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March 31, 2011

New study on KIPP: Higher attrition and lots more money per pupil

Maureen Downey:

There are a few dissenters who have remained leery of the great success story of the KIPP schools, questioning the turnover of students in the acclaimed program. KIPP operates three schools in the metro area and a high school, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, opens this summer.

Now skeptics are about to get some data on attrition and funding that may confirm their suspicions.

In a study bound to raise the hackles of KIPP supporters, researchers at the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University and Teachers College at Columbia University found that KIPP has a high attrition rate among African-American boys.

While the study does not challenge the academic success of KIPP graduates, it raises questions about the funding and whether the high level of private dollars is sustainable. The study found that KIPP schools benefit tremendously by donations and private funding, earning an extra $6,500 on average per pupil.

KIPP sent me a comment and fact sheet rebuttal of the study: Go to the link to see the back sheet.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:19 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Tests Reveal Madison Schools Wrestle With Achievement Gaps Tests Examined Reading, Math Proficiency

Channel3000:

Madison Metropolitan School District officials are beginning to digest new statewide test score results.

The results for Madison are mixed, but district leaders said that they believe they have a lot of work to do to improve.

The tests reveal that Madison is home to some very bright students, but Superintendent Dan Nerad said that schools aren't doing enough for students who are struggling. He said the test results are proof.

The results showed that, in general, reading levels among students increased across the board while math performance improved only slightly.

District officials said that they also continue to be a "bi-modal" district -- meaning there are students who are scoring at the highest level while it also has ones who are scoring at the lowest levels in nearly every grade in math and reading.

Related:

The Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination (WKCE) has long been criticized for its lack of rigor. Wisconsin DPI WKCE data.

Related: "Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum".

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Final exam: As elections loom, Barack Obama tries to reform America's schools

The Economist:

AMERICA'S schools are dotted with stories of progress. In December your correspondent watched a class of seven-year-olds on Chicago's poor West Side. As Mauricia Dantes, a consultant for IBM before she retrained as a teacher, led the pupils in a discussion about the deaf-and-blind author Helen Keller, one small girl declared: "I feel like I'm in college." One day, thanks to Ms Dantes and other teachers, she may be.

Barack Obama wants such scenes to be the rule rather than the exception. The question is what the federal government can do to help. Ten years ago Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a bold effort to improve America's schools. On March 14th Mr Obama announced that he wants to pass a new version by August. It could be one of his most important feats. But it will not be easy.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Public Sector Premium for School Principals






Average Salaries, 2007-2008
AgePublicPrivatePublic Premium
  Under 40$80,600$47,30070.40%
  40 to 44$84,900$54,80054.93%
  45 to 49 $86,000$55,00056.36%
  50 to 54$88,100$59,50048.07%
  55 or over $91,500$63,70043.64%
Average $86,900$58,30049.06%

In a recent CD post, I featured the public sector premium for full-time elementary and secondary school teachers, which ranges from 14% to 102%, depending on experience and education.  The chart above is based on Department of Education data for the salaries of private and public school principals in 2007-2008 based on age.  Compared to public school principals in the age groups above, private school principals have slightly more experience as principals, slightly less experience as teachers, and are less likely to have advanced degrees (Master's or Doctor's degrees).  So the age group categories above don't control perfectly for education and experience, but still show huge premiums for public school principals of 43% or higher, with an overall average premium of 49%.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Detroit Considers 45 Charter School

Matthew Dolan:

The state-appointed manager of Detroit Public Schools identified 45 schools in the struggling district that could be turned over to private charter operators in a bid to improve student performance.

Wednesday's release of the target list comes as the manager, Robert Bobb, heads into a new round of talks with unions, armed with broad new authority to reopen labor contracts, cut costs and dictate curriculum.

Since his appointment more than two years ago, Mr. Bobb's efforts to stabilize the district's finances and bolster its academics have faced resistance from teachers unions and the school board. Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder changed all of that earlier this month, when he signed into law expanded powers for Mr. Bobb and other financial managers appointed to take over struggling cities and schools.

A Wayne County judge who earlier ruled that Mr. Bobb had improperly exerted control over academics stayed her order in light of the new legislation.

"This is one-man rule," said George Washington, an attorney for the school board. "He doesn't even have to meet with the school board."

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Study: Voucher students more likely to attend college

Milwaukee voucher students are more likely to graduate and enroll in college than their public school counterparts, according to a new study from researchers the state asked to evaluate the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

The finding is one of eight that researchers with the University of Arkansas' School Choice Demonstration Project say demonstrate the "neutral to positive" results of the 20-year-old voucher program.

Other findings, such as the neutral effect on student test scores, were discovered in past years of the study and reaffirmed in the latest findings.

"We haven't found any evidence of harm, and it wasn't for lack of looking," said lead researcher Patrick Wolf, who will be presenting the new research at UW-Madison today.

Erin Richards has more on the Milwaukee voucher program:
A day after the release of state test scores showed voucher-school students in Milwaukee achieving lower levels of reading and math proficiency than students in Milwaukee Public Schools, new data from researchers studying the voucher program's results over multiple years shows those students are doing about the same as MPS students, not worse.

The contradictory report is part of the latest installment of data from a group of researchers at the University of Arkansas who have been tracking a sample of Milwaukee voucher students matched to a set of MPS peers since 2005-'06.

After looking at achievement results on state tests over three years for those matched samples of students, the researchers' data continues to show little difference in academic achievement between both sectors in 2009.

For a matched sample of ninth-grade students in 2005-'06, the researchers found slightly higher graduation rates and college enrollment for voucher students three years later.

....

John F. Witte, a professor of political science and public affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who's involved with research on the five-year study, said the program is justifiable because it gives low-income families more opportunities.

"Some higher-income people are free to switch schools or move their kids out of the city because they have resources, and some people don't have those resources, so the program balances that out," Witte said. "This was never intended to be a silver bullet."

Milwaukee Parental Choice Research information.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Indiana House Passes Broad Voucher Bill

The Indy Channel:

The Indiana House on Wednesday passed what would be the nation's broadest use of school vouchers, allowing even middle-class families to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools. The bill passed the house 56-42.

In an effort to lure House Democrats back from a five-week, self-imposed exile in Illinois, Republicans agreed to reduce the number of vouchers, with a limit of 7,500 the first year and 15,000 the second, 6News' Norman Cox reported.

Still, unlike other systems that are limited to lower-income households, children with special needs or those in failing schools, this one would be open to a much larger pool of students, including those whose parents earn up to $60,000 a year.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:39 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

In School Board races, talk about education scarce

Chuck Sweeney:

A week from today, about 10 percent to 15 percent of the voters will go to the polls and choose three members of the Rockford School Board to help govern the third largest school district in Illinois.

A fourth member, Bob Evans, will be re-elected because the Rockford College professor is unopposed.

We've written reams of copy here at the News Silo about the upcoming election. Our colleagues at WNTA radio and at the television stations have interviewed the candidates on the air. Forums have been held.

A lot of issues have been discussed. Should the board continue to be elected from seven subdistricts or should we pursue legislation at the state level to allow the mayor of Rockford and the Winnebago County Board chairman to appoint some or all of the members? What are the "real" numbers in the ongoing debate about the size of the budget shortfall for the remainder of this school year and the next? Do people trust the superintendent or should we hire a new one?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:29 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Return of the One-Room Schoolhouse

RiShawn Biddle

Even among the nation's woeful traditional big-city school districts, Detroit Public Schools is a particular abomination. Between falling into state receivership for the second time in the past 12 years, facing $327 million in budget deficits for the next four years, wrangling with scandals such as the travails of literacy-bereft now-former school board president Otis Mathis (who resigned last year after the district's superintendent complained that he had engaged in lewd acts during meetings), and constant news about its failure to educate its students, the Motor City district has secured its place as the Superfund site of education.

So it wasn't a surprise when Detroit's state-appointed czar, Robert Bobb, announced on March 12 that the district would slash its deficit -- and eliminate as much as $99 million in costs from operating its bureaucracy -- by getting rid of 29 percent of the 142 dropout factories and failure mills. But instead of just shutting down the 41 schools (as the district originally planned to do) it would convert them into charter schools, handing off instruction, curriculum, and operations to nonprofits, parents groups, and others interested in running schools.

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School Founder Says Class Size Doesn't Matter

Neal Conan:

Small class size is thought to be a ticket to classroom success. Some states require schools, by law, to limit the number of students assigned to one teacher. But Eva Moskowitz, founder and chief executive of the Success Charter Network, argues that formula doesn't guarantee a good education.

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Obama team opposes Boehner's school vouchers bill

Catalina Camia:

The Obama administration "strongly opposes" a bill championed by House Speaker John Boehner that would revive and expand vouchers for low-income students in the District of Columbia.

The administration's statement stops short of saying President Obama will veto the measure, known as the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act or SOAR.

"Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement," said the Office of Management and Budget statement. "The administration strongly opposes expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and opening it to new students."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:19 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Retired Teachers in California Earn More Than Working Teachers in 28 States

Mike Antonucci:

I came across the most recent summary report for the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) and I thought its pared-down tables and graphs nicely encapsulated the pension situation in the state.

First note that the average annual salary in 2010 for active working educators enrolled in the system was $64,156. The next table states that the average retirement benefit paid out in 2010 was $4,256 per month. That's $51,072 annually. In other words, the average retired teacher in California made more than the average working teacher in 28 states, according to the salary rankings published by NEA.

The final graph in the report provides the big picture. While the value of the pension system's assets has increased fairly steadily over the past nine years, the accrued liabilities have grown non-stop during the same period, leaving the fund at 78% of full coverage. What's more, CalSTRS operated on an assumed annual return of 8 percent. Last year, the pension board lowered that expectation to 7.75 percent, which means projections for the future will show even more of a gap.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

March 30, 2011

Pushout

Several decades ago, the Canadian Army was having a problem with its male recruits. Far too many of them were going Absent WithOut Leave, for various reasons, to various places, for varying amounts of time.

The Army tried giving them punishment laps, kitchen duty, latrine duty, even time in the stockade, but nothing worked--they were still going AWOL.

Finally, someone thought of trying something completely new. They sent the recruit home to his mother, with a note saying he was too immature for Army duty, and would she keep him at home for another year, and then perhaps he could try again. The AWOL problem disappeared.

Something like 50% of new teachers leave the profession within five years, and they don't, for the most part, go home to mother, but they do leave a hole and a problem in filling their shoes back in the schools.

My guess is that no one conducts serious exit interviews with these teachers, who are perfectly free to leave the profession, for personal reasons, to start a different career, or whatever. But I would argue that a significant portion of them, it would be found if there were serious exit interviews conducted, have been virtually pushed out.

People go back and forth arguing whether teaching is a profession or a civil service job like firefighters and police, paid out of municipal taxes.

In general, professionals don't have clients delivered to them, as students are delivered to teachers, and if a client leaves a lawyer for another lawyer the first lawyer does not call his union representative.

For me, one test of whether a teacher is a professional or not is whether she/he can refuse service to someone. Lawyers who are about to try a case in court before a jury can interview potential jurors and they have, I think, two peremptory challenges, which allow them to say: "This potential juror and that potential juror are excused." They can exercise this privilege if there are a couple of people they think would prejudice their case or make it harder to win. They don't have to give any reasons.

A "professional" teacher, on the other hand, is not allowed to look over a class, and say, "This one and that one, I can't teach." Even if what it means is if those students stay in their class they may have to give 60% of their time to controlling them, and have only 40% of their time for the other 27 students. And it is worse than that, because the effort to control disruptive students does not come at one time in the class, but is needed to interrupt the rest of the class any number of times.

Teachers are trained and expected not to think about stuff like that. They are taught and expected to believe that it is their job to accept all comers and exercise their "classroom management skills" without being relieved of the burden of any disruptive student, no matter how much damage that student may do to the education of the other students in the class.

So teachers, for the most part, take all students, and their teaching suffers as a result. They are frustrated in their efforts to offer the best that they have to the majority of their students. And, by the way, it is no secret to the students that the school administration doesn't have enough respect for the teacher's professional work to remove such a student. And we wonder why people don't want to be teachers and don't want their children to be teachers.

Theodore Roosevelt had a guest in the oval office one day, when his daughter Alice came charging through the room screaming. The guest asked the President if he couldn't control her. TR responded that he could control Alice, or he could be President of the United States, but not both. He was a professional and was treated as such.

I blame teachers for not having the courage to say that if I have to keep this student or that student in my class, the education I am able to offer to the other students will be damaged by 60%. If they did say that, of course they would be judged incompetent in classroom management and probably encouraged to leave the profession.

Many too many do leave the profession, and I believe that many of them were literally pushed out through being prevented from doing their best by the unchecked and disregarded misbehavior of some students. I know that every Nobel Prize winner was once a high school student, but so was every rapist and murderer, and students who cannot conduct themselves as they should must not be allowed to ruin the careers of our teachers. Perhaps such students should be sent home to their mothers, but they don't belong in classrooms where important professional academic work is going on.

----------------------

"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
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®
www.tcr.org/blog

Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 9:25 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Sun Prairie Schools' WKCE Results Above State Averages

Scott Beedy, via a kind reader's email:

The 2010 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam results reveal strong academic achievement for students in the Sun Prairie Area School District, according to district officials.

This past November, Sun Prairie administered the WKCE to more than 3,400 students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 10. Students in grades 3 through 8 were assessed in reading and math. Students in grades 4, 8 and 10 were also assessed in language arts, science, social studies and writing.

It is important to note that testing in the fall shows the impact of instruction from the previous school years and just two months at the designated grade level. For example, 6th grade scores reflect proportionately more about the 5th grade program than about the 6th grade program.

Combining all grade levels, 88 percent of Sun Prairie students are proficient or advanced in reading and 86 percent are proficient or advanced in math, according to district officials. The numbers are both an increase from last year.

Much more on the recent WKCE results, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:27 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Professor X Is Back

Scott Jaschik:

In his (anonymous) new book, Professor X describes a scene he witnessed in a departmental office. A frazzled student comes in and wants the secretary to get a message to her professor. The secretary asks the professor's name, and the student turns out to be unaware -- at the midpoint of the semester.

The secretary shows no judgment but proceeds to figure out a way to identify the professor:

"Male or female?"

Female.

"Tall or short?"

Regular,

"Blond or brunette? Light hair, dark hair?"

She has dreads.

By process of elimination, the secretary identifies the instructor and promises to deliver the message. The secretary never smirks -- even after the student leaves. The student is treated with respect. Professor X marvels at the commitment of staffers to helping students at the colleges at which he teaches. "Nowhere are employees friendlier," he writes. "The staffers could not be more accommodating to students who have lost their way in the forests of financial aid or class schedules."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:17 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Transparency: Are the Richest Americans Also the Best Educated?

GOOD and Greg Hubacek:

The latest data from the U.S. Census's American Community Survey paints a fascinating picture of the United States at the county level. We've looked the educational achievement and the median income of the entire nation, to see where people are going to school, where they're earning money, and if there is any correlation.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

School choice expanding as record fine languishes

Associated Press:

A school choice group that pumped millions of dollars into helping get its candidates elected in Ohio, Wisconsin and other states has yet to pay a record $5.2 million fine imposed three years ago by Ohio election officials, according to the state attorney general.

The fine imposed on All Children Matter languishes even as Ohio Gov. John Kasich pushes a $55.5 billion budget proposal that would continue to expand school choice, doubling the number of school vouchers in the state and lifting a cap on community schools.

The Ohio Elections Commission unanimously ruled in 2008 that All Children Matter, headed by former Michigan Republican Chairwoman Betsy DeVos and run out of that state, illegally funneled $870,000 in contributions from its Virginia political action committee to its Ohio affiliate. That violated a $10,000 cap on what Ohio-based political-action committees could accept from any single entity.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:55 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

How to Raise the Status of Teachers

Room for Debate:

Michael J. Petrilli is the executive vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Raising the "status" of teaching is like chasing a mirage: It looks great from a distance but it never seems to materialize. Teachers today are one of the most respected members of our society, according to opinion polls. The growing backlash against perceived "teacher-bashing" in Wisconsin and elsewhere is more testament that Americans like their teachers. So what exactly is the problem the status-boosters are hoping to solve? Raising teachers' self-esteem?

On the other hand, it's true that teaching today is not among the most attractive careers open to talented young people. Making it more attractive is an objective we can do something about.

Today's teacher compensation system is perfectly designed to repel ambitious individuals. We offer mediocre starting salaries, provide meager raises even after hard-earned skills have been gained on the job and backload the most generous benefits (in terms of pensions) toward the end of 30 years of service. More fundamentally, for decades we've prioritized smaller classes over higher teacher pay. If we had kept class sizes constant over the past 50 years, the average teacher today would be making $100,000.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

D.C. to review high rates of erasures on school tests

Marisol Bello and Jack Gillum:

The D.C. State Board of Education will hold a hearing next week on irregularities in standardized test scores, board President Ted Trabue said Monday.

The hearing comes in response to a USA TODAY investigation that found 103 public schools in the nation's capital where tests showed unusually high numbers of answers that had been changed from wrong to right.

"It's disturbing," Trabue said. "You never want to see the system being gamed."
The board is a group of elected officials who advise the state superintendent, the District of Columbia's equivalent to a state education department.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:45 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Mandating Betamax

Jay Greene:

I just returned from the Association for Education Finance and Policy annual conference in Seattle, which was a really fantastic meeting. At the conference I saw Dartmouth economic historian, William Fischel, present a paper on Amish education, extending the work from his great book, Making the Grade, which I have reviewed in Education Next.

Fischel's basic argument is that our educational institutions have largely evolved in response to consumer demands. That is, the consolidation of one-room schoolhouses into larger districts, the development of schools with separate grades, the September to June calendar, and the relatively common curriculum across the country all came into being because families wanted those measures. And in a highly mobile society, even more than a century ago, people often preferred to move to areas with schools that had these desired features. In the competitive market between communities, school districts had to cater to this consumer demand. All of this resulted in a remarkable amount of standardization and uniformity across the country on basic features of K-12 education.

Hearing Fischel's argument made me think about how ill-conceived the nationalization effort led by Gates, Fordham, the AFT, and the US Department of Education really is. Most of the important elements of American education are already standardized. No central government authority had to tell school districts to divide their schools into grades or start in the Fall and end in the Spring. Even details of the curriculum, like teaching long division in 4th grade or Romeo and Juliet in 9th grade, are remarkably consistent from place to place without the national government ordering schools to do so.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:31 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

iPad as Digital Whiteboard

Fraser Speirs:

I want to highlight a fun thing I tried the other day. I don't know why it didn't occur to me before try it, but it worked pretty well.

Long story short, the whiteboards in my classroom are worn out. They're impossible to wipe without spraying enough whiteboard cleaner to get an elephant high. Not a good situation.

With my new AV system in hand and an iPad 2, I figured out that I could probably put something together that looks like a digital whiteboard.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Freshmen Ineligibility: An Old-but-Wise Approach to Improving Academics in College Basketball

Maggie Severns:


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ushered in the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament earlier this month with an op-ed in The Washington Post arguing that schools should only qualify for post-season play if they are on track to graduate at least 40 percent of their players.

The argument by Duncan, who is a basketball player and fan himself, has been made by many critics, including the Knight Commission for Intercollegiate Athletics, which proposed restricting participation to only those programs that graduated more than half of their players. And rightfully so: men's college basketball does a poor job of graduating its players, with 10 of the original 68 teams in the tournament not meeting the "50 percent" benchmark this year. This leaves players who don't go professional -- the vast majority of them -- without the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the real world. Many sportswriters and fans, on the other hand, think that Duncan's viewpoint is out of touch --and that critics of NCAA basketball and football need to come to grips with the fact that, for many athletes who play for hugely popular athletics programs, the sport is simply more important than the degree.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:14 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Multiculturalism and the politics of bad memories

Markha Valenta:

'Multiculturalism' entails society offering a full range of prospects, membership, and respect to all its members - regardless of cultural and religious differences -while also creatively accommodating them in a fashion that is both morally persuasive and practically effective for the majority of society. Has Europe ever tried it?

You always know something is up when the leaders of Germany, France and Britain are in happy agreement. Their most recent cheery confabulation is that multiculturalism in Europe has been a failure. In quick succession first Merkel, then Cameron, then Sarkozy seized the limelight and declared diversity's demise. They stated this as a truism rather than as an argument. Equally striking is that these political leaders seem more relieved than troubled: as if, for a while, western Europe had lost its bearings but now is regaining them. Diversity is out, they seem to say, and common sense back in.

But of course, given the diversity of our societies, it is diversity that is common sense.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:08 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin State Budget Hearings

Laura Chern, via email:

The Joint Committee on Finance is required to get input on the proposed budget at a series of hearing around the state. Let legislators and the governor know how you feel about the $1 billion in cuts to public education by attending a hearing. Here is a link to the hearing schedule:
http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/jfc/schedule.htm
2011-13 Summary of Governor's Budget Recommendations (SB27/AB 40).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:06 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin Schools Told to Wait on Contracts

Scott Bauer:

The Wisconsin school board association on Monday urged districts that have not reached new deals with teachers' unions to hold off given the uncertainty over whether a new law removing nearly all collective bargaining rights is in effect.

Many school districts, counties and municipalities have been rushing to reach deals before the law that takes away all bargaining rights except over base salary kicks in.

Republican lawmakers pushed through passage of the law earlier this month despite massive protests that drew up to 85,000 people to the state Capitol and a boycott by Democratic state senators. Opponents immediately filed a series of lawsuits, and a hearing on one was scheduled Tuesday. The judge in that case had issued a restraining order barring Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the law, typically the last step before it takes effect.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:02 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

March 29, 2011

Caire, Nerad & Passman Wisconsin Senate Bill 22 (SB 22) Testimony Regarding Charter School Governance Changes

Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire 13mb .mp3 audio file. Notes and links on the Urban League's proposed IB Charter school: Madison Preparatory Academy. Caire spoke in favor of SB 22.

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad 5mb .mp3 audio file. Nerad spoke in opposition to SB 22.

Madison School Board Member Marj Passman 5mb .mp3 audio file. Passman spoke in opposition to SB 22.

Much more on SB 22 here.

Well worth listening to. Watch the hearing here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:17 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

What cuts? Madison schools OK

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Alarmists in Madison suggest Gov. Scott Walker's state budget proposal will decimate public education.

But Superintendent Dan Nerad's proposed 2011-2012 budget for Madison School District tells a different story.

Under Nerad's plan, unveiled late last week, the Madison district would:

That's not to suggest Madison schools are flush with money. Gov. Walker, after all, is trying to balance a giant state budget deficit without raising taxes or pushing the problem further down the road. Walker has proposed cuts to most state programs, including aid to public schools.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Milwaukee Voucher School WKCE Headlines: "Students in Milwaukee voucher program didn't perform better in state tests", "Test results show choice schools perform worse than public schools", "Choice schools not outperforming MPS"; Spend 50% Less Per Student

Erin Richards and Amy Hetzner

Latest tests show voucher scores about same or worse in math and reading.

Students in Milwaukee's school choice program performed worse than or about the same as students in Milwaukee Public Schools in math and reading on the latest statewide test, according to results released Tuesday that provided the first apples-to-apples achievement comparison between public and individual voucher schools.

The scores released by the state Department of Public Instruction cast a shadow on the overall quality of the 21-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which was intended to improve results for poor city children in failing public schools by allowing them to attend higher-performing private schools with publicly funded vouchers. The scores also raise concerns about Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to roll back the mandate that voucher schools participate in the current state test.

Voucher-school advocates counter that legislation that required administration of the state test should have been applied only once the new version of the test that's in the works was rolled out. They also say that the latest test scores are an incomplete measure of voucher-school performance because they don't show the progress those schools are making with a difficult population of students over time.

Statewide, results from the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam show that scores didn't vary much from last year. The percentage of students who scored proficient or better was higher in reading, science and social studies but lower in mathematics and language arts from the year before.

Susan Troller:
Great. Now Milwaukee has TWO failing taxpayer-financed school systems when it comes to educating low income kids (and that's 89 per cent of the total population of Milwaukee Public Schools).

Statewide test results released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction include for the first time performance data from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which involves about 110 schools serving around 10,000 students. There's a total population of around 80,000 students in Milwaukee's school district.

The numbers for the voucher schools don't look good. But the numbers for the conventional public schools in Milwaukee are very poor, as well.

In a bit of good news, around the rest of the state student test scores in every demographic group have improved over the last six years, and the achievment gap is narrowing.

But the picture in Milwaukee remains bleak.

Matthew DeFour:
The test results show the percentage of students participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program who scored proficient or advanced was 34.4 percent for math and 55.2 percent for reading.

Among Milwaukee Public Schools students, it was 47.8 percent in math and 59 percent in reading. Among Milwaukee Public Schools students coming from families making 185 percent of the federal poverty level -- a slightly better comparison because voucher students come from families making no more than 175 percent -- it was 43.9 percent in math and 55.3 percent in reading.

Statewide, the figures were 77.2 percent in math and 83 percent in reading. Among all low-income students in the state, it was 63.2 percent in math and 71.7 percent in reading.

Democrats said the results are evidence that the voucher program is not working. Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, the top Democrat on the Assembly Education Committee, said voucher students, parents and taxpayers are being "bamboozled."

"The fact that we've spent well over $1 billion on a failed experiment leads me to believe we have no business spending $22 million to expand it with these kinds of results," Pope-Roberts said. "It's irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and a disservice to Milwaukee students."

Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who is developing a proposal to expand the voucher program to other cities, took a more optimistic view of the results.

"Obviously opponents see the glass half-empty," Vos said. "I see the glass half-full. Children in the school choice program do the same as the children in public school but at half the cost."

Only DeFour's article noted that voucher schools spend roughly half the amount per student compared to traditional public schools. Per student spending was discussed extensively during last evening's planning grant approval (The vote was 6-1 with Marj Passman voting No while Maya Cole, James Howard, Ed Hughes, Lucy Mathiak, Beth Moss and Arlene Silveira voted yes) for the Urban League's proposed Charter IB School: The Madison Preparatory Academy.

The Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination (WKCE) has long been criticized for its lack of rigor. Wisconsin DPI WKCE data.

Yin and Yang: Jay Bullock and Christian D'Andrea.

Related: "Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum".

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:29 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Racial achievement gap narrows state-wide, but remains a problem in Madison

Matthew DeFour:

Statewide the gap between the percentage of white and black students scoring proficient or advanced closed 6.8 percentage points in math and 3.9 points in reading between 2005-06 and this year. Comparing white students to Hispanics, the gap closed 5.7 points in math and 3.7 points in reading.

In Madison the gap between white and black students closed 0.4 percentage points in math and 0.6 points in reading. Among Hispanics, the gap increased half a point in math and decreased 1 point in reading.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad was unavailable to comment Monday on the results.

The Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination (WKCE) has long been criticized for its lack of rigor.

Related: "Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum".

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ALO versus Differentiated Teaching

Melissa Westbrook:

A thread was requested about ALOs (Advanced Learning Opportunities, the third tier of the Advanced Learning program) and differentiated teaching. Differentiated teaching is a teacher knowing his/her students' strengths, challenges and readiness and being able to adjust teaching to the different levels in the classroom. (This doesn't necessarily mean teaching to every single student's level but rather knowing that there are different abilities in the classroom and trying to meet those needs.)

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Teachers' union sues MIddleton-Cross Plains school district

Gena Kittner:

The union representing teachers in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District sued the district Monday over their collective bargaining negotiations.

According to the complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court, the union said the district "bargained in bad faith" and proposed non-negotiable contract changes including removal of just cause for discipline and discharge, total district discretion of work hours, elimination of seniority protections, elimination of fair share union dues, modifications/freezes on salary schedules and elimination of compensatory time off.

The district also proposed, according to the complaint, that the School Board be the final step in the grievance procedure as opposed to having a third-party arbitrator as the current agreement states.

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Philadelphia School Violence Searchable Database

The Philadelphia Inquirer. Related: Police calls near local Madison High Schools: 1996-2006.

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'Value-added' teacher evaluations: Los Angeles Unified tackles a tough formula

Teresa Watanabe:

In Houston, school district officials introduced a test score-based evaluation system to determine teacher bonuses, then -- in the face of massive protests -- jettisoned the formula after one year to devise a better one.

In New York, teachers union officials are fighting the public release of ratings for more than 12,000 teachers, arguing that the estimates can be drastically wrong.

Despite such controversies, Los Angeles school district leaders are poised to plunge ahead with their own confidential "value-added" ratings this spring, saying the approach is far more objective and accurate than any other evaluation tool available.

"We are not questing for perfect," said L.A. Unified's incoming Supt. John Deasy. "We are questing for much better."

Much more on "Value Added Assessment", here.

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Yin & Yang on Voucher Schools

Margaret Farrow:

School choice opponent Barbara Miner says that Wisconsin legislators should "just say no" to Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to expand educational options for Milwaukee parents (Crossroads, March 13).

My advice to legislators?

Just say yes.

Those who do will have Milwaukee residents, especially Milwaukee parents, on their side.

In a recent poll, Milwaukeeans rate the 20-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program successful by a two-to-one margin (60%-28%). The results cut across racial and economic lines and extend even to households without school-age children.

Parents are especially enthusiastic. Two-thirds say the program is successful, and 64% endorse expansion.

There is good reason for their support. Students in Milwaukee's school choice program graduate from high school at rates 18% higher than Milwaukee Public Schools students, according to estimates by University of Minnesota professor John Robert Warren.

Barbara Miner:
Memo to all Wisconsin legislators. There is an easy way to prove you care about public education in Wisconsin. And it won't cost a penny.

Just say no to Gov. Scott Walker's proposed expansion of the Milwaukee voucher program providing tax dollars to private schools.

This may seem merely like a Milwaukee issue. It's not. Voucher advocates have made clear for more than 20 years that their goal is to replace public education with a system of universal vouchers that includes private and religious schools.

The heartbreaking drama currently playing in Milwaukee - millions of dollars cut from the public schools while vouchers are expanded so wealthy families can attend private schools in the suburbs - may be coming soon to a school district near you.

For those who worry about taxation without representation, vouchers should send shivers down your spine. Voucher schools are defined as private even though subsidized by taxpayers.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:37 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

College daze: The insanity of the application process

George Will:

For many families, this is March madness -- the moment of high anxiety concerning higher education as many colleges announce their admittance decisions. It is the culmination of a protracted mating dance between selective institutions and anxious students. Part agony, part situation comedy, it has provoked Andrew Ferguson to write a laugh-until-your-ribs-squeak book -- "Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid into College."

He begins in Greenwich, Conn. -- a hedge fund habitat -- watching Katherine Cohen, an "independent college admissions counselor," market her $40,000 "platinum package" of strategies for bewitching Ivy League admissions officers. "Everyone in the room," writes Ferguson, "was on full alert, with that feral look of parental ambition. They swiveled their tail-gunning eyes toward Kat when she was introduced." Kat introduced them to terror:

"There are 36,000 high schools in this country. That means there are at least 36,000 valedictorians. They can't all go to Brown. You could take the 'deny pile' of applications and make two more classes that were every bit as solid as the class that gets in."

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Bill bans trans fats in schools

Associated Press:

A bill that would ban trans fats in Nevada public schools got support from health advocates and some mild opposition from administrators who don't want to be food police.

A Senate committee on Friday heard Senate Bill 230, which bans trans fats from vending machines, student stores, and school activities. The current bill version exempts school lunches, but pending rules through the national school lunch program would ban trans fats there, too.

Trans fats raise levels of harmful cholesterol and decrease levels of healthy cholesterol. They are common in processed snack foods, fried foods and baked goods.

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Charter, Shmarter

New Jersey Left Behind:

Michael Winerip in today's New York Times channels Diane Ravitch:
There is a quiet but fierce battle going on in education today, between the unions that represent the public school teachers and the hedge-fund managers who finance the big charter chains, between those who trust teachers to assess a child's progress and those who trust standardized tests, and occasionally it flares out into the open over something as seemingly minor as the location of a school.
Ooh, those greedy hedge fund managers.

There are plenty of fierce battles in education today, some not so quiet, but I'm not sure the assignation of space in this Washington Heights neighborhood is one of them. Winerip describes two candidates for the space in question, one a traditional public school to be called Castle Bridge, which defines its mission as a non-reliance on standardized testing to gauge student learning, and the other a KIPP academy, with a well-proven track record of excellence.

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March 28, 2011

Ed Hughes, Beth Moss and Maya Cole: Cieslewicz forged good partnership with schools

Ed Hughes, Beth Moss and Maya Cole

As members of the Madison School Board, we appreciate that Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's vision for the future recognizes that strong Madison public schools are vital to a growing and vibrant community.

Whether it's been working together to establish the Meadowood Community Center, devoting city funds to improving safe routes for walking and biking to our schools or helping to plan for our new 4-year-old kindergarten program, the city under Cieslewicz's leadership has forged a strong and productive partnership with the school district.

We look forward to continuing our work with Mayor Dave on smart and effective responses to the challenges that lie ahead for our schools and our city.

Ed Hughes, Beth Moss and Maya Cole, members, Madison School Board

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IMPORTANT SCHOOL BOARD MEETING: Madison Board of Education to Vote on Madison Prep Planning Grant!

Kaleem Caire, via email:

March 28, 2011

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

In 30 minutes, our team and the public supporting us will stand before the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education to learn if they will support our efforts to secure a charter planning grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men.

For those who still do not believe that Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men is a cause worthy of investment, let's look at some reasons why it is. The following data was provided by the Madison Metropolitan School District to the Urban League of Greater Madison in September 2010.

Lowest Graduation Rates:

  • In 2009, just 52% of Black males and 52% of Latino males graduated on-time from the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) compared to 81% of Asian males and 88% of White males.
Lowest Reading Proficiency:
  • In 2010, just 45% of Black, 49% of Hispanic, and 59% of Asian males in 10th grade in the MMSD were proficient in reading compared to 87% of White males.
Largest ACT Performance Gap:
  • Just 7% of Black and 18% of Latino seniors in the MMSD who completed the ACT college entrance exam were "college ready" according to the test maker. Put another way, a staggering 93% of Black and 82% of Latino seniors were identified as "not ready" for college. Wisconsin persistently has the largest gap in ACT performance between Black and White students in the nation every year.
Children Grossly Underprepared for College:
  • Of the 76 Black seniors enrolled in MMSD in 2010 who completed the ACT college entrance exam required by Wisconsin public universities for admission consideration, just 5 students (7%) were truly ready for college. Of the 71 Latino students who completed the ACT, just 13 students (18%) were ready for college compared to 403 White seniors who were ready.
  • Looking at it another way, in 2010, there were 378 Black 12th graders enrolled in MMSD high schools. Just 20% of Black seniors and completed the ACT and only 5 were determined to be college ready as state above. So overall, assuming completion of the ACT is a sign of students' intention and readiness to attend college, only 1.3% of Black 12th graders were ready for college compared to 36% of White 12th graders.
Not Enrolled or Succeeding in College Preparatory Courses:
  • High percentages of Black high school students are completing algebra in the 9th grade but only half are succeeding with a grade of C or better. In 2009-10, 82% of Black 9th graders attending MMSD's four comprehensive high schools took algebra; 42% of those taking the class received a C or better compared to 55% of Latino and 74% of White students.
  • Just 7% of Black and 17% of Latino 10th graders attending MMSD's four comprehensive high schools who completed geometry in 10th grade earned a grade of C or better compared to 35% of Asian and 56% of White students.
  • Just 13% of Black and 20% of Latino 12th graders in the class of 2010 completed at least two or more Advanced Literature courses with a grade of C or better compared to 40% of White and 43% of Asian students.
  • Just 18% of Black and 26% of Latino 12th graders in the class of 2010 completed at least two or more Advanced Writing courses with a grade of C or better compared to 45% of White and 59% of Asian students.
  • Just 20% of Black 12th graders in the class of 2010 completed 2 or more credits of a Single Foreign Language with a grade of C or better compared to 34% of Latino, 69% of White and 59% of Asian students.
  • Just 33% of Black students took Honors, Advanced and/or AP courses in 2009-10 compared to and 46% of Latino, 72% of White and 70% of Asian students.
  • Just 25% of Black students who took Honors, Advanced and/or AP courses earned a C or better grade in 2009-10 compared to 38% of Latino, 68% of White and 64% of Asian students.
Extraordinarily High Special Education Placements:
  • Black students are grossly over-represented in special education in the MMSD. In 2009-10, Black students made up just 24% of the school system student enrollment but were referred to special education at twice that rate.
  • Among young men attending MMSD's 11 middle schools in 2009-10, 39% of Black males were assigned to special education compared to 18% of Hispanic, 12% of Asian and 17% of White males. MMSD has been cited by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for disparities in assigning African American males to special education. The full chart is attached.
  • Of all students being treated for Autism in MMSD, 14% are Black and 70% are White. Of all Black students labeled autistic, 77% are males.
  • Of all students labeled cognitively disabled, 46% are Black and 35% are White. Of all Black students labeled CD, 53% are males.
  • Of all students labeled emotionally disabled, 55% are Black and 35% are White. Of the Black students labeled ED, 70% are males.
  • Of all students labeled learning disabled, 49% are Black and 35% are White. Of the Black students labeled LD, 57% are males.
Black students are Disproportionately Subjected to School Discipline:
  • Black students make up a disproportionate percentage of students who are suspended from school. Only Black students are over represented among suspension cases.
  • In 2009-10, MMSD levied 2,754 suspensions against Black students: 920 to Black girls and 1,834 to Black boys. While Black students made up 24% of the total student enrollment (n=5,370), they accounted for 72% of suspensions district-wide.
  • Suspension rates among Black children in MMSD have barely changed in nearly 20 years. In 1992-93, MMSD levied 1,959 suspensions against a total of 3,325 Black students. This equaled 58.9% of the total black enrollment in the district compared to 1,877 suspensions against a total of 18,346 (or 10.2%) white students [Dual Education in the Madison Metropolitan School District, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, February 1994, Vol. 7, No. 2].
  • Black males were missed a total of 2,709 days of school during the 2009-10 school year due to suspension.
  • Additionally, 20 Black students were expelled from the MMSD in 2009-10 compared to 8 White students in the same year.The Urban League of Greater Madison his offering MMSD a viable solution to better prepare young men of color for college and beyond. We look forward to making this solution a reality in the next 18 months.

    Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men 2012!

    Onward!

    Kaleem Caire
    President & CEO
    Urban League of Greater Madison
    Main: 608-729-1200
    Assistant: 608-729-1249
    Fax: 608-729-1205
    Website: www.ulgm.org
  • Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy Charter school.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:17 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Appeals court sides with Seattle schools over math text choice

    Katherine Long:

    The Washington State Court of Appeals has reversed an earlier decision in King County Superior Court that found Seattle's choice of a new high-school math series was arbitrary and capricious.

    The appellate court found no basis for the Superior Court's conclusion in February 2010 that the Seattle School board "was willful and unreasoning in coming to its decision" when it chose the Discovering Math series of textbooks for algebra and geometry in high school math.

    The school district has been using the series since the start of the 2009 school year.

    Some parents have criticized the Discovering Math series, saying it is inferior to other series and that its emphasis on verbal descriptions makes it difficult for some students to understand, especially those for whom English is a second language.

    Much more on the Seattle Discovery Math lawsuit, here.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:59 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Corbett's vision for Pennsylvania schools: His plan includes voter approval of budgets.

    Dan Hardy:

    When it comes to changing public education in Pennsylvania, Gov. Corbett's proposed billion-dollar funding cut to school districts this year could be just the beginning.

    The governor also is pushing a legislative agenda that could significantly affect the way children are taught, the teachers who instruct them, and how schools craft their budgets.

    One proposal that many suburban school boards fear and many taxpayers relish calls for voter approval of proposed district budgets when tax increases exceed inflation. If this were in effect now, more than 80 percent of the districts in Philadelphia's suburbs probably would have to vote.

    Other Corbett initiatives would:

    Give school boards, for the first time, a free hand to lay off teachers to cut costs, with the decider in the furloughs being classroom performance, not seniority.

    Create vouchers providing state funding so low-income children in struggling schools could transfer to private ones. The role of charter schools would also be expanded.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:17 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Audience Participation

    I remember once, in the early 1980s, when I was teaching at the high school in Concord, Massachusetts, I visited a class in European History taught by my most senior colleague, a man with a rich background in history and many years of teaching.

    He presented a lot of historical material in that class period, interlaced with interesting historical stories and anecdotes which the students seemed to enjoy. While I envied him for his knowledge and experience, I began to notice that the students were, for the most part at least, laid back and simply being entertained.

    They were not being asked to answer challenging questions on the material, or demonstrate the knowledge they had gathered from their homework or outside reading in history, or, in fact, do anything except sit there and be entertained.

    This was before the IPod, IPhone, IPad or laptops appeared in classrooms, so no one was texting anyone, but I did see that a few students were not even being bothered enough to be entertained. Here was this fine, educated instructor offering them European history and they were just not paying attention.

    I understand that high school classes are only partly voluntary, that if students want a high school diploma they have to take some courses, and history is generally less demanding than calculus, chemistry or physics.

    Nevertheless it stayed with me that there was so little "audience participation" from these Juniors and Seniors. I couldn't see that any of them felt much obligation, or opportunity really, to do the work or take part in the class.

    Perhaps the teacher was trying to entertain them because a junior colleague was visiting the class, but I don't think that was it. I think that good teacher, like so many of us, and so many of his colleagues to this day, had bought the idea that it was his job to entertain them, rather than to demand that they work hard to learn history for themselves.

    He told good stories, but the students said nothing. They, too, had adopted the notion that a "good" teacher would keep them entertained with the absolute minimum of effort on their part, as though it was the teacher's responsibility to "make learning happen," as it were, to them.

    The memory of this classroom visit comes back to me as I see so many people in and out of education these days, talk about selecting, monitoring, controlling, and, if necessary removing, teachers who are not sufficiently entertaining, who do not "make students learn" whether they want to or are wiling to work on it themselves or not.

    As a high school student in Pennsylvania recently commented, "It's a teacher's job to motivate students." Of course, football and basketball coaches are expected to motivate their athletes as well, but not while those athletes do nothing but sit in the stands and watch the coach do "his thing." They are expected to take part, to work hard, to get themselves into condition and to carry their load in the enterprise of sports.

    A sports clothing store near me sells sweatshirts which say; "Work all Summer, Win all Fall." I confirmed with the store owner, a part-time high school football coach, that "Work" in this case does not mean get a summer job and save some money. Rather, it means run, lift weights and generally put time in on their physical fitness so that they will be in shape to play sports in the Fall.

    I do not know of any equivalent sweatshirt for high school academics: "Study all Summer, Get Good Grades all Fall." I don't think there is one, and I think the reason is, in part, that so many of us, including too many teachers, have decided that teachers are the ones who need to work on, and take responsibility for, student academic learning. Their job goes way beyond the coaches' task of motivating young athletes who "Work all Summer" and come expecting to give it their all in the Fall.

    Those who keep saying that the most important variable in student academic achievement is teacher quality simply conspire with all those others, including too many students, who support the idea that academic work and student learning are the teachers' problem, and not one in which the students have a major share. Of course teachers who are forced out of teaching because their students don't do any academic work suffer, but we should also be concerned with the consequences for so many of our students who have been led down the primrose path of believing that school is not their primary job at which they also must work hard.

    -------------------

    "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
    www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
    Varsity Academics®
    www.tcr.org/blog

    Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 8:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    'Education was the main thing'

    Mark Lett:

    Richard Riley worked the levers of politics, government and education for more than a half-century by giving respect, taking advice, setting expectations, staying focused and never giving up.
    Most of all, he never gave up.

    As it turned out, Riley did it right. His career has been as successful as it has been tenacious. Now 79 and living and working in his hometown of Greenville, Riley:

    Mobilized support to overwhelm anti-tax sentiment and pass a tax increase for public education in 1984, producing what Southern historian Walter Edgar called "one of the most important pieces of education legislation ever passed in South Carolina."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:23 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Misplaced Priorities At a Session on Chicago Schools

    James Warren:

    Terry Mazany, interim chief of Chicago Public Schools, was like a baseball manager beckoning a star relief pitcher an inning early to hold a lead. Rather than Mariano Rivera, he waved in Kate Maehr to last week's Board of Education meeting.

    He had opened an ultimately melancholy session dominated by budget woes by suddenly and without explanation defending the Breakfast in the Classroom program, quietly pushed through in January.

    The defense was due partly to an earlier mention in this column that generated lots of "Huh, are they serious?" responses among parents and others, according to board officials. The program mandates that the first instructional class open with pupils having breakfast at their desks, even at schools already offering pre-class breakfast.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:24 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Discussion of Kansas ed spending ignites at public forum

    Michael Strand:

    Everybody knows education is expensive, but exactly how expensive depends on what you want to count.

    And a difference of opinion over that issue led to a few tense moments at Saturday mornings's legislative forum in Salina.

    Ken Kennedy, director of operations for the Salina School District, asked local lawmakers the final question of the forum, asking whether lawmakers had suggestions for what spending districts should cut, and how soon they'll know how much money they're getting for the 2011-12 school year.

    Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, fielded the question first, saying it would likely be May before the Legislature passes a final budget -- and that more cuts are likely.

    "It's clear the trend has been down," Brungardt said, adding that after accounting for inflation, school districts now have about the same funding as in 1990.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:44 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Cost of borrowing to send child to a for-profit college may be too high

    Dear Liz: My son will be going to a for-profit technical school about 120 miles away from home. Unfortunately, we have not saved any money for his college education. What are our best options for borrowing to pay for his college education, which will cost about $92,000 for four years? He is not eligible for any financial aid other than federal student loans. Our daughter will graduate debt free with her bachelor's degree in December. Since we concentrated on her education first, our son kind of got left behind.

    Answer: Please rethink this plan, because your family probably cannot afford this education.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:42 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    New L.A. schools chief to take lower pay: $275,000

    Jason Song:

    The incoming Los Angeles schools superintendent told the Board of Education on Saturday to withhold part of his $330,000 salary because of serious projected budget shortfalls.

    In an email to his bosses, John Deasy said he had been meeting with employees to explain potential budget-cutting scenarios. Last month, the board approved sending preliminary layoff notices to almost 7,000 teachers.

    "All of our work and plans for restoration are in serious peril," Deasy wrote. "This is remarkably painful and emotional. As such, given our current circumstances, at this time I respectfully will not accept the salary offered in your contract."

    Deasy will not forgo his entire salary but will instead keep receiving the pay -- $275,000 -- he has been getting as deputy superintendent. The $55,000 difference represents a nearly 17% reduction.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    It's back to the basics in Milwaukee schools: evidence-based approach to improving literacy teaching and learning across all schools and classrooms

    Heidi Ramirez:

    The district has focused reading instruction and has launched an intensive effort aimed at boosting dismal outcomes. The MPS chief academic officer asks: Will we be given enough time?

    Walk in many Milwaukee Public Schools classrooms today, and here's what you're likely to see:

    There will be a teacher sitting at a table in a corner, guiding a handful of young readers or writers in targeted instruction. The other students, whether they be 4-year-olds or teenagers, will be actively engaged in small group work.

    What you're not likely to see: a teacher holding court at the center of the room of mostly silent children, heads down on tables or blank stares on their faces.

    As the district's new literacy effort takes hold, our students increasingly work in small groups at hands-on literacy stations set up around the room. Students, who otherwise would have had to wait for their teacher to pause and for their turn to speak, are instead guiding their own practice and that of their peers.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:33 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Atlanta Public Schools underfunded its pension plan

    Russell Grantham:

    Beset by scandal over irregularities in test scores, Atlanta Public Schools has another, longer-running scandal on its hands: The district has underfunded its pension for custodians, bus drivers and cooks by more than a half-billion dollars.

    APS has the worst underfunding of any large public pension plan in the state, according to a recent state audit. While it is generally agreed that, at any given time, a pension plan should contain 80 percent to 90 percent of the money it is obligated to pay out, APS has assets to cover just 17.4 percent of its pension promises.

    The Jan. 1 report by the state Audits and Accounts Department found that pensions run by Georgia's cities, counties and other local governments are under water by almost $4.5 billion. Three plans run by the city of Atlanta, plus the APS plan, accounted for nearly 40 percent of the deficit statewide.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:18 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    A Mentor's Goal: Keeping At-Risk Chicago Teens Alive

    David Schaper:

    In Chicago last school year, 245 public school students were shot, 27 of them fatally.

    It's a high toll. To try to find out who might be next, Chicago Public School officials developed a probability model by analyzing the traits of 500 shooting victims over a recent two-year period. They noted that the vast majority were poor, black and male, and had chronic absences, bad grades and serious misconduct.

    Using this probability model, they identified more than 200 teenagers who have a shockingly good chance of being shot -- a better than 1 in 5 chance within the next two years.

    Project Director Jonathan Moy says the probability model isn't perfect, but it's working.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:16 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 27, 2011

    Milwaukee could become first American city to use universal vouchers for education

    Alan Borsuk:

    Milwaukee's private school voucher program has broken new and controversial ground often in its 21-year history. Now, it is headed toward what might well be another amazing national first.

    If Gov. Scott Walker and leading voucher advocates prevail, Milwaukee will become the first city in American history where any child, regardless of income, can go to a private school, including a religious school, using public money to pay the bill.

    Universal vouchers have been a concept favored by many free-market economists and libertarians since they were suggested by famed economist Milton Friedman more than half a century ago. Friedman's theory was that if all parents could apply their fair share of public money for educating their children at whatever school they thought best, their choices would drive educational quality higher.

    Coming soon (fairly likely): Milwaukee as the biggest testing ground of Friedman's idea.

    But not only is it hard to figure out what to say about the future of vouchers, it's not easy to know what to say about the past of Milwaukee's 21-year-old program of vouchers limited to low-income students except that it has been popular (more than 20,000 students using vouchers this year to attend more than 100 private schools) and there is not much of a case (except in some specific schools) that it has driven quality higher, both when it comes to many of the private schools specifically and when it comes to the educational waterfront of Milwaukee.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:41 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Madison School District Proposes a 3.2% Property Tax Increase for the 2011-2012 Budget

    Matthew DeFour:

    Madison teachers wouldn't pay anything toward their health insurance premiums next year and property taxes would decline $2 million under Superintendent Dan Nerad's 2011-12 budget proposal.

    The $359 million proposal, a 0.01 percent increase over this year, required the closing of a $24.5 million gap between district's estimated expenses from January and the expenditures allowed under Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget, Nerad said.

    Nerad proposes collecting $243 million in property taxes, down from $245 million this year. Because of an estimated drop in property value, the budget would mean a $90 increase on an average Madison home, down from $170 this year. That amount may decrease once the city releases an updated average home estimate for next year.

    Related taxbase articles:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education 'group think' gets in the way of teaching kids to read

    Dick Lilly, via a kind reader's email:

    School administrators should end their obsession with average test scores and focus instead on an absolute standard: Can each child actually read?

    For more than two decades now, the Seattle school district has been telling us that its most important goal is "closing the achievement gap." Nevertheless, it is not unfair to say that only incremental progress has been made.

    Seattle, as everyone knows, is not alone. "Closing the achievement gap" has come to stand for the perennial problems of American K-12 education -- though the inability of high schools to graduate more than two-thirds of their students has been running a close second.

    Among the results of this frustratingly persistent problem is a vast, energetic industry of school reform, headlined in recent years by the involvement of powerful private foundations and the policy directives of the federal government: "No Child Left Behind" in the "Race to the Top."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:10 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    PLEASE JOIN US MONDAY! Madison Board of Education to Vote on Madison Prep; costs clarified



    March 25, 2011

    Dear Friends & Colleagues,

    On Monday evening, March 28, 2011 at 6pm, the Madison Metropolitan School District's (MMSD) Board of Education will meet to vote on whether or not to support the Urban League's submission of a $225,000 charter school planning grant to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. This grant is essential to the development of Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men, an all-male 6th - 12th grade public charter school.

    Given the promise of our proposal, the magnitude of longstanding achievement gaps in MMSD, and the need for adequate time to prepare our final proposal for Madison Prep, we have requested full support from the school board.

    Monday's Board meeting will take place at the Doyle Administration Building (545 West Dayton Street) next to the Kohl Center. We hope you will come out to support Madison Prep as this will be a critical vote to keep the Madison Prep proposal moving forward. Please let us know if you'll be attending by clicking here. If you wish to speak, please arrive at 5:45pm to register.

    Prior to you attending, we want to clarify misconceptions about the costs of Madison Prep.

    The REAL Costs versus the Perceived Costs of Madison Prep

    Recent headlines in the Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ) reported that Madison Prep is "less likely" to be approved because of the size of the school's projected budget. The article implied that Madison Prep will somehow cost the district more than it currently spends to educate children. This, in fact, is not accurate. We are requesting $14,476 per student for Madison Prep's first year of operation, 2012-2013, which is less than the $14,802 per pupil that MMSD informed us it spends now. During its fifth year of operation, Madison Prep's requested payment from MMSD drops to $13,395, which is $1,500 less per student than what the district says it spends now. Madison Prep will likely be even more of a savings to the school district by the fifth year of operation given that the district's spending increases every year.

    A March 14, 2011 memo prepared by MMSD Superintendent Daniel Nerad and submitted to the Board reflects the Urban League's funding requests noted above. This memo also shows that the administration would transfer just $5,541 per student - $664,925 in total for all 120 students - to Madison Prep in 2012-2013, despite the fact that the district is currently spending $14,802 per pupil. Even though it will not be educating the 120 young men Madison Prep will serve, MMSD is proposing that it needs to keep $8,935 per Madison Prep student.



    Therefore, the Urban League stands by its request for equitable and fair funding of $14,476 per student, which is less than the $14,802 MMSD's administration have told us they spend on each student now. As Madison Prep achieves economies of scale, reaches its full enrollment of 420 sixth through twelfth graders, and graduates its first class of seniors in 2017-18, it will cost MMSD much less than what it spends now. A cost comparison between Madison Prep, which will enroll both middle and high school students at full enrollment, and MMSD's Toki Middle School illustrates this point.



    We have also attached four one-page documents that we prepared for the Board of Education. These documents summarize key points on several issues about which they have expressed questions.

    We look forward to seeing you!

    Onward!



    Kaleem Caire
    President & CEO
    Urban League of Greater Madison
    Main: 608-729-1200
    Assistant: 608-729-1249
    Fax: 608-729-1205
    Website: www.ulgm.org



    Kaleem Caire, via email.

    Madison Preparatory Academy Brochure (PDF): English & Spanish.

    DPI Planning Grant Application: Key Points and Modifications.

    Update: Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes: What To Do About Madison Prep:

    In order to maintain Madison Prep, the school district would have to find these amounts somewhere in our budget or else raise property taxes to cover the expenditures. I am not willing to take money away from our other schools in order to fund Madison Prep. I have been willing to consider raising property taxes to come up with the requested amounts, if that seemed to be the will of the community. However, the draconian spending limits the governor seeks to impose on school districts through the budget bill may render that approach impossible. Even if we wanted to, we likely would be barred from increasing property taxes in order to raise an amount equal to the net cost to the school district of the Madison Prep proposal.

    This certainly wouldn't be the first time that budgetary considerations prevent us from investing in promising approaches to increasing student achievement. For example, one component of the Madison Prep proposal is a longer school year. I'm in favor. One way the school district has pursued this concept has been by looking at our summer school model and considering improvements. A good, promising plan has been developed. Sadly, we likely will not be in a position to implement its recommendations because they cost money we don't have and can't raise under the Governor's budget proposal.

    Similarly, Madison Prep proposes matching students with mentors from the community who will help the students dream bigger dreams. Effective use of mentors is also a key component of the AVID program, which is now in all our high schools. We would very much like to expand the program to our middle schools, but again we do not have the funds to do so.

    Mr. Hughes largely references redistributed state tax dollars for charter/virtual schools - a portion of total District per student spending - the total (including property taxes) that Madison Prep's request mentions. I find Madison Prep's fully loaded school based cost comparisons useful. Ideally, all public schools would publish their individual budgets along with total District spending.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:36 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    "Raise the Curtain!" - A project to renovate the theater at East High

    Learn more here, via a Kathy Esposito email.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:19 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Great Teacher for Every Course

    Tom Vander Ark:

    here are some problems that are too hard to solve in traditional ways. Teacher effectiveness and school choice fit the bill--they are complicated and contentious. The good news is that digital learning allows us to solve these problems in new ways.

    It's pretty easy to solve the teacher problem if we focus on providing a 'great teacher for every course' rather than a great teacher in every classroom.'

    If educational funding follows the student to the best course available (online or onsite) it provides a much more powerful and accountable model than partial funding for a private school down the street.

    Digital Learning Now recommends that all students should be able to "customize their education using digital content through an approved provider." More specifically, DLN recommends that states:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:17 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Building Teacher Evaluation Systems: Learning From Leading Efforts

    The Aspen Institute:

    Ambitious reforms across the country are reshaping teacher evaluation and performance management. Designing new systems for measuring teacher effectiveness and using that information to increase student achievement are at the heart of these efforts and at the center of important policy debates. Yet little information exists about how these systems work in practice and how to use evaluations in concert with other levers to improve teaching and learning.

    As policymakers and education leaders seek to accelerate reform in this area, it is essential to learn from efforts already underway. The Education & Society Program published three new reports: profiles of the performance management work in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and the Achievement First (AF) charter school network; and a synthesis of issues that emerge from the two profiles. Both DCPS and AF are at the forefront of efforts to re-design teacher evaluation, performance management, and compensation policies. The commonalities, distinctions, and early lessons learned in these initiatives represent an important learning laboratory for the field.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:15 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Losing Our Way

    Bob Herbert:

    So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

    Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

    Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:15 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Japanese School A Blessing And A Curse For Students

    Jason Beaubien:

    In Japan, efforts to gain control of the crippled nuclear reactor continue at the same time that hundreds of thousands of people are living in shelters and millions of people are attempting to restart their normal lives.

    Officials in Japan now put the confirmed death toll at more than 10,000. Most of the deaths were due to the massive tsunami that pounded the Japanese coast.

    Some of the dead are parents and students swept out of a schoolyard in the coastal city of Ishinomaki.

    It was the last day of school and classes were letting out early. When the powerful 9.0 earthquake struck at 2:46 p.m., some parents had already picked up their children from the Kama Elementary School in Ishinomaki. Others were lingering in the parking lot that faces the sea. Still others were on their way to collect their kids from the school.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:14 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, a Review

    Reviewed by Katharine Beals, via a kind reader's email:

    The Death and Life of the Great American School System was wildly hailed as author and education critic Diane Ravitch's dramatic about-face on No Child Left Behind, charter schools, and school choice. What's missing from this sensational take is that Ravitch has changed her mind only about school reform tactics, and not about what constitutes good schools, or about her top priorities in fostering them.

    She still stresses curriculum--apparently still her topmost priority. She still supports a challenging, content-rich core curriculum of the sort promoted by E.D. Hirsch and his Core Knowledge Foundation. She still believes that the best teachers are those with who know their fields well and are enthusiastic about teaching. She still believes that attracting such teachers is nearly as essential, if not as essential, as curriculum reform.

    It's in the question of why we've strayed so far from these ideals that Ravitch has shifted. While her earlier research (c.f. Left Back, published in 2000) critiqued, inter alia, a variety of prominent fad-peddling members of the education establishment, Ravitch now appears to blame just three factors: the high-stakes testing and accountability of No Child Left Behind (NCLB); the meddling in education by powerful outsiders like politicians and businessmen; and school choice ventures that skim off the best students and leave the rest to the most struggling of public schools.

    On NCLB testing and accountability, Ravitch is convincing. Tests can be effective, comprehensive measures of achievement, in which case teaching "to" them is equivalent to teaching students what they should learn anyway. But, as Ravitch explains, NCLB's top-down, high-stakes, punitive approach deters states from devising tests that come anywhere near this ideal.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:12 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Goodbye, flagship, and take elitism too

    Chris Rickert:

    My wife and I decided long ago that we have no intention of trying to bankroll the traditional college experience for our children.

    With tuition increases far outpacing inflation, I figure four years of college for each of my three kids would cost in the neighborhood of $300,000, and this journalist and his social worker wife would never be able to afford that.

    So when UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin says she wants her university to set sail from the constraints of the UW System, I say bon voyage!

    Respected public universities such as UW-Madison increasingly have sought status and brand-recognition as they prey on that bizarre middle-class American fetish for higher education that assumes a student's choice of college is possibly the most important choice of his life.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    For that reason alone, he does not deserve Seattle School Board re-election

    Charlie Mas:

    In an earlier thread, skeptical wrote about Director Sundquist:
    Sundquist also opened the last, hardest, of this year's budget sessions by making a sweeping statement that staff's board recommendations should be baseline accepted as the starting point of discussion.
    For that reason alone, he does not deserve re-election. Which actions or statements by Board Directors make them un-deserving of re-election?

    I'll provide the second one.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:02 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 26, 2011

    GOP seeks to expand school voucher program

    Matthew DeFour:

    A Republican Assembly leader plans to add to the state budget bill an expansion of Milwaukee's voucher program to other school districts, potentially giving more families in cities such as Madison access to private and religious schools.

    Voucher advocates say the time is ripe to expand the program to other cities, especially with Republicans in control of state government and a recent study suggesting students in the 20-year-old Milwaukee program are testing as well or better than their public school counterparts, with a lower cost per pupil.

    They also argue that vouchers would level the playing field for private schools, which have seen enrollment decline as public charter schools have gained popularity.

    But voucher opponents say expansion would further cripple public schools, which already face an $834 million cut in state funding over the next two years.

    And state test scores to be released Tuesday, which for the first time include 10,600 Milwaukee voucher students, could suggest they are testing no better than poor students in the Milwaukee Public Schools.

    "Given the proposed unprecedented cuts to public education as well as results from our statewide assessments, I question plans in the 2011-13 state budget for expanding the choice program in Milwaukee or anywhere else in Wisconsin," State Superintendent Tony Evers said.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:55 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Community College vs. Student Loan Debt

    Ron Lieber:

    One of the articles in our special section on Money Through the Ages (produced in partnership with the public radio program Marketplace Money) is about an 18-year-old high school senior with a choice to make. Should he go into at least $6,500 in debt each year to attend a private college or university like Juniata or Clark, or is he better off working part time and attending community college for two years before transferring to one of those colleges?

    Zac Bissonnette, the author of Debt-Free U and a senior in college himself, encourages students and families to take on as little debt as possible. He urged the subject of our profile, Mino Caulton of Shutesbury, Mass., to consider the University of Massachusetts, though Mr. Caulton was worried that he wouldn’t get enough individual attention there.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:06 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Seattle's Strategic Plan Refresh

    Charlie Mas

    The District is preparing a "Strategic Plan Refresh". They will review the Strategic Plan and decide which projects to continue, alter, defer, or remove. The refresh will have to include goals, timelines, status, and budgets for each of the projects.

    I spoke with Mark Teoh last night and asked if he could include two items in the Refresh program:

    1) A record of the various projects in the Strategic Plan, including those that were originally in it, those that were added, those that were completed, and those that were simply dropped without notice. Remember how there was supposed to be an APP Review in the plan? Remember how there was going to be an alternative education review? These projects just silently faded away. At the same time, Capacity Management and World Language curricular alignment, which were not part of the original plan, have been added.

    2) A review of the community engagement protocols and some table that shows which of the projects are meeting the requirements of the protocol (it's easy - none of them).

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:03 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    A Nation of Dropouts Shakes Europe

    Charles Forelle:

    Isabel Fernandes, a cheery 22-year-old with a constellation of stars tattooed around her right eye, isn't sure how many times she repeated fifth grade. Two, she says with a laugh. Or maybe three. She redid seventh grade as well. She quit school with an eighth-grade education at age 20.

    Ms. Fernandes lives in a poor suburb near the airport. She doesn't work. Employers, she says, "are asking for higher education." Even cleaning jobs are hard to find.

    Portugal is the poorest country in Western Europe. It is also the least educated, and that has emerged as a painful liability in its gathering economic crisis.

    Wednesday night, the economic crisis became a political crisis. Portugal's parliament rejected Prime Minister José Sócrates's plan for spending cuts and tax increases. Mr. Sócrates handed in his resignation. He will hang on as a caretaker until a new government is formed.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:52 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Teachers protest IB program

    Mark McDermott:

    Fifty teachers from Redondo Union High School stormed the Board of Education Tuesday night to protest the implementation of the International Baccalaureate program.

    The group included a majority of the school's department heads and some of the longest-tenured and most respected teachers at RUHS. Their concerns ranged from the cost of the program to what they argued was a lack of teacher input and a greater need to address the needs of less high-achieving students.

    Linda Dillard, the chair of the school's science department, told the school board that teachers have not been allowed to engage in a "data-driven, fact-finding process" to help determine if the program is a good fit for RUHS.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Race, Poverty and the Public Schools

    Letters to the New York Times:

    Re "Separate and Unequal," by Bob Herbert (column, March 22):

    In spite of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court, sadly the struggle goes on. The Department of Education reported in 2008 that 70 percent of white schoolchildren attend schools where at least 75 percent of the students are white, whereas more than half of all black children in industrial states attend schools where over 90 percent are members of minority groups. Go into any urban school and it is clear that 57 years after Brown, the schools have largely remained segregated.

    Years of social science research have cited the benefits of integrated schools. In our work with the West Metro Education desegregation initiative in Minneapolis public schools, the students in grades 3 to 7 who got on the bus to attend suburban schools made three times the progress in both reading and math when compared with similar students who did not participate.

    Teacher quality remains a consistent important factor. Ultimately, though, students in diverse classrooms benefit from collaboration and teamwork with those whose family circumstances are different from theirs. Eric J. Cooper
    President, National Urban Alliance for Effective Education
    Stamford, Conn., March 22, 2011

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    On Public Education

    Jerry Pournelle:

    "How Not to Lay Off Teachers" in today's Wall Street Journal (link) rather weakly repeats something that everyone who studies the education mess knows. It's worth your time if you have any doubts that seniority is not the right way to determine who should be paid public money to teach in public schools. Of course just because everyone knows something doesn't mean much.
    The steep deficits that states now face mean that teacher layoffs this year are unavoidable. Parents understandably want the best teachers spared. Yet in 14 states it is illegal for schools to consider anything other than a teacher's length of service when making layoff decisions.

    It gets worse. "Many people don't realize that teachers are not evenly distributed nationwide," says Tim Daly of the New Teacher Project, which has released a new report on the nationwide impact on quality-blind layoffs. "Fourteen states have these rules but about 40% of all teachers work in those states, and they're the states with the biggest budget deficits." In addition to New York, the list includes California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:00 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    What do students miss with a virtual education?

    Christopher Dawson:

    I had the chance to speak at a local university on Tuesday, talking to a class on cloud computing about the impact of technology (especially, of course, the cloud) on higher education. The class was great and was, itself, focused on team-based learning and simulations using a variety of cloud and web-based tools. What was even better, though, was the Q&A session with the students and my follow-up conversations with faculty and staff.

    Let me start with something that ZDNet's digital video and photo blogger, Janice Chen, wrote in an unrelated discussion we were having about ZDNet's upcoming 20th anniversary:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    What do students miss with a virtual education?

    Christopher Dawson:

    I had the chance to speak at a local university on Tuesday, talking to a class on cloud computing about the impact of technology (especially, of course, the cloud) on higher education. The class was great and was, itself, focused on team-based learning and simulations using a variety of cloud and web-based tools. What was even better, though, was the Q&A session with the students and my follow-up conversations with faculty and staff.

    Let me start with something that ZDNet's digital video and photo blogger, Janice Chen, wrote in an unrelated discussion we were having about ZDNet's upcoming 20th anniversary:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    NEArmageddon: The State of States You Haven't Read About

    Mike Antonucci:

    Kansas – A House committee passed a bill that would allow employee associations other than Kansas NEA access to teacher bulletin boards and orientation sessions.

    Florida – The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would “require unions to get written authorization from union members in order to use those dues for political purposes.”

    Alabama – The House Ways and Means Committee passed a bill that would provide taxpayer-funded liability insurance for education employees. In states where workers are not compelled to join unions or pay agency fees, liability insurance from the union is a powerful recruiting tool.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Why One Innovator is Leaving the Public Sector

    Andrew Rotherham:

    Lately you can't turn around in education without bumping into someone talking about innovation. The President is asking Congress for more federal support for educational innovation in this year's budget, more and more school districts are naming "innovation officers," and just last week a group of Silicon Valley start-up veterans launched a new incubator for innovative education companies. But while innovation is a catchy buzzword, on the ground conditions are often anything but innovative. This week, the resignation of a school administrator in New York City who most readers have probably never heard of vividly illustrates that disconnect.

    Joel Rose, 40, got his start teaching in Houston with Teach For America. After law school and a stint at Edison Schools, he landed at the New York City Department of Education leading a personnel strategy for that massive 1.1. million student system. Rose was struck, as many observers are, by how little technology had changed education relative to most other fields during the past few decades. So he started a program within the New York City Public Schools called "School of One" that uses technology to offer a completely customized schooling experience for each student.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 25, 2011

    Why He Did It: For good reason, the Capitol exploded when Gov. Walker struck at collective bargaining: The Rise of Teacher Unions



    Christian Schneider, via a kind reader's email

    By now, the political lore is familiar: A major political party, cast aside by Wisconsin voters due to a lengthy recession, comes roaring back, winning a number of major state offices.

    The 43-year-old new governor, carrying out a mandate he believes the voters have granted him, boldly begins restructuring the state's tax system. His reform package contains a major change in the way state and local governments bargain with their employees, leading to charges that the governor is paying back his campaign contributors.

    Only the year wasn't 2011 -- it was 1959, and Gov. Gaylord Nelson had just resurrected the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Certain of his path, Nelson embarked on an ambitious agenda that included introduction of a withholding tax, which brought hundreds of protesters to the Capitol. Nelson also signed the nation's first public-sector collective bargaining law -- the same law that 52 years later Gov. Scott Walker targeted for fundamental revision.

    Two different governors, two different parties, and two different positions.

    Ironically, their assertive gubernatorial actions may produce the same disruptive outcome. By empowering the unions, Nelson's legislation led to public-sector strikes and work stoppages. By disempowering the unions, Walker's actions might lead to public-sector strikes and work stoppages.

    In Walker's case, union members reluctantly agreed to his pension and health-care demands, but have fought desperately to preserve their leverage in negotiating contracts. That raises the basic question of the Madison showdown: Why is Scott Walker so afraid of collective bargaining?

    The answer can be found in the rise of the state's teachers unions.

    Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:
    Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk - the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It's as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:49 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Not-so-public education: A Colorado school voucher program seems likely to benefit mostly middle-class students and religious schools.

    Los Angeles Times

    Supporters of school vouchers like to say that their goal is to provide a higher-quality education for the children who need it most. The latest events in Colorado say otherwise. A voucher program there seems more likely to benefit middle-class children and religious schools than low-income public school students, and to worsen inequities in education.

    Last week, the board of the Douglas County School District voted for a pilot program that will give the parents of 500 of its 60,000-students about $4,500 each -- 75% of what the district receives in per-pupil funding -- to use toward tuition at participating private schools of their choice. Many of the private schools in the area are religiously based.

    Even in Colorado, where a dollar stretches a lot further than in Southern California, $4,500 falls significantly short of private school tuition. Most schools there range from about $7,000 up to $14,000. Clearly, the parents poised to benefit most from this taxpayer-sponsored perk are those with a few thousand to spare to fill in the price gap. There might be scholarships for some of the needier students -- about 10% of the Douglas County students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches -- but no one is promising anything.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The College Derby Andrew: Ferguson's delightful plea for sanity about college admissions.

    Timothy Noah:

    I have this problem. I can't read self-help books. Like everybody else, I've experienced my share of life challenges--"life challenges" being the self-help euphemism for "problems"--and I would never pretend not to need any help in facing them, solving them, or at least getting through them. I accept the principles of, and am myself no stranger to, modern psychotherapy. But whenever I try to cope with one of life's predictable stress points by reading a self-help book, I can't manage it. My eyes glaze over. I think "This person is an idiot," or "This person thinks I'm an idiot," or "Maybe I am an idiot, because I can't follow this." Within minutes I toss the book aside and start digging around for a decent novel.

    hat I've come to believe is that psychological advice isn't worth much if it isn't rooted in personal experience. So instead of reading self-help books I read memoirs about the kinds of experience I'm trying to cope with. It doesn't especially matter whether the author went about confronting his problem in a sensible way, nor even, necessarily, whether the author came out of the experience with a clear understanding of what he did right and what he did wrong. For instance, just about the last person I'd look to for personal advice about anything is Joan Didion. But when my wife died six years ago, I devoured Didion's best-selling memoir about widowhood, The Year of Magical Thinking, and then for good measure I read the script she wrote when she adapted it into a one-person show starring Vanessa Redgrave. (If asked to blurb either, I'd write, "Loopy but compelling.") I read Donald Hall's lovely book of poems about his wife's death, Without, and Hall's more tedious nonfiction reworking of the same material, The Best Day, The Worst Day. I read a mediocre book called Widow written three decades earlier by a publicist for Little, Brown named Lynn Caine, and a brilliant book--the gold standard on widowhood--called A Grief Observed, written four decades earlier by C.S. Lewis, an author I'd previously avoided like the plague. Some of these books were more helpful than others, but all provided some form of "self-help." Meanwhile, a stack of self-help books pressed on me by well-meaning friends gathered dust.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:42 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Chicago Public Schools deficit up to $720 million

    Rosalind Rossi:

    Interim Chicago Schools CEO Terry Mazany Wednesday delivered bad news -- followed by more bad news.

    The estimated Chicago Public School deficit for next school year is $720 million, Mazany said. That's up $20 million from just before his predecessor walked out the door in late November.

    Mazany called for "shared sacrifice,'' including from teachers. Their pay raises will cost $80 million but, Mazany said, any successor to him appointed after Rahm Emanuel is seated as mayor May 16 will have to decide whether to try to re-negotiate the teachers' contract to trim that tab.

    The interim CEO also proposed a series of what he called "urgently" needed actions that would impact 4,800 students at 17 schools, displace up to 100 teachers and up-end the jobs of, eventually, nine principals.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    How Miami students can get a free college education

    Stacy Teicher Khadaroo:

    Miami Dade College announced Wednesday the American Dream Scholarship. The 'free college' offer could help boost college graduation rates - a goal of President Obama's.

    College tuition is going up and financial aid is on the chopping block in many states, but in the Miami area, one college is offering successful high school graduates a price tag that's hard to refuse: free.

    Miami Dade College - the largest institution of higher education in America, serving more than 170,000 students on eight campuses - announced its American Dream Scholarship on Wednesday. It will cover 60 credits at a value of about $6,500 - enough to earn a two-year degree or start in on one of the four-year programs offered by the community college.

    This spring's high school graduates in Miami-Dade County will be the first to benefit from the "free college" offer. To qualify for the new scholarship, students must have a 3.0 grade-point average and score well enough on entry tests to show they don't need remedial math or reading courses. Normally, about a third of the college's entering students pass at that level.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:55 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Hand-Crafted Digital Texts

    Scott McLemee:

    Despite an abiding preference for the traditional book, I started using an e-reader about seven months ago -- and have found it insinuating itself into daily life, just as a key chain or wallet might. For there is a resemblance. A key chain or wallet (or purse) is, in a sense, simply a tool that is necessary, or at least useful, for certain purposes. But after a while, each becomes more than that to its owner. To be without them is more than an inconvenience. They are extensions of the owner's identity, or rather part of its infrastructure.

    Something like that has happened with the e-reader. I have adapted to it, and vice versa. Going out into the world, I bring it along, in case there are delays on the subway system (there usually are) or my medical appointment runs behind schedule (likewise). While at home, it stays within reach in case our elderly cat falls asleep in my lap. (She does so as often as possible and has grown adept at manipulating my guilt at waking her.) Right now there are about 450 items on the device. They range from articles of a few thousand words to multivolume works that, in print, run to a few hundred pages each. For a while, my acquisition of them tended to be impulsive, or at least unplanned. Whether or not the collection reflected its owner's personality, it certain documented his whims.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:33 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    In Preschool, What Matters More: Education or Play?

    Bonnie Rochman:

    It's practically been relegated to superstar status in the annals of parenting lore: the Manhattan mom who sued her daughter's $19,000-a-year preschool on grounds that the 4-year-old was not sufficiently prepared to tackle the entrance test for private kindergarten.

    Earlier this month, Nicole Imprescia filed her lawsuit against the York Avenue Preschool, claiming that her daughter, Lucia, was not primed to take the intelligence test and was instead relegated to a mixed-age classroom where talk revolved around -- oh, the horror -- shapes and colors. As a result, Imprescia withdrew her daughter from the preschool. (More on Time.com: Perspective on the Parenting Debate: Rich Parents Don't Matter?)

    "The school proved to be not a school at all, but just one big playroom," the suit stated.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Questions Abound as the College-Rankings Race Goes Global

    Ellen Hazelkorn:

    It is amazing that more than two decades after U.S. News & World Report first published its special issue on "America's Best Colleges," and almost a decade since Shanghai Jiao Tong University first published the Academic Ranking of World Universities, rankings continue to dominate the attention of university leaders. Indeed, the range of people watching them now includes politicians, students, parents, businesses, and donors. Simply put, rankings have caught the imagination of the public and have insinuated their way into public discourse and almost every level of government. There are even iPhone applications to help individuals and colleges calculate their ranks.

    More than 50 country-specific rankings and 10 global rankings are available today, including the European Union's new U-Multirank, due this year. What started as small-scale, nationally focused guides for students and parents has become a global business that heavily influences higher education and has repercussions well beyond academe.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:28 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Parents want child with peanut allergy removed from school

    Amy Graff:

    As more kids are diagnosed with food allergies, more schools are faced with figuring out how to deal with students who require a special environment. Should schools be expected to inconvenience all students when only one of them has a severe peanut allergy? This debate is currently playing out at a school in Florida.

    A 6-year-old girl at a school in Florida has a peanut allergy so severe that she could have a reaction if she were to breath traces of nut dust in the air. Her elementary school in Edgewater, Fl., has taken extraordinary measures to accommodate her.

    All students are now required to wash their hands and rinse out their mouths before stepping inside the classroom. Desks must be regularly wiped down with Clorox wipes. School administrators have banned all peanut products and snacks are no longer allowed in the class. Earlier this month, a peanut-sniffing dog walked through the school to make sure everyone is following the rules.

    The school is legally obligated to take these safety precautions because of the Federal Disabilities Act, according to Nancy Wait, the the spokeswoman for Volusia County Schools.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:02 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 24, 2011

    Madison teachers given until April 15 to rescind fake doctors' notes

    Matthew DeFour:

    Madison teachers who missed school last month to attend protests and turned in fraudulent doctor's notes have been given until April 15 to rescind those notes, officials said Thursday.

    The district received more than 1,000 notes from teachers, human resources director Bob Nadler said. A couple hundred of those were ruled fraudulent because they appeared to be written by doctors at the Capitol protests against Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to limit collective bargaining.

    Teachers who don't rescind fraudulent notes could receive a disciplinary letter of suspension, the most serious form of discipline aside from termination, Nadler said. The suspension would be considered already served -- the time missed during the protests.

    "We didn't want to give anybody more time off," Nadler said. "They can't afford it. We can't afford to have them gone any more. I don't think kids need their teacher gone another two days."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:41 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Hundreds attend, testify at legislative hearing on charter school changes

    Susan Troller:

    Testimony at the Capitol over a controversial bill that would strip control over charter schools from locally elected officials and place it in the hands of a politically appointed state-wide authorizing board drew hundreds on Wednesday to a standing-room-only Senate education committee hearing.

    Senate Bill 22, authored by state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) would also fund independent charter schools ahead of traditional public schools. I wrote about the bill on Tuesday and it's generated a robust conversation.

    Madison Superintendent Daniel Nerad testified in opposition to the bill, and so did local school board member Marjorie Passman. Kaleem Caire, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison and a strong proponent of the proposed boys-only Madison Preparatory Academy for minority students, testified in support of the bill. Madison Prep, if approved, will be a publicly funded charter school in Madison.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:49 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Saving Young Black Men

    Sunny Schubert:

    Kaleem Caire is tired of waiting.

    He has watched in frustration as yet another generation of young black men fail to reach their potential, as the achievement gap continues to widen, as the economic disparity between blacks and whites continues to grow.

    "We have failed an entire generation of young men of color. We have not provided them with an education, and that is why so many of them end up in jail. It has to stop," he says.
    And if that means taking on the educational establishment and the teachers union, Caire is ready.

    "In public schools, you are so strapped by rules and regulations. If teachers work outside the rules of the union, they get slapped," he says.

    Caire believes he knows how to address the needs of minority children in school, because he himself was on the verge of failing and turned himself around to become a national leader in educational reform.

    Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy, here.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:57 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Vouchers

    Greg Forster, Ph.D.

    This report collects the results of all available empirical studies using the best available scientific methods to measure how school vouchers affect academic outcomes for participants, and all available studies on how vouchers affect outcomes in public schools. Contrary to the widespread claim that vouchers do not benefit participants and hurt public schools, the empirical evidence consistently shows that vouchers improve outcomes for both participants and public schools. In addition to helping the participants by giving them more options, there are a variety of explanations for why vouchers might improve public schools as well. The most important is that competition from vouchers introduces healthy incentives for public schools to improve.

    Key findings include:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Suburban Parents Blocked In Try For Charter Schools

    Claudio Sanchez:

    Charter schools may be multiplying fast across the country, but they're stalled in affluent, high-performing suburban school systems. Of the 5,300 charter schools in the U.S., only one-fifth are in suburbs.

    Suburban parents are frustrated by what they see as arbitrary policies to keep charter schools from spreading and are fighting back.

    That's the case with some parents in Montgomery County, Md., outside Washington, D.C., where Ashley Del Sole lives. Her oldest daughter is about to start school, but she can't go to her neighborhood school because it's overcrowded.

    "My daughter is actually slated to go to a middle school next year for kindergarten because of the overcapacity problem," Del Sole says.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:56 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Can we achieve more with less?

    Dan Deming:

    With millions being cut from Kansas schools by legislative action or local boards reacting to reduced funding, it is easy to fall into a trap of believing that with less money our schools can't possibly do as good of a job educating our kids. Probably, but not necessarily.

    Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire who is devoting much of his fortune to improving education and who co-chairs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, wrote a provocative column this month in the Washington Post. Highlights from Gates' conclusions are spotlighted in this week's column to remind us that spending more money does not ensure better-educated kids and that some radical changes in how the dollars we now pour into education might significantly improve outcomes.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:55 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Liberty School Board Candidate Profile

    Kim Marie-Graham:

    Fiscal Responsibility-The District has had the luxury of having sufficient resources to fund many non-essential expenditures. Our economy and funding levels have changed and will continue to do so going forward. The district must re-evaluate priorities. Significant cuts have been made to large ticket items but there is now work to do to improve the culture of fiscal responsibility. All decisions need to be made with an interest in doing what is best for the education of our children. If we can change the culture, we will be in a better position to afford the things we need to do, like pay our employees fairly.

    Educating Our Children-The Liberty Public Schools have a long and proud history of excellence in education. It is essential that we continue to focus on our primary mission, the education of our children. We must ensure our financial resources are spent on classrooms, proven curriculum, books and employees. We must continue our high academic achievement by maintaining and re-establishing, where possible, the essential programs we have lost. As popular culture continues to call for school reform, we must ensure we are making decisions that will always lead to the right end goal, an excellent education for all of our children.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Judge Rules Chris Christie's Education Cuts Violated State Constitution

    George Zornick:

    New Jersey has one of the most progressive education laws in the country -- the Abbott v. Burke case produced several rulings requiring the state to equalize public education funding for all students, meaning that poor, urban districts must receive the same relative amount of funding as wealthy suburban districts. Abbott vs. Burke requirements have been characterized as "one of the most remarkable and successful efforts by any court in the nation to cut an educational break for kids from poor families and generally minority-dominated urban neighborhoods."

    Today, a judge found that Gov. Chris Christie (R) violated Abbott v. Burke requirements when he slashed $820 million in state aid to schools last year, because the cuts were slanted too heavily towards poor districts:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:52 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Clark Board of Education Approves 2011-2012 School Budget

    Jessica Remo:

    A proposed 2011-2012 school budget was approved unanimously by the Board of Education Tuesday night during a public hearing at the Clark Council Chambers. The spending plan would allocate just over $33.2 million, an increase of $225,000 over the previous year. The budget, if approved by voters, will mean a tax hike of three tax points, which translates into approximately $33 for the average taxpayer.

    Tax increases to fund schools is nothing new. In 2010, Clark residents saw a $36 rise in their tax bills following a loss of more than $671,000 in state aid. For the 2011-2012 school year, the budget includes $414,448 in funding from the state, an increase of $325,460 over last year's spending plan. Overall, the budget yields a 0.83 percent increase over the 2010-2011 plan, well below the state-mandated 2 percent cap.

    Considering the economic climate and rising costs, Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Knops noted that the school board took on a daunting task -- maintaining classroom quality while minimizing tax impact -- and largely succeeded.

    Clark schools spends $14,896.85 per student. Madison's most recent 2010-2011 citizen's budget document indicates total planned spending of $358,791,418, which yields $14,661.90 per student (24,471 students).

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:49 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Justice Department sues on behalf of Muslim teacher, triggering debate

    Jerry Markon:

    Safoorah Khan had taught middle school math for only nine months in this tiny Chicago suburb when she made an unusual request. She wanted three weeks off for a pilgrimage to Mecca.

    The school district, faced with losing its only math lab instructor during the critical end-of-semester marking period, said no. Khan, a devout Muslim, resigned and made the trip anyway.

    Justice Department lawyers examined the same set of facts and reached a different conclusion: that the school district's decision amounted to outright discrimination against Khan. They filed an unusual lawsuit, accusing the district of violating her civil rights by forcing her to choose between her job and her faith.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Teacher bonus program fails to lure and retain top teachers in Washington's high-poverty schools

    Jim Simpkins, via email:

    - A $99 million teacher bonus program that Washington legislators designed to lure good teachers into high-poverty schools has not worked as intended, according to a new analysis from the University of Washington Bothell's Center on Reinventing Public Education.

    "Not only has the $10,000 annual bonus failed to move effective teachers to high-poverty schools, it has also failed to make those teachers any more likely to stay in high-poverty schools than other teachers," said the report's author, Jim Simpkins.

    Washington State provides $5,000 bonuses to those teachers who undergo and pass the rigorous national board certification process, a credentialing program that marks its graduates as among the best teachers. The evidence, however, on whether national board certified teachers (NBCTs) are actually more effective teachers is mixed.

    In 2007, state legislators added a second $5,000 bonus for NBCTs who teach in a high-poverty school, defined as one where a large portion of students are on free or reduced-price lunches. According to the Center's report, " . . . less than 1% of Washington's NBCTs move from low-poverty to high-poverty schools each year."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:44 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 23, 2011

    NOMENCLATURA

    Albert Shanker was one of a kind (sui generis). No one has replaced him or the intelligent analysis of American education in his weekly columns in The New York Times. Known as a powerful advocate of union solidarity and the protection of teachers, he was also the source of the idea for charter schools, and, perhaps most astonishingly, he often spoke of the "nomenclatura of American education."

    He used that term, borrowed from the name for the Soviet bureaucrats and their special privileges and interlocking tentacles, to label the complex interconnections of the many layers of special interest agencies in our education system: organizations of superintendents, school boards, curriculum specialists, counselors, professional development experts, literacy experts of all kinds, and so forth.

    I believe he was pointing out that this system of special interest groups had achieved a paralysis of our educational efforts similar to the paralysis that the Soviet nomenclatura brought to the economy and society of the USSR, leading to its spectacular collapse in 1989.

    He suggested that any good idea for reform to help our students learn more was likely to be immediately studied, re-interpreted, deconstructed, re-formulated and expounded until all of its value and any hope of its bringing higher standards to American education had been reduced to nothingness. The concern of the special educational nomenclatura for their own jobs, pensions, perks, prerogatives, and policies would manage to overwhelm, confuse and disintegrate any worthwhile initiative for greater academic achievement by students.

    Mr. Shanker is gone, and the loss is ours, but the nomenclatura he spoke of is alive and well. With all the best intentions, for example, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors Association, cheered on by the Department of Education, major foundations, and others, have taken on the idea of Common Standards for American students.

    Unfortunately, they have largely left out curriculum--any clear requirements for our high school students to, for instance, read a history book or write a serious research paper. For a long time, those in the nomenclatura involved in assessment have been reluctant to ask students to demonstrate any knowledge on tests, for fear that they would not have any knowledge to demonstrate. So essay tests, for example, do not ask students to write about literature, history or science, but rather to give opinions off the top of their heads about school uniforms or whether it is more important to be a good student or to be popular, and the like.

    For all the talk in the nomenclatura about college and career readiness, no one knows whether our high school students are now expected to read a single complete nonfiction book or write one 20-page research paper before they graduate, because no one asks about that.

    One could have hoped that our Edupundits would try to fill the void left by the loss of Mr. Shanker, but sad to say, they have largely become lost in the tangles and tentacles of the nomenclatura themselves. They endlessly debate the intricate problems of class size, teacher selection, budgets, principal education, collective bargaining, school governance, and so on, until they are too exhausted, or perhaps just unable, to take an interest in what our students are being asked to read and write.

    Although great efforts have gone into the new Common Core Standards, they contain no actual curriculum, partly because the nomenclatura doesn't want to engage in difficult political battles over what actual knowledge our students must have. So, even though almost all of the state bureaucracies have signed on the new Standards, the chance is good that they will collapse of their own weight because they contain no clear requirements for the actual academic work of students.

    Our Edupundits are constantly hard at work. Some could be described, to paraphrase Alexander Pope, as "dull, heavy, busy, bold and blind," and they do meet, discuss, speak, and write a great deal about the details of educational administration and management--details which are very popular with those who seek to apply a business school mindset to the organization of our K-12 education.

    However, so long as they continue to ignore the actual academic work of our students, our students will be quite free to do the same. Fortunately, some teachers will continue to require their own high school students to read serious books and write research papers, and to do the most difficult academic work of which they are capable, in literature, languages, math and science. But in their efforts they will have received at best no help (or at least no interference) from the nomenclatura, and the Edupundits who are lost in their wake.

    -----------------------

    "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
    www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
    Varsity Academics®
    www.tcr.org/blog

    Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 5:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Harvard Isn't Worth It Beyond Mom's Party Chatter: Amity Shlaes

    Amity Shlaes:

    Anxious families awaiting April college admission news are living their own March Madness.

    Their insanity is captured in Andrew Ferguson's new book, "Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College" (Simon & Schuster). He describes the vanity of a desperate mother at a cocktail party who is dying to announce her daughter's perfect SAT scores:

    "'We were really surprised at how well she did,' the mother would say, running a finger around the rim of her glass of pink Zinfandel.

    Her eyes plead: Ask me what they were, just please please ask."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:43 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Idaho Teachers union takes first step to repeal education bills

    KTVB.com

    The day after two education reform bills were signed into law, the state teachers union filed petitions to repeal them.
    The actions of the Idaho Education Association could prevent those laws from ever being implemented.

    The IEA filed two petitions - one for each reform bill.

    It's likely a third petition will also be submitted if the third education reform bill, which is up for discussion for tomorrow, also becomes law.

    "We just took the first step in the process," said Sherri Wood, president of the Idaho Education Association.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Separate and Unequal

    Bob Herbert:

    One of the most powerful tools for improving the educational achievement of poor black and Hispanic public school students is, regrettably, seldom even considered. It has become a political no-no.

    Educators know that it is very difficult to get consistently good results in schools characterized by high concentrations of poverty. The best teachers tend to avoid such schools. Expectations regarding student achievement are frequently much lower, and there are lower levels of parental involvement. These, of course, are the very schools in which so many black and Hispanic children are enrolled.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:37 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Newark teachers protest charter schools' use of public school buildings

    Daniel Ulloa:

    The Newark Teachers Union sent an email to its 4,800 members urging them to protest against the placement of charter school in underutilized public school buildings at an Advisory board meeting held tonight at Barringer High School.

    According to the Wall St. Journal, Union President Joseph Del Grosso strongly objects to the placement of charter schools in public school buildings, claiming that some of the private funding that the Charter schools will make obvious the stark differences between the two types of schools.

    The meeting will begin at 6 P.M. Tuesday, and staff, students, and parents are all being invited to voice their concerns.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:35 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Unions Give Teachers a Voice and a Platform From Which to Help Students

    Marc Korashan:

    When I began teaching in New York City in 1975 I didn't initially see the need for a union or get involved in union activities. I knew, from history and the stories my parents and grandparents told, about the struggle for unions, but like so many today, I took the existence of a union and a contract for granted. My chapter leader gave me some advice and made sure I had all the necessary forms when I got appointed, but that was the sum of my union involvement until I moved to a position as an Education Evaluator on School Based Support Teams.

    In that position, as a Special Education Teacher/Education Evaluator, I was much more exposed to the whims of management than I had been as a classroom teacher. Administrators didn't often walk into my SIE VIII classroom as most of them were afraid of the volatile students I taught. I worked with my co-teacher and we succeeded in making a difference for most of our students.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:34 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Value of Education -- and Teachers

    The Somewhat Daily RAG:

    A pharmacist friend in Jasper, Alberta said that she was appalled at the seemingly light sentences given to abusers who kill children while someone murdering a police officer gets a life sentence.

    Her take on this disparity was, "How do you know that if this child grew up he wouldn't become a policeman?"

    An interesting and provocative take which I recalled when thinking of the value of education and our teachers who seem to be under attack these days as overpaid (whoever though a teacher could be accused of that?) and greedy.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:32 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    As Little Girls and Boys Grow, They Think Alike

    Avery Johnson:

    Boys' and girls' brains are different--but not always in the ways you might think.

    A common stereotype is that boys develop more slowly than girls, putting them at a disadvantage in school where pressure to perform is starting ever younger. Another notion is that puberty is a time when boys' and girls' brains grow more dissimilar, accounting for some of the perceived disparities between the sexes.

    Now, some scientists are debunking such thinking. Although boys' and girls' brains show differences around age 10, during puberty key parts of their brains become more similar, according to recent government research. And, rather than growing more slowly, boys' brains instead are simply developing differently.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:32 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Georgia charter school ruling to reverberate across nation

    A state Supreme Court opinion that will decide who has the power to fund and open public charter schools is expected by March 31, ending a constitutional challenge that threatens to derail the education of thousands of students.

    The two-year legal battle launched by seven local districts over power, money and the exclusive right to open neighborhood schools has threatened Georgia's reputation as a national leader in education reform.

    The feud began in 2009 when the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, a state board, got into the business of approving and funding neighborhood schools such as Cherokee Charter Academy.

    The school, which plans to open in the fall as Cherokee County's first charter campus, received more than 1,300 applications for about 700 spots. It was denied twice by the Cherokee Board of Education.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:28 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Capitol Smackdown: Teacher Union vs. Teacher Union

    Rick Green:

    Don't let anyone tell you that things aren't changing. AFT Connecticut is supporting a reform package that would accelerate creation of better teacher evaluation standards. The Connecticut Education Association is opposing it.

    The idea is to speed-up efforts already underway so that school districts have clear measures over what makes a good teacher. Instead of, say, how many years a teacher has been on the job -- which is the seniority standard that dominates in school districts.

    The rival Connecticut Education Association will have none of this. John Yrkchik, in testimony prepared for delivery at tomorrow's public hearing by the education committee, says:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:26 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Bill Gates Seeks Formula for Better Teachers

    Stephanie Banchero:

    Bill Gates shook up the battle against AIDS in Africa by applying results-oriented business metrics to the effort. Now, he is trying to do the same in the tricky world of evaluating and compensating teachers.

    The Microsoft Corp. co-founder has moved on from a $2 billion bet on high school reform--much of it spent on breaking up big, failing high schools and replacing them with smaller ones.

    Now, he is venturing that improving teacher effectiveness is the key to fixing broken schools. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $290 million to school districts in Memphis, Tenn.; Hillsborough, Fla.; and Pittsburgh, and a charter consortium in California to build new personnel systems Mr. Gates hopes will be models for the country.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:25 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 22, 2011

    Next US education reform: Higher teacher quality

    Christian Science Monitor

    Compared with more than 70 economies worldwide, America's high school students continue to rank only average in reading and science, and below average in math. But this sorry record for a wealthy nation can be broken if the US focuses on recruiting and keeping first-rate teachers.

    That's the conclusion of a new paper that looks at the latest achievement tests of 15-year-olds in the 34 developed countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as well as many other nations.

    America has been trying to raise its academic standards for more than two decades, an effort that cannot be abandoned in tough times. But it can learn more from other countries about the difficult task of teacher training, selection, and compensation - even as cash-strapped states take on teacher unions.

    The government-union wrangling would be less if both sides focused on quality investments in better teachers. The goal is not debatable. Studies show that matching quality teachers with disadvantaged students is an effective way to close the black-white achievement gap. Good teachers are more effective than small class sizes, for instance.

    For starters, the United States needs to increase its pool of quality teachers. Almost half of its K-12 teachers come from the bottom third of college classes. Classroom leaders such as Singapore, South Korea, and Finland select from the top ranks. In Finland, only 1 in 10 applicants is accepted into teacher training.

    Part of the hurdle in the US is compensation. Teaching offers job security but not great pay compared with other professions that top college graduates might choose. As states tussle over budgets, one solution might be to lower teacher benefits and end tenure while bulking up salaries.

    And yet pay isn't the only consideration. Last year, 11 percent of graduates from US elite colleges applied to the federally funded Teach for America program. Participants teach in low-achieving rural and urban districts for two years.

    In Finland, teachers earn only about what their American counterparts do (US teacher pay starts, on average, at $39,000). The difference is that in Finland, teaching is a high-status, well-respected job, right up there with doctoring and lawyering.

    Another US hurdle is teacher training. Many states require a master's degree in education in order to be certified to teach. This automatically locks out a talented population such as second-career experts in a field who don't want to invest the time or money in a graduate degree that's often short on classroom skills and long on pedagogy.

    President Obama's "Race to the Top" fund encourages states through competitive grants to open up alternative, effective routes to teacher certification. Hopefully, that fund will survive budget cutting (same for Teach for America).

    Public schools won't be able to attract and keep high quality teachers if they don't reward and develop them once they get into the classroom.

    That's next to impossible given the standard operating procedure of teacher unions. As the nation is witnessing, a rigid rule such as last-hired, first-fired lops off enthusiastic newcomers in favor of those with seniority. Experience is important in education, but it does not always add up to quality. Performance must be the determiner.

    Unions need to accept that the main goal is high teacher performance and student outcomes, not job preservation. That's what the teacher union did in Ontario, Canada, according to the paper based on the OECD findings.

    Teachers in Ontario are heavily organized. Yet, in 2003, the union and the premier of Ontario reached a grand bargain based on the need to elevate student achievement.

    "The educators, through their union, agreed to accept responsibility for their own learning and the learning of their students; the government agreed to supply all of the necessary support," according to the report.

    The paper, called "What the U.S. Can Learn from the World's Most Successful Education Reform Efforts," says that Ontario students subsequently shot up from the bottom to the top of test scores.

    Investing in high quality teaching is necessary to boost US economic competitiveness. The study argues that the US also needs to elevate the teaching profession to one of high status and respect. But respect doesn't come overnight. Government and educators will have to earn it by working together to improve teacher quality.

    Posted by Jeff Henriques at 9:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Republican bill calls for a board of political appointees to authorize charter schools

    Susan Troller:

    Under a Republican-sponsored bill, nine political appointees would get to authorize public charter schools while local school districts foot the bill. The creation of this state-wide charter school authorizing board -- with members appointed by the governor and the leaders of the state Senate and Assembly -- is a key provision of legislation authored by Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills that will get a hearing on Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Capitol before the Senate Education Committee.

    Senate Bill 22 not only de-emphasizes local control, but also creates changes in how teachers are certified and removes caps from the numbers of students who may enroll in virtual schools. A companion bill is also pending in the state Assembly.

    Opponents say the proposed changes would not only eliminate local control in favor of a new, politically motivated bureaucracy but would also siphon general aid away from all of Wisconsin's 424 public school districts in favor of charters. But backers say it will remove current barriers that prevent charter schools from realizing their full potential.

    "This bill would get rid of the charter school lite culture we currently have in Wisconsin and allow these schools' full potential for autonomy, flexibility and innovation to be fully realized," says John Gee, executive director of the Wisconsin Association for Charter Schools.

    Related:

    School Choice Wisconsin: Milwaukee residents favor school choice expansion

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:55 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Seattle School Board Policy: Criticize Privately, Praise Publicly

    Charlie Mas:

    At the recent School Board Retreat, the Board discussed a Governance and Oversight Policy that would define the Board's job.

    On page 18 of this 21 page document, is a section titled "Board-Superintendent Communications". Under this section is this set of guidelines for communication between the Board and the superintendent:

    Communications between the Board and the Superintendent will be governed by the following practices:

    a. Exercise honesty in all written and interpersonal interaction, avoiding misleading information
    b. Demonstrate respect for the opinions and comments of each other
    c. Focus on issues rather than on personalities
    d. Maintain focus on common goals
    e. Communicate with each other in a timely manner to avoid surprises
    f. Criticize privately, praise publicly
    g. Maintain appropriate confidentiality
    h. Openly share personal concerns, information knowledge and agendas
    i. Make every reasonable effort to protect the integrity and promote the positive image of the district and each other
    j. Respond in a timely manner to request and inquired from each other.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Parent organizing meeting set in Dane County

    TJ Mertz, via email:

    Parents in Dane County have scheduled an event to update the public on Governor Scott Walkers' devastating cuts to their children's educational opportunities and to plan what they can do, together, to form advocacy groups and work for a better way. The event follows closely on the heels of a similar meeting in Greenfield, March 5, that saw over 400 people come together to plan the next step.

    March 27, members of the Dane County School Board Consortium and WAES (http://www.excellentschools.org) will host a community meeting -- "The Future of Public Education and A Call to Action" -- at the Monona Grove High School Commons (http://www.mononagrove.org/mghs/), 4400 Monona Drive, Monona. The hoped-for outcomes of the event, which runs from 3 to 4:40 p.m., include an increased understanding of school funding in Wisconsin, alternatives to cuts in funding, and formation of community advocacy groups. For more information, call 608-217-5938 or go to http://www.excellentschools.org/events/2011/budget/dane_county_flier.pdf.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:57 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Teacher Tenure Reform: Applying Lessons from the Civil Service and Higher Education

    Public Impact:

    Research continues to confirm what intuition has told many of us for years: Teacher quality has a bigger impact on student learning than any other factor in a school. Nationwide, this finding has increasingly motivated policymakers and the public to focus reforms on dramatically improving teacher quality. National, state, and local leaders have initiated reforms designed to better prepare teachers for the classroom, more accurately identify and reward top teachers, support teachers' development, and equip education leaders to identify and remove the very least-effective teachers.

    Discussions of teacher quality often lead to questions about which teachers are retained and dismissed in K-12 public schools, and thus to questions about tenure. Teacher tenure was designed in the early 1900s as a set of procedural protections against unfair and arbitrary dismissals.1 But today, concerns about the effect on student outcomes -- along with budgetary constraints -- dominate education reform discussions.

    As a result, leaders in a handful of states and districts have begun making changes to align their tenure systems with their goal of increasing student learning. Common changes include streamlining tenure protections and increasing the rigor of the tenure-granting process.2 Parallel efforts to improve the quality, accuracy, and rigor of educator evaluations have strengthened the basis for personnel decisions based on performance, and have fueled increased interest in tenure reform

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:57 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Search for a New Way to Test Schoolkids

    Bill Tucker:

    Excerpt from Greg Toppo's article:

    "...In other places, educators are experimenting with different ways to test what kids learn. Bill Tucker, a managing director at Education Sector, a Washington, D.C., think tank, says states like Oregon have led the way with so-called adaptive tests, computerized assessments that actually change as students answer questions right or wrong. Such tests satisfy the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law. Students sit for these tests any time they're ready, from October on, and the tests allow schools to find out more about how much kids have learned. And since each test is essentially different from the last, they're "harder to game," Tucker says.

    In a bid to look beyond bedrock skills such as reading and math, a few states are also looking at other measures, such as how many of their high school graduates had to take remedial classes in college, Tucker says. Federal Race to the Top funding, part of the Obama administration's education stimulus plan, is pushing states to develop databases that would allow states to track graduates.

    The federal government has also invested in two separate efforts by the states to overhaul tests; 45 states are participating. One project is aimed at developing so-called "through testing," which would sample every few months how much students learn, then combine those scores with the score on an end-of-year test. The other project focuses on computer-adaptive tests, like those used in Oregon, to be given at year's end.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:54 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Atlanta Mayor Reed wants to appoint some school board members

    Ernie Suggs and Kristina Torres:

    Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for the first time Monday raised the possibility he might try to seek special power to appoint city school board members, as he seeks to speed reforms mandated by the city system's accrediting agency.

    His comments, however, were met cautiously, and are fraught with political and legal implications.

    "Full reform may not be able to be passed during this legislative session, but I do believe something can be done," Reed said, adding that he would ask Gov. Nathan Deal to address the issue during a special reapportionment session in late summer. "If we continue to see the kinds of failures we are seeing now, he should consider adding this as a priority agenda item."

    Reed said that he would ask for the temporary ability to appoint members to the school board, to help "break the logjam that exists around governance and a search for a new superintendent that is transparent."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:52 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Charter school changes would hurt quality

    Martin Scanlan:

    On Wednesday morning at the state Capitol, the Senate Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on several bills: SB 20, SB 22 and SB 34. Senate Bill 22, which deals with public charter schools, is the bill with the most statewide effects. (The others focus solely on Milwaukee Public Schools.)

    Two dimensions of SB 22 should give pause to citizens across the political spectrum because as written, the bill would make it less likely for charter schools to serve the common good. The effect will be to reduce the professionalism of the faculty and the level of local accountability for charter schools.

    Clearly, the quality of education that occurs across sectors - public to private, preschool to postsecondary - is in the public interest. We all benefit when our schools educate children not only academically but in numerous other manners as well. Society is strengthened to the degree that children learn reflection, compassion, creativity and generosity. Schools can foster cross-cultural relationships and nurture respect amongst a populace that is growing increasingly pluralistic. While all schools serve the common good when they promote such learning, these characteristics define our expectations of public schools.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:41 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?

    Jennifer Moses:

    In the pale-turquoise ladies' room, they congregate in front of the mirror, re-applying mascara and lip gloss, brushing their hair, straightening panty hose and gossiping: This one is "skanky," that one is "really cute," and so forth. Dressed in minidresses, perilously high heels, and glittery, dangling earrings, their eyes heavily shadowed in black-pearl and jade, they look like a flock of tropical birds. A few minutes later, they return to the dance floor, where they shake everything they've got under the party lights.

    But for the most part, there isn't all that much to shake. This particular group of party-goers consists of 12- and 13-year-old girls. Along with their male counterparts, they are celebrating the bat mitzvah of a classmate in a cushy East Coast suburb.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:18 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    What the Department of Education's "82 Percent of Schools Are Failing" Statistic Really Tells Us

    Rachel Sheffield:

    According to the Obama Administration, the majority of the nation's schools could be failing.

    In a statement to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce just over a week ago, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that under the current No Child Left Behind law, 82 percent of the nation's schools may not be sufficiently educating students. But this is debatable.

    It is true that far too many schools in the United States are not providing students with a good, or even remedial, education. Children in the U.S. continue to fall behind their peers internationally, and too few students are able to reach proficient levels in crucial areas like reading and math. This spells tragedy for the future of our nation.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:15 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Levy doubling taxes for Seattle education advances

    Chris Grygiel:

    The City Council on Monday moved forward an expanded Families and Education Levy that Seattleites will likely see on the ballot this fall - one that would nearly double the amount of taxes people are paying.

    The measure is part of a city push to increase children's school readiness and performance, but it also comes at a time when the school district is reeling from a money management scandal that led to the superintendent being dismissed. The Council's Special Committee on Educational Achievement for Seattle Schoolchildren voted unanimously to send the levy to the full Council, which will consider it March 28.

    One issue Councilmembers were alerted to was the fact that there would be a "bow wave" effect for this seven-year levy in which, beginning in 2016, the proposed spending wouldn't keep up with proposed revenues. By 2019 that gap would be about $8 million a year - a situation that future policy makers would have to deal with.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    NEA Plan of Attack

    Mike Antonucci:

    "We Are at War" - NEA's Plan of Attack. With the situation in Wisconsin stabilized, if not settled, there is time to examine the National Education Association's strategy for its short-term future. Though reasonable arguments can be made that the collective bargaining measures in Wisconsin, Ohio and Idaho aren't significantly different from the status quo in other states, there should be no mistake about it - NEA sees them as a threat to its very existence.

    The reasons are not hard to understand. NEA has enjoyed substantial membership and revenue growth during the decades-long decline of the labor movement. It is now the largest union in America and by far the largest single political campaign spender in the 50 states.

    But after some 27 years of increases, NEA membership is down in 43 states. The union faces a $14 million budget shortfall, and the demand for funds from its Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund is certain to exceed its supply. Even the national UniServ grants, which help pay for NEA state affiliate employees, will be reduced this year.

    In the past, NEA has routinely faced challenges to its political agenda, mostly in the form of vouchers, charters and tax limitations. But the state legislative and gubernatorial results in the 2010 mid-term elections emboldened Republicans for the first time to systematically target the sources of NEA's power, which have little to do with education and everything to do with the provisions of each state's public sector collective bargaining laws.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 21, 2011

    Education reform: the problem with helping everyone reach 'average'

    Ann Robinson

    The alarm clock is sounding on American education. While China's emergence as an educational powerhouse is relatively new, the continued poor performance by US students - though improved, still 31st place in math on the most recent international test - is not. Today, Shanghai tops the charts, but yesterday, it was other nations. Even a casual observer of education news knows the US long ago ceded its place as world leader in student performance. It's an unsettling state of affairs.

    West loses edge to Asia in education: Top five OECD findings

    But what's more unsettling is how prominent education leaders like Education Secretary Arne Duncan have called America's sorry standing a "wakeup call." President Obama has called for a new "Sputnik moment" to reignite the nation's commitment to science education. But the wakeup alarm didn't just start going off. It sounded decades ago; the US has just repeatedly hit the snooze button.

    The crisis in American education includes both our overall poor national performance and the miniscule numbers of US students achieving at the highest levels. Even our best students are less competitive. The problem with previous education reform efforts is that they have poured time, money, and resources into bringing all students up to proficiency - at the expense of our most gifted students. If we want the best educational performance, we have to target our brightest students, not ignore them in the fight to help everyone reach "average."

    Moving from paper to practice

    We've been inundated with reams of reports, studies, and expert panels advising us how to fix this problem. During one week last fall, two government-convened panels released reports full of prescriptions for what the nation must due to reclaim its position as a leading innovator.

    The reports by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and the National Science Board offer a plethora of recommendations including better teacher training, creating 1,000 new STEM-focused (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) schools, and holding schools accountable for the performance of high-achieving students.

    Though they highlight crucial goals, unfortunately, these proposals carried no implementation plan. To prevent them from collecting dust on a shelf, we offer the following core recommendations:

    Reignite innovation

    Reignite innovation. The original "Sputnik moment" was more than empty rhetoric. It featured real resources and genuine commitment to drive innovation and identify and support students who excelled in math and science. We need a similar vow today to identify and serve all high-potential and high-ability students to fill the talent pipeline.

    To achieve this, the administration must assign clear authority and accountability to the Department of Education for supporting high-potential and high-ability students and to stop neglecting these students in federal education policy. One omission is that there is no national data collected on gifted students that can help districts make key decisions about their curricular and instruction needs.

    And this administration has again recommended eliminating the sole program federal program for high-ability students - the modest Javits grant program that focuses on strategies to reach disadvantaged gifted learners.

    Do better than 'proficient'

    Hold schools accountable for more than proficiency. Accountability drives action. If states and school districts know they will be evaluated not just on achieving proficiency but on improving student performance at the high end of the achievement spectrum, they will implement and fund strategies to do so. Districts can use multiple factors to identify students - not just intelligence test scores - recognizing that giftedness takes many forms. We must use a variety of services - such as grade acceleration, enrichment programs, advanced courses and more - to develop this talent. All of which requires teachers with specialized knowledge and skills.

    Our national obsession for proficiency alone doesn't cut it in today's competitive global environment. The push for proficiency must extend to a quest for excellence so that more students reach the highest levels on national and international benchmarks.

    Talent is color- and income-blind

    Seek talent in all settings. High potential and giftedness are color and economic status blind. Yet due in part to funding issues, quality gifted education programs are available almost exclusively in well-off suburban districts, while most urban and rural districts offer few to no such opportunities. Our failure to cast a wide net to identify and serve gifted students from minority and underserved communities is a national tragedy that has squandered untold amounts of talent.

    Correcting this problem means we must reject the notion that low-income equals low performance. Although Title I, the federal program that supports schools in low-income settings, permits funds to be used to support all eligible students, the direction from the Department of Education and from many in Congress focuses on using federal education funds exclusively for low-performing students. No guidance from the Department of Education urges districts to spend Title I funds on their high-ability students. Other grants aimed at children in poverty focus on remediation when they should also focus on student excellence.

    A federal pilot program to help Title I districts better identify and serve their high-potential students would be welcomed steps. Such a program should highlight schools where underserved students are reaching high achievement levels and establish new, rigorous STEM schools and other programs that develop talent in disadvantaged.

    Invest in our innovation leaders

    As we begin a new decade, the nation has two choices: We can continue doing more of the same, commission more studies and reports, and act surprised when the next round of scores show that American students continue to lag behind their global peers.

    Or we can marshal the collective resolve of a half-century ago that catapulted the US to become the world's innovator and rededicate ourselves to address the challenges before us. America's greatest asset then is still our greatest asset now - human capital. If we don't identify and invest in our brightest students, we can't expect those leaders in innovation to emerge.

    We know what it takes. Let's stop hitting the snooze button.

    Ann Robinson is president of the National Association for Gifted Children and the director of the Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education, University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

    Posted by Jeff Henriques at 8:12 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Teaching to the Text Message

    Andy Selsberg:

    I'VE been teaching college freshmen to write the five-paragraph essay and its bully of a cousin, the research paper, for years. But these forms invite font-size manipulation, plagiarism and clichés. We need to set our sights not lower, but shorter.

    I don't expect all my graduates to go on to Twitter-based careers, but learning how to write concisely, to express one key detail succinctly and eloquently, is an incredibly useful skill, and more in tune with most students' daily chatter, as well as the world's conversation. The photo caption has never been more vital.

    So a few years ago, I started slipping my classes short writing assignments alongside the required papers. Once, I asked them, "Come up with two lines of copy to sell something you're wearing now on eBay." The mix of commerce and fashion stirred interest, and despite having 30 students in each class, I could give everyone serious individual attention. For another project, I asked them to describe the essence of the chalkboard in one or two sentences. One student wrote, "A chalkboard is a lot like memory: often jumbled, unorganized and sloppy. Even after it's erased, there are traces of everything that's been written on it."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:16 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    It's School Admissions Season in New York City: Does your 18-month-old have what it takes?

    Katie Roiphe:

    When T.S. Eliot wrote about the cruelest month "mixing memory and desire", he might also have had in mind that this is the season of school admissions in New York City. So as the sooty piles of snow melt into gray puddles, parents obsess over the letters they will and won't receive from the school that will or won't confer on their radiant progeny the blessing of its approval. It seems to be a challenge in this season for even the more sensible parents among us, even those who really have better things to do, not to fall prey to the prevailing fantasy that if your child is rejected from one of these desirable and enlightened places, he or she will be destined for a life of drug addiction, grand theft auto, or general exile.

    My 18-month-old recently had his first school interview. Apparently he sailed through it, though how is somewhat mysterious to me. Especially since he calls all fruits "apples" and sentences such as "Mommy. Moon. Get it" are not necessarily indicative of a huge understanding of the workings of the universe. However, no one is too young for the system, and a small obstacle like language cannot be permitted to get in the way of the judging and selecting and general Darwinian sorting to which it is never too soon to accustom yourself in this city. I have been asked to write recommendations for other one-and-a-half-year-olds for this same lovely school, and have thought of, but did not actually write, "He knows a lot about trucks."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:09 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Private school funding draws ire

    James Salzer and Laura Diamond:

    Lawmakers are cutting state appropriations and HOPE scholarship money for public college students at the same time they are maintaining relatively stable funding for private colleges.

    For weeks, students at Georgia State, Kennesaw State and other public universities have been the face of protest as legislators reduced the benefits of the nationally lauded HOPE scholarship program.

    But inside the Statehouse, a strong lobbying effort led by politically active private college presidents has worked to persuade lawmakers to maintain about $110 million in state funding for their colleges.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:11 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    MPS schools $11.2 million in debt: Decentralized Budgeting Leads to Deficits

    Erin Richards:

    Years of overspending in a system that gives principals autonomy over their buildings' budgets has put more than 80 Milwaukee schools into significant debt, to a district total of almost $11.2 million.

    The most recent budget documents show Bradley Tech High School with the highest accumulated deficit of more than $750,000, and the Marshall High School building with a deficit of more than $557,000. Even elementary schools that are cheaper to operate have run up debt, such as Brown Street Academy, which had a fiscal deficit of more than $350,000.

    The concept of giving Milwaukee Public Schools principals more autonomy over their individual budgets, initiated during Howard Fuller's term as superintendent and moved into place around the 1996-'97 school year, was intended to free principals from the slow-moving bureaucracy at the central office and give them more discretion over how their money was spent.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:10 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education reforms must include parent responsibility

    The Jackson Sun:

    It appears Gov. Bill Haslam got an earful from Jackson-Madison County educators on his recent visit to talk to them about school reforms in Tennessee. The governor asked for candor, and he got it. We believe that is a step in the right direction. Any meaningful dialogue about public education must deal with reality, not just education theory. Education reforms that don't take into consideration the realities of the classroom and in the home are just wishful thinking.

    We support the education reform ideas put forth by former Gov. Phil Bredesen and largely adopted by Haslam. Higher standards, more students going to college, more charter schools, teacher evaluations tied in-part to test results and changes to teacher tenure rules are education reforms whose times have come in Tennessee.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:08 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Obama's War on Schools

    Diane Ravitch:

    Over the past year, I have traveled the nation speaking to nearly 100,000 educators, parents, and school-board members. No matter the city, state, or region, those who know schools best are frightened for the future of public education. They see no one in a position of leadership who understands the damage being done to their schools by federal policies.

    They feel keenly betrayed by President Obama. Most voted for him, hoping he would reverse the ruinous No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation of George W. Bush. But Obama has not sought to turn back NCLB. His own approach, called Race to the Top, is even more punitive than NCLB. And though over the past week the president has repeatedly called on Congress to amend the law, his proposed reforms are largely cosmetic and would leave the worst aspects of NCLB intact.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:07 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Better education takes team work

    Kathleen Monohan Romano:

    Suzanne Fields writes in her March 5 column that teachers should put pupils first. I am appalled that teachers are being blamed for the state of education and the economy.

    I have been a teacher in the Capital Region for 25 years and have had the privilege of working with highly qualified, dedicated, hardworking professionals. Yes, we consider ourselves professionals. The union has fought to improve salaries and working conditions, and protect workers from favoritism.

    U.S. schools lag behind those in other countries because of America's culture. There has been a decline in discipline, self-discipline and structure in the home, as well as a host of other social problems. Teachers should be respected by their students and the families they serve; instead, they are unfairly under attack. Students in other countries work harder; their culture is one of respect for education and teachers.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Minnesota House GOP releases sweeping K-12 finance bill

    Tom Scheck:

    Republicans in the Minnesota House offered a K-12 Finance bill that would dramatically alter the how the state's schools are funded, change teacher seniority rules and would allow public money to be spent for low-income students to attend private schools.

    The bill, released Saturday afternoon, makes a slight reduction in expected growth for K12 schools, but increases the amount of money in the state's per pupil formula.

    "The debate in education this year isn't going to be about how much we spend," said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington as he compared his bill to Gov. Mark Dayton's budget plan. "The debate instead will be what we fund and what reforms we make to the system."

    Garofalo finds the extra funding in the per pupil formula by cutting the state aid schools rely on for integration. It also caps state special education funding at current levels, leading many Democrats to allege that it would force local school districts to raise property taxes to meet federal requirements. Garofalo says he plans to offer a bill later this session that would free up state requirements on schools with special ed students. He says that would save schools money.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 20, 2011

    Legislation may chart new course for Wisconsin charter schools

    Alan Borsuk:

    I wrote several weeks ago (not in the newspaper) that education in Wisconsin was entering "unchartered" waters.

    Oops. For one thing, I meant "uncharted" waters. A mental slip.

    More important, the waters are, in reality, about to become increasingly chartered. Charter schools are in for major boosts, both in Milwaukee and statewide, if Republican proposals in the Legislature become law. In fact, a big step in that direction may come Wednesday when the state Senate Education Committee takes up three education bills.

    But as more charter boats get launched, expectations rise for successful sailing. Will the resulting schools be piloted well? Will they set sail with enough skill and power to carry more kids to success?

    "If we're going to maintain our credibility and maintain legislative support, we've got to show that we're not simply producing large numbers, we're producing quality schools," said Dennis Conta, who heads a coalition known as the Milwaukee Charter School Advocates.

    Nationwide, the verdict is out on whether charter schools are a worthy innovation. The good ones offer important contributions to school improvement efforts. But, overall, those star schools are far outnumbered by charter schools where things aren't more successful than nearby conventional schools. Sometimes they're worse. There is no convincing case that charter schools overall have made things better.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    A Teachers Education

    Jerrianne Hayslett:

    I can't get that electrician out of my mind. He was so incensed at last week's School Board meeting.

    Shameful, he said, that South Milwaukee teachers, on average, make more than the average income of South Milwaukeeans. Shameful that the School Board had signed a new contract with teachers.

    I don't remember all the stats he reeled off, backed up with proof, he said, as he waved a sheaf of papers of god knows what along with his assertions. But the upshot was that the School District was paying its teachers way too much in relation to other school districts in the the state. Nevermind that South Milwaukee students' high achievement rates reflect the high quality of teachers the district hires. Or maybe the electrician puts no value on high-achieving students. Warehousing kids to keep them out of parents' hair during the day is OK?

    Now, I really, really respect the work electricians do. They and plumbers and roofers do stuff I could and would never, never do or be able to do.

    Neither would I be able to do what a teacher does. Even a kindergarten teacher. Or make that, most especially a kindergarten teacher. I've spend time in a kindergarten classroom--as a visitor. Believe me, I would last about 10 minutes if I had to be in charge of just wrangling a classroom of those children--adorable as they are--let alone actually have to teach them something.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:54 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Milton School District reaches labor deal

    Neil Johnson:

    Under the new contract, union members would have to pay 12.6 percent of the district's costs for health insurance coverage and half of the district's cost for pension benefits.

    That could save as much as $1.1 million in 2011-12, according to district estimates.

    The deal also eliminates contract language for class size, and makes job performance the first criteria in layoffs and non-renewals, putting seniority second.

    It also allows teachers union members who retire by April 30 to leave retaining the health insurance benefits they had prior to Friday's contract extension.

    The contract was drawn up in a draft proposal this week by Superintendent Bernie Nikolay and teachers union President Michael Dorn.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:49 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    MEA letter asks teachers about striking over school funding cuts

    Chris Christoff:

    Michigan's largest teachers union is stirring up possible teacher strikes -- perhaps a statewide strike -- to protest what the union calls attacks by Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-led Legislature on unions, school funding and middle-class taxpayers.

    A letter by MichiganEducation Association President Iris Salters to 1,100 locals asks them whether the union should authorize "job action," up to and including illegal strikes, to "increase pressure on our legislators."

    The union and other education advocates have criticized Snyder's proposal to cut funding to schools by $470 per pupil as excessive.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The College Board Honors 4 Districts with Advanced Placement District of the Year Awards:
    Districts in Chicago; Tampa, Fla.; Hudson County, N.J.; and San Bernadino, Calif. to Be Recognized at the AP® Annual Conference in July

    The College Board:

    Additionally, the College Board has released an AP Achievement List of 388 school districts that have had similar successes.

    "These districts are defying expectations by expanding access while improving scores," said College Board President Gaston Caperton. "They are experimenting with initiatives and strategies that have driven increases in average exam scores when making AP available to a much broader and more diverse student population. Over the next two months we will work closely with each of the AP District of the Year winners to document what they are doing so we can share their best practices with all members of the AP community."

    Wisconsin Districts that achieved recognition:
    Appleton Area School District
    Columbus School District
    D C Everest Area School District
    Diocese of Madison Education Office
    Germantown School District
    Green Bay Area Public Schools
    Kimberly Area School District
    Marshfield School District
    Menomonie Area School District
    Middleton-Cross Plains Schools
    Monroe School District
    Mt Horeb Area School District
    Mukwonago Area School District
    School District of Hudson
    School District of Rhinelander
    Stevens Point Area Public School District
    Trevor-Wilmot Consolidated School District
    Watertown Unified School District
    Wauwatosa School District
    West Bend School District

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:19 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    As Thomas Jefferson High School adds help for poor English skills, some Va. parents fume

    Kevin Sieff:

    As Northern Virginia became home to more immigrant families in recent decades, Fairfax County officials say they started programs to teach English as a second language at every school - about 200 of them. Except one.

    The holdout was the region's hallowed magnet school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, where many assumed that steep admissions standards rendered such a program for English language learners unnecessary.

    But next year, at the behest of the school's teachers, Thomas Jefferson - often called TJ - plans to hire its first instructor to cater to a growing number of students who thrive in math and science classes but sometimes struggle with English.

    The decision to hire the half-time teacher has reinvigorated a debate about TJ's mission - namely, how heavily the school's admissions policy should favor math and science standouts over well-rounded applicants with superior reading and writing abilities.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:17 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    School administrative costs, public information practices draw backlash from Baltimore County lawmakers

    Erica Green:

    County hired deputy superintendent at salary of $214,000 even as it cuts teaching positions

    Members of the Baltimore County delegation are demanding an explanation for the school system's spending on top-level administration and its policy of requiring written requests for salary information.

    In a letter dated Friday, Sen. Kathy Klausmeier and Del. John Olszewski Jr. criticized the school system's recent hiring of a deputy superintendent at an annual salary of $214,000 even as the proposed budget calls for cutting 196 teaching positions at middle and high schools.

    "Leaving 200 teaching positions vacant will no doubt mean larger class sizes and it may also mean that many important and valuable educational programs will either be understaffed or non-existent," they said in the letter to school Superintendent Joe A. Hairston.

    They also called the salary of Renee Foose, who will begin her job as the county's deputy superintendent next month, "appalling to many Baltimore County residents."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:15 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    If education is really a priority, fund it

    Kathy Hayes:

    Many of us are still trying to get over the shock of Gov. Rick Snyder's recent budget proposal and the devastating impact it will have on school districts. We knew there would be sacrifices from all sectors of the state, but we didn't expect such a disinvestment in public education. Snyder is proposing in his 2011-12 budget a $300 per pupil cut on top of the current $170 cut. Adding to the damage is an expected increase in retirement costs that could equate to an additional $230 per pupil. Add the numbers together and districts could be facing a $700 per pupil reduction.

    Michigan districts have been reducing their budgets for the past 10 years. They've been forced to think creatively to provide quality education despite years of shrinking resources and one-time budget fixes. At the same time, the expectations for school reform and increased student achievement are at an all-time high, negative attacks on education are unprecedented. The result has been a focus on short-term fixes that offer temporary relief to schools with no assurance of long-term funding stability. Districts have been forced to plan from year-to-year as opposed to long-term planning which we know is more conducive to spawning true reform.

    Kathy Hayes is executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:08 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 19, 2011

    Wisconsin Kids caught in the middle of stalemate between Walker, teachers union

    Chris Rickert:

    Meanwhile, American kids, when compared with those in other countries, are in the middle of the pack or worse when it comes to reading, math and science proficiency, according to a study released last week. And locally, Madison schools struggle with rising numbers of low-income students and poor minority graduation rates.

    These are not problems that can be solved by killing teachers unions, nor with teachers unions unwilling to participate in real reform.

    But I suppose that as long as Walker and the unions remain in fight mode, solutions will have to wait.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Are "charter universities" the future of state-funded higher ed?

    David Harrison:

    On the face of it, the budget proposal that Ohio Governor John Kasich released this week looks like terrible news for state universities. Not only would Kasich's plan slash higher education spending by 10.5 percent but it also would cap tuition increases at 3.5 percent a year.

    So it might come as a surprise that some university presidents received the plan warmly. Within hours, Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee released a statement praising the governor for "understanding that higher education and our state's long-term strength are inextricably linked."

    Gee's optimism rests on another aspect of the governor's budget. In exchange for the budget cuts, Kasich would give state universities more autonomy in running their day-to-day affairs. Long-term, that could save schools money. "We at Ohio State continue to move aggressively in both advocating for regulatory freedom and reconfiguring and reinventing our institution," Gee said.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Upstate N.Y. schools anguish over aid cuts

    Nick Reisman:

    Upstate school district leaders and education groups are concerned that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget sharply reduces their state aid while sparing their downstate counterparts.

    "I think it's completely immoral," said Bloomfield Central School District Superintendent Michael Midey in Ontario County. "Why is it that my students take a hit? I just don't understand it."

    Among school districts facing the largest cuts per pupil, 97 percent are in upstate communities while 75 percent of those facing the smallest cuts are in downstate suburban communities, according to the Alliance for a Quality Education, an Albany-based union-backed advocacy group.

    At issue is a proposed $1.5 billion cut to education aid in Cuomo's 2011-12 state budget plan, dropping local funding from $20.9 billion to $19.4 billion.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:49 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The search for a new way to test schoolkids

    Greg Toppo:

    By all accounts, George Washington Elementary School is the very model of a modern urban public school.

    Tucked into an up-and-coming neighborhood west of downtown, the school has produced impressive results on annual Maryland School Assessment (MSA) math and reading tests over the past several years. By 2007, scores had improved so steadily that the U.S. Department of Education made it a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. First lady Laura Bush came to town to hand out the award.

    But in October 2008, a parent came forward with a troubling complaint: Someone was tampering with answer bubble sheets at Washington Elementary.

    Soon, Baltimore Schools CEO Andres A. Alonso showed up at a PTA meeting at Washington and found "very poor" parent turnout and "an absence of student or staff enthusiasm," according to city records.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Newark School Board Talks Benefits or No Benefits for Board Members

    Nike Megino:

    NUSD board members have medical, dental and vision coverage for themselves and their families that is paid for by the district. Possible changes sparked disagreements at budget workshop.

    Debates surfaced among school board members on whether they should receive health benefits, a topic that was brought up during a budget workshop held on Tuesday night.

    Disagreements began when board member Nancy Thomas presented the idea that board members should no longer participate in health benefits provided by Newark Unified School District.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Can Anyone Change No Child Left Behind?

    Andrew Rotherham:

    The Obama Administration is doubling down on its push to overhaul the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Last Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before Congress and aggressively urged action to revise the landmark and contentious education law that was passed in 2001. The President began this week with a speech at a northern Virginia middle school urging Congress to act and then spent part of Tuesday cutting several radio interviews prodding Capitol Hill even more.
    This isn't the first time the Administration has implored Congress to change this law: it's been a constant drumbeat since 2009 (the law was due to be "reauthorized," Washingtonspeak for tuned up, in 2007 but Congress couldn't agree on how to do it) and even during the 2008 campaign. Now, frustrated with the lack of action, Obama and Duncan are trying a new approach: scaring Congress into acting. Both Obama and Duncan are highlighting Department of Education estimates that more than 80% of schools will not meet performance targets this year if the law isn't changed. One wag dubbed the new strategy a "fail wail."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:43 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Evaluating teachers is a delicate conversation

    Stephanie McCrummen:

    They met on an icy afternoon, Clay Harris, an elementary math teacher at the end of a hectic day, and Eric Bethel, one of the city's new master educators, there to render a verdict on Harris's teaching that could determine whether he kept his job.

    In polite, awkward silence, they walked to Harris's empty classroom at Beers Elementary School in Southeast Washington and settled in kid-size chairs at a low, yellow table.

    Bethel set up his laptop. Harris took out a piece of paper for notes and began tapping his pencil on it.

    "I didn't do everything perfectly," he said almost apologetically.

    Bethel smiled. "No one does," he said.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:39 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 18, 2011

    New York Democrat governor hits school districts, defends education cut

    Daniel Wiessner:

    Claiming local school districts are playing "political games," New York's governor on Thursday defended his $1.5 billion cut to education spending.

    Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed cut in state aid to schools -- the largest in history -- is aimed at closing a $10 billion budget gap for the next fiscal year.

    Cuomo told reporters on Thursday that his cuts average 2.7 percent per school district, and could be offset by rooting out inefficiencies, using reserve funds and lowering the salaries of superintendents.

    "I know there is waste and abuse in the school districts; 2.7 percent in waste and abuse," Cuomo said after a private meeting with legislative leaders. "Districts say 'we don't have any.' I don't believe it."

    Teachers' unions and school officials have attacked Cuomo's plan, saying that they've already made steep cuts in recent years, and that unfunded state mandates are driving up costs. Aid was cut by $1.4 billion in 2010 after being frozen in 2009. School districts have also assailed the governor's proposal to cap property tax increases.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education and the boiled frog

    Julie Underwood:

    Gov. Scott Walker's 2011-'13 budget proposal includes cuts to Wisconsin's public schools of more than $834 million. This represents the largest cut to education in our state's history. It would be impossible to implement cuts this size without significant cuts to educational programs and services for Wisconsin's children.

    The proposal is drastic - and that is just part of the problem. You have likely heard the old adage that a frog placed in a pot of hot water will immediately jump out to avoid harm, while a frog placed in cool water will not notice if the heat is turned up and will unwittingly allow itself to be boiled alive. Similarly, the proposed cuts are placed on top of smaller cuts the schools have taken steadily over the past two decades.

    In Wisconsin, school districts have been under strict limits on their revenues and spending. These limits have not kept pace with the natural increases in the costs of everyday things like supplies, energy and fuel. So every year, local school board members and administrators have had to cut their budgets to comply with their budget limits.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Educational Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship

    Fernando Reimers:

    I have spent the last 25 years studying and working with governments and private groups to improve the education available to marginalized youth, in the United States and around the world. Most of that work was based in the belief that change at scale could result from the decisions made by governments, and that research could enlighten those choices. When I joined the Harvard faculty 13 years ago I set out to educate a next generation of leaders who would go on to advise policy makers or to become policy makers themselves, and designed a masters program largely responsive to that vision. During those years I continued to write for those audiences.

    Over time, however, I have become aware that traditional approaches can't improve education at a scale and depth sufficient to ready the next generation of students for the challenges they will face. I have also become more skeptical of the assumed linear relationship between conventional research and educational change. I now believe the needed educational revitalization requires design and invention, as much as linear extrapolation from the study of the status quo -- that is, of the past. It also requires systemic interventions -- changes in multiple conditions and at multiple levels, inside the school and out. And it requires a departure from the conventional study into how much we can expect a given intervention or additional resource to change one educational outcome measure -- typically a skill as measured on a test or access to an education level, or transition to the next.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:12 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Unions Intimidating Gist

    Donna Perry:

    The tension which exists between Education Commissioner Deborah Gist and the leadership of the teachers' unions is simmering at a hotter level than usual this week as the Commissioner faces down an unfair labor practice complaint filed against her. But the complaint brings forth an important question of just who is intimidating whom when teachers and educational professionals are thrust into the midst of political battles.

    The tireless and ever steely Gist was due for a complaint hearing before the union-sympathizing state Labor Relations Board (LRB) Tuesday which was prompted by an unfair labor practice charge filed against her by the union representing workers at her own RI Department of Education (RIDE).

    The core of the complaint was that Gist violated state labor laws when she sent an e-mail out last February, at the height of the Central Falls teacher firing tempest, which basically advised her own employees that it would not be a great idea to physically partake in a protest rally which was designed to denigrate RIDE's own school transformation policy effort at the failing high school.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:09 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Embattled principal to leave Madison for Puerto Rico school

    Matthew DeFour:

    The Glendale Elementary School principal who was accused by some teachers of being a bully while praised by others as a visionary is leaving at the end of the year to take a principal job in Puerto Rico.

    In a statement, Mickey Buhl said he knew sometime last school year that this would be his last year at Glendale. "The stage we are at makes it a wise time for a change for the school and for me," he wrote to parents last week.

    Superintendent Dan Nerad praised Buhl as an "innovative instructional leader who has played a key role in improving the educational results for Glendale students."

    During Buhl's six years, test scores among Glendale's low-income and minority students have improved as changes were made to foster more collaboration between teachers. But Buhl's aggressive management style rubbed some teachers the wrong way, prompting a district investigation last fall.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    British University Leaders: Pay for Performance

    Hannah Fearn:

    Vice chancellors of British universities (the equivalent of university presidents) could lose up to 10 percent of their salaries if they fail to do their job properly under new plans to establish fair pay in the public sector in Britain.

    Under the proposals, set out today by journalist and economist Will Hutton, rank-and-file academics would also play a role in setting the salary of their vice chancellor. Hutton, executive vice-chair of the Work Foundation think tank, was commissioned by the British government last year to lead a review of fair pay in the public sector.

    An interim report published in December revealed that universities had the highest pay differential between the top and bottom earners across the entire public sector, with vice chancellors earning on average 15.35 times the salary of those at the bottom of the pay spine such as porters and cleaners. For Russell Group universities (leading research universities), the ratio rose to 19:1.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:41 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Report: Teacher quality crucial: Meeting targets best practices for nation's educators

    Associated Press:

    Countries that outpace the U.S. in education employ many different strategies to help their students excel. They do, however, share one: They set high requirements to become a teacher, hold those who become one in high esteem and offer the instructors plenty of support.

    On Wednesday and today, education leaders, including U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the nation's largest teacher unions, and officials from the highest scoring countries, are meeting in New York to identify the best teaching practices.

    The meeting comes after the recently released results of the Programme for International Student Assessment exam of 15-year-olds alarmed U.S. educators. Out of 34 countries, it ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.

    "On the one hand, the United States has a very expensive education system in international standards," said Andreas Schleicher, who directs the exam. "On the other hand, it's one of the systems where teachers get the lowest salaries.
    "Then you ask yourself, how do you square those things?"

    Investors:
    Some 16 countries' teachers union leaders and education ministers say the U.S. must "raise the status of the teaching profession"-- meaning spend more money. We've wasted enough. Let's reduce unions' power.

    Defenders of government control of education will believe any and every explanation for failure -- except government control.

    Andreas Schleicher, the head of the division of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that conducts evaluations of the scholastic performance of different countries' 15-year-old pupils every three years, complains in a new report about the image of educators in America.

    "The teaching profession in the U.S. does not have the same high status as it once did," he says, "nor does it compare with the status teachers enjoy in the world's best-performing economies."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 17, 2011

    An interview with Henna Virkkunen, Finland's Minister of Education

    Justin Snider:

    The Hechinger Report: It's well-known that Finland's teachers are an elite bunch, with only top students offered the chance to become teachers. It's also no secret that they are well-trained. But take us inside that training for a moment - what does it look like, specifically? How does teacher training in Finland differ from teacher training in other countries?

    Virkkunen: It's a difficult question. Our teachers are really good. One of the main reasons they are so good is because the teaching profession is one of the most famous careers in Finland, so young people want to become teachers. In Finland, we think that teachers are key for the future and it's a very important profession--and that's why all of the young, talented people want to become teachers. All of the teacher-training is run by universities in Finland, and all students do a five-year master's degree. Because they are studying at the university, teacher education is research-based. Students have a lot of supervised teacher-training during their studies. We have something called "training schools"--normally next to universities--where the student teaches and gets feedback from a trained supervisor.

    Teachers in Finland can choose their own teaching methods and materials. They are experts of their own work, and they test their own pupils. I think this is also one of the reasons why teaching is such an attractive profession in Finland because teachers are working like academic experts with their own pupils in schools.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:03 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Madison School District could reduce property taxes next year

    Matthew DeFour:

    The Madison School District is positioned to reduce property taxes next year because of proposed reductions in state funding and concessions from its employee unions, a district official said Tuesday.

    Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal calls for a 5.5 percent reduction in district revenues, which the Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated Tuesday would reduce district funding statewide by $465 million.

    Madison estimates its revenues -- a combination of property taxes and state aid -- would drop $15 million under the governor's proposal, assistant superintendent for business services Erik Kass said.

    The district's property taxes would be $243 million next year, or $2 million less than this year, Kass said, because of an increase in enrollment, a proposed $5 million reduction in state aid and a 2008 referendum that allows the district to exceed its revenue limit set by the state.

    Property taxes increased about 9% last year.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    U.S. Is Urged to Raise Teachers' Status

    Sam Dillon via a Kris Olds' email:

    To improve its public schools, the United States should raise the status of the teaching profession by recruiting more qualified candidates, training them better and paying them more, according to a new report on comparative educational systems.

    Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the international achievement test known by its acronym Pisa, says in his report that top-scoring countries like Korea, Singapore and Finland recruit only high-performing college graduates for teaching positions, support them with mentoring and other help in the classroom, and take steps to raise respect for the profession.

    "Teaching in the U.S. is unfortunately no longer a high-status occupation," Mr. Schleicher says in the report, prepared in advance of an educational conference that opens in New York on Wednesday. "Despite the characterization of some that teaching is an easy job, with short hours and summers off, the fact is that successful, dedicated teachers in the U.S. work long hours for little pay and, in many cases, insufficient support from their leadership."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Superman & Teacher Evaluation

    Elizabeth Coffman:

    There's been a lot of negative media lately, particularly surrounding education and teachers' unions in Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida.

    My children attend a Florida public high school that is ranked as one of the top five best schools in the state for academics, and consistently ranked number one in football and volleyball. They have an extensive Advanced Placement course program that is so popular that my kids cannot get into all of the AP courses that they want. The courses are large and overenrolled, but at least they are challenging.

    From my perspective as a parent and a college educator, most of my kids' high school teachers have been excellent. A few, however, have been inferior -- a situation that does not really surprise me. As a former department chair and evaluator of faculty performance at the college level, I understand how flawed and difficult the evaluation process can be. I also understand how faculty have different strengths and weaknesses. The weaker scholar with the higher student GPA average may be the person who provides after-hours counsel to students in trouble. The faculty with the lower student evaluations and course G.P.A.'s may be the most intellectually challenging faculty in the classroom -- the one who students learn to appreciate after they graduate. And then there are a few faculty who should probably leave education entirely, but will not go and cannot be fired without difficulty, if they have tenure. All of these issues--teacher evaluation, compensation, tenure--are on the political table right now for public schools. Florida is one of the states that is pushing a bill to link secondary student performance to better teacher retention and merit pay. New Florida Governor (and Tea Party favorite) Rick Scott supports a bill in which teacher evaluations are no longer subject to the collective bargaining process, only pay and benefits are negotiated. Teachers' unions are unhappy about the methods (and the rhetoric) that many politicians are using for evaluating them and their classrooms. It's unfortunate how this clash between workers and management is playing out in the classroom.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:58 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education Pioneers are creating new ways to promote learning

    Tom Vander Ark:

    "Life is difficult." I read the first line in The Road Less Traveled on my first day off after my first year as a superintendent and thought to myself, "M. Scott Peck should try being a school superintendent." Peck describes love as, "extending yourself to benefit another." At that point, I turned the book sideways and wrote "teaching" in big letters in the margin. Helping another person learn is the greatest gift a person can give. Becoming a school teacher is still the best way to give the gift of learning, but there is an expanding array of learning professions where skill and passion can unite to make a difference.

    Jay Kimmelman is a serial edupreneur. After graduating from Harvard in 1999, Jay founded Edusoft to bring simple scanning technology to education assessment. The simple step automated data collection at a time when nearly every state was planning to implement standards and assessments. By 2003, EduSoft had achieved revenues of $20 million and Jay sold the company to Houghton Mifflin. That launched a worldwide journey to study the obstacles faced by people living in poverty. Jay spent 18 months studying subsistence farming in a remote Chinese village. In 2007, Jay moved to Kenya and launched Bridge International Academies, an affordable network of schools serving families in the slums of Nairobi for less than $40 per year. Jay built a scalable "school in a box' model by relentlessly driving down the cost of each component and pushing up the quality. Jay was not trained as an educator, but may do more to improve access to quality education in Africa than anyone in history.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:54 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Best of Times and the Worst of Times?

    Ron Tupa:

    Years from now, lets hope ed reformers looking back on 2011 and gauging the Republican "position" don't liken it to the opening of Charles Dickens' classic A Tale of Two Cities, with it having been among "the best of times and the worst of times" for education reform. Of course, at first blush this scenario would appear to be highly unlikely - an exaggeration at best -but sadly such a pronouncement seems less farfetched with each passing day of the new 112th Congress and with the emerging priorities of at least some self-proclaimed education reform governors.

    Huh? Wasn't 2011-12 supposed to be a 'banner year' for all things education reform?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Compromise would limit collective bargaining for Tennessee teachers

    Richard Locker:

    House Republicans today advanced a compromise on the bill that would originally have halted collective bargaining by Tennessee teachers -- allowing bargaining to continue but with new limits on what can be negotiated.

    The House Education Subcommittee approved, on a party-line vote, the amendment that would strip out the bill's ban on collective bargaining and instead allow negotiations to continue between local teacher associations and school boards on base salaries, benefits and a few other issues.

    It would prohibit negotiations on differential and merit pay, giving school boards full authority to enact merit pay plans. It would limit bargaining on "working conditions" -- currently a broad topic -- to matters affecting employees financially or their relationship with the school board.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Write About Why You are an Educator and a Proud Union Member

    WJ Levay:

    Those of you who are excellent teachers and who stand in solidarity with our unions are probably no stranger to the question, "Well, why are you involved with the union if you're a good teacher?" It's time for educators to stand up and answer that question loudly and clearly.

    EDUSolidarity, a group of progressive educators, encourages you to explain how being a union member supports and enables you to be the kind of teacher that you are. Include personal stories if possible. Focus not only on your rights, but also on what it takes to be a great teacher for students and how unions support that.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:06 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 16, 2011

    FAQ's on Madison's Latest Collective Bargaining Agreement

    Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

    After a marathon bargaining session that lasted from Friday morning into early Saturday morning, the school district and MTI, our teachers union, settled on the terms of a two-year collective bargaining agreement for our teachers and four other bargaining units that will take effect on July 1. As is true for most negotiations, the terms of the final agreement varied considerably from the parties' initial offers (discussed in my previous post). The school board ratified the agreement on Saturday and MTI membership voted to approve the pacts today, Sunday.

    Here are some frequently asked questions about the agreement along with my responses.

    What is your reaction to the settlement?

    I wonder if any provisions were included that address the District's "infinite campus" implementation challenges?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:16 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Pop Quiz: Rhee & Weingarten

    Bill Sternberg:

    Two Cornellians on opposite sides of the education debate--controversial former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee '92 and teachers' union leader Randi Weingarten '80--sat down with CAM to talk about school reform. (But not together.)

    They are the two strong-willed women at the heart of the nation's debate on school reform. Both were featured in last year's education documentary Waiting for Superman--one as a hero, the other as a heavy. They have offices seven blocks from each other in Washington, D.C., but are miles apart philosophically. And, yes, reform advocate Michelle Rhee '92 and union leader Randi Weingarten '80 are both Cornellians, a connection they've never discussed.

    Rhee, forty-one, catapulted to national prominence--including appearances on Oprah and the covers of Time and Newsweek--as a result of her tumultuous three years as schools chancellor in the District of Columbia. Appointed in 2007 by Mayor Adrian Fenty to overhaul the troubled D.C. system, she fired hundreds of teachers and principals, closed schools, and reorganized the bureaucracy. Test scores rose and enrollment stabilized, but her steamroller style made enemies, not the least of them the Weingarten-led American Federation of Teachers. AFT poured money into the mayoral campaign of Vincent Gray, who defeated Fenty in last September's Democratic primary. Rhee, calling the outcome "devastating," resigned soon after. She has since started a new organization, Students First, to promote school reform. A native of Toledo and the divorced mother of two daughters, Rhee is engaged to former NBA star Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Inevitable Wisconsin

    Hans Moleman:

    In the words of Young Frankenstein's Inspector Kemp, "A riot iss an ogly think." So is the Wisconsin shootout; ugly - but inevitable.

    The unions had to be expecting a tough time with their new Governor Walker. No doubt they anticipated a difficult negotiation - "hard bargaining", as the governor cut labor costs to balance the budget. Instead, they found themselves facing political forces who actually intend to put an end to them.

    Unions have always decried every effort to rollback labor costs or union power as "union-busting." Now their past rhetorical excesses have caught up with them, as they confront the real thing. (Cf "Wolf, the Boy who Cried...")

    At first it looked as if Walker was indeed bargaining hard. Rolling back pensions, increasing employee contributions, and making labor accept it as a compromise by agreeing not to end collective bargaining outright. And there would be the peace, as Don Barzini would say.

    Well, gentlemen may cry "peace, peace," but there is no peace. Before it could be seen if Walker was a "let's make a deal" type, Democrats abandoned the state and the unions seized the Capitol to bully the governor and Republicans. They in turn found a parliamentary bypass and passed the bill to strip bargaining rights. The budget, with its real benefit reductions and budget cuts is still pending. But the unions appear to have used up most of their ammo, so their hopes cannot be high.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:36 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    College Degree Fails to Promote Active Civic Engagement Beyond Voting

    Intercollegiate Studies Institute:

    nlightened Citizenship: How Civic Knowledge Trumps a College Degree in Promoting Active Civic Engagement is the fifth report to the nation issued by ISI's National Civic Literacy Board. While each past study has had a different point of emphasis, all share a common thread of examining the relationships that exist between higher education, civic knowledge, and citizenship.

    Unfortunately, the results of ISI's past civic literacy research does not inspire confidence that our institutions of higher learning are living up to their educative and civic responsibilities, responsibilities that almost all American colleges recognize as critical to their overall public missions.

    In 2006 and 2007, ISI administered a sixty-question multiple-choice exam on knowledge of American history and institutions to over 28,000 college freshmen and seniors from over eighty schools. In both years, the average freshman and senior failed the exam.

    In 2008, ISI tested 2,508 adults of all ages and educational backgrounds, and once again the results were discouraging. Seventy-one percent of Americans failed the exam, with high school graduates scoring 44% and college graduates also failing at 57%.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    On Creative Writing

    Andrew Cowan:

    Creative writing is an academic discipline. I draw a distinction between writing, which is what writers do, and creative writing. I think most people in the UK who teach creative writing have come to it via writing - they are bona fide writers who publish poems and novels and play scripts and the like, and they have found some way of supporting that vocation through having a career in academia. So in teaching aspirant writers how to write they are drawing upon their own experience of working in that medium. They are drawing upon their knowledge of what the problems are and how those problems might be tackled. It's a practice-based form of learning and teaching.

    But because it is in academia there is all this paraphernalia that has to go with it. So you get credits for attending classes. You have to do supporting modules; you have to be assessed. If you are doing an undergraduate degree you have to follow a particular curriculum and only about a quarter of that will be creative writing and the rest will be in the canon of English literature. If you are doing a PhD you have to support whatever the creative element is with a critical element. So there are these ways in which academia disciplines writing and I think of that as Creative Writing with a capital C and a capital W. All of us who teach creative writing are doing it, in a sense, to support our writing, but it is also often at the expense of our writing. We give up quite a lot of time and mental energy and also, I think, imaginative and creative energy to teach.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:58 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Let Kids Rule the School

    Susan Engel:

    IN a speech last week, President Obama said it was unacceptable that "as many as a quarter of American students are not finishing high school." But our current educational approach doesn't just fail to prepare teenagers for graduation or for college academics; it fails to prepare them, in a profound way, for adult life.

    We want young people to become independent and capable, yet we structure their days to the minute and give them few opportunities to do anything but answer multiple-choice questions, follow instructions and memorize information. We cast social interaction as an impediment to learning, yet all evidence points to the huge role it plays in their psychological development.

    That's why we need to rethink the very nature of high school itself.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Teachers will move forward

    Mary Bell

    Wisconsin's public school teachers and support staff are reeling after a week in which our state leaders put political ambitions before their constituents.

    When the governor signed into law his unprecedented attack on workers' rights, he did so amidst plummeting approval ratings and an intense and growing base of Wisconsinites who are outraged by the actions he is taking to destroy our great state.

    Make no mistake, this disregard for public opinion and workplace rights will have a broad and lasting negative impact on our state's future. From schools to hospitals to public services - and ultimately, to middle-class families across this state, the damage these actions set into place will be deep and wide.

    On behalf of educators across our state, I remind you that weeks ago we accepted the financial concessions the governor asked for to help solve our state's budget crisis. But we have consistently said that silencing the voices of workers by eliminating their collective bargaining rights goes too far.

    Mary Bell is a Wisconsin Rapids junior high teacher with 33 years experience in the classroom. She is serving as president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:32 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Teachers must be evaluated by what students learn

    Doug Lasken & Bill Evers:

    Students in California public schools are not achieving at the levels they should. Too many students are unprepared for jobs or have to take remedial courses when they start college. In California, we judge student achievement through student scores on statewide tests. These tests assess how much students know about subject-matter content that is specified in an official set of state academic-content standards. Research has long shown that effective teachers are among the best ways to bring up student achievement. But in order to improve teaching effectiveness, it is helpful to know where the challenges are.

    We've heard a lot in California recently about the move to factor student test scores from statewide standards-based tests into teacher evaluations. Yet did you know that for more than a decade, it has been the law in California to do just that?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:29 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    St. James School wins $10K in energy contest

    Pamela Cotant:

    St. James School, a small Catholic school tucked away off South Mills Street, -- made a big splash when a group of eighth-graders won $10,000 in a national renewable energy contest.

    Two teams in teacher Gina Pignotti's eighth-grade science class entered projects in the Lexus Eco Challenge competition. One of the teams, which is raising $7,000 to install a solar panel on the school, received the award and the chance to compete with other winners for a $30,000 grand prize in the Final Challenge. The students will submit their entry Thursday and will learn next month if they won.

    For the Final Challenge, the students are required to educate others. So they worked with Tim Tynan, a teaching assistant at UW-Madison who has helped students produce videos, to create a short documentary about renewable energy, their experiences with the project and a challenge to others to learn about the issue and do something about it.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:11 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Quality in the classroom Layoffs by seniority are not in the best interests of students

    Joe Williams:

    With Republican governors across the nation looking for new ways to demean and disparage public school teachers, it was refreshing to see Gov. Andrew Cuomo take a different tack. He proposed legislation to expedite an agreed-upon evaluation system that could be used as early as next school year to elevate the quality and professionalism of New York's teaching work force.

    While Cuomo's bill will have a positive impact on the state's education system years down the road, it doesn't address a major threat to teacher quality this year: seniority-based layoffs.

    It is time for Cuomo to lead on the issue by eliminating the state law that requires layoffs to be based on seniority rather than effectiveness.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:08 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Lieutenant governor favors Iowa high school graduation test

    Associated Press

    Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday that she may support requiring students to pass a competency test before graduating from high school.

    Reynolds was asked about her views on required competency tests for high school students during a news conference to announce details of an education summit that Gov. Terry Branstad plans for July.

    "I think it's something we need to take a look at," Reynolds said. "That's been very effective in Massachusetts, as has been indicated by the test scoring."

    She said requiring such competency tests could help determine how effective schools are in bolstering student achievement.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:06 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Charter school's $125K experiment

    CBS News:

    Katie Couric reports on an experimental New York City charter school founded on the idea of hiring the best teachers by paying them $125,000, while denying them tenure.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    School Climate



    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    New York High School Investigating Alleged SAT Cheating Ring

    NY Post:

    A group of students at a prestigious New York high school was being eyed in a college test cheating ring, the New York Post reported Monday.

    The teens, seniors at John L. Miller Great Neck North High School on Long Island, allegedly tried to improve their college prospects by hiring a third party to take their SAT exams, sources said.

    A school board source confirmed that the district was investigating the alleged cheaters.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 15, 2011

    Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau Releases Redistributed Tax Dollar & Property Tax Growth Limitation Change Memos for School Districts

    Greg Bump:

    The Legislative Fiscal Bureau this afternoon released a host of memos analyzing Gov. Scott Walker's 2011-13 budget and its impact on local government aids.

    The memos outline the budget's impact on county and municipal aid, general transportation aid to counties and municipalities, state aid and levy information for technical college districts, and potential savings to local governments due to increase employee contributions to the Wisconsin Retirement System.

    According to the LFB, the bill would reduce total funding for calendar year 2012 payments by $96 million, $59.5 million for towns, villages and cities, and $36.5 million for counties.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:59 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    More Wisconsin districts now could drop insurance arm of teachers union

    Amy Hetzner:

    In freeing school boards from bargaining with employees over anything but inflation-capped wage increases, Wisconsin lawmakers might have opened the floodgates for districts seeking to drop coverage by the state's dominant - and highly controversial - health insurance provider for teachers.

    WEA Trust, the nonprofit company started 40 years ago by the state's largest teachers union, currently insures employees in about two-thirds of Wisconsin school districts. The company's market dominance has dropped in recent years, although not as much as some school officials who complain about the company's costs would like.

    After switching the district's nonunion employees to a different health insurance carrier, Cedarburg School Board President Kevin Kennedy said his school system is likely to look at cost savings by doing the same for its unionized teachers after unsuccessful attempts in previous years.

    "It's such a large-ticket item; it's such low-hanging fruit," he said. "You can lay off an aide or increase your student fees, but that doesn't make up such a magnitude of saving as insurance does."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:51 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Obama takes Budget Debate to School

    Laura Meckler:

    President Barack Obama called on Congress Monday to overhaul the No Child Left Behind education law, the third time this month he has focused on education in a bid to gain advantage in the federal budget battle.

    The effort to change the law, George W. Bush's signature domestic achievement, is expected to be largely bipartisan. Mr. Obama asked lawmakers to send him a new version before school opens this fall.

    At the same time, White House officials see an opportunity in education to win support in the budget debate, which Republicans have focused on cutting federal spending. On Monday, Mr. Obama paired some largely bipartisan ideas about policy with a partisan attack on GOP budget priorities. "Let me make it plain: We cannot cut education," said Mr. Obama at a middle school in Arlington, Va., part of what the White House labels "education month."

    The White House's goal, beyond reauthorizing No Child, is to turn the spending debate from a general push for cuts toward a discussion of the implications for favored programs.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:15 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Madison School Board Tension over Spending/Taxes & Compensation

    Bill Lueders:

    Gov. Scott Walker says the changes he has rammed through the Legislature will give school districts and local governments "the tools" they need to withstand the severe cuts in state aid his budget will deliver. What he doesn't get into is how the tensions caused by his agenda will divide the members of these bodies, as they have the state as a whole.

    One example of this is the Madison school board, where disagreements over the impact of Walker's actions have spurned an ugly exchange, in which school board member Lucy Mathiak lobbed an F-bomb at a fellow board member, Marj Passman.

    The exchange happened yesterday, March 14. Passman was contacted by a Madison school teacher who felt Mathiak had been dismissive of the teacher's concerns, urging her to "get over yourself." Passman, who allows that board members have been deluged with angry emails, says she expressed to Mathiak that she agreed this response was a little harsh.

    Somewhat related: Jason Shepherd: Going to the mat for WPS
    School board yields to pressure to keep costlier insurance option
    Suzanne Fatupaito, a nurse's assistant in Madison schools, is fed up with Wisconsin Physicians Service, the preferred health insurance provider of Madison Teachers Inc.

    "MTI uses scare tactics" to maintain teacher support for WPS, Fatupaito recently wrote to the school board. "If members knew that another insurance [plan] would offer similar services to WPS and was less expensive - it would be a no-brainer."

    WPS, with a monthly price tag of $1,720 for family coverage, is one of two health coverage options available to the district's teachers. The other is Group Health Cooperative, costing $920 monthly for a family plan.

    During the past year, the Madison school board has reached agreements with other employee groups to switch from WPS to HMO plans, with most of the savings going to boost pay.

    In December, the board held a secret vote in closed session to give up its right to seek health insurance changes should negotiations on the 2007-09 teachers contract go into binding arbitration. (The board can seek voluntary insurance changes during negotations.)

    Lucy has been a long time friend and I have long appreciated her activism on behalf of students, the schools and our community.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:26 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    1 Billion Customers for Education

    Sanjay Saigal:

    The sixteenth century universalist poet Kabir captures the high Indian regard for education:

    गुरु गोबिंद दोऊ खडे, काके लागूं पाये
    बलिहारी गुरु आप की, गोबिंद दियो मिलाये

    To whom should I bow, my Guru or the Lord?
    I bow to thee, O Guru, for you have shown me God

    A host to universities since before the time of Christ, India has long revered learning, which, along with spirituality have been the pillars of the Indian notion of civilization (Sankriti). Despite the history, at the time of independence in 1947, only one in five citizens was literate. In independent India, equitable access to education was considered of first importance, hence the sector came under the purview of the government.

    Until economic liberalization in 1991, India's best tertiary institutions were exclusively public funded. These included the well-known Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). The first private university was recognized in 1995 - today, India has 77. Most private universities are run on unabashedly profit-oriented lines. While the better ones compete with the top public institutions, most do not. Philanthropic support of college and universities is weak, even as the ranks of the wealthy grows in strength.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:44 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Guido Sarducci and the Purposes of Higher Education

    Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson:

    The way college courses generally work is that a teacher presents a group of students with some subject matter, then attempts through tests and papers to determine how well the students have mastered the subject matter. Those judgments are summarized in a letter grade. A list of those subject matters and grades constitutes the transcript that describes what the student has learned and what the student's performance was overall.

    The students and the teacher are focused on the subject matter, and the implied view is that the learning in college is captured in the exercises that inform those grades. The limitations of this "subject matter recall" model of higher education are hilariously captured in Don Novello's comic performance on Saturday Night Live as Father Guido Sarducci, who marketed the "Five Minute University": http://youtu.be/kO8x8eoU3L4

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:36 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Teacher says debate has ignored a crucial issue: parents

    Robert King:

    Evan Camp's frustration had built up to the point where he couldn't shed it even by feverishly cleaning his house.

    To him, all the talk about education reform seemed to be about punishing teachers, especially the part about tying teacher pay to test scores.

    So Camp, a middle school science teacher in Greenwood, started jotting down thoughts as he cleaned one Saturday afternoon. Soon, he had enough material to write a tome for beleaguered teachers that would become an open letter to Gov. Mitch Daniels and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:28 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Idaho lawmakers want to give kids computers and require some online courses. Idaho Virtual Academy has done it for 9 years

    Kristine Rodine:

    Based in a Meridian business park and powered by the K12 education company, the Idaho Virtual Academy is the state's oldest and largest online charter school, with 3,000 students from 43 counties.

    State Superintendent Tom Luna's education reform would give students computers and require some online classes. His proposals, stuck in the Senate Education Committee for the past two weeks, would not affect the Virtual Academy, but the current debate has fostered numerous misconceptions about virtual education, according to academy staff and students.

    "The biggest misconception is that the computer replaces the teacher," academy Head of School Desiree Laughlin said. More than 80 certified teachers who live and work in Idaho teach the classes, and learning coaches, generally parents, oversee the home study.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:23 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Higher Property Taxes, Teacher Cuts and Blame

    Ross Ramsey:

    There will be blood. It's undeniable, especially when the governor goes out of his way to say that he doesn't have any on his hands.

    Rick Perry, watching over a legislative session that threatens (at this point) to cut $9.3 billion or more from state spending on public education, said this week that it would not be the state's fault if any public school teachers lost their jobs. "The lieutenant governor, the speaker and their colleagues aren't going to hire or fire one teacher, as best I can tell," he said. "That is a local decision that will be made at the local districts."

    House Speaker Joe Straus, Republican of San Antonio, said a day later that the governor was "technically correct," in that the teachers don't work directly for the state and the state won't be doing the firing. They may be cutting off the food supply to the kitchen, but it's the cooks who decide which diners will be fed.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Alaska legislative task force releases tentative education report

    Christopher Eshleman:

    The Legislature should attend to policies impacting distance education, teacher training and student counseling, a task force has said.

    The tentative report serves as early recommendations from the group, which formed almost a year ago under a legislative directive.

    Policy makers will ultimately look to its final recommendations for guidance when setting education policy. The group spent two days last week combing, as a co-chairman put it, through a "kitchen sink" of 63 ideas. Roughly half remained when it wrapped up work Friday afternoon.

    The list -- still tentative -- places emphasis on turning to technology-supported distance education in a vast state with relatively few residents. The group suggested state education and workforce development departments should team with university leaders to assess broadband infrastructure. The list would also nudge lawmakers further by asking them to consider encouraging school districts to start requiring some online coursework before a student can graduate.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:19 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Vouchers advance in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

    The Wall Street Journal:

    The U.S. is enjoying a new spring of education reform, with challenges to teacher tenure and "parent-trigger" for charter schools. So it's natural that the mother of all school choice reforms--vouchers--is also making a comeback.

    Last week a House committee voted to restore Washington, D.C.'s opportunity scholarship program, which lets kids in persistently failing schools attend a private school of the family's choosing. Joe Lieberman is pushing similar legislation in the Senate, where it enjoys bipartisan support. The White House and teachers unions killed the program in 2009, despite clear evidence of academic gains.

    Meanwhile, more states are realizing that true educational choice extends beyond charter schools. The most promising development is occurring in Pennsylvania, where a state-wide voucher bill supported by new Governor Tom Corbett is moving through the Republican-controlled legislature.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 14, 2011

    The Classroom vs. the Workshop

    Edmund de Waal:

    When I was a child there was a truism that anyone could make something (a rabbit hutch, say) or mend something (a bicycle) if they had a classical education. It was felt that using intellectual tools--parsing a bit of Latin history, constructing an argument--was training enough for taking on the material world. Learning gave you a steady approach to the tricksiness of the world of things. Lurking behind this belief was an attitude of de haut en bas; condescension towards those working with their hands.

    This annoyed me. Partly because I could only stumble through my Latin lessons but mostly because my afternoons were spent in a pottery workshop learning to throw pots. It was clear to me--a white apron over my school uniform as I kneaded the clay to take out the air bubbles and give it the right consistency, pulled the long twisted wire made from rabbit snares, divided it into 4-ounce balls and sat at my kick wheel in the corner readying myself for my hours of practice--that this was different from classroom learning.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Demonize data on teaching at our state's (California) peril

    Jim Wunderman:

    The facts are hard.

    A generation ago, California had what was considered the best education system on the planet.

    Today, our daughters and sons attend one of the worst-performing education systems in the industrialized world.

    We are failing on the rock-bottom basics. California students' ability to read is ranked 49th in the country by the U.S. Department of Education. Our kids' ability to do math is ranked 47th and we are second to worst in science. Compared globally, the situation darkens further. Of the top 35 nations, the United States is ranked 29th in science and 35th in math. Your neighborhood school might be good by California standards, but that is a very low bar indeed. Our education crisis is a human tragedy and a looming economic disaster.

    The Bay Area Council resolutely refuses to accept this crisis as our state's fate. Let's get past the political gridlock and get down to the real business of dramatically improving California schools. We know, as every honest study has shown, that it will take a combination of real dollars and major changes in the way we deliver education.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:16 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Outgoing Democrat Representative Dave Obey's Midnight Bonuses

    Michael Horne:

    Retired Rep. Dave Obey, the Wausau Democrat who was known for running a lean congressional office, left office after giving a nice taxpayer-funded gift to his staff in the form of an 84 percent salary bonus. Obey ranked eighth among all 435 members of the House of Representatives in his fourth quarter generosity to staff.

    The practice of jacking up fourth quarter salaries for staffers is something that several members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation - led by Republican representatives Thomas Petri (Wisconsin's 6th District), F. James Sensenbrenner (5th Dist) and Democrat Gwen Moore (4th Dist.) - have engaged in over the last decade.

    DAVE OBEY
    The "4th Quarter Bonus," as it has been called by Capitol insiders, is now documented thanks to the researchers at LegiStorm, an organization that catalogues and categorizes Congressional financial data. Congressional salary data is reported quarterly and was released March 1. In every year, there is a pronounced spike in fourth-quarter staff salaries that averages 20 per cent among members of the House of Representatives.

    In the fourth quarter of 2010, fueled by bonuses that were largely fed by departing members - mostly retiring or defeated Democrats like Obey - congressional staff salary expenditures exceeded $200 million for the first time, totaling $201.7 million. LegiStorm reported that bonuses were nearly twice as large for staffs of departing House members as they were for continuing members.

    Related: US debt clock: The outstanding public debt as of 3/13/2011 @ 8:01:46p.m. is $14,175,382,249,980.58 which is $45,698.37 per citizen.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:56 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Kansas Moving $50,000,000 from Education to Health & Human Services

    Dion Lefler:

    Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is cutting $50 million from schools and will ask the Legislature to transfer nearly that much to cover increased costs in health and human services caseloads.

    The school funding reduction makes up the lion's share of $56.5 million in total cuts announced late Friday.

    Brownback, a Republican, said the reductions are necessary to meet the constitutional requirement that the state budget be in balance when the fiscal year ends in June.

    "I wish we didn't have to do this," he said. "It's been difficult, but it's something we need to do."

    The cut in base state aid to education will reduce the state's annual school spending per pupil by $22, from $4,012 to $3,990, according to Sherriene Jones-Sontag, the governor's spokeswoman.

    Much more on increased adult to adult spending, here.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:49 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    In Virginia assault case, anxious parents recognize 'dark side of autism'

    Theresa Vargas:

    When a Stafford County jury this month found an autistic teenager guilty of assaulting a law enforcement officer and recommended that he spend 101/2 years in prison, a woman in the second row sobbed.

    It wasn't the defendant's mother. She wouldn't cry until she reached her car. It was Teresa Champion.

    Champion had sat through the trial for days and couldn't help drawing parallels between the defendant, Reginald "Neli" Latson, 19, and her son James, a 17-year-old with autism.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Randi Weingarten scolds KIPP

    Jay Matthews:

    Yesterday afternoon I got a call from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. She was responding to my request for her union's view of the charge that union rules might force KIPP to close its high-performing schools in Baltimore.

    Weingarten was not happy. She unloaded the harshest assessment of KIPP, the nation's best-known charter school network, and its dealings with her and her union I have ever heard from her.

    She said KIPP is playing by its own set of rules. She said the network, with 99 schools in 20 states and the District, has undermined her repeated attempts to establish a relationship that would allow them to work together for the greater good of children and public schools.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Making students smarter AND better

    Jay Matthews:

    One of the great failures of high schools, my favorite subject, is the lack of effective training in productive behaviors and attitudes, such as cooperating, being on time, making eye contact, speaking persuasively, offering suggestions and focusing on tasks.

    Many educators are trying to develop programs that teach these traits. Some call this character education, which has been around for decades. A few schools and school systems have made progress. Most have not.

    Now a study offers renewed hope. An approach called social and emotional learning (SEL), which trains students to think and act in positive ways, can make a significance difference in school achievement, according to this research. The next step will be to see if it has the same effect on life and work after graduation.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education Budget Battle in Alabama

    Marie Leech:

    Gov. Robert Bentley's proposed education budget would so severely underfund Alabama school systems that at least 49 of the 132 districts would be unable to operate, according to state Superintendent Joe Morton.

    Bentley's budget, which he presented March 1, protects all state-funded teachers but underfunds transportation, utilities, operations and support workers such as secretaries, maintenance workers, cafeteria workers and janitors, Morton said.

    "If the governor's budget is enacted into law without changes, we estimate at the end of fiscal 2012 that 89 school systems will have less than a one-month operating balance and 49 of the 89 will actually have a deficit budget," Morton said. "Alabama cannot operate public education with 37 percent of its school systems insolvent."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:44 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Teachers shouldn't be judged by test scores alone

    David Sanchez:

    There are those who think the best way to determine teacher effectiveness is by looking only at students' test scores. The simplicity of this approach can be seductive, but it is inherently flawed. This approach only makes sense if you assume all children come to school with the same abilities, have the same educational resources and opportunities and return home to the same support systems. As a kindergarten teacher for more than 30 years, I can confirm what you already know to be true: Every child is different.

    The fact of the matter is student achievement and teacher effectiveness aren't simple to measure, and the results of one test are not going to offer a complete assessment of either. Many different measures must be used in order to determine true effectiveness.

    So how do you define teacher effectiveness? How to evaluate it? How to reward it? These are all good questions. Most research will tell you an effective teacher is one of the most important factors in a student's education, and I would agree. Research will also tell you that many other factors can and do influence student success: poverty, hunger, homelessness, language skills, parental involvement and education, the learning environment, hormones and personal motivation.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 13, 2011

    UNLV's Music Center



    Lee & Thomas Beam Music Center.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:52 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Proposed budget makes all-male charter school in Madison less likely

    Matthew DeFour:

    The chances the Madison School Board will approve an Urban League proposal for an all-male charter school geared toward low-income minorities are dwindling.

    Madison Preparatory Academy would cost the district $1.1 million in 2012-13, its first year of operation. That would increase to $2.8 million by its fifth year, Superintendent Dan Nerad told the board last week.

    "For each of these years, (the district) would be obligated to reduce programs and services to our existing schools to transfer this amount of money to Madison Prep," Nerad wrote in a memo.

    Some school board members said last week that Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal makes it less likely they will be able to support cutting other programs to find money for Madison Prep.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:46 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Who has plan to lift teachers' gloom?

    Alan Borsuk:

    So much tumult lately. It's hard to focus on just one thing. So here are four short columns instead of one long one.

    Column 1

    Forget the Viagra. The teachers I've been in touch with lately need Prozac.

    Somewhere in the chaos of last week, the Milwaukee teachers union confirmed that it had given up the fight for its members' rights to have drugs for sexual dysfunction covered by their insurance (a stand that, whatever its merits, belongs in the Hall of Fame of public relations blunders).

    But depression among teachers - now that's a serious subject. Maybe not genuine, clinical depression. Rather, bad-morale, pessimistic, stressed-out, I-think-it's-only-going-to-get-worse depression.

    Maybe the unhappiness will blow over. Daily routines tend to win out in our minds. Or maybe you think ill will is just a necessary by-product of the mother of all comeuppances that teachers deserved and got at the hands of Gov. Scott Walker and the legislative Republicans.

    But marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War by staging a new one in Wisconsin will have long-term consequences on teachers and teaching. Some maybe on the upside. Some will have lasting effects as downers. Who goes into teaching, who stays, what the work is like - there will be big issues to sort out.

    I sincerely hope that Wisconsin political, education and civic leaders take the lead on new education opportunities, rather than follow. Minnesota Democrat Governor Mark Dayton just signed an alternative teacher licensing law days ago. Janet Mertz advocated for a similar model for math & science teachers via this 2009 email. Education model, curricular and financial changes are certainly well underway.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:28 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Life Beyond Autism

    Janet Grillo:

    It's been 81 years since Virginia Wolff published her famous essay, more than 20 since I read it, and even more before I followed her advice that "a woman must have a room of her own, if she is to write."

    When my mother was my age, she considered the best part of her life as behind her. When my grandmother was this age, considered herself "old." And my great-grandmother most certainly was. But that was then, and this is the era of longevity, vitality and change. We've rewritten all the rules. But maybe rules are only scaffolds we construct to contain what we can't control. Which is just about everything.

    My dreams and expectations changed radically when my child was diagnosed with Autism. From that moment, and for the next decade, every thought in my head, urge in my heart and pulse in my body was redirected to helping him. When your child is diagnosed as on the Spectrum, you're told that much can improve, but most profoundly before the age of 5. My son was already three. So the clock was ticking, the meter was running, and I had a choice to make; pursue my needs, or save his life. So I put away the screenplay I was writing, abandoned the film collective I was trying to form, and forgot any notion of going back to a traditional job. In their place, I organized a line of behavioral therapists, occupational therapists, auditory training technologies, and casein-free diets. And thanked God each day that I had the resources so I could.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    It's Breakfast Time, and Education Will Pay

    James Warren:

    If Terry Mazany, the interim chief of Chicago Public Schools, is no longer chief upon the arrival of a new mayor, he can at least claim to have performed the impossible: shortening the school day.

    In a Chicago Tribune homage to Mr. Mazany upon the "milestone" of his 100th day in office, various achievements were claimed as he threw his predecessor, Ron Huberman, under a school bus. ("The system was in free fall," Mr. Mazany said.)

    Nowhere in a multimedia outreach by Mr. Mazany was there mention of a policy change that makes about as much sense as Gov. Scott Walker's joining the Wisconsin state employees union. You didn't think it could happen, but Chicago's pitifully short school day is getting even shorter.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Pay Teachers More

    Nick Kristof:

    Until a few decades ago, employment discrimination perversely strengthened our teaching force. Brilliant women became elementary school teachers, because better jobs weren't open to them. It was profoundly unfair, but the discrimination did benefit America's children.

    These days, brilliant women become surgeons and investment bankers -- and 47 percent of America's kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores). The figure is from a study by McKinsey & Company, "Closing the Talent Gap."

    Changes in relative pay have reinforced the problem. In 1970, in New York City, a newly minted teacher at a public school earned about $2,000 less in salary than a starting lawyer at a prominent law firm. These days the lawyer takes home, including bonus, $115,000 more than the teacher, the McKinsey study found.

    We all understand intuitively the difference a great teacher makes. I think of Juanita Trantina, who left my fifth-grade class intoxicated with excitement for learning and fascinated by the current events she spoke about. You probably have a Miss Trantina in your own past.

    One Los Angeles study found that having a teacher from the 25 percent most effective group of teachers for four years in a row would be enough to eliminate the black-white achievement gap.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:08 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Detroit Considers Turning 41 Schools Into Charters

    Matthew Dolan:

    The emergency financial manager of the Detroit Public Schools presented a plan Saturday to turn nearly one in every three schools into charter schools as part of a bid to save the district millions of dollars and prevent massive school closings.

    The 41 schools selected for independent control currently enroll about 16,000 of the district's 73,000 students and would operate as public school academies starting as soon as this fall. The district expects to release a list of the schools this week and solicit proposals for their transfer.

    Recently the district led by a state-appointed manager overseeing a total of 142 schools has explored modeling Detroit on post-Katrina New Orleans, where a shrunken district was remade with mostly charter schools.

    Robert Bobb, the emergency financial manager, said in a news release Saturday that the charter-school plan would reduce operating costs by $75 million to $99 million, but did not say over what period of time any cost savings would be realized.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:45 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent education

    TedTalks:

    Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script -- give students video lectures to watch at home, and do "homework" in the classroom with the teacher available to help.
    Khan discusses moving away from the "one size fits all" approach to education. However, he does advocate "peer to peer tutoring".......

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:41 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    What the school reform debate misses about teachers

    Joel Klein:

    As the debate rages over public unions and, in particular, over their role in school reform, an unfortunate dichotomy about America's teachers has emerged. On one side, unions and many teachers say that teachers are unfairly vilified, that they work incredibly hard under difficult circumstances and that they are underpaid. Critics, meanwhile, say that our education system is broken and that to fix it we need better teachers. They say that teachers today have protections and benefits not seen in the private sector - such as life tenure, lifetime pension and health benefits, and short workdays and workyears.

    Both sides are right.

    Teaching is incredibly hard, especially when dealing with children in high-poverty communities who come to school with enormous challenges. Many teachers work long hours, staying at school past 6 p.m., and then working at home grading papers and preparing lessons. Some teachers get outstanding results, even with our most challenged students. These are America's heroes, and they should be recognized as such. Sadly, they aren't.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:34 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Just say no to voucher expansion

    Barbara Miner:

    Memo to all Wisconsin legislators. There is an easy way to prove you care about public education in Wisconsin. And it won't cost a penny.

    Just say no to Gov. Scott Walker's proposed expansion of the Milwaukee voucher program providing tax dollars to private schools.

    This may seem merely like a Milwaukee issue. It's not. Voucher advocates have made clear for more than 20 years that their goal is to replace public education with a system of universal vouchers that includes private and religious schools.

    The heartbreaking drama currently playing in Milwaukee - millions of dollars cut from the public schools while vouchers are expanded so wealthy families can attend private schools in the suburbs - may be coming soon to a school district near you.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 12, 2011

    Madison School District reaches tentative contract agreement with teachers' union

    Matthew DeFour:

    The Madison School District has reached a tentative agreement with all of its unions for an extension of their collective bargaining agreement through mid-2013.

    Superintendent Dan Nerad said the agreement includes a 50 percent employee contribution to the pension plan. It also includes a five percentage point increase in employees' health insurance premiums, and the elimination of a more expensive health insurance option in the second year.

    Salaries would be frozen at current levels, though employees could still receive raises for longevity and educational credits.

    The district said the deal results in savings of about $23 million for the district over the two-year contract.

    The agreement includes no amnesty or pay for teachers who missed four days last month protesting Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to strip public employee collective bargaining rights. Walker's signing of the bill Friday prompted the district and MTI to reach an agreement quickly

    Channel3000:
    A two-year tentative contract agreement has been reached between the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Madison Teachers Union for five bargaining units: teachers, substitute teachers, educational and special educational assistants, supportive educational employees and school security assistants.

    District administrators, with the guidance of the Board of Education, and Madison Teacher Inc. reps negotiated from 9 a.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Saturday when the tentative agreements were completed.

    Under details of the contract, workers would contribute 50 percent of the total money that's being contribution to pension plans. That figure according to district officials, is believed to be very close to the 12 percent overall contribution that the budget repair bill was calling for. The overall savings to the district would be $11 million.

    David Blaska
    I present Blaska's Red Badge of Courage award to the Madison Area Technical College Board. Its part-time teachers union would rather sue than settle until Gov. Scott Walker acted. Then it withdrew the lawsuit and asked the board for terms. No dice. "Times have changed," said MATC's attorney.

    The Madison school board showed a rudimentary backbone when it settled a contract, rather hastily, with a newly nervous Madison teachers union.

    The school board got $23 million of concessions over the next two years. Wages are frozen at current levels. Of course, the automatic pay track system remains, which rewards longevity.

    NBC 15
    The Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison Teachers, Inc. have reached tentative contract agreements for five bargaining units: teachers, substitute teachers, educational and special educational assistants, supportive educational employees, and school security assistants.

    District administrators, with the guidance of the Board of Education, and MTI reps negotiated from 9:00 a.m. Friday until 3:00 a.m. Saturday when the tentative agreements were completed.

    The Board of Education held a Special Meeting today at 2:00 p.m. and ratified the five collective bargaining agreements. The five MTI units must also ratify before the contracts take effect.

    Summary of the agreements:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:39 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Will the Khan Academy Revolutionize the Classroom?

    Sunny Chanel:

    Technology continues to become of more and more importance in the classroom. But is it being used properly and to the best of its' ability? Many would argue the answer is no. And one man is on a mission to change that - Salman Khan. Khan, along with his fellow brainiacs at the Khan Academy (and with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as Google), want to revolutionize the way technology is utilized, making the use of computers and videos to have a more positive and powerful impact. How?

    Shantanu Sinha, the president of Khan Academy, stated in a piece for the Huffington Post that, "for the most part, we didn't teach kids with the computer, we taught them how to use the computer. Most kids need no help and could probably teach their parents." He added that, "in the end, computer labs were a side show, expensive investments largely squandered due to a lack of good content or purpose."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:49 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Judge Bars School Tax Increase in Kansas

    Stephanie Simon:

    A federal judge in Kansas on Friday ruled against a group of suburban parents who sought to put a property-tax increase on the ballot in order to raise funds for their public schools.

    Kansas, like a handful of other states, caps the amount of money that local school districts can raise from property taxes, in an effort to enforce a rough parity in spending across the state. Parents in the Shawnee Mission School District, which serves mostly affluent suburbs of Kansas City, sued to lift that cap. They were opposed in court by Gov. Sam Brownback's administration and a coalition of superintendents representing mostly poor and rural districts.

    U.S. District Judge John W. Lungstrum dismissed the case on the grounds that the cap was a crucial and integral part of the state's complex formula for distributing education funds in a manner meant to ensure that wealthy school districts don't pull far ahead of poorer districts. "If the plaintiffs were to prevail on their claim that the cap is unconstitutional, the entire [school funding] scheme would be struck down," Judge Lungstrum wrote.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Philadelphia teachers union files suit to block firing of outspoken Audenreid teacher

    The Philadelphia School District on Thursday agreed to delay disciplinary proceedings against outspoken English teacher Hope Moffett, pending the outcome of a hearing in U.S. District Court.

    The decision came after the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers filed suit in federal court earlier in the day seeking to prevent the district from moving to fire Moffett - a move expected to come on Monday. "The suit is being filed on behalf of PFT members to protect their right to speak freely, without fear of retaliation or intimidation by the district," said Jerry T. Jordan, PFT president.

    Moffett will continue to collect her salary but be assigned to what teachers call "the rubber room" while her case is heard in federal court.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Emanuel: City (Chicago) needs more single-gender public high schools

    Fran Spielman:

    Chicago needs more public high schools in general -- and more single-gender high schools in particular -- to bolster student performance and stem an exodus of middle class families, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel said Friday.

    During a town-hall meeting with Chicago high-school students, Emanuel blamed a "severe shortage" of high schools, in part, for an alarming, 200,000-person decline in the city's population in the 2010 U.S. Census.

    The mayor-elect said that nine out of ten students who apply for admission to Lane Tech High School are turned away. On the West Side, there are 14,000 students "ready to go to high school and only 7,000 slots," he said.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:13 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    This Is How Ann Arbor, Michigan Decides Which Teacher To Lay Off if Both Have Identical Years of Experience:

    New Jersey Left Behind:

    4.813.3 Experience shall mean months, days and years of certificated employment in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. If two or more teachers have the same seniority and the Board must decide on laying off one of the teachers, the last four digits of the teachers social security number will be used as a tie breaker. The lower number will have the most seniority.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:45 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Sandburg bilingual student wins national writing contest

    The Madison School District:

    A 3rd grade bilingual student from Sandburg Elementary School has won a nationwide writing contest for bilingual students.

    Rachel Temozihui won the essay contest sponsored by the National Association of Bilingual Education.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:39 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Gist Says Providence Teacher Firings Were Legal

    Stephen Beale:

    Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has ruled that the mass firings of all Providence teachers was legal, in a letter to a state senator obtained by GoLocalProv.

    Gist says that budget issues--such as the financial crisis facing Providence--can be a cause for terminating teachers, in a March 8 letter she sent in response to a letter from state Senator James Sheehan, D-Narragansett, North Kingstown.

    "As to your first question, there is a clear precedent for the use of 'financial exigency' as just cause for termination," Gist says in the letter.

    Gist cited a 1982 case, Russell Arnold & Michael Clifford v. Burrillville School Committee. "In this case, the Commissioner held that 'fiscal exigency' could provide 'good and just case' for the termination of tenured teachers," Gist writes. "In short, provided that there exists adequate evidence of exigent fiscal circumstances, financial exigency has been found to satisfy the 'good and just cause' element of statutory protection for teachers."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:32 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    NJEA Lobbying: Did You Get Your $6.8 Million Worth?

    New Jersey Left Behind:

    Lots of press on NJEA's bill for lobbying last year: $6.8 million, far more than any other lobbying group in NJ. At about 200,000 members who pay an average of $730 in annual dues, that's about 5% of each teacher's contribution. Pennies in the grand scheme of things. And yet...here's NJEA Spokesman Steve Wollmer sounding a tad defensive in the Star-Ledger: "We spent that money. We felt we had to. The governor was putting out a lot of what we feel was misinformation on education and our members demanded we set the record straight"

    and in NJ Spotlight: "It was unprecedented, but so is the severity of the attacks by this governor. Our membership insisted on it, and our leadership did, too."

    and in the Asbury Park Press, "It's like a fight between two heavyweights; you land some punches, and everyone gets hurt. Our And we acknowledge that numbers for NJEA are down. But that's not going to stop us from telling the truth."

    Locally, the Wisconsin Education Association's $2,143,588 topped lobbying expenditures from January, 2009 to July, 2010

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:03 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Teachers Unions explained

    via Brian Hall

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:02 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 11, 2011

    On Quickly Extending Madison Teacher Contracts; Board to Meet Tomorrow @ 2:00p.m.

    Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

    Thursday, March 10 was an eventful day. With the approval by the state Assembly of legislation stripping public employees of nearly all collective bargaining rights, it appears that our school district has about a day to negotiate with our teachers and other bargaining units represented by MTI about an extension of our current collective bargaining agreement, which expires at the end of June. (We have already agreed to extensions for our two bargaining units represented by AFSCME and for our trades workers.)

    Board members have received hundreds of emails from our teachers and others requesting that we extend their contracts and that we do it quickly. Here is the response I sent to as many of the emails as I could on Thursday night. I apologize to those to whose messages I simply didn't have time to respond.

    Thanks for contacting me to urge the School Board to extend the contract for our teachers and other represented employees.

    This is a difficult situation for all of us and one that all of us would have preferred to have avoided. However, it is here now and we have to deal with it.

    Like all our Board members, I respect, value and like our teachers. I want to do whatever I can to ease the stress and uncertainty that we're all feeling, but I'm also required to act in the best interest of the school district and all of our students.

    The situation before us is that if we do not extend the contract with our teachers, then, once the legislation approved today goes into effect, collective bargaining will effectively come to an end.

    The School Board met tonight to discuss the terms of a contract that we could responsibly enter into for the next two years, given the uncertainty we face. We agreed on a proposal, which we submitted to MTI this evening. Like our previous settlements with other bargaining units, the proposed contract gives us the flexibility we need to adapt to the requirements imposed on us by the new state law, as well as the reduced spending limits and reduction in state aid that are parts of the proposed budget bill.

    The proposed contract is written so that it gives the District discretion over changes in salary and in contributions to retirement accounts and to the cost of health insurance. I recognize that you can feel uncomfortable about the extent of the discretion that our proposal reserves for the school district. We have to write the contract this way, because any change in the contract - like re-opening the contract to adjust its terms - triggers application of the new state law that abolishes nearly all collective bargaining. So we have to draft the contract in a way that any adjustment in its economic terms does not amount to an amendment or change to the contract, and providing the school district with discretion to make such changes seems like the only way to do this.

    The Madison School Board apparently is going to meet tomorrow @ 2:00p.m. to discuss extending the teacher contracts, though I don't see notice on their website.

    Matthew DeFour:

    The Madison School Board scheduled a meeting for 2 p.m. Saturday to approve a deal with its unions before a Republican law to strip collective bargaining takes effect.

    The vote is scheduled less than 48 hours after the School District and Madison Teachers Inc. exchanged initial proposals Thursday night at a hastily called School Board meeting.

    The two proposals, released by the district Friday afternoon, called for extending contracts until June 30, 2013, and freezing wages, but differed on benefit concessions and other details.

    MTI asked that teachers be granted amnesty and given full pay for four days missed last month. Hundreds of teachers called in sick on Feb. 16, 17, 18 and 21 to protest Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to limit collective bargaining. Walker signed the bill Friday after the Legislature approve it Wednesday and Thursday.

    MTI also asked for the missed days to be made up by adding 8 to 15 minutes to the end of every school day through the rest of the year. That would fulfill a state requirement for instructional time.

    The MTI proposal did not include any employee contributions to pension and health insurance premiums over the next two years, something other unions around the state seeking contract extensions proposed to their school boards.

    The district's proposal called for allowing it to set pension contributions, change its health insurance carrier and employees' share of premiums, set class sizes, and increase or decrease wages at its discretion, among other things. The district faces a $16 million reduction in funding under Walker's 2011-13 budget proposal.

    Don Severson: Considerations Proposed for the Madison School District 2011-2012 Budget 300K PDF, via email:
    The legislative passage of the bill to limit collective bargaining for public employees provides significant opportunities for Wisconsin school districts to make major improvements in how they deliver instructional, business and other services. Instead of playing the "ain't it awful' game the districts can make 'systemic' changes to address such challenges as evaluating programs, services and personnel; setting priorities for the allocation and re-allocation of available resources; closing "the achievement gap"; and reading and mathematics proficiency, to name a 'short list'. The Madison Metropolitan School District can and should conduct their responsibilities in different ways to attain more effective and efficient results--and, they can do this without cutting teacher positions and without raising taxes. Following are some actions the District must take to accomplish desirable, attainable, sustainable, cost effective and accountable results.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:19 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Education DIMARYP (Pyramid Spelled Backwards)



    The Concord Review.
    Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 8:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    How Did Students Become Academically Adrift?

    Melinda Burns:

    "Academically Adrift," a new book on the failures of higher education, finds that undergrads don't study, and professors don't make them.

    Here's the situation. You're an assistant to the president at DynaTech, a firm that makes navigational equipment. Your boss is about to purchase a small SwiftAir 235 plane for company use when he hears there's been an accident involving one of them. You have the pertinent newspaper clippings, magazine articles, federal accident reports, performance graphs, company e-mails and specs and photos of the plane.

    Now, write a memo for your boss with your recommendation on the SwiftAir 235 purchase. Include your reasons for finding that the wing design on the plane is safe or not and your conclusions about what else might have contributed to the accident.

    You have 90 minutes.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:03 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Will an expanded Wisconsin voucher program cost more or less?

    Public Policy Forum:

    Gov. Walker's proposed 2011-2013 biennial budget calls for an expansion of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program by repealing the enrollment cap, allowing private schools anywhere within Milwaukee County to participate, and expanding eligibility to all City of Milwaukee families by eliminating income limits.

    During tough budget deliberations, it would be good to know whether the expanded choice program is likely to save or cost state taxpayers over the long run. Either is possible - taxpayers save if the students who join the expanded program otherwise would have been students at more costly public or charter schools and taxpayers lose if the new voucher users would have otherwise been free to the state as tuition-paying private school students.

    There is a debate over the likelihood that the program will be able expand considerably, as capacity for new students in the county's existing private schools appears constrained at this time. However, the debate so far has overlooked the fact that the proposed budget would allow new voucher users to be existing private school students starting in the 2012-13 school year. There is a real concern that the expanded program may, in fact, increase costs for the state over the long run by increasing the total number of Wisconsin K-12 students who receive state support for their education.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:28 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    5 Ways the Value of College Is Growing

    Derek Thompson:

    "It's no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you'll get a good job, and it's becoming less true with each passing decade," Paul Krugman writes today.

    Krugman is right that more school is no total panacea for our jobs crisis. But he's wrong that college is losing its edge. The fact is that that the bonus from a college education for men and women has doubled since the 1970s. Although the costs of an advanced degree have never been higher, the benefits of post-secondary education are growing similarly. Here are five reasons not to doubt the value of a college education today.

    1. Seven of the ten fastest growing jobs in the next 10 years require a bachelor's degree or higher

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Revolt of the Elites

    N + 1:

    Has any concept more completely defined and disfigured public life over the last generation than so-called elitism? Ever since Richard Nixon's speechwriters pitted a silent majority (later sometimes "the real America") against the nattering nabobs of negativism (later "tenured radicals," the "cultural elite," and so on), American political, aesthetic, and intellectual experience can only be glimpsed through a thickening fog of culture war. And the fog, very often, has swirled around a single disreputable term.

    The first thing to note is the migration of the word elite and its cognates away from politics proper and into culture. Today "the cultural elite" is almost a redundancy -- the culture part is implied -- while nobody talks anymore about what C. Wright Mills in 1956 called "the power elite." Mills glanced at journalists and academics, but the main elements of the elite, in his sense, were not chatterers and scribblers but (as George W. Bush might have put it) deciders: generals, national politicians, corporate boards. "Insofar as national events are decided," Mills wrote, "the power elite are those who decide them." The pejorative connotations of "elite" have remained fairly stable across the decades. The word suggests a group of important individuals who have come by their roles through social position as much as merit; who place their own self-maintenance as an elite and the interests of the social class they represent above the interests and judgments of the population at large; and who look down on ordinary people as inferiors. Today, though, it's the bearers of culture rather than the wielders of power who are taxed with elitism. If the term is applied to powerful people, this is strictly for cultural reasons, as the different reputations of the identically powerful Obama and Bush attest. No one would think to call a foul-mouthed four-star general an elitist, even though he commands an army, any more than the term would cover a private equity titan who hires Rod Stewart to serenade his 60th birthday party. Culture, not power, determines who attracts the epithet.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Do Charters Discriminate Against Kids with Disabilities?

    New Jersey Left Behind:

    Acting Comm. Christopher Cerf directly rebutted "myths" about charter schools at a State Board of Education meeting, according to The Record. Contrary to claims by anti-charter proponents, says Cerf, NJ's charter school admit very poor kids and children with disabilities, and perform better than traditional public schools in Abbott districts.

    Here's the powerpoint.

    For example, in NJ 15.87% of kids are classified as eligible for special education services. (We rank second in the nation in this category. First is Massachusetts. Then again, the classification rate at Wildwood High is 24.6%, Asbury Park High is 20.2%, John F. Kennedy in Paterson is 24.1%, and Camden Central High is a stunning 33.6%. But back to charters.)

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:20 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    City Eyes New Tactic for Failing Schools: The Turnaround

    Fernanda Santos:

    The Bloomberg administration's signature strategy for low-performing schools has been to shut them down, a drastic move that often incites anger and protests from teachers, parents and neighborhood officials. Since the beginning of the mayor's first term, more than 110 schools have been shuttered or are in the process of closing.

    The administration is now thinking of testing another approach at two schools in the Bronx: replacing the principals and at least half of the teachers, but keeping the schools and all of their programs running -- a strategy known as a turnaround.

    The plan would bring together unlikely partners: the New York City Department of Education, the teachers' union and the founder of a charter school network who is best known for turning around one of the toughest high schools in Los Angeles.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:19 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 10, 2011

    A teacher weeps for the future of Wisconsin schools

    Vikki Kratz:

    The morning after the Republicans stripped me of my rights, I stood in the hallway of my school, watching my four-year-olds stream in. They gave me hugs. They ran up to show me things: a new shirt, an extra pretty hair ribbon, a silly band. They wanted to know if it was chocolate milk day. They pointed out that one of their classmates, who had been out sick for a few days, had come finally come back!

    And for a little while, normalcy returned to our world. I had spent the evening before at the Capitol, in the crowd of thousands that pushed against the locked doors, demanding to be let in. I think I spent most of the night in shock - not only at how suddenly I could be deprived of everything I had worked for, but of how suddenly the country I thought I knew could become unrecognizable. I was standing with a crowd on the steps in front of the Capitol door when a police officer slammed it shut in our faces. I walked around the building until I found a spot where protesters had lowered a bathroom window. And I watched in disbelief as people began hoisting each other in through the open window, while dozens milled around them. "Ssssh," they warned each other. Don't make any noises that might attract the police.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:08 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Study Hard to Find If Harvard Pays Off

    Laurence Kotlikoff:

    The notion that education pays and that better education pays better is taken for granted by almost everyone. For college professors like me, this is a very convenient idea, providing a high and growing demand for our services.

    Unfortunately, the facts seem to disagree. A recent study by economists Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger showed that going to more selective colleges and universities makes little difference to future income once one accounts for the underlying ability of the student. Their work confirms other studies that find no financial benefit to attending top-tier schools.

    It's good to know that Harvard applicants can safely attend Boston University (my employer), and that "better" higher education doesn't pay better. But does higher education pay in the first place?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    My hard lessons teaching community college

    Kate Gieselman:

    "Stand up if you have ever been told that you weren't college material," the school president booms during the commencement ceremony.

    In answer to his question, dozens of students stand and pump their fists; cheers go up; an air horn blasts. He goes on:

    "Now, stand if you are the first member of your family to go to college."

    Dozens more rise.

    "Stand if you started your degree more than 10 years ago," and then the president tells them to stay standing as he ticks off intervals of time, "Fifteen years? Twenty years? Twenty-five years?"

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Average Faculty Salaries by Field and Rank at 4-Year Colleges and Universities, 2010-11

    The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:49 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Can the Brain Explain Your Mind?

    V.S. Ramachandran:

    Is studying the brain a good way to understand the mind? Does psychology stand to brain anatomy as physiology stands to body anatomy? In the case of the body, physiological functions--walking, breathing, digesting, reproducing, and so on--are closely mapped onto discrete bodily organs, and it would be misguided to study such functions independently of the bodily anatomy that implements them. If you want to understand what walking is, you should take a look at the legs, since walking is what legs do. Is it likewise true that if you want to understand thinking you should look at the parts of the brain responsible for thinking?

    Is thinking what the brain does in the way that walking is what the body does? V.S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, thinks the answer is definitely yes. He is a brain psychologist: he scrutinizes the underlying anatomy of the brain to understand the manifest process of the mind. He approvingly quotes Freud's remark "Anatomy is destiny"--only he means brain anatomy, not the anatomy of the rest of the body.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:44 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Memphis Suburbs Vow to Fight Schools Merger

    Cameron McWhirter & Timothy Martin:

    Officials in the suburbs of Memphis, Tenn., said Wednesday they would fight what they see as a shotgun marriage that joins its school system with that of the city, claiming the move will harm academic standards and increase bureaucracy.

    City residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to merge its school system--the largest in Tennessee--with the system run by surrounding Shelby County. The two systems operate as separate entities and administrations, but draw money from the same county-wide tax-revenue base--rare for school districts.

    The move by the Memphis schools, which still faces a federal lawsuit, has drawn the ire of suburban politicians.

    "We will proceed, whether through legislative or judicial channels, to try to undo what we believe has been an ill-conceived and poorly executed plan to take over the Shelby County school system," said David Pickler, chairman of the Shelby County school board.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:29 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Why Fire Teachers?

    Megan Mcardle:

    ED Kain has been blogging a lot about teacher firings, and makes what I think is one of the better cases for the tenure/civil service/union protections from firing that teachers now enjoy.
    Teachers need protection from over-zealous bosses and ideological politicians. This is the same thinking behind seniority rules, which protect more expensive teachers (i.e. veterans) from being laid off due to budget cuts. Teaching is not a high-paying job compared to jobs in the private sector, and one of the benefits is some job security. Occasionally this means bad teachers take longer to fire.

    But the answer to that problem is not making all teachers easier to fire. This would undermine teacher recruitment. If you take away pensions, job security, tenure, the ability to unionize, and basically all the other perks of teaching, what you're left with is a very difficult job with no job security, mediocre benefits, and relatively low pay. This is not how you attract good people to a profession, or how you guarantee a good education experience for your children. Paying starting teachers more but making their long-term prospects in the career less certain is also wrong-headed. High turnover is not desirable for any business, teaching included.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:22 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    New Tennessee education chief is 'right fit'

    Jennifer Brooks:

    Gov. Bill Haslam went outside the state and outside the schoolhouse to find Tennessee's next education commissioner.

    Kevin Huffman is a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who has two years of classroom experience and a decade as an administrator at Teach for America, a nonprofit dedicated to taking bright young college students with no teaching experience and training them to teach in some of the poorest schools in the nation.

    "I put a special effort into finding the right fit for education commissioner," Haslam said in Thursday's announcement of one of his final Cabinet appointments. "... Kevin combines the experience of having been a bilingual first- and second-grade teacher to helping oversee a national organization with 1,400 full-time employees and a budget of $212 million."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:18 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    In a Wealthy Suburb, Concern Over School Taxes

    Louis Uchitelle:

    This wealthy New York suburb prides itself on its public schools. Class sizes are small. Students can choose from an array of subjects not offered everywhere. Teacher pay ranks among the nation's highest. And voters long approved high real estate taxes to pay for it all.

    But even here -- as in other affluent enclaves -- corners are being cut, bringing home the wrenching debate that has caused turmoil in so many other communities. What some really fear is that the cuts will continue. "You hear people say they want Mandarin taught in the sixth grade or they want smaller class size or some other enhancement," said Julie Meade, president of the Parent Teacher Association and mother of two school-age children. "But they don't talk about raising taxes to pay for what they advocate. I haven't heard anyone say raise taxes to pay for quality."

    Ms. Meade and others in her P.T.A. are beginning to suggest that austerity may be going too far, particularly in the matter of class size, which has crept up in kindergarten through fifth grade to an average of 22 from 19.9 in 2006-7, the last full school year before the recession. While 22 is hardly overcrowding by the standards of most American school districts, it does push the envelope in the wealthiest suburbs.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:15 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    USA Today series forces look at cheating

    Jay Matthews:

    The Los Angeles Board of Education shocked the city, and much of the education world, last week by ordering six charter schools shut down after a charter official was found to have orchestrated cheating on state tests. It is rare for a school board to close that many charters at once. Even the local teachers union, often hostile to charters, advised against it.

    But more surprising, and perhaps a sign of a significant shift in the national debate over testing, is the fact that the jump in scores at the Crescendo charter system was investigated at all. USA Today, in a series of stories launched this week, has compiled nationwide evidence of inexplicable test score gains, followed by equally puzzling collapses, that experts say suggest cheating but are ignored by the officials responsible for those schools.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:12 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    'Insanity,' 'stupidity' drive education reform efforts

    Susan Troller:

    A big crowd packed into the University of Wisconsin's Memorial Union Theater on Tuesday night to hear education historian Diane Ravitch, considered one of the most influential scholars in the nation on schools.

    In her talk, she ripped into Gov. Scott Walker's budget, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's Race to the Top, the obsession with measuring student progress through high stakes testing, privatization of education through charters and vouchers and No Child Left Behind legislation that is closing schools and punishing teachers.

    Her gloomy assessment of the current passion for "fixing" education and vilifying teachers is particularly striking because Ravitch herself is a former proponent of school testing and accountability and an early supporter of the No Child Left Behind legislation.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:03 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Collective Bargaining and the Student Achievement Gap

    Tom Jacobs:

    As numerous states -- most prominently Wisconsin and Ohio -- consider curtailing the collective bargaining rights of their workers, the debate has largely focused on money and power. If public employee unions are de-authorized or restricted, what impact will that have on state budgets? Tax rates? Political contests?

    When it comes to teachers, however, this discussion bypasses a crucial question: What is the impact of collective bargaining on students? A study just published in the Yale Law Journal, which looks at recent, real-life experience in the state of New Mexico, provides a troubling answer.

    It finds mandatory collective bargaining laws for public-school teachers lead to a welcome rise in SAT scores - and a disappointing decrease in graduation rates. Author Benjamin Lindy, a member of the Yale Law School class of 2010 and former middle-school teacher, reports that any improvements in student performance appear to come "at the expense of those who are already worse off."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Wisconsin Teachers urge school boards to approve contracts ahead of budget repair bill

    Matthew DeFour:

    Teachers unions across the state are urging school boards, including Madison's, to approve two-year contract extensions with major wage concessions before a Republican proposal to dismantle collective bargaining takes effect.

    But the Wisconsin Association of School Boards is warning districts not to rush contract approvals as they may be limiting their options in the face of historic state funding cuts.

    "We're telling people to be very cautious," said Bob Butler, an attorney with the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. "There's just a lot of unknowns for what their revenue will look like under the governor's (budget) proposal and how that proposal will evolve over time."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 9, 2011

    More on Whether Computers Can Assess Writing

    Bill Tucker:

    A few weeks ago, I wrote about research on new computer-based tools to assess student essays. I concluded that, for now, these tools might be best for establishing basic levels of writing proficiency. But, I also noted that the most important value of these tools may not be for high-stakes testing, but to increase writing practice and revision.

    Randy Bennett, one of the world's leading experts on technology-enhanced assessments, points me to his extremely helpful -- and readable -- new article, which offers advice to the assessment consortia as they look to implement automated scoring (not just in writing, but also for literacy and math).

    Bennett's paper distinguishes among the various types of automated scoring tasks, illustrating where automated scoring is most ready for high-stakes use. He makes a much needed call for transparency in scoring algorithms and even provides ideas on how automated and human-based scoring can improve one another (noting flaws in human-based scoring, too). Finally, he ends with this sensible approach:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Dad, I Prefer the Shiraz Do Parents Who Serve Teens Beer and Wine at Home Raise Responsible Drinkers?

    Melinda Beck:

    Parents teach their children how to swim, how to ride a bicycle and how to drive. Should they also teach their teenagers how to drink responsibly?

    The volatile issue is seldom discussed at alcohol-awareness programs. But some parents do quietly allow their teens to have wine or beer at home occasionally, figuring that kids who drink in moderation with their family may be less likely to binge on their own.

    Many other parents argue that underage drinking of any kind is dangerous and illegal, and that parents who allow it are sending an irresponsible message that could set teens up for alcohol abuse in later years.

    U.S. government surveys have started tracking where and how teenagers obtain alcohol--and that at least some of the time, parents are the suppliers.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Math Night a chance for kids, parents to learn, have fun

    Pamela Cotant:

    The teacher-run Math Night at Madison's Olson Elementary was a chance for parents and children to play math games together, but there's more to the event.

    "The real reason behind it is to have families and kids think a little differently about math," said Dawn Weigel Stiegert, instructional resource teacher at Olson.

    At the recent second annual event, the activities focused on geometry, measurement and math facts/number work. Each area had games designed for different grade levels and chosen by the teachers to fit with math standards for the various grades. The games allow parents, who learned math differently when they were in school, to see the expectations at the different grade levels and how their children are learning math, Weigel Stiegert said.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Union: Seattle School Board missed warning signs in scandal

    Scott Gutierrez:

    Two Seattle school board members were warned in late 2008 that a contractor hired by Silas Potter was unlicensed, paying below-market wages and not following safety rules on construction sites at two elementary schools, according to e-mails between the school board and union officials

    The contractor, Solar West Office Solutions, was investigated by the state Department of Labor and Industries, which ordered the company to pay $57,000 in back wages. However, the school district wound up footing the bill because Solar West's owner, Keith Battle, could not be located and failed to respond to state officials, according to an L&I spokeswoman.

    For four years, Potter ran both a school district program aimed at connecting minority contractors with the district and the Seattle Schools' small works roster, which allocates low-dollar construction contracts offered by the district. The district's minority contractor development program is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:57 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Wisconsin Governor Walker's Budget Bill's Education Component

    The Milwaukee Drum:

    Visit the Wisconsin Department of Administration website and look up "Budget in Brief" to find this and other information regarding the budget. The Drum received this document from a Waukesha County School District resident. These memos were sent out to all the parents of children in their district and we were told the teachers are not happy.

    There are some interesting changes Gov. Walker is looking to pull of. The one that stands out to me is found in the last bulleted point on page 1. It is the repeal of the requirement that charter school teachers hold a DPI teacher license and the only requirement is to have a bachelor's degree.

    This won't be popular, but I know several professionals that want to get involved in education and do not because of the licensing requirement. If this gets repealed I know that some will get involved in charter schools and they will have a positive impact on students. There will be more Black Male teachers as a result of this sea change.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Tested: Covering schools in the age of micro-measurement

    LynNell Hancock:

    Eleven New York City education reporters were huddling on e-mail last October 20, musing over ways to collectively pry a schedule of school closings out of a stubborn press office, when the chatter stopped cold. Word had filtered into their message bins that the city was about to release a set of spreadsheets showing performance scores for 12,000 of the city's 80,000 teachers--names included. Few understood better than the beat reporters that this wonky-sounding database was a game changer.

    The Los Angeles Times already had jolted newsrooms across the country back in August, when it published 6,000 public school teachers' names next to its own performance calculations. New York education reporters, though, were considerably more reluctant to leap on this bandwagon. They found themselves with twenty-four hours to explain a complex and controversial statistical analysis, first to their editors and then to the public, while attempting to fend off the inevitable political and competitive pressure to print the names next to the numbers, something nearly every one of them opposed. "I stayed up all night kind of panicked," said Lindsey Christ, the education reporter for the local NY1 television station, "writing a memo to everyone in the newsroom explaining what was coming and what was at stake."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:52 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Does Wisconsin Governor Walker Care About Attracting the Best and Brightest? - McKinsey and Company says U.S. Teacher Pay is Too Low.

    Kim Grimmer via a Mary Battaglia email:

    Six months ago, before Governor Walker's recent initiatives had Sconnies questioning the level of pay of teachers and other public servants, McKinsey and Company, the international management consulting company, published a report on whether the United States was falling behind other industrialized nations in attracting and retaining the best possible teachers for its K-12 systems. The report was entitled: Closing the Talent Gap, Attracting and Retaining Top-Third Graduates to a Career in Teaching. One aspect that the report noted was that pay for public school teachers in the United States is too low to attract candidates from the top one-third of university graduating classes, and pay over teachers' careers does not rise as fast as that of teachers in other industrialized countries.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:37 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    `Illiterate' boy takes on state

    Agence France Press:

    A 15-year-old Australian boy is suing the government after allegedly being left illiterate and innumerate despite being taught at a state-run school, officials confirmed yesterday.

    The Victoria state education department said it was defending the claim made by the boy from Melbourne.

    Lawyers for the student reportedly told the Federal Court that the state government promises a "world-class" education for students, but the boy had been severely bullied at school and left illiterate and innumerate.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:09 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    White House Blog Post on Education

    Katelyn Sobochik:

    In the third edition of the Advise the Advisor program, Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council and one of President Obama's senior advisors on education policy, is asking for feedback from parents, teachers and students on what's working in communities and what needs to change.

    Providing our nation's students with a world-class education is a shared responsibility. It's going to take all of us - educators, parents, students, philanthropists, state and local leaders, and the federal government - working together to prepare today's students for the jobs of the 21st century.

    You can add your voice to the conversation by answering one or all of the following questions at WhiteHouse.gov/Advise:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 8, 2011

    Bipartisan Group Backs Common School Curriculum

    A bipartisan group of educators and business and labor leaders announced on Monday their support for a common curriculum that states could adopt for public schools across the nation.

    The proposal, if it gains traction, would go beyond the common academic standards in English and mathematics that about 40 states adopted last year, by providing specific guidelines for schools and teachers about what should be taught in each grade.

    For decades, similar calls for common academic standards, curricular materials and tests for use nationwide -- the educational model used by many countries in Europe and Asia -- have been beaten back by believers in America's tradition of local control of schools.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:52 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    How Facebook is Killing Your Authenticity

    Steve Chaney:

    We all know that the delineation between public and private was eroded by Facebook a long time ago. Over. Done. But now Facebook's sheer scale is pushing it in a new direction, one that encroaches on your authenticity.

    Facebook is no longer a social network. They stopped being one long before the movie. Facebook is really a huge broadcast platform. Everything that happens between its walls is one degree away from being public, one massive auditorium filled with everyone you've ever met, most of whom you haven't seen or spoken to in years.

    Last week a bunch of massive sites across the web, including TechCrunch, adopted Facebook commenting. The integration of the formatting and fonts is so strong that when you're reading comments you actually feel like you are on Facebook, not a tech focused vertical site.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:56 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    When test scores seem too good to believe

    Greg Toppo:

    Scott Mueller seemed to have an uncanny sense about what his students should study to prepare for upcoming state skills tests.

    By 2010, the teacher had spent his 16-year career entirely at Charles Seipelt Elementary School. Like other Seipelt teachers, Mueller regularly wrote study guides for his classes ahead of state tests.

    On test day last April, several fifth-graders immediately recognized some of the questions on their math tests. The questions were the same as those on the study guide Mueller had given out the day before. Some numbers on the actual tests were identical to those in the study guide and the questions were in the same order, the kids told other Seipelt teachers.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:42 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    After Amputation, Wrestler Tries to Ease Rival's Pain

    Dirk Johnson:

    When Heriberto Avila lost his leg as a result of an accident during a high school wrestling match in January, he and his family could have started calling lawyers. They could have turned bitter or angry.

    But on the day Heriberto, a Belvidere North High School senior known as Eddie, woke up in a hospital bed and tearfully struggled to deal with the shock that his left leg had been amputated, he reminded his family and his pastor, who were in the room with him, that he was not the only one who needed solace.

    He was worried about his wrestling opponent, Sean McIntrye, a senior at Genoa-Kingston High School, whose legal take-down had caused the broken bones and the rupture in a blood vessel that led to the amputation.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Will Seniority-Based Layoffs Undermine School Improvement Efforts in Washington State?

    Robin Lake, Michael DeArmond, Cristina Sepe via a Deb Britt email:

    A new analysis finds that policies known as "last in, first out" may disproportionately affect schools receiving federal School Improvement Grants (SIGs).

    A centerpiece of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's school reform agenda, SIG funds are intended to transform or turn around chronically failing schools. Analyzing Washington State personnel files, researchers at the Center on Reinventing Public Education found that teachers at risk of layoff are concentrated in schools receiving SIG funds. Many teachers in these schools are newly hired, chosen on the basis of high ability and commitment to education of disadvantaged children.

    In Washington's SIG schools, about 23% of teachers are in their first three years of teaching. That's nearly twice the proportion of new teachers in other schools in the same districts.

    A 5% budget reduction in Tacoma Public Schools, for example, could mean that Tacoma's SIG schools would lose one-quarter to one-half of their current teachers.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:14 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Who's Trusting Who?

    Charlie Mas:

    This whole obsession with public trust had me perplexed.

    Why would the District suddenly be all concerned about public trust? The District, at least for the ten years that I have been active at the District level, has never shown any interest in public trust. In fact, the District has shown a gleeful contempt for the public trust. Their trust message to the public was the line from Animal House: "You fxxxed messed up. You trusted us."

    Why, after successfully demonstrating for the past ten years that the District had no regard for the public trust, that the District didn't need the public trust, and that the District didn't particularly want the public trust, is the District suddenly interested in winning the public's trust?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Hundreds protest cuts to education during Las Vegas Strip rally

    Jackie Valley:

    What was billed as a funeral procession of sorts made its way from the Las Vegas Strip to the Palms hotel-casino on Sunday as about 500 people protested Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed cuts to education -- or what attendees referred to as the "death of education" in Nevada.

    Although it was a student-led protest, the rally attracted parents and educators as well, many of whom carried posters bearing messages such as "Nevadans care about education! So should you, Mr. Sandoval," "What happens in Vegas matters," and "Budget cuts? Nevada bleeds."

    Protesters lamented the effects cuts would have on education in Nevada, arguing for more creativity and tax increases rather than slashing the budgets of K-12 and higher education.

    "No matter how many budget cuts they take from us, we will continue to rise," said Greg Ross, a Nevada State College student. "... Education, no matter what happens at the end of the day, determines the future."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:02 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Students defend their knowledge of proposed Idaho education reform

    Justin Corr:

    The battle over education reform in Idaho will continue this week. The House of Representatives is set to possibly send two of the three bills attached to Superintendent Tom Luna's plan to the governor's desk. The teachers' union is promising more demonstrations and there could also be more student walkouts.

    Last week saw student walkouts most of the week from around the state, all in protest of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's Education Reform Plan.

    But while it looks like a huge number of students, teachers, and parents are against his plan, Luna doesn't necessarily believe they're in the majority.

    "Sometimes, there's an organized effort to get people to testify and protest, and that doesn't necessarily mean that they represent a majority," Luna said.

    Some students we talked to did admit they were only protesting as a means of getting out of class. Luna believes more students would be in support if his plan if they really knew the facts about it.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 7, 2011

    Diane Ravitch Interviews & Madison Appearance 3/8/2011

    Dave Murray:

    The United States is "in an age national stupidity," with a corporate education reform agenda bent on "demonizing teachers so it can fire them," national education advocate Diane Ravitch said at a union-backed education reform symposium.

    Ravich, a former assistant U.S. secretary of education who had a role in developing No Child Left Behind and the charter school movement, renounced both reforms, saying they've given way to a culture of incentives and punishments through testing that does little to help students.

    We recently wrote a column for CNN.com that garnered national attention for saying there was a "simmering rage" among teachers who feel they've been under attack and made a scapegoat for school and budget problems.

    Susan Troller:
    Historians are known for studying news, not making it. But Diane Ravitch, a New York University professor of education, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and blogger for Education Week, is not only heralded as the nation's "most history-minded education expert" (The Wall Street Journal) but is also a newsmaker in her own right.

    When Ravitch, assistant secretary of education under President George H. W. Bush and an early proponent of the No Child Left Behind legislation, recanted her former support for school choice and standardized testing in 2010, her turnaround made headlines in all the major media.

    Ravitch says applying a business model to schools and classrooms is misguided. She also maintains that many of the most popular notions for restructuring public education, including privatization, high-stakes testing, and charter and voucher schools, have put public education in peril.

    Details on Ravitch's Madison 7-8:30p.m. appearance are here.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:56 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education in Michigan must embrace the possible

    Rochelle Riley:

    As we debate Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed budget and whether his constituents can survive it, we should note what the late French essayist Joseph Joubert said: "The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress."

    That should apply to how we spend tax money. And at risk of death threats, I want us to converse more about education spending.

    I find it curious and heartbreaking that whenever a governor proposes cuts to schools, the first outcry is what it will cost the kids.

    Why pick on the kids first?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Texans Duel Over Millions in School Funding

    Ana Campoy:

    As Texas schools scrounge for cash to buy supplies and threaten to lay off teachers, $830 million in education funding earmarked for the state is sitting at the federal Department of Education.

    The money, part of the stimulus package passed last year by Congress to help U.S. schools, is trapped by an increasingly hostile battle between the state's Republican and Democratic politicians over how to use it--to the dismay of school districts facing an almost $10 billion shortfall in state aid.

    Democrats in the state's congressional delegation included a provision in the federal legislation requiring Texas to use the money to supplement existing spending. In the past, they contend, Republicans have replaced state education dollars with federal money, then used the savings for other purposes.

    "Federal aid to education should actually aid education in our local Texas schools, not provide a bailout to the governor for his mismanagement of the state budget," said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat who represents part of Austin.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Pressure Mounts To Ax Teacher Seniority Rules

    Larry Abramson:

    Last week, the New York state Senate passed a bill that would end the use of seniority as the sole factor for deciding which teachers get laid off. The bill faces long odds in the state Assembly. But the vote is a sign of growing frustration with what's known as "last in, first out" -- a rule that says the last teachers hired get dismissed first when there is a layoff.

    Like local leaders around the country, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he will soon have to lay off teachers because of shrinking state aid. And he says he cannot have his hands tied by a system that judges teachers solely on their years of experience.

    "We need a merit-based system for determining layoffs this spring," Bloomberg says. "And anything short of that is just not a solution to the problem we face."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:39 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Private-School Strivers Increase by 10%

    Shelly Banjo:

    In another sign that the city's economic recovery is flourishing, demand for the city's private schools increased by nearly 10% this year, according to new data to be released Monday.

    The number of parents willing to spend upwards of $30,000 a year for elite private schools increased sharply last year, as the number of children who took the admission tests jumped to 4,668, according the Educational Records Bureau, which administers the tests.

    The last time private schools saw this kind of increase was between 2006 and 2007, when the city's real-estate market was in a frenzy, the stock market was at an all-time high and the number of students taking the admissions tests shot up by 12%. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, test takers dipped by nearly 2%; they fell by 5% in 2009.

    "We had a banner year in 2007 with a surge in test takers, but where we are now even surpasses that jump," ERB's executive director, Antoinette DeLuca, said.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:17 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    High School Football Recruiting's New Face

    Pete Thamel:

    Sony Michel is still a high school freshman, yet he has shown flashes of Hall of Fame potential. A tailback for American Heritage in Plantation, Fla., Michel has rushed for 39 touchdowns and nearly 3,500 yards in two varsity seasons.

    "He's on par to be Emmitt Smith, on par to be Deion Sanders, on par to be Jevon Kearse," said Larry Blustein, a recruiting analyst for The Miami Herald who has covered the beat for 40 years. "He'll be one of the legendary players in this state."

    Michel's recruitment will also be a test case for a rapidly evolving college football landscape. The proliferation of seven-on-seven nonscholastic football has transformed the high school game, once defined by local rivalries, state championships and the occasional all-star game, into a national enterprise.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:18 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Miami's Education Success Story

    Greg Allen

    As the White House seized that job news yesterday, President Obama went to Miami. He was there to talk about an issue that has bipartisan support: Education reform. The president visited a Miami high school with an inspiring comeback story. NPR's Greg Allen reports he was joined by a well-known Florida Republican: The former governor, Jeb Bush.

    GREG ALLEN: There are many lessons to be learned from Miami's Central High School: The first is that when there's a president visiting, 600 students can make a lot of noise.

    President BARACK OBAMA: It is good to be here today.

    (Soundbite of cheering)

    Mr. OBAMA: I'm excited.

    ALLEN: Miami-Dade is the nation's fourth-largest school district, and for many years Central was one of its worst high schools. A perennial underachiever, for years it consistently ranked as a failing F school. President Obama noted that in one survey only a third of students said they felt safe at school.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:15 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Last in, Most Worried

    Elissa Gootman:

    The clamor over "last in, first out" -- shorthand for the way union contracts provide for the layoffs of public-school teachers, according to seniority -- is anything but an esoteric political debate for the young teachers at the Academy for Language and Technology, a small high school that opened in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx in 2007. According to a list released by the city, the school stands to lose as many as 9 of 29 teachers if the predictions of 4,675 layoffs before the next school year come true.

    Many newer schools and those in poor neighborhoods, which tend to hire newer teachers, would lose a particularly large share of their staff members. The Academy for Language and Technology, which was created for native Spanish speakers, fits into both categories.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:14 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Requiem for Multiculturalism

    Noel Williams:

    Stop the presses! The British, French and German heads of state agree on something: Cameron, Sarkozy and Merkel have all recently declared multiculturalism a failure.

    Like the related dogma of diversity, multiculturalism is so deeply embedded in the lexicon of liberalism that it has become axiomatic. Proponents hold it so dear that the faintest doubt poses an existential threat.

    With the stakes so high, agnostics face sanctimonious wrath: if you don't believe in multiculturalism there is simply something wrong with you; maybe you're even nuts. While I have reservations I think I'm basically sane, and I sure as heck hope the aforementioned world leaders are operating with a full deck.

    It's important to distinguish between diversity and multiculturalism, which are often lumped together in liberal orthodoxy. Diversity is inherently good; but multiculturalism too often leads to separation and resentment that foments extremism.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:12 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Wisconsin School choice programs get boost in Walker budget

    Matthew DeFour:

    Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal calls for deep cuts in most areas of public education with one notable exception - public school choice programs.

    In addition to steep reductions in school district funding, Walker's budget calls for a 10 percent cut to grants for programs such as bilingual-bicultural education and 4-year-old kindergarten. It also retains current grant funding for special education and low-income students, despite projected growth in those populations.

    Meanwhile, Milwaukee's 20-year-old voucher program would receive $22.5 million more to accommodate 1,300 additional students. The growth would result from Walker's proposal to remove the program's income requirements and enrollment caps.

    And independent charter schools would receive $18.4 million more over the biennium. Walker is projecting 600 additional students as his proposal would lift the state enrollment cap on virtual charter schools, allow the UW System's 13 four-year universities to establish charter schools, and allow independent charter schools in any district in the state.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Madison School District Plans to Expand its Dual Language Immersion Program

    Superintendent Dan Nerad:

    Elementary School Level DLI: Proposal to plan and implement DLI programs at Stephens, Thoreau, and Hawthorne Elementary Schools for the 2011-2012 School year. Given the ongoing increase in the number of Spanish-speaking English language learners, MMSD needs to implement bilingual education programming in order to meet legal requirements imposed by the state statutes. It is recommended we start planning at these three sites during the 2011-2012 school year for program implementation during the 2012-2013 school year starting with a Kindergarten cohort.

    La Follette High School Dual Language Immersion Program Proposal Update: A committee has been formed to start developing a proposal to bring to the BOE for a high school DLI continuation program. The committee is made up of representatives from the district ESLIBE/DLI Division as well as administrators and staff from La Follette High School. The committee meets biweekly. This high school DLI program would
    serve the needs of students in the Sennett DLI program. The students are scheduled to start their high school programming during the 2013-2014 school year. A proposal is scheduled to be presented to the BOE in May of 2011 .

    Additional language options, particularly for elementary students will be good news. Nearby Verona launched a Mandarin immersion charter school recently.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 6, 2011

    Don't forget the students when mulling what's next for the Milwaukee Public Schools

    Alan Borsuk:

    So what will things look like the day after the Milwaukee Public Schools system collapses?

    Or, if you prefer, what needs to be done to avoid finding out the answer to that question?

    Are these serious questions or is all this the-MPS-world-is-ending talk exaggerated?

    I only have a firm sense of the answer to one of those questions, and it's No. 3: It probably won't be this fall (although it might be). But, best as I can see, the system as we know it stands at the brink of a momentous functional breakdown.

    There have been people in recent years who thought the best solution to the problems of MPS was to blow up the system and build something better.

    OK, big talkers: Time to put up. What's next?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:11 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Notes and Links on "The Battle of Wisconsin"

    Wisconsin State Journal

    Wisconsin cannot continue to spend more money than it has while pushing a pile of bills into the future.

    For too long, Wisconsin has lurched from one budget shortfall to another.

    The near-constant distraction of the state's financial mess has kept our leaders from thinking long term. It has intensified partisan squabbles. It has forced difficult cuts and limited our state's ability to invest in its future.

    Gov. Scott Walker's state budget, unveiled last week, is far from perfect. But it does one big thing right: It finally tackles Wisconsin's money problems in a serious way - without the usual accounting tricks and money raids that only delay tough decisions.

    Walker is largely doing in his budget proposal what he said he'd do: Fix the budget mess without raising taxes.

    WPRI Poll: Wisconsinites want Walker to compromise
    Wisconsinites overwhelmingly want GOP Gov. Scott Walker to compromise, a new poll says.

    The poll, commissioned by a conservative-leaning think tank, also found that state residents think Democratic President Barack Obama is doing a better overall job than Walker.

    Further, Wisconsinites narrowly disapprove of Senate Democrats' decision to leave the state to block a Senate vote on Walker's budget repair bill, which contains language to strip away most public employee union bargaining rights.

    The poll of 603 Wisconsinites was commissioned by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and conducted between Feb. 27 and March 1, the day of Walker's budget address, and has a margin of error of 4 percent. The survey of randomly selected adults included cell phone-users and was directed by Ken Goldstein, a UW-Madison political science professor on leave who is also the co-founder and director of the Big Ten Battleground Poll.

    The poll's release comes amid talks between Walker's office and the Senate Democrats. Walker has hinted recently at compromise but said he won't compromise on the core principles of his bi

    Amy Hetzner:
    Days after Gov. Scott Walker proposed major cuts to state education funding, school officials are still trying to find out how harsh the impact might be on their own districts.

    Although the governor recommended a two-year, $834 million decline in state aid for schools and an across-the-board 5.5% decrease in per-pupil revenue caps - restricting how much districts can collect from state aid and property taxes - how that plays out at the local level could still shock some communities.

    They have only to think of two years ago when the Democrat-controlled Legislature dropped school aid by less than 3% and nearly one-quarter of the state's 425 school districts saw their general state aid decline by 15%. The proposed cut in school aid in Walker's budget is more than 8% in the first year.

    "Whenever the state tries to do things at a macro level, with formulas and revenue caps and so forth, there are always glitches," said Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

    New York Times Editorial on New York's Budget:
    At a time when public school students are being forced into ever more crowded classrooms, and poor families will lose state medical benefits, New York State is paying 10 times more for state employees' pensions than it did just a decade ago.

    That huge increase is largely because of Albany's outsized generosity to the state's powerful employees' unions in the early years of the last decade, made worse when the recession pushed down pension fund earnings, forcing the state to make up the difference.

    Although taxpayers are on the hook for the recession's costs, most state employees pay only 3 percent of their salaries to their pensions, half the level of most state employees elsewhere. Their health insurance payments are about half those in the private sector.

    In all, the salaries and benefits of state employees add up to $18.5 billion, or a fifth of New York's operating budget. Unless those costs are reined in, New York will find itself unable to provide even essential services.

    And, finally, photos from Tennessee.

    Tyler Cowen:

    What to do? Time is no longer on the side of good. I suggest that we confront the nation's fiscal difficulties as soon as possible. That means both tax hikes and spending cuts, though I prefer to concentrate on the latter. Nonetheless it is naive to think spending cuts can do the job alone, and insisting on no tax hikes drives us faster along the path of fiscal ruin. The time for the Grand Bargain is now, it will only get harder:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:29 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Elephant in Portland's Room

    Caroline Fenn, Charles McGee and Doug Wells:

    Monday evening, the Portland School Board will vote on a teacher contract that, once again, ignores the elephant in the room -- Portland Public Schools' failure to adequately educate low-income children and children of color. We encourage all Portland residents to read the contract and see what some would have us celebrate. School board members should explain what they've gained and what they've given up with this negotiation. The public deserves answers.

    The district's budget woes are real. But the bigger problem is that PPS time and again puts adult jobs and politics ahead of students' learning and graduating. Our community and state pay a hefty price. With an overall graduation rate of 53 percent (31 percent for Hispanic, 44 percent for African American and 45 percent for poor children), our quality of life is being redefined right before our eyes.

    On Dec. 20, the Black Parent Initiative, the Coalition of Black Men, Community & Parents for Public Schools, and Stand for Children asked the school district, school board and teacher association to eliminate barriers to recruiting and retaining excellent teachers and principals, and to better serve our students, in particular our students of color. Barriers exist in both the teacher contract and district policy. The Native American Youth and Family Center, Latino Network, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, the Hispanic Chamber and a number of civic leaders soon joined with us.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:23 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The fallout for Wisconsin Committing to excellent public schools

    Eric Hillebrand:

    The problem with the current crisis in Madison over public-sector unions is that it distracts from the real issue where Wisconsin's public education is concerned.

    The governor recently announced the need to send contract termination notices to public school teachers if a vote on his budget-repair bill doesn't happen soon.

    Hmm. Do unionized teachers earn too much because of their unions? Can the state afford it?

    The question should be: Would Wisconsin pay for excellent public schools even without teachers unions?

    Teachers are not like General Motors workers in the '70s or janitors today. Those workers have nothing to offer but their strong backs and hands. If they do not bargain collectively, they lose. Nor can teachers be lumped in with police and firefighters. These workers are necessary in a society that wishes to be safe.

    Effective teachers are the kind of professionals who are valuable because of their education, creativity, innovation and initiative. Excellent teachers should be allowed to rise to the top and be in demand, while ineffective ones should be trimmed. The large teacher unions I have belonged to (Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association and Chicago Teachers Union) seem to do the opposite. However, excellent teachers will still need to be attracted with competitive pay and benefits.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:32 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    On School Choice

    Patrick McIlheran:

    Take the school John Norquist sent his son to when he was mayor of Milwaukee. It's private because it bought into the decidedly non-mainstream Waldorf movement. The Norquist family obviously felt it was worth the tuition, which the mayor could afford.

    The school also accepted children via Milwaukee's school choice program, so poor children could attend. Who was left out? Children from families neither poor nor well-off, including children whose parents worked for Norquist as firefighters and cops.

    This is one reason Norquist says Gov. Scott Walker is right to expand school choice. By letting in the middle class, said Norquist, Walker makes better options available to middle-income parents in Milwaukee.

    Norquist swiftly adds that he agrees with nothing else Walker has proposed lately. The ex-mayor goes on at length that he believes Walker wrong to limit public-union bargaining power.

    That said, he vigorously favors more school choice. Milwaukee has school choice for the middle class, only it amounts to moving out to somewhere that the public schools are good. "One of the reasons people leave the city is because they feel they don't have good choices for their kids," Norquist said. "This bill changes that."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The Director of Cambridge's Summer School Has More to Share About its Learning Vacation

    Arthur Frommer:

    Britain's awesome Cambridge University calls its July/August session an "International" summer school because it is open to people from all over the world and of any age, without entrance requirements and without later tests or examinations. I recently wrote about this impressive program, which can be pursued in much of July and August for either one, two, three, or six weeks at a time. Probably because she enjoys a Google alert bringing to her attention any mention of her school, the Director of that program learned about my blog and has now sent me a charming comment that adds helpful details about the opportunity to spend a learning vacation at Cambridge this summer. Her e-mail to me reads as follows:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:36 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Middle school student suspended for opening door

    Gwen Albers:

    A Southampton Middle School student was suspended Thursday for opening an exterior door for a visitor.

    "Students are not allowed to open the doors, and if anyone does, they will be suspended," said Dr. Wayne K. Smith, executive director of administration and personnel.

    A districtwide policy prohibiting students and staff from opening doors to the outside was recently adopted after a $10,800 security system was installed at the middle school, Southampton High School, Southampton Technical Career Center and Nottoway, Meherrin and Capron elementary schools. Riverdale Elementary had a similar system installed when it was built three years ago.

    All of the schools' doors are locked during the day. Visitors must ring a buzzer and look into a camera before office personnel can let them in.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:34 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Ghana Teachers are better off under single spine

    Nathan Gadugah:

    The Deputy Education Minister Mahama Ayariga has dismissed assertions that teachers are worse off under the new pay policy, the single spine salary structure.

    Teachers across the country have threatened a nationwide sit-down strike after widespread distortions in their salaries released in February under the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS).

    The teachers were expecting an improved and enhanced salary under the much publicised single spine but were utterly shocked to notice that their salaries had either being halved or were lower than the preceding month.

    They have accused the Fair Wages Commission of among other things failing to include their Professional Allowance in the build up of the SSSS and have threatened to disrupt the 54th Independence Day Celebration if government does not yield to their demands to review the salaries.

    But speaking on Joy FM's News analysis programme News file the deputy Education Minister Mahama Ayariga stated that the agitations by the teachers are a misunderstanding of the issues.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Higher education: An Iowa success story

    Robert Downer:

    Iowa has been widely known as an "education state" throughout its existence. Because of population shifts and changing educational needs for our K-12 students, this part of our education system receives a great deal of attention.

    There is another component of Iowa's education system which internally has probably not attracted as much attention but which has brought both distinction and tens of thousands of high school graduates to our state for more than a century and a half.

    That component is higher education - public universities under the governance of the Board of Regents, private colleges and universities, and area community colleges. All have made great contributions to Iowa, the United States and the world. Their economic impact within Iowa might be described as "hidden in plain sight."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:09 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 5, 2011

    The Way You Learned Math Is So Old School

    NPR:

    Your fifth-grader asks you for help with the day's math homework. The assignment: Create a "stem-and-leaf" plot of the birthdays of each student in the class and use it to determine if one month has more birthdays than the rest, and if so, which month? Do you:

    a) Stare blankly

    b) Google "stem-and-leaf plot"

    c) Say, "Why do you need to know that?"

    d) Shrug and say, "I must have been sick the day they taught that in math class."

    If you're a parent of a certain age, your kids' homework can be confounding. Blame it on changes in the way children are taught math nowadays -- which can make you feel like you're not very good with numbers.

    Well, our math guy, Keith Devlin, is very good at math, and he tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon that there's a reason elementary schools are teaching arithmetic in a new way.

    "That's largely to reflect the different needs of society," he says. "No one ever in their real life anymore needs to -- and in most cases never does -- do the calculations themselves."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:49 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Bill Gates: How state budgets are breaking US schools


    "We need to care about state budgets: Big Money, Little Scrutiny".

    Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

    "the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It's as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands."
    Related: "The Guys at Enron Would Never Have Done This".

    Much more on schools increased "adult to adult" spending here.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:55 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Breakthrough

    It is settled wisdom among Funderpundits and those to whom they give their grants that the most important variable in student academic achievement is teacher quality.

    However, a small number of dissenting voices have begun to speak. Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, in Academically Adrift have suggested that (p. 131) "Studying is crucial for strong academic performance..." and "Scholarship on teaching and learning has burgeoned over the past several decades and has emphasized the importance of shifting attention from faculty teaching to student learning..."

    This may seem unacceptably heterodox to those in government and the private sector who have committed billions of dollars to focusing on the selection, training, supervision, and control of K-12 teachers, while giving no thought to whether K-12 students are actually doing the academic work which they are assigned.

    In 2004, Paul A. Zoch, a teacher from Texas, wrote in Domed to Fail (p. 150) that: "Let there be no doubt about it: the United States looks to its teachers and their efforts, but not to its students and their efforts, for success in education." More recently, and less on the fringe of this new concern, Diane Ravitch wrote in Death and Life of the Great American School System (2010) (p. 162) that "One problem with test-based accountability, as currently defined and used, is that it removes all responsibility from students and their families for the students' academic performance. NCLB neglected to acknowledge that students share in the responsibility for their academic performance and that they are not merely passive recipients of their teachers' influence."

    There are necessarily problems in turning attention toward the work of students in judging the effectiveness of schools. First, all the present attention is on teachers, and it is not easy to turn that around. Second, teachers are employees and can be fired, while students can not. It could not be comfortable for the Funderpundits and their beneficiaries to realize that they may have been overlooking the most important variable in student academic achievement all this time.

    In February, when the Associated Press reported that Natalie Monroe, a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania, had called her students, on a blog, "disengaged, lazy whiners," and "noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS," the response of the school system was not to look more closely at the academic efforts of the students, but to suspend the teacher. As one of her students explained, "As far as motivated high school students, she's completely correct. High school kids don't want to do anything...(but) It's a teacher's job...to give students the motivation to learn."

    It would seem that no matter who points out that "You can lead a student to learning, but you can't make him drink," our system of schools and Funderpundits sticks with its wisdom that teachers alone are responsible for student academic achievement.

    While that is wrong, it is also stupid. Alfred North Whitehead (or someone else) once wrote that; "For education, a man's books and teachers are but a help, the real work is his."

    As in the old story about the drunk searching under the lamppost for his keys, those who control funds for education believe that as long as all their money goes to paying attention to what teachers are doing, who they are, how they are trained, and so on, they can't see the point of looking in the darkness at those who have the complete and ultimate control over how much academic achievement there will be--namely the students.

    Apart from scores on math and reading tests after all, student academic work is ignored by all those interested in paying to change the schools. What students do in literature, Latin, chemistry, history, and Asian history classes is of no interest to them. Liberal education is not only on the back burner for those focused on basic skills and job readiness as they define them, but that burner is also turned off at present.

    This situation will persist as long as those funding programs and projects for reform in education pay no attention to the actual academic work of our students. And students, who see little or no pressure to be other than "disengaged lazy whiners" will continue to pay the price for their lack of education, both in college and at work, and we will continue to draw behind in comparison with those countries who realize that student academic achievement has always been, and will always be, mainly dependent on diligent student academic work.

    Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 5:42 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    When It Comes To Class Size, Smaller Isn't Always Better

    Andy Rotherham:

    Budget cuts! Layoffs! Bigger classes! Oh my! Given the mini-Wisconsins erupting around the country, it's not surprising that parents are worried about their children's schools. At least 45 states will face some budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins this July, according to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

    Last week the school board of Providence, Rhode Island gave pink slips to the city's entire teaching force. Rumors of class sizes as large as 60 students circulated in Detroit.
    Reality check: There will be teachers teaching in Providence next year. Similar sky-is-falling scenarios will be averted in Detroit and elsewhere, too. But that doesn't mean that there will not be fewer teachers--and larger classes--in many places when school opens this fall. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan may well be right that scarce resources will be the "new normal" for schools.

    The looming budget cuts are putting the question of class size front and center in local communities and the national education debate. A proposal to raise class sizes in Idaho by laying off more than 700 teachers led to protests around the state. Many other states and cities are considering changes to rules about class size.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Largest unions pay leaders well, give extensively to Democrats

    John C. Henry, Center for Public Integrity:

    On the surface, the fight between the governor of Wisconsin and organized labor is about balancing state budgets and collective-bargaining rights. Behind the scenes, hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to top labor leaders as well as campaign contributions to Democrats could be in jeopardy.

    Union treasuries - filled by dues paid by union members - not only fund programs benefiting union members and their families. The money they collect also pays six-figure compensation packages for labor leaders and provides millions of dollars for Democratic causes and candidates.

    The Center for Public Integrity found compensation for leaders of the 10 largest unions ranged from $173,000 at the United Auto Workers to $618,000 at the Laborers' International Union of North America, and almost $480,000 for the president of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees. The latter is the target of GOP governors in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Kansas.

    The union reports, filed with the Department of Labor, list compensation for all union employees and officers. Salaries make up the biggest portion, but other benefits can include tens of thousands of dollars for meal allowances, mileage allowances and entertainment. Health care and pension contributions are not specifically addressed.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    n L.A. school board races, outside spending surpasses $2 million [Updated]

    Howard Blume:

    Outside political action committees continue to dominate the contests over four seats on the Los Angeles Board of Education, spending more than $2 million combined, according to city records.

    [Updated at 2:45 p.m.: The candidate attracting the most independent spending is Luis Sanchez, who is running for the one open seat, in District 5, which spans Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Eagle Rock and the southeastern portions of L.A. Unified, including the cities of Huntington Park, Bell and South Gate.

    Outside groups have spent more than $727,000 for or against Sanchez. Nearly $500,000 has come in to support Sanchez. The source of this money is fund-raising led by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and, separately, spending by Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents many non-teaching school district workers. The local teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, has spent about $260,000 for a campaign opposing Sanchez. It's also spent more than $127,000 in support of Bennett Kayser, who is running against Sanchez.]

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Budget crisis forces states to spend creatively: Duncan

    Reuters:

    In these challenging financial times -- what I call 'The New Normal' -- governments at every level face a critical need to cut spending where we can in order to invest where we must," Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote to U.S. governors while offering "some options on the effective, efficient, and responsible use of resources in tight budget times."

    The $821 billion economic stimulus plan passed in 2009 included the largest transfer of federal funds to states in U.S. history, with much of the money targeted toward healthcare and education.

    The plan runs out this year and the states, which are only seeing a modest uptick in revenue as they still struggle with the fallout of the recession, are looking for places to cut to keep their budgets balanced.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:43 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Fixing Struggling Schools

    Arne Duncan:

    Every day educators across the country are challenging the status quo and showing that low-performing schools can be turned around. Today, the President and I will visit Miami Central Senior High School to talk to some of those educators. Central has received nearly $800,000 in federal funding to support and accelerate turnaround efforts already underway.

    Working with the school district and teachers union, Central promoted a strong school leader to be principal and replaced more than half the staff. It extended learning time after-school and during the summer, and engaged the community by offering Parent Academy classes for parents on graduation requirements and financial literacy. More than 80 percent of students are on free or reduced price lunch. Yet academic performance is steadily improving -- and students and teachers are showing that a committed school can beat the demographic odds.

    The burdens of poverty are real, and overcoming those burdens takes hard work and resources. But poverty is not destiny. Hundreds of schools in high-poverty communities are closing achievement gaps. America can no longer afford a collective shrug when disadvantaged students are trapped in inferior schools and cheated of a quality education for years on end.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:39 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Dianne Ravitch On Daily Show: Testing And Choice Undermining Education

    The Daily Show:

    Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed author, historian, and professor Dianne Ravitch on her new book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System."

    Ravitch argued that testing and choice are undermining America's education system. She said that ever since the No Child Left Behind Act, "schools have been turned into testing factories."

    She also discussed how being a teacher has turned into a thankless job, and that teachers have become entirely demoralized. She stated that "the whole public monologue for the last couple of years has been 'Blame the teachers for everything.'" Stewart agreed, noting that his mother worked in education for years.

    Ravitch is scheduled to speak in Madison on March 8, 2011 @ 7:00p.m.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:37 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    How We Ranked the Business Schools

    Louis Lavelle:

    To identify the top undergraduate business programs, Bloomberg Businessweek uses a methodology that includes nine measures of student satisfaction, postgraduation outcomes, and academic quality.

    This year we started with 139 programs that were eligible for ranking, including virtually all of the schools from our 2010 ranking plus three new schools that met our eligibility requirements. In November, with the help of Cambria Consulting in Boston, we asked more than 86,000 graduating seniors at those schools to complete a 50-question survey on everything from the quality of teaching to recreational facilities. Overall, 28,377 students responded to the survey, a response rate of 33 percent.

    The results of the 2011 student survey are then combined with the results of two previous student surveys, from 2010 and 2009, to arrive at a student survey score for each school. The 2011 survey supplies 50 percent of the score; the two previous surveys supply 25 percent each.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:20 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 4, 2011

    NJEA officials warn against N.J. education chief's plan to tie test scores to teacher evaluations

    Ted Sherman:

    Tying test scores to teacher evaluations could narrow curriculums in schools and reinforce teaching for the sake of passing a test, the New Jersey Education Association argued today, saying that plans by the Christie Administration to impose performance reviews based on how well students do on standardized tests were unworkable.

    Last month, acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf unveiled a five-point reform proposal that would abandon New Jersey's teacher job guarantee program and replace it with an evaluation system rewarding educators for good student performance and working in at-risk schools

    Under the plan, the state's public school teachers would be assessed and paid using a new rating system based in part on how their students do in the classroom.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    New York Democrat Governor Cuomo Seeks Speedy Change in Teacher Evaluations

    Thomas Kaplan:

    Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Tuesday that he would introduce legislation to speed the implementation of a statewide system to evaluate teachers' performance.

    His announcement came minutes after the State Senate passed legislation sought by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg that would reverse a rule protecting long-serving New York City teachers from layoffs regardless of their effectiveness.

    Mr. Cuomo's proposal would have far broader implications, affecting school districts across the state. But it would not affect the thousands of layoffs that Mr. Bloomberg maintains he will be forced to carry out because of cuts in state aid.

    Rather, Mr. Cuomo is seeking to accelerate the introduction of new standards for teacher and principal evaluation that the state's Education Department, with the support of teachers' unions, has been developing since last year.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:45 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Federal Education Spending Updates

    Alyson Klein:

    The administration had wanted to see those programs consolidated into a new, broader, $383 million funding stream aimed at improving literacy. Now it appears there may be a lot less available money for that effort.

    The measure also gets rid of all funding for the rest of the year for the $88 million Smaller Learning Communities program, which was slated to be funneled into a broader program aimed at improving educational options.

    And it scraps the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships, or LEAP, program, financed at $64 million.

    The bill also defunds a lot of programs that are right now classified as "earmarks," meaning money directed at one particular program or project. That includes a number of national education programs, such as Teach for America, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Writing Project, Reading is Fundamental, and the Close Up fellowship.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Vallejo fifth-graders sickened by pot cookie

    Henry Lee:

    our fifth-grade boys at Grace Patterson Elementary School in Vallejo became ill after eating part of a cookie that contained marijuana, officials said Tuesday.

    While on his way to school Monday, one of the boys, an 11-year-old, was given two individually wrapped cookies by a clerk at the Calco Mart and Gas station at 200 Maine St.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Illinois Governor Quinn defends call for merging school districts & Cutting Administrative Costs

    Zachary Coleman:

    Gov. Pat Quinn defended his proposal to merge school districts on Wednesday, saying the money saved from cutting district administrators will put more teachers in Illinois classrooms.

    Quinn said the state could save $100 million by cutting the Illinois' 868 school districts to about 300. Illinois has the third-most school districts in the nation behind Texas and California, and about 200 districts have just a single school.

    "We don't need as many folks at the top level," Quinn told reporters at the Capitol. "We need folks on the front line, in teaching, imparting knowledge and making sure our kids get 21st century education."

    Quinn said at least 270 superintendents earn more than his $177,412 salary.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:57 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Minn. Senate passes alternative teacher licensing

    AP:

    The Minnesota Senate has passed a bill that creates a new method of obtaining teacher licenses.

    The alternative licensing plan is aimed at meeting projected teacher shortages in the future. It's designed to give Minnesota schools an infusion of new, mostly young teachers who don't attend traditional teaching colleges, and help close an achievement gap between white and minority students that's one of the worst in the country.

    Critics say it will harm schoolchildren by making it too easy to become a teacher. But the bill the Senate passed Thursday reflects a compromise between Gov. Mark Dayton and bill sponsors, and it's expected to get his signature.

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

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Current Educational System An Economic Hindrance, Say Senate Dems

    Anna Cameron:

    Moderate Senate Democrats gathered Wednesday on the Walker Jones Education Campus in D.C., a pre-K-8 school, to introduce key principles in American education by stressing the need for the urgency of reform to the No Child Left Behind program.

    "Education is the civil rights issue of our generation," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who joined the group in its call for action. "I am absolutely convinced that the dividing line in our country today is less around race and class than it is around educational opportunity."

    Furthermore, Senators warned that in addition having divisive effects, the crisis in education could be detrimental on an economic and competitive level. For example, over the past ten years the United States has gone from first to fifteenth globally in terms of the production of college graduates.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Midwest union battles highlight debate over improving schools

    Nick Anderson

    The Republican faceoff with labor unions in the Midwest and elsewhere marks not just a fight over money and collective bargaining but also a test of wills over how to improve the nation's schools.

    Various GOP proposals to narrow labor rights, dismantle teacher tenure and channel public money toward private schools raise a question: Should states work with teacher unions to overhaul education or try to roll over them?

    Like many Democrats, President Obama wants collaboration. He has preached teamwork with unions even as he pushes harder than any of his predecessors to get bad teachers out of schools and pay more to those who excel.

    Here in Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) shares many of Obama's education goals. But Daniels, a possible 2012 presidential contender, and several of his Republican peers are pursuing reform through confrontation.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    China's College Applicants: What Defines 'Cheating'?

    Lucia Pierce:

    Thank you to those who have commented on my blog of February 28.

    One reader made a thoughtful point about letters of recommendation and my use of the word "cheat." The writer points out that in writing a letter of recommendation, the student has a chance for self-evaluation and that there is also transparency if the student writes and the teacher signs -- both know what was said.

    While I agree that self-evaluation and transparency are both good qualities, letters of recommendation for colleges are supposed to be confidential comments by a teacher about a student. In the States, it is rare for a teacher to agree to write a letter of recommendation if it will be negative, but a thoughtful letter that gives some detail about the work of a student, how a student interacts with others in the class, the degree of maturity shown, and the strengths and even some weaknesses as a way of showing where a student has worked hard to improve, are things that admissions people want to see; it's one of the many efforts to get to know many aspects of the applicant.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:49 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Budget presented by Fair Lawn, NJ School Board, 1.75% Property Tax Increase

    Tracy Putrino:

    A tentative school budget of $83.3 million was approved by the Board of Education on March 3.

    The budget includes a tax levy, the amount to be paid by taxpayers, of $73,158,200 million. The tax levy is a 1.75 percent increase over last year and below the 2 percent cap permitted for school districts. With debt service of $1,940,222, the total tax levy is $75 million.

    For a property assessed at $411,663, the borough average, it amounts to a $181.93 annual increase or $15.16 a month, according to Superintendent of Schools Bruce Watson.

    "We still have three weeks to work on it," said Watson during his presentation. "We can still change it."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 3, 2011

    Teachers Wonder, Why the Scorn?

    Trip Gabriel:

    The jabs Erin Parker has heard about her job have stunned her. Oh you pathetic teachers, read the online comments and placards of counterdemonstrators. You are glorified baby sitters who leave work at 3 p.m. You deserve minimum wage.

    "You feel punched in the stomach," said Ms. Parker, a high school science teacher in Madison, Wis., where public employees' two-week occupation of the State Capitol has stalled but not deterred the governor's plan to try to strip them of bargaining rights.

    Ms. Parker, a second-year teacher making $36,000, fears that under the proposed legislation class sizes would rise and higher contributions to her benefits would knock her out of the middle class.

    "I love teaching, but I have $26,000 of student debt," she said. "I'm 30 years old, and I can't save up enough for a down payment" for a house. Nor does she own a car. She is making plans to move to Colorado, where she could afford to keep teaching by living with her parents.

    Whitney Tilson, via email:
    This front page story in today's NYT annoys the heck out of me because it's missing one word in its title - it should read: "Teachers UNIONS Wonder, Why the Scorn?" The author presents NO evidence that Americans don't cherish teachers other than a random placard and online comment. What Americans DO object to are unions using their enormous political influence to benefit their members while throwing kids under the bus - two great examples are the impossibility of firing even the most horrific teachers and doing layoffs purely by seniority. Checker Finn has it exactly right:
    Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education policy group, said the decline in teachers' status traced to the success of unions in paying teachers and granting job security based on their years of service, not ability.

    "They are reaping a bitter harvest that they didn't individually plant but their profession has planted over 50 years, going from a respected profession to a mass work force in which everyone is treated as if they are interchangeable, as in the steel mills of yesteryear," Mr. Finn said.

    And why did the author quote the only young teacher in America who thinks it's fair that he's being laid off because he lacks seniority rather than doing it based on which teachers are best for kids? He could have easily quoted one of the Educators 4 Excellence teachers, for example:
    Last month Mr. Tougher was notified that because of his lack of seniority, he will be laid off, or "excessed," this year under the state's proposed cuts to school aid. A union activist, he believes seniority-based layoffs are fair.

    "The seniority part, I get that," said Mr. Tougher, who is single. "While it would be a bummer if I were excessed for next year, that's just how things go sometimes."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:03 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Politics, Unions and Wisconsin Pensions

    Bruce Murphy:

    This is a story that tells how state benefits - and state power - works.

    In 1994, former governor Tommy Thompson was running for reelection to his third term. He wanted to win by a wide margin to boast his chances of being considered as a possible candidate for president or vice-president of the United States. So Thompson let union leaders know he was open to improving the pension for state employees.

    The overture worked. The state employees union backed Thompson in 1994 and again in 1998. And Thompson made good on his promise, helping to pass, in 1999, a state law that gave all employees a 10 percent increase in the value of their pension for all years worked prior to 2000 (any years worked after this got the usual pension multiplier).

    But Thompson went further than the unions wanted. His law allowed employees to collect up to 70 percent of their final average salary in pension payments, an increase from the old 65 percent. That had little value for the unions: Employees would see their annual pension multiplier rise from 1.6 per year to 1.765 percent; even with that increase, however, they would have to work 37 years to hit the legal ceiling of 65 percent of their final average salary.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:44 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Gates Says High Pension Costs Hurt Education

    Robert Guth & Michael Corkery:

    Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates will step into the national debate over state budgets Thursday with a call for states to rethink their public-employee benefits systems, which he says stifle funding for the nation's public schools.

    Mr. Gates in an interview said he will use a high-profile conference Thursday in Long Beach, Calif., to urge that more attention be paid to how states calculate their employee-pension funding and health-care obligations. "These budgets are way out of whack," Mr. Gates said. "They've used accounting gimmicks and lot things that are truly extreme."

    The comments come after Mr. Gates spent more than a year studying the issue and enlisting the advice of leading academics and others.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:44 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Seattle school district: A culture of fear? District Limits Employee Communications with the School Board

    Amy Rolph & Scott Gutierrez:

    A fear of retaliation and an official policy that keeps Seattle Public Schools employees from directly raising concerns with the school board are at least partly to blame for a scandal involving $1.8 million in misused public funds, auditors and investigators say.

    The scandal unfolding at the school district is calling into question why Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and the seven members of the school board weren't alerted earlier to concerns about Silas Potter, who ran the Regional Small Business Development Program.

    Those concerns aren't new -- at least, not to a handful of employees in the school district. But when those concerns were voiced over the last several years, they never made it up to the school board.

    At Seattle Public Schools, when employees do speak up, they have to navigate an obstacle course of bureaucracy before gaining the ears of board members.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Wisconsin Governor Seeks Change in Reading Programs, Highlights dramatic fall in NAEP Performance

    Matthew DeFour:

    But the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is questioning the legality of Walker's proposal to fund the program through the Department of Administration.

    Walker has proposed spending $600,000 in each of the next two years to implement recommendations of a new task force appointed by Walker that would develop a third-grade reading test. Walker noted Wisconsin's performance on a national fourth-grade reading exam has fallen from third out of 39 states in 1994 to 30th out of 50 states in 2009.

    "From kindergarten to third grade, our kids learn to read, and then from third grade on, they use reading to learn," Walker said in his budget address. "We need to make sure every child can read as they move on from third grade."

    Related:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:09 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Students Struggle for Words Business Schools Put More Emphasis on Writing Amid Employer Complaints

    Diana Middleton:

    Alex Stavros, a second-year student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, had been pitching an eco-tourism luxury resort idea to potential investors for months, but wasn't getting any bites.

    He noticed that investors lost interest after the first few minutes of his presentation, and were slow to reply to emails. So Mr. Stavros enlisted the help of one of Stanford's writing coaches for six weeks to help streamline his pitch. After the instruction, his pitch was whittled down to 64 words from 113, and he dropped three unnecessary bullet points.

    "During my consulting career, each slide was a quantitative data dump with numbers and graphs, which I thought proved I had done the work," he says. "Now, my presentations are simpler, but more effective."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:57 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Erasing Signatures From History

    Jeffrey Zaslow:

    In his 35 years as a high school English teacher in suburban Philadelphia, Thom Williams often encouraged his students to splash their most creative thoughts on the walls of his classroom.

    Hundreds of students embraced his invitation, covering those painted cinderblocks with original art, quotes from favorite books, and deep thoughts born from teenaged angst.

    "I looked to those walls for inspiration," says 18-year-old Lauren Silvestri, a student of Mr. Williams's at Marple Newtown High School in Newtown Square, Pa. Before graduating last year, she signed her name and a quote she loves. "It felt good to know I'd come back someday and my words on the wall would be there."

    Her words won't remain for long, however. Mr. Williams died of cancer in December at age 63, and now the school is being renovated. That classroom's walls are set to be demolished or painted over. "Thom was a free spirit who encouraged his students to be free spirits," says Raymond McFall, the school's principal. Still, "I can't have everybody painting on the walls of the school."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Education ministers wobbly on ICT - 'don't get it'?

    John Galloway:

    The Coalition Government brought a big shift in ICT policy for education. From a position of active strategies, streams of guidance, heavy investment in connectivity, research and equipment, to a touch so light as to be barely perceptible.

    The recent white paper, "The Importance of Teaching", emphasises standards for frontline teaching, with ideas about what the curriculum might contain, but scant reference to how they might teach, or with what resources. ICT has one mention - in relation to procurement. This is no oversight. Why the big change? And a recurrent fear among those consulted is worrying - they simply don't fully understand the importance of ICT.

    A set of three simple questions were put to a number of leading figures involved in ICT for learning (the full set of questions and answers can be downloaded here) and three to schools minister Nick Gibb MP. While the Department for Education emphasised schools' new freedoms (see below), the other responses raised a range of worries.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Wisconsin Budget cuts $834 million from schools

    Amy Hetzner and Erin Richards:

    State and local funding for general Wisconsin public school operations would drop 5.5% in 2011-'12 while Milwaukee's private-school voucher program could be poised for a massive expansion under Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal, one that slashes $834 million in state K-12 education spending over the next two years.

    The governor's 2011-'13 budget proposal would phase out the income requirements of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, eliminate the enrollment cap on student participation, and allow Milwaukee families to use their publicly funded voucher to attend any private school in Milwaukee County that wished to participate in the program.

    Walker also hopes to remove a requirement that students in the choice schools take state tests, possibly scuttling new efforts to gauge whether the private school choice program has meaningful impact on academic achievement.

    "We've been saying for a month now that the second shoe was going to drop," said Tom Beebe, executive director of Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, referring to Walker's recent push for major concessions on benefits from teachers and other public employees. "It wasn't just dropped. It was thrown at the head."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    It's Time for a National Digital-Library System

    David Rothman:

    William F. Buckley Jr., my political opposite, once denounced the growing popularity of CD-ROM's in student research. Shouldn't young people learn from real books?

    I disagreed. Why not instead digitize a huge number of books and encourage the spread of book-friendly tablet computers with color screens and multimedia capabilities? (Decades later, we have a version of that in the iPad.) Buckley loved my proposal ("inspiring") and came out in the 1990s with two syndicated columns backing the vision. As a harpsichord-playing Yalie famous for political and cultural conservatism and cherishing archaic words, Buckley was hardly a populist in most respects. But he fervently agreed with me that a national digital library should be universal and offer popular content--both books and multimedia. The library should serve not just the needs of academics, researchers, and lovers of high culture.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Missing Wisconsin senators rely heavily on union campaign dollars

    Daniel Bice and Ben Poston:

    The 14 Wisconsin Democratic senators who fled to Illinois share more than just political sympathy with the public employees and unions targeted by Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill.

    The Senate Democrats count on those in the public sector as a key funding source for their campaigns.

    In fact, nearly one out of every five dollars raised by those Democratic senators in the past two election cycles came from public employees, such as teachers and firefighters, and their unions, a Journal Sentinel analysis of campaign records shows.

    "It's very simple," said Richard Abelson, executive director of District Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "We have interests, and because of that, we attempt to support candidates who support our interests. It's pretty hard to find Republicans who support our interests these days."

    Critics of Walker's budget-repair bill say it would mean less union money for Democrats. That's because the legislation would end automatic payroll deductions for dues and would allow public employees to opt out of belonging to a union.

    Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Distribution of Tax Burden by Quintile

    David Henderson:

    In comments on my post on Rand Paul and David Letterman, some commenters expressed interest in seeing the data on overall federal tax burden, not just the burden of the federal income tax. As it happens, the Congressional Budget Office reports such data. I would reprint their tables but I haven't yet figured out how to do that. So here is the link for 2006 data. Click on their data and you'll get an Excel spreadsheet that shows the following:

    . The bottom quintile paid 4.3 percent of income in taxes,
    . The top quintile paid 25.8 percent of income in taxes,
    . The top decile paid 27.5 percent of income in taxes,
    . The top 5 percent paid 29.0 percent of income in taxes, and
    . The top 1 percent paid 31.2 percent of income in taxes.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:37 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Texas group launches scholarship exclusively for white males

    Jenna Johnson:

    The application for a $500 scholarship from the Former Majority Association for Equality looks pretty much like all the others out there. Well, except for this eligibility requirement: "Male - No less than 25% Caucasian."

    Yes, the Texas-based nonprofit organization has launched a scholarship for white men. Members of the group, which goes by FMAFE, say they aren't racist and "have no hidden agenda to promote racial bigotry or segregation," according to their Web site. Instead, they say their goal is to provide financial aid to white men who might not qualify for other scholarships.

    "FMAE's existence is dedicated around one simple principle, to provide monetary aid for education to white males who need it," the group's mission statement reads.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:35 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    3rd grade field trip allowed access to Capitol building for lesson in civics

    Gena Kittner:

    While hundreds of protesters were forced to stay outside, 15 third-graders were admitted into the Capitol on Wednesday to complete their mission: Find out what democracy looks like.

    "We're not here to protest. We're here to observe what other people are doing," explained Suzanne Downey, a third-grader at Madison's Lincoln Elementary who was part of the class field trip.

    Accompanied by their teachers and chaperones, the students explored the Capitol's ground floor, mingled with the remaining die-hard protesters, talked to police and "collected data" on what they saw and heard.

    "We thought it would be best for them to see for themselves what was going on," said Korinna McGowan, a student teacher at Lincoln. "We want to provide them with a real-life example and a real-life experience."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:34 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 2, 2011

    What Does the Governor's Budget Mean for the Madison School District?

    Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

    The Governor has stated that the cuts in benefits he is imposing on public employees will allow school districts and other governmental agencies to absorb the cuts in state aid that they will sustain without requiring significant layoffs or decreases in services.

    Does that claim hold up? Well, for our school district it looks like it might.

    If my assumptions are correct, it looks like the big financial hits the Governor wants our teachers to absorb will enable us to make it through the recommended cuts in state aid and in our spending authority without the need for significant layoffs.

    I need to emphasize that this conclusion is tentative and certainly subject to revision as I learn more. But this is how I see it now.

    School budgeting issues are invariably confusing. The confusion can be reduced a bit if two issues are kept separate. The first is: How much money can we spend? The second: Where will that money come from?

    David Blaska has more on Ed Hughes' blog, here
    I will not replicate here Kris Wigdal's list of boycott targets but here's the punchline: her list numbers 154 of the leading companies in Wisconsin! Suffice it to say it would be difficult to mow your lawn, do a summer cook out, quaff your thirst, gas up your car, or get medical care unless you do like the Fugitive 14 Senators and go out of state.

    Madison school board member says governor's budget could work

    I have long felt that Ed Hughes is probably squarely in the center of the Madison school board -- not too hot, not too cold. His take on Governor Walker's budget as unveiled Tuesday is that it could work for Madison without teacher layoffs:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:37 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Labor union supporters say Wisconsin test scores vastly outpace those in five states without collective bargaining for teachers

    Politifact.com:

    With that question out of the way, we'll take a look at the thornier question of how those five states' test scores stack up nationally, and against Wisconsin in particular.

    On Feb. 20, 2011, Angus Johnston, an adjunct assistant professor at the City University of New York, published a comprehensive analysis of this question on his blog. He published links to a chart that appears to have been the inspiration for the tweets and Facebook postings. It offers a state-by-state analysis of scores on the SAT and the ACT, the two leading college-admissions tests, assembled by University of Missouri law professor Douglas O. Linder.

    Johnston is critical of Linder's methodology for a variety of reasons, which he explains in more detail here. But without even taking those concerns into account, we find the statistics unreliable. They were published in 1999, meaning that the statistics themselves are likely more than a dozen years old -- far too old to be presumed valid in 2011.

    Fortunately, it's possible to obtain state-by-state rankings for the SAT and ACT of a more recent vintage. Here's a table of the relevant states:

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Even Without Muni Bond Sale, Wisconsin Not in Fiscal Peril

    Kelly Nolan, via a Barb Schrank email:

    Wisconsin may not be able to refinance $165 million in debt as planned in the municipal bond market this week or next, but that doesn't mean the state is in any kind of immediate fiscal peril.

    Wisconsin has taken center stage this budget season, as Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, has pushed to eliminate most of the collective bargaining rights for the state's 170,000 public employees through a controversial budget "repair bill." Democratic state senators have fled the state to avoid voting on the measure.

    Mr. Walker's latest tactic to lure them back has been threatening to make additional cuts or more layoffs, should the state be unable to refinance $165 million in debt for short-term budget relief. Under his plan, the state would issue a 10-year bond to restructure a debt payment that otherwise would be due May 1.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:43 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Bill Gates Addresses Governors on Improving Education

    cspan:

    The National Governors Association concluded its 3-day winter meeting today with an address by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. Governors from across the country gathered to discuss issues facing states, including job creation and providing education that prepares workers to compete in a global market.

    Today's closing session focused on "Preparing to Succeed in a Global Economy." Gates talked about the efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve education and how education is imperative to remaining competitive in a global economy.

    This morning, the Governors were at the White House to meet with President Obama. He discussed with them the ongoing state and federal budget situation as well as the implementation of the health care law. In remarks, the President said that he is open to new ideas on how to lower the cost of health care and the burden on the states, but the quality of care cannot suffer.

    Gates notes that US per pupil spending has doubled in the past 20 years and yet the outcomes have not changed that much. Gates advocates "flipping these curves", essentially spending the same and doing much more.

    Gates also noted the decline in the amount of time teachers spend teaching (adult to children) accompanied by an increase in adult staffing levels over the past 20 years.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Monona Grove Teacher Contract Agreement

    Peter Sobol:

    The MGEA has ratified the contract agreed to earlier today by the board. This contract is for the 2009-2011 school year and will expire June 30th.

    The contract mostly maintains the status quo to allow us to complete the year in an orderly fashion even if the current budget repair bill passes. Hopefully it will give us enough time to deal with the implications of the yet to be released state budget and make layoff and staffing decisions with enough knowledge to minimize disruption. The same is true of senior teachers with the option to retire. It also minimizes risk: in the absence of a contract we would be governed only by the complex state statutes if the "budget repair bill" becomes law, and there is a risk that any disputes would end up in litigation without this settlement.

    The agreed upon contract provides for 0% salary increase in the first year (2009-10) and 1% in the current year. This is significantly less than inflation and saves the district money relative to what had been budgeted. Given that the MGEA would retain the right to negotiate salaries up to the rate of inflation under the "budget repair bill' this is probably a deal for the district. A teacher who started in the district this year with a bachelors will receive $31,695 in salary (including the new teacher stipend), a teacher with a master's and 16 years experience will receive $51,717.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:57 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Billions in Bloat Uncovered in Beltway

    Damian Paletta:

    The U.S. government has 15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, more than 20 separate programs to help the homeless and 80 programs for economic development.

    These are a few of the findings in a massive study of overlapping and duplicative programs that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year, according to the Government Accountability Office.

    A report from the nonpartisan GAO, to be released Tuesday, compiles a list of redundant and potentially ineffective federal programs, and it could serve as a template for lawmakers in both parties as they move to cut federal spending and consolidate programs to reduce the deficit. Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), who pushed for the report, estimated it identifies between $100 billion and $200 billion in duplicative spending. The GAO didn't put a specific figure on the spending overlap.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:39 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Extra Money May Not Avert Teacher Layoffs

    Michael Howard Saul:

    One day after outlining plans to lay off teachers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he is unsure whether additional funds from the state would change his call to eliminate more than 6,100 teaching positions.

    Earlier this month, as part of his preliminary budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the mayor requested $600 million in aid from Albany -- $200 million of which he said was needed for New York City's Department of Education. That additional aid from Albany would close the city's deficit, he said.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Race to the Bottom?

    Walter Russell Mead:

    But America shouldn't compete on the basis of cheap labor: we are not nor should we try to be the Walmart of Work. So the first question becomes how do we compete in ways that don't involve endlessly ratcheting down wages and benefits? And the second, related question is how can we generate enough demand for American workers so that market forces drive incomes up from year to year and decade to decade?

    The key to success is obvious: we need to continue to raise productivity throughout the economy. If productivity goes up quickly enough, wages can rise here even if they are falling elsewhere. This is getting harder; productivity is both easier to measure and to raise in manufacturing than in services. But substituting capital and technology for human sweat has to be a large part of what we do.

    To raise productivity significantly, and especially to do it in ways that give us some long term advantages, we are going to have to do more about productivity in services. In particular we are going to have to look at health, government, education and the legal industry. Health care accounts for 18% of our GDP; education for 7%, and government spending (federal, state and local) accounts for 40%. (Because a lot of government spending goes to health and education, the total from these sectors is closer to 45% of GDP than 65%.)

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:19 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Green Bay School Board should use different means to find new superintendent

    Dan Linssen:

    In mid-2008, after Dan Nerad's departure, the Green Bay School Board granted a large salary concession to reel in successor Greg Maass as Green Bay School District superintendent.

    Nerad's final annual salary was $148,000. Maass required an increase to $184,000 (plus benefits, annuity contribution, car allowance and assorted expenses). Everyone anticipated a leader who would take the district to the next level. Instead, partway into his third year, he decides to "retire" to the East Coast. Coincidentally, an opening in the small, high-wealth Marblehead, Mass., school district suddenly catches his eye. Having optimized his Wisconsin retirement pension formula with three years of high salary, now Maass may draw that pension while collecting a similar salary in Marblehead. And Green Bay is back to square one.

    Can't blame Maass. Who doesn't try to optimize his or her personal welfare within the rules and guidelines of the system? Thousands of former soldiers, police officers and other public employees collect pensions while pursuing late career ventures. Most economists argue that all humans make economically rational decisions, so why shouldn't Maass? If we're not happy with that arrangement then we should lobby our state Legislature for change.

    Can't blame the school board. It followed a traditional and thorough selection process. Members all had to rely on representations and intents expressed by the candidates interviewed. No doubt they all believed Maass would become a driver of educational improvement in the Green Bay district.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:18 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Record number of California teachers likely to see pink slips

    Jill Tucker

    A record number of California teachers could see pink slips in their mailboxes over the next two weeks as school districts prepare for the worst possible budget scenario.

    With the state budget hinging on proposed June ballot measures to extend and increase taxes, school districts won't know until summer whether they'll get enough money from the state to keep all their teachers.

    Billions of dollars hang in the balance, but the uncertainty could force districts next month to send layoff notices to some 30,000 or more teachers, an increase from the 20,000 to 25,000 teachers who got a notice last year, education and labor officials said Friday.

    The notices, required by state law to be sent out by March 15, will advise the teachers, mostly those with the least seniority, that they might not have a job next year. The layoffs must be confirmed in mid-May.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:07 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    US State & Federal Tax & Spending Climate

    Gerald Seib:

    The federal government isn't simply bleeding money. Because of its addiction to red ink, it's bleeding power, which is starting to flow away from the nation's capital and out to the states. This is the little-recognized reality behind the remarkable political upheaval being seen in state capitals.

    Republican governors such as Wisconsin's Scott Walker, New Jersey's Chris Christie and Indiana's Mitch Daniels are pursuing their own controversial fiscal policies out of what they consider financial necessity; they have budgets to balance, and little time and few options to do the job. But governors of both parties also have less reason to wait and hope for help from a federal government that, with overwhelming budget deficits, is losing its ability to offer financial goodies to the states.

    For decades, the implicit deal between Washington and state capitals has been that the feds would offer chunks of cash, and in return would get commensurate influence over the states' social policies. Now that flow of federal goodies has begun what figures to be a long-term decline, as the money Washington has available to pass around to the states is squeezed. Already the funds the federal government offered states as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package have nearly run out, and the budget-cutting that has begun in Washington is curtailing the other money available to dole out.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:06 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Billions in Bloat Uncovered in Beltway

    Damian Paletta:

    The U.S. government has 15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, 20 separate programs to help the homeless and 80 programs for economic development.

    These are a few of the findings in a massive study of overlapping and duplicative programs that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year, according to a new Government Accountability Office report to be released Tuesday.

    The report from the nonpartisan GAO compiles a list of redundant and potentially ineffective federal programs, and it could serve as a template for lawmakers in both parties as they move to cut federal spending and consolidate programs to reduce the deficit.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    What Wisconsin reveals about public workers and political power.

    The Wall Street Journal:

    The raucous Wisconsin debate over collective bargaining may be ugly at times, but it has been worth it for the splendid public education. For the first time in decades, Americans have been asked to look under the government hood at the causes of runaway spending. What they are discovering is the monopoly power of government unions that have long been on a collision course with taxpayers. Though it arrived in Madison first, this crack-up was inevitable.

    We first started running the nearby chart on the trends in public and private union membership many years ago. It documents the great transformation in the American labor movement over the latter decades of the 20th century. A movement once led by workers in private trades and manufacturing evolved into one dominated by public workers at all levels of government but especially in the states and cities.

    The trend is even starker if you go back a decade earlier. In 1960, 31.9% of the private work force belonged to a union, compared to only 10.8% of government workers. By 2010, the numbers had more than reversed, with 36.2% of public workers in unions but only 6.9% in the private economy.

    Robert Barro:
    How ironic that Wisconsin has become ground zero for the battle between taxpayers and public- employee labor unions. Wisconsin was the first state to allow collective bargaining for government workers (in 1959), following a tradition where it was the first to introduce a personal income tax (in 1911, before the introduction of the current form of individual income tax in 1913 by the federal government).

    Labor unions like to portray collective bargaining as a basic civil liberty, akin to the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and religion. For a teachers union, collective bargaining means that suppliers of teacher services to all public school systems in a state--or even across states--can collude with regard to acceptable wages, benefits and working conditions. An analogy for business would be for all providers of airline transportation to assemble to fix ticket prices, capacity and so on. From this perspective, collective bargaining on a broad scale is more similar to an antitrust violation than to a civil liberty.

    In fact, labor unions were subject to U.S. antitrust laws in the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which was first applied in 1894 to the American Railway Union. However, organized labor managed to obtain exemption from federal antitrust laws in subsequent legislation, notably the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Madison school officials call Walker's budget 'disgraceful'

    Dean Robbins:

    Madison school superintendent Dan Nerad also admitted that it has been "a difficult day."

    "This district has been making reductions for over 15 years," Nerad says. "A year ago we had a reduction of 15% in state aid. This year's it's an 8% reduction in state aid. While we know that we face a budget deficit, there's also a need to know that our kids are educated well if our state is to stay strong."

    Nerad says Walker's budget will cause a $20 million cut in revenue for the district in 2011. If the governor's budget repair bill passes in its current form, he says, the amount would be about $11 million. Obviously, given the current chaos in the Capitol, the future is murky.

    The 2011 State of the Madison School District document puts spending at 379,058,945 for 24,471 students ($15,490.13/student).

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    March 1, 2011

    K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Union Pay Isn't Busting State Budgets: "its almost everything else"

    David Leonhardt

    To be clear, I'm making an argument that's different from "Government workers are overpaid." I'm saying that they are paid in the wrong ways -- in ways that make life easier on union leaders and elected officials, at least initially, but that eventually hurt both workers and taxpayers.

    The best example is health insurance. Health plans for union workers and retirees are much more likely to require little or no co-payment, which leads to lots of medical treatments that don't make people any healthier, and to huge costs. Ultimately, some of these plans will probably prove so expensive as to be unsustainable. Workers would have been better off accepting a less generous benefit package and slightly higher salaries.

    The solution today is not to cut both the pay and the benefits of public workers, as would happen if workers in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere lost their right to bargain. Remember, public workers don't get especially generous salaries. The solution is to get rid of the deferred benefits that make no sense -- the wasteful health plans, the pensions that start at age 55 and still let retirees draw a full salary elsewhere, the definitions of disability that treat herniated discs as incurable.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:22 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Madison Teachers, Inc. 2011 Candidate Questionnaire

    1MB PDF, via a kind reader's email:. Mayoral Candidate Paul Soglin participated and I found this question and response interesting:


    What strategies will you introduce to reduce the 6000+ families who move in and out of Madison Public School classrooms each year?

    In the last three years more children opted out of the district than all previous years in the history of the district. That contributed to the increase of children from households below the poverty line rising to over 48% of the kids enrolled.

    To stabilize our enrollment we need stable families and stable neighborhoods. This will require a collaborate effort between governments, like the city, the county and the school district, as well as the private sector and the non-profits. It means opening Madison's economy to all families, providing stable housing, and building on the assets of our neighborhoods.

    One decades old problem is the significant poverty in the Town of Madison. I would work with town officials, and city of Fitchburg officials to see if we could accelerate the annexation of the town so we could provide better services to area residents.

    Ed Hughes and Marj Passman, both running unopposed responded to MTI's questions via this pdf document.
    MTIVOTERS 2011 School Board Election Questionnaire

    Please respond to each ofthe following questions. If you wish to add/clarifY your response, please attach a separate sheet and designate your responses with the same number which appears in the questionnaire. Please deliver your responses to MTI Headquarters (821 Williamson Street) by, February 17, 2011.
    General:

    If the School Board finds it necessary to change school boundaries due to enrollment, what criteria would you, as a Board member, use to make such a judgement?

    Ifthe School Board finds it necessary to close a school/schools due to economic reasons, what criteria would you, as a Board member, use to make such a judgement?

    If the School Board finds it necessary, due to the State-imposed revenue controls, to make further budget cuts to the 2011-12 budget, what criteria would you, as a Board member, use to make such a judgement?

    IdentifY specific MMSD programs and/or policies which you believe should to be modified, re-prioritized, or eliminated, and explain why.

    What should the District do to reduce violence/assure that proper discipline and safety (of the learning and working environment) is maintained in our schools?
    Do you agree that the health insurance provided to District employees should be mutually selected through collective bargaining?

    _ _ YES _ _ NO Explain your concerns/proposed solutions relative to the District's efforts to reduce the "achievement gap".

    Should planning time for teachers be increased? If yes, how could this be accomplished?

    Given that the Wisconsin Association of School Boards rarely supports the interests of the Madison Metropolitan School District, do you support the District withdrawing from the W ASB? Please explain your rationale.
    From what sources do you believe that public schools should be funded?
    a. Do you support further increasing student fees? _ _ YES _ _ _ NO


    Do you support the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools' (WAES) initiative to raise sales tax by 1% to help fund schools?
    _ _ YES _ _ NO

    Do you support class sizes of 15 or less for all primary grades? _ _ YES _ _ NO

    Do you support:
    a. The use of public funds (vouchers) to enable parents to pay tuition with tax payers' money for religious and private schools?
    _ _ YES _ _ NO

    b. The expansion of Charter schools within the Madison Metropolitan School District? _ _ YES _ _ NO

    c. The Urban League's proposed "Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men" as a charter school which would not be an instrumentality of the District?
    _ _ YES _ _ _ NO

    Do you agree that the usual and customary work ofteachers, i.e. work ofthose in MTI's teacher bargaining unit, should not be performed by others (sub-contracted)?

    _ _ YES _ _ NO List MMSD staff and Board member(s) from whom you do or would seek advice.

    Is your candidacy being promoted by any organization? _ _ YES _ _ NO

    If yes, please name such organization(s). Have you ever been employed as a teacher? If yes, please describe why you left the teaching profession.


    Do you support the inclusion model for including Title 1, EEN and ESL students in the regular education classroom? Why/why not?

    What grouping practices do you advocate for talented and gifted (TAG) students?

    Aside from limitations from lack ofadequate financial resources, what problems to you feel exist in meeting TAG students' needs at present, and how would you propose to solve these problems?

    The Board ofEducation has moved from the development ofpolicy to becoming involved in implementation of policy; i.e. matters usually reserved to administration. Some examples are when it:

    a. Decided to hear parents' complaints about a teacher's tests and grading. b. Decided to modifY the administration's decision about how a State Statute should be implemented.

    Do you believe that the Board should delegate to administrators the implementation of policy which the Board has created?
    _ _ YES _ _ NO

    Do you believe that the Board should delegate to administrators the implementation of State Statutes? _ _ YES _ _ NO

    Do you support the Board exploring further means to make their meetings more efficient? _ _ YES _ _ _ NO

    Do you support a merit pay scheme being added to the Collective Bargaining Agreement _ _ YES _ _ _ NO

    If yes, based on which performance indicators?

    Do/did/will your children attend private or parochial schools during their K-12 years? Ifno, and ifyou have children, what schools have/will they attend(ed)?

    _ _ YES _ _ NO If you responded "yes", please explain why your child/children attended private parochial schools.
    Legislation

    Will you introduce and vote for a motion which would direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage oflegislation to eliminate the revenue controls on public schools and return full budgeting authority to the School Board?
    _ _ YES _ _ _ NO

    Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage oflegislation to prohibit the privatization ofpublic schools via the use oftuition tax credits (vouchers) to pay tuition with taxpayers' money to private or religious schools?
    _ _ YES _ _ NO

    Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation which will maintain or expand the benefit level of the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act?
    _ _ YES _ _ _ NO

    Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage oflegislation which will increase the retirement formula multiplier from 1.6% to 2% for teachers and general employees, i.e. equal that of protective employees?
    _ _ YES _ _ NO

    Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation which will forbid restrictions to free and open collective bargaining for the selection ofinsurance for public employees (under Wis. Stat. 111.70), including the naming ofthe insurance carrier?
    _ _ YES
    _ _ NO


    Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation which will guarantee free and open collective bargaining regarding the establishment of the school calendar/school year, including when the school year begins?
    _ _ YES _ _ NO


    Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsiu Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation to forbid the work of employees organized under Wis. Stat. 111.70 (collective bargaining statute) to be subcontracted?
    _ _ YES _ _ NO

    Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to seek passage of legislation which will require full State funding of any State-mandated program?
    _ _ YES _ _ NO

    Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to seek passage oflegislation which will provide adequate State funding of public education?
    _ _ YES _ _ NO

    Do you support a specific school finance reform plan (e.g., School Finance Network (SFN), Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES), Andrews/Matthews Plan)?
    Why/why not? Your Campaign:

    Are you, or any of your campaign committee members, active in or supportive (past or present) of the "Get Real", "ACE", "Vote No for Change" or similar organizations?

    Name ofCampaign Committee/Address/Phone #/Treasurer. List the members ofyour campaign committee.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:06 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Fundraising Concert for Madison Teachers, Inc. 3/5/2011 @ 8:00p.m.



    via a kind reader's email.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:52 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Changes Schools Should Make to Better Serve Students: A Student's View

    Adora Svitak

    My mom once asked me about the first steps I would hypothetically take to make a "better school." I don't claim to be an education expert, but I do have personal opinions about the ideal school -- one I'd like to go to. Among many other things, I said that I would change school starting times, improve cafeteria lunches, and bring back recess. These would be good first steps because they help a lot of students a little bit. And they can have wide-reaching impacts.

    Starting Times
    Studies have repeatedly shown that everyone, especially children with developing brains, need a good amount of high-quality sleep. It's difficult to get when you have to worry about waking up at 7 in the morning to go to school. Not everyone is a morning lark, and by starting school so early, not only students but also educators have to stave off yawns throughout the day.

    I was at a conference where a well-respected sleep researcher, Dr. James Maas, revealed that adolescent sleep cycles tend to begin at 3 a.m. and end at 11 a.m. Yet we're starting school at 7 or 7:30 a.m. While I wouldn't quite change school start times to 11 a.m. (since we have to consider parents who have to go to work), I think it would be reasonable to move them to 8:45 AM or after. Then hypothetically a teenager could go to bed at 12 a.m. (as many often do), wake up at 8, shower and eat breakfast, and go to school with eight rather than five or six hours of sleep.

    Lunch
    Another step: improve cafeteria lunches. Put a cap on the amount of sodium, fat, and calorie content allowed in each lunch. Mandate nonfat or 1 to 2 percent milk (and in smaller containers -- who really drinks that much milk?) instead of whole milk. Get rid of chocolate milk, soft drinks, and vending machines with unhealthy items. Require a certain percentage of food served be organic and/or local, and have smaller portions to help minimize cost (we all know how much food gets dumped out). Have the school's cooking classes (or maybe the entire student body) help make lunch on certain days.

    A bigger step: I think it would be a good idea to have randomly assigned seating during lunch. This might be controversial among students, but the social division that occurs when students simply pick out where they want to sit can be hurtful and exclusive to students new to the school or children with difficulty making friends. Also, it seems that teachers rarely eat lunch and converse with the students. I've learned a lot from being able to have conversations with adults. So, teachers would be required to eat lunch with the students -- at least on certain days -- (and really, if they really can't stand students to the extent that they can't eat with them, should they be teaching?)

    Recess
    While making nutritious school lunches would be an excellent way to start combating childhood obesity, bringing back recess, at all grade levels, could do even more (as well as markedly increasing cognitive ability). In middle and high school you might have a somewhat more organized approach (depending on students, because it isn't hard to envision students simply standing around and talking to each other instead of exercising.

    Perhaps instead of a dreaded required class one semester of junior high, physical education could become a fun, daily 15 to 20 minute class -- where healthy behaviors, like calisthenics, frequent exercise, jogging, and hiking, would be modeled every day. Students could get involved actively in the "curriculum," by submitting their favorite exercise activities and voting on which new things to try.

    "Big" Changes
    I want to talk about "big" changes I would make in education (if I were in a position of incredible power!) -- multiple, age-independent, subject-based grade levels; online learning; and authority hierarchy in school.

    Age-Independent Grades

    I took two electives recently at Redmond Junior High. Everyone asked what grade I was in. It would go something like this:
    "Adora, what grade are you in?"
    "Ninth grade."
    They look incredulously at my apparently seventh-grade style of dress (i.e., sweaters and shirts vs. tank tops and jackets) and say, "You're in ninth grade?"
    "Yeah," I nod quickly, and explain, "I skipped a grade."

    [Actually, it's feasible that I skipped two grades, since 12-year-olds are often put in seventh grade (depending on when your birthday is) but usually I say I just skipped one, since I'm now thirteen.]

    One's grade in school decides what you'll learn and the level at which you'll learn it. It decides when you'll graduate from high school and even the friends you'll make (most of your friends are probably in your grade or close to it). My question is why your age, not your aptitude, should determine your grade -- and why grade covers all subjects, when people have varying degrees of ability and interest across subjects. (Yes, there's a reason kids are always asked, "What's your favorite subject?")

    I am at a loss as to the benefits of putting a group of people of approximately the same age -- but of varying aptitudes -- into one room where they will all learn the same thing. The quicker students will sit bored while the teacher re-explains a concept they already know from their voracious reading, while the slower students will be confused and left out by the rapid pace at which everyone else seems to be progressing.

    My parents homeschooled my sister and me for many years. Why? Because the local school insisted that I, being three, should go to preschool, and my sister, being five, should go to kindergarten. The problem? You learn your alphabet in preschool, and I was already reading chapter books. At the same time, however, I was not so far along with math and science. In other words, I was not "advanced" in everything. Yet many gifted and talented programs try to put students into all-around advanced classes.

    Wouldn't it make more sense to be able to take some kind of test (oral, written, multiple choice, or informal discussion with a counselor) to determine what level you would be? Maybe then I could have taken a test which would have allowed me to learn at second grade reading and history level, and kindergarten or first-grade math and science.

    To me, this approach makes far more sense than sorting students into grades based on when your birthday is. Would you ever tell a son or daughter, little brother or sister, "You weren't born before September 1st, so I'm not going to help you learn your alphabet"? Yet that is what our school system does every year.

    Placement tests to sort students into levels would put students with a larger knowledge base into higher grades, but a large knowledge base doesn't necessarily mean a love of learning. I'd propose that honors/gifted status would then be determined by a student's desire to learn and exhibition of independent learning traits (i.e., reading a lot outside of school, tracking current events, etc.). For instance, if you're a 10-year-old who's been advanced to seventh-grade level mathematics, you'd be placed in the honors math class. The material covered would be the same as the seventh-grade level math (because honors classes would no longer have to serve only as a means of providing harder material -- you'd be placed in a higher grade if you had that large knowledge base), but there would be more discussion, extracurricular activity, etc.

    I personally think that there is no compelling benefit to having an age-based grade system. It could be argued that some poor little advanced 3-year-old, taking language arts classes with 8-year-olds, will feel different and lonely--but 10 years ago, you would have found 3-year-old Adora Svitak taking classes at Renton's H.O.M.E. Program (a public program offering classes for homeschooled children)... with 6, 7, and 8-year-olds, among others -- and feeling fine. Diversity should be more than a buzz phrase. If students are prepared to make friends with and learn from those younger (or older) than them, we have made true progress in embracing diversity.

    Authority Hierarchy in School

    I definitely think that students need to get involved in decision-making on a deeper level, beyond simply being on an associated student government or student council. At the TEDx conference I organized last year, TEDxRedmond, several speakers (all of whom were under 18), spoke movingly on their opinions about education and certain ways their schools had supported and/or failed them.

    In many countries, schools are preparing students to participate in a democratic environment; yet schools themselves tend to be extremely autocratic, with all high-level decisions being made by adults. Let students have a voice -- use online technology to have students give constructive feedback to their teachers and school administrators. Implement student suggestions. Put students on school district boards. Allow students to help form curriculum and get their ideas on which assignments work best for them. Hold regular meetings where students are invited to speak to their school officials.

    Online Learning
    Every school district should have an online learning framework, so that "blended learning" (partially online, partially in-person) can be an option for students. Students could read more of the fact-based lesson material online, so that when they came to class in-person, time could be used on higher-order thinking skills like experiments, projects, and the like. A lot of excellent learning takes place when students are face-to-face with each other and a teacher, yet there are situations where students may not always be able to make it to class. Should students not be able to continue doing any of their work simply because of a school flu epidemic, school staff on strike, snow days, or absences?

    Other obvious benefits of incorporating online learning:


    • Teachers could post assignments, students could submit responses, and teachers could grade them, all online, without worrying about endless stacks of paper.

    • Students could keep up with what was going on in class and see instant grade updates.

    • Teachers could post multiple-choice tests, which can be easily computer-graded, online, and save themselves from the tedious work of checking multiple choice answers.

    • Students could review materials from past lessons before a test.

    • Teachers could easily post links and resources online for students to view.

    • Parents could keep updated on what was happening in class.

    • By using tools like Elluminate, Skype, GoToMeeting, chat, Google Voice, etc., teachers could easily stay in touch with students (particularly when students had questions).

    As a student at an online public high school, I see my teachers using many of these tools. Many of my teachers have Google Voice as well as embeddable chat tools, so we can quickly get in contact.

    Of course, all these changes, big and small, will cost money. Where will that come from? By shifting more content online, we could cut some of the spending that would go toward giant reams of paper and industrial-size printers and copiers. Maybe we could levy a tax on soft drink and junk food purchases, to pay for healthier school lunches. (We could call it "Buy a Twinkie for Yourself, Give a Whole Wheat Sandwich to a Student!")

    Finally, students should take international studies classes, since it's often shocking how little Americans know about other countries. Let's do a pop quiz. I bet most Canadians can name our president. Can you name the prime minister of Canada? It's rare to find someone who hasn't heard of "California" or "New York" before. Can you name a single state of India? It's easy enough for most people to find the U.S. on a map. Can you find New Zealand, recently affected by a devastating earthquake? Or Afghanistan, where we're currently at war?

    I know this post is quite long, and because of the extreme municipal-level management of schools, many of these changes are seemingly impossible. In the coming days and years, I'm hoping we can work together to create a better school -- not just for today's kids, but for tomorrow's.

    Posted by Jeff Henriques at 9:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Inside the multimillion-dollar essay-scoring business

    Jessica Lussenhop:

    Dan DiMaggio was blown away the first time he heard his boss say it.

    The pensive, bespectacled 25-year-old had been coming to his new job in the Comcast building in downtown St. Paul for only about a week. Naturally, he had lots of questions.

    At one point, DiMaggio approached his increasingly red-faced supervisor at his desk with another question. Instead of answering, the man just hissed at him.

    "You know this stuff better than I do!" he said. "Stop asking me questions!"

    DiMaggio was struck dumb.

    "I definitely didn't feel like I knew what was going on at all," he remembers. "Your supervisor has to at least pretend to know what's going on or everything falls apart."

    DiMaggio's question concerned an essay titled, "What's your goal in life?" The answer for a surprising number of seventh-graders was to lift 200 pounds.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo and the unions: The governor's showdown is more subtle

    The Economist:

    IN 1975, when New York City teetered toward bankruptcy, Hugh Carey, then the governor of the state of New York, convinced the teachers' union to invest a significant amount of its pension funds in bail-out bonds. He also persuaded District Council 37 to shelve pay increases for its municipal workers. The unions played a crucial role in saving the city and probably the state with it. Thirty-five years later, during his gubernatorial campaign, Andrew Cuomo gave copies of "The Man Who Saved New York", an account of Mr Carey's role in the crisis, to labour leaders. Seymour Lachman, the book's co-author, reckons that, like Mr Carey, Mr Cuomo wants and needs the unions' help in surviving the current crisis.

    Facing a $10 billion deficit, Mr Cuomo campaigned on pension reform, making it clear he was going to target public-sector unions and sounding more like his Republican neighbour across the Hudson, Chris Christie, than a Democrat. Mr Christie stirred up a lot of headlines when he took on the unions, most recently calling them greedy, selfish and self-interested. Mr Cuomo is less vitriolic, but no less adamant that he wants the unions to do their part. During his budget address on February 1st, in which he declared the state to be "functionally bankrupt", he called on the state's public-sector unions to make $450m in concessions. He threatened, as a "last resort", to lay off up to 9,800 state workers to get the savings needed.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:10 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Is America's best high school soft on math?

    Jay Matthews:

    By all accounts, he is one of the best math teachers in the country. The Mathematics Association of America has given him two national awards. He was appointed by the Bush administration to the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. For 25 years he has prepared middle-schoolers for the tough admissions standards at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the most selective high school in America.

    Yet this year, when Vern Williams looked at the Jefferson application, he felt not the usual urge to get his kids in, but a dull depression. On the first page of Jefferson's letter to teachers writing recommendations, in boldface type, was the school board's new focus: It wanted to prepare "future leaders in mathematics, science, and technology to address future complex societal and ethical issues." It sought diversity, "broadly defined to include a wide variety of factors, such as race, ethnicity, gender, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), geography, poverty, prior school and cultural experiences, and other unique skills and experiences." The same language was on the last page of the application.

    "This is just one example of why I have lost all faith in the TJ admissions process," Williams said. "In fact, I'm pretty embarrassed that the process seems no more effective than flipping coins."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Gov. Scott Walker can thank Michelle Rhee for making teachers unions the enemy

    Richard Kahlenberg:

    Education writer explains how the former D.C. schools chief helped stoke anti-union fires

    A half-century ago, Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to pass legislation allowing collective bargaining for public employees, including educators. At the time, teachers across the country, who make up a significant share of public employees, were often underpaid and mistreated by autocratic administrators. In the fight for greater dignity, union leaders such as Albert Shanker in New York City linked teacher unionization to the fledgling civil rights movement.

    Today, Wisconsin is again at the forefront of a union battle - this time in Republican Gov. Scott Walker's effort to cut his state's budget deficit in part by curtailing collective bargaining for teachers and other public employees. How did it become okay, once more, to vilify public-sector workers, especially the ones who are educating and caring for our children?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:52 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Op-Ed: Rage Simmering Among American Teachers

    NPR:

    Education historian Diane Ravitch says the teachers on the front lines of labor rallies in Wisconsin reflect growing anger among educators nationwide. Teachers are sick and tired, she says, of being blamed for the ills of America's public schools.

    MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

    Now, as teachers started standing up in union protests in Wisconsin, Diane Ravitch sat down and wrote an opinion piece for CNN's website titled "Why America's Teachers are Enraged." When Diane Ravitch looked at the teachers camping out at Wisconsin's capital, she connected their demonstrations to what she says is a simmering rage felt among teachers across the country, an anger among educators who feel they've been unfairly blamed for everything that's wrong with schools today. Within a few days, Ravitch's article was a sensation on social media sites. She got 8,000 comments on Facebook.

    We want to hear from teachers and parents, also students out there, about this issue. Do you feel that teachers are unfairly under attack, or do teachers need to rethink the way they do their jobs?

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:54 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    How Chinese Students Struggle to Apply to U.S. Colleges

    Lucia Pierce

    As I've worked with Chinese students who want to attend college or university in the US, there are some, not surprising, generalizations that apply to the process and there are also constant and gratifying distinctive stories that keep me from being too stereotypical in my assumptions.

    Today the generalizations.

    The US college application preparation is 180-degrees different from preparing to attend college in China. At the most basic level it is a difference between one test score (in China) and a process of many forms, the occasional interview, and each school's idiosyncratic process (in the States). In China, "universities" are the desired place for undergraduate education; "colleges" are three-year institutions more like our vocational schools. This difference can lead to some confusion at the outset of talking with Chinese students and parents about undergraduate education in the US.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo seeks cap on school superintendents' salaries

    Cara Matthews:

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced legislation Monday that would cap school superintendents' salaries based on district enrollment, with a maximum salary of $175,000 a year.

    The proposal sparked immediate opposition from superintendents and other school officials, who said the state gives local school districts the authority to set superintendents' salaries.

    Cuomo said his plan would save about $15 million a year. The best areas for potential savings include back-office overhead, administration, consultants and consolidations, he said.

    "We must wake up to the new economic reality that government must be more efficient and cut the cost of bureaucracy," he said in a statement. "We must streamline government because raising taxes is not an option."

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    The importance of teachers in education

    Kai Ryssdal:

    It's been a busy day for the nation's governors. Not only did they have that session with the president this morning about their budget problems and what to about the health care law, they had to sit though a session on education policy as well. And what to do about public education when there's not enough money to go around.

    The guy giving the speech runs an outfit that does have money to go around. In fact, that's why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation exists. Bill Gates says education is the key issue facing the country.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:55 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

    Child care center online rating system attracts kudos, critics

    Doug Erickson:

    After years of planning, Wisconsin began rating child care centers and posting the results online, drawing mixed reactions from child care providers.

    Supporters say the rating system, called YoungStar, appropriately rewards centers that work to become nationally or locally accredited.

    But critics say the ratings rely too heavily on the educational attainment of teachers instead of how children fare at the centers, and they worry parents will dismiss out-of-hand any center that doesn't attain the highest rating.

    Meanwhile, child care providers are nervously awaiting word on a centerpiece of the rating system -- additional taxpayer money for high-quality centers that care for low-income children.

    Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:12 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas