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

June 30, 2008

Ted Widerski


The Board received the following sad news today. I am sorry to inform you that Ted Widerski, an Instructional Resource Teacher-Secondary in the Talented and Gifted area, passed away unexpectedly this past weekend.

I apologize for the informal way of notifying all of you of Ted's passing but I know many of you have worked with Ted and I wanted to make sure you were aware of this sad news. My understanding is that there will be an obituary in the paper on Tuesday.

Arlene Silveira

Posted by Arlene Silveira3 at 8:27 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

$2.6 million drives unique Boys & Girls Club, MMSD partnership
New joint program aims to double minority/low-income student college enrollment

Via the Madison School District [Press Release | AVID - TOPS Fact Sheet]:

The Boys & Girls Club (BGC) and Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) announced today a new joint initiative that intends to double the number of minority and low-income students who plan to pursue four-year college and technical college degrees upon high school graduation. The launch of the initiative is made possible through private commitments of $2.6 million to the Boys & Girls Club covering 50% of the first five years of the programs cost.

"We are so excited to partner with the Madison Metropolitan School District on this groundbreaking initiative, said Mary Burke, President of the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Club. "combining the school district’s AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program with the Boys & Girls Club Teens Of Promise program (TOPs) we will make a difference, not only in the lives of the students involved in the program but also in the community at large. The health of our community is closely tied to having an educated, skilled workforce. This initiative is designed to do just that."

The AVID program is a rigorous in-school elective that students take throughout high school to their improve study skills, grades, time management, reading and writing skills to better prepare them for college. The TOPs program offers summer job internships, mentors, scholarships, field trips, career exploration and financial support for tutoring. Students commit to staying on the college track, maintaining a 2.5 GPA, taking courses that will prepare them for college and having a good attendance record.

Kevin Murphy:
Impressed with the success of the 28 East High students enrolled in the program last year, the Boys and Girls Club of Madison has committed to raising $2.6 million, half the funding needed to increase enrollment to 100 students districtwide this fall and to add 100 each year until an 800-student cap is reached.

"This will fund college preparation for students not currently getting that opportunity," said Boys and Girls Club board President Mary Burke.

Developed in California and based partly on a similar Milwaukee program, AVID is aimed at students from low-income households who want to develop the motivation to succeed in school. It is a daily elective students take throughout high school to improve their study skills, grades and time management.

Karen Rivedal:

Madison School District leaders on Monday announced a partnership with Boys and Girls Club of Dane County aimed at doubling the number of minority and low-income students who will be ready to enter college after high school.

District officials stressed that the new offering was not a remedial program or a free ride but instead was geared to help motivated students with average grades who have the desire to attend college but lack the practical skills and knowledge to get there and be successful.

And to do that really well, it was vital to involve the community, Pam Nash, assistant superintendent for the district 's four high schools, said at a news conference at East High School.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:20 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Look at the Dropout Issue

Jay Matthews:

Some of the most troubling questions about schools, such as what causes dropouts, have few clear answers because there is so little research. And the reason that data is lacking, at least in part, is that educators who would otherwise demand it are too busy with more even pressing issues, such as improving teaching and raising low student achievement.

The few schools that have made significant progress in teaching and learning, however, are beginning to look more closely at the dropout issue because they cannot be content when so many students miss out on what they have to offer. Note, for instance, a report just released by the KIPP Foundation (available at on the number of students who have left that well-regarded public charter school network.

Lucy Mathiak discussed a late 1990's analysis of Madison's dropouts here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:40 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New Schools for Poor?

Nancy Mitchell:

Some prominent Denver foundations are working on a plan that could create new schools for thousands of poor children in Colorado in the next few years.

The loose-knit group, called the New Schools Collaborative, includes the Piton Foundation, the Donnell-Kay Foundation and the Daniels Fund, names known for their work in urban education.

The idea is to pool money and knowledge to help jump-start the creation or replication of schools that have proved successful with students from low-income families.

That includes expanding homegrown models such as West Denver Preparatory Charter School on South Federal Boulevard, which Head of School Chris Gibbons wants to grow from a single school to three by 2015.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:01 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Milwaukee Public Schools Lag in Special Education Funds

Amy Hetzner:

When it comes to state funding for some of the students who cost the most to educate, Wisconsin’s largest school system has been a big loser.

Over the past few years, as the state has ratcheted up its support for schools struggling with the costs of high-need special education students, the amount collected by Milwaukee Public Schools has barely budged.

Of the $5.4 million pool distributed this year, MPS took in just $40,182, according to an announcement by the state Department of Public Instruction. That puts MPS in the same range as Brown Deer, Manitowoc, and Montello, and the Milwaukee district received less than a third of the $131,390 that went to Middleton.

The Madison Metropolitan School District, the state’s second largest school district, got more than $1.4 million, and $439,673 was given to the Racine Unified School District.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:56 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

National Debt Makes US Vulnerable: Fiscal Wake-Up Tour in Milwaukee Today

John Schmid:

Tax rates could double. Spending on education, research, health and even Social Security could be squeezed tighter than ever. And foreign governments could use powerful financial leverage, rather than military force, to impose their economic and political agendas on the United States.

All because the U.S. national debt - which is being financed on a daily basis by the governments of China and a host of oil-exporting states, among others - has made this country far more vulnerable than its elected leaders let on, says David Walker, who recently finished a 10-year stint as U.S. comptroller general and head of the Government Accountability Office.

The nation's former auditor-in-chief will outline this crisis scenario today in Milwaukee, when he and an entourage of like-minded Washington policy analysts make their latest stop on Walker's Fiscal Wake-Up Tour.

Foreign governments and investors now hold fully half of the United States' total outstanding debt, making Washington susceptible to a new form of geopolitical conflict that Walker calls "financial warfare."


Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:44 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

In Philadelphia, Privatized Schools Suffer a Setback

Keith Richburg:

Six years ago, the Philadelphia School District embarked on what was considered the country's boldest education privatization experiment, putting 38 schools under private management to see if the free market could educate children more efficiently than the government.

If it worked, the plan seemed likely to become a model for other struggling urban school districts, such as Washington's, suffering from a lack of funding, decaying buildings and abysmal student test scores.

This month, the experiment suffered a severe setback, as the state commission overseeing Philadelphia's schools voted to take back control of six of the privatized schools, while warning 20 others that they had a year to show progress or they, too, would revert to district control.

Students at Philadelphia's schools have made improvements overall, the commission said. But the private-run schools are not doing any better than the schools remaining under public control.

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

Teacher puts fitness lesson in 50-state trip

Paul Smith:

Haugen teaches eighth-grade science in Denver, and he is on a unique summer project. To raise awareness of childhood obesity and encourage Americans to get outdoors, he's attempting to climb the highest point in each of the 50 states in 50 days.

Haugen is joined on the trip by avid climbers Lindsay Danner from Denver and Zach Price from Seattle, and Jordan Mallan, an independent film producer from Los Angeles who is preparing a documentary on the trip. The group is traveling to all sites in the lower 48 in a midsize SUV with a trailer.

The effort may set a record, now held by Ben Jones of Lynnwood, Wash., who reached the top of all 50 in 50 days, 7 hours and 5 minutes.

Haugen's 50-50 challenge started June 9 when he reached the top of 20,320-foot Mount McKinley in Alaska. As he reaches down to tag the benchmark on Timm's Hill Saturday at 1 p.m., he notches his 30th peak in 19 days.


Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 29, 2008

Are Video Games the New Textbooks?

Julia Hoppock:

"Immune Attack" is still in its final stage of development and is not on shelves yet, but can be downloaded for free at their website. The game has already been evaluated in 14 high schools across the country with nearly a thousand more educators registered to evaluate it in the next phase of development. The reaction among teachers who have used the game has been positive.

Woodbridge, Va., high school AP biology teacher Netia Elam says the video game brought the concepts of immunology to life for her students.

"[With text books] they might read something, drag vocabulary words onto paper, or use their math, but they're not really integrated into it," Elam said. "Because they are playing video games, they were really engrossed in what they were doing. They took on more of an interest and more of an initiative to pay attention."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:15 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Economic Growth Provides Money for Education

The Billings Gazette asked Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-Montana) the following questions:

The Gazette invited Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat who is seeking re-election, and state Sen. Roy Brown of Billings, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, to address these education-funding questions:

A few weeks ago, the Billings school board cut $2.2 million out of its K-8 budget after a proposed $817,000 levy failed. Some education proponents say those developments are the result of the state failing to meet its constitutional mandate to fund a basic system of quality education.

Do you think the state education-funding system is fulfilling its mandate?

How have you as governor or state legislator worked to fulfill the education-funding mandate while balancing the state budget?

What changes - if any - do you propose that the 2009 Legislature make in how Montana funds its K-12 schools?

Schweitzer is correct to emphasize economic growth (or, put another way, expansion of the tax base rather than tax rates). A growing tax base is essential, as Schweitzer points out.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:57 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

LA Schools Chief Wants Principals to Have More Authority

Howard Blume:

L. A. schools Supt. David L. Brewer said this week he would "kick some ass" to improve schools if the school board would give him political cover, which would include standing up to employee unions who might resist reforms.

The comment came at a public but hard-to-reach meeting Thursday on the 24th floor of school district headquarters. The meeting's topic was the governance of the school district, and the discussion gravitated toward giving school principals real power over their budget -- along with demanding real accountability for results.

The room happened to be weighted with administrators -- even a representative from the League of Women Voters was a retired principal. There was broad agreement on a need to decentralize the district.

UCLA Professor William Ouchi offered the New York City schools as an example of progress through focusing on principals. These unchained administrators have used their new authority to reduce the number of students each teacher must handle per day, he said, because that tactic raises student achievement.

The Madison School District attempted, unsuccessfully, to give principals more staffing flexibility during the most recent round of teacher union negotiations.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New Madison School Superintendent To Collect Retirement Pay

Kelly McBride:

Outgoing Green Bay Superintendent Daniel Nerad will receive more than $150,000 in retirement pay during the next five years, even as he starts his new job as head of the Madison School District.

The money is part of the district's emeritus program, a benefit formula that provides money — but not insurance — for certain departing administrators.

"It's in the (administrator) benefit package," said John Wilson, the district's assistant superintendent for human resources, "and it is based upon your age and years of service with the district."

Administrators must be at least 55 years old, and their age plus years of service must equal at least 70, to qualify for the benefit. Nerad, 56, has been with the district in various capacities for 33 years, including the last seven as superintendent.
Outgoing Green Bay Superintendent Daniel Nerad will receive more than $150,000 in retirement pay even as he starts another job that pays nearly $200,000 per year.

Nerad will become the superintendent of the Madison School District starting Tuesday.

Green Bay district spokesman John Wilson said the retirement pay is part of the district's benefit package for certain administrators.

Audio, Video and Links on Dan Nerad.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:34 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Why does society need to ‘have a grip’ on education of my children?

Shena Deuchars:

Society does not “have a grip” on whether or not I feed or clothe my children. Why does it need to : “have a grip” on their education? The law leaves the primary responsibility for education with parents and provides for measures to be taken against parents who do not educate their children, just as it does for parents who neglect their children. What more is required?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:55 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Another Look at Home Schooling

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial:

A California appeals court is showing good sense - and a feel for public sentiment - by reconsidering a sweeping ruling that undercuts the thriving home school movement.

This state needs more educational options, not fewer, and an appeals court ruling in February definitely worked against this goal. In that decision, the court went too far by declaring that parents of 166,000 home-schooled students needed teaching credentials.

The ruling hinged on a rule that children attend full-time schools or be taught by an credentialed instructor, but state authorities had usually left oversight on home-schooling parents to local school districts. This pliant arrangement has allowed home schooling to flourish alongside conventional classrooms, charters, private and parochial schools.

The rehearing is anything but a rehash. The outcry over the February decision drummed up a list of allies who virtually spilled out of the courtroom door this week. Lawyers for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Jerry Brown and state schools superintendent Jack O'Connell all chimed in on behalf of home schools. The main, no-surprise opponent is the California Teachers Association, which wants the court to stick to the letter of the law and require credentials. It's a demand that could doom home schools and further alienate committed parents who find schools a bad fit for their children.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

"Best" Graduate Schools

US News & World Report:

U.S. News has collected data from more than 12,000 graduate programs to bring you this year's rankings. Start by selecting a discipline for access to our top program rankings.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Grand jury: School district should change how students are assigned to S.F. schools

Heather Knight:

The San Francisco Unified School District should dump its "confusing, time-consuming, alienating" system of assigning students to schools and instead allow them to go to ones in their neighborhoods, the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury said in a report released Thursday.

The grand jury focused on the way kindergarten students were assigned to schools in the 2007-08 school year. The district's system, dubbed "the diversity index," is used for students of all ages entering new schools.
Under the current system, families submit their top seven school choices and a number of socioeconomic indicators, but not race. The vast majority of families get one of their seven choices, but families who can't get their child into a school in their neighborhood have complained it's unfair. Studies have shown schools are becoming increasingly resegregated.

The grand jury blasted the system for being expensive to run, driving families away from the district and not doing much to diversify schools.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 28, 2008

Schools Need the Best and the Brightest

Letters to the Editor - the Toronto Star:

The dilemma confronting trustees of the Toronto school board and likely Jim Spyropoulos himself underscores a destructive flaw basic to the compensation structure of public education. Every time individuals excel as teachers or principals, they are promoted up and away from the site of their excellence.

Surely the education system can figure out a way to compensate talent generously and keep it where it is most needed. Many fields of professional endeavour – sports, theatre, science – manage to pay their stars considerably more than they pay their managers.

Clearly Spyropoulos can't be blamed for pursuing a path that is the most advantageous to career growth and compensation. But that's too bad. He is needed in school, as were many other talented people over the years who have been pulled from meaningful daily contact at schools and stuck somewhere away from the action.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:16 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin Governor Doyle Tells State Agencies to Cut Budgets


Gov. Jim Doyle is telling most state agencies not to expect any increase in funding over the next two years.

Doyle is also telling state officials to prepare plans for a 10 percent cut. He gave the same order to agencies two years ago.

The governor's instructions come in a letter that outlines what to expect in the next two-year budget plan he will submit to the Legislature in February.

Something to ponder as the Madison School Administration and Board consider a fall referendum.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:46 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Harris/Solberg vs. MMSD: 25 years later, Landmark Madison desegregation case revisited,

A. David Dahmer:

Twenty five years ago this week, there was a landmark decision where the people of Madison stood up for themselves and fought against the creation and maintenance of segregation resulting directly from school boundary changes.

t was an attempt to abandon the central city and the south side in favor of newer, developing peripheral areas. The process would have done serious damage to Madison’s Black population.
But two people wouldn't let it happen.

Sandy Solberg, on behalf of two neighborhood centers in Central and South Madison, and Richard Harris, who then was an administrator at Madison Area Technical College and a member of the district's Lincoln-Franklin Task Force, were instrumental in fighting a fight that eventually found that the Madison School Board's 1979 decision to close schools and redraw attendance boundaries discriminated against minority students and violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:24 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 27, 2008

Education is Massachusetts Governor Patrick's Test

Adrian Walker:

Thomas Birmingham's phone has been ringing a lot this week, in the wake of Governor Deval Patrick's plan to overhaul public education.

The former state Senate president was one of the last people to take on the task of reforming education in Massachusetts, in 1993. It was a valiant effort, but ultimately not enough.

"I don't think anybody thought in '93 that a bright day had dawned and that we would move on because all our education problems had been solved," Birmingham said yesterday.

The overriding issue then was the wild disparity between different communities in spending on education. But that emphasis proved simplistic.

The achievement gap was not nearly as well understood as it is now. "I think perhaps the disadvantages that poverty imposes were beyond what we might have accomplished, that it is a harder problem than we realized," he said. "We smuggle a host of issues into schools that are not educational."

Related: Fearing for Massachusett's School Reform and Mike Antonucci on Patrick's plan for a statewide teacher agreement.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:01 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

More "Algebra" for Chicago Public Schools Eighth Graders

Alexander Russo:

What do you think about the CPS effort to bring more algebra into middle schools?

From Catalyst: "The June board meeting included a brief presentation on student achievement from the Office of Instructional Design and Assessment. A recap of statistics showed that while 40 percent of 8th-graders across the country take algebra, only 8 percent of CPS 8th-graders do.

"With this in mind, Chief Officer Xavier Botana noted how the district is revamping algebra instruction: 8th-grade algebra will now be called “High School Algebra in the Middle Grades,” a name change that Botana said will help parents and others understand that students are tackling high-school-level material.

A commenter nails the issue:
The exit exams have to be real. They can't be given credit for high school algebra, then show up in high school unprepared to take second year algebra.

Of course, they would only be prepared to take algebra in 8th grade if they have had rigorous math instruction before that. I believe these suburban schools with 40% of 8th graders taking algebra also have pre-algebra programs for kids in the 7th grade.

I'm all for offering rigorous classes; but there has to be some support to help kids get there.

  • Madison West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus:
    Moreover, parents of future West High students should take notice: As you read this, our department is under pressure from the administration and the math coordinator's office to phase out our "accelerated" course offerings beginning next year. Rather than addressing the problems of equity and closing the gap by identifying minority math talent earlier, and fostering minority participation in the accelerated programs, our administration wants to take the cheaper way out by forcing all kids into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
  • Math Forum audio / video and links
It will be interesting to see the results of the Madison Math Task Force's work.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools, June 2008

National Council on Teacher Quality (3MB PDF):

American students' chronically poor performance in mathematics on international tests may begin in the earliest grades, handicapped by the weak knowledge of mathematics of their own elementary teachers. NCTQ looks at the quality of preparation provided by a representative sampling of institutions in nearly every state. We also provide a test developed by leading mathematicians which assesses for the knowledge that elementary teachers should acquire during their preparation. Imagine the implications of an elementary teaching force being able to pass this test.
Brian Maffly:
Most of the nation's undergraduate education programs do not adequately prepare elementary teachers to teach mathematics, according to a study released Thursday by an education-reform advocacy group. Utah State University is among the 83 percent of surveyed programs that didn't meet what the National Council on Teacher Quality calls an emerging "consensus" on what elementary teachers must learn before joining professional ranks.

"There's a long-standing belief in our country that elementary teachers don't really need to get much math. The only thing you need to teach second-grade math is to learn third-grade math," said Kate Walsh, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based group. "We haven't put much attention to fact the elementary teachers are the first math teachers kids get. Their foundational skills have long-term ramifications whether that child will be able to do middle and high school math."

The NCTQ's findings are similar to a reading report the group released two years ago, claiming that 85 percent of undergraduate elementary education programs fail to adequately prepare students to teach reading.

Joanne has more. It will be interesting to see of the Madison Math Task Force addresses the question of teacher content knowledge. Related:

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:14 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Study: Many teens get alcohol from adults

Hope Yen:

Many of the nation's estimated 10.8 million underage drinkers are turning to their parents or other adults for free alcohol.

A government survey of teens from 2002 to 2006 said slightly more than half had engaged in underage drinking.

Asked about the source of alcohol, 40 percent they got it from an adult for free over the past month, the survey said. Of those, about one in four said they got it from an unrelated adult, one in 16 got it from a parent or guardian and one in 12 got it from another adult family member.

Roughly 4 percent reported taking the alcohol from their own home.

"In far too many instances parents directly enable their children's underage drinking — in essence encouraging them to risk their health and well-being," said acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson. "Proper parental guidance alone may not be the complete solution to this devastating public health problem — but it is a critical part."

Doctors in Madison said this problem is real and they've seen some young teens come in with alcohol poisoning.

Physicians fear drinking at a young age can lead not only to lower performance in school and stressed relationships with family members but can also lead to more serious problems later in life, WISC-TV reported.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:26 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Waukesha School District works to retool investment fund

Amy Hetzner:

A multimillion-dollar investment earned the Waukesha School District about $83,000 less for the last three months than it has been accruing in debt payments for loans used to finance the deal, according to information released by the district this week.

The district's $65 million investment in complex financial instruments earned it about $135,136 for the fiscal quarter that ends this month.

But that amount is offset by payments the district makes on a semiannual basis for $15.67 million borrowed in 2006. Those district payments - on debt fixed at a 5.58% interest rate - average about $218,000 per quarter.

For the last quarter, none of the district's investments returned income at a higher rate than 3.55%, according to data provided by district Controller Jason Demerath.

It was the first quarterly loss for the investment, and the district ended up $192,500 in the black for the financial year that ends this month, figures for the district show.

Much more on the Waukesha School District here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:24 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Middle school critical to students' success in high school

Russell Rumberger:

More than 100,000 California students quit high school each year, but the path toward dropping out begins long before high school. Three new studies from the California Dropout Research Project reveal how and why academic success in middle school is critical to graduating from high school.

The studies, based on data from four of California's largest school districts, found that both middle school grades and test scores predicted whether students graduated from high school. The strongest predictor was whether students passed all their core academic subjects in math, English, history and science.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, only 40 percent of students who failed two or more academic classes in middle school graduated within four years of entering ninth grade. In Fresno, Long Beach and San Francisco only a third of the students who failed two or more courses in seventh grade graduated on time.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:13 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Universal preschool students perform better

Greg Toppo:

An ambitious public pre-kindergarten program in Oklahoma boosts kids' skills dramatically, a long-awaited study finds, for the first time offering across-the-board evidence that universal preschool, open to all children, benefits both low-income and middle-class kids.
The large-scale study, by researchers from Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute and Center for Research on Children in the United States, looked at the skills of about 3,500 incoming kindergartners in Tulsa, where state-funded pre-kindergarten has been in place for 18 years — and offered universally for nearly a decade.

The researchers found that as the kids entered kindergarten those enrolled in the state program had better reading, math and writing skills than kids who were either not enrolled in preschool or who spent time in the federally funded Head Start program.

Previous research has shown that high-quality preschool pays off in better skills, especially for low-income kids. But until today's findings, even the biggest studies stopped short of making the case that universal programs, with children from all backgrounds, benefit virtually all of them.

National Institute for Early Education Research.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 26, 2008

Open Records & Fingerprinting Teachers in Texas


The Austin school district did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Austin was the first district to implement a new law requiring all certified teachers and substitutes to be fingerprinted by Sept. 1, 2011. Other school employees, such as janitors and cafeteria workers, will be required to complete the process at the time of their hire.

The prints are scanned by the Department of Public Safety and sent to the FBI for a national criminal history database check. School employees who don't comply risk losing their teaching certification.

The newspaper requested documents showing a school-by-school breakdown of crimes revealed in the background checks and the outcomes of those cases. The newspaper has reported that it did not ask for names or other identifying information.

The district argued that releasing the requested information would violate employees' privacy rights and is not in the public interest.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:26 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Q&A with the US Education Secretary: Challenge Assumptions about Time and Teachers

Des Moines Register:

Education has long been a passion of U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, stretching back to the 1980s, when she worked in the Texas Legislature. While serving as chief domestic policy adviser to President George W. Bush, she was an architect of the 2001 federal No Child Left Behind Act. Its goal is for all children to become proficient in math and reading by 2014.

In 2005, the same year she became education secretary, Spellings convened the Commission on the Future of Higher Education to look at how to improve post-secondary institutions. Spellings is the first mother of school-age children to serve as education secretary, and only the second woman to be appointed to the post. In her final few months on the job, much of her time has been devoted to shoring up support for the No Child Left Behind law.

Q. Does the United States need to create world-class schools in every community, and, if so, why?

A. Absolutely, emphatically, yes. And why? Because we pride ourselves on being the center of innovation and creativity, and that has brought us the Internet and other technologies, but we are at risk of losing that. Our country has gotten more diverse [in terms of poverty and children learning to speak English as a second language], so some of the work is more challenging. More education is necessary for everybody. We have to pick up the pace. No Child Left Behind is about that.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:44 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Multi-million dollar gifts to help college prospects for MMSD students

via a Joe Quick email:

The announcement of a unique public/private partnership will be made at this event. The multi-million dollar gifts will provide college opportunities for high school students from low-income families, and from families who have never had a college graduate.

The local partnership will provide opportunities for students at all of the district’s high schools and includes the prospects for college scholarship assistance. The funding will support two successful student achievement programs to provide high school students with a more comprehensive set of skills necessary for post secondary education success.

When: Monday, June 30 at 1:30 p.m.

Where: In the East High School Career Center, Room 224 (enter door closest to E. Washington Ave., on the 4th Street side of the school and follow signs).

Who: Gift providers, teacher and students who will potentially benefit with post secondary opportunities. All of the above will be available for interviews following the announcement.

For More Information Contact:

Joe Quick, 608 663-1902

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

Monday also happens to be retiring Superintendent Art Rainwater's last day.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:49 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Massachusetts Governor Patrick unveils sweeping plan for education reform

Tania deLuzuriaga:

any of the governor’s proposals, such as those aimed at closing achievement gaps, better preparing teachers, and reducing the number of school districts in the state, have been unveiled over the past two days. Patrick has talked a lot this week about his ideas for pre-kindergarten to Grade 12.

However, the report issued this morning provides fresh details and outlines a few initiatives that had yet to be unveiled.

For example, the plan contains a host of recommendations for higher education. They include: closing the pay gap between faculty at Massachusetts colleges and universities and those at peer institutions in other states; increasing needs-based financial aid in the 2010 budget; guaranteeing that credits will be transferrable between the state’s public higher-education institutions; and supporting legislation that would allow undocumented children to pay in-state rates at public colleges and universities.

Related: Fearing for Massachusetts School Reform.

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

National Scholastic Surfing Association Finals

June 26 - 28, 2008 Nationals webcast.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:01 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Madison School District Seeks Proposals for Community Service Activities


Community service nonprofits can soon apply for funding to carry out projects that serve school-age children or their parents in the Madison School District.

The school district is requesting the proposals because a portion of the MMSD budget is designated by Wisconsin statute to be used for community activities which support the well-being of district students and/or their parents. The amount of available funding is $290,000.

This is the first time that this funding has been opened up to all eligible organizations.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:57 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

What the Dating Rules You Set For Your Kids Say About You

Sue Shellenbarger:

Researchers have known for a while that closeness to parents is linked to less risky sexual behavior by teenagers.

Now, they're turning their microscopes on the dating rules parents set, with some surprising results: The limits you place on your teenager's dating may say more about your own love life than your teen's needs. Also, parents' satisfaction with their own life roles shapes the kind of rules they set.

Parents who are involved in stable romantic relationships with spouses or partners tend more than other parents to set rules limiting teen dating behavior, such as curfews, minimum ages for dating, limits on places teens can go and explicit rules against sexual activity, says a new study of 169 parents and 102 teens by Stephanie Madsen, an associate professor of psychology at Maryland's McDaniel College. While the reason isn't clear, the author suggests these parents may hold more conservative beliefs in general; many of the rules involved sexuality.

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

Errors found in Michigan school progress reports

Tim Martin:

A new audit says Michigan's annual school progress reports from 2004-05 and 2005-06 contained some errors that might have artificially improved some schools' results.

The Office of the Auditor General report [1.6MB PDF] released Wednesday dealt with the Michigan Department of Education's school report cards and adequate yearly progress reports based on federal No Child Left Behind rules.

The problem stemmed in part from inaccuracies and inconsistencies in computer programming logic used to calculate the scores. But there were other problems cited in the audit, including insufficient monitoring of data supplied by school districts -- some of which may contain inflated favorable self-reporting and missing information.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Oregon Students May Choose Their Graduation Exam

Julia Silverman:

The plan makes Oregon one of several states moving past the "one-size-fits-all" high-stakes testing that became commonplace in many U.S. high schools in the 1990s. In Pennsylvania, the Board of Education is considering a three-pronged approach similar to Oregon's plan, while in Maryland, students who can't pass the state tests could be allowed to do a senior project instead.

But some say such choices allow some students _ and states _ to take the easy way out.

Daria Hall, assistant director for K-12 policy at Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for poor and minority children, points to New Jersey, where up to 80 percent of students at high schools in poor cities like Newark and Camden receive alternative diplomas after not passing the state tests. The number falls to about 3 percent in wealthy areas like Princeton, N.J., she said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 25, 2008

Parenting, Inc: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting

Emily Bazelon reviews Pamela Paul's new book. "How We Are Sold on $800 Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler Couture, and Diaper Wipe Warmers -- and What It Means for Our Children."

Parenting books tend to fall into two categories. There are the advice books that play on readers' anxieties, urging parents to scale ever greater heights on behalf of their kids. (Try harder! Move faster! Buy more!) And then there are the anti-advice books that promise to deflect all of this anxiety-mongering by helping parents ward off the latest sales pitch.

Pamela Paul and Carl Honoré seek to fit into this second category. And yet their books are as anxious about staving off anxiety as any advice book is about stoking it. The effect is a bit like being told to calm down by someone whose neck veins are bulging.

Paul's focus is on the money that parents spend, and her premise is pretty unassailable: It's hard not to buy things for your kid, especially if you can afford it. Paul calls this "the anxiety of underspending." Baring her own wallet, she writes, "No matter what I do, someone else seems to be doing enviably more or improbably less, and either way, their child and family seem all the better for it."

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

Baltimore County Should Invest in Online Education

The Baltimore Sun:

In an increasingly wired (and wireless) world, an online presence is becoming indispensable for institutions ranging from businesses to nonprofits to government agencies. Grasping this new reality, Baltimore County education officials last year wisely launched a pilot online education program that served 106 students - almost all of them previously home-schooled.

This initiative deserves to be made permanent. The county executive's office disagrees and denied a $2 million request for online education in the 2008-2009 school budget, blaming poor economic conditions. That reasoning is understandable but shortsighted.

Unless the school board can find the funding in its current budget to keep the program, it stands to lose state dollars when some - perhaps most - of those 106 students return to home-schooling in the fall. Worse, it would also lose the opportunity to become a pioneer in an area that will doubtless play a major role in the future of education.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:55 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

In Defense of Home Schooling

Gale Holland:

Feb. 28 ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal barred parents from home schooling their children unless they have teaching credentials. Supporters of home schooling say the decision, if upheld, would make California the most restrictive of the 50 states on the issue and turn thousands of parents into outlaws.

Monday's rehearing in the case drew at least 45 lawyers representing the California attorney general, the governor, the state Department of Education and several religious-liberty legal foundations, as well as home-school father Mark Landstrom of Northridge.

His son Glenn, 21, who accompanied him, is now a student at Patrick Henry College in Virginia, a small evangelical Christian school.

"It helped me feel really prepared for college," Glenn Landstrom said of his home-based education in an interview outside the courtroom. He dismissed the assertion that home schoolers are intolerant of those of diverse backgrounds as "kind of a strange rumor."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:53 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Kids making a difference: Sport for Africa CAR WASH June 28th at Middleton Cycle

Bulleh Bablitch via email:

Project Liberia inspires students to give

Middleton/Madison, Wis. — With the Summer in full bloom, it would be easy for any area high school student to spend his or her time sleeping away their summer and hanging out with their friends. But for one group of students at Middleton High School, there is no time like the present to start a new project, aimed at helping those in need halfway around the world.

For the past six weeks, this group of students have been collecting used sports equipment for children in the country of Liberia, all in the name of helping the youth of this nation, which is recovering from a 15-year civil war, learn how to see each other as teammates rather than enemies. Now that they have collected the items, it is time to raise the money needed to ship the items to Liberia.

Middleton Cycle.

The inspiration for the project — titled Sports For Africa and part of a burgeoning non-profit organization called Project Liberia — came from 16-year-old Laytee Norkeh, whose mother and father are Liberian nationals. As Norkeh and her friends listened to heartbreaking stories of the great need that exists across the small West African country, they couldn't help but see an opportunity to get involved.

"We felt a strong need to take matters into our own hands and help those who are
so helpless," Norkeh says. "It takes so little to make such a big difference in the lives of these people.
We want to help them and give them hope of a better future."

Norkeh, along with Eli Rosen, Carli Kopatz, Lexie Jordee, Sam Delabarre, Ashley Guse, Campbell White, David Ripp, Alex Koritzinsky, and John Zimmerman have been working to collect used sports equipment at their school and other local businesses.
The collection runs from May 28 - June 6th. Laytee has created a video which will be shown to the student body beginning May 28th.

About Project Liberia:
Project Liberia is a collection of individual programs designed to meet some of the most pressing needs for a nation recovering from a devastating civil war. Each venture — from building a community center, developing a micro-loan system and bringing sports equipment to children in villages and orphanages — has been developed to enhance the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual fiber of the people of Liberia.

For more information, please contact Bulleh Bablitch at (608) 577-6711 or

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Public Milwaukee Boarding School by 2011?

Dani McClain:

A coalition of prominent Milwaukeeans working to establish an urban boarding school for at-risk youth today announced its intention to raise between $30 million and $40 million in private funds to support opening a school in three years.

The Wisconsin Coalition for a Public Boarding School also plans to attempt to persuade legislators to allocate state funding for the college-prep program, the initiative's leaders said today at a media event at the Charles Allis Art Museum.

The school would open in 2011 with 80 sixth-grade students and with an initial state contribution of around $2 million. If the coalition can persuade the Legislature to back the initiative, the school would reach full public funding by 2017 with an annual state contribution of around $10 million, said Jeanette Mitchell, community adviser to the Washington, D.C.-based SEED Foundation.

More from the Milwaukee Business Journal.

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

Reaching Students via Podcast

Felicia Fonseca:

It's called podcasting, and is increasingly popular in education, with many colleges and universities offering free online lectures. A podcast is an audio or video file that automatically downloads to subscribers over the Internet, and is often listened to or watched on a mobile media player such as an iPod or Zune.

For Fort Sumner Spanish teacher Sandra Wertheim's class, the boost from the little device made it much easier to deal with weekly vocabulary words: Her voice rang through the ears of students who got the lesson through the Zune.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

California: Education Data Tells a Sorry Story

Dan Walters:

"Most incoming (community college) students are not ready for college-level work," the report says. "In addition, relatively few of these students reach proficiency during their time (in community college)."

That's interesting, but it also raises this question: Since virtually all of those community college students graduated from high school, what is that telling us about the level of K-12 instruction?

One presumes, perhaps naively, that if someone possesses a California high school diploma, thus signifying 12 years of education costing taxpayers around $130,000, that someone must possess basic reading, writing and computational skills.

Remember, we're not talking about the roughly one-third of California's teenagers who don't graduate from high school; with few exceptions we're talking about graduates who have enough gumption to attend community college, and yet, this report says most don't have the appropriate basic skills for college-level studies. By the way, that also doesn't count the large numbers of high school graduates – well over a third – who require remedial instruction after being accepted into the California State University system.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 24, 2008

K-12 Finance Climate: Challenges Charts from Ross Perot

Ross Perot is at it again, this time with online charts that illustrate our nation's fiscal challenges. David M. Walker, Comptroller fo the Currency from 1998-2008:

Ross Perot is the father of fiscal charts. will help Americans understand the serious fiscal challenges facing our nation. These new electronic charts will also serve to hold elected officials accountable while accelerating needed actions to help ensure that our collective future will be better than our past.
A few charts worth checking out: Spending Trends (above), education funding sources, taxes as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product and the growing national debt.

K-12 Tax & Spending climate

Related by Richard Daughty:

And this doesn't even mention the cancerous growth in the size of government, which grew by borrowing a big chunk of all the money that the Fed created, and taxing the profits everybody else made with what was left, and the government used it to create incomes for more and more people, until the federal government now supports half of the population, all of whom unfortunately need more money because of the higher prices.

Now, total government taxation consumes half of all incomes, all of which goes around and around until my head is spinning and I wonder how it is possible that any country with as many schools, colleges and universities as we have can be so freakishly, perversely, brain-dead as to believe that such idiocy was even freaking possible?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

To Avoid Student Turnover, Flint Parents Get Rent Help

Erik Eckholm:

Because he has moved so often, 9-year-old Richard Kennedy has already attended four different schools in Flint. In his mother’s latest rental house the other day, he described how it felt to enter an unfamiliar classroom.


In New York, board of education officials said that while they did not have data on trends in student mobility, it had been a prime reason behind efforts to standardize curriculums, so students switching schools would not find their math classes, for example, far out of sync.

High turnover can undermine a multiyear improvement plan. “It becomes a different school, because the core of the students you’re educating has changed,” Dr. Kerbow said.

Even the students who do not switch schools suffer, because teachers must spend more time reviewing materials for newcomers and tend to introduce less material, Dr. Kerbow said, citing what his research had found in Chicago. “The learning trajectory over time is flattened,” he added.

Seems like a useful idea, rather than trying to standardize curriculum across the board. Locally, Mayor Dave recently proposed using suburban housing assistance to reduce urban low income concentration.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:45 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

156 Wisconsin Schools Fail to Meet No Child Left Behind Standards


The number of Wisconsin schools that didn't meet standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act and could face sanctions increased from 95 to 156 this year, including the entire Madison Metropolitan School District.

Of the 156 schools on the list released Tuesday by the state Department of Public Instruction, 82 were in the Milwaukee Public School district. Seven of the schools on the list were charter schools.

Besides individual schools on the list, four entire districts made the list for not meeting the standards. That lists includes the school districts of Beloit, Madison, Milwaukee and Racine.

Bill Novak (Interestingly, this Capital Times article originally had many comments, which are now gone):
Superintendent Art Rainwater told The Capital Times the list is "ludicrous," the district doesn't pay attention to it, and the district will do what's best for the students and not gear curriculum to meet the criteria set by the federal government.

"As we've said from the day this law was passed, it is only a matter of time before every school in America is on the list," Rainwater said. "It's a law that impossible to meet, because eventually if every single student in a school isn't successful, you are on the list."

No Child Left Behind allows states to set their own standards. The Fordham Institute has given Wisconsin's academic standards a "D" in recent years. Neal McCluskey has more on states setting their own standards:
NCLB's biggest problem is that it's designed to help Washington politicians appear all things to all people. To look tough on bad schools, it requires states to establish standards and tests in reading, math and science, and it requires all schools to make annual progress toward 100% reading and math proficiency by 2014. To preserve local control, however, it allows states to set their own standards, "adequate yearly progress" goals, and definitions of proficiency. As a result, states have set low standards, enabling politicians to declare victory amid rising test scores without taking any truly substantive action.

NCLB's perverse effects are illustrated by Michigan, which dropped its relatively demanding standards when it had over 1,500 schools on NCLB's first "needs improvement" list. The July 2002 transformation of then-state superintendent Tom Watkins captures NCLB's power. Early that month, when discussing the effects of state budget cuts on Michigan schools, Mr. Watkins declared that cuts or no cuts, "We don't lower standards in this state!" A few weeks later, thanks to NCLB, Michigan cut drastically the percentage of students who needed to hit proficiency on state tests for a school to make adequate yearly progress. "Michigan stretches to do what's right with our children," Mr. Watkins said, "but we're not going to shoot ourselves in the foot."

Andy Hall:
Madison's Leopold and Lincoln elementary schools were among the list of schools failing to attain the standards, marking the first time that a Madison elementary school made the list.

Three Madison middle schools — Sherman, Cherokee and Toki — also joined the list, which continued to include the district's four major high schools: East, West, La Follette and Memorial. Madison's Black Hawk Middle School, which was on the list last year, made enough academic progress to be removed from it.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:15 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Some Milwaukee Area School Districts Running Low on Cash

Amy Hetzner:

The issue of how much money to have in case of emergency became enough of a concern that the Milwaukee Public Schools’ Board of Governance included it as a topic for a study of the district’s financial stability. The contract for that study was awarded to Robert W. Baird & Co. last week.

“One of my concerns is MPS fiscal stability, and I was concerned about the lack of reserves,” said board member Michael Bonds, chairman of the finance and personnel committee for the district.

But there’s a problem with Bonds’ desire to build up the district’s reserves, which now stand at about $83 million or nearly 8% of the annual operating budget.

State aid is awarded based on prior year spending. That means low property-value districts such as Milwaukee will have to rely more on local property taxes for revenue if they save more and spend less.

Even so, saving money was important enough to the Racine Unified School District that its voters passed a referendum in 2000 to add $1 million a year to its cash reserves, which now stand at $18.5 million.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:14 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Education in Mexico: Testing the Teachers

The Economist:

The main problem lies not with salaries for teaching, which are competitive with other jobs in Mexico, but with the quality of teachers. The government has been trying to solve the problem since 1992, when it introduced annual bonuses linked to teachers' participation in training courses and their scores on tests. This system is far from perfect. A study last year by the Rand Corporation, an American think-tank, found that the tests given to teachers required “only low level cognitive responses”, while the criteria for evaluation were fuzzy and subject to manipulation.

The new agreement between Mr Calderón and Ms Gordillo has two aims. First, there is a promise to improve the fabric of the 27,000 schools—around one in eight—that are in poor repair (though no new money was allocated to this as part of the agreement). Second, it seeks to break the hold of the union over teachers' careers. Under the agreement, teachers would be hired and promoted according to how they fare in a set of tests devised and marked by a new independent body.

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

The Nation's Most Elite Public High Schools

Jay Matthews:

I am ranking them by one of the most common, and to me most annoying, measures of high school worth--average total reading and math SAT scores. Those test results are most closely tied to the income of the families that raise these fine students. There is something of that relationship at these schools too. But once you get this many bright students together, SAT becomes largely irrelevant, since they have all gone far beyond the 10th-grade reading comprehension and math puzzles that make up those exams. Notice, for instance, the surprises. Some very well-known elite schools have much lower average SATs than some others. Some selective high schools with terrific reputations, like Lowell in San Francisco, do not have high enough SAT averages to make the Public Elites list and so remain on the main list. It shows how little significance SAT numbers have.

I am still amazed that there are high schools whose average scores would be high enough to get any student who got that score, with a little luck, into the Ivy League. Our rule is if a non-traditional school's average is 1300, or 29 or above on the ACT, it goes on the Public Elites list. We picked 1300 and 29 because those scores are just above the highest average scores of any regular enrollment public school in the country.

The list:
  1. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (SAT 1495)
  2. University Laboratory High School, Urbana, Ill. (SAT 1409)
  3. Stuyvesant High School, New York (SAT 1405)
  4. High Technology High, Lincroft, NJ (SAT 1395)
  5. Hunter College High School, New York (SAT 1395)
  6. Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, Oklahoma City (SAT 1383)
  7. Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Aurora, Ill. (SAT 1373)
  8. South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics, Hartsville, S.C. (SAT 1362)
  9. North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Durham, N.C. (SAT 1356)
  10. Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, N.J. (SAT 1355)
  11. Whitney High School, Cerritos, Calif. (SAT 1343)
  12. Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies, Richmond, Va. (SAT:1340)
  13. Jefferson County International Baccalaureate, Irondale, Ala. (SAT 1315)
  14. Union County Magnet High School, Scotch Plains, N.J. (SAT 1314)
  15. International Community School, Kirkland, Wash. (SAT 1309)
  16. University High School, Tucson, Ariz. (SAT 1304)
  17. Bronx High School of Science, New York (SAT 1301)

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

Does State Education Funding Shortchange Our Children?

Marietta Nelson:

Schools receive local property tax money through levies and federal money, but the majority of funding comes from the state.

The current public education funding system emerged from a 1977 state Supreme Court decision in which Seattle schools sued the state over inadequate funding. The ruling held that the state must fund equally across districts a "basic education" program that went beyond reading, writing and math. Subsequent court rulings over the years have expanded the formula, resulting in an extremely complex system.

It's been called antiquated, outdated, ossified. Even Byzantine.

"Our system is pretty equitable now in that everyone gets ripped off," Hyde said. "Just think, do you live now like you lived 30 years ago?"

The formula begins with all schools receiving a basic education allocation per student. The allocation varies from district to district based on teacher experience and education levels, teacher-student ratios, allocations for administrators and classified staff and several other factors.

The article includes a number of interesting comments.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

SAT will let students pick which scores to show colleges

Seema Mehta & Larry Gordon:

High school students seeking to put the best shine on their college applications will soon be able to choose which of their SAT scores to share with admissions officers and which to hide, the College Board said Friday.

The new policy, starting with the class of 2010, will allow students to take the widely used college entrance exam multiple times without admissions officers seeing their less-than-stellar efforts. Now, colleges receive scores of all the times a student attempted the dreaded test, whether the results were spectacular, mediocre or worse.

"Students were telling us the ability to have more control over their scores would make the test experience more comfortable and less stressful," said Laurence Bunin, senior vice president of the SAT. ". . . We can do that without in any way diminishing the value and integrity of the SAT."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:44 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 23, 2008

LA Tries to Put the "Wow" in School Lunches

Mary MacVean:

Mark Baida was pleased with his latest taste test: lots of empty little black trays, sometimes stacked three deep in front of his guinea pigs, a group of Garfield High School students.

But the pressure is on the new executive chef of the Los Angeles Unified School District: Demands are growing from parent groups, the school board and students for food that is delicious, healthful, served quickly -- and really, really inexpensive. In the last few years, the school board has banned soda and set standards for salt and fat, among other things. Now the aim is to make it more appealing too.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

And the Band Honked On: A Professional Musician Teaches 6th Graders

Daniel Wakin:

It was early in the school year. A young professional French horn player named Alana Vegter, a thoroughbred musician trained by elite teachers, took a handful of trumpet and trombone players into an equipment supply room. Speaking in the flat tones of the Chicago suburb where she grew up, Ms. Vegter tried to coax notes out of each player. A tall sixth-grade trumpeter named Kenny Ocean, his pants sagging around his hips, played too high, then too low. A smile spread across his face when he hit it right.

“You see, every time you do it, it gets easier,” Ms. Vegter said. On her cue they all bleated together. “I’m starting to hear everybody making nice, healthy sounds,” she said, half in praise, half in hope.

So began Ms. Vegter’s year in Ditmas Junior High School, Intermediate School 62, in the Kensington section of Brooklyn. It was a year that would teach her the satisfaction of tiny victories in a place where homelessness means that some kids cannot take their instruments home to practice, where chronic asthma forces some to switch from wind instruments to percussion, where the roar of a lunchroom leaves a newcomer stunned.

Ms. Vegter, 25, was there as part of a well-financed experiment by some of the nation’s most powerful musical institutions. The experiment is called, clumsily, the Academy -- a Program of Carnegie Hall, the Juilliard School and the Weill Music Institute (the institute being an arm of Carnegie).

In its second season, which ended this month, the academy extended fellowships to 34 graduates of leading music schools to receive high-level coaching and lessons in a two-year program. They play concerts on Carnegie’s stages and participate in master classes. Part of the deal is a commitment to teach one and a half days a week at a New York public school, which pays the academy $13,200 for the service.

Clusty Search: Lemont High School Band.

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

Return of the Math Wars

Debra Saunders:

1997 saw the height of the Math Wars in California.

On the one side stood educrats, who advocated mushy math - or new-new math. They sought to de-emphasize math skills, such as multiplication and solving numeric equations, in favor of pushing students to write about math and how they might solve a problem. Their unofficial motto was: There is no right answer. (Even to 2 +2.)

They were clever. They knew how to make it seem as if they were pushing for more rigor, as they dumbed down curricula. For example, they said they wanted to teach children algebra starting in kindergarten, which seemed rigorous, but they had expanded the definition of algebra to the point that it was meaningless.
On the other side were reformers, who wanted the board to push through rigorous and specific standards that raised the bar for all California kids. Miraculously, they succeeded, and they took pride in the state Board of Education's vote for academic standards that called for all eighth-graders to learn Algebra I.

Math Forum Audio, Video and links.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

IB or Not IB

Cynthia Lardner:

Over the last several years, the references to “IB” schools seem to be just about everywhere. IB, or International Baccalaureate, Schools are schools certified by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). President George W. Bush cited IB programs as a model for boosting student achievement in science and math. The U.S. Department of Education started a pilot program to bring IB programs to low-income students. The Michigan Department of Education, in its 2006 recommendations to the State Board of Education for College Credit Earning Opportunities, recommends that Advanced Placement (AP) or IB courses be made available to every student in every high school in Michigan. University admissions offices are working to determine their scoring or ranking for students matriculating with an IB diploma. Oakland University is spearheading an IBO teacher certification program. This article will look at the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, explain its roots, mission, programming, and try to assess whether an IB program is a good fit for gifted students.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:15 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Atlanta School board hopefuls take aim at superintendent

John Hollis:

John W. Thompson wasn't in attendance at Sunday evening's candidate forum sponsored by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV.

But the new Clayton County schools corrective superintendent was very much the topic of conversation before the approximately 150 people gathered at Clayton State University.

More specifically, it was his $285,000 salary and flexible contract that excludes him from having to answer to the school board as the county fights to save its accreditation.

"That would have to be reconsidered," said District 5 candidate Phyllis Moore, "because that's not the way we're supposed to be operating."

Moore was hardly alone. Other candidates also expressed problems with Thompson, who was hired in April to prevent Clayton from becoming the nation's first school system in nearly 40 years to have its accreditation withdrawn.

Ruth Robarts: "Who Runs the Madison Schools?"

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Does 8th-Grade Pomp Fit the Circumstance?

Jane Hoffman:

Andre Cowling, who just finished his first year as principal of Harvard Elementary, one of the poorest-performing schools in Chicago, said the South Side’s eighth-grade celebrations are like “Easter Sunday on steroids.”

In a speech last Sunday at a Chicago church, Barack Obama took on the pomp and purpose of these ceremonies. “Now hold on a second — this is just eighth grade,” he said. “So, let’s not go over the top. Let’s not have a huge party. Let’s just give them a handshake.” He continued: “You’re supposed to graduate from eighth grade.”

Mr. Obama was wading into a simmering debate about eighth-grade ceremonies and their attendant hoopla. Do they inspire at-risk students to remain in high school and beyond? Or do they imply finality?

While some educators are grateful that notice is still being paid to academic achievement, others deride the festivities as overpraising what should be routine accomplishment. Some principals, school superintendents and legislators are trying to scale back the grandeur. But stepping between parents and ever-escalating celebrations of their children’s achievements can be dicey, at best.

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

June 22, 2008

Parents seek safety report cards

Erica Perez:

The unsolved murder of a college student in Madison, a string of robberies near Marquette University and a recent spike in assaults at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have some parents packing summer orientation sessions at local colleges, anxious about students’ safety.

Colleges, in turn, are trying to ease those fears while helping parents take an active role.

In a new twist, UWM parents can now sign up for emergency text alerts on their cell phones, a service that previously has been available only for students, faculty and staff. With only about a fifth of UWM students registered for the S.A.F.E. alerts, administrators are making a harder push this summer to get new freshmen to hand over their cell phone numbers and sign up. Once registered, they would be notified via text message or e-mail in the event of a campus emergency.

UW-Madison administrators are making a similar push to register freshmen for new cell-phone alerts at orientation, although their service is not yet available to parents.

For the hundreds of parents gathered in UWM's Zelazo Center this week, a few assurances from a campus police officer produced some visible signs of relief.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Growth in Minnesota Charter School Enrollment

Norman Draper:

At a time when overall Minnesota school enrollment is declining, enrollment in charter schools in the state soared by a record number last year, according to a study released Thursday.

The study, conducted by the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, found that the number of students attending charter schools rose by 4,337 during the 2007-08 school year. That marks the biggest enrollment increase since 1991-92, when the charter school option was first made available to Minnesota students and parents.

Total enrollment for charter schools stands at 28,206. That's almost three times the enrollment in the 2001-02 school year. The total public school enrollment last year in Minnesota was 796,757, a number that has been declining for several years.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 21, 2008

Yellow Buses Put Schools in the Red

Anne Marie Chaker:

"I've never seen anything escalate this quick," says Hank Hurd, the Durham district's chief operating officer. "There's no way for a school district to absorb those kinds of increases."

The 2007-08 school year has come to a close, but as superintendents across the country finalize their budgets for the fall, many are projecting major spikes in a number of areas -- cafeteria food and heating oil, for example. Perhaps the greatest bump is for diesel, which fuels the yellow buses that bring kids to school in the first place.

Some 475,000 school buses transport 25 million children -- more than half of the country's schoolchildren -- each day, and cover 4.3 billion miles a year, says the American School Bus Council, a Washington, D.C.-based group that lobbies on behalf of the school-bus industry. And the cost of fueling all these vehicles has a direct impact beyond the bus.

Bowling Green has cut back a teaching position and ordered fewer new textbooks. Pennsylvania's Palisades School District will start charging kids extra when they go on field trips. The Bellevue district in Nebraska will skip a planned roofing job and defer replacing some old-but-still-functional boilers.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Education system 8-track in an iPOD world, Jeb Bush says

Ron Matus:

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush rallied the troops Thursday, telling a supportive crowd that their often-unpopular visions of reform are the best path to modernizing schools.

"The world is much more interconnected, much more technologically advanced and it is much more interdependent," Bush told a packed ballroom at a Disney resort. "And yet our education system is an eight-track system living in an iPod world."

The duo delivered brief, keynote addresses at a summit organized by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which Bush formed last year.

Among the 400 guests expected to attend over two days were dozens of policy wonks who believe more school choice and testing can help deliver a higher quality education to more students.

Spellings mounted a vigorous defense of No Child Left Behind.

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

June 20, 2008

Investment interest exceeds Waukesha & West Allis schools' profits

Amy Hetzner & Avrum Lank:

Two area school districts are paying more in interest than they are receiving this quarter in a complex investment program they undertook two years ago to help pay retirement benefits, a Journal Sentinel analysis found.

The investment plans implemented in the Waukesha and West Allis-Milwaukee districts are the same as a program that an outside analyst said was causing a loss for the Kenosha Unified district in the current quarter.

For part of their investments in the complicated programs, all three districts borrowed money at fixed rates that now exceed what they receive in income. In addition, because the value of the investments has fallen substantially over the last year, the interest rate on debt issued by district-run trusts has increased enough to cut into profits they had expected to make.

As a result, Waukesha and West Allis-West Milwaukee could be obligated to pay out thousands of dollars more in interest than they are receiving from the investments for the quarter ending this month.

The article notes that Erik Kass, Waukesha's executive Director of Business Services will soon become assistant superintendent of business services in Madison. A significant decline (from $48M in 2000 to $24M in 2006; annual budgets were $252M and $333M) in the Madison School District's "Equity Fund" balance (the difference between assets and liabilities) has been an issue in recent board races and meetings.

It will be interesting to see how both the past experiences of Erik Kass and incoming Superintendent Dan Nerad frame their approach to local governance and community interaction.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:18 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Massachusett's School Overhaul Plan: Let 16 Year Olds Graduate


The school overhaul plan being unveiled next week by Gov. Deval Patrick includes a proposal to allow high school students as young as 16 to take an international evaluation test that would allow them to graduate, The Associated Press learned today.

A report from the year-old Readiness Project will also include recommendations to make credits universally transferrable through the state college, community college and university system. It also features a so-called dual-enrollment program that would allow high school students to receive credit for classes taken on college campuses, a senior administration official familiar with the report said.

Overall, the goal is to personalize education rather than continuing to rely on the more formulaic approach in which all students march in annual progression from elementary school through high school and undergraduate education — all between the ages of 6 and 22.

Related: Fearing for Massachusetts School Reform.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Gifted Programs in the City Are Less Diverse

Elissa Gootman and Robert Gebeloff

When New York City set a uniform threshold for admission to public school gifted programs last fall, it was a crucial step in a prolonged effort to equalize access to programs that critics complained were dominated by white middle-class children whose parents knew how to navigate the system.

The move was controversial, with experts warning that standardized tests given to young children were heavily influenced by their upbringing and preschool education, and therefore biased toward the affluent.

Now, an analysis by The New York Times shows that under the new policy, children from the city’s poorest districts were offered a smaller percentage than last year of the entry-grade gifted slots in elementary schools. Children in the city’s wealthiest districts captured a greater share of the slots.

The disparity is so stark that some gifted programs opened by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in an effort to increase opportunities in poor and predominantly minority districts will not fill new classes next year. In three districts, there were too few qualifiers to fill a single class.

Posted by Jeff Henriques at 4:27 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

High School Hackers Load Spyware To Change Grades

Mark Selfe:

Omar Khan and Tanvir Singh, both 18-years old, face more than just a trip down to the Principal's office as they are both charged for breaking into and then hacking Tesoro High School computers in Orange County California.

According to prosecutors, the two individuals used stolen passwords and usernames to hack into school computers to change their grades from D's and C's to A's and B+'s. Khan was also accused of stealing tests before they had been given and for loading spyware which would enable him access servers remotley to change the grades of 12 other students.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Nerad leaves (Green Bay) with look back, some sadness

Kelly McBride:

Outgoing Green Bay School District Superintendent Daniel Nerad always will have new-job jitters.

The butterflies were there on his first day as a Green Bay School District employee 33 years ago, and he predicts they'll be there when he starts his new role as head of the Madison School District July 1.

Nerad can only hope there's less property damage this time around.

"My parents gave me a new briefcase when I was employed here," he recalled Tuesday. "I had this old beat-up car that the driver's side door sometimes would unlock and sometimes didn't unlock. … So I put the briefcase down on the side of the car and I went on the passenger's side and went in. Started the car, backed up — smashed my new briefcase.

"So just as there were first-day jitters then, there will be first-day jitters (in Madison)."

There's also been sadness around Nerad leaving, as he admits and as was evident at the conclusion of his last Green Bay School Board meeting Monday night.

Much more on incoming Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:44 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Unthinkable Futures

Kevin Kelly & Brian Eno:

While hunting in my archives for something else I dug up this exercise in scenarios. It was a small game Brian Eno and I played to loosen up our expectations of what might happen in the near future. We were both struck at how improbable current events would be to anyone in the past, and how incapable we are at expecting the improbable in the future.

This list of unthinkable futures -- probabilities we tend to dismiss without thinking -- was published 15 years ago in the Summer, 1993 issue of Whole Earth Review. Our intent was less to correctly predict the future (thus the silliness) and more to predict how unpredictable the actual future would be.

* American education works. Revived by vouchers, a longer school year, private schools and for-profit schools, the majority of Americans (though not the most disadvantaged) get the best education in the world.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 19, 2008

No Child Left Behind may be a drag on the gifted

By Anya Sostek, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The school accountability movement is leaving the nation's most gifted students behind, according to a report released yesterday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The report, "High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB," uses scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress to compare changes in the top 10 percent and the bottom 10 percent of students since the introduction of No Child Left Behind.

The good news is that NCLB seems to be making progress toward its goal of closing the "achievement gap," states the report: In fourth-grade reading, for example, NAEP scores for the bottom tenth increased 16 points from 2000 to 2007, compared to 3 points for the top tenth.

But what does the narrowing of that gap mean for students scoring at the top of the spectrum?

"The progress of our top students has been modest at best," said the report, noting that the focus of NCLB on bringing students to the "proficient" level might result in the neglect of gifted students who are already proficient.

"People can look at this data and say, 'This is great news,' and maybe that's what our national education policy should be," said Michael J. Petrilli, a vice president at the Fordham Institute. "But you see that the performance of the high-achieving students is languid, and the question is whether languid is going to cut it in a global economy."

Posted by Jeff Henriques at 9:22 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Robin Hood Effect: Does the focus on students who are furthest behind come at the expense of top students?

Ann Duffett, Steve Farkas, Tom Loveless: High Achieving Students in the era of NCLB.

This publication reports the results of the first two (of five) studies of a multifaceted research investigation of the state of high-achieving students in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era.

Part I: An Analysis of NAEP Data, authored by Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, examines achievement trends for high-achieving students (defined, like low-achieving students, by their performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP) since the early 1990s and, in more detail, since 2000.

Part II: Results from a National Teacher Survey, authored by Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett of Farkas Duffett Research Group, reports on teachers' own views of how schools are serving high-achieving pupils in the NCLB era.

Locally, these issues have manifested themselves with a controversial move toward one size fits all curriculum: English 10 and mandatory academic grouping, High School Redesign and a letter from the West High School Math teachers to Isthmus. Dane County AP Class offering comparison.

Report Sees Cost in Some Academic Gains by Sam Dillon:

And about three-quarters of the teachers surveyed said they agreed with this statement: "Too often, the brightest students are bored and under-challenged in school -- we're not giving them a sufficient chance to thrive".

Download the complete 7.3MB report here.

Thanks to a reader for emailing the report.

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

Madison's Math Task Force Meets Today and Tomorrow

Madison School District:

  1. Welcome
  2. Approval of Minutes dated June 6, 2008
  3. Review of Drafts of Findings and Recommendations for Final Task Force Report
  1. Consensus findings
  2. Findings that require further discussion
  3. Consensus recommendations
  4. Recommendations that require further discussion
  1. Further Discussion of Findings Requiring Revised or Additional Language as Needed
  2. Further Discussion of Recommendations requiring Revised or Additional Language as Needed
  3. Other Findings or Recommendations Proposed for Inclusion in the Final Report
  4. Other Issues regarding Final Report Draft
  • Review of Revised Report Documents
    1. Revised findingsRevised recommendations

    2. Discussion
  • Review and Discussion of Other Chapters of Final Report
  • Additional Comments and Concerns relate to the Final Report
  • Acceptance of Findings, Recommendations and Sub-reports and Final Report
  • Next Steps in Process of Submitting to the MMSD Board
  • Acknowledgments
  • Adjournment
  • Much more on the Math Task Force here.

    March 7, 2008 Madison Math Task Force Minutes.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:15 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Gaithersburg School Tailors Teaching To Help Students Cope With Asperger

    Daniel de Vise:

    The first day of kindergarten found Alex Barth in the principal's office. The teacher had asked students to draw self-portraits. Alex had wanted to draw his in red crayon. There was no red crayon. Alex had melted down.

    Alex was a capable child with superior intelligence -- and no end of eccentricities. He would flee noisy school assemblies. He couldn't bear the smell of the cafeteria. By the end of first grade, his mother was spending much of the day at Alex's side.

    Robyne Barth soon learned her son had Asperger syndrome, a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. Children with the disorder, known in shorthand as Asperger's, might have strong academic gifts but deficiencies in such social skills as carrying on a conversation and playing with others at recess.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:44 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Members of Congress Are 3-4 Times More Likely to Send Their Children To Private Schools

    Mark Perry:

    A 2007 Heritage Foundation survey found that the percentage of Members of the 110th Congress who practice pri vate school choice is disproportionate to the general populace, since only 11.5% of American stu dents attend private schools. Also of note, Mem bers of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who represent populations that have fared poorly academically in public schools and that stand to benefit the most from educational options, showed particularly high rates of practicing school choice.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    MasterCard to Donate $200,000 for St. Louis Math Education

    Matt Allen:

    MasterCard Worldwide is donating nearly $200,000 in grants this year as part of its St. Louis corporate giving program, Project Math, which helps advance math education in the St. Louis area.

    Among those who are currently receiving funding from MasterCard as part of Project Math are the Wentzville School District, The Magic House, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri and the Missouri Colleges Fund. Junior Achievement of Mississippi Valley Inc. received a $50,000 grant in March enabling the organization to reach more than a dozen St. Louis area schools.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 18, 2008

    Maths review: toddlers should learn through number play

    Laura Clout & Lucy Cockcroft:

    Pre-school children should spend time cooking with their parents and playing with numbers to help improve their maths skills, a Government review has recommended.

    The report by Sir Peter Williams, Chancellor of Leicester University, also advised that every primary school should have a specialist maths teacher and called for more mental arithmetic in class.

    He called for urgent action to change England's "can't do attitude" to the subject, and said that every child should have mastered the basics of the subject by the age of seven.

    To help achieve this children should be playing with shapes, time, capacity and numbers to foster their "natural instincts" from a young age

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Dan Nerad Assumes the Madison Superintendent Position July 1, 2008

    Tamira Madsen:

    Hailed as a hard worker by district peers and teachers, in person, Nerad is a quiet and astute listener who weighs opinions, questions and ideas in a thoughtful manner.

    It's the quiet that marks the greatest contrast with outgoing Superintendent Art Rainwater, a former football coach with a commanding physical presence. Rainwater's assertive, booming voice resonates in the Doyle Administration Building's auditorium with or without a microphone.

    Asked what the biggest difference is between Rainwater and Nerad, School Board President Arlene Silveira said it "will be Dan being out in the community and being more communicative. I think he will be more available and more accessible to the community as a whole. ... I think people should feel very comfortable and confident that stepping in, he will be able to start making decisions and leading us from day one. I think that's a big deal and very positive for us."

    Notes, Links, Audio and Video of Dan Nerad. Nerad's public appearance.

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

    New York Majority Supports Statewide Tax Cap Plan

    James T. Madore & Melissa Mansfield:

    The hurdles to adoption of property tax relief were on display here yesterday as the Senate touted a plan that was immediately dismissed by the Assembly, while Gov. David A. Paterson stood by his controversial tax cap.

    The contradictory moves occurred hours after the Siena Research Institute released a poll showing 74 percent of voters back Paterson's bill that would cap increases in school property taxes at 4 percent a year. On Long Island and in other New York City suburbs, support for the tax cap was even higher: 76 percent.

    Still, the Senate's Republican majority argued it has a better plan: to allow school districts to eliminate the residential property tax as a funding source over five years and replace the lost revenue with greater state aid. The GOP bill also would permit districts to cap their tax levies through successful petitioning by residents.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    School pretends students have been killed to teach dangers of drink-driving

    Megan Levy:

    A police officer in uniform walked into 20 classrooms at El Camino High School in California and announced that several students had been killed in car wrecks over the weekend.

    The hoax was intended to teach the dangers of drink-driving.

    But the scare tactic backfired when some students, who were not told that it was a stunt for two hours, became hysterical and wept uncontrollably.

    Their grief turned to fury when they learned they had been duped.

    Some students made posters declaring: "Death is real. Don't play with our emotions", while a number of parents also complained to the education department.

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

    A 24-hour boarding school can be part of the answer to helping inner city youth help the state by becoming high school and college graduates.

    Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:

    Her learning marked her as different in her neighborhood and her home. And that was the conundrum she presented to the benefactor driving her home for summer break from the last day of school on Thursday.

    Her family lives in one of the roughest housing projects in Washington, D.C. But for the past three years, the 15-year-old ninth-grader has been attending the SEED School in that city, which meant she lived at the school five days a week, except in the summer. It is a boarding school of the type that a core group of influential Milwaukeeans wants to establish here — providing remedial and college-prep, wraparound services that cocoon students from tough family and neighborhood circumstances so that they may better acquire the academic and life skills to succeed.

    This girl represents one of the reasons Milwaukee and state leaders should get behind this proposal, contributing to a capital campaign that must raise $30 million to $60 million in private money and injecting a commitment in the governor’s upcoming budget for direct state funding in 2011.

    “Ms. Poole, I’m concerned,” the girl said, as Lesley Poole, the schools director of student life, tells it on the day it happened. “I think I’m getting smarter and know more than anyone in my house, and that’s unfair to my mom. I know more words than she does. . . . I can out talk her.”

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Three Wisconsin students best in Braille

    Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

    Students from Kenosha, Green Bay, and Madison are among the top Braille users in the United States and Canada, winning a competition held earlier this spring at the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Janesville, as a part of the international Braille Challenge.

    The three Wisconsin winners are eligible to attend the finals of the international Braille Challenge, which will be held in Los Angeles on June 27th.

    The winners, Baylee Alger of Green Bay, Zachary Morris of Kenosha, and Amelia King of Madison, competed in reading comprehension, proofreading, spelling, dictation, and charts and graphs events as part of the challenge. Alger and Morris won top honors in the apprentice category for students in the first and second grades. Both attend their local school districts and receive Braille instruction from teachers of the blind: Alger from Kathleen Ford and Morris from Harry Ostrov. King has placed as a finalist twice before and won the competition in 2004. She currently attends the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped in Janesville and has been a student at Madison Memorial High School.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Summing up a school

    Houston Chronicle:

    Houston Independent School District officials probably reckoned they made a thrifty choice when they planned to close William Wharton Elementary (latest news). Because many Wharton students come from neighborhoods outside its zone, administrators must have assumed that shuttering the school, consolidating its student body with that of a bigger facility, and perhaps selling the pricey Montrose real estate was a winning formula.

    They failed to do their homework. A small army of Montrose residents organized to save the school. The residents have spoken out at public hearings, met with Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra and launched a tidy new Web site called In the process, the coalition revealed the central role a healthy school plays for its community. Wharton, the Montrose activists argue, is not only an academic success story. It is a catalyst for political participation, as neighbors return there year after year to vote. With cozy, mini-Alamo style architecture, it's one of a handful of HISD elementary schools considered architecturally significant. And it hosts an Urban Harvest community garden, a neighborhood playground and a baseball field, which cost the Neartown Little League more than $400,000.

    HISD, of course, is not the park service. Much as neighbors like Wharton, administrators could argue, the district must pass only one exam in deciding its fate: whether it benefits Houston students. Yet Wharton, it turns out, educates well. Uniquely well.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Wisconsin Moving Toward New Academic Standards

    Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

    Wisconsin took an important step Wednesday toward new academic standards which will provide the rigor and relevance students need to succeed in the 21st century.

    During the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) Best Practices Forum (Institute.21) in Madison, State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster received final recommendations for revising and then implementing Model Academic Standards in English language arts and mathematics.

    The recommendations represent the work of leadership and design teams made up of educators, legislators, parents, and business representatives.

    Wisconsin's standards have been criticized by the Fordham Foundation. The Madison School District is planning to use "Value Added Assessment" based on the state standards.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Raising Minority Graduation Rates in College

    Jay Matthews:

    The Catholic University and Trinity Washington University are well-regarded institutions located next to each other in a verdant section of northeast Washington. Yet there is a huge gap between them in the relative graduation rates of their black and white students.

    Trinity, with an enrollment of about 1,600 mostly female undergraduates, graduated 51 percent of its black students entering in 2000 within six years, higher than the national black graduation rate of about 40 percent and almost identical to Trinity's white graduation rate, 53 percent. Catholic, with an enrollment of about 6,200, has a six-year graduation rate of 25 percent for black students and 72 percent for white students who entered in 2000, one of the largest discrepancies in the country in this vital statistic.

    Kevin Carey, a noted graduation rate researcher, merely reveals this interesting divergence in the data about the two schools. He does not explain it. But his startling new report, "Graduation Rate Watch: Making Minority Student Success a Priority," which can be found online at, identifies the most likely sources of such differences and provides more hopeful data about raising the graduation rates of low-income and minority students than I have seen gathered in one place.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education: As the twig is bent ...

    Jerry Large:

    Wouldn't it be great if there were a single solution to our most vexing problems?

    We could add productive workers, cut crime, reduce teen pregnancies and save money, too. Well, just click your heels, because we already have that power; we just have to recognize it and act on it.

    The magic lies in early education: all the emotional, physical, social and cognitive learning kids do between birth and 5.

    But when people talk about the power of education, it's usually only K-12 education they're thinking about, which may be why we just keep talking.

    Last week a group of educators and social activists declared education a civil-rights issue.

    The head of the school systems in New York City and Washington, D.C., were among the people who formed a new group to advocate for shaking up public education to eliminate achievement gaps based on race and income.

    Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels wrote in The Seattle Times last week about urban areas as the foundation of U.S. prosperity and said the quality of education kids get affects our ability to address other problems cities face.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 17, 2008

    School Choice is Change you Can Believe In

    William McGurn:

    Barack and Michelle Obama send their children to an upscale private school. When asked about it during last year's YouTube debate, Sen. Obama responded that it was "the best option" for his children.

    Several hundred low-income parents in our nation's capital have also sent their children to private and parochial schools, with the help of a federal program that provides Opportunity Scholarships. Like Mr. and Mrs. Obama, most of these parents are African-American. And like Mr. and Mrs. Obama, they too believe the schools they've chosen represent the "best option" for their children.

    Now these parents have a question for Mr. Obama. Is Mr. Change-You-Can-Believe-In going to let his fellow Democrats take away the one change that is working for them?

    Chris Christoff on Obama's Flint Education speech:
    Barack Obama's plans to invest more taxpayer dollars on early education, college tuition tax credits and incentives for prospective teachers resonated with those attending his speech Monday at Kettering University in Flint.

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

    Teacher salaries: Performance-based, incentive system for educators


    Lawmakers and education leaders agree on at least one thing: It's time to rethink the way Utah pays teachers.

    The question is, will they agree on how to do it?

    Utah leaders are working to join a nationwide trend toward paying teachers based on performance in the classroom. The idea is to both ease the teacher shortage and improve instruction. It would be a huge change from the current system in which teachers are paid based on years of experience and educational backgrounds.

    It's a change that could affect instructional quality in Utah - for good or bad, depending on how it's done.

    "By providing incentives we can get teachers to focus like a laser on student achievement," said Rep. Brad Last, R-St. George, who serves in both of the groups working on a new pay system.
    On the other hand, he said, "if we try to ram something down their throats they don't want, it will backfire."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    A Health Care Cost Win for the Madison School District & A Pay Raise for Madison Teacher's Clerical Unit

    Sandy Cullen:

    Nearly 200 employees of the Madison School District who currently have health insurance provided by Wisconsin Physicians Service will lose that option, saving the district at least $1.6 million next year.

    But the real savings in eliminating what has long been the most expensive health insurance option for district employees will come in "cost avoidance" in the future, said Bob Nadler, director of human resources for the district.

    "It's a big deal for us - it really is," Nadler said.

    "It certainly will be a benefit to both our employees and the taxpayers," said Superintendent Art Rainwater, adding that the savings were applied to salary increases for the employees affected.

    The change, which will take effect Aug. 1, is the result of an arbitrator's ruling that allows the district to eliminate WPS coverage as an option for members of the clerical unit of Madison Teachers Inc., and instead offer a choice of coverage by Group Health Cooperative, Dean Care or Physicians Plus at no cost to employees. Those employees previously had a choice between only WPS or GHC.

    Currently, the district pays $1,878.44 a month for each employee who chooses WPS family coverage and $716.25 for single coverage.

    For Dean Care, the next highest in cost, the district will pay $1,257.68 per employee a month for family coverage and $478.21 for single coverage.

    This year, WPS raised its costs more than 11 percent while other providers raised their costs by 5 percent to 9 percent, Nadler said.

    Related: The tradeoff between WPS's large annual cost increases, salaries and staff layoffs will certainly be a much discussed topic in the next round of local teacher union negotiations.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Art, music give students skills to succeed in tomorrow's world

    Ray Binghamand Lisa Gonzales Schoennauer:

    Budget cuts. Teacher layoffs. In this time of budget crisis, can our public schools really afford to continue funding arts and music education?

    The appropriate question is: Can California schools afford not to?

    The Dana Arts and Cognition Consortium recently identified a direct correlation between arts experiences and both academic achievement and personal development. The research shows that students who are exposed to the arts demonstrate increased overall academic success beyond just test scores, are connected to the world outside of school, and have more self-confidence.

    What's more, the report found that training in the arts leads to higher levels of reading acquisition, motivation, extended attention spans, information recall in long-term memory, and understanding of geometric representation. For example, specific pathways in the brain can be identified and improved during performing and visual arts instruction.

    Not convinced by the academic research? Then look at the economics.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Green Bay Chooses Greg Maass As Their New Superintendent

    Kelly McBride:

    District officials announced the decision Sunday afternoon after a marathon 7-hour closed session board meeting Saturday.

    Maass, the superintendent of the Fond du Lac School District, will assume the district's top post later this summer pending a School Board site visit, background check and successful contract negotiations.

    He's set to replace Superintendent Daniel Nerad, who will begin his tenure as the head of the Madison School District July 1.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Germans eye kindergarten for next engineers

    Richard Milne:

    Germany’s shortage of engineers has become so acute that some of its leading companies are turning to nursery schools to guarantee future supplies.

    Industrial giants such as Siemens and Bosch are among hundreds of companies giving materials and money to kindergartens to try to interest children as young as three in technology and science.

    Many European countries from Switzerland to Spain suffer shortages of graduates. But the problem is especially acute in Germany, renowned as a land of engineering. German companies have 95,000 vacancies for engineers and only about 40,000 are trained, according to the engineers’ association.

    “It is a new development in that we have seen we need to start very early with children. Starting at school is not good enough – we need to help them to understand as early as possible how things work,” said Maria Schumm-Tschauder, head of Siemens’ Generation21 education programme.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:18 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 16, 2008

    Milwaukee Suburbs’ schools becoming lands of many tongues

    Amy Hetzner:

    Students raised speaking languages other than English have been a steadily growing part of Wisconsin’s population, but few were prepared for this finding when the state adopted a new test for identifying such children a few years ago:

    The school districts of Racine and St. Francis surged ahead of Milwaukee Public Schools, each with a higher percentage of their students labeled English language learners, in the 2005-'06 school year.

    That trend continued in the 2006-'07 school year, with the Waukesha School District exhibiting a higher proportion of students with limited English proficiency than MPS, according to data from the state Department of Public Instruction. The Kenosha Unified School District registered a higher percentage of such students as well, and the Franklin School District wasn't too far behind.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Madison Math Task Force Minutes

    March 7, 2008 Meeting [rtf / pdf]. Well worth reading for those interested in the use of Connected Math and Core Plus, among others, in our schools.

    A few interesting items:

    • Mitchell Nathan proposed a change to the name of the Work Group to more authentically describe its intent. There was consensus to accept the change in designation for the Work Group from "Curriculum Review and Research Findings" to “Learning from Curricula."
    • "Addresses the misconception that there is one curriculum. There are a number of curricula at play, with the exception of the narrowing down at the middle school level, but teachers are also drawing from supplementary materials. There are a range of pathways for math experiences. The work plan would give an overview by level of program of what exists. "
    • "Could say that variety is good for children to have places to plug into. Could expand on the normative idea of purchasing commercial curricula vs. richer, in-house materials. Standards tell the teachers what needs to be taught. Published materials often are missing some aspect of the standards. District tries to define core resources; guides that help people with classroom organization." Fascinating, given the move toward one size fits all in high school, such as English 9 and 10.
    • "Want to include a summary of the NRC report that came out in favor of Connected Math but was not conclusive—cannot control for teacher effects, positive effects of all curricula, etc. "
    • "Would like to give some portrayal of the opportunities for accelerated performance -- want to document informal ways things are made available for differentiation. "
    • "Include elementary math targeted at middle school, e.g., Math Masters. There is information out there to address the Math Masters program and its effect on student achievement."
    • "Data are available to conclude that there is equity in terms of resources"
    • "District will have trend data, including the period when Connected Math was implemented, and control for changes in demographics and see if there was a change. No way to link students who took the WKCE with a particular curriculum experience (ed: some years ago, I recall a teacher asked Administration at a PTO meeting whether they would track students who took Singapore Math at the Elementary level: "No"). That kind of data table has to be built, including controls and something to match teacher quality. May recommend that not worth looking at WKCE scores of CM (Connected Math) student or a case study is worth doing. "
    • The Parent Survey will be mailed to the homes of 1500 parents of students across all grades currently enrolled in MMSD math classes. The Teacher Survey will be conducted via the district’s web site using the Infinite Campus System.
    • MMSD Math Task Force website
    Math Forum audio / video and links.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:41 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Fate of The Sentence: Is the Writing On the Wall?

    Linton Weeks:

    The demise of orderly writing: signs everywhere.

    One recent report, young Americans don't write well.

    In a survey, Internet language -- abbreviated wds, :) and txt msging -- seeping into academic writing.

    But above all, what really scares a lot of scholars: the impending death of the English sentence.

    Librarian of Congress James Billington, for one. "I see creeping inarticulateness," he says, and the demise of the basic component of human communication: the sentence.

    This assault on the lowly -- and mighty -- sentence, he says, is symptomatic of a disease potentially fatal to civilization. If the sentence croaks, so will critical thought. The chronicling of history. Storytelling itself.

    He has a point. The sentence itself is a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Something happens in a sentence. Without subjects, there are no heroes or villains. Without verbs, there is no action. Without objects, nothing is moved, changed, destroyed or created.

    Plus, simple sentences clarify complex situations. ("Jesus wept.")


    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:44 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Stop Cheering on Charter Schools

    Matthew Taylor (the south area chairman for United Teachers Los Angeles, has taught English in Los Angeles schools for 23 years.) :

    It's apparent from The Times editorial, "Hope for Locke High,” and two previous articles why this newspaper deserves its poor reputation among local educators and informed community members when it comes to public education. A runaway bureaucracy, top-down authoritarian school administrations and a decided lack of collaboration are the real issues. It's too bad that they remain hidden behind The Times' blame-the-bad-teacher cries and charter-school cheerleading.

    Can we at least talk about the real problem, the state budget, for a moment? Because California is one of the largest economies in the world, it's a crime that the state ranks among the lowest in per-pupil spending and has such large teacher-student ratios. It would make sense to give a much greater financial priority to public education. What we don't spend on now, we will have to spend much more on later. Incarceration, healthcare and welfare already cost our society too much.

    Senior Deputy Supt. Ramon C. Cortines (who really should be called the superintendent in light of the vacant leadership of David L. Brewer) was clear and correct in taking responsibility for the latest outburst of violence at Locke High School. The Los Angeles Unified School District has "abdicated [its] responsibility” for too many years at a host of schools in inner-city Los Angeles. Years of inexperienced or despotic administrators have helped drive excellent, experienced teachers away. A lack of true collaboration with teachers and parents, turning a blind eye to the collective bargaining agreement and ignoring student-centered reforms lowered morale. When teachers aren't valued, they try to find places where they are.

    Related: Fearing for Massachusetts School Reform.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:54 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Birmingham Board of Education refuses even to ask if other law firms might charge less than it pays now for legal services.

    The Birmingham News:

    Thinking about running for the Birmingham Board of Education next year? (And we're hoping a lot of people are.)

    School board members offered up a nicely gift-wrapped campaign issue for opponents to run with.

    Amazingly, the school board rejected a document last week requesting bids on legal services. Instead, the board will stay with the two, expensive, outside law firms it has used for a dozen years: Waldrep, Stewart and Kendrick; and Thomas, Means, Gillis and Seay.

    Even with all the financial troubles the city school system is having, this wasn't even a close vote. By 6-2, the board turned back a document that would request - only request, mind you - proposals from other law firms.

    Just asking for other proposals shouldn't be difficult for the school board - if it truly has the best interests of city taxpayers and the school system's future in mind.

    The legal fees the system pays are out of line with anything reasonable, especially when you look at what other school systems pay for legal services. Last year, Birmingham paid $108 per student in legal fees, by far the highest in the state. Second-place Anniston spent just under $57 per student.

    Wonder if steep legal fees are an unfortunate characteristic of the metropolitan area? Not if one considers Jefferson County's legal spending. During the same period the Birmingham school board was forking over $3 million-plus in fees and lawsuit settlements, the Jefferson County system, with thousands more students, was paying about one-sixth that amount.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Wealthy Colleges: Ante Up

    James D. Miller & Louis Lavelle:

    Colleges and universities should be required to spend 5% of their endowments every year or risk losing their tax-exempt status. Pro or con?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 15, 2008

    100 Black Men of America:
    African American History Bowl Challenge Finals

    Teams from 100 Black Men of Charlotte and 100 Black Men of Madison faced each other in Friday evening's Junior Division finals [Photo (Charlotte Left, Madison Right)]. Madison (Cherokee Heights Middle School) prevailed.

    100 Black Men of Jackson (MS) faced 100 Black Men of Chicago in the Senior Division Finals [Photo (Jackson Left, Chicago Right)]. Chicago won.

    Madison's team: Marshaun Hall, Maria Lee and Carrie Zellmer. The team was coached by Cherokee Middle School's Learning Coordinator Jeff Horney. Enis Ragland, founding President of the Madison chapter and Ken Black, current President of the 100 Black Men of Madison accompanied the team (a team from Madison Memorial High School competed in the Senior Division).

    Finally, this photo of the Madison team notifying friends and loved ones that they advanced to the finals provides a useful look at the zeitgeist of a 14 year old, circa 2008.

    March, 2008 Madison African American History Challenge Bowl.

    100 Black Men of America.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:34 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Dane County, WI Schools Consider MAP Assessement Tests After Frustration with State WKCE Exams
    Waunakee Urges that the State Dump the WKCE

    Andy Hall takes a look at a useful topic:

    From Wisconsin Heights on the west to Marshall on the east, 10 Dane County school districts and the private Eagle School in Fitchburg are among more than 170 Wisconsin public and private school systems purchasing tests from Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit group based in the state of Oregon.

    The aim of those tests, known as Measures of Academic Progress, and others purchased from other vendors, is to give educators, students and parents more information about students ' strengths and weaknesses. Officials at these districts say the cost, about $12 per student per year for MAP tests, is a good investment.

    The tests ' popularity also reflects widespread frustration over the state 's $10 million testing program, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.

    Critics say that WKCE, which is used to hold schools accountable under the federal No Child Left Behind law, fails to provide adequate data to help improve the teaching methods and curriculum used in the classrooms.

    They complain that because the tests are administered just once a year, and it takes nearly six months to receive the results, the information arrives in May -- too late to be of use to teachers during the school year.

    The testing controversy is "a healthy debate, " said Tony Evers, deputy state superintendent of public instruction, whose agency contends that there 's room for both WKCE and MAP.


    "It 's a test that we feel is much more relevant to assisting students and helping them with their skills development, " said Mike Hensgen, director of curriculum and instruction for the Waunakee School District, who acknowledges he 's a radical in his dislike of WKCE.

    "To me, the WKCE is not rigorous enough. When a kid sees he 's proficient, ' he thinks he 's fine. "

    Hensgen contends that the WKCE, which is based on the state 's academic content for each grade level, does a poor job of depicting what elite students, and students performing at the bottom level, really know.

    The Waunakee School Board, in a letter being distributed this month, is urging state legislators and education officials to find ways to dump WKCE in favor of MAP and tests from ACT and other vendors.

    The Madison School District and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research are using the WKCE as a benchmark for "Value Added Assessment".


    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:34 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    "Charter Schools Shouldn't Promote Islam"

    Katherine Kersten:

    At what point does a publicly funded charter school with strong Islamic ties cross the line and inappropriately promote religion?

    That's a question now facing us in Minnesota. For the past five years, the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy Britannica, in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., has operated in close connection with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. The school accepts public funds, and thus the broader constitutional requirements placed on all public schools. Nonetheless, in many ways it behaves like a religious school.

    The school is named for the Muslim general who conquered Spain in the eighth century. It shares a building with a mosque and the headquarters of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. The cafeteria serves Halal food. Arabic is a required subject. There is a break for midday prayers.

    On Fridays, many students join with Muslim teachers and attend religious services in the school's gym. There are voluntary Islamic Studies classes held "after" school, but before the buses leave to take the school's 400 students home. Most of the students are the children of low-income Muslim immigrants.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Obama & School Reform

    David Brooks:

    The question of the week is: Which camp is Barack Obama in?

    His advisers run the gamut, and the answer depends in part on what month it is. Back in October 2005, Obama gave a phenomenal education speech in which he seemed to ally with the reformers. Then, as the campaign heated up, he shifted over to pure union orthodoxy, ripping into accountability and testing in a speech in New Hampshire in a way that essentially gutted the reformist case. Then, on May 28 in Colorado, he delivered another major education speech in which he shifted back in a more ambiguous direction.

    In that Colorado speech, he opened with a compelling indictment of America’s school systems. Then he argued that the single most important factor in shaping student achievement is the quality of the teachers. This seemed to direct him in the reformist camp’s direction, which has made them happy.

    But when you look at the actual proposals Obama offers, he’s doesn’t really address the core issues. He’s for the vast panoply of pre-K and after-school programs that most of us are for. But the crucial issues are: What do you do with teachers and administrators who are failing? How rigorously do you enforce accountability? Obama doesn’t engage the thorny, substantive matters that separate the two camps.

    He proposes dozens of programs to build on top of the current system, but it’s not clear that he would challenge it. He’s all carrot, no stick. He’s politically astute — giving everybody the impression he’s on their side — but substantively vague. Change just isn’t that easy.

    Obama endorses many good ideas and is more specific than the McCain campaign, which hasn’t even reported for duty on education. But his education remarks give the impression of a candidate who wants to be for big change without actually incurring the political costs inherent in that enterprise.

    Letters in response to Brooks' column.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    "Why is the education lobby so afraid of giving parents more choice?"

    Letters to the Seattle Times:

    I agree with virtually everything Web Hutchins wrote questioning the value of the test-based WASL, Advanced Placement and the very real value of small class sizes ["Test-based education is shortchanging students," Times, guest commentary, June 11]. He does leave out a few things, however.

    I've always thought that the education lobby has resisted teacher-competency evaluation to the point that testing students with the WASL has become the alternative to testing and evaluating teachers. What does education certification really mean? It certainly doesn't mean competence in the classroom. Why is the education lobby so afraid of giving parents more choice in the selection of schools and teachers? I don't think it's about classroom size.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:22 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 14, 2008

    D.C. Leaders Chart Progress, Academic Goals

    V. Dion Haynes:

    D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and education officials marked the first anniversary of his takeover of the city's beleaguered public schools yesterday by listing a series of improvements, mainly in business functions and school facilities, and outlined their goal of improving student achievement in the second year.

    School system officials acknowledge that the efforts, while serving as a foundation for better instruction, probably will show little immediate effect on performance, as rated on test scores due later this summer.

    A five-page, mostly single-spaced handout detailed 46 initiatives. They include a new textbook distribution system, refurbished high school athletic fields, spruced-up buildings, more art and music teachers and digitized personnel files that eliminated 4.6 million documents in disarray.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:44 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Bullied boy's parents say West Islip school responsible

    Jennifer Maloney:

    Patrick Kohlmann was scared. For more than a year at Udall Road Middle School in West Islip, the soft-spoken 13-year-old had been taunted and shoved, chased through the halls and slammed into lockers.

    Then one day last month, Patrick says, one of his regular tormentors said, "I'm going to kill you tomorrow."

    The next morning, Patrick's mother says, she warned the school's vice principal about the threat. That afternoon, Patrick says, the bully struck him on the head with a rock.

    He suffered a concussion.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    "Magical Thinking on Education and Vouchers"

    Diane Roberts:

    This week's summit — as sponsors call it — of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education might seem like a mere "school choice" pep rally with a bonus excursion to the Magic Kingdom, but it's happening at a time when the Legislature has decimated school funding. Moreover, this is an election year.

    Headliners at the conference at the Disney World Contemporary Resort include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, a slew of usual suspects from the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, plus Barbara Bush and state Sen. Dan Webster, whose valedictory piece of legislation was a resolution instructing Floridians to pray away hurricanes on June 1.

    And, of course, Jeb Bush himself.

    Three of the nine amendments Floridians will vote on this November will determine the course of public education in this state. Amendment 5 (Clusty / Google) gets rid of local property taxes designated for schools, requiring the Legislature to raise sales taxes or perform some other voodoo economics to make up the funding gap. Amendments 7 (Clusty / Google) and 9 (Clusty / Google) would demolish Florida's separation of church and state and repeal the part of the Constitution that calls for a "uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education." The state would simply be obligated to provide education "fulfilled at a minimum and not exclusively" by public schools.

    Out of office ain't out of power — Amendments 7 and 9 come courtesy of Jeb Bush and his band of true believers.

    Diane Roberts is professor of English at Florida State University.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:48 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Pacific Collegiate Charter School Climate

    J.M. Brown:

    For its advancement placement courses and high test stores, PCS was named California's top charter school in 2006, followed by rankings in two national news magazines as a top U.S. charter school and public high school. But Goldenkranz's departure is one of many big changes to hit the school of nearly 440 students in what has become a sweeping period of transition.

    In April, a fractured board voted to support increasing enrollment over the next few years as a way to increase ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, as well as create more revenue for teacher salaries. Goldenkranz supported the growth, as did a majority of the school's 31 faculty members.

    In May, Santa Cruz City Schools announced the district and PCS had failed to reach accord on renewing the school's lease. PCS officials said the district wanted the school to more than double its current annual $200,000 lease payments.

    Ross said the nine-year-old school, which educates grades seven through 12, is preparing a Proposition 39 request of the district to provide facilities for the 71 percent of PCS students who live within its boundaries. PCS has waived its rights under Prop. 39 for the past five years in order to keep all of its students together, but now says it can't afford the market rates the district wants to charge.

    District supporters say the school could pull from its healthy reserves to pay more rent or buy a building. According to records at the county education office, PCS currently has a $1.2 million ending fund balance, equal to more than a third of its overall $3 million 2007-08 operating budget.

    Watkins said he unsuccessfully encouraged the district to work out an arrangement to allow the school to stay put.

    Pacific Collegiate Charter School website.

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

    100 Best First Lines from Novels

    American Book Review:

    1. Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

    2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

    3. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973)

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:46 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Madison Shabazz Grads Grads Celebrate Marching To Their Own Drummer

    Jason Smathers:

    Instead of flinging mortar boards into the air, students playfully batted around a beach ball. "Pomp and Circumstance" was replaced by an all-staff rendition of Crosby Stills Nash and Young's "Teach Your Children." One student even replaced the traditional cap and gown with a tie-dyed bandana, peace sign T-shirt and pearl white blazer.

    It was just another normal graduation for Shabazz City High School (Map).

    The school honored its graduates Thursday night in an informal ceremony where teachers described their students' strengths and most memorable experiences. All 36 graduates were given time to speak their mind and thank the teachers and parents who helped them along the way.

    "I learned so much more here than at any other school I've ever been to," said departing senior John Baudhuin in a short speech echoed by many other students. "If I hadn't gone here, there is no way this many doors would be open to me."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:16 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Madison East Custodian Tells Graduates: "Judge Success From Your Heart"

    Tamira Madsen:

    James Ely has been blessed with two Madison East High School graduations 37 years apart.

    Ely, a 1971 alumnus of East and the school's custodian the past 15 years, was keynote speaker for the 2008 class that marked its commencement Friday night at the Kohl Center. The lifetime Madison resident's second "graduation" coincided with his retirement from the school, located at 2222 E. Washington Ave.


    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:13 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Studying Abroad - Two American Students Discuss Their Experiences

    Open Education:

    From 1991-92 through 2004-05, the number of students studying abroad has more than doubled according to Open Doors 2004. Representing an increase of roughly 145%, the raw numbers translate to about 71,000 students in 1991-92 to almost 175,000 in 2004-05.

    Many in recent years have steered away from studying in Europe due to the falling dollar. Though most still list places like Rome, Paris, London, Barcelona and Amsterdam as their number one choices, sticker shock has many students turning towards other areas of the world.

    However, at least two young ladies have followed their dreams of studying abroad in Europe. Emily and Rachel are both graduate students at the University of Amsterdam where they are in the ‘Brain and Cognitive Sciences’ master’s program run by the Cognitive Science Center, Amsterdam (CSCA).

    Each has also made the most rare of commitments - neither is doing a simple semester or year abroad. Each has made the commitment to complete an entire degree program in a foreign land.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Louisiana Senate Approves Voucher Program

    Bill Barrow:

    Gov. Bobby Jindal moved one step closer Wednesday to final approval for a $10 million pilot program that would pay private school tuition for some children in Orleans Parish public schools.

    The 25-12 Senate vote sends House Bill 1347 by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, back to the lower chamber for its reconsideration. Some form of the measure, one of Jindal's top legislative priorities, is now certain to reach the governor's desk, with the plan slated to start this fall.

    The vote represents another victory for social conservatives since Jindal took office in January. The grants also would pierce a philosophical veil, adding Louisiana to the list of states willing to direct public money to private K-12 schools.

    Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans, called that a great victory for 1,500 children who she said are more important than doctrinaire allegiance to public schools.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 13, 2008

    Madison's Cherokee Middle School Wins the 100 Black Men of America Championship

    A team from Madison's Cherokee Middle School (100 Black men of Madison) defeated students from Charlotte, NC (100 Black Men - Charlotte) in this evening's middle school African American History Challenge Bowl at the 100 Black Men of America Annual Conference in Orlando.

    A team from Madison Memorial High School participated in the event's initial round Thursday evening.

    Photos and links from the March, 2008 Madison competition.

    The above photo was taken at the March, 2008 Madison competition.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:32 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    School Safety: It's About Respect

    Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:

    The Milwaukee police chief’s concerns about the summer aren’t overinflated when three officers are injured in a melee near a high school that began with a water balloon fight.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    More on McCain's K-12 Plans

    Maria Glod:

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) hasn't said much about how to fix America's schools. But an adviser yesterday said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee supports using federal dollars for teacher merit pay and wants to change the No Child Left Behind law championed by President Bush.

    Lisa Graham Keegan, former Arizona superintendent of public instruction and a McCain education policy adviser, said McCain wants annual testing to stay, and that schools would continue to be required to report those scores. But she said he wants educators to have more say in how to fix struggling schools.

    "The federal government cannot position itself continually as the bully in this," Keegan told a group of reporters today at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit involved in education reform. "No more will we say that's what 50 states are going to do, because he doesn't believe that's our best hope for improvement."

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

    To solve racial disparities, parents, schools call truce

    Tim Nelson:

    Minneapolis schools are hoping a new cooperative agreement with African-American parents will smooth some of the hard feelings over school closings last year and help close the district's student achievement gap.

    The idea is for black parents to help get their children ready to learn while the school district works with parents to help the kids succeed.

    On average, black kids in Minneapolis schools do about half as well as their white classmates. They get disciplined more often. They get fewer diplomas.

    That education gap has been the source of an increasingly bitter struggle in the city, but a group of parents and the school board have decided to call a truce.

    The district voted Tuesday, to work with parents on what they're calling a memorandum of agreement. It's modeled on other agreements, like a pact with the NAACP and St. Paul Police and American Indian families and Minneapolis schools.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:13 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Schools can't take gifted students for granted

    Niki Paul

    With the recent news about Salem-Keizer's talented and gifted program under scrutiny again, I would like to commend the parents for their continual push and voice. Too often, important issues in education are dropped because the matters are not repeatedly brought to light.

    Gifted students deserve appropriate learning opportunities and academic challenges so that they may become talented. We certainly reward competent athletes. It would be unthinkable to eliminate varsity or college football; we value the process of preparing professionals. Should we not then strive to add to our society highly talented artists, exceptional engineers, literary geniuses and the like?

    School districts do not worry about their gifted students because from them, districts get better attendance, great test scores and graduates. School leaders view the parents as an annoyance and tune out their voices whenever possible. Yet the message has been sent and stands clear: Gifted and talented students are a special population needing special services.

    What happens to bright, active learners when they aren't challenged is they challenge the system. The underperforming gifted and talented become intellectually depressed in an academic environment that fails to challenge them. They are the "too smart for their own good" students who can pass every test without doing any of the time-filling work created to fill mandatory seat time.

    When a gifted learner senses that learning opportunities are absent, he or she responds with challenging behavior. Wouldn't it be wiser for teachers to be in the place of challenging learners rather than creating and managing challenging behaviors?

    Again, district and schools respond to the needs of gifted and talented learners with blank stares, especially at the high school level. Students who attend, pass state tests and graduate do not arouse the attention of bureaucrats. Teachers cannot implement what is not programmatically available. They need tools, resources and time to challenge learners.

    Posted by Jeff Henriques at 9:18 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Swedish Model
    A Swedish firm has worked out how to make money running free schools

    The Economist:

    BIG-STATE, social-democratic Sweden seems an odd place to look for a free-market revolution. Yet that is what is under way in the country's schools. Reforms that came into force in 1994 allow pretty much anyone who satisfies basic standards to open a new school and take in children at the state's expense. The local municipality must pay the school what it would have spent educating each child itself—a sum of SKr48,000-70,000 ($8,000-12,000) a year, depending on the child's age and the school's location. Children must be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis—there must be no religious requirements or entrance exams. Nothing extra can be charged for, but making a profit is fine.

    The reforms were controversial, especially within the Social Democratic Party, then in one of its rare spells in opposition. They would have been even more controversial had it been realised just how popular they would prove. In just 14 years the share of Swedish children educated privately has risen from a fraction of a percent to more than 10%.

    At the time, it was assumed that most “free” schools would be foreign-language (English, Finnish or Estonian) or religious, or perhaps run by groups of parents in rural areas clubbing together to keep a local school alive. What no one predicted was the emergence of chains of schools. Yet that is where much of the growth in independent education has come from. Sweden's Independent Schools Association has ten members that run more than six schools, and five that run ten or more.


    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    College Track

    Carolyne Zinko:

    The educational nonprofit was founded in East Palo Alto in 1997 to help low-income students boost their grades, apply to college and obtain scholarships.

    Students must apply to the after-school supplement to their high school studies and maintain a 3.0 grade point average. Those who falter are steered into a counseling group called Inspire, which tries, through group chat sessions, to motivate them to try harder.

    There's fun, too - summer field trips to Yosemite and Tahoe, because many students have never experienced the outdoors. And tucked into all this is counseling. College Track officials find there are times when they have to cajole parents into allowing their children to attend college out of the Bay Area or out of state. Parents who don't speak English often look to their children as leaders, relying on them for help with translating and enlisting them in child care duties. They want their children close to home.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 12, 2008

    Who can make school boards stronger?

    Laura Diamond:

    A group of education and business leaders are trying to improve school boards across Georgia.

    This new Commission for School Board Excellence was formed at the request of the State Board of Education. The group includes representatives from the Georgia and Metro Atlanta Chambers of Commerce and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

    The new group listed a few places where weak board struggle: micromanagement of staff, poor decision-making and mismanaging money.

    These are severe problems. This new group may have good ideas on how to help school boards, but do you think board members will listen to the advice?

    Related: How to Reform Your Local School Board by Steve Loehrke.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:11 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    When Mom & Dad Share it All

    Lisa Belkin:

    On her first day back to work after a four-month maternity leave, Amy Vachon woke at dawn to nurse her daughter, Maia. Then she fixed herself a healthful breakfast, pumped a bottle of breast milk for the baby to drink later in the day, kissed the little girl goodbye and headed for the door.

    But before she left, there was one more thing. She reached over to her husband, Marc, who would not be going to work that day in order to be home with Maia, and handed him the List. That’s what they call it now, when they revisit this moment, which they do fairly often. The List. It was nothing extraordinary — in fact it would be familiar to many new moms. A large yellow Post-it on which she had scribbled the “how much,” “how long” and “when” of Maia’s napping and eating.

    “I knew her routines and was sharing that with Marc,” Amy recalls.

    She also remembers what he did next. Gently but deliberately, he ripped the paper square in half and crumbled the pieces into a ball.

    “I got the message,” Amy says.

    That message was one the Vachons had agreed on from the evening they met, though they were clearly still tinkering with the details. They would not be the kind of parents their parents had been — the mother-knows-best mold. Nor the kind their friends were — the “involved” dad married to the stressed-out working mom. Nor even, as Marc put it, “the stay-at-home dad, who is cooed at for his sensitivity but who is as isolated and financially vulnerable as the stay-at-home-mom.”

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:12 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Study of Small High Schools (Small Learning Communities or SLC) Yields Little on Achievement

    David Hoff:

    High schools receiving $80 million in annual federal funding to support “smaller learning communities” can document that they are taking steps to establish learning environments more intimate than found in the typical comprehensive high school.

    But, according to a federal study, such smaller schools can’t answer the most significant question: Is student achievement improving in the smaller settings?

    The evaluation of the 8-year-old program found that schools participating in it show signs of success. In the schools, the proportion of students being promoted from 9th to 10th grade increases, participation in extracurricular activities rises, and the rate of violent incidents declines.

    But the evaluation found “no significant trends” in achievement on state tests or college-entrance exams, says the report, which was prepared by a private contractor and released by the U.S. Department of Education last week.


    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    A Shake-Up in San Diego's School Administrator Ranks

    Emily Alpert:

    Less than three months into his tenure, Superintendent Terry Grier is shaking up the top ranks of San Diego Unified.

    Top-earning administrators and vice principals are interviewing to keep their own jobs. School district outsiders and insiders alike are being tapped to fill new slots. And Grier has introduced a novel method to screen the best principals and administrators for the jobs -- an interview meant to measure values and problem-solving, aimed at picking the optimal principals and teachers for disadvantaged kids.

    "It's easy for us to get comfortable in our positions, comfortable in our expectations, and comfortable in our authority," said Katherine Nakamura, the president of the school board. "It's not a bad thing to reassess ourselves from time to time."

    Yet even as Grier announces his first selections, few staffers fully understand the big picture for San Diego Unified. Most employees still haven't seen a simple chart outlining the new makeup of the school district: which jobs stay, which jobs go, and who reports to whom. The chart, which exists in draft form, has not yet been made public.

    That uncertainty unnerves some employees. The rapid overhaul undertaken by Grier stands in contrast to his predecessor, Carl Cohn, who waited more than six months before introducing a new layout for San Diego Unified. The hallmark of Cohn's reorganization, five area superintendents who divvied up the massive school district, weren't appointed until eight months into his tenure.

    "In 40 years, I have never heard anybody come in and immediately implement a procedure that says if you don't pass this interview, you lose the job you're in," said Jeannie Steeg, executive director of the Administrators Association of San Diego. "And never has a process been implemented so quickly.

    All vice principals underwent a new interview to compete for a shifting pool of jobs. The interview is modeled on the teachings of University of Wisconsin Milwaukee professor Martin Haberman, who studies disadvantaged students and the educators who help them best. Principals applying for new jobs were interviewed as well. San Diego Unified signed a $23,000 contract with the Haberman Educational Foundation to train staffers in the interview process, which includes problem-solving scenarios and is meant to reveal the applicants' core values. Two people ask open-ended questions during a tape-recorded interview and score the answers.

    SIS Martin Haberman links.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:01 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education Secretary's US Roadshow for No Child Left Behind

    Sheryl Gay Stolberg:

    Margaret Spellings is not running for office — at least, not yet. But in the waning days of the Bush presidency, she is running one last campaign.

    On a cold and soggy morning in March, Ms. Spellings, the relentlessly cheery and sometimes sassy United States secretary of education, turned up here, at a little brick elementary school across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. She had been on the road for months, promoting President Bush’s beleaguered education initiative, No Child Left Behind, delivering one sales pitch after another.

    “I’m pretty sure that the new president, whoever it is, will not show up and work on George Bush’s domestic achievement on Day 1,” she told a group of civic leaders and educators, promising to do “everything in my power” to improve the law before the White House changes hands.

    For Ms. Spellings, a longtime and exceedingly loyal member of the Bush inner circle, it was a startling, if tacit, admission that the president’s education legacy is in danger. No Child Left Behind — the signature domestic achievement, beyond tax cuts, of the entire Bush presidency — has changed the lives of millions of American students, parents, teachers and school administrators. Yet its future is in grave doubt.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:08 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Out of Sight

    Bob Herbert:

    "Schools have not made much of an effort to bring this population back in," said Mr. Jones. "Once you fall out of the system, you’re basically on no one’s programmatic radar screen."

    So these kids drift. Some are drawn to gangs. A disproportionate number become involved in crime. It is a tragic story, and very few people are paying attention.

    The economic policies of the past few decades have favored the wealthy and the well-connected to a degree that has been breathtaking to behold. The Nation magazine has devoted its current issue to the Gilded Age-type inequality that has been the result.

    Just a little bit of help to the millions of youngsters trying to get their first tentative foothold in that economy should not be too much to ask.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Schools Give Teachers a New Kind of Apple

    Erin Richards:

    It was after lunch in a social studies classroom at North Shore Middle School in Hartland when seventh-graders began tapping out messages to students in Germany, France, Kosovo and Bosnia on a fleet of shiny Apple laptops.

    The modernized electronic version of paper-and-stamp correspondence the children were using, called ePals, is one of several programs being piloted in suburban districts this year as teachers and curriculum coordinators seek ways to extend learning beyond the physical limitations of the classroom.

    The next big step, say officials in suburban districts, as well as in Milwaukee Public Schools, is exploring a 1-to-1 student laptop initiative or the possibility of issuing every student a hand-held computer, such as an iPod touch.

    "There's a far greater use of technology (in schools) when you make it mobile," MPS Director of Technology Jim Davis said.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education fundamental building block

    Martin Shields:

    Because economists tend to point out things like this, it is not surprising that I was not invited to give a commencement address. But if I had been, my message would have been a simple one.

    Don't worry. You made the right decision.

    Recent earnings data indicates the essentiality of education. According to the Current Population Survey (CPS) annual earnings for Colorado's full-time workers without a high school diploma averaged $25,916 in 2006. For Centennial State residents holding a high school degree only, annual earnings averaged $34,698. Over just 15 years, a (crude) calculation shows the high school diploma is worth about $132,000.

    High school graduates are also less likely to live in poverty. CPS data from 2005 indicate 22.1 percent of Colorado's adult population without a high school diploma lived in poverty. By comparison, the state's high school only graduates had poverty rates of 11.6 percent.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 11, 2008

    Columbia, Missouri ACT Results Compared with Math Curriculum

    Columbia Parents for Real Math:

    CPS Secondary Math Curriculum Coordinator Chip Sharp provided average ACT scores reported by course enrollment which are used in the figures below. Plotting the data in several ways gives food for thought regarding the differences between algebra and integrated math pathways offered at CPS.

    The data don't distinguish between which students are sophomores, juniors or seniors when they take the ACT, which students may have repeated courses or what year they started the pathway (7th, 8th or 9th grade). But it does give some idea of how much math "preparation" each course pathway provides at least for the years for which data is available.

    I've heard that Madison's Math Task Force will render a report prior to Superintendent Art Rainwater's June 30, 2008 retirement. Related: Math Forum.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:28 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Racine Restarts Superintendent Search

    Dustin Block:

    Final, final update: The J-S reports the telling detail about Pulliam's decision. The Georgia district is paying her $155,000. Racine Unified started negotiations at $120,000. Could that be why the district is having a hard time attracting candidates?

    Final Update: The Greene County Board of Education voted unanimously tonight in Greenesboro, GA, to hire Barbara Pulliam as its superintendent, thus snatching her from the Racine Unified School District, whose board made a similar vote in April. She will be joining a district in turmoil, one that fired its superintendent last Wednesday, one year into a three-year contract, in a dispute over a plan to implement gender-separate classes.

    She starts work there Monday.

    According to a story on OnlineAthens, she interviewed with the board the same night it decided to fire Shawn McCollough last week.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:55 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education: Failing schools? Failing government, more like
    Many children can't read or write when they reach secondary school

    Alice Miles:

    pare a thought this morning for teachers whose schools have the lowest results in the country, waking up to a warning from the Government that they have 50 days - 50 days! - to produce an “action plan” or face closure or merger.

    Some of these schools may deserve the opprobrium that ministers are inviting us to heap upon them. Many more will not. Most “failing” schools take the toughest kids from the most socially disadvantaged areas. They are not dealing with the problems you and I might be worrying about: whether the curriculum is broad enough for Sophie's myriad interests, or when Jamie will fit in the third language you want him to learn.

    These schools are dealing with children with deprived and disruptive family backgrounds many of whom cannot read or write English, lack any positive parental support and have already given up on their chances in life before they walk through the school gates at 11.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:04 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    San Francisco Prosecutes Adults for Student Truancy

    Nanette Asimov:

    San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris issued citations Tuesday against six parents whose young children missed at least 50 days of school this year, the first time the city has prosecuted adults for student truancy.

    Harris cited the parents of four children, ages 6 to 13, on charges that they kept the children home despite repeated efforts by the school district and law enforcement to address the problem.

    "The charges are that they have violated California's Education Code and allowed their children to go without an education," Harris said at a news conference with the city's school chief, Carlos Garcia.

    She called chronic truancy a matter of public safety and said the vast majority of prison inmates and homicide victims are dropouts or habitual truants.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:01 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Do new teachers mean a new era in education?

    Walt Gardner:

    Long regarded as a monolith with predictable views on controversial issues affecting their profession, the nation's 3.2 million teachers are increasingly split along generational lines. For reformers intent on improving the country's 90,000 public schools, the division presents the possibility of change on an unprecedented scale.

    "Waiting to be Won Over," a survey of 1,010 public school teachers in K-12 released in May by Education Sector, a nonpartisan think tank, concluded that the "loyalty of teachers is up for grabs." It identified several key areas where the generational differences in attitudes among teachers offer the greatest potential for transforming the system. At the same time, however, it cautioned against stereotyping teachers by years of service.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Imperial College ditches A levels and sets its own entrance exam

    Alexandra Frean:

    One of Britain's leading universities is to introduce an entrance exam for all students applying to study there from 2010 because it believes that A levels no longer provide it with a viable way to select the best students.

    Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College, London, suggested that grade inflation at A level meant that so many students now got straight As that it had become almost “worthless” as a way of discriminating between the talented and the well drilled.

    Last year one in four A-level marks was a grade A and 10 per cent of A-level students achieved at least three As.

    “We can't rely on A levels any more. Everybody who applies has got three or four As. They [A levels] are not very useful. The International Baccalaureate is useful but again this is just a benchmark,” Sir Richard said.

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

    The Enemy Within British Education

    Melanie Phillips via a kind reader:

    In my book All Must Have Prizes, first published in 1996, in which I charted the disintegration of education and deconstruction of knowledge in Britain, I noted that this onslaught had resulted from the hijack of education by left-wing ideologues hell-bent on destroying British society. These people were entrenched in university departments of education. So when the government tried to address education decline by imposing a national curriculum and turned to the ‘experts’ to help them do so, the people who wrote that curriculum and sat on the curriculum boards and other education quangos were the very people who were doing the damage in the first place.

    Twelve years on, Britain’s education system has disintegrated yet further and exactly the same kind of people are doing the same damage. Today’s Daily Mail reports that Professor John White, who specialises in ‘the philosophy of education’ and a government adviser on curriculum reform, says that children should no longer be taught traditional subjects at school because they are ‘middle-class’ creations and ‘mere stepping stones to wealth’ and that lessons should teach ‘personal skills’ instead.

    The professor believes the origins of our subject-based education system can be traced back to 19th century middle-class values. While public schools focused largely on the classics, and elementary schools for the working class concentrated on the three Rs, middle-class schools taught a range of academic subjects.

    These included English, maths, history, geography, science and Latin or a modern language. They ‘fed into the idea of academic learning as the mark of a well-heeled middle- class’, he said last night. The Tories then attempted to impose these middle-class values by introducing a traditional subject-based curriculum in 1988. But this ‘alienated many youngsters, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds’, he claimed.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Computer program helps students shape their writing

    Alan Borsuk:

    If Alegra Holt had $100, she would spend $1 on candy, buy some clothes, give some to charity and see if she had enough left to buy a Chihuahua.

    If Alegra had to write a short essay on what she'd do if she had $100, she'd sign on to a program called My Access, using a computer in the basement computer lab of Carleton Elementary School, 4116 W. Silver Spring Drive.

    The 10-year-old fifth-grader at Carleton would fill in blanks in a "cluster web" on her screen to begin shaping her essay. From the central idea of using $100, she would put "buy candy" in one branch of the web, with what kind of candy or what store she'd go to in sub-branches, then do the same in other branches for her other plans.

    Then she'd begin to type the assignment in sentences and paragraphs.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:15 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Hard work translates to success at La Tinaja school in Ocampo

    Macarena Hernandez & Gary Jacobson:

    The elementary school at La Tinaja -- Escuela Primaria 18 de Marzo -- is named after one of the most famous dates in Mexico history. On March 18, 1938, President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized the country's oil industry, kicking out foreign-owned companies.

    Principal Socorro Lara has been at the school 15 years and in the Ocampo municipality 35. She doubles as a teacher. In the mornings, she substitutes, and in the evenings, she teaches kids who are struggling.

    There are a total of about 50 schools in Ocampo, and this is the best, municipality education official Jose Juan Salazar says.


    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 10, 2008

    Milwaukee Schools Ordered to Do More for Special needs

    Alan Borsuk:

    Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case, said Sunday that the decision will bring "the most substantial reform in MPS history," one that will bring higher graduation rates, fewer discipline problems and improved test scores within a few a years.

    MPS officials have fought the goals set forth in the decision of Federal Magistrate Judge Aaron Goodstein, saying they would lead to big increases in spending and taxes and actually harm children and lower educational standards. MPS spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin said Superintendent William Andrekopoulos and School Board members had not yet seen the decision and did not want to comment until they met about it. She quoted Andrekopoulos saying only, "We're going to continue to move forward with education reforms that meet the needs of all our children."

    Goodstein's decision, signed Friday and circulated over the weekend, came down on every point in favor of the position of the plaintiffs, an organization now known as Disability Rights Wisconsin, and in favor of a settlement reached recently between that organization and the state Department of Public Instruction, which was also a defendant in the case. Goodstein rejected all grounds MPS offered for finding things wrong with that settlement.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:46 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    On Arizona's Proposed School District Consolidation

    The Arizona Republic:

    1. Given the high-interest and often emotionally charged and political topic of education and school districts, what has been your experience serving on the commission?

    I think all of us on the Commission have been inspired by the commitment we've seen from parents and educators throughout Arizona to turning our system around so it can better serve our children. Their insights and input strongly shaped the recommendations we presented to Gov. Janet Napolitano last December. But make no mistake, change is hard and we expected some degree of resistance to our plan simply because it meant the end of the status quo. I am a little disappointed that some have rushed to judgment without fully investigating our proposals or considering the benefits of making better use of our precious educational resources. We hope to dispel some of these concerns this summer during a series of public forums that will be scheduled across the state.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Transforming Inner-City Schools To Train Tomorrow's Work Force

    Joe Barrett:

    One day in August 2005, Dan Swinney went to the Chicago public schools for help in his crusade to revive manufacturing here. Instead, Mr. Swinney left his meeting with some homework: design a new high school to train the workers needed to make that revival happen.

    This past fall, the school, Austin Polytechnical Academy, opened inside a building that had once housed a mammoth, violence-prone high school on the city's struggling West Side. Now, Mr. Swinney, chairman of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council, has plans to open two more high schools and an elementary school in other areas of the city.

    Mr. Swinney says American manufacturing is adapting to globalization by shifting to higher-value products. But with the baby boomers' looming retirement, the education system isn't producing the workers and managers needed to take over the highly skilled jobs that are most in demand.

    "There's a window that's open that will allow us to sustain and expand our competitive advantage, but it's only open for a few years," Mr. Swinney says. Training poor students to fill these positions can "address deep social problems," while giving industry the work force it needs.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Shameful effort to undermine charter school

    San Jose Mercury News Editorial:

    Leadership Public Schools' longstanding battle with the Campbell Union High School District is over.

    The district has won. Families of low-income Hispanics, whom the school was designed to serve, have lost.
    The board of the non-profit San Francisco-based charter organization voted last week to shut down its Campbell high school after only two years of operation. Leadership is calling the closing a consolidation.

    Students will be bused to Overfelt High in East San Jose, where Leadership has a 10-year lease from charter-welcoming East Side Union High School District.

    But let's be straight: This was sabotage by Campbell Union. And it points to weaknesses in the state law that says school districts must provide space to charter schools.

    Proposition 39 requires that districts provide equivalent facilities, but only on a yearly basis. So many anti-charter districts, like Campbell, use the provision to give charters a literal run-around and force them to move every year.

    Leadership opened two years ago with 120 ninth-graders in rented space at a church not far from Del Mar High, the target area where there was a concentration of long-under-served Hispanic children. (Perhaps showing the value of competition, Del Mar itself has made considerable strides in the past few years under Principal Jim Russell.)

    Local Politics: Zig & Zag with the Madison Studio School.

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

    2008 Public School Enrollment In U.S. Expected To Set Record

    Maria Glod:

    Public school enrollment across the country will hit a record high this year with just under 50 million students, and the student population is becoming more diverse in large part because of growth in the Latino population, according to a new federal report.

    Nationwide, about 20 percent of students were Hispanic in 2006, the latest year for which figures were available for ethnic groups, up from 11 percent in the late 1980s. That trend is reflected in many Washington area schools. In Fairfax County, about 17 percent of students are Hispanic, jumping from about 4 percent two decades ago.

    Overall, about 43 percent of the nation's students are minorities, according to the Condition of Education, a congressionally mandated annual look at enrollment and performance trends in schools and colleges.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Fate of D.C. Voucher Program Darkens

    Valerie Strauss & Bill Turque:

    The groundbreaking federal voucher program that enables nearly 2,000 D.C. children to attend private schools is facing an uncertain future in the Democrat-controlled Congress and may well be heading into its final year of operation, according to officials and supporters of the program.

    Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said this week that she is working on a plan to phase out the controversial D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the first in the country to provide federal money for vouchers. Norton said she wants to proceed in a way that will not harm recipients. But she added that she regarded the program, narrowly approved in 2004 for five years by the then-Republican majority, as on its last legs.

    "We have to protect the children, who are the truly innocent victims here," said Norton, who like many Democrats opposes vouchers as a threat to public school systems. "But I can tell you that the Democratic Congress is not about to extend this program."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    For English Studies, Koreans Say Goodbye to Dad

    Norimitsu Onishi:

    On a sunny afternoon recently, half a dozen South Korean mothers came to pick up their children at the Remuera Primary School here, greeting one another warmly in a schoolyard filled with New Zealanders.

    The mothers, members of the largest group of foreigners at the public school, were part of what are known in South Korea as “wild geese,” families living separately, sometimes for years, to school their children in English-speaking countries like New Zealand and the United States. The mothers and children live overseas while the fathers live and work in South Korea, flying over to visit a couple of times a year.

    Driven by a shared dissatisfaction with South Korea’s rigid educational system, parents in rapidly expanding numbers are seeking to give their children an edge by helping them become fluent in English while sparing them, and themselves, the stress of South Korea’s notorious educational pressure cooker.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 9, 2008

    Slowly but surely, universities in France—and across all of Europe—are reforming

    The Economist:

    BENEATH the medieval cloisters and bleak 1960s campuses of Europe's universities, the ground is trembling. For years, Europeans have talked of doing something about higher education, so as to prepare better for the “knowledge economy”. But lingering taboos—over tuition fees, private finance, or competition—have inhibited the timid and frustrated the bold. Now, however, there are the first stirrings of genuine change.

    The shortcomings of Europe's universities are well-known. Only two European universities (Cambridge and Oxford) are in Shanghai Jiao Tong University's global top 20. Europeans spend an average of $10,191 per student, measured at purchasing-power parity, next to $22,476 in America. They devote only 1.3% of GDP to higher education, compared with 2.9% in America, and—unlike in America—almost all of it is public money. Only 24% of working-age Europeans have a degree, compared with 39% of Americans. And Europe bags an ever-declining share of Nobel prizes.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    New Orleans schools chief chips away at big issues

    Becky Bohrer:

    Paul Vallas recently passed his first major milestone when fourth- and eighth-graders in the city's woeful public schools posted significantly higher test scores on state tests.

    The superintendent of a 33-school district that includes many of New Orleans' worst-performing schools has received mostly positive reviews after his first year on the job, but many challenges remain. Too many students continue to fail or not show up for classes, there's limited funding for dilapidated buildings and the district needs to retain quality teachers.

    Vallas, 54, was known as a hard-driving reformer in Chicago and Philadelphia. After a year as the Recovery School District superintendent in New Orleans, the tireless worker has lengthened class days, decreased class sizes and increased classroom technology. He also is helping create schools that revolve around themes like the arts and technology.

    The public school system here is fractured. A handful of the city's best-performing schools are run by a local board and not under Vallas' control. Private organizations run a few dozen others as charter schools.

    Money is limited. The district's $260 million operating budget has no cash reserve, and decrepit school buildings need an estimated $1 billion for renovations.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Toledo Teachers' Group Touts Peer Review

    Claudio Sanchez:

    Teachers' unions are often blamed for protecting educators who are burned out or should never have been allowed to teach in the first place. But in Toledo, Ohio, the union has spearheaded a controversial policy to purge the school district of incompetent teachers. It's called "peer review" and no school system in the country has been doing it longer than Toledo.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:22 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The school bully dilemma

    Sharon Noguchi:

    It started with four older girls calling her vulgar names, one pouring a bottle of water on her head, then yanking a fistful of hair from her scalp - right in the Los Gatos High School cafeteria.

    It led to school authorities summoning police, suspending the lead bully, convening mediation sessions and checking in daily with the freshman who was bullied. The school even mapped routes around campus to ensure the antagonists remain apart after the victim's parents took out a restraining order against their daughter's harasser.

    But at a time when awareness of harassment at schools seems to be growing, the Los Gatos incident underscores the difficulty of dealing with the problem: Short of kicking a bully out of school, even when educators do a lot they are often accused of doing too little to appease parents and ease victims' fears.
    "We're trying to help on a daily basis," Los Gatos-Saratoga Union School District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said. "But there's only so much we can control in the world of 14-, 15-year-old adolescents."

    Across the valley, parents of harassment victims insist school authorities don't react quickly or forcefully enough to protect their children - even as school officials say they're working harder than ever to prevent and respond to bullying and aggression.

    Harassment peaks in middle school, the time when kids are sorting out themselves and their place in life. In California, 42 percent of seventh-graders, 38 percent of ninth-graders and 33 percent of 11th-graders reported being victims of harassment, according to the 2005-07 Healthy Kids survey.

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

    Proposed West Bend School District Harassment Policy

    Owen Robinson:

    At tomorrow’s meeting of the West Bend School Board, they will he hearing the third reading and possibly passing a new harassment policy. This proposed policy goes way overboard. Here is the proposed policy:

    Sorry for the images, but that’s all I have. A policy like this is a good idea. What constitutes harassment and what should be done about it should be defined to protect both the students and the faculty. But this policy is way too broad and fraught with problems. Let’s look at a couple of them. Here is the definition of “harassment:”

    Harassment means verbal or physical conduct related to an individual’s membership in a protected class (including, but not limited to: sex, race, religion, national origin, ancestry, creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation or physical, mental, emotional or learning disability) that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment or interferes with the individual’s work or learning performance.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:56 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Candidates Are at Odds Over K-12
    But McCain and Obama Both Back NCLB Goals

    Alyson Klein and David J. Hoff:

    The presumed November matchup produced by the long presidential-primary season that ended last week offers contrasting approaches to K-12 policy, along with some common ground on the basics of the No Child Left Behind Act.

    Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee, and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who last week secured enough delegates to claim the Democratic nomination, both express support for the nclb law’s goals and its use of testing to measure schools’ success.

    But Sen. McCain would promote market forces as a way to spur school improvement, and would likely seek to freeze education spending as part of a review of the effectiveness of federal programs.

    Sen. Obama, meanwhile, promises to search for new ways of assessing students and to invest significantly in efforts to improve teacher quality.

    Although education wasn’t a prominent issue in the Democratic or Republican primaries, it could emerge more clearly in the general-election campaign, one political scientist said last week. He pointed particularly to the potential for a sharper focus on where the candidates stand on the requirements for testing and accountability under the NCLB law.

    Related: On education, McCain & Obama may not be far apart. Obama advisor Jeanne Century: Why Education Reform is Like Baseball (Moneyball) and McCain advisor Lisa Graham Keegan: What is Public Education?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    IS AP Good for Everyone?

    Jay Matthews:

    I am no match for Chester E. Finn Jr. in a debate. The president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and author of "Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik" (Princeton University Press) is feared by many ideological adversaries for his sharp wit and inexhaustible erudition. But I am taking him on anyway in this column because he suggested recently in his own weekly Gadfly column that I was promoting Advanced Placement courses for all students, even those unable or unwilling to handle their difficulties. I thought this would also be a good way to explore the limits of the movement to make high schools more challenging, a very lively issue in our highest-performing schools. Here we go:

    Mathews: I want to get to the broader issues pretty quickly, but let's deal first with your wicked poke in my ribs. I don't believe I have ever said AP is for everyone. My view has always been that AP is for far more people than are allowed to, or encouraged to, enroll in AP (and International Baccalaureate) courses. There is lots of data to support this, including College Board analysis of PSAT scores showing two or three times as many people could handle and benefit from AP than actually take the course. Have you got a citation showing I said any such silly thing? If not, please debase yourself with an apology to my readers so we can get to the fascinating topic of how much AP and IB should kids have.


    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:14 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Harriet Johnson, 50, Activist for Disabled, Is Dead

    Dennis Hevesi:

    Harriet McBryde Johnson, a feisty champion of the rights of the disabled who came to prominence after she challenged a Princeton professor’s contention that severely disabled newborns could ethically be euthanized, died on Wednesday at her home in Charleston, S.C. She was 50.

    No cause has been determined, her sister, Beth Johnson, said, while pointing out that her sister had been born with a degenerative neuromuscular disease. “She never wanted to know exactly what the diagnosis was,” Beth Johnson said.

    The condition did not stop Harriet Johnson from earning a law degree, representing the disabled in court, lobbying legislators and writing books and articles that argued, as she did in The New York Times Magazine in February 2003, “The presence or absence of a disability doesn’t predict quality of life.”

    Using a battery-powered wheelchair in which she loved to “zoom around” the streets of Charleston, Ms. Johnson playfully referred to herself as “a bedpan crip” and “a jumble of bones in a floppy bag of skin.”

    Related: Doctors vs. Parents: Who Decides Right to Life?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Statistics Made Happily Real

    Patrick McIlheran:

    A new report says students in Milwaukee's private choice high schools are much more likely to graduate: Such schools had a graduation rate of 85% last year, compared to 58% in the Milwaukee Public Schools.

    In flesh-and-blood terms, that means Babatunde Saaka unexpectedly has a future.

    The figures are the latest from what is now a five-year report by University of Minnesota sociologist John Robert Warren. Milwaukee students using vouchers are pulling farther ahead. If 2003's MPS freshmen had done as well in 2007 as students in choice schools, there'd be 1,517 more high school graduates in Milwaukee.

    That's a theoretical number. In life, graduation is more concrete - do or don't, succeed or fail.

    Saaka once expected to fail. When the Milwaukee teen graduates from the Hope School this weekend as part of its first graduating class, he will be the first in his family merely to make it through high school. A young man who grew up in fatherless poverty, he's going on to Wisconsin Lutheran College, planning to become a youth counselor, to make a difference for other poor children.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:44 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    In Big Easy, Charter School Era

    Jay Matthews:

    The storm that swamped this city three years ago also effectively swept away a public school system with a dismal record and faint prospects of getting better. Before Hurricane Katrina, educator John Alford said, he toured schools and found "kids just watching movies" in classes where "low expectations were the norm."

    Now Alford is one of many new principals leading an unparalleled education experiment, with possible lessons for troubled urban schools in the District and elsewhere. New Orleans, in a post-Katrina flash, has become the first major city in which more than half of all public school students attend charter schools.

    For these new schools with taxpayer funding and independent management, old rules and habits are out. No more standard hours, seniority, union contracts, shared curriculum or common textbooks. In are a crowd of newcomers -- critics call them opportunists -- seeking to lift standards and achievement. They compete for space, steal each other's top teachers and wonder how it is all going to work.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Marquette Elementary School students bring flowers to residents at Karmenta Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

    Devin Rose:

    Norma Hanson, a resident at the Karmenta Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Madison, will turn 101 years old next week. This age is difficult to fathom, especially for a group of fifth-grade students.

    Hanson and other residents at Karmenta were visited Thursday morning by the class from Marquette Elementary School in Madison, and both groups came away extremely happy.

    "I think it was fantastic," said Stacy Carlson, the students' teacher at Marquette, about the group's third visit to Karmenta. "I am so grateful that this all came together."

    With the help of the staff at Buffo Floral and Gifts, the students paired up with residents and made them flower bouquets, which the residents greatly appreciated.

    "I love flowers!" Hanson said, adding she also loved the homemade birthday card all the kids signed for her.

    Fifth-grader James Strebe said it was "really fun" to interact with all the people even thought he admitted he's "not much of a flower person."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Leftist thinking left off the syllabus

    Marla Dickerson:

    Leftist ideology may be gaining ground in Latin America. But it will never set foot on the manicured lawns of Francisco Marroquin University.

    For nearly 40 years, this private college has been a citadel of laissez-faire economics. Here, banners quoting "The Wealth of Nations" author Adam Smith">Adam Smith -- he of the powdered wig and invisible hand -- flutter over the campus food court.

    Every undergraduate, regardless of major, must study market economics and the philosophy of individual rights embraced by the U.S. founding fathers, including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

    A sculpture commemorating Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" is affixed to the school of business. Students celebrated the novel's 50th anniversary last year with an essay contest. The $200 cash prize reinforced the book's message that society should reward capitalist go-getters who create wealth and jobs, not punish them with taxes and regulations.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    A Goal of 100%

    Maureen Downey:

    Next time it rewrites its statewide standardized math test, the state Department of Education might consider this challenging question:

    With a statewide high school graduation rate of 58.1 percent in 2005 and an improvement rate of 2.6 percentage points over the previous five years, when can Georgia expect to achieve a 100 percent graduation rate?

    Answer: 2110.

    One hundred and two years is a long, long time —- too long, in fact. But with the sluggish response of state leaders to holistic and meaningful education reform, accelerating that time frame will be very difficult.

    While Gov. Sonny Perdue has introduced graduation coaches to identify and deflect potential dropouts in high school, there's far more to be done to reclaim children in the early grades, where most kids wander off track. And rather than whittling away at instructional funding, as Georgia has done in recent years, the state ought to be investing in programs to prepare low-income 3-year-olds for school and to help struggling third-graders learn to read.

    To truly transform its low-performing schools, Georgia has to take an honest look at its financial commitment to education. That starts with the governor, who continues to maintain that his administration has not shortchanged education and is, in fact, spending more than ever on a per-pupil basis.

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

    June 8, 2008

    Three Child Psychiatry Experts at Harvard Made Millions from Drug Makers

    Gardiner Harris & Benedict Carey:

    A world-renowned Harvard child psychiatrist whose work has helped fuel an explosion in the use of powerful antipsychotic medicines in children earned at least $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007 but for years did not report much of this income to university officials, according to information given Congressional investigators.

    By failing to report income, the psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Biederman, and a colleague in the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Timothy E. Wilens, may have violated federal and university research rules designed to police potential conflicts of interest, according to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. Some of their research is financed by government grants.

    Like Dr. Biederman, Dr. Wilens belatedly reported earning at least $1.6 million from 2000 to 2007, and another Harvard colleague, Dr. Thomas Spencer, reported earning at least $1 million after being pressed by Mr. Grassley’s investigators. But even these amended disclosures may understate the researchers’ outside income because some entries contradict payment information from drug makers, Mr. Grassley found.

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

    As the economy hits rough waters, competition is surging for beach lifeguard jobs. Three rookies join the race for a role in a real-life 'Baywatch.'

    Ellen Gamerman:

    After the first run on the first day of Los Angeles County's lifeguard-training academy, a rookie throws up, walks off the beach and quits.

    None of the other recruits turn to look. L.A. lifeguard training is run with military discipline, and one rule is, always face the water. The class stands frozen in squad formation. No one wants to risk his or her chances just to watch a defeated rookie slink away.

    This will be a tough summer to land any good job, and for lifeguards, the competition is especially fierce. In South Walton, on the Florida Panhandle, lifeguard applications have risen 30% in the past year, boosted by older recruits with military and law-enforcement experience. In Volusia County, Fla., there were 60 openings this year compared with 80 last year, in part because college graduates are returning to their old summer posts after striking out in the bleak job market. "The economy is not as good as it once was, and that's helping us recruit," says Kevin Sweat, the county director of beach safety.

    Lifeguarding is no longer a summer pastime for bored teens. Pay and benefits have grown as more cities merge their lifeguards into the fire department. L.A. County employs 180 full-time and 760 part-time lifeguards, with top pay pushing six figures.

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

    Why Education Reform is Like Baseball

    Jeanne Century (an adviser to Obama's 2008 campaign):

    Moneyball tells about a system that did not want to change; of practices held steadfast in tradition; and of how a leader, with the right motivation and insight, innovated for success. So, as this season winds down and you sit watching nine innings, consider these nine lessons for educators drawn from an unlikely place: America’s simple favorite pastime—baseball.

    1. Don’t go for the home runs … just get on base and the rest will come. Beane didn’t win baseball games by hoping for home runs. Home runs are rare, and hope doesn’t win games. He understood that individual players don’t win games; teams do—when they work together in a process of creating runs. In education, we identify isolated strategies that we hope will be our home runs. But experience tells us that a better approach is to get solidly and clearly “on base.” Then, the system can work, each piece supporting the other, stepping up when necessary and stepping back to “sacrifice” if that is what will win the game. The only way the system can work is if everyone buys in and does his or her part.

    2. Money is important, but it is not the answer. Beane had to spend his team’s meager $40 million wisely; other clubs had several times that amount. So he set out to identify ways he could use his money more efficiently. As Lewis writes, “[I]n professional baseball it still matters less how much money you have than how well you spend it.” Instead of investing in one big star, Beane sought out those players who were regularly and consistently getting on base (see lesson one). We in education need to find ways to get on base. Small steps are enough if they are consistent and well informed. The smartest strategies don’t necessarily cost the most money. Indeed, some of them don’t cost anything at all.

    Related: On education, McCain & Obama may not be far apart.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:53 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    What is Public Education?

    Lisa Graham Keegan - an adviser to McCain's 2008 campaign:

    One constant cry in the debate over educational reform is that we must save our public schools. But proponents of that argument assume that a public school system must be exactly what we have today: schools clustered in districts governed by centralized bureaucracies that oversee every detail of what goes on in individual schools, from budgets to personnel to curricula. That's like saying that our steel industry should center on open-hearth furnaces and giant corporations rather than the nimble mini-mills that have largely superseded them. Let's agree, for argument, that a public school system is a good thing: but why should it look just like it does today—which is what it looked like 50 years ago?

    There's nothing sacrosanct, after all, about the current structure of our public education system. Its roots go back to the nineteenth century, when a geographical community would club together to hire and pay a teacher and later, when things got more complicated, would tax property to provide a local school and then appoint or elect a few people to a small board that would oversee it and hire its teacher. As the communities grew into towns and cities, it seemed logical to expand the governing mechanisms already in place. Tiny school boards slowly swelled into today's bloated and dysfunctional school districts, responsible for running not one but 5 or 25 or 50 schools.

    If we want to save the public schools, we mustn't confuse the ideal of public education—that every child has the right to a good K-12 education at public expense—with any particular system, including the one we've got. Surely we can come up with a modernized definition of public education fit for a new millennium. In Arizona, where I'm Superintendent of Public Instruction, that's just what we're trying to achieve. Our new approach, aimed at shifting power from bureaucrats to students and families, has three key, equally essential parts: student-centered funding, parental choice, and tough, objectively measurable, standards.

    Start with student-centered funding. In Arizona, we've all but replaced an older and more typical system, in which school districts assess and use local property taxes to fund schools, with one in which the state raises the money (including for capital construction) through a statewide tax, straps an equal amount of it to each student's back, and releases it only when he walks into the school of his choice.

    Today's district is a rigid command-and-control system that offers dissatisfied parents no choices except, if they don't like the district school, to send their kids to private school or to home-school them. Moreover, like the Soviet Union with its five-year plans, the districts do a poor job of management, for the reason F. A. Hayek pointed out: command-and-control systems suffer from an information deficit. How can a distant district office bureaucrat know how to run a school better than the principals and teachers who work there? Too often, the district just lays down a single set of policies to govern all its schools, imposing one-size-fits-all curricula and disciplinary policies on schools that may have very different needs. The system also seems impervious to reform from within. In my experience, those who join district boards, even those who start out reform-minded, eerily become co-opted and wind up defending the system tooth and nail. It's just like watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

    If you need an additional reason to abolish the traditional property-tax funding system, consider this: it's unfair. Funding education through local property taxes is deeply regressive. It lets rich districts spend more per pupil, at much lower tax rates, than poor districts. After all, a rich district's citizens who pay $3,000 per year on their $300,000 houses are paying 10 percent in taxes; the poor district's citizens who pay $1,200 on their $100,000 houses are paying 12 percent.

    The Green Bay School District, currently run by incoming Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad spent $11,441 per student ($232,232,000 total budget) in 2006/2007 while Madison spent $12,422 per student ($329,596,000 total budget) during the same period according to School Facts 2007 by WISTAX.

    A few other interesting comparisons between the Districts (2006/2007):

    Equity Fund BalanceEnrollmentLow IncomeStaff% Revenues from Property Taxes
    Green Bay$21,900,000 (9.3%)19,86344.9%2445.631.8%
    Madison$18,437,000 (6%)24,90844.1%3544.667.9%
    Related: On education, McCain & Obama may not be far apart.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    On education, McCain & Obama may not be far apart

    Greg Toppo:

    Jeanne Century, director of Science Education, Research and Evaluation at the University of Chicago's Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE), is an adviser to Obama. Lisa Graham Keegan, the former superintendent of public instruction in Arizona and a two-term member of the Arizona House of Representatives, has McCain's ear on educational issues.

    To anyone casually observing the two in an effort to divine differences between the candidates, the disagreements seemed small.

    • Both Obama and McCain believe in rigorous standards and rich curricula to help students compete in a global economy. Century even suggested that American kids should be "trilingual," not just bilingual, to compete with the rest of the world.
    • Both candidates support publicly funded, but privately run, charter schools.
    • For now at least, both oppose using taxpayer dollars for large-scale voucher programs. (In a later session with reporters, though, Keegan pointed out that McCain actually supported the push in 2003 for a small-scale voucher that now operates in Washington, D.C., public schools. She added that if a state asked McCain to support a voucher program, "he might be supportive." But she said he doesn't currently support changing the provisions of No Child Left Behind to allow for private school vouchers. Currently, students in under-performing schools can get taxpayer dollars for free tutoring or transfer to a better-performing public school.)
    • Speaking of No Child Left Behind, both candidates would tweak it in ways that, for the most part, only education wonks can appreciate. They'd both fund it differently. Keegan says McCain would figure out more efficient, focused ways to spend what she says is NCLB's "unprecedented" increase in funding to schools. Century says Obama believes NCLB "was insufficiently funded and poorly implemented."
    They both bemoan the law's inability to ensure that low-income children get high-quality teachers and they'd both push for so-called "value added" provisions that would give schools credit for test score gains that children make each year, even if all children don't meet a pre-set proficiency goal in reading or math.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Ninety-four-year-old to graduate from high school

    Linda Stewart Ball:

    Ridgell M. McKinney is ready to cross the stage and get his high school diploma, 74 years after his classmates made the same walk.

    McKinney, 94, would have graduated in 1934 had he been willing to rat out a friend. Chalk it up to honor and a case of wrongly accused popped knuckles.

    As it is, the active nonagenarian and local historian was to be the first in line when diplomas from the new McKinney Boyd High School were awarded Friday night.

    McKinney is a descendant of Collin McKinney, for whom both the town and Collin County, the wealthiest in Texas, are named. His great-great grandfather also helped pen the Texas Declaration of Independence that cast off Mexican rule in 1836.

    So folks in this fast-growing suburb north of Dallas are making a fuss about McKinney's commencement.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:44 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Lucy Mathiak chats with Vicki McKenna

    MP3 audio file. Recorded April 14, 2008.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 7, 2008

    Finland's schools may lead the world, but its universities are nothing special

    The Economist:

    This bothers the Finnish government. “As a country that thinks its future is purely dependent on its know-how, we cannot afford average results in universities,” says Jyrki Katainen (pictured), the finance minister.

    This is my last appointment before I fly back to London, and Mr Katainen is telling me that his government thinks greater independence and a bit of capital may help the country's universities to specialise and innovate. So it has offered any universities willing to set up charitable foundations a deal too good to refuse: any money they raise by 2010, the government will top up by 2.5 times as much.

    Finland is hardly the only country worried about the global reputation of its universities. As with schools, the advent of international rankings has made list-watchers of everyone. The Shanghai Jiao Tong and THE rankings are enormously important both for universities, which are increasingly reliant on international students, and for countries, who take their positions on the charts quite seriously.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Robert F. Kennedy at the 1965 Hearings about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    Jenny D:

    In honor of RFK on the 40th anniversary of his death, I offer excerpts from the transcripts of the hearings on ESEA in 1965. RFK called for accountability among educators and proposed national testing to make sure that those receiving federal funds were using it improve student learning.

    He proposed NCLB 35 years before Bush did. To be fair, NCLB is just the reauthorization of ESEA with a new name.

    It was conceived to send federal dollars to offer more educational opportunities to disadvantaged students, and was packaged as part of LBJ's larger War on Poverty. Student failure in school was linked to adult poverty, so Congress got to work to pass Johnson's bill to help educate poor kids.

    This is from the hearing on ESEA, by the Senate Education subcommittee, 89th Congress. Congress was considering whether to spend an additional $1 billion in the following year to improve education, which would double federal spending on schools. Most of the additional money would go to Title I.

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

    Mary Olsky, EAGLE School co-founder, decides to retire

    Kurt Gutknecht:

    Twenty-six years ago, Mary Olsky was looking for a more challenging educational environment for her children. What ultimately happened has helped thousands of students over the years.

    "I didn't see this happening," she said recently of Eagle School, which she co-founded with Betty Connor in 1982. Olsky is stepping down as co-director of the school, which now has 182 students, 20 teachers and six to 10 parent aides, and an expansive building at 5454 Gunflint Trail in Fitchburg.

    In the 1980s, Olksy had recently moved to the Madison area with her husband and four children, ages 4 to 10, from Chicago. She thought Madison would provide a better educational environment for her children, but was disappointed.

    Shortly after meeting Connor, they visited several schools around the country and rented a room in Hoyt School, which the district had closed and was renting rooms to a variety of organizations. They collected materials from a variety of sources and started with 12 students, including two of her children.

    By 1985, they had outgrown their space and moved to another former school in Madison. One of the parents was a developer and helped them purchase land and build a school in Middleton. After adding two additions, they purchased land in Fitchburg and constructed the current building.

    "We had sworn that we'd never have more than 100 kids or build our own building. What happened has become part of our general philosophy, which is to see problems and try to solve them instead of being rigid," Olsky.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Milwaukee's $1.2 Billion School Budget increases by 0.25%

    Alan Borsuk:

    A $1.2 billion budget that would keep trends generally on the same track in Milwaukee Public Schools for the coming school year was advanced early Wednesday by the Milwaukee School Board budget committee.

    Those trends include substantial declines in enrollment, tightening services in many schools and an ever-growing portion of students with special needs.

    hey also include increased emphasis on math instruction, health services for students and nutrition programs, including widely available free breakfast.

    Board members and administrators avoided making any projections on the property tax implications of the budget, leaving that highly charged matter to the fall, when the proposal will be revised to reflect the state of finances just before property tax bills are calculated.

    The proposal made in April by Superintendent William Andrekopoulos was in line with a directive from the School Board that the increase in total spending on operations be held to 0.25% for next year.


    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:45 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    On Madison's High School Curriculum

    Mitch Henck discussion: MP3 audio file. Recorded 6/2/2008. Henck discussed incoming Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on January 29, 2008 - MP3 file.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Vicki McKenna visits with Jay Greene on School Vouchers

    MP3 audio file. Recorded April 29, 2008. Clusty Search: Jay Green.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:22 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Kenosha District losing money on investment

    Amy Hetzner:

    A controversial investment to help fund retiree benefits has cost the Kenosha Unified School District $214,000 more than it has earned since 2006, according to an analysis by an independent consultant for the Pleasant Prairie School Commission.

    Those losses will continue to mount, by about $52,000 per quarter, unless the investment's value rebounds or the district shores up the investment by contributing millions of dollars more, the analysis found.

    "People who got into this should have realized there were some flaws in the program," said Gene Schulz with financial adviser Piper Jaffray & Co. to the commission Thursday. "I'm assuming they never even knew these flaws existed."

    Officials with Kenosha and four other Wisconsin school districts that invested millions of borrowed dollars in collateralized debt obligations to help fund employee retiree benefits have insisted they protected themselves in the deals. CDOs are bundles of debt that can range from corporate bonds to subprime mortgages

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

    June 6, 2008

    Fairfax County Schools Report on Student Behavior

    Michael Alison Chandler:

    Fairfax County School Board members said they are likely to abandon a staff report that showed racial and ethnic gaps in some measures of student behavior, including in the demonstration of "sound moral character and ethical judgment."

    The board had delayed an April vote to approve the report after concerns were raised that findings were based on subjective measures, such as elementary report card data, and that they would fuel negative stereotypes.

    Board member Phillip A. Niedzielski-Eichner (Providence) said yesterday that he plans to propose at a June 19 meeting that a vote on the report be postponed indefinitely. Several board members have indicated their support, he said.

    Board member Martina A. Hone (At Large) said that the original report is "fatally flawed" and that it doesn't make sense "to work on fixing it." She said she is pleased with the way the board is rethinking it. "I think we have come out a stronger school board," she said.

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

    Fearing for Massachusetts School Reform

    via a kind reader's email - David A. Mittell, Jr., a fascinating look at the political sausage making and special interests behind, or blocking school "reform":

    THE (Deval) PATRICK administration is big on reform when it comes to organizational charts, which in the to and fro of politics are accidents of history; are aesthetically displeasing to social scientists; and more often than not downright inefficient. It is the last point that deserves attention. The Patrick administration seems partly inhabited by people concerned with the second point and partly by people impatient for more power to do what they want by direct administrative order, rather than having to cajole semi-autonomous boards and authorities.

    Mitt Romney had plans along the same lines and was pleased with himself when, early in his term, he was able to persuade the legislature to eliminate the notoriously inefficient Metropolitan District Commission and transfer its functions to the Department of Conservation and Recreation. How much actual efficiency was achieved is debatable.

    Mr. Romney also tried to eliminate the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. As a Republican governor he had no chance of eradicating this termites' nest, despite its many public failings. Thereafter, wisely, he resolved to do what he could with the rusty tools that hehad. The danger of persisting in trying to clean up the flow chart in the face of political opposition was that, even had he succeeded to some extent, he would have spent his whole term doing it. Redirectin the mission of state government would have been lost.

    With more than a third of his own term gone by, Mr. Patrick faces the same conundrum. He too wants to put the Turnpike Authority and all other transportation-related agencies under his direct control. That will need a column of its own. Here I want to deal with his partly completed effort to put all education-related agencies under his control.

    Critics, especially those concerned about the foundering success of the Education Reform Act of 1993, see an attempt by the governor to gut the aspects of education reform that his political supporters in the education establishment do not like. On a partial list of suspected "gutters" are assorted state bureaucrats, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and the Massachusetts Teachers' Association.

    That's not my list and I do not endorse it. But the evidence to date is that the critics have the politics right. Not only does Governor Patrick seem to be moving to quash some of the most hopeful aspects of education reform, appointed minions are acting on his behalf in petty and vindictive ways:

    On Feb.12, the legislature approved exhuming the corpse of a cabinet-level secretariat of education, which, with good reason, Gov. William Weld had persuaded the legislature to bury in 1996. The old education secretariat -- created with the idea of giving the governor clear line-authority to get things done -- had become a static extra layer of bureaucracy that got in the way of getting things done. The "corpse," which had only been alternately hibernating and estivating for 12 years, has been resuscitated with the same noble words about "action" that were spoken at its first founding.

    On Jan. 17, after a long search, the Board of Education approved Mitchell Chester to be commissioner, succeeding the retired David Driscoll. He was chosen over two other finalists, including Karla Baehr, who was the clear favorite of education insiders. Later, on March 10, by an executive order, Governor Patrick stripped the Board of Education of its 170-year-old independence -- dating to its founder, Horace Mann -- and put it under the authority of the resuscitated education secretariat. He also enlarged its membership, packing it with his own people.

    Unlike the Turnpike Authority, the Board of Education was not made up of "termites." Its members were distinguished gubernatorial appointees of both parties and different points of view. If ever there was a board that didn't need the bureaucratic shuffle dance, this was it.

    From the beginning, activists from the Patrick gubernatorial campaign seemed to have it in for the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. Created in 2001, operating on a $2.97 million budget, EQA served as an independent monitor of the progress of public schools spending almost $9 billion a year in state and local funds. Last year it was phased out in the budget and is currently in limbo. On April 11, its director, Joseph Rappa, was asked to leave a meeting of the governor's Educational Management Audit Council so it could go into executive session. A majority of three Patrick-appointed members then voted to fire him.

    Mr. Rappa's contract was expiring anyway, and he was perfectly prepared to move on without in any way embarrassing the governor. But on April 16, as he was cleaning out his Ashburton Place office, in Boston, the governor's Education Advisers Office got into the act. Sydney Asbury and Michele Norman of that office had two State Police troopers eyeball Mr. Rappa as he cleaned out his desk, and then escort him out of the building. Thanks to these two goons (the bureaucrats, not the troopers), the public is assured that Mr. Rappa did not take any of the people's pencils.

    On May 6, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings came to Boston to mark National Charter Schools Week and visit the successful Edward Brooke Charter School, in Roslindale, founded in 2002 and named after the former Republican senator from Massachusetts. Governor Patrick could not fit her into his schedule and did not attend a meeting with top state education officials chaired by Paul Reville, the incoming secretary of the no-longer hibernating cabinet-level Department of Education.

    In an hour-long roundtable discussion the term "charter schools" did not come up, despite their being the reason for Secretary Spellings's visit to Boston. Nor did Secretary-designate Reville see fit to call on Commissioner-designate Mitchell Chester, who was on a telephone hook-up. It appears likely that this capable outsider is going to be shunned by the embittered friends of Karla Baehr.

    So it goes. These are political games, and I here use the words child and student for the first time in this column. For their better being we must fear.

    David A. Mittell Jr. is a member of The Journal's editorial board.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Toyota Chief: Refrain from Using PowerPoint

    Garr Reynolds:

    An article that got some attention in Japan last week was this one (in Japanese), which says the Toyota Motor Corporation CEO Katsuaki Watanabe urged employees to show self-restraint and stop the wasteful practice of using PowerPoint for the creation of documents (what I call slideuments). The CEO made this statement while talking about the need to reduce costs at Toyota. He is reminding employees to be cost conscious and he used the practice of using PowerPoint as an example of waste. Watanabe said that (in the good old days?) they used to use one piece of paper to make a clear point or proposal, or to summarize an issue, but now everything is in PowerPoint, he says, which uses many sheets of paper and expensive colors...but it's a waste. The CEO is not saying that PowerPoint is necessarily harmful (he does not mention its use for actual presentations), but he is saying printed "documents" made with the presentation tool tend to have less content, less clarity, and yet use more paper/ink and take more time. In the context of a challenging economy and an atmosphere of reducing costs, what would you say of any business practice that (1) takes more time, (2) costs more money, and yet (3) appears to be less effective? In the spirit of kaizen (continuous improvement), even if the waste is small, it must be eliminated.
    The Poverty of PowerPoint by Gregory McNamee:
    Many forces are at work in the dumbing-down of the world: censorship, historical amnesia, the collapse of general education, doctrinaire domination of the airwaves and other media outlets, the spread of religious fundamentalism, creationism, and other forms of ignorance.

    And then there’s PowerPoint.

    Microsoft’s market-leading “slideware”—software that produces virtual transparencies for use in public presentations—is responsible for “trillions of slides each year,” writes the statistician, publisher, and design guru Edward R. Tufte in his provocative booklet The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. And not just any old slides. PowerPoint’s popular templates, Tufte argues, are responsible for an explosion in useless data stupidly displayed, for these ready-made designs “usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis.”

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:21 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    What happened after California abolished bilingual education

    The Economist:

    TEN years to the day after California banned teaching in any language other than English, Erlinda Paredes runs through a new sentence with her kindergarten class. “El payaso se llama Botones”, she intones—“the clown's name is Buttons”. When a pupil asks a question in English, she responds in Spanish. It is an improbable scene. But the abolition of bilingual education has not worked out in quite the way anybody expected.

    Before 1998 some 400,000 Californian children were shunted into classes where they heard as little as 30 minutes of English each day. The hope was that they would learn mathematics and other subjects in their native tongue (usually Spanish) while they gently made the transition to English. The result was an educational barrio. So that year Ron Unz, a software engineer, sponsored a ballot measure that mandated teaching in English unless parents demanded otherwise. Proposition 227 passed easily, with considerable support from Hispanics. Voters in two other states, Massachusetts and Arizona, have since followed suit.

    In Santa Ana, a mostly poor Latino city in Orange county, the number of children in bilingual classes promptly halved. Demand would have been even less had schools not prodded parents to request waivers for their children. In the past few years demand for bilingual education has fallen further. This year 22,000 pupils in Santa Ana are enrolled in “structured English immersion” programmes, where they hear little but that language. Just 646 are taught bilingually.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Follow the Special Ed Money

    Joanne Jacobs:

    Jay Greene is dubious about Response To Intervention -- trying to educate children well so they’re not diagnosed as learning disabled — because he thinks schools have an incentive to put kids in special ed.
    Essentially, RTI frees-up money to get schools to do what they presumably should have been doing already — providing well-designed instruction in the early grades. Unless we think that the main impediment to well-designed instruction was that schools lacked the funding to do it, diverting 15% of special education money to early-grade instruction will not get them to do anything significantly different from what they were already doing.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    More on Finland's Schools

    The Economist:

    THE OECD's PISA studies are exhibit A for the excellence of Finland’s schools. Finland routinely comes top, or occasionally second, in tests every three years of 15-year-olds' abilities in reading, mathematics and science. It is impressive, but the suspicious-minded (or perhaps just the begrudgers?) wonder if it is really all down to brilliant schools.

    I have a suspicion of my own. When I lived in Finland in the 1990s I learnt rather little Finnish (they speak great English, and I'm lazy), but I learnt to read words and say them correctly in about half an hour. Each letter corresponds to one sound, and only one; there are no exceptions and no combinations of letters that make different sounds, like “sh” or “th”. If a letter is repeated, it is simply said for twice as long. Is it, perhaps, just easier to learn to read and write in Finland than practically anywhere else?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    June 5, 2008

    A School Milwaukee's District Could Learn From

    Dolores Herbstreith:

    There is a school on Milwaukee's near south side that should be a beacon of light to the many schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools that are having trouble keeping about 50% of their students in attendance and graduating.

    It is Notre Dame Middle School, a Catholic school for girls in fifth through eighth grade. I tutored there for almost two years, and it was a great experience.

    The school accepts Hispanic girls from that area who have spent the first few years of elementary school at MPS. Few come from what could be called "advantaged" homes. Most struggle with their studies. Many of them speak only Spanish at home because that is the only language their parents know. Then they must adjust to English the next morning when they return to school.

    In spite of these challenges, the school shows an impressive record, with 96% of the girls graduating from high school after they leave Notre Dame and 76% of those continuing with a post-secondary education. How do they do it when more advantaged students drop out of school rather than apply themselves

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    S.F. voters OK $198 parcel tax for schools

    Jill Tucker:

    San Francisco teachers hoping for a significant pay raise celebrated Tuesday night as 70 percent of city voters passed a $198 annual school parcel tax.

    Proposition A, which required two-thirds voter support to pass, had 80,000 yes votes to 35,000 no votes with all precincts reporting.

    The parcel tax was one of 16 Bay Area school measures on Tuesday's ballot, including 10 parcel taxes, which all require two-thirds support, and six facilities bonds, which need 55 percent of the yes votes to pass.
    Late in the evening, 10 of those measures were winning.

    San Francisco's 20-year parcel tax will pump about $29 million into city schools each year - primarily improving teacher pay and training as well as increasing funding for technology and local charter schools.
    The parcel tax kicks in on July 1 and expires in 2028.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Meaningful school funds reform talk

    Wisconsin Senator Dale Schultz:

    Wisconsin devotes nearly 50 percent of all state general tax dollars to the purpose of educating students. A top goal for me is to ensure the public schools of our region receive their fair share of that state aid. As state and local budgets tighten and competition for resources intensifies, our mutual goal will be to protect education funding so our youth are prepared for success and we continue to attract top-notch educators.

    A group I helped form in 2006 reviewed our current funding system and recommended fixes to help our schools. That nonpartisan committee had broad representation, including school administrators, board members, UW researchers and legislators. Gary Andrews and Nancy Hendrickson from our region graciously provided strong voices for the interests of small, rural districts.

    It was gratifying when some concepts advanced by the committee became provisions in the state budget, including easing state aid losses when student enrollment declines. Committee members showed that a focus on solutions without divisive bickering can produce real-world, helpful ideas.

    I hope that same spirit of compromise carries over to next session. It's encouraging to see renewed interest at the Capitol to tackle school funding reform in 2009. Governor Jim Doyle in his State of the State address early this year signaled his willingness to participate in school funding talks. I appreciate his willingness to lead and look forward to joining him to improve how our schools are funded.

    K-12 Tax & Spending Climate.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:01 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Real World Skills School Projects

    Anita Clark:

    When a local businessman asked teacher Dick Anderson if his woods technology students could build a covered bridge, Anderson said "sure.''

    He envisioned an ornamental garden structure.

    Instead, what the client wanted — and what the high school students built — is a 14-ton, 44-foot long timber-frame covered bridge that spans a ravine and can carry fully loaded trucks.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:53 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    $10M for Math in Milwaukee

    Alan Borsuk:

    Milwaukee Public Schools officials got the assurance they were seeking when Gov. Jim Doyle said Wednesday that he will release $10 million to improve math instruction in Milwaukee next year.

    Although the money was included in the budget approved last fall, Doyle had the option of not awarding it. After Doyle used his veto powers recently to require a $270 million cut in spending next year, MPS leaders were concerned the $10 million might be chopped.

    Doyle used an eighth-grade classroom at the Lincoln Center of the Arts, an MPS middle school on the lower east side, to announce he was awarding the money, which is to be used to pay for more than 100 math teaching positions.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:08 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    High school, city farm to build "green" garage

    Karen Herzog:

    A partnership between a city farm and a Milwaukee trade school will build an urban agricultural training space atop a "green" garage in the Riverwest neighborhood, complete with year-round, rooftop garden.

    The project, called Growing Spaces, is a joint venture of the non-profit farm Growing Power Inc., 5500 West Silver Spring Road, and Bradley Tech High School, 700 S. 4th St. Details are to be announced at a 3 p.m. press conference today at the school.

    Bradley Tech seniors in carpentry, electrical and plumbing classes will build the 3.5-bay garage beside a private home in Riverwest, starting in the fall. The homeowner, Kate Halfwassen, will coordinate the project and lease the garage back to Growing Power in what amounts to at least a five-year donation of the space, Halfwassen said Tuesday.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    On Finland's Schools

    The Economist:

    I AM feeling nostalgic. I spent two years in Finland in the late 1990s on a European Union post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Jyvaskyla in central Finland, and haven't been back since. I wonder how much things will have changed—the country had only just joined the European Union back then, and has since joined the euro and experienced an economic boom.

    First stop this morning is Kulosaari comprehensive school, in a suburb of Helsinki. Finnish comprehensives teach children from seven to 16; after that almost all youngsters spend another three years in either grammar or vocational schools.

    Kulosaari school is lovely. The children are calm (far calmer than those at my son's primary school in Cambridge, England) and talk to adults respectfully, but as equals.

    Dan Wood, from Maidstone in England, one of two native English speakers on the staff, teaches children in the school's bilingual programme. He has been in Finland for ten years now, and has no intention of leaving. “My mum works in a school at home,” he tells me. “I really just don’t want to go back to that system, the stress of school inspections.”

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:01 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Seattle School Board's New Goals

    Linda Shaw:

    The Seattle School Board approved a five-year plan Wednesday that sets specific targets for raising test scores, graduation rates and even the number of credits earned by ninth-graders.

    By 2012, for example, the district wants 88 percent of third-graders to pass reading on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, and 95 percent of the 10th-graders to do the same. Some of the most ambitious goals are in math and science, especially a passage rate of 80 percent on the science section of the 10th-grade WASL. In spring 2007, 33 percent passed.

    To reach those and other goals, the plan calls for everything from better math and science instruction, to more consistency in what's taught from school to school, more tests to track student progress, and hiring teachers earlier so classes don't start the year with substitutes.

    District officials have described the goals as ambitious, but achievable. And some of the most ambitious ones simply match what's required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, or reflect increasingly tough graduation requirements for high-school students.

    Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson at Wednesday's School Board meeting said her plan doesn't cover everything, but that a strategic plan is meant to focus on "deficits."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:37 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education in Sweden

    The Economist:

    I SPEND my second day in Sweden with representatives of Kunskapsskolan, Sweden's biggest chain of independent schools (it has 21 secondaries and 9 gymnasiums). It has recently been awarded a contract to open two “academies”—independent state schools—in London, and I have been intrigued by what I’ve heard about its highly personalised teaching methods.

    At Kunskapsskolan Enskede, a few kilometres from the centre of Stockholm, I am met by Christian Wetell, its head teacher, and Kenneth Nyman, the company's regional chief. They explain the “voucher system” from which they make their money. For each pupil the school teaches, it receives from the local government what it would have spent educating the pupil in one of its own schools; in return, independent schools cannot charge anything extra, and must accept all students who apply. Provided schools follow Sweden’s national curriculum, they have wide latitude in their methods and pacing.

    Kenneth sheds an interesting light on the thorny comparison with Finland. You have to look, he says, at what sort of students each country’s system wants. Sweden aims to produce socially conscious generalists. The Finnish system, by contrast, drives rather narrowly at academic success.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Referendum's Reprise

    Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:

    Faced with growing numbers of students, what should school officials in Hartford and Germantown do to provide adequate school facilities?

    One is tempted to ask just what part of "no" school officials in Germantown and Hartford don't understand.

    Faced with the rejection by voters of a school building referendum in April, the Germantown School Board probably will try again in November with the same referendum. Meanwhile, in Hartford, officials haven't given up their quest for a new school despite being shot down twice - in November and April referendum balloting - by a 2-1 or better ratio.

    Some consider their efforts arrogance and a slap in the face to voters. Maybe. But maybe it's a sincere attempt to find the best answer to a simple challenge faced by both communities.

    Germantown and Hartford schools are a part of growing communities that every year are adding more subdivisions with families that include children. Those kids have to be educated somewhere. And as families grow, classrooms grow and become crowded. School officials in both districts contend that they need new elementary schools to cope with that growth.

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

    Hard to find a job, but not an internship

    Tami Luhby:

    Even as they trim their payrolls, companies are keeping one eye on the future by stocking up on summer interns.

    Employers, in a sign that they are looking beyond the current economic slowdown, are using intern programs to help build their junior ranks. Certainly interns can provide cheap and eager labor. But they also bring fresh ideas and allow companies to build their talent pools, experts said. Firms are hiring a larger number of their entry-level workers from their intern pool, so they are looking to lure top college students well before graduation.

    "We're seeing growth every year in the number of interns being hired," said Camille Luckenbaugh, research director for the National Association of Colleges and Employers. "One reason companies are looking to hire is to fill their talent pipeline. They are looking five to 10 years down the road."

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

    June 4, 2008

    Experimental audio/visual therapies help some schools teach students to focus

    Greg Toppo:

    A small but growing number of schools are using experimental therapies to retrain students' hearing and vision, in essence reteaching them to hear and see. It's a bid to reverse problems with the ability to focus and learn brought on by years of excessive TV, poor nutrition and, for some, in vitro drug exposure.
    At Gordon Parks Elementary School, a charter school in Kansas City, Mo., 60% of kindergartners in 2004 failed a visual-skills test. Most had 20/20 vision, but they struggled to focus on moving objects, track lines of print and refocus from near to far.

    That fall, Gordon Parks began regular lessons in visual skills. Therapist Cheryl Steffenella says dangerous neighborhoods and the ubiquity of TV and video games means many of her students "aren't doing kid things" — climbing trees, jumping and running — that help develop visual and motor skills. Even playing video games that require a lot of eye movement exercises children's vision minimally, she says.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education Stories, Inspiring or Otherwise

    Samuel Freedman:

    In the season of sheepskin and mortarboard, report card and honor roll, I have reached my own commencement. After four years, this is my last education column, as I move on to other journalistic endeavors.

    The greatest gifts this assignment gave me were a passport to watch the magic of the classroom and the opportunity to join in a public discussion. Again and again, I saw how a school can contain the whole world. I think of the football team at Dearborn High, in a Detroit suburb with a large Arab-American community. There, several dozen Muslim players faithfully held to the Ramadan fast while making a successful run to the state playoffs in 2005. The Middle East met Middle America, and there was no clash of civilizations about it.

    I think, too, about the students at Stanford who shed the cocoon of their affluent privilege to tutor the university’s custodians, many of them immigrants from Mexico, in the English language. The instruction went both ways, as the students discovered firsthand the sacrifice and integrity of those otherwise invisible men and women who collected their trash.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Prevention called cure for school violence

    Liz Bowie:

    Communities and schools should take a preventive approach to school violence rather than focus solely on punishing students who have behavior problems, experts said yesterday at a summit on school violence.

    Students are looking for structure, high academic expectations, and teachers who understand and can communicate with them, said Ivan J. Juzang, a consultant who gave the keynote address at the daylong meeting at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Providing those basics will make schools safer, he said.

    The summit was organized by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick after several high-profile incidents of violence in schools this year, including the beating of a Baltimore teacher that became nationwide news after it was recorded on a student's cell phone and posted on the Internet.

    The summit was called to find solutions to the problems of school violence, but the conversation among participants and speakers focused more broadly on the need to intervene in the lives of troubled children as early as elementary school. The participants included legislators, teachers, school board members, community leaders, parents and students from across the state.


    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    MMSD Retirees -- A Season of Thanks

    In case you haven't seen it yet, here is a link to the list of MMSD teachers, administrators and staff who will be retiring at the end of the year. Take a look and see if maybe your child's favorite elementary school teacher -- or perhaps your own favorite secretary -- might be there. If so, consider taking a moment to send them a note of thanks.

    As the 2007-2008 school year winds down, it is the season for saying "thank you." "Thank you" to all of the teachers and other District staff to whom we feel genuinely and deeply grateful. Does your school host a "teacher appreciation" event? If so, make sure your family participates. Or consider making a contribution to your school's PTO -- especially if there is a special fund for classroom teacher support -- or one to your own teacher's classroom supply fund. (We all know teachers purchase classroom supplies with their own money.) Or just take the time to write a note of thanks, perhaps encouraging your child to do the same. We have found that it feels good to end the year on a note of gratitude.

    Whatever else I may say about the Madison school district and particular MMSD administrators, I also think we are blessed to have some absolutely incredible teachers in our schools. Our hats are off to each and every one of them.

    Posted by Laurie Frost at 9:03 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    "Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum"

    Peter Sobol on the 2007 Wisconsin DPI State test results (WKCE):

    The results for the WKCE test administered in November 2007 were finally released on May 30th. That is more than six months after the test was given. Worse, the data files containing the detailed results that can be used for proper statistical analysis of the results are STILL not available for download. Assessments are information that degrades over time. The fact that it takes six months to get the data out (whatever its other shortcomings) cheats the taxpayers of the full value of their investment.

    At the very least the WI DPI should be embarrassed by the fact it takes this long to release the test results. Personally I find it outrageous. I had an email exchange with DPI officials concerning this long delay and the loss of value, this is an excerpt from part of that response (italics mine):

    ... The WKCE is a large-scale assessment designed to provide a snapshot of how well a district or school is doing at helping all students reach proficiency on state standards, with a focus on school and district-level accountability. A large-scale, summative assessment such as the WKCE is not designed to provide diagnostic information about individual students. Those assessments are best done at the local level, where immediate results can be obtained. Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum.
    Does anyone else find the fact that the state issues WKCE results to individual students surprising given the above statement?
    The Madison School District, together with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research is using local WKCE results for "Value Added Assessment".

    Much more on the WKCE here.

    Minnesota recently administered their first online science test.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Accelerated Math Adds Up To a Division Over Merits

    Daniel de Vise:

    Next fall, 26 of the sharpest fifth-grade minds at Potomac Elementary School will study seventh-grade math. The rest of the fifth grade will learn sixth-grade math. Fifth-grade math will be left to the third- and fourth-graders.

    Public schools nationwide are working to increase the number of students who study Algebra I, the traditional first-year high school math course, in eighth grade. Many Washington area schools have gone further, pushing large numbers of students two or three years ahead of the grade-level curriculum.

    Math study in Montgomery County has evolved from one or two academic paths to many. Acceleration often begins in kindergarten. In a county known for demanding parents, the math push has generated an unexpected backlash. Many parents say children are pushed too far, too fast.

    Sixty Montgomery math teachers complained, in a November forum, that students were being led into math classes beyond their abilities.

    Related links:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Property taxes jump 3.8%, most in 3 years

    Steven Walters:

    The property tax bill on the typical Wisconsin home rose 3.8% last year - the biggest increase in three years, officials said Monday.

    But fall levy limits on local governments, more state aid and slowing home values should prevent another boost like that this December, they said.

    The Legislative Fiscal Bureau told legislators that property taxes on the median-valued home, which was assessed at $170,305 last year, totaled $2,838 - a $105 increase over the previous year. In each of the previous two years, the increase was less than 1%.

    The $105 increase was up by about $10 from what lawmakers and Gov. Jim Doyle expected in October when they adopted the current state budget.

    But the 3.8% increase was more than the inflation rate last year, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated at 2.8%.

    State Budget Director Dave Schmiedicke said he expects the owner of a typical Wisconsin home to open a December tax bill that will go up less than 1%, which he called "a very small increase."

    Related Links:
    • Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance:
      Compared to the prior year (fiscal 2005), Wisconsin taxes were up slightly, from 12.1% to 12.3% of income, but the 50-state rank fell from eighth to 11th. The state’s tax burden was 5.5% above the U.S. average (11.6%). Since the late 1950s (see diagram, over), the Badger State’s tax burden and rankings have ranged from lows of 9.7% (1958) and 18th (1960) to highs of 15.8% (1973) and first (1964).
    • Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau Memorandum - 32K PDF. TJ Mertz comments on the tax increase.
    • Channel3000:
      Taxes paid to schools are by far the largest chunk of a homeowner's tax bill. They increased 7.4 percent this year.
      The next two largest parts of a tax bill also went up: Municipal tax levies increased 5 percent, and county levies grew 4.5 percent.
    • K-12 Tax & Spending Climate
    • New York Governor proposes 4% cap on annual school property tax increases.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Their 3 R's include running

    Amy Hetzner:

    Midday recess at Riverside Elementary School had reached a cacophonic pitch Monday, with students tossing assorted balls through the air, when a class of kindergartners added to the mix by bolting around the play area.

    Far from scolding the children, their teachers encouraged the activity.

    What happens on this vast plot of gravel, the thinking goes, can be as important as what goes on inside the classroom.

    "When you're talking about education, you have to look at the whole child," Riverside counselor Kara Baker said, "because if they're not well, they're not going to learn."

    That focus on wellness has won the school recognition over the past two years, as a Governor's School Health Award silver-level winner.

    Riverside was the only Waukesha County school to receive the award in 2008. James Fenimore Cooper School in Milwaukee was a gold award winner.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Oxford just gave state education an F

    Jenny McCartney:

    Oxford wants £1.25 billion. That is the target of the biggest fundraising drive in the university's history, announced last week.

    This sum would, the university said, enable it to "sustain and enhance" its reputation and provide "security in a world of uncertain state funding and growing global competition

    It didn't mention directly what is almost certainly one of its biggest ambitions: to use the loot to slip away from the ever-tightening squeeze of the Government.

    Our Government, like some town hall functionary of limited comprehension but relentless ambition, has long regarded the clever clogs at Oxford with the deepest suspicion. It has rightly suspected that, with Oxford's fabled reputation for independent thinking, the university might not be suitably subservient to the New Labour mania for centrally imposed targets.

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

    June 3, 2008

    Students find the '08 presidential race is not politics as usual

    Greg Toppo:

    It was the first week of February, and Jesse Sharkey's students were doing the math.
    They were not amused.

    Most of his juniors and seniors at Chicago's Senn High School are Barack Obama supporters — Obama is from Chicago, after all. So they wanted to know why Obama, who had won 14 of 22 states on Super Tuesday, had barely scored more delegates than Hillary Clinton.

    (Answer: Democrats award delegates based on percentage of votes received.)

    And why was he still behind in the total count? And what's a superdelegate anyway?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:30 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Community College Transfer Mess

    Jay Matthews:

    Like many community college students, Josie Showers saw her classes at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville as the first step toward a four-year degree. She was among the nearly half of American students who start college in two-year community schools. They are told if they work hard, their state's four-year colleges will be happy to accept them as transfers and cheer them on to graduation. But Showers, like many others, discovered those four-year schools are not as helpful as she had been led to believe.

    After she transferred to the University of Louisville as a 27-year-old political science major, she was told she could not get her bachelor's degree until she had taken the university's pre-algebra class. That made no sense to her. She had already taken an algebra course, learning concepts more advanced than pre-algebra, at her community college. Sorry, she was told. Rules are rules. That kind of red tape cost her an extra semester and $4,000 before she could graduate.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education for Peace

    H.D.S Greenway:

    When it was becoming clear that the tide of World War II was turning, after Battle of Midway, after Battle of Stalingrad, when Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps was on the run, an unknown, first-term congressman introduced a resolution that would help shape the post-war world.

    The freshman congressman was J. William Fulbright, Democrat of Arkansas. His resolution was only one sentence, as "plain as an old hat," said Life magazine at the time: "Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring) that the Congress hereby expresses itself as favoring the creation of appropriate international machinery with power adequate to establish and to maintain a just and lasting peace among the nations of the world, and as favoring participation by the United States therein."

    In June of 1943, an isolationist Republican from Ohio, John Vorys, rose to voice his approval, and the resolution was passed. Vorys's conversion marked the beginning of the United States's bipartisan, multilateralist foreign policy that would lead to the forming of the United Nations, reversing America's decision after World War I not to join the League of Nations.

    Fulbright, a former Rhodes Scholar and University of Arkansas president, was elected to the Senate the following year. He would go on to become the only senator to vote against the appropriation for Senator Joseph McCarthy's Un-American Activities Committee, and, afterward, as the longest serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which so ably illuminated the absurdities of the Vietnam War.

    Flowing from his early internationalist resolution came the creation of the Fulbright Scholar Program, signed into law by Harry Truman in 1946. It promoted educational exchanges between foreign students and Americans to facilitate "mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world." It is a program I have been involved with over the years.

    Fulbright Scholars website.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:15 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Saudi Prince Sultan Thanks Education Ministry for Winning WTO Education Tourism Award

    Mohammed Rasooldeen:

    “This is a prestigious award we have received for the Education Scholastic Tourism Program (Smile) which we launched in 2005 in cooperation with the Ministry of Education,” Prince Sultan ibn Salman, secretary general of the Supreme Commission For Tourism (SCT), told newsmen at a packed press conference at the SCT headquarters held here yesterday to celebrate the award which was given in in Madrid on Wednesday.

    The prince formally presented the award to Education Minister Dr. Abdullah Saleh Al-Obeid, whose ministry was instrumental in implementing the program for 150,000 students during the past three years.

    Thanking the ministry of education for its unstinted cooperation, the prince recalled that during the past two years, the program — Smile — has covered 150,000 students and 1,800 teachers in 2,700 schools in 42 education department offices. “We want to extend this proven program to another 900,000 students — both boys and girls — in the intermediate and high schools,” Prince Sultan added.

    Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Education.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:30 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Art Rainwater: the great communicator

    Capital Times Editorial:

    Superintendent Art Rainwater attended his last Madison School Board meeting Monday night, and everything seemed so collegial and functional that it was easy to imagine it had always been this way.

    But, of course, it was not.

    Art Rainwater took over a school district that was in crisis.

    When he succeeded former Superintendent Cheryl Wilhoyte a decade ago, the administration was at odds with much of the School Board, the community and, most seriously, with unions representing teachers and other school employees.

    Much of the trouble had to do with Wilhoyte's unwillingness -- perhaps inability -- to communicate in a straight-forward manner.

    Rainwater changed things immediately.

    He was frank and accessible, never spoke in the arcane jargon of education bureaucrats and set up a regular schedule of meetings with board members, community leaders and Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews.

    Related: MMSD Today feature on Art Rainwater. Notes and links on Madison's incoming Superintendent, Dan Nerad

    Much more on retiring Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater.

    Tamira Madsen covers Art's last school board meeting.

    Time Flies by Art Rainwater.

    The Madison School District's budget was $200,311,280 (24,710 enrollment) in 1994 and is $367,806,712 for the 2008/2009 (24,268 enrollment) school year.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:49 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Ruling: Madison district must reinstate athletic directors

    Andy Hall:

    The Madison School District must reinstate four high school athletic directors and "make them whole for any financial loss, " according to an arbitrator 's ruling made public Monday.

    Arbitrator Milo Flaten ruled the district violated its contract with Madison Teachers Inc. a year ago when it replaced the four athletic directors -- who were union members -- with two managers hired from other school districts.

    In the decision, dated Friday and released by MTI on Monday, Flaten wrote that under its existing contract with MTI, the district promised that "athletic directors in the four schools would be represented by the union and that they would be members of the bargaining unit. No amount of reassignment of duties or creation of superficial boundaries can change that."

    MTI Executive Director John Matthews on Monday estimated the decision could cost the district more than $230,000.

    Of that amount, each of the four former athletic directors would receive about $8,000 apiece -- the extra compensation the four, who still work for the district, would have received this school year as athletic directors.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:57 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education in Sweden and Finland
    Competition—and ignoring the 1970s—breeds success

    The Economist:

    THE best schools in the world, it is generally agreed, are in Finland. In the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) studies, which compare 15-year-olds' reading, mathematics and science abilities in more than 50 countries, it routinely comes top. So politicians, academics, think-tankers and teachers from all over the world visit Finnish schools in the hope of discovering the magic ingredient. Journalists come too, and now it’s my turn.

    And since I'm coming this far north, I want to take in Sweden too. That social-democratic paradise has carried out school reforms that make free-market ideologues the world over weak at the knees. In the 1990s it opened its state-education system to private competition, allowing new schools to receive the same amount for each pupil as the state would have spent on that child.

    Sweden is my first stop. My week starts with post-breakfast coffee with Widar Andersson, an ex-chairman of Sweden’s Independent Schools Association. When the independent schools reforms were first mooted in 1991, he was a member of parliament for the Social Democrats, in one of their rare spells in opposition. “I think I was the only Social Democrat in favour of the reforms,” he tells me.

    In 1994, when they came into force, he and two state-school teachers opened one of the very first independent schools. It was not the first time he took on the state: years earlier he and a few other social workers had set up a private company trying innovative ways to treat drug addicts. “I learned there must be other ways to do things than those the state has decided are right, especially in a country like Sweden where the state is so large,” he says.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:35 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Changing Perceptions of Private Religious Schools: Public Money and Public Trust in the Education of Children

    William Bassett:

    Private religious schools were originally intended to provide a sound secular education to children in their formative years, together with religious instruction and the experience of the life and culture of their faiths. In recent decades, however, as ongoing social and economic challenges have led to the deterioration of the public school system, private schools have been looked to as possible alternatives for educating public school children through such programs as tax-funded school vouchers.

    But can these institutions be trusted to provide quality education without bias? In the last half century, Supreme Court opinions discussing public education and the Establishment clause have reflected a general distrust of parochial school systems. Public perception of religious schools has also changed little. The author argues, however, that private religious schools - in particular Catholic schools - have evolved to become more professional, more ecumenical, and more financially transparent, and thus are well positioned to offer viable alternatives to provide quality educational opportunities to public school children. But in order for these programs, such as school vouchers, to succeed, the public must be assured that religious schools will not divert taxpayer dollars into self-interested sectarian purposes.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Put a Little Science in Your Life

    Brian Greene:

    A COUPLE of years ago I received a letter from an American soldier in Iraq. The letter began by saying that, as we’ve all become painfully aware, serving on the front lines is physically exhausting and emotionally debilitating. But the reason for his writing was to tell me that in that hostile and lonely environment, a book I’d written had become a kind of lifeline. As the book is about science — one that traces physicists’ search for nature’s deepest laws — the soldier’s letter might strike you as, well, odd.

    Brian Greene:

    A COUPLE of years ago I received a letter from an American soldier in Iraq. The letter began by saying that, as we’ve all become painfully aware, serving on the front lines is physically exhausting and emotionally debilitating. But the reason for his writing was to tell me that in that hostile and lonely environment, a book I’d written had become a kind of lifeline. As the book is about science — one that traces physicists’ search for nature’s deepest laws — the soldier’s letter might strike you as, well, odd.

    But it’s not. Rather, it speaks to the powerful role science can play in giving life context and meaning. At the same time, the soldier’s letter emphasized something I’ve increasingly come to believe: our educational system fails to teach science in a way that allows students to integrate it into their lives.

    Allow me a moment to explain.

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

    June 2, 2008

    Find Answer to Achievement Gap

    Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

    Test scores released last week clearly show one of the primary tasks confronting Madison School District 's incoming superintendent, Daniel Nerad:

    The district should find more effective ways to educate its rapidly growing populations of foreign-speaking students and lower-income students.

    Students from immigrant families and students from lower-income families continue to score low on the annual tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

    That 's the chief reason the Madison district fell below the state average in 22 of 23 scores.

    Many notes and links on the latest Wisconsin scores here.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:42 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Two Finalists for Waukesha Superintendent

    Amy Hetzner:

    The finalists - Cudahy Superintendent James Heiden and Oshkosh Deputy Superintendent for Business Services Todd Gray - will each spend a full day this week touring the district and speaking with staff and community members. The board could make its choice on a replacement for Superintendent David Schmidt by the end of the week, School Board President Daniel Warren said.

    Schmidt, who has been with the Waukesha School District since the 1998-'99 school year, is scheduled to retire at the end of June.

    The district received applications from nearly 20 candidates for the job. Consultants from Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates winnowed those down to six semi-finalists, who were interviewed by board members over three nights last week.

    The board deliberated until about 12:45 a.m. Friday before deciding on their final candidates, Warren said.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Special Japanese school established for Harvard wannabes

    The Yomiuri Shimbun:

    Benesse Corp., the nation's largest correspondence study company, launched Friday a preparatory school in Tokyo for high school students aiming to get into Harvard University in the United States.

    The move came in response to an increasing demand from high school students keen to attend prestigious overseas colleges.

    The preparatory school, named Route H, offers a course on the SAT Reasoning Test--a standardized college admission test in the United States--and includes lessons on how to write a statement of purpose and an essay in English, as well as how to make a good impression during an interview. All the lessons are especially tailored for people striving to enter Harvard.

    Harvard University, established in 1936, is known for its excellent research programs. It topped The Times-QS World University Ranking 2007 list, published by The Times Higher Education.

    Due to the small number of applicants from Japan, information on admission procedures for prestigious overseas colleges is scarce, according to a Benesse official. But in recent years, the company has received an increasing number of inquiries regarding admission to top-notch colleges abroad, with 30 schools across the nation making inquiries in the last academic year.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Why Free Markets Have Little to Do with Inequality

    Philip Whyte:

    Many Europeans believe liberal economic reforms are incompatible with social justice. The US and the UK, they point out, have more liberal markets for products and labour than in continental Europe – but also higher levels of poverty and income inequality. European countries therefore face a choice. They can either free their product and labour markets and accept the downsides or they can protect social solidarity by resisting Anglo-American neo-liberalism.

    But the belief that market liberalisation increases social inequalities is not borne out by the evidence. The UK certainly has higher levels of poverty and inequality than France or Germany. But pointing this out is just selective use of evidence to support a predetermined conclusion. If there were a strong correlation between levels of market liberalisation and social outcomes, one would expect to see the pattern replicated across the European Union – not just in a carefully selected group of countries.

    Is such a pattern discernible? No. The nation with the lowest levels of poverty and income inequality in the EU, as well as the lowest rate of long-term unemployment, is Denmark – a country with competitive product markets and some of the least restrictive labour laws. Countries with the worst social outcomes (Greece, Italy and Portugal) all have restrictive product and labour market laws. Liberalisation, it seems, no more threatens social justice than regulation guarantees it.

    So what explains these differences in social outcomes? The answer, one might think, must be differences in spending by governments. Social spending is certainly high in egalitarian countries such as the Nordics. But it is just as high in France, where social inequalities are more marked. Likewise, it is as high in the supposedly heartless UK as it is in the egalitarian Netherlands. Contrary to popular belief, the UK is not governed by a callous minimal state.

    Somewhat related: local discussion on Madison's Equity Task Force.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Georgia Teacher Group Re-Writes Social Studies Standards

    Laura Diamond:

    State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox threw out this year's results, citing a disconnect between test questions, what the state expects students to learn and what teachers taught. About 71 percent of sixth-graders and 76 percent of seventh-graders failed the tests, according to preliminary results.

    Middle schools began using the new social studies curriculum this year. The CRCT exams were based on the more rigorous standards.

    Cox convened the teachers' panel to recommend improvements to the social studies standards, which she said were too vague. Once the revisions are approved, other committees will revise the social studies CRCT for sixth and seventh grades — a lengthy process that takes between one to two years.

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

    Private vs. Public Schools

    The lawn is meticulously manicured, as if the groundskeeper’s tools include a cuticle scissors. Classic brick buildings, a bell tolling the hour and concrete lion statues almost convince me that I’m at an East Coast college. But this is Lakeside School in Northeast Seattle.

    This is where super-achievers went to school – Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Craig McCaw to name a few. Many of Seattle’s affluent families send their kids here for a challenging private education. With an acceptance rate of 24 percent, Lakeside is the most elite private high school in the Northwest. So what am I doing here?

    Just wandering, and wondering if my children would have a better start in life if they went to private schools.

    “As someone who has experienced both public schooling and private schooling, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind: sending your child to a private school is one of the best decisions you can make for him or her,” says Peter Rasmussen, a recent Lakeside alumnus. “In retrospect, if my parents made me pay my tuition all by myself, I would have. That’s how valuable a Lakeside education is.”

    Words from an e-mail conversation with Rasmussen scroll across my brain as I glance around Lakeside: “Absolutely no doubt … one of the best decisions … that’s how valuable.”

    A lot of families are like the Rasmussens. In Seattle, almost one out of four students attends private schools, according to an estimate from Seattle Public Schools. The national average is one in 10.

    I’ve talked with the president of Seattle Preparatory School, the mom of a Holy Names Academy student, researchers at the Center on Education Policy and a local education author. They’ve given me a better understanding of why private education is extraordinary and also what public schools do well. Which is better for my kids? For your kids?

    Related Links:

    Continue reading here.

    Posted by Linda Thomas2 at 8:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Discipline comes first and frequent at boot-camp-style academy

    Dan Benson & Alan Borsuk:

    Keith Shields says he needed tough love.

    He got it, and in big doses.

    Hours of physical training and military drills every day. Orders, sometimes given in nose-to-nose style, for what he was supposed to do every moment. Strict codes of conduct and dress - no cussing, no talking back, most everything done at double time, books carried with your left arm so you can salute with your right at any moment.

    Last fall, when his mother brought him for the first time to Right Step, a military-style boot camp school for high school kids who generally have been failures in every other setting they've been in, Shields, now 16, said to himself, "Can't nobody change me."

    The first day, he says, he mouthed off to a drill sergeant and found himself on his knees, with his arms pinned behind his back.

    It was the start of a happy relationship - a process that, in Shields' description, turned him from being a street tough who had been into every form of wrongdoing into something he is proud to call himself: a cadet

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:52 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    School Shopping, Part IV

    Jan Eyer:

    I think we've decided where Belle is going to kindergarten. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, she'll be attending our neighborhood school in the fall.

    When I last wrote on this subject, we were really torn between the two options, the neighborhood school and the public "Open" school. Since that writing, I did a classroom observation at the Open school, which was required as part of the application process, and liked what I saw overall. I did wish that they hadn't put me in a student teacher classroom, but I suppose that's a reality that is good to observe, too.

    We went ahead with being entered in the lottery, and we drew number 45. The lottery was in the end of March, and as of now they are at number 38 on the list. Historically, people who draw numbers in the 40s usually get in, but it can be as late as July or August. So all through April and May, Kevin and I put off discussing the issue because we figured we'd hash it out if/when we got in and there was a decision to make. (Of course, that didn't stop me from getting opinions on both schools from anyone and everyone I could.) We told Belle that there were two schools we were considering for her, and she was OK with it being up in the air.

    Eyer recently wrote about the Ann Arbor School District's use of "Everyday Math".

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:23 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    An Interview with a Detroit High School Principal

    Esther Allweiss Ingber:

    Mumford High principal Linda Spight, recently selected for a MetLife Foundation Ambassadors in Education Award, oversees her school's engagement with the surrounding Wyoming-7 Mile neighborhood.

    She and winning public school principals in 25 cities will each receive a $5,000 grant toward a joint project with community partners.

    "The MetLife award acknowledges the importance of having a good relationship with a community and working collaboratively," said Spight, 59, of Detroit, leader of Mumford's 2,100 students. "Things should improve when you're on the same page."

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

    Back to school for cities: Solutions to urban problems begin with improving schools

    Detroit Free Press:

    Big city school boards and superintendents have generally failed to provide the accountability and leadership needed to educate the many disadvantaged children they serve. Mayors and the federal government must take stronger roles in improving urban schools.

    In an increasingly global and knowledge-based economy, nothing is more important to the future of cities and to the nation as a whole than education.

    America's beleaguered cities cannot rebound without good public schools, now plagued by lack of money, unresponsive bureaucracies, declining enrollments, high dropout and poverty rates, and low academic standards. State and federal contributions to school budgets have not made up for huge inequities in local support.

    At their best, public schools give the most disadvantaged children a chance to succeed, but rarely the clear path that children find in affluent districts. More than 50 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case declared segregation unconstitutional, the nation's schools remain practically as unequal as ever -- and in places such as metro Detroit, nearly as segregated as they were in 1950.

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

    June 1, 2008

    Madison schools to end agriculture program

    Andy Hall:

    When students return to classes in the fall, it'll mark the first time in six decades the Madison School District hasn't offered a program in agricultural education.

    And that leaves Mary Klecker, who is retiring after three decades of leading the program, feeling angry.

    "As I retire, I feel a strong sense of betrayal by this School District," Klecker wrote in a letter last week to members of the School Board and top state officials.

    "It will be a sad end to a wonderful program that provides our students learning and career opportunities for a lifetime."

    Fifty-three students are enrolled in agricultural education courses this year at East High School.

    The program, which has included courses in introduction to agriculture, animal science, conservation and environmental science, leadership skills with the FFA, and horticulture, attracted more than 200 students at three high schools during its heyday in the mid-1990s.

    In her letter and an interview, Klecker railed against district leaders, whom she said "lack a grasp of our state's agricultural heritage" and the importance of agribusiness and "are totally clueless" about related, outstanding programs at Madison Area Technical College and UW-Madison.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:07 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    It’s time to open the doors to out-of-state school models

    Former Providence School Board Member Julie Steiny:

    Across the nation, charter laws have spawned certain schools that are so successful they’re being replicated in other towns and states.

    Nonprofit providers of these nationally acclaimed schools have been wooed and welcomed into communities hungry for better, more-effective options. The best of these models can prove their strategies’ merits with lots of encouraging data, testimonies from happy parents and impressive stories about their successful students.

    These networks include the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), Achievement First and the Green Dot Schools, among others. Pop down to New Haven, Conn., to see the thing of beauty that is the Amistad Academy run by Achievement First. Or drive up to Lynn, Mass., to take in a KIPP.

    Can Rhode Island benefit from these proven successes? In a word, no.

    Our laws fiercely protect Rhode Island’s educational status quo, as though it were a real treasure like Narragansett Bay or our historical architecture. The protectionist laws make it impossible for outside providers to do business in the state. (One could argue that the state laws make it impossible even for local schools to do business effectively. Certain Rhode Island charter schools are now being crushed by our protectionist culture.)

    Take as only one example Rhode Island’s General Law 16-13-6 which cements teacher tenure, seniority and “bumping” into place, leaving Rhode Island administrators little if any control over the quality of their staff. No school providers from saner states can possibly assure us that they can be successful here if they can’t retain the stability of their staff and let ineffective teachers go, when necessary. Longtime Rhode Island residents have been drinking the protectionist Kool-Aid for so long they forget what effective school governance might look like.


    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:29 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    More colleges move toward optional SATs

    Elizabeth Landau:

    • Smith College and Wake Forest University no longer require the SAT for admissions
    • Nearly 760 institutions have made a step in this direction, advocacy group says
    • Schools say SAT is biased against students who can't afford preparation
    • The College Board, which owns the SAT, says test is a good predictor of success
    Joanne has more.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:42 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Fifteen years into education reform, we are still failing to fix the most troubled schools. Now there's no excuse.

    Michael Jonas:

    SCHOOL LEADERS IN Holyoke are no strangers to finger-wagging state reports on student achievement at the Lynch Middle School. It was eight years ago this month that the state education department first declared the Holyoke school, which has a student-poverty rate of 84 percent, "underperforming." In the years since then, state officials have paid visit after visit to Holyoke, documenting shortcomings in written reports and recording the steps the school was taking to try to address them.

    The Lynch was one of the first schools in Massachusetts to earn that unenviable distinction, which is part of the accountability system established by the landmark education reform bill passed in 1993. And today it is still among the 114 schools in the state - nearly all of them serving high-poverty populations - that are officially "underperforming." Of all the schools that have made this list, only nine have been able to climb off of it. Lynch, and many other schools, land on the list and tend to stay there.

    Fifteen years into education reform, a growing number of critics charge that the effort has hit a wall. With MCAS, the sometimes controversial achievement test, the state has become quite good at identifying schools where performance is lagging. But it has failed at the crucial next step: fixing the schools.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:37 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Union Negotiations Go Online

    American Airlines and its unions are actively using the web to publish their positions. Check out the Association of Professional Flight Attendants Website. Related: Concessions before negotiations and an alternate view.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:03 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The resegregation of Seattle's schools

    Linda Shaw:

    Nearly three decades after Seattle Public Schools integrated almost all its schools through busing, that racial balance is long gone.

    Leschi Elementary, about evenly divided between white and minority students in 1980, has a nearly all-minority population once again. The same is true for Brighton Elementary, Dunlap Elementary, Van Asselt Elementary — and all but two of the 26 schools that, the year before busing started, were considered racially imbalanced. Today, a total of 30 schools — close to a third of the district's buildings — have nonwhite populations that far exceed the district's average of 58 percent. In 20 of them, nonwhite enrollment is 90 percent or more.

    Seattle schools don't look exactly like they did before districtwide busing began in 1978. There are fewer nearly all-white schools. Minority students are not as concentrated as they once were in the central part of the city.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:34 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Another Look at High School Performance Assessments

    Bill Tucker:

    Just returned from Providence where I spent two days learning about Rhode Island's diploma system, which includes a number of performance-based assessment requirements. Today at Portsmouth High School I saw students present their senior projects to groups of teachers, classmates, and outside community judges. Beginning this year, to graduate, all 200+ seniors at Portsmouth are required to complete a year-long senior project, consisting of the "4Ps" -- a research paper, a tangible product, a process portfolio, and today's oral presentation. Students select their projects, submit a letter of intent, and work closely with a school or community mentor. And, the projects really are diverse. The first student I saw today presented the stage set she'd designed for the school production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Another student's project consisted of running a marathon and fundraising to support leukemia research.

    The students were, of course, outstanding. But, what surprised me most were my conversations with the principal, teachers, and state officials about the cultural changes that were emerging from the senior project requirement. Roy Seitsinger, Director of RI High School Redesign, was emphatic that this work was "about transformative cultural change."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Perfect school attendance earns teen a brand-new car


    Andria Baker has pretty much always been present.

    From the first day of kindergarten through her last day of high school, Baker somehow made it to school for every day of classes, despite colds and sports injuries. Why? If she kept it up, her father promised her a car.

    Baker kept up her end of the bargain, willing herself to go to school on those days when she felt under the weather. She notched her 13th year of uninterrupted classroom attendance with her final day at Constantine High School on Friday.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:23 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Zeum: An Arts & Technology Museum for Kids & Families

    Zeum is a non-profit multimedia arts and technology museum with a mission to foster creativity and innovation in young people of all backgrounds, communities and learning styles. By providing hands-on experiences in four core creative processes (animation, sound and video production, live performance and visual arts), we encourage youth to share their stories, build their voices, and use multimedia tools for creative self-expression.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas