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June 30, 2010

US Census Bureau Public Finance Report: Madison's per student spending is greater than all large Wisconsin Districts, but for Milwaukee

The illustration above is from page 124 and includes data on Wisconsin's largest school districts.

2.8MB PDF, via a kind reader.

Per student spending numbers are always interesting and never consistent. Madison spends $15,241 per student, based on the 2009-2010 budget of $370,287,471 (24,295 students)

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:20 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation

John McWhorter:

In 2000, in a book called Losing the Race, I argued that much of the reason for the gap between the grades and test scores of black students and white students was that black teens often equated doing well in school with "acting white." I knew that a book which did not focus on racism's role in this problem would attract bitter criticism. I was hardly surprised to be called a "sell-out" and "not really black" because I grew up middle class and thus had no understanding of black culture. But one of the few criticisms that I had not anticipated was that the "acting white" slam did not even exist.

I was hardly the first to bring up the "acting white" problem. An early description of the phenomenon comes from a paper by John Ogbu and Signithia Fordham in 1986, and their work was less a revelation of the counterintuitive than an airing of dirty laundry. You cannot grow up black in America and avoid the "acting white" notion, unless you by chance grow up around only white kids. Yet in the wake of Losing the Race, a leading scholar/activist on minority education insisted that he had never encountered the "acting white" slander--while shortly thereafter describing his own son doing poorly in school because of precisely what Ogbu, Fordham, myself, and others had written about. Jack White, formerly of Time, roasted me in a review for making up the notion out of whole cloth. Ogbu (with Astrid Davis) published an ethnological survey of Shaker Heights, Ohio describing the "acting white" problem's effects there in detail, while a documentary on race and education in that town explicitly showed black students attesting to it. Both book and documentary have largely been ignored by the usual suspects.

Stuart Buck at last brings together all of the relevant evidence and puts paid to two myths. The first is that the "acting white" charge is a fiction or just pointless marginal static. The other slain myth, equally important, is that black kids reject school as alien out of some sort of ingrained stupidity; the fear of this conclusion lies at the root of the studious dismissal of the issue by so many black thinkers concerned about black children. Buck conclusively argues that the phenomenon is a recent and understandable outgrowth of a particular facet of black people's unusual social history in America--and that facet is neither slavery nor Jim Crow.

Clusty Search: Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation, by Stuart Buck.

Related: Madison Teachers' Harlem trip's aim is to aid 'culturally relevant' teaching.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:28 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Retention Guru

Jennifer Epstein:

Two decades ago, Xavier University could only count on three of every four freshmen returning for sophomore year. Even fewer made it to graduation.

Today, though, close to 9 of every 10 students who start freshman year at the Jesuit university in Cincinnati makes it back the next fall. Seven in 10 will graduate in four years, and another one will likely graduate in the two years after that.

The quality of students Xavier admits hasn't changed, nor have its academic standards. The biggest difference is one man - Adrian A. Schiess, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel -- and his day-in, day-out devotion to keeping students at Xavier.

Since 1990, Schiess, a former professor of military science at Xavier, has been the university's full-time director for student success and retention, an on-campus guru whose job responsibilities all lead to the same goal: helping any student who wants to be at Xavier stay at Xavier.

"There's no magic to retention," he says. "The key is hard work and a position like mine -- having someone who has focused responsibility from the university to guide and steer efforts to keep students here."

At other colleges, Schiess says, retention is an afterthought. "All the enrollment management people are really thinking about is admissions and financial aid. They might say, 'You get them, you pay for them and you keep them,' but they end up taking the third part as a given -- but it really isn't."

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Bill Gates touts charter schools, accountability

Caryn Rousseau:

Billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates said Tuesday that charter schools can revolutionize education, but that the charter school movement also must hold itself accountable for low-performing schools.

"We need breakthroughs," Gates said at the National Charter Schools Conference in Chicago. "And your charters are showing that breakthroughs are possible."

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been a big player in the school reform movement, spending about $200 million a year on grants to elementary and secondary education. Gates said charter schools and their ability to innovate are a key part of the foundation's education strategy.

"I really think that charters have the potential to revolutionize the way students are educated," Gates said.

Charter schools receive taxpayer money but have more freedom than traditional public schools to map out how they'll meet federal education benchmarks.

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Tribute to High School Musicals

Marshall Heyman:

There are jimmies and Jimmy Choos, and as of last year, Jimmy Awards. Monday night, the National High School Musical Theater Awards hosted its second annual Jimmy Awards at the Marquis Theatre. Don't let your mind take you anywhere funny: The Jimmy (which is trademarked, by the way) is named after producer James M. Nederlander.

After five coaching and master classes at NYU's Tisch, 44 competitors, representing 22 regional award programs, competed for The Jimmy. Monday night they each performed brief vocal selections as the character that won them their regional awards.

"It's more Miss America than 'American Idol'," said Nick Scandalios, Executive Vice President of The Nederlander Organization, who was one of the judges. "The public isn't voting."

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Worried About a Moody Teen?

Elizabeth Bernstein:

Everyone warns parents about the drama of the teen years--the self-righteous tears, slamming doors, inexplicable fashion choices, appalling romances.

But what happens when typical teen angst starts to look like something much darker and more troubling? How can parents tell if a moody teenager is simply normal--or is spinning out of control? This may be one of the most difficult dilemmas parents will ever face.

Studies show that about 20% of teenagers have a psychiatric illness with depression, anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder being among the most prevalent. Yet parents of teens are often blind-sided by a child's mental illness. Some are unaware that mental illnesses typically appear for the first time during adolescence. Or they may confuse the symptoms of an actual disorder with more normal teen moodiness or anxiety.

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The Trouble With Charter Schools

Clarence Page:

Charter schools receive a lot of well-deserved attention this time of year when they appear to be performing miracles. But what about the ones that don't?

The Obama administration believes, as did the Bush administration, in taking harsh action against "failing" schools, such as firing staff, closing the school or turning over control to the state or private charters.

Much of the news has been encouraging, especially in schools where graduates outnumber dropouts for a change.

It was exciting to hear that Urban Prep Academies, a charter school on Chicago's South Side, is sending 100 percent of this year's 107 graduates to college. That's particularly impressive for a school where only 4 percent of its original 150 students were reading at or above grade level when it opened four years ago.

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School Vouchers in DC Produce Gains in Both Test Scores and Graduation Rates

Paul Peterson:

One should not under-estimate the impact of the DC school voucher program on student achievement. According to the official announcement and the executive summary of the report, school vouchers lifted high school graduation rates but it could not be conclusively determined that it had a positive impact on student achievement.

Something about those findings sounds like a bell striking thirteen. Not only is the clock wrong, but the mechanism seems out of whack. How can more students graduate from private schools if they weren't learning more? Are expectations so low in the private sector that any one can graduate?

Peering beneath the press release and the executive summary into the bowels of the study itself one can get some, if not all the answers, to these questions.

Let's begin with the most important--and perfectly uncontested--result: If one uses a voucher to go to school, the impact on the percentage of students with a high school diploma increases by 21 percentage points (Table 3-5), an effect size of no less than 0.46 standard deviations. Seventy percent of those who were not offered a school voucher made it through high school. That is close to the national average in high school graduation rates among those entering 9th grade four years earlier. As compared to that 70 percent rate among those who wanted a voucher but didn't get one, 91 percent of those who used vouchers to go to private school eventually received a high school diploma.

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Branchburg, NJ School District in turmoil

Amanda Peterka:

After five rounds of meetings, the Branchburg teachers union and the board of education have declared an impasse, saying they could not come to an agreement on a salary freeze and a switch to the state's public health insurance plan.

A state moderator will now preside over negotiations. If an agreement cannot be reached over both, the school board will have to come up with those savings elsewhere because the school board budgeted the salary freeze already, and the Township Committee included the health insurance plan in its recommendations when it decided the school board needs to cut $1.5 million from its budget.

Tensions over these negotiations bubbled over on Thursday, June 24, at the same time that the school board approved new cuts that bring the number of laid-off school employees to approximately 55.

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More California School Districts on the Financial Brink

Howard Blume:

An increasing number of California school districts are edging closer to financial insolvency, state officials reported Tuesday.

One immediate effect has been the layoff of teachers -- probably in the thousands, although neither state officials nor the California Teachers Assn. has final numbers.

Since the beginning of 2010, the number of school systems that may be "unable to meet future financial obligations" has increased by 38%, according to the state Department of Education.

"Schools on this list are now forced to make terrible decisions to cut programs and services that students need or face bankruptcy," said state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.

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Retired, then rehired: How college workers use loophole to boost pay

Nick Perry & Justin Mayo:

Greg Royer ranks among the state's top-paid employees, with a salary of $304,000. But that's just part of his income. For nearly seven years, he's also collected an annual pension of $105,000.

Royer, the vice president for business and finance at Washington State University, tops a long list of college administrative staff members who've been able to boost their incomes by up to 60 percent by exploiting a loophole in state retirement laws.

A Seattle Times investigation has found that at least 40 university or community-college employees retired and were rehired within weeks, often returning to the same job without the position ever being advertised. That has allowed them to double dip by collecting both a salary and a pension.

The pattern of quickie retirements has continued despite the Legislature's efforts to crack down.

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June 29, 2010

Madison Teachers' Harlem trip's aim is to aid 'culturally relevant' teaching

Susan Troller:

Lanyon, Grams, and fellow Hawthorne teachers Julie Olsen and Abby Miller received a grant from the national nonprofit Fund for Teachers that allowed them to travel to Harlem to learn about the art, music, poetry, literary history and drama of this hub of African-American life. They all agree that they now have a new appreciation for the richness of black culture and its profound impact on American life and culture as a whole.

For these four, plus a dozen more local educators whose travel was covered by a couple of additional grants, the experience was part of a wider effort to help them better teach in what's known as a culturally relevant way.

"Culturally relevant practice" is a relatively new movement in education that recognizes that learning, for all of us, is related to our cultural background and what we know from our daily living. Research shows that effectively bridging the gaps between a teacher's background and student's experience can improve academic performance.

Andreal Davis is one of two district administrators in charge of helping to create culturally relevant practices in local classrooms. A former elementary school teacher at Lincoln, Davis, who is black, now helps colleagues recognize that different groups of children bring their different backgrounds, expectations and even communication styles to the classroom.

She says teachers sometimes need help learning to translate different ways their students learn, or what kind of interactions make sense to different groups of children.

"Communication styles for all of us can vary a great deal. It can be like the difference between listening to conventional music, or listening to jazz, where the narrative doesn't just go in a straight line," she explains. "If that flow is what you're used to, it's what you know how to follow in a conversation, or in a class."

Given Hawthorne's demographics -- 70 percent of the students are poor, with a diverse population that includes 18 percent Hispanic, 20 percent Asian, 32 percent black and 28 percent white -- the school has respectable, rising test scores.

People who saw the recent Madison screening of The Lottery saw another part of the Harlem world: the battle between the traditional public school system and charters, specifically the Harlem Success Academy.

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New York Tops Nation in Per-Pupil School Spending, Says U.S. Census Bureau

Cara Matthews:

New York spent $17,173 per student for public education in 2007-08, more than any other state and 67 percent higher than the national average, according to Census Bureau statistics released Monday (lots of data here).

The $10,259 average nationally was a 6.1 percent increase over 2006-07, the Census Bureau said. New York's spending went up 7.4 percent over the two years. Public education is the single largest category of all state and local spending.

New York's per-student spending was highest in 2006-07 too at $15,981 per student, compared to an average of $9,666 across the country.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia spent more than $10,259 and 32 spent less in the 2007-08 school year. States that came close to New York that year included New Jersey ($16,491 per student) and Alaska ($14,630). At the other end of the spectrum were Utah ($5,765), Idaho ($6,931) and Arizona ($7,608).

Madison spends $15,241 per student.

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The National Study of Charter Management Organization (CMO) Effectiveness: Report on Interim Findings

Robin Lake, Brianna Dusseault, Melissa Bowen, Allison Demeritt, Paul Hill, via a Deb Britt email:

Charter management organizations (CMOs), nonprofit entities that directly manage public charter schools, are a significant force in today's public K-12 charter school landscape.

CMOs were developed to solve serious problems limiting the numbers and quality of charter schools. The CMO model is meant to meld the benefits of school districts--including economies of scale, collaboration among similar schools, and support structures--with the autonomies and entrepreneurial drive of the charter sector.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the major philanthropies funding charter schools invested heavily in CMOs and similar organizations, spending an estimated total of $500 million between 1999 and 2009. Ultimately, those who invest in CMOs want to achieve a significantly higher number of high-quality schools in the charter school sector. Their investments in CMO growth have been targeted to specific urban school districts that have been considered difficult, if not impossible, to reform.

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The Foundations of Computer Science

Al Aho and Jeff Ullman:

This book has been taken out of print by W. H. Freeman. You are welcome to use it if you like. We believed in 1992 it was the way to introduce theory in Computer Science, and we believe that today.

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Responsible non-teaching careers in education

Mrim Boutia:

If you are interested in building a responsible career that successfully blends financial return with social impact and environmental responsibility, you might be interested in looking into opportunities in education.

You might think that building a career in education means being a teacher. Well, there are a number of other positions available in the education field that does not involve teaching, or even interacting with children. Furthermore, if you live in the US, you have certainly noted that in many states, recent changes in teachers' tenure terms are increasingly tying teachers' performance reviews to the performance of their students. Many of these changes are driven to compete for the Race To The Top Education Fund of $4.35 billion that was introduced by the Obama Administration to increase the effectiveness of public education in the US. The Obama Administration has sent a clear signal regarding the requirements states have to follow to qualify for funding. For the first phase of the fund deployment, forty states and the District of Columbia submitted applications. However, only Delaware and Tennessee were awarded grants. It is anticipated that, given how selectively these funds were distributed the first time around, states will want to revamp their approaches to increase their chance to compete for the $3.4billion still available. Beyond public education reform, a number of opportunities are available to support supplemental programs focused on after school programs, youth empowerment programs and college preparation programs.

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New Diploma Standard in New York Becomes a Multiple-Question Choice

Jennifer Medina:

When the State Education Department announced five years ago that all students would soon be required to pass five tests to earn high school diplomas in New York, officials applauded themselves for raising standards.

The new requirements do not take full effect until the class of 2012 graduates. What is clear is that if they were in place today, New York City's graduation rate would almost certainly drop after years of climbing steadily.

What is not so evident, educators and testing experts say, is whether the higher bar will inspire students and schools to greatness, or merely make them lean more heavily on test-taking strategies. Nor is there agreement on whether it will actually make a difference in how students perform in high school and beyond.

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Judge: Minimum Grade Ban Applies To Report Cards

Associated Press:

Students in Texas must get the grades they earn and not an inflated score on report cards under a new state law that bans minimum grade policies, a judge decided Monday in a ruling that backed arguments from state education officials.

Eleven school districts sued Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott over his interpretation of the law, which he said should apply to class assignments and report cards. The districts, most of them in the Houston area, said it should only apply to classroom assignments.

Some districts have long had policies that establish minimum grades of 50, 60 or even 70. That means if a student failed and earned a zero, his or her grade would be automatically brought up to the minimum score.

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Online Bullies Pull Schools Into the Fray

Jan Hoffman:

The girl's parents, wild with outrage and fear, showed the principal the text messages: a dozen shocking, sexually explicit threats, sent to their daughter the previous Saturday night from the cellphone of a 12-year-old boy. Both children were sixth graders at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J.

"I said, 'This occurred out of school, on a weekend,' " recalled the principal, Tony Orsini. "We can't discipline him."

Had they contacted the boy's family, he asked.

Too awkward, they replied. The fathers coach sports together.

What about the police, Mr. Orsini asked.

A criminal investigation would be protracted, the parents had decided, its outcome uncertain. They wanted immediate action.

They pleaded: "Help us."

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Support for Summer Writers: Why Aren't You Writing?

Kerry Ann Rockquemore:

Last month, I was contacted by a faculty member I had met several years ago at a conference (I'll call her Claire). Our conversation began like many I've had recently, with tears in response to a negative and critical annual review. Claire is a brilliant social scientist, incredibly hard-working, and passionately committed to her scholarship, her institution and her students. While Claire is an award-winning teacher, and far exceeded her college's service expectations, her publication record was significantly below her department's standards. Her chair was clear that her lack of publications was problematic and she left the meeting feeling an almost desperate sense of urgency to move several manuscripts forward this summer.

Of course, I suggested she make a summer plan and join a writing group that would motivate and support her throughout the summer. Last week, when I was writing about resistance to writing I couldn't help but think of Claire, so I decided to give her a call. Unfortunately, she had done very little writing: only three short sessions in the 30 days since we last spoke. When I asked Claire what was holding her back, she had difficulty identifying anything specific. She readily acknowledged having more free time and fewer responsibilities than she did during the academic year. But despite knowing that this was an important summer for her to be productive and having a general sense that she should try to write every day, somehow her days kept flying by without any progress on her manuscripts.

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Quality, not seniority, of teachers should be considered

Alan Borsuk:

I'm going to turn 60 soon and my job title at Marquette Law School these days is "senior fellow," so I have a disposition to respect seniority. Especially when other things are equal, you should earn some standing by dint of long service.

But do you think Trevor Hoffman should be sent out to pitch the ninth inning for the Brewers just because he has seniority over everyone else on the team? Of course not. Put in the best pitcher.

I may be in a minority, but I regard baseball as a game, as entertainment.

Education is not a game. It's as crucial a matter as any facing Milwaukee.

So why don't schools follow this simple lesson from sports: You stand your best chance of winning when you field your best players?

Milwaukee is well on its way this summer to a vivid lesson in seniority in action. Milwaukee Public Schools administrators have given layoff notices to 482 teachers, as well as 816 other employees.

Related: An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria.

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

"Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk - the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It's as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands." Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI's vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the "impossibility" of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars ("Similar to GM"; "worry" about the children given this situation).

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Summer school is a great tool, if only more students would use it

Jay Matthews:

This Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Brent Elementary School at 301 North Carolina Ave. SE, the D.C. public schools will hold a chancellor's forum on how to add useful learning to your child's summer. Several groups, such as the D.C. Public Library, the University of the District of Columbia Science and Engineering Center, and even Madame Tussaud's, will have booths about their summer programs.

But the District, like other urban districts, will have a summer school that includes only about a fifth of its students. Many people laugh that off: Who in their right mind wants to go to summer school? Give the poor kids a break.

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June 28, 2010

Is New Hampshire's Anti-Tax Stance Hurting Schools? A Quick Look at NAEP Scores Does Not Indicate that Spending is a Problem

Jim Zarroli:

State and local tax burdens vary greatly from state to state. New Hampshire, for instance, has no income or sales tax -- but its neighbor Vermont has both. Fiscal conservatives say New Hampshire's long history of low taxes has forced the state to keep spending in line. But New Hampshire residents say that tradition of fiscal austerity has exacted a price on the state's schools.
NAEP 4th grade average math scale score: New Hampshire: 251; Wisconsin 244; Vermont 248, Massachusetts 252, Minnesota 249, Iowa 243. Low income: New Hampshire: 237; Wisconsin 229; Vermont 235, Massachusetts 237, Minnesota 234, Iowa 232.

NAEP 4th grade average reading scale score (national average is 220): New Hampshire: 229; Wisconsin 220; Vermont 229, Massachusetts 234, Minnesota 223, Iowa 221. Low income (national average is 206): New Hampshire: 213; Wisconsin 202; Vermont 215, Massachusetts 215, Minnesota 203, Iowa 208.

NAEP 8th grade average reading scale score (national average is 262): New Hampshire: 271; Wisconsin 266; Vermont 272, Massachusetts 274, Minnesota 271, Iowa 265. Low income (national average is 249): New Hampshire: 257; Wisconsin 249; Vermont 260, Massachusetts 254, Minnesota 252, Iowa 253.

NAEP 2005 Science Assessment is here

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Do You Have the Ox Factor?

Susie Boyt:

I was standing on what used to be the stage on what used to be called the Old Hall at the school I used to attend. It was a stage on which I'd won minor acclaim as Dame Crammer ("Girls! Girls! Cease this vulgar brawl at once!") and Lady Lucre ("Hark! Here comes Sir Jaspar, your first cousin once removed and twice convicted"). My Mother Abbess from The Sound of Music had done her mountain climbing in the New Hall round the corner, and my "When the Lord closes a door somewhere he opens a window" had brought the house down for some reason. It wasn't even meant to get a laugh.

I had been invited to my old school to fire the pupils up about Oxford University. I'd sent round a warning in advance. "I had quite a mixed time," I wrote, "but I will try to stay positive."

I dressed smartly, but not luxuriously, for my talk. My schooldays had had a shabby, down-at-heel flavour due to slender means, so I was eager to make a fresh impression. When I was there the establishment had boasted girls so shiny it was pointless trying to keep up, let alone compete. The girls with curls had their hair straightened on Saturday mornings at their mothers' beauty parlours, and the girls with straight hair had theirs curled. This evening my hair was newly cut and freshly curled, my nails short and neat, my outlook springy and optimistic.

My shoes and handbag very nearly matched. In fact, there was nothing about me that was remotely macabre. Apart from the 3cm thread hanging from the hem of my pencil skirt, I was damn near immaculate.

The room, containing about 60 teenagers and their parents, crackled with anxiety. It felt as though the souls in the Old Hall wanted Oxford almost more than life itself. Various experts spoke before me.

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W.Va. education spending audit may prove daunting

The Associated Press:

A proposed audit of West Virginia's education spending enjoys widespread support, but that may not make its undertaking any less tricky.

Officials have yet to decide who would conduct the in-depth review, or even how to authorize it. Then there's the scope. An estimated 14 cents of every dollar spent by the state goes to public education, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia included an audit in its wish list for next month's special legislative session focused on education.

"We are not aware of any recent or ongoing investigation regarding the spending practices by governmental departments, agencies and boards of education funded with public education dollars and whether the funds are being used for the intended purpose," the group said in its outline of the proposal, one of eight it wants lawmakers to consider.

Related: Madison School Board member may seek audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent.

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KIPP Considers Purchase of an Abandoned Gary, Indiana School

Chelsea Schneider Kirk & Christin Nancy Lazerus:

The windows to Beckman Middle School are boarded and the grass has turned into weeds, but Taiwane Payne sees potential for the school that the Gary Community School Corp. closed and is now selling.

Payne came to an open house at the shuttered school on Thursday eager to see if it would be an ideal building for his not-for-profit venture. Payne wants to revitalize a Gary school into a technical center that would teach the unemployed green technology.

But that's as long as the price is right.

"It's up to the city of Gary and the school corporation not to try to get as much money out of them as possible," Payne said. "It would be great to see the building being used and not abandoned."

From the outside, Payne surmised Beckman, which closed in 2004, would need some work.

"I need to get in and find out exactly what needs to be done," Payne said pulling on his work gloves and carrying an industrial flashlight.

Gary Community Schools is in the process of selling 11 of its vacant school buildings, but Gov. Mitch Daniels thinks some of the structures should be given to charter schools.

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Success and Scrutiny at Hebrew Charter School

Jennifer Medina:

Every so often, Aalim Moody, 5, and his twin sister, Aalima, break into a kind of secret code, chatting in a language their father does not understand.

Walking along Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, they make out the lettering on kosher food shops and yeshiva buses, showing off all they learn at the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School in Midwood, where they both attend kindergarten.

Ask Aalim his favorite song and he will happily belt out:

"Eretz Yisrael sheli yaffa v'gam porachat!" -- My land of Israel is beautiful and blossoming! -- and then he continues in Hebrew:

Who built it and who cultivated it?

All of us together!

I built a house in the land of Israel.

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How Many Graduates Does It Take to Be No. 1?

Winnie Hu:

There will be no valedictory speech at Jericho High School's graduation on Sunday. With seven seniors laying claim to the title by compiling A-plus averages, no one wanted to sit through a solid half-hour of inspirational quotations and sappy memories.

Instead, the seven will perform a 10-minute skit titled "2010: A Jericho Odyssey," about their collective experience at this high-achieving Long Island high school, finishing up with 30 seconds each to say a few words to their classmates and families.

"When did we start saying that we should limit the honors so only one person gets the glory?" asked Joe Prisinzano, the Jericho principal.

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Medical School Acceptance Rates, 2007-2009

Mark Perry:

Here's a new chart (click to enlarge) with updated data from the Association of American Medical Colleges on medical school acceptance rates for Asians (data here), whites (data), Hispanics (data) and blacks (data) during the period 2007-2009, based on various combinations of MCAT scores (24-26 and 27-29) and GPAs (from 3.00 to 3.59).

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What's holding up the FCAT scores?

Cara Fitzpatrick:

For students and their parents, the wait for FCAT scores has been endless.

Results of this year's writing tests were due in April, but the state Department of Education has yet to release them.

The same goes for the reading, math and science scores that the state had expected to release by late May for fourth graders through high school juniors. So far, only third graders have received their math and reading results.

Even with the DOE finally planning to issue the scores early next week, people want to know: What went wrong?

The answer centers on Pearson Plc., a giant London-based media and education company that last year won a $254 million, multiyear contract with the state to handle Florida's high-stakes standardized test.

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Education Secretary Arne Duncan Gets Unwelcomed at Foothill College

E. Wentworth:

Union buster and privatizer Arne Duncan is the US Secretary Of Education. He has supported the mass firing of teachers and is working with privateers to destroy public education. Demonstrators protested at Foothill Community College where Duncan was the keynote speaker yesterday. Duncan is scheduled to speak again at DeAnza College graduation ceremony in Cupertino this morning.

United Public Workers for Action (UPWA) called for a demonstration when it was announced that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would be the keynote speaker at Foothill Community College's graduation ceremony on June 25. After receiving permission from the college administration early this week to stage a peaceful protest, Skyline Community College instructor George Wright received calls from Foothill College president Judy Miner asking that he cancel the planned demonstration. He also received calls from Arne Duncan's counsel trying to convince George that Duncan should not be the target of protesters.

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June 27, 2010

School Is Turned Around, but Cost Gives Pause

Sam Dillon:

As recently as 2008, Locke High School here was one of the nation's worst failing schools, and drew national attention for its hallway beatings, bathroom rapes and rooftop parties held by gangs. For every student who graduated, four others dropped out.

Now, two years after a charter school group took over, gang violence is sharply down, fewer students are dropping out, and test scores have inched upward. Newly planted olive trees in Locke's central plaza have helped transform the school's concrete quadrangle into a place where students congregate and do homework.

"It's changed a lot," said Leslie Maya, a senior. "Before, kids were ditching school, you'd see constant fights, the lunches were nasty, the garden looked disgusting. Now there's security, the garden looks prettier, the teachers help us more."

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Milwaukee Teacher's Union Eats Its Young

Bruce Murphy:

In the last couple weeks, we've seen the dispiriting spectacle of layoff notices going to nearly 500 Milwaukee Public Schools teachers. This includes some excellent ones let go simply because they have less seniority. This will mean even bigger average class sizes - and further declines in quality - for a district already struggling badly. And a clear culprit is the teachers union.

The union has always been more concerned about its veteran teachers, more worried about pensions than starting salaries for new teachers. Union officials have argued that this "career ladder" will attract new teachers, but that's nonsense: What twentysomething teacher is thinking about a retirement that is at least 30 years away? Milwaukee teachers were already part of the excellent state pension system, yet back in the late 1990s, the union successfully pushed for an unneeded, supplementary plan that used local tax dollars to sweeten the pension for a select group of long-term teachers.

MPS officials argue that none of the recent layoffs would have been necessary if the union would agree to switch from its Aetna insurance plan to a lower-cost plan offered through United Healthcare. This could save the district some $48 million, enough to prevent any job layoffs for teachers, school board president Michael Bonds claims. "I'm not aware of any place in the nation that pays 100 percent of teachers' health care benefits and doesn't require a contribution from those who choose to take a more expensive plan," Bonds told the press.

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Three Phases of Educational Technology

Douglas Crets:

A teacher and techie gives a presentation on how technology gets integrated into teaching in systematic ways.

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Scary things in U.S. report on school vouchers: "The Program significantly improved students' chances of graduating from high school"

Valerie Strauss:

This isn't actually about vouchers. It's about a new government report (pdf) on a school vouchers program in Washington, D.C., that reveals just how perversely narrow our view of "student achievement" has become.

Issued this week by the Education Department, the report is the final evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program ordered by Congress.

The program was the first federally funded private school voucher program in the country. Since 2004, more than 3,700 students -- most of them black or Hispanic -- have been awarded scholarships, each worth up to $7,500 tuition. Since Congress refused to reauthorize the program, no new students are being accepted.

The new evaluation of the program is remarkable for how it describes student achievement. It says: "There is no conclusive evidence that the OSP affected student achievement."

What is student achievement? In this report it is all about standardized test scores. The evaluation says:

"On average, after at least four years students who were offered (or used) scholarships had reading and math test scores that were statistically similar to those who were not offered scholarships."

I wonder how much was spent per student in the voucher schools vs the traditional public districts?

Somewhat related: Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold voted to kill the DC Voucher program, along with the Democrat majority.

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U.S. education chief talks change at Mill Valley event

Rob Rogers:

America needs to make "fundamental, dramatic change" to the kind of education called for in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Friday in a meeting with local educators in Mill Valley.
The nation's education chief said the federal government should reward rather than punish struggling schools, that it should support art, music and physical education classes in addition to math and science and that it should encourage reforms that come from the local level, rather than imposing them from on high.

"The law needs to be less punitive. Right now, there are 50 ways for schools to fail for every way there is for them to succeed," Duncan said. "And we have to make sure students have a more well-rounded education, not just in high school, but in the first and second grade."

But Duncan had few specific examples of those changes, which he outlined before a crowd of Marin and Sonoma teachers, administrators and school board members at an event hosted by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, at Tamalpais High School.

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Ed. Secretary Duncan: Black Male Teachers Needed


He's the head of education for the entire United States and he's calling all black men to the front- of the classroom- that is.

This fall, Education Secretary Arne Duncan plans on touring historically black colleges and universities in hopes of increasing the number of black men teaching in America's public schools- which is currently less than 2 percent.

Is placing black men in the classroom the answer to solving some of the problems in the black community such as gang violence, high school drop out rates, and fatherless homes? Secretary Duncan thinks so. Do you agree, or disagree?

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The Milwaukee Drum:

Look at this video and tell me where the hell are the teachers? WHOEVER the principal is at this school (video is from '07) needs to be fired. The teacher should be fired as well. Look closely at the 2:26 mark of this video clip and see the teacher (or some adult) sitting up against some counter watching this ish. Is this man getting thrills watching these adolescent, Black Kids grind on each other? No excuse MPS, this is why WE cannot read, write or do math with any competency at many of the public schools.

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Google Moves Encrypted Search to New Domain

Audrey Watters:

Google announced today that it was moving domains for its encrypted search from to

In May Google launched an encrypted version of its Web search, allowing users to enable a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection to encrypt their information as they searched.

As ReadWriteWeb reported, this move ran afoul of some school districts' web filtering requirements, forcing them to possibly block access to other parts of the Google secure domain.

There is certainly a message in this change.

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Fox Valley leaders take wait, see approach on school funding overhaul

Ben Jones:

"The devil is in the details, obviously," Paul Hauffe, director of business services in the Neenah Joint School District, said Friday. "And how will it affect one district versus another, and what actually is the change going to be? We're keeping an eye on it."

Wisconsin education leaders on Thursday praised the proposed plan, which would do away with $900 million in property tax credits for homeowners and instead give the money directly to schools.

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Vicki McKenna on Reduced Class Time for Madison's Grade 6-12

25mb mp3 audio file. Much more on the increased adult to adult expenditures and staff time in the Madison School District here.

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Special Needs Voucher Program passes in Louisiana

Matthew Ladner:

A bipartisan group of legislators in Louisiana have passed a pilot voucher program for children with special needs in Louisiana.

I think this makes Louisiana the sixth state to pass a private choice program for special needs children (Florida, Ohio, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma having already done so).

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Vancouver School Board's Budget pain is not unique

Gary Mason:

Name-calling going on in the city belies reality that education budgets being slashed across Western Canada

For weeks now there has been an entertaining fight going on between the Vancouver School Board and the B.C. Education Ministry. It has often devolved into petty name-calling. There have been public tears, accusations and counter-accusations.

The public doesn't quite know who to believe.

Boards in B.C. have to balance their budgets by law. The Vancouver board says it has a $17-million shortfall, mostly because the province doesn't give it enough money to operate. Balancing its budget will mean closing schools, the board chair has said, which will be a blow to many parents and their children.

The government blames the problem on the incompetence of the board. It remains to be seen just how long Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid will allow the current group of trustees to continue running the show.

Such drama.

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Dreyfuss says civics education can save democracy

Associated Press:

Actor Richard Dreyfuss wants students to take on a project bigger than "Jaws."

Dreyfuss, speaking Thursday in Lexington to the annual Student Congress of the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship, told about 60 students and teachers from around the country that improving civics education in schools is the way to save American democracy.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Dreyfuss, 62, said, "We have to learn how to use the tools given to us in 1787" in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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June 26, 2010

The Common Core Math Standards: When Understanding is Overrated

Barry Garelick, via email:

Earlier this month, the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI)--a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)--issued the final version of its math standards for K-12.

The draft standards were released in March and CCSSI allowed the public to submit comments on the draft via their website. Over 10,000 comments were received. The U.S. Coalition for World Class Math was one of the commenter's and I had a hand in drafting comments. We were concerned with the draft standards' use of the word "understand" and pointed out that the use of this verb results in an interpretation by different people for different purposes. I am pleased to see that the final version of the standards has greatly reduced the use of the word "understand", but I remain concerned that 1) it still is used for some standards, resulting in the same problems we raised in our comments, and 2) the word "understand" in some instances has been replaced with "explain".

I am not against teaching students the conceptual underpinnings of procedures. I do not believe, however, that it is necessary to require students to then be able to recite the reasons why a particular procedure or algorithm works; i.e., to provide justification. At lower grade levels, some students will understand such explanations, but many will not. And even those who do may have trouble articulating the reasons. The key is whether they understand how such procedure is to be applied, and what the particular procedure represents. For example, does a student know how to figure out how many 2/3 ounce servings of yogurt are in a ¾ ounce container? If the student knows that the solution is to divide ¾ by 2/3, that should provide evidence that the student understands what fractional division means, without having to ask them to explain what the relationship is between multiplication and division and to show why the "invert and multiply" rule works each and every time.

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A second opinion on learning disorders

Aditi Shankardass:

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Education innovation in the slums

Charles Leadbeater:

Charles Leadbeater went looking for radical new forms of education -- and found them in the slums of Rio and Kibera, where some of the world's poorest kids are finding transformative new ways to learn. And this informal, disruptive new kind of school, he says, is what all schools need to become.

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The Political Assault on Art Education

Michelle Marder Kamhi:

A few years ago a "contemporary artist" named Judi Werthein made headlines when she distributed specially designed and equipped sneakers to Mexicans waiting to cross the U. S. border. She called her piece "Brinco," from the Spanish word for "jump." Sneakers are also apt here. Ms. Werthein's shoes--equipped with a compass, map, flashlight, and medication--were intended to assist people engaging in illegal immigration.

Dipti Desai, who directs the art education program at New York University's Steinhardt School, thinks that "Brinco" should be studied in America's art classrooms. At the National Art Education Association (NAEA) convention in April, she praised contemporary artists who use "a wide range of practices" to criticize U. S. immigration policy. If like-minded NAEA members can persuade Congress, your children may soon be studying works like "Brinco" in school.

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Aviary Online Education Tools

• Create private student accounts
• Manage assignments and projects
• Use the image editor, vector editor, audio editor & music creator
• All content and images are 100% school safe

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June 25, 2010

Some Wisdom For Juniors and Sophomores, Before Moving On

Omosefe Aiyevbomwan:

If you'd asked me a year ago whether or not I would be sad to graduate, I probably would've broken out in an uproar of laughter.

But as I stood in my bedroom hours before the ceremony, clad in my cap and gown, I was completely overwhelmed. Senior year has come to an end, and with it, a new chapter of life has begun.

Needless to say, I am extremely excited to begin my life at NYU, but parting ways with Stuyvesant High School is harder than I thought it would be. As I cleared out my locker a few days ago, I found little pieces of memorabilia (my choral music folder, old math notes, gym clothes, the Stuyvesant Spectator newspaper) and instantly it hit me: this is it.

And I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but I almost cried (well, it was more of an "awww" moment than a full out cry of agony).

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Secret girls schools emerge in Afghanistan

Matthew Green & Kate Holt:

Hidden in the maze of mud-walled alleys in the Loy Wiyala district of Kandahar, Amina, 16, is taking her first, secretive steps towards becoming a teacher.

Banned by her father Abdul from making the short walk to school, she uses a clandestine classroom to impart her smattering of knowledge to younger sisters poring over textbooks scattered across a rug.

This is not a tale of a conservative parent depriving his daughter of an education, but an Afghan family braving the risk of Taliban violence to give their girls the chance to learn.

Abdul is one of a number of anxious fathers who have set up underground schools to allow his daughters to continue studying in defiance of an escalating campaign of insurgent attacks designed to thwart a major Nato operation to secure the city.

"I went to school in Kandahar city for a while, but now we are too scared," said Amina. "I think it is important that we all learn as much as we can at home until the situation for us improves. I want to be a teacher one day and go to teacher training college."

Gains in promoting female education, which was banned under the Taliban, have often been cited by Western politicians seeking to buoy support for the nine-year war among increasingly sceptical publics. But some of the initial progress has been eroded by a surge in violence, particularly in the south.

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Mathematica Study on KIPP Middle Schools

Mathematica Policy Research:

To understand our impact and communicate it to the public, KIPP has commissioned Mathematica Policy Research to conduct a rigorous, third-party evaluation that will examine how KIPP students fare over the long term. The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation provided the lead support for the Mathematica evaluation of KIPP middle schools.

The Mathematica study will help us understand the degree to which KIPP schools make a difference for our students in both academic and non-academic outcomes, including achievement and motivation. The first report from the Mathematica study of KIPP middle schools was published on June 22, 2010. The next report is due to be released in late 2012.

Key Findings:
1. KIPP does not attract more able students (as compared to neighboring public schools).

2. KIPP schools typically have a statistically significant impact on student achievement.

3. Academic gains at many KIPP schools are large enough to substantially reduce race and income-based achievement gaps.

4. Most KIPP schools do not have higher levels of attrition than nearby district schools.

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The Case for Having more Kids

Bryan Caplan:

Amid the Father's Day festivities, many of us are privately asking a Scroogely question: "Having kids--what's in it for me?" An economic perspective on happiness, nature and nurture provides an answer: Parents' sacrifice is much smaller than it looks, and much larger than it has to be.

Most of us believe that kids used to be a valuable economic asset. They worked the farm, and supported you in retirement. In the modern world, the story goes, the economic benefits of having kids seem to have faded away. While parents today make massive personal and financial sacrifices, children barely reciprocate. When they're young, kids monopolize the remote and complain about the food, but do little to help around the house; when you're old, kids forget to return your calls and ignore your advice, but take it for granted that you'll continue to pay your own bills.

Many conclude that if you value your happiness and spending money, the only way to win the modern parenting game is not to play. Low fertility looks like a sign that we've finally grasped the winning strategy. In almost all developed nations, the total fertility rate--the number of children the average woman can expect to have in her lifetime--is well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children. (The U.S. is a bit of an outlier, with a rate just around replacement.) Empirical happiness research seems to validate this pessimism about parenting: All else equal, people with kids are indeed less happy than people without.

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A Proposal To Rewrite Wisconsin's $5,200,000,00 in Redistributed State Tax Dollars for K-12 Districts

Scott Bauer:

The school levy credit shows up as a reduction on property tax bills mailed in December, and killing it would be difficult politically.

But according to Dale Knapp of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the proposal would simply move money around and would have little effect on the problems schools face.

"Some districts will pay less, some will pay slightly more, but the schools will be in the same boat they were before," he said.

The state uses the school levy tax credit to help reduce property taxes that provide local money for schools. It was created in 1996 and it has grown by more than 400 percent since.

Evers stressed that putting the tax credit money into the aid formula, then redistributing it to schools under a reworked formula, would not result in a net increase statewide in property taxes. It would, however, mean higher or lower taxes for individuals, depending on their school district.

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Study: N.Y. Soda Tax Would Curb Obesity, Diabetes

R.M. Schneiderman:

New Yorkers seem to oppose Gov. Paterson's proposed penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. But over the next decade, the tax could curb soda consumption and prevent tens of thousands of cases of adult obesity and Type 2 diabetes, a change that would save state residents an estimated $2.1 billion in related medical expenditures, according to a new study commissioned by the New York City Health Department.

The study, conducted by Dr. Claire Wang, a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University, analyzed various surveys on sugary drink consumption, related health risks and the effects of price on consumer choices. The findings: a soda tax would reduce consumption of sugary beverages by 15% to 20%. It would also prevent an estimated 37,000 or more cases of Type 2 diabetes and an estimated 145,000 or more cases of adult obesity over the next decade.

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Bloomberg: Obama's Greatest Challenge is Education

Keren Blankfeld:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg just spent 20 minutes speaking with New York Times' chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. at the New York Forum.

Following are some of the highlights from that conversation:

- The government's first job is to promote economic activity. Give people the ability to enjoy life, keep food on plate, roof on head.

- The big problem NY State faces is that its number one industry is finance. Washington has forgotten that the economic engine for the United States is finance. Nothing works without it. Credit derivative swaps don't sound good, so the government decided to go after the banks. That is potentially very damaging to the country. If you want to create jobs you have to have banks willing to provide loans. You can't have it both ways.

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June 24, 2010

Winner Take All Incentives And Teacher/Student Cheating

Bob Sutton:

Steve Levitt of Freakonomics fame has shown that, when teacher's pay is linked to the the performance of their students on standardized tests, they are prone to cheat -- I mean the teacher's cheat. Levitt's data from Chicago suggest that about 5% of teachers cheated to get bonuses and other goodies. A recent New York Times article shows that this problem persists, and tells a rather discouraging story of a principal from Georgia who "erased bubbles on the multiple-choice answer sheets and filled in the right answers." And if you look check out the Freakonomics blog, there is evidence that Australian teachers cheat too.

The kind of pressures that educators face aren't just financial incentives (although that alone is plenty of pressure as many systems reward only the top performers no matter how well everyone else does), they also risk being fired, demoted, or their schools may lose accreditation, be put on probation, and in some cases, closed for poor performance

The Times article offers an interesting quote that has implications beyond education:

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Nashville mayor: Education is key to attracting tech jobs

G. Chambers Williams:

Improving public education remains the top goal of Mayor Karl Dean as his administration and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce begin work on a new five-year economic development plan.

Education is the key to bringing higher-paying technology jobs to Nashville, a key focus of the so-called Partnership 2020 initiative outlined at a chamber gathering Monday afternoon.

It's a new take on the program the city and the chamber first launched in 1990, which most recently has been known as Partnership 2010 and has been credited with bringing more than 600 new companies to the area over those two decades.

"Our focus has changed," the mayor said before addressing chamber members. "There will be more of an emphasis on facets of our economy such as music, where a lot of the technology jobs will be created. But education is the single biggest thing we need to get right."

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Ottawa-Carleton School board passes two-year budget (C$10,829/student)

Matthew Pearson:

Committing a future board to making cuts -- particularly when this is an election year -- was difficult for some trustees to swallow, but the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board passed a balanced budget late Tuesday night.

Weary applause broke out after the final vote was tallied and board chair Cathy Curry declared the process over for another year.

"Superintendent Clarke, your blood pressure can go right back down to normal levels," she joked.

With the public school board facing a $14.9-million deficit, it was Michael Clarke, the board's chief financial

officer, who devised a two-year plan that would see trustees approve some cuts for the 2010-2011 school year and some for the following year.

Otherwise, Clarke said, a year from now, the board could face even tougher challenges and have less money to address them.

But with a school board election in the fall and fears the proposed cuts could cause unnecessary grief for the public, some trustees opposed the idea of a two-year plan.

The Ottawa-Carleton proposed budget was C$731,100,000 for 67,511 students (C$10,829/student). Madison spends US$15,241 per student.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Chancellor Merkel Rebuffs President Obama's Call to Boost Spending (and deficits)

Marcus Walker & Matthew Karnitschnig:

Chancellor Angela Merkel roundly rebuffed U.S. President Barack Obama's call for Germans to aid the global recovery by spending more and relying less on exports, even as she warned that Europe's own financial crisis is far from over.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in her Berlin chancellery, an unapologetic Ms. Merkel said the nations that share the beleaguered euro have merely bought some time to fix the flaws in their monetary union. She called on the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations meeting in Toronto this weekend to send a signal that tougher financial-market regulation is on its way to dispel the impression that momentum is fading amid resistance by big banks.

She took aim at an idea voiced by France, the U.S. and others that Germany could help global producers by spurring its persistently weak consumer demand. The latest call came in a letter last Friday from Mr. Obama to the G-20, in which he asked big exporters--Germany, China and Japan--to rebalance global demand by boosting consumer spending rather than exports.

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HP to sell $300 netbook for heavy-duty classroom use

Frank Michael Russell:

Palo Alto computer and printer giant Hewlett-Packard is introducing a $300 netbook PC for heavy-duty classroom use.

The HP Mini 100e Education Edition is designed "to close the digital divide by offering students and teachers an interactive learning experience at an affordable price," HP said in a statement Wednesday.

"HP is committed to helping schools adapt to students' changing needs and to creating solutions that provide better interactivity, connectivity and learning," Dan Forlenza, vice president and general manager of business notebooks in HP's personal systems group, said in the statement.

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In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That

Catherine Rampell:

One day next month every student at Loyola Law School Los Angeles will awake to a higher grade point average.

But it's not because they are all working harder.

The school is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market.

In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have deliberately changed their grading systems to make them more lenient. These include law schools like New York University and Georgetown, as well as Golden Gate University and Tulane University, which just announced the change this month. Some recruiters at law firms keep track of these changes and consider them when interviewing, and some do not.

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Moody's downgrades Waukesha School District credit rating

Amy Hetzner:

For the second time in two years, Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the credit rating of the Waukesha School District, the latest time after the School Board voted to not allocate any money toward a $47.5 million debt owed to a European bank.

According to a Moody's report, the amount owed represents about 35% of the district's annual operating budget.

As a rule, lower credit ratings translate into higher interest rates for borrowing. However, Waukesha School Board President Daniel Warren said Monday that the credit rating drop should not have an immediate effect.

"When Moody's does a downgrade, it primarily affects long-term borrowing, and we don't have any long-term borrowing on our horizon," he said.

The A1 rating given to the district, which has a substantial tax base and relatively wealthy residents, is the lowest rating given by the service to school districts in the state, according to information from Moody's Investors Service.

Warren said his board decided not to allocate any money toward resolving the debt to DEPFA Bank because "the school district was not in a position to afford an additional $48 million in next year's budget."

Madison's current Assistant Superintendent for Business Services, Erik Kass, previously worked for the Waukesha School District.

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Grockit offers online tutoring, test prep

Douglas MacMillan:

Think of it as summer school for the Facebook generation.

That's the idea behind Grockit Inc., a San Francisco startup that offers tutoring and test prep online. The company aims to take on companies like Kaplan and the Princeton Review Inc. by undercutting their prices, offering more custom features and using social networking to appeal to students.

The site lets users collaborate and socialize while studying, giving them more reasons to keep coming back. The challenge is winning the trust of parents, who may be more comfortable relying on established names to get their kids into top colleges. A handful of players dominate test preparation and course supplements, a market worth more than $1 billion, according to research firm Outsell Inc.

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Beyond Madrasas: Assessing the Links Between Education and Militancy in Pakistan

Rebecca Winthrop & Corinne Graff:

Increasing educational attainment is likely to reduce conflict risk, especially in countries like Pakistan that have very low levels of primary and secondary school enrollment. Education quality, relevance and content also have a role to play in mitigating violence. Education reform must therefore be a higher priority for all stakeholders interested in a more peaceful and stable Pakistan. Debate within the country about education reform should not be left only to education policymakers and experts, but ought to figure front and center in national dialogues about how to foster security. The price of ignoring Pakistan's education challenges is simply too great in a country where half the population is under the age of 17.

There has been much debate concerning the roots of militancy in Pakistan, and multiple factors clearly come into play. One risk factor that has attracted much attention both inside Pakistan and abroad is the dismal state of the national education sector. Despite recent progress, current school attainment and literacy levels remain strikingly low, as does education spending. The Pakistani education sector, like much of the country's public infrastructure, has been in decline over recent decades. The question of how limited access to quality education may contribute to militancy in Pakistan is more salient now than ever, given the rising national and international security implications of continued violence.

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D.C. school vouchers -- the last word?

Mike DeBonis:

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education issued its final evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program -- aka school vouchers.

To review, the federally funded voucher program is on life support. The Democratic Congress has thus far resisted attempts to reauthorize the program. The Obama administration last year budgeted enough money to allow current voucher holders to complete their high school educations, but not enough to allow new applicants; Congress has maintained that approach since.

So will the study move the ball? Here's what it found: (a) "There is no conclusive evidence that the [voucher program] affected student achievement." (b) The program "significantly improved students' chances of graduating from high school" -- by 12 percent. And (c), the program "raised parents', but not students', ratings of school safety and satisfaction."

An initial glance at those results -- no rise in test scores, but a significant rise in graduation rates -- would fall into the category of mixed results. And mixed results, given the heated political climate under which the voucher program operates, means plenty of room for spin.

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'Rebundling' Liberal Education

Eric Jansson:

In 2009 a group of 42 researchers, educators, and entrepreneurs met together at the invitation of Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm, to discuss how the Web could transform education. A major theme of the daylong discussion, which took place under the theme "Hacking Education," was "unbundling," the process through which online distribution of digital media and information breaks apart and erodes existing industries. At the center of "unbundling" are new technologically-enabled relationships that democratize access to the means of production and collectively create plenty where scarcity once existed.

An often-cited example of "unbundling" is newspapers: with blogs and other online tools, one no longer needs a printing press or fleet of delivery vehicles to be heard. The newspaper editorial room competes with an army of bloggers and other online media outlets. Craigslist emerges as the marketplace for used household items, local job listings, and community announcements, replacing the advertising function of the traditional print newspaper. The combination is a perfect storm leading to a steady, nationwide stream of newspaper closures.

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June 23, 2010

Fulton school board adopts $803 million budget (About $8,922 per student. Madison Spends $15,241 Per Student)

Gracie Bonds Staples:

The Fulton County Board of Education gave final approval Tuesday to a $803.1 million budget for the 2011 school year.

Although the district is still waiting on numbers from the tax assessor's office, the final tally was based on increasing the millage rate by 1 mill.

"This has been the must difficult budget year that I've ever seen," said Superintendent Cindy Loe.

The board is expected to tentatively adopt the millage rate at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the district's administrative center. It will then hold three public hearings: on July 6 at 11 a.m. at the administrative center and at 6 p.m. at Dunwoody Springs Elementary Charter School in Sandy Springs; and 10:30 a.m. July 15 at the administrative center.

Fulton County Schools statistics. Notes and links on Madison's per student spending here.

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Demographer says Texas must do more pre-K prep

Associated Press:

A former head of the U.S. Census Bureau said Texas must do more to prepare preschool-age children before they enter kindergarten so they won't drop out later.

Steve Murdock, the former state demographer, also said Texas needs to boost its grant program for college students. Murdock realized current trends show that by 2040, three of every 10 workers may not have a high school education.

"Clearly, with the dismal levels that we have in terms of education right now, that's clearly where we're headed," Murdock said.

Murdock also said the trend of higher dropout rates in the state's public schools with more low-income students could also mean more Texans will depend on food stamps, Medicaid and CHIP as well as higher incarceration rates.

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Scaling the Digital Divide Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement

Jacob Vigdor & Helen Ladd:

Does differential access to computer technology at home compound the educational disparities between rich and poor? Would a program of government provision of computers to early secondary school students reduce these disparities? The authors use administrative data on North Carolina public school students to corroborate earlier surveys that document broad racial and socioeconomic gaps in home computer access and use. Using within‐student variation in home computer access, and across‐ ZIP code variation in the timing of the introduction of high‐speed internet service, the authors demonstrate that the introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores. Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high‐speed internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps.

Is this a wise investment of public funds? Very little evidence exists to support a positive relationship between student computer access at home and academic outcomes.

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DC Vouchers Boost Graduation Rate

Matthew Ladner:

The Department of Education released the final report of the evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program today. The major finding of this report, and it is MAJOR, is that students who were randomly selected to receive vouchers had an 82% graduation rate. That's 12 percentage points higher than the students who didn't receive vouchers. Students who actually used their vouchers had graduation rates that were 21% higher. Even better, the subgroup of students who received vouchers and came from designated Schools in Need of Improvement (SINI schools) had graduation rates that were 13 percentage points higher than the same subgroup of students who weren't offered vouchers-and the effect was 20 percentage points higher for the SINI students who used their vouchers!

This is a huge finding. The sorry state of graduation rates, especially for disadvantaged students, has been the single largest indicator that America's schools are failing to give every student an equal chance at success in life. Graduating high school is associated with a number of critical life outcomes, ranging from lifetime earnings to incarceration rates. And, despite countless efforts and attempts at reform, changing the dismal state of graduation rates has been an uphill battle.

Of course, the uphill battle will continue. As most are aware, Congress voted to kill the DC voucher program last year, despite evidence that the program had significantly improved reading achievement for students who received scholarships. That evidence didn't count for much when faced with opposition from teachers' unions.

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Growth of AP in Seattle - sort of

Charlie Mas:

In the Advanced Learning work session there was a slide that showed the growth of AP and IB in the District. It is true that many more students are taking AP classes than ever before. But it doesn't necessarily mean what you think it means.

Take, for example, Roosevelt High School. At Roosevelt about half of the 10th grade students used to take AP European History. This is typically the first AP available to students, one of the few open to 10th grade students on the typical pathway. The class is challenging for 10th grade students and the fact that about half of the students took it is a testament to Roosevelt's academic strength. The other half of the students took a history class similar to the one that students all across district and the state take in the 10th grade.

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Reader complains about Hispanic students who take AP Spanish

Jay Matthews:

Early last Monday , while I was still in bed and wondering why the "Today" show had gotten so tabloidish, I was slammed on my blog by a reader who did not like my column about Doris Jackson, the principal at Wakefield High School in Arlington County.

It wasn't Jackson who bothered the commenter, but my praise of the school's strong performance on Advanced Placement tests. He had a complaint that has often puzzled me: Hispanic students who take AP Spanish, and the schools that let them, are getting away with something, he suggested.

"It is because of the Internet that we know that about half the students in Wakefield are Hispanic," he said. "We also know that the AP test that they are taking, which has falsely massaged these stats, is the Spanish Advanced Placement test. Take away that fabrication of academic performance, and the true percentage of AP tests passed plummets."

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Deep in the Heart of Texas

Stanley Fish:

A number of responses to my column about the education I received at Classical High (a public school in Providence, RI) rehearsed a story of late-flowering gratitude after an earlier period of frustration and resentment. "I had a high school (or a college) experience like yours," the poster typically said, "and I hated it and complained all the time about the homework, the demands and the discipline; but now I am so pleased that I stayed the course and acquired skills that have served me well throughout my entire life."

Now suppose those who wrote in to me had been asked when they were young if they were satisfied with the instruction they were receiving? Were they getting their money's worth? Would they recommend the renewal of their teachers' contracts? I suspect the answers would have been "no," "no" and "no," and if their answers had been taken seriously and the curriculum they felt oppressed by had been altered accordingly, they would not have had the rich intellectual lives they now happily report, or acquired some of the skills that have stood them in good stead all these years.

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ACI inmates receive degrees and recognition / Photo

Jennifer Jordan:

In this graduation season, Rhode Island's two top education officials made it a point Monday morning to attend a recognition ceremony held in an unlikely place -- the state prison.

Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist and Higher Education Commissioner Ray Di Pasquale went to the John J. Moran Medium Security Facility to congratulate more than 100 inmates who were enrolled in General Equivalency Degree or college-level classes, and to shake hands with the two dozen men who received degrees of completion.

"The fact that you are here means you have made mistakes along the way and you have had difficulties," Gist said. "But the fact that you are here means you are lifting yourself above those circumstances. We've all made mistakes. You've decided to better your education. You've made a very important decision."

It was the first time in memory that prison officials could recall both education officials attending the ceremony. Di Pasquale, who also serves as president of the Community College of Rhode Island, has attended in recent years to confer associates degrees from CCRI.

Monday, he handed out two associates' degrees and praised the recipients for their persistence. He encouraged the inmates to continue their education to "change your lives for the future."

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June 22, 2010

Reduced Grade 6-12 Class Time in the Madison School District?

Susan Troller:

What's one sure-fire way to stress out parents? Shorten the school day.

And that's exactly what the Madison school district is proposing, starting next year, for grades six to 12. According to a letter recently sent to middle school staff by Pam Nash, the district's assistant superintendent of secondary schools, ending school early on Wednesdays would allow time for teachers to meet to discuss professional practices and share ideas for helping students succeed in school.

"I am pleased to announce that as a result of your hard work, investment and commitment, as well as the support of central administration and Metro busing, together we will implement Professional Collaboration Time for the 10-11 school year!" Nash wrote enthusiastically.

Despite Nash's letter, district administrators appeared to backpedal on Monday on whether the plan is actually a done deal. Thus far there has not been public discussion of the proposal, and some teachers are expressing reservations.

Some middle school teachers, however, who also happen to be parents in the district, say they have some serious concerns about shortening the day for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Not only will there be less time spent on academics each week, they say, but the additional unsupervised hours will pose a problem for parents already struggling to keep tabs on their adolescent kids.

This expenditure appears to continue the trend of increased adult to adult expenditures, which, in this case, is at the expense of classroom (adult to student) time.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

"Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk - the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It's as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands." Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI's vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the "impossibility" of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars ("Similar to GM"; "worry" about the children given this situation).

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Competition boosts public schools

The Tampa Tribune:

During a debate last February in Tallahassee on a proposal to expand a scholarship program that allows poor children to go to private schools, state Sen. Frederica Wilson decried the legislation.

"We're taking children out of the public schools and making them weaker," the Miami Democrat said. "This is not America."

A recent study by a highly regarded Northwestern University researcher shows how wrong Wilson was. Florida voters are fortunate that the Legislature passed the bill and Gov. Charlie Crist signed it into law.

The study found public schools' performance improved when they were faced with the possibility of losing students to private schools.

At issue is the Florida Tax Credit Scholarships, which provide vouchers to children from poor families.

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Birthplace of charter schools tightens controls and increases accountability of sponsors

Maureen Downey:

One thing that remains murky to me is how accountable the state Charter Schools Commission - which a Fulton County judge recently ruled is constitutional - is for the schools that it approves over the objections of local boards of education. The commission is here in Atlanta, but it is approving schools across the state.

As the authorizer of the schools, how is the commission held accountable if one goes bad or if parents are unhappy and can't go to the local school board to complain since the local folks had nothing to do with the school's approval?

At a media briefing earlier this year, Charter Schools Commission member Jennifer Rippner surprised me when I asked whether parents of students in a commission charter school could ultimately turn to the charter commission with complaints that they felt were not being dealt with by the school itself or its board of directors.

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San Francisco Schools $578,572,407 Budget Discussions ($10,331 per student, 47% less than Madison)

Jill Tucker:

The San Francisco school board will face the unsavory task Tuesday of approving a budget that cuts virtually every program offered to the city's schoolchildren.

Art would be cut. Music too. Counselors. Physical education. Books. Summer school. Teachers. Custodians. Administrators.

All cut by a little or a lot.

The 444-page budget document up for a vote Tuesday, the board's last meeting before summer break, has been months in the works as district officials struggled to figure out how to balance the books despite a $113 million budget shortfall expected over the next two years.

"It's not a good budget," said board member Rachel Norton. "How could you say that cutting 20 percent of the programs is a good budget? But it really could have been so much worse."

The $578 million spending plan includes $255 million in restricted money that has to be spent on specific programs, including special education, school meals and facilities. The rest pays for salaries and the day-to-day costs of educating the district's nearly 50,000 students and running its 105 schools, 34 preschool sites and nine charter schools.

Madison's 2009-2010 budget was $370,287,471, according to the Citizen's Budget, $15,241 per student (24,295 students). More here.

San Francisco's 3.4MB budget document includes detailed per school allocations (numbered page 51, document page 55)

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Wisconsin Gubernatorial Candidate Mark Neumann Wants To Get Rid Of Teacher Certification, via a kind reader:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann is proposing to get rid of state certification for teachers as part of an education reform plan.

Neumann also is proposing a series of incentives that will encourage private schools and public charter schools to compete with and replace failing public schools.

Neumann is outlining his plans during news conferences in Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay.

In a phone interview, he said the state should provide suggested qualifications for educators, but actual hiring decisions should be left up to local school boards, superintendents and principals.

Neumann acknowledges that many of his proposals would need approval from the Legislature.

Related: Janet Mertz: An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria.

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New York U.'s Abu Dhabi Campus to Start With Academically Elite Class

Andrew Mills:

Having accepted just 2.1 percent of applicants for its first freshman class, the liberal-arts college that New York University plans to open in Abu Dhabi this fall has positioned itself as one of the world's most selective undergraduate colleges.

NYU Abu Dhabi, which its administrators like to call the "world's honors college," announced on Monday that its first class would be made up of 150 students who speak 43 different languages in all and hail from 39 countries.

The 63 women and 87 men, forming a female-to-male ratio of 42 percent to 58 percent, have met high standards.

Their SAT critical-reading scores are projected to be 770 at the class's 75th percentile. Their 75th-percentile scores for SAT mathematics are projected to be 780, according to statistics released by NYU Abu Dhabi.

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Protecting Georgia schools 
is Porter's passion

Bill Rankin:

In the Legislature, Porter chaired key education committees and proved to be a quick study who mastered the intricacies of complex legislation. As then-Gov. Zell Miller's floor leader, he sponsored the HOPE scholarship bill that has paid college tuition for Georgia students and funded voluntary pre-kindergarten programs.

Last year, Porter popped into a third-grade classroom at Saxon Heights Elementary School when he saw a teacher giving a lesson on Thurgood Marshall. Porter, a longtime lawmaker, newspaper publisher and lawyer, sat down and observed before finally asking, "May I?"

With the teacher's permission, he then recounted the life and times of the groundbreaking NAACP lawyer and first African-American to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court justice

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A Struggle to Educate the Severely Disabled

Sharon Otterman:

Donovan Forde was dozing when the teacher came around to his end of the table. Pale winter light filtered in through the grated classroom window, and the warm room filled softly with jazz. It fell to his teacher's aide to wake him up from his mid-morning nap.

She shined a small flashlight back and forth in his eyes like a dockworker signaling a ship, and called his name. Then she put her hand on his cheek, steering his head forward as he focused his eyes.

The teacher, Ricardo Torres, placed a red apple against Donovan's closed left hand, and then held it near his nose so he could smell it. "Donovan, the fruit holds the seeds of the plant," he said.

Then Mr. Torres held a plastic container of apple seeds to Donovan's ear, shaking it, and placed Donovan's hand inside so he could feel them. "And these are the seeds," Mr. Torres said.

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Pupils sent overseas to avoid HK A-levels

Elaine Yau:

The daughter of businesswoman Winnie Tsoi is studying in the economics and finance programme at the University of Hong Kong. The price she paid to get a quality degree education for her eldest daughter was HK$900,000.

The world-renowned HKU has not become a mercenary diploma mill selling degrees to the rich - it was more a case of Tsoi sending her daughter overseas on a pricey education detour to skip the gruelling local A-levels exams, but still secure the required grades.

The HK$900,000 became the "entrance ticket" to the hotly contested programme at HKU. A student seeking admission had to score a minimum of two Bs and credits for two languages in the local A-levels last year. With a less-than-brilliant score of 21 (out of 30) in the Form Five public exam in 2007, Tsoi figured that the odds of her daughter passing the Hong Kong A-levels with flying colours and gaining entry to the HKU degree course would be very low.

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Indian Education Reform Discussion


A meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), the highest advisory body in the sector, here Saturday formed consensus on a bill for an apex regulator, considered a panel to remove hurdles to implemeting the right to education act and decided on a common curriculum for science and mathematics students across the country.

The CABE met in the national capital Saturday with the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) topping its agenda.

In a step ahead towards creating an apex regulator for higher education, a broad consensus on the issue appeared for the first time among the states.

"There is a broad consensus, not just on the structure but also on the purpose of the bill," Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal said.

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Free education costs in Burma

Marwaan Macan-Markar:

Once again, parents in military-ruled Myanmar are counting the cost of a primary education for their children in public schools. It is an annual ritual that comes with the beginning of the new school year, which coincides with the onset of the monsoon rains in June.

Although the Southeast Asian nation has laws affirming that primary school education is free and compulsory, the economic headaches parents have to cope with at this time of the year suggest otherwise, according to a parent from Yangon, the former capital, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Shanghai student to live Harvard dream of many A Harvard-bound Shanghai pupil is the envy of her peers, for whom entry to the Ivy League ranks is a class act

Barbara Demick:

It was just a week after Chang Shui received her acceptance notice from Harvard that the first book offer came.

A publisher approached her father with a detailed outline for an inside guide to how a Shanghai couple prepared their daughter to compete successfully with the best students from America. Local newspapers weighed in with articles about how Shui's membership in a dance troupe surely helped. "Magical girl 'danced' her way into Harvard," the Shanghai Evening Post headlined its story.

Qibao High School, where Shui is a senior, trumpeted the news on a large electronic billboard at the front gate. The day that she received her acceptance notice - by e-mail at 5am on April 2 - teachers at the high school crowded around to have their picture taken with her.

"She was a celebrity," her homeroom teacher, Xiong Gongping, boasts.

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University of Anarchy and No Consequences

Debra Saunders:

When activists (who are not necessarily students) were able to delay construction of a UC Berkeley sports center by living in trees for 21 months, there was no review of what went wrong.

When protesters with torches vandalized UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's home, there was no review. But when UC police arrested 46 people demonstrating against higher-education cuts by occupying Wheeler Hall on Nov. 20, there were complaints that police over-reacted. And so - with authorities, not anarchists in the sights - a review was born.

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June 21, 2010

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes New Blog: A Number of Comments on Maintenance Spending & Budgeting

Ed Hughes:

I plan to write in more detail about why I dislike the tradition of explaining property tax levy changes in terms of the impact on the owner of a house assessed at a value of $250,000. The editorial in this morning's State Journal is evidence of how reliance on the $250,000 house trope can lead to mischief.

Here are the third and fourth paragraphs of the editorial:

"The Madison School Board just agreed to a preliminary budget that will increase the district's tax on a $250,000 home by about 9 percent to $2,770. The board was dealt a difficult hand by the state. But it didn't do nearly enough to trim spending.

"Madison Area Technical College is similarly poised to jack up its tax bite by about 8 percent to $348. MATC is at least dealing with higher enrollment. But the 8 percent jump follows a similar increase last year. And MATC is now laying the groundwork for a big building referendum."

Blog address:, RSS Feed.

I'm glad Ed is writing online. Two Madison School Board seats are open during the spring, 2011 election: the two currently occupied by Ed and Marj Passman.

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Double-Dipping: More public-school superintendents in Ohio are collecting pensions and paychecks

Ben Fischer:

Nearly one out of every three public school superintendents in Greater Cincinnati collect taxpayer-subsidized pensions while continuing to work.

This legal practice of "retiring" - thereby triggering pension benefits - and then returning to work within days at a handsome salary has become widespread among top local schools executives in recent years.

Occasionally, the deals make news, as it did for Kevin Bright in Mason and Gary Gellert in North College Hill, two relatively recent "retire-rehires."

But dozens of other superintendents across the state have simply agreed to a deal with a friendly school board with little fanfare. They're members in an exclusive club of superintendents who retire and return to their same job or rotate to another school district after signing lucrative contracts.

An analysis by Ohio's eight largest newspapers found:

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Newark Teachers Face Tough Bargaining

Barbara Martinez:

When New Jersey agreed last year to give Newark teachers a 5% raise for working an extra four days, the union announced the news in a memo that included two dollar signs in large type and declared: "no health benefits give-back!!"

One year later, the Newark Teachers Union is back at the negotiating table--and this time things may not work out so favorably. Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year implored taxpayers to vote down local budgets that did not freeze teacher pay. Because the Newark schools are controlled by the state, it is one of the few teacher contracts over which Mr. Christie actually has veto power.

Newark Teachers Union Head Supports Merit Pay, Open to Abolishing Seniority
"Certainly, a 4.9% raise is out of the question," said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the governor. He said the administration "has established clear guidelines" for the contract negotiations between the state-appointed Newark superintendent and the union of more than 5,000 teachers.

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High School Engineers Build Revolutionary Assistive Writing Device


What happens when a group of teenagers sets their minds on making something to help people with disabilities? In Boise, Idaho, a group of aspiring engineers teamed up with Bill Clark, a businessman in their community who suffers from hand tremors that keep him from being able to write legibly. They set about designing an easy-to-use, portable device that would steady Mr. Clark's hand and, after many hours working with prototypes in their garage, came up with a design they call the PAWD - a Portable Assistive Writing Device.

When the team took their PAWD to the National Engineering Design Challenge in Washington, D.C. and won "Best Design," they say it was just icing on the cake. Three of the student engineers behind the project spoke with NewsHour Extra about the design process, what it's like to make something for a client and why they like engineering.

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Investment guru Peter Lynch funds US education initiative

Ros Krasny & Svea Herbst-Bayliss:

Legendary investor Peter Lynch is donating $20 million to train school principals in Boston, making him the latest in a growing list of high net worth individuals to publicly champion philanthropy.

Last week, Microsoft (MSFT.O) founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) (BRKb.N) the two wealthiest Americans, said they were asking hundreds of U.S. billionaires to give away at least 50 percent of their wealth.

Lynch's fortune is considerably more modest -- at an estimated $350 million -- but he shares the belief that the wealthy should give back.

"The people who have been luckier than others should give away a lot of money," Lynch said in an interview.

Lynch, 66, made his fortune running Fidelity Investments' Magellan Fund. Between 1977 and 1990, when he resigned as a fund manager, the fund grew to Fidelity's flagship, with more than $14 billion in assets, from a mere $20 million, and averaged a 29.2-percent annual return.

Lynch, now vice chairman of Fidelity Management and Research Co.,and his wife, Carolyn, have long funded educational initiatives through the Lynch Foundation, their philanthropic organization.

The new initiative, at Boston College's Lynch School of Education, will be the first to give specific training to principals as a way to raise overall educational attainment.

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Colorado education officials ignore law on teacher arrests

Trevor Hughes:

Colorado education officials have been ignoring a law intended to "flag" the arrests of teachers and then alert all school districts and charter schools across the state, a Coloradoan investigation has found.

The 2008 law requires the Colorado Department of Education to issue an alert every time a licensed educator is ar-rested. The arrest information is provided by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

But a Coloradoan investigation shows CDE officials have largely ignored the law since it was passed, arguing that they didn't have enough money to implement it. Within days of the Coloradoan inquiring about the situation, CDE officials said they planned to start following the law. They couldn't provide a specific timeline.

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N.J. School Boards Association to spend millions on renovations despite cutbacks at schools

Elise Young:

The publicly financed lobby for New Jersey's school boards is spending millions to renovate its headquarters, even as local districts face massive state aid cuts, defeated budgets and construction proposals, and pending teacher layoffs

The New Jersey School Boards Association collects more than $7 million a year from 588 member districts, which are legally required to join. It has socked away so much in dues and conference fees -- $12.3 million, an amount greater than the group's annual operating budget -- that it is paying cash for the improvements.

It also paid $1.6 million in cash for 10 suburban acres where it had hoped to build an $18 million conference center. But the board abandoned that plan and put the land back on the market.
The most recent projected cost for the headquarter's renovations was $6.3 million. But that figure could grow an additional $600,000 to $1 million, as the contractor decides whether to fix or replace the building's walls of glass windows, officials said. In the meantime, its 70 employees -- including five lobbyists paid to influence legislation -- are working in leased office space.

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In Praise of Tough Criticism

Jeffrey Di Leo:

Professor Jones is well known for her generosity. She encourages nonconfrontational exchanges of ideas and is always upbeat and positive about her colleagues and their work. She is patient with her graduate students, encouraging them to be patient with one another as well. When a student makes a comment in class that is weak or off base, unlike some other faculty members in her department, Jones will not make a fuss. When the appropriate opportunity presents itself, she will try to work with the student to improve his or her thinking. Jones's critical credo is, "If you don't have something positive to say, then it is best not to say anything at all--at least not in public."

Her colleague Professor Smith is quite the opposite. He has built a successful career by telling people that they are wrong. The goal of criticism, he believes, is to persuade other people to see the world his way, and if they don't, then he will do everything he can to prove to them--and anyone else who will listen--that they are wrong. Criticism is a competition of ideas, a nasty business in which it is acceptable and sometimes necessary to be a brute. Strong ideas survive, weak ones perish; there is no room for wishy-washy opinions and people. Smith's assessments are harsh but well argued and persuasive. His critical credo is, "Public criticism is as valid as public praise."

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Teacher: 'Worst year in the classroom' in decades

Gary Groth:

As a classroom teacher with 30+ years experience, I just completed the absolute worst year in the classroom I have ever endured (and it was NOT the fault of my students--they were great).

"This year I was told what to teach, when to teach, how to teach, how long to teach, who to teach, who not to teach, and how often to test. My students were assessed with easily more than 120 tests of one shape or another within the first 6 months of the school year.

"My ability to make decisions about what is best for my students was taken away by an overzealous attempt to impose 'consistency' within my grade group. My school hired an outside consultant who threatened us with our jobs, demanded that everyone comply, and required us to submit data on test results on a weekly basis. If your class didn't do well, you were certainly going to be in trouble.

"In addition, my class was visited at least twice a month by the consultant, two superintendents, principal, assistant principal, reading coach, math coach, and sometimes even more people. If I was not teaching exactly what they wanted to see, I was in trouble.

I asked Madison's 3 Superintendent candidates in 2008 if they believed in either "hiring the best teachers" and essentially setting them free, or a "top down" approach to teaching. Madison continues to expand adult to adult spending ("coaches", "professional development").

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Andrew Cuomo to New York State School Districts: Drop Dead

David Singer:

Governor-in-Waiting Andrew Cuomo loves how lame duck Governor David Paterson has grown a set of balls and has rammed through nearly half the state budget through the piecemeal passage of budget extenders -- daring any legislator who votes no to be accused of voting to shut down state government.

The state fiscal year is nearly one-quarter over -- and there's still no adopted state budget. Governor Paterson has twice rammed through extenders to keep the state government operating -- and incorporated components of his budget proposal each time. Next up, supposedly, is the diciest and arguably most important part of the budget; education. On Fred Dicker's radio show on Friday, Andrew Cuomo suggested that the Governor embed a property tax cap in the next budget extender. What's that about? A property tax cap has nothing to do with the state budget. A bit of advice to the wanna-be Governor: take the job of being governor seriously. I serve on a school board in Westchester County -- and we've taken a look at the cost of state mandates on our budget (ergo our school tax burden) and in the aggregate they total over 15% of our entire school budget. Neither the Governor nor the legislature seems to be able to deal with rolling back state mandates (the unfunded costs for which get pushed down to local municipalities and school districts). That's hard. Advocating for a property tax cap? That's easy.

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Detroit school board head quits after complaint alleging inappropriate behavior

Valerie Strauss:

In the you-can't-make-up-this-stuff category:

Otis Mathis, the president of the Detroit Board of Education, was accused of fondling himself for 20 minutes in a meeting with the system's superintendent and quit right after the incident, but now is seeking to take back his resignation, the Detroit Free Press reports.

In this article, the newspaper says that board Vice President Anthony Adams plans to move ahead and post the vacancy.

Superintendent Teresa N. Gueyser filed a detailed complaint addressed to Adams about Mathis, saying he used a handkerchief while masturbating in front of her the entire time she was speaking.

Her complaint says that she has witnessed other unacceptable acts by Mathis and that she had informed him some time ago to have no physical contact with her, including handshaking.

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A drastic teacher overhaul at St. Joan Antida High School

Alan Borsuk:

How about this for strong medicine to improve a school: Ask every teacher and administrator to turn in resignations. Tell them they can reapply for their jobs, but there's going to be higher expectations from now on. Hire back less than half of the staff. Revamp the academic program extensively.

I've rarely heard of it actually happening around the country, and never around here. Until now:

"It's a new day," the message board outside St. Joan Antida High School, the 300-student, all-girls Catholic school at 1341 N. Cass St., says. It certainly is.

It's been a difficult few years for the 56-year-old school. Enrollment declined from close to the building's capacity of 400 to about 300. Competition increased from other private schools, charter schools and even suburban public schools.

The level of academic success at St. Joan Antida wasn't much different than in Milwaukee Public Schools, which means it wasn't very good.

Some students who enrolled were far behind grade level and the school wasn't doing well in accelerating their achievement. The student body had become much less diverse - higher-income and white students had just about all departed, 90% of the students qualified for publicly funded school vouchers, and the student body was about evenly split between African-American and Hispanic.

People involved in the school say discussions about making major changes go back several years. Some teachers at the non-unionized school were not renewed, and there were some other efforts to improve. But the results didn't amount to much.

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Mistreated as a Student, an Alum Establishes Cash Prizes for Nice Professors at Israel's Technion

Matthew Kalman:

What's an alumnus to do when the university that was the gateway to his entrepreneurial millions was a place of "suffering" where professors "didn't give a damn about the students"? Moshe Yanai's answer: Give it millions of dollars to encourage faculty members to be more pleasant.

IBM minces few words when describing the work of Mr. Yanai, who holds one of the computer maker's prestigious fellowships: "One of the most influential contributors in the history of the data-storage industry. His 30 years of technical expertise and design innovation are legendary."

Mr. Yanai attributes his success in no small part to the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, from which he graduated in 1975. Now a multimillionaire, he has given quietly to charities for many years, including to the Technion, the academic incubator of Israel's high-tech revolution. But memories of his bitter experience there discouraged him from doing anything high profile.

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June 20, 2010

A State Transformed: Immigration and the New California

Steven Camarota & Karen Jensen:

etween 1970 and 2008 the share of California's population comprised of immigrants (legal and illegal) tripled, growing from 9 percent to 27 percent.1 This Memorandum examines some of the ways California has changed over the last four decades. Historically, California has not been a state with a disproportionately large unskilled population, like Appalachia or parts of the South. As a result of immigration, however, by 2008 California had the least-educated labor force in the nation in terms of the share its workers without a high school education. This change has important implications for the state.

Among the changes in California:

  • In 1970, California had the 7th most educated work force of the 50 states in terms of the share of its workers who had completed high school. By 2008 it ranked 50th, making it the least educated state. (Table 1a)
  • Education in California has declined relative to other states. The percentage of Californians who have completed high school has increased since 1970; however, all other states made much more progress in improving their education levels; as a result, California has fallen behind the rest of the country. (Table 1b)
  • The large relative decline in education in California is a direct result of immigration. Without immigrants, the share of California's labor force that has completed high school would be above the national average.
  • There is no indication that California will soon close the educational gap. California ranks 35th in terms of the share of its 19-year-olds who have completed high school. Moreover, one-third (91,000) of the adult immigrants who arrived in the state in 2007 and 2008 had not completed high school.
  • In 1970 California was right at the national average in terms of income inequality, ranking 25th in the nation. By 2008, it was the 6th most unequal state in the country based on the commonly used Gini coefficient, which measures how evenly income is distributed. (Tables 2a and 2b)
  • California's income distribution in 2008 was more unequal than was Mississippi's in 1970. (Tables 2a and 2b)
  • While historical data are not available, we can say that in 2008 California ranked 11th highest in terms of the share of its households accessing at least one major welfare program and 8th highest in terms of the share of the state's population without health insurance. (Tables 3 and 4)
  • The large share of California adults who have very little education is likely to strain social services and make it challenging for the state to generate sufficient tax revenue to cover the demands for services made by its large unskilled population.

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Michael Gove has a precious chance to save our schools from the state

Matthew d'Ancona:

In the past few days, we have heard much sound sense from the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, about schools reform. But here is what the Prime Minister had to say, and it is worth quoting at length: "No one will be able to veto parents starting new schools or new providers coming in, simply on the basis that there are local surplus places. The role of the LEA [local education authority] will change fundamentally. There will be relentless focus on failing schools to turn them round. Ofsted will continue to measure performance, albeit with a lighter touch. But otherwise the schools will be accountable not to government at the centre or locally, but to parents, with the creativity and enterprise of the teachers and school leaders set free."

The PM continued: "Where parents are dissatisfied, they need a range of good schools to choose from; or where there is no such choice, [to be] able to take the remedy into their own hands. Where business, the voluntary sector, philanthropy, which in every other field is an increasing part of our national life, want to play a key role in education, and schools want them to, they can. Where local employers feel local schools aren't meeting local skill needs, they can get involved. The system is being empowered to make change. The centre will provide the resources and enable local change-makers to work the change. We will set the framework and make the rules necessary for fairness. Where there is chronic failure, we will intervene. But the state's role will be strategic; as the system evolves, its hand will be lifted, except to help where help is needed."

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Michael Gove fast tracks UK parents' schools

Jessica Shepherd:

Planning laws are being torn up so that hundreds of parents can set up their own schools in shops and houses, the education secretary, Michael Gove, announced today. Gove said at least 750 groups of teachers, parents and charities had expressed an interest in establishing the schools that will be run as academies.

Applications to set up the schools opened today. The plan, a flagship Tory education policy, is modelled on Sweden's free schools and charter schools in the US.

Teachers argue it would strip existing schools of much-needed cash and increase social segregation. They say only middle class parents would start their own schools. The man in charge of Sweden's schools, Per Thulberg, has said free schools do not improve standards.

Gove said the amount spent per pupil would stay the same and the policy would reduce the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils. Planning laws and regulations were being rewritten to make it far easier for the schools to be established, he said.

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The 'Learning Knights' of Bell Telephone

Wes Davis:

FIFTY-SIX years ago today, a Bell System manager sent postcards to 16 of the most capable and promising young executives at the company. What was written on the postcards was surprising, especially coming from a corporate ladder-climber at a time when the nation was just beginning to lurch out of a recession: "Happy Bloom's Day."

It was a message to mark the annual celebration of James Joyce's "Ulysses," the epic novel built around events unfolding on a single day -- June 16, 1904 -- in the life of the fictional Dubliner Leopold Bloom. But the postcard also served as a kind of diploma for the men who received it.

Two years earlier a number of Bell's top executives, led by W. D. Gillen, then president of Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania, had begun to worry about the education of the managers rising through the company's hierarchy. Many of these junior executives had technical backgrounds, gained at engineering schools or on the job, and quite a few had no college education at all. They were good at their jobs, but they would eventually rise to positions in which Gillen felt they would need broader views than their backgrounds had so far given them.

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Brookfield, CT School Board Plans to Adopt Strategic Plan

Scott Benjamin:

The Brookfield Board of Education plans to adopt an updated strategic plan this summer that, according to its chairman, Mike Fenton, will be, among other things, "paying closer attention to technology" and "changes in the world."

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Genie Slone told the school board at its regular meeting Wednesday night that longtime school district consultant Jack Devine, an instructor at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, has been coordinating discussions with a committee that is updating the strategic plan for the next five years.

The committee includes staff members, local residents, students, as well as two school board members, Jane Miller and Mr. Fenton.

Mr. Fenton said in an interview after the meeting that the plan is updated every five years and is a valuable document that provides direction in how the school board makes decisions.

"It is part of how we formulate the budget every year," he said.

Brookfield, CT Strategic Plan 2 page pdf brochure.

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Los Angeles teacher makes algebra cool with a hip-hop beat

Christina Hoag:

The class of eighth graders at a Los Angeles middle school tap their rulers and nod their heads to the rhythm of the rap video projected on a screen. It's not Snoop Dogg or Jay-Z.

It's their math teacher, LaMar Queen, using rhyme to help them memorize seemingly complicated algebra and in the process improve their grades.

"It gets stuck in your head," says Cindy Martinez, a 14-year-old whose math grade went from a C-average to a B.

Queen, 26, is now known at Los Angeles Academy as the rap teacher, but his fame has spread far beyond the 2,200-student school in this gritty neighborhood. He's won a national award and shows teachers and parents how to use rap to reach children.

"Math is a bad word in a lot of households," he says. "But if we put it in a form that kids enjoy, they'll learn."

Queen is doing what many veteran educators have done -- using students' music to connect with them. Where teachers once played the rock n' roll tunes of "Schoolhouse Rocks" to explain everything from government to grammar, they now turn to rap to renew Shakespeare or geometry.

"Rap is what the kids respond to," Queen says. "They don't have a problem memorizing the songs at all."

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Minnesota School District School district ponders whether to get rid of class rank

Tom Weber:

School officials in Mounds View will decide next week whether to get rid of class rank for graduating seniors. If they do, they'll join a handful of other public school districts who have made the switch in recent years, and who say it might help some students get into college.

More than 400 seniors from Mounds View High School got their diplomas last week during commencement ceremonies. The school doesn't list a valedictorian -- but rather reconizes the top 10 ranking graduates during the ceremony.

That part of commencement might be gone next year, if the Mounds View School Board votes next Tuesday to ditch class rank. Class rank compares one student's grade point average with that of his or her classmates.

Principal Julie Wikelius says the top of each class at Mounds View is compacted. Plenty of students earn good grades in honors and advanced classes, which creates a tight battle for the top-ranking GPA.

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Strategy Roundtable: Online Education Startups

Sramana Mitra:

oday's roundtable was organized in collaboration with TiE Delhi, and had a special emphasis on the online education sector with three out of the five entrepreneurs presenting education businesses.

Ankur Mehra and his associate Aditya started off by introducing GuruVantage. Ankur and Aditya have determined that training managers at various Indian companies need help with vetting the quality, methodology and infrastructures of various training institutes, training vendors and such.

Sramana Mitra is a technology entrepreneur and strategy consultant in Silicon Valley. She has founded three companies, writes a business blog, Sramana Mitra on Strategy, and runs the 1M/1M initiative. She has a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her Entrepreneur Journeys book series, Entrepreneur Journeys, Bootstrapping: Weapon Of Mass Reconstruction, Positioning: How To Test, Validate, and Bring Your Idea To Market and her latest volume Innovation: Need Of The Hour, as well as Vision India 2020, are all available from Amazon.

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Newark Teachers Union Head Supports Merit Pay, Open to Abolishing Seniority

Barbara Martinez:

he New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers' labor group, has been railing against Gov. Chris Christie's ideas for revamping the state's education system, particularly merit pay and tying teacher's evaluations to student test scores. (See related stories from The Journal on teacher absences and contract negotiations.) But the president of the Newark Teachers Union thinks those ideas aren't so bad. It could be because he is, like Gov. Christie, a Republican. Whatever the reason, Joseph Del Grosso shares his views on what are some contentious issues in education:

WSJ: What do you think of merit pay?

Del Grosso: I think it's good. We would have to negotiate it.

WSJ: Would you tie merit pay to student test scores?

DG: Absolutely. It has to be part of it. It can't be tied to a single test score, but it has to be part of it. It can't live without it. If that's not part of the equation we'd be fooling ourselves.

WSJ: What are some other elements that you would use to determine merit pay?

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Missing in Newark: Its Teachers

Barbara Martinez:

Poor attendance has been plaguing the beleaguered Newark schools--but the teachers are the ones missing class.

Nearly half of all Newark teachers took at least two weeks of sick leave last year, and more than a quarter of them took three weeks or more off.

The district instituted an attendance-improvement program in October, but even so about 7% of the district's teachers are absent on an average day, nearly twice the urban-district average of 4%, said Valerie Merritt, a spokeswoman for the system.

With more than 40,000 students, Newark represents one of the largest and most vexing school systems in the Northeast. The district was taken over by the state in 1995 and since then has seen three state-appointed superintendents and little change in student performance

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Cyberschools approved: Georgia kids can have full K-12 experience

D. Aileen Dood:

Some Georgia students will be able to log on to a home computer and attend high school in their pajamas this fall.

The Georgia Charter Schools Commission on Friday approved the state's first virtual charter high schools, opening the door for kids across the state to have a full k-12 experience online.

The two statewide virtual campuses, Kaplan Academy of Georgia, for students in grades 4-12, and the Provost Academy Georgia high school, will expand choice for families of gifted, struggling and special needs students who want the flexibility of learning at their own pace. Virtual schools provide the curriculum, the teachers and, for those who qualify, the computers , too, for free.

Kaplan and Provost follow the state's first and largest virtual charter, Georgia Cyber Academy, a K-8 cyberschool of 5,000 , in serving public school students online.

"I think it is going to be a wonderful opportunity, especially for kids who have some very unique special needs," said Ben Scafidi, state charter commission chairman. "These virtual schools are a lifeline to them."

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June 19, 2010

Houston School District's Strategic Plan, an Update

Houston Board of Education:

HISD is working to develop a long-term strategic plan for the district that will build upon the Declaration of Beliefs and Visions and provide a road map for our future. The purpose of this strategic direction is to provide clarity around our priorities of Placing an Effective Teacher in Every Classroom, Supporting the Principal as the CEO, Developing Central Standards, Ensuring Accountability, and Cultivating Stakeholder Commitment. We believe these key, overarching strategies will help HISD achieve its goals and become the best school district in America.

To develop our long-term Strategic Direction, we are working with a in a six-month effort that started in February, 2010 and will culminate in August with the release of the final plan. The first step involved a diagnostic research effort to understand the current state of the district across a number of critical dimensions such as student achievement and organizational effectiveness. It also included analyzing other transformation efforts within HISD and across the country to ensure that the best ideas are being considered in our planning process. We have also started to gather input from members of Team HISD and we will continue to do so over the next several months. Click here to view the preliminary findings (.pdf)

True transformation does not happen overnight and cannot happen without the participation of every member of Team HISD. For this process to be authentic and meaningful, HISD needs all of you -parents, teachers, principals, students, the business community, nonprofit partners, and broader community members- to be fully engaged.

312K PDF

Ericka Mellon: Only 15 percent of HISD freshmen graduate college.

Related: Notes and links on Madison's Strategic Planning Process. More here.

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Madison Schools $23,000,000 Maintenance Referendum Spending Continues to Raise Questions

Don Severson, Vicki McKenna and Brian Schimming discuss what happened to the Madison School District's $23,000,000 2005 maintenance referendum. 26MB mp3 audio file.

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Houston School District loses four more principals to KIPP

Ericka Mellon:

Pamela Farinas, the principal of Houston ISD's Foerster Elementary, was honored Wednesday night as Principal of the Year for the district's west region. It turns out that was her final hurrah in the state's largest school district. Farinas is headed to the popular KIPP charter school chain. She will be a deputy head of schools and school leader (KIPP lingo for principal) at LIPP Liberation College Prep).

KIPP-co-founder Mike Feinberg, who began his career as a Teach for America teacher in HISD, also confirmed today that he has snagged a few other leaders from the school district:

-Daphane Carter, the principal of Bonham Elementary, is leaving to be a deputy head of schools and school leader at KIPP Spirit College Prep.

-Bill Sorrells, the principal of Thomas Middle School, is the new school leader at KIPP Polaris Academy for Boys.

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Charter Schools are the Wrong Answer

Alan Singer:

As promised, I will respond directly to people who objected to my earlier posts critiquing the charter school movement.

On June 14, The New York Times ran a front-page article about kindergarten children at the Clara E. Coleman Elementary School from Glen Rock, New Jersey who are learning about the principles of engineering through hands-on activities before they even know how to read. Their task was to design housing that would protect the three little pigs from the big, bad, wolf.

This was a wonderful project, in a wonderful classroom, with an excellent teacher, in an affluent suburban school district. Pictures that accompanied the article showed that the children in this class and school are almost all white. According to real estate estimates and the 2000 census report, in the borough of Glen Rock, about twenty miles from New York City, the medium household income was over $100,000 a year, about 60% of adults are college graduates, houses sell for about $500,000, and the population was 90% White, 6% Asian, 3% Latino, and 2% African American. For the High School graduating classes of 2004 through 2006, over 95% of students indicated that they would move on to a two-year or four-year college.

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Too narrow, too soon? America's misplaced disdain for vocational education

The Economist in Waunakee, WI:

SARAH ZANDER and Ashley Jacobsen are like many teenage girls. Sarah likes soccer. Ashley was captain of her school's team of cheerleaders this year. They are also earning good money as nursing assistants at a retirement home. Sarah plans to become a registered nurse. Ashley may become a pharmacologist. Their futures look sunny. Yet both are products of what is arguably America's most sneered-at high-school programme: vocational training.

Vocational education has been so disparaged that its few advocates have resorted to giving it a new name: "career and technical education" (CTE). Academic courses that prepare students for getting into universities, by contrast, are seen as the key to higher wages and global prowess. Last month the National Governors Association proposed standards to make students "college and career ready". But a few states, districts and think-tanks favour a radical notion. In America's quest to raise wages and compete internationally, CTE may be not a hindrance but a help.

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Churches Mix With Charters

Joy Resmovits:

Four of the 27 new charter schools opening in New York City this fall have ties with religious organizations, although leaders assert curriculum and instruction will be secular.

Supporters say the new schools are a welcome addition amid overcrowded classrooms and heightened demand for charters, especially in neighborhoods with low-performing schools. But the development blurs the line between church and state, and also calls into question the distinction between public education and private groups, an issue with which charter schools already contend.

Four pastors are involved in starting charter schools, which receive public funding but can be privately run.

The Rev. A.R. Bernard's Brooklyn-based nondenominational Christian Cultural Center boasts a membership of 33,000, with 5,000 coming to services on any given Sunday. Now, 120 kindergarteners and first-graders will be attending Monday through Friday as it opens a charter school called the Culture Arts Academy Charter School at Spring Creek. The charter school will share the same building--but on a different floor--as the private school Mr. Bernard previously founded, Brooklyn Preparatory School.

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That's Debatable: Funding public education

Brian Fraley & Scot Ross:

Scot, looks like the Son of Stimulus, although stalled, is still on the agenda in Washington. You know, the plan to bail out local and state units of government with another boatload of "one time" money. Predictably, they are dressing this up as the salvation of "teachers" and will use the inflated figure of 300,000 teachers whose will be canned if this bloat doesn't pass. But all it means is the federalization of local and state deficits, which will only accelerate our descent into Greece-like insolvency. At some point this ridiculous spending spree has to stop, because it has already exceeded our ability to pay. But, I know, "It's for the kids!"

Ross Actually, I'd say "It's for our future.'' Thousands of Wisconsin teachers are facing layoffs, and students from all across the state could be forced into larger classes with less personal attention, fewer course choices and even cuts to instructional time. This responsible education funding plan would provide badly needed support in Wisconsin to save or create 6,100 jobs. Education has to be a top priority. After decades of underfunding at the hands of Republican administration and failed promises made through ``No Child Left Behind,'' we have a simple choice: Support education and our children, or give up on this country's future greatness.

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Melissa Westbrook:

Recess will be one of the topics on today's The Conversation starting at noon. Call in if you have thoughts, 543-KUOW. Here's their report on it. Interesting finding:
Another big difference between the schools is that at Thornton Creek, most of the students are white and middle-class. At Dunlap, nearly all of the students are black, Latino or Asian and from low-income families.

That corresponds to what KUOW found when we surveyed recess times across the Seattle school district. For instance, we looked at the 15 highest-poverty and lowest--poverty schools. Kids at the low-poverty schools average 16 minutes more recess than kids at the high-poverty schools. That amounts to about one whole recess more.

And amount of recess?
Dornfeld: "A lot of schools in the district give kids 45 minutes to an hour of recess every single day. Is that something that you see as realistic for this school?"

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Can't Pay, Won't Pay

The Economist:

THE state of Illinois has a rather crude way of coping with its ballooning budget deficit. It stops paying bills. Already, it has failed to pay more than $5 billion-worth. State legislators are paying their own office rent to avoid eviction. Schools and public universities are having their budgets cut.

Illinois owes Shore Community Services, a non-profit agency in suburban Chicago, some $1.6m for services to the mentally disabled. The agency has had to lay off a dozen staff. Jerry Gulley, the executive director, says his outfit's line of credit could be exhausted soon. The bank will not accept the state's IOUs as collateral. "That's how sad it is," shrugs Mr Gulley.

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UW System Patronage? Officials say appointment was necessary to avoid lengthy search

Patrick Marley:

A state lawmaker accused University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly of engaging in political patronage for giving a high-paying state job to Gov. Jim Doyle's top lieutenant without considering other candidates.

State Administration Secretary Michael Morgan's new job as the system's senior vice president for administration and fiscal affairs provides him with a 79% boost in pay.

Morgan, who makes $136,944 as administration secretary, will receive $245,000 a year when he takes the new job July 6. It is the same pay as that of the current person in the position, Tom Anderes, who has 30 years of experience in higher education and is leaving to head the University of Arizona system.

An aide to Reilly said Thursday that Morgan's hiring was appropriate and the UW System was simply trying to avoid a protracted and costly search to fill the job at a time when the system is in the midst of major projects. Top-level system jobs are normally advertised so national searches can be conducted.

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Madison School District Tax Climate:

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

It's beginning to look a lot like another lump of coal will land on local property taxpayers just before the holidays in December.

That's when tax bills go out to mailboxes. And so far, the tax burden is shaping up to soar at a rate far out of scale with ordinary people's ability to pay.

The Madison School Board just agreed to a preliminary budget that will increase the district's tax on a $250,000 home by about 9 percent to $2,770. The board was dealt a difficult hand by the state. But it didn't do nearly enough to trim spending.

Madison Area Technical College is similarly poised to jack up its tax bite by 9 percent to $348. MATC is at least dealing with higher enrollment. But the 9 percent jump follows a nearly 8 percent increase last year. And MATC is now laying the groundwork for a big building referendum.

Then comes Dane County and the city of Madison.

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding.

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June 18, 2010

New evidence that SAT hurts blacks

A new paper has rekindled one of the most controversial questions in the long history of the nation's most famous test: Is the SAT racially biased? In 2003, Roy O. Freedle, a retired senior research psychologist at the Educational Testing Service, took up the question in an article published in the Harvard Educational Review. His conclusion was that black students often do better than white students of similar ability on difficult SAT questions, but that they do worse than their white counterparts on easy items. He suggested that easy questions use a common vocabulary, making them more open to interpretation based on a test taker's cultural background.

Jay Mathews

Roy Freedle is 76 now, with a research psychologist's innate patience. He knows that decades often pass before valid ideas take root. When the notion is as radical as his, that the SAT is racially biased, an even longer wait might be expected. But after 23 years the research he has done on the surprising reaction of black students to hard words versus easy words seems to be gaining new respectability.

Seven years ago, after being discouraged from investigating findings while working for the Educational Testing Service, Freedle published a paper in the Harvard Educational Review that won significant attention.

He was retired from ETS by then. As he expected, his former supervisors dismissed his conclusions. Researchers working for the College Board, which owns the SAT, said the test was not biased. But the then president of the University of California system, a cognitive psychologist named Richard C. Atkinson, was intrigued. He asked the director of research in his office to replicate Freedle's study.

Now, in the latest issue of the Harvard Educational Review, the two scholars who took on that project have published a paper saying Freedle was right about a flaw in the SAT, even in its current form. They say "the SAT, a high-stakes test with significant consequences for the educational opportunities available to young people in the United States, favors one ethnic group over another."

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Reality of America's fiscal mess starting to bite & Greenspan Says U.S. May Soon Reach Borrowing Limit

Gillian Tett:

If you pop into a toilet on the Seattle waterfront this summer, you might see over-flowing bins. The reason? A polite notice explains that "because of 2010 budget reductions", the Seattle government can no longer afford to "service this comfort station" each day. Hence the dirt.

Investors would do well to take note. In recent months, America's fiscal mess has assumed a rather surreal air. On paper, the country's federal-level deficit and debt numbers certainly look very scary. But in practical terms, the impact of those ever-swelling zeroes still seems distinctly abstract.

Jacob Greber:
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the U.S. may soon face higher borrowing costs on its swelling debt and called for a "tectonic shift" in fiscal policy to contain borrowing.

"Perceptions of a large U.S. borrowing capacity are misleading," and current long-term bond yields are masking America's debt challenge, Greenspan wrote in an opinion piece posted on the Wall Street Journal's website. "Long-term rate increases can emerge with unexpected suddenness," such as the 4 percentage point surge over four months in 1979-80, he said.

Clearly, public and private organizations must endeavor to manage the funds available wisely.

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A View From Both Ends of the Educational Spectrum

James Warren:

I attended my first Chicago Board of Education meeting in decades Tuesday and my first Chicago Public Schools kindergarten graduation the next morning. The inadequacies of the former were underscored by the inspiration of the latter.

The board reaffirmed the existing teachers contract, guaranteeing a generous 4 percent raise negotiated by the weak-kneed duo of Mayor Richard M. Daley and Arne Duncan, then the superintendent of Chicago Public Schools and now the United States secretary of education. The board thus eliminated the chance of a strike in the fall as it also gave Mr. Duncan's successor, Ron Huberman the power to perhaps lay off teachers and raise the number of students in classrooms.

"Door Open to 35 in a Class," declared a Chicago Sun-Times headline, reflecting the prime concern of what essentially is a superficial debate.

In fact, the meeting itself might as well have been choreographed by the Goodman Theatre, given all the role-playing.

Related: The 4% Solution.

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Rhode Island's new school aid formula: Some will win, some will lose

Jennifer Jordan:

After years of failed attempts, Rhode Island finally has a statewide school-financing formula, its first in two decades.

The complex formula, which was developed by the state Department of Education and researchers at Brown University, goes into effect for the 2011-12 school year and is intended to redistribute about $705 million a year in direct aid to school districts, charter and state-operated schools -- without adding a lot of new money to the system.

Critics have been quick to point out that the formula creates a new system of winners and losers, giving more state aid to districts where student enrollments have increased or that serve high numbers of low-income students, while cutting districts that have lost students or serve fewer poor students.

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On Seattle's Superintendent

Melissa Westbrook:

I missed the report from KUOW reporter, Phyllis Fletcher, so I looked it up. Guess what? The Superintendent has this to say:
Goodloe-Johnson: "They don't really get the opportunity to see the humane person that I am as it relates to children, and that I've committed my life to this work. And I don't think they get to see that, which I'm gonna work on, because they don't really know me. They know the Superintendent, the CEO of a business. And our business is about children. But they really don't know me as a person and as a mom."
So much can be said about these comments. I always get scared when I hear that education is a business but now Dr. G-J says children are her business. Great. And frankly, I don't want to know her as a person or a mom. I don't need to know the School Board that way to know if they are doing their jobs and I don't need that from her.

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California and the "Common Core": Will There Be a New Debate About K-12 Standards?


A growing chorus of state and federal policymakers, large foundations, and business leaders across the country are calling for states to adopt a common, rigorous body of college- and career-ready skills and knowledge in English and mathematics that all K-12 students will be expected to master by the time they graduate.

This report looks at the history of efforts to create common education standards, in particular the Common Core State Standards Initiative. It also describes factors California may consider when deciding whether to adopt them.


The Common Core is the latest effort to create rigorous, common academic standards among states

California is supporting the concept of common standards, but state law calls for further review and leaves the adoption decision to the State Board of Education

Issues surrounding the adoption include the quality of the Common Core standards and their relationship to the state's current standards as well as costs and other implementation concerns

Common Core or not, California might decide to review its current standards and expectations for students

Related: California State Academic Content Standards Commission:
On January 7, 2010, the Governor signed into law Senate Bill X5 1 (Steinberg). The bill calls for California's academic content standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics to be examined against the Common Core Standards that were released in final form on June 2, 2010. The bill also calls for the establishment of the California Academic Content Standards Commission. The Governor and Legislature have made the required appointments to the commission.

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Candidates call for Oklahoma education reform

Megan Rolland:

The five candidates for Oklahoma's superintendent of schools were asked Wednesday how they would reform education in a state that ranks near the bottom of the nation for funding and also lags behind in the number of college graduates.

All agreed the state's education system is in need of change, but differed in their vision of a successful system.

Democrat Jerry Combrink said after 30 years as the superintendent of two school districts in rural southeastern Oklahoma, he knows students need options, and not every student is going to college.

"I believe that we need to prepare students for the future they want. Develop a two-track system ... so students who are not going to college are not diluting the teaching efforts of the students who are."

His opponent in the July 26 primary, state Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, said the state needs a strategic plan that will use test results to track improvements and failures.

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Survey Finds Nearly Half of Graduating High School Seniors Lack Confidence in Ability to Manage Personal Finances

Capital One:

This high school graduation season, millions of young adults from around the country will celebrate their achievements and prepare to begin the next chapter in their lives. For many, setting out into the "real world" also means taking on new financial responsibilities. Capital One Financial Corporation (COF 42.16, -0.21, -0.49%) recently surveyed high school seniors to see how prepared they are to manage finances on their own. The survey shows that while many students are uncertain about their ability to manage their banking and personal finances, those who have had financial education -- both in the classroom and through conversations at home -- are significantly more confident about their personal finance skills and knowledge.

One troubling statistic shows that nearly half (45 percent) of all high school seniors polled say they are unsure or unprepared to manage their own banking and personal finances. However, of the students surveyed who have taken a personal finance class (30 percent of the sample), 75 percent said they feel prepared to manage their finances. In addition, two thirds (66 percent) of students who have taken a personal finance class rate themselves as "highly" or "very" knowledgeable about personal finance, compared to only 30 percent of students with no financial education course who show the same level of confidence in their skills.

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Stanford program tries to improve education for China's poor

John Boudreau:

Hu Yu Fan, a 12-year-old boy with doleful eyes, is the face of the other China -- the one untouched by the nation's economic miracle.

He is among tens of millions of young Chinese who have moved from rural provinces to major cities but are being denied the education needed to thrive in modern society. Instead, they end up in shabby migrant schools in places like Beijing and Shanghai, with few resources and few opportunities.

"I have never dreamed of anything for the future," the boy said.

Hu and those like him are the focus of a program run jointly by Stanford University and Chinese research centers, called Rural Education Action Project, or REAP, which is researching ways to improve education for China's rural and urban poor.

Financially supported by American companies such as San Jose's Adobe Systems and Dell Inc., the researchers produce reports that are reviewed by the country's top officials, including Premier Wen Jiabao. China's leaders have grown increasingly concerned that the widening wealth and income gap between the country's urban and rural citizens is a threat to social stability.

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Memphis Gates Foundation Grant: Students learning that school is cool

Jane Roberts:

The idea that only a few people in a room are smart and the rest have a lot to prove is on trial this week in camp designed to change hearts and minds and eventually the culture of Memphis City Schools.

It all comes down to some simple brain theory, which 15 middle schoolers are soaking up at Douglass Elementary and five other city schools.

"Smart is not just something you are but something you get," says Barbara Logan, director of School Services and Training at the Efficacy Institute in Waltham, Mass.

With $1.1 million this year from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to Memphis City Schools, Efficacy plans to train several hundred "student envoys" responsible for preaching the gospel of discipline and self-esteem, and delivering the message that smart isn't by chance.

Related: Small Learning Communities.

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More home education information needed, say inspectors

Katherine Sellgren:

It is "extremely challenging" for councils to ensure children taught at home in England receive a suitable education, inspectors have warned.

Ofsted said the absence of a home education register meant authorities did not have a full picture of how children in their area were taught.

There is no official figure for how many UK children are home schooled, but is estimated to be around 50,000.

Proposals for a register for home educators were shelved in April.

Home educators rejected the suggestion that a register for home-schooled children was necessary.

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Business schools see big potential in Saudi Arabia

Beth Gardiner:

International business schools eager for new markets are looking to Saudi Arabia, where a still-strong economy and a big government push to boost management skills have created a pool of potential M.B.A.s.

As nearby economies like Dubai's sag, B-schools have begun eyeing the small but growing new niche in the desert kingdom, particularly given Saudi students' taste for foreign education. A handful of international schools have launched programs in the country, and more are recruiting Saudi students to their existing campuses.

A closed, conservative culture and reams of government red tape make Saudi Arabia a daunting place to set up shop. But its leaders are pouring money into education in an effort to tackle high unemployment and train Saudis to run the big businesses that now often depend on expat talent. Anxious to broaden an economy heavily dependent on oil, King Abdullah and his officials are also investing billions in new industries, and overseas business schools may help provide the trained executives they expect to need.

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Why are we having this fight again?

Matthew Ladner:

Could the adoption of common core standards lead to substantial academic gains, even if somehow developed and kept at a high level in some imaginary Federal Reserve type fortress of political solitude and kept safe from the great national dummy down?

I ran NAEP numbers for all 50 states and the District of Columbia and calculated the total gains on the main NAEP exams (4th and 8th grade Reading and Math) for the period that all states have been taking NAEP (2003-2009). In order to minimize educational and socio-economic differences, I compared the scores of non-special program (ELL, IEP) children eligible for a free or reduced price lunch.

I then ranked those 50 states, and the table below presents the Top 10, along with the total grades by year for the strength of state proficiency standards as measured by Paul Peterson. Peterson judges state assessments by comparing scores on the state exam to those on NAEP.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Are State Public Pensions Sustainable? Why the Federal Government Should Worry About State Pension Liabilities

Joshua D. Rauh:

This paper analyzes the flow of state pension benefit payments relative to asset levels and contributions. Assuming future state contributions fund the full present value of new benefits, many state systems will run out of money in 10-20 years if some attempt is not made to improve the funding of liabilities that have already been accrued. The expected shortfalls raise the possibility that the federal government will be faced with a decision as to whether to bail out states driven to insolvency by their pension programs.

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June 17, 2010


Andy Hall, via a kind reader:

Two dozen children donned homemade mortarboards Wednesday for a commencement ceremony marking their graduation from a program designed to help them be ready for kindergarten this fall.

As many of their parents snapped photos, the children received certificates and were cheered by a crowd that included the graduates' siblings and officials from government and nonprofit agencies.

The ceremony and a picnic at Madison's Vilas Park celebrated the end of the first year of the KinderReady program, which served 320 children ages 3 to 5, far exceeding its goal of 200.

The surge was largely credited to a weekly call-in program, "Families Together," on La Movida, 1480-AM, a Spanish-language station, that includes learning activities for children, said Andy Benedetto, who is directing KinderReady for the nonprofit Children's Service Society of Wisconsin.

Although data measuring KinderReady's effects won't be available until next year, interviews with parents and officials suggest the program is helping prepare children for kindergarten.

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Chicago Teachers Increasingly Complaining About TIF

Adam Doster:

Facing an estimated $427 million FY 2011 deficit, the Chicago Board of Education gave CPS CEO Ron Huberman emergency power to raise class sizes and lay-off almost 3,000 public school teachers. The schools' chief has not agreed to follow through with that plan quite yet. Instead, he's offering a "menu of possible concessions" to the Chicago Teachers Union and its new president-elect, Karen Lewis. Neither side will disclose what's on the list, although Lewis told the Reader's Hunter Clauss that she's hoping to survey her members this summer to find out exactly where they are willing to budge. "These official actions were partly procedural, and partly a way for Huberman and the board to publicly and skillfully back the teachers union into a corner," adds Catalyst's Sarah Karp.

In several print and television interviews yesterday morning, Lewis offered Huberman some alternative ways to trim costs. The new president set her sights on the city's contracts with consultants, which she said cost $300 million per year. She also discussed trimming the central office payroll and eliminating a $60 million program that provides curriculum packages and coaching to high schools. But to get a clear sense of the Daley administration's priorities, and find out where waste might exist, Lewis stressed that the budgeting process needs to be considerably more transparent to teachers and parents alike.

It took repeated Freedom of Information Act requests, for example, for the city to post basic payroll information online. And they've ignored consistent appeals to provide serious internal data on the effect of the city's tax increment financing system (TIF) on schools. From her acceptance speech this weekend (watch it here):

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District Graduation Rate Map Tool

Education Week, via a kind reader:

EdWeek Maps is the only place to find comparable, reliable, readily accessible data on graduation rates and other indicators for every school district and high school in the country.

The Editorial Projects in Education Research Center is proud to present this powerful online mapping tool to help the public, policymakers, and educational leaders combat the nation's graduation crisis. EdWeek Maps is the only place to find comparable, reliable data on graduation rates for every school district and high school in the country.
This Web-based application allows users to easily map out graduation rates by zooming in on any of the nation's individual school districts. Users can then access detailed information for that district or any of its high schools.

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Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors

Scott Carrell & James West:

In primary and secondary education, measures of teacher quality are often based on contemporaneous student performance on standardized achievement tests. In the postsecondary environment, scores on student evaluations of professors are typically used to measure teaching quality. We possess unique data that allow us to measure relative student performance in mandatory follow-on classes. We compare metrics that capture these three different notions of instructional quality and present evidence that professors who excel at promoting contemporaneous student achievement teach in ways that improve their student evaluations but harm the follow-on achievement of their students in more advanced classes.

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Proposals for Increasing Student Achievement

Ilya Somin:

Stuart Buck has two interesting proposals for increasing educational achievement among minority students, based on his book Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation:
I do suggest one idea that I think has some promise: eliminate individual grades, and let students compete against other schools in academic competitions.

This idea is far from original. Rather, it comes from the eminent sociologist James Coleman. Coleman observed the striking fact that while students regularly cheer for their school's football or basketball team, they will poke fun or jeer at other students who study too hard or who are too eager in class: "the boy who goes all-out scholastically is scorned and rebuked for working too hard; the athlete who fails to go all-out is scorned and rebuked for not giving his all."

But this is odd, is it not? Why are attitudes toward academics and athletics so different? Sports are more fun than classwork, of course, but that does not explain why success would actually be discouraged in class.

Coleman's explanation was disarmingly simple: The students on the athletic teams are not competing against other students from their own school. Instead, they are competing against another school. And when they win a game, they bring glory to their fellow students, who get to feel like they too are victors, if only vicariously.

But the students in the same class are competing against each other for grades and for the teacher's attention. Naturally, that competition gives rise to resentment against other children who are too successful (just as students will hate the football team from a cross-town rival).....

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Want to find your mind? Learn to direct your dreams

Jessica Hamzelou:

AM I awake or am I dreaming?" I ask myself for probably the hundredth time. I am fully awake, just like all the other times I asked, and to be honest I am beginning to feel a bit silly. All week I have been performing this "reality check" in the hope that it will become so ingrained in my mind that I will start asking it in my dreams too.

If I succeed, I will have a lucid dream - a thrilling state of consciousness somewhere between waking and sleeping in which, unlike conventional dreams, you are aware that you are dreaming and able to control your actions. Once you have figured this out, the dream world is theoretically your oyster, and you can act out your fantasies to your heart's content.

Journalistic interest notwithstanding, I am pursuing lucid dreaming for entertainment. To some neuroscientists, however, the phenomenon is of profound interest, and they are using lucid dreamers to explore some of the weirder aspects of the brain's behaviour during the dream state (see "Dream mysteries"). Their results are even shedding light on the way our brains produce our rich and complex conscious experience.

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Hysteria in Egypt's streets over English exam failures

Matt Bradley:

On Monday, amidst the car horns and chatter, the sound of broken dreams echoed through Egypt's streets.

Young girls fainted in the arms of their sobbing mothers. Fathers screamed with rage, their faces contorted into grotesque expressions of indignation. In some areas, ambulances were called in to treat victims of shock.

The source of all this madness: the English test in the thanawaya aama, Egypt's annual nation-wide high school examination.

"They were suffering. The girls were crying, they were screaming. It was so difficult. All of them were suffering," said Ahmed Ghoneim, a high school English teacher at Imbaba Secondary School outside Cairo, whose telling of the sorrowful scene inside the examination room might have recalled a motorway accident or a vicious murder.

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June 16, 2010

Madison district got $23M from taxpayers for aging schools; where did it go?

Susan Troller:

A maintenance referendum may well be a tougher sell this time around than it was when back-to-back, five-year maintenance referendums were approved in 1999 and 2005. Not only do voters feel pinched by the ongoing recession, but taxpayers are facing a likely $225 hike in property taxes this year as part of the effort to balance the Madison schools budget, which took a heavy hit in reduced state aid.

Community support could also be compromised because a growing number of Madison School Board members have become frustrated by what they say is the district's reluctance to adequately account for how maintenance dollars have been spent.

As chair of the School Board's finance and operations committee, Lucy Mathiak has persistently asked for a complete accounting of maintenance jobs funded through the 2005 referendum. The minutes from a March 2009 committee meeting confirm that district administrators said they were working on such a report but Mathiak says the information she's received so far has been less than clear.

"Trying to get this information through two administrations, and then trying to figure it out, is exhausting. The whole thing is a mess. I'm not, by any means, the first board member to ask these kind of questions regarding accountability," Mathiak says. "You ask for straightforward documentation and you don't get it, or when it comes it's a data dump that's almost impossible to understand."

That lack of transparency might make it more difficult for other School Board members to get on board with another referendum.

"We have a responsibility to provide an accurate record of what happened with the funding," says board member Arlene Silveira, who has supported all other school referendums. "I think people understand that other projects may come up and there may be changes from the original plan, but you do need to tell them what was done and what wasn't done and why. It affects (the district's) credibility in the community."

Much more on the 2005 referendum and the District's 2010-2011 budget (including what appears to be a 10% property tax increase here.

Related: "Accountability is important, now more than ever".

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Schools Face Test on Budget Math

Mark Whitehous & Amy Merrick:

For seventh-grader Kyle Scarpa, budget strains affecting schools across the country are hitting where it hurts.

In the wake of the worst recession in more than half a century, many communities find themselves with no choice but to cut funding for education. In Downe Township, N.J., the cuts are hitting where it hurts.

In addition to freezing wages and jettisoning its librarian, the school he attends here in southern New Jersey will cancel his after-school remedial math and literacy classes. His teacher believes the tutoring helped him build confidence and get his average grade up to a C from a D.

"He could fall through the cracks," says teacher Rose Garrison, noting that Kyle is among four kids in her class having trouble keeping up. "When you're teaching exponents and you have kids who don't know the multiplication tables, how are you going to teach them?"

The struggles at Downe Township School illustrate the challenges public schools face across America as a convergence of factors--ravaged state and local finances, tapped-out taxpayers and a reform push by the Obama administration--force wrenching change. As the school year winds down, educators are grasping for new ways to do more with less, and to remedy an embarrassing reality: Despite spending more per student than the average developed country, U.S. schools perform below average in core subjects such as math and reading.

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Digital Students, Industrial-Era Universities

Arthure Levine:

The American university, like the nation's other major social institutions -- government, banks, the media, health care -- was created for an industrial society. Buffeted by dramatic changes in demography, the economy, technology, and globalization, all these institutions function less well than they once did. In today's international information economy, they appear to be broken and must be refitted for a world transformed.

At the university, the clash between old and new is manifest in profound differences between institutions of higher education and the students they enroll. Today's traditional undergraduates, aged 18 to 25, are digital natives. They grew up in a world of computers, Internet, cell phones, MP3 players, and social networking.

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Students With Autism Learn How To Succeed At Work

Jon Hamilton:

People with autism often have a hard time finding and keeping jobs, so more schools are creating programs to help students with autism get prepared for the workplace. One of those programs helped change the life of Kevin Sargeant.

Just a few years ago, when Kevin was still in elementary school, things weren't looking good for him. He was antisocial, desperately unhappy and doing poorly in school.

"He was pretty much a broken child, the way I would describe it," says his mother, Jennifer Sargeant. "We really didn't see that he would be able to go to college, even have a job. That just wasn't in our future for him."

Kevin, now 18, says his autism left him unable to handle the social interactions at school.

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Race to Top Buy-In Level Examined

Michele McNeil:

States significantly increased buy-in from local teachers' unions in round two of the Race to the Top competition, but made far less progress in enlisting districts or expanding the number of students affected by the states' education reform plans.

Those patterns emerged from an Education Week analysis of applications from 29 states and the District of Columbia, all of which entered both rounds of the $4 billion federal grant contest.

Although the changes made in applications from the first to the second round varied widely from state to state, union buy-in increased on average by 22 percentage points, with states such as Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin making big leaps.

At the same time, the overall level of district support and students affected in the 30 applications barely budged, mostly owing to California's loss of support from about 500 districts representing nearly 2 million students. That negated progress other states made in improving buy-in.

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The rise, and rise, of Seattle schools: The Seattle Public Schools are undergoing dramatic changes. However, the story is not one of doom and gloom but of steady progress.

Seattle Times Editorial:

THERE is much to be optimistic about as Seattle Public Schools transform into an urban model of education quality and accessibility.

Dramatic change doesn't happen by tinkering around the edges. Nor is Seattle's thrust occurring in isolation. It is part of a welcome push by urban school districts across the country to improve access to good teaching, strong curriculum and better school resources.

The work under way is most visible in Seattle's shift from a costly open-choice system to a neighborhood assignment plan. Families got that they were exchanging choice -- which worked for a lucky few -- for a cheaper, simpler and fairer way to access schools and programs.

Making improvements in the middle of a deep recession required Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and her team to aggressively leverage millions of dollars from credible organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and federal school-improvement grants.

Wholly appropriate, and much appreciated, is Seattle's civic and business organizations' willingness to fill a recession-driven vacuum in education funding. This kind of support has allowed the district to continue key improvements, including professional development for all principals and teachers and increasing popular programs such as foreign-language immersion and advanced classes.

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June 15, 2010

Early Achievement Impacts of The Harlem Success Academy Charter School in New York City

Jonathan Supovitz & Sam Rikoon:

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania conducted two external analyses of the performance of Harlem Success Academy Charter School (HSA) 2008-9 3rd graders on the New York State Test in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. The first analysis was based on a comparison of the performance of 2006-7 first graders (who became the 2008-9 3rd graders) who were chosen through a random selection lottery process to attend HSA, and remained in HSA through the 3rd grade, relative to those who were not admitted by lottery to attend HSA and remained in New York City public schools. The second analysis compared the same HSA 3rd graders to 3rd graders in geographically proximate and demographically comparable New York City public schools. Student results were compared separately for ELA and mathematics using ordinary least squares regression and controlling for student gender, age, and special education status. The results indicated that HSA 3rd graders performed statistically significantly better than did either the randomized comparison group or the students in the demographically similar schools. More specifically, attendance at HSA was associated with 34-59 additional scale score points (depending on test subject) for non-special education students, after adjusting for differences in student demographic characteristics. Described another way, these results represent between 13-19 percent higher test performance associated with attending Harlem Success Academy.

The Harlem Success Academy Charter School (HSA) opened its doors in August 2006. The school, located in Harlem Community School District 3 of New York City at 118th street and Lenox Avenue, is currently a K-4 school that intends to add a grade each year as students matriculate until it is a full K-8 school. HSA is one of four existing Harlem Success Academies founded by the Success Charter Network. Over the next ten years, the Success Charter Network plans to expand the network to 40 schools.

Students are admitted into HSA through an annual lottery which randomly selects students to attend the school from the pool of applicants. Any student who lives in New York City can apply to HSA and the school uses the lottery process to determine who will attend the school. Since the school has documented both the students who applied to HSA and were accepted through the lottery, as well as those who applied and were not selected, these conditions make for an experimental study of the impact of HSA on student learning outcomes.

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Jing For Student Authoring

Joshua Kim:

Have you thought about having your students create voice-over presentations to share with your class? Instead of (or in addition to) having your students give live class presentations, a voice-over PowerPoint can be easily recorded and shared through the LMS.

The 5 best things about using Jing, PowerPoint and the Discussion Board:

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Abolishing Department of Education isn't extreme

Mona Charen:

Newly minted Nevada senate candidate Sharron Angle is a kook. That's what Sen. Harry Reid's people are telling reporters. ABC, CNN, and other outlets seem to agree, noting that Mrs. Angle wants to shutter the federal Department of Education, get the U.S. out of the U.N., phase out Social Security, and eliminate the IRS.

We haven't yet heard her explanations of these positions -- many of which can be justified in the proper context. It's certainly possible that she is a little eccentric (that prison massage program doesn't pass the smell test). But this much is certain: It is not kooky to favor the elimination of the Department of Education. That this proposal is routinely labeled "extremist" is a reminder of the one-way ratchet that operates in government. Enshrine something in a federal agency and it becomes sacrosanct. Democrats cheerlead for federal programs because they are the party of government, and Republicans quietly go along because they're afraid.

But if Republicans know how to argue for smaller government -- as Gov. Chris Christie is demonstrating in New Jersey -- they need not be intimidated. There are hundreds of federal programs that could be eliminated tomorrow with only the happiest consequences for the nation. And yes, the whole Department of Education could be scrapped. It vacuums up money and produces ... what exactly?

I'm not an optimist with respect to our exploding Federalism and the related money printing approach to spending.

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Blot on Schools

Times of India:

Even though the Supreme Court ordered a ban on the administration of corporal punishment to children almost a decade ago, it is shocking that schools across the country continue to adhere to the philosophy of 'spare the rod and spoil the child'. The tragic case of Rouvanjit Rawla once again highlights this point. Rouvanjit, who was a student of Kolkata's prestigious La Martiniere School for Boys, committed suicide after he was caned by his school principal and allegedly by four other teachers as well. What is truly despicable is that the school principal has no regrets about the incident and has admitted as much to the school's board of governors and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights investigating the case. This reflects a perverse streak among certain educators who have no qualms about using their position of authority to inflict physical torture on children. The problem is symptomatic of a virulent mindset within the education system that sees corporal punishment as a legitimate means to discipline students and build character. In reality all it does is promote a culture of violence.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Pennsylvania‟s Taxpayer Relief Act: Big Gamble Pays Off for Some, But Most Lose Their Shirt

Jaime Bumbarger:

There is perhaps no greater debate in America than the one surrounding taxes, whether it is at the national, state, or local level. While taxes serve the important purpose of funding government programs, they also bear quite a burden on taxpayers. For example, property taxes account for the majority of revenue for local governments across the country.1 Pennsylvania is no different. In 2000, property taxes accounted for nearly $10 billion of revenue in Pennsylvania, which was 30 percent of total local government revenues and 70 percent of all local government tax revenues.2

Property taxes accounted for an even larger piece of the pie when it came to school districts: approximately 85 percent of the total tax revenues for Pennsylvania school districts in 2000.3 Nearly half of all school district revenue came from the collection of property taxes.4 Only counties relied more heavily on property taxes as a source of revenue.5

The state‟s heavy reliance on property taxes by school districts hit the wallets of Pennsylvania taxpayers and led to several attempts by legislators to harness the spending.6 The most recent attempt was Act 1 of 2006.7 Act 1 attempts to do what other legislation failed to do: provide property tax relief to all Pennsylvanians, but it, too, falls short of its mark.8

Although it was enacted more than three years ago, the Act still plays a prominent role today. Less than two years ago, homeowners started reaping the benefits of Act 1 when the first reduction in property tax bills occurred.9 Last fall, taxpayers could have faced another referendum on their ballots, asking whether they favor increasing the local income tax to offset a decrease in property tax.10 Officials faulted public confusion for the last referendum overwhelmingly failing across the Commonwealth.11 Also, last year‟s budget impasse resulted in new legislation that could significantly alter property tax relief in the future.12

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First-year charter schools often face turmoil

Rosemary Winters:

The charter school's popular director resigned abruptly at mid-year. One third of the faculty vowed not to return next year. E-mail allegations of poor management and failed communication clogged the in-boxes of parents, teachers and board members.
And that's just in Excelsior Academy's first year.

The K-8 charter school in Erda -- Tooele County's first charter -- has had a rocky start.
So do many charter schools, which have to find or build a school house, navigate state laws and recruit a board and staff, typically with limited funds and expertise. The public schools receive money from the state for each pupil they enroll at the same rate as other public schools, but must raise funds for other expenses.

New schools often face opposition from parents and teachers when they don't function as expected.

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Autism and Education in France

Chantal Sicile-Kira:

Recently I was invited to Paris to present at a prestigious international colloquium on autism and education, which was organized by the INS HEA, the French Ministry of Education's training institute for special education teachers. Seventeen years earlier, I had left France because in those days, children with autism did not have the right to an education, and my son, Jeremy, was severely impacted by autism.

It was an emotional moment for me, standing there, addressing 500 attendees in a lecture hall of the Universite Paris Descatres in Bolulogne - Billancourt, explaining my son's educational experience in the United States, where all children have the right to a free and appropriate education under IDEA.

In 1993, my family left France, where we had been living since 1981. Both Jeremy and his sister, Rebecca (who is neurotypical), were born in Paris at the time when children with autism were considered mentally ill, not developmentally disabled. They had no right to an education. Instead, they were enrolled in day programs on hospital sites, where they were treated with psychoanalysis. Parents had no right to visit the day program, nor did they receive any communication about what went on during the hours their child spent there.

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Women scientists on the debate over women in science

Maggie Koerth-Baker, via a kind reader:

Earlier this week, the New York Times published the first part of a two-part series by John Tierney looking at the current state of women in the sciences--in particular, whether the playing field can ever really be level, or whether innate neural differences mean there will always be more men getting ahead in science and math careers than women.
When Dr. Larry Summers raised the issue to fellow economists and other researchers at a conference in 2005, his hypothesis was caricatured in the press as a revival of the old notion that "girls can't do math." But Dr. Summers said no such thing. He acknowledged that there were many talented female scientists and discussed ways to eliminate the social barriers they faced. Yet even if all these social factors were eliminated, he hypothesized, the science faculty composition at an elite school like Harvard might still be skewed by a biological factor: the greater variability observed among men in intelligence test scores and various traits.

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School Spotlight: Lodi teacher, an icon at the middle school, retires after 48 years

Pamela Cotant:

While Lodi Area Middle School teacher Jerry Hilliker stands out for the astonishing length of his career -- he just retired after 48 years -- just as remarkable is how he did it.

Seventh grader Sam Sagers said Hilliker told good jokes. He also gave them nicknames, said seventh grader Faith Hatch who became known as "Faith, Hope and Charity."

Another Hilliker trademark was the coffee cup that was often in his hands. Seventh grader Tabitha Miller said she will always remember the way his classroom smelled like coffee in the morning.

"He teaches in a fun way," Tabitha said.

His last day was June 9.

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Looking back at a nine-year experiment to get kids to college

Minnesota Public Radio:

Almost a decade ago, third graders at seven high-poverty schools in the Twin Cities got an offer: Stay in school, and we'll give you $10,000 for college. All the students had to do was stay in the Minneapolis or St. Paul public schools, graduate, and go to college. Midday looks at how the experiment turned out.

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June 14, 2010

It's the Public's Data: Democratizing School Board Records

J. H. Snider, via a kind reader:

Consider just a few of the questions whose answers might help a community's leaders and citizens make better decisions about how to improve their schools:
  • What has been said and written about school start times in districts with comparable demographics and financial resources, but better student test scores?
  • What is the relationship between student test scores and systems for electing school board members in comparable school districts?
  • How do superintendent contracts vary in comparable districts?
Parents, teachers, administrators, and taxpayers have legitimate reasons to ask questions like these. But it has been incredibly hard for them to do so. One reason is that much public information remains locked in the file cabinets of America's more than 14,000 school districts. Another is that even if the information is posted to school websites, it may be posted in ways, such as a scanned document, that Internet search engines cannot read. Public information that should be available instantaneously and at no cost, like so much other information now available via search engines, instead takes hundreds of work-lifetimes and a fortune to gather--if it can be gathered at all.
Well worth reading.

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Studying Engineering Before They Can Spell It

Winnie Hu:

In a class full of aspiring engineers, the big bad wolf had to do more than just huff and puff to blow down the three little pigs' house.

To start, he needed to get past a voice-activated security gate, find a hidden door and negotiate a few other traps in a house that a pair of kindergartners here imagined for the pigs -- and then pieced together from index cards, paper cups, wood sticks and pipe cleaners.

"Excellent engineering," their teacher, Mary Morrow, told them one day early this month.

All 300 students at Clara E. Coleman Elementary School are learning the A B C's of engineering this year, even those who cannot yet spell e-n-g-i-n-e-e-r-i-n-g. The high-performing Glen Rock school district, about 22 miles northwest of Manhattan, now teaches 10 to 15 hours of engineering each year to every student in kindergarten through fifth grade, as part of a $100,000 redesign of the science curriculum.

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Atlanta schools' travel tab high

Rich McKay:

While school systems are cutting jobs or furloughing teachers to shore up withering budgets, Atlanta Public Schools has spent more than twice as much money per student on travel as most other metro districts.

Atlanta spent more than $1.4 million on travel in 2008-09, the latest year from which complete data was available. That works out to $28.77 per student, far higher than neighboring DeKalb County and more than double per pupil what Clayton, Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties spent on travel, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found.

And Atlanta was slated to spend even more in 2009-2010 -- about $1.8 million, a 28 percent jump.

Atlanta public school officials say travel is important so teachers can get the training they need and bring new skills and insights to the classroom. Much of the travel represents teachers going to education conferences, district officials said.

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Commentary: Time to end teacher union stranglehold on education

Sara Longwell:

For young teachers looking to get their first gig after graduating from education school, times are tough.

In New York City, the Success Charter network advertised 135 openings; it received 8,453 resumes in response. In Westchester, a school announced seven openings. More than 3,000 candidates responded.

New York isn't alone: School districts across the country, faced with budget shortfalls, have put a freeze on hiring any new educators. This is bad news for newly minted teachers entering the work force.

There is a silver lining, however: This glut of new educators gives administrators a golden opportunity to revamp rules protecting bad teachers.

Reformers can take advantage of this surplus of labor by pointing out that anyone who doesn't like new rules that will improve the nation's quality of education can quickly be replaced by those who will play ball.

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Obama's attack on education

Critical Reading:

Ravitch was assistant secretary of education in the administration of George H.W. Bush and a board member of various right-wing think tanks, who has now become a leading critic of the market-based school "reform" that has been embraced by both Democrats and Republicans. Ravitch is "still looking" for an elected official to take a stand against these changes, but opposition is more likely to come from below. One encouraging piece of news is the landslide victory this week of the Caucus Of Rank-and-file Educators in the election for the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union. --PG

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Our View: We need more innovation in education

Wausau Daily Herald:

As a part of the economic stimulus package of January 2009 -- you may have heard of it -- the federal government created a $100 billion education fund for states that were willing to take bold action to reform and improve their schools.

The fund, known as Race to the Top, is having the desired effect in many places. With state budgets in dire shape across the nation, it has provided a real incentive for states to look for ways to innovate in order to address real problems in the educational system -- failing schools, bureaucratic deadlock, the achievement gap between rich and poor students.

In Wisconsin, though, what it has inspired is something more like a few pro-forma changes and half-hearted applications.

Wisconsin ranked in the bottom half of all the states that applied for Race to the Top funding in the first round in March. (The federal government placed our state's application 26th out of 41 states and the District of Columbia that applied.)

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New Wisconsin teacher rules hitting classrooms

Amy Hetzner:

Ten years after Wisconsin overhauled its licensure system for public school educators, the first big wave of teachers is set to advance under the rules - and reports are mixed on whether the change has made a difference.

Expectations for the new licensure regulations were high when they were first approved in 2000. In addition to requiring that teachers pass basic knowledge and skills tests and receive mentors for their first year in the profession, the rules also provided that teachers would have to demonstrate they had grown enough in their careers to attain a "professional" license.

For some beginning teachers, the new rules have been stressful additions to the start of an unfamiliar career with many bugs still left to be worked out. Others say they appreciate that they could set their own teaching goals and pursue related professional development activities while also reflecting on their experiences.

"I think teachers who really take the process seriously and do it with fidelity - they choose a goal that they really believe in and they want to achieve - that's fine, that's good, it serves its purpose," said Judy Gundry, a citywide mentor for educators with initial teaching licenses in Milwaukee Public Schools.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate

Peter Scheer:

For public employee unions - those representing police, firefighters, teachers, prison guards and agency workers of all kinds at the state and local levels - these are the worst of times.

Despite record high membership and dues, and years of unparalleled clout in state capitols, public-sector unions find themselves on the defensive, desperately trying to hold onto past gains in the face of a skeptical press and angry voters. So far has the zeitgeist shifted against them that on one recent weekend, government employees were the butt of a "Saturday Night Live" skit, and the next day, a New York Times Magazine cover article proclaimed "The Teachers' Unions' Last Stand."

Public unions' traditional strength - the ability to finance their members' rising pay and benefits through tax increases - has become a liability. Although private-sector unions always have had to worry that consumers will resist rising prices for their goods, public sector unions have benefited from the fact that taxpayers can't choose - they are, in effect, "captive consumers."

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Houston School District forces 162 teachers out of under-performing schools

Ericka Mellon:

More than 160 teachers in Houston ISD's under-performing middle and high schools weren't offered jobs at those campuses next year, the district announced Friday evening. The decision affects staffing at nine schools targeted in Superintendent Terry Grier's "Apollo 20" reform plan.

Of the 600 teachers at those schools last year, 358 -- or 60 percent -- learned on Friday that the district wants them to return to help with the improvement efforts. But the district is forcing 162 teachers, or 27 percent of the staff, out of those schools. The administration made the decisions based on "an exhaustive data-driven evaluation" of the teachers, according to the news release, which didn't specify what data were used.

An additional 80 teachers at the targeted schools previously had decided to retire, resign or transfer to other campuses, according to HISD. "In some cases, teachers opted not to stay due to a personal conflict with the longer school year and longer school day schedules of the Apollo schools," the news release said.

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June 13, 2010

America's Best High Schools - 2010


Each year, Newsweek picks the best high schools in the country based on how hard school staffs work to challenge students with advanced placement college-level courses and tests. Just over 1600 schools--only six percent of all the public schools in the U.S.--made the list.

This year rankings have some fantastic new interactive features. We've teamed up with a data company called Factual to create individual profile pages for each school where students and faculty can comment and contribute. (For more information about how the rankings were calculated, see our FAQ.)

Mostly Milwaukee area high schools such as Rufus King (318) made the list. The only non-southeast Wisconsin high schools to make the list was Marshfield (370) and Eau Claire Memorial (1116). Marshfield High School offers 29 AP classes while Milwaukee Rufus King offers 0 and Eau Claire Memorial offers 14, via AP Course Ledger.

Related: Dane County High School AP course comparison.

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In bold move, Colorado alters teacher tenure rules

Colleen Slevin:

Colorado is changing the rules for how teachers earn and keep the sweeping job protections known as tenure, long considered a political sacred cow around the country.

Many education reform advocates consider tenure to be one of the biggest obstacles to improving America's schools because it makes removing mediocre or even incompetent teachers difficult. Teacher unions, meanwhile, have steadfastly defended tenure for decades.

Colorado's legislature changed tenure rules despite opposition from the state's largest teacher's union, a longtime ally of majority Democrats. Gov. Bill Ritter, also a Democrat, signed the bill into law last month.

After the bill survived a filibuster attempt and passed a key House vote, Democratic Rep. Nancy Todd, a 25-year teacher who opposed the measure, broke into tears.

"I don't question your motives," an emotional Todd said to the bill's proponents. "But I do want you to hear my heart because my heart is speaking for over 40,000 teachers in the state of Colorado who have been given the message that it is all up to them."

While other states have tried to modify tenure, Colorado's law was the boldest education reform in recent memory, according to Kate Walsh, the president of the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality, which promotes changing the way teachers are recruited and retained, including holding tenured teachers accountable with annual reviews.

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Evaluating Curricular Programs in the Madison School District

Madison School District Administration 2.8MB PDF:

I. Introduction
A. Title or topic - District Evaluation Protocol - The presentation is in response to the need to provide timely and prioritized information to the Board of Education around programs and interventions used within the District. The report describes a recommended approach to formalizing the program evaluation process within the District.

B. Presenters
Kurt Kiefer - Chief Information Office/Director of Research and Evaluation
Lisa Wachtel- Executive Director of Teaching & Learning
Steve Hartley - Chief of Staff

C. Background information - As part of the strategic plan it was determined that priority must be given to systematically collect data around programs and services provided within the district. The purposes for such information vary from determining program and intervention effectiveness for specific student outcomes, to customer satisfaction, to cost effectiveness analyses. In addition, at the December 2009 Board meeting the issue of conducting program evaluation in specific curricular areas was discussed. This report provides specific recommendations on how to coordinate such investigations and studies.

D. Action requested - The administration is requesting that the Board approve this protocol such that it becomes the model by which priority is established for conducting curricular, program, and intervention evaluations into the future.

II. Summary of Current Information

A. Synthesis of the topic· School districts are expected to continuously improve student achievement and ensure the effective use of resources. Evaluation is the means by which school systems determine the degree to which schools, programs, departments, and staff meet their goals as defined by their roles and responsibilities. It involves the collection of data that is then transformed into useful results to inform decisions. In particular, program evaluation is commonly defined as the systematic assessment of the operation and/or outcomes of a program, compared to a set of explicit or implicit standards as a means of contributing to the improvement of the program.

Program evaluation is a process. The first step to evaluating a program is to have a clear understanding of why the evaluation is being conducted in the first place. Focusing the evaluation helps an evaluator identify the most crucial questions and how those questions can be realistically answered given the context of the program and resources available. With a firm understanding of programs and/or activities that might be evaluated, evaluators consider who is affected by the program (stakeholders) and who might receive and or use information resulting from the evaluation (audiences). It is critical that the administration work with the

Evaluating the effectiveness of Madison School District expenditures on curriculum (such as math and reading recovery) along with professional development (adult to adult programs) has long been discussed by some Board and community members.

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Morning Bell: Prolonging Education's Race to the Bottom

Israel Ortega:

In perhaps President Obama's most stealth campaign to date, the federal government has been slowly tightening its grip on the education sector to little fanfare. Rather than working through the democratic legislative process, this Administration has circumvented Congress to enact an ill-conceived education agenda that will weaken accountability, reduce transparency and minimize choice while only adding to the national deficit.

For close to four decades, the federal government has operated under the seemingly simple premise that increased spending on education will translate into academic achievement. This line of thinking has resulted in inflation-adjusted href="">federal expenditures on education increasing 138 percent since 1985. Per-pupil expenditures have ballooned to href="">over $11,000 per student, and are even higher in most urban areas including the District of Columbia where the government spends href="">$14,500 on each child. Billions upon billions of dollars have been poured into our public school system because the federal government, backed by powerful teachers unions, is convinced that it is best suited to administer our country's education system. Unfortunately, href="">this approach has been a miserable failure.>

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Some educators question if whiteboards, other high-tech tools raise achievement

Stephanie McCrummen:

Under enormous pressure to reform, the nation's public schools are spending millions of dollars each year on gadgets from text-messaging devices to interactive whiteboards that technology companies promise can raise student performance.

Driving the boom is a surge in federal funding for such products, the industry's aggressive marketing and an idea axiomatic in the world of education reform: that to prepare students kids for the 21st century, schools must embrace the technologies that are the media of modern life.

Increasingly, though, another view is emerging: that the money schools spend on instructional gizmos isn't necessarily making things better, just different. Many academics question industry-backed studies linking improved test scores to their products. And some go further. They argue that the most ubiquitous device-of-the-future, the whiteboard -- essentially a giant interactive computer screen that is usurping blackboards in classrooms across America -- locks teachers into a 19th-century lecture style of instruction counter to the more collaborative small-group models that many reformers favor.

Excellent question.

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Blended Learning Leverages Great Teachers

Tom Vander Ark:

Opportunity at the Top, a great report from Public Impact, points out that it's great teachers that close achievement gaps but that all current efforts will fall well short of ensuring that all US students see the benefits.

The problem is that we're trying to solve the wrong problem-there's just no way to make the batch-print model work well for all kids. Batch processing age-cohorts in groups of 25 (or more) kids through print curriculum with one teacher has lots of limitations. The Public Agenda report shows it's mathematically impossible to put a great teacher in every room and even if we did some kids would be behind while other kids were ahead.

Even the accompanying 3x For All report falls short of the answer because it is rooted in teacher-centric delivery. The solution is a blended learning environment with tiered staffing that leverages great teachers across hundreds of kids. If personalized digital learning made up 1/3 of the elementary day and 2/3 of the secondary day, school staffing patterns can be adjusted to include a variety of learning professionals-some on site and some remote.

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A Privately Funded Communications & Engagement Plan for the Madison School District?

66K PDF:

Wood Communications has offered to work with the District to assist us in assessing the need for and the actual development of an engagement and communications plan.
Should funds for the development of this plan be needed, Wood Communications has agreed to raise these funds privately resulting in no District dollars being utilized.
During June's Superintendent's Announcements and Reports, I will communicate my intent to move forward to work with Wood Communications on an engagement and communications plan. This will also allow the Board to provide input on this work. Attached to this memorandum is a letter from James Wood detailing the first step this firm would take in determining the need for a plan of this nature.

Please let me know if you have any questions on this.

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Kids need to be corrected: School

Times of India:

After remaining incommunicado for nearly a month, La Martiniere for Boys issued a press release on Friday, denying responsibility for Rouvanjit Rawla's death.

"As a school, we deeply regret the loss of young life. Attempts being made to hold the school entirely responsible are certainly misplaced. There are times when children need to be corrected and helped. The idea has always been to inculcate a sense of values amongst them. It is also important for the school to ensure that there is an environment conducive to learning and often corrective measures have to be taken to ensure this environment is not vitiated in the interest of the larger student community of the school," read the statement, signed by governing board secretary Supriyo Dhar.

"The constant attack against the school has damaged the confidence of teachers and students who are totally innocent and are being unnecessarily drawn into unseemly public scrutiny."

Five teachers of La Marts for Boys, including principal Sunirmal Chakravarthy, are facing charges of abetment to suicide after Rouvanjit's father Ajay Rawla filed an FIR.

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Houston Superintendent Grier dishes on magnet schools, names new chief

Ericka Mellon:

Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier has eliminated the position of manager of magnet programs. That means Dottie Bonner, who held the job since March 2002, is out. She submitted her letter of resignation effective Aug. 31, according to the district.

Grier instead has created a higher-level position, an assistant superintendent over school choice. Lupita Hinojosa, the former executive principal over the Wheatley High School feeder pattern, has been named to the post.

We know that changing anything related to magnets puts parents on edge, especially after former HISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra's failed attempt to reduce busing to the specialty schools. A quick Internet search shows that magnet transportation also was a hot topic in Grier's former district, San Diego Unified. The school board there voted in spring 2009 to eliminate busing to magnets to save money but reversed the decision after parent outcry, according to Voice of San Diego.

I talked to Grier this morning about what happened in San Diego, and he said the decision to end busing to magnet schools was the school board's, not his. "(Deputy Superintendent) Chuck Morris and I counseled and advised and recommended that they not do this -- that it would destroy the magnet program -- but they did anyway."

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Study: highly-rated professors are. . . overrated

Daniel de Vise:

How does a university rate the quality of a professor? In K-12 education, you have standardized tests, and those scores have never been more widely used in evaluating the value added by a teacher.

But there's no equivalent at the college level. College administrators tend to rely on student evaluations. If students say a professor is doing a good job, perhaps that's enough.

Or maybe not. A new study reaches the opposite conclusion: professors who rate highly among students tend to teach students less. Professors who teach students more tend to get bad ratings from their students -- who, presumably, would just as soon get high grades for minimal effort.

The study finds that professor rank, experience and stature are far more predictive of how much their students will learn. But those professors generally get bad ratings from students, who are effectively punishing their professors for attempting to push them toward deeper learning.

The study is called "Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors." It was written by Scott E. Carrell of the University of California, Davis and National Bureau of Economic Research; and James E. West of the U.S. Air Force Academy

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New controversy at Rhode Island school

Valerie Strauss:

Just when it looked like things were quieting down at troubled Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, the place that became famous when all of the teachers were fired and then rehired, there's a new controversy.

One of the two newly named co-principals was approved by the Central Falls Board of Trustees this week even though his resumé said that math scores at his former school were much higher than they really were, according to the Providence Journal.

Let's review: In March, all of the teachers and other educators at the only high school in Central Falls, Rhode Island's smallest and poorest city, were fired so that the school could be restructured with a new staff.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised Superintendent Frances Gallo for firing all of the educators in the building, and President Obama said it showed "a sense of accountability."

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June 12, 2010

Madison School District Board of Education Progress Report--March through June 2010

Maya Cole, Board President & Beth Moss Board Vice-President, Via email:

The 2009-10 school year is over, and the Board is wrapping up a very busy spring 2010. After several months of hard work, the Board finalized the preliminary 2010-11 budget on June 1. For the second year in a row, the state legislature decreased the amount of per pupil state aid by 15%. This decrease in revenue, coupled with a decrease in property values in the Madison Metropolitan School District, created a much larger than usual budget shortfall. This year is different because unlike previous years when the Board of Education was not allowed to raise property taxes to cover the shortfall, this year the state gave the Board the authority to raise taxes by an extreme amount. The Board and administration have worked hard to mitigate the tax impact while preserving programs in our schools.

2010-11 Budget Details:

The Board approved a preliminary budget of $360,131,948 after creating savings of over $13 million across all departments in the district. This budget represents a decrease of over $10 million from 2009-10. The final tax impact on a home of average value ($250k) is $225. The Board made reductions that did not directly affect instruction in the classroom, avoiding mass teacher lay-offs as experienced by many districts around the country and state.

Other State action:

The School Age Guarantee for Education (SAGE) Act was changed from funding K-3 class sizes of 15:1 to 18:1. The Board is considering how to handle this change in state funding.

Race to the Top is a competitive grant program run through the federal government. The state of Wisconsin applied for Race to the Top funding in round 1 and was denied. The Board approved the application for the second round of funding. Federal money will be awarded to states that qualify and the MMSD could receive $8,239,396.

Board of Education Election:

Thank you for 6 years of service and good luck to Johnny Winston, Jr. Taking his seat is James Howard, an economist with the Forest Service and MMSD parent. New Board officers are Maya Cole, president, Beth Moss, vice president, Ed Hughes, clerk, and James Howard, treasurer.

Sarah Maslin, our student representative from West High School, will be off to Yale University in the fall. Thank you for your service and good luck, Sarah! Congratulations to Wyeth Jackson, also from West, who won the election for student representative to the Board of Education. Jessica Brooke from La Follette will return as Student Senate president and alternate to the BOE Student Representative.

Other news:

In April the board received the following reports:

The Facility Assessment Report, a compilation of district maintenance needs over the next 5 years.

The Board of Education/Superintendent Communication Plan, providing a template for reports to the Board.

The District Reorganization Plan, a plan to restructure the administration and professional development department of the district.

The Board held a public hearing on the proposed budget at UW Space Place. In addition, the School Food Initiative Committee and the 4-K Advisory Committee met.

In May the Strategic Planning Steering Committee met. Stakeholders reviewed accomplishments achieved thus far and discussed and reprioritized action steps for the next year. A second public hearing on the budget was also held in May.

In June the Board finalized the Preliminary Budget after a statutory public hearing. During committee meetings on June 7, the ReAL grant team presented action plans for each of the large high schools and gave the Board an update on the ReAL grant and the Wallace grant. The four high schools have collaborated for the past two years to improve engagement and achievement at our high schools. The Student Services and Code of Conduct/Expulsions Committee presented a proposal for a new code of conduct and abeyance, with an emphasis on restorative justice.

Congratulations and good luck to all graduates! Have a safe and restful summer break.

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Google Apps (email, docs & calendar) for Madison School District Staff & Students Proposed by the Administration

550K PDF:

Technical Services has planned to replace our Eudora student email system since 2008 and identified this as Activity 50 in the June 2010 Technology Plan, approved by the Board of Education. Consideration has also been given to replacing our GroupWise staff email system since instability of the web version ofthis system became a problem beginning in October 2009. Demands on our staff email system have always been greater due to our need for highly secure, robust and reliable local and remote access, shared calendaring, and integration with an archival system allowing for a seven year retention. This has been a complicated system and is core to many critical business and legal functions ofthe District.

An request for proposals (RFP) for alternatives to replace our student email, with the caveat that our staff email might be considered as well, was released in fall 2009, generating responses from nine vendors, representing 11 products. Both Microsoft's Live@edu and Google's Gmail have been final contenders for student email and following product reviews in March by 13 teachers, six technical staffand four administrators, consensus built around migrating both student and staff email to Gmail. In addition to email, Google Apps for Education includes access to a wide variety ofGoogle tools including Docs (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, fonus) and Google calendar.
Financial considerations:

  • Moving to Gmail for both students and staff will enable free email account hosting and cost $67,320/yr for the use ofPostini for staff email archiving. We will continue to use Novell's ZenWorks for desktop application maintenance, at a cost of $28,000/yr through the 2010-2011 fiscal year. This approach would cost $95,320/yr. Discussion around creating and maintaining Gmail accounts from Infinite Campus and Lawson, as well as migrating staff calendars and live email accounts has not concluded whether consulting help will be required, although discussions with other school districts suggest we may not need external assistance. Should technical assistance be required we would hire consulting support on a time and materials basis, for this help.
  • If instead, the District stayed with GroupWise bundled with ZenWorks, Novell's annual maintenance would be $54,378/yr. Continuing use our current staff email archive product would cost $29,300/yr. This approach would cost $83,678/yr, an annual savings ofless than $12,000. However, this approach will continue to require growth in data storage and requires an estimated 0.5 FTE allocation to maintain.
Related: Yale delays switch to Gmail and Oregon educational system offers Google Apps.

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Madison School District Student Code of Conduct Administration Update

727K PDF:

In response to the questions raised at the June 7 meeting of the Performance and Achievement Committee, the following information is shared in hopes ofclarifying proposed changes to the Student Code of Conduct:

Will there be a more specific definition ofbullying than the one that currently exists in the Explanation of Conduct Rules and Terms?

The following definition comes from the draft Anti-Bullying & Anti-Harassment Protocol and it, or a similar definition, will be brought forward with the version of the revised Code for which Board approval will be sought in July:

Bullying is the intentional action by an individual or group of individuals to infiict physical, emotional or mental suffering on another individual or group of individuals when there is an imbalance of real or perceived power. Harassing and bullying behavior includes any electronic, written, verbal or physical act or conduct toward an individual which creates an objectively hostile or offensive environment that meets one or more of the following conditions:

Places the individual in reasonable fear of harm to one self or one's property
Has a detrimental effect on the individual's personal, physical or mental health
Has a detrimental effect on the individual's academic performance
Has the effect of interfering with the individual's ability to participate in or benefit from any curricular, extracurricular, recreational, or any other activity provided by the school
Has the intent to intimidate, annoy or alarm another individual in a manner likely to cause annoyance or harm without legitimate purpose
Has personal contact with another individual with the intent to threaten, intimidate or alarm that individual without legitimate purpose

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Monona Grove School District Governance: Teacher Union Contract Bargaining

Sunny Schubert:

Monona Grove School Superintendent Craig Gerlach is not a happy camper these days, and the source of his displeasure is the ongoing job action by the Monona Grove Education Association.
As previously reported, the teachers are "working the contract," meaning they refuse to take part in school-related activities that are not specifically required.

It is a tactic the union has employed successfully in the past when contract negotiations have stalled, as they are as of this writing.

"It's extremely frustrating," Gerlach said. "Also, it's embarrassing."

How so? Gerlach gave an example: At the Fine Arts Awards ceremony at the high school, teachers refused to come, so the kids wound up passing out the awards to each other.

"I've been getting a number of phone calls from parents," he said, "and I don't know what to say. This is all relatively new to me."

Board member Peter Sobol responds.

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Teachers Are Fair Game

David Brooks:

I started covering education reform in 1983, with the release of the "Nation at Risk" report. In those days everybody had some idea for how we should reorganize the schools or change the curriculum--cut school size, cut class size, create vouchers, create charters, get back to basics, do less basics, increase local control, increase the federal role.

Some of the reforms seemed promising, but the results were disappointing, and tangential to the core issue: the relationship between teacher and student. It is mushy to say so, but people learn from people they love.

Today, aided by the realization that teacher quality is what matters most, a new cadre of reformers have come on the scene, many of them bred within the ranks of Teach for America. These are stubborn, data-driven types with a low tolerance for bullshit. The reform environment they find themselves in is both softhearted and hardheaded. They put big emphasis on the teaching relationship, but are absolutely Patton-esque when it comes to dismantling anything that interferes with that relationship. This includes union rules that protect bad and mediocre teachers, teacher contracts that prevent us from determining which educators are good and which need help, and state and federal laws that either impede reform or dump money into the ancien régime.

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Must-read new report on high school dropouts

Jay Matthews:

I have long considered high school drop-outs not only the least soluble of our education problems but the least clear. School districts have traditionally fudged the numbers, reporting their drop-out rates as only 5 or 6 percent, a grossly deceptive one-year rate.

The National Governors Association and other policymakers, ashamed of this charade, have put an end to it. Everyone is switching to a four-year drop-out rate, the percentage of ninth-graders (about 31 percent nationally) who do not receive diplomas four years later. The improved data has not only raised the level of the debate but also made possible a new report with some unnerving revelations about graduation rates.

My wife made the mistake of letting me go with her to her office last Sunday to catch up on work. While there I read the new Education Week report, "Graduation by the Numbers: Putting Data to Work for Student Success," and kept squealing at one statistical surprise after another. I insisted on reading each one to her, delaying her efforts to get back outside on a nice weekend day.

Graduation by the Numbers: Putting Data to Work for Student Success.

Related: "They're all rich, white kids and they'll do just fine" -- NOT!.

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Announcing the SUMMER 2010 Online Issue of Gifted Education Press Quarterly

via a Maurice Fisher email:

Dear Subscriber --

Could you share the following message with your STAFF, TEACHERS OR PARENTS? We are offering a complimentary copy of Gifted Education Press Quarterly. They would need to email me directly to receive our SUMMER 2010 issue. My email address is:

Please encourage your colleagues and friends to email me for a complimentary online subscription to GEPQ.

I need your help in locating new subscribers, and would greatly appreciate your asking colleagues and friends to contact me. We are now in a major political battle with federal and state governments to maintain gifted education programs in the public schools. I need your support in making Gifted Education Press Quarterly a resource available to all educators and parents who want to maintain and expand programs for gifted students! Your colleagues and friends should email me at: Thank you.

We're all on a mission to advance the well-being of gifted education, and we all share a vision of excellence in this field. At this time in our nation's history, it is important to maintain our leadership in education, science and the humanities. Therefore, I am asking the readers of Gifted Education Press Quarterly for your support to insure that we can continue publishing this Quarterly. Please consider sending a few dollars to help defray the costs of producing this important periodical in the gifted education field or ordering some of our books. We have been publishing GEPQ for 23 years with the goal of including all viewpoints on educating the gifted. Our address is: Gifted Education Press; 10201 Yuma Court; P.O. Box 1586; Manassas, VA 20109. Thank you.

I would also like to give you a special treat. Joan Smutny, the editor of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal has given me permission to place the entire Spring 2010 Journal on the Gifted Education Press web site in PDF format. This is a very important journal issue in the gifted education field because it contains 27 excellent articles on Advocating for Gifted Education Programs. I invite you to read and/or print any or all of these articles from our web site. There is no charge for accessing this journal! Just go to my web site at and click the link for Gifted Advocacy - Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal. Happy reading!

Members of the National Advisory Panel for Gifted Education Press Quarterly are:

Dr. Hanna David -- Ben Gurion University at Eilat, Israel; Dr. James Delisle -- Kent State University; Dr. Jerry Flack -- University of Colorado; Dr. Howard Gardner -- Harvard University; Ms. Margaret Gosfield - Editor, Gifted Education Communicator, Published by the California Association for the Gifted; Ms. Dorothy Knopper -- Publisher, Open Space Communications; Mr. James LoGiudice -- Bucks County, Pennsylvania IU No. 22; Dr. Bruce Shore -- McGill University, Montreal, Quebec; Ms. Joan Smutny -- National-Louis University, Illinois; Dr. Colleen Willard-Holt -- Dean, Faculty of Education, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario; Ms. Susan Winebrenner -- Consultant, San Marcos, California; Dr. Ellen Winner -- Boston College.

Sincerely Yours in the Best Interests of the Gifted Children of America,


Maurice Fisher, Ph.D.

Gifted Education Press

Attention Parents who are Homeschooling their Gifted Children, or Parents or Teachers who are Interested in Using Additional Enrichment Materials in the Home or Classroom. Please see our Latest Book by Robert E. Myers at:


For my latest interview in EducationNews.Org (June 11, 2009) about the gifted education field, click the following link:

The SUMMER 2010 Online Issue of GEPQ contains the following articles:

1. Editorial Comments by Maurice Fisher - Some Useful Resources for Gifted Child Advocacy

2. Under-Representation of African American Students in Gifted Education: Nine Theories and Frameworks for Information, Understanding, and Change

Donna Y. Ford, Ph.D. Peabody College of Education Vanderbilt University
Michelle Trotman Scott, Ph.D. College of Education University of West Georgia

3. An Interview with Dr. Margie Kitano San Diego State University

Teresa Rowlison, Ph.D. Southwest Regional Education Center
Michael F. Shaughnessy, Ph.D. Eastern New Mexico University

4. Inside Specialized High Schools for the Gifted: A Comparison of Two Major Studies

Jill Olthouse The University of Toledo

5. George Santayana (1863-1952): Nurturer of the Gifted Sensibility

Michael E. Walters, Ed.D. Center for the Study of the Humanities in the Schools

If you know a colleague or friend who would like a complimentary copy of the SUMMER 2010 Online Issue, tell them to send their request to:


Our latest books are as follows:

1. By Maurice & Eugenia Fisher, Editors: Heroes of Giftedness: An Inspirational Guide for Gifted Students and Their Teachers --Presenting the Personal Heroes of Twelve Experts on Gifted Education. Discusses Highly Gifted Individuals who can be used as models for motivating gifted students to study different fields of knowledge.

"Heroes of Giftedness: An Inspirational Guide is an exciting new edition to gifted education literature. It well fulfills its purpose in the inspiring, exhilarating accounts of famous individuals and their contribution to the world. Gifted students, teachers, and parents will benefit hugely from these biographies of great men and women who overcame personal and professional challenges to move forward in their fields." Joan Smutny, Director The Center for Gifted National-Louis University

"My view of the world is that people are best served when they find their passion early on, because we tend to be good at things we're passionate about. I think we also need to find people whom we admire and try to emulate them." Chesley Sullenberger, the Captain who successfully guided US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 (From Air & Space Magazine, May 2009, p. 11)
2. By Harry T. Roman: Energizing Your Gifted Students' Creative Thinking & Imagination: Using Design Principles, Team Activities, and Invention Strategies --A Complete Lesson Guide for Upper Elementary and Middle School Levels. Concentrates on nurturing Gifted Children's Applied Creative Thinking and Imagination to solve practical and real world problems. This book will help them become masters at using engineering and design principles in their everyday life in the school and home.

3. By Robert E. Myers: Golden Quills: Creative Thinking and Writing Lessons for Middle-School Gifted Students. Contains Twenty-Seven Challenging Lessons for Stimulating Creative Learning in Language Arts. Further information can be found at:

4. By Judy Micheletti: MORE SNIBBLES: Serendipitous Seasons. This book focuses on how to motivate gifted students to be more creative at their school and home, and it contains several delightful line drawings that will entice the imagination of all curious children and adults. Further information can be found at:

5. By Harry T. Roman: Solar Power, Fuel Cells, Wind Power and Other Important Environmental Studies for Upper Elementary and Middle School Gifted Students and Their Teachers: A Technology, Problem-Solving and Invention Guide. It is perfect for use in Tech Ed, pre-engineering and environmental courses and study units. Further information can be found at:

All of these books are useful resources for gifted students and their parents and teachers. They can be ordered directly from Gifted Education Press or through All orders under $50.00 (sent to GEP) must be prepaid. Orders of $50.00 or more (sent to GEP) can be made with a purchase order. If you have any questions, please email me. Please add 10% for Postage and Handling. Thank you.


Contact me if you have any ideas for new articles or books that GEP can publish.


Maurice Fisher, Ph.D.


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A School Prays for Help

Jennifer Levitz & Staphanie Simon:

When his budget for pencils, paper, and other essential supplies was cut by a third this school year, the principal of Combee Elementary School worried children would suffer.

Then, a local church stepped in and "adopted" the school. The First Baptist Church at the Mall stocked a resource room with $5,000 worth of supplies. It now caters spaghetti dinners at evening school events, buys sneakers for poor students, and sends in math and English tutors.

The principal is delighted. So are church pastors. "We have inroads into public schools that we had not had before," says Pastor Dave McClamma. "By befriending the students, we have the opportunity to visit homes to talk to parents about Jesus Christ."

Short on money for everything from math workbooks to microscope slides, public schools across the nation are seeking corporate and charitable sponsors, promising them marketing opportunities and access to students in exchange for desperately needed donations.

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S Korea faces problem of 'over-education'

Christian Oliver and Kang Buseong:

South Korea has some of the world's most over-educated bakers. In one class in Seoul teaching muffin and scone-making, there are graduates in Russian, fine art and animation. For South Korean parents, the world's highest spenders on their children's education, something is going horribly wrong.

"I wanted to ease the burden on my parents by earning just a little something and finding a job that could give me something more dependable than temporary work," said one 29-year-old trainee baker. Since graduating in art she could only find part-time work as a waitress. Like so many young people asked about finding work in a socially competitive society where unemployment is a stigma, she was too embarrassed to give her name.

South Koreans often attribute their economic success to a passion for education. But the country of 48m has overdone it, with 407 colleges and universities churning out an over-abundance of graduates.

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Education minister sets deadline for balanced Vancouver School Budget

John Bermingham:

B.C. Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid is laying down the law to the Vancouver School Board -- ordering trustees to send her a draft budget by June 18.

She also wants trustees to consider a number of cost-cutting options from last week's comptroller-general's report on the district's finances.

The board currently faces a $17-million budget deficit, and has to submit a final and balanced budget to MacDiarmid by June 30.

Last week's report recommended almost $12 million in other cost saving schemes.

They include closing schools, winning contract concessions from workers and charging higher rent to childcare centres.

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West Point faculty member worries it is failing to prepare tomorrow's officers

Maj. Fernando Lujan:

I graduated from West Point in 1998, served several combat tours, then received a master's degree from the Harvard Kennedy School so that I could instruct the cadets in politics, policy, and strategy. I have worked on the West Point faculty for two years, and this summer I'll return to the operational Army in Afghanistan. From my own limited perspective, I can say that the Academy is falling heartbreakingly short of its potential to prepare young officers.

While West Point has recently made an effort to change with the times by adding a handful of elective courses in counterinsurgency, expanding its foreign immersion programs, and hosting several high level conferences on key Army issues, the founding principle of the cadet system remains the same: We lecture the cadets on professionalism but we practice bureaucracy. To summarize the difference, professional cultures debate, discuss, and continually innovate to stay effective in the changing world. Bureaucracies churn out ever-restrictive rules and seek to capture every eventuality in codified routines.

Consider this: From day one at the academy every possible situation that a cadet could conceivably encounter is accounted for by strict regulations. Not sure how many inches should be between your coat hangers, whether you can hold your girlfriend's hand on campus, or how your socks should be marked? Consult the regulations. Moreover, all activity is subjected to the cadet performance system, which essentially assigns a grade to every measurable event in a cadet's life (think shoe shines, pushups and pop quizzes) then ruthlessly ranks the entire class from first to last. Cadets at the top of the list get the jobs and postings they want after graduation. Those near the bottom end up driving trucks at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Pension Cuts Face Test in Colorado, Minnesota

Jeannette Neumann:

A showdown is looming over whether commitments made to retirees by government pension funds can be scaled back in dire economic times.

Facing shortfalls, some public pension funds are responding by paring back payouts pledged to retired workers. Earlier this year, pension funds in Colorado and Minnesota curtailed annual cost-of-living increases.

"No matter how draconian you got on the new hires, you ran out of money" if you didn't cut benefits to current retirees, said Meredith Williams, chief executive of the Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association, with $34.2 billion in assets.

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Detroit Public Schools uses Target gift cards to try to retain students

Lori Higgins:

Detroit Public Schools will be awarding $25,000 in Target gift cards to parents, incentives to get them to submit contact information to the district.

The contact information - which includes up-to-date phone numbers, e-mail addresses and home addresses - will be used as part of a strategy to retain students and to have ongoing communications with parents about district and school news, school closing information and emergencies.

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June 11, 2010

Incomplete Standards

The new national standards are too timid to recommend that high school students read complete history (or other nonfiction) books, or that high school students should write serious research papers, like the Extended Essays required for the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

Even the College Board, when it put together "101 books for the college-bound student" included only four or five nonfiction books, and none was a history book like Battle Cry of Freedom, or Washington's Crossing.

For several reasons it has become taboo to discuss asking our students to read complete nonfiction books and write substantial term papers. Not sure why...

In fact, since the early days of Achieve's efforts on standards, no one has taken a stand in recommending serious history research papers for high school students, and nonfiction books have never made the cut either.

Since 1987 or so it has seemed just sensible to me that, as long as colleges do assign history and other nonfiction books on their reading lists, and they also assign research papers, perhaps high school students should read a nonfiction book and write a term paper each year, to get in academic shape, as it were.

After all, in helping students prepare for college math, many high schools offer calculus. For college science, high school students can get ready with biology, chemistry and physics courses. To get ready for college literature courses, students read good novels and Shakespeare plays. Students can study languages and government and even engineering and statistics in their high schools, but they aren't reading nonfiction books and they aren't writing research papers.

The English departments, who are in charge of reading and writing in the high schools, tend to assign novels, poetry, and plays rather than nonfiction books, and they have little interest in asking for serious research papers either.

For 23 years, I have been publishing exemplary history research papers by high school students from near and far [39 countries so far], and it gradually became clearer to me that perhaps most high school students were not being asked to write them.

In 2002, with a grant from the Shanker Institute, I was able to commission (the only) study of the assignment of history term papers in U.S. public high schools, and we found that most students were not being asked to do them. This helped to explain why, even though The Concord Review is the only journal in the world to publish such academic papers, more than 19,000 of the 20,000 U.S. public high schools never submitted one.

The nonfiction readings suggested in the new national standards, such as The Declaration of Independence, Letter From Birmingham Jail, and one chapter from The Federalist Papers, would not tax high school students for more than an hour, much less time than they now spend on Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, and the like. What would the equivalent be for college preparation in math: long division? decimals?

High school graduates who arrive at college without ever having read a complete nonfiction book or written a serious term paper, even if they are not in remedial courses (and more than one million are each year, according to the Diploma to Nowhere report), start way behind their IB and private school peers academically, when it comes to reading and writing at the college level.

Having national standards which would send our high school graduates off to higher education with no experience of real term papers and no complete nonfiction books doesn't seem the right way to make it likely that they will ever get through to graduation.

"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

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Under Pressure, Teachers Tamper With Test Scores

Trip Gabriel:

The staff of Normandy Crossing Elementary School outside Houston eagerly awaited the results of state achievement tests this spring. For the principal and assistant principal, high scores could buoy their careers at a time when success is increasingly measured by such tests. For fifth-grade math and science teachers, the rewards were more tangible: a bonus of $2,850.

But when the results came back, some seemed too good to be true. Indeed, after an investigation by the Galena Park Independent School District, the principal, assistant principal and three teachers resigned May 24 in a scandal over test tampering.

The district said the educators had distributed a detailed study guide after stealing a look at the state science test by "tubing" it -- squeezing a test booklet, without breaking its paper seal, to form an open tube so that questions inside could be seen and used in the guide. The district invalidated students' scores.

Of all the forms of academic cheating, none may be as startling as educators tampering with children's standardized tests. But investigations in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia and elsewhere this year have pointed to cheating by educators. Experts say the phenomenon is increasing as the stakes over standardized testing ratchet higher -- including, most recently, taking student progress on tests into consideration in teachers' performance reviews.

Somewhat related: Wisconsin's annual student test, the WKCE has often been criticized for its lack of rigor.

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Verona Superintendent Explains Gang Warning


Verona school leaders are standing by their warning of potential retaliatory gang violence at the high school or Hometown Days this weekend.

The warning the Verona Area School District issued Wednesday night comes about six weeks after the fatal shooting of Antonio Perez on Madison's East Side. Madison police have said they believe the slaying was gang-related.

Police in Madison, Middleton and Verona have been on alert for potential gang retaliation since Perez was killed in April 28. Authorities said the threat of violence between the Clanton 14 gang and the Carnales gang has been on their radar.

Verona Area School District Superintendent Dean Gorrell explained Thursday that it was his decision, and not by direction of law enforcement, that a warning on the threat of violence was announced Wednesday night.

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Math Geek Mom: Summer School

Rosemarie Emanuele:

In the center of Boston is the Boston Common, where there are several small statues of the ducklings made famous by the book "Make Way for Ducklings". Long before I became a parent, I bought a painting from a local Boston artist that depicted the statues of the ducklings from that children's book. In a decision of radical faith in the future, and one that involved finding a few extra dollars that I, as a graduate student, didn't really have at the time, I bought it and decided that if I was ever to have a child, I would hang it in their room. I know that someday my daughter will outgrow it, but for now, it hangs above her desk in her room. I hope to visit the Boston Commons with her some day and show her the original statues that depict the characters from the book which she, of course, has a copy of. If such a visit takes place some year, it will be after my summer school class has ended for the summer.

I know of many people who claim that that just don't teach summer school. The pay is often not great, and it takes away from time that might be spent on research and course development. However, someone must teach summer classes, which reminds me of the question of the "tragedy of the commons." Like the farmers who all brought their cows to graze in the commons in the center of town, each individual professor is asking whether they, as individuals, wish to teach summer school. Something similar happens as is found when the common grazing land is depleted as too many cows are brought to the commons to graze. In both cases, since a "public good" is involved, the individual decisions may not lead to an optimum result. Too few professors may end up choosing to teach at that time.

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Seattle Board Work Sessions - Math and Advanced Learning

Charlie Mas:

The Board has two work sessions scheduled for this month.

The first, today, Thursday June 10 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, will be on Math. No agenda details are available but there is sure to be a powerpoint and it is sure to appear on the District web site soon. I have to believe that the Board is looking for a report on the implementation of the curricular alignment, the implementation of the Theory of Action from the High School textbook adoption, and some update on student academic progress in math.

Next week, on Wednesday, June 16, from 4:00pm to 5:30pm, will be a Board Work Session on Advanced Learning. I honestly cannot imagine what the District staff will have to report

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In Defense of a College Education

Nitasha Tiku:

Do entrepreneurs need a college education? Flickr and Hunch co-founder Caterina Fake may have argued that the best way to become an entrepreneur is to drop out of college, but Read Write Web profiles one college entrepreneur who disagrees. Jay Rodrigues is a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania junior who secured Series A funding for his college-calendaring system start-up, DormNoise. "Don't drop out of school, because for every Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, there are hundreds of entrepreneurs who drop out and go nowhere," he advises. "At least if you stay in school, you'll have an education." But it isn't easy juggling his roles as CEO and college student--Rodrigues says he works about 16 hours a day. "Be 150 million percent sure this is what you want," he says. For more on successful college entrepreneurs, check out our 2010 list of America's Coolest College Start-ups.

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Education by Chance

Jeannette Catsoulis:

With a little tweaking "The Lottery" would fit nicely into the marketing materials for the Harlem Success Academy, a public charter school founded by Eva Moskowitz, a former New York City councilwoman. On one level, this heart-tugging documentary recounts the experiences of four children competing in the academy's annual intake lottery. On another, it's a passionate positioning of charter schools as the saviors of public education.

Though infinitely classier -- and easier on the eyes -- than "Cartel," the recent documentary exploring public education, this latest charter-school commercial is no less one-sided. Virtually relinquishing the floor to Ms. Moskowitz (who delights in vilifying the "thuggish" tactics of the United Federation of Teachers) and her supporters, the director, Madeleine Sackler, captures a smidgen of naysayers in mostly unflattering lights. Ignoring critical issues like financial transparency, Ms. Sackler sells her viewpoint with four admirable, striving families, each of whose tots could charm the fleas off a junkyard dog.

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Seattle Police Chief Candidates and Public Schools

Melissa Westbrook:

The Mayor's office was kind enough to allow me to go to the media interviews with the 3 candidates for police chief.

First up was Interim Chief John Diaz. Low-key is definitely the by-word here (maybe even anemic). There is no doubting his sincerity and commitment to SPD. However, when I asked him about his thoughts on policing in the school district or programs to curb youth violence, I got a whole lotta nothing. I followed up, thinking maybe he didn't understand me, but it was just a lot of blah, blah, blah about working with the district. For my narrow perspective, it was disappointing.

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Program helps 'students in the middle' graduate, go to college

Gayle Worland & Alicia Yager:

This fall, Jeanet Ugalde will attend UW-Madison on a full scholarship to study nursing. But first, she'll be among the initial group of students receiving a diploma as part of a Madison School District program designed to give first-generation college-bound students the training to succeed in high school and post-secondary education.

"When I got the (UW acceptance) letter ... I cried and I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it. When I get the (tuition) bill around July and it says 'zero,' I will be so amazed," Ugalde, the first person in her family to graduate from high school, said of being accepted to college.

Started three years ago at East High and now running in all four Madison high schools, AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is designed to give "students in the middle" who may be the first in their families to graduate high school and attend college the training to succeed. The correlating TOPS -- Teens of Promise -- program is focused on extracurricular activities, including summer work internships.

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June 10, 2010

Don Severson & Vicki McKenna Discuss The Madison School District's 2010-2011 Budget

35mp mp3 audio file.

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National Standards Nonsense is Still Nonsense

Jay Greene:

Over at Flypaper Mike Petrilli has finally tried to address the problems we've raised regarding national standards. Despite Mike's best efforts, I'm afraid that national standards and assessments still sound like a really bad idea.

I raised doubts about the rigor and soundness of the proposed national standards, citing the fact that many credible experts have denounced them as lousy. His response is simply to repeat that Fordham has given the standards good grades and thinks the latest revisions have been positive. This is not a substantive response; it is simply a reiteration of their initial position.

Why should we find Fordham's grading of the proposed national standards any more credible than that of the experts who have denounced the standards? The fact that Fordham issued a report with letter grades is just a marketing exercise for Fordham's opinion. There is nothing scientific or rigorous about Fordham hand-picking their friends experts to repeat the opinion Fordham already holds -- especially when we know from past experience that Fordham might exclude experts or change the grades if it does not come out the way they want.

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Little-known San Jose educator lands atop heap in race for California schools chief

Sharon Noguchi:

Some neophyte politicians spent megabucks gained from their famous companies to persuade California voters Tuesday to grant them a spot on the November ballot.

Then there was Larry Aceves. The retired superintendent of San Jose's Franklin-McKinley, a school district obscure even in its own county, stumbled onto the ballot for California's superintendent of public instruction after a low-budget campaign tour of the Rotary and PTA circuit. Topping 11 other candidates, Aceves won 18.8 percent of the statewide vote, the secretary of state's office reported Wednesday, shocking two better financed and more experienced candidates.

"I pinched myself several times to make sure this wasn't a dream," the until now, little-known educator said Wednesday morning.

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Martinez, won 18 percent and the chance to face Aceves in a November runoff. Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, earned 17.2 percent of the vote, while nine others each got less than 10 percent in their quest to replace outgoing schools chief Jack O'Connell.

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Detroit's Struggle with Mayoral Control

Maddy Joseph:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced that he is ready to take control of Detroit's failing schools. He endorsed petition efforts underway to put mayoral control on the November ballot, but evidence suggests that the effort might be an uphill electoral battle.

Detroit's schools suffer a litany of challenges. Its students have the lowest NAEP scores of any urban district. There has been a precipitous decline in enrollment over the last decade and a budget deficit in the hundreds of millions prompted Governor Granholm to appoint "emergency financial manager" Robert Bobb in March 2009 to command control of the district's cash.

Despite these pressing issues, only 4% of Detroit residents feel that the schools are the biggest problem facing the city, a statistic that, though disheartening, is fairly unsurprising considering that the city was named one of the ten most dangerous in the world by CNN this year and that unemployment hovers somewhere around 25%. Voters have other things on their minds, but getting their attention won't be the biggest obstacle to mayoral control. History will.

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Kaplan Launches Venture Arm To Invest In Education Start-Ups

Ty McMahan:

As venture capitalists turn more attention to education innovation, Kaplan Inc. has launched its own venture arm to look at student-serving start-ups.

Kaplan VC LLC is a subsidiary designed to identify and develop innovative learning strategies, technologies and products with the power to transform education world-wide. The investment group will look to invest between $500,000 and $10 million in companies focused on education technology and student outcomes, Kaplan Chief Executive Andrew Rosen said.

The new group will be led by Jason Palmer, who assumes the position of senior vice president, Kaplan Ventures.

Investment in education companies is growing steadily as new Internet technologies and devices allow for new ways to educate. Venture capitalists have poured money into textbook, language learning and learning collaboration companies, betting that adoption across the tens of thousands of school districts in the U.S. alone could create the next wave of billion-dollar companies.

Eight companies providing education training, software and services were funded by venture capitalists in the first quarter for a total of about $57 million, according to VentureSource, an industry tracker owned, like this newsletter, by Dow Jones & Co. That was about $14 million more than was invested in the same number of companies in the first quarter a year ago. Fourth-quarter investment was also strong, with $53 million invested in 11 companies.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US States' Per student Spending

NCES. Wisconsin spends an average of $10,791 per student. Madison spends $15,241.30 per student, according to the 2009-2010 citizen's budget. More here.

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8 Reasons College Tuition Is the Next Bubble to Burst


Tuition has been increasing at such an alarming rate that some say we're witnessing yet another bubble in America -- this time not in the stock market or in housing, but in college tuition.

Stephen Burd, of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation, explains in this interview how federal student loans became non dischargeable in bankruptcy in 1998, and then private loans became non dischargeable as well in 2005. Taken together, these laws mean that students who are overpaying for degrees now with borrowed money will suffer the consequences for life.

Here are 8 reasons to believe we're in the middle of a college tuition bubble (that's about to burst).

1) Tuition is, and has been, increasing at double the rate of inflation

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Bailing out schools

Winston Salem Journal:

The banks got their federal bailout. So did the automakers.

Now North Carolina public-school children are asking if they will get theirs. Only their congressman knows for sure.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in North Carolina last week with a warning from the Obama administration and education supporters across the country. If Congress does not provide a bailout of state school budgets, as many as 300,000 teachers nationwide, 10,000 of them in North Carolina, could be laid off before the start of the next school term.

North Carolina legislators are so certain that the federal government won't allow such a catastrophe that they have already written a lot of unappropriated federal money into the budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. But they are being optimistic in doing so.

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June 9, 2010

Verona Schools Message on School Safety

Following is a message from the Superintendent and VAHS Administration. Please address any inquiries to VAHS Administration or Dr. Gorrell.

Through our contacts with the Dane County Gang Task Force we have recieved information that indicates in the coming days the VAHS campus or Verona Hometown Days are possible locations for an altercation between two rival gangs. These gangs are the Clanton 14 gang and the Carnales gang. These are the two gangs alleged to have connections with the murder of Antonio Perez last month.

Given this information the following security measures will be put in place immediately:

Tomorrow and Friday we will have an additional VPD Officer stationed on campus working with Officer Truscott. Also, regular VPD patrol officers will be in the area patrolling both the VAHS campus and the neighboring residential area in their squad cars.

Members of the administrative team will also be out patrolling the interior and exterior of the buildings throughout the day. Special attention will be paid to monitoring the two designated K-Wing and two designated main building entrances. All other entrances are to be kept closed and locked. This too will be monitored by the VPD and HS administration.

Given current information the Administrative team, in consultation with our partners in law enforcement, believes that these are prudent preventative steps. If additional information becomes available we will alter this plan accordingly. We ask all staff members to do their usual stellar job of remaining vigilant and reporting anything of concern to the Administrative Team at once.

Keeping staff informed is a priority and more information will be provided if and when it becomes available.

Thank You,
Dr. Gorrell
Ms. Hammen
Ms. Williams
Mr. Murphy
Mr. Boehm

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio / Video.

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Have you thanked your teacher this year?

Every year at this time, I like to remind people to take a moment -- even have their children take a moment -- to write a note of thanks to their teachers.

"Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task." -- Haim Ginott

"Public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid." -- Tracy Kidder

"Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition." -- Jacques Barzun

"Teachers appreciate being appreciated, for teacher appreciation is their highest award." -- William Prince

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The Quiet Preference for Men in Admissions

Charlotte Allen:

It's a well-known fact that there's a severe gender imbalance in undergraduate college populations: about 57 percent of undergrads these days are female and only 43 percent male, the culmination of a trend over the past few decades in which significantly fewer young men than young women either graduate from high school or enroll in college. It's also a well-known fact---at least among college admissions officers---that many private institutions have tried to close the gender gap by quietly relaxing admissions standards for male applicants, essentially practicing affirmative action for young men. What they're doing is perfectly legal, even under Title IX, the 1972 federal law that bans sex discrimination by institutions of higher learning receiving federal funds. Title IX contains an exemption that specifically allows private colleges that aren't professional or technical institutions to prefer one sex over the other in undergraduate admissions. Militant feminists and principled opponents of affirmative action might complain about the discrimination against women that Title IX permits, but for many second- and third-tier liberal arts colleges lacking male educational magnets such as engineering and business programs, the exemption may be a lifesaver, preventing those smaller and less prestigious schools from turning into de facto women's colleges that few young people of either sex might want to attend.

Now, however, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided to turn over this rock carefully set in place by admissions committees. The commission launched an investigation last fall into the extent of male preferences in admissions decisions at 19 various institutions of higher learning. These include public universities (where such preferences are illegal under Title IX); elite private institutions such as Georgetown and Johns Hopkins; smaller liberal arts schools (Gettysburg College, with 2,600 undergraduates, is on the list); religious schools (the Jesuit-run University of Richmond and Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.); and historically black Virginia Union University, also in Richmond. On May 14 the commission's general counsel, David P. Blackwood, announced that four of the 19 schools--Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Gettysburg, and Messiah---had raised legal issues concerning compliance with the commission's subpoenas, and that Virginia Union, while responding politely, had not complied in any way. Blackwood said that the commission might have to ask the Justice Department for help in obtaining admissions data from Virginia Union.

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You Wouldn't Inhibit Amazon, Why Education?

Douglas Crets:

This is the second in a series of interviews with thought leaders in education reform. Today we interview former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise about personalized learning, equity and policy changes that will enable a better system for our students.

What is the vision for personalized learning?

For personalized learning, it's delivering high-quality content to children and students wherever they live. I mean, whatever their conditions, their life situations, their educaiton surroundings. It's being able to customize education so that we engage each student where they want to be, and make it as relevant as possible to them.

Personalization to me is the sense of making sure there is a personal graduation plan for every student, making sure a direct relationship bteween at least one adult in the building and one student.

Even if you are using data...there is data that immediately is picking up whether they are increasing absences, etc...and someone is charged with intervening. How do we take what is a largely impersonal experience, to using technology that is actually helping education become a more personal experience.

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Are books just as good as summer school? Study: Free books give low-income kids academic lift

Associated Press:

Can a $50 stack of paperbacks do as much for a child's academic fortunes as a $3,000 stint in summer school?

Researchers think so. Now, an experimental program in seven states -- including the Chicago Public Schools -- will give thousands of low-income students an armful of free books this summer.

Research has shown that giving books to kids might be as effective at keeping them learning over the summer as summer school -- and a lot cheaper. The big questions are whether the effect can be replicated on a large scale -- and whether it can help reduce the achievement gap between low-income and middle-class students.

Schools have always tried to get students to read over the summer. For middle-class students, that's not as big a deal. They usually have access to books, says Richard Allington, a reading researcher at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

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Chinese teens compete for entry to elite schools

Chi-Chi Zhang:

The 14-hour study sessions were over but the nerves remained for Tong Dan as she squeezed in some last-minute cramming during a lunch break Monday from the most important test she and millions of other Chinese teens will ever take.

Each year, about 10 million high school seniors across China take the "gaokao" -- the exam that is the sole determinant for whether they get into a university. About 68 percent of test takers this year are expected to pass -- but for the vast majority who don't it means they head straight into the search for a low-paying, blue-collar job.

But even a college degree no longer guarantees graduates a good job in China's increasingly competitive workplace. With about 700,000 of last year's university graduates still unemployed, there is added pressure on students like 17-year-old Tong to do well on the two-day college entrance exam and gain one of the few coveted slots at the country's elite schools.

China has poured billions of dollars into a massive university expansion plan over the past few decades, meaning the number of graduates will skyrocket to a record 6.3 million this year, compared to 1 million in 1998. The expansion has also led to a widening gap between the quality of education found in many universities, especially those in poorer provinces, and the top schools.

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Black leaders leaving DISD along with students

Tawnell Hobbs:

As the number of black children in Dallas ISD declined over the last decade, the number of black activists closely observing school board meetings has dwindled to a few in the audience.

And some leaders of a civil rights group that once battled for equal education in Dallas schools are now urging black parents to send their kids elsewhere. Some say the rising attention to the needs of children learning English is overshadowing the needs of black students.

As their focus wanes from Dallas ISD, some fear a powerful lobby for the interests of the district's minority students could be lost.

"It's not a surprise to anybody that blacks are leaving DISD," said Juanita Wallace, president of the Dallas NAACP. "We know that Hispanics are really taking over the school district. The whites are completely gone, and now blacks are going."

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Student Debt and a Push for Fairness

Ron Lieber:

If you run up big credit card bills buying a new home theater system and can't pay it off after a few years, bankruptcy judges can get rid of the debt. They may even erase loans from a casino.

But if you borrow money to get an education and can't afford the loan payments after a few years of underemployment, that's another matter entirely. It's nearly impossible to get rid of the debt in bankruptcy court, even if it's a private loan from for-profit lenders like Citibank or the student loan specialist Sallie Mae.

This part of the bankruptcy law is little known outside education circles, but ever since it went into effect in 2005, it's inspired shock and often rage among young adults who got in over their heads. Today, they find themselves in the same category as people who can't discharge child support payments or criminal fines.

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A Classical Education: Back to the Future

Stanley Fish:

I wore my high school ring for more than 40 years. It became black and misshapen and I finally took it off. But now I have a new one, courtesy of the organizing committee of my 55th high school reunion, which I attended over the Memorial Day weekend.

I wore the ring (and will wear it again) because although I have degrees from two Ivy league schools and have taught at U.C. Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Duke, Classical High School (in Providence, RI) is the best and most demanding educational institution I have ever been associated with. The name tells the story. When I attended, offerings and requirements included four years of Latin, three years of French, two years of German, physics, chemistry, biology, algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry, English, history, civics, in addition to extra-curricular activities, and clubs -- French Club, Latin Club, German Club, Science Club, among many others. A student body made up of the children of immigrants or first generation Americans; many, like me, the first in their families to finish high school. Nearly a 100 percent college attendance rate. A yearbook that featured student translations from Virgil and original poems in Latin.

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Union backlash: UW-Madison academic staff bristle at perceived strong-arm tactics

Todd Finkelmeyer:

When faculty and academic staff across the University of Wisconsin System were given the right to form unions with collective bargaining powers last June, David Ahrens viewed the legislation as "long overdue" and a "well-deserved right."

After all, most of the 10,000 classified staff working within the UW System -- including accountants, computer staff and custodians -- have long been unionized. Ahrens believed it was only fair that the roughly 6,700 faculty and 13,200 academic staff across the system be afforded the same opportunity. And as president of the United Faculty and Academic Staff, a longtime union on the UW-Madison campus that does not have collective bargaining powers, he was eager to convey to the masses the virtues of forming a union that has the right to negotiate over wages, benefits and work conditions.
The new state measure would not force anyone to join a union, Ahrens noted at the time. It simply gave faculty and academic staff on each of the UW System's four-year campuses the right to vote to form separate bargaining units if they wanted.

"It's about giving thousands of individual employees a collective voice," said Ahrens, who holds an academic staff position as a researcher within the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health.

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Charter Vultures Circle the Public Schools

Alan Singer:

We our now entering the second round of "Race to the Top." State legislatures are busy worshiping at the alter of "charter schools" in order to establish their eligibility.

The radio, television, and print ads show a very unlikely and powerful coalition supporting the demand for new charter schools - Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, JP Morgan, assorted hedge funds, Michael "Moneybags" Bloomberg, Joel "Clueless" Klein, and Reverend Al Sharpton. The impression they are trying to give is that everybody whose opinion we trust thinks it is a good idea and that the teachers and their evil union want to block reform that will benefit our children.

On May 27, 2010, JP Morgan Chase ran a full-page advertisement in The New York Times with the headline The Way Forward, Investing in Our Children's Future. It cost the bank approximately $180,000. This is the same JP Morgan Chase that received a $25 billion bailout from Congress as part of the federal Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). Just because the bank can't manage its own affairs, does not mean it shouldn't manage ours.

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June 8, 2010

Several Madison schools fail to meet No Child Left Behind standards

Gena Kittner:

Six of the seven Madison schools that made the federal list of schools in need of improvement last year are on it again, including two Madison elementary schools that faced sanctions for failing to meet No Child Left Behind standards.

In addition, three out of four Madison high schools failed to make adequate yearly progress, according to state Department of Public Instruction data released Tuesday. DeForest, Middleton and Sun Prairie high schools also made the list.

Statewide, 145 schools and four districts missed one or more adequate yearly progress targets. Last year 148 schools and four districts made the list, according to DPI. This year 89 Wisconsin schools were identified for improvement, up from 79 last year.

"These reports, based off a snapshot-in-time assessment, present one view of a school's progress and areas that need improvement," said State Superintendent Tony Evers in a statement.

Related: the controversial WKCE annual exam.

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"The Lottery" Film Screens Tonight @ 7:30 "The Problem is a System that Protects Academic Failure"

Screening locations can be seen here (including Madison's Eastgate Theatre [Map]), via a kind reader:

The Lottery is a feature-length documentary that explores the struggles and dreams of four families from Harlem and the Bronx in the months leading up to the lottery for Harlem Success Academy, one of the most successful charter schools in New York. The four families cast their lots in a high-stakes draw, where only a small majority of children emerge with a chance at a better future. The vast majority of hopefuls will be turned away.
By interlacing the families' stories with the emotional and highly politicized battle over the future of American education, The Lottery is a call to action to avert a catastrophe in the education of American children. With heart, humor and hope, The Lottery makes the case that any child, given the right educational circumstances, can succeed.
Watch the trailer.

Madison has not exactly provided a welcoming charter environment.

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Exploring How the Brain Works

Amber Cleveland:

Packed neatly on the bookshelves in Mark Changizi's Carnegie Building office sit stacks of notebooks containing hundreds of questions. Why do we have fingernails? Why are organs packaged in such a specific way inside our bodies? Why does skin wrinkle when it gets wet? Why are our hands shaped the way they are?

These are among the questions in the notebooks--26 and counting--that Changizi fills with potential research ideas he poses as queries about the design and behavior of biological systems.

So far questions in the notebook have yielded highly acclaimed research findings, including why primates see in color and have forward-facing eyes, why optical illusions succeed at tricking our eyes, and why written characters across languages share common shapes.

Changizi's groundbreaking explanations have landed on the pages of The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, and New Scientist. In May 2009, his findings will appear in Changizi's first-ever trade book The Vision Revolution, published by Benbella Books.

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Entry may tighten for Boston exam schools

James Vaznis:

Boston school officials this week will unveil a more stringent residency policy for students applying to the city's three exam schools, responding to growing concerns that out-of-towners are improperly gaining admission.

The proposed policy, which officials will present to the School Committee on Wednesday, would allow only city residents to apply to Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and the John D. O'Bryant School of Math and Science.

Currently, nonresidents can take the entrance exam for those schools; they must establish residency shortly before admission decisions are made.

"It's a fairly significant change,'' said Rachel Skerritt, chief of staff for Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. "We want to make sure students who have access to the stellar education at the exam schools live in the city.''

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Want To Get Faster, Smarter? Sleep 10 Hours

Allison Aubrey:

New research adds to a growing body of evidence showing the perks of a good night's sleep.

A study from researchers at Stanford University finds that extra hours of sleep at night can help improve football players' performance on drills such as the 40-yard dash and the 20-yard shuttle.

"The goal was to aim for 10 hours of sleep per night," says Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic. At the beginning of the season, Mah found that the players had moderate levels of daytime fatigue, even though they thought they were getting enough rest at night. Seven players were included in the study.

It's not easy to convince college students to add hours of sleep to their schedules each day. "It's a lot to ask," Mah says, but throughout the season she was able to document a significant extension of nighttime sleep.

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Online Help for Parents Who Volunteer

Pui-wing Tam:

It takes a lot to organize a classroom of 20 children. It can take even more to organize the kids' busy parents--and that often means turning to technology to get everyone on the same page.

Over the past nine months, my first-grader's school has seen that in spades. Like many elementary schools, ours relies on parent volunteers to help out with one-on-one reading with students and math exercises. In my 6-year-old's class, at least two parent volunteers are needed a day. In the past, volunteers were organized the old-fashioned way on paper, with parents signing up for their preferred time slots for the month on a calendar sent home with their children.

But in recent years as more schools and families have gone digital, parents are opting for an online solution to organizing volunteer class time. And a host of volunteering and calendar services have popped up on the Web to oblige them. When I asked our school's room parent which online sites people were using to organize volunteering, he blasted out an email to poll his network of room parents. The informal survey yielded one conclusion: Each classroom was using different services, each with their own perks and drawbacks. Among the hodge-podge of choices were well-known applications such as Yahoo Inc.'s Yahoo Groups and Google Inc.'s Calendar, as well as less familiar names including VolunteerSpot Inc.'s VolunteerSpot and Doodle AG's

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Paying for College, Sometimes With Blood

Susan O'Doherty:

Ann Larson's recent IHE column, in which she dissects the popular idea that that a college education is the key to upward mobility for lower-income Americans, resonated for me in a personal way, because I have two nephews who joined the military after they ran out of money for college tuition. One, in the National Guard, spent a year in Iraq and could be called up again. The other will have shipped out to Afghanistan when this column is posted.

Both are highly intelligent young men who made what seem to a fond and panicked aunt to be foolish decisions based on false assumptions, though they would tell you otherwise. Our politics are very different, but neither joined up out of a fervent desire to further a political cause. It was a trade-off, in both cases: service in return for educational support. And because they are honorable people, they are prepared to give their lives to fulfill their end of the agreement.

Larson discusses the case of "Valerie," who immigrated from Haiti with the dream of attending college, and is now saddled with student-loan debts she is unlikely to ever be able to pay off given the jobs available to her. A recent NYT article describes a middle-class family in a similar economic situation. My nephews, like many other young people, saw the military as an alternative to a life that is crippled by either crushing debt or limited vocational opportunities. But, Larson argues,

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I agree, it's time the Vancouver, Canada school board grew up

Jon Ferry:

You can say what you like about B.C. comptroller-general Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland, at least if you can pronounce her name. But she sure knows how to shake things up.

Last fall, this steely mother of two blasted bloated management at TransLink and excessive executive compensation at B.C. Ferries, drawing cries of outrage from high-priced boss David Hahn.

Now, Wenezenki-Yolland has drawn equal if not greater howls of indignation by ripping into the Vancouver School Board. And the report she released Friday on the trustees' management ability, or lack of it, has had board chairwoman Patti Bacchus on the verge of tears.

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Racial composition of Dallas - Fort Worth school districts

Dallas Morning News:

Total enrollment in North Texas public schools increased for every major ethnic group from 2000 to 2010 - but the gains are anything but uniform across the region. This interactive map shows enrollment gains and losses, by ethnic group, at local public schools with more than 100 students over the past decade.

Use the box below to select a school district and a racial category. Click the Submit button to see the results.

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Obama to high school grads: 'Don't make excuses'

Erica Werner:

President Barack Obama is telling high school graduates in Michigan not to make excuses, and to take responsibility for failures as well as successes.

In excerpts of remarks to be delivered later Monday at Kalamazoo Central High School, Obama says that it's easy to blame others when problems arise. "We see it every day out in Washington, with folks calling each other names and making all sorts of accusations on TV," the president says.

He says the high school kids can and have done better than that.

The 1,700-student high school in southwest Michigan landed Obama as its commencement speaker after winning the national Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.

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Early Lessons

Emily Hanford:

The Perry Preschool was the idea of a man named David Weikart. He was a school system administrator in the small city of Ypsilanti, Michigan back in the late 1950s. When he took the job, he was shocked to discover how many poor African-American children were doing badly in school. A lot of them were being assigned to special education classes, getting held back, and failing to graduate from high school.

Weikart wanted to do something about it, but school officials did not share his enthusiasm. They didn't want him changing things, messing around in their schools.

So rather than change the schools, Weikart decided to invent a new kind of school - a pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds. His hope was that preschool could boost children's IQs.

This was a radical notion. Most people believed everyone was born with a certain amount of intelligence, a quotient, and it never changed. They had faith in IQ tests to measure intelligence. And they thought intelligence mattered a lot, that it was the key to success in school, and life.

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Two Cities: Importing the KIPP Model

Jennifer Guerra & Sarah Hulett:

It's 7:15 on a chilly spring morning kids from all over New Orleans are coming in by the bus load to KIPP Central City Academy and Primary. A group of sixth graders is hanging outside, waiting for the bell to ring. So I ask them what they think about their school. Three of the boys say they like it just fine. The fourth one, Troy Picard, is not a fan.

"No, their rules are just too strict for me," says Picard, prompting a quick rebuttal from his friend Carl Lacoste.

"Troy, I disagree what you said about strict rules," Lacoste says. "The only rules we have are work hard and be nice."

"But a lot of other rules fall under that category," Picard says.

Students aren't the only ones with rules. Jonathan Bertch, who runs the business side of things at KIPP Central City, says adults at the school have rules, too. The main one is "no excuses." As in: All those excuses you hear about why inner city kids can't succeed? Out the window.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Pols turn on labor unions

Magge Haberman:

Spurred by state budget crunches and an angry public mood, Republican and some Democratic leaders are focusing with increasing intensity on public workers and the unions that represent them, casting them as overpaid obstacles to good government and demanding cuts in their often-generous benefits.

Unlike past battles over the high cost of labor, this time pitched battles over wages and pensions are being waged from Sacramento to Springfield to New York City and the conflict is marked by its bipartisan tone, with public employee unions emerging as an intransigent public enemy number one in cities and state capitals across the country.

They're the whipping boys for a new generation of governors who, thanks to a tanking economy and an assist from editorial boards, feel freer than ever to make political targets out of what was once a protected liberal class of teachers, cops, and other public servants.

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Perky reading textbooks! An MPS culture shift may be afoot

Alan Borsuk:

Attention, children in Milwaukee Public Schools: Your Reading Adventure Awaits!

It has lots of stories! It wants you to write out answers to lots of questions about what goes on in the stories!

It has lists of spelling words! It will teach you the difference between common nouns and proper nouns! How to use proofreading marks! What to learn from the sequence of vowels and consonants in words!

It has a fair amount of phonics-related skill building, but it's not as strong on that as some phonics-oriented people would like!

It will require you to do a lot of work, if you're going to succeed! It's not easy! I stumbled during an exercise in a fifth-grade reading book on matching English words to their foreign language roots, and I thought I was smarter than a fifth-grader!

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June 7, 2010

Black Parents vs. the Teachers' Union: Union intransigence hits a low point

Nat Hentoff:

In Harlem--as elsewhere in this city, state, and nation--there is a sharply rising struggle between teachers' unions and black parents.

That dispute is over parental choice of schools, especially in regards to publicly financed charter schools which can, and usually do, refuse to recognize teachers' unions. Geoffrey Canada, whose Harlem Children's Zone is nationally known for making charter schools a working part of the community, recently sent out a rallying cry to black parents everywhere when he said, "Nobody's coming. Nobody is going to save our children. You have to save your own children."

In Harlem, where thousands of parents apply for charter schools on civil rights grounds, State Senator Bill Perkins--whose civil liberties record I've previously praised in this column--is in danger of losing his seat because of his fierce opposition to charter schools. The UFT contributes to his campaigns. His opponent, Basil Smikle--who has worked for Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Bill Clinton Foundation, and, unfortunately, Michael Bloomberg--says: "Education has galvanized the community."

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Kalamazoo has long been a leader in education and education reform. Here are some of the area's accomplishments in education.

1833: Founding of Kalamazoo College, Michigan's oldest college campus.

1874: Kalamazoo paves the way for tax-funded education in Michigan when the state Supreme Court affirms Kalamazoo's right to levy taxes to operate a public high school.

1896: Kalamazoo Public Library is among the first 10 in the country, and the second in Michigan after Detroit, to create a children's section with its own librarian.

1903: Founding of Western Michigan University, now one of the 50 largest universities in the country.

1906: Kalamazoo Central High School creates state's first high school marching band.

1920: Kalamazoo Central becomes the country's second high school with a drama class and opens Chenery Auditorium, one of the largest high school auditoriums of that era.

1958: Kalamazoo College creates its study-abroad program, one of the first in the country.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin Democrat Governor Candidate Barrett calls for $1 billion in state government cuts

Mary Spicuzza:

Democratic candidate for governor Tom Barrett wants to get rid of the offices of the secretary of state and the state treasurer as part of a plan he says would cut more than $1 billion from Wisconsin's budget.

Barrett said some of the savings could be achieved every year, while other cuts -- such as eliminating those constitutional offices, an uncertain and arduous process -- would represent one-time savings.

At a news conference outside the state Capitol on Monday, Barrett said his plans would include steps like combining workers statewide into pools to purchase lower-cost health insurance, cracking down on Medicaid fraud and other financial crimes, and cutting prisoner health care costs.

He also called for "right-sizing" the state employee work force but did not say if that would involve layoffs or simply not filling vacant jobs.

Barrett called it his plan for "putting Madison on a diet."


Wisconsin has seen substantial growth in redirected tax dollars devoted to K-12 public districts over the past 20+ years.

Madison School Board Vice President Beth Moss asked whether the State might further reduce redistributed tax dollars for K-12 spending in the next year, at the June 1, 2010 Budget meeting.

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Why should education be exempt from recession budgeting?

George Will:

Jay Gould, a 19th-century railroad tycoon and unrepentant rapscallion, said he was a Democrat when in Democratic districts and a Republican when in Republican districts but that he was always for the Erie Railroad. Gould, emblematic of Gilded Age rapaciousness, was called a robber baron. What should we call people whose defining constancy is that they are always for unionized public employees? Call them Democrats.

This week, when Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess, many Democrats, having gone an eternity -- more than a week -- without spending billions of their constituents' money, will try to make up for lost time by sending another $23 billion to states to prevent teachers from being laid off. The alternative to this "desperately" needed bailout, says Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is "catastrophe." Amazing. Just 16 months ago, in the stimulus legislation, Congress shoveled about $100 billion to education, including $48 billion in direct aid to states. According to a University of Washington study, this saved more than 342,000 teaching and school staff positions -- about 5.5 percent of all the positions in America's 15,000 school systems.

The federal component of education spending on kindergarten through 12th grade, the quintessential state and local responsibility, has doubled since 2000, to 15 percent. Now the supposed emergency, and states' dependency, may be becoming routine and perpetual.

Related: The Madison School Board discusses travel and professional development spending for the 2010-2011 budget and Bloomberg: US's $13 Trillion Debt Poised to Overtake GDP.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Number of the Week: U.S. Debt Nears Key Threshold

Mark Whitehouse:

8%: Gross U.S. public debt as a share of annual economic output.

There's little doubt that the U.S. needs to get its mounting debts under control. But at what point do they become a clear and present danger?

By some measures, we're reaching that point about now. As of Friday, our total national debt - the sum of all outstanding IOUs issued by the U.S. Treasury - stood at a bit more than $13 trillion, or almost 90% of our projected gross domestic product for 2010.

The 90% level is significant, because recent research by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff suggests that once a developed nation's debt crosses it, its annual economic growth tends to be about one percentage point lower. At a time when economists are saying it could take years for the U.S. to bring unemployment back down to pre-recession levels, that percentage point could make a big difference.

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School admission policy no child's play

Alan Alanson:

A good friend of mine, James, has an interview this morning. It is quite important. If he is successful, it will mean quite a lot in the future. If he fails, he will certainly be at a disadvantage.

Given the importance of doing well, he has spent some time preparing and rehearsing answers to practice questions. What he wears to the interview has been carefully thought out as first impressions are very important. There is a lot riding on the 15 minutes he will spend being questioned.

James, however, is not taking this very seriously. I am confident that he does not have the faintest idea how important this is. In fact, it is fairly likely that he will not even realise that he has to do an interview at all until he is right there in the room.

James is two years old. His interview is for the purpose of whether he will get into primary school, in a couple of years. There is nothing particularly special about the school he is applying to; its admission policies are the same as a lot of schools in Hong Kong.

I have been known to produce pieces of pure fiction in this column from time to time, but I am not making this up. This actually happens. Schools really employ people to interview two-year-olds and make a decision about each toddler's academic future.

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Higher Education's Bubble is About to Burst

Glenn Reynolds:

It's a story of an industry that may sound familiar.

The buyers think what they're buying will appreciate in value, making them rich in the future. The product grows more and more elaborate, and more and more expensive, but the expense is offset by cheap credit provided by sellers eager to encourage buyers to buy.

Buyers see that everyone else is taking on mounds of debt, and so are more comfortable when they do so themselves; besides, for a generation, the value of what they're buying has gone up steadily. What could go wrong? Everything continues smoothly until, at some point, it doesn't.

Yes, this sounds like the housing bubble, but I'm afraid it's also sounding a lot like a still-inflating higher education bubble. And despite (or because of) the fact that my day job involves higher education, I think it's better for us to face up to what's going on before the bubble bursts messily.

College has gotten a lot more expensive. A recent Money magazine report notes: "After adjusting for financial aid, the amount families pay for college has skyrocketed 439 percent since 1982. ... Normal supply and demand can't begin to explain cost increases of this magnitude."

Consumers would balk, except for two things.

First -- as with the housing bubble -- cheap and readily available credit has let people borrow to finance education. They're willing to do so because of (1) consumer ignorance, as students (and, often, their parents) don't fully grasp just how harsh the impact of student loan payments will be after graduation; and (2) a belief that, whatever the cost, a college education is a necessary ticket to future prosperity.

Related: Wal-Mart partners with online school to offer college credit to workers.

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HSBC Chairman Stephen Green calls on schools to teach children about money

Joy Lo Dico:

Mr Green, speaking at the Hay Festival on the Welsh borders on Saturday, said it would be of particular relevance to those who would grow up to become part of the sub-prime market.

"Part of the answer lies in financial literacy education in schools," said Mr Green, promoting his 2009 book Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World.

"I really don't think it's wise in the circumstances of modern life to have people come out of the school system into working life or, sadly, often not working life, without the very basics of financial literacy."

Mr Green, who has been chairman of HSBC since 2005, and is also an ordained priest, was keen to stress that there was a social imperative for banking services to be open to those on lower incomes.

However, he said some forms of lending were unacceptable, citing 110pc mortgages, and said those at the bottom end of the market may not have had proper understanding or access to information when taking out such loans.

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On Foster Youth Success Stories: Salute to grads who defied the odds

John Diaz:

If one knew nothing about the backgrounds of the young men and women gathered in the student union at City College, the end-of-semester scene could be mistaken as being merely poignant instead of extraordinary. More than 60 students filled their paper plates with food as they awaited the announcement of scholarship winners. They beamed when their names were called for having earned a scholarship or admission to a four-year university. They applauded each other's successes. They posed for photographs. Young mothers clutched their children's hands.

What was remarkable was how the master of ceremonies, Michael McPartlin, did not need to look at his notes to talk about the students' accomplishments - or even the final exam, child-care or work obligations that prevented some from attending. He knew all the little details and cared about getting them right. What was even more remarkable were the odds that each of the students had to overcome to be celebrating the successful conclusion of an academic year.

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Colleges offer grants, work-study to reduce students' debt

Daniel de Vise:

In a nod to the rising cost of college tuition and the burden of massive student loan debt on graduates, a growing number of universities are stepping up with "no-loan" aid pledges.

More than 50 colleges -- including elite private schools and flagship state universities in Virginia and Maryland -- have eliminated or capped loans in their financial aid portfolios for some or all students, promising enough aid in grants and work-study to cover most of the gap between what they charge and what each student can afford to pay.

At a handful of private universities with sizable endowments, including Princeton, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, the goal is quite literally to eliminate loan debt for most graduating seniors.

"It's going down, and it's going down dramatically," said Amy Gutmann, president of Penn. "A typical family earning $90,000 a year attends Penn tuition-free. A typical family earning $40,000 a year attends Penn with tuition, room and board covered."

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Understanding how colleges hand out aid can improve your chances

Jane Bennett Clark:

Wander Ursinus College and you'd think you had stepped into an Ivy League idyll. Stone-clad buildings overlook a sweeping lawn, which slopes to a picture-perfect, small-town Main Street. Winding paths skirt carefully tended gardens. Outdoor statues gaze raptly at midair as students stroll by, chattering on cellphones.

But Ursinus College, in Collegeville, Pa., lacks the wealth and status that allow the real Ivies to choose from among the best students in the country and to cover their full financial need with no-loan aid packages. Like the vast majority of colleges, Ursinus must not only troll for top students but also calibrate exactly how much money it will take to bring them to campus and keep them there.

In college-speak, it's called enrollment management -- a way of slicing and dicing admissions policies and financial aid to attract a strong and diverse student body while bringing in enough revenue to keep the doors open. Whereas elite colleges take merit as a given and extend financial aid only to those who need it, Ursinus offers sizable scholarships to outstanding applicants from every economic strata, including the wealthiest.

Surprised? Consider your own college search. As a parent, you look for the best academic program for your student at an affordable price -- the same basic process that colleges use to attract the best students, but in reverse. The better you understand how colleges conduct their deliberations, the better you can go about yours.

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'Helicopter' Parents Have Neurotic Kids, Study Suggests

Rachael Rettner:

Overly protective parents might be leaving a lasting impact on their child's personality, and not in a good way, a new study finds.

The results show having so-called "helicopter parents" was associated with being dependent, neurotic and less open, a slew of personality traits that are generally thought of as undesirable.

The study, which surveyed college freshman, is one of the first to try to define exactly what helicopter parenting is, and measure it. The term was originally coined by college admissions personnel when they started to notice a change in parents of prospective students -- parents would call the admissions office and try to intervene in a process that had previously just been between the student and the college, said study researcher Neil Montgomery, a psychologist at Keene State College in N.H.

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John Wooden on True Success

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How to manage student loan debt

Michelle Singletary:

Soon the sounds of "Pomp and Circumstance" will fade and thousands of college graduates will have to really start facing the music -- their education loans.

For them, I have a new tune: Know what you owe.

That should be the mantra for every student borrower because an unsettling number of graduates -- and their parents -- only have a vague idea of how much has been borrowed. It's only after the degree has been obtained that they add up the costs. Many don't know who they borrowed from or how many different loans they have.

In 2008, about two-thirds of students graduating from four-year colleges and universities had student loan debt averaging $23,200, according to data analyzed by the Project on Student Debt, an initiative of the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success.

Okay, graduates, so now that you have your degree, what do you know about your loans, and how will you manage them?

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Parent volunteers help lift San Jose schools

Caille Millner:

The face of California public education soon will look a lot like Alum Rock Union Elementary School District in San Jose.

Almost 78 percent of the district's 13,816 students are of Hispanic or Latino origin. About 54 percent of them are English-language learners. The district, which sprawls over the foothills in east San Jose, is more working class than middle class.

It's tempting to view a district like Alum Rock as indicative of the challenges California will face in educating the next generation of children, but it might be better to view it as an opportunity. California's educational system desperately needs to adapt to both a 21st century economy and the state's shifting demographics. We can't afford to fail the next generation of students. So how will California's educational system adapt to meet their needs?

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Math, reading standards could become more rigorous in Utah schools

Lisa Schencker:

Math and language arts standards likely will become more rigorous in Utah schools.
As part of a widespread movement toward common academic goals, the Utah Board of Education gave preliminary approval Friday to a new set of language arts and mathematics standards for children in grades K-12, developed for a group of 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia. If the plan gains final approval in August, state officials plan to overhaul Utah's language arts and math curricula over the next five years to reflect the new goals, which are more ambitious in some ways than Utah's current ones, said Brenda Hales, state associate superintendent.

"They are high standards," said state Superintendent Larry Shumway. "They are high and they are rigorous. I don't have any doubt they will be a step forward for us as a state."

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June 6, 2010

Storming the School Barricades

Bari Weiss:

'What's funny," says Madeleine Sackler, "is that I'm not really a political person." Yet the petite 27-year-old is the force behind "The Lottery"--an explosive new documentary about the battle over the future of public education opening nationwide this Tuesday.

In the spring of 2008, Ms. Sackler, then a freelance film editor, caught a segment on the local news about New York's biggest lottery. It wasn't the Powerball. It was a chance for 475 lucky kids to get into one of the city's best charter schools (publicly funded schools that aren't subject to union rules).

"I was blown away by the number of parents that were there," Ms. Sackler tells me over coffee on Manhattan's Upper West Side, recalling the thousands of people packed into the Harlem Armory that day for the drawing. "I wanted to know why so many parents were entering their kids into the lottery and what it would mean for them." And so Ms. Sackler did what any aspiring filmmaker would do: She grabbed her camera.

Her initial aim was simple. "Going into the film I was excited just to tell a story," she says. "A vérité film, a really beautiful, independent story about four families that you wouldn't know otherwise" in the months leading up to the lottery for the Harlem Success Academy.

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Autism test could make the condition 'preventable'

Richard Alleyne:

Diagnosis of autism has always been difficult and often the condition remains unrecognised until too late for treatment to have a maximum effect.

But now researchers at Imperial College London have discovered a potential way of spotting the disorder in children as young as six months old.

They have found that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) also suffer from disorders in their gut and that this can be detected with a simple urine test.

That would mean that intensive behavioural and social treatment could begin before the disease has caused any permanent psychological damage.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, the author of the study, said: "Children with autism have very unusual gut microbes which we can test for before the full blown symptoms of the disease come through.

"If that is the case then it might become a preventable disease."

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Removing teachers with "accented" speech?

Mark Liberman:

It's been widely reported that the Arizona Department of Education has begun working to remove teachers whose English-language skills are viewed as inadequate. According to press reports, the evaluators aim (among other things) to remove teachers with "accents", which probably means Spanish accents in most cases. Casey Stegall, "Arizona Seeks to Reassign Heavily Accented Teachers", Fox News 5/22/2010, wrote:

After passing the nation's toughest state immigration enforcement law, Arizona's school officials are now cracking down on teachers with heavy accents.

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Skip Journalism School: 50 Free Open Courses

Nicole White:

Ambitious journalists don’t have to worry about affording extra education when free open courses are available for anyone to take online. Spend some time studying and exploring the various aspects of journalism with these classes before forging your own future as a journalist. These courses will help you learn about writing, reporting, photojournalism, multimedia, and more.

Writing, Reporting, and Communication From improving your grammar to learning to connect with other cultures to strengthening communication skills, these classes will improve your ability to connect with others.

  1. Cleaning Your Copy. Learn to correct your grammar, spelling, and stylistic mistakes with the information in this class specifically for aspiring journalists. [News University]
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  3. Writing and Experience: Culture Shock! Writing, Editing, and Publishing in Cyberspace. Explore American pop culture while learning to write for an online audience in this course. [MIT]

  4. Beat Basics and Beyond. Find out the basics about working a beat and get tips from veteran reporters in this course. [News University]

  5. Technology for Professional Writers. This course teaches important technology skills for writers who may not have a background in technology. [Utah State University]

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Daddy's Little Money Pits

Karen Blumenthal:

For years, Pat Bearce had a message for his daughter Andrea: After her college graduation, she would be on her own financially.

It has been three years, and she isn't quite there yet.

After studying broadcast journalism at Texas Christian University, Andrea decided to pursue a career as a chef, choosing a pricey culinary school in New York City. The restaurant jobs she landed didn't come with health coverage, so, in addition to guaranteeing her apartment lease in Manhattan, her parents covered her health-care costs for a couple of years. They paid her monthly cellphone bill, too. And she still has a jointly held credit card with her mother, Catherine.

"It's pretty hard to get them launched," says Mr. Bearce, a pilot at Boeing Co. in Seattle, who now says he never actually intended to enforce the deadline. "The real bottom line is that when they're done with school, they're not really done."

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Black Flight Hits Detroit

Alex Kellogg:

This shrinking city needs to hang on to people like Johnette Barham: taxpaying, middle-class professionals who invest in local real estate, work and play downtown, and make their home here.

Ms. Barham just left. And she's not coming back.

In seven years as a homeowner in Detroit, she endured more than 10 burglaries and break-ins at her house and a nearby rental property she owned. Still, she defied friends' pleas to leave as she fortified her home with locks, bars, alarms and a dog.

Then, a week before Christmas, someone torched the house and destroyed almost everything she owned.

In March, police arrested a suspect in connection with the case, someone who turned out to be remarkably easy to find. For Ms. Barham, the arrest came one crime too late. "I was constantly being targeted in a way I couldn't predict, in a way that couldn't be controlled by the police," she says. "I couldn't take it anymore."

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Colleges offer grants, work-study to reduce students' debt

Daniel de Vise:

In a nod to the rising cost of college tuition and the burden of massive student loan debt on graduates, a growing number of universities are stepping up with "no-loan" aid pledges.

More than 50 colleges -- including elite private schools and flagship state universities in Virginia and Maryland -- have eliminated or capped loans in their financial aid portfolios for some or all students, promising enough aid in grants and work-study to cover most of the gap between what they charge and what each student can afford to pay.

At a handful of private universities with sizable endowments, including Princeton, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, the goal is quite literally to eliminate loan debt for most graduating seniors.

"It's going down, and it's going down dramatically," said Amy Gutmann, president of Penn. "A typical family earning $90,000 a year attends Penn tuition-free. A typical family earning $40,000 a year attends Penn with tuition, room and board covered."

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Each new graduate has teachers to thank

Phil Haslanger:

Like so many parents at this time of year, we stood watching and cheering as our daughter walked across the stage at graduation.

For Julia, it was graduation from college in mid-May. For others, it will be graduation from high school. But whatever the setting, Julia and her fellow graduates take an awful lot of people across the stage with them -- many of them teachers.

Not that we have any particular bias as her parents, you understand. We think Julia is incredibly smart, poised, inquisitive, a leader in her group. But we also know that step by step through her days in school, it was teachers who helped shape her into the graduate we applauded on that Saturday in May.

As a society we say we value education. We are sure a whole lot more ambivalent about teachers as a group. You heard that ambivalence in the Madison area as the School Board wrestled with a very tough budget for the coming year. You hear that at the national level as President Obama's education policies are demanding more accountability from teachers.

My point is not that teachers ought not be asked to share in the financial burden of tough times nor that there ought not be ways to hold them accountable. My point is that in looking at ways to strengthen our education system, we ought to remember that the teachers are the ones giving of themselves day after day to prepare our sons and daughters for the future. It does no one any good to be bashing them.

Is every teacher terrific? Of course not. But at least in the Madison schools, with four kids who have been educated by something like 150 teachers over the years (to say nothing of another vast array of teachers at the college level), I have developed a deep admiration for the work they do.

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Some schools teach financial literacy, but courses still in short supply

Karyn Saemann:

It's "payday" in Jill Strand's classroom at Glacier Edge Elementary School in Verona.

Strand's third-graders rush toward plastic bins crammed with parent-donated school supplies and trinkets, eager to cash the weekly mock paychecks issued by Strand for classroom jobs like collecting library books and checking desks for tidiness.

"They don't understand how much they're really learning," says Strand. "They see it as fun, free-choice time."

But in a sign that a deeper financial message is resonating, not all students are quick to part with the hard-earned classroom currency the paychecks are exchanged for. Kate Veak tucks her "Strand Bucks" away, saying she is saving for something bigger, like a hardcover book.

Strand recently chronicled her lessons in savings and investing in "Financial Literacy: TEACH IT!," a series of online teacher vignettes compiled by the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, which won a 2010 award from the Governor's Council on Financial Literacy for the project. Strand says she may soon introduce her third-graders to the concept of sales tax and is considering letting them borrow from their classroom bank, potentially leading to discussions about credit card interest and maybe even payday loans.

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June 5, 2010

Madison School District 2009-2010 $416,060,561 Budget Update through 4/30/2010

2.2MB PDF. Estimated 2009-2010 spending is $416,060,561, up from 2008-2009's 408,558,511.

The Teaching & Learning Department's budget (page 10) is up 6% from 7,895,226 in 2008-2009 to 8,379,130 in the current 2009-2010 budget.

The Superintendent's budget (page 12) is up 25% from 14,520,867 in 2008-2009 to 18,218,072 in 2009-2010.

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Madison School District Global Academy Resolution

236K PDF:

A consortium of school districts including: Belleville, Middelton Cross Plains, Mt. Horeb, Oregon, McFarland, Verona Area, Madison and Wisconsin Heights are actively and energetically seeking partnerships with business, academic and manufacturing sectors in the Dane County region in an effort to create and staff what is referred to as The Global Academy. The Global Academy will be a hybrid secondary / post-secondary learning environment designed primarily for high school juniors and seniors from the consortium districts. The Global Academy will provide specialized and advanced training in the following areas that culminate in two year or four year degrees: Architecture and Construction, HealthScience, InformationTechnology, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics


Regional, national and global need for specialized and advanced skills, along with growing competition for jobs that require those skills from advanced and developing countries is changing the curriculum landscape for high schools in the United States. In Wisconsin, public high schools are making valiant efforts to respond to this need, but struggle to do so given revenue caps and shrinking budgets. Neighboring school districts produce similar programs that are barely sustainable and represent an inefficient duplication of programs and services. A consortium of school districts providing specialized and advanced programs, pooling resources, talent and students is a much more viable and sustainable method ofproviding educational programs that prepare students for 21st Century career opportunities. Additionally, partnering with business, manufacturing and academic sectors will add expertise, latest trend information and greatly increased opportunities for obtaining certifications, advanced standing and credits in institutions of higher learning.

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Madison Metropolitan School District Student Conduct and Discipline Plan Part II:


The district has developed over time a very detailed Student Code of Conduct that clearly outlines student misbehavior and prescribes suspension and expulsion as the specific responses for some misbehavior. While the current code is clear regarding which misbehaviors require suspension and a recommendation for expulsion, it does not offer administrators a sufficient array of options that can be used to intervene in order to support behavior change in students when suspension and expulsion are not an appropriate consequence.

Current research shows that a reactive model in the absence of positive, proactive strategies is ineffective. As an evidence-based national model that has recently been adopted at the state level in Wisconsin, Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) provides the mechanism for schools to shift to data driven decision making and practices grounded in a tiered approach that emphasizes teaching, modeling and reinforcing pro-social skills and behavior. Many districts across the country are developing Codes of Conduct that align with the PBS Model.

As all elementary, middle and high schools move toward full implementation of Positive Behavior Supports (PBS), it is important that the Code of Conduct is aligned with the PBS model which is grounded in teaching appropriate behaviors to students and acknowledging students for learning and exhibiting positive behavior. PBS provides a framework for defining and teaching in positive terms what is expected from students as behavior expectations that are defined only by
Appendix LLL-12-11 June 14,2010
rules and "what not to do" provide an inadequate understanding for students and families.
The proposed Code o f Conduct represents a step toward improved alignment with the PBS model and reflects a shift in thinking from an approach that relies heavily on rules, consequences and reactive practices to an approach that provides a multi-tiered, progressive continuum of interventions to address a wide range of student behavior. While the current code is used primarily by administrators to determine which misbehaviors are appropriate for suspension and expulsion, the proposed code would also be used by teachers and other staff to determine which behaviors they are expected to handle in the classroom and which behaviors should be referred to the administrator or designee. It will provide all staff with multiple options in three (3) categories of intervention: Education, Restoration and Restriction (see details in attached chart). In addition, the proposed code presented in 'chart form' would be used as a teaching tool to give students a visual picture o f the increasing severity o f behaviors and the increasing intensity of interventions and consequences that result from engaging in inappropriate behaviors.

Related: Disciplinary Alternatives: Abeyance Option Phoenix Program:
The District has developed overtime, an extensive and very clear expulsion process, that is compliant with state and federal law, that focuses on procedure and is based on zero tolerance for some behaviors, In the 2007/08 school year, 198 students were recommended for expulsion with 64 actually being expelled. In the 2008/09, 182 students were recommended for expulsion with 44 actually being expelled.

Students are expelled from two to three semesters depending on the violation with an option to apply for early readmission after one semester if conditions are met. Approximately 72% of the students meet early readmission conditions and retum after one semester. Currently, no services are provided to regular education students who are expelled, Expelled special education students are entitled to receive Disciplinary Free Appropriate Public Education services.

Concems have been raised by members of the Board of Education, MMSD staff and community about the zero tolerance model, lack of services to expelled students and the significant disruption caused in the lives of these students, families and neighborhoods when students are expelled.

Approval is being sought for the implementation of an abeyance option, the Phoenix Program, including the budget, to be implemented at the beginning of the 2010/11 school year,

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Madison High School REal Grant Report to the School Board

Madison School District [4.6MB PDF]:

District administration, along with school leadership and school staff; have examined the research that shows thatfundamental change in education can only be accomplished by creating the opportunity for teachers to talk with one another regarding their instructional practice. The central theme and approach for REaL has heen to improve and enhance instructional practice through collaboration in order to increase student achievement. Special attention has been paid to ensure the work is done in a cross - district, interdepartmental and collaborative manner. Central to the work, are district and school based discussions focused on what skills and knowledge students need to know and be able to do, in order to be prepared for post-secondary education and work. Systemized discussions regarding curriculum aligmnent, course offerings, assessment systems, behavioral expectations and 21 st century skills are occurring across all four high schools and at the district level.

Collaborative professional development has been established to ensure that the work capitalizes on the expertise of current staff, furthers best practices that are already occurring within the MMSD high school classrooms, and enhances the skills of individuals at all levels from administration to classroom teachers needed. Our work to date has laid the foundation for further and more in-depth work to occur.

Since March of 2010, MMSD district and school staff has completed the following work to move the goals of the REaL Grant forward. Specific accomplishments aligning to REaL grant goals are listed below.

REaL Grant Goal 1: Improve Student Achievement for all students

  • Accomplishment I: Completed year 2 of professional development for Department Chairpersons to become instructional leaders. The work will continue this summer with the first ever Department Chairperson and Assistant Principal Summer Institute to focus on leading and fostering teacher collaboration in order to improve student achievement.
  • Accomplishment 2: Continued with planning for implementing the ACT Career and College Readiness Standards and the EP AS system. Visited with area districts to see the
    impact of effective implementation the EP AS system in order to ensure successful implementation within MMSD.
  • Accomplishment 3: Piloted the implementation of the EXPLORE test at Memorial, Sherman and with 9th grade AVID students at all four comprehensive high schools.
  • Accomplishment 4: This summer, in partnership with Monona Grove High School and Association of Wisconsin School Administrators (AWSA), MMSD will host the Aligned by Design: Aligning High School and Middle School English, Science, Math and Social Studies Courses to College/Career Readiness Skills. To be attended by teams of MMSD high school and middle school staff in July of 2010.
  • Accomplishment 5: Continued focused planning and development of a master communication system for the possible implementation of early release Professional Collaboration Time at MMSD High Schools. Schools have developed plans for effective teaming structures and accountability measures.
  • Accomplishment 6: District English leadership team developed recommendations for essential understandings in the areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening for 9th and 10th grades. Following this successful model, similar work will occur in Math, Science and Social studies.
Related: Small Learning Community and English 10.

Bruce King, who evaluated the West High's English 9 (one English class for all students) approach offers observations on the REal program beginning on page 20 of the PDF file.

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Does the Internet Make You Smarter or Dumber?

Clay Shirky:

Digital media have made creating and disseminating text, sound, and images cheap, easy and global. The bulk of publicly available media is now created by people who understand little of the professional standards and practices for media.

Instead, these amateurs produce endless streams of mediocrity, eroding cultural norms about quality and acceptability, and leading to increasingly alarmed predictions of incipient chaos and intellectual collapse.

But of course, that's what always happens. Every increase in freedom to create or consume media, from paperback books to YouTube, alarms people accustomed to the restrictions of the old system, convincing them that the new media will make young people stupid. This fear dates back to at least the invention of movable type.

As Gutenberg's press spread through Europe, the Bible was translated into local languages, enabling direct encounters with the text; this was accompanied by a flood of contemporary literature, most of it mediocre. Vulgar versions of the Bible and distracting secular writings fueled religious unrest and civic confusion, leading to claims that the printing press, if not controlled, would lead to chaos and the dismemberment of European intellectual life.

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Race to Sanity

David Brooks:

First, Obama and the education secretary, Arne Duncan, set up a contest. They put down $4.5 billion in Race to the Top money. They issued some general guidelines about what kind of reforms states would have to adopt to get the money. And then they fired the starting gun.

Reformers in at least 23 states have passed reform laws in hopes of getting some of the dough. Some of the state laws represent incremental progress and some represent substantial change. The administration has hung tough, demanding real reform in exchange for dollars. Over all, there's been a tremendous amount of movement in a brief time.

This is not heavy-handed Washington command-and-control. This is Washington energizing diverse communities of reformers, locality by locality, and giving them more leverage in their struggles against the defenders of the status quo.

Second, the Obama administration used the power of the presidency to break through partisan gridlock. Over the past decade, teacher unions and their allies have become proficient in beating back Republican demands for more charters, accountability and choice. But Obama has swung behind a series of bipartisan reformers who are also confronting union rigidity.

In Rhode Island, the Central Falls superintendent, Frances Gallo, fired all the teachers at one failing school. The unions fought back. Obama sided with Gallo, sending shock waves nationwide. If the president had the guts to confront a sacred Democratic interest group in order to jolt a failing school, then change was truly in the air. Gallo got the concessions she needed to try to improve that school.

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How brain drains will save the world

Jay Matthews:

In this era of rising college expectations -- more applications, more students and more university places than ever -- we Americans remain very insular. We think nothing can be better than Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford or some other moldy brick institution high on the U.S. News list. A few adventurous U.S. students are enrolling in Canadian and British schools, but nobody talks about that in the high school cafeteria or the PTA.

Our self-regard is, in some ways, justified. On most international ratings, one of the topics of Ben Wildavsky's intriguing new book "The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World," U.S. colleges still dominate the top 10. But Wildavsky reveals that that will probably change. Students in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America are beginning to speak as knowledgeably about France's Ecole Polytechnique, the Indian Institutes of Technology and Britain's University of Leicester as they do about Columbia and Caltech. Many foreign universities are catching up with ours.

In our comfortable spot at the top of the world's higher ed pyramid, we are ignoring one of the most powerful trends of the 21st century -- a growing free trade in great minds. Wildavsky, a senior fellow in research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, argues that this will make this era more innovative, and more prosperous, than any that human civilization has seen.

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Higher-ed association attacks three-year degree

Daniel de Vise:

The number of colleges that offer bachelor's degrees in three years can be counted on two (or three) hands. They include Lake Forest College in Illinois, Southern New Hampshire University, Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., and, in a recent conversion, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The three-year degree has spawned a round of news coverage and, last month, an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by the former president of George Washington University.

"The college experience may be idyllic," Stephen Joel Trachtenberg wrote, "but it's also wasteful and expensive, both for students and institutions."

Trachtenberg, who co-wrote the piece with GWU professor Gerald Kauvar, floated the idea of a three-year degree during his tenure at the Foggy Bottom university.

That piece drew enough notice to prompt a rebuttal, released today by the president of the Association of American College and Universities, a D.C. nonprofit advocating for the cause of liberal education.

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How to help struggling schools in a budget crisis

Jay Matthews:

Daniel A. Domenech arrived in Fairfax County 13 years ago as the new schools superintendent.

He was a former elementary school teacher with a reputation for raising achievement for low-income students. But he had to prove himself, fast, in difficult circumstances. Many Fairfax schools, particularly in the Route 1 corridor, were doing worse than the county average in math and reading, and many parents did not want to hear about it.

Domenech launched Project Excel, identifying 20 elementary schools as low-performing and giving them more class time and money to improve. But at community forums, people asked him why he was stigmatizing schools full of good people trying their best. Domenech shook his head. "If you are satisfied with the education your kids are getting, this is fine," he said. "But I'm not."

When he left seven years later, many Excel schools had turned around, and Domenech was a national figure, eventually becoming executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. Now his successor, School Superintendent Jack D. Dale, faces his own crisis: deep budget cuts that have ended the Excel program that made Domenech's reputation. I asked the former superintendent how he felt about that.

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NJEA criticizes documentary on corruption in public education system

Eric Goodman:

Education and business leaders who screened filmmaker Bob Bowdon's film "The Cartel," a pro-school-choice documentary detailing waste and corruption in New Jersey's education system, praised it for illuminating a difficult and important issue.

"Really well done," said Johnathan Reale of Mine Hill. "I think it was a good piece of advocacy journalism."

But those who weren't at the Rialto Theatre in Westfield Wednesday night -- and who saw the movie earlier -- had a different take on the two-hour film.

"It's one-sided," said Steve Baker, the New Jersey Education Association's associate director for public relations. R20;It's propaganda; that was their intent. The whole thing was very fast and loose with the facts."

Bowdon, a first-time filmmaker, released the documentary in October 2009 after spending two years working on it.

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June 4, 2010

Competing Merit Pay Studies

Chad Aldeman:

The Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) is a model merit pay* program being replicated all across the country. TAP awards teachers performance bonuses of $1-6,000 based on their impact on student achievement and observations in classrooms. Additionally, TAP selects master teachers to serve as mentors to less-experienced or struggling peers, and the mentors are eligible for $7-15,000 bonuses. It's a promising model that's likely to receive a significant boost from President Obama's increase in funding for the federal Teacher Incentive Fund.

Yet, recent research on TAP's implementation in Chicago schools found it to have no impact on student achievement or teacher retention. Some people are hailing this as the failure of the entire idea of compensating teachers for their observed performance, but let's slow down a little bit and consider the Chicago findings alongside the results of another large-scale merit pay evaluations, notably, the one for Denver's ProComp. Unlike TAP, teachers participating in ProComp were more likely to stay in their school and did improve learning outcomes for children.

The biggest lesson to learn from these evaluations is that not all experiments in merit pay are created equal. Unlike TAP, the option to participate in ProComp is available to individual teachers, so there's likely to be greater evidence of teachers selecting into the option that fits them best. Similarly, because all incoming teachers are part of ProComp, Denver may attract different types of teachers who want to work there. This is exactly what happened: the greatest changes attributable to ProComp manifest because of the composition of the teaching workforce, not because individuals have a particular incentive in a given year.

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High school students face hard lesson in economics

Terence Chea & Christine Armario:

Students graduating from high school this spring may be collecting their diplomas just in time, leaving institutions that are being badly weakened by the nation's economic downturn.

Across the country, mass layoffs of teachers, counselors and other staff members -- caused in part by the drying up of federal stimulus dollars -- are leading to larger classes and reductions in everything that is not a core subject, including music, art, clubs, sports and other after-school activities.

Educators and others worry the cuts could lead to higher dropout rates and lower college attendance as students receive less guidance and become less engaged in school. They fear a generation of young people could be left behind.

"It's going to be harder for everybody to get an opportunity to get into college," said Chelsea Braza, a 16-year-old sophomore at Silver Creek High School in San Jose. "People wouldn't be as motivated to do anything in school because there's no activities and there's no involvement."

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US court weighs school discipline for Web posts

MaryClaire Dale:

A U.S. appeals court heard arguments Thursday over whether school officials can discipline students for making lewd, harassing or juvenile Internet postings from off-campus computers.

Two students from two different Pennsylvania school districts are fighting suspensions they received for posting derisive profiles of their principals on MySpace from home computers. The American Civil Liberties Union argued that school officials infringe on student's free speech rights when they reach beyond school grounds in such cases to impose discipline.

"While children are in school, they are under the custody and tutelage of the school," ACLU lawyer Witold Walczak argued Thursday in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "Once they leave the schoolhouse gate, you've got parents that come into play."

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A Breakthrough for Local-Control-Loving U.S. Schools

Pat Wingert:

It's a moment many education reformers have dreamed of for decades and many thought they'd never see: a set of high-quality national education standards designed to set a higher bar for American schools that states seem eager to adopt. The goal, much discussed since George H. W. Bush was president, was finally accomplished because the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (rather than the federal government) took the lead, and states were invited to join the process voluntarily. In a country where local control of schools often outranks other educational considerations, the key to success was finding a way to create national but not federal standards.

The lack of nation-wide education standards has long been a key difference between US schools and those of most other developed countries, many of which score higher on international comparisons.

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Wisconsin schools commit to Common Core State Standards

Erin Richards:

To help make sure schoolchildren around the country are learning the same grade-by-grade information necessary for success in college and life after high school, Wisconsin's schools chief Wednesday formally committed the state to adopting a set of national education standards.

The long-awaited Common Core State Standards for English and math, released Wednesday, define the knowledge and skills children should be learning from kindergarten through graduation, a move intended to put the United States on par with other developed countries and to make it easier to compare test scores from state to state.

"These standards are aligned with college and career expectations, will ensure academic consistency throughout the state and across other states that adopt them, and have been benchmarked against international standards for high-performing countries," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said in a news release Wednesday.

Wisconsin already had pledged to support the common standards. A draft report released in March solicited public comment on the standards, which were subsequently tweaked before the final document was released Wednesday.

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Illness in Children After International Travel: Analysis From the GeoSentinel Surveillance Network

Stefan Hagmann, MD, MSca, Richard Neugebauer, PhD, MPHb, Eli Schwartz, MDc, Cecilia Perret, MDd, Francesco Castelli, MDe, Elizabeth D. Barnett, MDf, William M. Stauffer, MDg, for the GeoSentinel Surveillance Network:

OBJECTIVE By using a large, multicenter database, we investigated the characteristics and morbidities of 1591 children returning from 218 global destinations and presenting for care in 19 countries.

METHODS Data reported to the GeoSentinel Surveillance Network between January 1997 and November 2007 were analyzed, to assess demographic features, travel characteristics, and clinical diagnoses of ill pediatric travelers. Data were compared between children and adults and among 3 pediatric age groups (0-5 years, 6-11 years, and 12-17 years).

RESULTS Children were predominantly tourist travelers returning from Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, or Latin America. Compared with adults, children disproportionately presented within 7 days after return, required hospitalization, lacked pretravel health advice, and had traveled for the purpose of visiting friends and relatives. Diarrhea (28%), dermatologic conditions (25%), systemic febrile illnesses (23%), and respiratory disorders (11%) accounted for the majority of diagnoses reported for children. No fatalities were reported. Diarrhea occurred disproportionately among children after exposure to the Middle East/North Africa, dermatologic conditions after exposure to Latin America, systemic febrile illnesses after exposure to sub-Saharan Africa or Asia, and respiratory disorders after exposure to Europe or North America. The proportionate morbidity rates of travel-associated diseases differed among the pediatric age groups and between children and adults.

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June 3, 2010

Wal-Mart partners with online school to offer college credit to workers

Ylan Mui:

Here's a new way to look at Wal-Mart: institution of higher learning.

Under a program announced Thursday, employees will be able to receive college credit for performing their jobs, including such tasks as loading trucks and ringing up purchases. Workers could earn as much as 45 percent of the credits needed for an associate or bachelor's degree while on the job.

The credits are earned through the Internet-based American Public University, with headquarters in Charles Town, W.Va., and administrative offices in Manassas.

"We want to provide you with more ways and faster ways to succeed with us," Eduardo Castro-Wright, head of Wal-Mart's U.S. division, told 4,000 employees during the company's annual meeting. The program is designed to encourage more workers to climb the corporate ladder. Though Wal-Mart says about 70 percent of its managers begin as hourly employees, it estimates that about half of its staff do not hold college degrees.

Jaymes Murphy, 24, a salesman from Victoria, Tex., who was at the annual meeting, said he tried for several years to juggle work and school with little success. He would attend class from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then sprint to his job as a cashier at Wal-Mart from 3 p.m. to midnight. He eventually quit school but he dreams of getting a bachelor's degree in political science or communications.

"It gets stressful," he said. The program would allow him to "not have to worry about sacrificing one or the other."

Smart. A great example of thinking different in an effort to address costs and benefits.

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A Study on How Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship program impacts public schools

David Figlio and Cassandra Hart [340K PDF]:

School choice option including both voucher and neo-voucher options like tuition tax credit funded scholarship programs have become increasingly prevalent in recent years (Howell, Peterson, Wolf and Campbell, 2006). One popular argument for school choice policies is that public schools will improve the education they offer when faced with competition for students. Because state funds are tied to student enrollment, losing students to private schools
constitutes a financial loss to public schools. If schools face the threat of losing students and the state funds attached to those students--to private schools, they should be incentivized to cultivate customer (i.e., parental) satisfaction by operating more efficiently and improving on the outcomes valued by students and parents (Friedman, 1962).

Alternatively, vouchers may have unintended negative effects on public schools if they draw away the most involved families from public schools and the monitoring of those schools diminishes, allowing schools to reduce effort put into educating students (McMillan, 2004).1

It is notoriously difficult to gauge the competitive effects of private schools on public
school performance because private school supply and public school performance affect each other dynamically (Dee, 1998; McEwan, 2000). In cross-section, the relationship between private school supply and public school performance could plausibly be either upward-biased or downward-biased. On the one hand, private schools may disproportionately locate in communities with low-quality public schools. In such a case, the estimated relationship between private school penetration and public school performance would be downward-biased. On the other hand, if private schools locate in areas with high valuation of educational quality, then the

Jay Greene has more.

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Schools policy 'more to do with media than evidence'


Pressure for quick fixes can outweigh research evidence when ministers set schools policy, according to a study of three decades of education initiatives.

Media pressure and political expediency are more likely to influence decision making, says a report from the CfBT education charity.

The report draws upon interviews with former ministers and civil servants.

It calls for the setting up of an independent chief education officer to give objective advice.

The report, Instinct or Reason, due to be published next week, examines the pressures that have shaped education policy since the late-1970s, across Conservative and Labour administrations.

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Know your School, District, and State Guide lines on Summer Homework

Sara Bennett:

Yes ter day, I wrote about just a few of the rea sons I am opposed to sum­mer home work. Of course that doesn't mean I am opposed to read ing for plea sure, learn ing for plea sure, or pur su ing one's pas sions. I'm just opposed to the school send ing home the same kind of work it sends home dur ing the school year - work that is mostly an after thought, is busy­work, and doesn't engage a student.

Before you resign your self to sum mer home work, though, make sure that your school is com ply ing with all poli cies and guidelines.

Take a few min utes and check your school's pol icy. You might be sur­prised to find that it for bids sum mer home work. If it does, just give your school prin ci pal a friendly call and remind her/him of the pol icy. But if your school pol icy doesn't pro hibit sum mer home work, don't stop there. Be sure to check the dis trict and state guide lines as well.

This is how you check the state guidelines:

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Governors' Group Seeks National Education Standards

Stephanie Banchero:

A group representing governors and state school chiefs laid out a detailed blueprint Wednesday of the skills students should learn at each grade level, reinvigorating the battle over what some see as an attempt to usurp local control of schools.

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the concept of common standards but haven't promised to adopt them. If they do, it could trigger wide-scale changes to state tests, textbooks and teacher-education programs nationwide.

The Common Core State Standards detail the math and language-arts knowledge children should master to prepare them for college and the work force.

The blueprint doesn't tell teachers exactly what to teach or how to teach but lays out broad goals for student achievement. Kindergartners, for example, should know how to count to 100 by tens, and eighth-graders should be able to determine an author's point of view. Currently, each state sets its own academic benchmarks, and the rigor varies widely.

Sam Dillon has more.

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In Teacher Layoffs, Seniority Rules. But Should It?

Larry Abramson:

School districts around the country are planning massive layoffs as they struggle to bridge big budget deficits.

And as they select which teachers go and which ones stay, many can only use one factor as their guide: seniority. Many districts will have to cast out effective teachers, because local contracts and even state laws require it.

Like many of his counterparts around the country, Cleveland schools CEO Eugene Sanders is facing a monster $54 million spending gap.

According to Sanders, there's no room left to trim, and he may have to shed more than 500 teachers. He says that when he sent out pink slips earlier this year, he had no flexibility.

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Challenge on 21st Century Cyber Schools

InnoCentive and The Economist are teaming up to connect InnoCentive's talented community, The Economist's millions of readers and the rest of the world with The Economist conference series entitled the Ideas Economy.

As part of The Economist and InnoCentive's Challenge Program for the upcoming Ideas Economy Conference Series,The Economist is seeking insights on the topic of the 21st Cyber Schools.

Solvers from any discipline or background are invited to participate. The winner of this Challenge will receive a cash prize of $10,000 and be elevated to the position of 'Speaker' at The Economist's Ideas Economy: Human Potential event on September 15-16th in New York.

Many more details are provided in the Challenge's Detailed Description section once you create and login to your free InnoCentive Solver account.

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Study: A Cigarette A Month Can Get A Kid Hooked

Brenda Wilson:

Teenage smoking is often thought of as kind of innocent experiment, but a drag on a friend's cigarette may be the beginning of something that will be hard to shake.

A study of adolescent smokers in the journal Pediatrics tracks the course of addiction to nicotine among a group of sixth-graders. After following 1,246 middle-school children for four years, researchers say a pattern emerged of occasional smoking that led to an addiction to tobacco: A cigarette a month will do it.

"When people are just wanting a cigarette, every now and then, they think they just enjoy smoking," says study coauthor Dr. Joseph DiFranza of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. "As time passes, then they start to notice they will crave a cigarette. So even when they are with someone who is not smoking, something will pop into their mind that will tell them it is time for a cigarette."

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Irish School absenteeism still high

Charlie Taylor:

A new report published today shows that school absenteeism in Ireland remains high.

The report show that over 57,000 students miss school each day. Approximately 31,500 of truants are primary students and 26,000, post-primary students. This equates to a loss of 12 school days per student per year in primary school and 13 days in post-primary school.

The new data, is contained in a National Educational Welfare Board's report which calculates attendance from the academic years 2006/07 to 2007/08.

NEWB's study reveals that about 58,000 or 12 per cent of all primary school students and 57,000 or 17 per cent of post-primary students are absent for 20 days or more per year.

Close to 17,000 pupils are suspended from school every year with another 150 students expelled.

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Parents plow hopes and savings into new school for children with autism

Shawn Doherty via a kind reader's email:

It started out as the dreaming of a lonely mother overwhelmed and held captive by the challenges of raising twin toddlers with autism, each of whom required up to 43 hours a week of intensive in-home therapy. There should be a refuge where she and others struggling with the devastating developmental disorder could find respite, company, play groups and therapy, Jackie Moen thought. As her boys grew, so did her dreams. Why couldn't schools build curriculum around these children's unique talents and needs, rather than forcing many of them to fall short of the rigid classroom norms?

And so Jackie and her husband Ken, joined by a passionate group of other parents, teachers and therapists, have set out to create such a place themselves. In 2007, they bought an old brick schoolhouse in McFarland and poured their savings and a pool of grants and contributions into renovating it into a homey space with donated couches, sunlit classrooms and gleaming wood floors. As soon as the Common Threads Family Resource Center opened in 2007, director of operations Ellen Egen recalls, "the phone calls just kept coming." Hundreds of children and desperate family members flocked to the cheerful schoolhouse for an array of activities not available elsewhere, including play groups, teen therapy sessions, respite care and mental health counseling. "It grew like magic," Moen, now the center's director, recalls.

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June 2, 2010

1 competitor, 1 spelling bee _ 20,000 note cards

Joseph White:

One of the favorites to win this year's National Spelling Bee lay face down on his living room floor wearing a black shirt, blue jeans and white socks, his torso supported by a couple of big pillows. His hands seemed to be on nonstop autopilot as they folded colorful paper into origami shapes.

Across the room in a big chair sat his younger brother. Between them were stacks and stacks of oversized, homemade note cards, bound by rubber bands and arranged like a city skyline on a large footstool. They are only a fraction of some 20,000 cards in the house, each printed with a word, its origin, pronunciation and definition.

These particular stacks contained the really hard words, the ones 13-year-old Tim Ruiter hadn't mastered yet.

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Learning by Degrees - Is College Worth It?

Rebecca Mead:

A member of the Class of 2010--who this season dons synthetic cap and gown, listens to the inspirational words of David Souter (Harvard), Anderson Cooper (Tulane), or Lisa Kudrow (Vassar), and collects a diploma--need not be a statistics major to know that the odds of stepping into a satisfying job, or, indeed, any job, are lower now than might have been imagined four long years ago, when the first posters were hung on a dorm-room wall, and having a .edu e-mail address was still a novelty. Statistically speaking, however, having an expertise in statistics may help in getting a job: according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, graduates with math skills are more likely than their peers in other majors to find themselves promptly and gainfully employed.

The safest of all degrees to be acquiring this year is in accounting: forty-six per cent of graduates in that discipline have already been offered jobs. Business majors are similarly placed: forty-four per cent will have barely a moment to breathe before undergoing the transformation from student to suit. Engineers of all stripes--chemical, computer, electrical, mechanical, industrial, environmental--have also fared relatively well since the onset of the recession: they dominate a ranking, issued by, of the disciplines that produce the best-earning graduates. Particular congratulations are due to aerospace engineers, who top the list, with a starting salary of just under sixty thousand dollars--a figure that, if it is not exactly stratospheric, is twenty-five thousand dollars higher than the average starting salary of a graduate in that other science of the heavens, theology.

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The Search World Is Flat

Frederic Filloux:

How does Google's unchallenged domination of Search shape the way we retrieve information? Does Google flatten global knowledge?
I look around, I see my kids relying on Wikipedia, I watch my journalist students work. I can't help but wonder: Does Google impose a framework on our cognitive processes, on the way we search for and use information?

Two weeks ago, at an INMA conference in Oxford, I met Monica Bulger, an Education PhD, she was giving a speech covering the notion of cognitive containers associated with devices such as the iPad (see her blog). Then, at a dinner at Exeter College, in a room right out of a Harry Potter movie set, she discussed her work at the University of California Santa Barbara where she investigated her students' use of Web searches.

Dr. Bulger took 150 graduate and undergraduate students and asked them to write a 1 to 2 pages recommendation for the use of computers in the classroom (she verified that the question was not already treated in Wikipedia). They had 50 minutes to complete the assignment.

The goal of the experiment was 'to disprove the fact that information is simply a matter of access, and after that, everything else is easy. I wanted to show the highly sophisticated cognitive process taking place. No matter how sophisticated machines are, research still requires a bit of work'.

Among her findings (details here):

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Call for Kids' Mental-Health Checks

Shirley Wang:

Pediatricians should screen children for possible mental health issues at every doctor visit, according to new, extensive recommendations a national pediatrician group issued Tuesday.

These doctors also should develop a network of mental-health professionals in the community to whom they can send patients if they suspect a child needs further evaluation, according to the task force on mental health convened by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The recommendations were made in a series of reports published in a supplement to the journal Pediatrics.

In recent years, pediatricians and mental health professionals have been calling for increased attention to mental health in primary-care settings because of growing rates of disorders in children such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and anxiety.

At the same time, there is a shortage of child mental-health experts, particularly psychiatrists. While 21% of U.S. children and adolescents have a diagnosable mental illness, only one-fifth of that group receives treatment, according to the academy.

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The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains

Nicholas Carr:

During the winter of 2007, a UCLA professor of psychiatry named Gary Small recruited six volunteers--three experienced Web surfers and three novices--for a study on brain activity. He gave each a pair of goggles onto which Web pages could be projected. Then he slid his subjects, one by one, into the cylinder of a whole-brain magnetic resonance imager and told them to start searching the Internet. As they used a handheld keypad to Google various preselected topics--the nutritional benefits of chocolate, vacationing in the Galapagos Islands, buying a new car--the MRI scanned their brains for areas of high activation, indicated by increases in blood flow.

The two groups showed marked differences. Brain activity of the experienced surfers was far more extensive than that of the newbies, particularly in areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with problem-solving and decisionmaking. Small then had his subjects read normal blocks of text projected onto their goggles; in this case, scans revealed no significant difference in areas of brain activation between the two groups. The evidence suggested, then, that the distinctive neural pathways of experienced Web users had developed because of their Internet use.

The most remarkable result of the experiment emerged when Small repeated the tests six days later. In the interim, the novices had agreed to spend an hour a day online, searching the Internet. The new scans revealed that their brain activity had changed dramatically; it now resembled that of the veteran surfers. "Five hours on the Internet and the naive subjects had already rewired their brains," Small wrote. He later repeated all the tests with 18 more volunteers and got the same results.

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The Otherworldly Attack on Public Education

Carl Bloice:

The crisis in U.S. public education is beginning to read like something out of the theater of the absurd.

Now they are getting rid of summer school.

The Associated Press reported Sunday: "Across the country, districts are cutting summer school because it's just too expensive to keep. The cuts started when the recession began and have worsened, affecting more children and more essential programs that help struggling students." A survey found that over one third of the school districts in the country are looking at cutting out summer school starting this fall. And who are the students who will be hit hardest by this move? "Experts say studies show summer break tends to widen the achievement gap between poor students and their more affluent peers whose parents can more easily afford things like educational vacations, camps and sports teams," said AP.

"Most people generally think summer is a great time for kids to be kids, a time for something different, a time for all kinds of exploration and enrichment," Ron Fairchild, chief executive officer of the National Summer Learning Association, told the news agency. "Our mythology about summer learning really runs counter to the reality of what this really is like for kids in low-income communities and for their families when this faucet of public support shuts off."

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Teenage Unemployment Rate: Willful Economic Illiteracy or Dishonest Reporting

Value Added:

The New York Times reports:

"[...]The unemployment rate for the 16-to-24 age group reached a record 19.6 percent in April, double the national average..."

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Documentary on farming at Detroit school gets recognition as subject might move

David Runk:

A documentary from a pair of Dutch filmmakers about urban farming at a Detroit school for pregnant teens and young mothers is getting wider recognition as the school's program faces the prospect of being uprooted.

Mascha and Manfred Poppenk made "Grown in Detroit" first for Dutch public television and began screening it last year. It focuses on the Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women, which has its own working farm.

"This is really a film Americans should see," Mascha Poppenk said. "They need to see there are good things going on in Detroit."

The building that houses Catherine Ferguson could be closed in June and its program moved to another one about a mile away. It's part of a plan announced in March by district emergency financial manager Robert Bobb to close 44 schools.

Detroit Public Schools, which is fighting years of declining enrolment and a $219 million budget deficit, closed 29 schools before the start of classes last fall and shuttered 35 buildings about three years ago.

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Charges: DeKalb Schools' Reid led scam

Tim Eberly:

Crawford Lewis was the leading man for DeKalb County's school system. But when it comes to the accusations in his indictment last week, he appeared to be more of a supporting character to the woman who ran the district's construction program.

In a 127-page indictment handed down Wednesday, Lewis is portrayed as a superintendent who turned a blind eye to violations of district policy and state law, compromising himself for little in return.

If Lewis was a secondary figure, his former chief operating officer, Patricia "Pat" Reid, has been painted as the star of this unfolding drama -- a construction expert who duped school board members and steered work to her husband.

Reid's husband at the time, Tucker architect Tony Pope, is depicted as a businessman ready to get a bigger piece of the pie. Their 2005 marriage was annulled in April, but prior to that Reid was known as Pat Pope.

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June 1, 2010

School testing gets absurd Computer program suggests Madison third-grader read A Clockwork Orange

Ruth Conniff:

A few weeks ago my friend's 8-year-old came home all excited, waving a letter from school about a test called the Scholastic Reading Inventory.

Not only did the little boy have test results showing he'd scored well above the third-grade level (no surprise to anyone who knows this avid reader), he also had a list of recommended books. Number one on the list: Arctic Dreams. Number two: A Clockwork Orange.

A Clockwork Orange?

His mom gently took the list away and scanned the titles before explaining that she would not be getting a dystopian novel about ultraviolence for her third-grader (or, for that matter, most of the other recommended books, including Guns of August, Left for Dead, and Kafka's Metamorphosis). Then she called her son's school, Shorewood Elementary, to ask what was going on.

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Race to Top Leaves Some School Reformers Weary

Stephanie Banchero:

President Barack Obama's signature education initiative has encouraged the overhaul of state laws governing charter schools, teacher evaluations and student-testing systems.

But ahead of the Tuesday deadline for states to apply for the second phase of Race to the Top, some education reformers were complaining the changes have not been as bold or widespread as expected.

"It's the dog that didn't bark," said Andy Smarick, a former education department official under George W. Bush who supports the initiative. "I don't want to underplay what has happened, but we have not seen revolutionary changes from coast to coast."

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Comments on the Madison School District's Budget

Susan Troller:

Madison's public school budget process is lurching to a preliminary close tonight -- final numbers will be available in October after the state revenue picture is clear and district enrollment will be set. Tonight there's a public meeting at 5 p.m. at the Doyle Building for last minute pleas and entreaties, 545 West Dayton St., followed by a School Board workshop session, which is likely to include some additional budget amendments from board members. Current projections suggest there will be an increase of about $225 property tax increase on the average $250,000 home.

It's been a particularly painful process this time around, as illustrated by a recent e-mail I got. It came from one of my favorite teachers and said that due to some of the recent budget amendments, the Madison school district's elementary school health offices would no longer be able to provide band-aids for teachers to use in their classrooms. Instead, children would be required to bring them from home with other supplies, like tissues or crayons.

Related: Madison Schools' 2010-2011 Budget Amendments: Task Force Spending Moratorium, Increase consulting, travel and Professional Development Spending.

A Madison School District Property Tax Increase Outlook (39% over the next 6 years) including 4 Year Old Kindergarten (4K).

Madison School District's 2009-2010 Citizen's Budget Released ($421,333,692 Gross Expenditures, $370,287,471 Net); an Increase of $2,917,912 from the preliminary $418,415,780 2009-2010 Budget.

Much more on the 2010-2011 Madison School District Budget here.

The Madison School District = General Motors?:

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman spoke to the Madison Rotary Club on "What Wisconsin's Public Education Model Needs to Learn from General Motors Before it is too late." 7MB mp3 audio (the audio quality is not great, but you can hear the talk if you turn up the volume!).

Zimman's talk ranged far and wide. He discussed Wisconsin's K-12 funding formula (it is important to remember that school spending increases annually (from 1987 to 2005, spending grew by 5.10% annually in Wisconsin and 5.25% in the Madison School District), though perhaps not in areas some would prefer.

"Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk - the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It's as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands." Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI's vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the "impossibility" of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars ("Similar to GM"; "worry" about the children given this situation).

Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district's financial condition @17:30) when considering a District's ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated..... "we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment" and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn."

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No magic bullet for education America keeps looking for one simple solution for its education shortcomings. There isn't one.

Los Angeles Times:

The "unschooling" movement of the 1970s featured open classrooms, in which children studied what they were most interested in, when they felt ready. That was followed by today's back-to-basics, early-start model, in which students complete math worksheets in kindergarten and are supposed to take algebra by eighth grade at the latest. Under the "whole language" philosophy of the 1980s, children were expected to learn to read by having books read to them. By the late 1990s, reading lessons were dominated by phonics, with little time spent on the joys of what reading is all about -- unlocking the world of stories and information.

A little more than a decade ago, educators bore no responsibility for their students' failure; it was considered the fault of the students, their parents and unequal social circumstances. Now schools are held liable for whether students learn, regardless of the students' lack of effort or previous preparation, and are held solely accountable for reaching unrealistic goals of achievement.

No wonder schools have a chronic case of educational whiplash. If there's a single aspect of schooling that ought to end, it's the decades of abrupt and destructive swings from one extreme to another. There is no magic in the magic-bullet approach to learning. Charters are neither evil nor saviors; they can be a useful complement to public schools, but they have not blazed a sure-fire path to student achievement. Decreeing that all students will be proficient in math and reading by 2014 hasn't moved us dramatically closer to the mark.

Diffused governance, is, in my view, the best way forward. This means that communities should offer a combination of public, private, virtual, charter and voucher options. A diversity of K-12 approaches insures that a one size fits all race to the bottom does not prevail. I was very disappointed to recently learn that Wisconsin's Democrat Senator Russ Feingold voted to kill the Washington, DC voucher program. No K-12 approach is perfect, but eliminating that option for the poorest members of our society is simply unpalatable.

Somewhat related Lee Bergquist and Erin Richards: Wisconsin Governor Candidate Mark Neumann taps public funds for private schools

Republican businessman Mark Neumann started his first taxpayer-funded school with 49 students, and in eight years enrollment has mushroomed to nearly 1,000 students in four schools.

Neumann, a candidate for governor who preaches smaller government and fiscal conservatism, has used his entrepreneurial skills to tap private and public funds - including federal stimulus dollars - to start schools in poor neighborhoods.

The former member of the U.S. House operates three religious-based schools in Milwaukee, a fourth nonreligious school in Phoenix and has plans to build clusters of schools across the country.

The Nashotah businessman is part of a growing national movement from the private sector that is providing poor neighborhoods an alternative to traditional public schools.

There are signs the schools are achieving one of their primary goals of getting students into post-secondary schools.

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Gender Gap for the Gifted in City Schools

Sharon Otterman:

When the kindergartners at the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, one of New York City's schools for gifted students, form neat boy-girl rows for the start of recess, the lines of girls reach well beyond the lines of boys.

A similar imbalance exists at gifted schools in East Harlem, where almost three-fifths of the students at TAG Young Scholars are girls, and the Lower East Side, where Alec Kulakowski, a seventh grader at New Explorations in Science and Technology and Math, considered his status as part of the school's second sex and remarked, "It's kind of weird and stuff."

Weird or not, the disparity at the three schools is not all that different from the gender makeup at similar programs across the city: though the school system over all is 51 percent male, its gifted classrooms generally have more girls.

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Going to school in Haiti after the earthquake

Afua Hirsch:

Traumatised by the destruction of their homes and lives, Haiti's children are finding some refuge in schools resurrected from the rubble

If there is a drier, dustier, more desolate place in the Caribbean I'd be amazed to see it. A few weeks ago, this vast space in Haiti now know as Corail Cesselesse was a vast scraggly grassland about 20km outside the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Now, after the 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on 12 January, it is home to several thousand of the 1.5 million who have been displaced. Many are children - in a country where half the population is under 18 - and for those who have moved to giant camps, they have also been uprooted from their homes, their families and their schools.

Corail is an official camp - the product of inter-agency co-operation and government consent - and there is plenty of evidence of the foreign money pouring into the country in the aftermath of the earthquake. It is guarded by armed UN guards, and there are well-organised latrines and water tanks.

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Interest in Chinese language soaring in Indiana

Associated Press:

Nearly four dozen public and private schools in Indiana are offering Chinese language instruction for credit as part of an effort to make Mandarin Chinese the next world language.

Many of the programs are taught by Chinese educators through a collaboration between the College Board and Hanban, a government-funded organization affiliated with the Chinese Education Ministry.

Since 2006, China has sent more than 325 "guest teachers" to work in U.S. schools to help launch Chinese language programs. The teachers can stay for three years, then reapply to stay for another three years.

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New Jersey education commissioner prefers 'educational effectiveness' over seniority when cutting teacher jobs

Bob Braun:

Bret Schundler is like no education commissioner the state has ever had. He's not an educator, but a businessman and a politician. He is more of an advocate for private schools than for public schools. He is a true believer in parental choice, something he deems "a human right."

And, in the midst of an ugly fight between his governor and the state's largest teachers union, his spokesman refers to New Jersey schools as "wretched" -- just when they led the nation in a countrywide test of educational achievement.

Okay, so he repudiated the word "wretched" when legislators and educators protested -- but what does he really think of the public schools he is constitutionally sworn to support?
That's not an easy question to answer, even after sitting with Schundler for three hours and talking about the schools.

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Iterative Development

Tom Vander Ark:

Qualcom technologist Marie Bjerede wonders if the top-down reform model doesn't work, why there's not more iterative development:
In the software world, we address this dilemma through an iterative development model. That is, we assume that when we are thinking about what users might need or how they will use our product, we will get some things wrong. So we code up some simple end-to-end functionality, throw it out for people to use, and then improve it iteratively based on feedback from our users. This feedback may be explicit, in the form of questions and requests, or implicit, based on our observations of how the software is used. It may well be automated, in the way Google instruments the applications we use and modifies them based on how we engage.
This approach is often best for application development and is related to the lean capitalization approach to building a business that usually works best these days. But it's tough to do in schools. Here's a few of the reasons

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Cost of Retirement


For many, saving for retirement is a difficult process even during the best of times. And in 2009, according to a recent survey from Wells Fargo, 20% of pre-retirees have reduced funding to their retirement savings. Many who once thought they were secure are now forced to delay their retirement plans by several years. What's even more troubling is that 41% of women and 32% of men now believe they will have to work after retirement just to make ends meet. Considering that saving $1 million will only amount to about $40,000 per year for the average retiree (assuming you stick to a widely accepted rule of thumb that says you should limit your withdrawals to 4% of your savings during your first year in retirement), it's easy to understand why retirement has become almost a luxury. Below, examines the cost of retirement.

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Oklahoma Education budget cuts force drastic district moves

Murray Evans:

ith the Washita Heights School District out of money and no help apparent on the horizon, Superintendent Steve Richert went before the school board and told its members he needed to lose his job -- because the district would have to be shut down.

The district's already precarious financial situation became untenable when state appropriations began to be cut as legislators scrambled to make up a $669 million budget hole for the current fiscal year. Richert worked the numbers and determined his school district -- which served the tiny Washita County towns of Corn and Colony -- would run out of money by May 1.

The western Oklahoma district was able to finish out the school year, barely, and now has been consolidated with neighboring Cordell, leaving Richert to wrap up Washita Heights' remaining business by June 30.

"Technically and legally, Washita Heights is a memory right now," Richert said Wednesday, sitting in his office. "We no longer exist."

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Technology may help poor schools by starting with rich ones

Jay Matthews:

My wife often starts a book by reading the last few pages. I think this is cheating. It spoils any surprises the author might have planted there. She suggests, when I say this out loud, that she is better able to appreciate the writer's craft if she knows where the story is going.

But I yielded to the temptation to do the same when I read the table of contents of Harvard political scientist Paul E. Peterson's intriguing new book, "Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning." It is an analytical history of key American school reformers, from Mann to John Dewey to Martin Luther King Jr. to Al Shanker to Bill Bennett to James S. Coleman. I knew about those guys, but the last chapter discussed someone I never heard of, Julie Young, chief executive officer of the Florida Virtual School.

Peterson is always a delight to read. Even his research papers shine. I enjoyed the entire book. But I read first his take on Young and the rise of new technology because it was a topic I yearned to understand. I have read the paeons to the wonders of computers in classrooms, but I don't see them doing much in the urban schools I care about. The 21st century schools movement in particular seems to me too much about selling software and too little about teaching kids.

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