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October 31, 2010

Higher Education Bubble Update; New York Daily News Calls It a "Government-Sanctioned Racket"

The College Board released new data this week on "Trends in College Pricing" for 2010, and reported that four-year public universities raised tuition this year by 8%, almost twice the 4.5% average increase for tuition at America's private universities. That differential follows a well-established pattern over the last decade of higher tuition increases at America's public universities than at private schools (see the chart above). Public university tuition has increased faster than private tuition in each of the last four years, and in eight out of the last nine years, by an average of 3% per year. As the chart above shows, the trajectory of college tuition in the U.S. is on a path that makes the recent housing bubble seem like a minor historical footnote by comparison.

In assessing the College Board data, a NY Times article "As College Fees Climb, Aid Does Too" finds some "good news," but only by reversing cause and effect:

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Rating America's Smartest and Dumbest Cities

The Daily Beast:

For the second year in a row, The Daily Beast crunches the numbers for America's 55 largest cities, ranking their brainpower from first-to-worst. How does your hometown fare?
The continuing economic malaise just reinforces a perennial fact: A city's potential lies mostly with the ingenuity and brainpower of its citizens. Regions with intellectual vigor are more likely to bounce back; those without risk a stupor. As The Daily Beast again plays scorekeeper on which cities have what it takes, intellectually speaking, and which fall short, that chasm can be seen in stark relief when comparing the prospects at the top and bottom of our list.

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More tuition hikes sought for California state universities

Nanette Asimov

Yet again, the California State University trustees are poised to raise tuition - this time by 15.5 percent - when they meet in Long Beach two weeks from now.

Chancellor Charles Reed is recommending a midyear tuition increase of 5 percent for undergraduates, credential candidates and graduate students, and another 10 percent increase on top of that for fall 2011.

If approved, the current annual tuition of $4,230 for undergraduates would rise by $654 next fall to $4,884 - not including mandatory campus fees, which are $950 this year, or the cost of housing, books and meals.

The midyear hike would raise the spring semester price tag to $2,220 for undergraduates, up from $2,115.

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Outside help for education raises hackles

Jason Thomas:

The superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools on Friday outlined with passion how he thinks the state could improve chronically low-performing schools: Let the district create and implement its own improvement plan.

In particular, he and others at a state school board meeting said Friday, don't immediately hand management of those schools over to outside individuals or organizations -- one of five options the state has proposed.

"Across the country, these outside companies have taken over school districts to great fanfare," IPS Superintendent Eugene White said. "They fail, and they silently go out of town without an explanation."

Friday's hearing was part of a 1999 state law requiring the board to gather input on its proposed rule for intervening in the state's 23 chronically lowest-performing schools. It is expected to vote on the rule at its Dec. 1 meeting.

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Stakes and mistakes in assessing teacher effectiveness

Robert C. Pianta

Teacher evaluation is emerging as the central flash point in education policy debates. The recent controversy in Los Angeles over publication of teachers' student test score gains illustrates this. So does D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's reelection loss following his school chancellor's firing of 173 teachers who were rated "ineffective."

Both incidents drew national attention because they exemplify an approach to teacher effectiveness aggressively promoted by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan -- both rhetorically and in the Race to the Top and I-3 grant programs. Teacher evaluation was the main focus of NBC's "Education Nation" coverage; one segment featured New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ranting over teacher unions' defensive stance on evaluation.

Teacher evaluation is controversial because it combines two elements new to education professionals and the public - quantifiable measurement of performance, and stakes like firing or public exposure. Teachers matter. But the core problem in public education is not identifying effective teachers. It's that our existing system does not produce effective teaching in sufficient scope, scale, regularity, or intensity.

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ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010

Shannon D. Smith and Judith Caruso; Introduction by: Joshua Kim:

Since 2004, the annual ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology has sought to shed light on how information technology affects the college experience. We ask students about the technology they own and how they use it in and out of their academic world. We gather information about how skilled students believe they are with technologies; how they perceive technology is affecting their learning experience; and their preferences for IT in courses. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010 is a longitudinal extension of the annual 2004 through 2009 studies. It is based on quantitative data from a spring 2010 survey of 36,950 freshmen and seniors at 100 four-year institutions and students at 27 two-year institutions; student focus groups that included input from 84 students at 4 institutions; and review of qualitative data from written responses to open-ended questions. In addition to exploring student ownership, experience, behaviors, preferences, and skills with respect to information technologies, including ownership and use of Internet-capable handheld devices, the 2010 study also includes a special focus on student use of social networking websites and web-based applications.

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2 Ivy League Drives Shame Seniors Who Don't Give

Rachel Louise Ensign

Positive recognition has long been a trusted way of raising money on college campuses, where buildings, benches, and even the insides of library books bear the names of donors.

But in an effort to spur gifts among young soon-to-be alumni, students at two Ivy League institutions are trying a different approach: publicizing the names of seniors who don't contribute to their class gift.

With lists supplied by college administrators, student volunteers at Dartmouth College and Cornell University circulated the names of students who had not donated to senior-gift drives. The programs relied on students to single out their peers to meet high participation goals.

Not everyone participated happily. The single student from Dartmouth's 1,123-student Class of 2010 who did not contribute this year was criticized in a column in the college newspaper and on a popular blog, which posted her name and photograph. The student e-mailed a testy response to fellow classmates describing her position.

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Rural Minnesota districts struggle to find school board candidates

Tom Weber

Megan Morrison of Atwater has three kids and thinks a mom's perspective would fit well on her local school board in west-central Minnesota, so she's running. But she has no yard signs or that much of a campaign plan.

"I wrote one write-up about myself for one local paper that asked for it, and I went to one meet-the-candidate [event] in a small town next to us, so that's the amount of campaigning I've done," Morrison said.

Still, that should be plenty to guarantee a win Tuesday. Morrison's is the only name that will appear on ballots in the race for the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, or A.C.G.C., school board.

Voters across Minnesota will select school board members on Tuesday, but in some districts, there aren't enough candidates on the ballot to fill all the seats up for election.

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Getting a Kid From Newark to Oberlin: A pioneer in the charter-school movement on what the best teachers are doing now

Norman Atkins

When I tell people that I'm the founder of Uncommon Schools, a network of high-performing charter schools for low-income children, started in 1997, I often hear a skeptical response: "Admirable what you're trying, but you're cherry-picking your students. The average poor kid is doomed, right?"

I know a second grader--let's call him Hosea--who would seem to have drawn a doomed hand, born into the wrong ZIP Code in Newark, N.J., to a teen mom and an absent father. When his grandmother attended public school here in the 1970s, the district was dysfunctional and corrupt; by the 1990s, when his mom was in school, the state had "taken over," but the result was the same: abysmal test scores and sad outcomes. According to skeptics, Hosea has about a 1% chance of graduating from college.

But please don't tell any of this to Hosea! At 7:45 on a recent morning, he started the day singing the Oberlin College cheer. At North Star Academy's elementary school (which opened four years ago as part of our network), he sat with 225 other first, second and third graders in a giant circle, hands folded, backs straight, focused laser-like on their teacher, Julie Jackson.

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October 30, 2010

Reminder from 1996: "Beyond the Classroom

Will Fitzhugh, via email:

"...Within a system that fails very few students, then, only those student who have high standards of their own--who have more stringent criteria for success and failure--will strive to do better than merely to pass their courses and graduate."

"...Third, there are important differences in how students view the causes of their successes and failures, and these differences in students' beliefs have important implications for how they actually perform in school. Successful students believe that their accomplishments are the result of hard work, and their failures the consequence of insufficient effort."

"Beyond the Classroom," Laurence Steinberg

Beyond the Classroom, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996, pp. 183-187

For nearly fifteen years now, educators and policy-makers have been engaged in a nationwide effort to solve the problem of low student achievement in America. In one blue-ribbon bipartisan commission report after another, the American public has been told that if we change how we organize our schools, how and what we teach in the classrooms, and how we select, train, and compensate our teachers, we will see improvements in our children's educational performance. In response to these reports, government agencies and private foundations have spent massive amounts of money on research designed to transform America's schools. Although we hear occasional success stories about a school here or a program there that has turned students' performance around, the competence of American students has not improved.

It is time we faced the music: fifteen years of school reform has not really accomplished anything. Today's students know less, and can do less, than their counterparts could twenty-five years ago. Our high school graduates are among the least intellectually competent in the industrialized world. Contrary to widespread claims that the low achievement of American students is not real--that it is merely a "statistical artifact"--systematic scientific evidence indicates quite compellingly that the problem of poor student achievement is genuine, substantial, and pervasive across ethnic, socioeconomic, and age groups.

The achievement problem we face in this country is due not to a drop in the intelligence or basic intellectual capability of our children, but to a widespread decline in children's interest in education and in their motivation to achieve in the classroom; it is a problem of attitude and effort, not ability. Two decades ago, a teacher in an average high school in this country could expect to have three or four "difficult" students in a class of thirty. Today, teachers in these same schools are expected to teach to classrooms in which nearly half of the students are uninterested. And only a very small proportion of the remaining half strives for excellence.

Given the findings of our study, it is not difficult to understand why so many students coast through school without devoting very much energy to schoolwork. As things stand, there is little reason for the majority of students to exert themselves any more than is necessary to avoid failing, being held back, or not graduating. Within an educational system in which all that counts is promotion to the next level--in which earning good grades is seen as equivalent to earning mediocre ones, and worse yet, in which actually learning something from school is seen as equivalent to not learning anything at all--students choose the path of least resistance. Getting by, rather than striving to succeed, has become the organizing principle behind student behavior in our schools. It is easy to point the finger at schools for creating this situation, but parents, employers, and the mass media have been significant participants in this process as well.

Our findings suggest that the sorry state of American student achievement is due more to the conditions of students' lives outside of school than it is to what takes place within school walls. In my view, the failure of the school reform movement to reverse the decline in achievement is due to its emphasis on reforming schools and classrooms, and its general disregard of the contributing factors that, while outside the boundaries of the school, are probably more influential. In this final chapter, I want to go beyond the findings of our study and discuss a series of steps America needs to take if we are to successfully address [solve] the problem of declining student achievement.

Although we did not intend our study to be a study of ethnicity and achievement, the striking and consistent ethnic differences in performance and behavior that we observed demand careful consideration, if only because they demonstrate that some students are able to achieve at high levels within American schools, whatever our schools' shortcomings may be. This does not mean, of course that our schools are free of problems, or that all students would be performing at high levels "if only" they behaved like their successful counterparts from other ethnic groups. Nevertheless, our findings do suggest that there may be something important to be learned by examining the behaviors and attitudes of students who are able to succeed within American schools as they currently exist, and that something other than deficiencies in our schools is contributing to America's achievement problem.

By identifying some of the factors that appear to contribute to the remarkable success of Asian students (and Asian immigrants in particular), or that impede success among African-American and Latino students (and especially among Latinos whose families have been living in the United States for some time), we were able to ask whether these same factors contribute to student achievement in all groups. That is, we asked whether the factors that seem to give an advantage to Asian students as a group are the same factors that facilitate student achievement in general, regardless of a youngster's ethnic background. The answer, for the most part, is yes.

Across all ethnic groups, working hard in school is a strong predictor of academic accomplishment. One clear reason for the relative levels of performance of the various ethnic groups is that Asian students devote relatively more effort to their studies, and Black and Latino youngsters relatively less. Compared with their peers, Asian youngsters spend twice as much time each week on homework and are significantly more engaged in the classroom. Students from other ethnic groups are more likely to cut class, less likely to pay attention, and less likely to value doing well in school. Black and Latino students are less likely to do the homework they are assigned than are White or Asian students.

Second, successful students are more likely than their peers to worry about the potential negative consequences of not getting a good education. Students need to believe that their performance in school genuinely matters in order to do well in the classroom, but students appear to be more strongly motivated by the desire to avoid failure than by actually striving for success. Because schools expect so little from students, however, it is easy for most of them to avoid failing without exerting much effort or expending much energy. Within a system that fails very few students, then, only those student who have high standards of their own--who have more stringent criteria for success and failure--will strive to do better than merely to pass their courses and graduate.

Asian students are far more likely to be worried about the possibility of not doing well in school and the implications of this for their future; this, then, is the second reason for their superior performance relative to other youngsters. Contrary to popular stereotype, African-American and Latino students are not especially pessimistic or cynical about the value of schooling, but, rather are unwisely optimistic about the repercussions of doing poorly in school. Either these students believe they can succeed without getting a good education or they have adopted this view as a way of compensating psychologically for their relatively weaker performance. In either case, though, their cavalier appraisal of the consequences of doing poorly in school is a serious liability.

Third, there are important differences in how students view the causes of their successes and failures, and these differences in students' beliefs have important implications for how they actually perform in school. Successful students believe that their accomplishments are the result of hard work, and their failures the consequence of insufficient effort. Unsuccessful students, in contrast, attribute success and failure to factors outside their own control, such as luck, innate ability, or the biases of teachers. The greater prevalence of the healthful attributional style we see among Asian students in this country is consistent with what other researchers have found in cross-cultural comparisons of individuals' beliefs about the origins of success. Americans, in general, place too much emphasis on the importance of native ability, and too little emphasis on the necessity of hard work. This set of views is hurting our children's achievement in school.

Regardless of ethnic background, success in school is highly correlated with being strongly engaged in school emotionally. The factors that contribute to the relative success of Asian students--hard work, high personal standards, anxiety about doing poorly, and the belief that success and failure are closely linked to the amount of effort one exerts--are keys to academic success in all groups of students. The superior performance of Asian students in American schools, then, is not mysterious, but explainable on the basis of their attitudes, values, and behavior.

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Why Students Don't Write Research Papers in High School

Catherine Gewertz via Will Fitzhugh:

Those of you who lament the state of high school students' research and writing skills will be interested in a discussion that's been unfolding at the National Association of Scholars. It began a couple weeks ago with the publication of a previously undisclosed report on why students are not learning--let alone mastering-- the skills of crafting substantial research papers.

The report is here, and the explanation of its origins and disclosure is described in the press release here. A response from a frustrated high school English teacher is here.

The report found that most social studies/history teachers never assign moderately long research papers. Most of the teachers--whose student loads often surpass 150--said they can't afford the time necessary to grade such papers.

This is hardly a new conversation. Consider the work done by Achieve and ACT on this issue, and the look Cincinnati took at it last year. And Will Fitzhugh, who was the driving force behind the recently disclosed paper, has been tirelessly advocating for rigorous high school research papers for years. A retired history teacher, he runs the Concord Review, the only journal that publishes high school students' history research papers, and blogs as well. (He sums up his views on the importance of research papers in this EdWeek commentary, from a few years ago, and more recently on The Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog.)

On a related note, another recent paper pinpointed a fragmented high school English curriculum and a neglect of close-reading skills as key explanations for teenagers' poor reading skills. That paper was written by one of the architects of Massachusetts' academic standards, former state board member Sandra Stotsky, and published by the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW).

While the reflections on students' mastery of reading, writing and research skills are hardly new, they take on an interesting dimension (and more urgency, perhaps?) with the widespread adoption of common standards that envision a significant shift in how literacy skills are taught.

2002 History Research Paper Study:
Among those teachers who do not assign research papers, the predominant factor is time. Namely, the time it takes to correct and grade the assigned papers and the time research papers can take away from other curriculum priorities.

The majority (82%) of teachers say it is difficult to find adequate time to devote to reading and grading the research papers they assign. Almost half (49%) of teachers say that is very difficult to find the time, one third (33%) say that it is somewhat difficult.

Underscoring that difficulty is that grading papers cuts into teacher's personal time--more than six in ten specify non-school time, or personal time, as the place where they grade papers. Specifically, one in five (20%) grades papers at home or outside of school, 10% do so on weekends and 15% on their own time, 8% say they use evenings or late nights, 3% use time in the early morning and 1% assign papers over a holiday or break.

Since time is such an important consideration, it is not surprising that teachers value the timeliness of paper submission. On a scale of one to ten, 70% ranked submitting the paper on time as a "9" or a "10." In terms of grading importance, timeliness is followed by the quality of written expression and a well-defined, important thesis or hypothesis.

"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
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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The Education Manifesto Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty on what they learned while pushing to reform D.C.'s failing public schools.

Michelle Rhee & Adrian Fenty

Our time in office and in charge of the school system of Washington, D.C., is quickly drawing to an end. Monday is Michelle's last day as schools chancellor, and Mayor Fenty failed to win the Democratic primary last month. A new mayor will be elected next week.

During our nearly four years in office we pressed forward an aggressive educational reform agenda. We were determined to turn around D.C.'s public schools and to put children above the political fray, no matter what the ramifications might be for ourselves or other public officials. As both of us embark on the next stages of our careers, we believe it is important to explain what we did in Washington, to share the lessons of our experience, and to offer some thoughts on what the rest of the country might learn from our successes and our mistakes.

Public education in America, particularly in our most troubled urban neighborhoods, has been broken for a long time, and nowhere more so than in our nation's capital. When we took control of the public schools in 2007, the D.C. system was widely considered the lowest-performing and most dysfunctional in the country. Schools regularly failed to open on time for the new school year, due to leaking roofs and broken plumbing. Textbooks and supplies arrived months after classes began--if at all. In the 10 years before we came into office, the district had gone through six schools chiefs.

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Madison Community Conversation on Education Nov 9

Ken Syke, via email:

All community members are invited to participate in a Community Conversation on Education during which attendees can share - in small group discussions - their hopes and concerns for public education in Madison.

Join the Community Conversation on Education

Share your concerns and hopes for public education in Madison. Sponsors United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison, Madison Teachers, Inc., Madison Metropolitan School District and UW-Madison School of Education have organized an evening of focus questions and small group discussion intended to elicit ideas for action.

When: Tuesday, November 9 • 6:30 - 8:30 PM

Where: CUNA Mutual Group Building • 5910 Mineral Point Road

Who: Parents/Guardians, Educators, High School Students, Community Members

To register, go to or call 663-1879.
Seating capacity is 200 so please register soon. It is not necessary to have seen the movie Waiting for Superman.

Transportation from a few specific sites will be available to registrants, as will be childcare and language interpretation. However, it's important to register to obtain these supports.

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Pushing back on mediocre professors

Seth Godin

College costs a fortune. It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of money.

When a professor assigns you to send a blogger a list of vague and inane interview questions ("1. How did you get started in this field? 2. What type of training (education) does this field require? 3. What do you like best about your job? 4. what do you like least about your job?") I think you have an obligation to say, "Sir, I'm going to be in debt for ten years because of this degree. Perhaps you could give us an assignment that actually pushes us to solve interesting problems, overcome our fear or learn something that I could learn in no other way..."

When a professor spends hours in class going over concepts that are clearly covered in the textbook, I think you have an obligation to repeat the part about the debt and say, "perhaps you could assign this as homework and we could have an actual conversation in class..."

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October 29, 2010

Congress for Kids

Cindy Koeppel, via email:

ntroducing the Congressional Timeline 1.0 -- -- from The Dirksen Congressional Center

Now at your fingertips . . .

Major laws-more than 200 examples-passed by Congress from 1933 to the present
The partisan composition of each Congress, along with the presidential administration and the congressional leaders

The session dates of each Congress

Measures of legislative productivity, such as the number of bills introduced and passed
Information about women and African-Americans serving in Congress

Examples of documents and audiovisual materials related to legislation

The ability to add information to the timeline by using the "wiki" feature

Here's how it works.

Go to the CTL index page at

Select the 88th Congress from the drop-down menu on the right.

Click the "expand" button under 1963 to see general information about the 88th.

To experience the multimedia potential for the site, click the "collapse" button for 1963 and the "expand" button for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at July 2, 1964.

Check out the rotating cube! You will see additional content-documents, photos, even a video of the presidential signing ceremony.

If you would like to contribute to the timeline, use the wiki component-just click on "wiki" on the rotating cube.

We know this first version of the Congressional Timeline will have some bugs to work out.

If you have suggestions, please contact me at We'll do our best to respond and improve the timeline.

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Madison Schools delay changes to High School curriculum after backlash

Matthew DeFour

But for West High School teachers and students the "dual pathways" label sounded like the tracking model the school abandoned 15 years ago that created a lot of "low-level, non-rigorous classes with a lot of segregation by socio-economic status, which is pretty much racially," science department chairman Steve Pike said.

"If they had this document beforehand" Pike said of the document unveiled Friday, "it would have at least shown that there's a lot of questions and a lot of work that needed to be done."

West teachers aren't the only ones with concerns.

Peggy Ellerkamp, a librarian at LaFollette High School, said teachers there wonder how students in regular classes will be able to move into advanced classes, especially if regular courses become "more like a one-room schoolhouse" with embedded honors, regular, special education and English language learner students.

"I have a lot of questions about a lot of the details," Ellerkamp said. "I'm very pleased that there's more time for this to be worked through."

Jessica Hotz, a social studies teacher at East High School, is concerned that gearing classes to the Advanced Placement test could result in a "dumbing down of the curriculum." One proposed change in social studies would cram U.S. history into one year instead of the two years that East offers now, Hotz said.

Many links:

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Michelle Rhee outspoken to the end of her tenure as D.C. schools chancellor

Bill Turque

She is D.C. schools chancellor for just one more day, but that didn't stop Michelle A. Rhee from issuing one last warning Thursday, this one to ineffective teachers and the undergraduate education programs that granted them degrees.

"Now we have a new teacher evaluation system where we know who's ineffective, minimally effective and highly effective," she told a hotel ballroom filled with educators attending a College Board forum. "We're going to back-map where they came from, which schools produced these people. And if you are producing ineffective or minimally effective teachers, we're going to send them back to you."

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Parents tell Atlanta Public Schools board to get act together

Steve Visser & Leon Stafford

Parents fear the Atlanta school board fight is jeopardizing their children's future by putting the accreditation at risk, which could cost students access to the HOPE Scholarship and admission to college.

"There is a lot at stake here. These kids are working around the clock to better themselves and make the school shine," said Nancy Habif, who has five children in Atlanta public schools. "In the worse case scenario the kids who are busting their butts are not even going to have the HOPE Scholarship."

The school board fight over who should be in charge makes the schools look bad to college admission offices and blocks good news such as Grady High School's mock trial team winning the Empire International contest last weekend, Habif said "I don't think a lot of people out there understand that its not all bad," she said Thursday.

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What Credit Hours Teach Us About Accountability

Ben Miller

It's been out for a little over a week, but the Chronicle of Higher Education's package on academic credit is an absolute must read. Chad blogged about one piece of it already, but the longer articles about a general discussion of credit issues (here) and how the effect of course values on financial aid at for-profits (here) are well worth the time.

The articles give much-needed insight to something that is the fundamental building block in a host of higher education problems related to quality, transfer, and other areas. But the plight of college credits-particularly current federal regulations aimed at changing its definition-is also an important cautionary tale about accountability.

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Rise in college costs hits public schools hardest

Blake Ellis

While heading to a private college is still more expensive than going to a state school, tuition and fees are climbing at a faster pace at public schools than at their private brethren.

For the school year 2010-11, in-state tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities rose to $7,605, up 7.9% from a year ago, the College Board reported Thursday. At private four-year institutions, the average cost rose 4.5% to $27,293.

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Boston school card program raises privacy concerns

Boston Globe

Civil libertarians are raising privacy concerns about a plan by Boston public schools to issue cards to students that could be used for a variety of services from riding the bus, to borrowing library books, to accessing meal programs.

Carol Rose, executive director of the state American Civil Liberties Union, says she's concerned that information from the cards' use could be used to track students, given to law enforcement agencies, or even for commercial purposes.

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October 28, 2010

National study: Half of high schoolers admit bullying in last year; nearly half were victims

Andrew Dalton

Half of high school students say they've bullied someone in the past year, and nearly half say they've been the victim of bullying, according to a national study.

The survey released Tuesday by the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute of Ethics asked more than 43,000 high school students whether they'd been physically abused, teased or taunted in a way that seriously upset them. Forty-three per cent said yes, and 50 per cent admitted to being the bully.

The institute's president, Michael Josephson, said the study shows more bullying goes on at later ages than previously thought, and remains extremely prevalent through high school.

"Previous to this, the evidence was bullying really peaks in middle school," Josephson told The Associated Press.

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For Some Youngsters, a Second Chance at an Exclusive School

Sarah Maslin Nir

Parents of preschoolers who are applying to New York's top private schools are now coming face to face with the test universally known as the E.R.B., a nerve-racking intelligence exam made more so because there is no do-over if the child has a bad day.

But for a select few students who do not score well, there is something of a second chance. Admissions consultants, preschools and some private schools acknowledge that a small number of children every year are permitted to undergo another round of intelligence testing to supplement their results on the E.R.B., which stands for the Educational Records Bureau, the organization that administers the test.

The practice is not publicized on schools' Web sites, and the psychologists who offer the service do not openly advertise it. Nor is it entirely clear what qualifies a child for another test, although those who are children of alumni or have a sibling already at a school are most frequently granted the option, according to consultants and schools.

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Watertown School board OKs plan for spending federal tax dollar jobs funds

Teresa Stowell

The Watertown Unified School District Board of Education approved a plan to spend a portion of federal funds given to the district this fall through the JOBS Bill during a regular monthly meeting Monday night at the Educational Service Center.

In August Congress passed the Education Jobs Funding Bill, which gave Wisconsin just under $180 million to be used in school districts across the state. The Watertown school district received $895,000 in federal money that is available to the district to spend over the next two years. These funds come with specific mandates on how and when it can be used. It cannot be used to supplement the district's budget and is specifically meant to employ people. Administrators have spent the past couple months deciding how to address key needs in the district while staying within the parameters of the funding regulations. The board approved the first phase of the funds totaling $408,130 during Monday night's meeting.

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The end of the public university in England

James Vernon

I graduated from the University of Manchester in 1987 with no debt. I paid no fees and received a maintenance grant to earn a degree in Politics and Modern History. If my seventeen year old son were to follow in my footsteps he would graduate with debts of at least £50,000 and were he to study in London that could rise to £90,000. In the space of a generation we have witnessed the destruction of the public university.

The Browne Report released on 12 October, and effectively rubber stamped in the savage public sector cuts announced yesterday, was simply the final nail in the coffin. Under the beguiling but misleading title Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education it effectively announced that university degrees are no longer considered a public good but a private investment. Accordingly, it is the individual student, not the public, who will pay its cost. Tuition fees will rise from £3,225 to a minimum of £6,000 rising to a potential ceiling of £12,000. State funding will fall from £3.5bn to just £700m - a total of 80% but a 100% cut in areas like the arts, humanities and social sciences that apparently have no public utility.

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Rhee Got Results, but Will They Last?

Mimi Carter

I started working in city-subsidized, Washington, DC child care centers in 1995 and I couldn't believe how depressing they were. Located in decrepit strip malls, strewn with broken glass outside, parents walked their toddlers into these small, overheated spaces. Television blaring, children sitting on the floor, staring blankly at Elmo, they looked abandoned. Teachers sat in the back on break, the smell of microwave popcorn choking the room. Children were crying from their cribs, others wandered aimlessly around the room, with little to do. There were few books, and the toys were old, many broken leftovers. I was appalled. I wasn't sure I could keep going back. But this was my job.

For nine years I ran an early learning arts and literacy program called Inner City-Inner Child, which took new books, artist teachers and professional development programs to the city's poorest child care centers. Washington's elite has never seen these parts of DC.

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Small colleges find that adding football pays off in a lot of green, and more

Daniel de Vise

Then came football.

Stevenson spent $500,000 this year to create an intercollegiate team from scratch, largely as a means to fill the campus with tuition-paying men. The program has drawn 130 players, raising the male share of the freshman class from 34 to 39 percent in a single year at the 3,075-student university.

The suburban Baltimore school is one of at least a dozen small, private colleges in the United States that have added or rebuilt football programs in the past three years, usually with the dual purpose of feeding the bottom line and narrowing the gender gap.

For many small, regional colleges facing a bleak admissions landscape, the gridiron is a beacon of hope. The college-age population is leveling off. The economy is sluggish. Private colleges must offer ever-larger tuition discounts to fill the freshman class.

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October 27, 2010

Arming Your Kid With BB Gun, Knife To Fight School Bullies

Hilda Munoz

When the principal told Sylvia Mojica that her 12-year-old son had brought a weapon with him to the Latino Studies Academy at Burns Elementary School on Friday, she became nervous and reacted, she said, as any mother would.

Mojica told the principal she had given the BB gun to her son -- even though it wasn't true, she said.

"I took the blame so that my son would not get arrested," she said. "I know I made a mistake, but I believe any parent would have done the same thing."

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School Sees Salvation in Recruiting Chinese

Abby Goodnough

Faced with dropping enrollment and revenue, the high school in this remote Maine town has fixed on an unlikely source of salvation: Chinese teenagers.

Never mind that Millinocket is an hour's drive from the nearest mall or movie theater, or that it gets an average 93 inches of snow a year. Kenneth Smith, the schools superintendent, is so certain that Chinese students will eventually arrive by the dozen -- paying $27,000 a year in tuition, room and board -- that he is scouting vacant properties to convert to dormitories.

"We are going full-bore," Dr. Smith said last week in his office at the school, Stearns High, where the Chinese words for "hello" and "welcome" were displayed on the dry-erase board and a Lonely Planet China travel guide sat on the conference table. "You've got to move if you've got something you believe is the right thing to do."

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Why Standardize When We Should Personalize?

Tom Vander Ark

Great questions from Chad and quick airport answers:

1. How do you reconcile individualized and adaptive curriculum with a blanket dismissal of "let everyone do what they want?" Where should individualization and adaptation end? At standards?

Yes, do what you please ends at standards. As we pivot to personal digital learning, all students will have a unique/customized pathway but toward common ends. The Core is higher, but I wish it were even 'fewer and clearer.'

Could "the land of learn as you please" be a compromise between "the land of do as you please" and "the land of do what we tell you?"

I hope we can increasingly separate ends & means-tight on ends, loose on means. Digital learning is opening up a world of opportunity but it is currently bounded by the Bismarckian conception of factory schooling. Read more on 10 shifts that change everything.

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Hybrid Schooling

Catherine Field

Religion usually makes news in France when the state invokes its stern policy of "laïcité."

This is the country, as we read again and again, with laws that ban crucifixes and Islamic headscarves in state schools and outlaw the full-face Muslim veil in public streets.

Yet here I am sitting in the front row at a Catholic lycée surrounded by Muslims, Christians and non-believers, as the bishop of Versailles blesses the pupils and the building and reads to the new pupils from the gospel of Matthew: "You are the light of the world. ..."

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The Real Effect of Teachers' Union Contracts

Mike Antonucci

It's going to be difficult for some to resist the temptation to argue about what effect, if any, teacher contracts have on student test scores from state to state, but it entirely misses the salient point that the purpose of teacher contracts is not, and never has been, to increase student test scores. In states with collective bargaining, contracts define the salaries, benefits and working conditions of public education employees. Since compensation accounts for upwards of 80% of all public school expenditures, we might learn something about the "real effect of teachers' union contracts" if we compare per-pupil spending in states with binding teacher contracts to states without. Here, I use U.S. Census Bureau figures for 2007-08:
Average per-pupil spending in AL, AR, AZ, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TX, and VA - $8,904

Average per-pupil spending in the other 40 states and DC - $10,745

Stating there is no significant difference between bargaining and non-bargaining states when it comes to student achievement is not a winning argument for unions. We pay a 20.7% premium to have unions. Isn't the onus on them to demonstrate their worth to students, parents and taxpayers?

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2 schools' students 'integrated' after 50 years

It's been 50 years since Peggy Robinson Roberts and her classmates in Leesburg graduated from segregated high schools, in separate ceremonies. Back then, teens at all-black Douglass High knew little about their counterparts at all-white Loudoun County. They didn't sit in the same classes, play on the same football fields or sing in the same glee clubs.

Now, after almost a lifetime apart, their shared history of racial segregation has taken an unexpected turn. They have met, traded memories and struck up the kind of friendships they might've enjoyed five decades ago had America been a different place.

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Is multi-kulti dead?

The Economist

A FEW months ago Germans were basking in the positive glow cast by their multicultural football team. They did not quite win the World Cup but did pretty well with a part-Ghanaian defender, a midfielder with Turkish roots and a striker from Poland. What a great advertisement for a Germany "open to the world". Now suddenly the talk is of an immigrant-bashing, Islam-hating Germany nostalgic for the firm leadership of the 1940s. Why? And which is the real Germany?

The person responsible for spoiling the mood is Thilo Sarrazin, an obscure member of the Bundesbank's board, who in August published a controversial book, Deutschland schafft sich ab ("Germany does away with itself"). The dour economist reached this conclusion--surprising in light of Germany's splendid economic performance--from his reading of the demographic future: with the country's population shrinking overall, immigrants and the underclass are having too many children, well-educated native Germans too few. Biologically, culturally and professionally Germany is dumbing down, Mr Sarrazin argued (and was then forced out of his job).

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Is the best way to fix the American classroom to improve the furniture?

Linda Perlstein

Where, and how, are you sitting as you read this article? Are you in a chair that is not so hard as to dig into your butt? Are you at a desk or table that you can reach without slouching down or scooting to the edge of your seat? Are you comfortable? If so, chances are you are not an American schoolchild.

For Slate's latest Hive project, we have asked readers to reimagine the 21st-century classroom, and your entries are impressing us with their creativity and variety. There are pleas for classrooms that are ovals or hexagons, or traditional rectangles carved up in interesting ways. Some entries focus on one simple idea, such as a microphone for the teacher, while others reinvent the total environment. More technology is the answer, or perhaps less is. Classrooms have been moved outside the building to the schoolyard, the school bus, the mall--or altogether virtualized.

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NAACP Schools & Politics

Jason Riley

The nation's unemployment rate is 9.6%, but it is 16.1% for blacks and an unconscionable 41% for black teens. Politicians continue to promote minimum-wage hikes that harm the job prospects of younger and less-skilled individuals, a disproportionate number of whom are black. Wal-Mart's attempts to open a store that would bring jobs and low-price goods to a depressed neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., have been thwarted repeatedly by labor unions. And the NAACP is issuing studies on the tea party movement?

Black children are funneled into the nation's worst public schools, where they underperform and often don't graduate. Black boys in eighth grade read at about the same level as white girls in fourth grade. The achievement gap persists through high school, where the average black student is graduating with an eighth-grade education--if the student graduates at all.

The situation has remained essentially unchanged for three decades. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have noted that just 2,000 of the nation's 20,000 high schools produce half of all dropouts, and nearly 50% of black kids attend one of these "dropout factories." But that hasn't stopped the Obama administration from phasing out a Washington, D.C., voucher program for low-income students that improved graduation rates. Still, the NAACP is worried about the tea party?

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Joel Klein To NYC Public School Teachers: My Word Is Worthless

Leo Casey

As part of an agreement between the NYC DoE and the UFT on the then new Teacher Data Initiative [TDI], a “Dear Colleague” letter was sent by Chancellor Klein to all New York City public school teachers in October 2008. According to the letter, the TDI was to be:

…a new tool to help teachers learn about their own strengths and opportunities for development …The teacher Data Reports are not to be used for evaluation purposes. That is, they won't be used in tenure determinations or the annual rating process.

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October 26, 2010

Madison High School Redesign: 2006 Presentation & Links

via a kind reader's email:

Four citizens spoke at Monday evening's school board meeting regarding the proposed "high school redesign".

Superintendent Art Rainwater's powerpoint presentation and followup board discussion

There are many links in that post.

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Making something hard to read means it is more likely to be remembered

The Economist

A PARADOX of education is that presenting information in a way that looks easy to learn often has the opposite effect. Numerous studies have demonstrated that when people are forced to think hard about what they are shown they remember it better, so it is worth looking at ways this can be done. And a piece of research about to be published in Cognition, by Daniel Oppenheimer, a psychologist at Princeton University, and his colleagues, suggests a simple one: make the text conveying the information harder to read.

Dr Oppenheimer recruited 28 volunteers aged between 18 and 40 and asked them to learn, from written descriptions, about three "species" of extraterrestrial alien, each of which had seven features. This task was meant to be similar to learning about animal species in a biology lesson. It used aliens in place of actual species to be certain that the participants could not draw on prior knowledge.

Half of the volunteers were presented with the information in difficult-to-read fonts (12-point Comic Sans MS 75% greyscale and 12-point Bodoni MT 75% greyscale). The other half saw it in 16-point Arial pure-black font, which tests have shown is one of the easiest to read.

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Vail Valley Voices: How do we improve American education?

Sal Bommarito

The simple truth is that many families in this country don't put a high priority on education. After all, it takes 13 years to finish high school and another four years to earn a college degree. That's 17 years that parents must regularly cajole their children, and 17 years that they must feed, clothe and provide shelter without any return on their investment.

The problem with education in this country lies not with the children, but with the parents. If parents don't continually emphasize the importance of education, only the most self-motivated students will ultimately become independent of their families and the state.

Currently, the vast majority of funds allocated to education are for tuition, scholarships, lunches and books. Only a miniscule amount of money is being used to help parents become better parents.

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The main winner from a controversial new set of university reforms will probably be the taxpayer

The Economist

UNIVERSITY tuition fees are political dynamite. Tony Blair's government first introduced upfront charges for students in Britain in 1998; they were replaced in England in 2004 with a scheme under which fees rose, but students could borrow the cost from the state and repay it once they were earning. That move proved even more contentious in Parliament than Mr Blair's decision to wage war on Iraq. A new proposal for graduates to pay even more for the education they have enjoyed could open a rift in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Demand for higher education is booming around the world; to help increase the supply, many countries, including Germany, Ireland and Spain, have begun charging students, as America has long done. In England (Scotland and Wales have separate regimes) a student beginning his studies this year must contribute £3,290 ($5,200) towards the annual cost of his education. The actual average cost is around £7,000: the state partially plugs the gap, and also lends students the money to pay their fees and living expenses. These loans currently carry no interest in real terms, and graduates do not begin repaying them until they are earning £15,000 a year or more.

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Saving public education: the 'Dolly Solution'

Richard Slettvet

I am proposing the Dolly Solution as an alternative to Charter Schools Secretary Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top" (AKA, Grovel for Lucre) reform initiative, which, if other federal education programs are any guide, is destined to end in a muddle of red tape, unfunded mandates, and unintended consequences.

The Dolly Solution refers to Dolly the Sheep, country-music superstar Dolly Parton's namesake, not to Ms. Parton's 2002 cover of Led Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven." Dolly the Sheep, you may recall, emerged in 1996 from a surrogate ewe to become the first-ever cloned mammal.

What does cloning have to do with saving public education? Well, in three easy steps, it's the surest route for upgrading the quality of public education from a "C" average to "A+":

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As San Francisco schools struggle, board raises its budget

Jill Tucker

While San Francisco schools have been squeezing every dime out of their dwindling budgets, the city's school board has increased its own budget each of the past four years, spending more on travel to conferences, taking taxis around the city and paying for a board member's babysitter.

All told, the board has increased spending by 28 percent over the past four years, which includes the added cost of televising board meetings as well as increases in staff salaries and benefits, according to 600 pages of public records obtained by The Chronicle.

In each of those years, the board failed to stay within a set budget and dipped into the district's primary spending account to cover the difference.

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Norton warns teachers not to 'friend' students

Peter Schworm

Worried about the potential risks of online interactions, the school board in Norton last week urged teachers not to become friends with their students on Facebook and other social media sites and advised them to avoid friendships with former students as well.

Tom Golota, a school board member, said the ban is designed to maintain a divide between teachers' professional and private lives and send a message that becoming too friendly with students is not acceptable.

"We want to head it off at the pass,'' Golata said. "Teachers know this already, but we wanted to have something official on the books.''

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On Wisconsin: Mount Horeb school referendums aim to preserve history, serve current students

Barry Adams

A glimpse of how students were educated here in the late 1800s is located under the downtown water tower, just a half block off Main Street.

But there is another historic school in this village of 6,500 people that's getting more attention than the cream-colored brick District 1 School built between 1884 and 1889.

On Nov. 2, Mount Horeb School District voters will decide whether to spend $9.9 million to remodel the Primary Center, a three-level school building opened in 1918 with a maze of steps and two gigantic boilers. A second referendum question asks for $600,000 for a geothermal heating system.

The building has served generations of students and all grade levels. It was the high school before the current one was built in the 1960s and where Kurt Nowka, a 1977 Mount Horeb High School graduate, went to middle school. The brick building, which looks similar to West and East high schools in Madison, now is used by second- and third-grade students.

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October 25, 2010

School Referendum On Ballot For Waunakee Voters

Voters in Waunakee have some decisions to make on Nov. 2 about space in the community's schools.

For the second time, Waunakee Community School District is sending a referendum to the community to build a new elementary school and add on to a current one.

Waunakee voters rejected a referendum in April to build the new school and spend the money to operate it. Next week, they'll be asked again for $23.5 million, but the district said the need for the space is clear.

Waunakee's Intermediate School has eight lunch hours moving 558 students through one lunch room. The cafeteria also doubles as a classroom in off-hours, just like the hallways, conference rooms and even some closets.

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High School Credit for Middle School classes

Charlie Mas

Once again I hear people asking "Why would a student want to get high school credit for classes taken in middle school?"

This may not surprise you, but you're not going to get a good answer to this question from someone who isn't interested in it or who thinks it ranges from pointless to being a bad idea. Yet that's who have been answering that question of late.

So, rather than their explanation, to graduate high school early, let me instead offer some better reasons.

1) Lighter course load when taking challenging classes. A high performing student might take as many as three or four AP classes as a senior. These classes are challenging and demanding classes. Wouldn't it be nice to have the option to not take two other classes at the same time so the student can devote more time to the AP classes?

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9 to 5 New Jersey schools?

Alan Sadovnik

SHOULD WE increase the number of hours and days students attend school each year?

The proposal has recently gained traction as educators, celebrities and a movie have embraced the concept.

Before his departure last month, former state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler expressed support for extended time, saying it has the potential to increase student achievement, especially in low-income districts. He made his comments at the Robert Treat Academy, one of the most successful charter schools in the state, with both an extended school day and year. And noted Washington, D.C., Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee recently called extended school days and years vital to improving urban student achievement.

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Give Florida schools flexibility to meet student needs

Candace Lankford

It seemed like a terrific idea in 2002, when the Classroom Size Reduction Amendment (CSR) was adopted by the voters mandating a specific number of students -- caps -- in every "core" classroom at every grade level: in grades pre-kindergarten through third, the cap was 18 students; in grades 4-8 22 students; and grades 9-12 25 students. Core classes included math, science, social studies, language arts and foreign languages. However, the unintended consequence of this inflexible constitutional amendment has wreaked havoc with many students' schedules, frustrated families and drained much needed resources from our schools. At the end of the day, it is not in the best interest of our students' education and more flexibility is needed -- here's why.

University High, a school of approximately 1,900 students, made more than 700 schedule changes in one week alone in order to maintain compliance. Spruce Creek High, three weeks before the CSR's arbitrary compliance date, had 100 sections with only one or two students more than the cap. Not too bad for a high school with more than 2,800 students -- until you hear that those 100 sections encompassed 32 different subject areas. Southwestern Middle School admitted a new student last week, and in order to maintain CSR compliance the school had to modify many other students' schedules. This was done during the last week of the first nine-week grading period. Does the word "nuts" come to mind?

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Outdoor education programs in San Mateo County, CA get funding boost

Neil Gonzales

utdoor education programs in San Mateo County have earned a boost from the Save the Redwoods League, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting ancient redwood forests

The league has awarded a $2,500 grant to Vida Verde Nature Education, which provides overnight camping experiences for underprivileged youth.

The league also awarded $3,000 to YMCA Camp Jones Gulch, which serves 17,000 people annually through various programs.

In addition, the league gave $3,000 to Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools, which provides financial support to low-income students so they can travel to and learn about the forests.

The funding was part of more than $100,000 in grants awarded by the league to 37 schools, park interpretive associations and nonprofit groups statewide.

These grants allow children and adults to study and experience redwood forests in ways otherwise not possible, the league said.

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Florida Class-size limits again up for vote

Linda Trimble

Linda White and Amy Nowell both voted in 2002 to amend the Florida Constitution to limit the size of classes in the state's public schools.

The two now are on opposite sides when it comes to redefining those limits -- an issue that will be decided by Florida voters in the Nov. 2 general election. Their views mirror a statewide debate about whether to keep the class-size rules as they are or give school officials more flexibility to comply with them.

School officials say they desperately need the flexibility Amendment 8 would provide as students move in and out of classes during the year. Other Amendment 8 supporters say the original limits -- which they estimate will cost $350 million to $1 billion annually going forward -- are simply too expensive for the state to afford.

Critics, like the state teachers union and Florida PTA, say the smaller classes approved in 2002 are best for students and are workable if the Florida Legislature would only fund them properly as required by the original constitutional amendment.

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October 24, 2010

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: French schoolgirl asks: what's trashing my school got to do with retirement?

Eve Zuckerman 17, in final year at the Lycée Edouard Branly

France has seen the spectacle of school age protesters creating mayhem over pension reform. In her diary, a Paris schoolgirl recounts an extraordinary 10 days in her education.

Thursday Oct 14
Today 60 students from two nearby schools massed in front of my lycée, Edouard Branly, in Nogent-Sur-Marne in the east of Paris, shouting, dancing, and throwing stones. They pushed against the glass door until the bulky repair man keeping them shut could hold out no longer.

Then they stampeded in, throwing chairs and rubbish bins around, breaking a window and shoving a female English teacher, while yelling the names of their schools.
Finally they rushed towards a courtyard used by younger pupils - who were terrified by the mob, sobbing and shaking with fear. It took a long time to calm them down.

As I watched kids my own age, who I didn't know, trash my school I wondered what this had to do with retirement reform?

After a few minutes the horde left, thankfully ignoring me and my friends, and we slowly picked the chairs back up, hardly taking in what had just happened. Every year, there are blockades and there is trouble, but never as bad as this.
Monday, Oct 18

Do schools exist for adult employment or student education?

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Governor Christie's Ultimate Test

Monica Langley

He says she's a "greedy thug" who uses children as "drug mules." She says he's a "bully" and a "liar" who's "obsessed with a vendetta."

Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, and Barbara Keshishian, president of the state's teachers union, say they want to improve public schools. That's where agreement ends. In speeches, mailings and multi-million dollar TV ads, they've battled over teacher salaries, property taxes and federal education grants. They have met once, an encounter that ended when Mr. Christie threw Ms. Keshishian out of his office.

For Mr. Christie, 48 years old, the fight is part policy, part personality. He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he's already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He's well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. "If I wanted to be sure I'd be re-elected, I'd cozy up with the teachers union," he says in his ornate state office, decorated with Mets memorabilia and a signed guitar from Bruce Springsteen. "But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change."

The governor already has persuaded many voters on a fundamental point: New Jersey pays way too much for education. Mr. Christie's poll numbers dipped earlier after the teachers union began running TV commercials critical of him. But his numbers have rebounded in recent polls. Frederick Hess, education-policy director at the American Enterprise Institute, a think thank that pushes for market-oriented solutions, says a likely new crop of Republican governors who have promised to slash budgets and reform schools will be watching to see how Mr. Christie fares. "New Jersey is the canary in the coal mine," he says.

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Education issue looms large in Wisconsin governor's race

Amy Hertzner

Education may not be the first thing that comes to voters' minds this year when they think of the Wisconsin governor's race, but maybe it should be.

After all, soon after the next governor raises his hand to take the oath of office, he is likely to immediately be confronted with the state's 2011-'13 biennial budget and a shortfall of about $3 billion.

Education now consumes more than half of the spending by the State of Wisconsin - school aid for kindergarten through 12th grades alone cost about $5 billion this year - even though the state's portion of education funding has fallen in the last two years and has needed help from federal stimulus dollars.

So, whoever voters select for the state's top spot could have a big effect on their neighborhood schools as well as on state taxing and spending.

"It's huge," Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, said about the school funding issue. "By mathematical definition, if the state has big financial problems, it has real implications for education."

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Madison 4K Funding Options

Superintendent Daniel A. Nerad

It has been requested of Administration to put together possible scenarios for funding four year old kindergarten (4-k) through the use of Education Jobs Bill funding, Equity Reserves, Property Taxes, and any other sources of funding.

What you will find below are three distinct scenarios looking at how we may fund 4-k over the first 4 years. The focus is on the first 4 years, because the original projections put together by administration and subsequently by PMA through the forecasting model looked at the program beginning in the 2010-11 school year as year one, so we consequently only have projections going through the 2014-15 school year.

These projections will be updated as part of our work with the 5 year budget model ad hoc committee of the Board in the coming months.

All of the following scenarios we believe to be very conservative in terms of the number of students to be enrolled, and especially on projections for funding from the State of Wisconsin. These original projections from earlier this year, assumed MMSD would be losing 15% funding from the State of Wisconsin for the 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13 budget years. As we have seen recently, we have lost less than the maximum state law allows (2010-11 reduction of approximately 8.4%). The funding scenarios are as follows:

Much more on Madison's planned 4K program here.

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Who Gets To Write Public-School History Textbooks?

A new fourth-grade Virginia history textbook was found to contain the dubious assertion that battalions of African-American soldiers fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The textbook's author, who has written other textbooks and children's books like Oh Yuck!: The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty, says she found the information in question on the Internet. Can just anyone write a school history textbook?

Sort of. Anyone can write and publish a textbook, but before it gets handed out to public-school students, the book's content would have to be approved by several review committees. As long as the textbook is deemed to meet state-specified guidelines and cover the subject matter with accuracy and coherence, the author's pedigree can be of secondary importance. Textbook publishing is typically a collective endeavor, anyway. Publishers often contract with a handful of freelancers who have knowledge about specific subject areas. There's no particular qualification required for these freelancers: Anyone with a Ph.D. in a relevant field might be acceptable, for example, but so would a high-school teacher with a decent writing sample. In general, the publisher hires a more distinguished scholar as the main editor, who oversees the project and has final say over the content.

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Now What? Imperatives and Options for Common Core Implementation and Governance

Chester Finn & Michael Petrelli:

This Fordham Institute publication--co-authored by President Chester E. Finn Jr. and VP Michael J. Petrilli--pushes folks to think about what comes next in the journey to common education standards and tests. Most states have adopted the "Common Core" English language arts and math standards, and most are also working on common assessments. what? The standards won't implement themselves, but unless they are adopted in the classroom, nothing much will change. What implementation tasks are most urgent? What should be done across state lines? What should be left to individual states, districts, and private markets? Perhaps most perplexing, who will govern and "own" these standards and tests ten or twenty years from now?

Finn and Petrilli probe these issues in "Now What?" After collecting feedback on some tough questions from two-dozen education leaders (e.g. Jeb Bush, David Driscoll, Rod Paige, Andy Rotherham, Eric Smith), they frame three possible models for governing this implementation process. In the end, as you'll see, they recommend a step-by-step approach to coordinate implementation of the Common Core. Read on to find out more.

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Language Log: Liu Xiaobo

Victor Mair:

Before closing, it is my duty to explain how to pronounce Liu Xiaobo's name, since I've heard it mangled by most spokesmen and commentators in recent days.  Here is the "textbook" IPA transcription for the Modern Standard Mandarin pronunciation of the three syllables of Liu Xiaobo's name:

/ljou/  (tone 2, "35″)

/ɕjɑu/ (tone 3, "214″ or "21″)

/pɔ/ (tone 1, "55″)

If you don't know how to read off IPA, then here are "spellers" for the three syllables:

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Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget Update; Administration Proposes Spending $378,948,997, an increase of $4,702,967

The Madison School District 2.2MB PDF. The document proposes an 8.8% increase in this winter's property taxes.

Another document references the Administration's proposed use of increased State of Wisconsin tax dollars, despite growth in the Badger State's deficit.

Finally, the document includes a statement on "fund equity", or the District's reserves (39,163,174.09 on June 30, 2010):

Statement on Fund Equity
In 1993 when the revenue cap law was enacted, the District budgeted funding to continue to increase the District's equity (fund balance) at the same proportion as the budget increase. The actual budget was constructed based on worst case assumptions for many of the non-controllable expenses. Using worst case budget assumptions allowed some room for unexpected increased expenditures above those projected without causing the expenditures to exceed revenues. Before the enactment of revenue caps this approach did not affect the District's ability to cpntinue to provide programming at the same levels as before. This was very sound budget practice and placed the District in an outstanding fiscal position.
After the revenue cap was enacted and until 1998 the District continued the same budgeting strategy. During these early years, continuing the increase in equity and using worse case budget assumptions was possible. It did not jeopardize the District's instructional programs because sufficient budget reductions were possible through increased operating efficiencies.
In 1998 it became clear that to continue to budget using the same assumptions would necessitate even larger budget cuts to programs than would be necessary if a more narrow approach to budgeting was used. The effect of using a realistic but best case set of budget assumptions for non-controllable expenses was to delay making reductions of critical District educational support programs for several years. However, it also placed the District in a position to have expenditures exceed revenues if the assumptions proved to be inaccurate and the projections were exceeded.
The District's SUbstantial equity made this approach possible without endangering the District's excellent fiscal position. The viability of the strategy has been borne out by our Aa1 bond rating from Moody's Rating Service and the continued excellence of our educational program.
As indicated in the annual audited financial report provided each year to the Board of Education, the District's expenditures exceeded revenue during the fiscal years 2002 through 2006. Our desire is always to balance the revenues and expenditures on a yearly basis. However, the excess expenses over revenues in those five years resulted solely from specific budgeted expenditures and revenues not meeting assumptions and projections used at the time of budget preparation. We did not add expenditures or staff. The district maintained its fiscal health. The equity was used as it was intended - to maintain the District's quality through difficult financial times.
We reached the point where the district's equity position could no longer support the aggressive approach. We rnanaged the 2008-09 and 2009-10 budget more aggressively, which resulted in an increase in equity. We also prepared the 2010-11 budget more conservatively, which will result in a positive affect to the District's equity at the end of this year.
Donna Williams Director of Budget, Planning & Accounting Services
Much more on the 2010-2011 budget here.

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October 23, 2010

Is it realistic for schools to remove failure as an option?

Alan Borsuk

What if failure really were not an option?

Geoffrey Canada is adamant in his answer: People would succeed. They wouldn't give up, they would work harder, and, when it comes to schools, they wouldn't keep doing the same unsuccessful things over and over.

"When it's clear that failure won't be tolerated or accepted, you know what happens? People stop failing," Canada told more than 500 people Friday at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee. He was the keynote speaker at a national conference of the Alliance for Children and Families, a Milwaukee-based organization for human services organizations.

Canada is the founder and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone, a birth-through-college set of programs focused on getting children in a 97-block area of New York's Harlem to earn college diplomas. He has become a national celebrity as a crusader for such efforts. He is featured in the new, controversial movie, "Waiting for 'Superman.' "

Canada said things Friday that would leave people from most anywhere on the political spectrum saying, no way, can't be done, he's crazy. Teachers, major politicians, rich people, low-income people - he said things all would dislike.

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Madison School District: High School Career and College Readiness Plan

via a kind reader's email:

We have received a significant volume of questions and feedback regarding the plan for High School College and Career Readiness. We are in the process of reviewing and reflecting upon questions and feedback submitted to date. We are using this information to revise our original timeline. We will provide additional information as we move forward.

We will have an electronic format for gathering additional feedback in the near future.

High School Career And College Readiness Plan is a comprehensive plan outlining curricular reform for MMSD comprehensive high schools and a district-wide process that will end in significant curriculum reform. The rationale for developing this plan is based on five points:

  1. Need for greater consistency across our comprehensive high schools.
  2. Need to align our work to the ACT career and college readiness standards and common core standards.
  3. Need to address our achievement gaps and to do so with a focus on rigor and acceleration of instruction.
  4. Need to address loss of students through open enrollment.
  5. Need to respond to issues regarding unequal access to accelerated courses in grades 9 and 10.
The plan is based on the following theory of action:
Lots of related links:

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Putting a Price on Professors A battle in Texas over whether academic value can be measured in dollars and cents.

Carol Johnson took the podium of a lecture hall one recent morning to walk 79 students enrolled in an introductory biology course through diffusion, osmosis and the phospholipid bilayer of cell membranes.

A senior lecturer, Ms. Johnson has taught this class for years. Only recently, though, have administrators sought to quantify whether she is giving the taxpayers of Texas their money's worth.

A 265-page spreadsheet, released last month by the chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, amounted to a profit-and-loss statement for each faculty member, weighing annual salary against students taught, tuition generated, and research grants obtained.

Ms. Johnson came out very much in the black; in the period analyzed--fiscal year 2009--she netted the public university $279,617. Some of her colleagues weren't nearly so profitable. Newly hired assistant professor Charles Criscione, for instance, spent much of the year setting up a lab to research parasite genetics and ended up $45,305 in the red.

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Head teacher says schoolchildren do not need books and recommends Wikipedia

Jon Swaine

The head teacher of a school in New York is facing calls to resign after he sent out an error-strewn letter claiming that children did not need books, while he also recommended Wikipedia.

Andrew Buck, the principal of The Middle School for Art and Philosophy, Brooklyn, wrote to his teachers to defend the school's policy of not providing textbooks, which had been criticised by some parents.

His memo contained so many spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and non-sequiturs that a concerned member of staff passed it on to parents, who began handing out copies at the school gates.

Mr Buck, who is paid $130,000 (£83,000) a year, wrote: "Text books are the soup de jour, the *sine qua non*, the nut and bolts of teaching and learning in high school and college so to speak." However, he added, "just because student have a text book, doesn't mean she or she will be able to read it Additionally students can't use a text book to learn how to learn from a textbook.

"Are text books necessary? No. Are text books important? Yes. Can a teacher sufficiently teach a course without them? Yes, but conditionally."

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Michelle Rhee: Education Revolutionary

Mario Carter

As someone who enthusiastically supported Vince Gray during his successful primary bid to unseat incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty this year, I can say that I joined many of my fellow Washingtonians in breathing a sigh of relief.

We would no longer have a Mayor who, when asked when the snow would be cleared from the streets earlier this year, gave the most tone-deaf answer imaginable by saying it would be gone when, " the temperature gets warm enough." A Mayor that when challenged by Gray to account for his failure in spending the $4.6 million authorized by the City Council to tackle D.C.'s 9.8 unemployment rate, lazily responded with, "the reality is, D.C. has always had higher unemployment rates than nationally." A Mayor that could not be bothered to attend a meeting on the city's lack of enforcement of its Living Wage Law. A Mayor that callously closed down homeless shelters and seemed intent on gentrifying the city to a point where D.C. would no longer look like D.C. We now have a Mayor that shows a genuine concern for the needs of the people especially its most vulnerable, as opposed to one that treats the common folk like plebeians for not recognizing what a brilliant Mayor they were so blessed to have. But the one decision that Fenty made during his four years in office of which I have come to now appreciate was his selection of Michelle Rhee as the Chancellor of D.C. schools.

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Commissioner: Teachers will be tested for English fluency

Katie Davis

Rhode Island's education commissioner said she's promising new checks on educators to determine if they can speak, write and read fluent English, however union leaders say the problem is being blown out of proportion.

The issue came to light this week after a Board of Regents meeting. Commissioner Deborah Gist said she learned about it when parents came to her with concerns.

"I think any Rhode Islander would have the same reaction I would have, which is to be truly stunned about this," Gist said.

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Oklahoma board doesn't act against school districts ignoring law

Megan Rolland

The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted to wait on more information from the attorney general on what they can do to force districts to follow a law about scholarships for special needs children.

The Oklahoma State Board of Education took no action after spending more than a half-hour Thursday discussing four Tulsa-area school boards that have voted not to enforce a new state law.

House Bill 3393, also known as the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program, allows the parents of special education students to receive scholarships from their public school to enroll their student in private school. The bill was signed into law during the last session and took effect Aug. 27.

The Union, Bixby, Broken Arrow and Jenks school districts have voted not to give scholarships to parents who have requested them, stating the law is in direct conflict with the Oklahoma Constitution.

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Now that's dancing: Parents group boots DDR video game for ballet class at elementary school

Gayle Worland:

When June Burch Heffernan's kindergarten-age son began his first physical education unit on dance last year at Franklin Elementary School, his mother was appalled.

The school, like more than two dozen elementary schools across the Madison district, got students to move in part by plugging in "DanceDanceRevolution," an electronic dance game set to a techno-pop beat, where students stomp on interactive pads and get feedback from a TV screen.

"Dance is a creative, human form. 'DanceDanceRevolution' is a video game," said Burch Heffernan.

"It scores you. You're facing a screen, not another human. And you're not getting the inspiration to move from your own brain -- it's telling you via a screen in front of you where to stick your foot."

So Heffernan, who has a background in theater and serves as the arts and culture chair for the Franklin Parent-Teacher Organization, decided to take action: She called in the ballerinas.

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October 22, 2010

What do the best classrooms in the world look like?

Amanda Ripley:

magine if we designed the 21st-century American classroom to be a place where our kids could learn to think, calculate, and invent as well as the students in the top-performing countries around the world.

What would those spaces look like? Would students plug into mini-MRI machines to record the real-time development of their brains' executive functions? Would teachers be Nobel Prize winners, broadcasting through screens installed in the foreheads of robots that don't have tenure?

To find out, we don't have to travel through time. We could just travel through space. At the moment, there are thousands of schools around the world that work better than our own. They don't have many things in common. But they do seem to share a surprising aesthetic.

Classrooms in countries with the highest-performing students contain very little tech wizardry, generally speaking. They look, in fact, a lot like American ones--circa 1989 or 1959. Children sit at rows of desks, staring up at a teacher who stands in front of a well-worn chalkboard.

"In most of the highest-performing systems, technology is remarkably absent from classrooms," says Andreas Schleicher, a veteran education analyst for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development who spends much of his time visiting schools around the world to find out what they are doing right (or wrong). "I have no explanation why that is the case, but it does seem that those systems place their efforts primarily on pedagogical practice rather than digital gadgets."

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Teachers' Pest

Investors Business Daily

The man likely to be Washington's next mayor doesn't want a school chief who won't cater to the teachers union. So Michelle Rhee resigned. But her loss to D.C. kids is a gain for students somewhere else.

That "somewhere else" might be New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie has reportedly offered Washington school chancellor Rhee the job of state education commissioner.

Christie could do much worse. Rhee was hired in 2007 by current Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, who lost to Vincent Gray in last month's Democratic mayoral primary. Her job was to reform the district's schools, where the per-pupil expenditure is near the top -- more than $20,000 a year -- while test scores are consistently among the lowest in the country, and she took it seriously.

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Location, Location, Location

Rosemarie Emanuele

tatistical measures such as "mean", "median" and "mode" are measures that give us a sense of where data are located on a number line. They are therefore, sometimes, called "measures of location". I had to think of them this past week as Ursuline College prepares to host the meeting of the Ohio Division of the Mathematical Association of America, which, for the first time in its history, will be located at our small college campus. A group of math professors from throughout Ohio will be descending on our campus this weekend, and my colleague in the math department is responsible for not only arranging to have the conference come to our campus, but also is responsible for taking care of many of the details that go with planning a conference. Always more of a "big picture" person than one who can deal with minutia, I am in awe of the job she is doing. Her involvement ranges from finding work study students to handle registration to arranging to make coffee and hot chocolate herself rather than pay a high price to have it made for the conference. I certainly could never have done such a good job, and I look forward to watching the conference unfold on our campus that is temporarily missing students, who are on a "fall break."

When my colleague joined us at Ursuline almost ten years ago, she immediately signed up to have her membership in the Mathematical Association of America transferred to her new Ursuline College address. However, when she filled out the form to do so, she was unable to find Ursulline College on the list of Ohio campuses from which to choose. She found herself checking "other", and then writing in the name of "Ursuline College." That would have to change, she recalls thinking!

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Chinese crammer schools cash in

Kathrin Hille

Chinese "crammer" school operators are cashing in on investors' enthusiasm for the country's $85bn-plus private education market with a series of public offerings in the US.

Xueda Education Group, which runs a nationwide network of coaching centres for students facing entrance exams, this week filed for a $124m listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

This came as shares of rival TAL Education jumped 50 per cent in their trading debut on Wednesday after raising $120m in New York. Two others, Global Education & Technology Group and Ambow Education, listed on Nasdaq recently.

Many of these companies are backed by private equity and venture capital - both from China and abroad. They have generally found the US markets receptive, ever since veteran outfit New Oriental listed there as early as 2006.

But the latest rush is driven by ever-higher expectations of the amounts of money Chinese parents will pay to educate their children.

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The Economy and College Admissions

Becky Supiano:

Widespread predictions that students would approach the college decision differently in an economic downturn, and that colleges would plan conservatively to make their new classes, appear to have come true. A report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, released on Wednesday, documents changes in student and college behavior in the 2009 admissions cycle.

The report, "The State of College Admission 2010," uses data from the association's surveys of colleges and schools, the College Board's annual survey of colleges, and the federal government.

During the 2009 cycle, the number of students graduating from high school in the United States reached a peak of 3.33 million; the number of high-school graduates is projected to decline through 2014-15.

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October 21, 2010

Virtual makeover: Open enrollment, online schools alter education landscape

Susan Troller

Eighth-grader James Roll enjoys learning math, science, English and social studies through an online school that lets him learn at his own pace using a computer at home. But he says he likes the art and music classes at what he calls "real school" -- Kromrey Middle School in Middleton -- even more.

James is a pioneer of sorts, and so is the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, when it comes to computer-based, or virtual, learning.

This year, Middleton launched its 21st Century eSchool. It's one of just a dozen virtual schools in Wisconsin, and the second in Dane County; last year the McFarland School District became the sponsoring district for the Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA), which opened for the 2009-2010 school year with about 400 students and this year counts twice that many.

The two schools share several key elements: They offer a broad range of online courses, beginning at the kindergarten level and continuing all the way through high school, employ licensed Wisconsin teachers to oversee online learning, and require that students participate in mandatory testing each year.


Hughes' obvious irritation was fueled by recent open enrollment figures showing that Madison has lost more than 150 students to McFarland, both to the Wisconsin Virtual Academy and to McFarland bricks-and-mortar schools.

Hughes expanded on his frustration in a recent piece he wrote for his Ed Hughes School Blog: "Since we have to send about $6,800 per student to districts that receive our open enrollers, this means that we'll be cutting a (perhaps figurative) check in excess of $1,000,000 to the McFarland School District."

But McFarland Superintendent Scott Brown says his district is only getting $300 to $350 per student per year from the online school and says the Wisconsin Virtual Academy is not necessarily poaching students from the traditional classroom. "Schools like WIVA have brought a lot of students who may not have been under the tent of public education into school districts like ours.

More options for our children is great for them, parents, business, our communities and taxpayers.

With respect to Ed's post, providing alternative models at what appears to be substantially lower cost than Madison's annual $15K per student expenditures is good for all of us, particularly the students.

The financial aspects of the open enrollment and alternative education models gets to the heart of whether traditional districts exist to promote adult employment or student education.

The Khan Academy is worth a visit.. Standing in front of new education models and more choices for our children is a losing proposition. Just yesterday, Apple, Inc. announced the end of hard drives for volume computers with the introduction of a flash memory based notebook. Certainly, hard drive manufacturers will be fighting over a smaller market, but, new opportunities are emerging. Some will take advantage of them, others won't. Education is no different.

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What makes a great teacher?

Gretchen Cochran

What makes a great teacher? These days, one has to wonder.

As the pressure builds for public schools to perform better, teachers can seem the scapegoat, perceived as over the hill, out of touch with current subject matter, disinterested and weary.

So it was heartening to catch an invigorated teacher, Linda Mondel, 47, telling Lansing Sunrise Rotarians about her Fulbright scholarship to India. The Lansing School District teacher was vibrant, dynamic and imbued with enthusiasm. She had spent five weeks touring schools throughout the Asian country and would now, with the 14 others from across the U.S., prepare a teaching unit for American schools.

This woman was no slug. But there is more.

Last year she was the first teacher in the Lansing School District to earn national certification for rigorous testing and screening similar to programs for doctors and accountants. Now she is the media specialist at Pattengill Middle School.

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What Will Become of Public Education in Detroit?

Darreoom Dawsey

OK, I'm pretty sure that it's safe to say that Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager Robert Bobb has been a failure. He's screwed up the DPS transportation system, with results ranging from comical to pathetic. He's exacerbated problems among special-needs students. He's slashed school resources while spending on pricey consultants. He convinced voters to approve a $500-million construction bond even as his own demographers argued that enrollment would continue to plummet. And, of course, he's ballooned the very budget deficit that he was hired to eliminate. And yes, there was his yadayadayada about going to lame-duck politicians to get the state to absolve the DPS debt or else...but even that seems like so much of the same brand of smoke he's been blowing.

Sure, he's done all of this with an undeniable air of professionalism and charm -- but by every available measure, the man's tenure has been a flop. Meanwhile, come March, when his contract expires, it'll all be water under the Belle Isle Bridge. He's likely out of here, joining the lame duck governor who appointed him, and the district won't have a single gain to show for it.

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Tibetan schools stage protest

Malcolm Moore

At least a thousand Tibetan high-school students have protested against the increasing use of Mandarin in their lessons, at the expense of their Tibetan.

Between 1,000 and 7,000 students in the town of Tongren, in Qinghai province, took to the streets on Tuesday, chanting slogans against the replacement of Tibetan with Mandarin Chinese.

According to Radio Free Asia, which obtained fuzzy video images of the protest, marchers from six schools in the area took part. Many of them were wearing their blue-and-white school tracksuits.

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Florida's lesson: School choice builds success

Vicki E. Murray,Matthew Ladner

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, and retired administrator Larry Aceves want to be California's superintendent of public instruction. Voters should ask the candidates why Florida, though demographically similar to California, continues to trounce the Golden State in student achievement.

Two years ago, significant numbers of Florida's low-income and minority fourth-graders outscored all California fourth-graders in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation's Report Card. The latest results confirm that Florida's success is no fluke.

Low-income and minority students continue to propel Florida's gains while California student performance lags near the bottom. The latest fourth-grade NAEP reading results reveal how California's failure to reform its public schools is putting students at an alarming disadvantage.

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Threats to school reform ... are within school reform

Mike Rose

Here's an all-too-familiar storyline about reform, from education to agricultural development: The reform has run its course, has not achieved its goals, and the reformers and other analysts speculate in policy briefs or opinion pages about what went wrong. The interesting thing is that the reform's flaws were usually evident from the beginning.

As someone who has lived through several periods of educational reform and has studied schools and taught for a long time, I see characteristics of the current reform movement, as powerful as it is, that could lead to unintended and undesirable consequences. But when reform is going strong it can become a closed ideological system, deaf to the cautionary tale.

I have six areas of concern:

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New York to release teachers' ratings

Jason Song and Jason Felch

The New York City school system announced Wednesday that it will release ratings for nearly 12,000 teachers based on student test scores, potentially giving the public an unprecedented window into the effectiveness of instructors at the nation's largest school district.

The move, which the city's teachers union said it would fight, is certain to escalate a national debate over how teachers should be evaluated and what role test scores should play in the process.

The release, planned for Friday, was prompted by requests from several news organizations and follows a series of Los Angeles Times stories in August that analyzed 6,000 elementary school teachers' effectiveness in raising students' math and English scores. It was the first time such data had been made public.

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Union Plans to Try to Block Release of Teacher Ratings

The city's teachers' union said on Wednesday that it would request a restraining order to prevent education officials from releasing reports that rate thousands of city teachers based on how much progress students made on state standardized tests.

The release of the reports, if a judge does not block it, would propel New York City to the center of a national debate about how student test scores should be used to evaluate teachers and whether news media organizations should release the ratings of teachers to the public as a measure of their performance. The reports include the names of teachers and their schools.

The city's public school principals have received the reports for the past two years, and last year, they were instructed to use them in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions. But education officials have repeatedly refused to make the reports public because of an agreement with the teachers' union and because of concerns that their release could compromise student privacy. Several news media organizations, including The New York Times, requested their release.

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Small doses of education can make a big difference for parents with sick children

Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Spanish-speaking parents filled the cafeteria at Moffett Elementary School in Lennox earlier this month to watch Lorena Marin, a parent coordinator and literacy coach, demonstrate how to use a digital thermometer and liquid-medicine dispenser.

"What do you do when your child is choking?" Marin asked the crowd of about 50, some toting babies.

Get them to hold their arms up or look at a bird in the sky, parents said. Marin pointed to a section in a simply worded medical reference book that each had received that morning as part of the program. The book explained in Spanish about choking hazards and resuscitation.

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October 20, 2010

Cal State Bans Students from Using Online Note-Selling Service

Audrey Watters

As an undergraduate at Sacramento State, Ryan Stevens founded NoteUtopia in order to provide a mechanism for students to buy, sell, and share their university course notes. Stevens graduated last spring and NoteUtopia officially launched in August. But less than six weeks into the startup's history, NoteUtopia has received a cease-and-desist letter from the California State University system, charging that the company violates a provision of the state education code.

The provision in question dates back a decade and reads "no business, agency, or person, including, but not necessarily limited to, an enrolled student, shall prepare, cause to be prepared, give, sell, transfer, or otherwise distribute or publish, for any commercial purpose, any contemporaneous recording of an academic presentation in a classroom or equivalent site of instruction by an instructor of record. This prohibition applies to a recording made in any medium, including, but not necessarily limited to, handwritten or typewritten class notes."

Following the cease-and-desist letter, officials also emailed the students at all 23 universities in the Cal State system, warning them that selling their class notes online "including on the NoteUtopia website, is subject to discipline, up through and including expulsion from the university."

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Evaluating teacher effectiveness is evolving

Jessica Meyers

How good is your child's teacher?

For years, principals answered that question by visiting a classroom, taking down observations and handing the teacher an annual review.

Now with millions in federal money aimed at rewarding the nation's best teachers, school districts are looking for ways to identify them. Recent studies also point to teacher quality as a key to solving lagging student performance.

But who deserves rewards? Who should get fired? And most perplexing: What makes good teachers and how do we know it?

"That is the $64 million question," said Linda Bridges, president of the American Federation of Teachers' Texas chapter. "It's not just a snapshot in time via a standardized test or a classroom observation in 45 minutes."

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An education reporter's thoughts on 'Waiting for Superman'

Jason Wermers:

Like many people who follow education issues closely, I was curious to see Waiting for Superman, the limited-release documentary film that follows five students and their families in their quest to get the best education.

I finally had the chance this past weekend.

What I came away with was probably what Davis Googenheim, who directed this movie as well as An Inconvenient Truth back in 2004, intended: A sense of injustice at what these children are stuck with through no fault of their own, or their parents, other than the neighborhood in which they live.

We meet Anthony, a fifth-grader in Washington, D.C., who is being raised by his grandmother; Bianca, a kindergartner in Harlem, N.Y., being raised by her mother; Francisco, a first-grader in the Bronx, N.Y., being raised by his mother; Daisy, a fourth-grader in Los Angeles being raised by both parents; and Emily, an eighth-grader in the affluent Silicon Valley, Calif., also being raised by both parents.

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Raising the bar for student achievement

Johnny Chandler

There has been a lot of talk recently about education reform and the need to improve public education in America. The buzz words have been; Race To The Top, First to the Top, The Tennessee Diploma Project, the five day News Story on Channel 4 "Education Nation," and the movie "Waiting for Superman."

When I started to school 55 years ago in one-room Porter School, things were a lot different than today. We did not have running water, indoor plumbing and certainly not a computer. Also, all 20 of us (grades 1-8) were taught by one teacher.

During the time I grew up, the United States was the dominant nation in the world. We were viewed as world leaders in technology, medicine, industry and education. In 2010, the United States ranked ninth in college graduates. When I received a toy during my childhood and it was labeled "Made in Japan," I immediately thought it was an item of inferior quality. Today almost everything we purchase is made in Asia or Mexico.

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DeKalb County School Board elections. Dist. 1, Dist 7: A district in deep disarray

Atlanta Journal Constitution

With its accreditation under review, its former superintendent under indictment and many of its schools underperforming, DeKalb County is at a crossroads. The school board will face many challenges next year, including hiring a new superintendent to lead the system back to stability. School board candidates in the Nov. 2 general election tell us how they would deal with these challenges.

1. What qualities should the next superintendent of schools have?

2. How would you involve the communities in the school redistricting and closings process?

3. With the indictments of two top school officials and the current questions from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools about leadership of the district, what will you do to help restore credibility and confidence?

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Baltimore Contract Grants "Achievement Units" for Union Work

Mike Antonucci

Here's a provision of the proposed Baltimore Teachers Union contract that escaped my notice but caught the eye of the editors of the Washington Post. The tentative agreement - voted down by the BTU rank-and-file - proposes a system by which teachers would be paid not strictly according to years and college credits, but by "achievement units" accumulated.

A teacher would receive 12 AUs for the highest grade on an evaluation and 1 AU for each college credit. But work your way to page 9 of the tentative agreement and you find a teacher is to be awarded 3 AUs annually for being a union building representative.

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How billionaire donors harm public education

Valerie Strauss

Today the foundation set up by billionaires Eli and Edythe Broad is giving away $2 million to urban school districts that have pursued education reform that they like. On Friday a Florida teacher is running 50 miles to raise money so that he and his fellow teachers don't have to spend their own money to buy paper and pencils, binders (1- and 2-inch), spiral notebooks, composition books and printer ink.

Together the two events show the perverted way schools are funded in 2010.

Very wealthy people are donating big private money to their own pet projects: charter schools, charter school management companies, teacher assessment systems. (The latest example is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million donation to the Newark public schools, given with the provision that Zuckerberg, apparently an education reform expert, play a big role in determining success.)

What this means is that these philanthropists -- and not local communities -- are determining the course of the country's school reform efforts and which education research projects get funded. As Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent James A. Williams said in an interview: "They should come out and tell the truth. If they want to privatize public education, they should say so."

Many aspects of education are driven by the pursuit of money, not just billionaire's sprinkling it around.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: UW economist says deficit will hit $3.1 billion

Greg Bump

Andrew Reschovsky, an economist at UW-Madison's La Follette School of Public Affairs, is estimating the state budget deficit could balloon to $3.1 billion in the next biennium due to increases in the cost to provide public se
Much more here.

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Listen to the show Baltimore students invest in their future

Kai Ryssdal:

Baltimore students are learning the ups and downs of the investment market with the help of Stocks in the Future, a program where students get paid for perfect attendance and good grades. But instead of pocketing the money, students invest in the stock market, learning a valuable lesson about investing their time in school.

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Conflict question in Georgia school suit

D. Aileen Dodd and Bill Rankin

The state's highest court will rule in coming months on the tug-of-war over power and money that pits seven school districts against the state in a fight over local control. The case has already raised a question about fair play.

Ties between Supreme Court Justice David Nahmias and Mike Bowers, attorney for Gwinnett County Public Schools, the lead district in the case, have some in education circles asking about a possible conflict of interest. Bowers, a former Georgia attorney general, is Nahmias' election campaign committee's co-chairman and contributed $1,000 to his election bid on Aug. 1, finance disclosures show.

A committee Bowers chaired in 2009 recommended Nahmias, 46, the former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, for his seat on the state Supreme Court. Nahmias appeared on the short list of candidates the Judicial Nominating Commission sent to the governor when former Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears stepped down.

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October 19, 2010

"Students and Their Needs Come First" - Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes


One in particular -- the addition of more AP classes will certainly not be a detriment in the college application process. However, the most selective colleges generally expect applicants to have taken the AP classes at their high school if they are available.

The idea that this new plan will promote segregation is particularly pernicious and about 180 degrees off the mark as far as the intent of the program goes.

Finally, the point of choosing a curriculum for our schools is to determine the best courses for our students to take, not the courses that teachers most want to teach. Students and their needs come first.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to write.

Ed Hughes, Madison School Board

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More on honors classes and racism

Posted on 10/18 to the East High Community list serv, in response to a description of the MMSD high school reform proposal. Posted here with the author's permission.

Dear East Community:

I contribute to this discussion group only once in a blue moon, but this issue is near and dear to my heart and I am compelled to comment. I cannot think of a more important issue than that of race and racism in our educational institutions.

I speak as a lifelong political progressive who has been active in community issues relating to racism and economic and social disparities for thirty years, from Cleveland to Chicago's south side to Madison. More important, I speak as an adult basic instructor in mathematics at MATC who teaches many of the students that have been failed by their experience in the Madison schools, most of them students of color or students mired in the low margins of the socioeconomic system.

With that said, it frustrates and saddens me see how many well-meaning people have this issue exactly backward. It is not racist school policy to offer multiple tracks, specifically honors or AP TAG classes. Rather, racist school policy - of the most insidious nature imaginable - is failing to offer those classes because students of color aren't in them. That argument implicitly says that students of color cannot achieve, and that message speaks volumes about the difference between looking fair in some lowest-common-denominator way versus fighting for the hard and true and noble path in student achievement.

Simply put, we should have TAG classes and they should be filled with students of every class, race and color. That they have historically not been filled with students of every class, race and color is the real issue. It tells us that our methods for evaluating students are abysmal, even abusive (how many of you have enjoyed watching your 4th grader take class time to learn to use a squeeze ball to reduce stress on standardized tests?). It tells us that we are not successfully seeking out students of tremendous potential because we don't understand them or don't know how to relate to them or reach them. It also says that we fail to properly appreciate what a culture of demanding expectations of achievement can do for every student in a classroom, especially when we demand of ourselves to understand and embrace each of our students as strikingly unique individuals and not achievers based upon highly overrated and dubious "educational standards," standardized test scores or other unhelpful common denominators.

The progress of my classes at MATC this semester is typical and no surprise to me. I have two algebra classes. One, downtown, is mostly white and/or middle class. The other, in South Madison, is almost entirely students of color, most with difficult personal circumstances, most of whom have always failed at math. One class is achieving well enough. The other class is over-achieving, pushed hard, pushing me back, engaged, holding an average grade of AB. Any guesses which is which?

As educators and supporters of our schools we can do so much better than we do. But we cannot do better by pretending that differentiation in a classroom can accomplish the same thing as a motivated rainbow of a class with a class-wide ethic to achieve deep understanding and a drive to overcome commonplace expectations.

I say that we need both TAG classes and the recruiting methods and policies to make sure that they reflect every kind of brilliance in our community.


Pete Nelson

As they say, "Friend speaks my mind."

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If it's a pretend administrator, is it a real observation?

Ms. Cornelius

We have the most wonderfullest idea that has been created by our district administration this year, and it has had amusingly unforeseen consequences for Ms. Cornelius.

Here's the deal: the Powers That Be have revived the farcical "Leadership Cadre." What might this be, you ask? Well, remember that our district has an absolutely stellar record of hiring district employees for administration jobs-- and by stellar I imply events so rare as to be separated by light-years.

But wait! Let's get some teachers who have administrative certification-- and frankly, no hope in hell of actually being hired-- fill in when one of our peripatetic assistant principals gets to go jaunting off to a conference in Orlando or Bimini or Noo Yawk. Boom! Voila! "Leadership Cadre!" These chumps members of the Leadership Cadre will then garner administrative experience. Forget that whilst these ersatz nabobs are substitute nabobing, they will not be fulfilling the function for which they were hired and for which a school district exists: namely, teaching students. No; let the students eat substitutes!

Now, there is one particular dewy-eyed dreamer who leapt at this chance-- whom I will call "Bob," since "Sawed-Off Runt" seems far too brutal, if apropos. I can see the attraction of administration for Bob. He only puts eight grades in the gradebook per semester as it is, but if he becomes an AP he has figured out that that number will drop to zero. And that's less, right? (Did I mention Bob teaches math?)

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Daring goal on Virginia higher education

The Virginian - Pilot

Del. Kirk Cox and Gov. Bob McDonnell were a study in contrasts last week as they spoke to a commission tasked with recommending higher education reforms.

Cox, the second-ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, repeatedly warned his audience that money is scarce, and increased spending on public universities is a worthy goal when prosperity returns to the commonwealth.

McDonnell promised greater investment in the near term and rewards for universities that increase graduation rates and beef up science, engineering, math and technology majors. He later estimated new state aid could total between $30 million and $100 million next year. He was vague about the source.

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Ten seek five-at large seats on Rockingham County Board of Education

Mary Dolan

On the 11-seat Rockinghom County Board of Education five seats are at-large spots, meaning residents of any part of the county can seek to fill them. This year, 10 people, including three incumbents, have filed for those five seats.

The incumbents:

Lorie McKinney

What sets you apart/qualifies you?

I feel that having children in our school system makes a big difference on how you look at things. I have a child in middle school and a child in elementary school. Plus I have family members in our system that range from kindergarten through 12th grade. I work with the public and receive a lot of information across the county on what is happening in our schools. I will always put the best interest of our children first.

How would you deal with an ever-tightening budget?

The current school board, along with our superintendent, has been looking at this for two years now. We have only hired when we could, due to state funding and the increase in classroom size from fourth to 12th grade due to new state standards. We are looking at every possible thing we can to keep from letting people go.

What's the No. 1 problem/priority in your mind for the schools right now?

Our budget; we can only hope and pray that our state does not take any more money from our schools.

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Whither Michelle Rhee? Lessons Learned

National Journal

It came as no surprise to District of Columbia residents when Michelle Rhee announced her resignation this week as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. That her resignation (and tenure) made national news illustrates the depth of the education debates that she sparked. She leaves as her legacy the mass firings of teachers rated as minimally effective, increased emphasis on charter schools, and expanded use of standardized tests. Unafraid to publicly speak her mind, she has been alternately applauded or scorned by educators, depending on their views and positions in the broader educational system.

For education policymakers, how significant is Rhee's very public struggle with a major city's public school system? Does it help or hurt the debate to have a face and a name attached to it? Can educators take policy cues from her experience, or are the lessons to be learned largely about politics?

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Portland schools: Time to translate reforms into better student results

Carole Smith

It hasn't been an easy week at Portland Public Schools. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Portland School Board voted to close a high school campus. The school board also endorsed bringing needed changes to all our high schools, which will increase graduation rates, close the achievement gap and guarantee every Portland student a well-rounded education at any of our neighborhood schools.

This past week I heard from hundreds of people upset about the loss of their school. For me, proposing to close Marshall was a heart-wrenching decision, but a necessary one. A decade-long enrollment decline -- driven by Portland's changing demographics -- has drained more than 2,500 students from our high schools. Coupled with a shrinking state investment in education, we simply do not have the dollars to provide a rich, well-rounded high school education to students on all our current campuses.

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Higher percentage of Pr. George's seniors taking - and passing - AP tests

Michael Birnbaum

The percentage of Prince George's County high school seniors taking at least one Advanced Placement exam is rising, as is the percentage of those achieving passing grades.

For the Class of 2010, the percentage taking an AP test rose to 35 percent, up from 27 percent for the Class of 2009, according to data released by the school system. Of the tests they took, 26.3 percent received passing grades of 3, 4 or 5 in 2010, up from 24.6 percent in 2009.

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Maury County schools to open Monday as budget impasse continues

Nicole Young:

Schools will be open in Maury County on Monday, but the system's future is uncertain as the school board and county commission continue to disagree on a budget.

School Board Chairman Shay Daniels and Director of Schools Eddie Hickman met with the county mayor and chairman of the Maury County Commission for about two hours Friday afternoon to discuss options for the district, Daniels said.

"We knew the commission was meeting on Monday so it makes sense for schools to be in session that day," Daniels said. "We hope the outcome of the commission meeting will allow us to use reserve fund money to balance our budget and move forward."

The Monday meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m., will mark the fifth time the Maury County Commission has seen the schools budget. The school board has submitted three different budgets at past meetings. The current budget proposal has been shot down twice.

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California can't improve college completions without rethinking developmental education at its community colleges

California educates about one-quarter of all community college students in the nation, but large portions of community college students enter unprepared for college-level work. As a result, policy discussions in California and nationally are focusing increasingly on ways to improve student success in developmental or basic skills programs at community colleges.

State policymakers, community college system leaders, and local campus leaders and faculty all have a part to play in making this happen. Much of the work toward these objectives necessarily involves K-12 education as well.

This report sets out the issues involved, drawing heavily from a recent EdSource study that was commissioned by the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office to provide a deeper understanding of the system's challenges and opportunities related to developmental education. It also highlights recent state policy actions and the broader context within which those actions were taken.

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Teaching teachers: As educators struggle with the issue of teacher improvement, a program in Tennessee shows that struggling teachers can gain a lot from watching great teachers in action.

Emily Hanford

Teachers are at the center of the great debate over how to fix American education. We're told the bad ones need to be fired; the good ones, rewarded. But what about the rest? Most teachers are in the middle -- not terrible, but they could be better. If every student is going to have a good teacher, then the question of how to help teachers in the middle must be part of the debate.

One reason "teacher improvement" doesn't get more attention is because researchers don't know that much about how teachers get better. Typical professional development programs, in which teachers go to a workshop for a day or two, aren't effective. Even programs that provide longer-term training don't seem to work very well. Two experimental studies by the U.S. Department of Education showed that yearlong institutes to improve teacher knowledge and practice did not result in significantly better student test scores.

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Madison Memorial High students get lesson in immigration

Pamela Cotant

When Memorial High School opened its doors last year for the immigration/migration project -- which helped students learn about their backgrounds -- officials were astonished when more than 400 people showed up.

So the school decided to do it again, and the recent open house for the event drew 677 people.

Besides the numbers and the interaction of the families at the night of the event, social studies teacher Kristin Voss likes the idea that students are sitting down to talk to family members and are learning something about their classmates as well.

The project has revealed "a handful of immigrants in classrooms" or the children of immigrants, Voss said.

The students discover information they never knew about family members, and a couple of students learned they had a common relative from the 1860s.

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Santa Cruz Education Foundation hosts 'Waiting for Superman' screening, discussion

Kimberly White:

A packed audience watched failure after failure by generations of politicians, federal and state officials and public school teachers Saturday during a screening of "Waiting for Superman," a documentary film that won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

The screening, hosted by the Santa Cruz Education Foundation at the Nickelodeon Theatre, was followed by a short discussion by local educators.

"It's a powerful movie," former Assemblyman John Laird said after film concluded. "The issues are more complex than in some ways they were represented in the movie, but I'm hoping that it focuses everybody on this issue and brings people together toward improvements."

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Students caught in middle of Monona Grove contract dispute


Monona Grove teachers receive the best post-retirement benefit package in Dane County, according to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. Qualifying teachers may retire at 55 and receive district-covered health and dental insurance until age 70. They also receive a payout over three years based on their Social Security allowance.

Depending on projected health care costs, a 2009 retiree earning the maximum benefit would receive $281,000 to $421,000 in benefits, school boards association attorney Bob Butler said.

To retain those benefits over the years, the union has conceded short-term compensation increases, putting their salaries in the middle-to-bottom range compared with neighboring districts, Wollerman said. Gerlach said the healthy benefit package was put in place years ago to encourage retirements and attract new teachers.

The School District's contentious proposal breaks teachers into three groups: those 10 years away from retirement, new hires and everyone in between. The first group wouldn't be affected by the major changes. New teachers would receive $1,300 a year while employed toward a Health Reimbursement Account and no post-retirement payout. Teachers in the district that are more than 10 years from retirement would have their district health and dental benefits capped at retirement levels, lose coverage once eligible for Medicare and have their stipend capped at $50,000 total.

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A Reformer Departs: Michelle Rhee

Paul Gigot:

Gigot: So you said when you resigned this week that for reform to continue, the reformer had to leave. With respect, that seems a bit contradictory. Why did you feel you had to go?

Rhee: Well, the new presumptive mayor-elect in Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray, and I decided that the best thing to do for the city would be for me to step aside, because we really want to make sure that the entire city now can embrace the reform efforts. And certainly for some members of the community, to have me continue to be associated with the reforms was not going to allow them to do that. I asked my deputy chancellor to step in in my place. I asked my entire management team to stay in place through the end of the school year. And to be honest, I mean, those folks are the brains and the talent behind the reforms, and so I feel like, by doing this, it would allow the reforms to continue on, and they could do it in a way where the entire city could get behind it.

Gigot: OK, when you came to see us a few months ago, you had said that one of the secrets of your success was the support you had had from Mayor Adrian Fenty--that when you got into trouble, he always backed you up. Do you think the new mayor is going to back up your successor?

Rhee: Well, I think he has to. His commitment is not to roll back the clock and to continue the reforms as aggressive as we've been doing them over the last 3½ years. And in order to do that, you have to give your unequivocal support. My deputy has been working with me since day one. She knows what the political support looks like to get this work accomplished, and I don't think she's going to settle for anything less.

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Complex Wisconsin aid formula means some school districts get more, many get less

Amy Hetzner:

he majority of school districts in the Milwaukee area will get more money this school year from the state's largest pot for education but not enough to make up for losses they suffered last school year, according to data released Friday.

Thirty-seven of the 50 school districts in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties will receive less state general aid in 2010-'11 than they did in the 2008-'09 school year, information from the state Department of Public Instruction shows. For seven of those districts, aid fell by at least one-fifth over that two-year period.

"We've been hit pretty hard the last couple of years," said Keith Marty, superintendent of the Menomonee Falls School District, where general aid from the state is expected to decline to $10.85 million for the current school year, about 27% less than what the school system received two years ago.

Under state-imposed revenue limits, school districts can make up aid losses by increasing their property tax levies. Some districts with large aid losses last year ended up with double-digit percentage levy increases to make up the difference. At least part of those increases can be offset by school levy credits that are sent to municipalities to help reduce residents' overall tax bills.

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October 18, 2010

2010 Wisconsin Charter School Awards

151K PDF, via a Laurel Cavalluzzo email:

On Friday night, October 15th at Discovery World in Milwaukee, The Wisconsin Charter Schools Association (WCSA) announced the winners of annual awards in four categories, as well as two career achievement honorees:

Charter School Teacher of the Year: First Place: Lyndee Belanger, Milwaukee Academy of Science (Milwaukee) Second Place: Jim Johnson, Elementary School for Arts and Academics (Sheboygan) Third Place: Sarah Brown, Veritas High School (Milwaukee)

Charter School Innovator of the Year: First Place: Marcia Spector, Exec. Director, Seeds of Health (Milwaukee) Second Place: Tedd Hamm, Coordinator of Educational Development, Director/Principal, Sheboygan Area School District Third Place: Parents of Highland Community School (Milwaukee)

Charter Schools of the Year:
First Place: Bruce Guadalupe (Milwaukee) Second Place: Seeds of Health Elementary School (Milwaukee) Third Place: Highlands Community School (Milwaukee)

The two Career Achievement Award went to: Jeff Nania, Executive Director of Wisconsin Waterfowl Association (Portage) Patricia Jones, Founder and former Director of The Brompton School (Kenosha)

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High schoolers barred from college-level courses

Jay Matthews:

Each year when I ask high schools around the country to fill out the form for my annual America's Best High Schools list, I try to add a question to illumine an issue on which there is little research. This was my extra question for 2010:

"May any student at your school enroll in AP American History or AP English Literature if they want to? (If not, we would like to know what qualifications they must have -- a certain GPA? a teacher's recommendation?)"

I just calculated the results. They suggest the widespread habit of restricting access to AP may be losing strength, although not fast enough to suit me or the AP teachers who have influenced me on this issue.

I am beginning to contact schools for the 2011 list. Any that haven't heard from me by Thanksgiving and think they qualify -- a school needs to have given as many AP, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests as it had graduating seniors -- should e-mail me at

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End our 'multiuniversities'

David Warren:

Before leaving the topic of, "Education, Need to get government out of," in my naive Sunday series on "What is to be done," let me touch specifically on the topic of our universities.

I wrote, recently, a rather facetious piece on this topic for a Catholic website in the United States, in which I asked whether universities were ever a good idea, in the face of the modern assumption that such questions need never be asked. I alluded to evidence that, back in the 13th century, when Europe's oldest universities were new, the same sort of nonsense prevailed on campus as today: kids suddenly "empowered" by freedom without adequate discipline; professors with a little too much tenure for anyone's well-being.

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Supt. Ackerman's critique of the "Reform Manifesto"

Arlene Ackerman:

This was written by Philadelphia Schools Supt. Arlene Ackerman. She was one of 16 big-city school district chiefs who signed onto a reform "manifesto" published in the Washington Post this week that was long on rhetoric and short on substance. It was initiated by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and signed by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who has since resigned, and 14 others.

Yesterday Ackerman told me that she had not seen the final version of the manifesto -- which views charter schools as a big answer to urban school failure, bashes teachers unions and supports market-driven "fixes" to schools -- and though an aide gave permission for her name to be added to it, she does not agree with it. Here is her statement.

By Arlene Ackerman
Some may feverishly await the arrival of Superman to resolve the problems that overwhelm our public education system, while others prefer to enlist with the personality of the day or prescribe to the scripted agenda of the hour. However, my preference, which remains unchanged for the past 42 years, has been to tackle school reform through collaborative efforts, with the start and end goal of providing quality educational opportunities for all children who attend public schools. Period.

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Liberal Arts, Post-Recession

Scott Jaschik:

Augustana College has never been a pure liberal arts institution.

The Illinois college has long had programs like education and business amid the traditional liberal arts disciplines. But those programs have been relatively few in number and, faculty members say, have never defined the institution's ethos, which is solidly in the liberal arts tradition. The college is proud of its general education program, of its study abroad offerings, and of its emphasis on critical thinking and building of community, not just on job preparation.

Now, in the face of the economic downturn, the college is making some adjustments -- which Steven C. Bahls, its president, calls the "post-recession strategic plan" for a liberal arts college. That means several new majors focused on pre-professional interests. With new majors, Bahls says the college may need, over time, to move away from a tradition (rare among American colleges) of paying faculty members equivalent salaries across disciplines; the plan also means symbolic and real steps to be sure that the college can attract diverse students, beyond its historic (and shrinking) base of Swedish Lutheran families.

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Discipline rate of black students in Del., elsewhere is probed

Nichole Dobo:

The U.S. Department of Education's office of civil rights is investigating whether black male students are punished disproportionately in the Christina School District in Wilmington and Newark, one of five districts nationwide under scrutiny for its discipline record.

Federal investigators are in the process of visiting all of Christina's schools and have requested detailed discipline data for at least the last two academic years.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan first mentioned districts were being investigated at a conference in late September hosted by the Department of Education's civil rights office and the Department of Justice's civil rights division. Besides Delaware, the school districts under review are in New York, North Carolina, Utah and Minnesota.

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The Topography Of Language

Mark Changizi:

Reading pervades every aspect of our daily lives, so much so that one would be hardpressed to find a room in a modern house without words written somewhere inside. Many of us now read more sentences in a day than we listen to. Not only are we highly competent readers, but our brains even appear to have regions devoted to recognizing words. A Martian just beginning to study us humans might be excused for concluding that we had evolved to read.

But, of course, we haven't. Reading and writing is a recent human invention, going back only several thousand years, and much more recently for many parts of the world. We are reading using the eyes and brains of our illiterate ancestors. Why are we so good at such an unnatural act?

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Teach for America infuses charter schools

Alan Borsuk:

A funny thing happened on the way to Teach for America trying to give Milwaukee Public Schools an infusion of idealism and energy from some of the best and brightest of America's college graduates:

MPS ran out of jobs for them and for a lot of other young, promising teachers.

So instead, Teach for America's Milwaukee work this year involves infusing itself mostly into charter schools and private schools in the publicly funded voucher program.

In the big picture, you can argue this doesn't make much difference: The corps members, as TFA teachers are called, are still working with thousands of the city's students who need good teachers.

In terms of the individual teachers involved, it doesn't make too much difference either, at least in many ways. What they are doing is ultimately much the same: Giving at least their first two years out of college to teaching low-income kids. Whatever you call the schools they're in, the work has similar demands, joys, frustrations and challenges.

But there are two ways it does make a difference.

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October 17, 2010

What I Might Hope To See in High School Reform

Right now I am struggling to get my head around what the proposed high school reforms are or are not, what problems they are intended to address (TAG? achievement gap? readiness for life after high school? other?), the many interpretations of what is proposed, and whether the proposed reforms would be effective in achieving any of the stated purposes.

In an interesting twist, this process has brought me back to my own personal wish list of what I would like to see in comprehensive high school reform. I believe that any one of the items on the list would make a real difference and in ways that are compatible with DPI requirements and national standards.

My thinking is informed by sources that are predictable and others that may not be obvious but are equally important: personal observation, years of listening at parent meetings and testimony to the school board, numerous national studies and commentaries, and what I have learned from my highly skilled colleagues who work with undergraduate programs at UW-Madison.

In some ways, the debates over the proposed two-strand system, the fate of electives (which I want to keep), consistency across the four high schools, college preparation, national standards, etc., are less important to me than the basic expectations and requirements for the students who enter and graduate from our schools. Without changing those things, I believe that we will be confined to tinkering around the edges without touching some of the fundamental expectations that students will confront after graduation.

I believe that we could make a serious dent in the achievement gap, address long standing dissatisfaction with academic opportunities and challenges, and move toward rebuilding Madison's reputation for schools that draw people to invest in homes in our metro area and neighborhoods by truly making the changes - vs. planning to study and eventually implement changes - to address the items that are on this list:

1. Increase opportunities for advanced study at all grade levels, whether it is part of an AP curriculum or other courses developed and taught at a higher level with or without special labels. Then remove the unmovable obstacles that keep students from participating.

2. Restore West's 9th and 10th grade honors courses.

3. Conform MMSD policy and practice to meet or exceed DPI standards at all grade levels, and particularly in regard to graduation requirements.

4. Guaranty that ALL middle school math teachers are proficient in algebraic reasoning and other skills necessary to prepare students to master the high school math and science curriculum.

5. Teach students to write using complete sentences, correct spelling and standard grammatical conventions.

6. Make a compelling case for consistency and then truly implement consistency across the board if that is going to be a rationale for homogenizing the curriculum in our high schools.

For the entire post, go to:

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The Backstory on the Madison West High Protest

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

IV. The Rollout of the Plan: The Plotlines Converge

I first heard indirectly about this new high school plan in the works sometime around the start of the school year in September. While the work on the development of the plan continued, the District's responses to the various sides interested in the issue of accelerated classes for 9th and 10th grade students at West was pretty much put on hold.

This was frustrating for everyone. The West parents decided they had waited long enough for a definitive response from the District and filed a complaint with DPI, charging that the lack of 9th and 10th grade accelerated classes at West violated state educational standards. I imagine the teachers at West most interested in this issue were frustrated as well. An additional complication was that West's Small Learning Communities grant coordinator, Heather Lott, moved from West to an administrative position in the Doyle building, which couldn't have helped communication with the West teachers.

The administration finally decided they had developed the Dual Pathways plan sufficiently that they could share it publicly. (Individual School Board members were provided an opportunity to meet individually with Dan Nerad and Pam Nash for a preview of the plan before it was publicly announced, and most of us took advantage of the opportunity.) Last Wednesday, October 13, the administration presented the plan at a meeting of high school department chairs, and described it later in the day at a meeting of the TAG Advisory Committee. On the administration side, the sense was that those meetings went pretty well.

Then came Thursday, and the issue blew up at West. I don't know how it happened, but some number of teachers were very upset about what they heard about the plan, and somehow or another they started telling students about how awful it was. I would like to learn of a reason why I shouldn't think that this was appallingly unprofessional behavior on the part of whatever West teachers took it upon themselves to stir up their students on the basis of erroneous and inflammatory information, but I haven't found such a reason yet.

Lots of related links:

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School Board member Marj Passmon on the Proposed Madison High School Changes

via email:

It was the intention of the Administration to first introduce the plan to HS staff and administrators and get some input from them. If you read the Plan then you know that it never discusses anything relating to current electives or student options and, I, personally, would never vote for any plan that does.

Although I admire the students for their leadership and support of their school, both they and their teachers seem to have leaped to certain conclusions. I am not saying that this is a perfect plan and yes, there are elements that may need to be worked on but to immediately jump on it without asking any questions or presenting suggestions for improvement does not speak well of those who helped to spread rumors.

It is now up to MMSD Administrators to explain to the staff and students what this Plan is actually about and, perhaps then, the West Staff can have a more objective discussion with their classes.


Marjorie Passman
Madison Board of Education

Lots of related links:

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Oppressive debt forces governments - and West Bend schools - to make tough choices

John Schmid:

After living beyond its means for decades and shifting its debt onto future generations, an entire society is seeing the bills come due earlier than expected. And Kelly Egan's students are about to pay the price.

Egan teaches high achievers in math and reading, a job that barely survived budget cuts last year - but the reprieve was short-lived. At the end of this school year, the position is almost certain to disappear along with dozens more in West Bend, adding to the hundreds of thousands of public employees nationwide whose employment has been cut short by the meanest economic downturn since the 1930s.

"Parents ask, 'What should we do with our children as the West Bend School District continues to cut and cut and cut programs,' " said Egan, a 20-year veteran who is likely to be reassigned to teach the regular curriculum.

For the first time since the Depression, virtually every strata of American government is caught in the same viselike squeeze: Cities, counties and states find themselves deep in debt and lacking rainy day reserves to tide them over in hard times. Even with federal stimulus funds, local governments are laying off police officers and teachers, closing firehouses and selling public assets. During the past two years, state and local governments nationwide have cut 242,000 jobs, and public schools have shed an additional 200,700, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Will Fitzhugh, via email:

The consensus among Edupundits is that teacher quality is the most important variable in student academic achievement.

I argue that the most important variable in student academic achievement is student academic work.

Edupundits have chosen very complex subject matter for their investigations and reports. They study and write about dropouts, vouchers, textbooks, teacher selection and training, school governance, budgets, curricula in all subjects, union contracts, school management issues, and many many more.

Meanwhile, practically all of them fail to give any attention to the basic purpose of schools, which is to have students do academic work. Almost none of them seems inclined to look past the teacher to see if the students are, for instance, reading any nonfiction books or writing any term papers.

Of course all of the things they do pay attention to are vitally important, but without student academic work they mean very little. Now, I realize there are state standards in math and reading, and some states test for writing after a fashion, but no state standards ask if students have read a history book while they were in school or written a substantial research paper, and neither do the SAT, ACT, or NAEP tests.

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Using Financial Derivatives to Deflate the Higher Ed Bubble

Michael C. Macchiarola & Arun Abraham:

After the bursting of the housing bubble and the Great Recession that followed, there has been an increasing focus on improving market transparency and recognizing other potential bubbles. The higher education and student loan markets are under new levels of scrutiny because they display many of the hallmarks of a bubble. The American government's model of freely extending federal loans to students, while improving lower- and middle-class access to higher education, has enabled the formation of detrimental distortions in the higher education market. At the same time, the soaring cost of higher education has saddled a generation of young Americans with unmanageable student loan debt. Evidence is beginning to mount that, for too many, their debt-financed higher education represents a stifling encumbrance instead of the great investment that society's collective commonsense has long suggested.

This Article explores the factors that contribute to the distortions in the higher education market, including (1) the informational asymmetries that exist between the various parties to a typical debt-financed purchase of an education, (2) accreditation rules, (3) the peculiar incentives of school faculties, and (4) widely followed school rankings. Due to nuances between different segments of the higher education market, this Article focuses on one segment for the sake of brevity: law schools. However, the analysis and prescription have more general applicability to all segments of the higher education market.

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Why Etiquette Schools Are Thriving

Teddy Wayne:

The fact is, today's young professionals need to be told how to dress and act

A few summers ago, Google (GOOG) intern Gregory Duncan was receiving instruction at his workstation in the company's New York office when a visitor swung by for a chat. Duncan remembers that his engineer-supervisor wasn't very gracious about the social call. "Just a minute," he hissed at the visitor, holding up an index finger in the universal signal for 'I have way more important things to deal with.' The visitor? Sergey Brin.

Civility in the workplace has been on the decline since Emily Post published her primer on the topic, Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home, in 1922. Even books about etiquette--like the current best-seller The No Asshole Rule--lack a certain polish. Yet as hoodie-wearing, emoticon-tweeting millennials graduate college and prepare for the workforce, the low point may just be arriving. In other words, it's a great time to be a professional etiquette coach.

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Michelle Rhee talks education issues

John King. Video

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Where others fear to tread The decision by a Chinese business school to set up in Africa highlights Western schools' reluctance to engage with the continent

The Economist:

FOR anyone seeking proof of the extent of China's reach into Africa, this year's graduation ceremony for executive MBA students at the partly state-run China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai would have been a good place to start. Alongside the predominantly Asian faces delightedly collecting their degrees were 30 Ghanaians and 12 Nigerians--the inaugural cohort on CEIBS's Africa programme.

The programme, which kicked off in Accra, the capital of Ghana, in early 2009, is one of the first offered by a renowned international school in sub-Saharan Africa. Alongside the executives from both local and international companies were a smattering of governmental types, including a Ghanaian MP and a high court judge. Virtually all had met the programme's $30,000 cost from their own pockets.

Although it currently only offers the part-time executive MBA in Ghana, which is taught mainly by Shanghai-based professors and uses rented premises, China's largest business school has grand ambitions for Africa. It hopes to open a campus in Accra and to launch a full-time MBA. Pedro Nueno, CEIBS's president and the Africa programme's pioneer, calls Africa "the last big opportunity on the planet" for business schools.

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K-12 Literacy Alignment Related to Equity

Superintendent Daniel Nerad:

As part of the curriculum review cycle to provide a systematic, ongoing method for the MMSD to update its curricular materials in each of the content areas, base line data is currently being acquired from each school, K-12in literacy. An additional goal ofthis review cycle is to provide all students with equitable access to research-and standards-based curricular materials and programs district wide.

Attached are matrixes that went to all schools seeking information about the Core Practices, Interventions, Assessments, and Resources in each ofthe buildings. Please note: these documents are a tool to gather information. It is NOT to evaluate buildings or individual teachers. Curriculum and Assessment will use the information provided to determine ways to better support the schools and more equitable ways.

This questionnaire is being distributed to the Instructional Resource Teachers at the elementary level, the Learning Coordinators at the middle level, and the Literacy Coaches at the high school leveL The intention is to gather information from a literacy expert who serves the entire school as the focus oftheirjob. We have also asked these staffmembers to confer with other literacy experts who work in their building: Read 180 teachers or six grade Literacy Coaches, for example. Once the information is shared with principals it will be returned day on Wednesday, October 27, 2010.

This gathering of information serves several initiatives within the strategic plan including better support the schools and more equitable ways.

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Madison School District's Proposed 5 Year Budget Planning Parameters

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Attached you will find the PMAIClient Checklist completed for your consideration as the Administrations recommendation for the parameters that will make up the 5 year budget projection. The major areas and comments about those areas are as follows:


Projected %Salary Increase
These have been intentionally left blank, as the committee will need to have a conversation about how to handle these going forward. This section, along with the next section (Projected Benefits) comprise approximately 85% of the entire model projection. We will need to address the issue of how these line item projections could impact future negotiations with all employee groups.

Projected Benefits
We have worked with our Human Resources Department to provide the best possible projections at this point in time.

We have assumed an increase in WRS over the next 3 years of .6% and the assumed this would flatten out.

For Health Insurance, we have used a weighted average based upon the number of plans we have with each separate health plan, along with a projected increase for each plan.

General Fund Assumptions
Historically Administration has tied this increase to the annualized Consumer Pricing Index (CPI-U), which hovered around approximately 2%.

Currently through the month of August, 2010 the annualized CPI-U is at 1.1%. We are recommending that all consumable budgets be increased by 2% in order to allow schools and departments the ability to meet the increasing needs and price increases.

Utilities Assumptions
Administration has worked with Madison Gas and Electrict (MG&E), the City of Madison, and our independent natural gas consultant Select Energy to prepare the recommended rates of utility increase.

Related: Madison School District Chart of Accounts.

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A comparison of Madison Schools Staff Education, Years of Experience and Turnover

Andreal Davis, Assistant Director of Equity & Family Involvement:

The Board of Education information requests from the August 9, 2010 Board meeting are listed in the attached document (Attachment A). The following are the information requests that have been addressed in the attached documents:

Staff age and experience - rationale and implications for these data. We do not have staff age by school yet, but we have staff experience by school.

Staff Experience by School - Elementary School (Attachment B-1)

Staff Experience by School - Middle School (Attachment B-2)

Staff Experience by School - High School (Attachment B-3)

Staff Experience by School - Other (Attachment B-4)

Average experience of teachers by school (Attachment C)

Teacher turnover by school and include all staff categories not just instructional and administrative; Le., custodial, clerical, technical. food service

September 30, 2010 Memo to Board of Education regarding Turnover Data (Attachment D-1) School Turnover Summary - Annual Report by Employee Group (Attachment D-2) School Turnover Summary - Annual Report by Location (Attachment D-3)

A final report will be completed by November 11 as part of a discussion at the regular Board of Education meeting on November 29.

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On Outcomes: Community Colleges and Top Universities

Casey Brienza:

I am both delighted and honored to receive Dr. Hacker's correspondence--as well as the generous message of thanks left publicly by co-author Claudia Dreifus in the comments of the post itself--and given the opportunity, I composed a reply to them which clarifies and expands my earlier comments. What follows is a slightly altered version of these additional thoughts.

Firstly, I did not mean to argue that because many less prestigious colleges provide a great undergraduate education that therefore prestigious places which employ graduate teaching assistants do not. The PhD students in the United States I've met are brilliant, enthusiastic, generous people, and I feel fortunate to know them. Their undergraduates are likewise fortunate. So while I believe it is accurate to suggest that undergraduate education in the Ivy League schools is no better than it is in many other (occasionally unlikely) places, on the other hand I would be hesitant to argue that it is necessarily worse. Obviously, you do not need a research superstar to teach Sociology 101 -- nor do you need an instructor with thirty years of experience. Some of the most dedicated and effective teachers I've ever met are current PhD students.

Nevertheless, that fact does not justify the wholesale casualization of the academic workforce. My experience at Raritan Valley Community College was perhaps atypical. Like most community colleges, RVCC relies heavily upon poorly-paid adjuncts (some of whom are also graduate students in the region), but because I was taking upper-level courses as a student there I was fortunate to have taken classes taught primarily by full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty. I believe that this was an invaluable part of my experience. These professors provided not just expertise but also continuity to the educational experience. For students such as me, knowing that the professors would be there semester after semester, year after year, fosters attachment to the college and confidence in its mission. Thus the faculty was key to RVCC's strength. A strong community requires social stability.

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Browne review: Universities must set their own tuition fees

Jeevan Vasagar & Jessica Shepherd:

Universities should be allowed to decide what they charge students under a radical shakeup of higher education which would see the existing cap on tuition fees lifted.

A new system of financing universities will allow for a 10% increase in student places to meet rising demand for a degree-level education, the Browne review proposes.

Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP, said universities that charged the highest fees would have to demonstrate they are widening access to students from poorer homes.

"There are a variety of things they can do in that area, including offering scholarships for living expenses," he told the Guardian.

Graduates will start repaying the cost of their degrees when they start earning £21,000 a year, up from £15,000 under the current system, the review recommends.

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An Update on Madison's Proposed 4K Program

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Purpose: The purpose of this Data Retreat is to provide all BOE members with an update on the progress of 4K planning and the work of subcommittees with a recommendation to start 4K September, 2011.

Research Providing four year old kindergarten (4K) may be the district's next best tool to continue the trend of improving academic achievement for all students and continuing to close the achievement gap.

The quality of care and education that children receive in the early years of their lives is one of the most critical factors in their development. Empirical and anecdotal evidence clearly shows that nurturing environments with appropriate challenging activities have large and lasting effects on our children's school success, ability to get along with others, and emotional health. Such evidence also indicates that inadequate early childhoOd care and education increases the danger that at-risk children will grow up with problem behaviors that can lead to later crime and violence.

The primary reason for the Madison Metropolitan School District's implementation of four year old kindergarten (4K) is to better prepare all students for educational success. Similarly, the community and society as a whole receive many positive benefits when students are well prepared for learning at a young age. The Economic Promise of Investing in High-Quality Preschool: Using Early Education to Improve Economic Growth and the Fiscal Sustainability of States and the Nation by The Committee for Economic Development states the following about the importance of early learning.

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Improving Financial Education in America

Michael Barr:

Empowering Americans to make good financial decisions for themselves and their families is necessary to building a financially stronger America. To meet this goal, we must improve Americans' understanding of financial products and terms, expand financial access, and provide appropriate and robust consumer protection. President Obama is committed to building a country in which more families have the knowledge, skills, and financial access to make good financial choices and to establishing the consumer protections that enable and encourage them to do so.

As part of this commitment, President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability ("Council") and appointed a highly qualified group of men and women from the private and non-profit sectors to advise him on these critical issues. The Council, which will work at the direction of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, will advise the President on how to maximize the effectiveness of existing private and public sector financial education efforts and identify new approaches to increase financial capability for all Americans.

Making sure Americans have the information they need to make smart financial choices is a cornerstone of a number of Administration efforts. One of the central aspects of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which President Obama signed in to law on July 21, 2010, is the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose sole mission is to look out for American consumers and empower them with the clear and concise information they need to make the financial decisions that are best for them and their families. The Bureau will create a level playing field for all providers of consumer financial products and services, regardless of their charter or corporate form and will ensure high and uniform standards across the market. It will rein in misleading sales pitches and hidden traps, and foster competition on the basis of price and quality. In addition, it will help lead efforts to increase financial capability by establishing an Office of Financial Education.

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October 16, 2010

AP component of MMSD high school plan is about access and equity, not "TAG"

One of the many pieces of the MMSD administration's just-introduced high school proposal that has not been made clear is where the prominent AP component comes from. The answer is that it comes largely from a three-year federal grant, a $2.2 Advanced Placement Incentive Program grant that was awarded to the DPI in 2009.

As some of you surely know, there is currently a national trend (supported by significant grant dollars) to increase access to AP courses. The DPI's "Blended Learning Innovations: Building a Pipeline for Equity and Access" is part of that trend.

The purpose of the grant is to close the race and SES based achievement gaps by increasing the number of AP courses in schools with high levels of poverty and by increasing the participation and success of poor and minority students in AP courses and testing. The MMSD is a partner in the grant.

Please note that both nationally (NAGC) and locally, AP has never been a focus of the "TAG" community. (On the contrary, those of us who worked on the MMSD TAG Plan advocated for consideration of an IB curriculum ... which is what's been proposed for the Madison Preparatory Academy.)

I imagine I am not the only one who would appreciate it if the District (and the press) would be clearer with the community about these points:

1) This high school proposal has been in the works for a long time. (Importantly, it has been in the works since well before the West DPI petition and complaint. The complaint may have sped up the rolling out of the plan, for better and worse, but it did not impact the content of the plan. As evidence, consider the second paragraph of the October 14 letter sent out to the West community: there is no mention whatsoever of 9th and 10th grade honors classes, which is the sole focus and request of the DPI complaint.)

2) The extent to which the DPI's "equity and access" AP grant is driving the content of the MMSD's high school proposal.

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Poverty in the Suburbs: The poverty gap is closing between suburbs and inner cities

The Economist:

FOR more than half a century, Americans have fled the cities in their millions, heading away from crime and poverty towards better schools and safer neighbourhoods in the suburbs. Now poverty is catching up with them. According to two new reports from the Brookings Institution, over the past decade the number of poor people in the suburbs has jumped by a whopping 37.4% to 13.7m, compared with some 12.1m people below the poverty line in cities. Although poverty rates remain higher in the inner cities, the gap is narrowing.

Suburban areas largely escaped during earlier downturns, but not this time. Support groups say people are using safety-net programmes, such as food stamps or unemployment insurance, who have never applied for them before. They are often making tough choices. "It's mortgage or food," observes Paule Pachter of Long Island Cares, a non-profit group on Long Island, one of the first destinations to be populated by escapees from the city.

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Protecting School Reform in D.C.

The New York TImes:

It was inevitable that Michelle Rhee, the District of Columbia's hard-driving schools chancellor, would resign after her boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost last month's Democratic primary. It was no secret that Ms. Rhee had a strained relationship with Vincent Gray, the presumptive mayor and chairman of the City Council.

Still, Ms. Rhee's departure is a loss for the nation's capital. It has unsettled middle-class parents who valued the strong, reform-minded leadership that was setting Washington's schools on the path back from failure. And it sent a tremor through the private foundations that provisionally committed nearly $80 million to support the school reforms that were started during Ms. Rhee's tenure.

After Mr. Gray's clashes with Ms. Rhee, it was good news that he said the right things after her resignation. He pledged to move ahead with the reform agenda, which has strengthened the city's teacher corps, remade a patronage-ridden central bureaucracy and raised math and reading scores. He said he would keep Ms. Rhee's senior staff on for the remainder of the school year and named her deputy and longtime associate, Kaya Henderson, the interim chancellor.

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New York's School Climate

Buffalo News:

They agree on the need for more charter schools and see a property tax cap as an important tool to rein in school spending.

They part ways on consolidating school districts and differ greatly on how to reform public education.

Yes, Andrew M. Cuomo and Carl P. Paladino disagree as much as they agree, but, in the eyes of educators, what's more important is the candidates' lack of attention to education as a campaign issue.

"It doesn't seem a priority for either candidate," said Grand Island Superintendent Robert W. Christmann, who also heads the State Council of School Superintendents. "It seems to be getting short shrift."

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Learning Tools: A Look Inside Austin Polytechnical Academy

Jim Kirk:

In 2005 Dan Swinney, chairman of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council, approached the Chicago Public Schools for help reviving manufacturing in Chicago. The result was Austin Polytechnical Academy, whose mission is to redefine vocational education in Chicago and beyond, and revive the city's manufacturing industry by educating the next generation of advanced manufacturers--part engineer and part machinist. Through a diverse curriculum, Polytech aims to prepare students for college but also encourages them to pursue careers in advanced manufacturing that do not require a four-year degree.

This year the school will be graduating its first senior class and Chicago News Cooperative reporter Meribah Knight is following three students, Deandre Joyce, Stran'ja Burge and Marquiese Travae Booker, as they navigate the academic year and carve out their future. Facing a school record of poor academic performance and a community rife with violence, poverty and unemployment, these honor students are determined to stay on track and come out on top. Her first story will be posted on our Web site tonight.

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Making something hard to read means it is more likely to be remembered

The Economist:

A PARADOX of education is that presenting information in a way that looks easy to learn often has the opposite effect. Numerous studies have demonstrated that when people are forced to think hard about what they are shown they remember it better, so it is worth looking at ways this can be done. And a piece of research about to be published in Cognition, by Daniel Oppenheimer, a psychologist at Princeton University, and his colleagues, suggests a simple one: make the text conveying the information harder to read.

Dr Oppenheimer recruited 28 volunteers aged between 18 and 40 and asked them to learn, from written descriptions, about three "species" of extraterrestrial alien, each of which had seven features. This task was meant to be similar to learning about animal species in a biology lesson. It used aliens in place of actual species to be certain that the participants could not draw on prior knowledge.

Half of the volunteers were presented with the information in difficult-to-read fonts (12-point Comic Sans MS 75% greyscale and 12-point Bodoni MT 75% greyscale). The other half saw it in 16-point Arial pure-black font, which tests have shown is one of the easiest to read.

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No Superman, nor much more waiting, for school choice

Kyle Wingfield

There are no superheroes coming to save the day for students in America's failing schools, cautions the heart-wrenching new documentary, "Waiting for 'Superman.' "

No superheroes, but students who want choices do face enemies. In fact, they -- well, their lawyers -- appeared before the state Supreme Court Tuesday.

I'm not talking about teachers unions, whom "Waiting" largely fingers as the obstacles to education reform. They are a huge impediment in some places but the situation's different in Georgia, and in any case the problem is much broader than that. It covers all those in the education establishment who put preserving their fiefdoms above giving students their best chance at a good education.

And if that doesn't sum up the school systems suing to overturn the law creating Georgia's Charter School Commission, I don't know what does.

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Notes and Links on the Madison West High School Student Sit-in

Gayle Worland:

Sitting cross-legged on the ground or perched high on stone sculptures outside the school, about a quarter of West High's 2,086 students staged a silent 37-minute sit-in Friday morning outside their building to protest a district proposal to revamp curriculum at the city's high schools.

The plan, unveiled to Madison School District teachers and parents this week, would offer students in each high school the chance to pick from advanced or regular classes in the core subjects of math, science, English and social studies. Students in the regular classes could also do additional work for honors credit.

Designed to help the district comply with new national academic standards, the proposal comes in the wake of a complaint filed against the district by parents in the West attendance area arguing the district fails to offer adequate programs for "talented and gifted" ninth and 10th grade students at West. The complaint has prompted an audit by the state Department of Public Instruction.

Susan Troller:
Okay, everyone, remember to breathe, and don't forget to read.

A draft copy of possible high school curriculum changes got what could be gently characterized as a turbulent response from staff and students at West High School. Within hours of the release of a proposal that would offer more advanced placement options in core level courses at local high schools, there was a furious reaction from staff and students at West, with rumors flying, petitions signed and social media organizing for a protest. All in all, the coordination and passion was pretty amazing and would have done a well-financed political campaign proud.

Wednesday and Thursday there was talk of a protest walk-out at West that generated interest from over 600 students. By Friday morning, the march had morphed into a silent sitdown on the school steps with what looked like 200 to 300 students at about 10:50 a.m. when I attended. There were also adult supporters on the street, a media presence and quite a few police cars, although the demonstration was quiet and respectful. (Somehow, I don't think the students I saw walking towards the Regent Market or sitting, smoking, on a stone wall several blocks from school, were part of the protest).

TJ Mertz has more as does Lucy Mathiak.

Lots of related links:

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October 15, 2010

NAS Unearths Censored Study on High School Research Papers

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has published a long-buried study on the state of the history research paper in American high schools. The 2002 study sponsored by The Concord Review (TCR) went unpublished when its benefactor, the Albert Shanker Institute, found the results unflattering to high school teachers.

In commissioning the study, TCR founder Will Fitzhugh sought to find out why American high schools aren't doing a better job of teaching students to write--specifically, why so few teachers assign major research papers. 95 percent of teachers surveyed believed that research papers are important, but 62 percent never assigned extended-length essays.

According to the report, the biggest barriers to teachers are time and class size. Most teachers said that grading papers took too much personal time, and that not enough time was provided for this in the school day. Teachers surveyed taught an average of 80 students each. Assigning a 20-page paper then means having 1,600 pages to grade. The Concord Review urged high schools to support teachers by providing more time for them to grade papers.

Fitzhugh considered what may be lost if most high school history teachers never assign a long research paper:

It may very well mean that a majority of our high school students never read a complete nonfiction book on any subject before they graduate. They may also miss the experience of knowing a fair amount about some important topic--more, for instance, than anyone else in their class. They may also miss a fundamental step in their preparation for demanding college work.
"This is an important study, even eight years later," said Peter Wood, NAS president. "It sheds light on a problem that keeps getting worse and reverberates through college and employment. American high schools should take heed from this study to change their ways and make research paper-writing a priority." In an introduction to the study, Wood wrote, "[NAS's] interest in this is part of our broader goal of rebuilding the basis for genuine liberal arts education in the United States."

The National Association of Scholars advocates for higher education reform. To learn more about NAS, visit

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Meet the Malibu Board of Education Candidates

The Malibue Times

The Malibu Times sent a questionnaire to eight candidates running for four seats on the Board of Education for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. They were given the same time frame to respond and were limited to 150 words per answer.

There is a feeling by many in Malibu that this city is an afterthought for school district officials. Why does this sentiment exist? What can be done to change this feeling?

This feeling is understandable. Although Santa Monica and Malibu are part of a unified school district, the vast majority of district students and voters come from Santa Monica. All current school board members are from Santa Monica, the central office is in Santa Monica and our two cities are 15 miles apart. If I am elected, I will work hard to change the feeling that Malibu is an "afterthought" and to ensure that Malibu families are heard and feel an integral part of the district.

As a school board member, I will meet regularly with Malibu parents and staff to listen and learn, and address the specific concerns of Malibu schools. I will also develop opportunities for district-wide shared educational and social experiences. Whether we live in Santa Monica or Malibu, we all share the same aspirations for our children and our schools.

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Learning to Deal with a Difficult Class

Ms. Socrates:

Overall, my second year as a teacher has been ten times easier than my first year -- I am feeling confident and in control, even when I allow the students to take the wheel for a bit. It feels great! But there is one class that I'm still having trouble with.

My largest class happens to also contain about 15 of the most difficult students in the grade. While this means that my other classes are wonderful, devoid of any trouble-makers, this class reduced me to tears yesterday for the first time this year (although I would never actually cry in front of them, I saved it for later). Standing in that room, watching every single student talk without giving me a second thought, I felt like a newbie all over again. What if, I thought, this is how it's always going to be.

Today, I got back out there and managed to get them somewhat under control. Here's how.
1. I let my feelings out the night before.

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How Handwriting Trains the Brain

Gwendolyn Bounds:

Ask preschooler Zane Pike to write his name or the alphabet, then watch this 4-year-old's stubborn side kick in. He spurns practice at school and tosses aside workbooks at home. But Angie Pike, Zane's mom, persists, believing that handwriting is a building block to learning.

She's right. Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.

It's not just children who benefit. Adults studying new symbols, such as Chinese characters, might enhance recognition by writing the characters by hand, researchers say. Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.

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Long Beach schoolchildren are a model for healthy eating

Mary MacVean

The mayor, a congresswoman, a county supervisor and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were on hand Tuesday for the unveiling of a new salad bar at Fremont Elementary School and to see the organic garden.

At least for one day, the students at Fremont Elementary School in Long Beach could be heard chanting, "Salad! Salad! Salad!" before lunch Tuesday.

Maybe it helped that they had an audience, including their principal, the Long Beach mayor, a congresswoman, a county supervisor and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

And maybe it helps that teachers and food services staff, parents and a volunteer chef had all worked to put the salad bar in place and will help keep it going.

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West Virginia Education audit scope concerns teacher group

Associated Press:

Gov. Joe Manchin is open to suggestions about an upcoming audit of public school spending.

That's the response Thursday from spokesman Melvin Smith, after the West Virginia Education Association called for a wider scope to that review.

The teacher's group wants other issues considered such as school bus travel times and special needs students.

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Charter Schools: The Good Ones Aren't Flukes

Andrew Rotherham:

Charter schools are all the rage these days. The public is increasingly smitten with them -- in this year's Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup education poll, 68% of respondents said they support charter schools, up from 42% in 2000 -- but few people know what charters are. When the education journal Education Next asked Americans some basic questions this summer about charter schools, such as whether they can charge tuition or hold religious services, fewer than 1 in 5 respondents knew the correct answer (which was no in both cases). The confusion is so pervasive that more than half of the teachers surveyed couldn't answer the questions correctly either.

Quick primer: Charters are public schools that generally operate independently of traditional school districts. Since 1992, they have grown in number from one in Minnesota to about 5,000 in 40 states and the District of Columbia. (Ten states don't have laws allowing charter schools.) Collectively, they serve about 1.6 million students, and an estimated 420,000 kids are on various waiting lists to get into them. By law, when more students apply to a charter than there are seats available, the school has to hold a lottery to determine who gets in.

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Madison West High's (alcohol) test success: Attending dances there means submitting to random screening

Bill Lueders:

Tanya Lawler was taken aback. Her daughter, returning from West High's homecoming dance on Sept. 25, mentioned that students were randomly selected to take a breath test as they arrived, to see if they'd been drinking.

While her daughter was not tested, Lawler considers this a "violation of Fourth Amendment rights" because officials lacked probable cause to suspect the people being tested. Her son attended La Follette's homecoming dance, held the same night, and reported that no testing was done there.

In fact, West is the only high school in Madison that has a formal written policy (PDF) regarding student dances, and the only one that randomly tests students as they enter using "a passive alcohol detection device." Students and a parent must sign a form agreeing to these rules.

Lawler, who doesn't remember this form, advised her daughter to refuse this test. "I would rather forfeit the price of the ticket and have her call me. I'd say, 'No, they're not going to violate your rights.'"

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Oklahoma education needs vibrant oil, natural gas sector

Mike McDonald

Approval of State Question 744 would be a debilitating blow to businesses and industry in Oklahoma.

With no dedicated funding mechanism to support an increase in education spending, state leaders would be forced to increase taxes and fees on businesses and industry working in Oklahoma in order to meet the estimated $1 billion in new spending needed to reach the regional average for common education funding. Doing so would hamper our state's ability to grow existing business and recruit new companies and more jobs to our state.

At risk are long-standing tax provisions for the oil and natural gas industries that are designed to encourage investment in our state's vibrant oil and natural gas fields. Losing those provisions, which are similar to tax provisions in place in neighboring states, would send Oklahoma drilling rigs and the jobs that support them into Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas -- the same states SQ 744 wants to base our education spending on.

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Philadelphia Free School aims for democratic education model

Liz Gormisky

Maddy Winters knows what she wants. Yes to ballet, no to soccer, yes to astronomy, and definitely yes to hanging out with the older crowd of third and fourth graders on her block.

Just 3 years old, she begged to go to school, but the local public school just won't do for her parents, Mark Filippone and Marie Winters. In September, Maddy will be enrolled at the Philadelphia Free School, where she will continue to decide what she wants to do all day long.

The Free School, which plans to launch a pilot program in January in South Philadelphia for students ages 4 to 18, follows a democratic model of education, meaning no tests, no curriculum, no bells every 45 minutes, no separation into grades, and no teachers. The adults at the school will be called "staff" and be elected by the students each year. The students will also vote on the school's budget and serve on a judicial committee that deliberates on misbehaving peers.

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Michelle Rhee's Last Battle

Dana Goldstein

The high-profile head of DC's schools exits, leaving an uncertain legacy. Will her successor follow through on her reforms--or forfeit millions in federal funds?

As expected, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee will announce Wednesday that she will step down after three years on the job.

Rhee's tenure was defined by school closings, teacher dismissals, and incremental student test score gains in one of the poorest-performing and most racially segregated school districts in the nation. A Teach for America veteran who had never before run a school district, Rhee became a national spokesperson for aggressive school reform, unafraid to voice her disdain--often in the media--for teachers unions and for concepts such as cooperation and community buy-in.

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Waiting For Superman director Davis Guggenheim

Nathan Rabin

Few documentaries have had as profound an impact as 2006's An Inconvenient Truth. Davis Guggenheim's film about Al Gore's crusade to educate the public about global warming won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, helped Gore snag a Nobel Prize, and incited a culture-wide debate about the film's subject.

Guggenheim has worked extensively in television and narrative films. He worked as a producer and director on Deadwood and helmed the pilot for the recent Melrose Place remake, in addition to directing films like Gossip and Gracie, a docudrama based on the teenage years of Guggenheim's wife, actor Elisabeth Shue. But Guggenheim is best known as a muckraking documentarian whose ambitious, zeitgeist-capturing epics forthrightly address major social issues. Guggenheim has made headlines for his latest documentary, Waiting For Superman, an impassioned exploration of the failure of the American public-school system that has incited heated debate and attracted vitriolic attacks from teachers' unions for its less-than-flattering depiction of them and its evangelizing on behalf of charter schools. The A.V. Club recently spoke with the idealistic filmmaker about making movies about quagmires, being hated on by teachers, and whether President Obama is a cactus.

The A.V. Club: What's the relationship between your documentary about first-year teachers, The First Year, and Waiting For Superman?

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The president of the Minneapolis NAACP branch objects to the superintendent's call to close North High School.

Corey Mitchell:

The Minneapolis branch of the NAACP on Wednesday urged parents to consider pulling their children out of the Minneapolis School District in response to Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson's recommendation to close North High School.

Citing multiple school closures on the city's North Side and low test scores in those that remain, Minneapolis NAACP President Booker Hodges accused Johnson and school board members of failing to educate north Minneapolis' children, most of whom are black.

Hodges issued a statement calling for parents "who value their children's education or future [to] seriously consider other options for educating their children."

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More local high schools allowing use of cell phones by students

Gena Kittner:

Verona High School students have been given the green light to text on their cell phones, groove to songs on their mp3 players and update their Facebook pages while strolling between classes, eating lunch and hanging out before and after school.

The school is the latest in Dane County to relax the rules and allow students to use personal electronic devices outside of the classroom. They join an increasing number of area high schools, including Belleville, DeForest, McFarland, Middleton, Oregon Sun Prairie and Stoughton, that have adopted similar policies.

"If you need to get your mom to bring something to school from home you don't have to hide in the bathroom (to make the call)," Maddie Hankard, a freshman at Verona High School, said in explaining the change.

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Redefining School Reform

New Jersey Left Behind

Let's start with something we can all agree with: some of NJ's public schools are great and some stink. The worst schools are usually in the most impoverished urban areas. This disparity has remained unchanged through many different education commissioners and both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Another truism: we've recognized this fact for decades and have tried mightily to alleviate disparities through additional funding to impoverished districts. This has worked well in a few places and less well in many others.

And another: NJ is broke. We're spending as much as (or more than) residents can bear for public education. Increased state funding in our neediest districts is not an option.

Let's continue the truisms: New Jerseyans love their home rule. A Garden State school board and administration in a well-performing district is insular, circumscribed, a world unto itself. Our bulimic state government - scarfing down money and vomiting out regulations and mandates - merely increases a functional district's isolation and lack of shared responsibility to poor kids outside its wrought iron gates.

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Pursue more Madison school alternatives

Wisconsin State Journal:

We sure hope the Madison School District is serious about pursuing more charter and specialty schools.

Superintendent Dan Nerad told the State Journal editorial board on Tuesday he plans to appoint a committee next month to study alternatives to traditional schools.

Giving parents and students more options and innovations will help keep more middle class families in the Madison district. At the same time, charter schools and their spin-offs in Madison have catered to a higher percentage of low-income and minority students. So they're not elitist.

Teaching students in new ways can boost student interest and effort while getting more parents involved in their children's educations -- a key ingredient for success. And if new approaches don't work, they can be shut down.

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October 14, 2010

Letter to Madison West High School Families, Staff and Students

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash and West High Principal Ed Holmes, via a kind reader's email:

October 14, 2010

West Families, West Students, and West Staff;

We are writing today to clarify the proposal for high school course offerings in the Madison Metropolitan School District. While discussion and questioning should be part of any change process, the discussion needs to center on factual information.

We have proposed that Advanced Placement offerings be increased in all of our high schools. We have also focused on making an embedded honors option available in 9th and 10th grade English and Social Studies next year and Math and Science the following year at all four high schools. We have also proposed increasing support to students who may not traditionally have participated in an honors or AP course so that rigorous opportunities can become part of every high school student's transcript.

What we have NOT proposed is the elimination of any electives at any of the high schools. Our current high school offerings vary quite widely across the district and we are striving to make good things available across all attendance areas. Nothing in the proposal prohibits a dynamite elective course from being shared and adopted across the city, in fact, some consistency of elective offerings would be welcomed.

The two pathways are groupings of courses. They are NOT a way to group students. Student and family choice is wide open. We are also proposing a set of assessments that will start in middle school to help inform families, students, and teachers about skills that students have that are strong and skills that need to be supported and improved. Those assessments will be given every year and are meant to be used to inform students and families about student progress and growth and to allow students and families to make informed decisions about future courses.

Please understand that students will still have choices. If they chose not to take an Advanced Placement course and wish to take an elective instead, that option remains.
We regret that incomplete information was used to make students and families upset. The proposal had, and still has the word "draft" on it. We look forward to productive conversations with all of you about ways in which we can now move forward.

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The Mess with Madison West (Updated)

TJ Mertz, via email:

[Update: I just got emailed this letter as West parent. Crisis communication is happening. Not much new here, but some clarity}

The first steps with the “High School Curricular Reform, Dual Pathways to Post-Secondary Success” are a mess, a big mess of the administration’s own making.

Before I delve into the mess and the proposal, I think it is important to say that despite huge and inexcusable problems with the process, many unanswered questions and some real things of concern; there are some good things in the proposal. One part near the heart of the plan in particular is something I’ve been pushing for years: open access to advanced classes and programs with supports. In the language of the proposal:

Pathways open to all students. Students are originally identified by Advanced Placement requirements and other suggested guidelines such as EXPLORE /PLAN scores, GPA, past MS/HS performance and MS/HS Recommendation. however, all students would be able to enroll. Students not meeting suggested guidelines but wanting to enroll would receive additional supports (tutoring, skill development classes, AVID, etc.) to ensure success. (emphasis added and I would like to see it added in the implementation).

Right now there are great and at times irrational barriers in place. These need to go. I hope this does not get lost as the mess is cleaned up.

This is in four sections: The Mess; What Next?; The Plan: Unanswered Questions and Causes for Concern; and Final Thought.

Lots of related links:

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What's a 4-Year-Old Doing in Kindergarten?

Tamara Fisher

arent of an early-entrance child: We live in a town where many parents, school board members, and teachers hold their kids back a grade in school so they can excel in sports. When such a choice appears to be an accepted norm, accelerating a young boy into school goes against the local culture. Some parents and teachers have tried to politely ask me if I've considered the implications of my son "always being the youngest." At first, I felt like I had to defend my son and our decision to them. Now, I simply state that "parents try to do what they feel is best for their child. We looked at the research and our child's readiness and made the decision. He's thriving in school and sports, too." If the well-meaning continue to inquire, I share my unique sports perspective: I went to college on a sports scholarship. Were sports important to me? Yes. However, being challenged in school to be a whole person was - and is - more important.

Early entrance to Kindergarten is one excellent option for some highly advanced children. It is the process by which a child enters Kindergarten earlier than he or she otherwise would have according to school or state decreed "cut-off dates." In Montana, our magical date is September 10th. If the child is five years old on or before September 10th of that year, he gets to go to Kindergarten. If he turns five on September 11th or later, he goes the next year.

To some degree, yes, this system creates a tidy little package whereby decisions are made without, frankly, much thought put into them. It's cut and dried and easy - and it works for the majority of kids. But readers of this blog know that when one was born does not necessarily determine what one is ready and able to learn. Enter Early Entrance.

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U.S., China online education firms to merge

Online education companies Eleutian Technology and Idapted Ltd said on Wednesday that they will merge, bringing together the U.S. and Chinese companies in the fast-growing $100 billion market for online English instruction.

Backers of the new company, which will retain Eleutian's name, include Cheyenne Capital and Gobi Partners, as well as former Kleiner, Perkins partner Russell Siegelman and Xu Xiaoping, co-founder of New York-listed Chinese education company New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc (EDU.N), Eleutian said in a statement.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Under the merger, Kent Holiday will remain as president and CEO, while Idapted Cjief Executive Adrian Li will become general manager for China.

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Investing in Young Children: New Directions in Federal Preschool and Early Childhood Policy

Ron Haskins & W. Steven Barnett

The introduction of this volume details government spending on three early childhood programs - Early Head Start, Head Start, and home-visiting programs. Co-editors Ron Haskins and Steve Barnett also review enrollment in each type of program, review the contrasting papers presented on each program, and recommend policies designed to increase the returns on investment produced by these early childhood programs.

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Washington, D.C. shows its maverick schools chancellor the door.

The Wall Street Journal

Michelle Rhee described her decision yesterday to step down as Washington, D.C., schools chancellor after 3½ years as "heartbreaking." We share the sentiment. That one of the nation's most talented school reformers was forced out does not bode well for students, or speak well of the man likely to become D.C.'s next mayor.

Ms. Rhee's patron was Mayor Adrian Fenty, who lost his bid for a second term to City Council Chairman Vincent Gray in a Democratic primary last month. In Washington, the Democratic primary winner is presumed to be the next mayor, and few believed that Mr. Gray would retain Ms. Rhee's services, especially since the teacher unions spent more than $1 million to elect Mr. Gray so that he would replace the chancellor.

The Washington Post reports that Ms. Rhee's resignation "won immediate support from the Washington Teachers' Union," a strong signal that her departure is a victory for the adults who run public education, not the kids in failing schools. Ms. Rhee's tenure was marked by improved test scores and putting the interests of students first. She closed underperforming schools, fired bad instructors, supported school vouchers for low-income families and opened charter schools. She also negotiated a new teachers contract that included merit pay and has become a model for other reform-minded educators and politicians in urban districts across the country.

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An academic question

Jean Seaton:

We once cherished our universities--but now feel that there are too many of them and they hand out worthless degrees. Why have our highest seats of learning become so unloved?

The streets of London will soon be bustling with architecture students starting their first year at UCL's Bartlett faculty. Armed with illuminating quotations from great authorities they will inspect, for example, the Nelson staircase at Somerset House, marvel at its elegant, soaring wit, discover for themselves its moral purpose, and never take staircases for granted again. At the same time, University of Westminster architecture undergraduates will seethe under and over the city, mapping where global warming will flood it and creating apocalyptic, realistic flood defences. Last year a similar project won every prize going. The head of the English department at Roehampton, Jenny Hartley, (the author of a highly praised book on Dickens's house for fallen women) will organise reading groups in prisons. War studies students at King's College, London will spend their second year gaming every battle in the second world war from both sides to see if they can get them to come out differently, while history undergraduates at Queen Mary prepare questions to put to the cabinet secretary when they meet him. The dentistry department at King's has invented an online course that is managed in the developing world by students and teachers--and is changing the subject. Meanwhile, politics undergraduates at Hull prepare for placements with local politicians.

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A New National Report Highlights the Unfair Distribution of School Aid in Many States

Bruce Baker, David Sciarra, Danielle Farrie

Are school finance systems in the 50 states fair? Simply comparing overall funding levels won't answer that question, according to a groundbreaking report released today.

"Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card" posits that fairness depends not only on a sufficient level of funding for all students, but also the provision of additional resources to districts where there are more students with greater needs.

The National Report Card rates the 50 states on the basis of four separate, but interrelated, "fairness indicators" - funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort, and public school coverage. Using a more thorough statistical analysis, the report provides the most in-depth analysis to date of state education finance systems and school funding fairness across the nation.

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Without Assessment, Great Teaching Stays Secret

Kevin Carey:

A few weeks ago, I spent a day at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. The first thing you see on the drive into the campus is a six-foot-tall sign, stuck in the grassy median of the entrance road, that says, "WE'RE NUMBER 1" and "Top Up-and-Coming National University AGAIN!" It sets a tone: UMBC is on the move. How far it will be allowed to go is less certain.

The No. 1 designation was courtesy of U.S. News & World Report, which conducts an "up and coming" survey along with its regular annual ranking of which colleges are sitting atop the biggest piles of money and fame. The campus itself is fairly standard, with clusters of dorms encircling a compact group of grassy lawns and academic buildings. Throngs of students were out that day, lounging in the kind of late-summer sunlight that keeps brochure photographers in business. Everyone was fiddling with cellphones, and there was nowhere to park.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Global Debt Clock

The Economist

The clock is ticking. Every second, it seems, someone in the world takes on more debt. The idea of a debt clock for an individual nation is familiar to anyone who has been to Times Square in New York, where the American public shortfall is revealed. Our clock shows the global figure for all (or almost all) government debts in dollar terms.

Does it matter? After all, world governments owe the money to their own citizens, not to the Martians. But the rising total is important for two reasons. First, when debt rises faster than economic output (as it has been doing in recent years), higher government debt implies more state interference in the economy and higher taxes in the future. Second, debt must be rolled over at regular intervals. This creates a recurring popularity test for individual governments, rather as reality TV show contestants face a public phone vote every week. Fail that vote, as the Greek government did in early 2010, and the country can be plunged into imminent crisis. So the higher the global government debt total, the greater the risk of fiscal crisis, and the bigger the economic impact such crises will have.

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Wyoming Education candidates debate over teachers

Michelle Dynes:

Candidates for superintendent discussed charter schools and bad teachers at a candidate forum.

LARAMIE -- Candidates for state superintendent discussed how they'd address standardized testing and bad teachers during a debate Tuesday at the University of Wyoming.

Former Cheyenne junior high assistant principal and Republican candidate Cindy Hill said Wyoming teachers need measures they can trust and academic leaders. State Senator and Democratic candidate Mike Massie said he believes that struggling teachers should get a year's worth of additional training and mentoring to get back on track. And if the plan isn't working, teachers should be fired no matter how long they've previously held their position.

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Third Friday Madison School District Enrollment Data

The Madison School District, via a kind reader's email.

This page indicates a 2010-2011 enrollment of 24,471 up from 24,295 in 2009-2010.

The Wisconsin DPI enrollment number for Madison is 25,395 for 2010-2011. I am not sure why the numbers are different.

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Education, local control and taxes

Richard Sibley Lenfest

Anytime the Maine media rains terms such as "taxes," "economy," "business climate" and "jobs," among others, upon the voters and taxpayers of Maine, Libby Mitchell runs for cover under her education umbrella. The fact, and it is fact, is that Maine is already among the nation's leaders in education spending.

Maine's population of approximately 1.5 million residents, like that of neighboring New Hampshire, is among the smallest in the nation, yet Maine's education spending ranks among the highest, ahead of many much larger states, and in the vicinity of the top 20 to 25 percent. Exact position may change incrementally from year to year; nevertheless, Maine is right up there. Do not take my word; go online, visit the Web and check it out yourself.

Maine's economy is just about non-existent. Five years ago, after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, it was Maine that had the worst economy in the U.S. During the 2010 primary season, the figure that was popular and which met no argument from any other politician was that Maine had gained just 65 jobs in the past decade.

Yes, the Maine economy is shedding jobs as fast as it is creating them. While the Maine economy may be somewhat better off at this time, it is in no position to foot Libby's brand of education spending.

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West: TAG Complaint and Proposed High School Redesign Create Perfect Storm

The parent complaint to DPI over MMSD's failure to comply with WI laws on Talented and Gifted education have combined with administration's recent proposal to create more consistency across the four major high schools, to create a perfect storm of controversy at Madison West. Within the past 24 hours, allegations that the proposal eliminates all electives have spawned a number of calls and e-mails to the Board of Education, a FB page (Walk-out Against MMSD School Reform) promoting a student walk out on Friday, and a YouTube video created to protest the elimination of electives.

As a board member, I have a somewhat different take largely because I know that allegations that the proposal to standardize core high school curriculum is not a product of the DPI complaint. Anyone who has watched MMSD operate, would probably agree that nothing is put together that quickly (the complaint is less than a month old), especially when it involves a proposal.

I also just received the proposal a day or so ago. In full disclosure, I did not take advantage of the briefings conducted for board members who met with the superintendent and assistant superintendent individually or in pairs. I'm a certifiable pain in the neck and thought that any presentations should be made to the board as a whole in an open board or committee meeting, but that is just my issue.) I am just beginning to read and think through what is being proposed, so have no firm opinion yet.

More at

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October 13, 2010

Uproar at West High over Madison School District's Curricular Reform Proposal

Lorie Raihala:

There's been a great deal of misinformation and angry speculation flying around West High regarding the District's High School Curricular Reform proposal.

On Tuesday, District administrators unveiled their plan for high school curricular reform at meeting with nearly 200 educators from all four high schools. Several parents attended the subsequent TAG Advisory Committee meeting, during which they also revealed an overview of the plan to this group.

I attended the TAG Advisory meeting. As I understand it, this plan involves increasing the number of accelerated and AP courses and expanding access to these options.

When teachers at West got news of this plan, many were enraged at not being included in its development. Further, many concluded that the District plans to replace West's electives with AP courses. They've expressed their concerns to students in their classes, and kids are riled up. Students plan to stage a walk-out on Friday, during which they will walk down to the Doyle Building and deliver a petition to Superintendent Nerad protesting the proposed reforms.

Lots of related links:

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"Stand Up Against the MMSD High School Reform"

via a kind reader's email.


220K Draft copy of the Madison School District's "High School Curricular Reform".

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$12 an Hour for Teachers, $1.7 Million a Year for the Teachers' Boss: Your Property Tax Dollars at Work in McFarland

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

We received the Open Enrollment numbers for this year and they provide much grist for thought. My first reaction is prompted by the fact that 158 MMSD students have open enrolled in the McFarland School District. Since we have to send about $6,800 per student to districts that receive our open enrollers, this means that we'll be cutting a (perhaps figurative) check in excess of $1,000,000 to the McFarland School District.

Since last year, McFarland has operated a virtual school. This year, according to Gayle Worland's article in last Sunday's State Journal, the virtual school has enrolled 813 students, and a grand total of 5 of them live in McFarland.

Actually, it is overly generous to say that McFarland "operates" the virtual school, known as Wisconsin Virtual Academy. More accurately, McFarland has contracted with a publicly-traded corporation, K12, Inc., to operate the charter school, through another organization called Four Lakes Education.

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Lauded Harlem Schools Have Their Own Problems

Sharon Otterman

President Obama created a grant program to copy his block-by-block approach to ending poverty. The British government praised his charter schools as a model. And a new documentary opening across the country revolves around him: Geoffrey Canada, the magnetic Harlem Children's Zone leader with strong ideas about how American education should be fixed.

Last week, Mr. Canada was in Birmingham, England, addressing Prime Minister David Cameron and members of his Conservative Party about improving schools.

But back home and out of the spotlight, Mr. Canada and his charter schools have struggled with the same difficulties faced by other urban schools, even as they outspend them. After a rocky start several years ago typical of many new schools, Mr. Canada's two charter schools, featured as unqualified successes in "Waiting for 'Superman,' " the new documentary, again hit choppy waters this summer, when New York State made its exams harder to pass.

A drop-off occurred, in spite of private donations that keep class sizes small, allow for an extended school day and an 11-month school year, and offer students incentives for good performance like trips to the Galápagos Islands or Disney World.

The parent organization of the schools, the Harlem Children's Zone, enjoys substantial largess, much of it from Wall Street. While its cradle-to-college approach, which seeks to break the cycle of poverty for all 10,000 children in a 97-block zone of Harlem, may be breathtaking in scope, the jury is still out on its overall impact. And its cost -- around $16,000 per student in the classroom each year, as well as thousands of dollars in out-of-class spending -- has raised questions about its utility as a nationwide model.

$16,000 per student is close to Madison's roughly $15K / student annual spending.

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Brave Thinkers: Deborah Gist

Rachael Brown

In your first year as the commissioner of education in Rhode Island, you earned headlines for backing a plan to fire all the high-school teachers in the poorly performing district of Central Falls. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and even President Obama chimed in with support. Did the attention surprise you?

I think that just the visual for people was noticeable, and I think what exactly was happening was misunderstood. I think people seemed to feel that teachers were being blamed for the performance of the school, which was not the way we understood what was happening.

Perhaps overshadowed by the Central Falls controversy, you've put forth a dramatic reform agenda aimed at improving teacher quality. To help, you created a new evaluation system that requires an annual review of all teachers.

I think most professionals would be surprised to know [that annual reviews] weren't already in place. Professionalism is about being respected for the work that you do, being acknowledged for the work that you do, and being accountable for the work that you do. I meet teachers in our state all the time who are more than ready to be held accountable for their work and are very proud of the results that they're able to see with their students.

What's gotten the most attention is that evaluations will be primarily based on measures of student growth and achievement.

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Why aren't our teachers the best and the brightest?

Paul Kihn & Matt Miller

Why don't more of our smartest, most accomplished college graduates want to become teachers?

People trying to improve education in this country have been talking a lot lately about boosting "teacher effectiveness." But nearly all such efforts focus on the teachers who are already in the classroom, instead of seeking to change the caliber of the people who enter teaching in the first place.

Three of the top-performing school systems in the world -- those in Finland, Singapore and South Korea -- take a different approach, recruiting 100 percent of their teachers from the top third of their high school and college students. Simply put, they don't take middling students and make them teachers. They tap their best people for the job.

Of course, academic achievement isn't the whole story in these countries. They screen would-be teachers for other important qualities, and they invest heavily in training teachers and in retaining them for their entire careers. But scholastic prowess comes first: You don't get through the classroom door in Finland, Singapore or South Korea without having distinguished yourself academically. In the United States, by contrast, only 23 percent of new teachers scored among the top third of SAT and ACT test-takers back in high school. In high-poverty schools, that figure is just 14 percent.

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Too Young for School, but Ready for Irony

Nicholas Bakalar:

When a 12-year-old's mother asks him "How many times do I have to tell you to stop?" he will understand that the answer, if any is required, had better not include a number.

But that insight requires a sophisticated understanding of ironic language that develops long after fluent speech. At what age do children begin to sense the meaning of such a question, and to what degree can they respond appropriately to other kinds of irony?

In laboratory research on the subject, children demonstrate almost no comprehension of ironic speech before they are 6 years old, and little before they are 10 or 11. When asked, younger children generally interpret rhetorical questions as literal, deliberate exaggeration as a mistake and sarcasm as a lie.

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How To Fix Our Schools? Really?

Judy Molland

How to fix our schools" is the title of a manifesto published on Sunday, October 10, in The Washington Post by Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, and fourteen other school superintendents across the country.

The Future Of Our Children

The piece starts off well enough:
"It's time for all of the adults - superintendents, educators, elected officials, labor unions and parents alike - to start acting like we are responsible for the future of our children. Because right now, across the country, kids are stuck in failing schools, just waiting for us to do something."

Who can disagree with that? The writers continue: "As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their zip code or even their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher."

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Maine Governors 2010: On education

Steve Mistler

When Gov. John Baldacci last year cut $38 million in local education aid to help with a $400 million state budget shortfall, local school districts took it on the chin.

The move forced school districts to consider staff layoffs and program reductions. Later, with less state aid expected and the threat of another cut looming in fiscal year 2011, school districts were forced to consider more layoffs, reduced programing or both.

Education funding was spared in Baldacci's latest budget adjustment, but the governor warned that the budget he will recommend to the next governor will be well short of the education funding required by state law.

Currently, the state funds just over 42 percent. State law mandates 55 percent, although it hasn't met the requirement since the law was enacted in 2004. About half of the state's biennial $5.5 billion budget goes to education.

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Parents Turn to iPad for Speech Therapy


The rise of mainstream tablet computers is proving to have unforeseen benefits for children with speech and communication problems--and such use has the potential to disrupt a business where specialized devices can cost thousands of dollars.

Before she got an iPad at age two, Caleigh Gray couldn't respond to yes-or-no questions. Now Caleigh, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, uses a $190 software application that speaks the words associated with pictures she touches on Apple Inc.'s device.

"We're not having to fight to prove to people that she is a smart little girl anymore, because it's there once they see her using the iPad," said Caleigh's mother, Holly Gray, who said her daughter can use the tablet to identify colors or ask to go outside.

iOS speech and translation tools are quite remarkable.

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Oprah Winfrey says she's disappointed by school abuse case verdict


Talk show host Oprah Winfrey on Monday said she was not satisfied with the acquittal of a woman accused of abusing students at the her South African girls school.

Tiny Virginia Makopo, 30, was found not guilty of allegations that she improperly touched several teenage girls when she was a matron at the campus near Johannesburg soon after it opened in 2007, the South African Press Association reported Monday.

"We began this child molestation trial in July 2008," Winfrey said in a written statement. "More than two years later, I am profoundly disappointed at the outcome of the trial."
Winfrey -- who has spoken publicly about abuse she suffered as a child -- became personally involved in the abuse investigation after a student reported the alleged abuse in October 2007.

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Farm to School Week will promote N.J. agriculture

New Jersey Sunbeam

Legislation co-sponsored by Deputy Assembly Speaker John Burzichelli would declare the last week of September as "Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week" to promote the importance of supporting New Jersey's agricultural business and the value of healthy eating for children.

"Our state is bursting with locally grown produce, from blueberries, cranberries, peaches, to tomatoes, New Jersey grows it," said Burzichelli, D-3rd Dist.

"Teaching children about the importance of Jersey Fresh produce can help them understand what farming is about and that fresh vegetables are good for them and their health."

The legislation calls on the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to design a bidding guide that allows for school purchases of locally-grown food and would establish a website to provide information for farmers, distributors, and schools to create purchasing networks.

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Ohio Online Charter Schools Draw More Students

The Associated Press

As more students choose web-based learning for reasons that can include bullying or health issues, enrollment at the state's publicly funded online charter schools has risen by nearly half within five years, according to data from the Ohio Department of Education.

Department figures show that the state's 27 free e-schools had more than 29,000 students taking classes by computer during the last school year, up from about 20,000 in 2005. The enrollment numbers were first reported Monday by The Columbus Dispatch, which also noted that the increase came during a period when no new online charters opened in Ohio. The state imposed a moratorium before the 2005-06 school year.

The e-charters are drawing more students because they fill a need and provide families with options, school officials and parents said.

Online schools can be attractive to students who feel they're being bullied at a traditional school and need a refuge, said Nick Wilson, a spokesman for the Columbus-based Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. ECOT is the state's oldest and largest Internet charter school.

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Technology = Salvation

Holman Jenkins, Jr.

The housing bubble blew up so catastrophically because science and technology let us down. It blew up because our technocratic elite told us to expect an ever-wealthier future, and science hasn't delivered. Except for computers and the Internet, the idea that we're experiencing rapid technological progress is a myth.

Such is the claim of Peter Thiel, who has either blundered into enough money that his crackpot ideas are taken seriously, or who is actually on to something. A cofounder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook (his stake was recently reported to be around 3%), Mr. Thiel is the unofficial leader of a group known as the "PayPal mafia," perhaps the most fecund informal network of entrepreneurs in the world, behind companies as diverse as Tesla (electric cars) and YouTube.

Mr. Thiel, whose family moved from Germany when he was a toddler, studied at Stanford and became a securities lawyer. After PayPal, he imparted a second twist to his career by launching a global macro hedge fund, Clarium Capital. He now matches wits with some of the great macro investors, such as George Soros and Stanley Druckenmiller, by betting on the direction of world markets.

Those two realms of investing--narrow technology and broad macro--are behind his singular diagnosis of our economic crisis. "All sorts of things are possible in a world where you have massive progress in technology and related gains in productivity," he says. "In a world where wealth is growing, you can get away with printing money. Doubling the debt over the next 20 years is not a problem."

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How Come? A Look at School Administrator Governance

Charlie Mas

If Education Reformers, like our own Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, believe that the most critical step we can take to improve our schools and improve outcomes for students is to identify and dismiss all of the bad teachers, then why don't we see them making a real effort to do that?

Why don't we see our superintendent speaking to principals regularly and emphatically about following the process to dismiss all of the teachers in their schools that everyone knows are ineffective? If this is so important then why isn't the superintendent following up with principals about how they are following up on the process to dismiss poor performing teachers? Why don't we hear about all of the pressure she is putting on principals to cull the staff?

Hey, if this were the primary determinant of student performance - as they claim to believe - then they need to start treating it that way. Even if it takes two years to dismiss a poor performing teacher, I would expect them all to be gone after three years - certainly after four. Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson has had three years and is now in her fourth. Why do we still have this problem - if not for her failure to address it?

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Grading School Choice

Ross Douthat

In this fall's must-see documentary, "Waiting for 'Superman,' " Davis Guggenheim offers a critique of America's public school bureaucracy that's manipulative, simplistic and more than a little bit utopian.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Guggenheim's cause, the plight of children trapped in failing schools with lousy, union-protected teachers, is important enough to make his overzealousness forgivable. And his prescription -- more accountability for teachers and bureaucrats, and more choices for parents and kids -- deserves all the support his film promises to win for it.

But if propaganda has its virtues, it also has its limits. Guggenheim's movie, which follows five families through the brutal charter school lotteries that determine whether their kids will escape from public "dropout factories," stirs an entirely justified outrage at the system's unfairnesses and cruelties. This outrage needs to be supplemented, though, with a dose of realism about what education reformers can reasonably hope to accomplish, and what real choice and competition would ultimately involve.

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October 12, 2010

Madison school district to consider alternatives to traditional public schools

Gayle Worland, via a kind reader's email:

The Madison School District will explore creating more charter schools, magnet schools, and schools-within-schools -- in part to help keep middle-class families in the district.

Superintendent Dan Nerad said Tuesday he plans to appoint a committee next month to study alternatives to the traditional public school.

The group will include district staff as well as members from the community and will work on the project for about a year, Nerad said Tuesday in a meeting with the State Journal editorial board.

"I don't know what they'll come back with, but it's something that I think is certainly worth investigating, and worth discussion," School Board member Arlene Silveira said of the committee. "It's kind of exciting -- there's so many ways to deliver education now."

Related: 220K Draft copy of the Madison School District's "High School Curricular Reform".

Promising. We'll see how it plays out.

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A Few Photos of Madison's Randall Elementary School


A beautiful building on a gorgeous fall day.

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Michelle Rhee to announce resignation as D.C. schools chancellor on Wednesday

Tim Craig & Bill Turque

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee will announce Wednesday that she is resigning at the end of this month, bringing an abrupt end to a tenure that drew national acclaim but that also became a central issue in an election that sent her patron, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, to defeat.

Rhee survived three contentious years that made her a superstar of the education reform movement and one of the longest-serving school leaders in the city in two decades. Student test scores rose, and the teachers union accepted a contract that gave the chancellor sweeping powers to fire the lowest-performing among them.

But Rhee will leave with considerable unfinished business in her quest to improve teaching, close the worst schools and infuse a culture of excellence in a system that has been one of the nation's least effective at educating students.

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I Teach (Not)

Rosalie Arcala Hall

The academic calendar is symbolic of how an institution values time. It pegs the community to set dates like enrollment and graduations; exam periods and study periods; and holidays and vacations. In my university's case, what is not contained in the calendar is more instructive than what it actually says. Like many non-modern societies, we take a more malleable approach to time and along with it, a less strict teaching regimen.

My University's academic calendar is a historical artifact from a former agrarian society that was dependent upon the young's labor for planting and harvesting. It begins in June and ends in March. Book-ending the semesters are Christian holidays (All Saints/Souls Day in November 1; and Lent in late March/early April). Apart from the requisite two-week holiday for Christmas and New Year (December), we also give way to numerous "public" holidays celebrating heroes and heroic events (about 7 national and 3 local), which under former President Arroyo's holiday economics scheme invariably were moved to Mondays (and inconveniently announced the week before the holiday!).

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Longer school year idea doomed from the start

Matt Pommer

President Barack Obama says America must improve its education system to retain its world economic leadership. Among the ideas he floated in a September talk was extending the school year.

Sound familiar? It should because former Gov. Tommy Thompson sounded the same theme some 18 years ago. Better education would help Wisconsin young people get jobs in the 21st century, Thompson suggested.

A longer school year is unpopular in Wisconsin's important tourism industry, which has long held clout in the Legislature. That's why public schools in Wisconsin can't start in August as they do in some other states.

The tourism industry initially fought to delay any school start until after Labor Day. But that would mean in some years that schools couldn't open until Sept. 8. The University of Wisconsin, which also is affected by the state law, argued that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get a full semester completed before the Christmas break.

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Why Do Unions Oppose Merit Pay?

Bryan Caplan

Gary Becker off-handedly remarks:
Not surprisingly, teachers unions fight hardest against reforms that change the way teachers are paid, especially when they introduce incentives for teachers to perform more effectively.
I don't doubt that unions tend to oppose merit pay, but the reasons are unclear. Profit-maximizing monopolists still suffer financially if they cut quality; the same should hold for unionized workers. Why not simply jack average wages 15% above the competitive level, and leave relative wages unchanged?
Tyler Cowen has more.

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Smartphones dial up learning experience

Tim Devaney

Caleb Carr was excited to return to classes this fall so he could use a school-issued cell phone -- not just to talk, but to learn.

Carr and his classmates at Lutheran High School South in Newport are taking advantage of a $42,000 program from GoKnow, a Dallas-based mobile education company founded in Ann Arbor that equips students with cell phones.

The phones rely on mobile applications that let students -- many of whom text faster than they write -- take notes, complete assignments and watch presentations from the palms of their hands.

"Homework's more fun with the phone," said Carr, a junior at the private school who was part of a student group that tested the phones this summer. "For a teenager to have a phone, it's a great privilege."

GoKnow is one of several mobile applications companies with Michigan connections trying to cash in on the mobile technology revolution, encouraging students and teachers to trade notebooks for smartphones they say help pupils learn better.

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California spent nearly half a billion on college freshmen who later dropped out, study finds

Carla Rivera

At a time when California's public colleges are battling to maintain state funding, a report says that over a five-year period, the state spent nearly half a billion dollars to educate first-year college students who dropped out before their sophomore year.

The report found that California ranked first in the nation in the amount of taxpayer funds -- $467 million -- spent on students at four-year colleges who failed to return for a second year. Texas, with $441 million, and New York, with $403 million, ranked second and third.

The study, prepared by the Washington-based American Institutes for Research, analyzed federal data on retention rates at hundreds of four-year colleges and universities and states' education funding between 2003 and 2008.

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What the LA Seniority Settlement Does and Doesn't Do

There has been much concern that somehow the proposed LA Seniority Settlement is eliminating seniority. Lets be clear here - this settlement does not eliminate seniority either at the protected school sites or in the district. This settlement simply means that some schools would be protected from experiencing the mass layoff when budget cuts are required. These schools will not even be protected from cuts. When the district has a cut, say 5 percent of staff in the district, this settlement will mean that only 5 percent of teachers at a protected site can be cut. And, those teachers would be selected based on seniority. What will this mean for other schools at the district? It will mean that more senior teachers will be laid off in the wealthier parts of the district, but isn't that fair? And how will those layoff decisions be made? That's right, based on seniority. So, this settlement simply spreads the pain a little more evenly across the district, but still bases decisions on seniority. When there are budget cuts shouldn't all the schools in the district feel some impact on their teaching staff?

Now on the point of should their be broader reforms to teacher seniority policies. I think the answer is yes. But first, districts must have much better teacher evaluation systems in place. For example, I am a fan of the TAP model in which the teacher evaluation system includes at least 6 classroom observations a year by a combination of administrators and master teachers using an agreed upon evaluation rubric. These measures are combined with value-added assessments and other outcome based measures. Once there are more rigorous teacher evaluation systems, then that system can protect from arbitrary feelings of a principal.

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Why is atheist Nick Clegg considering sending his son to the same exclusive Catholic school as the Blairs?

Ian Gallagher

Nick Clegg is considering sending his eldest son to one of Britain's leading Catholic state schools - despite both his atheism and his party's opposition to faith schools.

The Deputy Prime Minister faces accusations of hypocrisy after he and his Catholic wife Miriam were given a private tour of the London Oratory, where Tony Blair controversially sent his sons.

Headmaster David McFadden told The Mail on Sunday that he believed his school would be a 'natural choice' for the couple, who were 'happy with what they saw' during their tour last week.

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Teacher connects jazz history to experience

David Wiegand

Kwami Coleman, the new kid on the block at the Jazzschool, is a graduate student in musicology at Stanford who grew up in New York, where his dad was a pianist.

He got his job through inadvertent networking when, at a musicological conference in Quebec, he asked author Scott DeVeaux ("The Birth of Bebop") about the importance of Igor Stravinsky hearing Charlie Parker play live at Birdland.

Flash forward a couple of years and Susan Muscarella is looking for someone to teach the history of jazz from 1920 to the present at the Jazzschool. She contacts DeVeaux, who says he doesn't know of anyone, except for this young guy at Stanford who impressed him at the musicology conference.

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October 11, 2010

Public input sought tonight on $244M Green Bay school budget

Patti Zarling

The Green Bay School Board hopes to hear from the public this evening about a proposed $244.2 million spending plan for this school year.

A proposed 2010-11 budget for the Green Bay School District includes more money for capital improvements but reduces the number of teaching positions and scales back spending on technology.

Those cuts come despite a surplus of $5.8 million from last year.

Under the proposed $244.2 million budget for 2010-11, the district estimates the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would see about a $30 increase in the school portion of their property taxes, said Alan Wagner, assistant superintendent of business and finances.

The equalized property tax rate for school taxes would be $9.70 per $1,000 of equalized land value. That's up 63 cents -- or 6.9 percent -- from $9.07 per $1,000 of property value for 2009-10 under the budget proposal.

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Advanced Placement, Gifted Education & A Hometown Debate

Anna Peterson, via a kind reader's email:

This afternoon, I received an outraged phone call from my sister. "A bunch of obnoxious and pushy parents are demanding West High offer more AP classes. They say West needs to improve talented and gifted classes. Can you believe it? I knew this would happen someday." Although my sister's characterization of these parents' complaints was less than completely accurate, her impressions and outrage will be shared with many members of my high school's community. This makes me both frustrated and concerned for my former school.

Madison West High School prides itself on its diversity, fine arts programs, and impressive academic achievements, and West prepared most of my classmates well for our college careers. The preparation, however, did not involve many AP classes. Some of my classmates took AP exams for subjects in which they had not had official AP classes, and they often scored well. But many of us took only an AP language exam or maybe an AP calculus test. Historically, West's teachers have resisted forgoing their own curricula in favor of those dictated by the College Board. And with instructional minutes treated like a precious commodity, I can see why many teachers don't want to sacrifice the six weeks of school after the AP exams to the severe senioritis that overcame my classmates and myself in the few AP classes I did take. I have great respect for my teachers' anti-AP position, and I think West is a better school for it. So whether or not these "obnoxious and pushy parents" are demanding AP classes for their gifted children, I share my sister's skepticism of changing West's curriculum to fit with that of the College Board.

Complaint Filed Against Madison Schools.

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Georgia School Board Report Card

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DaShonna Taylor, parent

Grade: B -

"I'm grateful to the school board and transportation department who came together to reinstate the bus routes for my corridor. There's always room for improvement and it's early in the (school) year. I just moved to the county and I'm still trying to evaluate some things with the board."

Kenny Ruffin, Riverdale councilman

Grade: A-

"They've pretty much met most of the goals set for them by SACS. They're the board I would credit with helping restore Clayton County's school accreditation. The only thing that keeps me from giving them an A is that there's still a couple of members who still need to work toward working together cohesively for the benefit of the community."

Madison residents will have an opportunity to evaluate two school board seats in the April, 2011 election. Marj Passman and Ed Hughes currently occupy those positions. The City of Madison Clerk has posted candidate information here.

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Geelong High School makes its century

Peter Begg

IT is alma mater to a gaggle of politicians, authors, an Antarctic explorer, an Anglican bishop and a rock star.

And this week it celebrates 100 years as the oldest state secondary school in Geelong.

Geelong High School, labelled the School of Choice, is marking the anniversary with a week of activities which started yesterday with a launch at the school hall and tours of the campus.

School principal David Whelan said the big day would be next Saturday, with reunions at the school and a Centenary Cabaret at South Barwon Civic Centre.

He said there were 300 people who had confirmed they would attend the cabaret.

Mr Whelan, who is in his fifth year as principal, said there were many well-known locals who had attended the school.

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School Boards: Your Attorney is Not Your Boss

The Oklahoma Editorials

Here's a reminder for some Tulsa-area school board members: Your attorney is not your boss. So when he advises that you disregard state law, think twice. And think about that part of your oath as a school board member that requires you to uphold state law.

The blatant disregard with which school board members in Broken Arrow and Jenks acted last week in voting not to comply with a new state law is outrageous. Worse yet, several other school boards may follow suit.

At issue is the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program, which allows children with special needs to attend private school at state expense. Doug Mann, attorney for the Broken Arrow and Jenks boards, advised board members not to pay the scholarships. He said the law is unconstitutional and paves the way for school vouchers.

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'I was not allowed to take AP English'

Jay Matthews:

My column on Charles Hebert Flowers High School requiring a 3.0 grade point average to take an Advanced Placement course, then dropping the rule after I asked about it, inspired many people who have been barred from AP and college prep courses to offer their stories. Here are two accounts from people who suffered because of the still widespread and wrongheaded view that only top students should be challenged. Carolyn Elefant is a lawyer in Washington. Evelyn Nolan is a retired teacher from Prince George's County, where Flowers High is located.

From Elefant:

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On education, reform must be Item 1

Ed Allen

Proponents of State Question 744 are working hard and spending a good deal of money to get a square peg into a round hole. Advocates of SQ 744 don't seem to realize that the educational landscape has changed; they continue to see public education in one shape, with everyone else seeing another. Proponents of SQ 744 see dollars first; opponents see reform first.

Teachers know better than anyone the challenges brought on by poverty, absentee parents, English language learners, gangs, addiction, etc. In Oklahoma City we know it first hand -- our teachers are dedicated professionals because they do what most cannot or will not do, which is to work in an urban environment. Because of our firsthand knowledge, we know reform is an absolute must. While we cannot control some factors, there are many we can. The Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers, long a proponent of reform, is leading the way to quality schools and improved student achievement.

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Teacher who criticised UK education standards to return to school

Nick Collins

Katharine Birbalsingh, 37, was ordered not to come into school on Thursday or Friday after making critical remarks before a speech by Education Secretary Michael Gove at the party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday.

Addressing the audience as a guest speaker, she gave a damning account of standards in schools, saying education had been "so dumbed down that even the children know it."

The board of governors at St Michael and All Angels Church of England Academy in Camberwell, south London, told Miss Birbalsingh to stay away from the school while they considered her position.

But the French teacher and deputy head has been told that she would be allowed to return to the classroom on Monday after parents voiced their support.
In her speech on Tuesday, Miss Birbalsingh told delegates of a "broken" system which "keeps poor children poor".

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More teachers are learning how to teach online

Amy Hetzner

Teaching without being able to see a student's puzzled face or immediately answer a question can be a challenge even for a veteran of the education profession.

And, when that environment is a virtual school, tackling the technological proficiency requirements can be a hurdle, as well.

"You have to be very creative with the technology and your lesson presentation," said Trina Michalsen, who teaches language arts and math to middle schoolers at the Northern Ozaukee School District's Wisconsin Virtual Learning school.

As virtual classes with all of the instruction taking place over computers have become more popular in Wisconsin, training teachers on how to employ new online instructional techniques also has become more prevalent.

The effort has been helped by a new state law that required teachers to get 30 hours of professional development by July 1 to teach fully online courses to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Schools and colleges have responded by offering in-house training programs, complete certificates and graduate school credits.

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Charter schools deserve even playing field

New Jersey Star Ledger:

Gov. Chris Christie has said he strongly supports charter schools and recently spoke of his plans to ease the way for their expansion. That's great, but what's still missing is the money.

And it's all about the money. Without their fair share of state funding, charter schools will continue to struggle. They're public schools, but only get a portion of what a local district spends per student -- and, even worse, no public funding for facilities at all.

Charter schools allow for innovation and give parents a choice. Some are failing and should be shut down. But many are succeeding wildly and drawing huge waiting lists.
Money is their biggest handicap. Charter schools end up with less because they get none of the so-called "adjustment aid" the state gives out to districts. The disparity is greatest in places like Camden, Paterson or Jersey City, where district schools get the most adjustment aid.

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October 10, 2010

On the Gifted & Talented Complaint Against the Madison School District

Peter Sobol

A group of West High parents have filed a complaint concerning the perceived lack of sufficient gifted and talented programming as mandated by state statute.
A group of 50 parents in the West High School attendance area has asked state education officials to investigate whether the Madison School District is violating state law by denying high-achieving students access to the "talented and gifted" programming parents say they deserve.

In a Sept. 20 complaint to the state Department of Public Instruction made public Tuesday, the parent group argued that freshmen and sophomores at West have limited opportunities for advanced English, biology and social studies classes

I have heard similar complaints expressed by MG parents. (Some of which are addressed by recent changes to the high school science curriculum for freshman and sophomores. )
Much more on the complaint here.

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Few study power of school boards

James Salzer and Nancy Badertscher

A small group of people you've probably never heard of spend $8 billion of your tax money each year, employ more than 90,000 people and set policies that affect 800,000 area schoolchildren.

Dr. Ricky A. Welkis is one of the few audience members at the sparsely attended Cobb county school board meeting in Marietta recently. Welkis is a school board candidate for post-6 in the upcoming election.

They are elected, but in some cases with fewer than 20 percent of voters casting ballots.

They are your school board members.

Metro Atlanta has some of the best and some of the worst.

There are patterns discernible in their bios: Most have college degrees; most get annual training; but a surprising 40 percent have had financial problems -- bankruptcies or liens -- even as they control multimillion-dollar and even billion-dollar budgets.

Recently, several metro Atlanta boards have presided over school systems in crisis. Often, those that do are accused of meddling at the schoolhouse.

School Board governance vs. administrative intransigence is a topic worth exploring, per Madison School Board member Lucy Mathiak's recent blog post. It appears, to this observer, that some board members prefer to go along with the status quo while a few others are trying to drive change.

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In tune with the have-nots @ Beethovenfest

Harry Eyres

I didn't expect that going to hear the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela rehearse and play at the Beethovenfest in Bonn would give me a new perspective, not just on Beethoven but also on wealth and poverty and the divide between the haves and have-nots. Many of the teenagers in this orchestra (a younger version of the better-known Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela) come from the poor barrios of Caracas: what we would call slums, lacking basic amenities and privacy.

No wonder the kids I spoke to were so impressed by what they called the "beautiful" city of Bonn, where the Porsches and Mercedes glide through wide and well-ordered avenues, but where, from the deathly silence that reigns on the streets, you might think an invisible plague had killed the inhabitants.

But these kids obviously have something. In fact, what they have impressed the respectable burghers of Bonn so much that 1,600 of them rose to their feet after a concert consisting of the Fifth Symphonies of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and then gave themselves up to delirious and quite un-middle-aged clapping and swaying as the orchestra launched into six encores.

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Singapore Math Is "Our Dirty Little Secret"

Barry Garelick, via email:

The New York Times ran a story on September 30 about Singapore Math being used in some schools in the New York City area. Like many newspaper stories about Singapore Math, this one was no different. It described a program that strangely sounded like the math programs being promoted by reformers of math education, relying on the cherished staples of reform: manipulatives, open-ended problems, and classroom discussion of problems. The only thing the article didn't mention was that the students worked in small groups.

Those of us familiar with Singapore Math from having used it with our children are wondering just what program the article was describing. Spending a week on the numbers 1 and 2 in Kindergarten? Spending an entire 4th grade classroom period discussing the place value ramifications of the number 82,566? Well, maybe that did happen, but not because the Singapore Math books are structured that way. In fact, the books are noticeably short on explicit narrative instruction. The books provide pictures and worked out examples and excellent problems; the topics are ordered in a logical sequence so that material mastered in the various lessons builds upon itself and is used to advance to more complex applications. But what is assumed in Singapore is that teachers know how to teach the material--the teacher's manuals contain very little guidance. Thus, the decision to spend a week on the numbers 1 and 2 in kindergarten, or a whole class period discussing a single number is coming from the teachers, not the books.

The mistaken idea that gets repeated in many such articles is that Singapore Math differs from other programs by requiring or imparting a "deep understanding" and that such understanding comes about through a) manipulatives, b) pictures, and c) open-ended discussions. In fact, what the articles represent is what the schools are telling the reporters. What newspapers frequently do not realize when reporting on Singapore Math, is that when a school takes on such a program, it means going against what many teachers believe math education to be about; it is definitely not how they are trained in ed schools. The success of Singapore's programs relies in many ways on more traditional approaches to math education, such as explicit instruction and giving students many problems to solve, in some ways its very success represented a slap in the face to American math reformers, many of whom have worked hard to eliminate such techniques being used.

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Simple vs. Complex In Improving Education

James Warren

It's neat to see my son, a first grader, get off his Chicago Public Schools bus when it drops him back home. It also reminds me of what's wrong with our education system.

Mayoral candidates should join me as the bus arrives about 2:45 p.m. That means he has been in school for, at most, five and a half hours. Chicago has the shortest school day of the 50 largest districts in the United States.

Ron Huberman, head of Chicago Public Schools, confirmed to me once that our school year is about seven weeks shorter than New York's.

The length of the school day is one of many topics being faced as education experiences another paroxysm of interest. It's partly due to "Waiting for Superman," a documentary about our flagging schools. Oprah Winfrey did two shows inspired by the movie, while NBC and MSNBC gave the subject a week of serious attention

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Students and teachers photograph the best--and worst--places in their schools.

Linda Perlstein

While designers are busy creating the classroom of the future, many students are stuck in not merely unimaginative school buildings but actually disgusting ones. The 21st Century School Fund and Healthy Schools Campaign, which work for improvements in education facilities, and Critical Exposure, which uses student photography as an advocacy tool, believe that no one can show what is and isn't working in school buildings better than the people inside them. Each year, they ask students and teachers to shoot the best and worst of their surroundings. The "Through Your Lens" exhibit features an awful lot of peeling paint and broken windows--the kind of environment you wouldn't want your kid in for an hour, much less a childhood. But the photographers also highlight examples of spaces that work, flashes of color and sunlight and order in otherwise chaotic surroundings.

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Why low standards for education are good

Jay Matthews:

No education scholar in America throws an analytical knuckleball as well as David F. Labaree of Stanford University. You are reading along, enjoying the clarity of his prose and the depth of his research, thinking his argument is going one way when--whoops!--it breaks in another direction altogether.

It is dizzying, but in a fun way, like an intricate rollercoaster. In a recent book, for instance, Labaree showed that education schools like the one that employs him teach theories that have little to do with how schools work but--here comes the twist--that's okay because education school graduates ignore those courses once they start teaching.

He is at it again in his new book, "Someone Has To Fail: The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling." The book is only 280 pages long, but so rich in contrarian assaults on cherished American assumptions I cannot adequately summarize it. I will describe pieces of it instead, like the thrilling part where Labaree disembowels the argument for higher U.S. school standards made by Bob Compton, the high-tech entrepreneur who produced the film "Two Million Minutes" and completely skewered me once on cable TV.

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Annapolis Police Change School Notification Policy


Annapolis police are changing the way they share information with schools after it was revealed that a high school senior charged this week with assaulting of a fellow student faced similar charges months ago.

The 17 year old from Annapolis was charged Wednesday with attempted second-degree rape and related counts in a Sept. 29 sexual assault involving a 14-year-old girl outside Annapolis High School. He is awaiting trial on charges he raped another teenager in May.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools officials say police never told them about the earlier allegations.

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Tulsa School Districts Defend Special Education Decision

Andrea Eger

Officials with several suburban school districts responded to their critics Thursday, claiming that they have no choice but to disobey a new law that calls for public schools to fund private school scholarships for special education students.

"We have taken this very courageous stand to try to get this law reviewed, not because we want to be sued or because we want to violate the law," Union Superintendent Cathy Burden said. "We have no way of getting it to the court system without drawing a line in the sand."

Burden will ask the Union school board on Monday to join the Broken Arrow and Jenks boards in approving measures that state that they do not intend to pay any parent who requests a Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship.

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Madison's Planned Dual Language Immersion Program

Silvia Romero-Johnson:

We propose Chavez Elementary as the DLI site for the Memorial attendance area. Of all the elementary schools in this attendance area, Chavez student enrollment of Spanish-speaking English-language learners remained most consistent. This proposal reconunends that Chavez Elementary begin the 2011-2012 school year with two DLI classrooms, similar to Sandburg's DLI program which opened this school year with two DLI classrooms.

In addition, opening a DLI program at Cesar Chavez Elementary acknowledges the school's name sake, a Latino civil rights activist. The goals of DLI progrannning to develop cross-cultural understanding and bilingualism support Cesar Chavez' vision, and the MMSD strategic plan.

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An Update on Madison's Proposed 4K Program Financing: Federal Stimulus Tax Dollars Replace Local Funds, District Proposes Increased Spending on Maintenance & Technology

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

As part of the Education Job Funds recommendation, we are recommending using approximately $4.2 million for funding the shortfall created by beginning this new program in 2011-12. This plan for funding 4-k will continue to have the assumption that property taxes will have to be used to support approximately $3.7 million of the start up costs for this program in 2011-12 as well. The use of these Education Job Funds if approved, creates an opportunity to utilize funds originally targeted for 4-k start up in a different way.

During the process of re-financing the district's Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) unfunded pension liability, the Board of Education approved a financing plan that prepared for the use of borrowed funds to support the 4-K start up (See next page). This structure effectively created budget capacity of approximately $4.2 million over the next three years. These funds were targeted originally to pay for a borrowed amount equal to $4.2 million to support the first year of 4-K, but the Federal Education Job Funds created an opportunity for MMSD to re-evaluate this decision.

Administration would propose the concept of utilizing these budget funds, originally meant to re-pay a 4-K borrow of approximately $4.2 million, to support Maintenance and Technology needs over the next two years. Under this idea, MMSD would move forward with borrowing funds as planned, but rather than using these funds to support 4-K, shift the purpose to meet technology and maintenance needs. Itwould be our intent to split these funds equally between these two areas, and work with the Board over the next 6 to 9 months to prioritize needs within these two areas.

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Who Will Rescue America's Schools

Letters to the New York Times:

Kudos to Gail Collins for highlighting the disastrous consequences of children's having to attend lotteries to learn whether they won a coveted spot in a charter school that might save them from becoming a statistical casualty of our ailing public school system.

"Waiting for Superman" is not the first film to give life to this issue, nor will it be the last. But Ms. Collins's anger is misplaced when she tells the charters to stop holding theatrical lottery drawings. Federal and state laws require charters to conduct lotteries. And if they were not public, can you imagine the phone calls from angry parents of rejected students demanding to see proof?

Families want to be able to exercise choice rather than be confined to the schools that we might have to wait another 30 years for a Superman to fix. Thanks to the charter idea, students are better served.

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Milwaukee Public Schools tries to find long-term change among the fads

Alan Borsuk

I thought the hula hoop was a fad when I was a kid, which is to say, I thought it would be gone in about a month. A half century later, hula hoops are still around.

I thought decentralization of decision making and budgeting for Milwaukee Public Schools a decade ago was a trend, which is to say, it was an important, lasting change in the educational landscape. Now, it's effectively gone. Just a fad.

Education history is filled with hot subjects of the moment - new ways to teach reading, new ways to handle misbehaving students, new ways to organize the school day. Teachers should stand in the front of the room. Teachers should stand in the back of the room. Teachers should wander around the room.

Most of these ideas leave the stage after a little while. You can make a lot of teachers roll their eyes just by mentioning some of them. Come back next year and we'll be doing things differently, they say.

I was once at a seminar for reporters and editors on fads, trends, and how to tell the difference. Everyone agreed fads go away quickly, trends stay, and you usually can't tell which is which until you wait them out. (I'm beginning to think this Internet thing is a trend, for example.)

So what about Michelle Rhee? The new Milwaukee Public Schools' reading program? The increasing and potent role of the federal government in shaping local education? "Waiting for Superman"? Response to Intervention?

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Virtual charter schools growing throughout Wisconsin

Gayle Worland

Early each school day morning, 10-year-old twins Galyn and Grace Hartung and their 8-year-old brother Henry bound out of the house and run to the school bus stop to play with friends from their Cross Plains neighborhood. But when the school bus pulls up to the curb some 20 minutes later, only the friends get on board.

The Hartung kids, virtual school students, head back home to a brightly painted basement room where many assignments are digital, the teachers are heard through a laptop and the study hall monitor is mom.

"It just feels like a normal way to do school," said Grace.

Galyn, Grace and Henry are among some 3,955 students enrolled this fall in 12 virtual charter schools statewide. That's up from 3,829 students in 2009-10 and 2,983 in 2008-09.

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Why science careers, and courses, aren't so popular

Jay Matthews:

I know how high school course choices affect college chances, but I know much less about how they affect lives. For that kind of advice, I rely on some experienced career specialists, such as Ann Emerson of Stafford County public schools.

She sent me a refreshingly cool appraisal of the red hot national campaign to expand math and science education. She explains why we are having such trouble persuading students to pursue careers in chemistry, psychometrics, physics, biotechnology and related pursuits.

The full term for this most fashionable of all 21st-century education trends is STEM, short for science, technology, engineering and math. STEM advocates want to put more emphasis on these subjects in school. They want to train more teachers in these disciplines and produce more professionals in these fields.

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13 Houston schools get envelopes with white powder

Ericka Mellon

At least 13 schools in Houston ISD received suspicious envelopes on Friday with a white powdery substance that initial inspectors have determined is cornstarch.
The Houston Independent School District has sent the substance to the city health department for follow-up testing to make sure it is the basic cooking material and is not, in fact, hazardous, HISD spokeswoman Sarah Greer Osborne said.

The schools that got the envelopes were Almeda, Alcott, Anderson, Ashford, Barrick, Bastian, Blackshear, Briarmeadow and Browning elementaries. Attucks, Black and Fonville middle schools and Bellaire High School also received the envelopes.

"Some of them were opened when the kids were in school, but it wasn't done when any kids were present," Greer Osborne said.

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Dead Tree Alert: School's In

James Poniewozik:

In my TIME print-edition column this week (not yet available online), I take a look at pop culture and the public school crisis. Besides Davis Guggenheim's excellent documentary Waiting for "Superman," the column covers two Friday reality shows that take very different approaches to public school ills: NBC's School Pride, which debuts in a week, and A&E's Teach: Tony Danza, which continues airing tonight. After the jump, a little more about them:

School Pride is a curious show to debut so close to "Superman," even though the show has very similar concerns--namely, how public schools can better serve kids, especially those in poorer neighborhoods. The movie highlights inequities in schooling, but also makes a point of stressing that increases in per-pupil spending since the '70s have shown no increase in performance. School Pride, on the other hand, is expressly focused on trying to help kids by materially improving their schools.

In essence, it's an earnest, moving Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for schools, in which the show's team, community members and corporate sponsors come together to rebuild and create new school facilities; in the first episode, they take on a middle school in Compton, infested with mice and roaches, lacking in equipment and blighted with broken floorboards and cracked asphalt. Its assumption, repeated frequently, is that kids working in a well-kept school with new equipment, labs, &c. will feel better, take pride in their school (hence the title) and learn better.

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October 9, 2010

Madison School District 2010-2011 Enrollment Report, Including Outbound Open Enrollment (3.11%)

136K PDF

A few numbers:

Total District Enrollment 24,796 (The Wisconsin DPI enrollment number for Madison is 25,395).

Open Enrollment Leavers: 772

Open Enrollment Enterers: 175

Much more on outbound open enrollment here.

Tax & spending authority are largely based on enrollment.

The most recent 2010-2011 budget document indicates total planned spending of $373,157,148, which yields $15049.08 per student.

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If Schools Were Like 'American Idol' . . . Unless we measure success by how children perform, we'll have higher standards for pop stars than public schools.

Rupert Murdoch:

Over the past few years, I have often complained about a hidebound culture that prevents many newspapers from responding to the challenges of new technology. There is, however, another hidebound American institution that is also finding it difficult to respond to new challenges: our big-city schools.

Today, for example, the United States is home to more than 2,000 dysfunctional high schools. They represent less than 15% of American high schools yet account for about half of our dropouts. When you break this down, you find that these institutions produce 81% of all Native American dropouts, 73% of all African-American dropouts, and 66% of all Hispanic dropouts.

At our grade schools, two-thirds of all eighth-graders score below proficient in math and reading. The average African-American or Latino 9-year-old is three grades behind in these subjects. Behind the grim statistics is the real story: lost opportunities, crushed dreams, and shattered lives. In plain English, we trap the children who need an education most in failure factories.

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N.C. education policy focused on social promotion ends

Gary Robertson

A policy approved more than a decade ago designed to ensure kids were prepared for the next grade by passing a standardized test was eliminated Thursday by the State Board of Education because it contained exceptions and didn't appear to be effective.

The board agreed to end the requirement that students in third-, fifth- and eighth- grades pass end-of-grade tests to be promoted or end-of-course tests in five high school subjects to graduate. It was removed as the board agreed to approve five broad standards by which schools and teachers will be judged in coming years for student performance.

The testing requirement, which initially took effect in late 1999, was supposed to reduce "social promotion" -- students moving on to the next grade even if they hadn't mastered their grade-level subjects. Critics of the change at the time argued it would hurt minority students the most and the state lacked funding to give the students remedial help.

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Charter Education Expanding In Chicago

From a windowless basement office on Chicago's West Side, Greg White is trying to answer public education's $2 million-dollar question: What is the top priority for a school in Chicago's cash-strapped district?

The answer for Mr. White, chief executive of the LEARN Charter School Network -- which received two $1 million grants from Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network and the United States Department of Education last month -- is to open a fifth charter school in the network next fall. It is one of 10 charter schools in Chicago that Mr. White said he wanted to open in as many years, which would allow him to hire dozens of out-of-work teachers.

A month ago, those ambitious plans were in jeopardy. Chicago Public Schools approved a budget that cut district financing to charter schools by 6 percent, which could remove more than $400,000 from the network's budget this year. The two grants will cover the cost of opening the fifth school, Mr. White said.

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LA schools seek layoffs system opposed by union

A proposed agreement that would change how teachers are laid off in the nation's second-largest school district is being hailed as a landmark that could pave the way for changes in urban districts across the nation, but the city's teachers union said Wednesday that it had "serious concerns."

The settlement, which must be approved by a judge, would shield up to 45 underperforming schools from teacher layoffs for budget reasons. It also stipulates that vacancies be filled as quickly as possible, and contains a commitment to explore incentives, such as bonuses, to recruit and retain teachers and principals at poorly performing schools, with additional incentives if the school's academic performance improves.

The agreement stems from a lawsuit by American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California over teacher layoffs at three inner-city schools. The group had filed a class-action suit against the Los Angeles Unified School District in February, saying that mandated seniority-driven layoffs led to the three schools shedding some two-thirds of their teachers, which left students largely in the hands of substitutes.

The ACLU said students were being denied their state constitutional right to a fair and adequate education. It won a temporary injunction in May that prevented more layoffs of first- and second-year teachers who form the bulk of faculties at these schools in improverished areas, which more experienced teachers tend to avoid.

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Ruling Limits State's Power in School Suspensions

Erik Eckholm

In a ruling that puts new restraints on get-tough "zero tolerance" discipline, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled Friday that schools must provide strong reasons for denying alternative schooling or tutoring to students after they are suspended for misbehavior.

The case was brought on behalf of two girls who were suspended for five months in 2008 after a brief fistfight at their high school in Beaufort County that involved no weapons or injuries. The suit did not question the district's right to suspend them, but protested the additional, harsher step the district took, denying them access to the county's alternative school for troubled students or help with study at home.

Legal experts said the decision, in a case that had drawn national attention from civil rights groups, children's advocates and school leaders, was likely to be cited as a precedent as other states confront similar issues. The ruling affects one aspect of the zero-tolerance discipline policies that spread throughout the country over the last two decades, a policy originally intended to weed out dangerous children but one that critics say is used too readily for lesser infractions, derailing the lives of black children in particular.

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Joe McTighe

Baffling. That's one way to describe the back-to-back speeches last week by Education Secretary Duncan and President Obama at the centennial celebration of the National Urban League.

Both Obama and Duncan decried the status quo in education, offered some expensive and untried proposals for improvement, but failed to embrace an obvious and economical reform: school choice.

Too many low-income children are sentenced to chronically underperforming schools and nearly 50 percent of African-American and Latino students drop out of high school, putting themselves and the nation at risk, said the secretary. But while acknowledging some pockets of educational excellence that exist across the country, he and his boss overlooked the amazing work being done by religious and independent schools to combat the drop-out rate and close the achievement gap.

The most recent data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that black eighth-grade students in private schools score roughly two full grade levels higher in reading than their counterparts in public schools. According to other government reports, private high school students take tougher courses, score much better on the SATs and ACTs, and go to college at significantly higher rates than their public school peers. If getting more students ready for college is the administration's primary educational goal, then helping more parents choose private schools for their children should be at the front of reform efforts.

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Lessons from SEED, a National Demonstration of Child Development Accounts


A nationwide system of Child Development Accounts (CDAs) established as early as birth can lead to lifelong savings, raise college expectations and affordability, and serve as a basis for more stable and productive financial lives for American families, according to a new report.

The report, "Lessons from SEED, a National Demonstration of Child Development Accounts," is based on the experience of more than 1,171 children of all ages and their families who participated in pioneering CDA pilot programs in 12 states and communities. This pilot demonstration showed that, given the opportunity, families in some of the poorest communities in our country, would save for their child's college education and future. The programs tested CDAs, savings or investing accounts that begin as early as birth and allow parents and children to accumulate savings for college, homeownership or business initiatives.

The Saving for Education, Entrepreneurship, and Downpayment Initiative, or SEED, is a 10-year, multi-million dollar national policy, practice and research endeavor to develop, test and promote matched savings accounts and financial education for children and youth. SEED was designed to set the stage for universal, progressive American policy for asset building among children, youth and families. It was funded by 12 national foundations, including the Ford and Citi Foundations.

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Philadelphia School Partnership Launches

Associated Press

Today marks the official launch of the Philadelphia School Partnership-- a collaboration of business leaders, foundations, city leaders and educators from the School District of Philadelphia, public charter and parochial schools. The goal of the Philadelphia School Partnership is to make Philadelphia the highest performing city in the country in terms of educational achievement by 2015. The Philadelphia School Partnership will do this by increasing the pace of education reform in Philadelphia and by financially supporting great schools that can serve additional students within the charter, District and parochial school systems.

The Philadelphia School Partnership has established a five-year goal to raise $100 million and to strategically invest the funds in initiatives that will directly increase student performance across Philadelphia. To date, the Philadelphia School Partnership board and anonymous donors have seeded this fund with $16 million.

"The Philadelphia School Partnership speaks, acts and stands for quality education for the children of Philadelphia, wherever they attend school," said Mike O'Neill, Chair of the Philadelphia School Partnership Board of Directors. "This organization is a public recognition that we share more educational goals than differences and that now, more than ever, Philadelphia has to pull together to support this common agenda."

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October 8, 2010

Madison West High School student is arrested for possessing a handgun

Wisconsin State Journal

A 15-year-old student at West High School was arrested Friday for possession of a handgun, according to the Madison Police Department.

A letter sent to parents from principal Ed Holmes said a staff member received information that the student might be in possession of a gun, and contacted the Educational Resource Officer in the building. Police were called at about 11:45 a.m., and with their assistance, the officer located the student on Ash Street with the loaded .22 caliber handgun in his pocket and arrested him.

Search 53726 on

September, 2010 message from West High School's principal.

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An Update on Madison Preparatory Academy: A Proposed International Baccalaureate Charter School

Kaleem Caire, via email:

October 8, 2010

Greetings Madison Prep.

It was so wonderful to have those of you who were able to join us for the information session Tuesday night (Oct 5) here at the Urban League. We appreciate you dedicating part of your evening to learning about Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men and we look forward to working with you on this very important project. You are receiving this email because you volunteered to join the team that is going to put Madison Prep on the map!

There are a few things we want to accomplish with this email:

1. Share information about the project management website that we've established to organize our communications and planning with regard to developing the school

2. Secure dates and times that you're are available to attend the first of your selected Design Team meeting(s)

3. Provide, as promised, background information on Madison Prep along with hyperlinks that will help you educate yourself on charter schools and components of the Madison Prep school design

Please SAVE this email as it contains a number of information resources that you will want to refer back to as we engage in planning Madison Prep. There is a lot of information here and we DO NOT expect you to read everything or learn it all at once. Take your time and enjoy the reading and learning. We will guide you through the process. J

Today, you will receive an email with a subject line that reads, "You're invited to join our project management and collaboration system." Please open this email. It will contain the information you need to sign up to access the Madison Prep Project Management Site. You will need to select a username and password. FYI, Basecamp is used by millions of people and companies to manage projects. You can learn more about basecamp by clicking here. Once in the site, you can click on the "help" button at the top, if necessary, to get a tutorial on how to use the site. It is fairly easy to figure out without the tutorial. If you have spam controls on your computer, please be sure to check your spam or junk mail box to look for emails and posting that we might make through Basecamp. Occasionally, postings will end up there. Please approve us as an email "sender" to you.

We have already posted the business plan for the original school (NextGen Prep) that is the same model as Madison Prep. We've also posted other important documents and have set a deadline of Friday, October 15, 2010 for you to review certain documents that have been posted. The calendar shown in Basecamp will include these assignments. Please email me or Ed Lee ( if you have questions about using this site.

At the Interest Meeting we held on Tuesday (or in other conversation with us), you indicated a preference for getting involved in one of the following design teams. Please click on the name of the team below. You will be taken to to identify your availability for these meetings. Please share your availability by Monday, October 11 at 12pm so that we can send out meeting notices that afternoon. We will address the dates and times of future meetings at the first meeting of each team. Please note, you do not need to be a "charter school" expert to be involved with this. You will have a lot of fun working towards developing a "high quality public charter school" and will learn in the process.

· Curriculum & Instruction Team. This design team will develop a thorough understanding of the IB curriculum and define the curriculum of the school, including the core and non-core curriculum. At least for the first meeting of this design team, Instructional strategies will be addressed as well. The Instruction team will develop a thorough understanding of the Harkness teaching method, outline instructional best practices, and address teacher expectations and evaluation. Both teams will address special education and English Language Learners (ELL). Additional details will be shared at the first meeting.

· Governance, Leadership & Operation Team. This design team will help develop the school's operations plan, define the governing structure, and address the characteristics and expectations of the schools Head of School. The Head of School will be the instructional leader and therefore, there will be some overlapping conversations that need to occur with the team that addresses instruction and quality teaching.

· Facility Team. This team will be responsible for identify, planning, and securing a suitable facility for Madison Prep.

· Budget, Finance & Fundraising Team. This team will be involved with developing Madison Prep's budget and fundraising plans, and will explore financing options for start-up, implementation, and the first four years of the school's operation."

· Community Engagement & Support Team. This team will develop strategies and work to establish broad community support for Madison Prep, develop criteria for partnering with others, and establish partnerships that support teaching, learning, leadership, and community engagement.

There is a lot of good support and buzz growing around Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men (charter school). To ensure you have the opportunity to familiarize yourself with charter schools and single gendered school models, we have listed internet resources below that you can visit and review. Just click on the hyperlinks.

Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men will be an all-male charter school that we intend to open in the Madison area in the fall of 2012. It will serve as a high quality school option for parents as well as a demonstration school for secondary education reform and improvement in Dane County. We want local teachers and schools to learn from Madison Prep, and will take steps

We have attached the two page executive summary again for your review along with a business plan for the school (that will be modified to fit Madison). Madison Prep was originally to be launched as a charter school in Washington, DC and Prince Georges County, Maryland in 2011 and 2013 under Next Generation, an organization I founded in Maryland with my wife and other partners in 2006.


In 2009, there were 5,043 charter schools in the United States compared to 33,740 private schools and 98,916 traditional public schools. Nationally, charter schools enrolled 1,536,079 students in 2009. According to the Wisconsin Charter School Association, there are more than 223 charter schools in Wisconsin serving more than 37,432 students. There are presently just two charter schools in Madison: James C. Wright Middle School on Madison's South side, founded in 1997 (originally as Madison Middle School 2000).

Until recently, other school districts in Wisconsin have been more open to charter schools. Appleton (14), Janesville (5), Kenosha (6), LaCrosse (4) and Milwaukee (66), Oshkosh (6), Sheboygan (7), Sparta (4), Stevens Point (7), and Waukesha (6) have authorized a significant number of public charter schools when considering the size of their total school district enrollments. However, recent enthusiasm around the formation of Badger Rock School is a sign that Madison area school districts could be more receptive to innovative charter school models that serve a specific community need and purpose. With your support and that of many others, we intend to make a very strong case for Madison Prep and why it's so desperately needed in our community.


In Maryland, our team spent three years researching and designing the school and the curriculum. Members of the founding team were involved in the establishment and/or leadership of Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys , Septima Clark Public Charter School , The SEED Foundation and Public Charter Schools, Sidwell Friends School (where President Obama's children attend), and Hyde Leadership Public Charter School . We had an expert on international baccalaureate education lead our curriculum design. We also worked closely with the leadership and faculty of other private and charter schools as we developed the business plan, curriculum and education program, including Washington Jesuit Academy , the St. Paul's School in Baltimore, and Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. The school will utilize the highly regarded college-preparatory International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and the teaching methodology will be rooted in Harkness instruction. St. Paul's also has a school for girls - the St. Paul School for Girls.

Prior to being hired as President & CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM), I shared with our ULGM board that I would look to establish charter schools as a strategy to address the persistent underperformance and failure of our children attending Madison area schools. As we have engaged our community, listened to leaders, researched the issues, and evaluated the data, it is clear that Madison Prep is not only needed, but absolutely necessary.


As of June 2010, there were 540 public schools in the U.S. offering a single-gendered option, with 92 schools having an all-male or all-female enrollment and the rest operating single gendered classes or programs. There were 12 public schools in Wisconsin offering single gendered classes or classrooms (6 middle schools, 5 high schools, and one elementary school).

There are several single gendered charter schools for young men that have garnered a lot of attention of late, including Urban Prep Academies in Chicago - which sent 100% of its first graduating class to college, The Eagle Academy Foundation in New York City, Boys Latin of Philadelphia, and Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys and Green Tech High School in
Albany, NY,
Bluford Drew Jemison Academy in Baltimore.

To learn more about charter schools, visit the following websites:

US Charter Schools
Information Website

Starting a Charter School

National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, Washington, DC

National Association of Charter School Authorizers, Chicago, IL

District of Columbia Public Charter School Board, Washington, DC (one of the best authorizers of charter schools; the local school board will authorize our school)

Center for Education Reform, Washington,

Wisconsin Charter School Association
Madison, WI

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (Charter Schools), Madison ,WI

Green Charter Schools Network, Madison, WI

National Council of LaRaza Charter School Development, Phoenix, AZ

Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBC), Lynn, MA

National Association for Single Sex Public Education Exton, PA

The Gurian Institute,
Colorado Springs, CO

Some of the more highly recognized and notable "networks" of charter

Green Dot Public Schools, Los Angeles, California

KIPP Schools, San Francisco, CA

Aspire Public Schools, Oakland, CA

Achievement First Schools, New Haven, CT

Uncommon Schools, New York, NY

Other Programs of interest:

America's Top Charter Schools, U.S. News & World Report (2009)

New Leaders for New Schools, New York,

Teach for America, New
York, NY

Teacher U, New York, NY

Early College High Schools

Charter School Financing (excluding banks):

State of Wisconsin Charter School Planning and Implementation Grants (planning, start-up, and implementation)

Walton Family Foundation, Bentonville, AR (planning, start-up, and implementation; however, only focus in Milwaukee right now but we can talk with them)

Partners for Developing Futures, Los Angeles, CA (planning, start-up, and implementation)

IFF, Chicago, IL (facilities)

Building Hope, Washington, DC (facilities)

Charter School Development Center, Hanover, MD (facilities)

Local Initiatives Support Corporation, New York, NY (facilities)

NCB Capital Impact, Arlington, VA (facilities)

Raza Development Fund, Phoenix, AZ (facilities)

We look forward to getting Madison Prep off the ground with you! WE CAN DO THIS!!

Whatever it Takes.



Kaleem Caire

President & CEO

Urban League of Greater Madison

2222 South Park Street, Suite 200

Madison, WI 53713

Main: 608-729-1200

Assistant: 608-729-1249

Mobile: 202-997-3198

Fax: 608-729-1205



Facebook: Click Here

Next Generation Preparatory Academy for Young Men Empowering Young Men for Life 1.5MB PDF and Madison Preparatory Academy Overview 150K PDF.

Related: Kaleem Caire video interview.

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Does School Kill Writing?

Bill Morris:

In 1936 the University of Iowa became the first school in the United States to offer a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in creative writing. Forty years later there were only a dozen such programs in the world. Today, according to an article in the current issue of Poets & Writers magazine entitled "The MFA Revolution," there are nearly 200 creative writing MFA programs worldwide, and at least 4,000 aspiring writers apply to these programs each year in the U.S. alone. "What is clear," the article concludes, "is that the burgeoning network of fully funded MFA programs is rapidly becoming the nation's largest-ever patronage system for young artists."

Whenever the words "patronage" and "artists" appear in the same sentence, questions must be asked. Is this mass patronage system a boon for American fiction, or is it a poison pill? Do creative writing programs nurture genuine talent, or are they spawning a torrent of technically accomplished books that are devoid of felt life? And more broadly: Just what good does schooling of any kind do for a writer?

In The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, Mark McGurl points out the "seemingly banal" fact that virtually all contemporary American fiction writers have attended college. "In previous generations this would not likely have been the case," McGurl writes, "both because fewer individuals of any kind went to college before the postwar advent of mass higher education and because a college education was not yet perceived as an obvious...starting point for a career as a novelist. Rather, as the un-credentialled, or rather press-credentialled, example of the high school graduate Hemingway makes clear, the key supplementary institution for the novel until mid-century was journalism."

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Fight over illegals' tuition reaches high court

Bob Egelko

The issue of benefits for illegal immigrants landed at the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, as out-of-state students challenged a law allowing anyone who has graduated from a California high school to pay in-state tuition at a public university, regardless of immigration status.

The 2002 law, intended to encourage youngsters to attend college, enables undocumented students to pay the same lower fees as other state residents - at the University of California, $11,300 instead of $34,000 a year.

A lawyer for 42 non-Californians who pay the higher fees at UC, state university and community college campuses argued that the statute is discriminatory and violates federal immigration law.

"One of the privileges of U.S. citizenship is not being treated worse than an illegal alien," attorney Kris Kobach told the court at a hearing in Fresno.

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Evaluating Newark's School Staffing and Performance

New Jersey Left Behind

Speaking of Newark Public Schools, this past December the well-regarded organization called The New Teacher Project (of Widget Effect fame) partnered with Newark to evaluate the "impact of the school district's policies and build and maintain strong instructional teams." Here's the results:

1. Newark Public Schools sabotages its ability to hire high-quality teachers by not responding promptly to early applicants, especially in high-need subject areas. According to the report, teachers hired before June 1 for the coming school year are more likely to receive a "distinguished" evaluation rating, yet Newark waits until August and September to make most of its job offers. 73% of principals "have lost a desirable candidate because they could not make a timely offer."

2. While both teachers and administrators vastly prefer to have interviews before being moved from one school to another, "more than half of all administrators have been forced to accept a less desirable teacher candidate 'force-placed' by the Human Resources Department. "85% of principals have had a teacher placed into their school without an interview."

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Could 'Superman' change Milwaukee's education discussion?

Patti Wenzel

Everyone knows there are major problems with America's public schools and that many children are not even receiving a passable education. Even President Barack Obama admits that his daughters could not get the high quality education they're currently receiving at a private school in a Washington D.C. public school.

That is why Waiting for 'Superman' has hit such a nerve with the public and the education establishment. Teacher's unions claim the film is an attack on teachers and in the weeks leading up to its premiere, a Facebook page was created in opposition to the movie. Meanwhile school reformers say 'Superman' is a wake up call, saying that the film comments on the failures in public schools and possible solutions.

Both sides came together following the film's Milwaukee screening at an educational forum. Local education leaders -- Terry Falk of the Milwaukee School Board; Dr. Howard Fuller, former MPS Superintendent and Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University; Mike Langyel,President of the Milwaukee Teacher's Education Association; Cherise Easley, Campus Director, Milwaukee College Preparatory-Lindsey Heights; and Garrett Buck, Milwaukee director of Teach for America -- discussed the film and more importantly the pros and cons of our current educational system.

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Teach For America - You Might Want to Pay Attention

Melissa Westbrook

m still doing research on Teach for America. I'm going to try to do a two-part thread on it and somewhat in reverse because of the urgency I feel about the situation. I'll do the facts and stats later but I want to try to get to the meat of the issue now. But first...

What is the problem that TFA is trying to solve?

You go to their website and they talk about the lack "educational equity" for low-income students. This is true and most would not dispute it. Okay, but why create a teaching corps?

What is TFA's "approach?"

Teach For America provides a critical source of well-trained teachers who are helping break the cycle of educational inequity. These teachers, called corps members, commit to teach for two years in one of 39 urban and rural regions across the country, going above and beyond traditional expectations to help their students to achieve at high levels.

Under History, they state:

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Mesa school board candidates face questions about district's finances, future

Michelle Reese:

With school closings, declining enrollment and financial struggles putting Mesa Unified School District at a crossroads, parents packed a meeting this week to hear from the four candidates running for two seats on the governing board.

Close to 90 people attended the first Mesa Parent Advocates for Quality Schools (MPAQS) meeting of the school year on Tuesday. The two incumbents and two newcomers seeking seats on the board in the Nov. 2 election presented brief statements and answered audience questions.

Based on September enrollment figures, the district saw a 2,400-student decline from last school year. Five years ago, the start of the 2005 school year, there were 74,000 students in the district. Today, there are 64,817.

In January the current board voted to close a junior high school and moved smaller programs to that campus to free up other buildings for lease or sale.

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Pa. Auditor General Calls For Moratorium On New Charter Schools

Stephanie Esposito

Pennsylvania's auditor general said the state's charter school funding formula is seriously flawed.

Jack Wagner is now calling for a moratorium on new charter schools until the Rendell administration makes some changes.

It may cost $15,000 a year to educate each student in one public school and $10,000 in another, depending on taxes.

But any child from any district can go to a charter school. And that's where the charter school funding formula gets a little tricky.

"It becomes an equal playing field in terms of what the child can get," said Diane LaBelle, executive director, Lehigh Valley Charter High School for Performing Arts.

It may be an equal playing field for the kids, but...

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Obama's biased bashing of career schools

President Obama's Education secretary, Arne Duncan, deserves credit for breaking the ice on a touchy topic in Washington: making sure schools of higher education that rely on tax dollars or their tax-free status are held accountable for their results.

Certainly, the nation's desire to reduce unemployment requires that graduates be fit for jobs and not overly burdened by student loans. One federal study found joblessness would drop by one-third if workers' skills matched the jobs that employers are currently offering.

Unfortunately, Mr. Duncan is being too timid.

His department is oddly focused on making sure that only career colleges, or the for-profit sector of higher ed, are graduating students into "gainful employment" and with lower debt. Duncan must also aim his sights on state-run universities and the private, nonprofit schools that likewise gulp up education subsidies.

Those schools, too, often overpromise, underperform, and leave graduates short on career prospects and deep in red ink. Just ask many recent law graduates or anyone with a new bachelor's degree in, say, sociology.

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October 7, 2010

The Problem With New Orleans's Charter Schools

Michael Democker

A legal complaint alleges that the Big Easy's schools discriminate against children with disabilities. What good is the charter revolution if it doesn't reach the students who are most in need?

New Orleans, where more than 70 percent of public schools will be independently chartered after this school year, has been placed on a pedestal as a shining model by education reformers. The new documentary Waiting for "Superman", which hopes to serve as a call to arms for education reform, devotes a page of its Web site to touting New Orleans's new citywide school-choice system.

Charter-school advocates such as Caroline Roemer Shirley, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (LAPCS), are boasting of the success they've had in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when much of the population of New Orleans that might have opposed those policies was displaced from the city. "I don't think we need to wait for Superman," says Shirley. "It is happening today." National media outlets have similarly gushed over New Orleans, some going so far as to suggest that Katrina saved the public-education system in the city.

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Just How Much Are America's Teachers Getting Paid?

Jeff Carter

Teachers also have a pretty good deal in Illinois. They are 100% unionized. The rent seeking teachers' union curries favor with the Democrats. Democrats at every level of government do whatever the union wants.

The average teacher in the state of Illinois makes $61,402. Illinois teachers work around 176 days, 300 minutes, or 5 hours, per day. That's just over 35 weeks per year. On average, they make $348.88 per day, $1.16 per minute, or $69.60 per hour guaranteed. Teachers in Illinois work an average of 12 years. They can retire at age 55.

In order to find out what they really make though, you should take their pension benefits, net present value them and amortize them over their career. As of 2010, the average pension for an Illinois teacher is $43,164. It compounds annually for life at 3% per year.
Now it's time to do some math and make some assumptions. Assume that the lifespan of the teacher is no different than the average American, 78 years. If they start teaching at age 22, on average they will quit at 34. This means they will wait 21 years to collect their pension. The discount rate for the cash flows is a conservative 5%.

When you crunch all the numbers, the net present value of that pension is $290,756. Amortizing that over a twelve year career adds $24,229.64 to their average salary, making their actual salary before health benefits are added in a tidy $85,631.67, or $97.31 per hour.

If you compare and extrapolate that number to the private sector, it is interesting. Assume that you work an 8 hour day, 50 weeks a year. $194,620 bucks a year is what you would make! Most private sector jobs at that level work a lot more than an 8 hour day. Recently, private sector employment has not been as lucrative as public sector employment. For the first time in American history, it pays to be in the public sector.

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Waiting for Super Principals

David Brooks & Gail Collins

Gail Collins: David, the White House has named this an education week. It's actually been a kind of education year, what with all the controversy over the new documentary "Waiting for Superman," and Obama's big Race to the Top initiative.

The bad thing about the current education hysteria is that too much attention is focusing on more charter schools and getting rid of teachers unions, or at least teacher tenure.
The great thing about the current education hysteria is that it has everybody geared up to do something. The bad thing, as I see it, is that almost all the attention is focusing on A.) more charter schools and B.) getting rid of teachers unions, or at least teacher tenure.

David Brooks: I confess I don't think either charters or teacher unions are the primary issue here. If I had to summarize the progress we've made in education over the last decade, it's that we've move beyond the illusion that we could restructure our way to a good education system and we've finally begun to focus on the core issue: the nature of the relationship between the teacher and the student.

People learn from people they love. Anything that enriches the space between a student and a teacher is good. Anything that makes it more frigid is bad. This doesn't mean we have to get all huggy and mushy. It means rigorous instruction has to flow on threads of trust and affection.

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Who's attending CA's elite public schools?

Katy Murphy:

I finally got around to sorting state-level test score data, something I've been meaning to do since the Academic Performance Index release last month. (Boy, is it harder than it should be. Those mismatched column headers...)

Five of Oakland's schools are up in the top 100 -- roughly 1 percent of all public schools in California -- when sorted by API: the three American Indian Model charter schools, Montclair and Hillcrest.

The American Indian Public Charter School in East Oakland's Laurel District was the highest-performing middle school in the state, with an API of 988. (Not including schools with K-8 or 6-12 grade configurations, whose middle school scores aren't broken out here.)

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An Oakland voter's guide, courtesy of GO Public Schools

Katy Murphy

Want to hear what Oakland's mayoral, city council and school board hopefuls have to say about public education in the city, and how they would support it? Or read what they say they would do to "attract and retain great teachers in every Oakland public school," advocate for students, and get Tony Smith's strategic plan off the ground?

Great Oakland Public Schools videotaped statements from 10 mayoral candidates and posted questionnaire answers from school board candidates. The organization also asked city council candidates questions about "a to g" requirements, the district's School Options policy, independently run charter schools, the November school parcel tax, and the role they'd play to help the city win federal grants, among others. The guide is set up so you can easily compare their answers.

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How AmericA SAveS for college Sallie Mae's National Study of Parents with Children under 18

Sallie Mae

American families have felt first-hand the significant impact of the economic crisis. The job market continues to show weakness, homes have lost value, and families are concerned about their economic future. Many studies have found that families are making tough choices in limiting their discretionary spending. It is in the context of this crisis that Sallie Mae has commissioned Gallup to conduct the second annual study of How America Saves for College, a national survey of families with children under 18. This year's survey shows that, despite the on-going economic uncertainty, most families have not lessened their commitment to saving for a college education nor have they lowered their expectations for higher education attainment for their children. However, this challenging environment has illuminated the need for an increased commitment to savings that can soften these short-term economic impacts and the need for families to make smarter choices about their spending and saving.

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Dump the Wake County assignment plan, start over

T. Keung Hui & Thomas Goldmsith

The Wake County school board has just thrown out its controversial, community-based assignment plan on a motion by vice chairwoman Debra Goldman.

A directive passed out by Keith Sutton, a member of the former board minority, calls for the following action:

"Any and all efforts to create a zone-based assignment model will cease effective immediately."

The motion underwent brief discussion by the board in a meeting that has already lasted for nearly five hours.

Goldman made the motion and Sutton, formerly part of an opposing faction on the board, seconded it.

It passed on a 5-3 vote, with Goldman joining her four former opponents on the board.

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Keep lid on Dane County tax hike

Wisconsin State Journal

Supervisors of all political stripes need to work together this budget cycle to give and take in ways that don't push up the property tax burden even higher than it's already heading.

The city is considering hiking its tax burden by close to $100 on the average Madison home. The Madison school district plans to hike its average bill by more than $200.

The Madison Area Technical College wants to up its average Madison bill by about $30 - plus the college is seeking additional dollars for a building referendum.

It all adds up to several hundred dollars of additional tax burden on ordinary people when they can least afford it. As Falk notes in her budget memo to county supervisors, more than 5,000 Dane County properties are already behind on their payments.

Madison schools' property taxes are set to increase 9+% this winter.

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Waiting Long Enough for Superman

Virginia Walden Ford

Watching Waiting for Superman last week left me exhausted. For too many years, education reformers have fought hard against the very injustices in the education system portrayed in the film. The good news, however, is that this newest declaration against the intolerable conditions of a broken public education system could finally call enough attention to the persistent problems to change things for the children whom we care so deeply about.

Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone, is interviewed throughout the film. Canada talks about his childhood and how disappointed he was to learn that there was no real Superman who would save him from the hardships of his own difficult childhood. His anecdote inspired the title of the movie.

The movie shows over and over again why ineffective teachers should be replaced with successful ones and how important that is to children's academic progress. Fighting against such commonsense ideas are the teachers unions, which oppose the teacher evaluation, merit pay, and firing of poor teachers.

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October 6, 2010

In Favor of Madison's Planned 4K Program

Chris Rickert

For a hopeful pessimist like me, it's always nice when the real world belies your general sense of doom.

After all, the ranks of the poor are expanding, the national debt is skyrocketing, Wall Street bankers are again collecting exorbitant bonuses and no one really cares much about the shrinking polar ice caps. Throw in the mere existence of "Jersey Shore" and you've got a real social apocalypse on your hands.

There are a few rays of light amid the darkness, though, including plans by the Madison School District to institute a 4-year-old kindergarten program next year.

I've been surprised at the relative lack of controversy over this. You'd think that adding what is basically another grade to the public K-12 education system -- at a cost to taxpayers of about $12 million in its first year -- would bring out more school-choicers and teachers-union haters to decry the program as too expensive and another unwanted intrusion by government into the private sector.

But it hasn't, and this is probably partly due to Wisconsin's long history of supporting early education. The state was home to the first private kindergarten in the United States, opened in Watertown in 1856, and may well be the only state to include a commitment to 4-year-old education in its original constitution, according to The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

Today, 335 of the state's 415 eligible districts already offer some form of free, professionally delivered 4-year-old kindergarten, and well over half of the state's 4-year-olds are covered. A 2009 study by The National Institute for Early Education Research ranks Wisconsin sixth among 38 states in terms of access to 4-year-old preschool. (Twelve states have no formal preschool program.)

Much more on 4K here.

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State honors 78 middle schools, including 2 in Madison

Wisconsin State Journal

In the fourth year of a program recognizing student achievement, 78 middle schools in the state -- including 2 in Madison -- earned Exemplary Middle School honors, the DPI announced Wednesday.

Hamilton Middle School and Spring Harbor Middle School in Madison were recognized in the program, sponsored by the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators and the Department of Public Instruction. The Exemplary Middle School program reviewed academic achievement records for 334 eligible schools based on grade-level configuration. Schools earn recognition for high three-year growth in reading or math scores, reading or math scores in the top 10 percent in the past year or high growth in reading or math scores for schools with a high poverty population.

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Madison School District's State Reported Enrollment up 1.5%

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction: Madison Metropolitan:

Adjusted Count Sept 2010: 25,395

Last Year Sept 2009: 25,017.

However, the Madison School District's website reports total 2009-2010 enrollment of 24,295.

Becky Vevea on Milwaukee's enrollment.

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Kaleem Caire Interview

Kaleem Caire SIS Interview

Kaleem recently returned to Madison as President and CEO of the Urban League. One of Kaleem's signature initiatives is the launch of Madison Preparatory Academy, a proposed International Baccalaureate Charter school.

I spoke with Kaleem about Madison Prep, the local school climate and his goals.

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What brand is your Madison High School?

Susan Troller:

I inadvertently kicked up a firestorm earlier this year in a profile I wrote about Judd Schemmel, Edgewood High School's energetic new president. The story's focus was the venerable Catholic institution's increased enrollment, its growing reputation for academic excellence and its improving finances.

Sounds like a positive take on this 130-year-old Madison institution, right?

Many Edgewood partisans didn't see it that way. In an offhand way, I mentioned that Edgewood had not, traditionally, had a reputation as an "academic powerhouse." I was not only thinking of the perceptions surrounding Edgewood when I attended high school in Madison in the late 1960s, but also the formidable reputations of public high schools West and Memorial when it comes to producing National Merit Scholar semifinalists, as well as perfect scores on the ACT and SAT college entrance examinations. And, I confess, I was also influenced by the aura surrounding Edgewood cast by its most famous graduate, the late "Saturday Night Live" comedian/wild man Chris Farley. Brilliant, yes. Academic? Not so much.

It turns out I had uttered fighting words, subject to heated interpretation in the story's comment section regarding just what was necessary to be known as an "academic powerhouse."

Some readers loyal to West High were angry, too. They were skeptical (to put it politely) about claims that Edgewood seniors were being accepted at elite universities, including Harvard and Yale, Princeton and Stanford.

Clearly, the facts were beside the point. When I walked into the "academic powerhouse" buzz saw, it was all about the reputations -- the brands -- of Madison's high schools.

Yes, high schools have brands, just like cars or beer or blue jeans. High school brands are based not on advertising, but on their histories, demographics (specifically, class, race and money), curricula and cultures. Their brands contain stereotypes, of course, but they also include nuggets of truth. Analyzing perceptions of school culture this way can reveal an institution's real strengths and weaknesses. Understanding the emotional truth underneath the brand can help encourage and guide growth in a positive way, while mitigating some of the problems.

It's also fun -- but first you need to understand what the brand actually is.

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Stars Align for Major Education Reforms

Charles Barone:

Education reform is breaking out from coast to coast. Rarely have the stars been so well-aligned for change. The policy challenges and the potential solutions could not be clearer. The political climate for change has never been more favorable, as people across the ideological spectrum seek reform. And the advocacy infrastructure, which is stronger than ever before, is growing stronger and more successful every day.

Back-to-school time typically means an onslaught of education reporting. But last month saw arguably more national media attention paid not just to education but to education reform than in any September in recent memory: the official premiere of the eye-opening film "Waiting for 'Superman,'" the weeklong NBC News series "Education Nation," a Time magazine cover story on "great schools" and "great teachers," and two Oprah specials, the second of which featured Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's announcement of a $100 million donation to Newark Public Schools.

This heightened national awareness follows a year and a half of ground-breaking action in states and districts across the country. Fueled by President Barack Obama's Race to the Top initiative and stepped-up advocacy efforts at the state and local level, dozens of states passed laws and implemented new policies designed to raise standards, develop better tests, improve teaching and turn around the lowest-performing schools. Hundreds of local collaborative efforts were launched around smaller initiatives, such as the Investing in Innovation fund.

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66th NACAC Conference, St. Louis, Missouri, October 1, 2010

Panelists: Christopher Burkmar, Associate Dean of Admissions at Princeton;
Will Fitzhugh, Founder, The Concord Review; Jonathan Reider, Director of College Counseling, San Francisco University High School

Will Fitzhugh, The Concord Review

I propose a thought experiment for what it may be worth.

What if we change the name of our organization from the National Association of College Admissions Counselors to:

The National Association of College Completion Counselors?

Note that the new name is more comprehensive, as Completion presupposes Admission, but, as is all too obvious these days, Admission cannot assume Completion.

You are all at least as aware as I am of the numbers about the need for academic remediation in Higher Education and the numbers of dropouts from college, but I will review a couple of them. Tony Wagner of Harvard reports that in general, including community colleges, half of college freshman do not return for a second year, and a huge percentage of our HS graduates take six years or more to complete a Bachelor's degree, and four years or more to complete an Associate's degree.

Students who need remediation in basic academic skills are more likely to drop out, and the more remedial courses they have to take, the more likely they are to drop out.

The California State College System reported at a conference last Fall that 47% of their Freshman students are in remedial reading courses.

We may assume that these students have had 12 years of reading in school already, but they still can't read well enough to do college work, at least by California standards.

Reading is not calculus or chemistry, it is just a basic academic skill in which we expect that the schools have offered practice for 12 years.

Now, a youngster can start to play Pop Warner football at age 6. By graduation from HS, he could have had 12 years of practice at the basic skills of football. Imagine athletes reporting for a college football team, only to be told that they need a year of remedial blocking and tackling practice before they can be allowed to play. It seems unlikely that they would not have learned basic blocking and tackling skills in their previous 12 years of playing football.

I am not just talking about improvement here. Of course, students in college can learn to read more difficult material in new academic subjects. And of course college athletes can get better at all the skills needed for success in their sports.

But we are talking about basic, entry-level academic skills. 47% of freshmen in the California State College System don't have them in reading, after 12 years of practice in school.

When I went into the Army in 1960, I had never fired a rifle before, but in a week or two on the range in Basic Training, I was able to meet the standard for "Sharpshooter." I missed "Expert" by one target.

I am convinced that if I had had 12 years of practice with my M-1 Garand, I really could have scored "Expert"--perhaps even by the higher standards of the U.S. Marine Corps.

I have to confess I am stunned that so many of our high school students, having been awarded one of our high school diplomas, and having been accepted at one of our colleges, are found to be unable to read well enough to do college work.

The Diploma to Nowhere report of the Strong American Schools project said that more than one million of our high school graduates are now in remedial courses when they get to college.

It also notes that these students, having satisfied our requirements for the high school diploma, and graduated--having applied to college and been accepted--are told when they get there, that they can't make the grade without perhaps an additional year of work on their academic fundamentals. Naturally this experience is surprising to them, given that they satisfied our requirements for graduation and admission to college, and embarrassing, humiliating and depressing, as well.

As you may know, my particular interest since 1987 has been in student history research papers at the high school level. I have published 912 essays by secondary students from 44 states and 38 other countries over the last 23 years.

Some of the students who wrote the required Extended Essays for the IB Diploma and were published in The Concord Review, and some of our other authors as well, have told me that in their freshman dorms they are often mobbed by their peers who are facing a serious term paper for the first time and have no idea how to do one.

It is absurd to contemplate, but imagine a well-prepared college basketball player being mobbed for help by his peers who had never been taught to dribble, pass, or shoot in high school.

If even colleges like Harvard and Stanford require all their Freshmen to take a year of expository writing, that may not exactly be remedial writing, but I would argue that a student who has completed an Extended Essay for the International Baccalaureate Diploma, and a student who has published a 12,000-word paper on Irish Nationalism or a 15,000-word paper on the Soviet-Afghan War for The Concord Review, should perhaps be allowed to skip that year of remedial writing. The author of the Soviet-Afghan War paper, from Georgia, is now at Christ Church College, Oxford, where I believe he did not have to spend a year in an expository writing course, and the author of the Irish Nationalism paper is at Princeton, where she may very well have been asked to spend a year in such a course.

If so many of our students need to learn how to do academic writing (not to mention how to read), what are they spending time on in high school?

I believe that writing is the most dumbed-down activity we now have in our schools. The AP program includes no research paper, only responses to document-based questions, and most high school Social Studies departments leave academic writing tasks to the English Department.

Now, in general, English Departments favor personal and creative writing and the five-paragraph essay, but college admission requirements have given them an additional task on which they are working with students. Teaching writing takes time, not only in preparing and monitoring students, but more especially in reading what students have written and offering corrections and advice. Time for one kind of writing necessarily means less time for another kind.

Personal and creative writing and the five-paragraph essay have already taken a lot of the time of English teachers and their students, but as college admissions officers ask for the 500-word personal essay, time has to be given to teaching for that.

While high school English departments work with their students on the 500-word personal essay, they do not have the time to give to serious term papers, so they don't do them, and I believe that is why so many students arrive in our colleges in need of a one-year course on the expository writing they didn't get a chance to do in school.

Lots of the public high school students whose work I publish simply do their papers as independent studies, as there is no place for serious academic writing like that in the curriculum.

I would suggest that if college admissions officers would ask instead for an academic research paper from applicants in place of the short little personal essay, while it would be more work for them, it would make it more likely that students they accept would arrive ready for college work, perhaps even ready enough to allow them to skip that year of expository writing they now have to sit through, and they could take an actual academic course in its place.

Making sure that our high school students arrive in college able to manage college-level nonfiction reading and academic expository writing might really help us earn our new credential as professionals who work not just to help students get accepted at college, but to help them complete college as well.


"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
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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No MBA Left Behind: Kravis Pledges $100M To Columbia Business School

Laura Kreutzer:

Henry Kravis has become the latest private equity titan to show support for his alma mater in the form of a hefty check with a $100 million donation to the Columbia Business School.

The donation, the largest in the business school's history, will go to support the construction of new facilities as part of Columbia's new Manhattanville campus, according to a press release issued by the school. Kravis graduated from Columbia Business School in 1969.

Although no strangers to philanthropy, private equity professionals have become increasingly visible with their charitable activities in recent years, both as their wealth increased and as the industry's public image suffered.

Kravis is one of a string of private equity professionals that have written hefty checks to their alma maters in recent years. In the past 12 months, David Rubenstein, co-founder of Carlyle Group, has announced a $10 million pledge to the University of Chicago Law School and a $5.75 million donation to Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy. Meanwhile, Mark Yukso, founder of Morgan Creek Capital Management, and his wife, Stacey Miller Yusko, pledged $35 million to their alma mater, the University of Notre Dame.

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Play-Doh? Calculus? At the Manhattan Free School, Anything Goes

Susan Dominus

The Manhattan Free School in East Harlem is not free, but the principal there practically is. Now in her third year, Pat Werner, a 57-year-old former literacy coach who logged 18 years in New York City public schools, accepted all of $3,000 in salary last year.

Few go into education for the money, but Ms. Werner's dedication to opening young people's minds might better be described as utopian than idealistic -- which is only appropriate at a private school where students do not receive grades, take tests or have to do anything, really, that they do not feel like doing.

For parents exhausted by New York's numbers-oriented, lottery-driven public school system or its hierarchical, hypercompetitive private schools, the Manhattan Free School represents another way to go: equally wacky, but at the opposite extreme.

A school like this, where a comic-book-making class is now offered but calculus is not, is not likely to drain applicants from Dalton. Operating on a $100,000 budget, the school, at Good Neighbor Presbyterian Church on East 106th Street, now has 23 students ages 5 to 18.

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Speak Up on D.C. Schools, Mr. President The president remains silent about the fate of Michelle Rhee, the successful chancellor of public schools in the nation's capital.

William McGurn:

That deafening roar you hear--that's the sound of Barack Obama's silence on the future of school reform in the District of Columbia. And if he doesn't break it soon, he may become the first president in two decades to have left Washington's children with fewer chances for a good school than when he started.

This week President Obama will be out campaigning on the differences between the Republicans and Democrats on education. The primary thrust of his argument--which he repeated yesterday--is that Republicans want to cut education spending. Which may be a harder sell coming on the heels of his admission last week on NBC's "Today" show that "the fact is that our per-pupil spending has gone up during the last couple of decades even as results have gone down."

This debate over education is now coming to a head in Washington. In the first months after he took office, Mr. Obama kept quiet when Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) killed off a popular voucher program that allowed low-income D.C. moms and dads to send their kids to the same kind of schools where the president sends his own daughters (Sidwell Friends). This was followed by the president's silence last month during the D.C. Democratic primary, in which the mayor who appointed the district's reform-minded schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, went down to defeat.

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South Carolina Education superintendent race comes back to vouchers

Greg Hambrick

When the dust settled on the 2006 statewide election, private school voucher opponents claimed victory -- after all, a Democrat won the race for Education Superintendent. During the campaign, Republican candidate Karen Floyd, now the state Republican Party chairwoman, was understandably cagey about her support for vouchers or tax credits for private school tuitions. But thousands of dollars poured into her campaign from voucher supporters outside of the state, while her opponent, Jim Rex, ran largely on his opposition to the proposal.

Four years later, tax credits are back at the forefront of the superintendent's race. This time, Democrat Frank Holleman is facing an electorate much more skeptical of Dems, while Republican Mick Zais isn't shy about his support for private school tax credits.

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Hating 'Superman': Teachers unions are on the moral defensive

The Wall Street Journal:

The new film "Waiting for 'Superman'" is getting good reviews for its portrayal of children seeking alternatives to dreadful public schools, and to judge by the film's opponents it is having an impact.

Witness the scene on a recent Friday night in front of a Loews multiplex in New York City, where some 50 protestors blasted the film as propaganda for charter schools. "Klein, Rhee and Duncan better switch us jobs, so we can put an end to those hedge fund hogs," went one of their anti-charter cheers, referring to school reform chancellors Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The odd complaint is that donors to charter schools include some hedge fund managers.

Or maybe not so odd. Teachers unions and the public school monopoly have long benefitted from wielding a moral trump card. They claimed to care for children, and caring was defined solely by how much taxpayers spent on schools.

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Taking Your Kids Out of School to Travel? There Are Some Great Travel Deals During Back-to-School Time

Lissa Harnish Poirot

The debate over whether or not to take your kids out of school to travel is certainly controversial. As a parent, an advocate of family travel, the editor of a family vacation site, Family Vacation Critic, and an early childhood educator earlier in my career, I am often asked for my opinion on the subject. To me, taking the kids out of school isn't so cut and dry.

For some parents, especially those with young kids, the back-to-school steals offered for vacation spots are too good to pass up.

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Monona Grove's September, 2010 Budget Document

Monona Grove School District (PDF): $34,401,927.28

Enrollment report (PDF): 3101 (January, 2010)

Per student spending = $11,093.82 Madison's 2009/2010 was $15,241.

Peter Sobol has more.

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Russia's Answer to Harvard Business School: A Break With Tradition

Sophia Kishkovsky

A business school created by Russia's leading oligarchs presented diplomas to its first graduates and inaugurated a $250 million high-tech campus complex in a suburb of Moscow last month, seeking to stake out a role as the Harvard Business School equivalent for students focused on the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

"The whole focus of the program is to develop what we call entrepreneurial leaders for emerging markets and difficult environments, where a typical business school graduate would see all of the problems and none of the opportunities," Wilfried Vanhonacker, dean of the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, said in an interview. "We want them to see the opportunities, recognize the problems, but grab these opportunities, run with them and do something with them."

After the graduation ceremonies -- which were for 21 executive M.B.A. students -- students and visitors scurried around the mazelike, light-filled corridors to classes by professors like Pierre Casse, a former World Bank official and dean emeritus at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership. The starkly geometric building, by the Tanzanian-born British architect David Adjaye, has skylights and walls of glass and was inspired by Kazimir Malevich, as a way to connect Russia's artistic avant-garde with economic innovation, the school said.

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October 5, 2010

Complaint Filed Against Madison Schools, via a kind reader's email:

News Release, Complaint attached

Fifty Madison School District parents filed a formal complaint on September 20, 2010, with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction ("DPI") against the Madison School District for violating State statutes for gifted education. The complaint targets Madison West High School's refusal to provide appropriate programs for students identified as academically gifted.

State statutes mandate that "each school board shall provide access to an appropriate program for pupils identified as gifted and talented." The DPI stipulates that this programming must be systematic and continuous, from kindergarten through grade 12. Madison schools have been out of compliance with these standards since 1990, the last time the DPI formally audited the District’s gifted educational services.

"Despair over the lack of TAG services has driven Madison families out of the district," said Lorie Raihala, a parent in the group. "Hundreds have left through open enrollment, and many have cited the desire for better opportunities for gifted students as the reason for moving their children."

Recognizing this concern, Superintendent Dan Nerad has stated that "while some Madison schools serve gifted students effectively, there needs to be more consistency across the district."

"At the secondary level, the inconsistencies are glaring," said Raihala. "There are broad disparities among Madison's public high schools with regard to the number of honors, advanced/accelerated, and AP courses each one offers. Also, each school imposes different requirements and restrictions on students seeking advanced courses. Surprisingly, Madison's much touted West High School offers the fewest advanced course options for ninth and tenth graders. While the other schools offer various levels of English, science, and social science, Madison West requires all students to follow a standardized program of academic courses, regardless of their ability. This means that students with SAT/ACT scores already exceeding those of most West seniors (obtained via participation in the Northwestern University Midwest Area Talent Search program) must sit through the same courses as students working at basic and emerging proficiency levels."

Related:Gayle Worland:Parents file complaint over 'talented and gifted' school programming.

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When the Lights Come Up on Waiting for Superman, Here's What Teachers Need

Dan Brown

SEED, a tuition-free college-prep, five-day-a-week boarding school, located in Southeast D.C., is an outstanding example of what charter schools are meant for; it's an innovative alternative to a traditional public school and a place for responsibly experimenting with new models of wrap-around services. It currently serves around 325 students in Washington, D.C. and there's a new SEED School in Baltimore that is several years away from growing to its full scale.

I love my job teaching English at SEED, and I receive the space and support to excel at it. So what makes it work? Many of the most important parts are replicable en masse in the public system:

Teachers are accountable without feeling terrorized.
My principal, assistant principal, and instructional coach observe my class, both formally and informally, multiple times throughout the year. They read my lesson plans every week. They monitor trends on my interim assessment data. They talk to my students and my students' families. They are engaging, highly competent people with high expectations and backgrounds in the classroom. No SEED teacher ever feels that there is one test or one data point that could potentially destroy our careers.

Teachers feel ownership over our teaching.
If I can justify what the standards-based educational value of what I'm planning, my principal trusts me to do it. No scripted lesson plans. Order class sets of contemporary novels for literature units? Done. Help me set up partnerships with external organizations? Done with enthusiasm. (Through the PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools program, visiting authors come to my classes. Through the Shakespeare Theatre Company, my students study and perform a Shakespeare play under the tutelage of pros.) The opportunity to conceive and then actually follow through on bringing exciting ideas to life energizes me throughout the long haul of the school year.

The school helps us to become better teachers each year.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate:


Corn syrup, milk chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, coconut, almond, soy lecithin... any consumer can read these ingredients and their nutritional value on every package of a 75-cent Almond Joy. What is provided to a taxpayer with a $5,400 tax bill? Nothing. For many Americans, the amount they pay in taxes is larger than any purchase they make during the year, but studies show they know almost nothing about where that money goes to. This contributes to ridiculous beliefs, like the view that 20% of government spending goes to foreign aid, for example. An electorate unschooled in basic budget facts is a major obstacle to controlling the nation's deficit, not to mention addressing a host of economic and social problems. We suggest that everyone who files a tax return receive a "taxpayer receipt." This receipt would tell them to the penny what their taxes paid for based on the amount they paid in federal income taxes and FICA. ...
This is a good idea for all tax based institutions, including schools.

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Rethinking Teacher Development Days: New ideas for better teachers and schools

Kai Ryssdal

Contrary to what you'd think, teacher development days don't help teachers that much. So, schools and school districts are employing new tactics to improve teachers and attract new talent to schools.

This is education week for the Obama Administration. The president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board met this morning. They were talking about private partnerships with community colleges. There's a big community college summit at the White House tomorrow afternoon.

But a lot of the attention paid to education recently has been K through 12. Specifically, whether using kids' test scores is a fair way to grade teachers. There's some research out there that says test scores can be used with a bunch of other measurements to help find the most effective and least effective teachers in a given school. The problem is figuring out how to help the broad middle group be better teachers.

A group of schools in Tennessee has proven that can be done, as Emily Hanford of American RadioWorks reports.

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Will USC be next to join the Common Application?

One by one, the nation's elite independent universities have joined the Common Application. A student now can apply to the top 20 national universities on the U.S. News rankings with a single application -- well, two, if you count MIT.

The one-click application is a fundamental change in college admissions, one that took hold over the past decade as selective independent universities came to view their "signature" applications as roadblocks.

There are still a few exceptions. One is Georgetown University, whose 38-year admissions dean hews to a signature application as a way to frustrate the noncommittal applicant. Another is MIT, a school that presumably will draw the top math-science applicants even if it makes them submit their papers in person.

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Traffic Picks Up in World Education

DD Guttenplan

To the insistent strains of a romantic guitar rising on the soundtrack, a young Asian couple exchange passionate kisses in a hot tub. The camera pulls back, revealing a decidedly disapproving older man and woman scowling amid the bubbles, followed by the punch line to this viral Internet video sensation aimed at students considering overseas study: "Get further away from your parents. Study in New Zealand."

Welcome to the great education race, a scramble for students, professors, prestige and prosperity that is changing the face of university education around the world.

For decades the United States attracted more than a quarter of all foreign students in college or graduate education. Recently that has begun to change. While the continuing boom in study overseas -- an explosion largely unaffected by the economic downturn -- means that the number of foreign students going to the United States has continued to grow, the U.S. share of the foreign student market has fallen to just 18.7 percent, according to the most recent report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Meanwhile countries like Australia, Russia and New Zealand have all seen their share of the market rise sharply.

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CU tuition plan: 9.5% hike next year, up to 9% for four more years Read more: CU tuition plan: 9.5% hike next year, up to 9% for four more years

Brittany Anas:

The University of Colorado filed a formal request with the state Friday seeking to increase its in-state tuition by up to 9.5 percent next year, and outlined plans for four more years of hikes as high as 9 percent.

A 9.5 percent increase, which CU is requesting as the ceiling for next year's increase, would add $667 to undergraduate tuition in the College of Arts and Sciences, which enrolls most students. That would bring the annual bill to $7,685.

But CU officials say it's too early to draft specific tuition proposals, and rates are typically set in June and depend heavily on state funding. Friday's request, if approved by state officials, reserves the option for CU to raise next year's tuition beyond 9 percent.

"This increase is necessary to continue operations with a reduced level of state support," according to the plan that CU filed with the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

The plan says CU expects to receive $158.5 million in state support, and may face a revenue gap of $77 million in fiscal year 2011-12.

If in-state tuition were to increase at the maximum rate outlined in CU's five-year plan, it would reach about $10,850 by the 2015-16 school year. That's 55 percent more than tuition now.


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Breaking down the Eau Claire Area School District budget

While property values have decreased in Eau Claire, school district employees say property tax rates are going up about 4 percent this year.

While Eau Claire's superintendent Dr. Ron Heilmann notes that the economic times are still tough for many, he says the increase this year will likely be about half of last year's increase which was right around 7 percent.

The paintbrushes fly in Kriss Webert's seventh grade art room. And these kids can thank $2.5 million in federal stimulus money for keeping their art classes.

But Superintendent Heilmann paints a much grimmer picture if that money had not been around this year.

"Larger class sizes, we would have seen larger class sizes at the elementary level, and we actually added back some staffing at the middle and high school level. Those dollars have helped mitigate the direct cost to taxpayers in the addition of staff," he says.

But, the $2.5 million federal jobs dollars are just a piece of the very complex puzzle that makes up the Eau Claire Area School District budget.

Eau Claire's proposed 2010-2011 budget is $147,973,616 for 10,700 students ($13,829 per student). Madison spent $15,241 per student during the 2009/2010 budget year.

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Charters out in the cold

The Memphis Commercial Appeal

It's apparent that there is something wrong with the picture of Memphis charter schools provided by Commercial Appeal reporter Jane Roberts in today's Viewpoint.

Some charter school leaders were reluctant to talk at length about their relationship with Memphis City Schools, whose board decides whether to approve charter school applications in Memphis and whose administration funds them.

One who did, Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering's Steve Bares, accuses MCS officials of withholding money and threatening operators who complain.

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Philadelphia district keeping charter schools from flexing their muscle

Naomi Johnson Booker

Is president of Philadelphia Charters for Excellence

Davis Guggenheim, director of An Inconvenient Truth, showed how the simple act of changing a light bulb could change the world. Now, he asks in his film Waiting for "Superman," which opened Friday, why can't we change public education?

We can. We are.

Philadelphia charter schools are succeeding where traditional schools fail. More than 70 percent of the city's charters met the state's Adequate Yearly Progress standard, but that is not the only measure to which we hold ourselves accountable. Nearly 100 percent of Philadelphia charter students go to school every day, excited to learn, excited about the possibilities their futures hold. In most of our high schools, 95 percent or more are graduating and going on to college.

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October 4, 2010

Are Honors Classes Racist?

High Expectations For All Students is the Way to Beat the Achievement Gaps Simpson Street Free Press editorial Chantal Van Ginkel, age 18

Historically, Madison West High School has not had a spotless regard regarding race relations. Before and during the 1990's, the school was accused by some of segregation. Most white students had their lockers on the second floor, while most minority students used lockers on the ground floor.

To the school's credit, changes in policies have greatly improved a once hostile environment. Some of these changes include getting rid of remedial classes, and implementing SLC's or Small Learning Communities.

A more recent change, however, has sparked controversy and heated debate. Madison West High School plans to largely eliminate honors classes. This is part of an attempt to provide equal opportunity for all students by homogenizing their classroom experience.

At one time, this might have been a good step toward desegregation of West's student body. It is not a good idea now.

To some extent, enrollment in honors courses of all Madison high schools is racially segregated. Affluent students and white students take advanced courses much more frequently than other students.

But in my opinion, the lack of more rigorous courses is a problem. It is a problem for all students at West. Many parents, students and some faculty share this sentiment.

Recently, a petition signed by over a hundred West attendance area parents requested that 9th and 10th grade honors classes be reinstated. When Superintendent Nerad took steps to make this, some members of the West High teaching staff spoke up. They asserted that honors classes are racist. The project to reinstate advanced course offerings for West's freshmen and sophomores was then abandoned.

Honors classes, in and of themselves, are not inherently racist. Rather, the expectation that only certain students will take these classes is the problem. The fact that too many minority students end up in remedial courses is racist, but eliminating rigorous courses is not the answer.

As writers for this newspaper have said many times, the real racism is the cancer of low expectations. High expectations for all of our students is how we will beat the achievement gaps in local schools. Low expectations will only make our problem worse.

Note: Madison West High School has not had honors classes in 9th and 10th grade for several years. (The only exception to that is the historically lone section of Accelerated Biology, which some West teachers have repeatedly tried to get rid of.) Not only that, but Madison West High School is the only Madison high school that does not have any honors/advanced/accelerated classes in English and Social Studies in 9th and 10th grade. All West 9th and 10th grade students are expected to take regular English 9 and 10 and regular Social Studies 9 and 10, in completely heterogeneous (by ability) classes.

Note: The petition mentioned by the author -- the one requesting honors classes in English and Social Studies in 9th and 10th grade -- has now been signed by almost 200 current, past and future West community members.

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Madison School Board Wants To Challenge Gifted Kids

Channel3000, via a kind reader:

Madison Metropolitan School District's Board of Education members are trying to fight a perception that the school district doesn't pay enough attention to the city's brightest students.

School Board member Marj Passman told WTDY Radio that the perception of ignoring gifted students needs, along with the changing demographics of the district, have resulted in a tripling of the number of students transferring out of the district in the past five years.

Passman said despite budget cuts, the board will still strive to launch new partnerships and initiatives this year to push students further, and retain more of them.

Related: Madison School District Talented & Gifted Plan, English 10 and the recent Madison School Board discussion and vote on outbound open enrollment.

A reader mentioned that the Madison School Board meets this evening, but that Talented and Gifted is not on the agenda.

Finally, two Madison School Board seats will be on the April, 2011 spring ballot. They are currently occupied by Ed Hughes and Marj Passman.

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Proposed Madison School District Performance Measures

Baseline, Annual Benchmark, and Target Data with 2009-10 Data Added 200k PDF

Recommended Performance Measures 623k PDF

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59 yrs. later, it's thanks for education

Scripps Howard

Fifty-nine years after a U.S. Air Force soldier underwrote his college education, South Korean Han Jung-soo finally tracked down his benefactor here to thank him.

In the winter of 1951, Han, then 19 and a university freshman, asked anybody who would listen at Suwon Air Base south of Seoul if he could work as a houseboy.

Air Force Lt. Gerald D. Winger, then 26 and a squadron adjutant, accepted and underwrote most of Han's tuition.

Han finished his education, served in the South Korean army, and later served 25 years as a senior officer in the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Last week, Han, now 79, arrived in the United States to reconnect with Winger, 85.

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Delaware officials paint troubling picture of state takeover of high school sports

Matthew Stanmyre and Jackie Friedman

Now that a scathing investigation and a fanatical state legislator have taken significant steps toward leveling New Jersey's governing body for high school sports, it's not hard to see the future for New Jersey's 270,000 athletes.

Just go to Delaware.

New Jersey's neighbor to the south is the only state to have its independent athletic association dissolved and then placed under state control. Eight other states have been investigated, but each avoided the type of death penalty the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association seems destined for now that Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) has introduced legislation to move control to the New Jersey School Boards Association.

In interviews last week and throughout the summer, key players in Delaware who now work for the Department of Education say the move was a mistake.

"It's hard to be responsive," Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association executive director Kevin Charles said. "There are several layers of bureaucracy above you, and you have to go through those layers to get things accomplished. In a government setting, that is not necessarily a bad thing. But in a business setting, it can slow things down."

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There's no need to "wait" for Superman

Frank Hill

"Waiting for Superman" is a new documentary about our public education system that is already stimulating a lot of discussion about how to fix our ailing public schools.

But there's no need to "wait." Hundreds, if not thousands, of schools around the nation -- such as the Durham Nativity School in Durham, North Carolina -- have already been fixed.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to see how children can blossom and perform at their highest level in a manufactured box of a high school with 3,000+ students when most experts believe that the optimum size for a high school is around 1,200 students.

Kids get lost in such large populations and fall by the wayside because they cannot connect with their teachers. The dropout rate is 50% for African-American males in American today, which means that only one out of every two African-American males who start 9th grade finish12th grade. Something must be wrong.

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The Huge Dishonest Attack on Teachers

An interview from Truthout, via a Den Dempsey email:

"... We're living in the darkest times for teachers that I've ever seen in my life. It's hard to fully understand how the conversation about what makes a robust, vital education for citizens in a democracy has degraded to the point where the frame of the whole discussion is that teachers are the problem. It's true that good schools are places where good teachers gather, but there's another piece to that: Good teachers need to be protected to teach, supported to teach, put into relationships with one another - and with the families of the kids - so that they can teach. The attack on teachers is a classic example of what [cognitive linguist George] Lakoff calls "framing." We're hearing from every politician and editorial board in the land - including The New York Times and The Washington Post and The New Yorker - that we need to get the lazy, incompetent teachers out of the classroom. ...

In the past five years, that attack on public education has ratcheted up to dimensions that were unthinkable 30 years ago. And so people talk about the public schools in a way that is disingenuous and dishonest - and also frightening in its characterization: they say the schools are run by a group of self-interested, selfish, undertrained, undercommitted teachers, who have a union that protects them."

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Wisconsin's SAGE: Schools adjust to the effects - positive and negative - of dropping the class-size reduction program

Amy Hetzner:

ne of the first lessons that Burdick School teacher Vilma Bivens taught her third-graders this year was to not ask her permission for bathroom or water breaks.

Such requests would only take away from time to provide individual attention to her 31 students for daily reading instruction - time made more precious after her school lost funding for class-size reduction efforts.

"The workload is harder," Bivens said of losing the extra teaching help she used to get during reading time. "It's not so hard to teach. It's just hard to plan and make sure I'm meeting all the kids' needs."

Teachers like Bivens aren't the only ones adjusting to changes in the state-funded Student Achievement Guarantee in Education program, or SAGE, this school year.

After years of seeing schools like Burdick drop SAGE because they couldn't afford subsidizing it any more, either because of demographic changes or because of stagnant per-pupil reimbursement rates, the state Legislature revamped some major aspects of the popular program this year.

Instead of being required to maintain class sizes of 15 or lower, now qualifying schools can enroll as many as 18 students in classes serving kindergarten through third grade. In addition, for the first time in years, new districts have been permitted to receive SAGE funds in 2010-'11.

The state Department of Public Instruction also cannot enter into any new waiver agreements with participating schools that want to get out of the 18-to-1 or 30-to-2 student-teacher ratio.

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School dances: Another baby boomer failure

Valerie Strauss

With the new school year in full swing, school dances have begun in earnest. This can't be what Patrick Swayze had in mind in "Dirty Dancing."

For those of you fortunate enough not to have had experience with this yet, here's what kids do today at many school dances (as well as at parties, formal and otherwise): They provocatively grind their pelvises into each other on the dance floor, sometimes standing face to face, sometimes with the boy behind the girl. It's called grinding.

Sexually suggestive dancing was hardly invented by today's kids. Young people say it is harmless fun, and sometimes it is.

But sometimes there is something more troubling going on: Boys often walk up to girls who don't already have a boy thrusting his genitals at them and just start right up, no permission sought. Many girls, who even in the 21st century will do nearly anything to win a boy's attention, allow them to go ahead without a word. Of course, there are some girls who initiate it themselves. That's no better.

What this points to is the failure of many baby boomers to teach their daughters to respect themselves and their bodies and make their own choices, and to teach their sons to view women and girls as something other than sex objects.

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Way of the Future: Khan Academy

Matthew Ladner

So a 33 year old hedge fund analyst has created a Youtube site to put up hundreds of discrete lessons in Math, Science, Finance and History. Khan Academy gives these lessons away for free, and there are online tests available on the site.

Here is a PBS Newshour story on Khan Academy:

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Harvard, Cisco, BBN bring high-speed Internet to Cambridge Rindge and Latin

Cambridge Chronicle

Harvard University recently announced a new partnership with Boston and Cambridge designed to bring the world to students faster and clearer than ever.

Harvard will share its access to the super high-speed Internet2 Network connection with Boston and Cambridge schools, granting all 148 public schools in the two cities use of the most advanced networking consortium in the world.

In addition, Cisco is contributing Cisco TelePresence equipment to the John D. O'Bryant School of Math and Science and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School enabling the students and teachers to connect with people around the globe. This interactive collaboration tool will reportedly put them at the forefront of teaching and learning. Raytheon BBN Technologies, an advanced networking research company, has donated the networking equipment that provides connectivity to Cambridge.

"Technology is exciting but it isn't a goal in and of itself," said Cambridge Superintendent Jeffrey Young. "Making it easier for students and teachers to access and participate in the world of ideas as players not just observers is what matters. These resources can break down the walls of the classroom and extend teaching and learning to every corner
of the globe."

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US Property Tax Data: Wisconsin #9


Here are the Top 10 and Bottom 10 States in Median Real Estate Taxes Paid in 2009 -- all 10 states with the highest property taxes voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 election, and 9 of the 10 states with the lowest property taxes voted for John McCain:

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Merging Career Tech & College Prep

In this series, Schools That Work, Edutopia takes a deep look at what school successes are made of. How principals and teachers, parents and students, and schools and school districts collaborate to change the futures of their young people.

We share with you the blueprints that the change makers used -- the contracts, lesson plans, and teacher-training tools that could be relevant to your school and your path to change.

Then we do one more thing: We put you together with the change makers themselves. You will meet the teachers and administrators of Schools that Work in our groups and discussions. You will hear about the hurdles they overcame. You will discover how reform comes to life, and how it succeeds.

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October 3, 2010

Four Steps to Promote Savings in School (town) Spending

Dr. Armand A Fusco, via email

There is one harsh and undeniable fact that must be accepted with school (and town) spending: There is no strong incentive to save dollars. Unlike schools, the business world's incentive to save is driven by the "bottom line." Unfortunately, there is no "bottom line" in school operations because, with rare exception, there is always more money provided every year regardless of productivity or results. Yet, even though the business world has a strong incentive, the American Productivity and Quality Center, estimates that there is still 20%-30% waste in time and money.

Waste is defined as "Anything that adds cost without adding value." This, of course, is assessed more easily in business organizations; however, it is rarely a consideration in schools. For example, in job descriptions it would be unusual to find any mention that an employee is responsible for controlling and cutting costs; in addition, it is not part of any evaluation process or even as a policy statement. An exception was found in Ann Arbor, MI, and if all superintendents' job descriptions followed this example, it would have a powerful and meaningful impact on fiscal accountability.

Step One: Job Description

The Superintendent (1) shall diligently identify opportunities to reduce costs and improve operating efficiency in all areas of district operations (2) is charged with the responsibility of seeking ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency while maintaining the organization's mission and performance (3) will provide guidelines to support constant and continual improvement in the organization (4) will ensure that promoting savings will be a part of every employees' and department's yearly evaluation (5) shall regularly inform new and current employees that finding more efficient and economical ways to accomplish the district's educational mission and that it is an implied component of every job description (6) may call on any employee to assist in a formal investigation to identify more efficient operations and/or cost-reduction opportunities (7) will establish a program through which employees may make suggestions relating to more efficient operations and/or cost-reduction opportunities, and be recognized for such efforts (8) will ensure that department heads shall continually monitor their areas to identify any potential cost reduction and/or efficiency improvement and will report quarterly on specific efforts made to promote savings through controlling or cutting costs, as well as, the process or procedure that was used to determine the savings calculation and (9) shall present such findings to the Board and community on a quarterly basis.

Step Two: Policy Adoption

However, the job description and evaluation process is not enough. The BOE must adopt a policy that will clearly establish a culture of fiscal accountability. The following example is edited from Greenwich, CT:

1. The District shall not engage in the mismanagement of financial, physical and human resources and Shall not fail to act as a good fiduciary for all taxpayer assets.

2. Taxpayer assets, including but not limited to, all facilities, equipment, materials, tax dollars, and all other sources of funds may not be inadequately maintained, unnecessarily risked, wasted, or allowed to deteriorate

3. The District shall not fail to maintain procedures and systems to control management of resources, including, at a minimum, accounting; budgeting; data management; purchasing; ordering goods and services; inventories of equipment and supplies, and record retention.

Step Three: A Pledge

All officials, upon election or appointment, shall pledge verbally and in writing the following:

"It is my sworn duty and obligation to manage all physical, human, and financial resources in the most effective, efficient, economical and ethical manner. Furthermore, I will support the establishment of a Citizen's Performance and Review Audit Committee (CPRAC) to provide independent and objective oversight to ensure that the commitments made for fiscal responsibility will be followed in spirit and action. I will demonstrate my support to the CPRAC by providing all requested public documents and information at no cost and without FOI requirements."

Step Four: The CPRAC
The committee will consist of local volunteers who will be trained in best financial and management practices and will be self governing. The author of this op-ed piece, a retired school superintendent, will provide the orientation, materials and training at no cost: Such committees have already been established in several communities.

These simple steps only require action on the part of a BOE (the town can do the same) and will have no budgetary implications.

Why would any official refuse to implement such a simple process?

Dr. Armand A. Fusco, 1563 Durham Rd, Guilford, CT

Name Dr. Armand A. fusco
Telephone 203-453-1301
Submit Submit

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Ed school professors resist teaching practical skills

Jay Matthews

Amid the chatter about the Obama administration's Race to the Top funds, NBC's Education Nation programs and the release of the film "Waiting For 'Superman'" (warning: I am in it), I am not hearing much about how education schools fit into this new 'saving our schools' ferment. A new survey of education school professors reveals traditional teacher training institutes are trying, sort of, to adjust, but still resist giving top priority to the hottest topic among young teachers, learning how to manage the kids.

When researchers Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett asked 716 randomly selected teacher educators at four-year colleges and universities about major challenges for new teachers these days, they did not seem that excited about them.

Only 24 percent said it was "absolutely essential" to produce "teachers who understand how to work with the state's standards, tests and accountability systems."

Only 37 percent gave the highest priority to developing "teachers who maintain discipline and order in the classroom." Only 39 percent said the same about creating "teachers who are trained to address the challenges of high-needs students in urban districts."

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Not so shallow after all ...

Harry Eyres

The cohort of young people just going to university, which includes many of my friends' children and my eldest nephew, is, as usual, the target of accusations of degeneracy and warnings about dumbing-down.

In the past, such jeremiads generally concentrated on the moral aspect of things: in one of his rare moments of intemperance, the Roman poet Horace berated the young women of Rome for learning Greek dances (the provocative young minxes), the inevitable prelude to a later career of adultery. He was writing at a time when the Emperor Augustus had instigated one of those doomed back-to-basics campaigns promoting a return to "traditional values", only to find that his own daughter had been involved in a string of adulterous affairs.

When it comes to the current generation, the accusations centre less on moral looseness and more on an inability to concentrate, brought about by an addiction to computer games and the internet. The direst of the warnings has been issued by Nicholas Carr in The Shallows, buttressed by research carried out by Gary Small, director of the Memory and Aging Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr Small argues that the very structure of people's brains has been changed by new media - to the extent, as Carr puts it, that "our ability to learn suffers and our understanding remains shallow".

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The class ceiling

Adam Haslett

Thirty years ago, at another moment of recession and national malaise in the United States, Lisa Birnbach, then 23, edited and co-wrote The Official Preppy Handbook, a guide on how to dress and behave like old money, ie those who went to prep schools (the US term for public schools), and then on to Ivy League colleges.

The hangover of the 1970s was coming to an end, Ronald Reagan was about to enter the White House, and small "c" conservatism of the sexually restrained, personal comportment variety was about to enjoy a resurgence every bit as strong as Milton Friedman. Lacoste was back, the collars were turned up and, after 20 years in the fashion wilderness, the establishment had found its groove again. It was hip to be square, or at least to dress that way. Birnbach's book spent 38 weeks at the top of The New York Times bestseller list in 1980, helping to launch a remarkably enduring trend in US culture: the commodity fetishisation of that etiolated species, the American White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (Wasp).

For most of the nation's history, male Wasps more or less ran the place, occupying virtually every position of political and financial power in the US. This is no longer the case. There could be no clearer signal of this than the composition of the Supreme Court, the institution traditionally requiring the greatest educational pedigree. It is made up of three Jews and six Catholics, and is one third female. There is a Latina and an African-American but not a single Protestant.

Strangely enough, it was just around the time when this class hegemony began to fade for good in the late 1970s and early 1980s that people became so enamoured of the clothing worn by Wasps, particularly when on summer holiday. From Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger to the revival of Abercrombie & Fitch, the fading old Wasp clothier, via Bruce Weber's photographs of shirtless young Aryans playing touch football on vast and perfect lawns, mainstream US fashion has for years now been peddling the fantasy of life as an endless Nantucket house party.

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An Art College President's Compensation Reached Nearly $2-Million in 2008

Paul Fain:

Paula S. Wallace co-founded the Savannah College of Art and Design in 1978 with her parents and her then-husband, taking out a $200,000 loan to buy the college's first building. Since then it has grown into one of the nation's largest art schools, and Ms. Wallace's pay has swelled: In 2008 her total compensation as president was $1,946,730, according to newly released tax documents.
That amount tops the compensation of all but a handful of college chiefs. But SCAD, a relatively pricey and prosperous art school, is smaller than universities that pay in that range.
Ms. Wallace, who is in her early 60s, became SCAD's president in 2000. Her total compensation package grew by about $1.5-million between 2008 and the previous reporting period, which was the 2007-8 fiscal year. College officials said $900,000 of that growth was related to an adjustment to the deferred compensation that SCAD set aside for the president's retirement pay.

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Teachers Unions Still Powerful Election Force

Sarah Longwell

Between the success of President Obama's education reform initiative Race to the Top and the adulation being poured on the pro-education reform documentary Waiting for "Superman" - including appearances on "Oprah" and "Good Morning America," as well as fawning articles in magazines and newspapers across the country - one would be forgiven for thinking that teachers unions have lost their political clout.

Anyone harboring such suspicions is in for a rude awakening.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) reminded us just how much power teachers unions still have by pouring more than a million dollars into the Washington, D.C., mayoral campaign. Spent on organizing efforts and advertising campaigns, this money was crucial in turning the race around for a candidate who is far friendlier to the teachers unions, far more antagonistic to school chancellor and darling of the reform set Michelle Rhee, and far less likely to pursue reforms than his predecessor.

Quashing this Rhee-volution is just the first item on the agenda for the teachers unions.

You can expect to see more of the same in Chicago's mayoral primary in 2011, where Karen Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, has said that she was ready "to throw the weight of 30,000 members and their families and students and teachers [into the Democratic primary]. I mean, we're looking at 800,000 people we could affect on some level." Lewis has worked hard to stymie the reforms implemented by outgoing Mayor Daley; she's gearing up for a fight to elect someone more amenable to protecting poor teachers at the expense of their students.

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Waiting for Superman and the Education Debate

Brent Staples:

Mr. Barr believes that the film has pulled back the curtain on a world that most Americans would otherwise not have seen -- the desperation of parents who struggle, often in vain, to get their children into better schools. (The Superman in the title refers to one charter school operator's childhood belief that the ghetto in which he lived might one day be rescued by the Man of Steel.)/I>

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The Changing Landscape of Teaching

Tom Vander Ark

Now that anyone can learn anything and learning professionals can work anywhere, a learning ecosystem is being created around the formal public delivery system--sometimes supporting, sometimes competing, sometimes infiltrating.

Online learning is full and part time option for millions of students. Massive foundation and government programs are pushing data driven-instruction and teacher evaluation. The combination of direct intervention and the surrounding web of opportunity means a slow decline in traditional education employment and strong growth in non-traditional roles.

As schools adopt formats that blend online and onsite learning, there will be an increase of tiered staffing models with well paid master teachers in school leadership roles, new teachers in training, paraprofessionals and volunteers. Teachers with proven abilities will have the opportunity to influence the outcomes of several hundred students.

Teachers delivering all or most of their instruction online will grow from about 25,000 to more than 10 percent of the total by the end of the decade with higher penetration in high school, particularly Advanced Placement, science, math, and speech therapy. Most teachers will work in schools that use online and computer based instruction.

During the last decade, funded by new money foundations, we've seen an explosion of school developers, managed school networks, technical assistance providers, and advocacy organizations. Teach for America helped to make education cool as a career. A long recession and federal stimulus made it as it an easier choice. Many TFA alum become edupreneurs.

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Virginia High school graduation, dropout rates for 2010

Virginia Pilot

The Virginia Department of Education publishes annual reports that detail outcomes for students who entered the ninth grade for the first time together ("cohorts") and were scheduled to graduate four years later ("on time"). Percentages account for students who transfer, are held back or are promoted.

All public high schools for the seven major Hampton Roads cities are listed here. Choose a school and click "Search" for details on that school.

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October 2, 2010

Schools' problem is government: Schools No Longer Focus on Teaching & Learning

Deborah Simmons

President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee jump-started the week on national television by discussing public education. They all pushed for more reform, but none of them went on the offensive and mentioned what surely is a huge stumbling block to effective teaching and learning in public schools: federal government interference.

The broadening of federal education policy has tied our local public systems in knots. Local and state school authorities cannot make a single policy move without first making sure they are adhering to laws and regulations established by Washington bureaucrats.

That fact lies at the very heart of several questions posed by a reader of my column from last Friday.

"Do you think that the school system attempts to take on so much responsibility -- in addition to education -- that the outcome does not change?" the reader asked in an e-mail.

Ding, ding, ding. Our public school "systems" no longer focus on teaching and learning.

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School Reform Rainmakers

The Wall Street Journal

It was a banner September for education philanthropy. Last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Oprah Winfrey's TV show to announce his $100 million donation to Newark, New Jersey, public schools. And this Wednesday the Charter School Growth Fund launched a new $160 million fund that will finance the expansion of high-performing charter networks across the U.S.

Since 1970, average per-pupil expenditures after inflation have more than doubled, yet test scores have remained flat. Today the Newark public school system spends some $22,000 per student, or more than twice the U.S. average, and the high school graduation rate is only 50%. Adding private money to this system would be a dreadful waste. So what excites us about these new donations is not the money per se but the reform agenda to which the dollars are tethered.

Mr. Zuckerberg is entrusting his donation to Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a strong advocate of vouchers and school choice, as is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The Newark teachers contract expired over the summer, and Mr. Booker has spoken favorably of the recently negotiated teacher contract in Washington, D.C., where schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee used private donations as leverage to enact reforms that tie teacher pay to student progress.

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Milwaukee's New Teacher Union Contract

Becky Vevea & Erin Richards:

A pay freeze, which retroactively applies to the 2009-'10 school year when teachers were working under the old contract, saves the district from roughly $13.5 million in raises it likely would have paid if the previous contract were renewed. Teachers will be in line for a 3% raise for this school year and 2.5% for 2011-'12. Another 3% raise is set for the 2012-'13 school year. The freeze does not apply to those teachers who were eligible for a step increase, which gives teachers with a certain amount of experience an automatic jump to a higher salary level, union officials said. The average salary of an MPS teacher is $56,000 per year, slightly lower than in districts in outlying areas.

"We didn't get where we wanted to get, but it's a step in the right direction," Superintendent Greg Thornton said, adding that the agreement is still "monumental."

The contract is the first four-year contract negotiated between the district and MTEA. The previous contract expired July 1, 2009, and teachers had been working under the terms of the expired contract since that time.

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards has recommended that its members not enter into contracts that last for more than two years because of the fiscal uncertainty with the state budget. But Thornton said the longer contract will allow both parties more time to work on reforms in the district.

Contract negotiations stalled repeatedly under the previous administration of Superintendent William Andrekopoulos, with the major sticking point being revisions to the teachers' health care benefits.

Under the old contract, MPS offered two health care plans - an HMO plan that costs $16,440 a year for a family, offered by United Health Care, and a PPO plan through Aetna that allows a broader range of choices in doctors and costs $23,820 a year for a family.

In May, the district said that unless various unions agreed to take a lower cost health care plan, it would move forward with layoffs. The district laid off more than 400 teachers in June, though about half of them have since been recalled.

The new agreement maintains the choice of PPO and HMO plans, but both will be provided by United Health Care and will have lower premiums than the Aetna plan did. Under both options, teachers will for the first time contribute a portion of their salary - 1% for single coverage, 2% for family coverage - to their health care package starting in August 2011. The specific costs of the two options are unknown.

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In Study, Children Cite Appeal of Digital Reading

Julie Bosman

Many children want to read books on digital devices and would read for fun more frequently if they could obtain e-books. But even if they had that access, two-thirds of them would not want to give up their traditional print books.

These are a few of the findings in a study being released on Wednesday by Scholastic, the American publisher of the Harry Potter books and the "Hunger Games" trilogy.

The report set out to explore the attitudes and behaviors of parents and children toward reading books for fun in a digital age. Scholastic surveyed more than 2,000 children ages 6 to 17, and their parents, in the spring.

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GM's Reuss: We'll help boost Detroit education

Brent Snavely

General Motors is working with the United Way to explore how best the automaker can contribute to improving K-12 education in Detroit, Mark Reuss, president of North America said today.

In a passionate speech, Reuss said education in Detroit is in a state of emergency.
"We are exploring an idea to take five Detroit schools and essentially divide each school into four academies to train our children to have marketable skills in the city off Detroit," Reuss during a speech during the 11th Annual Rainbow Push Global Automotive Summit in Detroit.

Reuss said General Motors is working with Detroit Public Schools, the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, charter schools and several other organizations.

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Career politician, outsider vie to lead California schools

Two candidates hope to become California's next superintendent of public instruction, a position that requires the patience to answer a frequent question from constituents: "So, what exactly do you do?"

The short answer is that the state's top education official runs California's 9,500 schools, which educate 6.3 million students.

The long answer is more complicated. The superintendent is a bureaucrat, a politician, an administrator and, in worst-case scenarios, the one who takes over bankrupt school districts.

He is a University of California regent and a California State University trustee, and he controls community college cash.

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Charter, Shmarter

New Jersey Left Behind

Lady Liberty Academy Charter School in Newark, a K-8 school with 456 kids (273 are on the waiting list), is the subject of a 4-page story in New Jersey Newsroom today that highlights its dysfunction, poor governance, and the unfair firing of a kindergarten teacher. Only two seats are filled on the 9-member Board of Education (there were four, but two members resigned after the teacher was fired), staffers compare elaborate preparations for DOE visits as "a Potemkin village," and one of the principal's criticisms of the fired teacher was that she dresses "'too professionally,' complaining that 'you teachers love those long skirts.'"

How do the kids do? According to 2008-2009 DOE data, 62.5% of 3d graders failed the language arts portion of the NJ ASK 3 and 52.1% failed the math portion. Among 8th graders, 43.1% failed the language arts portion of the ASK 8 and 56.9% failed the math portion. Pretty shabby.

Is this the story of a much-ballyhooed charter school that masks lack of accountability, lack of due process for teachers, and inept management in spite of frequent monitoring by the State DOE, a perfect emblem for charter school foes? Seems likely.

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Education in Vietnam Low grades for the party The Communist Party's grip is holding back the country's best and brightest

The Economist

WHEN Ngo Bao Chau won a Fields Medal, the mathematics version of a Nobel prize, it made headline news in his native Vietnam. The president sent a telegram of congratulations. Mr Chau is the first Vietnamese winner. But he does not ply his trade in Vietnam. Mr Chau is a professor at the University of Chicago and a naturalised citizen of France, where he completed his PhD.

Who can blame him? Vietnam's university system is "archaic", says Hoang Tuy, another mathematician. Teaching methods are outdated, universities are stuffed with cronies and smothered by Communist orthodoxy. Censorship and interference are pervasive.

For an emerging economy trying to build a technology sector, this is both discouraging and damaging. Top-notch research universities and innovative manufacturing go hand-in-hand. Vietnamese universities do little original research, and are rarely cited by scientific scholars, says a recent UN-financed study. Graduates are poorly prepared: as many as 60% of new hires by foreign companies needed retraining, according to a Dutch report.

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Run to the Hills!

Matthew Ladner

From Education Week:

After five years of providing critical reviews of education-related reports by nonacademic think tanks, education professors Alex Molnar and Kevin G. Welner hope to expand their own reach with a new, broader research center.

The new National Education Policy Center, based at Mr. Welner's academic home, the University of Colorado at Boulder, will consolidate his Education and the Public Interest Center and Mr. Molnar's Education Policy Research Unit, previously at Arizona State University. It will review existing research, conduct new research, and, for the first time for both groups, make policy recommendations.

The story goes on to print claims from these guys that they are independent from the unions, quotes Little Ramona taking pot shots at think-tanks, etc.

It's would be easy to cry foul that the NEA is simply renting the credibility of academic institutions to produce propaganda. They gave Molnar's outfit a quarter of million dollars a year at Arizona State. Overall, however, I don't really have a problem with them doing so. Think-tanks always face scrutiny when releasing reports, and more scrutiny is better than less. As Rick Hess notes in the story:

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October 1, 2010

Is Michelle Rhee's Revolution Over?

Judith Warner

Around the country, supporters of education reform -- or at least of the test-scores-driven, tenure-busting, results-rewarding sort of reform epitomized by organizations like Teach for America and championed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan -- gave a collective gasp of dismay last month when voters in a number of districts handed primary defeats to candidates closely associated with just this type of reform. In New York, three state-senate candidates who ran on pro-charter-school platforms each failed to garner more than 30 percent of the vote. In Washington, voters overwhelmingly rejected Mayor Adrian Fenty in favor of the City Council chairman, Vincent Gray, as the Democratic candidate in this year's mayoral election. The Fenty defeat worried many people particularly because he was inextricably linked with his crusading, nationally celebrated schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee.

Rhee, who was appointed by Fenty in 2007 and given unprecedented power to shake up the ailing school system, fired hundreds of teachers and dozens of bureaucrats and principals, even removing the popular head of her daughters' elementary school in the northwest part of the district. She demanded that the city's tenure system be replaced with one that would reward teachers for producing measurable performance gains in their students. For her efforts, she became a heroine to some -- gracing the cover of Time magazine, earning the praise of the Obama administration and an invitation to appear on "Oprah" -- but she also received enormous enmity from teachers, their unions and, surprisingly enough to outside observers, many public-school parents, not a few of whom were profoundly offended when, the night after the mayoral primary, Rhee appeared at the Washington premiere of Davis Guggenheim's much-talked-about education documentary, "Waiting for Superman," and told an assemblage of prominent Washingtonians that the election results "were devastating, devastating. Not for me, I'll be fine . . . but devastating for the school children of Washington, D.C."

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Making Math Lessons as Easy as 1, Pause, 2, Pause ...

Winnie Hu

By the time they get to kindergarten, children in this well-to-do suburb already know their numbers, so their teachers worried that a new math program was too easy when it covered just 1 and 2 -- for a whole week.

"Talk about the number 1 for 45 minutes?" said Chris Covello, who teaches 16 students ages 5 and 6. "I was like, I don't know. But then I found you really could. Before, we had a lot of ground to cover, and now it's more open-ended and gets kids thinking."

The slower pace is a cornerstone of the district's new approach to teaching math, which is based on the national math system of Singapore and aims to emulate that country's success by promoting a deeper understanding of numbers and math concepts. Students in Singapore have repeatedly ranked at or near the top on international math exams since the mid-1990s.

Franklin Lakes, about 30 miles northwest of Manhattan, is one of dozens of districts, from Scarsdale, N.Y., to Lexington, Ky., that in recent years have adopted Singapore math, as it is called, amid growing concerns that too many American students lack the higher-order math skills called for in a global economy.

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Madison's Proposed 4K Program Update: Is Now the Time?

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad PDF:

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) recently made a request for proposals (RFP) for early childhood care and education (ECE) centers interested in partnering with MMSD to provide four year old kindergarten (4K) programming starting in Fall 2011. In order to be considered for this partnership with the district, ECE centers must be accredited by the City of Madison or the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to ensure high quality programming for MMSD students. The ECE centers can partner with MMSD to be either a 4K Model II program (in an ECE center with an MMSD teacher) or a Model III program (in an ECE center with the ECE center's teacher). The budget for 4K will support only 2 Model II programs, which aligns with the proposals submitted. There are 2 ECE centers who applied for Model II participation and 2 that applied to be either Model II or Model III. The ECE center proposals that have been accepted in this first step of the review process for consideration for partnering with the district to provide 4K programming are explained further in the following section.

II. ECE Center Sites

The following ECE center sites met the RFP criteria:

Animal Crackers
Bernie's Place
Big Oak Child Care
Creative Learning Preschool
Dane County Parent Council
Eagle's Wing
Goodman Community Center
Kennedy Heights Neighborhood
KinderCare-Old Sauk
LaPetite-North Gammon
Meeting House Nursery
Middleton Preschool
Monona Grove Nursery
New Morning Nursery
Orchard Ridge Nursery
Preschool of the Arts
The Learning Gardens
University Avenue Discovery Center
University Houses Preschool
University Preschool-Linden
University Preschool-Mineral Point
Waisman EC Program

Of the 35 ECE center sites, 28 met the RFP criteria at this time for partnerships with MMSD for 4 K programming. Seven of the ECE center sites did not meet RFP criteria. However may qualify in the future for partnerships with MMSD. There are 26 qualified sites that would partner with MMSD to provide a Model 111 program, and two sites that will provide a Model 11 program.

At this time, the 4K committee is requesting Board of Education (BOE) approval of the 28 ECE center sites that met RFP criteria. The BOE approval will allow administration to analyze the geographical locations of the each of the ECE center sites in conjunction with the District's currently available space. The BOE approval will also allow administration to enter into agreements with the ECE center sites at the appropriate time.

The following language is suggested in order to approve the 28 ECE center sites:
It is recommended to approve the 28 Early Childhood Care and Education centers identified above as they have met the criteria of RFP 3168 (Provision of a Four-Year- Old Kindergarten Program) and further allow the District to enter into Agreements with said Early Childhood Care and Education centers.

Much more on Madison's proposed 4K program here.

I continue to wonder if this is the time to push forward with 4K, given the outstanding K-12 issues, such as reading and the languishing math, fine arts and equity task force reports? Spending money is easier than dealing with these issues.... I also wonder how this will affect the preschool community over the next decade?

Finally, State and Federal spending and debt problems should add a note of caution to funding commitments for such programs. Changes in redistributed state and federal tax dollars may increase annual property tax payments, set to grow over 9% this December.

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Indiana paid nearly $94 million for 16,315 'ghost' students in 2009

Dan Carden

Indiana taxpayers shelled out nearly $94 million to public schools last year to support "ghost" students no longer attending those schools.

State legislators learned Wednesday that, in 2009, schools got paid for 16,315 students no longer in attendance. How to change the formula to be more fair to all students was at the heart of a Statehouse committee meeting Wednesday.

"That's just absolutely horrendous that we're spending $94 million on students that don't even exist," said state Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville.

Indiana spends about $8.5 billion on elementary and secondary education each year.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett told the committee Indiana needs a systemic change in the way it funds schools. The first-term Republican said education money should follow students and each student should be allowed to use those resources at any school in the state -- including private schools.

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IBM High: Big Blue to Sponsor School, Mold Future Employees

Ariel Schwartz:

Want your kids to have a plum job after graduation? Send them to a New York City high school currently being planned by the City University of New York and IBM. The school, which will play host to around 600 students, will span grades 9 to 14. Its students will leave with an associate's degree--and a guaranteed job with IBM. It's a "a ticket to the middle class, or even beyond," according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

WNYC reports that IBM has offered $250,000 for New York City to create the computer science-focused school, which is set to open next fall. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is throwing in $3 million. It will be the first high school in the U.S. to go through grade 14. No word on how students will be selected to attend, but we do know that they won't be academically pre-screened.

The IBM-sponsored high school is part of the larger trend of corporate-sponsored education that has popped up over the past few years. This past spring, Microsoft graduated its first class at the School of the Future, a Philadelphia high school that trains students in a "culture of innovation." And Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a $100 million dollar donation to Newark, New Jersey's public school system.

Madison's Promega Corporation offered to work with the Madison School District on a Middle School (Madison Middle School 2000) during the late 1990's.

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French education: A system under attack for being too tough on pupils, not too easy

The Economist

AT THE end of every academic year, when British school-leavers get their A-level exam results, a chorus rings out about grade inflation and indulgent marking. This year, some 27% of British students who took the exam secured either an A or the new A* grade. Across the channel in France, the worries could scarcely be more different. Some educationalists fret that lycée (upper secondary-school) pupils work too hard, are graded too fiercely and are victims of a system designed to fail them.

A handful of new books are stirring this debate. In one, Richard Descoings, head of SciencesPo, an elite university in Paris, laments that French schools are "training generations of anxious youths, who worry about their future, feel treated like numbers [and] distrust one another and the system". Last year, Mr Descoings visited 80 schools and met 7,000 pupils as part of a government review of lycées. Pupils told him, he reports, that in school they veered "between boredom and dread".

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American Schools Lax on Cheating

Jay Matthews

The Sept. 1 edition of Education Week had a provocative commentary, "All my favorite students cheat," by high school teacher Christopher L. Doyle. He and I agree that cheating is rife, but we don't agree on what causes that.

He thinks students are protecting themselves against widespread insecurity in a declining America. I think the larger problem is that teachers so love and trust their students that the teachers become easy marks.

America used to be tough on cheaters. Before World War II, miscreants could be suspended, expelled or caned. Schools went soft in the 1960s, and although we have little data, cheating probably increased. In a 1995 survey by "Who's Who Among American High School Students," 76 percent of high-schoolers with at least B averages said they had cheated at least once. In suburban, upper-middle-class, high-achieving schools, such as the place Doyle still teaches or many Washington area schools, cheating is still common.

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's an important attempt to get the American public behind education reform

The Economist

FOR America's children the education system is often literally a lottery. That is the main message of a new documentary about America's schools, "Waiting for 'Superman'." Made by the team that gave us "An Inconvenient Truth", and supported with the sort of marketing budget that other documentary makers can only dream of, it is intended to create a surge in public support for education reform at least as great as the clamour to do something about climate change generated (for a while) by Al Gore's eco-disaster flick.

The timing could hardly be better. The "jobless recovery" is finally bringing home to Americans the fact that too many of those who go through its schools are incapable of earning a decent living in an increasingly competitive global economy. The number of jobs advertised but not being filled is increasing even as the unemployment rate stays resolutely high. And despite its depressing enumeration of the failure of so many schools, particularly in poorer urban areas, its miserable ending, and the bleakness of its title, the movie also has a message of hope: there are good schools and teachers in America, whose methods could make its education system as good as any in the world if only they were allowed to.

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Creepy Start-Up Or Sign Of The Times?

Nathan Vardi:

A Santa Barbara, Calif., start-up is officially launching a social media screening and monitoring service Tuesday that the nation's 14.9 million unemployed might want to know about before their next job interview.

Social Intelligence Corp. is essentially taking the traditional background checks that are commonly used by corporate human resource departments to look for things like criminal records and moving them online to track social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, LinkedIn, and individual blogs.

"You cannot believe the things that we see. The amount of references to drugs and alcohol and the amount of provocative photos and the things that people say is jaw dropping," says Max Drucker, chief executive of Social Intelligence Corp. "People that we see that are applying for jobs that have this kind of really incriminating information out there."

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Race Matters in Milwaukee: Segregation & Education

The Milwaukee Drum:

It has been suggested that education is the civil rights issue of our time, and there is no question that the black community continues to lag behind when it comes to all matters of education. This is especially so here in Milwaukee, where MPS reading scores lag behind those of other major urban school districts, state black reading scores are the worst in the nation, and the percent of blacks with a college education is lower here than it is in most other places. These are crisis-level facts.

This has not completely escaped the community's notice. Everybody understands the importance of improving Milwaukee Public Schools. And while massive disagreement concerning proposed changes ultimately resulted in the prevailing of the status quo, rather than some sort of meaningful compromise or reform, at least the community showed that it was energized and willing to fight for local education.

But one thing that seems to continue to escape notice, maybe since the time that Chapter 220 was created, is the impact that segregation has on education.

Segregation and 4th Grade Reading Scores

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