When Deborah Gist became commissioner of Rhode Island schools in 2009, she pledged to make every decision in the best interests of children -- something we've heard before and rarely seen happen. Then she started doing it.
At first, no one outside Rhode Island noticed. Gist, 43, announced that staffing decisions would be based on teacher qualifications, not seniority. She also launched a new evaluation system in which teachers get annual reviews -- an idea practiced in only 15 other states. When she learned that Rhode Island's teacher-training programs had one of the lowest test-score requirements for entrance, she found out which state set the bar the highest -- then raised Rhode Island's one point above it.
The Madison School Board on Monday could discuss reopening the district's 2009-11 teacher contract to institute a salary freeze estimated to save about $3.5 million.
And some board members who said they oppose renegotiating the current contract said they are open to the idea of asking for a pay freeze for teachers when bargaining begins again next year for the 2011-13 school years.
"I think it's a small chance of it happening, but I definitely would support re-opening it," said newly elected board member James Howard, referring to the current two-year contract that the district and Madison Teachers Inc. settled last October after months of talks. "I think teachers and everyone else have to play their part in this."
For 400 years, higher education in the US has been on a roll. From Harvard asking Galileo to be a guest professor in the 1600s to millions tuning in to watch a team of unpaid athletes play another team of unpaid athletes in some college sporting event, the amount of time and money and prestige in the college world has been climbing.
I'm afraid that's about to crash and burn. Here's how I'm looking at it.
1. Most colleges are organized to give an average education to average students.
Pick up any college brochure or catalog. Delete the brand names and the map. Can you tell which school it is? While there are outliers (like St. Johns, Deep Springs or Full Sail) most schools aren't really outliers. They are mass marketers.
Stop for a second and consider the impact of that choice. By emphasizing mass and sameness and rankings, colleges have changed their mission.
This works great in an industrial economy where we can't churn out standardized students fast enough and where the demand is huge because the premium earned by a college grad dwarfs the cost. But...
Bill Gross is used to buying bonds in multibillion-dollar batches. But when it comes to U.S. Treasury bills, he's getting nervous. Gross, a founder of the investment giant Pimco, is so concerned about America's national debt that he has started unloading some of his holdings of U.S. government bonds in favor of bonds from such countries as Germany, Canada and France.
Gross is a bottom-line kind of guy; he doesn't seem to care if the debt is the fault of Republicans or Democrats, the Bush tax cuts or the Obama stimulus. He's simply worried that Washington's habit of spending today the money it hopes to collect tomorrow is getting worse and worse. It even has elements of a Ponzi scheme, Gross told me.
"In order to pay the interest and the bill when it comes due, we'll simply have to issue more IOUs. That, to me, is Ponzi-like," Gross said. "It's a game that can never be finished."
New research shows that rather than being totally devoted to one goal at a time, the human brain can distribute two goals to different hemispheres to keep them both in mind--if it perceives a worthy reward for doing so
The human brain is considered to be pretty quick, but it lacks many of qualities of a super-efficient computer. For instance, we have trouble switching between tasks and cannot seem to actually do more than one thing at a time. So despite the increasing options--and demands--to multitask, our brains seem to have trouble keeping tabs on many activities at once.
A new study, however, illustrates how the brain can simultaneously keep track of two separate goals, even while it is busy performing a task related to one of the aims, hinting that the mind might be better at multitasking than previously thought.
"This is the first time we observe in the brain concurrent representations of distinct rewards," Etienne Koechlin, director of the cognitive neuroscience laboratory at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) in Paris and coauthor of the new study, wrote in an email to ScientificAmerican.com.
Barack Obama is more irritating than the other nuisances on the left. Nancy Pelosi needs a session on the ducking stool, of course. But everyone with an ugly divorce has had a Nancy. She's vexatious and expensive to get rid of, but it's not like we give a damn about her. Harry Reid is going house-to-house selling nothing anybody wants. Slam the door on him and the neighbor's Rottweiler will do the rest. And Barney Frank is self-punishing. Imagine being trapped inside Barney Frank.
The secret to the Obama annoyance is snotty lecturing. His tone of voice sends us back to the worst place in college. We sit once more packed into the vast, dreary confines of a freshman survey course-"Rocks for Jocks," "Nuts and Sluts," "Darkness at Noon." At the lectern is a twerp of a grad student-the prototypical A student-insecure, overbearing, full of himself and contempt for his students. All we want is an easy three credits to fulfill a curriculum requirement in science, social science, or fine arts. We've got a mimeographed copy of last year's final with multiple choice answers already written on our wrists. The grad student could skip his classes, the way we intend to, but there the s.o.b. is, taking attendance. (How else to explain this year's census?)
I have to at least give credit the WSJ for continuing to keep education front and center of their Sunday opinion section. This last Sunday, under the headline "Protect kids from cuts" the WSJ takes on the issue of closing the remaining Madison SD budget gap and editorializes for a pay freeze for teaching staff. Although the current budget situation probably makes reducing compensation for staff in one way or another inevitable, I don't think that devaluing the teaching profession can be construed as "Protecting kids". After all, the number one factor in educational outcomes is the placement of a highly qualified teacher in front of each class.I don't think that 1% annual raises have been "standard since 1993". I would certainly like to see a substantive change in teacher compensation, replacing the current one size fits all approach.
Attracting quality teachers means we have to be sure it is rewarding profession, so balancing the budget through reductions in teacher compensation is in the long term unsustainable. If the current situation was a one or two year problem then a freeze might serve as a bridge to recovery, and although I don't know the Madison situation I'm pretty sure their problems are similar to ours: shortfalls that extend year after year for the foreseeable future. The article notes that the Madison teachers receive the "standard" 1% raise this year. This year that seems inappropriate, but the fact that the same 1% is the "standard" every year since 1993 is also a problem.
Here is an excerpt from the article in this morning's State Journal that deserves comment: Matthews said it was worth looking at whether layoffs can be avoided, but he was less optimistic about finding ways to achieve that.
He said MTI's policy is that members have to have decent wages, even if it means some jobs are lost.
The last teachers contract provided a 1 percent increase in wage scales for each of the past two years. This year's salary and benefits increase, including raises for seniority or advanced degrees, was projected at 4.9 percent, or $8.48 million. Teachers' salaries range from $29,324 to $74,380.
"The young teachers are really hurting," Matthews said, adding that the district is having difficulty attracting teachers because of its starting pay.
Mr. Matthews states that young teachers are really hurting. I assume by "young" he means "recently-hired." On a state-wide basis, the starting salary for Madison's teachers ranks lower, relatively speaking, than its salaries for more experienced teachers. Compared to other teacher pay scales in the state, Madison's scale seems weighted relatively more toward the more-experienced teachers and less toward starting teachers. This has to be a consequence of the union's bargaining strategy - the union must have bargained over the years for more money at the top and less at the bottom, again relatively speaking. The union is entitled to follow whatever strategy it wants, but it is disingenuous for Mr. Matthews to justify an apparent reluctance to consider different bargaining approaches on the basis of their possible impact on "young teachers."
According to the article, Mr. Matthews also stated that "the district is having trouble attracting teachers because of its starting pay." Can this possibly be true? Here's an excerpt from Jason Shepard's top-notch article in Isthmus last week, "Even with a UW degree, landing a job in Madison isn't easy. For every hire made by the Madison district, five applicants are rejected. June Glennon, the district's employment manager, says more than 1,200 people have applied for teaching jobs next year."
At $2,000 to $3,000 to replace a single toilet, and the same to repair a leaky faucet, it's no surprise some Madison School Board members are suffering sticker shock when it comes to a new facility report on short- and long-term maintenance needs for Madison's public schools.Related: Madison School Board member may seek audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent.
In fact, Lucy Mathiak, board vice president, wonders if the numbers can even be trusted. "It makes me feel like I'm channeling Bill Proxmire when he challenged the costs on Pentagon toilets," she says, referring to the late U.S. senator from Wisconsin. "Frankly, getting this information cost us a lot of money and, to say the least, I'm underwhelmed with the product."
The estimates, though, might not be entirely out of whack with commercial repairs.
While swapping out an old toilet or sink at home could cost $500 or less, such a repair in an institutional or industrial setting might run upward of a couple thousand dollars, particularly if there were hazardous materials involved, or extensive tile or plumbing rework, experts say.
For years there has been broad disparity among the four MMSD high schools in the number of honors, advanced/accelerated, and AP courses each one offers. In contrast to East and LaFollette, for instance, West requires all students, regardless of learning level or demonstrated competence, to take standard academic core courses in 9th and 10th grade. There has also been wide discrepancy in the requirements and restrictions each school imposes on students who seek to participate in existing advanced course options.Related: English 10 and Dane County AP Course Comparison.
Parents of children at West have long called on administrators to address this inequity by increasing opportunities for advanced, accelerated instruction. Last year Superintendent Dan Nerad affirmed the goal of bringing consistency to the opportunities offered to students across the District. Accordingly, the Talented and Gifted Education Plan includes five Action Steps specifically geared toward bringing consistency and increasing student participation in advanced courses across MMSD high schools. This effort was supposed to inform the MMSD master course list for the 2010/11 school year. Though District administrators say they have begun internal conversations about this disparity, next year's course offerings again remain the same.
Please consider what levels of English, science, and social studies each MMSD high school offers its respective 9th and 10th graders for the 2010-11 school year, and what measures each school uses to determine students' eligibility for advanced or honors level courses.
I appreciate Lorie's (and others) efforts to compile and share this information.
Update: 104K PDF revised comparison.
Lori Whisenant knows that one way to improve the writing skills of undergraduates is to make them write more. But as each student in her course in business law and ethics at the University of Houston began to crank out--often awkwardly--nearly 5,000 words a semester, it became clear to her that what would really help them was consistent, detailed feedback.
Her seven teaching assistants, some of whom did not have much experience, couldn't deliver. Their workload was staggering: About 1,000 juniors and seniors enroll in the course each year. "Our graders were great," she says, "but they were not experts in providing feedback."
That shortcoming led Ms. Whisenant, director of business law and ethics studies at Houston, to a novel solution last fall. She outsourced assignment grading to a company whose employees are mostly in Asia.
Virtual-TA, a service of a company called EduMetry Inc., took over. The goal of the service is to relieve professors and teaching assistants of a traditional and sometimes tiresome task--and even, the company says, to do it better than TA's can.
In the past few months, the perennial controversy over psychiatric drug use has been growing considerably more heated. A January study showed a negligible difference between antidepressants and placebos in treating all but the severest cases of depression. The study became the subject of a Newsweek cover story, and the value of psychiatric drugs has recently been debated in the pages of the New Yorker, the New York Times and Salon. Many doctors and patients fiercely defend psychiatric drugs and their ability to improve lives. But others claim their popularity is a warning sign of a dangerously over-medicated culture.
The timing of Robert Whitaker's "Anatomy of an Epidemic," a comprehensive and highly readable history of psychiatry in the United States, couldn't be better. An acclaimed mental health journalist and winner of a George Polk Award for his reporting on the psychiatric field, Whitaker draws on 50 years of literature and in-person interviews with patients to answer a simple question: If "wonder drugs" like Prozac are really helping people, why has the number of Americans on government disability due to mental illness skyrocketed from 1.25 million in 1987 to over 4 million today?
"Anatomy of an Epidemic" is the first book to investigate the long-term outcomes of patients treated with psychiatric drugs, and Whitaker finds that, overall, the drugs may be doing more harm than good. Adhering to studies published in prominent medical journals, he argues that, over time, patients with schizophrenia do better off medication than on it. Children who take stimulants for ADHD, he writes, are more likely to suffer from mania and bipolar disorder than those who go unmedicated. Intended to challenge the conventional wisdom about psychiatric drugs, "Anatomy" is sure to provoke a hot-tempered response, especially from those inside the psychiatric community
Teachers union officials strongly opposed recommendations made to the Los Angeles school board Tuesday that call for using student test score data to evaluate instructors.
The suggestions came from a task force comprising Los Angeles Unified School District administrators, principals, teachers and union leaders that was created shortly before The Times published a series of articles last May examining the difficulties in firing and evaluating teachers.
The task force made several proposals, including giving more money to high-performing teachers willing to work in hard-to-staff schools, waiting up to four years before granting tenure to teachers and requiring principals and local superintendents to vouch for an instructor before they receive tenure, and revamping the evaluation process to include student test scores and parent and teacher feedback.
This Fordham Institute study finds that the typical charter school in America today lacks the autonomy it needs to succeed, once state, authorizer, and other impositions are considered. Though the average state earns an encouraging B+ for the freedom its charter law confers upon schools, individual state grades in this sphere range from A to F. Authorizer contracts add another layer of restrictions that, on average, drop schools' autonomy grade to B-. (Federal policy and other state and local statutes likely push it down further.) School districts are particularly restrictive authorizers. The study was conducted by Public Impact.
A minor bill aimed at improving Milwaukee's failing schools barely passed the Legislature last week during the final day of session.
It was a weak and fallback response to the terrible problem of countless Milwaukee children falling behind their peers in reading and math and failing to earn diplomas.
What the Legislature should have done is give Milwaukee's mayor the power to appoint the urban district's school chief. That could have prompted swift, bold change with clear accountability for results.
Gov. Jim Doyle had championed mayoral appointment as the best way to shake up Milwaukee's failing schools and save more children from academic ruin.
Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp. and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attended math class at Foothill College April 20.
The software pioneer visited the Los Altos Hills campus to do some homework on Foothill's Math My Way program, designed to help students grasp basic math concepts, outperform their peers and advance faster to college-level math classes.
Nineteen Math My Way students were told in advance that a special guest wanted to observe instructors Nicole Gray of Sunnyvale, Rachel Mudge of Mountain View and Kathy Perino of Campbell, to gain a better understanding of how they teach developmental math. Students were surprised when Gates and members of his foundation walked into the classroom, but quickly got to work on the math problems at hand. Later, the students had an opportunity to talk with Gates about how the methods used in the class are making a difference for them.
Gates and his team are reviewing models and best practices in developmental mathematics education. They heard about Math My Way during a meeting at the Gates Foundation offices in Seattle with Foothill-De Anza Chancellor Linda Thor, who was invited to discuss her experiences with online learning programs.
Oregon has signed a deal with Google that enables any school district to provide Google Apps for Education [faq] for free to its students and teachers. This includes Google Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Sites and Pages, Talk, Video, Groups, Docs, and Postini email management. Google Apps for Ed lets the school district use its own domain names rather than Google.com.
Google Apps for Ed is alwaysfree to schools, so the effect of this contract will depend on whether these are simply services students can use, or if students are actually expected to do their work with Google Docs et al. If the latter, this would be a step toward establishing Google (and its cloudy ways) as the educational default, the way Apple's educational program inserted Macishness into the brains of our young. One Google Account Per Child!
It will be interesting also, of course, if it decreases the purchase of other software; Google says it will save Oregon $1.5M, but doesn't say how)
A couple weeks ago Scott Walker proudly released Milwaukee County's budget numbers, which showed the county with a surplus, after a deficit had been projected at the beginning of the year.
Not to be beaten (unless there's a metal pipe around) Tom Barrett released the city of Milwaukee's numbers today:
Student performance would be the biggest factor in teacher evaluations under draft regulations proposed Tuesday by the Maryland Board of Education.
The new regulations could set the stage for a conflict between education officials and the state's teachers unions.
All of the state's public schools would be required to make student progress, as measured by standardized tests and other means, account for at least 50 percent of teacher and principal evaluations by 2012. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have pressed educators to give student performance more weight in teacher evaluations.
Maryland education officials have said the 50 percent figure is important in showing the state's commitment to Obama's education priorities, which could help it qualify for as much as $250 million in federal aid through the Race to the Top competition.
Madison School Board members used a secret straw poll, conducted via e-mail, to guide their deliberations over how to close a nearly $30 million budget hole for next year.
The move has raised questions about whether the board violated the state open meetings law by coming to agreement on decisions before taking a public vote.
"In my opinion it violates the spirit of the open-meeting procedures, if not the exact letter," said Peter Fox, executive director of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.
But board president Arlene Silveira defended the process, saying the board sought to make its handling of the 2010-11 budget as transparent as possible. With more than 200 potential budget cuts proposed by district administrators, the board needed a way to streamline the process of reviewing the cuts, she said.
But there's another line Christie likes to use to describe the fiscal situation he inherited: "The day of reckoning is here." It's difficult to argue his point. While nearly all states are in deep fiscal trouble, New Jersey is in deeper than most. Its deficit amounts to 37 percent of the entire state budget. Christie has responded by proposing to slash billions of dollars in state spending on everything from aid to municipalities to the normally sacrosanct K-12 education system. More than 1,300 state government positions would be eliminated.It is difficult to see growth in redistributed state and federal tax dollars for K-12 organizations over the next few years.
The governor's proposal -- and his unapologetic defense of it -- have made him a villain to mayors, teachers, superintendents and other public employees. But Christie, perhaps more than any other governor these days, has captured the imagination of conservatives who admire his eagerness to take on powerful public employee unions. Many Republicans believe that Christie's tough stance on spending is hitting exactly the right political note in a major election year marked by anti-government anger and Tea Party activism.
Indeed, with the governorships of 37 states up for grabs in November -- and state finances not expected to improve much anytime soon -- Christie's budget-cutting quest and all the hot rhetoric both for and against it may amount to much more than political theater. It may be a preview of how some new Republican governors will lead in states they win this year. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Tom Corbett, the front-runner to become the GOP's candidate for governor, says he's been paying close attention to what's going on in the state next door. Chris Christie, he told Stateline in an interview, "has made a very good example."
State of Wisconsin K-12 redistributed tax dollars have grown substantially over the past 25+ years, as this chart illustrates.
Redistributed state tax dollars are generated from personal & corporate income taxes and fees.
I watched him campaign last year. His message was simple: he vowed to cut spending and red tape. He also stressed that he was not Jon Corzine, the unpopular Democratic governor. Mr Corzine, for his part, emphasised that Mr Christie was a) a Republican and b) fat. The first argument alone would usually be enough to win an election in New Jersey. But last year was a bad time to be a) an incumbent or b) a former boss of Goldman Sachs, and Gov. Corzine was both.
I wondered at the time if Mr Christie meant what he said about doing painful things to rescue New Jersey from its deep pit of debt. It seems that he did. In no time at all, he plugged a short-term budget gap by slashing spending. He has also set his sights on the outlandish benefits enjoyed by some public-sector workers, citing as an example a 49 year old retiree who paid $124,000 towards his retirement benefits and expects to get back $3.8m.
He proposed to balance the budget for fiscal 2011 by cutting a third from projected outlays. He suggested that teachers' pay be frozen, rather than raised by 4-5%, and that they contribute a small amount (1.5% of salary) towards their health benefits.
Co-education is bad enough, with its ability to make it very hard indeed to pay attention to what the teacher/professor is saying, but a recent piece by two medical school professors brings me to write about the follies of those who defend the attractions of digital learning and multi-tasking.
These professors say that their students have indicated to them that they (the professors) are digital immigrants, while the students themselves are digital natives, used to attending to multiple sources of information at once. Students did not indicate whether in these multiple digital processes they felt they were engaging several or all of their multiple intelligences at the same time or not, but their main argument was that the professors, if they hoped to teach the digital natives what they needed to know about medicine, needed to "get with it, Daddy-O" in the vernacular of another generation of teens who believed they belonged to a different (better, smarter, cooler) future than their (old) teachers.
The professors (this was an article in a medical journal, and I don't have the citation) came to believe that indeed they were employing old-fashioned methods like reading, speaking, and writing, to bring medical knowledge to their students, and they expressed an awakening to their need to learn about this new digital culture of multi-tasking and so on.
In my own view, it is instead the students who are, in fact, the immigrants to the study of medicine and they would be wise to attempt some humility in the face of their own plentiful ignorance of the field, instead of trying to influence their teachers to provide them with more stimulation and better entertainment.
The first example of harmful multi-tasking that comes to my mind is the elevated accident rate of those drivers who think they can manage traffic and chat (or text!) on their cell phones at the same time. They can't, and the accident numbers for those who try to manage those two tasks at the same time demonstrate that the net result is a minus not a plus.
The Kaiser Foundation, in a ten-year study of the use of electronic entertainment media by young people, found that on average they spend more than six hours a day with instant messaging, facebooking, twittering, music, chat, video games, and other forms of digital distraction, adding up to more than 48 hours a week. Young people believe they can do several of these activities at once, but the chances are that their competence in each task suffers with the addition of one more new task attempted at the same time.
According to the American College Testing program, more than half of high school students report spending three to four hours a week on homework, and it is not unlikely that the quality of even this small amount of homework is diminished by students multi-tasking with entertainment media while they do it.
These distractions do not all occur at home, or while driving, of course. Laura Mortkowitz reports in The Washington Post [April 25, 2010} that "The trend of laptop-banning seems strongest at law schools," although a number of college professors have banned them from their classes as well.
Laptops were originally thought to provide an opportunity for students to take better notes and to absorb the learning their professors were offering even more profoundly, but as it has turned out, for far too many students, the laptop has opened a window on pure distraction, allowing the student to wander off into the Web, and multitask their social life, completely missing the content of their college courses in the process.
I don't know how many high school history teachers have been seduced into having their students prepare PowerPoint© presentations instead of reading books and writing papers, but the computer/software industries, in collaboration with trendy students, have put a lot of pressure on school systems all over the country, and succeeded in causing them to spend many many billions of dollars on equipment to allow them to enter the new new worlds of multi-tasking and digital learning.
It seems likely to me that if, as they report, 47% of the freshmen in California's state college system have to take remedial English classes, there is a chance that the students may have multi-tasked and digitally-enhanced their way to a very expensive and time-wasting state of aliteracy.
Let us make an effort to resist the persuasive billions spent by Disney and Microsoft et al to lure us and our students away from the basic tasks of reading books (especially history books), writing serious research papers, and paying attention to their teachers. Change can be charming, and technology is lots of fun, but learning is now, and always has been, hard work, and we pretend we and they can slide by without that at our students' peril.
"Teach by Example"
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Consortium for Varsity Academics® 
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.Much more on Powerpoint & schools here.
"When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war," General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter.
The slide has since bounced around the Internet as an example of a military tool that has spun out of control. Like an insurgency, PowerPoint has crept into the daily lives of military commanders and reached the level of near obsession. The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"PowerPoint makes us stupid," Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.
About 600 people attended Monday's rescheduled Grand Rapids Board of Education meeting, with nearly 50 registering days in advance to question the board about proposed changes, including a controversial shift to online instruction at the city's high schools.Frequently asked questions about Grand Rapids proposed High School Curriculum changes.
But Wes Viersen said he came to answer the board's questions about online classes. The Creston High School senior considers himself an expert in online courses, having completed 14 this year -- a feat he said he could verify with the transcript in his pocket.
"Overall, the quality of E2020 is horrible," Viersen told the board. "I completed courses, but I did not get an adequate education."
Hundreds of Camden City high school seniors are unsure if they'll graduate this year after learning they failed at least part of the state's Alternate High School Assessment, formerly known as the SRA.More from New Jersey Left Behind.
But Camden's seniors aren't alone, as the first round of statewide testing in January resulted in massive failure -- 90 percent of the 4,500 students who took the language arts section and two of every three of the 9,500 students who took the math section, didn't pass -- according to the Education Law Center, an urban school advocacy organization, which obtained the results of the test.
Across New Jersey, 120 school districts had no student pass the language arts section and 40 school districts saw no student pass math, said Education Law Center Director of the Secondary Reform Project Stan Karp.
There's a subtle debate unfolding among financial aid experts and advocates for students about just how much student loan debt is too much. While some recent studies have declared a crisis in student borrowing, citing the growing number of student borrowers and the amounts they owe, the College Board, in a report released Monday, seeks to reframe the discussion by focusing on those deepest in debt.
It's not that the authors of the College Board report, Sandy Baum and Patricia Steele, don't think there's a major problem with student loan debt; they do, and their report, "Who Borrows Most? Bachelor's Degree Recipients With High Levels of Student Debt," offers plenty of troubling data. But in an era where grant money is usually insufficient to meet ever-rising tuition costs, it's not borrowing per se that's the problem, they argue; it's the amount and types of loans that are likeliest to land borrowers in significant financial trouble.
Ace choreographer Saroj Khan, who has made almost all top Bollywood celebrities dance to her moves, is judging a reality show Chak Dhoom Dhoom on Colors which starts April 30.
She talks about her experience of judging the kids and her Broadway musical. Excerpts:
How was your judging experience in the audition rounds?
Superb! The kids are very talented, gifted and considering their age, really scary! All of them wanted to be different from each other and to be the best. Their spirit is admirable. It is very difficult to reject kids and see the sadness they go through, but we had to say 'No' to some. We will ensure that we do not break the hearts of these children.
You are known to be a very strict teacher. Are you going to be strict with the kids?
I am strict with the adults who claim to be good dancers and perform wrong steps and mudras. So I correct them. That is my duty and I will always do that. During Nach Baliye [ Images ] you must have seen how celebrity couples improvised and transformed into good dancers. Correction is very important and I don't care if someone doesn't like that. But with children, we have to very cautious and sensitive.
A new institute dedicated to spreading Chinese language and culture across Washington state was officially launched Monday, a partnership of Seattle Public Schools, the University of Washington and Hanban, a Chinese nonprofit group affiliated with China's Ministry of Education.
Called the Confucius Institute, it will join about 250 similar organizations across the globe, one of a number of Hanban's efforts to capitalize on the growing international interest in China.
Its efforts have been met with suspicion in some communities, most recently in suburban Los Angeles, where some parents expressed concern that a Hanban program might promote the Chinese government's political views.
Washington officials don't share those worries.
"We see nothing but upsides to teaching the languages and cultures of the world," said Stephen Hanson, the UW's vice provost of global affairs.
via a kind reader's email:
Those interested in Freshman Accelerated Biology at Madison West High School may take the screening test Tuesday, May 4th at James C. Wright Middle School from 4-6 pm (room TBA) or Wednesday, May 5th at West High School from 4-6 (room 225).
With Monday's actions, the board still has about $5.6 million to deal with - either through cuts, property tax increases, or a combination of the two - when it meets again next week to finalize the district's preliminary budget for 2010-11. So far, the board has made about $10.6 million in cuts and approved a levy increase of $12.7 million, a tax hike of $141.76 for the owner of a $250,000 Madison home.Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District's Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags "National Average": Administration seeks to continue its use.
In an evening of cost shifting, the board voted to apply $1,437,820 in overestimated health care insurance costs to save 17.8 positions for Reading Recovery teachers, who focus on the district's lowest-performing readers. That measure passed 5-2, with board members Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak voting no. The district is undergoing a review of its reading programs and Cole questioned whether it makes sense to retain Reading Recovery, which she said has a 42 percent success rate.
The Wisconsin State Journal advocates a teacher compensation freeze (annual increase plus the "step" increases).
Vermont will not seek millions of dollars in a federal grant program aimed at improving failing schools, joining a handful of states in dropping out of the "Race to the Top" program despite strapped budgets.
The competitive grant requires states to link teacher pay to student performance and invest in charter schools, which would require policy and legislative changes in Vermont, commissioner Armando Vilaseca said Monday.
After spending hundreds of hours reviewing the application and program, the state will not apply, Vilaseca said.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has vowed to press states to remake the 5,000 or so chronically failing schools that account for about half of the nation's dropouts and usually serve -- or more to the point fail to serve -- the poorest children. A $4 billion school improvement fund is intended to give states the help and the incentive to turn these schools around.
Piecemeal plans that evaporate once the grant money is spent won't do the job. Only comprehensive, districtwide approaches deserve to be financed.
Local administrators -- and the Department of Education in Washington -- should be paying close attention to what is happening in North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system.
American college students are "addicted" to the instant connections and information afforded by social media, a new study suggests.
According to researchers, students describe their feelings when they have to abstain from using media in literally the same terms associated with drug and alcohol addictions: in withdrawal, frantically craving, very anxious, extremely antsy, miserable, jittery, and crazy.
In the study, University of Maryland researchers conclude that most college students are not just unwilling, but functionally unable to be without their media links to the world. However, the study was based upon self-report by students engaging in a set of unnatural and largely unrealistic behaviors.
The clamor over the state's estimated $13 billion budget deficit --and concerns over jobs and spending that prompted the protests -- tends to drown out discussion of an issue that economists identify as perhaps the biggest long-term threat to Illinois's financial health: The state's shortfall of at least $61 billion in pension funding and the lack of any realistic plan to catch up.
In fact, the state's pension troubles are even more dire than the official figures would indicate, according to a review of pension data and other economic studies by the Chicago News Cooperative. Illinois, which sold $3.47 billion in securities so it could make its required contribution to pension funds this year, is laying plans to sell at least $4.6 billion more to meet its obligations for fiscal 2011 -- a move that is likely to jolt financial markets and many investors who thought years would pass before the state tried another sale of notes to cover its pension costs. Taxpayers ultimately will bear the burden as the need to pay for the bonds strains the state budget and threatens spending in other areas.
From Thatcher to Major, and from Blair to Brown, the most heated arguments about education have turned on the question of choice. The election of 2010 is no different, but this time it is hard to concentrate on the debate, because of the distracting background din of the steel being sharpened for the savage years ahead. The row over fees for state nurseries which has now beset the Conservatives is a more instructive guide to what the next few years have in stall than any of the choice agendas we are being asked to choose from.
The Conservatives' Michael Gove has long argued the best way to raise standards in general - and most particularly in deprived places - is to enable disgruntled parents to walk away from failing local authorities and establish schools of their own. Regarded by Mr Gove as a natural extension of Tony Blair's academy programme, the plan is inspired by an 18-year old experiment in Sweden. And, until recently, the most pertinent questions related to the Swedish evidence. Initially positive signs have recently been overshadowed by the nation slipping down the educational league, and growing fears that gains in its free schools may have come at the expense of other institutions. As the scale of the post-election retrenchment becomes clearer, however, the really big question is the one acutely posed yesterday by a top Conservative councillor. Although Kent's leader, Paul Carter, later "clarified" that he supported the party line, his query about where the cash will come from still demands an answer.
A storm is brewing in teacher training in America. It involves a generational change that we education writers don't deal with much, but is more important than No Child Left Behind or the Race to the Top grants or other stuff we devote space to. Our urban public schools have many teachers in their twenties and thirties who are more impatient with low standards and more determined to raise student achievement than previous generations of inner city educators, having seen some good examples. But they don't know what exactly to do.
This new cohort is frustrated with traditional teacher training. They think most education schools are too fond of theory (favorite ed school philosopher John Dewey died in 1952 before many of their parents were born) and too casual about preparing them for the practical challenges of teaching impoverished children.
We recently highlighted Markham middle school, a low performing schools in Los Angeles, in a report on low performing school improvement. Now Markham has become the flashpoint of the debate in California to overhaul teacher seniority policies. Governor Schwarzenegger recently visited Markham to highlight the problems at this school which unfortunately became a victim of seniority staffing policies (See related story). As part of a fresh start restructuring of the school, a non-profit organization established by the Mayor let all of the teachers at Markham go, rehired some of them, but mainly hired new young teachers to staff the school. The goals was to model the school after successful charter schools in the district like Green Dot. Unfortunately the school was still subject to the district's collective bargaining agreement. So when the LA Unified faced a budget problem, it laid off over half of the staff at Markham in the summer of 2009, and has yet to be able to backfill those positions. The school is also part of a lawsuit by the ACLU to stop LAUSD from doing further harm at Markham and school like it.
Earlier this spring, the a task force created by LA's superintendent, Ramon Cortines and chaired by Ted Mitchell, CEO of New Schools and chair of the State Board of Education (and my old boss), developed a set of recommendations to overhaul the district's teacher and administrator policies including evaluation, seniority, tenure, differentiated compensation and career pathways. The report is worth a look. But, part of what this group determined was that there needed to be several changes in state law to allow them to implement the changes proposed.
Head teachers have been urged to back an overhaul of the school curriculum by Education Secretary Mike Russell.
The Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is to be implemented in secondary schools across Scotland in August.
But there have been union threats of disruption over the controversial, planned changes.
The changes, already in place in primary schools, are designed to give teachers more freedom and make lessons less prescriptive.
Mr Russell said: "Head teachers are at the heart of any successful school.
National Teacher Appreciation Week 2010 is May 3 through May 7.
Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3 - 7) and Day (May 4)
It's a perfect time to let your student's teacher(s) know how much you appreciate them and all of their hard work.
To ace the state standardized tests, which begin on Monday, Public School 172 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, finds money for coaches in writing, reading and math. Teachers keep detailed notes on each child, writing down weaknesses and encouraging them to repeat tasks. There is after-school help and Saturday school.
But at the start of this school year, seven or eight students were still falling behind. So the school hired a speech therapist who could analyze why they and other students stumbled in language. A psychologist produced detailed assessments and recommendations. A dental clinic staffed by Lutheran Medical Center opened an office just off the fourth-grade classrooms, diagnosing toothaches, a possible source of distraction, and providing free cleanings.
Perfection may seem a quixotic goal in New York City, where children enter school from every imaginable background and ability level. But on the tests, P.S. 172, also called the Beacon School of Excellence, is coming close -- even though 80 percent of its students are poor enough to qualify for free lunch, nearly a quarter receive special education services, and many among its predominately Hispanic population do not speak English at home.
Some 25 years ago, a quasi-country quartet calling themselves "The Girls Next Door" had a moderate hit with a ditty about how "love will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no love." Which is fine as far as it goes, but doesn't explain why the fool thing has been going through my head for the last week or so.
Then I did some translating. First off, I remembered all the times I was told (also about 25 years ago) that God is love. So, by substitution, the aphorism became "God will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no God." Which seems likely to be true, although I claim no particular expertise in these matters.
And then I remembered a T-shirt I saw a while back -- "I believe in God, but I spell it Nature." (Not sure whether that's a quote or not. Doesn't really matter.) Substituting again, we arrive at "Nature will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no Nature." Which seems like a pretty clear expression of the precautionary principle as applied to climate change.
I've been thinking about Peter Conn's article in the Chronicle about the depressing current and predicted future of academic employment in the humanities. The entire article is worth reading, but I was struck especially by his discussion of the need to communicate the value of the humanities to both the academy and the population at large, and to integrate these disciplines better into the world's business:
Collectively, those of us who profess the humanities must make a sustained effort to explain to our various constituencies--students, parents, legislators, journalists, even our own university trustees (I speak from personal experience of that latter group)--that these disciplines, and the traditions they represent, are not merely ornamental and dispensable. They lie near the heart of mankind's restless efforts to make sense of the world. Debates over war and peace, justice and equity: From the uses of scientific knowledge to the formulation of social policy, the humanities provide a necessary dimension of insight and meaning.
Generally, law school is considered the initial step on the path to a life of public service. Of course it's important to understand the laws of the country you're serving, but I've been having fun imagining what the government would look like with more humanities scholars running things. Here's what I've come up with, and I hope you'll add your thoughts:
In the fall of 1970, I dropped out of the University of Michigan during my senior year with the intention of never re turning. I was a math major and I convinced myself that I would have a better chance being a writer than a mathematician
In the fall of 1970, I dropped out of the University of Michigan during my senior year with the intention of never re turning. I was a math major and I convinced myself that I would have a better chance being a writer than a mathematician. I figured I would work at any job I could get to support myself. The only job I could get was unloading telephone books from a truck into the cars of people who were to deliver them. The job was to last three days--I quit after the first. During that first day, around the time when my arms became like rubber and I could hardly even lift one phone book, I had a flash of insight and decided to return to school and get my degree. Then I would become a writer. In the summer of 1971, I got my degree, and vowed to never again set foot in another math classroom in my life, and told myself that if I ever did I would puke.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has vowed to press states to remake the 5,000 or so chronically failing schools that account for about half of the nation's dropouts and usually serve -- or more to the point fail to serve -- the poorest children. A $4 billion school improvement fund is intended to give states the help and the incentive to turn these schools around.
Piecemeal plans that evaporate once the grant money is spent won't do the job. Only comprehensive, districtwide approaches deserve to be financed.
Local administrators -- and the Department of Education in Washington -- should be paying close attention to what is happening in North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system.
Two years ago, district administrators adopted an innovative staffing system intended to put the best principals in the most troubled schools -- and give them the autonomy they need to succeed. While Charlotte was already one of the highest-performing urban systems in the country, it has made progress since then.
The Obama administration's signature education initiative has incited tense showdowns in states across the country as unions and state officials feud over strategies to compete for $3.4 billion in federal funding.
The skirmishes come as states jockey for cash under the administration's Race to the Top program, which seeks to reward states that are pushing to overhaul their education systems.
Applications for the second round are due by June 1, with winners to be chosen in September. Of the 40 states that submitted applications in the first round, only 16 were picked as finalists.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan ramped up pressure on the unions last month when he cited the advantage of union cooperation in picking just two states--Delaware and Tennessee--as winners in the competition's first round. Those states will share $600 million.
Teachers unions need a hug. After all, they're having a really bad year.
So bad that their members are lashing out - blasting Education Secretary Arne Duncan after he questioned the effectiveness of teachers colleges, criticizing President Barack Obama for his approach to education reform, etc.
In fact, teachers are getting so flustered that they're contradicting themselves. It's acceptable for teachers to distinguish good students from bad students. But it's outrageous for administrators to do the same with teachers. In contract negotiations, teachers like being part of a collective. But when an underperforming Rhode Island school district fired more than 70 educators at once, teachers complained about being judged collectively. When a student succeeds, teachers claim credit for a job well-done. When a student fails, it's the parents who catch the blame for falling down on the job.
ollow the money, if you can.
First, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announces that an extra $34 million is available in the D.C. schools budget for teacher pay raises. Two days later, Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi declares that not only is most of it nonexistent but also that Rhee is running a projected $30 million over budget in her central office operation.
Within hours, Rhee says an unspecified $29 million has been "identified" to fund the raises.
How this happened, why and how it will be resolved still isn't clear. Rhee and Gandhi are saving most of their answers for scheduled testimony before the D.C. Council on Friday. Hanging in the balance is the fate of the District's $140 million tentative agreement with the Washington Teachers' Union, which is contingent on Gandhi's certification that the pact is financially sound.
Madison has never had many black teachers, and now it faces another challenge in providing diverse role models for its students: a wave of black baby boomers nearing retirement.
Nearly 27 percent of the public school district's African-American teachers, social workers, counselors and other front-line classroom professionals are at or over the district's minimum retirement age of 55.
Henry Hawkins, an art teacher at Jefferson Middle School, has no plans to retire soon, but the 66-year-old who began teaching in the late 1960s sees the problem: As he's watched his students become more and more diverse, the diversity among his colleagues has lagged.
"Part of the cycle is for students to be able to identify. It's important in a sense to see oneself," Hawkins said.
This week, Mike and Andy discuss Charlie Crist's veto, Linda Darling-Hammond's charter school, and Race to the Test's quickly narrowing field. Then Amber tells us about a new PEPG study on teacher compensation, and Stafford eats a cold cheese sandwich--and loves it! Click here to listen through our website and peruse past editions. To download the show as an mp3 to your computer, click here.
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2010 Wisconsin Solo & Ensemble Festival. It is a true delight to enjoy the results of student and teacher practice, dedication and perseverance.
I very much appreciate the extra effort provided by some teachers on behalf of our children.
I thought about those teachers today when I received an email from a reader asking why I continue to publish this site. This reader referred to ongoing school bureaucratic intransigence on reading, particularly in light of the poor results (Alan Borsuk raises the specter of a looming Wisconsin "reading war").
I'll respond briefly here.
Many years ago, I had a Vietnam Vet as my high school government teacher. This guy, took what was probably an easy A for many and turned it into a superb, challenging class. He drilled the constitution, Bill of Rights, Federalist Papers and the revolutionary climate into our brains.
Some more than others.
I don't have the ability to stop earmark, spending or lobbying excesses in Washington, nor at the State, or perhaps even local levels. I do have the opportunity to help, in a very small way, provide a communication system (blog, rss and enewsletter) for those interested in K-12 matters, including our $400M+ Madison School District. There is much to do and I am grateful for those parents, citizens, teachers and administrators who are trying very hard to provide a better education for our children.
It is always a treat to see professionals who go the extra mile. I am thankful for such wonderful, generous people. Saturday's WSMA event was a timely reminder of the many special people around our children.
Start the war.Related: Reading Recovery, Madison School Board member suggests cuts to Reading Recovery spending, UW-Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg on the Madison School District's distortion of reading data & phonics and Norm and Dolores Mishelow Presentation on Milwaukee's Successful Reading Program.
What about Wisconsin? Wisconsin kids overall came in at the U.S. average on the NAEP scores. But Wisconsin's position has been slipping. Many other states have higher overall scores and improving scores, while Wisconsin scores have stayed flat.
Steven Dykstra of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition, an organization that advocates for phonics programs, points out something that should give us pause: If you break down the new fourth-grade reading data by race and ethnic grouping, as well as by economic standing (kids who get free or reduced price meals and kids who don't), Wisconsin kids trail the nation in every category. The differences are not significant in some, but even white students from Wisconsin score below the national average for white children.
(So how does Wisconsin overall still tie the national average? To be candid, the answer is because Wisconsin has a higher percentage of white students, the group that scores the highest, than many other states.)
Start the war.
Well worth reading, particularly Maya Cole's suggestions on Reading Recovery (60% to 42%: Madison School District's Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags "National Average": Administration seeks to continue its use) spending, Administrative compensation comparison, a proposal to eliminate the District's public information position, Ed Hughes suggestion to eliminate the District's lobbyist (Madison is the only District in the state with a lobbyist), trade salary increases for jobs, Lucy Mathiak's recommendations vis a vis Teaching & Learning, the elimination of the "expulsion navigator position", reduction of Administrative travel to fund Instructional Resource Teachers, Arlene Silveira's recommendation to reduce supply spending in an effort to fund elementary school coaches and a $200,000 reduction in consultant spending. Details via the following links:
Maya Cole: 36K PDF
Ed Hughes: 127K PDF
Lucy Mathiak: 114K PDF
Beth Moss: 10K PDF
Arlene Silveira: 114K PDF
The Madison School District Administration responded in the following pdf documents:
Well, while folks are talking about having the public kibbitz on school district labor contracts, I suppose we can't help having comments on the Superintendent's contract as well. The Board will soon take up the matter of the Superintendent's annual performance review and action on her contract.
How has the Superintendent done?
I suppose the only proper way to answer that question would be to review her performance relative to her job description and the performance expectations for her that were established and defined in advance. These performance expectations should, of course, all be objectively measurable outcomes. That is, after all, her definition of accountability.
Peter Borock, 23, is in his second year teaching history at Health Opportunities High School in the South Bronx. It could be his last.
With New York City schools planning for up to 8,500 layoffs, new teachers like Mr. Borock, and half a dozen others at his school, could be some of the ones most likely to be let go. That has led the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, into a high-stakes battle with the teachers' union to overturn seniority rules that have been in place for decades.
Facing the likelihood of the largest number of layoffs in more than a generation, Mr. Klein and his counterparts around the country say that the rules, which require that the most recently hired teachers be the first to lose their jobs, are anachronistic. In an era of accountability, they say, the rules will upend their efforts of the last few years to recruit new teachers, improve teacher performance and reward those who do best.
New Jersey voters just sent another loud reminder of their disgust with out-of-control taxes.
Of 537 school budgets up for a vote in the Garden State, 315 -- a whopping 59 percent -- went down in flames Tuesday.
That's more than the state's seen in decades.
Why so many rejections?
Because some 80 percent of those budgets sought property-tax hikes.
When the energy executive Dennis Bakke retired with a fortune from the AES Corporation, the company he co-founded, he and his wife, Eileen, decided to direct their attention and money to education.
Mrs. Bakke, a former teacher, said she had been interested in education since the summer she was a 12-year-old and, together with a friend, opened the Humpty Dumpty Day School, charging $2 a week in "tuition" to parents of the children attending. Mr. Bakke was eager to experiment with applying business strategies and discipline to public schools.
The Bakkes became part of the nation's new crop of education entrepreneurs, founding a commercial charter school company called Imagine Schools. Beginning with one failed charter school company they acquired in 2004, they have built an organization that has contracts with 71 schools in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Imagine is now the largest commercial manager of charter schools in the country.
Since I am touring colleges with my daughter this week in advance of the May 1 acceptance deadline, I was particularly struck by the law prof blogosphere discussion (here and here) of The Price of Admission : How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges--and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates, by Daniel Golden. From the Washington Post's review:Stepping into this cauldron of anxiety about admission to elite colleges is Daniel Golden, a Wall Street Journal reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for a series of articles on the inner workings of college admissions offices. In his provocative and stimulating book, The Price of Admission, Golden makes a powerful case that the number of well-to-do whites given preference to highly selective colleges dwarfs that of minorities benefiting from affirmative action. He follows this central theme in a wide-ranging series of case studies of systematic preference for the wealthy, the privileged and the famous, as well as legacies, faculty children and -- most innovatively -- athletes in such patrician sports as rowing, horseback riding, fencing and even polo. A tough investigative reporter, Golden does not hesitate to name names -- not only of specific institutions (including Harvard, Duke, Brown, Notre Dame, the University of Virginia, Princeton, Stanford and Amherst) and administrators, but also of individual students (including the sons of Al Gore and Sen. Bill Frist) whom he deems to be beneficiaries of preferences for the privileged. The result is a disturbing exposé of the influence that wealth and power still exert on admission to the nation's most prestigious universities.
That virtually all elite private colleges give preference to the sons and daughters of alumni will come as a surprise to no one. But preference also extends to wealthy applicants whose families have been identified as potential donors -- "development cases" in the parlance of the trade. Golden documents that even Harvard, with its $25.9 billion endowment, is not above giving preference to the scions of the super-rich. His primary example, however, of development cases being central to the admissions process is Duke, where the university embarked on a systematic strategy of raising its endowment by seeking out wealthy applicants. Golden estimates that Duke admitted 100 development applicants each year in the late 1990s who otherwise would have been rejected. Though this may be something of an extreme case, special consideration for applicants flagged by the development office is standard practice at elite colleges and universities.
Also enjoying substantial preference at elite colleges, both public and private, are varsity athletes. In a fascinating case study of women's sports at the University of Virginia, Golden shows how the effort to comply with Title IX, a gender equity law that has the praiseworthy goal of ensuring equality between female and male athletes, has had the unintended effect of giving an admissions edge to female athletes who play upper-class sports. Between 1992 and 2002, the number of college women nationwide in rowing, a sport highly concentrated in private schools and affluent suburbs, rose from 1,555 to 6,690; more recently, the number of female varsity horseback riders increased from 633 to 1,175 between 1998 and 2002. The net effect of the rise of these overwhelmingly patrician sports, Golden argues, has been to further advantage already advantaged women.
Nothing is forcing Montana, one of only two states to boast a budget surplus, to cut costs.
Nothing, that is, except its voluble governor, Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat and deficit hawk.
"Four years ago, when most states were awash in cash and new revenues were rolling in, I didn't allow the Legislature to spend it or commit it," Mr. Schweitzer said. "I vetoed more than 40 bills."
He also has vigilantly cut costs, but by January, he said, he had "exhausted all the easy ideas." So he turned for help to his constituents. He featured a pink piggy bank on his Web site and invited them to click on it and submit their ideas for trimming state expenses.
The Montana Accountability Project attracted more than 1,000 suggestions that included placing sensors in state buildings to turn lights off, switching to a four-day workweek for state employees, abolishing the death sentence and reducing the cost of appeals.
Hundreds of Orange County teachers were walking picket lines Thursday, the first day of a strike protesting pay and benefits cuts in the Capistrano Unified School District.
Schools in the 51,000-student district remained open, but most after-school activities and sports events were canceled.
Scores of substitute teachers were hurriedly brought in to preside over classrooms with lesson plans that included enrichment activities in line with state education standards. But there were reports that some students were leaving campuses because there were too few substitutes.
Four MMSD students have been named U.S. Presidential Scholars Program semi-finalists:
Timothy Choi - West HS
Laurel Hamers - Memorial HS
Ansel Norris - East HS (arts)
Valerie Shen - Memorial HS
In April, the Commission on Presidential Scholars reviews the applications of all semifinalists based on the same criteria used by the review committee. The Commission selects up to 121 academic scholars and up to 20 arts scholars. All scholars are honored for their accomplishments during National Recognition Week, held in June in Washington, D.C.
Presidential Scholars are guests of the Commission during National Recognition Week and enjoy an expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with government officials, educators, authors, musicians, scientists and other accomplished people. During the week, scholars have the opportunity to visit museums and monuments, and to attend recitals, receptions and ceremonies. To commemorate their achievement, the Scholars are awarded the Presidential Scholars medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House.
All Presidential Scholars are asked to identify those educators who have most influenced them. The selected educators are also invited to attend National Recognition Week. There, they are honored at a special reception to recognize and thank them for their efforts, and they are presented with the Teacher Recognition Award.
For over 45 years, this unique federal program has honored over 6,000 Presidential Scholars, who have demonstrated leadership, scholarship, and contribution to school and community. The work of the Commission on Presidential Scholars reaffirms, on behalf of the President, the Nation's commitment to education.
A bill that Madison School District officials say could take state funding from the district passed the state Senate on Thursday without changes and is headed to the desk of Gov. Jim Doyle.4K proponents have argued that the "State" will pay for this service over time. Clearly, counting on redistributed State tax dollars should be done with a measure of caution.
The measure would increase the maximum class size in schools receiving funding under the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education program. The limit would become 18 students per class, up from the current maximum of 15, which would make SAGE more affordable for some school districts.
"The Review embodies Will Fitzhugh's idea about how to get students thinking and writing. In supporting him, you would be helping a person who is building what should and can become a national education treasure." Albert Shanker, 1993Denis Doyle:
"What is called for is an Intel-like response from the business and philanthropic community to put The Concord Review on a level footing with a reasonable time horizon." Denis P. Doyle, 2010
With recent NAEP results (holding steady) and the RTTT announcements (DE and TN are the two finalists in this round) everyone's eye continues to focus on the persistent problem of low academic achievement in math and English Language Arts. And that's too bad; it's time for a change.
Instead of looking exclusively at the "problem," it's time to see the promise a solution holds. It's time to "backward map" from the desired objective--universal literacy--to step-by-step solutions. Achieving true literacy--reading, writing, listening and speaking with skill and insight--is, as Confucius said, a journey of a thousand miles; we must begin with a single step. Let's begin at the end and work our way backwards.
How might we do that? Little noted and not long remembered is the high end of the literacy scale, high flyers, youngsters who distinguish themselves by the quality of their work. By way of illustration, young math and science high flyers have the Intel Talent Search to reward them with great fanfare, newspaper headlines and hard cash (the first place winner gets a $100,000 scholarship) and runners-up get scholarships worth more than $500,000 in total.
That's as it should be; the modern era is defined by science, technology and engineering, and it is appropriate to highlight achievement in these fields, both as a reward for success and an incentive to others.
But so too should ELA receive public fanfare, attention and rewards. In particular, exemplary writing skills should be encouraged, rewarded and showcased.
It was the Council for Basic Education's great insight that ELA and math are the generative subjects from which all other knowledge flows. Without a command of these two "languages" we are mute. Neither math nor English is more important than the other; they are equally important.
Indeed, there is a duality in literacy and math which is noteworthy--each subject is pursued for its own sake and at the same time each one is instrumental. Literacy serves its own purpose as the fount of the examined life while it serves larger social and economic purposes as a medium of communication. No wonder it's greatest expression is honored with the Nobel Prize.
What is called for is a Junior Nobel, for younger writers, something like the Intel Talent Search for literary excellence. In the mean time we are lucky enough to have The Concord Review. Lucky because its editor and founder, Will Fitzhugh, labors mightily as a one-man show without surcease (and without financial support). We are all in his debt.
Before considering ways to discharge our obligation, what, you might wonder, is The Concord Review?
I quote from their web site: "The Concord Review, Inc., was founded in March 1987 to recognize and to publish exemplary history essays by high school students in the English-speaking world. With the 81st issue (Spring 2010), 890 research papers (average 5,500 words, with endnotes and bibliography) have been published from authors in forty-four states and thirty-seven other countries. The Concord Review remains the only quarterly journal in the world to publish the academic work of secondary students." (see www.tcr.org)
Lest anyone doubt the importance of this undertaking, permit me to offer a few unsolicited testimonials. The first is from former Boston University President John Silber, "I believe The Concord Review is one of the most imaginative, creative, and supportive initiatives in public education. It is a wonderful incentive to high school students to take scholarship and writing seriously."
The other is from former AFT President Al Shanker: "The Review also has a vital message for teachers. American education suffers from an impoverishment of standards at all levels. We see that when we look at what is expected of students in other industrialized nations and at what they achieve. Could American students achieve at that level? Of course, but our teachers often have a hard time knowing exactly what they can expect of their students or even what a first-rate essay looks like. The Concord Review sets a high but realistic standard; and it could be invaluable for teachers trying to recalibrate their own standards of excellence."
Can an enterprise which numbers among its friends and admirers people as diverse as John Silber and Al Shanker deserve anything less than the best?
What is called for is an Intel-like response from the business and philanthropic community to put TCR on a level footing with a reasonable time horizon. Will Fitzhugh has been doing this on his own for 22 years (he's now 73) and TCR deserves a more secure home (and future) of its own.
What if we prepared teachers the same way we prepare doctors?
As school reformers lurch toward more innovative ways for training classroom teachers, this idea is getting a lot of attention. A handful of teacher "residency programs" based on the medical residency model already exist. Boston was one of the first to create one in 2003.
Tom Payzant had been Boston Public Schools superintendent when he founded the Boston Teacher Residency program. Payzant, who now teaches at Harvard University, says the city desperately needed to attract more talented teachers, especially for hard-to-fill positions like math, science and special education. But it wasn't just about the numbers, Payzant says. It was about the quality of teachers coming out of colleges of education.
Minnesota lawmakers felt their Race to the Top application was adversely affected by insufficient teacher union buy-in. So they heeded the union's repeated calls for "a seat at the table" by giving Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher, well, a seat at the table. Unfortunately, it was a seat at the legislators' table during a committee hearing and Dooher is not only the union president, but a registered lobbyist.
Republican state Rep. Mark Buesgens said it was "like having Vito Corleone watching over his foot soldiers."
The Democrats said the meeting was a working group and not a full committee hearing, so Dooher's presence at the legislators' table was not a breach of protocol. However, the Minnesota House voted 128-2 yesterday to bar lobbyists and executive branch members from sitting at the committee table with lawmakers during official meetings.
These days, it seems like most middle class kids go on to college.
In fact, many jobs are now requiring a Bachelor's degree. Thus, many kids are going to college as almost a default stage of life. Some people are wondering if a college degree is still worth it. While it is difficult to quantify the benefits of a college education, if you are in college you should try to get the full value out of every dollar you pay.
Some of the key ingredients in preparing for college are getting college savings, applying for scholarships, reducing expenses, and getting student loans (and, of course, later paying student loans). However, the value of a college education is about a lot more than the cost of tuition.
THE general election due in Britain on May 6th is not the one David Cameron was chosen to fight. The opposition Conservatives made him their leader in 2005 after a barnstorming speech delivered without notes to their annual conference. His pitch: that he could persuade the electorate to trust him with public services and offer tax cuts too, by "sharing the proceeds of growth". It was a formula worthy of an earlier young, centrist, opposition politician: Tony Blair, who in 1997 led Labour to victory after 18 years of Conservative rule.
Now there is nothing to share: taxes will have to rise and public spending fall. But still Mr Cameron is reprising Mr Blair. In 1997 Mr Blair memorably said that his priorities were "education, education, education". In the run-up to this election, education reform is the main, perhaps the only, broad and deeply thought-out proposal from his self-styled heir.
The Bellevue School Board adopted a traditionalist-favored math curriculum last week, and the superintendent revealed her final budget-cutting recommendations on Tuesday, making April a pivotal month for the school district.
Regarding math, the school board voted 3-0 on April 13 to adopt the Holt series, snubbing an inquiry-based Discovering curriculum that had math purists and many district parents up in arms.
Board members Paul Mills, Peter Bentley, and Michael Murphy voted in favor of the Holt textbooks. Chris Marks, Karen Clark, Judy Bushnell and Cudiero were not present.
The math decision fell in line with a recommendation from the district's textbook-adoption committee, which favored Holt over Discovering.
t wasn't too long ago that I was in high school, munching on Pizza Hut, In-N-Out and Kentucky Fried Chicken at lunch next to the Dasani and Coca Cola vending machines while wearing a school t-shirt sporting several local business sponsors.
The mix of education and corporate sponsorship seemed to be a win-win situation-the school district got money that was directed back into education and maintenance of facilities, the students were happy with non-cafeteria food, the cafeteria workers did little to prepare the meals besides handing them out and the sponsors maintained a steady stream of product and advertisement consumers. This was back in 2004, a few years before most of us could foresee the pending economic doom that awaited us.
In the past few years what seemed a relatively controlled partnership based solely on food has evolved into an intense, targeted marketing venture during a time when schools are hurting for money. In San Diego, Rancho Bernardo calculus instructor Tom Farber started selling ads on his exams at $10-30 a pop. The reason? Copies for tests would cost more than $500 per year, and his budget was only $316. The rest of the money would have to come from somewhere.
Three conclusions from this year's Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination results for Madison School District students:The WKCE has been criticized for its lack of rigor. It may be replaced in the not too distant future.
1. In reading, across the seven grades tested, four grade levels had an increase in the percentage of students scoring at the Proficient or higher performance categories compared with the previous year while three grades showed a decline in the percentage. In math, four grades increased Proficient or higher performance, one grade declined and two grades remained the same. (See Table 1 below.)
- The performance of Madison School District students was relatively unchanged from last year in reading and math across the seven tested grade levels.
- MMSD's non-low income students continue to outperform their Wisconsin peers in reading and math.
- Small gains were made in 10 of 14 scores on the achievement gap but the differences remain too significant.
Today's Wall Street Journal:
The election results are obviously a big setback for the Democratic Party-government union alliance that has ruled Trenton for the past decade. So far, Governor Christie is winning the spending debate. The lesson for other governors is that opposition from public-employee unions is not insurmountable if you can articulate to voters what's at stake.
Joseph Marbach, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Seton Hall:
I think the governor was very successful in ... portraying the teachers union as out of touch with what's going on with working families. The voters are more aligned with his position... I think it ... gives him continued momentum to continue to rein in costs.
Montgomery County teachers and school system leaders signed an agreement Tuesday that calls for test scores and other student performance data to "factor strongly" in one-third of every teacher's evaluation, saying theirs is the first school system in Maryland to specify how much that data will count as a factor in teacher ratings.
The teachers and administrators acted in response to a new state law that allows student test scores to be used as a "significant" component of teacher evaluations. The law is part of Maryland's proposal for federal education aid under President Obama's $4 billion "Race to the Top" competition. Maryland is seeking as much as $250 million in the contest, which awards money to states whose applications show the strongest commitment to the president's education reform agenda.
Test scores have been a part of Montgomery's decade-old Teacher Professional Growth System, just as they factor into teacher evaluations in many other school districts. But Race to the Top has put school systems under pressure to place test scores front and center in those evaluations and to quantify their role in rating teachers.
They're the kind of obscenity-laced schoolyard taunts that could get a student suspended.
But the target of this tirade is New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie -- and the perpetrators are the state's teachers, irate over his calls for salary freezes and funding cuts for schools.
In Facebook messages visible to the world -- not to mention their students -- the teachers have called Christie fat, compared him to a genocidal dictator and wished he was dead. The postings are often riddled with bad grammar and misspellings.
"Never trust a fat f...," read one profane post on the Facebook page, "New Jersey Teachers United Against Governor Chris Christie's Pay Freeze," which has some 69,000 fans, many of them teachers.
"How do you spell A-- hole? C-H-R-I-S C-H-R-I-S-T-I-E," read another.
A top education official in the Obama administration sat in San Francisco's Marshall Elementary School cafeteria taking notes Monday as parents, teachers and administrators recited a recipe for what it takes to turn around a struggling school.
The main ingredients included quality teachers, involved parents and a supportive principal mixed perhaps with a new dual-immersion language program. Time must be allowed to let it all take hold.
It is the kind of formula federal officials would love to see in place at schools across the country. Too many schools are failing year after year with no end in sight, said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller.
The Houston school district has scheduled meetings to discuss with parents its plans for reforming Lee, Jones, Kashmere and possibly Sharpstown high schools. HISD Superintendent Terry Grier and his staff presented the plans, which include extending the school day and year and offering students small-group tutoring, at a school board workshop last week. District officials plan to implement the changes this coming school year, so the turnaround is fast -- and the parent meetings are just around the corner. After columnist Lisa Falkenberg got a tip about the upcoming meeting at Lee from a peeved state lawmaker, I asked the district for a list of all the meetings. It took a day to get it, but here it is:
Women are now just as likely as men to have completed college and to hold an advanced degree, part of an accelerating trend of educational gains that have shielded women from recent job losses. Yet they continue to lag behind men in pay.
Among adults 25 and older, 29 percent of women in the United States have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 30 percent of men, according to 2009 census figures released Tuesday.
Women also have drawn even with men in holding advanced degrees. Women represented roughly half of those in the United States with a master's degree or higher, due largely to years of steady increases in women pursuing a medical or law degree.
Children enrolled in Los Angeles Universal Preschool programs made significant improvements in the social and emotional skills needed to do well in kindergarten, according to a study released Monday. The gains were especially pronounced for English language learners, the study showed.Clusty Search: Los Angeles Universal Preschool.
The findings confirmed observations of preschool teachers that children attending high-quality programs are better prepared for kindergarten. For the first time, the study provided data to back up those observations, officials with the nonprofit preschool organization said.
"This is unique because there's very little research in terms of cognitive progression in the preschool years," said Celia C. Ayala, chief operating officer for Los Angeles Universal Preschool. "We know there are differences, we see the differences, but this gives us a way to assess improvements."
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) confirmed today that industrial action to ''frustrate the administration of the tests'' will go ahead, following meetings of their executives.
It comes after headteachers overwhelmingly supported a boycott in ballots carried out by the two unions.
The Obama administration is throwing out a Bush-era policy under the Title IX gender equity law that critics said made it easy for schools and colleges to avoid offering equal opportunities for women in athletics.
Title IX, passed in 1972, required schools to use a comprehensive evaluation to decide whether females were being given equal opportunity to participate.
In 2005, under then President George W. Bush, a new policy allowed schools to use a simple survey of women as its evaluation, and to combine non-responses with negative responses. Critics said gave institutions an easy way to avoid providing equal athletic opportunities for females.
Diane Ravitch was one of the architects of No Child Left Behind, but in her new book she now admits that it isn't working, and is in fact helping kill the kind of education she advocates. She continues to believe that the American public schools do a poor job, and that we can build a much more successful system of public education.Less centralization, including the breakup of big districts would be a great step forward.
I agree with her on the first point. She's dead wrong on the second. We can't build a better system.
That's not a cry of despair, it's a statement of fact. There is never going to be a national school system much better than what we have now. It may get worse, but it won't get much better.
We could build a better school system by the simple expedient of abolishing the Department of Education. Some of us thought we could manage that when Reagan was swept into office, but the liberal establishment with the support of the teachers unions wouldn't permit that: and Reagan needed Congressional support for his defense measures. Some of us remember that when Reagan took office, only ten years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States looked to be in bad shape, with too many overseas commitments -- what Walter Lippman called drafts on our power -- and too little actual power, either military or diplomatic. The military needed a big shakeup and buildup, we needed to look into our overseas commitments, financial reforms were desperately needed, and the liberals, knowing all this, were willing to help -- provided that they got their share of liberal programs. The Department of Education was one of their bastions, and they would fight to the death -- or at least to the death of the Republic -- to prevent it from being abolished.
New Jersey voters took a stand on school spending and property taxes Tuesday, rejecting 260 of 479 school budgets across 19 counties, according to unofficial results in statewide school elections.
In the proposed state budget he unveiled last month, Gov. Chris Christie slashed $820 million in aid to school districts and urged voters to defeat budgets if teachers in their schools did not agree to one-year wage freezes. The salvo ignited a heated debate with the state's largest teachers union.
Christie said the cuts were necessary to help plug an $11 billion state budget gap.
In many districts Tuesday, the governor made himself heard as 54 percent of the spending plans were rejected, according to unofficial returns. If the trend continues, it would mark the most budget defeats in New Jersey since 1976, when 56 percent failed. Typically, voters approve more than 70 percent of the school budgets.
Last fall, Michelle Rhee, the tough-minded and creative schools chancellor in Washington, laid off 266 teachers, citing a budget crunch. She has since reported finding a budget surplus. The city's teachers' union, which challenged the layoffs unsuccessfully last fall, has now asked a judge to review them again. The atmosphere has grown increasingly toxic.
Some of Ms. Rhee's critics have implausibly suggested that she might have withheld information to justify the layoffs. It would be terrible for the city's children if the dispute reached a point where it upended the innovative union contract that Ms. Rhee and union leaders provisionally agreed to earlier this month.
The contract, which changes the terms under which teachers are paid and evaluated, could pave the way for better schools for the District of Columbia's students and could become a model for agreements between school districts and teachers' unions around the country.
Brian Kaplan, via email:
The state budget once again appears to be in flux. The Governor has promised no cuts to education. But education leaders have disputed this claim and are once again faced with significant program reductions. The governor's May Revise will provide additional details on how the public school districts will fare in 2010-2011. Our panelists will address the impact of the budget on education from multiple perspectives.
John Fensterwald, Writer of The Educated Guess and Journalist in Residence at Silicon Valley Education Foundation
On April 20, the San Francisco Board of Education will convene a policy discussion to discuss the Superintendent's plans for our 10 schools labeled "persistently underperforming" by the state of California.
This list was created as part of the state's efforts to qualify for Race to the Top. It designates five percent of the state's schools as failing, and prescribes one of four turnaround models for districts to take. There's no choice in the matter, though it's unclear under state law when these actions would have to be taken. If, however, a district wants to apply for Federal funds to help implement one of the turnaround models, it must submit a plan in the next few weeks--and begin the work within six months.
I am not crazy about any of the turnaround models. They assume that school leaders are so stupid that--D'oh! We never thought of replacing principals! We never thought of reconstitution (which we tried in this district and which failed, miserably)! Charter schools! Wow! (Even though charter schools have as mixed a record as traditional public schools--no miracles here.) School closure! (How does closing a school affect the achievement of its former students, exactly?)
Now they tell you, just when you've sold the old Harvard Classics on eBay, hauled the Britannicas down to the dump and signed up Junior for online SAT prep. Tom Jacobs reports for Miller-McCune:
After examining statistics from 27 nations, a group of researchers found the presence of book-lined shelves in the home -- and the intellectual environment those volumes reflect -- gives children an enormous advantage in school.
"Home library size has a very substantial effect on educational attainment, even adjusting for parents' education, father's occupational status and other family background characteristics," reports the study, recently published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. "Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books.
In short, the Race to the Top 500-point rating system presents a patina of scientific objectivity, but in truth masks a subjective and somewhat random process.
This competition was a trial run for Secretary Duncan of a policy approach he hopes to make permanent. The Obama administration has proposed that formula-driven Title I funding16 be frozen at its present level, without future adjustment for inflation, and that increases in federal education spending be devoted entirely to a new collection of competitive grants, some of which have similar requirements to RTT, and some of which, as indicated above, attempt to create incentives for initiatives not included in RTT. Because such a reduction in real Title I funding would further exacerbate state fiscal crises, and because this trial run of a competitive system has proven to have little credibility, the administration should rethink its approach to federal education aid and its relationship to school improvement.
Yet for now, the Department of Education proposes to go through an identical process for judging a second round of applications by July. States that lost in the March competition have been invited to re-apply, and several are doing so, again investing time and expense to re-do their applications. Experts in these states are likely to spend many hours studying the review process employed in March, so they can recommend small changes in their states' applica- tions to exploit the quirks of the Department's rating system. Such gaming is unlikely to reflect an actual improvement in the education policies of applicant states.
So I was just thinking about the progress on the Strategic Plan. I know I shouldn't. It only serves to upset and frustrate me. Nevertheless...Related: Madison School District Strategic Plan.
Focusing just on the primary themes and elements of the Plan, it still doesn't look good.
1. Ensuring Excellence in Every Classroom
1A. Adopt an aligned curriculum in math and science
They haven't done this. They're nowhere with regard to science; I don't think they've even gotten started. They're not much further along with math. They have standardized the textbooks (for the most part), and they have posted pacing guides, but there's no evidence that they have aligned the curriculum. In fact, it doesn't appear that they have any ability to align the curriculum, that they even know how to align curriculum, or that they know what aligned curriculum would look like. After making bold statements on PowerPoints and paying millions to vendors, they appear to be completely adrift.
1B. Develop districtwide assessments in math and reading
This is a reference to the MAP, but it isn't districtwide yet and teachers either don't know how to use the results or simply aren't choosing to use them. There were supposed to be a lot of other common assessments, but there's no evidence to suggest that they are either in use or useful. Mostly this was an excuse to funnel millions to a vendor for a data warehouse which isn't ready yet and will be of questionable utility when it is ready.
Legislators trying to help save a generation of Milwaukee children from lives of poverty and unemployment want to add a new law to the books in Madison this week.
They should, if they want to make a real difference, also delete one.
Part of the new education bill passed by the Senate the other day, and now being considered by the Assembly, calls for rigorous, annual teacher performance evaluations - something that many districts all across America already supposedly administer.
But not really.
Last year, the New Teacher Project researched teacher evaluations in 12 districts, both big and small, across the country. Methods and frequency of evaluation differed from district to district, but one thing was found to be strikingly similar. Virtually all teachers in the districts studied are told over and over and over again that they are either good or great. In districts that use binary rating systems, for instance, (generally "satisfactory" and "unsatisfactory" categories are used) more than 99% of teachers are given the "satisfactory" designation, according to the researchers.
Around the world, from the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, which may be 25,000 years old, to the images left behind by the lost Pueblo cultures of the American Southwest, to the ancient aboriginal art of Australia, the most common pictograph found in rock paintings is the human hand. Coupled with pictures of animals, with human forms, with a starry night sky or other images that today, we can only identify as abstract, we look at these men's and women's hands, along with smaller prints that perhaps belong to children, and cannot help but be deeply moved by the urge of our ancestors to leave some permanent imprint of themselves behind.
Clearly, the instinct for human beings to express their feelings, their thoughts, and their experiences in some lasting form has been with us for a very long time.This urge eventually manifested itself in the creation of the first alphabet, which many attribute to the Phoenicians.When people also began to recognize the concept of time, their desire to express themselves became intertwined with the sense of wanting to leave behind a legacy, a message about who they were, what they had done and seen, and even what they believed in.Whether inscribed on rock, carved in cuneiform, painted in hieroglyphics, or written with the aid of the alphabet, the instinct to write down everything from mundane commercial transactions to routine daily occurrences to the most transcendent ideas--and then to have others read them, as well as to read what others have written--is not simply a way of transferring information from one person to another, one generation to the next. It is a process of learning and hence, of education.
Ariel and Will Durant were right when they said,"Education is the transmission of civilization." Putting our current challenges into historical context, it is obvious that if today's youngsters cannot read with understanding, think about and analyze what they've read, and then write clearly and effectively about what they've learned and what they think, then they may never be able to do justice to their talents and their potential. (In that regard, the etymology of the word education, which is "to draw out and draw forth"--from oneself, for example--is certainly evocative.) Indeed, young people who do not have the ability to transform thoughts, experiences, and ideas into written words are in danger of losing touch with the joy of inquiry, the sense of intellectual curiosity, and the inestimable satisfaction of acquiring wisdom that are the touchstones of humanity.What that means for all of us is that the essential educative transmissions that have been passed along century after century, generation after generation, are in danger of fading away, or even falling silent.
One of my education reporting maxims is that principals of schools in troubled districts never seek me out. Journalists are poison to them. We only want to write about bad stuff. Anything they say can be held against them.
So I was surprised when Charlie Thomas, principal of Crossland High School in Prince George's County, began sending me emails. His school has been one of the worst in a low-performing district for a long time. But Thomas, who arrived in 2004, was trying to improve his school and was willing even to deal with a fault-finding columnist if it would help. Nearly 66 percent of his students were low-income, but he was not going to let that slow him down.
I confess he has gotten my attention with some unusual moves. For instance, he quickly discovered that close to 800 of his 1,800 students were still in the ninth grade. "I asked for a list of every ninth grade student that was 16 years old or older with a grade point average of less than 1.0 [a D average]," he told me. The list had 330 names. Some had been there four or five years.
By almost every conceivable measure Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days. A new Pew Research Center survey finds a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government - a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan- based backlash, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials.
Rather than an activist government to deal with the nation's top problems, the public now wants government reformed and growing numbers want its power curtailed. With the exception of greater regulation of major financial institutions, there is less of an appetite for government solutions to the nation's problems - including more government control over the economy - than there was when Barack Obama first took office.
The public's hostility toward government seems likely to be an important election issue favoring the Republicans this fall. However, the Democrats can take some solace in the fact that neither party can be confident that they have the advantage among such a disillusioned electorate. Favorable ratings for both major parties, as well as for Congress, have reached record lows while opposition to congressional incumbents, already approaching an all- time high, continues to climb.
Roland Fryer is an economist at Harvard University who had an idea for a straightforward method of getting kids at urban schools more engaged: Pay 'em.
Four reward schemes were tried in four different cities, each in a randomized control trial lasting one year. The results are reported in Time magazine this week.
New York City: Students were promised pay for higher standardized test scores. There was no effect.
Chicago: Students were paid for higher grades. The rewards prompted higher attendance rates and higher grades, but standardized test scores were not improved.
Washington, D.C.: Students were rewarded for improved behaviors such as good attendance, refraining from fighting, and so on. There was a modest improvement on standardized test scores.
Not long ago education schools had a virtual monopoly on the teaching profession. They dictated how and when people became teachers by offering coursework, arranging apprenticeships and granting master's degrees.Related, Janet Mertz: An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria.
But now those schools are feeling under siege. Officials in Washington, D.C., and New York State, where some of the best-known education schools are located, have stepped up criticisms that the schools are still too focused on theory and not enough on the craft of effective teaching.
In an ever-tightening job market, their graduates are competing with the products of alternative programs like Teach for America, which puts recent college graduates into teaching jobs without previous teaching experience or education coursework.
And this week, the New York State Board of Regents could deliver the biggest blow. It will vote on whether to greatly expand the role of the alternative organizations by allowing them to create their own master's degree programs. At the extreme, the proposal could make education schools extraneous.
There are a number of people who believe that the District intentionally cultivates confusion around the definitions of the terms "curriculum", "materials", "content", and "Standards". The misuse of these terms on official District documents and by District staff is exactly the sort of thing that supports this suspicion. The misuse of these terms detracts from transparency and community engagement. This example is particularly egregious because it speaks to an adoption. These actions do NOT adopt a curriculum, only materials.
One by one, mothers stepped forward to face Alameda County Superior Court Judge Cecilia Castellanos and explain why their children have repeatedly failed to show up to elementary school.
One mom said she couldn't find her son's school. Another blamed traffic. One said her son was repeatedly tardy to class because he had difficulty opening his locker.
To each, Judge Castellanos said, "That's not an excuse," and ordered them back to truancy court for a follow-up.
Many people get too excited about the latest hot education innovation. They lose their sense of perspective. It has happened even to me once or twice. When we wander off like that, we need someone with a sharp intellect and strong character to pull us back to reality.
One such person is Paul T. Hill, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education and John and Marguerite Corbally Professor at the University of Washington Bothell. He has written a short, wise book, "Learning As We Go: Why School Choice is Worth the Wait," which provides the clearest explanations I have seen for why independent public charter schools need more time to develop. Hill believes it is worth waiting for charters to make what he thinks will be widespread positive impact on the quality of education. He thinks they are more promising than a renewed fondness for strengthening bureaucracy and standardizing instruction that seems to be bubbling in some foundations and national advocacy groups.
Hill makes five simple points and more or less devotes a chapter to each. Here is what he says, with some fussing and worrying by me. If you want to add your ideas to these, or explain why these are nonsense, the comments box below awaits.
Since 2001, spending by local towns across New Jersey has risen by 70 percent, with average 4 percent raises for teachers each year playing a major role in the increases. During that same period, property taxes have risen by 56 percent.
You don't need to be a math major to know that you can't pay for a 70 percent spending hike with "only" a 56 percent increase in tax revenues. So how did towns make up the difference?
For many towns and school districts, the revenue gap was filled in with state aid. And that state aid has come largely from income taxes and other fees.
But then came the recession and the sharp drop in incomes - and income taxes.
And then came Chris Christie, handily beating the well-funded, union-backed incumbent Democratic governor, Jon Corzine.
Corzine did not lose because he wasn't smart enough or because he did not have enough campaign cash of his own. He lost because voters no longer had confidence that he could deliver on his promise to find ways to cut spending and deliver some measure of property tax relief.
A heated debate surrounding merit pay for teachers has existed for decades in the United States, where since the 1920s public schools began awarding compensation primarily according to title and years of experience rather than performance.
Political leaders such as President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have recently expressed support for the notion of merit pay for teachers. In March 2009, Obama said that teachers should be treated "like the professionals they are while also being held more accountable. Good teachers will be rewarded with more money for improved student achievement, and asked to accept more responsibilities for lifting up their schools."
This has reinvigorated the debate, with many groups staking out positions on either side. The National Education Association, for example, has opposed merit pay, while the United Federation of Teachers, at least in part, seems to support the idea.
Here is a summary of questions and pro and con responses within the debate.
There's new evidence the deep national recession has taken a toll on Madison: the value of all real estate dropped by 3.1 percent for 2010, the first decrease in at least 35 years, according to data released by the city Friday.Local government units have been living off of parcel and assessed value growth for decades. This change has significant taxpayer implications...
Falling values do more than reduce the net wealth of property owners. Along with a slowdown in construction, they mean that under current tax rates, fewer dollars will be available to fund the rising costs of city, school and other public services 2011.
"There can't be new spending. We're going to have to cut where we can," Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said in a phone interview from a transit research tour in the Netherlands. "Despite that, there will be considerable pressure on taxes."
Back in the Paleolithic period, when men and women wore their Sunday best, classroom decorum was unquestioned; the relationship between professor and student was based on a set of unspoken rules. One wonders what their reaction would be to an e-mail message I received from a student: hey prof, owt late last nite .... am sic today. pls emal cls notes. yah thatd b great. thx see u.
I teach a course in public speaking at Borough of Manhattan Community College, part of the City University of New York, in which students give speeches ranging from how to clean a trumpet to solar energy. My job is to show them how to arrange their thoughts, use language to its best advantage and, most important, perform in front of an audience without fear.
February, 2010 background memo from Superintendent Dan Nerad.
I spoke with the Superintendent Friday regarding the proposed reorganization. The conversation occurred subsequent to an email I sent to the School Board regarding Administrative cost growth and the proposed reduction in Superintendent direct reports.
I inquired about the reduction in direct reports, the addition of a Chief Learning Officer, or Deputy Superintendent and the apparent increased costs of this change. Mr. Nerad said that he would email updated budget numbers Monday (he said Friday that there would be cost savings). With respect to the change in direct reports, he said that the District surveyed other large Wisconsin Schools and found that those Superintendents typically had 6 to 8, maybe 9 direct reports. He also reminded me that the District formerly had a Deputy Superintendent. Art Rainwater served in that position prior to his boss, Cheryl Wilhoyte's demise. He discussed a number of reasons for the proposed changes, largely to eliminate management silos and support the District's strategic plan. He also referenced a proposed reduction in Teaching & Learning staff.
I mentioned Administrative costs vis a vis the current financial climate.
I will post the budget numbers and any related information upon receipt.
Finally, I ran into a wonderful MMSD teacher this weekend. I mentioned my recent conversation with the Superintendent. This teacher asked if I "set him straight" on the "dumbing down of the Madison School District"?
That's a good question. This teacher believes that we should be learning from Geoffrey Canada's efforts with respect to the achievement gap, particularly his high expectations. Much more on the Harlem Children's Zone here.
Finally, TJ Mertz offers a bit of commentary on Monday evening's Madison School Board meeting.
'I said all during the campaign last year that I was going to govern as if I was a one-termer," explains New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on a visit this week to the Journal's editorial board. "And everybody felt that it was just stuff you say during a campaign to sound good. I think after the first 12 weeks, given the stuff I've done, they figure: 'He's just crazy enough to do it.'"
Call it crazy, or just call it sensible: Mr. Christie is on a mission to make New Jersey competitive once again in the contest to attract people and capital. During last fall's campaign, while his opponent obliquely criticized Mr. Christie's size, some Republicans worried that their candidate was squishy--that he wasn't serious about cutting spending and reining in taxes. Turns out they were wrong.
Listen to Mr. Christie's take on the state of his state: "We are, I think, the failed experiment in America--the best example of a failed experiment in America--on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times." New Jersey's residents now suffer under the nation's highest tax burden. Yet the tax hikes haven't come close to matching increases in spending. Mr. Christie recently introduced a $29.3 billion state budget to eliminate a projected $11 billion deficit for fiscal year 2011.
My take on the Stanford charter school situation is below. Punchline: This is sad in some powerful ways, it’s not funny.
But the New York Times story demands a bit more discussion. (Plus it buries the lede…check out the Shalvey quote)
In the story Linda Darling Hammond points out that the Stanford school takes all kids. Sure, but so do many other public schools (including some in the community including Aspire Public Schools, a network of public charters established by a former CA school superintendent) that have better results. More on that below. That uncomfortable reality also makes Diane Ravitch’s quote in the story really curious. This situation doesn’t illustrate much about the debate about schools and poverty overall, but it does again show that there are big differences among schools serving similar kids and that powerful and intentional instruction matters.
The aftermath of a historic financial crisis seems an appropriate time to take stock of graduate business education. What are we teaching these people before they head off to the executive suite?
Three Harvard Business School scholars, Srikant M. Datar, David A. Garvin and Patrick G. Cullen, address this question in "Rethinking the M.B.A.: Business Education at a Crossroads," a thought-provoking examination of the curriculums that shape many top investment bankers, consultants and chief executives. After studying the nation's most prestigious business schools, the authors conclude that an excessive emphasis on quantitative and theoretical analysis has contributed to the making of too many wonky wizards. M.B.A. recipients, according to this book, haven't learned the importance of social responsibility, common-sense skepticism and respect for the dangers of taking risks with other people's money.
Put even more bluntly: Business schools played a contributing role in creating the geniuses who brought us the economic meltdown of 2008.
The federal government expects parents to help pay for college. But plenty of students can't get one penny from them. "At Michigan State, we see several hundred of those students every year," says Val Meyers, associate director of its financial aid office. Some parents don't believe they can or should contribute, or maybe they don't like a particular college, or aren't living together. A father might refuse to take responsibility for the education of a child from a first marriage.
And here's a sticky wicket: an 18- year-old may be an adult in most states, but for financial aid purposes, students aren't independent until age 24.
Recently I visited a history class at a local, low-performing high school where students read in turn from the autobiography of a famous American. The teacher was bright and quick. He interrupted often with comments and questions. The 18 sophomores and juniors seemed to be into it, but it was such an old-fashioned--and I suspect to some educators elementary--approach for that I decided to see what other educators thought of it.
I love spending time in classrooms, listening and watching. Often I see something new and surprising, or sometimes old and surprising like one young English teacher diagramming sentences. Was round robin reading (what educators usually call the read aloud technique I witnessed) bad or good? Was it a time-wasting throwback or a useful way to involve every student?
Yes and yes, teachers told me. That is the problem judging the way teachers teach. It all depends on the circumstances, the students, the object of the lesson, the style of the instructor and the judge. Read these and tell me who is right:
Before each tournament, Sam Crichton, a senior on the Wake Forest debate team, meticulously stocks a half-dozen Rubbermaid tubs with computer printouts. Each sheet of paper -- perhaps 5,000 total -- summarizes the argument in, say, a presidential speech or op-ed piece. These "cards" have been sorted into manila files, grouped into brown accordion folders, stacked into the tubs and labeled by argument type: affirmatives, disadvantages, counterplans, critiques, case arguments/negatives, backfiles.
There are 50 tubs for the entire Wake Forest team -- a traveling library of debate research. With the aid of all those pages of argumentation, debaters can summon up well-reasoned, highly specific points about nuclear disarmament, this year's topic for college policy debaters. What if an affirmative team contends that nuclear armament has hurt Africa? What if a negative team cites Heidegger to bolster its response?
"There's a strange comfort in reading off a sheet of paper," Mr. Crichton says. "Having all of this paper may seem like a form of chaos, but to me it actually seems more organized."
The textbooks and the workbooks and the teachers manuals and all the other materials were displayed attractively. There were mini-candy bars and cloth shopping bags for visitors to take.University of Wisconsin-Madison Psychology Professor Mark Seidenberg has written a number of articles on Madison's reading programs.
America's biggest text book companies - Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt - each had large, handsome displays.
For three days last week, the third-floor library of the Juneau High School building was the center of looming big change in the way children in Milwaukee Public Schools are taught reading. MPS officials are selecting a new reading program.
A special committee will make a recommendation and the School Board will make the choice in the winner-takes-all curriculum selection process. The sunlit scene in the Juneau library was the part of the process where anyone could take a look and give input.
It was an amiable scene. The representatives of the publishers were friendly, talkative, knowledgeable, and quite willing to schmooze. "Great tie," one told me as I walked down the aisle. She appeared to know something about this tie that no one else had noticed in the 20 years I've owned it.
1. To become a United States senator, a person must be at least how old?
2. President John Adams was a member of what political party at the time of his election?
3. What was the given name of the Civil War general Stonewall Jackson?
4. What revolutionary leader famously uttered the words "Give me liberty or give me death!" in a speech at the second Virginia Convention?
A few times each month, second graders at a charter school in Springfield, Mass., take time from math and reading to engage in philosophical debate. There is no mention of Hegel or Descartes, no study of syllogism or solipsism. Instead, Prof. Thomas E. Wartenberg and his undergraduate students from nearby Mount Holyoke College use classic children's books to raise philosophical questions, which the young students then dissect with the vigor of the ancient Greeks.
"A lot of people try to make philosophy into an elitist discipline," says Professor Wartenberg, who has been visiting the school, the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence, since 2007. "But everyone is interested in basic philosophical ideas; they're the most basic questions we have about the world."
One afternoon this winter, the students in Christina Runquist's classroom read Shel Silverstein's "Giving Tree," about a tree that surrenders its shade, fruit, branches and finally its trunk to a boy it has befriended. The college students led the discussion that followed -- on environmental ethics, or "how we should treat natural objects," as Professor Wartenberg puts it -- with a series of questions, starting with whether the boy was wrong to take so much from the tree.
At 83, Marian C. Diamond has been teaching anatomy at the University of California, Berkeley, for 50 years. Her class is so popular that it's difficult for students to get in, though she holds court at the campus's largest lecture hall, with room for 736.
She begins by opening a colorful hatbox. Dressed in an elegant suit and scarf with her hair swept back into a chig non, Professor Diamond pulls on a pair of latex gloves and reveals the box's contents: a human brain. It is in alcohol, she says, "because alcohol will preserve the brain. Need I say more?" The students laugh as they take this in. She has the room in the palm of her hands.
Professor Diamond is one of the tweedy celebrities of cyberspace. Videos of her anatomy course, Integrative Biology 131, have been viewed nearly 1.5 million times on YouTube, where they have been available since 2005 to anyone with an Internet connection. Some of the world's foremost scholars are up there for viewing, tuition free. From Yale, you can tune into an economics class by a professor with his own home-price index, Robert Shiller, or a course by the Milton scholar John Rogers. The undisputed rock star academic is Walter H. G. Lewin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who flies across the room to demonstrate that a pendulum swings no faster or slower when there is an added mass (Professor Lewin) hanging at the end.
An Education Life:
Why homeschool? Maybe to brush up for an exam, get a sense of what a college is like, or just to learn. In the articles listed below, writers who know the fields weigh in on some of the highlights of free education.
With a one-day teacher strike looming in Oakland, a fact-finding report released Thursday gave both the district and the teachers union some ammunition in the bitter battle over a new labor contract.
The report, a required step following failed contract negotiations, validated the district's claims of financial desperation, but it also gave a nod to the Oakland Education Association's claims of relatively low teacher pay and need for small class sizes.
It urged both sides to get over the past - a history mired in fiscal mismanagement and bitterness.
Contract negotiations began this week between Seattle Public Schools and the teachers union, and the atmosphere is already getting testy--but not between the parties you might expect. Seattle Education Association president Olga Addae is peeved over a new coalition led by the non-profit Alliance for Education that is trying to muscle in on the talks.
Although technically no one else is allowed at the bargaining table besides the union and the district, the "Our Schools Coalition" last week launched a campaign to influence the process by unveiling a list of nine proposed changes it would like to see in the new contract--all of which are aimed at supporting good teachers and weeding out the bad.
While the group's ideas are not necessarily new, its effort to influence the negotiations is. And the coalition may have the political clout to do just that.
Minnesota lawmakers approved legislation that increases punishment for bringing weapons to school while going a little easier on fake guns and BB guns.
The bill, from Rep. Sandra Peterson, DFL-New Hope, passed the House 111-18 on Thursday.
It would punish bringing dangerous weapons onto school property with a sentence of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both. That's more than double the current prison sentence and twice the maximum current fine.
The study of ethics, once an academic orphan, is grabbing a more central role at many business schools since the financial crisis shone a spotlight on the damage that can be done by irresponsible business practices and an exclusive focus on the bottom line.
Critics have suggested that B-schools bear some responsibility for the culture of excessive risk-taking that helped trigger the credit crunch, saying they failed to teach students that there is more to business than just making money. Many schools have responded by re-examining their priorities, and giving ethics more classroom time, either in modules of its own or incorporated into key classes like strategy, finance and accounting.
Faculty are defining the subject broadly, arguing that ethical business practice is not just about refraining from cheating and corruption, but recognizing that a company has responsibilities beyond its shareholders' wallets--to employees, community, customers and the environment.
Gov. Charlie Crist has vetoed the Jeb Bush-backed, controversial SB6. The education bill would have eliminated tenure for newly hired teachers, and would have tied a portion of teachers' salaries to test score results.Tom Vander Ark sees NEA's hand in this veto.
"I say we must start over. This bill has negatively affected the morale of our parents, teachers and students," Crist said.
The bill was opposed by many teachers and school boards, including Miami-Dade's. About 25 percent of county teachers called out "sick" on Monday to protest the bill.
Dominique G. Homberger won't apologize for setting high expectations for her students.Related: Marc Eisen: When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?.
The biology professor at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge gives brief quizzes at the beginning of every class, to assure attendance and to make sure students are doing the reading. On her tests, she doesn't use a curve, as she believes that students must achieve mastery of the subject matter, not just achieve more mastery than the worst students in the course. For multiple choice questions, she gives 10 possible answers, not the expected 4, as she doesn't want students to get very far with guessing.
Students in introductory biology don't need to worry about meeting her standards anymore. LSU removed her from teaching, mid-semester, and raised the grades of students in the class. In so doing, the university's administration has set off a debate about grade inflation, due process and a professor's right to set standards in her own course.
To Homberger and her supporters, the university's action has violated principles of academic freedom and weakened the faculty.
America's future math teachers, on average, earned a C on a new test comparing their skills with their counterparts in 15 other countries, significantly outscoring college students in the Philippines and Chile but placing far below those in educationally advanced nations like Singapore and Taiwan.
The researchers who led the math study in this country, to be released in Washington on Thursday, judged the results acceptable if not encouraging for America's future elementary teachers. But they called them disturbing for American students heading to careers in middle schools, who were outscored by students in Germany, Poland, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan.
On average, 80 percent to 100 percent of the future middle school teachers from the highest-achieving countries took advanced courses like linear algebra and calculus, while only 50 percent to 60 percent of their counterparts in the United States took those courses, the study said.
To all the other fiscal travails facing this country's states and largest cities, now add their pension obligations, which are far greater than they may realize or are willing to admit. This paper focuses on the crisis in funding teachers' pensions, because education is often the largest program area in state budgets, making it an obvious target for cuts.
Although it is generally acknowledged that education is the foundation of every modern society's future prosperity, schools unfortunately will have to compete with retirees for scarce dollars. This competition is uneven, because retirees have a legal claim on promised pension benefits that supersedes schools' budgetary needs. Consequently, Americans can look forward to higher taxes and cuts in services, resulting in fewer teachers, bigger classes, and facilities that are allowed to deteriorate. In several states, these developments have already arrived.
The crux of the problem is the gap between assets and liabilities affecting the fifty-nine pension funds that cover most public school teachers in America. Some of these are general state-employee pension funds, while others cover only teachers. Among the findings of our study of these funds:
Over the past few days, four former MPS superintendents have met in two public forums to share the lessons they have learned about running the state's largest school district. In both forums a recurring theme was Howard Fuller's contention that: "I was in charge, but I wasn't in control."
His meaning, with which the other former superintendents generally agreed, was that the labor contracts with the teachers and principals unions constrained his ability to make dramatic changes in the district. The implication was that the district's new superintendent, Gregory Thornton, would find it similarly difficult to improve outcomes under the current labor-management dynamic.
Whether this perception is accurate or not with regard to MPS, a new, still tentative, labor agreement in the Washington D.C. school district provides an example of a superintendent turning labor negotiating on its head. The D.C. superintendent, Michelle Rhee, has received much national press over the past two years as she pushed for a new paradigm of how, and how much, teachers are paid in D.C.
WARNING: This blog post is utterly simple and obvious. There are some life phenomena, events, and trends that are widely recognized and accepted by most people as just plain Truth. (Majority perception isn't always right, but it often is.) The argument that follows needs no regressions, 5-page data sets, or integration symbols.
This is a fact: Smart, ambitious people are rarely choosing K-12 teaching as a career these days.
Consider that, in 2007, among high school seniors who took the SAT and intended to major in education, the average scores were a dismal 480 in Critical Reading, 483 in Mathematics, and 476 in Writing. Compare those scores with the average scores of students intending to become engineers--524, 579, and 510. Or to students intending to enter the fields of communications and journalism: 523, 501, 519. Also consider that the most competitive, elite colleges and universities, like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton, aren't offering undergraduate majors in teaching or education.
For almost a decade, No Child Left Behind has tested and labeled our kids and our schools. We know you care about your students, and we are eager to let Washington know just what you think about NCLB. Please take a few minutes to complete the following survey so we can let your representatives know exactly how this legislation has affected you and your students, and how it needs to be changed.This is the introductory text to a new survey the National Education Association is using to ostensibly guage where its members stand on ESEA reauthorization.
But this "survey" is hardly a survey. C'mon.
Although the NEA claims to be eager to "let Washington know just what [its member-teachers] think about NCLB," tools like this only serve to tell teachers what the NEA thinks they should think. This all-too-short, multiple-choice-only survey begins by using the rotten brand "NCLB" in the introduction to inflame the survey-taker. Next, it asks only two questions about the survey-taker's identity: role and zip code.
A mind-numbing barrage of random television clips and trash-talking heads, "The Cartel" purports to be a documentary about the American public school system. In reality, however, it's a bludgeoning rant against a single state -- New Jersey -- which it presents as a closed loop of Mercedes-owning administrators, obstructive teachers' unions and corrupt school boards.
Blithely extrapolating nationally, the writer and director, Bob Bowdon, concludes that increased financing for public schools is unlikely to raise reading scores but is almost certain to raise the luxury-car quotient in administrator parking lots. To illustrate, Mr. Bowdon rattles off a laundry list of outrages -- like a missing $1 billion from a school construction budget -- and provides a clumsy montage of newspaper headlines detailing administrative graft.
The evidence may be verifiable (and even depressingly familiar), but its complex underpinnings are given short shrift. Instead Mr. Bowdon, a New Jersey-based television reporter, employs an exposé-style narration lousy with ad hominems and emotional coercion. In one particularly egregious scene he parks his camera in front of a weeping child who has just failed to win a coveted spot in a charter-school lottery -- another tiny victim of public school hell. Later, confronted with the president of the New Jersey Education Association, Mr. Bowdon performs the rhetorical equivalent of poking a lion with a stick and running away.
For many educators across the state, the Republican-led Legislature's proposed overhaul of Florida schools is inspiring a wave of deja vu.
Florida's last dramatic education shift in 1999 was also pushed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. It, too, was hurried through the legislative process by Republican leaders who used buzz words like accountability and performance measurements. Both efforts saw teacher unions and Democrats square off against big business and conservatives.
But, this time, critics said, it is worse. This time it is personal.
``They are going after the individual classroom teacher,'' said Ceresta Smith, a Miami Language Arts teacher who drove to Tallahassee Wednesday to beg Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the legislation, which would link teacher pay and recertification to student learning gains.
It's a good thing Madison is a full of certified smarty-pants. It takes a high level of smarts just to comprehend the complex and shifting budget situation faced by the Madison school district. Even some school board members have a hard time making sense of it.
"I've never seen anything quite like this," says Lucy Mathiak, the board's vice president, of the process by which the district has presented information about its proposed $372.8 million budget this year. "When you have the health and welfare of schools on the line, I feel like I have to ask for answers. It's not a comfortable position."
Frustrated, Mathiak first raised questions about how the district came to its projected $30 million budget hole in her School Daze blog. She notes, first of all, that the gap was closer to $18 million, presuming the board exercises its existing ability to raise taxes, as approved by voters in a 2008 referendum: "This means that the draconian school closings and massive staff layoffs reported earlier are unlikely to happen."
But even if that gap is plugged, new ones are opening up. Recently the district was told by a consultant that it needs to do $85.7 million in repairs to existing buildings over the next five years, well beyond the $4 million a year it budgets to this end.
Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee's senior Republican member, today warned sensitive student information could be at risk through vast data warehouses that collect private, personally identifiable information on school children. The committee heard testimony on the risks to students' personal information during a hearing on data collection in the K-12 education system.
"Today's hearing reinforces the need for federal, state, and local policymakers to ensure sensitive personal information about our children is safeguarded, and student and family privacy rights are protected. Efforts to collect vast troves of information on our students, tracking them from cradle to career, raise serious concerns," said Kline. "Information on student performance, while important to a child's success in the classroom and ensuring we have the best teachers serving in our schools, should not supersede our responsibility to protect a student's personal information."
The committee heard testimony from Professor Joel Reidenberg, academic director of the Center on Law and Information Policy at the Fordham University School of Law, who shared his research into security weaknesses in current state-based data systems and the potential that state data warehouses could be commandeered to create an unprecedented federal tracking system for maintaining private student information.
Local foodies are cheering the news that Wisconsin lawmakers this week passed legislation that will help bring local farm products to school lunchrooms.
The Assembly passed AB 746, which creates a statewide council to coordinate the process of selling Wisconsin-grown products to schools. The Senate concurred on the Farm-to-School initiative which is cheering news to Wisconsin farmers and advocates for more fresh foods on school menus.
Meanwhile, a newly released report from chef Beth Collins and Lunch Lessons about Madison's school meal program says the Madison school district's food service facilities, staff and organization pose no barriers to putting healthier, less processed food on kids' plates at school. But district budget woes and time constraints, plus the lack of a well-focused plan, still pose significant hurdles to upgrading what kids eat at school.
Middlebury College, a small Vermont college known for its rigorous foreign-language programs, is forming a venture with a commercial entity to develop online language programs for pre-college students. The college plans to invest $4 million for a 40 percent stake in what will become Middlebury Interactive Languages.There are many online opportunities today. These initiatives are an opportunity for school districts to think differently about traditional methods and their curriculum creation expenditures.
The partnership, with the technology-based education company K12 Inc., will allow Middlebury to achieve two goals, said Ronald D. Liebowitz, the president of the college: It will help more American students learn foreign languages, an area in which they lag far behind Europeans; and it will give Middlebury another source of revenue.
"We wanted to do something about the fact that not enough American students are learning other languages, and it's harder for students if they don't learn language until college," Mr. Liebowitz said. "It is also my belief, and I think our board's belief, that finding potential new sources of revenue is not a bad thing. By doing what we're doing with this venture, we hope to take some stress off our three traditional sources of revenue -- fees, endowment and donations."
Milwaukee's incoming schools leader will focus on improving student achievement, creating more efficient and effective district operations, and partnering with parents, businesses and community members when he takes the reins of the state's largest public school system in July.
That's according to Gregory Thornton, Milwaukee Public Schools' superintendent-in-waiting, who for the first time in public Tuesday began laying out his plan for improvement and hinting at the changes those inside and outside the system can expect to see over the next few years.
"I'm excited because I think Milwaukee is at a very key place," Thornton said. "I think we're at a tipping point . . . I believe we need to tip this thing in a way that young people can be successful."
Thornton's discussion was part of a Newsmaker Luncheon hosted by the Milwaukee Press Club at the downtown Newsroom Pub. He answered questions from a panel of local journalists as well as audience members.
From the start, Thornton said, he will have to do "some housekeeping" in the district. Change will happen, he said, and those standing in the way will not be encouraged to stick around.
The latest report on Michigan's charter schools, to be presented to the state Board of Education today, does not compare the performance of charter students to those in traditional public schools -- a controversial practice done in past years.
In previous years, the annual report compared test scores in all charter schools with the average score of 20 traditional (and mostly low-performing) districts in which about 75% of Michigan charter schools are located. By that measure, charter schools do better.
The new 33-page annual report, created by the Michigan Department of Education and Michigan State University, explores topics including student performance and profiles. The report also recommends giving the department more authority over charter schools and a small increase in funding to pay for that.
A new State of Minnesota report finds that fewer Minnesota school districts are in the worst category of financial hardship.
The report reveals six charter schools and five traditional public school districts were in what's called "standard operating debt" last year.
Schools in standard operating debt don't have to close, but they must follow certain spending rules aimed at improving their fiscal standing.
This year's 11 districts in standard operating debt is a small decrease from the previous year's number and it continues a mostly downward trend since 2001, when 45 districts had that label. This year's tally is also the lowest number of schools to be in standards operating debt since the state started keeping track in 1990.
Interesting development in Indiana regarding Race To The Top: the State Superintendent, Tony Bennett, has written a letter to the president of the Indiana State Teachers Association explaining that because union buy-in is so important to wining the federal competition, "I ask for your unequivocal agreement to the following proposals." If the Union won't support Indiana's RTTT application then Indiana won't even bother applying for the next round in June. (Hat tip: Flypaper.)
Mr. Bennett goes on to stipulate that the application will only be submitted if ISTA agrees to support a requirement that 51% of teacher evaluations be based on student growth data, and new legislation that uses teacher evaluations to inform tenure and compensation decisions. The Union must submit a "strong letter of support and a recommendation that local associations sign on in support."
Ashley Koski, ranked third in the senior class at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Va., has wanted to attend Duke University since she was 12.
Late last month, she learned that Duke had neither accepted nor rejected her. It had offered her a spot on the waiting list -- along with 3,382 other applicants. That is almost twice the size of the incoming freshman class.
"I kind of just went quiet the rest of the day," Ms. Koski said. "I'd rather have a yes or no. I can't make plans and be excited like the rest of my friends."
Duke, which had a record 27,000 freshman applicants, has placed 856 more on its waiting list than a year ago. The reasons include the uncertain economy, which makes it hard for Duke to estimate how many of the 4,000 it has accepted will say yes.
Milwaukee Public Schools can be turned around, but it will need a strong, visionary leader to chart a course of action and stick to it despite the pressures of special interests, the School Board and political forces, several former MPS superintendents said Monday night.
During a public forum hosted by the Marquette University Law School, four former leaders of the state's largest public school system spoke with relative candor about their past leadership experiences and the challenges they see ahead for the district at a time when MPS is about to accept a new superintendent.
Panelists Robert Peterkin (superintendent from 1988 to '91), Howard Fuller (1991-'95), Barbara Horton (1997) and Spence Korte (1999-2002) broke tradition with the silence on MPS issues that those who leave the top post generally adhere to and shared frustrations they encountered with a bureaucracy that too willingly accepts mediocrity and makes it hard to reward success.
They also made clear that Milwaukee should look to cities and states that have had success over the past 10 to 15 years in raising achievement levels for students.
"You cannot tell me it can't be done - there are no unteachable children," said Fuller, who after his superintendency became an advocate for choice schools as leader of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette.
James Crow, professor emeritus of genetics at the UW-Madison recently gave a talk to the Madison Literary Club on "100 Years of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Click to download a 4.5mb .zip file that contains a few images from Monday's Madison Literary Club talk.
Wisconsin's statewide pension system for public employees may not be as well-funded as the state reports, with a new study estimating it could be as much as $10.9 billion short in meeting its obligations just to teachers.
While the state estimates that the Wisconsin Retirement System is nearly 100% funded, the report by the conservative Manhattan Institute and Foundation for Educational Choice warns that the amount could be far less.
By using asset growth projection rates similar to what are required for private pension plans, the study found that Wisconsin's retirement system would be considered only 78% funded. In addition, an analysis that takes into account recent stock market activity drops it to 72% funding, according to the report.
"We think this is more accurate than the stated market value of assets," said Josh Barro, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and co-author of the report, which was released Tuesday.
Pension plans that are not adequately funded could lead to higher property taxes or take resources away from the classrooms, Barro said. "Pension obligations are not some big ethereal thing," he said.
When I was a student at Cambridge University, I was told that term time was for attending lectures and socializing, at Oxford and Cambridge, and vacation time was for reading lots of books (a reading period). When I was an undergraduate at Harvard, (this is my 50th reunion year), we were given a formal Reading Period before exams, to help us catch up on semester reading assignments and prepare for finals.
If we would like to expect high school teachers of English and History to work with their students on the sort of serious research paper from which they will learn a lot on their own, and which will prepare them for college term papers, we have to give teachers a Reading Period, too, but we don't, so many don't assign such papers, and the majority of our public high school students now go on to college unprepared for college writing and panicked when their first assignments come down.
Laura Arandes, when she was a Freshman at Harvard, was shocked at the newacademic writing expectations, because at her public high school in Southern California she had never been asked to write more than a five-paragraph essay. She wrote me that:
I thought a required freshman writing course was meant to introduce us to college paper-writing. To ease us into the more rigorous scholastic environment we had so recently entered. In reality, the course was a refresher for most of the other students in the class. At a high-level academic institution, too many of the students come from private schools that have realized that it would be an academic failure on their parts to send their students to college without experience with longer papers, research environments, exposure to non-fiction literature, and knowledge of bibliographic techniques. And they're right. It is a failure, one being perpetrated by too many public high schools across the nation.A survey of college professors done a couple of years ago by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that 90% of them thought the students they were seeing were not very well prepared in reading, doing research, and writing.
It took me two years to gain a working knowledge of paper-writing, to get to a point where I was constructing arguments and using evidence to support them. I read pamphlets and books on the mechanics of writing college papers, but the reality is simple: you only learn how to write papers by WRITING them. So here I am, about to graduate, with a GPA much lower than it should be and no real way to explain to graduate schools and recruiting companies that I spent my first semesters just scraping by. And the amount of determination, energy and devotion it took to scrape by isn't easily quantified and demonstrable.
The Diploma to Nowhere report from 2008 found that more than one million of our high school graduates, with diploma and college acceptances in hand, are put into remedial courses when they arrive at college. The California State College people reported at a conference in Philadelphia last fall that 47% of their Freshman were in remedial writing courses. I asked the Director of Composition at Stanford if they had any remedial writing courses, and she told me that, no, all Freshman had to take a composition course.
So, what is the matter with all those public high school English and History teachers, that they are not preparing our graduates for college writing tasks? Many public high school teachers have five classes of thirty students each. With 150 students, if the teacher assigns a 20-page paper, she/he will have 3,000 pages of student research and writing to read, consider and correct when they come in. If she/he takes an hour on each paper, that would require 150 hours, or 30 days at five hours a day.
Even teachers who do a lot of their preparation and correcting after regular school hours, at night and on the weekends, do not have 150 hours to go over research papers. As a result, they do not assign them, students do not learn how to do the reading and writing required, and colleges (and students) complain when students arrive unprepared.
A sensible solution, it seems to me, would be to provide a Reading Period of perhaps eight school days for History and English teachers to do the necessary work to prepare their students for serious academic papers. This will seem excessive and unmanageable to administrators, but not, perhaps, if they consider the extra time already allotted in our public high schools for other things, like band practice, layup drills for basketball, yearbook, concerts, football and baseball practice, and on and on and on, when it comes to non-academic purposes.
If we do give the necessary time for teachers of English and History to work with their students on research papers, and to evaluate their work, I believe our students will learn how to read complete nonfiction books and to write serious term papers, but if we continue to expect the impossible of our teachers, they will continue to ask less academically of their students than they can do, and students will continue to suffer the consequences.
"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® 
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
24MB mp3 audio file. Much more on the 2010-2011 budget and 2005 maintenance referendum, and potential audit, here.
A new study by Josh Barro and Stuart Buck, co-sponsored by the Foundation for Educational Choice and the Manhattan Institute, finds that states have total teacher pension liabilities of ONE TRILLION DOLLARS!
These days that doesn't sound like much, does it? We're getting to the point where raising an alarm about ONE TRILLION DOLLARS is a little like holding the world to ransom for a measly million.
But check out some other points from the study:
A federal judge Tuesday ordered a rural county in southwestern Mississippi to stop segregating its schools by grouping African American students into all-black classrooms and allowing white students to transfer to the county's only majority-white school, the U.S. Justice Department announced.
The order, issued by Senior Judge Tom S. Lee of the U.S. District Court of Southern Mississippi, came after Justice Department civil rights division lawyers moved to enforce a 1970 desegregation case against the state and Walthall County.
Known as Mississippi's cream pitcher for its dairy farms and bordering Louisiana 80 miles north of New Orleans, Walthall County has a population of about 15,000 people that includes about 54 percent white residents and 45 percent African American residents, according to the U.S. Census.
I have a great deal of respect for Larry Cuban and his important work, but this blog post on Michelle Rhee reads like boilerplate applied to a situation that it doesn't fit.
For starters, when you actually read the new contract you'll see that Rhee didn't compromise a lot away, she basically got everything she wanted - including tenure reform. If there is a lesson in the contact timeline and resolution it's far less about compromise than about fortitude. Cuban says that the teachers got the raises they wanted. OK, sure. But Rhee wanted those, too!
The AFT's Randi Weingarten deserves a great deal of credit (which so far she hasn't gotten in the media in my view**) for signing a contract that effectively ends tenure and addresses layoffs in a respectful but cost-sustainable form, but the spin that this was a give and take deal evaporates when you actually read the document. It's precedent setting in some key ways.*
Second, I don't know where Cuban gets his 5 percent figure on the number of ineffective teachers in D.C.'s schools but while the percent can certainly be overstated in the public debate you're hard pressed to find anyone with firsthand experience in the D.C. schools or around them who does not peg that number higher. I was a charter trustee in D.C. for seven years and have spent a lot of time in both sector's of the city's public schools and would place that figure higher than 5 percent in a lot of the city's charter schools, too, by the way. This just isn't something the field does well yet.
Despite the 2008 referendum which so many of us worked so hard to pass, state actions and inaction have once again placed the quality of our public schools in jeopardy. It is time to stand up for our schools (again).
On Sunday April 18th at 1:00 pm at Warner Park Community Recreation Center - 1625 Northport Dr. - the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will hold their second Public Hearing on the 2010-11 district budget. The Board needs to hear from the community that we value education and are willing to pay to keep our schools strong. Progressive Dane urges community members to attend and make their voices heard.
Even if you don't want to speak at the meeting, you can attend register with positive message. If you can't make on Sunday, the Board can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twenty percent over five years is the best we're ever going to do. Yes, there are problems, but let's sign and move on.
Private donors such as the Walton Family Foundation are not to be trusted. They'll be gone, along with their money, the moment Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee leaves.
The deal is a trap, because it does nothing to limit the IMPACT evaluation system, which is a disaster, or to protect teachers from the kind of layoffs Rhee instigated last October.
This, in paraphrase, is some of the conversation among teachers over the tentative contract agreement announced last week. If District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi certifies the funding commitments of the four foundation donors as sound, the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) will mail out ballots to begin a two-week voting period. This week, WTU president George Parker begins a series of informational meetings for teachers to discuss the proposed deal. The sessions, which all start at 4:30 p.m., will be Tuesday at McKinley High School, Thursday at Woodrow Wilson, Monday, April 19, at Ballou and Wednesday, April 21, at Spingarn.
Conservative leader David Cameron has made an election centrepiece of plans to allow parents and other providers to set up schools with state funding.
Launching his party's manifesto, Mr Cameron has promised parents "the power to get a good new school in your community".
The manifesto also says all schools, including primaries, will be able to have the autonomy of academy status.
And there is a commitment that all pupils should read by the age of six.
At Adelphi Elementary School, students peel away from their classrooms twice a week for tutorials in reading and math. Clusters of five or six children will shuffle into a book closet, a hallway, a computer lab or any place teachers can fit a few empty chairs for 45 minutes of catch-up lessons or enrichment.
Such all-out efforts helped this Prince George's County school win a national award this year for steep gains in test scores. But the federal anti-poverty program that funds the academic drive at Adelphi represents a model of education reform -- spreading aid to states based on population and need -- that is fast going out of fashion.
President Obama aims to reinvent the Education Department as a venture capitalist for school reform, investing more in schools with innovative ideas. The Title I program, which supports Adelphi and thousands of other schools in low-income areas based on formulas of need, is not facing extinction. But Obama would freeze the core of that program even as he sends billions of dollars to states that harmonize their policies with his.
Dear Public Education Advocate:
Yesterday I attended the premier showing of A Right Denied produced by Bob Compton who also produced 2 Million Minutes and few other related documentaries about education systems in the US and the world.
In between watching the Masters or the Yankees lose a few ballgames this weekend, please review this information and in particular, the attached 240 slide PPT presentation prepared by Whitney Tilson who is featured in A Right Denied. Whitney's research and factual data took a few years to compile and is the basis for the documentary. I have been following Whitney's work closely for a few years and if you asked me if I could have dinner with any one person in America today who would it be; my answer (after my wife of course) Whitney Tilson. Please review his material and feel free to share this with those you know.
While the achievement gap among racial groups and the sad inequities based solely one's zip code are illustrated, so is the decline in the U.S. education system on a whole - the data is alarming.
Some select pieces from the PPT slides (5.5MB PDF):
Why hasn't additional money resulted in improved results?
Hell hath no fury like a teacher's union scorned. To close a $10.7 billion budget deficit, New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie last month proposed slashing education by $820 million, an equivalent to a 5% cut for each school district. That follows on the heels of an across-the-board pay freeze.
Not happy is the Bergen County Education Association, which sent a letter to 17,000 members asking them to pray for the governor's death. The letter offers a sample prayer that begins: "Dear Lord, this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. . . . I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor."
Today, State Representative Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) joined other education supporters to announce a new education reform proposal designed to increase supports for Milwaukee Public Schools and its democratically-elected school board. Grigsby issued the following statement regarding today's activities:
"If this compromise were about mayoral takeover, I would not be here in support of it today. Over the past year, much of the debate surrounding MPS has been about who runs the schools, rather than the quality of education being given to our children. Now that the debate surrounding takeover has come to an end, I'm glad that so many different stakeholders have been able to join together to find common ground with the best interests of Milwaukee's children in mind.
"This compromise is not about a change in governance, nor is it about school control. This compromise is about support for our schools and providing a consistent, quality education for our children. For education to improve, MPS needs more community support, more district support, and more state support. You will not find a takeover of any sort in this legislation. Instead, this proposal puts in place important policies designed to support and strengthen Milwaukee Public Schools and maintain its democratically-elected, empowered school board.
The president of a state teachers union left a meeting Monday with Gov. Chris Christie after refusing to fire a local president who wrote a memo that joked about the governor's death, further escalating a rift that began before Christie's election.
Christie spokesman Mike Drewniak said the governor wants Bergen County teachers union head Joe Coppola fired for his "irresponsible" memo. The memo from the Bergen County Education Association to its locals included a closing prayer that read:
"Dear Lord this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor."
"We still have the big stuff ahead, some of the harder discussions," School Board President Arlene Silveira said. "So it's good to get some of these items off the table."Much more on the 2010-2011 budget here.
Superintendent Dan Nerad started the budget discussion Monday with the news that more than nine full-time jobs for bilingual resource specialists had been double-counted in budget estimates, allowing the board to remove $632,670 in expenses for those duplicate positions.
Also, the rise in employee health insurance costs for the 2010-11 school year had been overestimated, resulting in costs that are $1.4 million less than projected, Nerad said.
Cristin Frodella, a senior marketing manager for education at Google, says this is not a strategy to make money.
"We give it away for free now," Frodella says. "We plan to always give it away for free. You know, Google actually started in the education world, and so we'd like to continue to support education. And we think this is a great way for us to support it."
No ads, no charge -- what's the catch?
"That's a very good question. The answer isn't entirely clear," says Christian Csar, a senior computer science major at Yale University.
He says he was troubled when he heard that Yale was planning to migrate student e-mail to Google. "There are some distinct privacy concerns because Google now has complete access to your e-mail in order to show it to you," he says.
Frodella says students shouldn't worry. "The school owns all of the student's private data. We are not looking at it. The school owns all of it," Frodella says.
The Milwaukee Drum:
Sandra Stotsky and I have pieces in today's Arkansas Democrat Gazette on the current national standards push. We take slightly different approaches -- Sandy thinks national standards are a good idea in general but the current draft has bad standards, while I think national standards are a bad idea altogether. But we end up with the same policy recommendation -- the current national standards push should be stopped. I've reproduced both pieces below:
One Size Fits None
by Jay P. Greene
The Obama administration and Gates Foundation are orchestrating an effort to get every state to adopt a set of national standards for public elementary and secondary schools.
These standards describe what students should learn in each subject in each grade. Eventually these standards can be used to develop national high-stakes tests, which will shape the curriculum in every school.
College student Sehrish Shah perched on a well-worn chair in a student activities lounge and pulled markers and glitter paint from her backpack. A white sheaf of poster board was spread on a table, and several other students huddled around it, trying to tap latent artistic genes to create a poster for an upcoming event.
The students, who represented different religious groups on campus, sketched a tree incorporating religious symbols and words into the branches and trunk. They were promoting World Peace Day to foster the idea of various faiths working together. As they sketched, Shah and the other students talked about fundraising possibilities (a kissing booth was rejected), groaned about classes and compared parents' discipline policies.
For a free society, history is everything. Thus, the greatest problem facing America today is that we have forgotten what it means to be an American.
On July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson charted the course for a new nation: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." Abraham Lincoln declared that we were "a new nation, conceived in Liberty" and "the last best hope of earth." Ronald Reagan observed: "Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than any other place on earth."
Susan Troller, via a kind reader's email:
Where did the money go?Related: Proposed Madison School District Maintenance Referendum: 1999, 2005 and 2010 Documents:
For more than a year, Madison School Board member Lucy Mathiak has been asking Madison school district officials for a precise, up-to-date summary of how $26.2 million in 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent over the last five years.
She's still waiting, but her patience is wearing out.
Now the sharp-tongued budget hawk says she may ask the school board as early as Monday night to authorize an outside audit that would identify how the money approved by taxpayers in 2005 for repairs and maintenance of dozens of the district's aging buildings was actually spent between 2005 and fall of 2009.
"We need to have a serious, credible accounting for where the money went from the last referendum, and I haven't seen that yet," Mathiak told The Capital Times. "I'm ready to ask for an audit, and I think there are other board members who are equally concerned."
The Madison School District is considering another maintenance referendum ($85M?). The documents below provide a list of completed (1999, 2005) and planned projects (2010+). The reader may wish to review and compare the lists:
The 2005 special election included 3 referenda questions, just one of which passed - the maintenance matter.
- 1999 and 2005 Maintenance Referenda Project List 332K PDF
- 2010 Facilities Assessment
- 9/7/2004 Project List - 51MB .xls
- Roof Replacement List - 2004 100k .xls & Roof Summary2
I recently watched Al Sharpton on the Stephen Colbert show talk about how education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. He discussed his collaboration with Newt Gingrich to promote education reforms. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich? That's an interesting coupling.
And I thought of all the interesting volunteers who come together at School on Wheels to tutor a homeless child. Why do they do this? For some it's because they recognize the vulnerability and difficulty of being a homeless student. For others, it's the opportunity to give back to those they consider less fortunate. For most, however, it's the understanding that education is the one sure path out of poverty and the cycle of homelessness. In Los Angeles County, we have a 60% graduation rate, well below the national average of 70%. And not only is the poverty rate in L.A. County higher than the nation as a whole, but we are the homeless capital of the nation.
Homelessness is extreme poverty. A serious illness or the loss of a job can leave anyone in extreme poverty. And when kids become homeless, their education suffers immensely.
New York Governor David Paterson wants to reduce state aid to local school districts next year by 5% to address the state's $9.2 billion budget deficit, and state educators are complaining that the cuts could result in teacher layoffs. Maybe so, but the reality in New York and other states is that teacher hires in recent years have far outpaced student enrollment.
A new report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy found that New York public schools added 15,000 teachers between 2000 and 2009, even though enrollment fell by 121,000 students over the same period. New York City, home to the nation's largest school system, added 7,000 teachers and 4,000 nonteaching professionals (guidance counselors, administrators, nurses) even as its enrollment was decreasing by 63,000 kids, according to state data.
Teachers unions prefer fewer students per class because it means more dues-paying jobs, but the evidence that it improves academic outcomes is thin. In any case, the Empire Center report found that "by national standards, class sizes in New York were small even before the further staff expansion of the past nine years." In 2008 New York's pupil-teacher ratio was 13.1, the eighth lowest among the 50 states, and its per-pupil spending ($16,000) leads the nation.
The Madison School District is considering another maintenance referendum ($85M?). The documents below provide a list of completed (1999, 2005) and planned projects (2010+). The reader may wish to review and compare the lists:
In the midst of an interesting memo defending President Obama’s decision to propose level funding Title I for next year, Raegan Miller of the Center for American Progress raises the point that many states and school districts don’t need increased Title I money because they are still receiving additional stimulus dollars. That’s a good point and makes a lot of sense–no need to spend more when there are already federal funds available.
But while the stimulus funds may be enough to justify flat-funding Title I for next year, it also hints at some important looming questions in all levels of federal education spending—what to do when the stimulus money expires.
As Miller notes, school districts and states still have some remaining funds from the $10 billion provided for Title I in the stimulus that would supplement the flat funded level of $14.49 billion for Title I. According to Jennifer Cohen, my former colleague at the New America Foundation, only about 24 percent of Title I stimulus funds had been disbursed by March 5. Coupled with the fact that up to 15 percent of the $10 billion can be reserved for the 2011 fiscal year, this increases the likelihood that states will still have a decent amount of money to use.
Win or lose with healthcare "reform", there is another socialist crisis looming, thanks to the Obama administration, but one that most conservatives and many libertarians will not only go along with but actually applaud, until it is forever too late. The battle over our schools has been being lost for nearly a decade and with the help of conservatives who do not understand how The late Senator Edward Kennedy and the current Pelosi ally, U.S. Representative George Miller pulled one over on Bush and the GOP with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The defining impact of NCLB was not what it imposed on the nation's public schools but that it opened the door to direct Federal control of one of the most intimately local institutions in American history and culture (Will, 2007). That Federal control of the schools is precisely why Democrats who railed against the law for its first four years did not overturn it after taking control of Congress in 2007, when the law first came up for renewal. Democrats may not like details within NCLB but they apparently like the idea of federal control of the schools more than they dislike the current law, considering that they have left NCLB unchanged until Obama has proposed his "Blueprint for Education" (Turner, D). Many of the same people who bitterly opposed Obama on healthcare will now jump through all his various hoops to help him further take over the nation's schools on a federal level by accepting his shiny false lure of blaming education's ills on so-called "bad" teachers (Navarrette). The proof of the falsehood in the lure to punish "bad" teachers is in which states won first approval under Obama's first canary in the coal mine for federal takeover of the schools, also known as Race To The Top; states whose teachers unions agreed to the so-called reforms (Anderson & Turque).
Disappointment was widespread last month when Minnesota failed to make the list of finalists for federal Race to the Top education funds. For a state accustomed to being a national leader in education, it was a rude awakening to be bested by winners Delaware and Tennessee and eight other finalists.
Still, the poor showing can be the kick in the teeth Minnesota needs to jump-start educational reforms, and it should serve as a wake-up call for a teachers union that has wielded too much power in preserving the status quo. Minnesota lost points in the competition for poor plans to produce better educators and close the achievement gap, and for not having more support from its teachers unions.
Ze'ev Wurman and Sandra Stotsky, in their opinion piece ("Grade 10 Diploma Not a Wise Idea," Insight, April 4) misrepresented our proposals.
They suggest that the State Consortium on Board Examination Systems is proposing to send all of the high school students in our states to community colleges at the age of 16. Not so.
We offer the option of going to community college after the sophomore year in high school to students who pass exams showing they can do college-level work. But students who pass these exams could stay in high school to take a career and technical program or a program designed to prepare them for admission to selective colleges. High schools would be obligated to give students who don't pass their exams additional instruction in the areas in which they are weak, so they could succeed the next time they take the exam.
Granite School District has proposed a policy on banning faculty from becoming friends on Facebook with students. If the policy is passed, it will be the first of its kind in the entire state. The proposed policy applies to all employees in the District. "I think it's very good because I think it's a check and balance on the Facebook," said Helen Mellen, teacher at Olympus High School. "I think they get out of hand. They can become very dangerous."
Some students at school will not deny the dangers of getting to know their teachers better on Facebook, but a few students feel the social networking site has helped them in contacting their teachers.
"Even if they do make the policy, I could see teachers getting away with it," said student Gavin Salisbury. "Last week I turned in an assignment over Facebook, I at least told the teacher over Facebook that my assignment was in his e-mail, so the assignment was on time because of Facebook."
When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes.
Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.
Lower income voters are more likely than others to believe the nation is overtaxed.
Not surprisingly, the tax issue provokes a wide gap between the Political Class and Mainstream Americans. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Mainstream American voters believe the nation is overtaxed, while 74% of those in the Political Class disagree (see more about the Political Class and Mainstream Americans).
In the approved Plan to Align the Work of the Administration to the District's Mission and Strategic Plan, the Reorganization Plan, it states "For all revised or newly created positions, job descriptions will be developed and submitted to the Board of Education for approval."The Deputy Superintendent / Chief Learning Officer adds a layer between the current Superintendent, Dan Nerad and a number of positions that formerly reported to him:
On the April 12, 2010 Regular Meeting agenda - Superintendent's Announcements and Reports - I am seeking action on four position descriptions representing three new positions as a result of the approved reorganization plan and one revised description. These include:
Action on these position descriptions is being sought at this time in order to allow the newly created positions to be posted in as timely a manner as possible.
- Deputy Superintendent / Chief Learning Officer
- Director Professional Development Director
- Early and Extended Learning
- Executive Director - Curriculum and Assessment
When additional existing position descriptions are revised, as a result of the reorganization plan, they will be submitted to the Board for review and approval. Please let me know if you have any questions on these position descriptions.
The Deputy Superintendent/Chief Learning Officer provides leadership in the ongoing development, implementation and (curriculum, instructional and responsible for the improvement of all learner-related programs within the all assigned administratorsHistoric Madison School District staffing levels can be reviewed here: 2004-2005 FTE counts were 3872. A 2010-2011 MMSD Budget Book document displays a FTE total of 3,755.03.
Assistant Superintendents-Elementary and Executive Director of Educational Services Executive Director of Curriculum and Ksse:,snm Executive Director of Student Services Director of Professional Development Coordinator-Grants and Fund Development Executive Assistant
Key legislators and major players in Wisconsin's education scene are close to agreement on a package of ideas aimed at invigorating efforts to improve low performing schools, particularly in Milwaukee.
The focus of the proposal is on giving Tony Evers, the state superintendent of public instruction, an array of new tools for taking on the problems of the schools in the state that get the weakest results.
According to a draft of the proposal, when it comes to low-performing schools, Evers would have powers to order school boards to change how principals are hired and fired; how teachers are assigned; how teachers and principals are evaluated, including the use of student performance data; and how curriculum and training of teachers is handled.
"There's a large consensus of people who are around this," State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) said. "That's exciting."
Evers said, "We feel confident we have a good, meaningful piece of legislation." He said it had been "an amazing few weeks" as prospects for a major education reform package this year went from bleak to energized. He said conversations, including a session Wednesday at the Capitol with many of the major players, had involved hard conversations in which people had given ground on stands they had taken previously.
"I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder how we could have tolerated anything so primitive."- John W. Gardner, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, "No Easy Victories" (1968)
Education reform is in the air and taking root in thousands of classrooms across the country. From overhauling No Child Left Behind to closing poorly performing schools and raising student expectations, the push for change is powerful. Yet, the space where most learning takes place--the school and classroom--has changed little over the last 200 years.
Even before students set foot in a classroom, most schools still are built like factories: long hallways, lined with metal lockers, transport students to identical, self-contained classrooms. School designers call these hallways "double-loaded corridors." The factory model of control and direct instruction still pervades most new schools. If we are to have thorough-going school reform, we must change the design model, too, starting with the place students first enter the school.
Two years ago, Indian Prairie School District 204 was building state-of-the art schools and athletic facilities. For years, new homes regularly had been added to the tax rolls, which kept dollars rolling in. Administrators in the district covering south and west Naperville decided to expand kindergarten to a full school day.
In the older neighborhoods to the north and east, Naperville School District 203 was enlarging its older schools rather than building new ones. Although the district spent more per pupil than its southern neighbors, kindergarten remained a half-day program, which didn't sit well with some parents.
But in recent weeks, District 204 approved plans to cut 145 teachers and $21.4 million out of next year's budget, while its neighbors in District 203 made small budget adjustments that left the educational program largely intact.
History matters. Most intelligent adults, no matter how limited their education, understand that. Even if they have never formally studied the subject, they are likely to take an interest in historical topics. Historians on television - notably Simon Schama and David Starkey - draw big audiences (the book of Schama's History of Britain sold more than a million copies). Military historians who have become household names in recent years include Richard Holmes and Anthony Beevor. And journalists such as Andrew Marr, Jeremy Paxman and David Dimbleby have also been highly successful in reaching a mass audience with historical material.
History, it might be said, has never been more popular. Yet there is a painful paradox at the very same time: that it has never been less popular in British schools.
History is not a compulsory part of the British secondary school curriculum after the age of 14, in marked contrast to nearly all other European countries. The most recent statistics for England and Wales indicate the scale of the problem. In 2009 a total of 219,809 candidates sat the GCSE in history - just 4 per cent of all GCSEs taken. More students sat the design and technology GCSE (305,809).
Re "In School Aid Race, Many States Are Left Behind" (front page, April 5):
No wonder a Race to the Top that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hyped as education's "moon shot" is beginning to look like a wet firecracker. The Obama administration said the competition would be transparent, yet anonymous judges evaluated 40 states' applications behind closed doors. The administration said it would reward innovation, yet gaining assent from change-averse teacher unions gave the two winning states the edge, not bold new options for students and parents.
In the final analysis, the race may have a good effect if it finally convinces education patrons and stewards that "Waiting for Superman" (to borrow from Davis Guggenheim's brilliant documentary about deeply flawed public education) is an exercise in futility. The only way to reform education is from the bottom up.
Sweden has the right idea in letting public money follow children to the independent or public schools of their choice, thus sparking a competition that actually enhances quality for all.
New York-based online video management company whistleBox has developed a new browser-based augmented reality (AR) experience geared directly at children by integrating it with the one thing every kid loves: cartoons. The project, dubbed Do Crew, is a series of animated stories for kids that include interactive AR games and challenges that the kids can play with using a webcam attached to a desktop or laptop computer.
In examples shown in videos on the Do Crew site, kids can control cartoon vehicles by jumping or leaning side-to-side, and can play other games by waving their hands in front of the camera. Think Project Natal but in a web browser, and integrated within kids' cartoons. This is an excellent use of augmented reality technology because it is a practical application with genuine value, an attribute we discussed last week as being the strongest way AR can break into the mainstream.
Merit pay for teachers based on genuine, verifiable student learning would be a good thing. But the bill the Legislature finalized early Friday morning has too many holes in it, takes away local control and doesn't pay for the changes it orders.
Gov. Crist has said he might veto the bill, and that's exactly what he should do.
The bill requires local school districts to hire, fire and pay teachers according to how well students do on end-of-course exams in all subjects. But those tests don't exist yet. So how can teachers and students know they'll be valid when they go into effect in 2014? The Legislature says the state Department of Education will take care of the details.
That would be more reassuring if the state had a better track record on the FCAT. For a decade Florida has corrupted an otherwise useful test by putting way too much weight on it. Entire schools and districts are graded on a high-stakes test that doesn't even cover most subjects.
While most doctoral programs have some sort of orientation, the focus on such matters as required courses, time to degree and dissertation goals may diminish opportunities to consider really important matters -- such as how to wander into a colloquium at which food is served, timing your entrance so you don't need to listen to the talk.
Adam Ruben wants to help. His Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School is just out from Random House and offers advice -- tongue in cheek but with plenty of truth -- for those who want a doctorate. Ruben earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology from Johns Hopkins University in 2008, so the material comes from his personal experience -- although the attitude comes from his moonlighting as a stand-up comic. He covers everything from selecting professors to work with to figuring out when you need to finish up already (the latter in a chapter appropriate for the Passover season, "Let My Pupil Go.")
Critics of the Obama administration's signature education initiative have been breathing fire since it was announced that only Delaware and Tennessee had won first-round grants under the program, known as Race to the Top. Politicians from some losing states have denounced the well-designed scoring system under which the 16 finalists were evaluated. Others have thrown up their hands, suggesting that retooling applications for the next round is more trouble than it's worth.
Plenty of states will line up for the remaining $3.4 billion. But even if the program ended today, it already has had a huge, beneficial effect on the education reform effort, especially at the state and local levels.
This blog was created in late 2006 in order to "vent" my frustration over the huge debt bubble and what I perceived to be the risks it posed to the global economy. In summary, I claimed that the economy had become hooked on debt to create additional GDP growth - or "growth" in quotation marks - and that the finance "tail" was wagging the real economy "dog".As School Districts consider property tax increases to address spending growth and flat or reduced redistributed state and federal tax dollars, it may well be useful to keep local goodwill in reserve for future funding challenges.
Soon thereafter, the bubble burst - first in the U.S. and then everywhere else. What followed was the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And we are still in the midst of it, albeit in ever-mutating form, so today's post is meant as a tour d'horizon, a quick summary of how I see things shaping up today.
I believe all that has happened so far is The Great Debt Bailout. Governments and central banks have issued trillions in new government-backed debt, some to replace private debt gone bad (bailouts for billionaires) and some to finance massive budget deficits (pennies for penniless). It is a policy mishmash produced by the combination of (a) Bernankean revulsion to monetary deflation and (b) Keynesian aversion to economic recession.
I was flipping through the paper the other day, and one of the comics stood out to me. (Yes, I do still enjoy reading the funny pages; it's relaxing after a long day.) It was Ziggy, one of my favorites, because of its cute illustrations, and funny one-liners.
In this particular comic, Ziggy was at the doctor's office, sitting on a chair next to the doctor, when he looked at the diploma on the wall. Then he cried out, "Wait a minute! This says you were homeschooled!"
I laughed, because it was a stereotypical illustration of a common reaction that people have of homeschoolers, such as myself.
One of my favorite reactions happened at my school, Fox Valley Technical College. I was chatting with another student before my class and, somewhere in the conversation, I mentioned having been homeschooled. She looked at me in amazement, and exclaimed, "I would have never guessed you were homeschooled!"
THROUGHOUT the torturous contract talks between D.C. schools and teachers, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee vowed she would not agree to anything that didn't further her efforts at reform. The innovative agreement announced Wednesday is evidence of that resolve -- and also of a gutsy willingness by local and national union leaders to make the changes that are needed if D.C. children are to do better in school.
Ms. Rhee and officials of the Washington Teachers' Union reached an accord -- subject to ratification by the full membership and approval by the D.C. Council -- that would provide base salary increases of 21 percent over five years. In return, school officials would get important tools to reward teachers who do well with children and hold accountable those who don't. This includes a performance-based bonus system to be instituted in the fall, greater autonomy in assigning teachers and better means of getting rid of teachers unable to produce results.
As fourth-grade teacher Abel Varney introduced a lesson on negative and positive integers, all eyes in his Sabin Elementary classroom were upon him -- including the unblinking lens of a high-tech camera.
The camera recorded Varney's every move and utterance and captured the reactions of every child in the room -- images that will be examined by researchers in a national study trying to figure out what makes effective teaching.
Varney is one of 176 teachers from 17 Denver schools who signed up to have their lessons analyzed during a two-year project funded by a $878,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
I haven't had a chance to read the details yet, but from the executive summary of the new results released today by the School Choice Demonstration Project, it looks like vouchers have done a good job of improving education for all students in the city of Milwaukee.
What? That's not the way you heard it?
Of course not. Because the new result, taken in isolation from other information, simply says that after two years, the voucher students are making learning improvements about the same as public school students. The scores for the voucher students are higher, but the difference is not statistically certain.
However, let's plug that into the larger universe of information. We know - from the very same research project - that vouchers are improving education in Milwaukee public schools. The positive incentives of competition and the improved matching of student needs to school strengths are causing public schools to deliver a better education.
Gov. Chris Christie is trying to solve New Jersey's chronic bud get problems by cutting spending, including state aid to local schools. But the state's powerful teacher unions and many school boards are balking -- claiming that this will either drive up local property taxes or result in devastating cuts to school services.
In fact, there's plenty of fat to cut. For proof, just take a close look at the recent hiring and spending patterns of Jersey's school districts: Both hiring and spending have risen far faster than can be justified by the mild growth in enrollment. Thus, most should have plenty of room to cut spending without major impact.
Given the state's chronic budget woes, the schools' hiring spree defies logic. Since 2001, just as budget problems began in earnest, public-school enrollment in Jersey has risen by less than 3 percent, or slightly more than 36,000 students. But total school hiring (full-time employees and equivalents) has jumped by 14 percent, or nearly 28,000 employees, according to federal Census statistics.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is not on Facebook or Twitter, but she wants to use the power of the Internet to get young people interested in civics.
"Two-thirds of Internet users under the age of 30 have a - whatever this is - social-networking profile," the feisty 80-year-old said in a speech at New York Law School Tuesday.
"We need to bring civics education into the 21st century."
O'Connor, who retired in 2006, said she knows young people are using sites such as Twitter and Facebook to swap political views - and the medium could be harnessed for other messages.
Teachers in the Hillsboro School District may see even more students in each classroom next school year as the district seeks to cut the budget without "decimating" programs.
The school district's budget committee, a mix of citizens and board members, took its first look at the funding "highlights" for 2010-'11 and it wasn't good news.
"The best scenario is unhappiness," said Sam Heiney, budget member.
Projecting a continued shortfall in state education funding, the district is considering plans to maintain staff levels. Enrollment, however, is expected to increase by 1 percent, which could bump up class sizes from the current average of 27.
Failing schools are a drain on the state's already sluggish economy and require wholesale transformation, not just minor tinkering, state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist told lawmakers Wednesday in a speech on education reform.
Gist, whose reform efforts led to the firings of all teachers and staff at one of the state's worst-performing schools, said test scores in the state need vast improvement, the graduation rate must grow and too few high school graduates -- just more than half -- are heading directly to college.
Improving schools is critical to the economy in Rhode Island, a state with nearly 13 percent unemployment, since students who drop out will struggle and be a cost to society, Gist said in an address to the General Assembly.
"We cannot thrive in a knowledge-based marketplace if 45 percent of our high-school students cannot do math and 39 percent cannot do science at the very basic level," said Gist, who is in her first year as commissioner of elementary and secondary education.
The commissioner annually addresses the Legislature.
The U.S. must start to prepare for challenges posed by an aging population with a credible plan to gradually reduce a soaring public debt, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday.
Health spending is set to increase over the long term as the U.S. population grows older, posing challenges to the country's already strained finances, the Fed chief warned.
Meanwhile, Fed Bank of New York President William Dudley said Wednesday that the damage caused by financial-market bubbles should bring about a sea change in the way the central bank acts, with the Fed needing to move toward active efforts to reign in financial market excess.
"There is little doubt that asset bubbles exist and they occur fairly frequently," and when they burst the economy frequently suffers, Mr. Dudley said. While it can be difficult to discern the existence of a financial-market bubble, "uncertainty is not grounds for inaction" on the part of central bankers, Mr. Dudley said.
AS THE Obama administration spreads enthusiasm about a proposal to replace a patchwork of state education standards with national ones, it might also heed a cautionary tale. In the 1990s California too established rigorous standards. "We thought they were the highest," up there with those of Massachusetts and Indiana, says Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think-tank in Washington, DC. But California never translated those standards into results. Its public schools are, with some exceptions, awful. Moreover, the state's fiscal crisis is about to make them even worse.
California's 8th-graders (14-year-olds), for example, ranked 46th in maths last year. Only Alabama, Mississippi and the District of Columbia did worse. California also sends a smaller share of its high-school graduates to college than all but three other states. One of its roughly 1,000 school districts, Los Angeles Unified, which happens to be the second-largest in the country, has just become the first to be investigated by the federal Office for Civil Rights about whether it adequately teaches pupils who have little or no English.
Eli Broad, a Los Angeles philanthropist who is trying to reform education, blames a combination of California's dysfunctional governance, with "elected school boards made up of wannabes and unions", and the fact that the state's teachers' union is both more powerful and "more regressive" than elsewhere. The California Teachers Association (CTA) is the biggest lobby in the state, having spent some $210m in the past decade--more than any other group-- to intervene in California's politics.
Predictions are always perilous. Many of us recall the hearty enthusiasm of the Bowen report of 1989, which assured prospective graduate students that they would find "a substantial excess demand for faculty in the arts and sciences" when they earned their degrees in the mid-1990s. Of course, they did not.
Moral: Avoid confident assertions about the future of the academic job market in the humanities (or in any other field). It may be that our current dilemma is another episode in a longish cyclical history. It may also be, as I rather pessimistically suspect, that something more serious is going on.
My reason is that just about all of the key drivers are simultaneously pointed in the wrong direction. Full-time tenured and tenure-track jobs in the humanities are endangered by half a dozen trends, most of them long-term.
In his ongoing look at efforts to turn around ailing schools in New Orleans and Washington, D.C. John Merrow reports on the use of alternative school programs in Louisiana and progress on negotiations between a teachers union and public schools in the nation's capital.
JIM LEHRER: The "NewsHour"'s special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has been tracking changes in the public schools of New Orleans and Washington, D.C., two cities that are being watched nationally.
We begin in New Orleans tonight. John looks at alternative schools for students with behavior and academic problems.
JOHN MERROW: When school superintendent Paul Vallas arrived in New Orleans three years ago, he faced a tough challenge: how to educate students who are way behind academically or who have gotten in trouble with the law.
This school, Booker T. Washington, was designed for teenagers who are performing at an elementary school level. Although three-fourths of students in Vallas' district are at least one grade level behind, here, the problem is extreme.
Has anyone been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? I have and I have to say that Jamie is truly inspiring. He's got so much passion and drive. I wish I had a pinky's worth of his. If you're not familiar with Jamie, he has a long career that I believe started with his simple cooking show The Naked Chef. Since then he's revolutionized the British school lunch program and is now on to America's unhealthiest city to continue the revolution.
So just what is so bad about school lunches? Well, this is certainly not a new topic for The Green Mama, but it's important because kids are the future and habits are created when we're young. This is the first generation that is not expected to live longer than their parents due mostly to obesity. One in three Illinois children is overweight or obese and according to the Community Food Security Commission, 1 in 3 children will develop type 2 diabetes. It's heartbreaking.
Had an encouraging conversation at College Board this morning about the potential for a new AP assessment system that would allow several testing times each year (eventually many times or anytime) and reduced reliance on the end of course assessment but considering a 'book of work' during the course taking period.
The reason this would be a breakthrough is that this country could double the number of AP courses taken by expanding online offerings. Districts could double the number of courses offered, ensure instructional quality, and reduce costs by moving all AP online (or a blend of online and onsite). This would best be facilitated by 1) eliminating seat time requirements, 2) adding flexibility to certification requirements, and 3) making it easier to take the test when a student is ready.
If you didn't know me, and I told you that I was an attorney working as the executor for a recently deceased prince and needed your help to move millions of dollars would you believe me?
Right, I didn't think so.
What if you did know me, and you found out that I enabled a social networking app that tells me how many times each of my friends were peeking at pictures I posted from my last vacation to the beaches in Spain?
I bet you might want to enable it too!
In a previous blog post last year (http://siblog.mcafee.com/consumer/from-the-419-to-facebook-email-scams-and-you/), I commented about the possibility of social networking scams using information gleaned from Social Networks about a person to target them in a confidence scam. Since that posting, that concept has become a reality, and criminals have begun executing advanced fee and confidence scams on people on social networks like Facebook. Today, tools like SiteAdvisor and SiteAdvisor Plus (http://www.siteadvisor.com) which show you sites that are bad (phishing, etc.) and protect you from being exposed to malware for download, along with good old-fashioned vigilance, go a long way to keep you safe from these types of threats.
Back in 1982, Gifted Child Quarterly published a special edition that focused on myths about gifted education - and the research that dispels those myths. For a look at those first articles, check out this link. It really was an important collection of works, focusing on such myths as "myth: we need to have the same scores for everyone" and "myth: there is a single curriculum for the gifted" and " myth: the gifted constitutes a single, homogenous group."
Recently, GCQ undertook the same task, tackling a series of current myths about gifted students and gifted education and providing the research that backs up why those myths are not true. Many of the myths tackled in the 2009 issue are the very same ones tackled in the 1982 issue, plus the list is expanded with timely and relevant new (actually - old) myths, such as "myth: it is fair to teach all children the same way" and "myth: classroom teachers have the time, the skill, and the will to differentiate adequately" and "myth: high-ability students don't face problems and challenges."
For parents and politicians hungry for better schools, the idea of paying teachers more if their students perform better can seem as basic as adding two and two or spelling "cat."
Yet just a handful of schools and districts around the country use such strategies. In some states, the idea is effectively illegal.
That could all be changing as the federal government wields billions of dollars in grants to lure states and school districts to try the idea. The money is persuading lawmakers around the country, while highlighting the complex problems surrounding pay-for-performance systems.
Some teachers, like Trenise Duvernay, who teaches math at Alice M. Harte Charter School outside of New Orleans, want to be rewarded for helping students succeed. Duvernay is eligible for $2,000 a year or more in merit bonuses based on how well her students perform in classroom observations and on achievement tests.
For the most part, admissions and financial aid are honorable professions. My colleagues are generally very ethical people who strive to help students and deeply believe in the importance of their mission and the service they provide.
That being said, sometimes their work this time of year - the months that colleges and universities package financial aid - can seem a little dirty. I'm not talking DIRTY - I've yet to hear about a colleague finding a way to engineer financial aid kickbacks or helping the cartels launder money through financial aid.
Clearly, however, the process is neither transparent nor easy to understand. For years I've listened to my colleagues cry that we're NOT used car dealers (by the way, I know some very ethical car dealers), but in the end, it comes down to a basic question for most families:
Loudoun County officials approved a $1.4 billion annual budget Tuesday that includes a property tax increase and a 2.5 percent cut in school system funding.
The county Board of Supervisors adopted a tax rate of $1.30 per $100 of assessed value, a 4.4 percent increase over this year's rate. Ben Mays, deputy chief financial officer for the county, said the average tax bill for homeowners should go up only about 2.5 percent because of declining property values. The average commercial tax bill could fall by that amount because property values in that category have dropped even more, he said.
Earlier in the year, the county had proposed a tax rate of $1.40 per $100 of assessed value but scaled back after an outpouring of e-mails from taxpayers who cited economic distress brought on by the recession. Under the approved fiscal 2011 budget plan, the county will cut about 75 full-time positions, 50 of which are currently unfilled, Mays said.
Vexed that some 30% of driver candidates flunk its traditional training, United Parcel Service Inc. is moving beyond the classroom to ready its rookies for the road.
In the place of books and lectures are videogames, a contraption that simulates walking on ice and an obstacle course around an artificial village.
Based on results so far, the world's largest package-delivery company is convinced that 20-somethings--the bulk of UPS driver recruits--respond best to high-tech instruction and a chance to hone skills.
Driver training is crucial for Atlanta-based UPS, which employs 99,000 U.S. drivers and says it will need to hire 25,000 over the next five years to replace retiring Baby Boomers.
Candidates vying for a driver's job, which pays an average of $74,000 annually, now spend one week at Integrad, an 11,500-square-foot, low-slung brick UPS training center 10 miles outside of Washington, D.C. There they move from one station to another practicing the company's "340 Methods," prescribed by UPS industrial engineers to save seconds and improve safety in every task from lifting and loading boxes to selecting a package from a shelf in the truck.
After the endowment of Centenary College in Shreveport, La., fell by 20 percent from 2007 to 2009, the private school decided to eliminate half of its 44 majors. Over the next three to four years, classic humanities specialities like Latin, German studies, and performing arts will be phased out. It's quite a change from 2007, when NEWSWEEK labeled Centenary the "hottest liberal-arts school you never heard of," extolling its wide range of academics. In their place, the school is considering adding several graduate programs, such as master's degrees in teaching and international business. Such professional programs have proven increasingly popular and profitable at other universities and colleges, especially during economic downturns, a point that the college president tries to downplay. "We're not intentionally trying to chase markets," says David Rowe. "We think the students need to have a grounding in the arts and sciences, but they also probably need some training in a specific area."
One of Washington, D.C.'s angriest, most bitter disputes may be coming to an end. After more than two years of wrangling, District of Columbia schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and the city's teachers union have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract.
The deal could become a model for school reform around the country.
It comes after a protracted, three-year dispute that got so nasty, few thought it would ever be resolved. Rhee and union officials made key concessions that once seemed unattainable, but it was worth it, Rhee said at a hastily arranged news conference.
"We've had one goal since [starting the job as chancellor], and that is to build a school system that ensures that every child in this city, regardless of where they live, has the opportunity to obtain an excellent education through our public school system," Rhee said.
I generally have a great deal of sympathy for regular schmoes who look inordinately like famous people. Through no fault of their own, they walk through life being judged on what they are not (the famous person), rather than what they are (a working stiff that is sick of being told he looks like Jim from "The Office.")
Imagine if you were the guy who works at Kinko's who looks sort of like Matt Damon. (Trust me, this is going somewhere.) People don't notice that you may be better looking than your average guy - they only judge you on how far you fall short of looking like Jason Bourne. (After all, if you looked exactly like Matt Damon, you probably wouldn't be working at Kinko's. Staples, maybe - but certainly not Kinko's.)
On Wednesday of this week, the results of a longitudinal study of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) were released. The study, mandated by a state law enacted in 2006 and conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas, is an attempt to compare student achievement in the Choice program in Milwaukee to similar students in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).
The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an interesting article ($) earlier this week about the use of online graders located in other countries both to ease the burden of scoring papers for professors and because teaching assistants were not offering quality feedback. The piece mainly focuses on graders from EduMetry, a Virginia-based company, which are providing this service for business students at the University of Houston, though one can easily imagine that there are schools across the country trying similar programs:
Last week marked a historic time for the public school system as President Obama and Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, announced that they were drafting a blueprint to "overhaul" the No Child Left Behind policy and improve the quality of the nation's schools - exactly what the current policy left behind. Though they are only in the planning process, this is the one of the greatest and most desirable moves the White House has made to date - even more so than healthcare reform.
In Fla., we are all too familiar with the No Child Left Behind policy, specifically with the creation of the FCAT and other standardized tests that are supposed to be used to gauge students' knowledge and education. "Supposed to" is the key phrase here. According to teachers' complaints, the FCAT has forced teachers to teach only for the test. As a result, students are learning to perform well on the test when they should be learning the material.
When Maurice Johnson was laid off a year ago from his six-figure salary as a managing director at GE Capital, it wasn't his future he was worried about.
It was his children's.
The family income of the Johnsons is a fifth of what it used to be. And the children are about to feel the pain. Mr. Johnson's two oldest are attending his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, at an annual cost of $50,000 apiece. And his youngest daughter, 15 years old, recently began her own college search. Mr. Johnson isn't sure whether he'll be able to help her to go to college, or even to get the older kids to graduation.
Wisconsin students continued to make steady gains in math proficiency in 2009-'10, boasting their best performance in five years, even as reading scores remained flat over that same time period, according to statewide test results released Wednesday.
Yet even though the overall proportion of students deemed proficient or advanced in math increased to 77.3% on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations from 72.8% in 2005-'06, the share of students considered at least proficient in 10th grade - the highest grade tested - decreased in that time.
The share of Wisconsin 10th-graders who scored proficient or advanced in math was 69.8% this school year, compared with 71.6% five years ago.
Meanwhile, reading proficiency remained almost constant, with 81.6% of students considered proficient or advanced on this year's test vs. 81.7% in 2005-'06, when the current version of the WKCE first was implemented.
A dozen governors, led by Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado, sat with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a hotel ballroom in Washington a few weeks back, praising his vision and gushing with enthusiasm over a $4 billion grant competition they hoped could land their states a jackpot of hundreds of millions of dollars.
But for many of those governors, the contest lost some sizzle last week, when Mr. Duncan awarded money to only two states -- Delaware and Tennessee.
Colorado, which had hoped to win $377 million, ended in 14th place. Now Mr. Ritter says the scoring by anonymous judges seemed inscrutable, some Coloradans view the contest as federal intrusion and the governor has not decided whether to reapply for the second round.
Students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program scored at similar levels as their peers not participating in the school choice program, according to a study released Wednesday.
Researchers from the University of Arkansas and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the study, presented their findings at UW-Madison. The study also found that Milwaukee Public Schools are doing better than expected when compared with other urban school districts.
The reports released Wednesday represent the midway point of a five-year study of the oldest and largest public voucher program in the United States, which provides funding for more than 20,000 students to attend private schools in Milwaukee.
The comparison between students in private voucher schools and those in public schools was made two years after large panels of students in the program and students in the Milwaukee public school system had been carefully matched to each other.
Minnesota was hoping for $330 million in grants, which go to states deemed innovative in their school policies. In the next round, Minnesota can't get more than $175 million.Related: An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria by Janet Mertz:
Pawlenty wants more latitude to let experts become teachers without going through traditional routes, to reassign teachers based on effectiveness and to more closely link teacher pay to student performance.
Democratic state Rep. Mindy Greiling said the alternative licensure proposal has a better shot than the others.
Part of our disagreement centers around differing views regarding the math content knowledge one needs to be a highly-qualified middle school math teacher. As a scientist married to a mathematician, I don't believe that taking a couple of math ed courses on how to teach the content of middle school mathematics provides sufficient knowledge of mathematics to be a truly effective teacher of the subject. Our middle school foreign language teachers didn't simply take a couple of ed courses in how to teach their subject at the middle school level; rather, most of them also MAJORED or, at least, minored in the subject in college. Why aren't we requiring the same breathe and depth of content knowledge for our middle school mathematics teachers? Do you really believe mastery of the middle school mathematics curriculum and how to teach it is sufficient content knowledge for teachers teaching math? What happens when students ask questions that aren't answered in the teachers' manual? What happens when students desire to know how the material they are studying relates to higher-level mathematics and other subjects such as science and engineering?
The MMSD has been waiting a long time already to have math-qualified teachers teaching mathematics in our middle schools. Many countries around the world whose students outperform US students in mathematics only hire teachers who majored in the subject to teach it. Other school districts in the US are taking advantage of the current recession with high unemployment to hire and train people who know and love mathematics, but don't yet know how to teach it to others.
Wisconsin students can count on one hand the number of times they'll still have to take the math section -- or any section -- of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, the annual weeklong test whose results for 2009-10 were scheduled to be released Wednesday.
That's because the WKCE is expected to give way in a few years to tests based on new national academic standards proposed last month that could become final this spring.
The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and all 50 U.S. states except Alaska and Texas in the fall signed on to the development of the Common Core State Standards for math and English, which spell out what the nation's public schoolchildren should be taught from kindergarten through high school.
When the final standards are unveiled, probably in late May, Wisconsin likely will adopt them, said Sue Grady, executive assistant to the state school superintendent.
For nearly an hour, no one speaks a word of English in this first-grade math class.
Not the teacher, Ying Ying Wu, who talks energetically in Mandarin's songlike tones.
Not the students -- 6- and 7-year-olds who seem to follow along fine, even though only one speaks Mandarin at home.
Even the math test has been translated, by Wu, into Chinese characters.
At Beacon Hill International School, many students learn a second language along with their ABCs by spending half of each school day immersed in Mandarin Chinese or Spanish.
In Round 1 of Race to the Top, the U.S. Department of Education delivered on its promise to hold states to a high bar for reform. Only 2 states out of 16 finalists and 41 total applicants were selected for awards: Delaware and Tennessee.
These states won because they outlined bold, comprehensive visions of reform and demonstrated the ability to make them a reality. Statewide teacher effectiveness policies were the foundation for their success. They focused on putting effective teachers in every classroom and giving teachers the critical feedback and support they need to do their best work. They shifted to evaluation systems that improve their ability to recognize great teachers and respond to poor performance. Together they set a new benchmark for reform that Round 2 applicants must meet in order to win.
This analysis offers a close look at the scoring of the Round 1 finalists. It refutes some of the most common myths about Race to the Top and offers important lessons for states applying for the $3.4 billion in funding that remains available in Round 2.
At the same time, it examines scoring deficiencies that the Department of Education must address. While these issues did not result in a lowering of the bar for Round 1 winners, they could mean the difference between winning and losing for states applying in Round 2.
A few data points: according to the last School Report Card, there were over 800 freshman at Trenton Central. However, so many kids drop out (24.7% of White students) that there were only 440 seniors left last year. 51.6% of these students failed the language arts HSPA and a stunning 79.5% failed the math HSPA. 43% of the student body was suspended during the 2008-2009 school year. Total cost per pupil is $16,843. 4.4% enrolled in an Advanced Placement class; the state average is 19%. Average SAT scores are 364 Math and 369 Verbal.
What has the Trenton School Board have to say amidst this bleakness? Here's Board Member Donald Shelton:
Florida's education reform bills would mean more money -- not less -- for public-school teachers, says Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey.
"This bill (HB7189) does not affect retirement, it does not cut salaries, it does not eliminate tenure for current teachers," Legg told a packed meeting of the House Education Policy Council on Monday.
Instead, Legg said, a new performance-based pay program would bring "value-added" components to setting salaries.
Effective July 1, 2014, school districts would be required to reward "effective" or "highly effective" teachers "on top of base pay," Legg said. Half of those ratings would be based on student learning gains, with the remaining 50 percent tied to other factors, subject to collective bargaining agreements.
Since 1999, districts have been under orders from the state Department of Education to implement pay scales "primarily" linked to academic performance. The reform bills define "primarily" as 50 percent and order districts to earmark 5 percent of funding for performance pay. Statewide, that 5 percent share currently amounts to $900 million annually.
The ongoing health care debate has focused on accessible and affordable health care. Although reforming health care policies is important, we need to change the health behaviors that make our health system one of the most expensive in the developed world. Costly chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are linked to obesity, smoking and diet - things we can do something about.
The Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that nearly one-fifth of high school students smoke cigarettes and binge drink. Over 50% do not attend any physical education classes, and the number of overweight youth has been increasing. These behaviors set the stage for lifelong obesity, smoking habits and poor diet.
According to Trust for America's Health, in five years, Michigan could save $545 million in annual health care costs by spending just $10 per person on programs to increase physical activity, encourage better nutrition and prevent the use of tobacco.
Two economists who work 2,274 miles away have identified the essence of parenthood in the Washington area since 1995. It turns out we have been spending all that time with our older children -- chauffeuring, applauding, coordinating, correcting, planning, obsessing -- because we have a deep need to beat the other stressed-out parents in getting our kids into good colleges.
The researchers are Garey and Valerie A. Ramey, a married couple at the University of California-San Diego. They have done the hyper-active parent thing themselves and have a son at Stanford University to show for it. They also admit that most of this exhaustive parenting is done not by men but by women, including, by her own account, Ms. Ramey herself. To sum up, college-graduate soccer moms are trying to outdo all the other soccer moms to get their children into a good school so their daughters can repeat the cycle with their own children.
Diane Ravitch's new book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education" has been burning up the charts. Ravitch has been ubiquitous, writing op-eds in support of her book, doing lectures and interviews all over the place, and being reviewed in all sorts of high-profile venues.
As an overall matter, the book says little, if anything, that is actually new on the subjects of testing and choice. What Ravitch is really selling with this book is the story of her personal and ideological conversion. Not so long ago, she was writing articles like "In Defense of Testing," or "The Right Thing: Why Liberals Should Be Pro-Choice," a lengthy article in The New Republic that remains one of the most passionate and eloquent defenses of school choice and vouchers in particular. Now she seems to be a diehard opponent of these things. But she's not saying anything that other diehard opponents haven't already said countless times.
Recently, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a group of 48 states organized by the nation's governors and chief state school officers, released draft K-12 education standards in English and mathematics.
As a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I know that common education standards are essential for producing the educated work force America needs to remain globally competitive. Good standards alone are not enough, but without them decisions about such things as curricula, instructional materials and tests are haphazard. It is no wonder that educational quality varies so widely among states.
English and math standards have so far mostly been set without empirical evidence or attention as to whether students were learning what they needed for college and the workplace. College educators and employers were hardly ever part of the discussion, even though they knew best what the real world would demand of high school graduates. Luckily, about five years ago, states began to raise the bar so that their standards would reflect college- and career-ready expectations.
India's United Progressive Alliance government has come out with a landmark legislation making education a fundamental right for all children between the ages six and 14. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, was first introduced in the Indian Parliament way back in 2002.
It took more than seven years for this act -- which makes access to education a fundamental right -- to be notified after much debate in and outside the Parliament. The importance of the legislation can be gauged from the fact that there are nearly 300 million Indians below the age of 15, many of whom belong to poor families that can ill-afford the high cost of primary education.
There are about 10 million children in the targetted age group who are today not in school, but working in factories, farms and other places, often in abysmal condition, and helping their parents make both ends meet. It remains to be seen how many of these children can be brought back to classes.
The effectiveness of the landmark measure will depend on how state governments will ensure its implementation. Education falls under the concurrent list in the Indian Constitution and states have a major responsibility in ensuring access, especially to primary education. While many of the southern and western states have a better track record, those in the north and east have been laggards. Guaranteeing free education to millions of children -- and making it legally enforceable -- will also cost a lot of money. The federal government led by the Congress Party has asserted that funding would not be a problem. Estimates are that a whopping $40 billion will be needed over the next five years and the government has promised a mere $5.5 billion to states during this period.
As Chad Aldeman pointed out at the Quick and the Ed, many major newspapers missed the story on the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress scores. The New York Times bemoaned that fourth-grade reading scores have barely increased since the early 1990s.
Aldeman pointed out that reading scores look somewhat better if you separate the data by race, as shown here.
Antonio Villaraigosa, the handsome high-voltage mayor of Los Angeles, really comes alive when recalling his start in local politics--as a labor organizer agitating for reform inside decrepit and overcrowded schools. "I cut my teeth working for the union. I cultivated these young teachers who had come to these schools to change the world," he said, brimming with pride.
Back in 1989, one of those teachers, Joshua Pechthalt, joined Villaraigosa for a rally downtown in Exposition Park. Pechthalt remembers his charismatic young friend pumping up the crowd. "Antonio was the master of ceremonies who had parents and teachers on their feet," recalled Pechthalt, now vice president of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). "When we see each other, to this day, we give each other a hug."
The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday will consider amending a new policy that limits the ability of students who live in the district to attend school elsewhere, a contentious issue expected to draw scores of parents to the afternoon meeting.
In February, Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines moved to limit the types of permits issued to families seeking attendance in other districts, allowing exemptions only for students whose parents work within the boundaries of the other school district and for students who would complete fifth, eighth or 12th grades next year.
Last year, L.A. Unified granted permission to more than 12,200 students to enroll in 99 other districts, including Torrance, Culver City and Santa Monica-Malibu. Cortines estimates that the district is losing $51 million in state per-pupil funding, money that could help to close a $640-million budget shortfall.
Despite signs of life in the job market, the outlook for newly minted college graduates remains grim and many are trying new strategies for landing positions.
Students are starting their job hunts months earlier than usual, while others are looking into short stints at positions outside their major.
Bob Tutag began beating the bushes in October, a time when most college seniors are barely back from summer vacation. But it paid off: The 21-year-old Michigan State University student in March accepted an offer at Developers Diversified Realty Corp., a commercial real-estate firm in Beachwood, Ohio. He starts in May.
Mr. Tutag knew he faced a challenge, having majored in accounting with a specialization in real estate, a sector of the economy hammered by the downturn.
Delaware's surprising first-place finish in a fierce battle for federal school-reform dollars highlights a tension in President Obama's education agenda: He favors big change, but he also prizes peace with the labor unions that sometimes resist his goals.
Obama often has challenged unions, even voicing support last month for a Rhode Island school board's vote to fire all the teachers at a struggling high school. But his administration built the $4 billion Race to the Top contest in a way that rewarded applications crafted in consultation with labor leaders.
The announcement that Delaware had won about $100 million highlighted that all of the state's teachers unions backed the plan for tougher teacher evaluations linked to student achievement. In second-place Tennessee, which won about $500 million, 93 percent of unions were on board.
Reports on the third-year evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program will be released in Madison on Wednesday, April 7.
The reports on growth, school switching, testing, integration and other measures of the 20-year-old program will be released by the evaluation team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Room 313 of the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
The evaluation team includes professor John Witte of UW-Madison's La Follette School of Public Affairs; Patrick Wolf, Jeffery Dean, Jonathan Mills and Brian Kisida, all of the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas; Joshua Cowen of the University of Kentucky; David Fleming of Furman University; Meghan Condon of UW-Madison; and Thomas Stewart of Qwaku & Associates.
The Wisconsin Legislature authorized the evaluation in 2005 to learn how well the program, the oldest and largest urban educational voucher program in the United States, is working. The maximum voucher amount in 2007-08 was $6,607, and approximately 20,000 children used vouchers to attend secular or religious private schools.
The general purposes of the evaluation are to analyze the effectiveness of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program in terms of longitudinal student achievement growth and grade attainment, drop-out rates and high school graduation rates. The former will be primarily accomplished by measuring and estimating student growth in achievement as measured by the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations in math and reading in grades three through eight during a five-year period.
It explores two different approaches to math; one is representative of the fuzzy math side of things, and the other is in the traditionalist camp. I make it clear what side I'm on. I talk about how the fuzzy side uses what I call a "separate path" in which students are given open ended and ill posed problems as a means to teach them how to apply prior knowledge in new situations. I present two different problems, one representing each camp.
The math may prove challenging for some readers, though high school math teachers should have no problems with it.
Much has been written about the debate on how best to teach math to students in K-12--a debate often referred to as the "math wars". I have written much about it myself, and since the debate shows no signs of easing, I continue to have reasons to keep writing about it. While the debate is complex, the following two math problems provide a glimpse of two opposing sides:
Problem 1: How many boxes would be needed to pack and ship one million books collected in a school-based book drive? In this problem the size of the books is unknown and varied, and the size of the boxes is not stated.
Problem 2: Two boys canoeing on a lake hit a rock where the lake joins a river. One boy is injured and it is critical to get a doctor to him as quickly as possible. Two doctors live nearby: one up-river and the other across the lake, both equidistant from the boys. The unhurt boy has to fetch a doctor and return to the spot. Is it quicker for him to row up the river and back, or go across the lake and back, assuming he rows at the same constant rate of speed in both cases?
The first problem is representative of a thought-world inhabited by education schools and much of the education establishment. The second problem is held in disdain by the same, but favored by a group of educators and math oriented people who for lack of a better term are called "traditionalists".
Imagine if a school were to spend more per pupil on ceramics electives than core science classes. What if a district were to push more funding to wealthy neighborhoods than to impoverished ones? Such policies would provoke outrage. Yet these schools and districts are real.Clusty Search: Marguerite Roza.
Today's taxpayers spend almost $9,000 per pupil, roughly double what they spent 30 years ago, and educational achievement doesn't seem to be improving. With the movement toward holding schools and districts accountable for student outcomes, we might think that officials can precisely track how much they are spending per student, per program, per school. But considering the patchwork that is school finance--federal block funding, foundation grants, earmarks, set-asides, and union mandates--funds can easily be diverted from where they are most needed.
College students are known for their ability to survive on instant noodles, toast and a shoestring budget. But recently, some students in Ireland have gotten particularly desperate. "I have heard from students who have lived on biscuits stolen from the chaplaincy in their college for a week, students who have lived in their cars for months," says Hugh Sullivan, education officer at the Union of Students in Ireland, a group that advocates on the behalf of over 250,000 students around the country.
The reason? Over the past 15 years, fees at Irish universities that cover the cost of registration, exams and student services have gone from the equivalent of $240 per student to nearly $2,000. On top of that, the government cut funding to universities by 5% last year and Sullivan expects another 5% cut this year. "It's a time of famine," Sullivan says, adding that even though students don't show up in the country's grim unemployment rate (currently 13.1%), they have become the hidden victim of the recent financial crisis. "The last thing you eat is your seeds."
Via a kind reader.
Whitney Tilson and True South Studios present A Right Denied: The Critical Need for Genuine Education Reform. Education reformer Whitney Tilson gives the most in-depth exploration ever committed to film of the twin achievement gaps that threaten our nation's future: between the U.S. and our economic competitors, and between low-income, minority students and their more affluent peers. After spending more than two decades on the front lines, witnessing first-hand public education's shocking failures and remarkable successes, Mr. Tilson was inspired to assemble a powerful and at times unsettling presentation about the twin achievement gaps and what must be done to address them. He utilizes the latest data and research to paint the most detailed portrait of American public education ever committed to film. More importantly, he presents us with a way forward so our nation can deliver on its promise to all of its children and ensure its long-term future.
University of Wisconsin System leaders are crafting a plan to boost the number of degrees the schools award each year by 30% over the next 15 years, a move that would make the universities even more of an engine that makes the state's economy attractive for businesses.Interesting.
The goal is to boost the percentage of Wisconsin residents who have college degrees or some professional certificate from a university or college. To meet it, the schools would have to confer 33,700 degrees in 2025, up from today's rate of about 26,000 a year. If the universities meet the goal, they will award 80,000 more degrees over the next 15 years than they would otherwise.
UWM would be a major player in the plan, UW System President Kevin Reilly said. Officials could announce as early as Monday how many additional degrees the urban campus would produce under the plan.
Meeting the goal would come at an up-front cost for the state, Reilly said. The universities would have to make the case to state lawmakers to reverse a long-term trend in which a shrinking share of the budget for the campuses comes from the state. Reilly also said the state would have to help increase faculty salaries, which lag behind salaries at peer universities in other states.
STEVE: "Are girls different from boys?" I asked Levi the other night.
He slowly turned toward me from his Facebook screen, arching his eyebrows and flashing a smirk that said: Wow, Dad is even more clueless than I thought. "About money," I quickly added. "How are teenage girls different from boys about money?"
"Oh," he mumbled, less cocky now. He thought for a minute: "I don't know." Truth is, neither of us does, which is why we've avoided the topic in this column. We're a family with three boys; what do we know about girls?
Boy issues seem simple to me. Girls seem, well, complicated.
WENDY KOPP proposed the idea for creating a national teacher corps in her undergraduate senior thesis at Princeton University in 1989. She then did just that, creating Teach For America (TFA) shortly after graduation. Ms Kopp tells the remarkable story behind the early days of the organisation in her book "One Day, All Children...". Today TFA attracts many of the brightest college graduates to teach in America's neediest communities. In the most recent school year, the organisation placed some 7,300 corps members in schools across the country. They join nearly 17,000 TFA alumni, many of whom have become leaders in the education-reform movement. We close out education week by asking Ms Kopp about TFA's success and what lessons it holds for America's public-education system.
DiA: You have done a lot of research on the characteristics of successful TFA teachers. What is the magic formula and do you think it holds for non-TFA teachers as well?
Ms Kopp: We have found that the most successful teachers in low-income communities operate like successful leaders. They establish a vision of where their students will be performing at the end of the year that many believe to be unrealistic. They invest their students in working harder than they ever have to reach that vision, maximise their classroom time in a goal-oriented manner through purposeful planning and effective execution, reflect constantly on their progress to improve their performance over time, and do whatever it takes to overcome the many challenges they face.
It follows that the characteristics our research has shown to differentiate our most successful teachers are leadership characteristics--perseverance in the face of challenges, the ability to influence and motivate others, organisational ability, problem-solving ability. All of our insights around successful teaching have come from our work in the nation's most economically disadvantaged communities so I can't say that this is the approach or that these are the characteristics that differentiate successful teachers elsewhere.
The recent disclosure that African-American fourth-graders in Wisconsin have the worst reading skills in the entire country came as a shock to many Milwaukeeans.
Keisha Arnold wasn't among them.
Her 10-year-old son has experienced reading problems and poor grades at his Milwaukee school for some time. Arnold has been frustrated with her inability to find a way to address the problem.
"I just don't understand why he can't seem to get the help he needs," said Arnold, 28, a single parent who returned to Milwaukee a few years ago after living in Phoenix.
When she returned to her hometown, she enrolled her son in a local charter school. "I didn't want him to go to MPS because I didn't think he'd get a good education there," she explained.
But it didn't take long for Arnold to recognize that deficiencies in her son's reading and math skills were not being addressed.
She met with his teachers and sought additional tutoring, but her son's grades failed to improve.
IN 1971, a young black lawyer brought up in rural North Carolina under Jim Crow laws argued on behalf of a boy from Charlotte called James Swann before the United States Supreme Court. In that case, Swann v Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, the court held that school districts may use busing, quotas and other such methods to ensure integration. Nearly 40 years later that same lawyer, Julius Chambers, stood once again before nine people, this time the Wake County board of education, and this time as a concerned citizen rather than an advocate, to plead a case: that the county ought to retain its programme of assigning pupils to schools based on levels of family income. His suit failed: on March 23rd the board voted 5-4 to abandon that policy.
That vote ended a decade-long experiment. In 2000 Wake County's school board decided to integrate its schools by income level rather than race. No more than 40% of students at any one school should be receiving free or subsidised lunches (which are given to children from poor families). Evidence dating back more than 40 years shows that schools with too great a concentration of poor pupils are undesirable. Teachers do not stay, and poor pupils tend to perform worse when they are put with others who are poor.
The New York Times education writer, Winnie Hu, had no trouble in Saturday's paper distinguishing some of NJ’s wealthy and high-performing school districts from our poor, low-performing ones: Cresskill, Montclair, Ridgewood, Millburn, Westfield, West Windsor-Plainsboro and Glen Ridge, she writes, “have long attracted families because they offer some of the best public education in the state. But now many of these top school systems are preparing to reduce the academic and extracurricular opportunities that have long set them apart.”
“Have long set them apart.” It’s an irony-free description of NJ’s educational inequity despite decades of Abbott compensation and the hard line of accountability etched from No Child Left Behind legislation. Among are 591 school districts (and 566 municipalities) are intractably poor, failing schools. Leveling the playing field in NJ is a quixotic task. Sword-yielding education reformers tilt at the windmills of an inculcated culture of disparity with little appreciable difference in student achievement. We can’t cure poverty; we can’t break down district barriers unless we find the cohones to desegregate and move to county-wide districts, an unlikely scenario. School choice is an embryonic concept with a long, slow learning curve (although the DOE just received 36 charter applications, a new record).
Watch a recent Madison School Board Candidate Forum here. The spring election is tomorrow, April 6, 2010.
In February, the national press reported on a pilot program that will give high school sophomores in eight states a chance to earn a diploma and head straight to credit-bearing math and English courses at a state college. To do so, they will have to take special course work and can try to pass academic tests known as board exams as early as grade 10.
The idea of a grade 10 diploma is the latest brainchild of the National Center on Education and the Economy, the originator of the unsuccessful school-to-work initiative in the 1990s. The project is funded by the Gates Foundation, which has abandoned its initiative to create small high schools as a way to get more low-achieving students through high school.
The center's so-called fast-track approach ups the ante and aims to get at-risk students out of high school and into college - and supposedly on a quick credit-bearing path to a degree. It also aims to get bright high school students into college sooner for supposedly better course work. However, the center's proposed 10th-grade "diploma" is the wrong answer to the wrong problem for three groups of students: those with a strong academic orientation, those without it but who are willing to stay in school and those who drop out.
It was a Race to the Top, but Colorado, amazingly, finished close to the bottom.
Of the 16 finalists for President Obama's cash giveaway for education reform, only New York and Washington, D.C. -- areas with some of the country's worst schools -- finished below Colorado. It was an embarrassing plummet for a state whose bid just a year ago looked so promising.
Colorado had been at the forefront of education reform since Gov. Roy Romer ushered in CSAPs and then-state lawmaker Bill Owens pushed for charter schools. Even Denver Public Schools for the past five years have been incubators for what are now emerging as national reforms.
This was Colorado's race to lose. And we did.
Obama dangled $4.35 billion in front of states to spur them into developing innovative education-reform plans. But Colorado's plan lacked ambition, bold ideas and statewide impact. It also failed to build great teachers and leaders, according to the Obama administration's scoring system.
Six years ago, the then-principal of a small primary school in Sheung Wan was fired with enthusiasm for two key government policies - small-class teaching and integrated education for children with special needs.
Leung Wai-ming ploughed HK$1 million of his money into San Wui Commercial Society School to employ extra teachers and buy state-of-the-art materials and equipment for special needs teaching.
TODAY, Apple's iPad goes on sale, and many see this as a Gutenberg moment, with digital multimedia moving one step closer toward replacing old-fashioned books.
Speaking as an author and editor of illustrated nonfiction, I agree that important change is afoot, but not in the way most people see it. In order for electronic books to live up to their billing, we have to fix a system that is broken: getting permission to use copyrighted material in new work. Either we change the way we deal with copyrights -- or works of nonfiction in a multimedia world will become ever more dull and disappointing.
The hope of nonfiction is to connect readers to something outside the book: the past, a discovery, a social issue. To do this, authors need to draw on pre-existing words and images.
With job openings scarce for young people, the number of unpaid internships has climbed in recent years, leading federal and state regulators to worry that more employers are illegally using such internships for free labor.
Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York's labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms' internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department's top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.
Many regulators say that violations are widespread, but that it is unusually hard to mount a major enforcement effort because interns are often afraid to file complaints. Many fear they will become known as troublemakers in their chosen field, endangering their chances with a potential future employer.
It may just be me, but I found myself getting increasingly annoyed as I read my colleague Jenna Johnson's blogpost detailing the latest admissions statistics for some of the nation's most elite schools.
For example, Harvard University's 7 percent overall rate of admissions last year was apparently not low enough. This year, it dropped to 6.9 percent. Harvard received more than 30,000 applications this year, a 5 percent increase from last year, and accepted 2,110 students.
"That's 28,000 broken hearts," one admissions staff member said as several passed trays stuffed with rejections into a car to be mailed, according to the student newspaper the Harvard Crimson.
Duke University was down to 14.8 percent from 18 percent last year, after receiving 26,770 applications, up 11 percent from last year.
The chances of a high school student eventually becoming first violin for the Boston Philharmonic: one in a million.
The chances of a high school student eventually playing basketball in the NBA? About the same.
In fact, the chances of someone growing up and getting a job precisely like yours, whatever it is, are similarly slim. (Head of development at an ad agency, director of admissions for a great college... you get the idea). Every good gig is a long shot, but in the end, a lot of talented people get good gigs. The odds of being happy and productive and well compensated aren't one in a million at all, because there are many good gigs down the road. The odds are only slim if you pick precisely one job.
After reading aloud from an essay about the fast-food industry, I threw a typical softball question to the students of a UC Berkeley composition class:
"What's the argument of the paragraph?"
Written by a former student, the paragraph implied that a rise in American obesity is linked to increased dollars spent on fast food.
I called on a student. "Advertising?" she said, a word that appeared in the paragraph only once. Why did this student, a hard-working athlete, so badly misread the paragraph? Because instead of really interpreting the passage, she used a little clue. "Advertising" had been mentioned in the thesis just a paragraph earlier.
Unfortunately, strategies such as hers aren't uncommon in the college classroom. Within the same lesson, another student made quick assumptions about a sentence's meaning because of its first words. My colleagues and I often swap stories like these, in which our students use faulty shorthand in place of critical thinking.
This was going to be a piece about a great new book about Advanced Placement, "AP: A Critical Examination of the Advanced Placement Program." I promise to summarize its conclusions before this column ends.
But I want to focus on the most interesting contributor to the volume, a Texas economist named Kristin Klopfenstein who is author or co-author of two chapters and one of the four editors of the book. She has become the most articulate and knowledgeable critic of using AP to raise achievement in low-income schools, a movement I have been supporting for a quarter of a century, I decided to call her up, discuss our differences and report what she had to say.
Klopfenstein is an associate professor of economics at Texas Christian University, currently on leave to work as a senior researcher at the Texas Schools Project at the University of Texas-Dallas. In the new book, she is the sole author of a chapter that argues that people who say AP saves taxpayer money and reduces time to college graduation are wrong. Since I am not one of those people, I didn't ask her about that chapter, but about a chapter of which she is the lead author, with Mississippi State University economist M. Kathleen Thomas as co-author, entitled "Advanced Placement Participation: Evaluating the Policies of States and Colleges."
Klopfenstein has spent many years looking at AP in public schools, aided by a terrific state data base in Texas that follows students from grade school into college. Other researchers in Texas and California have produced studies that suggest that taking AP courses and exams in high school leads to more success in college than avoiding or being barred from AP, as happens with most college-bound students. Klopfenstein told me those studies should not be given great weight because they show correlation, not causation.
Massachusetts did not receive Race to the Top school funding but state education officials say they plan to reapply for the grant.
Pres. Barack Obama established the Race to the Top program last summer for states to compete for $4.35 billion in grant funding to pursue education overhauls and innovative reform.
Of the initial 40 states to qualify, Massachusetts was named one of 16 finalists. Early this week, the U.S. Department of Education announced Delaware and Tennessee were the only winners.
The program states winners would be chosen simply on the state's readiness to rework their education system.
Superintendent Lincoln Lynch said Massachusetts might have been passed up since the achievement gap here may not be as great as in other states. As a finalist, however, Massachusetts will have the opportunity to reapply in for a second round of funding in June.
The kids weren't buying it. One girl gave the Gov a quiz on the state Constitution. After first noting that the state Constitution provides for "a thorough and efficient system of free public schools," the student noted the school board was likely to make drastic budget cuts. She then asked: "What does it mean if the superintendent and the school board say the budget they approved cannot provide for that thorough and efficient system?"
Wow, I thought, these kids are sharp -- a lot sharper than their governor, it turned out.
The girl had made a point of repeating, as if to a dull student, that in our Constitution the adjectives "thorough and efficient" modify the noun "system." This is a key legal point. For a moment there, I wondered if the kids had been reading the Rutgers Law Journal. I'm thinking of the excellent article by legal scholar Peter Mazzei in which he traced the language back to New Jersey's 1873 constitutional convention, at which time it clearly implied equal distribution of state aid to all school districts.
As for the Gov, he hadn't done his homework. Christie responded that "we have two constitutional issues at conflict here. One is the constitutional obligation to balance and the budget and the other is the constitutional obligation to provide a thorough and efficient education."
From 1982 to 1987 I stalked Jaime Escalante, his students and his colleagues at Garfield High School, a block from the hamburger-burrito stands, body shops and bars of Atlantic Boulevard in East Los Angeles. I was the Los Angeles bureau chief for The Washington Post, allegedly covering the big political, social and business stories of the Western states, but I found it hard to stay away from that troubled high school.
I would show up unannounced, watch Jaime teach calculus, chat with Principal Henry Gradillas, check in with other Advanced Placement classes and in the early afternoon call my editor in Washington to say I was chasing down the latest medfly outbreak story, or whatever seemed believable at the time.
Escalante, who died Tuesday from cancer at age 79, did not become nationally famous until 1988, when the feature film about him, "Stand and Deliver," was released, and my much-less-noticed book, "Escalante: The Best Teacher in America," also came out. I had been drawn to him, as filmmakers Ramón Menéndez and Tom Musca were, by the story of a 1982 cheating scandal. Eighteen Escalante students had passed the Advanced Placement Calculus AB exam. Fourteen were accused of cheating by the Educational Testing Service, based on similarities in their answers. Twelve took the test again, this time heavily proctored, and passed again.
Twenty years after technology began transforming every other sector, there is finally enough movement on a sufficient number of fronts--15 to be precise--that, despite resilience, everything will change. New and better learning options are inevitable, but progress will be uneven by state/country and leadership dependent.
The 5 Drivers. These Web 2.0 forces are benefiting the learning sector, emerging economies, as well as every other sector:
- More broadband: increasingly ubiquitous high speed Internet access is enabling a world of engaging content including video, multiplayer games, simulations, and video conferencing.
- Cheap access devices: netbooks, tablets, and smart phones have dropped below the $100 per year ownership level enabling one-to-one computing solutions.
- Powerful application development platforms: rapid application development and viral adoption have radically reduced cost and increased speed of bringing solutions to market.
- Adaptive content: personalized news (iGoogle), networks (Facebook), purchasing (Amazon), and virtual environments (World of Warcraft) have created a 'my way' mindset that will eventually eliminate the common slog through print.
- Platforms: Apple's iPhone illustrates the elegant bundling of an application, purchasing, and delivery platform.
Delaware's surprising first-place finish in a fierce battle for federal school-reform dollars highlights a tension in President Obama's education agenda: He favors big change, but he also prizes peace with the labor unions that sometimes resist his goals.
Obama often has challenged unions, even voicing support last month for a Rhode Island school board's vote to fire all the teachers at a struggling high school. But his administration built the $4 billion Race to the Top contest in a way that rewarded applications crafted in consultation with labor leaders.
The announcement that Delaware had won about $100 million highlighted that all of the state's teachers unions backed the plan for tougher teacher evaluations linked to student achievement. In second-place Tennessee, which won about $500 million, 93 percent of unions were on board.
As a teacher at Noelani Elementary School, Katie Nakamura says she believes any person who works directly with students is essential, including librarians, who can serve as a valuable resource to help children.
"Every day that another person can help a child is an essential part of that child's growth, and every day that we fail to touch a child is a waste of what we, as educators and school employees, seek to achieve," Nakamura said in an e-mail.
Gov. Linda Lingle sees it differently.
Librarians are among the educational system employees who were included on a list of "nonessential" workers released by the Lingle administration this week.
Determining which workers are "essential" and "nonessential" is at the heart of a $30 million difference between two plans aimed at ending Furlough Fridays for public school students.
Two weeks ago Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he wanted to tackle the disparity in how students of different races with discipline problems are treated in public schools.
Earlier this month, the Civil Rights Division of his federal agency informed Delaware's largest school district that it is opening an investigation involving the same issue.
Then on Monday, Duncan announced that Delaware is one of two first-round winners in the federal Race To the Top education reform competition. It now has $100 million to spend on strengthening standards and assessment, supporting quality educators, developing data systems to better measure student performance, and turning around failing schools.
Talk about intended consequences.
A lawsuit filed by the Los Angeles teachers union to block the city's school district from giving new campuses to charter schools was denied Friday by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.
The suit was filed in December on behalf of United Teachers Los Angeles as a result of the Los Angeles Unified School District's controversial school reform plan, which sought to turn over 30 campuses to bidders from inside and outside the district, including charter school organizations.
The lawsuit claimed that L.A. Unified could not allow charter operators to take over new campuses unless 50% of the district's permanent teachers petitioned for it. Charters are independently managed public schools and are generally nonunion.
The legal process went forward, and the school board voted to give teacher-led groups control of 22 of the campuses; four were awarded to charters.
A 12-year-old US schoolgirl is suing the New York City authorities for $1m ($650,000) in damages after she was arrested for writing on her desk.
Alexa Gonzalez was led out of her school in handcuffs by police after she was caught scribbling a message to her friends with an erasable, green marker.
Miss Gonzalez and her mother are suing the police and education departments in New York City.
They are claiming for excessive use of force and violation of her rights.
The Maine International Center for Digital Learning has produced four videos designed to help schools prepare for and transition into one-to-one schools. The videos feature former Maine Governor Angus King and two Maine teachers, Lisa Hogan and Google Certified Teacher Sarah Sutter. The video series covers the practical and logistical aspects of one-to-one for teachers as well as the educational theory aspects of one-to-one.
s spanking an acceptable way of disciplining children?
Opinions differ (1). Some consider it barbaric and a definite no-no, others think it merely old-fashioned but quite handy in case of a parenting emergency. A hard core of disgusted disciplinarians protest that the practice's decline is why today's youth lacks any respect for authority - and ultimately is one of the main causes for the Decline of Everything.
The ambiguity extends to the legal sphere. Many countries have outlawed corporal punishment in the classroom (2), while only a handful have done the same for parental correction of the physical kind. This map shows those countries on a world map, and amplifies their relatively small number by submerging all other countries (3).
I count 23 countries on this map. So, which are the members of the World Anti-Spanking League?
The `Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009′ (RTE Act) came into effect today, with much fanfare and an address by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In understanding the debates about this Act, a little background knowledge is required. Hence, in this self-contained 1500-word blog post, I start with a historical narrative, outline key features of the Act, describe its serious flaws, and suggest ways to address them.
After independence, Article 45 under the newly framed Constitution stated that The state shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.
As is evident, even after 60 years, universal elementary education remains a distant dream. Despite high enrolment rates of approximately 95% as per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2009), 52.8% of children studying in 5th grade lack the reading skills expected at 2nd grade. Free and compulsory elementary education was made a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution in December 2002, by the 86th Amendment. In translating this into action, the `Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill' was drafted in 2005. This was revised and became an Act in August 2009, but was not notified for roughly 7 months.
The New Jersey School Boards Association, which surveyed school officials about the state aid cuts, found that 268 districts would lay off teachers and that 185 would make cuts to their education programs.Wisconsin School District's face similar issues: the state ranks in the top 10 in per capita debt and the Federal Government's debt position continues to deteriorate. Local property taxpayers may bear the brunt of local District spending increases.
In addition, 206 districts said they would reduce the number of extracurricular activities, and 96 would charge students an activity fee for the first time.
Districts are also seeking to save on teachers' salaries and benefits, with 195 considering reopening contracts with local teachers' unions. An additional 265 are already at the bargaining table. As an incentive, Mr. Christie this week announced a proposal to give additional state aid to districts that negotiate salary freezes.
The school boards association received responses from 323 of the state's 588 districts about how they were preparing for the possible loss of state money.
The school budget is an opportunity for the board and the administration to financially describe the academic aspirations for all children. It's the means for a district to implement and follow through on its strategic plan. In strategic plans we find the vision and scope for delivering the educational program. The budget must articulate this vision for academic excellence.Clusty Search: Stewart Weinberg.
It is imperative that each school district, each year, re-examine all of its revenue sources and expenditures. School districts are primarily funded by local real estate taxes. In Dallastown, nearly 78 percent of revenue sources come from local sources -- 85 percent of which are local real estate taxes. State sources make up about 21 percent; federal and other sources make up the remai
Much more on the 2010-2011 Madison School District budget here.
Your schools are not what they once were. Last week you were named one of only four states to have its fourth-grade reading scores decline on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the nation's report card.
This is sad news, but it shouldn't come as any great surprise: Iowa's scores have been flat for nearly two decades. In 1992, you trailed only four states in fourth-grade reading. You now trail 25, including Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.
It might be tempting to blame your declining scores on changing demographics, and that's fair to some extent, but you haven't had the same influx of minority students that your neighbor Minnesota has, for example, even though their scores have risen much faster than yours.
Gov. Chris Christie Wednesday sent letters to the heads of the statewide teachers union and the state school boards' association urging them to have local union leaders and school boards agree on pay freezes, an action that would provide a school district with more state aid.
The governor sent the letters to New Jersey Education Association President Barbara Keshishian and New Jersey School Boards Association Director Maria Bilik.
"The additional state aid to those districts that make the right choice and join in the shared sacrifice will ensure that more teachers stay in their jobs, more students will be able to participate in extracurricular activities, and protect educational services,'' Christie said. "While it is not the easy choice, it is the right choice and it shows we put New Jersey's children first."
A new law went into effect in India Thursday making education a fundamental right for every child.
An estimated 8 to 10 million children between the ages of 6 and 14 do not attend school in India.
In most cases, the abject poverty many of these children live in necessitate they instead work to supplement their family's meager income.
In some cases, parents often frown upon sending daughters to school, and some rural areas deny children of lower castes access to education.
Milwaukee Public Schools today provided some response to the not-so-much-progress progress report recently issued by an independent expert who's overseeing the implementation of an educational improvement plan in the district.
In a letter, MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos and School Board President Michael Bonds tell Alan Coulter, the independent expert, that it's unfortunate his report doesn't "accurately reflect the incredible efforts underway by the District" and that it seems he has been "factually deprived of pertinent information" regarding MPS' progress.
In an e-mail today, Roseann St. Aubin, district spokeswoman, also said there appears to be a communication problem between the Department of Public Instruction in Madison and Coulter in New Orleans.
But, she also said that Coulter is required to do these progress reports under the settlement agreement between Disability Rights Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and that MPS is not a party to this settlement.
Some pundits, reflecting on the looming U.S. budget deficits, claim that Americans are vastly undertaxed compared with other major nations. I was wondering, to what extent is that true?
The most common metric for answering this question is taxes as a percentage of GDP. However, high tax rates tend to depress GDP. Looking at taxes as a percentage of GDP may mislead us into thinking we can increase tax revenue more than we actually can. For some purposes, a better statistic may be taxes per person, which we can compute using this piece of advanced mathematics:
Taxes/GDP x GDP/Person = Taxes/Person
Madison School District Administration [2.3MB PDF]:
The 2010 Facility Assessment identifies $85,753,506 of immediate maintenance needs. It does not address items that have been traditionally handled through our work order system and the annual operating budget. This includes items such as floor tile, carpeting, casework, ceilings tile, painting, wall treatments, minor fencing projects, grounds maintenance and window treatments. The Facility Assessment includes projects divided into specific areas
In previous years, all projects were prioritized in order to insure life safety items took precedence over other items like parking lots. It is now necessary to spread funding over multiple trade areas in order to prevent one area from becoming excessively deteriorated. The 2010 Facility Assessment recommends funding all areas offacility needs annually, at varying levels, according to the condition assigned.
- Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Building Envelope, gym floors, interior doors, high school athletic fields.
2009-2010 Adopted: 3.85%The document projects that the Madison School District's tax on a "typical" $250,000 home will increase from $2,545.00 in 2009-2010 to $3,545 in 2014-2015, a 39% increase over 6 years. Significant.
2010-2011 "Projected": 12.22%
2010-2011 "Cost to Continue": 11.82%
2011-2012 "Projected": 8.88%
2012-2013 "Projected": 6.03%
2013-2014 "Projected": 4.47%
2014-2015 "Projected": 3.23%
The District's total property tax levy grew from $158,646,124 (1998-1999) to $234,240,964 (2009-2010); a 47.6% increase over that 11 year period.
The proposed 2010-2011 budget increases property taxes by 11.8% to $261,929,543
1) Impact of State's finance on MMSD finances and budget projections
We utilized two separate papers from the legislative fiscal bureau (attached) and a presentation given by Andrew Reschovsky to provide detail to the board of education. Unfortunately projections at this point in time are showing a shortfall for the 2011-13 biennial budget of approximately $2.3 million. Without knowing if there will be another stabilization type package to help ease this burden, chances are funding for education and many other State funded programs will be looked at for possible reduction.
Madison School District: [1.5MB PDF]
Professional development is the manner with which we all learn and grow in our profession. The needs of our students continue to grow and change. The expectations of teachers continue to develop. Larry Wilson once said, "Our options are to learn the new game, the rules, the roles of the participants, and how the rewards are distributed, or to continue practicing our present skills and become the best players in a game that is no longer being played." Just as we expect doctors, lawyers, and other professions to be current on the latest research and methods, our teachers need to continue developing their skills through professional development.Fascinating.
- "Professional development is the key to the success of a school." (Holler, Callender & Skinner, 2007)
- "One of the most cost-effective methods for making significant gains in student performance on standardized tests is providing teachers with better content knowledge and instructional methods to enhance the curriculum." (Holler, Callender & Skinner, 2007)
- "In the history of education, no improvement effort has ever succeeded in the absence of thoughtfully planned and well-implemented professional development." (Guskey & Yoon, 2009)
- 'A school culture that invites deep and sustained professional learning will have a powerful impact on student achievement." (Brandt, 2003)
- According to research, high-quality teaching has about five times more statistical effect than most feasible reductions in class size (Greenwald, Hedges, & Laine as cited in Frank & Miles, 2007).
- "We have a rich, untapped pool oftalent in the millions ofmediocre teachers that are currently in the classroom. Rather than dismiss them, we need to help them grow. If we could move two million teachers from 'mediocre talent' to even 'mediocre- strong', it would have an incredible effect on student outcomes... Rather than focusing on punishing bad schools and teachers, we need to develop a culture of development and growth." (Scott, 2010.)
In the 1980s, when I was teaching history at the high school in Concord, Massachusetts, one day there was a faculty meeting during which some of my colleagues put on a skit about one of our most intractable problems: students wandering in the hallways during classes. One person played the principal, another the hall monitor, and others the guidance counselor, the vice-principal, and I can't remember who else from the staff. One teacher played the student who had been in the halls.
They did a good job on the acting and the lines were good, but as it went on, I noticed something a bit odd. Everyone had a part and things to say, but the only passive member of the show was the student, who had nothing much to say or do.
I notice a parallel to this in the majority of discussions about education reform these days. With some exceptions, including Carol Jago, Diane Ravitch, Paul Zoch, and me, edupundits seem occupied with just about everything except what students do academically.
There is a lot of discussion of what teachers do, and what superintendents, curriculum coordinators, principals, financial officers, mayors, legislators, and so on, do, but the actual academic work of students gets very little attention.
This observation was reinforced for me when the TCR Institute did a study in 2002 of the assignment of serious term papers in U.S. public high schools. It was the first (and last) study of its kind, and it found that the majority of HS students are not being asked to do the sort of academic writing they need to work on to prepare themselves for college (and career).
In the last eight years, I have sought funds for a study of the assignment of complete nonfiction books in U.S. public high schools, but no one seems interested. Of course, many billions have been spent since 2002 on school reinvention and reorganization, assessment plans, teacher selection, training and retention, and so on, but again, the academic work of the students (the principal mission of schools) is "more honored in the breach than the observance."
My perspective on this is necessarily a bottom-up, Lower Education one. I publish the serious research papers of high school students of history. Most of the 20,000+ U.S. public high schools never send me one, which is not a great surprise, because most history departments, other than in IB schools, do not assign research papers.
But it gives me a curiosity over the neglect of student work which does not seem to be present in those whose focus is at a Higher Level in education. Those who live on the Public Policy level of Education Punditry can not see far enough Down or focus closely enough on the activity of schools to find out whether our HS students are reading history books and writing term papers.
I believe this is because foundation people, consultants, education professors, public policy experts, and their tribes mostly talk to each other, not to students or even to teachers, who are so far far beneath them. They hold conferences, and symposia, and they write papers and books about what needs to be done in education, but from almost none of them come suggestions that involve the academic reading and writing our students should be doing.
Of course what teachers do is vastly important, as well as very difficult to influence, but surely it cannot be that much more important than what students do.
Naturally, we should design curricula rich in knowledge, but if they don't include serious independent academic work by students, the burden will still be on the teacher, and many too many students can slide through under it and arrive in college ready for their remedial classes in reading, math and writing, as more than a million do now each year.
Tony Wagner, the only person I know at the Harvard Education School who is interested in student work, did a focus group with some graduates of a high school he was working with, and they all said they wished they had been given more serious work in academic writing while they were in the high school. I asked him how many schools he knows of which take the time to hold focus groups with their recent graduates to get feedback from them on their level of academic preparation in school, and he said he only knew of three high schools in the country which did it.
We do need improvements in all the things the edupundits are working on, and the foundations and our governments are spending billions on. But if we continue to lack curiosity about and to ignore what students are doing academically, I feel sure all that money will continue to be wasted, as it has been so many many times in the past.
"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® 
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Rhode Island's new education boss told a large crowd of Bristol and Warren residents last Thursday night that their towns have gotten a great deal for nearly two decades, but it's time to settle up. The message was frustrating and disappointing to many in attendance.
Department of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist confirmed that a proposed funding formula would slash into the Bristol Warren Regional School District's revenue stream each year for the next 10 years, escalating to a $9.1 million reduction by 2020. Her message was delivered to a large crowd packed into the Mt. Hope High School auditorium to hear her speak.
Half the reduction is elimination of a regionalization "bonus" that has been given to the school district each year since the two towns merged their school systems in the early 1990s. Ms. Gist said the state simply does not have the resources to continue to fund the district at the level it has been. However, Ms. Gist offered one small carrot -- she said the state would help pay for students requiring a high level of specialized services.
According to Ms. Gist, the proposed funding formula would distribute enough funds to each district so all can adhere to the Basic Education Plan, an outline of standards Rhode Island students must achieve.
Why draw from the model? A number of years ago, my husband and I and some friends--all, except for me, artists who also teach at art schools here in New York--spent hours discussing this question, though without arriving at anything particularly convincing. A few of them recalled drawing from the model as undergraduates, but none had done so in graduate programs--these were the heady, experimental days of the early '70s, when all the action took place in the seminar room; in my husband's program, studios had been dispensed with altogether. When we turned our attention to the art world today, drawing and models seemed just as antiquated. Installation, photography, and video, more popular than ever, are mechanically derived. And though we could easily think of paintings with figures in them, all of them had been lifted from mass-media images; they had as little relation to drawing from the pose of a living person in the artist's studio as photography.
Yet, at art schools today, freshmen are required to draw from the model, sometimes six hours at a stretch, their labors then judged by teachers who have no use for, indeed, who disdain, the practice in their own work. We spent quite a while trying to account for this odd disjuncture. The best anyone could come up with is that studio drawing focuses the eye and hand; it is an intense discipline in seeing and then translating what one sees into material form. This, it seemed to me, was another way of saying that it was good for its own sake, even if it had no relation to making art these days. The conversation drifted to other subjects, but the next morning what had eluded us the night before now appeared so ridiculously obvious that I could not believe we had missed it: The reason the Academy required students to master the painstaking practice of drawing from the model was because, until very recently, the action of figures--gods, heroes, and mere mortals--was the prime subject, the central drama, the moving force, of all the greatest paintings.
via a kind reader's email: 250K PDF.
Tuition discounting reached record high levels at private colleges and universities in 2008, and the largest share of that aid was awarded without consideration of students' financial need, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO).
The average discount rate for full-time freshmen increased from 39 percent in fall 2007 to 42 percent in fall 2008, and the average award covered more than half - 53.5 percent - of the "sticker price." The discount rate represents the share of tuition and fee revenues colleges use to award institutionally funded aid.
Despite lamentations from some college presidents, tuition discounting has become an increasingly common practice at private institutions. Standard discounting involves placing the sticker price of attendance beyond the reach of many families, only to effectively slash that price by offering institutionally funded financial aid to many or, more typically, most students. Critics say it steers too much aid toward students without financial need, and it also forces high-tuition colleges to defend sticker prices students seldom actually pay.
Educating the poor is more than just a numbers game, says Shukla Bose. She tells the story of her groundbreaking Parikrma Humanity Foundation, which brings hope to India's slums by looking past the daunting statistics and focusing on treating each child as an individual.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, N.C.
Gwinnett County Public Schools outside Atlanta
Socorro Independent School District, El Paso, Texas
Ysleta Independent School District, El Paso, Texas
The founders of the Blue School aspired to create something different: a private school not fixated on the Ivy League prospects of preschoolers and devoid of admissions hysteria. An education that, as they put it, "you don't have to recover from."
The school was in the East Village, not uptown, and its leaders were not bluebloods but the founders and spouses of the Blue Man Group, the alternative theater troupe.
The school, which is entering its fourth year, has remained true to its progressive roots, with "imagination stations" and "glow time." Children help direct the curriculum, and social and emotional skills are given equal weight to reading and math.
Washington has historically talked tough about requiring the states to reform their school systems in exchange for federal aid, and then caved in to the status quo when it came time to enforce the deal. The Obama administration broke with that tradition this week.
It announced that only two states -- Delaware and Tennessee -- would receive first-round grants under the $4.3 billion Race to the Top initiative, which is intended to support ambitious school reforms at the state and local levels. The remaining states will need to retool their applications and raise their sights or risk being shut out of the next round.
That includes New York State, which ranked a sad 15th out of 16 finalists.
Nine students are being prosecuted for bullying a fellow student, Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide after being taunted and threatened. What, if anything, could and should the school have tried to protect Ms. Prince? What can and should teachers and administrators do at any school where students are bullying other kids?
In their article "9 Teenagers Are Charged After Classmate's Suicide," Erik Eckholm and Katie Zezima consider what happened at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, and the legal fallout
What if the Supreme Court had banned affirmative action? What if colleges moved away from the use of affirmative action on their own?
A new study by two Princeton University researchers uses admissions data from elite colleges to portray what would happen in such a world without affirmative action. In short, black and Latino enrollment would tank, while white enrollments would hardly be affected. The big winners would be Asian applicants, who appear to face "disaffirmative action" right now. They would pick up about four out of five spots lost by black and Latino applicants.
As his patient lay unconscious in an emergency room from an overdose of sedatives, psychiatrist Damir Huremovic was faced with a moral dilemma: A friend of the patient had forwarded to Huremovic a suicidal e-mail from the patient that included a link to a Web site and blog he wrote. Should Huremovic go online and check it out, even without his patient's consent?
Huremovic decided yes; after all, the Web site was in the public domain and it might contain some potentially important information for treatment. When Huremovic clicked on the blog, he found quotations such as this: "Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings." A final blog post read: "I wish I didn't wake up." Yet as Huremovic continued scanning the patient's personal photographs and writings, he began to feel uncomfortable, that perhaps he'd crossed some line he shouldn't have.
Nancy Kotowski, Monterey County superintendent of schools, will start overseeing the Alisal Union School District today after the state Board of Education unanimously appointed her as an interim state trustee.
Citing "the need to protect public interest," the board decided to name Kotowski on Tuesday afternoon during an emergency meeting in Sacramento. She will have veto power over the Salinas district's board of trustees until the state appoints a permanent trustee -- and outlines his or her responsibilities and power -- in May.
"My immediate goal is establish stability and prepare the District for an effective community meeting with the State Board of Education on April 14," Kotowski said Tuesday. "This will be done by focusing all efforts on teaching and learning in the classrooms of the District."
In March, the board assigned a state trustee to oversee two school districts in Monterey County: Greenfield Union and Alisal Union. The decision came after the districts chronically failed to meet academic standards set by the No Child Left Behind Act. The state board also found that problems "managing adult relationships" were ruining the districts' ability to improve student achievement.
Even if you don't live in Florida, you should pay attention to what is going on there.
Teachers, parents and even students in the Sunshine State call it the "Education Debacle." And they are no longer sitting quietly, hoping that common sense will magically prevail with state legislators seemingly intent on passing legislation affectionately called a "hammer" on the teaching profession by its sponsor.
They are taking to the streets, literally and digitally, to transmit their horror over legislation that would end teacher job security, increase student testing and tie teacher pay to student test scores. It also prohibits school districts from taking into account experience, professional credentials or advanced degrees in teacher evaluation and pay.
Ever since MIT's famous OpenCourseWare initiative was launched in 2001, people have been fascinated with the power that technology would have on open sourcing of information and the democratization of education. OpenCourseWare started as MIT's decision to open up its vast academic curricula to "any joker with a browser". I will never forget the visualization from this Wired article of an MIT 'student' racing home through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City to 'attend' a lab in software engineering...
It's true that initiatives like OpenCourseWare have helped to deliver new ways to learn. But despite access to these new tools, true innovation in education has been hampered by all the restrictive dependencies which have been part of education's lineage. For example, kids may learn a foreign language better earlier in schooling, but the structure around how English grammar is taught prevents foreign language classes from being rolled out until much too late. Clay Christensen's new book Disrupting Class brilliantly delves into this topic.
Sitting before a computer in the library at Wauwatosa West High School, senior Ricky Porter clicks his mouse and moves a squiggly web of multicolored lines across a computerized map speckled with red and blue dots.
Move one line wrong and an elected representative whose district he has redrawn will stand up in protest, a warning that Porter's new map might not be able to pass an imaginary state legislature, governor and court review. But if he gets his lines just right and manages to please all the incumbents, while staying on the right side of the law, his mission is complete.
The Redistricting Game played by Porter and classmates in his American Public Policy class at West is one of a number of new online and video games that offer educational experiences for schools and teachers willing to experiment. Porter's teacher, Chris Lazarski, who also plans to use a game named Peacemaker to teach students about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said such games give students chances to interact and solve problems in a way with which they're comfortable.
In it, Catbert, the Evil Human Resources Director, explains that leadership is the art of trading imaginary things in the future for real things today.
This is precisely the art of leadership practiced by Seattle Public Schools. Think of all of the imaginary future things they have promised in exchange for real things in the present. Then remember how few (if any) of the imaginary future things ever materialized.
When dealing with the public, the real thing they want in the present is usually your willingness to accept a change that is unacceptable and the imaginary thing in the future is some action that will mitigate the damage done by the change.
For example, if the APP community won't kick up too much of a fuss over the split of the program, then the District will deliver an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum concurrent with the split. The APP community didn't oppose the split, but the District never delivered - and now clearly never will deliver - the promised curriculum.
A casual joke on Twitter recently let slip a dirty little secret of large science and engineering courses: Students routinely cheat on their homework, and professors often look the other way.
"Grading homework is so fast when they all cheat and use the illegal solutions manual," quipped Douglas Breault Jr., a teaching assistant in mechanical engineering at Tufts University. After all, if every answer is correct, the grader is left with little to do beyond writing an A at the top of the page and circling it. Mr. Breault, a first-year graduate student, ended his tweet by saying, "The profs tell me to ignore it."
While most students and professors seem to view cheating on examinations as a serious moral lapse, both groups appear more cavalier about dishonesty on homework. And technology has given students more tools than ever to find answers in unauthorized ways--whether downloading online solution manuals or instant-messaging friends for answers. The latest surveys by the Center for Academic Integrity found that 22 percent of students say they have cheated on a test or exam, but about twice as many--43 percent--have engaged in "unauthorized collaboration" on homework.
Wisconsin had 8.2% fewer state and local government employees per capita than the national average in 2008. The state had 50.35 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees for every 1,000 state residents vs. 54.82 for the U.S. and ranked 41st nationally, according to a new study from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). The study, "Wisconsin's Public Workforce," details public employment and pay using 2008 Census figures, the most recent available. WISTAX is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to public policy research and education.
The study also compares public employee salaries and total compensation (salaries plus benefits) at the state and local levels. The average salary for a Wisconsin state employee was $53,703, 4.3% higher than the national average ($51,507). State salaries here were above those in Michigan but below salaries in Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. When estimated benefits were added to salaries, total compensation averaged $71,000. That was 5.9% above the national average, but still below Iowa and Minnesota.
Teenagers in the San Diego Unified School District will no longer need parental consent to leave campus for private medical appointments, including pregnancy, abortion, drug and suicide counseling.
The school board unanimously adopted the revised policy Tuesday night to comply with state law.
Jaime Escalante, the charismatic former East Los Angeles high school teacher who taught the nation that inner-city students could master subjects as demanding as calculus, died Tuesday. He was 79.
The subject of the 1988 film "Stand and Deliver," Escalante died at his son's home in Roseville, Calif., said actor Edward James Olmos, who portrayed the teacher in the film. Escalante had bladder cancer.
"Jaime didn't just teach math. Like all great teachers, he changed lives," Olmos said earlier this month when he organized an appeal for funds to help pay Escalante's mounting medical bills.
Escalante gained national prominence in the aftermath of a 1982 scandal surrounding 14 of his Garfield High School students who passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam only to be accused later of cheating.
Dads are helping out with childrearing more and more these days. The result can be both a boon and a letdown for super-moms, whose self-competence can take a hit when paired with husbands who are savvy caregivers, new research finds.
The findings reveal the fallout as women have entered the workplace in droves over recent decades, many of them leaving young children at home. One result is mothers have less time for care-giving. Past studies have shown working moms are torn between full-time careers and stay-at-home duties. And lately more diligent dads are helping out with the diaper-changing and other household duties.
But since mothers pride themselves on being just that -- moms -- their self-esteem can take a blow.
HEY THERE, talented recent university graduate! I'd like to offer you a job in an extremely challenging and rewarding field. The pay is based almost entirely on performance metrics--you know, what they used to call "commission" in the old days. The better you do, the more you earn! Of course the worse you do, the less you earn, but don't focus on that--you're a winner, you'll do great. We can offer you a five-year contract to start. By "contract" I mean we'll let you work for us, if things work out, but we can of course fire you at any time. And after that you'll have solid contracts! Each contract lasts one year, and we can decide to let you go at the end if you're not performing up to our standards. And by that time, you'll be earning...well, actually, you'll be paid at exactly the same rate as when you started out. We're prohibited by law from paying you more just because you've worked for us longer. If, however, you want to go get qualified in some new technical field or obtain an advanced degree, then...we can't raise your pay either. We basically just pay you a flat standardized commission depending on how well you perform on the mission.
President Barack Obama has made education reform a signature issue of his administration, and the sweeping changes in how school systems are evaluated by the federal government announced over the weekend appear to go a long way toward achieving that goal.
Mr. Obama wants to revise the criteria for judging student achievement away from a strict reliance on standardized testing and toward a system that measures not only how much progress students make during the school year but also how well prepared they are for college and the workplace when they graduate from high school.
The Obama administration sent up a bright yellow warning flag Monday to states vying for billions of dollars in federal education funds intended to encourage school reform efforts. Of the 40 states that entered the first round of the Race to the Top competition in January, only 16 were named as finalists last month, and of those only two states -- Delaware and Tennessee -- actually ended up winning part of the federal largesse this week. Delaware was awarded $102 million, while Tennessee got just more than $500 million.
In rejecting the bids of big states such as Florida, New York and Illinois, all of which had been considered strong contenders for the prize, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a powerful signal that the feds won't be satisfied by half-measures grudgingly adopted by state lawmakers without strong support from local teachers unions. The message was that everybody needs to get behind meaningful reform.
The results of this first round of judging should be sobering to anyone who believed that all Maryland had to do was wave around its No. 1 ranking in Education Week to walk away with a big pile of federal money. More than a dozen states with stronger education reform credentials than Maryland were shut out, and this state surely would have been as well had it not belately recognized how unprepared it was to compete seriously.