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany have found a genetic factor that affects our ability to learn from our errors. The scientists demonstrated that men carrying the A1 mutation, which reduces the amount of dopamine D2 receptors in the brain, are less successful at learning to avoid mistakes than men who do not carry this genetic mutation. This finding has the potential to improve our understanding of the causes of addictive and compulsive behaviors.

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Madison Superintendent Candidate Dan Nerad's Public Appearance

Watch a 28 minute question and answer session at Monona Terrace yesterday
, download the .mp4 video file (168mb, CTRL-Click this link) or listen to this 11MB mp3 audio file. Learn more about the other candidates: Steve Gallon and Jim McIntyre.

I spoke briefly with Dan Nerad yesterday and asked if Green Bay had gone to referendum recently. He mentioned that they asked for a fifth high school in 2007, a $75M question that failed at the ballot. The Green Bay Press Gazette posted a summary of that effort. The Press Gazette urged a no vote. Clusty Search on Green Bay School Referendum, Google, Live, Yahoo.

Related Links:

  • Dr. Daniel Nerad, Superintendent of Schools -- Green Bay Area Public School District, Green Bay, Wisconsin [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search ]
  • Desired Superintendent Characteristics
  • Five Candidates Named
  • Learn more about the three candidates
  • NBC15
  • Hire the best
  • Susan Troller:
    Dan Nerad believes it takes a village to educate a child, and after three decades of being a leader in Green Bay's schools, he'd like to bring his skills here as the Madison district's next superintendent.

    Nerad, 56, is superintendent of the Green Bay public school system, which has just more than 20,000 students.

    At a third and final public meet-and-greet session for the candidates for Madison school superintendent on Thursday at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, Nerad spoke of his passion for helping students and his philosophies of educational leadership.

    Speaking to a crowd of about 70 community members, Nerad began his brief remarks by quoting Chief Sitting Bull, "Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children."

    "I believe the 'us' must really be us -- all of us -- working to meet the needs of all children," he said. Several times during his remarks, he emphasized that education is an investment in work force development, in the community and in the future.

    He also said that he believes it's a moral commitment.

    Nerad talked about his efforts to create an entire district of leaders, and the importance of a healthy, collaborative culture in the schools. He said he saw diversity as "a strong, strong asset" because it allows kids to learn in an atmosphere that reflects the world they are likely to live in.

Emma Carlisle and Cora Wiese Moore provided music during the event. Both attend Blackhawk Middle School.

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Wis. Lawmakers Announce Deal to Keep Virtual Schools Open


Wisconsin lawmakers announced a compromise Thursday that would allow virtual schools to remain open and receive the same amount of state aid.

The breakthrough potentially resolves an emotional debate over online education that has been watched closely in national education circles. A court ruling and a stalemate in the Legislature had threatened to close a dozen Wisconsin schools starting as early as next year.

The compromise rejects a Democratic plan that would have cut the schools' funding in half, after an outcry from school superintendents and other advocates. Instead, they would continue to get nearly $6,000 for each open-enrollment student.

The plan announced by Democratic and Republican lawmakers at an afternoon news conference also would add new regulations to ensure quality education at the schools. Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, said the state's dozen virtual schools would be allowed to continue operating with few changes.
"Allowing parents to choose virtual schools helps keep Wisconsin a national leader in education policy," said Davis, chair of the Assembly education committee.

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Students flocking to online study as a flexible way to work for degree

Amy Rolph:

Forget those uncomfortable, plastic classroom chairs and their 12-inch, fold-down, wannabe-desk extensions.

Millions of college students around the country attend class from living-room sofas, kitchen tables, home offices and even park benches -- part of an ever-escalating trend of attending school online.

The trend is being set largely by community colleges, with their propensity for nontraditional students who need an easier, more flexible way to earn degrees. The number of students taking online classes in Washington has jumped 75 percent in just four years.

In Seattle, North Seattle Community College is leading the way with a course catalog that lists an increasing number of online options.

Sabrina Hutchinson, a busy staffing account manager and recruiter who works as an event planner on the side, enrolled at North Seattle this quarter to see whether she could juggle two jobs and college classes. It had been more than a decade since Hutchinson attended college. She decided on the high-tech option: an online course examining how the study of dinosaurs overlaps with a number of scientific fields.

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January 24, 2008

Wisconsin Governor Doyle on Teacher Pay

Alan Borsuk:

It was definitely not one of his spotlighted points, but Gov. Jim Doyle, in his State of the State address this week, said he wants to see the overall pay structure of teachers in Wisconsin improved and he will make proposals in that direction when the next round of the state budget process starts a year from now. From the text released by the governor's office, here is what Doyle said:

"We need high standards for our students and our teachers, but we have a compensation system that rewards neither. The system is broken. It's a relic from a political fight a half a generation ago. From Waukesha to Wausau, school districts, parents, and taxpayers have all had enough.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:15 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Virginia Parents Resist Math "Investigations" Curriculum

Ian Shapira:

A group of Prince William County parents is mounting a campaign to repeal a new elementary school math curriculum, using an Internet discussion group and an online petition to gather support and fuel criticism.

The group, whose members include parents from such elementary schools as Westridge, Ashland and Springwoods as well as teachers from various schools, plans to present the Prince William County School Board in February with its petition, which has about 500 names. Parents in the group, whose Web site ( lists several of their complaints, say that the Investigations curriculum is putting their children behind grade level and is too convoluted.

The group's formation comes right after the school system presented a year-long study of the curriculum that showed 80 percent of second-graders and 70 percent of first-graders are proficient on all 10 subtests of the Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test. The school system wants to continue studying the program and incorporate data from student performance on the state Standards of Learning exams.

School Board member Julie C. Lucas (Neabsco) said in an interview that she wants to examine the program inside a classroom to assess its effectiveness. She added that she has been hearing positive reviews from at least one principal in her district but that she wants to withhold making public comments until she visits schools.

The Investigations program has been undergoing a phased-in implementation since the School Board adopted its materials in 2006. In the 2006-07 academic year, kindergarten through second grade started the program; this year, third-graders began it; and next year, fourth-graders will use the material.

Investigations teaches children new ways of learning mathematics and solving problems. For instance, a student may not need to learn how to add 37 and 23 by stacking the figures on top of each other, and carrying the numbers. They may learn to add up the tens and then combine the seven and three to arrive at 60.

  • Math Forum Audio / Video
  • Madison School District's Math Task Force
  • Clusty Search: Math Investigations
  • Teaching Math Right website:
    Why this website?
    ...Because our children - ALL children - deserve a quality mathematics education in PWCS!!
    In 2006 PWCS directed mandatory implementation of the elementary school mathematics curriculum TERC - "Investigations in Number, Data, and Space" in all PWCS elementary schools. The traditional, proven, successful mathematics program was abandoned for a "discovery learning" program that has a record of failure across the country.

    Of all the VA Department of Education approved elementary math text/materials, "Investigations" least adequately supports the VA Standards of Learning. Yet it was somehow "the right choice" for PWCS children. Parents of 2nd and 3d graders are already realizing the negative impact of this program in only a year and a half's worth of "Investigations." Children subjected to this program end up two years behind where they should be in mathematics fluency and competency by the end of 5th grade. PWCS is committed to experimenting with our children's future. We think our children and our tax dollars deserve better.

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Madison Superintendent Candidate James McIntyre's Public Appearance

Watch a 28 minute question and answer session at Monona Terrace yesterday
, download the .mp4 video file (195mb, CTRL-Click this link) or listen to this 12.3MB mp3 audio file. Watch [64MB mpeg4 download - CTRL-Click]or listen to a short, informal chat. Learn more about the other candidates: Steve Gallon and Dan Nerad

Related Links:

  • Dr. James McIntyre, Chief Operating Officer – Boston Public Schools, Boston, Massachusetts [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search]
  • Desired Superintendent Characteristics
  • Five Candidates Named
  • Learn more about the three candidates
  • NBC15
  • Hire the best
  • Susan Troller:
    The students in an alternative high school in East St. Louis inspired Jim McIntyre when he was their teacher and continue to inspire him today as an administrator in the Boston public school system.

    McIntyre, 40, spoke late Wednesday afternoon at Monona Terrace to a crowd of around 50 people at the second of three public meet-and-greet sessions for the final candidates vying for the job of Madison school superintendent.

    "Teaching in East St. Louis was a life-changing experience," McIntyre explained.

    "Many of my students were children who lived under very, very difficult circumstances. When you were able to eliminate some of the distractions they faced and get them engaged in school, they were smart, talented students," he said.

    But for some, the odds were so difficult, and their lives so daunting that hope was hard to maintain.

    "My brightest student, my best student, took his own life because he just didn't see any future. It's with me every day," McIntyre said.

    McIntyre, 40, is currently the chief operating officer of the Boston public school system, which has an operating budget of about $800 million. Before becoming chief operating officer about two years ago, McIntyre was budget director of the district, which serves about 57,000 students, for 8 years.

    He says he tries to bring a student-centered focus to his job managing facilities, food service, safety, transportation and all other aspects of his job.

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Money Matters: Raising Money Smart Kids by Janet Bodnar

Books for Kids Blog: [RSS]

It's the time of year, with holiday bills still coming in, taxes not far ahead, not to mention the market going down like a deflating party balloon, that money is on the minds of us grownups more than we'd like.

But how about our kids? Do they have a grasp on the concept of cash flow? Janet Bodnar's much hailed Raising Money Smart Kids: What They Need to Know about Money and How to Tell Them (Kiplinger's Personal Finance) takes on those money matters--the thorny issues of teaching kids to respect, spend, save, and ultimately earn money sensibly. Bodnar, who writes Kiplinger's "Money Smart Kids" column, begins with a tough test for parents, "Test Your Money Smarts." Here's a sample:

Your 14-year-old son has been saving half of his allowance and mony earned from neighborhood jobs. Now he wants to use the money to buy an expensive iPod.

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Chromosomal Abnormalities Play Substantial Role In Autism

Science Daily:

Genome-wide scans of families affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have revealed new evidence that previously unknown chromosomal abnormalities have a substantial role in the prevalent developmental disorder, according to a new report. Structural variants in the chromosomes were found to influence ASD with sufficiently high frequency to suggest that genomic analyses be considered in routine clinical workup, according to the researchers.

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January 23, 2008

Employers Want New Way to Judge Graduates Beyond Tests, Grades

Mary Beth Marklein:

Colleges have been scrambling over the past year to respond to recommendations from a national commission that they be clearer to the public about what students have learned by the time they graduate.
Sometime in the next several weeks, for example, a national online initiative will be launched that allows families to compare colleges on measures such as whether they improve a student's critical-thinking skills.

Tools for such measurements were recommended by the national commission, which was created by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. The group released its recommendations in late 2006.

Now, a sampling of the nation's employers have weighed in. And they are not terribly impressed.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:30 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison Superintendent Candidate Steve Gallon's Public Appearance

Watch a 28 minute question and answer session at Monona Terrace yesterday
, download the .mp4 video file (175mb, CTRL-Click this link) or listen to this 11.3MB mp3 audio file. Learn more about the other candidates: Jim McIntyre and Dan Nerad.

Related Links:

  • Dr. Steve Gallon, District Administrative Director – Miami/Dade Public Schools, Miami, Florida [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search]
  • Desired Superintendent Characteristics
  • Five Candidates Named
  • Learn more about the three candidates
  • NBC15
  • Hire the best
  • Susan Troller:
    As a life-long resident of southern Florida, school superintendent candidate Steve Gallon III grimaced, then grinned, when asked about how he liked Wisconsin weather.

    Known as a motivational speaker as well as a top teacher, principal and administrator in the Miami/Dade County public school system, Gallon quickly got back on message: He sees his experiences as an educator and a leader as a good match for the school district here, especially given its rapidly changing demographics and challenges in funding.

    He said the issue of underperforming students is not so much one of ethnicity but of economics.

    "What we have to do is embrace the reality that gaps in achievement exist," Gallon said. Much of it, he said, has to do with economic disadvantage.

    "It's the 800-pound gorilla in the room. You must acknowledge that work needs to be done before you're going to be successful in dealing with it," he said.

    Gallon, 39, is one of three finalists for the position of school superintendent here. He talked with community members and the media in a meet and greet session late Monday afternoon at Monona Terrace. There will be similar sessions today and Wednesday for candidates James McIntyre, chief operating officer for the Boston public schools and Daniel Nerad, superintendent of the Green Bay district.

    In responses to questions from the audience, Gallon applauded the notion of working closely with the resources of the University of Wisconsin, said he believed in the least restrictive environment for special education students and cautioned that problems facing schools in terms of funding weren't likely to be solved easily.

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More Students Head Overseas In Freshman Year

Anjali Athavaley:

Callie Broughton had an eventful freshman year at Florida State University -- in Spain.

Ms. Broughton, now a 20-year-old junior, opted to study abroad in Valencia through a program for first-year students at Florida State. For one year, she lived in an apartment and took classes with other FSU students at the university's Valencia Study Center. In her spare time, she explored Europe.

There were downsides to going abroad the first year of college. "Missing Thanksgiving and stuff I had never missed in 18 years was definitely weird," she says. But the benefits outweigh the disadvantages: "You're getting to see the world at such a young age," she says. Ms. Broughton, an education major, is now a student recruiter for the program.

Freshman year has typically been considered a time for students to settle in and try living on their own for the first time, plan their course schedules and decide on a major. Now, a growing number of schools are expanding their study-abroad options for first-year students. "This was something that was very rarely done at all up until a few years ago," says Brian Whalen, president and chief executive of the Forum on Education Abroad and executive director of the Office of Global Education at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

Spending freshman year abroad presents challenges for younger students: easy access to alcohol, lack of supervision and, given the weak dollar, surprisingly high prices for basic goods and services.

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Why Arts Education Matters

Stephanie Perrin:

For years, we have watched arts classes give way to the seemingly more “practical” courses that politicians and policymakers assume have a direct link to professional and economic success. But in an increasingly globalized economy, one in which an ability to innovate and to imagine new possibilities is critical to America’s ability to compete, we still train our young people very narrowly to work in an industrialized society.

As the country contemplates reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, political and policy leaders must recognize that an education in and through the arts, as a central part of a total school program, allows schools to better address these challenges than a curriculum that defines success as aptitude in literacy and math only.

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Top Issue For D.C. Schools? Parents.

David Nakamura and Jennifer Agiesta:

Seven in 10 D.C. residents believe the city's public schools are performing inadequately, with the lack of parental involvement still cited as the biggest problem facing the nearly 50,000-student system, a Washington Post poll has found.

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January 22, 2008

Monona Grove Student Targeted In Racially Motivated Incident


On Friday, several students got into an altercation, stemming from what some are describing as racially driven harassment.

Renee Roach said that her son, LeBraun, has been the targeted by a group of white students because of his race. LeBraun Roach is black. Roach said that her son has been taunted with racial slurs at school.
The day before the altercation at the school, several white students allegedly dropped a deer carcass on the windshield of a car at Roach's home. The family said this wasn't the first incident directed at their son. They said their driveway was blocked with Christmas trees just days earlier.

"My wife and kids are scared. That's understandable when you find a dead deer in your driveway; you kind of wonder what else could be next. Are they going to throw something through the window?" said Arthur Roach, who found the deer carcass.

WKOW-TV has more.

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Second Sun Prairie school to use geothermal system

Gena Kittner:

The Sun Prairie School District is set to once again tap into the Earth's natural body temperature to warm and cool its newest elementary school.

Creekside Elementary, located on the city's south side, will be the second of three Sun Prairie schools the district plans to heat and cool using a geothermal system.

Geothermal technology has seen "an explosion of growth in the last seven years or so in Wisconsin," said Manus McDevitt, principal with Sustainable Engineering Group in Madison. "It's coming to a point now where electricity and gas prices are so high ... that really the argument for geothermal becomes stronger and stronger. For school districts it makes a lot of sense."

The systems can cut schools' energy use by 10 percent to 40 percent, McDevitt said.

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  1. A fantastic site and resource for LD (learning differently) in general.

  2. In addition, the Davis Technique works! The nearest provider is in Waukesha, but parents can learn about and use the technique.

  3. The Davis program was adapted by a teacher for use in the general reading curriculum grades K-2 at low cost. A CA research study showed its use resulted in no references for special ed and increased references for T&G tracks compared to the control group.
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Wisconsin State Tax Receipt Growth Slows from 3% to 1%

Steven Walters:

Collections of the three most important Wisconsin taxes increased less than 1% in the second half of 2007 - falling far short of the 3% assumed growth needed to cover state expenditures this year and raising fears that deep spending cuts will be necessary.

Preliminary state Department of Revenue totals show the personal and corporate income tax and the sales tax brought in $5.13 billion from July through December, an increase of only 0.8% over the same period in 2006.

Those three taxes account for $9 out of every $10 in general-fund taxes.

Every unexpected 1% drop in collections from those taxes means state government will have $120 million less a year to spend. If tax collections don't pick up, the shortfall would quickly wipe out the projected $67 million surplus Capitol leaders had hoped for this fiscal year and force reductions across state government.

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle said he will warn of the economic downturn in his sixth "state of the state" message Wednesday. Many states are facing economic slowdowns, and California must fix a $14.5 billion shortfall, Doyle noted.

In his speech, Doyle said, "I'm going to talk pretty directly that this is a challenge that we have ahead of us, and we have to face up to it. Unless the national economy just totally goes into the tank, this is something we can manage and get through. But it's going to be pretty tough."

A reduction in the rate of State tax receipt increases makes it unlikely that there will be meaningful reform in redistributed state tax dollars flowing back to local school districts.

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Milwaukee School Board board objects to federal provisos

Alan Borsuk:

With millions of dollars in aid to schools at stake, the Milwaukee School Board has put the brakes on a main element of a plan to get MPS off the list of districts not measuring up under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

"I dare them to take money out of kids' classrooms," board member Jennifer Morales said. She has led the charge to oppose two steps required under a plan the board agreed to in September for dealing with MPS' label of District Identified for Improvement under the federal law.

Morales said she had reached the point of refusing to cooperate any further with the requirements of what she called a failed law distracting MPS from doing things that actually improve student achievement.

"Now is the moment when we just say 'enough,' " she said. "If we don't hold the line and say, 'No way, we're not going to play this stupid game and waste the taxpayers' money,' who is?"

At a meeting Thursday night, board members reluctantly approved one of the steps in the DIFI plan, but halted the other. The board voted to delay hiring required under the plan, yet a disputed reading program will begin.

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Rethinking Principal Priorities of Training

Jay Matthews:

Cities across America have long hunted for tougher, better-trained principals to turn around struggling schools full of impoverished children. A major university and an influential group of educators in Texas are proposing a provocative way to meet the demand: They say urban principals of the future can skip the traditional education school credentials and learn instead about business.

The nascent movement toward an alternative path to school leadership is driven by the troubles facing schools in the District and elsewhere as would-be reformers argue that a key to raising student achievement is to overhaul personnel, from the central office down to the classroom. The change also comes amid growing debate over which of a principal's many duties are most important. School leaders often feel like the combined mayor, police chief and schoolmaster of a town with a population of 1,000 or more.

Education schools, where most principals are trained, emphasize teaching and managing children. But organizers of a new Rice University program for "education entrepreneurs," and some top education officials in the Washington area, say an inner-city principal cannot succeed without enough business smarts to manage adults. For example, they say, principals need to know how to recruit great employees and fire bad ones.

Rice, which has no education school, is launching a master's of business administration program this year to prepare principals for several Houston schools.

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Clarion Call: "Windows on College Readiness"

"Your essay, which I have now read twice, is terrific. You are way ahead of everyone on this."

email 17 January 2008 from: Education Reporter Sara Rimer of the New York Times

This is the one she refers to:

The Bridgespan Group, working for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has just released a report called "Reclaiming the American Dream." The study was intended to find out how to get more U.S. high school students prepared for and through college.

Much of the report is about getting kids to go to college, and it finds that if there is enough money provided, and if parents, peers, counselors and teachers say going to college is important, more high school students are likely to go.

The major weakness of the report, in my view, is its suggestions for the kind of high school work that will help students to do college work and to graduate.

One of the concluding statements is that “Inertia is particularly difficult to overcome when people are unaware that a problem exists or that the potential for solving it is real.” What a useful insight. What they recommend for high school students is “a rigorous college preparatory curriculum.” What could be wrong with that?

Two very simple and basic things are wrong with that. Current “college preparatory” curricula, including AP courses, do not include the reading of complete nonfiction books or the writing of serious research papers.

That is almost as if we had a crisis in preparing high school football players for success in college and recommended a standard preparation program which did not give them practice in running, blocking and tackling. ACT found last spring that 49 percent of the high school students it tested could not read at the level of college freshman texts. And the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on a survey in which 90 percent of college professors thought high school students were not well prepared in reading, writing and doing research. A true college education requires reading serious books and writing substantial papers although many schools have watered their requirements down. High school students should be ready for in-depth study.

If high school football players haven’t done much blocking or tackling in high school, no one would expect them to play well in college, but somehow we expect high school students in a college preparatory program which includes no nonfiction books and no real research papers to do well with college reading lists and with college term paper assignments.

In my state, Massachusetts, 34 percent of the students who go to state four-year colleges are in remedial classes, according to The Boston Globe. Those students had the expectations, support, access and aspiration for the college dream, but when they got there, they were not ready to do the work.

The Gates report says that “the high school environment needs to provide students with high expectations and strong teaching...” but without any real focus on students’ independent academic reading and writing, that environment doesn’t do the job of preparing students for college work.

If we want students to be able to read and understand college books and to write research papers there, then we must give students a chance to learn how to do that in a ”rigorous college preparatory program” in high school. But that is not happening, and just about no one is paying attention to the fact that it is not happening.

The inertia in this case that is “particularly difficult to overcome” is the exclusive focus on what teachers do and what courses cover in textbooks. There must be more attention to the actual academic work that students are required to do—at least in the humanities. Perhaps in mathematics and the sciences, some students are really doing the kind of academic work that prepares them, but in the world of academic reading (nonfiction books) and academic writing (serious research papers), most schools badly serve their students. This report, like so many others, completely misses that.

The Business Roundtable reported in 2004 that their member companies were spending more than $3 billion each year on remedial writing courses for both salaried and hourly employees, so even many of our college graduates may not have achieved a very satisfactory level of academic competence in reading and writing these days. With so many ill-prepared students coming into college, many professors have taken the path of least resistance and watered down their courses.

Our high school programs for students who hope to succeed in college and beyond should require them to write extended essays and papers which are rigorously graded. They should also require students to read at least one serious complete nonfiction book every year. While this may be beyond the prevailing and generally feeble educational standards of the moment, if we don’t do it, most U.S. high school students will continue to be unprepared for higher education.

Will Fitzhugh ( is the founder of The Concord Review;

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January 21, 2008

A Discussion on School Models (Traditional, Charter and Magnet)

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater and Rafael Gomez held an interesting discussion on school models recently [Announcement].

Read the transcript
Watch the Video
or listen to the event (41mb mp3 audio)


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Martin Luther King Photo Essay

Time Magazine:

King's unique vision reshaped the landscape of American politics and society. In his brief life, he redefined what it means to be black in the United States, and, by extension, what it means to be an American.

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State of US science report shows disturbing trends; challenges

Network World:

The National Science Board this week said leading science and engineering indicators tell a mixed story regarding the achievement of the US in science, research and development, and math in international comparisons.

For example, US schools continue to lag behind internationally in science and math education. On the other hand, the US is the largest, single, R&D-performing nation in the world pumping some $340 billion into future-related technologies. The US also leads the world in patent development.

The board’s conclusions and Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 are contained in the group’s biennial report on the state of science and engineering research and education in the United States sent to the President and Congress this week.

While the report is massive, the board came up with 13 prime observations on the report or what it calls leading Science and Engineering Indicators 2008.

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Relive Edmund Hilary's Trek to the Top of the World

Welcome to the historic Mt. Everest expedition. The team is attempting to climb up the world's tallest mountain and reach the summit — a place no human has ever been before. It has taken 16 days for Edmund Hillary, 13 other climbers, and 350 porters to reach the Tengpoche Monastery and set up a rear camp. Why are there so many people taking part in this journey? Find out by checking the interview with Whitney Stewart, our expert on Sir Edmund Hillary and his work.

In order to reach the monastery, the team has already trekked 170 miles up the hot and humid Katmandu Valley. The terrain is smooth, and everyone is in high spirits. The Sherpas, a clan of Nepalese, watch the team curiously, and join them in celebration when they reach this first stop at Tengpoche Monastery.

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January 20, 2008

Online school offers fine, flexible education

Lisa McClure:

Our public education system should be designed to meet the needs of all students. For the last few years, online schools have provided an important public school option for many of Wisconsin's families, proving to be a perfect fit for a wide range of students requiring the freedom and flexibility to set their own pace and learn on their own time.

Unfortunately, the recent state Court of Appeals decision regarding the Wisconsin Virtual Academy has created some ambiguity. This has directly affected WiVA, and some have suggested it has broader implications for all virtual education. However, we don't believe the ruling affects iQ Academy Wisconsin, an online high school that is part of the Waukesha School District, and other schools that operate like us.

Unlike WiVA, iQ Academy relies solely on state-certified public school teachers to provide formal instruction. Our teachers are employed by and largely located inside the Waukesha School District. We are confident that iQ Academy complies with all relevant state laws.

Nevertheless, as a strong advocate of online education options, I urge our government officials to clarify any ambiguity and set virtual education on a firm footing.

If there is a positive from this ruling, it is the additional attention focused on online education. Many who may not have been aware of the high quality of education being provided online are taking a closer look. We welcome that.

Our students score above average on standardized tests, pass Advanced Placement tests at leading rates, and enjoy the quality education and unique courses a virtual education provides. For example, on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination standardized test last year, our students scored about 10 percent higher overall than peers in traditional public schools. Students of the iQ Academy also earned ACT scores 3 percent higher than those of other Wisconsin public school students.

While students work from home on a school-supplied laptop, they must meet the same curricular standards and take the same standardized tests as students in traditional schools.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, student contact with teachers may actually be greater than in a traditional school. Many students who would be uncomfortable raising their hand to ask a question in a traditional classroom find themselves more engaged through online discussions, e-mail and real-time tutoring sessions. The help of a certified teacher is never more than a click away.

In the same way brick-and-mortar schools encourage parental involvement with their students, iQ Academy also encourages the active role of parents in helping to keep their kids on track, meet deadlines and strive for excellence. Parents are not, however, expected to teach any courses.

Providing a first-class curriculum with individualized attention from experienced teachers, iQ Academy offers one of the widest ranges of honors and Advanced Placement courses, including extensive science and foreign language options. The school also offers a wide range of extracurricular activities, including student government, National Honor Society and newspaper/yearbook, as well as social events such as dances and prom and group outings.

The open enrollment period for charter schools in Wisconsin, which includes virtual schools, is Feb. 4-22. Additional details on these educational opportunities are available through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction at To learn more about iQ Academy Wisconsin, go to or call 866-468-4672.

Lisa McClure is director of iQ Academy Wisconsin, an online public charter school in its fourth year of operation. A program of the Waukesha School District, iQ Academy has 1,100 students in grades 9-12.

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Pioneering research shows "Google Generation" is a myth

British Library [1.5MB PDF]:

  • All age groups revealed to share so-called "Google Generation" traits
  • New study argues that libraries will have to adapt to the digital mindset
  • Young people seemingly lacking in information skills; strong message to the government and society at large
A new study overturns the common assumption that the "Google Generation" – youngsters born or brought up in the Internet age – is the most web-literate. The first ever virtual longitudinal study carried out by the CIBER research team at University College London claims that, although young people demonstrate an apparent ease and familiarity with computers, they rely heavily on search engines, view rather than read and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to assess the information that they find on the web.

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Two-Year Colleges Go Courtin' Overseas

Jane Porter:

Marketing an obscure Wyoming community college to Vietnamese high schoolers presents special challenges. Many have never heard of Wyoming, and, if they have, it's usually thanks to the movie Brokeback Mountain. So when recruiter Harriet Bloom-Wilson from Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., visits the International High School in Ho Chi Minh City, she focuses on the college's nurturing, small-town environment. That's what sold "Grace" Thienan Nguyen, 19. The business major also notes she can transfer to a full-fledged university.

An American Ivy League education has long been prized by wealthy families in Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Now more and more middle-class kids, whose English-language skills won't pass muster at universities, are discovering two-year programs. Keen to attract these kids and stand out in a crowded field, schools are ramping up their global marketing efforts.

It's no secret why Nguyen and her peers are descending on community colleges. Besides being easier to get into than universities, they also cost far less. "The notion of smart shopping for international education has really begun to spread," says Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice-president of the Institute of International Education.

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Education Push Yields Little for India’s Poor

Somini Sengupta:

With the dew just rising from the fields, dozens of children streamed into the two-room school in this small, poor village, tucking used rice sacks under their arms to use as makeshift chairs. So many children streamed in that the newly appointed head teacher, Rashid Hassan, pored through attendance books for the first two hours of class and complained bitterly. He had no idea who belonged in which grade. There was no way he could teach.

Another teacher arrived 90 minutes late. A third did not show up. The most senior teacher, the only one with a teaching degree, was believed to be on official government duty preparing voter registration cards. No one could quite recall when he had last taught.

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Baltimore Battles Childhood Obesity

John Fritze:

Baltimore should improve access to fresh produce and recreational activities in low-income neighborhoods to stem childhood obesity, according to a City Council task force report released yesterday.

"This is more serious than smoking," said City Councilwoman Agnes Welch, who has overseen the issue in the council. "Let this be a movement: We're going to stop childhood obesity in the city of Baltimore."

The report recommends creating health zones in which city officials would work with schools, food stores and churches in three- to four-block areas to ensure that healthy food is available and that children have safe places to be physically active.

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Seattle school parents pressured to pay

Alison Krupnick:

It's time to call attention to a key issue plaguing Seattle Public Schools — class size. Despite public comments from district officials challenging the relevance of class size to academic achievement, every teacher I've spoken with has cited large class size as one of the biggest impediments to effective pedagogy.

In 2000, voters approved Initiative 728 by nearly 72 percent. This measure provided state funding to reduce class sizes. But, our state's piecemeal approach to education funding has proved ineffective. Seven years later, class sizes in Seattle remain high.

The district's response to underfunded schools has been larger classes and leaner services. Frustrated by inadequate state funding and district allocation of these limited funds, parents who "believe" in public schools are put in the difficult position of having to subsidize them.

Though we're supposed to pay for enhancements, PTAs routinely "buy down" class size by supporting volunteer and paid-tutor programs so that the adult-student ratio in the classroom can be reduced and teachers are able to work with smaller groups, thus meeting the needs of students at both ends of the spectrum and in-between. At our school, "academic support" makes up roughly 50 percent of our PTA budget.

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January 19, 2008

And Then There Were 3: Finalists for the Madison Superintendent Job

Madison Board of Education:

Following a first round of interviews with the five semifinalists, the Board of Education has selected three candidates as finalists for the position of Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

In alphabetical order, the three candidates are:

Dr. Steve Gallon, District Administrative Director – Miami/Dade Public Schools, Miami, Florida [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search]

Dr. James McIntyre, Chief Operating Officer – Boston Public Schools, Boston, Massachusetts [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search]

Dr. Daniel Nerad, Superintendent of Schools – Green Bay Area Public School District, Green Bay, Wisconsin [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search ]

The Board interviewed the candidates last evening and today.

Each of the three finalists will spend a day in Madison on January 22, 23 or 24. In addition to a second interview with the Board, the candidates will visit some schools and see parts of Madison, talk to attendees at the Community Meet and Greet, and speak with district administrators.

The community is invited to the Meet and Greets scheduled from 4:00 to 5:15 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center on January 22, 23 and 24. In the first hour, attendees will be able to briefly meet and greet the candidate as part of a receiving line. From 5:00 to 5:15 p.m. each day, the candidate will make a brief statement and might take questions. The session will end promptly at 5:15 p.m.

The schedule for visits by the finalists:

Tuesday, January 22 Steve Gallon
Wednesday, January 23 James McIntyre
Thursday, January 24 Daniel Nerad

On January 26 or 27, the Board will identify a preferred finalist. To ensure the Board's research will be as comprehensive as possible, a Board delegation is expected to visit the finalist's community during the week of January 28. The announcement of the appointment of the new Superintendent is scheduled for early February.


The consulting firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates was hired by the Board last summer to manage the search and advise the Board during the process. In October, the Board approved the leadership profile developed as a result of community input. This profile can be viewed by going to "Superintendent Search" at

For the last three months, the consultants recruited candidates for the position, conducted preliminary reference checks for the most promising applicants, and conducted initial interviews.

From this process, the consultants brought to the Board a select slate of candidates from which the five semifinalists were named by the Board on January 7.

The semifinalists were chosen from among 25 persons who sought the position currently held by Art Rainwater. Rainwater will retire on June 30, 2008, with the new Superintendent scheduled to begin on July 1.

Madison School Superintendent Finalists Named Later Today

Susan Troller:

And then there will be three.

Members of the Madison School Board will narrow the field of candidates for the next superintendent of the school district from five to three late today. School Board President Arlene Silveira said she expected that the three final candidates would be named sometime late this afternoon or early evening, following three candidate interviews today and two on Friday.

The five candidates are: Bart Anderson, county superintendent of the Franklin County Educational Service Center in Columbus, Ohio; Steve Gallon, district administrative director of the Miami/Dade Public Schools; James McIntyre, chief operating officer of the Boston Public Schools; Daniel Nerad, superintendent of schools, Green Bay Public Schools and Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, chief academic officer, Racine Public School District.

The Capital Times asked candidates why they would like to come to Madison and what accomplishments have given them pride in their careers. Anderson, McIntyre and Vanden Wyngaard were interviewed by phone, and Nerad responded by e-mail. Steve Gallon did not respond to several calls asking for his answers to the two questions.


Bart Anderson

Anderson said he had two reasons for wanting to come to Madison.

"First and foremost, Madison has a very special story to tell regarding its history of achievement both in its school district and in its community. In addition, the assets Madison has with the combination of the state capital and the university community very much align with the creative class environment I find very appealing. I think my skills and experiences match the needs of the district, and we could both benefit," Anderson said.

He said that the development of partnerships with the University of Ohio and the school districts he helps supervise in the Columbus area are a particular source of pride for him, especially programs that allow students to enroll in university classes while still in high school. He also points to a support team he helped develop that travels to area schools to help them make the adequate yearly progress necessary under federal No Child Left Behind law. The support teams have been so successful, he said, that the state is replicating them in other parts of Ohio.

Steve Gallon

Gallon is an administrative director of school operations with the Miami/Dade Public Schools, which serves about 350,000 students. He grew up in Liberty City, one of the Miami area's toughest neighborhoods, and has worked as a teacher, principal, author, lecturer and administrator. He is one of southern Florida's most sought after motivational speakers. In 2001 he was recognized as one of eight outstanding Americans in an issue of the College Board Review entitled "Heroes of a Different Kind."

Gallon has an undergraduate degree in English from Florida A&M University, a master's in educational leadership from Florida International University and a doctor of education degree in administration from Florida International University. (Gallon did not return several phone calls asking for responses to Capital Times questions).

James McIntyre

McIntyre says that it's easy to want to come to Madison.

"I'm quite delighted, actually. It has a wonderful reputation as a community and as an excellent school district," he said. He added that the district provides the opportunity to build on historic success, rather than trying to turn around struggling schools. McIntyre said he's been fortunate to work with some of the top urban school administrators in the country in Boston and would look forward to bringing the skills he learned there to Madison.

As chief operating officer and former budget director for Boston's public schools, McIntyre says he has focused on the district's educational goals as he's managed its resources. "Of course it's about how we can do our work efficiently and effectively, but it's more important to put that in a context that enables and supports student achievement. It's about creating a culture in every department that's student-centered. It's not just about buses or buildings."

During McIntyre's tenure in Boston, the district won the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education.

Daniel Nerad

In response to the question about why he wanted to come to Madison, Nerad wrote:

Serving as superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District would allow me to return to a community that has special meaning in my life. My undergraduate and first graduate degree were both from the UW-Madison, and our two children are also graduates. Our son continues to live and work in Madison.

Like Green Bay, Madison is a community that cares about its children, focused on improving learning for all students while addressing the elimination of specific achievement gaps. This is where I place my heart as a leader.

For his answer to the question regarding what made him proud in his current work, Nerad continued in his e-mail:

Leaders don't work alone. Everything I have accomplished has been done with a great, dedicated staff. I am most proud about our staff's child-centered values and focus on ensuring that all students are successful, both academically and socially. Educating children is a team effort across the board.

Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard

Vanden Wyngaard believes Madison is a community with a reputation for facing many of the hard questions in American education, including issues like student achievement, social class, disability and race. "If a community is willing to deal with these things, so am I," she said.

In fact, she added, "My mission on this planet is to eliminate the notion that we can predict the success of our students based on factors like race, language, class, sexual orientation, disability or where they come from. I think Madison is already successfully working on some of these issues."

Vanden Wyngaard, who's known as Dr. V, says she is proud of helping create meaningful change at the middle and high school levels in three different districts, including public schools in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Cleveland and Willow Run, Ohio.

In order to move the process forward, she said, it's necessary to be able to bring together different stakeholders, from business leaders to staff, students and parents. She said she is also proud of work in Racine that will enhance professional development and increase student engagement.

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Parents have new tool to help choose among MPS schools

Dani McClain:

Olusanya is one of thousands of parents scrambling to find good school fits for their families during MPS' three-week enrollment period, through next Friday.

A new tool in the search this year is the Milwaukee School Chooser, a 100-plus-page directory of MPS schools and charters, independent charters and private schools, published this month by the local affiliate of the San Francisco-based Great Schools organization.

Milwaukee is at the front of the national conversation about parental choices largely because of its charter schools and the Milwaukee Parental Choice voucher program, said Jodi Goldberg, who directs Great Schools' local office, which opened in November.

"It seemed like a great opportunity to come in and work on behalf of parents so that no matter what their needs are, they know what's available to them," said Goldberg, a longtime Milwaukee education activist who is married to MPS School Board member Danny Goldberg.

Great Schools' efforts in Milwaukee are funded by the Walton Family, Joyce and Robertson foundations.

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Suspending Students is Exactly the Wrong Idea

Joel McNally:

We talk so much about the value of education and the need to do something to reduce dropouts that it may surprise some people that nearly half of all the freshmen in the Milwaukee Public Schools have been ordered not to come to school.

In fact, beginning in the sixth grade, more than a third of every grade level until senior year is suspended and told to stay away from school for up to three days at a time. Many are repeatedly told not to attend school.

The good news is that Milwaukee Superintendent William Andrekopoulos, after more than five years on the job, has finally noticed the destructive practice he has been presiding over and decided to do something about it.

Andrekopoulos says Milwaukee may have the highest suspension rates in the country. He has asked outside educational experts, the Council on Great City Schools, to examine Milwaukee's suspension policies and recommend ways to keep more kids in school.

The highest in the country. Hmmm. That sounds familiar. What else have we read recently about Milwaukee Public Schools leading the country? Oh, we remember now. MPS also had the lowest reading scores in the country.

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History Enrichment Opportunies and Summer Programs

Carol Fertig:

In writing this blog, I quite often find that I get a question for which I am not the best person to compose an answer. This was the case here; so I turned to Sandra L. Berger, the author of our recently published, The Ultimate Guide to Summer Opportunities for Teens.

I'll post Sandra's Response below. Because the parent posing the question was from Michigan, that state is slightly more represented in the response.

The following programs will have information and/or sponsor courses that may interest your son. This is not a complete list, but it should give you a good start. Please do not be put off by the word "gifted" in the program titles. The term describes a program, not a child. These programs often include a diversity of children who are interested in advanced topics.

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January 18, 2008

Health and safety restrictions making geography history in schools

The Daily Mail:

Children are being denied the chance to take part in geography field trips because of fears over health and safety, Ofsted has warned.

Inspectors warned of signs that geography is in decline in England's schools as growing numbers of pupils abandon a subject they find "boring and irrelevant".

Ofsted called for a revamp of geography, with more fieldwork and lessons on climate change and fair trade. Chief inspector of education Christine Gilbert said: "Geography is at a crucial period in its development.

"More needs to be done to make the subject relevant and more engaging for pupils."

One key way to make lessons more exciting is through field trips, Ofsted said in a new report.

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Migration has once again become a touchy political issue

The Economist:

UNTIL recently, politicians who inveighed against immigration could expect support from an angry minority of voters in many Western countries. Some, like Australia's Pauline Hanson, won moments in the limelight and then faded away. Others got closer to political power: in France in 2002 the anti-immigrant Jean-Marie Le Pen reached the run-off stage of the presidential election; Denmark's centre-right government has been kept in office with support from an anti-migrant party; and in Austria in 2000 Jörg Haider's far-right party joined a coalition government. On each occasion this was controversial, but could be explained as a quirk of the electoral system, not a reflection of widespread anti-migrant sentiment.

Today, however, hostility to immigration is becoming mainstream. Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, whose Labour government has allowed remarkably high rates of immigration for years, recently called for “British jobs for British workers”, a meaningless slogan previously used by the far-right National Front. The opposition Conservatives' leader, David Cameron, says he wants to see “substantially lower” immigration. Both government and opposition say they will keep out workers from Bulgaria and Romania, along with those from any other new EU members, for as long as possible.

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Teaching assistant charged with student sexual assault

Mike Miller:

A Waunakee teaching assistant, put on unpaid leave recently after being caught up in a federal investigation into child pornography, was charged today with repeated sexual assault of a child for having an affair with a freshman student while he was working at Madison La Follette High School.

Anthony Hirsch, 32, admitted to police during the child porn investigation that he had a year-long affair with the girl, which included sexual activity. The girl, now 19, confirmed that for police.

Hirsch, along with the sexual assault charge, was also charged today with knowingly possessing child pornography. He faces a possible maximum term of prison and extended supervision of 60 years on the sexual assault charge, and a maximum of 25 years of prison and extended supervision on the child pornography charge.

The criminal complaint filed today does not say how police determined that Hirsch and the La Follette student were having an affair, but during the course of the investigation into the child pornography allegations police asked Hirsch if he had ever had a sexual relationship with a child. Documents filed in support of obtaining search warrants for the residences of those thought to be involved in child pornography often quotes studies which show those who are involved in viewing child pornography are likely to have assaulted children in the past.

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Urban Schools Aiming Higher Than Diploma

Sara Rimer:

At Excel High School, in South Boston, teachers do not just prepare students academically for the SAT; they take them on practice walks to the building where the SAT will be given so they won’t get lost on the day of the test.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., the schools have abolished their multitrack curriculum, which pointed only a fraction of students toward college. Every student is now on a college track.

And in the Washington suburb of Prince George’s County, Md., the school district is arranging college tours for students as early as seventh grade, and adding eight core Advanced Placement classes to every high school, including some schools that had none.

Those efforts, and others across the country, reflect a growing sense of urgency among educators that the primary goal of many large high schools serving low-income and urban populations — to move students toward graduation — is no longer enough. Now, educators say, even as they struggle to lift dismal high school graduation rates, they must also prepare the students for college, or some form of post-secondary school training, with the skills to succeed.

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Pennsylvania Acts to Bolster High School Requirements

Sean Hamill:

A requirement that students pass a series of state exams before being allowed to graduate from Pennsylvania’s public high schools was unanimously approved Thursday by the State Board of Education.

The requirement faces a yearlong review process involving, among other groups, the state House and Senate Education Committees. If the measure survives, Pennsylvania will join 22 other states with similar requirements, according to the Center on Education Policy, an advocacy group in Washington.

Four additional states — Arkansas, Maryland, Oklahoma and Washington — will require graduation exams by 2012, two years before the Pennsylvania requirement would take effect. Connecticut is debating the idea.

Policy makers like the requirement because “communities are telling them that American kids are leaving high school without adequate skills,” the education center’s president, John F. Jennings, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

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Stacy Teicher Khadaroo:

Foundation offers $500 grants to all newborns – provided their parents open a college-savings account.

Just a few days into the new year, Laurie and Keenan Farwell welcomed their daughter Hadley into the world. The hospital staff at MaineGeneral Health in Augusta had the pleasure of delivering not just the baby, but also her first birthday gift: $500 toward her future education.

Hadley is a beneficiary of the new Harold Alfond College Challenge, a first-in-the nation philanthropic program that will give families statewide a $500 starter grant – and assistance with paperwork – to set up 529 college savings accounts for infants.

"It was very exciting to think she's not even a couple hours old, and she's already looking at her college fund," Ms. Farwell said in a phone interview as Hadley patiently sucked on her tiny hand, awaiting a feeding.

Harold Alfond founded Dexter Shoe Co. in Maine in 1958 and shared millions of dollars to promote health and education in the state. After giving many scholarships to college-age students, "he wanted to help build aspirations for college at the front end of life," says Greg Powell, chairman of the board of the Harold Alfond Foundation. Mr. Alfond laid the groundwork for this legacy before he died in November.

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Empowering School Principals

Rachel Gottlieb Frank:

The Hartford school district is poised to make a dramatic shift in the way school budgets are prepared to give principals control over just about everything, including the composition of their staff, the length of their school days and years, and more.

"This is a fundamental change," Superintendent Steven Adamowski told the school board Tuesday night.

Historically, the central office has set school budgets, determined how many teachers, social workers and other employees would work in a school, hired those employees and paid for books and programs for the classrooms.

The system made it difficult to hold schools and their principals accountable for student achievement because they had so little control of their own, Adamowski said. "In the past, we said, 'come up with school improvement plans.' But we gave schools exactly the same amount of money and the same way of doing things."

To make the switch this spring to the new "student-based budgeting," Adamowski formed a committee of teachers, principals, parents and budget office employees. What they found in their study, said Ebbie Parsons III, one of the project leaders, was that under the old system of budgeting, funding was uneven and unfair throughout the district.

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January 17, 2008

Racine school board wants residents' input on superintendent search

Dani McClain:

The Racine Unified School Board wants to have a new superintendent in place by early May, and will host a series of community forums this month to gauge what district residents want in the new hire.

Five forums are scheduled for the mornings and evenings of Jan. 29 and Jan. 30, and the board is hoping that parents, students, staff and other district residents show up.
One of the 5 candidates for Madison's Superintendent position is from Racine: Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard.

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More on Wisconsin Virtual Schools

A Reader's comment:

The article about Virtual Schools seems a bit tabloidish. It certainly paints a very different picture than the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal article. 15% local enrollment is very different from the 100% local enrollment that this author says will be enforced. She also doesn't seem to consider the fact that it's not surprising that WEAC would strongly support a former teacher regardless of the Virtual Schools issue. Maybe she was being sarcastic? Maybe she was trying to make a point about the $500 thing (which I agree is ridiculous)? All I know is that John Lehman was a good teacher who did all the extra stuff like coaching groups of high schoolers in the Model U.N. competitions. I also support Virtual Schools. I just don't know what the exact right way to do that is. Should they get exactly the same amount as a brick and mortar school? Probably not. What is the right percentage? I dunno. Does a requirement on percentage local enrollment help or hinder the students? I dunno. Please describe why 15% local enrollment is harmful. Please describe why 50% of the usual dollar amount is too little. Facts will convince me. Bashing a good teacher and really nice guy does nothing to convince me.
James Wigderson:
The march on Madison to restore Wisconsin Virtual Academy and protect Wisconsin's schools had over 1100 people participate today. I received this note from Brian Fraley that I thought I would pass along. It sounds like turnout even exceeded Brian's hopes and expectations:

We had to cut off pre-rally registration at the concourse ballroom before all of three Milwaukee Buses arrived. WE had 975 registered on site today, 140 on Milwaukee buses. So we easily had a crowd of more than 1100 thats not including walk ups. In 6 days!

Out of a safety concern we asked 150 or so to head back to the Concourse and head to capitol at 2 instead. And it still took 15 minutes for the throng to enter the Capitol!

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WEAC wins hands down. What else is new?

Jo Egelhoff:

Unbelievable nerve. One Wisconsin Now, one of many mouthpieces for the state teachers union is badmouthing Assembly Education Committee Chair Rep. Brett Davis. Davis authored legislation that would make minor modifications to state statutes, allowing virtual schools to operate without question (and without continuous challenge in the courts by WEAC).

So One Wisconsin Now wants to discredit Rep. Davis by citing 2 contributions – totaling all of $500 - from officers of the company that operates the Wisconsin Virtual Academy.

So Rep. Brett Davis can be bought off for $500. That’s ridiculous on its face. The sophomoric effort by One Wisconsin Now to question Davis’ integrity – and apparently thereby question the validity of his legislation is whining in the school yard.

$142,525. Now that’s serious money.
A FoxPolitics piece last week summarized WEAC’s repeated challenges – and current court victory over Wisconsin’s public virtual schools. The issue is competing bills – corrective legislation introduced by Rep. Davis, mentioned above, and a bill introduced by Sen. John Lehman that would slash funding for online schools by 50% and would disallow open enrollment from outside a school district.

So just how badly does WEAC want to shut down virtual schools? For his 2006 Senate race, WEAC made independent expenditures favoring Senator Lehman in the amount of $142,525. Wow. That’s huge.

Hundreds of Wisconsin students ask lawmakers to save virtual schools.

Additional Commentary here and here.

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Dropout Solutions That Work

Jay Matthews:

am starting this column with a chart, something journalists are never supposed to do. I found it on page 179 of a new book with one of those titles, "The Price We Pay: Economic and Social Consequences of Inadequate Education," that scholars consider necessary but discourages readers. I beg you to stay with me, because this particular chart is surprising and important (I have changed the formatslightly to make it easier to absorb).

Table 9-1. Interventions that Demonstrably Raise the High School Graduation Rate

(Intervention -- Extra high school graduates if intervention is given to 100 students)

1. Perry Preschool Program (1.8 years of a center-based program for 2.5 hours per weekday, child-teacher ratio of 5:1; home visits; group meetings of parents.) 19 extra graduates.

2. First Things First (Comprehensive school reform based on small learning communities with dedicated teachers, family advocates and instructional improvement efforts.) 16 extra graduates.

Amazon Link. Clusty Search.

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On Parenting: Reassuring Autism Findings

Nancy Shute:

Parents of children with autism don't get much good news: It's still not clear what causes the often devastating disorder, which affects as many as 1 in 150 children and for which there is no cure. As a result, theories abound on potential causes, the most notorious being the 1960s-era notion of "refrigerator mothers."

In recent years, much energy has been expended on arguing whether vaccines could cause autism: Some parents think that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine or thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative in other vaccines, is the culprit. Scientists, on the other hand, think autism is largely genetic, and have focused on looking for genes that could be at fault. That disconnect has been frustrating to parents and sometimes dangerous; an unproven treatment known as chelation therapy, which leaches heavy metals such as mercury from the body, resulted in the death of a 5-year-old boy in 2006 after he was administered the wrong drug.

The best evidence to date that vaccines are not responsible is published today in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Researchers with the California Department of Public Health found that the number of new cases of autism reported in California has risen consistently for children born from 1989 through 2003, which includes the period when thimerosal was phased out. Studies in other countries, including one from Canada published in 2007, have also exonerated vaccines and thimerosal.

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January 16, 2008

Toki Middle School Child Enticement Case

Madison Police Department:

On Tuesday January 15th around 9:24 Madison Police were called to Toki Middle School to take a report of an attempted child enticement. Two girls, ages 13 and 11, said they were followed by a man in a car as they walked to school along Raymond Road from Mckenna Blvd. to Whitney Way. At a couple of points in time the students say the man spoke to them through an open passenger's side window. First he told the girls, "You guys are going to be late for school." Following this comment the students quickened their pace. The man in the car continued to follow slowly behind them. After another block or two the man said, "I know your Dad, it's okay, I can give you a ride ... hop in." One of the girls replied, "You don't know my Dad." They walked even more quickly eventually crossing from the south side of Raymond to the north side at Whitney Way where they cut in to the Walgreen's parking lot. They then observed the man in the car speed up and continue eastbound on Raymond. The girls immediately contacted a guidance counselor

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Meet and Greet the 3 Madison Superintendent Candidates

Via a Ken Syke email:

You are invited to meet and greet each of the three finalists for the Superintendent position of the Madison School District.

The Board of Education has scheduled a Community Meet and Greet for each of the finalists on January 22, 23 and 24. The sessions will be from 4:00 to 5:15 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center [Map] in rooms on Level 4.

One finalist will be present each day.

In the first hour, you will be able to briefly meet and greet the candidate as part of a receiving line. From 5:00 to 5:15 p.m. each day, the candidate will make a brief statement and might take questions. The session will end promptly at 5:15 p.m.

No RSVP is necessary.

This weekend, the Board will select the three finalists from among five semifinalists named on January 7.

The community is invited to this Meet and Greet so please forward this to anyone who might be interested in attending.

The announcement of the new Superintendent is scheduled for early February. For more information about the Superintendent selection process, see the MMSD Today article at

Thanks for your interest in and support of the Madison School District.

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Racine Sophomores Discover Asteroid


Three Racine sophomore students were notified on Monday that a celestial body they discovered during a science project had been verified as an asteroid.

The students at Racine's Prairie School will be able to name the asteroid, temporarily identified as "2008 AZ28," in about four years, according to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., the international authority on known objects in the solar system.

Sophomores Connor Leipold, Tim Pastika and Kyle Simpson were able to make the discovery thanks to technology provided from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., which is also the alma mater of the science teacher, Andrew Vanden Heuvel, school spokeswoman Susan Paprcka said.

The students operated a telescope located in New Mexico remotely over the internet.

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State Education and School District Data


The State Education Data Center (SEDC) is a new service of the Council of Chief State School Officers, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of the Council’s National Education Data Partnership. The SEDC will position itself as a leading voice on public education data and will focus on two work strands: (1) serving as a national advocacy leader for quality education data collection, standards, and use; and (2) serving as the nation’s provider of a free, easy-to-use website featuring state education data and analytic tools.

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The Translators: The Media and School Choice Research

Andrew Rotherham:

The Media play a pivotal role in determining how and why research influences public opinion with regard to policy. Political scientists Shanto Inyengar and Donald Kinder have shown through experimental research involving televised news how the presentation of news stories can have a powerful impact on what Americans think about issues.1 Prominent columns and articles, especially in the big East Coast papers, influence political behavior among the policy and political elites and offer signals about elite thought and opinion on key issues. The debates about the research on school choice illustrate the broader challenges the media face when translating research for public consumption.

At a superficial level, school choice is a relatively easy debate for the media to cover. It can be simplified into arguments for and against vouchers, charter schools, and altering the definition of "public" schooling, and these arguments are often boiled down to an easy framework of "public" versus "private." Likewise, the question of increases in test scores fits readily into a debate about whether school choice is "working" or not. While such framing greatly oversimplifies the issues, it nonetheless drives much of the coverage precisely because it offers easy contrasts.

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In Praise of Nerds

The Economist:

“AND then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo, and bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep, and a Proo, a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker, too!” That typically nifty passage comes from Dr Seuss's “If I Ran the Zoo”. The book was published in 1950 and contains the first use of the word “nerd”. How very unfortunate that Dr Seuss, whose verbal pyrotechnics have given so much pleasure to so many children, should also have given them, however innocently, the ghastly label “nerd”.

The precise meaning of the word (in its post-Seuss sense) is hard to pin down, as David Anderegg, a child psychologist and academic, argues in this thoughtful and warmly sympathetic book. It denotes a bundle of different qualities: “some combination of school success, interest in precision, unselfconsciousness, closeness to adults and interest in fantasy.”

But the word is no less powerful for its vagueness. Children intuitively understand what a nerd is, with terrible clarity. The bottom line, Mr Anderegg reckons, is that American kids grow up knowing that “nerds are bad and jocks are good”. (His focus is exclusively American: in many other countries academically high-achieving children are revered by their peers.) And this matters because these stereotypes become the basis for choices that children make about their identity and future.
Striving to do badly

Mr Anderegg draws on scores of interviews with his young patients to show what being called a nerd can do to a child. Some are driven to despair or suicide. But most cope by bending to peer pressure. “The kids who will really be hurt by the nerd/geek stereotypes are the kids who will shut down parts of themselves in order to fit in.” When these bright children start switching off their own lights to avoid being branded nerds, it is bad news for everyone—and for the economy. Mr Anderegg points to declining school performance and college enrolment in science subjects in America, and to the fact that employers in certain fields are now having to look abroad to find the best graduates.

Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them @ Amazon. Clusty.

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Wisconsin at Center of National Debate Over Virtual Schools


Seventh grader Marcy Thompson is caught in the middle of a national policy debate that could close her school and help determine the future of online education.

Thompson is one of a growing number of students nationwide trading home schooling and public schools for virtual ones where licensed teachers oversee her progress from afar.

She is enrolled in the Wisconsin Virtual Academy, a charter school based north of Milwaukee, but spends her days 130 miles away at home studying everything from literature to algebra under her mother's guidance and a curriculum provided by the school district.

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Teen girls' popularity predicts weight change, study shows

Elizabeth Cooney:

Adolescent girls who placed themselves low on the ladder of popularity were more likely to gain weight later in their teen years than girls who saw themselves as having higher social standing, Boston-area researchers say.

Depression and low self-esteem have been identified as contributing to the burden of obesity in adolescents, but Adina R. Lemeshow of the Harvard School of Public Health and her colleagues wanted to know whether girls' perception of their social standing predicted changes in their weight.

The study, which appears in the current Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, is the first to ask questions about social status before weight change, the authors say, making a stronger case for linking the two than previous work by others that looked at only one point in time.

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Colleges Turn to Web Tools in Hunt for ’08 Freshmen: Interactive sites aid recruiters, school-shoppers

Peter Schworm:

Once dominated by glossy brochures, college fairs, and campus tours, the college admissions landscape is rapidly shifting toward online social media, as schools blanket the Internet with podcasts, blogs, and videos to recruit wired high school students.

With virtual campus tours, live chats with college students, professors, and admissions officers, and videos about campus life, colleges and universities are increasingly turning to interactive and multimedia technology as recruiting tactics to connect with prospective students who are far more likely to scroll down a Web page than thumb through a college viewbook.

Think of it as College Admissions 2.0, college officials and consultants say.

"Higher ed is really trying to embrace it on all fronts," said Nora Barnes, director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. "There's no doubt that's where their audience is."

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January 15, 2008

Racine academic chief Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, eyes two superintendent posts

Dani McClain:

Racine Unified's academic director heads into her next round of interviews for the Madison Schools superintendent job on Friday.

Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, who joined Racine Unifed in November 2006 after a stint as an assistant superintendent in Ann Arbor, Mich., is one of five semi-finalists for the Madison job, she said Monday.

Vanden Wyngaard and Green Bay Schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad are the two Wisconsin-based educators in the running, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported last week. Schools officials from Miami, Fla. and Boston have also made it to the semi-final round. The Madison school board will next narrow the field to three candidates, Vanden Wyngaard said.

Sue Kutz, vice president of Racine Unified's school board, said she was shocked to hear that Vanden Wyngaard was interested in the Madison job. Racine Unified is on the hunt for a replacement for interim superintendent Jackson Parker, who stepped in after Tom Hicks resigned in August.

“She has expressed to me several times that she wanted to be superintendent of Racine Unified, so I was kind of surprised," said Kutz, who is chairing the search committee for the district's new leader.
Vanden Wyngaard said she still plans to throw her hat in the ring for the Racine job and will meet the February 20 application deadline. She acknowledged that her interviews in Madison could be viewed as a lack of commitment to her current employer, but said she's trying not to worry much about whatever speculations might be afloat.

“I have a mission for urban education, so I’m looking to be in a place that will help me fulfill that goal," Vanden Wyngaard said Monday. "If the community and the board believe that my candidacy here is important and that I can lead the district toward strategic change, then it won’t matter. If I’m the person for the job in Racine, it’ll happen."

Vanden Wyngaard is one of five candidates for the Madison Superintendent postion.

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Latest MMSD Today

is available here. This issue includes a look at graduation rates.

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Kids Count Update on Children's Well-Being

The Annie E. Casey Foundation:

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT online database has a whole new look and feel. Now featuring child well-being measures for the 50 largest U.S. cities, this powerful tool contains more than 100 indicators, including the most recent data available on education, employment and income, poverty, health, and youth risk factors for the United States as a whole, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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What is the Evidence that Acceleration Works?

Belin-Blank Center @ the University of Iowa:

The international educational community needs a comprehensive collection of articles on research and policy in acceleration. To fulfill IRPA's mission to serve as that clearinghouse, we will use this Web site to organize, reflect on, and make available research on acceleration.

As a starting point, we make available the 11 articles that form the research core of Nation Deceived, provide links to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) studies on acceleration options for high school students, and list titles of books, handbooks, and book chapters that touch on some aspect of acceleration.

This site is in its infancy. As it matures, it will encompass extant research as well as new work from IRPA and researchers dedicated to providing answers about acceleration.

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Madison police respond to gun call at Sherman Middle School

Jesse Russell:

All is well after an incident earlier today when police responded to a "gun" call at Sherman Middle School. According to the Madison Police Department "an 11-year-old student discharged a cap gun inside the boy's locker room." While the gun was lime green students passing by only heard the sound of the cap gun discharging. Full report below:

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New Jersey Overhauls School Finance

Craig McCoy:

Over the objections of big-city Democrats and suburban Republicans, Gov. Corzine's sweeping overhaul of how New Jersey pays for public education passed the Legislature last night.
Corzine and his allies in the Legislature say the measure would more fairly distribute nearly $8 billion in annual state education aid.

The bill would hike this year's state education funding by 7 percent. Some districts would see an increase of as much as 20 percent, and all would get at least a 2 percent increase.

But urban lawmakers bitterly predicted the bill would harm 31 disadvantaged school districts, including those in Camden, Newark and others that have received tens of millions in extra school aid in recent years.

Republicans, meanwhile, criticized a part of the law that would for the first time allocate a big chunk of state special-education aid based on the relative wealth of communities.

As a result, affluent schools would get less per handicapped student, under the theory that local taxpayers can more easily pick up that cost.

As Corzine pushed to get the bill through yesterday on the last day of the lame-duck legislative sessions, its passage became a cliff-hanger in the Senate.

There, Democratic leaders initially could only muster 20 "yes" votes - one short of a majority - after the chamber's six African American senators, all Democrats, linked up with Republicans to vote against the measure.

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When was the last time a college history professor made it her business to find out the names and schools of the best high school history students in the United States?

When was the last time a college basketball coach sat in his office and waited for the admissions office to deliver a good crop of recruits for the team?

When was the last time a high school history teacher got scores of phone calls and dozens of visits from college professors when he had an unusually promising history student?

When was the last time a high school athlete who was unusually productive in a major sport heard from no one at the college level?

Not one of these things happens, for some good reasons and some not-so-good reasons.

Before you think of the reasons however, we should be aware that sometimes the high school coach who is besieged with interest from the colleges is the same person who is ignored by colleges as a teacher. And sometimes the athlete who gets a number of offers from college coaches is the same person who, as an outstanding student, draws no interest at all. Not only do they observe this demonstration of our placing a higher value on athletics than on academics at the high school level, but their peers, both faculty and student, see it as well, and it teaches them a lesson.

Now it is obvious that if college coaches don’t scramble for the best high school athletes they can find, they may start to lose games, and, before long, perhaps their jobs as well.

College professors wait for the admissions office to deliver their students to them, and, while they may then complain about the ignorance of those students, and their inability to read or write well, they feel no need to search for high school students who are working hard and doing well in their field. Their jobs do not depend, they imagine, on finding good students to come to their college.

It is difficult to estimate the number of high school athletes who are contacted by college coaches each year, but if there are 3,400 colleges and for example 16 varsity sports, all of them needing players, and if only 16 athletes are contacted at each of the 20,000 high schools in the U.S. (a very conservative estimate), then 320,000 student athletes get contacted by colleges each year.

It is important to remember that National Merit Scholars are selected on the basis of their NMSQT scores, not on any achievement in history, physics, literature, or math. The equivalent process for athletics would be that scholarships were awarded on the basis of a physical fitness test, with no regard for the athlete’s specific achievement in basketball, track, football, baseball, gymnastics, etc.

Not only do coaches make it their business to know who are the best high school athletes they are likely to be able to attract, they know a lot about them. If they are recruiting a basketball player, not only do they know if he is hard-working and scores a lot, they also know the stats on his average minutes of play, blocks, free throws, steals, assists, fouls, field goals, three-point shots, and perhaps other things.

College professors not only do not know who the best high school students are, they also know nothing about their specific academic accomplishments.

College Admissions officers are routinely nagged by coaches on the one hand, to admit good prospects, but on the other hand they can almost never find any professor to take the slightest interest in the college freshman class they are trying to assemble for the coming year.

Anti-academic messages do not come from colleges alone. The Boston Globe has about 150 pages of coverage each year on high school sports, and also three seasonal 16-page supplement sections on local all-scholastic athletes, with pictures, data, a few interviews, etc. For all practical purposes, their coverage of high school academic achievement of any kind is non-existent.

Alumni of colleges also take an interest in good high school athletes, and the word "elitist” never occurs to them (or anyone else) in this context. When Lew Alcindor [Karim Abdul Jabbar] was a tall high school senior, not only did he get pursued by the head coach at every major basketball program in the country, but he got personal letters from Ralph Bunche (at the United Nations) and from Jackie Robinson (integrated baseball), urging him to go to UCLA and play basketball, which he did.

Why is this "double vision" important to high school teachers and students? During these times of great public concern over the level of academic achievement of our high school graduates, a double message is regularly and reliably being sent: "Athletics matter; Academics do not.” Both high school teachers, even those who are not coaches, and high school students, even those who are not athletes, get this message in the clear.

We should remember to be thankful for those students and teachers who continue to take high school academics seriously anyway.

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

January 14, 2008

Math 234 at the University of Wisconsin Madison for High School Students

Via Ted Widerski's email:

The UW Math dept has decided to offer a section of Math 234 (3rd semester Calculus) at 7:45 am in the fall of 2008. This course will be taught by Professor Andreas Seeger and will meet at 7:45 - 8:35 on MWF for 3 credits. The UW has chosen this time as being somewhat convenient for high school students, as many students can take this course and return to their high school in time for 2nd period.

Madison Schools have 26 students in grades 11 or below that will be completing Calculus II this year. Combined with students in neighboring school districts, there is a possibility that a large percentage of the class will be made of area high school students.

For those students that plan to elect this course, each District has a deadline for accessing the Youth Options [Clusty | Google] program. In Madison, that deadline is March 1. Therefore, I would encourage you to speak with students and parents in your building and make them aware of this opportunity. Also, please pass on this info to other key people in your building such as guidance counselors, math department chairs and Calculus teachers.

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact me.

Ted Widerski
Talented and Gifted Resource Teacher
Madison Metropolitan School District
545 W Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53703

Related: Credit for non-mmsd courses.

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Sun Prairie High group supports black students

Pamela Cotant:

Alisha Berns ' enthusiasm for the Sun Prairie Scholar Society speaks volumes.

"I really get excited. I don 't sleep well the night before, " said the Sun Prairie High School junior. "It 's a nice getaway. I 'm very comfortable being here. "

Sarah Benish, a school counselor at Sun Prairie High School, wanted to increase black students ' participation in advanced level courses, so she did some research and started the Sun Prairie Scholar Society last year. The student members are selected on academic success.

The society, which is called S Cubed for short, supports the academic success of high-achieving black students through group advising, supporting individual student goals, providing a space for students to connect, assisting students in reaching their highest academic potential and helping students find purpose in their learning.

"I really wanted to support these students and help them access opportunities, " said Benish, who is in her third year at the high school. "This group has been a highlight of my work here and I have learned so much from the students. "

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Early Bird Gets the Bad Grade

Via a reader's email: Nancy Kalish:

IT’S Monday morning, and you’re having trouble waking your teenagers. You’re not alone. Indeed, each morning, few of the country’s 17 million high school students are awake enough to get much out of their first class, particularly if it starts before 8 a.m. Sure, many of them stayed up too late the night before, but not because they wanted to.

Research shows that teenagers’ body clocks are set to a schedule that is different from that of younger children or adults. This prevents adolescents from dropping off until around 11 p.m., when they produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and waking up much before 8 a.m. when their bodies stop producing melatonin. The result is that the first class of the morning is often a waste, with as many as 28 percent of students falling asleep, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll. Some are so sleepy they don’t even show up, contributing to failure and dropout rates.

Many of our presidential candidates have been relatively silent on how they plan to save our troubled education system. For those still searching for a policy that might have a positive impact, here’s an idea: stop focusing on testing and instead support changing the hours of the school day, starting it later for teenagers and ending it later for all children.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Where Have all the Students Gone? An Update

An update to Barb Schrank's November, 2005 post:

Comments from a reader:

At $6,000 per child that's about $16 million per year. At $9,000 per child, that's about $23 million per year. If we kept 332, that would be $2-3 million more per year.

Also, MMSD not only lost students, which has a negative effect on what the district gets under revenue caps, we've increased our low-income population, which means that for every dollar the district gets, more of those dollars need to be spent on non-instructional services.

If the district does not consider the economic development implications of its decisions, we're likely to

  • see more go to school outside MMSD, or
  • for the non-low income students who go to school here increased family dollars will be spent on private aspects of education- lessons, tutoring, etc.
Madison's population in 2000 was 208,054 and is estimated to be 223,389, according to the census bureau. Madison's poverty rate is estimated to be 13%, according to the Small Area Estimates Branch [Website].

Per Student Spending (06/07 Budget)AdministratorsTotal StaffACT % Tested (05-06)ACT Comp Score
Middleton-Cross Plains51255640$12,82221756.37324.5
Sun Priarie47765946$11,23820741.362.623
Monona Grove27022885$12,2891338871.422.6
Data sources:Thanks to a number of readers for the updated information.
Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Principals' Life Lesson 23: Why new programs don't work

Ms. Cornelius:

Here's the point: administrators either respect their teachers and staff as professionals, or they don't. Professionals are given the tools they need to succeed by their management. Time, support and responsibility are three of the most important tools managers give to those they supervise. Administrators, you are managers for your teachers and staff. You would think I wouldn't have to say that, either, but I DO.

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January 13, 2008

To the Superintendent Selection Committee of Madison Metropolitan Schools

via email (with an opportunity to sign on below):

As you make your selection for the next Superintendent of MMSD, we ask you to choose a candidate that will be able to address the needs of all students, including those of gifted and talented (GT) students. We strongly urge you to hire a candidate that is knowledgeable of and open to the special needs of gifted learners.

The following are reasons this is necessary. References for these points are attached.

Approximately 1 out of every 5 drop-outs is gifted.

Giftedness occurs in all racial and socioeconomic groups. It is short-sighted to ignore the needs of the gifted as we increase in low-income enrollment, and creates even more disparity as those who have resources have other choices.

The statistics for Madison's gifted low-income and minority student drop-outs may be significantly higher than 1 out of 5.

GT students may learn poorly when taught at standard grade level and rate.

It may be thought that the experience of gifted in heterogeneous classrooms is that of the pleasure of excelling above everyone. However, as one GT teacher at Appleton's gifted school observed, it is the experience of a 5th grader whose teacher inexplicably teaches 1st grade curriculum.

Children who are highly gifted have special needs, academically and emotionally, and that should be recognized. Some states, such as New Mexico, give children at both ends of the academic bell curve IEPs.

Gifted children do not automatically “make it anyway”.

In the past 5 years, MMSD TAG staff has been cut by more than half, while other Teaching and Learning Department allocations have increased.

The student to TAG staff ratio in all neighboring districts is at least 4 times better than MMSD’s.

MMSD student enrollment has decreased and enrollment in all neighboring districts has increased. Many of us know families that have left for more challenging academics and school choice (“Bright Flight”).

MMSD spends nearly $14,000 per student. Edgewood Schools’ tuition is approximately $6000/student. Even if that figure is doubled to allow for resources for other children with special needs, there should still be enough for gifted education as well if it is valued.

Many other cities have gifted charters, or at least gifted programming. Janesville, Appleton, and Milwaukee are Wisconsin examples. Why do we not have gifted programming in Madison?

We need a superintendent who is specifically knowledgeable in the needs of the gifted to be able to support “best practices” from GT research.

All children deserve and should be entitled to learn at their level and speed. Our children should not be used for philosophical or political purposes.

The field of education seems particularly susceptible to cycles of philosophy and those in charge often adhere religiously to particular dogma. We need a moderate superintendent, open to parental choices and alternatives and the needs of all students. He or she should be able to recognize that for some, the neighborhood school is best, heterogeneous classes are the best, and for others, a charter school specializing in a high degree of challenge is needed.

We need to think about the future and think globally.

Thank you for your consideration,


"To sign on to this letter, please email and write "Letter Sign On" in the subject."

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Tutoring the 3-Rs and developing other "literacies"

Bob Parvin:

This site is about literacy--basic reading and writing and numeracy, and other "literacies:" celestial, geographic, economic, biological, nutritional, etc.

I am a retired resident of San Francisco with a long-time interest in child and adult literacy. I am offering my free program on the Web to help parents and tutors teach children to read, write, spell, and reckon. I have also included a program on English grammar and composition for good measure. In addition I have Web pages reflecting my interest in other subjects in which I want to be "literate."

If you have an interest in any these subjects, I invite you to check them out:

Tutoring for Mastery of Reading and Writing and Arithmetic

Tutoring English Grammar and Composition

Finding and Reading eBooks

Beginning Urban Skywatching

Physical Geography of the U.S.

Economic Literacy

Global Warming and Warning

Approaching the Bible

Islam: One American's Findings

DNA: Life's Common Denominator

Nutrition: What should we eat?

Help for Microsoft Windows XP

Bread Machine Baking

Tips for No-Knead Bread Baked in a Pot

Links to Video Performances of Great Arias

The Home Library, an electronic home reference library

Recollections of an Old Farm Boy

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January 12, 2008

'Anne Frank' star is special

Gayle Worland:

Slender and smiling, Emma Geer bounces into an interview in the offices of Madison Repertory Theatre wearing jeans, wool clogs and a turtleneck sweater the same smoky color as her deep gray eyes.

The Madison eighth-grader is on a break from rehearsals for the Rep 's "The Diary of Anne Frank, " in which she plays the title role. And if that job 's not ambitious enough for a 13-year-old, Emma also knows what a lot of audience members will have in the back of their minds when the play continues tonight at Overture Center 's Playhouse: That this Anne Frank is also the daughter of Richard Corley, the Rep 's artistic director.

When Corley hired Madison native Jennifer Uphoff Gray, a 12-year veteran of the New York theater scene, to direct "The Diary of Anne Frank, " he told her "The casting is in your hands, " says Gray.

So Gray contacted drama teachers across the area asking for names of talented actresses who might play Anne. She saw a slew of local spring school plays, scouting for talent. Finally she went to Chicago to find the right girl for the part, auditioning some 16-, 17- and 18-year-old actresses in the process.

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Teacher Essay Brings $60,000 Award

Susan Troller:

An enterprising teacher at Stephens Elementary School on Madison's west side wrote a prize-winning essay that will bring her school $60,000 worth of laptop computers, digital camera/camcorders, computer monitors and software from Samsung Electronics and Microsoft.

Allison Milley, who is a special education teacher for fourth- and fifth-grade students, wrote a 100-word essay describing how her students would benefit from the high tech products. Over 8,200 schools entered the contest.

"The kids were really excited when they found out we were chosen," Milley said. She said that she heard about the contest through a listserve for parents, students and teachers who are involved with special education.

Milley explained that special education students often find it especially helpful to use computers in learning to read and write.

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Best Values in Colleges & Universities

We updated and ranked this list of the top 100 colleges in early 2008. Sort the overall rankings for both in-state students and out-of-state students, cost, quality measures or financial aid measures (how we scored the schools). Then select All States or any number of individual states (hold down the control key as you click to choose more than one), or select All Schools or any number of individual colleges. Clicking on the college names in the table will take you to their Web sites. Most of our data come from Petersons, a Nelnet company

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West Side Parents Angry About Proposed School Boundaries Charge

Some in a big Madison neighborhood are outraged over the latest plan to change West Side school boundaries to make way for a new school opening near Hawk's Landing next fall.

Residents in the Valley Ridge neighborhood are pledging to start a petition drive and to do whatever it takes to stop the proposal.

The new, yet-to-be-named school on the far West Side has prompted officials to try to rearrange boundary lines on the West Side. But, the boundary lines are different than initially proposed and some in Valley Ridge said they are in shock.

"I feel very deceived," said parent and homeowner Beth Todd, vice president of the Glenn Stephens PTO.

Todd, her husband and other parents said they were always told their children would not be affected by the new boundary changes in meetings with school officials before the referendum for the new school passed.

Currently, Valley Ridge children go to Stephens school as well as Jefferson Middle School. But under a new proposal, that would all drastically change, and, some contend, for no good reason.

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Ed schools put diversity before math

Jay Greene & Catherine Shock:

A good education requires balance. Students should learn to appreciate a variety of cultures, sure, but they also need to know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Judging from the courses that the nation’s leading education colleges offer, however, balance isn’t a goal. The schools place far more emphasis on the political and social ends of education than on the fundamentals.

To determine just how unbalanced teacher preparation is at ed schools, we counted the number of course titles and descriptions that contained the words “multiculturalism,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” and variants thereof, and then compared those with the number that used variants of the word “math.” We then computed a “multiculturalism-to-math ratio”—a rough indicator of the relative importance of social goals to academic skills in ed schools. A ratio of greater than 1 indicates a greater emphasis on multiculturalism; a ratio of less than 1 means that math courses predominate. Our survey covered the nation’s top 50 education programs as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, as well as programs at flagship state universities that weren’t among the top 50—a total of 71 education schools.

The average ed school, we found, has a multiculturalism-to-math ratio of 1.82, meaning that it offers 82 percent more courses featuring social goals than featuring math. At Harvard and Stanford, the ratio is about 2: almost twice as many courses are social as mathematical. At the University of Minnesota, the ratio is higher than 12. And at UCLA, a whopping 47 course titles and descriptions contain the word “multiculturalism” or “diversity,” while only three contain the word “math,” giving it a ratio of almost 16.

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January 11, 2008

Graphic novels enliven literature for Dane County students

Gena Kittner:

Move over Melville — comic-style books are popping up in classrooms throughout Dane County, giving educators a new tool to teach literature.

Graphic novels, a literary form that marries bold art and often edgy text, have persuaded reluctant students to open books and are providing a new way to teach visual learning, area educators and librarians say.

Libraries have long been aware of the value of such "sequential art" in helping students become better readers, said Hollis Rudiger, a former librarian at UW-Madison's School of Education. "It's the classroom teachers that are finally starting to see the value," she said.

This fall, students at Monona Grove and DeForest high schools studied graphic novels in English classes. Next year, if there's enough interest, Monona Grove plans to offer an art class focusing on the novels and cartooning.

"I'm very, very excited about teaching this class because it's a step in a different direction," said Judith Durley, a Monona Grove High School art teacher who proposed the class.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:40 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Sparring over (Wisconsin) online schools

Andy Hall:

Key Republican and Democratic leaders launched competing efforts on Thursday to rewrite Wisconsin 's laws for online schools, just weeks before families begin filling out applications to transfer from their traditional home school districts.

Their proposals, described as attempts to clarify confusion after a recent court ruling, quickly came under attack from the opposing party.

Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, proposed that online schools, also known as virtual schools, be allowed to continue operating with few restrictions. About 3,000 Wisconsin students attend online schools.

Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he 's introducing a measure restricting online schools to half of the approximately $6,000 in state aid they currently receive for each student who transfers from a home district.

"I really believe it 's important to wring the profits out of these operations, " said Lehman, who contends that Davis ' approach forces taxpayers to pay too much to online schools such as the Northern Ozaukee School District 's Wisconsin Virtual Academy. The district north of Milwaukee, with curriculum from a Virginia-based firm, K12 Inc., operates the online school that was the focus of the recent court ruling.

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Stoughton Schools to Install Cameras

istrict officials said they will install 60 cameras by the end of January as part of its effort to update its safety and emergency plan.

Five of the six district schools will get one indoor camera and eight outdoor cameras. Stoughton High School will get three indoor cameras and 11 outdoor cameras, WISC-TV reported.

"Adding cameras is not something that is occurring because of any one particular incident here. It's part of wanting to be more fully prepared," said Mary Gavigan, superintendent of the Stoughton Area School District.

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A look at the UW's People Program

Anita Weier:

"It's ultimately not about what color you are. Everybody brings something to the university community."

Cydny Black was reflecting on her first semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, after starting out last fall with a scholarship from the Pre-college Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE) program, which recruits, readies and funds tuition for minority and low-income students for the university.

One of three PEOPLE students from Madison high schools interviewed by The Capital Times at the start of the fall semester, the 18-year-old African-American said she has really enjoyed herself on a campus that is more than 80 percent white.

She is also succeeding in school. She achieved a 3.75 grade point during the semester, higher than her 3.3 average in high school.

"Anyone who says you can't do it if you didn't in high school is wrong," she said.
The PEOPLE program was established because UW-Madison has struggled for years to attract and retain minority students through graduation. But all three students interviewed last semester -- Black, Aaron Olson and Summer Becker -- are adapting well so far.

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Schools turning broadband into cash

Erica Perez:

Three local educational institutions have discovered they are sitting on the telecommunications equivalent of beachfront property, and they're about to cash in - to the tune of more than $100 million over 30 years.

In the 1970s, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools and Milwaukee Area Technical College each got licenses for a set of frequencies to broadcast televised lessons in their classrooms. But by the mid-1990s, they had switched almost completely to the Internet, leaving these frequencies virtually unused for more than a decade.

Now, new rules from the Federal Communications Commission have cleared the way for these channels to be converted to wireless broadband. And commercial providers, eager to expand their wireless reach, have been racing to lease the frequencies from their owners.

Together, UWM, MPS and MATC plan to lease a dozen channels of educational broadband to Kirkland, Wash.-based Clearwire Corp. Under the deal, each institution will get $4.2 million up-front and monthly payments of $55,000 that increase annually, for a total estimated payout of about $36 million each over three decades.

The agreement could also bring Milwaukee Public Schools one step closer to bridging the digital divide. Clearwire spokeswoman Helen Chung would not comment on the company's future business plans. But Todd Gray, an attorney with Washington, D.C.-based firm Dow Lohnes, who helped negotiate the deal, said Clearwire will likely use the spectrum to expand its wireless broadband network into the greater Milwaukee area.

Schools' physical footprint lends themselves to this sort of wireless / fiber internet service. This is another way that the school systems can "bind" themselves to more of the population.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:13 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Waukesha School Board Cuts Administrators to Save Teacher Positions

Amy Hetzner:

The School Board sacrificed administrative staff for teaching positions as part of nearly $1.3 million in program reductions approved Wednesday night for the 2008-'09 year.

The savings generated by eliminating the School District's last staff member dedicated to implementing its gifted-and-talented program, as well as the equivalent of one-third of its department chairmen, helped keep the staff needed to preserve an eight-period day at the middle schools.

The board also voted to reduce the amount of money it distributes to building sites for discretionary spending by $200,000, or 3%, to cover some of the costs of a middle-school program that gives students one period every day for enrichment or extra help.

"None of us wants to make these cuts," board member Kurt O'Bryan said. But he said the district paid its department chairmen more and gave them more time than did other school districts, and that administrative reductions would hurt students less than teacher layoffs.

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Unschooling Your Kids


Since they were young, Christian and Georgina McKee have been able to learn what ever they wanted at their own pace.

And although reading came natural to Christian- Georgina didn't pick up the skill until she was eight.

"We knew if we sat her down and forced her to read, we would have had a very unhappy child and probably a child who probably would think that she couldn't rather than she could," says mother Alison McKee.

It's called "unschooling."

Mckee says unlike other home schooling methods- it gives children complete educational freedom.

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Punishing the Best

Scott Daubenspeck:

When Jay Schalin asserted in his Jan. 1 Point of View article "Misguided agenda for universities" that "the presence of disengaged students will only lessen a high school's ability to focus on students who are interested in learning," he skimmed over the larger problem of the falling educational standards caused by such policy initiatives.

When schools cater to business and popular demands to increase graduation rates and college attendance rates, they are forced to pass less intelligent and less productive students simply to meet the new quotas, usually by curving tests or lowering expectations for the same grade. This demeans and devalues a high school diploma or bachelor's degree in the job market due to the ease of obtaining one as well as the higher number of potential employees with such degrees. In such cases, the best students are punished, suffering through a dull curriculum for little payoff without postgraduate education.

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Facebook photos land Eden Prairie kids in trouble

Mary Lynn Smith & Courtney Blanchard:

Eden Prairie High School administrators have reprimanded more than 100 students and suspended some from sports and other extracurricular activities after obtaining Facebook photos of students partying, several students said Tuesday.

School administrators and the district's spokeswoman didn't return phone calls, but students called in by their deans over the past two days said they were being reprimanded for the Facebook party photos, which administrators had printed out. It's likely, they said, that other students among the 3,300 who attend Eden Prairie will be questioned throughout the week.

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January 10, 2008

Boy Glues Hand to Bed to Avoid School


A 10-year-old Mexican boy dreaded returning to school after Christmas break so much that he glued his hand to his bed. Sandra Palacios spent nearly two hours Monday morning trying to free her son Diego's hand with water, oil and nail polish remover before calling authorities, police chief Jorge Camacho told The Associated Press from outside the northern city of Monterrey.

"I didn't want to go to school because vacation was so much fun," Reforma newspaper quoted the boy as saying.

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Kids in the lab: Getting high-schoolers hooked on science

Kate Tillery-Danzer:

While this might be typical work for a graduate student in the life sciences, Ballard is a senior at Madison West High School who is still shy of his 18th birthday. His work with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Eukaryotic Structural Genomics is part of the Youth Apprenticeship Program (YAP), an innovative project that gives exceptional high-school students an opportunity to get exposure and experience in their desired careers.

Created in 1991, the program is run by Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development, with collaboration from universities, schools and businesses. Statewide, more than 10,000 students have participated in 22 different program areas. This year, Ballard is one of nine Dane County students enrolled in YAP's biotechnology focus, which offers a taste of working science that they can't get in high school.

"Working in the research lab is amazing," says Ballard, who plans to pursue both an M.D. and Ph.D. after college. "It's meaningful. There is a point (to it). In high school, you do your labs and it's not contributing to human knowledge in any way."


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Asian American Students and School Stereotypes

Jay Matthews:

The surge in the number of Asian Americans the past four decades has affected many sectors of society, particularly public schools. On the whole, Asian American students tend to perform well on standardized tests and have a high rate of acceptance into some of the most selective high schools and colleges. The energy and ambition shown by many of these students has both improved our schools and fueled stereotypes. For example: All those hard-working Asian kids, some people say, are raising the grading curve and putting too much pressure on the rest of us.

I have often wondered what Asian American students think about this. Fortunately, one of them has just completed a very small but intriguing study that shines a surprising light on this often overlooked issue.

The study, " 'Too Many Asians at this School': Racialized Perceptions and Identity Formation," was written by Jenny Tsai as her senior college thesis for the social studies department at Harvard last year. If you e-mail Tsai at, she will send you a copy. What she describes is not a cabal of brainiacs trying to steal all the academic glory from their non-Asian competitors, but a collection of industrious and ambitious American teenagers trying to emulate their equally achievement-oriented white classmates, while society and government shove them into an artificial group called "Asians and Pacific Islanders" on the census forms.

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Tennessee School Districts to Administer Teacher Incentives

Natalia Mielczarek:

State-mandated bonuses to help recruit tough-to-find teachers and reward great ones will look different from district to district in Tennessee.

Much-awaited guidelines out last month from the state Board of Education are broad — basically, they direct districts to put in place some sort of plan and launch it by the start of the 2008-09 school year.

That differs from other states experimenting with pay-for-performance. In Texas, for instance, some rewards are tied to specific student achievement on standardized tests. Those behind the Tennessee law say there's good reason to keep it flexible enough for districts to explore options.

"The best chance for it to have a positive impact is to have those plans bubble up from the system level," said Gary Nixon, executive director of the state Board of Education. "They'll have to work with their teachers' associations to come up with a plan that works for them. It's better than it coming from the state."

Teachers unions, which will have to approve the plans in districts where they have bargaining power, opposed the measure in the legislature last year. They said it didn't address the underlying issue of low teacher pay and may not be fair.

Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Goodlettsville, who serves on the state legislature's education committee, said pay incentives have merit if they're distributed correctly.

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Quality Counts State K-12 Survey: Wisconsin = C+

Editorial Projects in Education Research Center [1.2MB PDF]:

The 12th annual edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts continues the cradle-to-career framework launched in last year’s report. But it also reintroduces some of the categories in which we have graded states in the past, though some of the indicators and the grading have changed. The cradle-to-career perspective emphasizes the connections between K-12 education and other systems with which it intersects: preschool education, other social and economic institutions, and further education and training.

To emphasize this approach, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center last year created two new state-performance measures: the Chance-for-Success Index and the K-12 Achievement Index. These indicators, respectively, capture key learning foundations and outcomes at various stages in a person’s life and the performance of the states’ public schools. Coupled with that heightened attention to outcomes, the 2007 edition of Quality Counts examined a series of policies that states could pursue to better align public education from preschool to postsecondary education and into the workplace.

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January 9, 2008

The 2007 Public Education Quotes of the Year

Mike Antonucci:

6) "There's a group out there that thinks all you need to be a teacher is a bachelor's degree, a background check and to pass a computerized test, but you know they're not going to send them to teach where the wealthy folks are. They're going to send them to teach where Ray-Ray, Little Willie, Little Man, Too-Sweet, and Chiquita are in the classroom." – National Education Association President Reg Weaver, delivering the keynote speech before the Oklahoma Center for Innovation in Teaching Excellence in Tulsa. (November 2 Tulsa World)

4) "Too often, union leaders like to have unquestioning, uninformed members who don't raise too many questions about what they're doing." – Deborah Lynch, candidate for president of the Chicago Teachers Union. (April 26 YouTube video interview)

1) "People take money every day for things I would not do… there are people that are paid to be assassins. Sometimes it’s just not worth the sacrifice you would have to make for the money." – Metro Nashville Education Association President Jamye Merritt, explaining why her union opposes performance pay. (January 7 Tennessean)

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We need a new definition of accountability

Anthony Cody:

America's schools have fallen into a giant trap. This trap is epic in its dimensions, because the people capable of leading us out of it have been silenced, and the initiative that could help us is being systematically squashed.
Policymakers and the public have been seduced by a simple formulation. No Child Left Behind posits that we have troubled schools because they have not been accountable. If we make teachers and schools pay a price for the failure of their students, they will bring those students up to speed.

But schools are NOT the only factor determining student success. Urban neighborhoods are plagued by poverty and violence and recent reports in The Chronicle show that as many as 30 percent of the children in these neighborhoods suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Fully 40 percent of our students are English learners, but these students must take the same tests as native English speakers. Moreover, a recent study provides strong evidence that family-based factors such as the quality of day care, the home vocabulary and the amount of time spent reading and watching television at home account for two-thirds of the difference in academic success for students. Nonetheless, NCLB holds only the schools accountable.

Teachers are realizing that this is a raw deal. We can't single-handedly solve these problems, and we can't bring 100 percent of our students to proficiency in the next six years, no matter how "accountable" the law makes us, and no matter the punishments it metes out. But if we speak up to point out the injustice and unreasonableness of the demands on our schools, we are shouted down, accused of making excuses for ourselves and not having high expectations for our students. Thus, teachers have been silenced, our expertise squandered.

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Vietnamese Professor Advocates for an Updated Curriculum

A conversation with Professor Nguyen Lan Dung:

Prof Nguyen Lan Dung, a National Assembly Deputy who has devoted himself to Vietnam’s education system for the last 51 years, while chatting with a VTC News reporter on the New Year, said that he is unhappy with poor curriculums and outdated and unremarkable textbooks

I failed to persuade the National Assembly and the Ministry of Education and Training that the currently applied curriculum and textbooks are greatly different from all others in the world. I do not intend to stop addressing this issue and will still try my best to persuade relevant ministries that it is necessary to make changes.

You have a strong attachment to and interest in the national education system. You may well know that Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Thien Nhan has been taking drastic measures to solve various problems. Do you think he will bring about change?

I well understand that Mr. Nhan is also adamant about addressing education and training shortcomings. That explains why he has started the “say ‘no’ to exam fraud and wrongdoing. Resultantly, 400,000 pupils failed the high school final exam. If you drive too fast, and then you put on the emergency brake, you will crash your motorbike. The consequence of drastic action was that 400,000 students have no degree, and a bleak future ahead.

As a journalist, you may well know that a lot of students dropped out after this movement was implemented I’ve never in my life seen so many give up school; its downright dangerous.

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Pre-K Expansion Measure's Varying Standards Faulted

V. Dion Haynes:

Early childhood experts and parents expressed support yesterday for a measure before the D.C. Council that would extend pre-kindergarten programs to 2,000 more 3- and 4-year-olds in the city.

Although researchers and education advocates at the council hearing agreed that pre-K can boost academic achievement in later years, debate centered on what constitutes a high-quality program for D.C. students.

A provision in the measure, introduced last month by council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), would require pre-K teachers in traditional public schools, charters and new community-based programs funded through the proposal to have a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, child development or family studies immediately. Teachers in existing community-based programs would not be required to have their bachelor's degrees until 2014.

That point drew opposition.

"Pre-K teachers with BA degrees achieve better results," said Libby Doggett, executive director of Pre-K Now, which is advocating for expanded early childhood programs in the city. "Permitting some classrooms to do it one way and others to do it another way is the wrong approach," she added.

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Milwaukee School's Superintendent Looks Ahead After 5.5 Years on The Job

Alan Borsuk:

In August 2002, when he was named superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools on a 5-4 vote, William Andrekopoulos said he wanted to serve five years in the job.

It seemed an iffy proposition, given his narrow support and the fact that five superintendents before him hadn't lasted that long.

A couple of years later, with a majority of the School Board behind him and a firm grip on the job, Andrekopoulos said he was aiming for six years, which would take him close to his 60th birthday.

Now, as the six-year mark looms, as rumors swirl that he will leave soon, and as the School Board begins the process that usually leads to a decision on a superintendent's contract, Andrekopoulos says he wants to stay in the job for an undetermined length beyond six years.

"I'm in it for the long haul," he said. "I feel energized."

Reinventing high school

The extent of the change can be seen in figures included in the annual "report card" for MPS being presented to a board committee tonight. In 1998-'99, 91% of all MPS high school students were enrolled in 15 large schools and 2% in small high schools. In 2007-'08, 42% were enrolled in nine large high schools and 44% in 30 small high schools or in buildings with several schools within one building. (Other students were enrolled in alternative and "partnership" schools that are part of the MPS system.)

Andrekopoulos also has pushed in recent years to return to more centralized power in MPS, especially when it comes to low-performing schools. Those schools are now being given much more specific directions from the central office about what and how to teach.

Andrekopoulos' salary is $171,376.80 a year, plus a variety of benefits, including payments to a retirement fund of $19,000 a year above the base benefit of MPS employees. His financial package, however, is considerably less than that of many other superintendents of large districts around the country and not much higher than those offered by many Milwaukee-area suburban districts.

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Why the Public Schools?

Laurent Lafforgue:

Since my forced resignation from the High Council of Education, I have received hundreds of testimonials from teachers, parents, students and plain citizens of all social groups. Among these messages I have been particularly struck by those parents who have written me, in substance, “We have been so deceived, and we are so appalled, by what has become of the schools that we have decided to remove our children from there, and to teach them ourselves.” Or, “We have joined with other parents and are pooling our talents to form our own classes for our children”. Or, again, “Despite the financial sacrifice it represents, we have placed our children into private schools.” And finally, those most numerous messages which say: “Our children go to school, yes, but every evening we put them to work using old textbooks, and do what we can to give them the kind of rigorous instruction that is no longer given in their classes. But what a labor for them, and what a responsibility for us!”

That parents should go so far as to remove their children from school, to teach them themselves, at home, or to form parallel classes for them in which they, themselves, are the teachers, to prefer a school to which they must pay the fee to the free public school, or to impose on their children and themselves the burden of a night school added to the day school they consider to be nothing but a holding pen, all this became and remains for me a theme of profound dismay. And I notice as well that these are surely the parents who enjoy a high level of education and – for those who can pay the fees of a private school – of income. And then I think of the other children, who do not have the benefits of having been born into families similarly favored.

Students, all the students, are the primary victims of the destruction of the school. This destruction has resulted from educational policies of all the governments of the last few decades. It is not the teachers who are responsible for it, for they are victims themselves: firstly in that they have been prevented from teaching correctly, by the publication of national curricula which are increasingly disorganized, incoherent and emptied of content; then because the knowledge gaps accumulated by their students over the course of years have made the conditions of teaching ever more difficult, and have exposed them to incidents of increasing incivility and violence on the part of adolescents who have never been taught either the elementary understandings, the habits of work, or the self-control which are indispensable to the progress of their studies; and finally because the younger generation of teachers has suffered from an already degraded educational program, so that their own understanding is less certain than that of their elders, and, with the exception of some well tempered characters, has been disoriented by the absurd training so prodigally distributed by the teachers colleges.

Clusty Search: Laurent Lafforgue.

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Working Dad: Dads can do plenty to help their daughters with image issues

Paul Nyhan:

My daughter sat in her creaky, wooden high chair last week, blissfully happy in her chubby 2-year-old frame, and I worried.

I worried because in a few years this toddler will stand at the edge of the nation's body-image vortex, swirling with size 00 jeans, underfed celebrities glorified in gossip magazines, the latest "America's Next Top Model" and an unrelenting marketing drumbeat that skinnier is better.

How do I keep her from falling in?

My New Year's resolution is to help my daughter prepare for the mind-numbingly complex, sometimes fictitious image of the female body. Unfortunately, I am out of my element.

Today, involved dads are entering unfamiliar territory, such as body-image anxiety. They want to help, but don't always know how, says Harvard Medical University researcher Dr. Nancy Etcoff. When Etcoff gives a speech these days, dads ask a lot of the questions.

"They don't know what to say to their daughters, how to help them," said Etcoff, who also runs Massachusetts General Hospital's aesthetics and well-being program. "Right now there is a really troubled body image. It is really hard to feel confident."

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Kids Learn Politics Young in New Hampshire

Claudia Parsons:

New Hampshire and Iowa have historically been the first states to make their choice in the state-by-state battle to pick presidential candidates in November’s election. Iowa voters decide today and New Hampshire next Tuesday. Kids may not be able to vote but every politician knows the value of a picture with a cute baby. And in New Hampshire, many parents seem determined to get their children involved in the election process. Some children are already veterans of the candidate meet-and-greet. “I used to hate it when I was little but not any more, I like going now,” said 14-year-old Bjarna O’Brien after meeting Republican presidential hopeful John McCain at a diner in the town of Derry. By now, Bjarna has developed opinions which she says are only partly shaped by her mother, who home schools the sisters. She says McCain is not tough enough on illegal immigration and that abortion is “worse than murder.” John Kelly, an 11-year-old who met McCain by chance at another New Hampshire diner on Tuesday, talks fluently about the need to do more for the middle class and about Republican hopeful Mitt Romney’s record of raising taxes.

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January 8, 2008

The Genetics of Language:
Researchers are beginning to crack the code that gives humans our way with words.

Jon Cohen:

Daniel Geschwind reaches up to his office bookshelf, takes down a three-dimensional puzzle of the human brain, and begins trying to snap the plastic pieces together. A neurogeneticist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Geschwind hopes the puzzle will help him describe the parts of the brain that control speech and language. But for the life of him, he can't figure out how the left and right hemispheres attach. "I'm really bad spatially, so don't make fun of me," he pleads. "It's like I'm having a little stroke or something. I'll get it together, and then I'll figure it out."

The plastic model may have momentarily flummoxed Geschwind, but when it comes to the genes that govern the brain's development and functions, he excels at putting the pieces together. Over the past few years, he has emerged as one of the leading geneticists in a nascent field that aims to spell out which genes are related to speech and language development--and how our intelligence and communication skills evolved beyond those of our ape relatives, giving us the unique ability to speak.

Research like Geschwind's sits at the intersection of two fields: behavioral genetics and evolutionary bi­ology. Each field depends on the other to make sense of the flood of studies on the genetics of language now pouring out of labs around the world. To peer into the human brain and see how it typically stores, uses, and comprehends words, Geschwind investigates not only normal human brains but also those where the process goes awry, studying the genes of families afflicted by autism, dyslexia, schizophrenia, and other conditions that can involve speech and language disorders. This research may help make diagnosis and treatment of language-related disorders more precise, but it also has a more basic purpose. "Studying disease is really a fundamental way to understand normal function," says Geschwind. "Disease has given us extraordinary insight to understand how the brain works or might not work."

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Yin & Yang: Madison Superintendent Search 1999 vs 2008

Props to the Madison School Board for a process that has resulted in five interesting candidates. We'll see how it plays out. Susan Troller on the current process:

The pool of five candidates for Madison's top school district job includes two superintendents and high-level administrators from some of the largest and oldest school districts in America.

The candidates -- four men and one woman -- all have experience working in urban school districts. All have doctoral degrees, two are minorities, and three come from out of state. The out-of-staters have administrative experience in the Boston Public Schools in Massachusetts, the Miami/Dade school system in Florida and a combined district that includes schools in Columbus, Ohio.

The two candidates from Wisconsin include Green Bay's current superintendent and the chief academic officer of the Racine Unified School District.

The semifinalists, chosen by the Hazard, Young and Attea national executive search firm, come from an original pool of 25 candidates from 11 states.

The districts where the candidates are currently working range in size from Green Bay and Racine, which have about 20,000 students, to districts like Miami/Dade, which has about 350,000 students.

Chris Murphy, writing in January, 1999:
The way is almost clear for Art Rainwater to be the nextsuperintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Rainwater was the only applicant for the permanent post at the head of theMadison schools as of 11 a.m. today. The application deadline is 4:15 School Board will meet tonight to discuss the applicants, but membershave said they will make no hiring decisions because one of their number,JoAnn Elder, is out of town. The board planned to interview the superintendentcandidates on Feb. 1 and possibly make a decision that night.

``Of course, one could make the case that we've been interviewing Art forthe past five years, but another few questions probably won't bother him atall,'' said School Board member Deborah Lawson. She is one of three boardmembers who have been pushing to hire Rainwater since this summer withoutconducting a nationwide search.

The board reached a compromise last month in which only employees would beeligible to apply for the job. About a dozen district employees have thecertification to be a superintendent.

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1/8/2008 Madison Event on K-12 School Models

Rafael Gomez is hosting a discussion of school models (traditional, charter, magnet) with Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater.

When: 6:30p.m. Tuesday January 8, 2008.

Covenant Presbyterian Church
318 South Segoe Rd
Madison, WI 53705 [Map]

Many communities offer a growing number of K-12 educational options. Learn about Madison's current offerings and the climate for future charter/magnet initiatives.

Question and Answer

Rafael has hosted a number of previous forums, including those that address:

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Madison School Superintendent Candidates

Madison School District Press Release:

Following their meeting this evening with Superintendent search consultants from Hazard, Young and Attea & Associates, Ltd., the Board of Education has selected five applicants as semifinalists for the position of Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

In alphabetical order, the five applicants are:

The semifinalists were chosen from among 25 persons who sought the position currently held by Art Rainwater. Rainwater will retire on June 30, 2008, with the new Superintendent scheduled to begin on July 1.
Related Links:

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Mo. tries new approach on teen offenders

Todd Lewan:

At age 9, Korey Davis came home from school with gang writing on his arm. At 10, he jacked his first car. At 13, he and some buddies got guns, used them to relieve a man of his Jeep, and later, while trying to outrun a police helicopter, smacked their hot wheels into a fire hydrant.

For his exploits, the tough-talking teen pulled not only a 15-year sentence (the police subsequently connected him to three previous car thefts) but got "certified" as an adult offender and shipped off to the St. Louis City workhouse to inspire a change of heart.

It didn't have the desired effect.

"I wasn't wanting to listen to nobody. If you wasn't my momma, or anybody in my family, I wasn't gonna listen to you, period," says Korey, now 19. "I was very rebellious."

At that stage, most states would have written Korey off and begun shuttling him from one adult prison to the next, where he likely would have sat in sterile cells, joined a gang, and spent his days and nights plotting his next crime.

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January 7, 2008

Recognize (Wisconsin Virtual School's) school's success

Kathy Hennings [Hennings teaches at the Wisconsin Virtual Academy]:

Imagine if you were a member of a union whose actions hurt children and cost you your job.

Welcome to my world.

I am a teacher with the Wisconsin Virtual Academy, one of Wisconsin's most successful public virtual schools. Prior to working at WIVA, I spent 30 years employed in traditional brick-and-mortar public schools. I am also a dues-paying member of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

Public virtual schools offer students a unique opportunity within the public school realm. A rigorous and rich curriculum, which meets Wisconsin standards, is provided for each child enrolled. In my school, licensed, experienced teachers instruct students and partner with parents (who strongly value their child's education) to ensure the curriculum is carried out. Online scripted lessons, written by professionals in the field, are presented to the students at their own pace. Because a student does not need to move along with the masses in a classroom of 25 to 30, individualized attention can be given.


That WEAC, my union, doesn't care that these schools successfully educate kids at a substantial savings to taxpayers is a disgrace.

I hope the Supreme Court and lawmakers who may address this situation will agree with parents and teachers and not with WEAC. Otherwise, 3,000 kids in a half-dozen schools across the state will be forced out of the public schools that work best for them.

Much more on the Wisconsin Virtual Academy & WEAC's lawsuit - supported by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, here.

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UW-Madison: Saturday Enrichment 2008

UW Madison School of Education Outreach:

The Saturday Enrichment Program provides a student-centered environment to explore a wide range of interests and new academic areas to empower 5th-8th graders to ask and learn about career options, interests, and choices. Students utilize state-of-the-art campus resources and interact with UW-Madison faculty, staff and community professionals in this pre-college program sponsored by the School of Education. This program has open enrollment with course registrations on a first come, first served basis.

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Schools failing to nurture gifted children

Julie Henry:

Bright children are being failed by teachers who do not stretch them enough or give them the individual attention they need, Government research has found.

Gifted pupils are routinely put in the wrong ability groups and are set targets that are too low, a study by the Department for Children, Schools and Families discovered. In many schools, young people who show early promise are left to fall behind.

Almost a quarter of the 140,000 children who achieve an above-average level 3 in assessments at the age of seven do not go on to score high marks in tests at 11.

The results are a significant blow to the Government, which has spent almost £400 million in the past decade on gifted and talented programmes in an attempt to convince many middle-class parents that bright children will be nurtured in the state sector.

The report, Able Pupils Who Lose Momentum, found shortcomings in the 37 primaries across England visited by Government advisers.

737K PDF Complete Report.

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Learning Chinese a humbling experience

Susan Spano:

An old Chinese proverb sums up the three months I spent studying Mandarin in Beijing: To suffer and learn, one pays a high price, but a fool can't learn any other way.

The famously difficult Chinese language could make a fool out of anyone. Standard Chinese, known as Mandarin or Putonghua, has tens of thousands of characters, many taking more than 20 strokes to write, and a transliteration system called Pinyin that expresses Chinese words in the 26-letter Latin alphabet of English.

Further complicating matters, Mandarin is a tonal language, meaning that the same Pinyin word has four definitions depending on the intonation.

More than 20% of the world's population speaks Chinese. But while studying it last year at Beijing Language and Culture University, I often wondered how Chinese children ever learn it. Generally, I felt like a child, or at least deeply humbled. But on those rare occasions when I could read a sign or tell a cashier I didn't have any small change, I felt like Alexander the Great at the gates of Persepolis.

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January 6, 2008

2008 FIRST Championship

US Foundation for the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology:

The 2008 FIRST Championship will take place April 17-19 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

The FIRST Championship is the culmination of the season's programs, including the FIRST Robotics Competition, the FIRST Tech Challenge, and the FIRST LEGO League.

The Wisconsin regional competition is March 13-15, 2008 in Milwaukee.

Learn more at

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I'd welcome a Bloomy run centered on education

Rev. Al Sharpton:

There was a time when Presidents and presidential candidates took bold and principled steps on critical issues of the day. Candidate John Kennedy helped free the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from jail on a ludicrous charge during the 1960 campaign. President Dwight Eisenhower used federal troops to protect the right of the Little Rock Nine to attend an integrated school. Some wonder if we may ever see such leadership again, particularly on issues we care about.

Next week, Mayor Bloomberg is attending a bipartisan meeting in Oklahoma hosted by former Sen. David Boren that is intended, as Boren puts it, to be "shock therapy" for all presidential candidates to grapple with the issues rather than each other, and, if they don't, perhaps Bloomberg will run.

As one who has employed shock therapy on occasion to get the system to work, I support such a meeting - and am keenly interested in what a Bloomberg candidacy would mean for America. If I were his adviser (which I am not), I would urge him to base the core of his domestic platform on the notion that education is the civil rights issue for the 21st century, because without it, one cannot pursue the American Dream.

This focus on education would not be new to the mayor. He demanded - and received - control of the city's unwieldy education system so that one person could be held accountable. He has challenged all of us, including me, to reevaluate our notions of what constitutes a sound and basic education, and he has made progress, however imperfect. Innovative programs like new small schools have improved graduation rates, while the achievement gap between white students and students of color has narrowed. And now city public schools receive report cards as well as their students.

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Immigrant influx to Chicago suburbs spawns foreign language schools for kids

Russell Working:

Art and Maria Guelis are well-educated Russians who speak their native language at home, read Tolstoy and Dostoevski and watch Internet TV programs out of Moscow. But their 7-year-old son, George, always answers his parents in English.

Determined to pass on their linguistic heritage, the Guelises recently adopted a time-honored immigrant strategy that is burgeoning in Chicago's suburbs. They enrolled him in Saturday language classes in addition to his public schooling.

George attends a Russian school in Naperville, one of scores of weekend foreign language schools springing up in houses of worship and cultural centers as migration from Chicago and the high-tech industry in DuPage County bring a polyglot populace to the suburbs.

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State of California's Children

Children Now:

The new 2006-07 California Report Card: The State of the State's Children identifies critical issues affecting children's well-being and threatening to compromise public health and the economy. This nonpartisan report assigns letter grades to individual issues, such as a "C-" in early care and education, a "C-" in K-12 education, and a "B-" in health insurance. Recommendations are provided for how policymakers can better address children's basic needs for growing into productive adults.

The report presents the most current data available on the status of California's children, who represent 27% of all Californians and 13% of the nation's kids:

  • 760,000 California children, ages 0-18, don't have health insurance.
  • One in three of California's 6- to 17-year-olds is obese or overweight.
  • About 58% of California's 3- and 4-year-olds do not attend preschool.
  • About 60% of California's 2nd- to 11th-graders did not meet state goals for math and reading proficiency in 2006.
  • As many as 30% of the state's children live in an economically-struggling family, able to pay for only the most basic needs.
Jill Tucker:
California received its annual State of the State's Children report card Thursday, bringing home grades few parents would view with pride.
The state posted a C average on the health and education of California's 9.5 million children, according to the report's authors at Children Now, an Oakland advocacy group.

But raising its marks will be a challenge with the state facing a budget deficit of $14 billion over the next 18 months. Across-the-board cuts are expected for all state services, including health care and education.

The annual Children Now assessment judged the state's performance on a range of issues, including health insurance, asthma, child care, public education, infant and adolescent health and obesity.

The highest mark was for after school programs, which earned a B+. Obesity received the lowest mark, of D+.

Overall, the grades changed little this year from the past two report cards - and that's not good enough, said Children Now President Ted Lempert, a former state legislator.
"Policymakers have to stop saying kids are their priority when we have a long, long way to go," he said.

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January 5, 2008

Are You Smarter Than an Eighth Grader?

Richard Rusczyk:

How about a really, really smart eighth-grader?

Here’s your chance to find out. We’ve built a game that allows users to go head to head on middle school level math problems. Here’s the game. The problems are primarily contributed by the folks at MATHCOUNTS, which is the starting point in challenging math studies for many of the top students today (as it was for me over 20 years ago). MATHCOUNTS is a national contest that brings together many of the top students from across the US.

Because of the audience of our site, students (and you) get a chance to participate with some of the best students in the world. Right now, for example, there is a past National MATHCOUNTS champion and an International Math Olympiad gold medalist playing the game. (Yes, they’re probably better at the game than I am!) This audience is an example of one of the many great benefits of the internet—just 10-15 years ago, a bright student could easily get all the way to college believing he or she is the smartest person in the world.

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Madison middle schoolers learn to be entrepreneurs

Andy Hall:

Demetrius Sims' quest to become an entrepreneur began one day after school, when he joined 36 other middle school students — triple the number expected — for a workshop aimed at helping them land jobs during this winter's holiday break.

"Babysit. Shovel. Melt ice. Christmas gift wrapping," Demetrius, 11, wrote as instructor Sara Winter, career development specialist for the Urban League of Greater Madison's Careers Program, told the students to list jobs they could perform.

"What else can I do?" Demetrius said softly to himself as Winter pressed the students to come up with as many types of jobs as possible.

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More Leaders Need Apply

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

If there 's one institution in Madison that needs strong leaders to tackle huge challenges, it 's the city 's school district.

Unfortunately, only two people are seeking two open School Board seats in the coming spring election. The deadline for declaring a candidacy was Wednesday.

That means voters won 't have any choice in who will serve, barring any late write-in campaigns.

That 's a shame -- one that Madison can 't afford to repeat.

he rigors of a campaign test potential board members and help the community choose which direction to take the district.

Competitive School Board campaigns also draw considerable and much-needed attention to huge local issues, such as the increasing number of children who show up for kindergarten unprepared, rising health insurance costs for school employees, shifting demographics, school security and tight limits on spending.

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January 4, 2008

2008 Wisconsin New Play Development Project

Wisconsin Wrights:

Wisconsin Wrights was created in fall 2006 through a partnership between the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies in Theatre, the UW-Madison University Theatre, and the Madison Repertory Theatre. Support for our inaugural year was also provided by Edenfred/Terry Family Foundation and the UW-Madison Anonymous Fund. Three finalists received a one week workshop and residency through Edenfred and University Theatre and received public readings in June 2007. The Madison Repertory Theatre selected one of the three works, “Recovering the Real Me” by Kurt McGinnis Brown, for further development through the 2007 Madison New Play Festival which will take place October 20-21 and October 27-28, 2007. For more details on the Madison New Play Festival click here. (Please note that the name of "Recovering the Real Me" has been changed to "Accent Adios.") .

The deadline for submissions for Wisconsin Wrights 2008 has been extended to January 14, 2008 with the selection process taking place from January through early April 2008. Finalists will be announced in mid-April 2008 with finalists eligible for several play development opportunities. Three finalists will receive a one week workshop coordinated by University Theatre with a director, dramaturg and full cast and will be featured with public readings June 5, 6 & 7, 2008. These workshops provide an extraordinary opportunity for the expansion and exercise of the playwriting craft, exploration of characters, and constructive critique by caring, invested artists. One finalist will be selected by the Madison Repertory Theatre to take part in their Fall 2008 Madison New Play Festival and one finalist will be selected by the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre for a staged reading in March 2009.

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Delavan-Darien puts English learners into mainstream

Dani McClain:

So while it might surprise a visitor to this small city in Walworth County that Latino children are just shy of 40% of the district enrollment, longtime residents know the stories of families drawn to the area by a range of jobs, including work at nearby farms, canneries and resorts.

But despite the rich ethnic diversity, youths in this district of a little more than 2,700 students often found themselves on different academic tracks for years, based on how quickly they could grasp the difference between scene and seen or wade through vocabulary words specific to a chemistry class.

That's changing this year as the district pushes to better integrate English language learners into mainstream classrooms, pairing up content-area teachers with those who previously specialized in English as a Second Language or bilingual education.

The implications for the schools and the community as a whole could be far-reaching.

"Now that they're all in the room together, they're really seeing the commonalities," said Carole Schroth, who along with fellow veteran teacher Sonia Lee is leading the change. "And hopefully that will feed into the cafeteria and the hallways."

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January 3, 2008

Madison School Board Candidates are "Shoo-ins"

Susan Troller:

Ed Hughes, a Madison attorney, and Marj Passman, a retired local teacher, will fill two Madison School Board seats in the spring election on April 1. They are running unopposed for seats now held by Lawrie Kobza, a single-term board member, and Carol Carstensen, who has served since 1990 and is by far the most senior member of the board.

In fact, when Hughes and Passman join the board, only Johnny Winston Jr. will have served more than one three-year term.

James Ely, an East High School custodian who had filed papers Dec. 27 with the City Clerk's Office to register as a candidate for Carstensen's Seat 7, decided to withdraw from the race because he was unable to complete the necessary filing information to change his candidacy to a run for Kobza's Seat 6.

Hughes is running for Seat 7, and Passman is the candidate for Seat 6. Neither Hughes nor Passman has previously served on the board, although Passman lost a race last year against Maya Cole.

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Sade's Story: An Update

SF Chronicle:

When we last spoke to Sade Daniels, the 18-year-old former foster youth was making nervous preparations for her first semester at Clark Atlanta University. The nervousness would be familiar to any parent who's ever sent a child to a new school: She was full of questions like, Will I make any friends? Will I like my teachers? Will I like going to a new place? The difference, of course, is that for most of her life Daniels has had to offer the comforting responses to her own questions. The stakes were even higher this time: Daniels was leaving behind everything and everyone she knew in Oakland to pursue a big dream in a new, unknown city. Nationwide, less than 5 percent of former foster children finish college.

Daniels' first semester proved to be a rough transition. She struggled to negotiate her own class schedule and financial arrangements. "I didn't feel like [Clark Atlanta University officials] had a lot of sympathy for my situation," she said. She looked for someone to help guide her on things like class selection but found no one - "There's not a lot of guidance counselors there, or if there are, they're hiding," she said.

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Youth Advisers Bring Order and an Empathetic Ear

Avis Thomas-Lester:

Havoc was the order of the day at Bladensburg High School in Prince George's County.

Students were fighting, skipping classes and stealing cars from the parking lot.

Officials were stymied until they sought help two years ago from a national program designed to help schools by reaching out to troubled youths. Enter the youth advisers of the Violence-Free Zone, a program of the District-based Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, who let the students know that they were there to help them. The advisers also brought a stronger message: Control of Bladensburg was going to return to the adults.

"Kids can't be controlled by cameras, curfews and cops," said Robert L. Woodson, president and founder of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. "Those are threats, and they won't respond to that. . . . The Violence-Free Zone inspires them to obey the rules by providing life witnesses to them [who show] that just because you are from a dysfunctional household or a troubled neighborhood, you don't have to be a troubled person."

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January 2, 2008

An Interview with Deborah Stephenson: The Write Connection

Michael Shaughnessy:

2) Secondly, who runs "The Write Connection?"

I oversee The Write Connection.

3) What does it try to Accomplish?

In the beginning, the main goal of The Write Connection was to teach students how to write essays. But now, schools are accrediting the program with dramatic gains in their API test scores. Dr. Douglas Reeves, a renowned educational researcher, states, "No matter how the writing variable has been measured, the results are the same: as emphasis on classroom nonfiction writing grows, student achievement improves. We have evidence not only of reading and writing score improvement but of scores in math, science, and social studies improving as well." Consequently, when schools use the program with fidelity, they have seen a continuous dramatic increase in their state test scores.

4) When you say "enhancing the state mandated curriculum" who exactly does this and how do they go about it?

The Write Connection actually fills a gap in the state mandated language arts curriculum. The writing portion is either unrealistic and or lacking. The Write Connection provides a realistic approach to writing that incorporates the state standards and frameworks while writing in the content areas such as science and social studies. Furthermore, most of the curriculum used in schools still focus on a narrative approach to writing which has proven to be far less effective than non-fiction writing.

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Losing an Edge, Japanese Envy India’s Schools

Martin Fackler:

Japan is suffering a crisis of confidence these days about its ability to compete with its emerging Asian rivals, China and India. But even in this fad-obsessed nation, one result was never expected: a growing craze for Indian education.

Despite an improved economy, many Japanese are feeling a sense of insecurity about the nation’s schools, which once turned out students who consistently ranked at the top of international tests. That is no longer true, which is why many people here are looking for lessons from India, the country the Japanese see as the world’s ascendant education superpower.

Bookstores are filled with titles like “Extreme Indian Arithmetic Drills” and “The Unknown Secrets of the Indians.” Newspapers carry reports of Indian children memorizing multiplication tables far beyond nine times nine, the standard for young elementary students in Japan.

And Japan’s few Indian international schools are reporting a surge in applications from Japanese families.

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January 1, 2008

Internet Access Is Only Prerequisite For More and More College Classes

Susan Kinzie:

Berkeley's on YouTube. American University's hoping to get on iTunes. George Mason professors have created an online research tool, a virtual filing cabinet for scholars. And with a few clicks on Yale's Web site, anyone can watch one of the school's most popular philosophy professors sitting cross-legged on his desk, talking about death.

Studying on YouTube won't get you a college degree, but many universities are using technology to offer online classes and open up archives. Sure, some schools have been charging for distance-learning classes for a long time, but this is different: These classes are free. At a time when many top schools are expensive and difficult to get into, some say it's a return to the broader mission of higher education: to offer knowledge to everyone.

And tens of millions are reaching for it.

For schools, the courses can bring benefits, luring applicants, spreading the university's name, impressing donors, keeping alumni engaged. Virginia Tech, for example, offers some online classes free to its graduates.

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Will positive psychology and gratitude intervention teach our kids how to be happy?

Kathy Seligman:

Three good things, possibly more, happened to 6-year-old Fiona McLaughlin one fall day, and at dinner that night she took a deep breath and recounted them. The first was "right now," which often tops her list. Then there was going to school and making a color wheel there in the morning.

Her younger sister, Molly, who is 4, went next. "When you cuddle with me at night," she said, looking at her mother. "Right now and having homework."

It's not that bad things failed to happen. They did. Fiona's favorite friend was sick and didn't go to school. Molly, who actually didn't have homework but was attempting to do her sister's, said no one wanted to play with her when she got to school. But each night at their suburban Piedmont home, the girls are asked to stop and recall positive aspects of the day. The scene at dinner did not just fall into place. All of it - the well-set table, cloth napkins, candlelight, pointed questions about the best parts of the day - is a ritual rooted in the growing field of positive psychology, the scientific study of well-being. Kids tumble into the world with their own set of inherited traits and tendencies, researchers in the field say, but positive emotions can be nurtured.

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Grading Disparities Peeve Parents

Jay Matthews:

Marcy Newberger grew up in Montgomery County and attended Churchill High School. Then she moved to Fairfax County and had children, who attended McLean High School. Both were fine schools in good systems, with one irritating difference.

Simply put, Fairfax high schools set a higher bar for grades than those in Montgomery. To earn an A in Fairfax, it takes a score of 94 to 100. In Montgomery, it takes a score of 90 or higher. Standards for grading in the two counties, including bonus point calculations, are so out of sync that it appears possible for a Fairfax student to earn a 3.5 grade-point average for the same work that gets a Montgomery student a 4.6 GPA.

Parents nationwide are increasingly frustrated with wild variations in grading systems that, they say, are costing their children thousands of dollars in merit-based scholarships and leaving them disadvantaged in college admissions.

Sensitivity to grading is particularly acute in Fairfax and Montgomery -- large, affluent counties that send more students to college each year than other local school systems. But grading disparities also have enraged students and parents elsewhere.

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