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September 30, 2011

Bipartisan bill would block automatic voucher school expansion in Wisconsin

Susan Troller:

Ten Wisconsin senators, from both parties, have joined forces to propose legislation that would require any further expansion of voucher schools to receive a full public debate.

The state's voucher program provides taxpayer funds for families to send their children to private schools. It has served low-income students in Milwaukee for about 20 years, but was expanded by Gov. Scott Walker in the state budget passed in June without public debate or other legislative action.

Also included was language allowing automatic expansion of the voucher program in the future to any school district in Wisconsin that meets certain financial and demographic criteria.

That mechanism isn't sitting well with some senators, including Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah. He introduced SB 174, which ensures that any further expansion of the voucher program would include full public debate and legislative action.

"Sen. Ellis is not an enthusiastic advocate nor is he an opponent of voucher programs. But he's long argued that policy issues should not be added into the budget process and this legislation addresses concerns about automatic expansion without proper debate," says Michael Boerger, an aide to Ellis.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Students say: 'Pressure? What pressure?'

Jay Matthews:

We have had a lively debate in the Washington area, and other regions blessed with competitive high schools, about the demands we make on students.

Much of the talk has been about the documentary "Race to Nowhere." The film's creator, Vicki Abeles, told me its popularity is proof of a "silent epidemic" of "pressure-cooker education" nationally.

How much academic stress do students feel? Hart Research Associates just asked them. The answer was: not a lot. Of a representative sample of the high school Class of 2010, 69 percent said the requirements for graduating, including tests and courses, were "easy" or "very easy." And 47 percent said they totally or mainly wish they had worked harder in high school. An additional 16 percent partially feel that way.

The Hart poll, done for the College Board, was not inspired by discussions of "Race to Nowhere," College Board officials say, but it is relevant. It includes a question about the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs; those college-level courses and extra-long final exams that are often said to be crushing our youth.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:33 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Education entrepreneurship, disruption alive and well

Michael Horn:

ImagineK12, an incubator modeled after Y Combinator to help education startups "get it right and get funded," held its first demo day for its first cohort of 10 companies Sept. 9 in Palo Alto, Calif., and a week later the companies presented at TechCrunch Disrupt.

The companies' pitches were crisp and intriguing, and I was struck--and encouraged--by how many of them are attempting disruptive strategies. Who knows how many in the cohort will be successful of course--they are all heading into notoriously choppy waters in a space that, as I've written about, feels a bit overheated at the moment--but by going this route, they do improve their odds.

Here is a rundown of just some of the things that struck me.

GoalBook: The company's mission is to create a personal learning plan for every student. So where are they starting? Special education. Why? The law requires students to have individual learning plans (ILPs). Goalbook can create help a teacher and school create these way more affordably--not a bad thing in times of budget cuts when less expensive (think low-end disruption) could be critical to allowing districts to continue to fulfill their legal mandate.

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Professors take academic road to the east

Della Bradshaw:

A decade ago most aspiring business professors headed west, to the US. These days they are heading in the opposite direction: Asia is becoming the hotspot for the top management thinkers.

The past year has seen some of the world's most distinguished business professors move to Asia - China and Singapore in particular. Blair Sheppard, former dean of the Fuqua school at Duke University in the US, Arnoud de Meyer, former dean of the University of Cambridge's Judge business school, Howard Thomas, former dean of Warwick Business School in the UK, and George Yip, former dean of the Rotterdam School of Management, are just a few.

One obvious reason is the growth in Asian economies, says John Quelch, the Harvard marketing professor and former dean at London Business School, who became dean at Ceibs in Shanghai in January. "The relative growth trajectories favour Asia rather than Europe and the US. In the US, recent political intransigence is adding to the feeling of malaise."

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Test Scores, Multiple Measures, and Circular Reasoning

Christinia Collins:

Anthony Cody's recent reflection on this year's Education Nation program on MSNBC offers an important caution to those trying to develop "multiple measures" for student learning and effective teaching. If the decision to use a given measure is determined solely by whether or not it's linked to higher standardized test scores (as with the Gates Foundation's Measures of Effective Teaching study), then you don't really have "multiple measures."

Tracking test scores can be an important tool in helping students make progress, and it is useful to know which elements of classroom practice have a significant impact on students' performance on end-of-the-year tests. For example, teachers in Chicago who had high ratings on Charlotte Danielson's framework for evaluating effective teaching have also been shown to have higher value-added scores. However, when test scores are used as the sole measure of effective teaching and learning -- or when valuable aspects of effective teaching and important types of student learning are discarded or ignored because they don't align with standardized test results -- our students are the ones who ultimately pay the price.

Do you notice what is bothering me? Mrs. Gates begins by acknowledging that good teaching cannot be reduced to a test score -- or at least that this is often said. She then asserts that the half billion dollars they have spent on research in this area have uncovered a number of things that can be measured that allow us to predict which teachers will have the highest test scores. A great teacher is defined over and over again as one who made sure students “learned the material at the end of the year.”

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Technology isn't the fix for what ails America's schools

Esther Cepeda:

If it weren't so tragic, it might be amusing.

Last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, co-authored with Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, pushing "Digital Promise," a new program to use technology to "revolutionize" K-12 education.

It was published the day after Hastings sent an email to Netflix customers informing them that, in addition to having just ticked them off by both limiting their choices and hiking rates, he also planned to split the company into two separate and unrelated entertainment services.

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He shattered mathematics with a single number

Marcus Chown:

TWO plus two equals four: nobody would argue with that. Mathematicians can rigorously prove sums like this, and many other things besides. The language of maths allows them to provide neatly ordered ways to describe everything that happens in the world around us.

Or so they once thought. Gregory Chaitin, a mathematics researcher at IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, has shown that mathematicians can't actually prove very much at all. Doing maths, he says, is just a process of discovery like every other branch of science: it's an experimental field where mathematicians stumble upon facts in the same way that zoologists might come across a new species of primate.

Mathematics has always been considered free of uncertainty and able to provide a pure foundation for other, messier fields of science. But maths is just as messy, Chaitin says: mathematicians are simply acting on intuition and experimenting with ideas, just like everyone else. Zoologists think there might be something new swinging from branch to branch in the unexplored forests of Madagascar, and mathematicians have hunches about which part of the mathematical landscape to explore. The subject is no more profound than that.

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Career advice worth spreading

Jamie Condliffe:

In part, that was down to a wonderfully diverse range of ideas and participants. Vidal Sassoon's touching monologue about his journery from orphan to perhaps the most famous hairdresser in the world sat seamlessly beside Marcus du Sautoy discussing multi-dimensional symmetry. Alan McGee's tales of launching Oasis into super-stardom and his battles with drug abuse somehow beautifully complemented Aubrey de Grey's explanations of the complexities of regenerative therapies for ageing. Even cybernetic professor, Kevin Warwick's description of a future where our bodies are augmented and invaded by technology managed not to feel at odds with Charles Roberts' inspirational not-for-profit project Greeenstar, which aims to help consumers make green choices by including environmental weightings in internet searches.

Such cohesion is no mean feat, and successfully achieving it made for a relentless yet inspiring day - a sentiment echoed by the attendees I spoke to. "I just love the fact that there are talks on such a wide range of topics," one of them told me. "I'm learning about areas I would never sit down and read about. It makes you value the overlap between topics in a whole new way."

Blurring of boundaries was celebrated by du Sautoy, too, who took time to probe the fallacies of the science-humanities divide. "When I was at school I was frustrated by the idea of being put in an arts or science box," said du Sautoy. "But mathematicians often talk of beauty and aesthetics. The mathematics I do, I do because it tells an interesting story." A refreshing alternative to conventional career advice, and an important point to remember: a career in science needn't mean you can't dabble in the arts, and vice versa.

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

Seton Hall Offers Top Applicants Two-Thirds Off

Richard Perez-Pena:

For students with their sights set on a private college, the anxiety comes as a one-two punch: first from competing with thousands of others for a precious few spots, then from trying to scrape together up to $50,000 a year to foot the bill.

Starting next year, Seton Hall University will try to ease that follow-up blow for early applicants with strong academic credentials, giving them two-thirds off the regular sticker price for tuition, a discount of some $21,000. For New Jersey residents, who constitute about 70 percent of Seton Hall's undergraduates, that would make the cost equivalent to that of Rutgers University, the state's flagship public institution; for those from out of state, the private school would be much cheaper than the public one.

National experts on admissions and financial aid said the policy was the first of its kind. Seton Hall officials said they hoped it would provide clarity and certainty up front to the most desirable applicants, easing the weeks and months of stress that admitted students face as they wait to hear how much financial aid they might get from different campuses.

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

Madison Teachers union receives national recognition for organizing protests

Samuel Schmitt:

A Madison teachers union will receive a national award for its organizational work during last spring's protests against Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill throughout Wisconsin.

The Institute for Policy Studies, located in Washington, D.C., announced Tuesday Madison Teachers Incorporated would be honored with the Letelier-Motiff Human Rights Award on Oct. 12, said ISP spokesperson Lacy MacAuleyet.

IPS annually presents two awards to honor those who the group believes to be "unsung heroes of the progressive movement." One award is presented domestically and one internationally, she said.

MTI Executive Director John Matthews said the union has never received an award of this caliber.

"This is a first," Matthews said. "[The national distinction represents] significant recognition for MTI's leadership. MTI hasn't slowed its effort in the movement."

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

September 29, 2011

WEAC (Wisconsin Teacher Union): Who Benefits?

Why this area teacher chose the non-union option

Elijah Grajkowski:

If the teachers union is as wonderful as it claims, then it should have no problem attracting members, without the need to force teachers to join. How is this any different from any other professional organization that teachers, as professionals, may choose to join? It's a question I have been pondering since I became a public school teacher in Wisconsin.

For years, I have chosen not to be a member of the union. However, this is a choice I didn't exactly have before Gov. Scott Walker's collective-bargaining bill became law. As a compulsory union state, where teachers are required to pay union dues as a condition of employment, the most I could hope for was a "fair share" membership, where the union refunded me a small portion of the money that was taken from my paycheck that lawyers have deemed "un-chargeable."

Every September, after lengthy, bureaucratic and unadvertised hurdles, I would file my certified letter to try to withdraw my union membership. Then, the union would proceed to drag its feet in issuing my small refund. I often wondered why this kind of burden would be put on an individual teacher like me. Shouldn't it be up to the organization to convince people and to sell its benefits to potential members afresh each year?

Why should I have to move mountains each fall to break ties with this group that I don't want to be a part of in the first place? Something seemed dreadfully wrong with that picture.

Union's efforts help all students, educators and schools

WEAC President Mary Bell:
I became a Wisconsin teacher more than 30 years ago. I entered my classroom on the first day of school with my eyes and heart wide open, dedicated to the education of children and to the promise public schools offer. I was part of our state's longstanding education tradition.

Like many beginning teachers, I soon encountered the many challenges and opportunities educators face every day in schools. About 50% of new educators leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. New teachers need mentors, suggestions, support and encouragement to help them meet the individual needs of students (all learning at different speeds and in different ways) and teach life lessons that can't be learned from textbooks.

That's where the union comes in. In many ways, much of the work the Wisconsin Education Association Council does is behind the scenes: supporting new teachers through union-led mentoring programs and offering training and skill development to help teachers with their licenses and certification. Our union helps teachers achieve National Board Certification - the highest accomplishment in the profession - and provides hands-on training for support professionals to become certified in their fields. These are efforts that benefit all Wisconsin educators, not just a few, and no single educator could accomplish them all alone.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:14 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

To Hover Over Schoolwork, Parents Go Online

Molly Baker:

When Debbie Sumner Mahle, an Atlanta mother, wants to know what her sons, ages 6, 7 and 10, are working on in school, she turns on her computer and logs into NetClassroom. The portal lets her see not just their school assignments but also their attendance and grades.

More public and private school systems are wiring up data-management systems, and school work is just the tip of the iceberg. Parent-accessible websites and "learning community management systems"--or LCMSs, in the age of no jargon left behind--are increasingly handling schools' scheduling, emergency contacts, immunizations, academic assessments and even meals, with some offering a daily nutritional breakdown of lunch.

Ms. Sumner Mahle receives email reminders to place her sons' requests at, which manages the meal program at their school, the Davis Academy. If she wants to work a shift as a cafeteria monitor, or bring cupcakes to a Halloween party, she signs up at

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An Excerpt from "Getting Schooled: The re-education of an American teacher"

Garret Keizer:

On the first day of school I begin my classes with John Coltrane's "Welcome," at the closing bars of which a palpable attentiveness comes over my chattering students, proof of what I've always believed about the source of Coltrane's genius and the wellspring within even the dopiest-seeming kid. "This is nice music," one boy remarks, and no one sneers. As I will do with the other musical introductions I play throughout the year, all chosen to fit the interval between passing bells, I key in my selection on a purse-size CD player, as quaint to the iPod generation as a Victrola is to me. I write the name of each artist and piece on the blackboard, including the date of composition when I can find it, usually a year predating that of my students' birth (circa 1995).

I wear a jacket and tie almost every day, one of the few adults at school who do. To these I add a pair of well-oiled work boots, an offhand expression of solidarity with the parents of our community but mostly a concession to my falling arches. For the first time in many years I have what can be called a "look"--like me and like the white-collar trade of teaching itself, a strange amalgam. A girl passing in the hall remarks that I always look "spiffy." I reply that I would have thought I looked old. "Hey, how old are you?" she counters. "Thirty?" I take this as a compliment and beam accordingly, though on reflection I wonder if she is simply trying to agree that I am old.

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An assembly-line education

Alan Rosenberg:

The headline for Cathy N. Davidson's Sept. 25 Outlook commentary ["A Model T test in the Internet age"] is the right analogy for multiple-choice tests. But why stop there?

All of American education has come to resemble Henry Ford's assembly line. Students receive a standardized education. Teachers work as quickly as possible as the product moves by to put in those parts deemed necessary by the administration. Quality-control inspectors watch the workers to make sure they are doing everything as dictated by the owner's manual. In the past decade, the line has been sped up, the workers are asked to add more bells and whistles, and the raw material at the beginning of the line has decreased in quality. Administration continues to raise output goals yet cuts pay and benefits. The workers have little choice but to comply.

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Instability in the Oakland School District: a brief lesson in recent history

Katy Murphy:

The number of students attending Oakland's district-run public schools shrank by about 30 percent between 2000 and 2010 -- a trend that's partly explained by a decline in the number of children living in the city and partly by the explosion of independently-run, state-funded charter schools during that time.

Despite that striking statistic, the district has even more schools today than it did back then.

If you don't count the already-closed Youth Empowerment School (which somehow ended up on the list of schools to be phased out next year), there are still 100 schools in OUSD -- about 15 more than there were in 2000. As education blogger John Fensterwald pointed out to me, that amounts to an average of 640 students per school in 2000, compared to an average of about 380 per school today.

With numbers like that, you might think this is the first time OUSD has considered reducing the number of neighborhood schools it operates. Not so. Oakland Unified shuttered about a dozen during the 2000s -- and that's not counting the ones that were closed and reopened as a school improvement strategy, or the new schools were shut down soon after they opened.

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

Scott Walker and Mitch Daniels on Public Employee Unions

Ira Stoll:

The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, and the governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, were both in New York City earlier this week for a Manhattan Institute conference about a "new social contract" with public employees.

Mr. Walker spoke first. He said the changes enacted in Wisconsin that had opponents sitting in and sleeping over in the state capital in protest earlier this year had saved $1.44 billion for state and local governments combined. He said school districts had used the savings to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes and to offer merit pay.

Mr. Walker said voters are looking for "not Republican leadership, not Democrat leadership, they just want leadership."

Mr. Walker contrasted his approach with that of Governor Patrick Quinn, a Democrat, of Wisconsin's neighbor Illinois, who "laid off thousands" of state workers after "massive tax increases."

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

The Promise of Digital Humanities

Steve Kolowich:

Humanities research is often derided as gauzy and esoteric, and therefore undeserving of tax dollars. Amid financial crises, humanities departments at many public universities have been razed. But even amid cuts, there has been a surge in interest in the digital humanities -- a branch of scholarship that takes the computational rigor that has long undergirded the sciences and applies it the study of history, language, art and culture.

"While we have been anguishing over the fate of the humanities, the humanities have been busily moving into, and even colonizing, the fields that were supposedly displacing them," wrote Stanley Fish, the outspoken professor of humanities and law at Florida International University, on his New York Times blog in June.

"Everyone loves digital humanities this year," said Bobley, citing the praise from Fish as the cherry on top of a steady stream of positive media coverage that has buoyed public interest in humanities research that uses new, technology-heavy approaches to distill meaning from old texts and artifacts.

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

Study finds low graduation rates among part-time college students

Carla Rivera:

Growing numbers of college students are in school part time, and they face increasingly long odds of ever graduating, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, Time is the Enemy, by the nonprofit group Complete College America, includes data on full- and part-time students at public colleges and universities in 33 states, including California. It was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and others.

"There is a new generation of students who are poorer, more likely to be a minority, working and with families," said Stan Jones, the organization's president. "The graduation rates are very low, so that even though more people are going to college looking to better themselves and better their economic circumstances, those goals are not being realized because the system is failing them."

Among the report's key findings:

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September 28, 2011

Further Commentary on the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School: Gender discrimination likely a red herring in charter school discussion

Chris Rickert:

The Madison School District now has another justification for killing a charter school aimed at doing what the district hasn't: consistently educate minority students.

Last week, the state Department of Public Instruction said the first half of a planning grant for Madison Preparatory Academy would be released. Madison Prep would focus on low-income minority students and was originally just for boys but has since been revamped to include girls in separate classrooms.

But DPI had a catch: In order to get the rest of the grant, the school must provide scientific research that single-gender education is effective. If you're going to discriminate by gender, DPI is saying, at least have a good reason for it.

I can't help but wonder: Is this the best DPI can do?

I don't know much more than what I've read in this newspaper about how Madison Prep would organize itself, what kinds of educational approaches it would use or how capable its sponsor, the Urban League of Greater Madison, would be.

TJ Mertz:
ewsletter (as of this writing PD has not taken a position on the Madison Prep proposal). I've only changed minimally for posting here; one thing I have added is some hyperlinks (but I did not link as thoroughly as I usually do), another is a small "For Further Reading" set of links at the end," and of course the song. This is intended to be a broad overview and introduction to what I think are some of the most important issues concerning the decision on the Madison Preparatory Academy presented in the context of related national issues. Issues raised in this post have been and will be treated in more depth -- and with hyperlinks -- in other posts]

For decades free market advocates such as the Bradley Foundation, the Walton Foundation and the Koch brothers have a waged a multi-front campaign against the public sector and the idea of the common good. Public education has been one of the key battlegrounds. In the coming weeks the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will decide whether to approve a proposal for the Madison Prep Charter School. This proposal and the chief advocate for it - Kaleem Caire of the Urban League of Greater Madison - have their roots in the Bradley/Walton/Koch movement, and like much of that movement they offer false promises of educational progress in order to obscure the damage being done to every child in our public schools.

A Public Hearing on the Madison Prep proposal has been scheduled for Monday October 3, at 6:00 PM in the Doyle Building Auditorium; The Madison Prep proposal is on the agenda of the PD General Membership Meeting (Wed , 9/28 , 6:00 p.m, Hawthorne Branch Library, guests welcome).

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:34 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Parents Losing Faith in Hong Kong Schools

Stuart Lau:

It is no secret that top Hong Kong officials have long said "no" to the education system they govern by sending their own children to schools abroad.

But now more than half of all Hongkongers say they will follow suit, according to a recent survey.

Fifty-two per cent of parents polled said they planned to send their children abroad, according to the survey conducted by credit card company MasterCard. That contrasts with 13 per cent on the mainland and 34 per cent in Taiwan.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:28 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Educating the Gifted

Norman Augustine, via a kind reader's email:

The very subject of giftedness is fraught with contradiction and controversy. On the one hand, we often encounter misunderstanding, envy, and perceived elitism--and on the other, admiration, dependency, and respect. Little wonder that our K-12 education system has not yet determined how best to nurture extraordinary individuals so that they can become extraordinary contributors to society--and feel rewarded in doing so. Unfortunately, it is not simply the gifted who are underserved by most of our nation's 14,000 public school systems; that group is just more acutely neglected, along with the economically less fortunate, than the nation's student population as a whole.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

You are Not a Tinker Toy: Libraries and Reorganization

Barbara Fister:

When I read "Library Limbo," a news story about library staff members being laid off the University of San Diego, I had to resist adding a comment because I needed what preschools sometimes call a "time out." My first responses were strong, but not measured, and in stories like this there are always layers of complexity that the best journalist in the world cannot represent. Rarely are personnel decisions of any kind easy to describe, and some of the key information is usually not publicly available. Often what is described as the elimination of a position becomes suddenly not discussable because it's a personnel matter. A personnel matter that can't be discussed is not about a change in a position but about the performance of the person in the position, which is a different . . . hang on, I apparently need to go sit quietly in the corner for a few more minutes . . .

Okay. So let's not talk about that particular situation at the University of San Diego because I don't know enough about it to comment meaningfully. Instead I want to propose a few general things about libraries, change, and organizations.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

RBC to Pay $30.4 Million Over Wisconsin Investment Sales

Andrew Ackerman & Joan Solsman:

The Securities and Exchange Commission said the corporate and investment-banking arm of Royal Bank of Canada agreed to pay $30.4 million to settle charges it inappropriately sold unsuitable investments to five Wisconsin school districts.

The settlement, disclosed Tuesday, with the SEC comes as the agency is stepping up its probe into complex derivatives transactions at the heart of the financial crisis. The school district case is the latest to arise out of those efforts, SEC officials said.

"This unit has brought several cases and there will still be some more to come," said Kenneth Lench, chief of the SEC enforcement division's structured- and new-products unit, which jointly investigated the matter with a separate municipal securities-enforcement team.

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

Why You Should Root for College to Go Online


In early August, Apollo Group, parent company of the University of Phoenix, made an acquisition that is small compared to the billion-dollar deals common to high-tech industries. Apollo paid less than $100 million to acquire Carnegie Learning, a provider of computer-based math tutorials. Such technology acquisitions are rare in higher education, to say the least. Yet this seemingly small deal is a signal of disruptive revolution in higher education.

Carnegie Learning is the creation of computer and cognitive scientists from Carnegie Mellon University. Their math tutorials draw from cutting-edge research about the way students learn and what motivates them to succeed academically. These scientists have created adaptive computer tutorials that meet students at their individual level of understanding and help them advance via the kinds of exercises they personally find most engaging and effective. The personalization and sophistication is hard for even an expert human tutor to match. It is a powerful, affordable adjunct to classroom instruction, as manifest by Carnegie Learner's user base of more than 600,000 secondary students in over 3,000 schools nationwide.

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

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Poverty pervades the suburbs

Tami Luhby:

Guess where most people in poverty live? Hint: It's not in the inner cities or rural America.

It's in the idyllic suburbs.

A record 15.4 million suburban residents lived below the poverty line last year, up 11.5% from the year before, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of Census data released Thursday. That's one-third of the nation's poor.

And their ranks are swelling fast, as jobs disappear and incomes decline amid the continued weak economy.

Since 2000, the number of suburban poor has skyrocketed by 53%, battered by the two recessions that wiped out many manufacturing jobs early on, and low-wage construction and retail positions more recently.

America's cities, meanwhile, had 12.7 million people in poverty last year, up about 5% from the year before and 23% since 2000. The remaining 18 million poor folks in the U.S. are roughly split between smaller metro areas and rural communities.

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

September 27, 2011

Madison School Board OKs use of police dogs for drug searches

Devin Rose:

In the coming weeks, Madison police dogs will be able to sniff through the halls, bathrooms and parking lots of the city's middle and high schools if school principals suspect there may be illegal drugs there.

The School Board voted 5-1 Monday to allow the sweeps, which school officials say will help eliminate drug use and trafficking in schools and decrease violence. Annual evaluations will be conducted to assess the program's effectiveness.

Supporters, including Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, said it could be an effective and color-blind tool as part of a strategy to keep schools safe. The dogs would search for marijuana, heroin and cocaine.

Luis Yudice, coordinator of safety and security for the school district, said one statistic that led officials to consider these searches was the 60 percent increase in student code-of-conduct violations since 2007 occurring because of drugs.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin gets $10.5M in federal redistributed tax dollars for English learner assessment

Bill Novak:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has been awarded a $10.5 million grant to develop technology-based assessments for students learning English.

The four-year grant from the federal Department of Education will be used to develop an online assessment system to measure student progress in attaining the English language skills they need to be successful in school and, ultimately, post-secondary studies and work.

The DPI is the lead agency in a 28-state consortium working with World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison.
Presumably, this initiative has passed the "it works" DPI requirement mentioned here.

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The Global Report: Compare US School Districts to the World

The Global Report Card, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

The Global Report Card was developed by Jay P. Greene and Josh B. McGee as part of the George W. Bush Institute's Education Reform Initiative. The Bush Institute works to increase dramatically the number of American students who graduate high school ready for college or prepared for a good career by:
  • cultivating a new generation of principals
  • implementing cutting edge research
  • advancing accountability
Driven by accountability and data, these initiatives challenge the status quo and lead a wide range of partners to share goals and use clear metrics tied to student achievement.

Summary of Methodology
The calculations begin by evaluating the distributions of student achievement at the state, national, and international level. To allow for direct comparisons across state and national borders, and thus testing instruments, we map all testing data to the standard normal curve using the appropriate student level mean and standard deviation. We then calculate at the lowest level of aggregation by estimating average district quality within each state. Each state's average quality is evaluated then using national testing data. And finally, the average national quality is determined using international testing data. Essentially, this re-centers our distribution of district quality based upon the relative performance of the individual state when compared to the nation as a whole as well as the relative performance of the nation when compared to our economic competitors.

For example, the average student in Scarsdale School District in Westchester County, New York scored nearly one standard deviation above the mean for New York on the state's math exam. The average student in New York scored six hundredths of a standard deviation above the national average of the NAEP exam given in the same year, and the average student in the United States scored about as far in the negative direction (-.055) from the international average on PISA. Our final index score for Scarsdale in 2007 is equal to the sum of the district, state, and national estimates (1+.06+ -.055 = 1.055). Since the final index score is expired in standard deviation units, it can easily be converted to a percentile for easy interpretation. In our example, Scarsdale would rank at the seventy seventh percentile internationally in math.

The Best United States School Districts (2007 Math data) [PDF].

Related: and 1990-2010 US High School & College Graduation Comparison.

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What Do Test Scores Tell Us?

Gary Gutting:

Tests used to be just for evaluating students, but now the testing of students is used to evaluate teachers and, in fact, the entire educational system. On an individual level, some students and parents have noticed a change -- more standardized tests and more classroom and homework time devoted to preparation for them.

So what exactly do test scores tell us?

Poor test scores are the initial premises in most current arguments for educational reform. At the end of last year, reading scores that showed American 15-year-olds in the middle of an international pack, led by Asian countries, prompted calls from researchers and educators for immediate action. This year two sociologists, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, showed that 45 percent of students, after two years of college, have made no significant gains on a test of critical thinking. Last week's report of falling SAT scores is the latest example.

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Classroom Seating Habits

Flowing Data:

In college, I was one of those guys who sat in the back and doodled in my notebook. Sometimes I fell asleep. One time I fell asleep and woke up in the middle of a different class. I blame the professor. Why would you turn off the lights for a two-hour session in a big lecture hall, while reading verbatim from world's most boring powerpoint presentation?

Anyways, we all have our seating pockets that we like to settle in. Skyrill, a two-brother design team, took it upon themselves to visualize the seating habits of their graduate student classmates in class 15.514 at MIT.

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Martin Institute Looks at Inclusion Teaching

Bill Dries:

Public and private school teachers will explore the shifting line between "mainstream" students and special education students during a two-day special education summit at The Martin Institute that begins Tuesday, Sept. 27.

The session is for special education teachers. The Wednesday session is for teachers outside the specific special education area. Both are on the Presbyterian Day School campus in East Memphis.

The summit and an 18-month focus on special education that follows arose from a series of luncheons and discussions Institute director Clif Mims had last spring with special education teachers.

The teachers and school system administrators cited "inclusion teaching" as both a trend and a challenge for all teachers.

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In Public School Reform, What Can Private Money Buy?

Helen Zelon:

Bill Gates has donated more than $5 billion to improve U.S. schools. But he sees little bang for all those bucks. What do other philanthropists--and the school systems who've benefited from them--think they have to show for what's been spent?

Two months ago, Bill Gates told the Wall Street Journal that private money--including upwards of $5 billion in Gates foundation funding--"didn't move the needle much," in terms of substantial, measurable improvements in student achievement and graduation outcomes.

"It's hard to improve public education--that's clear," Gates said. "If you're picking stocks, you wouldn't pick this one."

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6 wild ideas for ideal schools

Jay Matthews:

A month ago, I suggested that readers stop asking me what's a good school and come up with their own ideas. I wanted fresh concepts, including some that were already operating and producing better achievement without putting too much strain on staffs and students.

I gave two thriving models as examples, the New York Performance Standards Consortium and the KIPP schools. Reader suggestions poured in. Some were crazy, but so what? Look for details on my blog on Friday. Here are the ones I thought most interesting. What do you think of them?

Quest Early College High School, Houston (submitted by Katie Test of the ASCD educational leadership organization). This 16-year-old public high school focuses on both academic and emotional needs with an advisory program that keeps students in regular contact with educators and emphasis on health, including a personal wellness plan. They start college courses freshman year and do community service every Friday.

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Commentary on Wisconsin School Choice Battles

Mike Ford:

A 3,000 plus word article by Bill Lueders in the Capital Times today questions the motives behind legislators that support the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Specifically targeted is Rep. Howard Marklein, a freshman legislator from Spring Green who had the gall to not only support school choice in Milwaukee but also to introduce legislation to improve the program.

Lueders quotes Rep. Sandy Pope-Roberts as asking: "What's in this for Howard Marklein?...If it isn't for the campaign funds, why is he doing this?"

Perhaps he is doing it because it benefits taxpayers in the 51st Assembly district. As Marklein points out to Lueders, an analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows the MPCP is a benefit to his constituents. Without the MPCP, the 15 school districts represented by Rep. Marklein would lose $1.3 million in state aid. The estimate assumes that 90% of students in the MPCP would have no choice but to return to the more expensive Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system if the MPCP was ended. The 90% figure is the number used by the official state evaluators of the MPCP and is based on evidence from choice programs around the country.

David Blaska has more.

TJ Mertz:

This is Take Two in a series. Take One, with a fuller introduction, can be found here. Briefly, the idea of the series is to counter anti-teacher and anti-teachers' union individuals and "reform" groups appropriation of the phrase "it is all about the kids" as a means to heap scorn and ridicule on public education and public education employees by investigating some of the actions of these individuals and groups in light of the question "is it all about the kids?" In each take, national developments are linked to local matters in relation to the Madison Prep charter school proposal.

Take Two: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words: Public Lotteries and the Exploitation of Families and Children

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School Libraries Struggle with E-Book Loans

Audrey Watters:

Just as many predicted, sales figures show that more people are opting to buy e-books rather than printed copies. Sales of e-books rose 167 percent in June, reports Publishers Weekly, with sales totaling $473.8 million for the first half of the year. But sales of print books -- both paperbacks and hardcovers -- continue to decline.

It isn't just publishers that are scrambling to adjust their business models to the growing demand for e-books; so too are libraries having to reconsider how they will provide content for their patrons.

Even though there's keen interest on the part of library patrons to check out e-books, making a move to digital loans is not going to be easy. That's true for all libraries, but it's especially true for school libraries, many of which already face budget woes, and as such, have to weigh carefully how to invest in new books to stock the shelves.

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Grading the GOP Candidates on Education

Andrew Rotherham:

Given how preoccupied everyone is with the economy, education is even less of an issue in this presidential campaign than usual. Most of the Republican candidates do not even include education positions on their websites. And the two GOP heavyweights who have garnered the best reviews from education reformers on both sides of the aisle are not even in the race: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is sitting the campaign out, and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty dropped out after finishing a disappointing third in the Iowa straw poll. But as President Obama gets ready to put the debate about how to reform No Child Left Behind on the front burner (he's planning a big speech at the White House for this Friday), the GOP candidates can't avoid education forever. As some start to drop hints about what their education plans might look like, here's a handicapper's guide to the leading contenders and their views -- and record -- on education.

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Schools need more than money to improve

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:

Education is a key part of job creation and long-term economic growth. That's one of the reasons why the issue is so important to me and governors across the country. It's also why I'm excited to be participating in an extended national discussion about the future of education, how it will be the backbone of future innovation, and help grow our economy.

As part of an "Education Nation Summit" hosted by NBC on Monday, I will be talking with a bipartisan group of governors about education in America and its importance to economic competitiveness.

Although Democratic and Republican governors don't always agree on every issue, there is broad consensus about the need to improve education in our country to keep our workforce the best in a global economy. Almost every governor has dealt with declining revenues and difficult budget decisions, but almost every governor has ideas on how to reform and improve education that go beyond spending more money.

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September 26, 2011

K-12 America Since 1981

edweek, via a kind Richard Askey email:

This interactive timeline digs deep into the Education Week archives to tell the story of U.S. education and the changing policies, theories, and perspectives that have influenced it since 1981, the year the publication began.

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Abolish the U.S. Department of Education? Seriously?

Jennifer Wheary:

We all owe Stella Lohmann of Atlanta, Georgia thanks.  Ms. Lohmann is the substitute teacher who via video asked GOP candidates in last night's debate:

What as president would you seriously do about what I consider a massive overreach of big government into the classroom?

Prior to asking the question, Ms. Lohmann offered some important context to show her credibility:

I've taught in both public and private schools, and now as a substitute teacher I see administrators more focused on satisfying federal mandates, retaining funding, trying not to get sued, while the teachers are jumping through hoops trying to serve up a one-size-fits-all education for their students. 

Next time I visit Georgia, I would not mind shaking Ms. Lohmann's hand for posing such an interesting and illuminating, albeit extremely loaded, question.

Then I would ask whether she happens to be the same blogger and communications consultant found at wearing a "Freedom Czar" baseball hat. And how Fox happened to find her? 

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Book Review: School Blues

The Economist:

THOMAS NAGEL, an American philosopher, wants to know what it is like for a bat to be a bat. Ian Anderson, a Scot who performs with the band Jethro Tull, sang of a slightly less intractable difficulty: "wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick." In "School Blues" Daniel Pennac, a prize-winning French writer, describes what faces a school dunce when the teacher before him cannot recall what it felt like to be ignorant.

Mr Pennac was once such a child (he uses the French cancre, as in Cancer, the crab: a creature that scuttles sideways instead of advancing forwards). But despite becoming a teacher, he can remember what it was like not to understand lessons. The voices in his head remind him of it. They taunt him throughout his semi-autobiographical novel, which partially traces his sorry academic career as the child of high-achieving parents whose three older brothers excelled at school. Luckily for him, his parents did not let him flee the system but instead persisted in finding a teacher who would help him to succeed. The breakthrough came aged 14 when his latest tutor--"no doubt amazed by my increasingly inventive excuses as to why I hadn't done my homework"--commissioned him to write essays and then a novel.

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Common Core unconstitutional, will "nationalize mediocrity, stifle innovation"

Gary Palmer:

With the help of some Republican governors and school board members, the Obama Administration is on the verge of taking over education.

Common Core is the latest attempt to expand the reach of federal government even more broadly into our daily lives. Common Core, which was reportedly conceived by the National Association of Governors, was originally presented to the states as an effort to develop consistency in state curriculums for college and workforce readiness. Theoretically, the Common Core standards will improve education outcomes and increase transparency and accountability.

One problem with the new Common Core standards is that they are almost indistinguishable from the old state standards they are supposed to replace. According to an Education Week blog by Catherine Gewertz, many teachers and administrators don't see any difference between their old state standards and the Common Core standards. The fact is, state boards of education have bought into something that most of them had little or no input in and that many of them really do not fully understand and that will inevitably lead to having federal government bureaucrats setting education standards for Alabama's children.

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A Look at Madison Badger Rock Middle School

On a recent school day, sixth-grader Cassidy Wimmer places surveyors' flags in spots where runoff water from the Beltline, other roads and parking lots flows toward the wetlands of Indian Springs south of Madison.

She and her classmates are part of a field biology class at Badger Rock Middle School and they're learning a hands-on lesson about water quality and the environment in the neighborhood that surrounds their school.

"It's interesting to see where the water travels," she says. "It probably has a lot of pollution in it."

Meanwhile, other students from Badger Rock are studying an enormous burr oak tree, and estimating its age. Still other sixth-graders are helping move a giant compost pile toward a community garden at their school that they help tend. Their lesson today is on improving soil to nourish growing plants, and learning the ideal ratio of carbon to nitrogen to create the best compost.

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Pro-Charter Group Seeks to Bolster Support

Dan Mihalopoulous & Rebecca Vevea:

Chicago's charter school advocates could have reason for unprecedented optimism, given that new Mayor Rahm Emanuel frequently praises their efforts - and that a prominent charter-school executive was Emanuel's election campaign co-chairman.

Yet, rather than assume that they will reap the benefits of firm political backing, charter advocates say they are organizing a show of support from parents to help convince the new mayor and other leaders that they deserve more funding.

A rally on Saturday, billed as the "Charter schools Day of Action," is among the first public displays of a new public-relations push. The New Schools for Chicago group, which is devoting tens of millions of dollars to scores of new charters, has entered into a $250,000 contract with the United Neighborhood Organization to organize public support, said Juan Rangel, UNO's chief executive officer.

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The destructive nature of power without status

Nathanael J. Fast, Nir Halevy, Adam D. Galinsky:

The current research explores how roles that possess power but lack status influence behavior toward others. Past research has primarily examined the isolated effects of having either power or status, but we propose that power and status interact to affect interpersonal behavior. Based on the notions that a) low-status is threatening and aversive and b) power frees people to act on their internal states and feelings, we hypothesized that power without status fosters demeaning behaviors toward others. To test this idea, we orthogonally manipulated both power and status and gave participants the chance to select activities for their partners to perform. As predicted, individuals in high-power/low-status roles chose more demeaning activities for their partners (e.g., bark like a dog, say "I am filthy") than did those in any other combination of power and status roles. We discuss how these results clarify, challenge, and advance the existing power and status literatures.

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A New Law on School Fitness Data Faces Obstacles

Morgan Smith:

Texas children are fat -- and getting fatter.

It is something state policy makers have known and have struggled to address for years. In the last decade, the Legislature has passed laws that set nutritional standards for school meals, required body mass index screenings for children and adolescents, and instituted physical activity requirements.

The latest effort came during this year's legislative session with a bill passed by Senator Jane Nelson, Republican of Flower Mound, that allows a deeper study of schools' fitness data.

Under the new law, researchers can access unidentified individual student data, which they say will help bolster aggregate analyses that already show correlations between physical fitness and academic performance, gang activity and absenteeism.

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September 25, 2011

Think Different? Not in Higher Ed

Jeffrey Selingo:

When Steve Jobs introduced the "Think Different" advertising campaign on his return to the helm of Apple, in 1997, the slogan was not just aimed at consumers. It was also meant to inspire those inside the struggling company to innovate for the future.

Of course, what followed is now the story of one of the most successful companies in American history: a decade when Apple transformed the music industry with the iPod, the mobile-phone industry with the iPhone, and now the publishing industry with the iPad.

Apple succeed partly because it decided to take a different path than its competitors in the tech industry, and consumers followed. The history of business is filled with similar tales. Just look at what happened to Detroit's Big Three after the arrival of Japanese automakers in the United States.

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Clashes of Money and Values: A Survey of Admissions Directors

Scott Jaschik:

Admissions counselors like to talk about finding the right "fit" for applicants -- a great match between a student's educational and other goals and an institution's programs. But a new survey of the senior admissions officials at colleges nationwide finds that this "fit" is, from many colleges' point of view, increasingly about money. As evidence of that pressure, the survey found that:

For many colleges, a top goal of admissions directors is recruiting more students who can pay more. Among all four-year institutions, the admissions strategy judged most important over the next two or three years -- driven by high figures in the public sector -- was the recruitment of more out-of-state students (who at public institutions pay significantly more). The runner-up was the strategy of providing more aid for low- and middle-income students.

Among all sectors of higher education, there is a push to recruit more out-of-state students and international students.

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School district tackles its changing demographics

Mila Koumpilova:

WORTHINGTON, Minn. (AP) -- Perla Banegas arrived in Worthington a decade ago, on a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles. Her single mom had heard about a safe, quiet town in the upper Midwest and steady jobs at its meatpacking plant.

In sixth grade that year, Banegas quickly got a reputation as a painfully shy kid -- and a talking-to for taking too many bathroom breaks. She wasn't shy: She just didn't understand a word of English in class. In bathroom stalls, she'd have a good cry and then give herself a pep talk: "You have to go back and try."

She did. And she graduated.

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Building an Education Nation

Tom Brokaw:

Think of American education as a house of many rooms, each with a distinct function but taken as a whole, this house is shelter against the winds of change buffeting the world and threatening our future.

Any objective analysis of that shelter comes to the same conclusion: we have work to do to be sure we're secure and able to hold our own against whatever this new global climate sends our way.

That's the unsettling news. The good news? Work is under way, from the most remote school districts in rural America, to the inner city of our largest urban areas.

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Why won't the Chicago Teacher's Union Support a Longer School Day?

Elena Silva:

There has been plenty of chatter in the past weeks about Chicago's plans to extend its school days by 90 minutes. An editorial in today's Washington Post asks why won't the Chicago Teachers' Union support a longer school day? Well, they are a union, which is designed to protect teachers pay and work. But this aside, how many people do you know that would accept 2 percent more pay for more than 20 percent more work?

Teachers at more than a dozen CPS schools have agreed to the terms, and more will likely sign on in the coming weeks. They are the heroes of this editorial because they are "willing to buck the union leadership" and because, we are reminded, it's all about the student. Except it's not just about the student. Remember that most important in-school factor for student learning that needs better systems for evaluation, training, support, promotion and pay? We held a focus group recently with about a dozen teachers from Chicago-they were open to talking about evaluation reforms and career ladders and differential pay structures. But the 2 percent for 90 more minutes a day? At least this one small group was entirely against it.

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StoryCorps Launches National Teacher Initiative

W J Levay:

StoryCorps -- a national oral history project whose interviews you've probably heard on public radio -- kicked off its National Teacher Initiative earlier this week with AFT president Randi Weingarten participating at the White House event.

The project, which launched Sept. 19, celebrates and honors the courageous work of public school educators nationwide. "This is a fantastic opportunity to hear from teachers -- the people who are closest to the kids," said Weingarten. "Their stories will be a window to the world on today's public education -- what's working, what's not, and what we can do better to prepare our children for the 21st-century knowledge economy."

StoryCorps is looking to partner with schools, districts, teachers unions, community groups, and others to conduct an on-site recording day, and will send their staff and equipment to schools or events if the local or state federation can guarantee that at least eight interview pairs that include at least one teacher are available to participate. Each interview takes 40 minutes, and the participants will receive a CD of their interview.

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Milwaukee Public Schools: Educator & Social Agency

James Causey:

Imagine what would happen to Milwaukee's most vulnerable children if it weren't for the services provided by their school district: Milwaukee Public Schools.

I know what some of you are thinking: Their parents should be providing for them. Or: MPS might get better results if the district focused more on education and less on being a social service agency.

I agree. Parents are responsible for their kids, and the district is responsible for education. I'm not here to defend the district against justifiable criticism.

But understand: Many of the kids who attend MPS come from homes so impoverished that even the most basic things - breakfast or a place to sleep - are missing. How can the district educate kids living in such circumstances?

The U.S. Census Bureau reported last week that nearly half of Milwaukee's kids live in poverty. More than 80% of MPS students receive free or reduced-price lunch.

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September 24, 2011

Parental participation in Milwaukee Public Schools appears weak

Alan Borsuk:

Twenty-three percent?

Does it surprise you to hear that is the percentage of Milwaukee Public Schools children who had adults in their lives attend parent-teacher conferences last spring?

Or that the figure for a year earlier was 47%, meaning the percentage dropped by half in one year?

I've often heard anecdotes from teachers or principals about how low involvement is in parent-teacher conferences. Five parents show up for conferences involving a class of 27 kids. Numbers like that. There are individual MPS schools where participation is high, but that underscores how low the figure is at many other schools.

Parent-teacher conference attendance is sometimes overemphasized. There are other things parents can and should do that are much more important. But conferences can be seen as a measure of parent involvement. I had never seen specific numbers for MPS as a whole until now. The School Board was given a report on parent involvement this month, including numbers produced by stepped-up efforts in MPS to monitor this.

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Are Today's Youth Really a Lost Generation?

Derek Thompson:

They're calling us the "Lost Generation." Young people are struggling in record numbers to find work, leave home, and start a family, according to 2010 Census figures released today.

The proximate cause is the Great Recession. The number of young Americans living with their parents, nearly 6 million, has increased by 25 percent in the last three years. But the greatest cause for concern is that even when the recession has finally let go of the economy, young Americans -- Generation Y or Millennials -- will face a longer road back to normalcy than their older peers and parents.

Last week, I compared the impact of the recession on three generations: Gen-Y, Gen-X, and Boomers. Each face a particular challenge. For Boomers, it's a wealth crisis. They invested in homes whose value has fallen by as much as 30 percent. For Gen-X, it's an income crisis. They should be in the highest-earnings years of their life, but the recession has depressed their salaries and threatened their pensions. For Gen-Y, it's about the future. The money they're not making today is a problem. But the money they might not make tomorrow is a greater concern. Two decades after graduating into a recession, an unlucky generation can continue earning 10 percent less than somebody who left school a few years before or after the downturn. When Don Peck added it all up, he found "it's as if the lucky graduates had been given a gift of about $100,000, adjusted for inflation, immediately upon graduation."

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Teenage Brains

David Dobbs:

To see past the distracting, dopey teenager and glimpse the adaptive adolescent within, we should look not at specific, sometimes startling, behaviors, such as skateboarding down stairways or dating fast company, but at the broader traits that underlie those acts.

Let's start with the teen's love of the thrill. We all like new and exciting things, but we never value them more highly than we do during adolescence. Here we hit a high in what behavioral scientists call sensation seeking: the hunt for the neural buzz, the jolt of the unusual or unexpected.

Seeking sensation isn't necessarily impulsive. You might plan a sensation-seeking experience--a skydive or a fast drive--quite deliberately, as my son did. Impulsivity generally drops throughout life, starting at about age 10, but this love of the thrill peaks at around age 15. And although sensation seeking can lead to dangerous behaviors, it can also generate positive ones: The urge to meet more people, for instance, can create a wider circle of friends, which generally makes us healthier, happier, safer, and more successful.

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Great Recession yields a lost generation of workers

Hope Yen:

Call it the recession's lost generation.

In record-setting numbers, young adults struggling to find work are shunning long-distance moves to live with Mom and Dad, delaying marriage and buying fewer homes, often raising kids out of wedlock. They suffer from the highest unemployment since World War II and risk living in poverty more than others -- nearly 1 in 5.

New 2010 census data released Thursday show the wrenching impact of a recession that officially ended in mid-2009. It highlights the missed opportunities and dim prospects for a generation of mostly 20-somethings and 30-somethings coming of age in a prolonged slump with high unemployment.

"We have a monster jobs problem, and young people are the biggest losers," said Andrew Sum, an economist and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. He noted that for recent college grads now getting by with waitressing, bartending and odd jobs, they will have to compete with new graduates for entry-level career positions when the job market eventually does improve.

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Our Achievement-Gap Mania

Frederick Hess:

A decade ago, the No Child Left Behind Act ushered in an era of federally driven educational accountability focused on narrowing the chasms between the test scores and graduation rates of students of different incomes and races. The result was a whole new way of speaking and thinking about the issue: "Achievement gaps" became reformers' catch phrase, and closing those gaps became the goal of American education policy.

Today, the notion of "closing achievement gaps" has become synonymous with education reform. The Education Trust, perhaps the nation's most influential K-12 advocacy group, explains: "Our goal is to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement." The National Education Foundation has launched its own "Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative." The California Achievement Gap Educational Foundation was launched in 2008 to "eliminate the systemic achievement gap in California K-12 public education." Elite charter-school operator Uncommon Schools says its mission is running "outstanding urban charter public schools that close the achievement gap and prepare low-income students to graduate from college." Education Week, the newspaper of record for American education, ran 63 stories mentioning "achievement gaps" in the first six months of this year.

The No Child Left Behind Act's signal contribution has been this sustained fixation on achievement gaps -- a fixation that has been almost universally hailed as an unmitigated good. Near the end of his presidency, George W. Bush bragged that NCLB "focused the country's attention on the fact that we had an achievement gap that -- you know, white kids were reading better in the 4th grade than Latinos or African-American kids. And that's unacceptable for America." Margaret Spellings, Bush's secretary of education, said last year, "The raging fire in American education is the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their peers."

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Wisconsin School chief Evers says state will seek No Child Left Behind waivers

Scott Bauer:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said Friday that Wisconsin will seek waivers to avoid having to meet basic elements of the federal No Child Left Behind education law at the "first possible moment."

Evers spoke during a conference call with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan shortly after President Barack Obama announced that he was allowing states to seek the waivers.

"This is absolutely outstanding news," said Evers, who has long advocated for states to be given the ability to get out of meeting some parts of the law.

Obama is allowing states to scrap the hugely unpopular requirement that all children must show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014 if states can meet conditions designed to better prepare and test students.

Kevin Helliker:
Education chiefs from more than 20 states gathered at the White House on Friday morning to hear President Barack Obama formally propose relaxing certain tenets of the No Child Left Behind act for states that agree to meet a new set of standards he called more flexible.

In characterizing the nearly 10-year-old act as too rigid, the president appeared to strike a chord with school administrators across the country. How much enthusiasm his solution will generate remains to be seen. It calls for evaluating teachers in a way that wouldn't be legal in California, for example, a state that very much supports amending the No Child Left Behind Act.

"It's problematic," Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education, said of a condition that would require states to set specific policy on teacher evaluation, something that in California currently can be done only at the local level. To comply, he said, "we would need legislation passed."

Much more on No Child Left Behind, here

I spoke with a local mother recently who mentioned that her child was doing great, based on the WKCE math report.

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Is it "all about the kids" (and what that might mean)? -- Take One (in relation to ULGM and Madison Prep)

TJ Mertz:

My training as a historian has taught me that all knowledge is tentative and that this is especially true when it comes to assigning motives to people's actions. It has also taught me to not accept self-proclaimed motives at face value , to only state an opinion about the motives of others when there is a preponderance of evidence, and to look at actions and consequences as well as rhetoric when trying to make sense of things.

With those caveats, I think it is worthwhile to investigate the motives, actions and the consequences of the actions of Kaleem Caire and some of others associated with the Madison Prep proposal and the Urban League of Greater Madison in relation to public education.

Enemies of teachers and teacher unions have seized upon the phrase "it is all about the kids" to ridicule and attack teachers and their representatives. With union and (almost all) others, of course it isn't "all about the kids." Interestingly, those who blame unions for some or all of the ills of public education -- like many of the proponents of Madison Prep -- often offer their own versions of "it is all about the kids." Examples include Michelle Rhee who named her group Students First (Valarie Strauss pointedly offered a column on Rhee's organization titled "Rhee's campaign is not about the kids.") and the anti-Union political bribery has been done in Illinois (and elsewhere) under the banner of Stand for Children ( a must-see video here).

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.

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September 23, 2011

Texas Students of all backgrounds outperform Wisconsin Students

Allison Sherry, via a kind reader's email

While Perry has been outspoken against the Common Core, he and his education commissioner have pulled the quality of Texas tests up to a level respected among education reformers. Test scores among kids of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are higher in Texas than in Wisconsin, for example, which has fewer students qualifying for free- and reduced-price lunch.

Though Perry will probably make this point on the campaign trail, he's not likely to promise to take over the nation's schools. On the contrary, he'll likely pick up on his recent call to repeal No Child Left Behind and let states take charge of their education systems. In his book released last year, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, Perry argues that Washington has taken power away from states. At a speech in November in Washington, Perry took aim at two of former President Bush's signature accomplishments, No Child Left Behind and the Medicare drug benefit program, saying they were examples of areas in which Washington need not be.

"Those are both big government but more importantly, they were Washington-centric," he told the Dallas Morning News. "One size does not fit all, unless you're talking tube socks."

National Center for Education Statistics State Education Data Profiles.

much more at

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1990-2010 US High School & College Graduation Comparison, by State

Download a 55K PDF version.

Conor Dougherty & Rob Barry

Despite a decade of technological advances that make it possible to work almost anywhere, many of the nation's most educated people continue to cluster in a handful of dominant metropolitan areas such as Boston, New York and California's Silicon Valley, according to census data released Thursday.

The upshot is that regions with the most skilled and highly paid workers continue to widen their advantages over less well-endowed locales.

"In a knowledge economy, success breeds success," said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Of the largest 100 metropolitan areas, those with the highest percentage of college graduates in 2000 outpaced in education gains areas with lower percentages of college grads. For instance, the 10 cities with the highest share of their population holding a bachelor's degree or higher saw that share jump by an average of 4.6 percentage points over the decade, while the bottom 10 saw their share grow 3.1 percentage points.

Data Source: American Community Survey.


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The worth of education cannot be determined solely by marketplace logic. Hong Kong needs to reflect on the true mission of a university to avoid failing its future generations

Anthony Cheung:

While money does not work miracles (as the saying goes, any problem that money can solve is not a problem), it is a necessary ingredient of many solutions to our problems. Without money, many poor countries and rural communities simply cannot provide basic education to improve literacy and promote life skills, never mind consider the quality of education. Unesco, the UN cultural organisation, calls on all governments to invest in education, to provide "education for all".

Having said that, education should not be seen as just an investment business in the sense that we look for money indicators to measure performance - for example, if we invest so much in a law degree student, how much will he or she earn upon graduation - as if justice can be measured by earnings.

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Living and Working to 100

Alice Korngold:

Advocating for the value of online education, Angel Cabrera told us that he takes issue with those who are concerned that online education will dilute quality. In fact, says Cabrera, "online eucation can dramatically improve quality." Cabrera is President of Thunderbird School of Global Management that was ranked #1 Best in International Business Full-Time MBA by The Financial Times 2011 for the fifth consecutive year, and #1 by U.S. News and World Report 2012 for the sixteenth consecutive year; the list goes on. "The traditional campus, centered around large lecture halls, will have to reinvent itself." Thunderbird offers a variety of educational models, including distance-learning.
"Online education will move from the add-on to the centerpiece," Cowen told me. "Higher education will move towards a hybrid approach with top faculty teaching online, and motivational coaches working with students on a personal level." Cowen sees the hybrid model making college education more affordable. He envisions new job opportunities in statistics, search, programming, and logic, "since you need people behind smart machines." Cowen also envisions job growth in the motivational sector.

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20-Somethings Rack Up Frequent-Flier Miles to Take Far-Flung Journeys; Flying to Fiji for Lunch

Scott McCartney:

The 18-year-old Drexel University student in Philadelphia buys cheap tickets and takes "mileage runs" solely to build up frequent-flier account balances. Then, he cashes in the miles for expensive, far-flung journeys. Once there, he buys rail passes and catches the first train that comes along--doesn't matter where it's going--just to see some of the city. "It's hard for me to stay home. I just want to go," said Mr. Nguyen, who is from Seattle.

Mr. Nguyen is among a growing number of 20-somethings mastering the calculus of frequent-flier miles, making globe-trotting their hobby. It's a generation that has grown up with airline deregulation, discount airlines, global airline alliances and "open skies" treaties that make flying between countries easier. They're also at an age when they have time and flexible schedules. As a result, many have become ferocious travelers.

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Restructuring, Reform and Reality

Nancy Connor:

In a recent eduwonk post regarding NCLB's complex and controversial school restructuring options, Andrew Rotherham wrote, "When it comes to tackling these problems, we have a serious failure of creativity, imagination, and, of course, political will. That's not this law's fault, and it's not going to be solved by any future law. Rather, it's cultural, deep rooted and demands real leadership..."

He has a point. However, the restructuring project is pretty daunting and beset with real practical constraints. Take the staffing issue. Which staff would you replace if the achievement failure is limited to the Hispanic subgroup within the school, but two-thirds of the students are Hispanic? What do you do if you are having difficulties with second-language learners, but your school has kids who speak fifteen different languages? Would you really fire all of the special education staff, even if there is no hope of hiring more?

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The Myth About Traditional Math Education

Barry Garelick, via email:

The education establishment commits to fads like group and collaborative learning, but Garelick says they shouldn't ignore and misinterpret traditional math.

Most discussions about mathematics and how best to teach it in the K-12 arena break down to the inevitable bromides about how math was traditionally taught and that such methods were ineffective. The conventional wisdom on the "traditional method" of teaching math is often heard as an opening statement at school board meetings during which parents are protesting the adoption of a questionable math program: "The traditional method of teaching math has failed thousands of students." A recent criticism I read expanded on this notion and said that it wasn't so much the content or the textbooks (though he states that they were indeed limited) but the teaching was "too rigid, too inflexible, too limited, and thus failed to adequately address the realities of educating a large, diverse, and rapidly changing population during decades of technological innovation and social upheaval."

There is some confusion when talking about "traditional methods" since traditional methods vary over time. Textbooks considered traditional for the last ten years, for example, are quite different than textbooks in earlier eras. For purposes of this discussion, I would like to confine "traditional" to methods and textbooks in use in the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s. And before we get to the question about teaching methods, I want to first talk about the textbooks in use during this time period. A glance at the textbooks that were in use over these years shows that mathematical algorithms and procedures were not taught in isolation in a rote manner as is frequently alleged. In fact, concepts and understanding were an important part of the texts. Below is an excerpt from a fifth grade text of the "Study Arithmetic" series (Knight, et. al. 1940):

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IXL Learning

Practice makes perfect, and IXL makes math practice fun! IXL allows teachers and parents to monitor the progress of their students and motivate them through interactive games and practice questions. Widely recognized as the Web's most comprehensive math site, IXL offers a dynamic and enjoyable environment for children to practice math. Students who use IXL are succeeding like never before.

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The View from Fifth Grade

Dean Dad:

"I have a locker!"
You forget what's important when you're ten.

TW and I went to the parents' open house at The Boy's school. Now that he's in fifth grade, he's in a new building that unites the kids from the various elementary schools in the district. And yes, he gets a locker.

The principal greeted the parents, if you want to call his mumble a greeting. Honestly, one of the first principles of public speaking is "try to at least pretend to care." His entire affect conveyed that he'd rather be almost anywhere else. This did not inspire confidence. The only time he seemed to engage was when he mentioned where parents should park.

The library made me sad. TB later reported that his class took a trip there, and he was disappointed in its selection. Luckily we have a good public library in town, and I've lent TB my kindle before. At the rate he blasts through books, electronic delivery may be our only hope of keeping up.

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How I Found the Report Cards, and How They Changed My Life

Paul Lukas:

Meet Marie Garaventa.

What you see above is the front of her report card from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls, a vocational school she attended in the late 1920s, after she had finished the eighth grade. As you can see, she had a perfect attendance record--this despite moving several times, having a deceased father, and being hard of hearing.

If you click through the rest of Marie's student record, you'll see that the school's staff initially described her as "slow" and "irritable" (perhaps due to her hearing problems) but that she eventually gained confidence and made the honor roll. You'll also see that the school helped to place her in more than a dozen sewing and dress-finishing jobs after she graduated, and that at one point she was scolded for not returning to a job after her lunch break.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Americans Say Federal Gov't Wastes Over Half of Every Dollar; Believe state and local governments waste proportionately less money

Jeffrey M. Jones:

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans estimate that the federal government wastes 51 cents of every dollar it spends, a new high in a Gallup trend question first asked in 1979.

The current estimate of 51 cents wasted on the dollar is similar to what Gallup measured in 2009, but marks the first time Americans believe more than half of federal spending is wasted. The low point in the trend is 38 cents wasted on the dollar, in 1986.

Americans are less likely to believe state and local governments waste money they spend than they are to believe this about the federal government, with the state estimate at 42 cents on the dollar and the local at 38 cents.

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Plan would shake up Utah Education

Paul Rolly:

At its next general session, the Legislature will be considering a bold plan that would put a new face on public education in Utah and dramatically alter the relationships between school districts, individual schools and students.

The question being asked now: Will the plan propel individual student achievement or stunt it?

Legislation proposed by Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork, would give each high school student in Utah an individual education savings account, sort of like a debit card, and that student could use that money any way he or she wanted toward earning a diploma.

The plan would be unique in the United States and, just like initiatives from the Utah Legislature on public employee pension reform and Medicaid reform, could become a model for other states, its supporters boast.

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Declining Local School District "Control"

Lyndsey Layton:

Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are scheduled Friday to detail plans to waive some of the law's toughest requirements, including the goal that every student be proficient in math and reading by 2014 or else their schools could face escalating sanctions.

In exchange for relief, the administration will require a quid pro quo: States must adopt changes that could include the expansion of charter schools, linking teacher evaluation to student performance and upgrading academic standards. As many as 45 states are expected to seek waivers.

For many students, the most tangible impact could be what won't happen. They won't see half their teachers fired, their principal removed or school shut down because some students failed to test at grade level -- all potential consequences under the current law.

A Capital Times Editorial:
Wisconsin has moved to take authority away from local elected school boards and parents and to rest it with political appointees who respond to Gov. Scott Walker and out-of-state groups that are spending millions of dollars to undermine public education.

Wisconsin's best and brightest teachers -- the Teacher of the Year award winners -- have joined mass demonstrations to decry the assault by politicians and their cronies on public education.

What's Walker's response? He wants to tell the nation how to do the same.

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September 22, 2011

Proposed Madison Prep Academy needs to show proof of effectiveness of single-gender education to get grant

Matthew DeFour:

The state Department of Public Instruction is requiring backers of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy to provide scientific research supporting the effectiveness of single-gender education to receive additional funding.

The hurdle comes as university researchers are raising questions about whether such evidence exists. In an article published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers also say single-gender education increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.

Efforts to justify single-gender education as innovative school reform "is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence," according to the article by eight university professors associated with the American Council for CoEducational Schooling, including UW-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde.

The Urban League of Greater Madison originally proposed Madison Prep as an all-male charter school geared toward low-income minorities. But after a state planning grant was held up because of legal questions related to single-gender education, the Urban League announced it would open the school next year with single-gender classrooms in the same building.

I find this ironic, given the many other programs attempted within our public schools, such as English 10, small learning communities, connected math and a number of reading programs.

Related: Co-Ed Schooling Group Study Assails Merits of Single-Sex Education and from Susan Troller:

A newly published article by child development experts and neuroscientists blasting the trend toward single-sex education as "pseudoscience" won't help the cause of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy.

Neither will the continued opposition of the South Central Federation of Labor, which reiterated its opposition to the Urban League-sponsored proposal this week because teachers at the school would not be represented by a union. The Madison Metropolitan School District has a collective bargaining agreement with Madison Teachers Inc. that runs through June of 2013, and Madison Prep's plan envisions working conditions for its staff -- a longer school day and a longer school year, for example -- that differ substantially from the contract the district has with its employees.

With a public hearing on the charter school scheduled for Monday, Oct. 3, the debate surrounding Madison Prep is heating up on many fronts. The Madison School Board must take a final vote giving the charter school a go or no-go decision in November.

Kaleem Caire, CEO of the Urban League and a passionate proponent for the separate boys and girls academies aimed at helping boost minority youth academic performance, says he is unimpressed by an article published in the prestigious journal, Science, on Sept. 23, that says there is "no empirical evidence" supporting academic improvement through single-sex education.

Are other DPI funded initiatives held to the same "standard"?

The timing of these events is certainly interesting.

14mb mp3 audio. WORT-FM conducted an interview this evening with Janet Shibley Hyde, one of the authors. Unrelated, but interesting, Hyde's interview further debunked the "learning styles" rhetoric we hear from time to time.

UPDATE: The Paper in Question: The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling:

In attempting to improve schools, it is critical to remember that not all reforms lead to meaningful gains for students. We argue that one change in particular--sex-segregated education--is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence. There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex (SS) education improves students' academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.

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Co-Ed Schooling Group Study Assails Merits of Single-Sex Education

Tamar Lewin:

Single-sex education is ineffective, misguided and may actually increase gender stereotyping, a paper to be published Friday asserts.

The report, "The Pseudoscience of Single Sex Schooling," to be published in Science magazine by eight social scientists who are founders of the nonprofit American Council for CoEducational Schooling, is likely to ignite a new round of debate and legal wrangling about the effects of single-sex education.

It asserts that "sex-segregated education is deeply misguided and often justified by weak, cherry-picked or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence."

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Rick Hess's Critique of Achievement-Gap Mania

By Reihan Salam
I've been eagerly awaiting the release of the latest issue of National Affairs, which includes Rick Hess's fascinating and at times provocative discussion, or perhaps I say "devastating takedown," of "achievement-gap mania." The following paragraph gives you a hint as to Hess's conclusion:

In essence, NCLB was an effort to link "conservative" nostrums of accountability to Great Society notions of "social justice." The result was a noble exercise hailed for its compassion. The sad truth, however, is that the whole achievement-gap enterprise has been bad for schooling, bad for most children, and bad for the nation.

I found his discussion of the neglect of advanced and gifted education particularly convincing, as well as his recounting of how the "delusion of rigor" has undermined quality control across many domains. Hess ends his essay with an accounting of where "achievement-gap mania" has left the politics of K-12.

(1) Reforming education has become someone else's problem:

First, achievement-gap mania has signaled to the vast majority of American parents that school reform isn't about their kids. They are now expected to support efforts to close the achievement gap simply because it's "the right thing to do," regardless of the implications for their own children's education. In fact, given that only about one household in five even contains school-age children -- and given that two-thirds of families with children do not live in underserved urban neighborhoods, or do not send their kids to public schools, or otherwise do not stand to benefit from the gap-closing agenda -- the result is a tiny potential constituency for achievement-gap reform, made up of perhaps 6% or 7% of American households.

Because middle-class parents and suburbanites have no personal stake in the gap-closing enterprise, reforms are tolerated rather than embraced. The most recent annual Gallup poll on attitudes toward schooling reported that just 20% of respondents said "improving the nation's lowest-performing schools" was the most important of the nation's education challenges. Indeed, while just 18% of the public gave American schools overall an A or a B, a sizable majority thought their own elementary and middle schools deserved those high grades. The implication is that most Americans, even those with school-age children, currently see education reform as time and money spent on other people's children.

(2) Reforming education for the majority of students who come non-poor families is seen as somehow unnecessary:

Second, achievement-gap mania has created a dangerous complacency, giving suburban and middle-class Americans the false sense that things are just fine in their own schools. Thus it's no surprise that professionals and suburbanites tend to regard "reforms" -- from merit pay to charter schooling -- as measures that they'll tolerate as long as they're reserved for urban schools, but that they won't stand for in their own communities. ...

Gap-closing strategies can be downright unhelpful or counterproductive when it comes to serving most students and families, and so can turn them off to education reform altogether. Longer school years and longer school days can be terrific for disadvantaged students or low achievers, but may be a recipe for backlash if imposed on families who already offer their kids many summer opportunities and extracurricular activities. Policies that seek to shift the "best" teachers to schools and classrooms serving low-achieving children represent a frontal assault on middle-class and affluent families. And responding to such concerns by belittling them is a sure-fire strategy for ensuring that school reform never amounts to more than a self-righteous crusade at odds with the interests of most middle-class families.

This is one reason why Hess rightly bristled at the crusader mentality that informs films like the recent Waiting for 'Superman.'

(3) Education reform has come to be associated with metrics that aren't particularly helpful for schools that serve non-poor students.

Third, achievement-gap mania has prompted reformers to treat schools as instruments to be used in crafting desired social outcomes, capable of being "fixed" simply through legislative solutions and federal policies. This tendency is hardly surprising, given that most of the thinking about achievement gaps is done in the context not of education reform but of "social justice." Thus gap-closers approach the challenge not as educators but as social engineers, determined to see schools fix the problems that job-training initiatives, urban redevelopment, income supports, and a slew of other well-intentioned government welfare programs have failed to address.

With the social engineer's calm assurance that there are clear, identifiable interventions to resolve every problem, today's education reformers insist that closing the achievement gap is a simple matter of identifying "what works" and then requiring schools to do it. And integral to determining "what works" has been evaluating different strategies in terms of their effects on reading and math scores and graduation rates. This approach has been especially popular when it comes to identifying good teachers. But while the ability to move these scores may be 90% of the job for an elementary-school teacher in Philadelphia or Detroit, it doesn't necessarily make sense to use these metrics to evaluate teachers in higher-performing schools -- where most children easily clear the literacy and numeracy bar, and where parents are more concerned with how well teachers develop their children's other skills and talents.

As Hess has argued elsewhere, what we really need is a more diverse ecology of specialized instructional providers tailored to meet the needs of individual students, including advanced and gifted students, rather than rigid carrot-and-stick systems designed to "fix" centralized command-and-control systems not by making them less centralized and command-and-control, but rather by issuing new commands from the center.

(4) This "what works" mentality, which implicitly assumes that there are a few simple nostrums that "work" in every or at least most cases, has proved a barrier to innovation:

Fourth, the achievement-gap mindset stifles innovation. When a nation focuses all its energies on boosting the reading and math scores of the most vulnerable students, there is neither much cause nor much appetite for developing and pursuing education strategies capable of improving American schools overall.

Consider the case of school choice. Today, for all the vague talk of innovation, charter schools and school vouchers rarely do more than allow poor, urban students to move from unsafe, horrific schools into better conventional-looking schools. The leading brands in charter schooling, for instance, almost uniformly feature traditional classrooms; an extended school day, school year, or both; and a reliance on directive pedagogy attuned to the needs of disadvantaged students. In other words, these are terrific 19th-century schools. One has to search long and hard among the nation's more than 5,000 charter schools to find the handful that are experimenting with labor-saving technologies, technology-infused instruction, or new staffing models better suited to the 21st century.

Furthermore, the intense focus on gap-closing has led to a notion of "innovation" dedicated almost entirely to driving up math and reading scores and graduation rates for low-income and minority students. Promising innovations that promote science, foreign-language learning, or musical instruction have garnered little public investment or acclaim. Even in terms of math and reading, there is not much interest in interventions that do not show up on standardized state assessments.

(5) And interestingly, Rick argues that gap-closing has dimmed interest in promoting racially and socioeconomically integrated schools.

As always, the essay is worth reading in full. I haven't done it justice.

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The Education Our Economy Needs: We lag in science, but students' historical illiteracy hurts our politics and our businesses

Norm Augistine:

In the spirit of the new school year, here's a quiz for readers: In which of the following subjects is the performance of American 12th-graders the worst? a) science, b) economics, c) history, or d) math?

With all the talk of America's very real weaknesses in the STEM subjects (science, technology, English and math), you might be surprised to learn that the answer--according to the federal government's National Assessment of Educational Progress--is neither science nor math. And despite what might be suggested by the number of underwater home loans, high-school seniors actually fare best in economics.

Which leaves history as the answer, the subject in which students perform the most poorly. It's a result that puts American employers and America's freedoms in a worrisome spot.

But why should a C grade in history matter to the C-suite? After all, if a leader can make the numbers, does it really matter if he or she can recite the birthdates of all the presidents?

Well, it's not primarily the memorized facts that have current and former CEOs like me concerned. It's the other things that subjects like history impart: critical thinking, research skills, and the ability to communicate clearly and cogently. Such skills are certainly important for those at the top, but in today's economy they are fundamental to performance at nearly every level. A failing grade in history suggests that students are not only failing to comprehend our nation's story and that of our world, but also failing to develop skills that are crucial to employment across sectors. Having traveled in 109 countries in this global economy, I have developed a considerable appreciation for the importance of knowing a country's history and politics.

The good news is that a candidate who demonstrates capabilities in critical thinking, creative problem-solving and communication has a far greater chance of being employed today than his or her counterpart without those skills. The better news is these are not skills that only a graduate education or a stint at McKinsey can confer. They are competencies that our public elementary and high schools can and should be developing through subjects like history.

Far more than simply conveying the story of a country or civilization, an education in history can create critical thinkers who can digest, analyze and synthesize information and articulate their findings. These are skills needed across a broad range of subjects and disciplines.

In fact, students who are exposed to more modern methods of history education--where critical thinking and research are emphasized--tend to perform better in math and science. As a case in point, students who participate in National History Day--actually a year-long program that gets students in grades 6-12 doing historical research--consistently outperform their peers on state standardized tests, not only in social studies but in science and math as well.

In my position as CEO of a firm employing over 80,000 engineers, I can testify that most were excellent engineers--but the factor that most distinguished those who advanced in the organization was the ability to think broadly and read and write clearly.

Now is a time to re-establish history's importance in American education. We need to take this opportunity to ensure that today's history teachers are teaching in a more enlightened fashion, going beyond rote memorization and requiring students to conduct original research, develop a viewpoint and defend it.

If the American economy is to recover from the Great Recession--and I believe it can--it will be because of a ready supply of workers with the critical thinking, creative problem-solving, technological and communications skills needed to fuel productivity and growth. The subject of history is an important part of that foundation.

Mr. Augustine, a former Under Secretary of the Army, is the retired Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin.

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Evolution Honored as the best Canadian Science Book for Young Readers

Daniel Loxton via a kind Larry Winkler email:

Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be took home the national Lane Anderson Award as the best Canadian science book for young readers at an award dinner in Toronto last night. The win was reported today by the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, Quill & Quire, the Canadian Children's Book Center and other media. It was published by Canadian publisher Kids Can Press. But it's not for lack of trying that a Canadian publisher rather than American publisher issued this book.

According to author Daniel Loxton, US publishers wouldn't touch it.

"It's important to realize that most of the publishing professionals I dealt with in the US were lovely and encouraging. They all said "no," but some recommended smaller, artier presses they felt might consider Evolution....  [S]ome of America's top children's publishing professionals rejected Evolution, some citing concerns that it was too controversial, too much of "a tough sell," or ("in today's climate") too likely to find needed distribution channels closed.... It was certainly frustrating to knock on cold doors, but I am sympathetic to publishers. [I]t's a tough time for book producers, and they need to work hard to mitigate risk. Publishers face the on the ground reality that almost half of American adults--many of them reviewers, librarians, booksellers, or teachers--believe that evolution did not happen at all. 

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Recess Making Comeback in Chicago Schools

Rebecca Vevea:

As more Chicago public schools cash in on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's longer-day financial incentives by adding 90 minutes to their school day, the previous votes by a dozen schools to add about a half hour to the day by bringing back recess are going unnoticed.

Restoring recess is part of a broader health push by parents, advocacy groups and some city officials to bring more exercise and better nutrition to both schoolchildren and preschoolers.

Beginning in November, the city's Department of Public Health will require children who attend preschool or day care centers in Chicago to spend less time in front of television or computer screens -- 60 minutes or less -- and more time, at least an hour a day, participating in physical activity. At snack or meal time, milk cannot have a fat content higher than 1 percent, unless a child has written consent from a doctor. Only 100 percent juice can be served.

In Chicago, 22 percent of children are overweight before they enter school, more than twice the national average, according to research compiled by the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, a group of organizations and health advocates.

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Christie, Cerf, and Teachers' Union: A Fragile Peace

John Mooney:

Fred Frangiosa's presence was conspicuous last week when Gov. Chris Christie visited a Bergenfield middle school to promote his plans for remaking teacher evaluation statewide.

Frangiosa is president of the Bergenfield Education Association, and it is his union's 450 teachers who will help test the new system. Bergenfield is one of 10 pilot districts for Christie's plan.

But there was Frangiosa, sitting in Christie's audience in a middle school classroom -- not a cheerleader for the plan, by any means, but not protesting it, either.
"You can't sign off on something if you don't know what it is," Frangiosa said, "and you can't oppose it either. "

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Universities Seeking Out Students of Means

Tamar Lewin, via a kind reader's email:

Money is talking a bit louder in college admissions these days, according to a survey to be released Wednesday by Inside Higher Ed, an online publication for higher education professionals.

More than half of the admissions officers at public research universities, and more than a third at four-year colleges said that they had been working harder in the past year to recruit students who need no financial aid and can pay full price, according to the survey of 462 admissions directors and enrollment managers conducted in August and early September.

Similarly, 22 percent of the admissions officials at four-year institutions said the financial downturn had led them to pay more attention in their decision to applicants' ability to pay.

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WEA Trust demands talk show host 'cease and desist'

Wisconsin Reporter:

WEA Trust doesn't like what Mark Belling has to say, and the health insurer wants the conservative talk show host to "cease and desist."

WEA Trust, which bills itself on its website as a not-for-profit insurance group for Wisconsin public school employees and their families, today sent a letter to the afternoon, drive-time, radio host at 1130 WISN in Milwaukee, demanding Belling stop making what WEA Trust describes as "defamatory public accusations.

Belling repeatedly has accused the private health insurance company of "racketeering" by transferring its revenue to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC, the state teachers union, an act that would be illegal under state and federal law.

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Illinois Bombshell: Class of 2014 Median LSAT/GPA Is 163/3.70, Not 168/3.81


Following up on my prior post, Did Illinois Inflate LSAT (168), GPA (3.81) Medians to Goose U.S. News Ranking?: Illinois today dropped this bombshell:
The accurate, independently verified data for the class of 2014's Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores and grade point averages (GPA) are as follows: median LSAT, 163; median GPA, 3.70. Information originally posted on the College of Law website last month inaccurately listed the median LSAT score as 168 and the median GPA as 3.81.

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Ruling forbidding classroom banners mentioning God to be appealed

Tony Perry:

A Michigan-based legal group said Monday that it would petition the full U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a three-judge panel's ruling that a San Diego-area teacher does not have the right to display banners that mention God in his classroom.

A three-judge panel of the court ruled last week that Bradley Johnson's right to free speech was not violated when the school district told him to remove the banners from his classroom.

Johnson, a high school mathematics teacher in the Poway Unified School District, had hung banners in his classroom for more than two decades with phrases such as "In God We Trust," "One Nation Under God," and "God Bless America."

But in 2007 the principal of Westview High School in Rancho Penasquitos said the banners' size made them into a "promotion of a particular viewpoint." Johnson took down the banners and filed a federal lawsuit.

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In Zeeland, an iPad for every high school student in the district

Mark Smith:

As students walk through the halls of Zeeland West High School, their backpacks are a little lighter. Stacks of paper and some textbooks have been replaced by the Apple iPad -- one for every high-schooler in the district. That's 1,800 iPads between the two high schools.

And it's just the beginning for Zeeland Public Schools, which embarked on an ambitious project this fall that will give a tablet to every student in grades 3-12 -- the only district in Michigan to do so.

The program represents one of the most aggressive in the country and has garnered national attention. With each student taking responsibility for one, the school uses the iPad for assigning classwork, testing and communicating with students. Some teachers have gone paperless.

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Wisconsin Governor Walker slated for NBC News 'Education Nation' Summit

Susan Troller:

Gov. Scott Walker will be featured as part of a bipartisan slate of governors during a panel discussion of The State of Education during NBC News' 2011 "Education Nation" Summit on Monday, Sept. 26. The annual summit will continue on Sept. 27 as well.

NBC News' Brian Williams will host the discussion, which focuses on education and economic competitiveness.

In a press release sent from the governor's office Tuesday, Walker says "I believe we have a great story to tell about our reforms and our bipartisan collaborations to further improve our schools. ... Improving education is a key to ensuring we have a talented workforce that will grow and attract jobs."

According to the release, among the topics to be discussed are some highly controversial, hot-button Wisconsin issues, including budget cuts, the role of teachers unions, teacher effectiveness, charter schools and online learning. Other issues include college and career preparation, Common Core standards, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

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L.A. school named after guitarist Carlos Santana

Los Angeles Times:

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana has hit records and 10 Grammys, and now he has a school named after him in North Hills.

The Los Angeles Unified School Board voted Tuesday to rename Valley Region Elementary School No. 12 as Carlos Santana Arts Academy.

The school, which can accommodate up to 650 students, opened this school year, and district officials say it will have a focus on the arts.

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America's Report Card

Column Five Media:

As we ramp up to the 2012 election, politicians are really starting to grandstand about their accomplishments, but what do the everyday people think about how their state is doing? This infographic done with 1Bog, asked hundreds of U.S. residents in all 50 states to grade their state on several different factors.

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Spelling City is dedicated to helping students, teachers, parent-teachers, and school systems. VocabularySpellingCity is an award-winning site with ongoing introduction of new features, many based on input from existing users.

The site was launched on the web as SpellingCity in 2008 and has grown primarily through word of mouth. During the 2008-2009 school year, the site was used by over a half-million people in the peak months. In 2009-2010, SpellingCity was used by over a million unique visitors a month. The site's services have been steadily expanded over the years. SpellingCity became VocabularySpellingCity in January 2011 to reflect the addition of significant vocabulary capabilities. During the 2010-11 school year, the site attracted nearly two million unique visitors per month - over four million visits total, and over 40 million page views monthly. (source This level of traffic and usage gives VocabularySpellingCity a ranking as a top 1000 site in the U.S. during its peak months. VocabularySpellingCity is supported by revenues from Premium Memberships (which are priced low for maximum accessibility) and advertising displayed to non-Premium Members. VocabularySpellingCity prides itself as being amongst the best values in education.

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September 21, 2011

Selling out public schools: Millions of dollars are changing face of education

Bill Lueders:

"School choice" is a broad term that refers to a wide range of alternatives, including themed charter schools that are entirely under the control of their home school districts. Forty states and the District of Columbia have those in place, according to the American Federation for Children, a national school choice advocacy group.

But it is the voucher programs, in which public funds are used to send children to private schools, that are the focus of much of the energy around the choice movement. Seven states and the District of Columbia have those, and Milwaukee's voucher program is the first and largest of its kind in the country. That makes Wisconsin a key national battleground.

"Wisconsin has a high level of value to the movement as a whole," says Robert Enlow, president of the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, a nonprofit group that advocates for school choice. The state, he says, is notable for "the high level of scholarship amounts that families can get."

Milwaukee's voucher program had 20,300 full-time equivalent voucher students at 102 private schools in 2010-11, compared to about 80,000 students at Milwaukee's public K-12 schools. The total cost, at $6,442 per voucher student, was $130.8 million, of which about $90 million came from the state and the rest from the Milwaukee Public Schools.

Critics see the school choice program as part of a larger strategy -- driven into high gear in Wisconsin by the fall election of Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans -- to eviscerate, for ideological and religious reasons, public schools and the unions that represent teachers.

It would be interesting to compare special interest spending in support of the status quo, vs groups advocating change, as outlined in Bill Lueders' article. A few links:
  • WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators
    How much do election-year firewalls cost to build? For the state's largest teachers union, $1.57 million.

    That's how much the Wisconsin Education Association Council said last week it will spend trying to make sure four Democratic state senators are re-elected - enough, WEAC hopes, to keep a Democratic majority in the 33-member state body.

    Although there are 15 Democratic candidates running for the state Senate, and 80 Democrats running for the state Assembly, the latest WEAC report shows that the teachers union is placing what amounts to an "all in" bet on saving just four Democratic senators who are finishing their first terms.

    In an Oct. 25 report to the Government Accountability Board, the 98,000-member union reported that it will independently:

  • Wisconsin teachers union tops list of biggest lobbying groups for 2009-10, report shows
    The statewide teachers union led in spending on lobbying state lawmakers even before this year's fight over collective bargaining rights.

    The Wisconsin Education Association Council spent $2.5 million on lobbying in 2009 and 2010, years when Democrats were in control of all of state government, a report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Board showed.

    WEAC is always one of the top spending lobbyists in the Capitol and they took a central role this year fighting Gov. Scott Walker's plan curbing public employee union rights, including teachers.

    Back in 2009, when Democrat Jim Doyle was governor and Democrats controlled the Senate and Assembly, WEAC wasn't helping to organize massive protests but it was a regular presence in the Capitol.

  • Spending in summer recall elections reaches nearly $44 million
    Spending in the summer's recall elections by special interest groups, candidates and political action committees shattered spending records set in previous elections, with $43.9 million doled out on nine elections, according to a study released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

    Spending by six political action committees or special interest groups topped the $1 million mark. We Are Wisconsin was the top spender.

    The union-backed group spent roughly $10.75 million, followed by the conservative-leaning Club for Growth at $9 million and $4 million in spending from the Greater Wisconsin Committee.

  • Kansas City School District Loses its Accreditation

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Kansas City, Mo., School District Loses Its Accreditation

A.G. Sulzberger:

The struggling Kansas City, Missouri School District was stripped of its accreditation on Tuesday, raising the possibility of student departures and a state takeover. The action follows weeks of tumult that included another round of turnover of top leadership.

Though not entirely unexpected, the move was a painful return to reality for the city after a period of optimism that difficult choices were finally being made to confront longstanding problems in the school district, most notably the closing of nearly half the schools in response to a huge budget deficit.

The Missouri Board of Education cited the continued failure to improve academic performance and the continued instability in district leadership as driving its decision. The district has been provisionally accredited for nearly a decade after a two-year period during which it was unaccredited.

"We've given Kansas City more time than maybe we should have to address the problems," said Chris L. Nicastro, the state education commissioner, who had recommended the move. "Over a sustained period of time, student performance has not met state standards."

Former Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater formerly worked for the Kansas City School District.

The great schools revolution Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned.

Money & School Performance is well worth a read.

It is a rare organization that can reinvent itself, rather than continuing to atrophy.

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Time for a Tuition Revolt: By The Way, We Teach A Little Too

Investors Business Daily:

It's time for a tuition revolt, and higher taxes aren't the answer. Students and the rest of the public are now paying for decades of mission creep and bureaucratic bloat.

The regents of the University of California met this past week to revisit an old issue they've never really dealt with well -- how to cope with erratic (and usually dwindling) state aid.

Sooner or later, they'll probably raise tuition again, as they have in the past. But for now they are quailing at a plan, offered by UC's president, to raise students' costs by at least 8%, and up to 16%, annually for the next four years. "It scares the bejesus out of folks," said one of the regents, California's Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

If the past is any guide, that horror will give way to realism. The regents will take a shot at raising more private money from corporations, foundations, rich alumni and the like. They'll come up short, if only because every other academic institution is trying to do the same thing and there's only so much money to go around.

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How to Stop the Drop in Verbal Scores

E D Hirsch:

THE latest bad but unsurprising news on education is that reading and writing scores on the SAT have once again declined. The language competence of our high schoolers fell steeply in the 1970s and has never recovered.

This is very worrisome, because the best single measure of the overall quality of our primary and secondary schools is the average verbal score of 17-year-olds. This score correlates with the ability to learn new things readily, to communicate with others and to hold down a job. It also predicts future income.

The decline has led some commentators to embrace demographic determinism -- the idea that the verbal scores of disadvantaged students will not significantly rise until we overcome poverty. But that explanation does not account for the huge drop in verbal scores across socioeconomic groups in the 1970s.

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Parental Involvement in Education: Fact and Fiction

Harrison Blackmond:

I have attended dozens of legislative hearings, community meetings, and board meetings where the problems related to public education are discussed. Not to mention the numerous one-on-one conversations I've had with adults who are usually middle or upper class, where the subject of parental involvement in children's education is raised as a major factor contributing to the ills of public education. Educators who work in urban areas are quick to point out how negligent their students' parents are and are eager to recite anecdotes to illustrate their case. What is not said, but clearly implied is this: if the parents of these children in low-performing schools would do their jobs as parents, these children would not be failing.

Every time I hear someone raise the issue of parental involvement, I can't help but think of the parents in the latest "education" movies: The Lottery and Waiting for Superman. What good did "parental involvement" do for their children that didn't get accepted into a charter school? If they were not lucky enough to have their number called, they were still stuck in bad schools with educators who, for the most part, had given up on them. What good did "parental involvement" do for them?

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Britain needs schools for science

Martin Rees:

Scientists habitually moan that the public doesn't understand them. But they complain too much: public ignorance isn't peculiar to science. It's sad if some citizens can't tell a proton from a protein. But it's equally sad if they're ignorant of their nation's history, can't speak a second language, or can't find Venezuela or Syria on a map.

Indeed, I'm gratified and surprised that so many people are interested in dinosaurs, the Large Hadron Collider or alien life - all blazingly irrelevant to our day-to-day lives. We should be grateful to David Attenborough, Robert Winston, Brian Cox and other popular writers and television presenters for generating such interest. But it's depressing that all too often this natural enthusiasm of the young has been stifled by the time they leave school.

That's sad, because science is important for its own sake. It is a cultural deprivation not to appreciate the wonderful panorama offered by modern cosmology, DNA and Darwinian evolution. This common understanding should transcend all national differences - and all faiths, too. It should be part of global culture; but even in the UK a group of scientists including Attenborough has this week felt the need to reassert this.

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Pearson Buys U.S. Online School Network

Simon Zekaria:

Pearson PLC on Thursday said it has acquired U.S.-based online schooling network Connections Education for $400 million in cash, as the U.K.-based publishing giant ramps up its extensive North American education operations.

Pearson acquired the company from an investor group led by private-equity investment firm Apollo Management LP.

"Virtual schooling is an attractive choice for a growing group of American parents and in the next decade it will take off in other countries," Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino said.

Connections Education supplies "virtual" education services to students in grades K-12 and learning programs to educational institutions globally. It operates online public schools accredited in 21 U.S. states, serving more than 40,000 students who choose not to attend traditional schools, Pearson said.

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A better way for Madison Prep

Jack Craver:

If people want a charter school to be an inspiration to other youngsters in the community, here's a better way to do it. Instead of building an entirely new school, which costs a ton and isolates the kids from the rest of their peers, why not go with the school within a school model, in which a charter is operated within an existing public school?

That's the only original idea I have. Now here is my two cents on the rest of the plan.

I believe Kaleem Caire knows what he is talking about though. It's frustrating to see a debate on the crisis facing minority students as polarized between the know-nothings on the right who believe the only issues facing blacks are self-inflicted cultural ones and the lefties who refuse to accept that anything besides racism and poverty are responsible for the poor performance of black males in America.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, here.

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Spending in summer recall elections reaches nearly $44 million

Jessica Vanegeren:

Spending in the summer's recall elections by special interest groups, candidates and political action committees shattered spending records set in previous elections, with $43.9 million doled out on nine elections, according to a study released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Spending by six political action committees or special interest groups topped the $1 million mark. We Are Wisconsin was the top spender.

The union-backed group spent roughly $10.75 million, followed by the conservative-leaning Club for Growth at $9 million and $4 million in spending from the Greater Wisconsin Committee.

Put in perspective, the $43.9 million spent on the recalls more than doubled the previous record for spending by candidates and groups in legislative races, which was $20.25 million for 99 Assembly seats and 16 Senate seats in the 2008 general elections, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

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Despite changes, Wisconsin charter school expansion bill faces a headwind

Susan Troller:

A controversial bill that would create an independent, statewide authorizing board for charter schools is facing a tougher path now that Republicans have a razor thin 17-16 edge in the Wisconsin Senate. The legislation is designed to expand charter school choice in Wisconsin and to allow charters to be formed even in communities where they are not approved by local school districts.

Although the bill, introduced by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, last spring, has been modified from its original form, the amended Senate Bill 22 still doesn't pass muster with the Department of Public Instruction. Perhaps more importantly, moderate Republican Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, says he continues to have "more concerns than enthusiasm" for the legislation.

If he, or one of the Senate Democrats that opposed the earlier legislation, can't be persuaded that more independent charter schools would benefit Wisconsin students, SB 22 will be in trouble if it moves from the Joint Finance Committee to a vote in front of legislators, likely in October.

Read more:

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Petition to Redistribute College GPA Scores

Mark Perry

Do some students really need a 4.0 GPA? Isn't that "excessive"? Let's make it a 3.80 and redistribute those extra GPA points to another student who's struggling to graduate.

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September 20, 2011

The great schools revolution Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned

The Economist via a kind Mary Battaglia email

FROM Toronto to Wroclaw, London to Rome, pupils and teachers have been returning to the classroom after their summer break. But this September schools themselves are caught up in a global battle of ideas. In many countries education is at the forefront of political debate, and reformers desperate to improve their national performance are drawing examples of good practice from all over the world.

Why now? One answer is the sheer amount of data available on performance, not just within countries but between them. In 2000 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the OECD, a rich-country club, began tracking academic attainment by the age of 15 in 32 countries. Many were shocked by where they came in the rankings. (PISA's latest figures appear in table 1.) Other outfits, too, have been measuring how good or bad schools are. McKinsey, a consultancy, has monitored which education systems have improved most in recent years.


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Kaleem Caire draws on personal experience to support school alternatives for blacks

Dan Simmons:

"Come on Madison, we can do better than this!"

That's Kaleem Caire. He said it not recently but in 1998 in an op-ed questioning why his hometown wasn't paying more attention to the poor educational outcomes and high incarceration rates of black males.

"I'm asking Madison to be your best self and get this done!"

That's also Caire, in an interview this week about his proposal for a publicly funded charter school designed to improve educational outcomes of low-income minority students.

What hasn't changed, then to now, is Caire's conviction that Madison's public schools are failing minority students and his willingness to force issues that cause some distress to the city's white liberal establishment.

What has changed is Caire's clout. He returned to his hometown in 2010 after a decade long detour with his family to the East Coast. As president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, and public face for the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy, his profile has skyrocketed. But with it has come criticism and skepticism over a plan that challenges Madison's longstanding commitment to inclusive learning.

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Madison ACT Results vs. Milwaukee; "All Wisconsin Juniors Should Take the ACT"

Michael Ford:

As others have pointed out before me, the way ACT results are reported now paints a misleading portrait of the college-readiness of students, particularly in districts with significant minority populations. One clear example is the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD).

The district bragged in an August 17th press release that "[c]ompared to their state peers, MMSD ethnic and racial subgroups scored 3.5% to 18% higher on the ACT." Technically true, but only 31.1% of African-Americans and 36.7% of Hispanics in MMSD actually took the test. Compare this to 76.5% and 70.8% respectively in MPS. The disparity makes an accurate comparison of MMSD with MPS, or the rest of state considering that over half of the state's African-American and Hispanic students who took the test are in MPS, impossible.

The more interesting question spurred by ACT results in Madison and elsewhere is why do so few minority students take a test that is a prerequisite for admittance to a four-year college? Take away Milwaukee and only 38% of Wisconsin African-American and Hispanic high school students took the ACT this year.

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The great schools revolution

The Economist:

Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned

FROM Toronto to Wroclaw, London to Rome, pupils and teachers have been returning to the classroom after their summer break. But this September schools themselves are caught up in a global battle of ideas. In many countries education is at the forefront of political debate, and reformers desperate to improve their national performance are drawing examples of good practice from all over the world.

Why now? One answer is the sheer amount of data available on performance, not just within countries but between them. In 2000 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the OECD, a rich-country club, began tracking academic attainment by the age of 15 in 32 countries. Many were shocked by where they came in the rankings. (PISA's latest figures appear in table 1.) Other outfits, too, have been measuring how good or bad schools are. McKinsey, a consultancy, has monitored which education systems have improved most in recent years.


Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:28 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Rapid Improvments in K-12 Math Education Are Possible

Cliff Mass:

One of the most frustrating aspects of working on the improvement of math education is dealing with an educational establishment that makes decisions based on fads and opinions rather than empirical facts.

Now, let us accept that there are different approaches to teaching mathematics, with a major divide between the "reform, discovery approaches" and the more "traditional, direct instruction" approaches. Reform/discovery approaches became the rage among the educational community in the 1990s and I believe it is a major, but not sole, reason that math performance has lagged.

As a scientist, it would seem to me that the next step is clear: test a variety of curriculum approaches in the classroom, insuring the class demographics are similar, and find out what works best. In short, do a carefully controlled experiment with proper statistics and find the truth in an empirical way. But what frustrates me is that such experimentation is virtually never done by the educational bureaucracy. They seem to go from fad to fad and student progress suffers. Reform math, Integrated Math, Teach for America, Whole Language, and many more.

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"1493" and How We Teach History

Joshua Kim:

Before I jump into an argument about how we teach history, I want to make we don't lose the point that Charles Mann's 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created is a wonderful book.

A modern updating of Crosby's classic The Columbian Exchange, Mann traces the biological, epidemiological, and agricultural impact of trade between Europe, Asia and the America's after 1493.

1493 is a book for fans of Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and Morris' Why the West Rules -- for Now.

If you like your history to be big, the scope to be wide, but to be tied into how you eat and pay your way in the world, then 1493 is probably perfect.

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Alabama public schools turn to Wii to help fight childhood obesity

Marie Leech:

Ask most third-graders whether they'd rather run laps in hundred-degree temperatures or play a video game, and it doesn't take a genius to correctly predict their answer.

What did take some brainpower, however, was figuring out how use that fondness for electronic games to get some of the same benefits as running.

Wee Can Fight Obesity is a fitness program for third-graders in Alabama public schools, and uses the Wii Fit Plus Bundle and EA Sports Active video games to improve physical fitness three days a week during P.E. class.

The one-year program is in 30 schools this year, and was in 30 different schools last year. The goal is to eventually offer the program to every elementary school.

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Strike Hits Madrid's High Schools

Jonathan House:

High-school teachers in the Spanish capital started a two-day strike Tuesday, disrupting the school days of hundreds of thousands of youths as opposition to sweeping austerity measures starts to harden ahead of general elections this November in the euro zone's fourth-largest economy.

The Madrid protests were echoed by demonstrations across the country against spending cuts on education. Teachers in Galicia, in northwest Spain, have called a strike for later this month. The protests follow close on the heels of a series of rallies called by unions against new constitutional budget controls they say will undermine the social welfare state.

The cuts in education are part of a new round of austerity from regional governments as Spain aims to narrow its budget deficit to 6% of gross domestic product this year, from just over 9% in 2010. Most of the country's 17 regions are now in the hands of the conservative Popular Party. Currently in the opposition at the national level, the Popular Party is widely tipped by opinion polls to win the Nov. 20 elections and oust the incumbent Socialists. If he becomes prime minister, party leader Mariano Rajoy has pledged to follow the example of austerity set by the regions, regardless of any public backlash.

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NewSchools CEO Ted Mitchell: My Best Idea For K-12 Education

Nicole Perloth:

America's school system is broken. On that the Forbes 400 can agree. America's richest give more to education-related causes than to any other issue. But in terms of how best to reform education, there is little consensus.

Education-related causes that have materially benefited from Forbes 400 wealth vary from Michael Moritz's $50 million check to his alma-mater Christ Church to Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million donation to Newark's public schools. Bill and Melinda Gates have focused their efforts on reorganizing high school curriculum, while Eli Broad believes our educators would benefit from managerial expertise. Their ideas are so divergent that this year, my colleagues and I reached out to a few billionaires, as well as a few recipients of their charity, to solicit their best ideas for K-12 education reform.

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Unvaccinated Students Denied School Attendance, California

The State Column:

Middle school and high school students who have not received the required whooping cough vaccine are denied attendance at some California schools. This comes as a result of a law passed last year, after a spike in potentially fatal diseases swept through schools. Last year, there were 70 reported cases for whooping cough.

This law, passed in September 2010, required all students entering grades seventh through twelfth grade to be vaccinated by the start of 2011-2012 school year. Even after a 30 day extension period before the law went into effect, students were still unable to meet the deadline for the vaccination.

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Putting our minds to helping immigrants learn English

Steve Lopez:

In my back-to-school column two weeks ago, I wrote that parents ought to look in the mirror before pinning all the blame for the state of education on schools and teachers.

Readers were with me on the idea that parents ought to be more engaged in their children's education, whether they do so at home, on campus or by marching on Sacramento. But reactions split over my suggestion that parents who make no effort to learn English aren't helping their kids or themselves.

As promised, here's the follow-up.

And let me begin by saying that lack of parental involvement is a problem regardless of income or race. Are any parents more annoying than those who impose no discipline at home, then blame their child's disruptive antics or lousy grades on the school, the curriculum or the teacher's inability to recognize what a genius the child is?

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Online education offers as much (if not more)

David Bornus:

Larry J. Crockett's nostalgic commentary ("Online education doesn't measure up," Aug. 23) reminded me of a critique that might have been made by medieval apprenticeship guilds about the emergence of renaissance universities.

The world is changing; we no longer live in a prewired society where colleges act as "finishing schools" teaching table manners and deportment to impressionable youths. The modern world has become heavily virtualized, and education is no exception. The online medium actually enhances education in a number of ways:

1) No one can hide in a virtual classroom -- all have opportunity to participate and are expected to do so, and everyone has ample time to make contributions to class discussions, to look up citations and compose their arguments.

Class discussion occurs in threaded discussion posts, meaning everyone participates and has time to read and respond to others, cite what others have said, look up reference material, and proofread their statements, all of which generally enhances the quality of class interaction.

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Little Rock desegregation plans go back to court

Associated Press:

The state wants to end its long-running payments for desegregation programs, but three school districts that receive the money say they need it to continue key programs. And a federal judge has accused the schools of delaying desegregation so they can keep receiving an annual infusion of $70 million.

A federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday from both sides. The judges are expected to decide eventually whether Arkansas still has to make the payments and whether two of the districts should remain under court supervision.

The schools, which serve about 50,000 students, have come a long way since 1957, when the governor and hundreds of protesters famously tried to stop the Little Rock Nine from entering Central High School. But thousands of white and black children still have to be bused to different neighborhoods every day under one of the nation's largest remaining court-ordered desegregation systems.

Now parents are worried about the schools' future, and some are considering enrolling their children elsewhere.

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Racine Unified union head may leave

Racine Journal Times:

The entity that oversees Racine Unified's teachers' and educational assistants' unions is looking for a new executive director.

The job of executive director for the Racine Education Uniserv Council - which includes the Racine Education Association teachers' union and the Racine Educational Assistants Association union - was posted online Sept. 1.

The executive director is involved in long-range planning, membership programs, contract negotiations, employment recommendations and accounting, among other duties, according to the job posting.

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September 19, 2011

Putting Parents in Charge

Peg Tyre:

Peg Tyre is the author of "The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve."

THE school year is in full swing and, if you are the parent of a school-age child, you've probably figured out how to get your children up each weekday morning, dressed and out the door -- toast in hand -- in order to catch the school bus. Good for you.

If you've met and exchanged contact information with your child's homeroom teacher or gone the extra step and volunteered to become the class parent, give yourself a pat on the back. You're on your way to becoming an engaged parent -- the kind of adult, education researchers say, who helps children to be the best they can be in school.

Now, steady yourself. New legislation, called the parent trigger, which is being proposed in more than 20 states, including New York, is about to make your role as an engaged parent a lot more complicated.

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Infographic: Student loan defaults rise as job prospects dim

Mary Mahling, Carla Uriona and Ben Wieder:

Student loan defaults are rising fast, according to figures released this week by the U.S. Department of Education. While much of the press coverage focused on defaults by students attending for-profit schools, defaults at state colleges and universities went up, too. The bad job market is a big factor: Unemployment in 2010 was 10.1 percent for people between the age of 25 to 34, and those numbers are even higher when you remove people above the age of 30. At the same time, state budget cuts to higher education have led to big tuition hikes at many public colleges. California students graduated from public colleges with the least debt in the country in 2009, but tuition jumped 18 percent last year for in-state students in California and double-digit increases are projected for the next several years, as well.

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Starting College Later

Phil Bowermaster:

Some interesting comments from reader John Kennedy (no relation, as far as I know) on the recent poll about people's reasons for going to college. He writes:
There's another question in this discussion that I didn't address in previous comment. Apparently, kids going to college with no clear goal is somehow thought stupid (that's the implication). But I would ask, how many 17- or 18-year-olds have any idea about the real working world or about their own strengths and limitations? How many can think? What about having a chance to grow up a bit? This is also what college provides. OK, expensive? Do the first two years of general education at a community college, not perhaps a fine intellectual atmosphere, but possible to live at home, listen to the instructors, maybe get a clearer idea about personal and vocational possibilities.

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In California, More Cuts Are in the Cards

Vauhini Vara:

California Gov. Jerry Brown already anticipates relying on spending cuts and forgoing higher taxes to balance his state's budget next year, sobered by his deadlock with Republicans over revenue issues this year.

"There will be no taxes, as far as I know, by the legislature," he said in an interview this week.

The Democrat also said he hasn't decided whether to seek a ballot measure next year that would allow him to bypass the legislature and ask voters to boost taxes--apparently backing off earlier plans to do so. "I'm talking to groups...but we don't have a clear path forward," he said.

On Sept. 9, the last day of the legislature's eight-month session, Mr. Brown failed to pass a plan to rework state tax breaks after GOP senators balked. It was the 73-year-old's latest letdown after he unsuccessfully tried to pass a budget pairing deep cuts with the extension of some expiring tax increases. Those higher taxes would have been subject to voter approval.

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Caps and gowns behind locked gates

Carla Rivera:

Friday was graduation day for Brian Steven Hernandez, a goal that was never a sure thing growing up in his tough North Hollywood neighborhood.

At Jack B. Clarke High School, within the locked gates of a state youth correctional facility in Norwalk, Hernandez realized he could turn his life around.

But Hernandez and his 22 classmates, proudly wearing maroon caps and gowns, are the last graduates to receive diplomas at Clarke, which is closing at year's end due to state budget cuts.

"This is the place where I learned I could change if I wanted to," said Hernandez, 20, who has been in juvenile detention for 5 years after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. "It sucks for the other kids that have to go to other places that are much harder places to be in to learn."

Operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Southern Youth Correctional Reception Center and Clinic will be the third such facility to close since 2009. Shuttering the facility will save the state about $44 million annually, officials said.

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Networked schools outperform independent schools in world's largest school choice market

Anneliese Dickman:

Milwaukee's private school voucher program, now in its twelfth year, is dwarfed by the 30-year-old voucher program in Chile, where almost half of all students attend private voucher schools. The Chilean program is therefore of significant interest to school reformers and researchers looking to make voucher and charter schools a success in the US.

The most recent research, published by the Cato Institute, finds that when the Chilean public school test scores are compared with those of independent private schools and with those of private schools that are part of multi-school networks or franchises, the students in the franchised private schools perform best. (The independent, mom-and-pop private schools do about the same as the public schools.) In addition, the Chilean research indicates the more schools there are in the franchised networks, the better they outperform the others.

The researchers note that in Chile, "The private voucher school sector is essentially a cottage industry. More than 70 percent of private voucher schools are independent schools that do not belong to a franchise." The franchised schools are either owned by for-profit school management companies; affiliated with non-profit, secular organizations; or part of the Catholic or Protestant school systems.

Do these findings reflect what we know about Milwaukee's program? Its hard to say, since only one year of comparative data on student performance in voucher schools is available and it does not differentiate between the various types of private schools. However, those data do indicate considerable variability in performance across Milwaukee's voucher schools--some are producing high scoring students and some are no better than the worst public schools. It would be nice to know if all the high performing private schools had something in common besides the fact they participate in the voucher program.

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Family Pioneers in Exploration of the Genome

Amy Dockser Marcus:

A group of researchers said that by examining the whole genome of a family of four, they were able to make unusually specific findings, including the daughter's risk of blood clots, and suggestions for preventive care.

The study, published Thursday in the journal PLoS Genetics, was led by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., but also listed as co-authors John and Anne West, a father and daughter who were researching their own genetic make-up at home in Silicon Valley and met the Stanford team in the process. The research is part of scientists' continuing quest to extract truly useful information from the genome, a person's complete genetic code.

This is the second time a paper has been published about a family's whole genome. In the earlier paper, published last year in Science Express by a different group of researchers, the two children in the family had rare genetic conditions, and researchers were searching for the genes that caused them. The goal in the current study was to better predict the disease risk of a family and how family members might respond to medications.

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For Nashville Schools, Homework Will Now Include Country, Rock and Rap

John Jurgenson:

Nashville bills itself as Music City-now it's trying to lock in the future of that status. The city is overhauling its music education program across all 144 public schools, Mayor Karl Dean announced today at a press conference at the Ryman Auditorium, downtown Nashville's temple of country music.

Classes in country, rock and rap will supplement the traditional curriculum of orchestra, choir and band. Instruction in songwriting, production and other skills such as DJ-ing will also be added to music theory and other existing offerings. The new program, dubbed Music Makes Us, will be funded through a mix of public and private funds, primarily commitments from Nashville's deeply embedded music industry, which includes hundreds of record labels, publishers and venues, plus countless professional musicians.

"The music industry has picked this as their cause," Mr. Dean said yesterday in an interview. "It just makes sense to take advantage of this asset we have here."

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September 18, 2011

A Digital Promise to Our Nation's Children

Arne Duncan And Reed Hastings:

Student achievement and educational attainment have stagnated in the U.S., and a host of our leading economic competitors are now out-educating us. In a knowledge economy, such stagnation is a slow-acting recipe for obsolescence.

Imagine, though, an online high-school physics course that uses videogame graphics power to teach atomic interactions, or a second-grade online math curriculum that automatically adapts to individual students' levels of knowledge. All of this will happen. The only question is: Will the U.S. lead the effort or will we follow other countries?

In the past two decades, technology has revolutionized the way Americans communicate, get news, socialize and conduct business. But technology has yet to transform our classrooms. At its full potential, technology could personalize and accelerate instruction for students of all educational levels. And it could provide equitable access to a world-class education for millions of students stuck attending substandard schools in cities, remote rural regions, and tribal reservations.

Other countries are far ahead of us in creating 21st-century classrooms. South Korea, which has the highest college attainment rate in the world, will phase out textbooks and replace them with digital products by 2015. Even Uruguay, a small country not known for leadership in technology, provides a computer for every student.

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A better way for Madison Prep

Jack Craver:

If people want a charter school to be an inspiration to other youngsters in the community, here's a better way to do it. Instead of building an entirely new school, which costs a ton and isolates the kids from the rest of their peers, why not go with the school within a school model, in which a charter is operated within an existing public school?

That's the only original idea I have. Now here is my two cents on the rest of the plan.

I believe Kaleem Caire knows what he is talking about though. It's frustrating to see a debate on the crisis facing minority students as polarized between the know-nothings on the right who believe the only issues facing blacks are self-inflicted cultural ones and the lefties who refuse to accept that anything besides racism and poverty are responsible for the poor performance of black males in America.

I saw the intersection of both the cultural and economic aspects that bring black guys down. At my high school, in Montclair, NJ, which was slightly majority-minority, blacks were not only much more likely to come from poor or uneducated backgrounds, but many black kids from well-to-do or educated families felt pressure to conform to the mainstream image of black Americans. To not be "oreos." This, according to friends who spent their whole lives in Montclair, was one of the reasons why groups of friends were generally more integrated in grade school and middle school than in high school.

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Comparing Wisconsin & Illinois Education "Reform"

Alan Borsuk:

Whoever thought before this year that Illinois would be held up as a model over Wisconsin of people - politicians, specifically - playing nicely together and making forward-thinking change?

But you hear that fairly often when it comes to education policy. It's one of the things U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in Milwaukee on Sept. 9.

He criticized the way Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans kiboshed teachers union rights and said Illinois did much better by coming up with bold changes that were passed by the legislature with support from both political parties, business and civic leaders, education activists and many (but not all) union leaders.

What Illinois did is noteworthy, especially if you consider what would have seemed doable anywhere in the United States five years ago.

Beginning with steps taken in 2010, Illinois' Democratically controlled legislature is now mandating that a teacher's actual performance be a key in assignments, tenure decisions, firing decisions, and, when necessary, layoffs. How students are progressing will be central to determining a teacher's rating.

All these actions received broad support.

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Pay for Only 4 Years of College. Guaranteed.

Alan Schwarz:

Each incoming freshman at Randolph-Macon College this year was eligible to take part in a brief signing ceremony.

The new student, along with a parent and the college president, could sign a special agreement that is emerging at some colleges and universities: As long as the student keeps up with academic work and meets regularly with advisers, the college guarantees that earning a degree there will take no more than four years.

If it fails to hold up its end of the bargain -- if required classes are not available, or if advisers give poor counsel -- the college promises to cover the cost of additional tuition until the degree is completed.

Four-year degree guarantees, as they have become known, are being offered at a growing number of smaller private colleges. They work as a marketing tool, giving colleges a way to ease parents' fears that their children might enjoy college enough to stick around for five or six costly years. And they help to focus attention on the task at hand: graduating in four years.

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Video games go viral at UW educational research lab

Ron Seely:

Upstairs in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, scientists toil away in their labs researching everything from stem cells to viruses.

Downstairs, you'll find a very different kind of laboratory. In cubicles and makeshift computer labs, a number of people sit behind their screens -- playing games. They're not nerds, they're researchers.

OK, they are a bit nerdy and seem as glued to their screens as any game-crazed teenager. But there is science being done here, too. This is Susan Millar's computer lab, the Educational Research Integration Area in the Morgridge Institute for Research, where researchers design and build games that help teach and communicate science -- everything from the formation and perils of blue-green algae to the workings of viruses.

On a recent afternoon, in a darkened conference area, several programmers, designers and artists worked in the reflected blue light from their machines, racing to finish the newest version of one of the lab's most successful and popular efforts, a game called Virulent that can be found in the iTunes store and boasts 2,000 downloads.

And it's a game that doesn't involve guns or race cars or football players. It's about viruses.

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For Student Borrowers, a Hard Truth

Annamaria Andriotis:

As many students and parents struggle to make payments on their student loans, many are finding this debt comes with some serious strings attached.

After years of economic difficulty and rising college tuition, the recent news that the default rate on federal student loans has risen came as little surprise to many. Nearly one in ten federal student-loan borrowers defaulted during the two years ended Sept. 30, 2010, meaning they failed to make a payment on their loans for more than 270 days, according to the Department of Education. That's up from 7% in 2008. Much of that increase came from for-profit colleges, whose students' default rate jumped to 15% from 11.6%, but the default rate among students at public and private, four-year universities also increased.

What many people may not realize, however, when taking out a student loan is just how different it is from other kinds of debt. Credit-card debt, for example, can be wiped out in bankruptcy. Mortgages can be discharged through foreclosure. For borrowers with crippling student loan debt, financial failure offers no such fresh start. The loan still must be paid off, and often with new collection costs tacked on, making it much more expensive than before. On top of that, up to 25% of a person's wages can be deducted until the loan is paid back in full. (Private lenders must get court approval for wage garnishment and the amount they can take varies.) With federal loans, the government can also keep your federal and state income tax refunds, intercept future lottery winnings and withhold part of your Social Security payments. "Defaulting can be completely devastating to a family's finances and sense of well being," says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of and

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The Case for Paying College Athletes

Ben Cohen:

Somebody will win Saturday's football game between Ohio State and Miami, which has been jokingly dubbed "the IneligiBowl." But no matter the outcome, neither team can fairly consider itself a winner.

Both of these football powerhouses are under NCAA investigation for alleged rules violations in which athletes were given cash, gifts and services ranging from tattoos to wild parties on a private yacht. The NCAA, which is rightly determined to make sure its championships can't be bought, forbids athletes from taking anything from supporters beyond the benefits in their scholarships.

As the muck thickens, the narrative that has taken hold is that the lucrative end of college sports--particularly football--is a fetid swamp that needs to be drained and disinfected. But amid all the righteous indignation, there's a small but incongruous fact lurking just outside the picture: In most cases where college athletes take money, the sums are pretty small.

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The Shame of College Sports

Taylor Branch:

A litany of scandals in recent years have made the corruption of college sports constant front-page news. We profess outrage each time we learn that yet another student-athlete has been taking money under the table. But the real scandal is the very structure of college sports, wherein student-athletes generate billions of dollars for universities and private companies while earning nothing for themselves. Here, a leading civil-rights historian makes the case for paying college athletes--and reveals how a spate of lawsuits working their way through the courts could destroy the NCAA.

"I'm not hiding," Sonny Vaccaro told a closed hearing at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2001. "We want to put our materials on the bodies of your athletes, and the best way to do that is buy your school. Or buy your coach."

How to Fix College Sports Vaccaro's audience, the members of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, bristled. These were eminent reformers--among them the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, two former heads of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and several university presidents and chancellors. The Knight Foundation, a nonprofit that takes an interest in college athletics as part of its concern with civic life, had tasked them with saving college sports from runaway commercialism as embodied by the likes of Vaccaro, who, since signing his pioneering shoe contract with Michael Jordan in 1984, had built sponsorship empires successively at Nike, Adidas, and Reebok. Not all the members could hide their scorn for the "sneaker pimp" of schoolyard hustle, who boasted of writing checks for millions to everybody in higher education.

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Taking the Dread Out of Phys Ed

Sue Shellenbarger:

For many middle school students, the words "Phys Ed" are enough to provoke fear--fear of getting dressed in the locker room, of wearing a nerdy uniform, of looking clumsy, of being picked last.

Tammy Brant, a gym teacher at Selma Middle School, in Selma, Ind., is rethinking the way schools have taught girls and boys about fitness. Instead of group calisthenics and contests that favor the most athletic kids, Ms. Brant, like many other teachers nationwide, devotes class time to fitness instruction and to games structured so that more kids can play and enjoy.

Instead of pushing everyone to hit specific performance targets, she urges them to progress toward individualized "fitness zones." She teaches the stages of a workout--warm-up, training, cool-down--and straps a heart monitor on each child. The goal is to instill healthy habits for life.

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Can you name successful parent coup?

Jay Matthews:

Joseph Hawkins, senior study director at the Rockville.-based research group Westat, read my recent attack on the Parent Trigger Law in California and issued a challenge:

"If we put 10 hot-shot education reporters together in a room and asked this question I think the answer would be zero: 'In the past 10 years of school reform, can you list any schools where a parent revolution took place?'"

Hawkins said he is talking about a successful parent rebellion-- "meaning that the parents were fed up with low performance and they literally took over the school and improved it--demanded that it become better."

He said "I don't think such parent 'revolutions' ever take place at all. We probably could find some schools where a group of fed-up parents started their own charter, but I'm talking about something totally different. I'm pretty sure that both us have been in those low performing schools where many parents when quizzed in depth about their school confessed their frustrations. But mounting a coup d'état? Out of the question."

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My Family's Experiment in Extreme Schooling

Clifford Levy:

The phone rang, and my stomach clenched when I heard her voice. "Daddy? I want to go home," said my 8-year-old daughter, Arden. Two hours earlier, I dropped Arden and her two siblings off at their new school in a squat building in a forest of Soviet-era apartment blocks on Krasnoarmeyskaya (Red Army) Street in Moscow. They hugged me goodbye, clinging a little too long, and as I rode the metro to my office, I said a kind of silent prayer to myself that they would get through the day without falling apart.

But Arden had just spent the minutes between class periods hiding in the bathroom so no one would see her crying. Finally, she composed herself, found her teacher and pantomimed that she needed to talk to me. "I don't understand . . . anything," she told me. I tried to respond with soothing words, but I had no idea what to do. You can tell your kid to tough it out when she transfers from one school to another in your hometown. This was different.

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September 17, 2011

MBA applications: How to beat the drop

The Economist:

The Graduate Management Admission Council's latest report on business-school applications makes for grim reading. According to its 2011 Application Trends Survey (PDF) over two-thirds of schools worldwide say that they have seen applications to their two-year full-time MBA programmes fall over the last year. Meanwhile, 57% also reported a drop in applications to one-year full-time programmes.

There may be several contributing factors. With applications at an all time high the year before (generally applications to business schools rise in tough economic times) there is an element of a return to normality. Still, this doesn't account for all of the collapse.

Dave Wilson, GMAC's president, says it may not be that there has been a shocking drop in the number of applicants, rather that each candidate is applying to fewer schools. This is interesting because one explanation could be that more students are only applying for local programmes, where there is a limited choice. If true, this fits neatly with the projections of many of those predicting tough times ahead for business schools.

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New Haven's School Effort Hits Hurdles

Shelly Banjo:

A dozen students in uniforms of white-collared shirts and blue slacks looked up attentively at their sixth-grade teachers at the Brennan Rogers School on the first day of school this year.

"We will never make you do something that doesn't guide you to a purpose, we're not here to waste your time," said second-year teacher Kimberlee Henry. Her students nodded. "Everything you will do this year will prepare you for something else, giving you the skills you need to go on to high school, college, and excel at life."

The school's focus wasn't always as sharp. Brennan Rogers, which has about 360 kindergarten through eighth-graders, spent decades failing its students. Parents commonly campaigned for transfers to other schools that weren't plagued with violence and lagging from inattention.

Now, the school serves as the centerpiece of a sweeping reform effort launched three years ago by New Haven Mayor John DeStefano to turn around this inner-city district, where one in four children drops out every year and test scores have languished for decades.

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THE DARK SIDE: Religion has no place in public schools

David Ziemer:

Many years ago, I attended a public high school student's graduation ceremony out in what I consider the sticks.

I was amazed at the overt Christianity. There was a prayer at the beginning, and again at the end. The commencement speeches were full of references to God.

My own public high school was roughly one-third Jewish, so this wouldn't have flown. Someone would have sued, and rightfully so. A Jewish student should be able to go to his own public high school graduation without being told he needs to pray to Jesus Christ.

But out in the sticks, I guess, that sort of thing was okay.

Being a lawyer, I approached the father of the graduate, knowing he was not religious, and asked if he would like to bring a lawsuit against the school district. He said he found the ceremony offensive, but that he owns a business in that town, and he was certainly not going to bring a lawsuit just because they turned his son's graduation ceremony into a revival meeting. Fair enough. I let the matter drop.

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Only 20 states check test-tampering

Jay Matthews:

USA Today, in the persons of reporters Marisol Bello and Greg Toppo, has a new ground-breaking report on the feeble response to standardized test-tampering in America.

Bello and former USA Today reporter Jack Gillum exposed test security problems in the D.C. schools. Now, we learn that most states are even worse than D.C. because they don't bother even to look for evidence of unusual numbers of wrong-to-right erasures.

USA Today reports that only 20 states and the District do any erasure analysis. Four others give tests online (a good way to prevent principals from changing answers after the kids go home) and so don't have erasures to check. It said five other states, including Maryland, plan to check erasures next year because of the outbreak of cheating scandals in Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia and the District. New York may do the same.

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SAT Reading, Writing Scores Hit Low

Stephanie Banchero:

SAT scores for the high-school graduating class of 2011 fell in all three subject areas, and the average reading and writing scores were the lowest ever recorded, according to data released on Wednesday.

The results from the college-entrance exam, taken by about 1.6 million students, also revealed that only 43% of students posted a score high enough to indicate they were ready to succeed in college, according to the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the exam. Students had to score a 1550 out of a possible 2400 to meet that benchmark, which would indicate a 65% chance of getting at least a B-minus average in the first year of college, the Board calculated.

The report on the SAT, long known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, comes on the heels of results from the ACT college-entrance exam that suggested only 25% of high-school graduates who took that exam were ready for college. And results from national high-school math and reading exams show only modest progress over the past five years. The data highlight the difficult task faced by the Obama administration in pursuing education policies to help Americans remain globally competitive.

Michael Alison Chandler:
SAT reading scores for graduating high school seniors this year reached the lowest point in nearly four decades, reflecting a steady decline in performance in that subject on the college admissions test, the College Board reported Wednesday.

In the Washington area, one of the nation's leading producers of college-bound students, educators were scrambling to understand double-digit drops in test scores in Montgomery and Prince William counties and elsewhere.

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Fight about affirmative action in school admissions all about context

Chris Rickert:

The most striking thing about Tuesday's press conference on UW-Madison's alleged affirmative-action-driven bias against white and Asian applicants was not the loud, mildly violent protest that overran it.

It was the university professor who publicly touted the rising admission rate for white students and the declining rate for blacks. This from an institution that only 11 years ago was so worried about its less-than-diverse image that it Photoshopped a black student onto an admissions catalog.

That aside, nothing about the presser/protest was all that ground-breaking, and Roger Clegg, president of the conservative outfit that did the study showing UW's bias, got to the nut of the whole affair in only about 35 minutes.

"I view discrimination as something that happens to individuals, rather than something that happens to aggregate groups," he said.

Read more:

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why do people still buy books?

jared tame:

there's been a lot going on recently with books. i've been watching eric ries and i'm blown away by how successful he's been at promoting his book the lean startup. i saw that @dharmesh wrote about it at, and tweeting out small agreeable little tidbits from the book is genius--i don't know whether this was intentional or not, but that's an awesome idea.

i met noah kagan last friday to catch up over drinks at showdown in sf, and i met someone interesting there: laura roeder. i usually meet people who claim to be "social media experts" (as every hacker reading this rolls their eyes) but this woman actually had a significant following and presence on twitter and facebook, and not one of those fake "follow me and i'll auto-follow you back" type of things. i dropped in on a small video conference she was doing today corresponding to her book launch, which i had not realized she was working on (for some reason, she didn't mention it when we met, even though i had mentioned startups open sourced was paying my rent at this point).

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Visualizing the uneven geographies of knowledge production and circulation

Kris Olds & Susan Robertson:

As noted in a previous entry ('Visualizing the globalization of higher education and research'), we've been keen to both develop and promote high quality visualizations associated with the globalization of higher education and research. On this note, the wonderful Floating Sheep collective recently informed me about some new graphics that will be published in:

Graham, M., Hale, S. A., and Stephens, M. (2011) Geographies of the World's Knowledge, London, Convoco! Edition.

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Judging schools by advanced scores

Jay Matthews:

Journalists like me get into ruts. We pick one way of describing data and stick with it. I tell myself that I would confuse readers if I made changes. That might be an excuse for laziness and lack of imagination.

A habit I share with many education writers is presenting school test results one way: the percentage of students who score proficient or above. I ignore a subset of that proficient group, the percentage who achieve at the higher, advanced level.

The advanced percentages are impressive in the Washington suburbs, because they have some of the highest average family incomes in the country. The District is different. Most of its public school students are from low-income families. But I have been noticing some D.C. schools with impressive percentages of students scoring not just proficient but advanced. What would those schools look like if we reported that higher order of achievement? In the long term, don't we want as many students as possible to be learning at the advanced level?

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September 16, 2011

The Dark Side of the Placebo Effect: When Intense Belief Kills

Alexis Madrigal:

They died in their sleep one by one, thousands of miles from home. Their median age was 33. All but one -- 116 of the 117 -- were healthy men. Immigrants from southeast Asia, you could count the time most had spent on American soil in just months. At the peak of the deaths in the early 1980s, the death rate from this mysterious problem among the Hmong ethnic group was equivalent to the top five natural causes of death for other American men in their age group.

Something was killing Hmong men in their sleep, and no one could figure out what it was. There was no obvious cause of death. None of them had been sick, physically. The men weren't clustered all that tightly, geographically speaking. They were united by dislocation from Laos and a shared culture, but little else. Even House would have been stumped.

Doctors gave the problem a name, the kind that reeks of defeat, a dragon label on the edge of the known medical world: Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome. SUNDS. It didn't do much in terms of diagnosis or treatment, but it was easier to track the periodic conferences dedicated to understanding the problem.

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50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

Geoffrey K. Pullum

April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released.

I won't be celebrating.

The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.

The authors won't be hurt by these critical remarks. They are long dead. William Strunk was a professor of English at Cornell about a hundred years ago, and E.B. White, later the much-admired author of Charlotte's Web, took English with him in 1919, purchasing as a required text the first edition, which Strunk had published privately. After Strunk's death, White published a New Yorker article reminiscing about him and was asked by Macmillan to revise and expand Elements for commercial publication. It took off like a rocket (in 1959) and has sold millions.

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Study: College graduates driving increase in bankruptcy filings

Ylan Mui:

College graduates are the fastest-growing group of consumers who have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past five years, according to a new study by a financial nonprofit, which underscores the broad reach of the Great Recession.

The survey by the Institute for Financial Literacy, slated for release Tuesday, found that the percentage of debtors with a bachelor's degree rose from 11.2 percent in 2006 to 13.6 percent in 2010. The group tracked similar but smaller increases in consumers with two-year associate and graduate degrees. Meanwhile, the percentage of debtors with a high school diploma or who did not finish college declined.

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SpongeBob Found to Impair Preschoolers' Thinking -- Should You Be Worried?

Matt Blum:

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
SpongeBob SquarePants!
Rot your kids' brains right there in their heads will he.
SpongeBob SquarePants!

There's a lot of hullabaloo on the web today about a newly-published study out of the University of Virginia that shows that preschoolers who watched SpongeBob SquarePants had increased difficulty performing tasks requiring focus and self-control. The study draws the conclusion that watching a fast-paced TV show negatively affects kids' cognitive functioning for a short time after watching it.

The scientists conducting the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, took a group of 60 four-year-olds, mostly from white, middle-class families, and randomly separated the kids into three groups: one which watched a part of a SpongeBob episode, one which watched a similar amount of a Caillou episode, and one which simply did some free-drawing and watched no TV. After that phase was over, they gave the children a set of tasks to do which required what's called "executive function," a term which refers to a set of skills related to goal-directed behavior -- including attention, self-regulation, problem-solving, and ability to deal with delayed gratification. They consistently found that the kids who had watched SpongeBob did significantly worse at the tasks than the kids in either of the other groups.

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More Arkansas students taking AP classes, passing, education officials say

Rob Moritz:

The number of Arkansas students taking Advance Placements tests in math, science and English has risen 32 percent in the past five years and there has been a nearly 50 percent rise in the number of students receiving qualifying scores, state education officials heard today.

Also, the state Board of Education learned of an academic turnaround for a Fort Smith elementary which last year ranked among the lowest performing school in the state.

Tommie Sue Anthony, president of the Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Sciences, which is funded primarily through a grant from the national Math and Science Initiative, told board members that the number of students achieving scores of 3 or better on AP math, science and English scores -- the highest possible score is 5 -- increased in Arkansas by 46 percent from 2007 to 2011.

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Unions Lead In Wisconin Lobbying In First Half Of 2011

Wisconsin Governmant Accountability Board:

Four labor unions spent $4.2 million in the first half of 2011 lobbying state lawmakers, according to a report from the Government Accountability Board.

Overall, lobbying organizations reported spending $23.9 million, a 15 percent increase over the first six months of the 2009-2010 legislative session.

The first-half 2011 report analyzes the activities of 707 lobbying principals and 725 registered lobbyists.

"Wisconsin has a strong lobby law which requires that the public has ready access to information on the amount and sources of money used to influence legislation," said Kevin J. Kennedy, director and general counsel of the Government Accountability Board. "The Board's Eye on Lobbying online database allows the public to keep track of lobbying activities at the Capitol without leaving home."

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The Importance of Geographic Literacy in Liberal Arts Education

Tim Flower:

Last Thursday, Dr. Christopher Sutton, professor of geography at Western Illinois University, delivered the ninth annual John Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecture, entitled "Geography Matters! The Importance of Geographic Literacy in Liberal Arts Education."

"Everybody views the world in a geographical context," he said. "We do it all the time in our everyday pursuits."

Sutton believes that geography has escaped public interest due to a lack of mainstream understanding.

"We seem to not have a good sense of what it is, who does it, and why in the world we actually do it," he said.

At its simplest, he explained, the study of geography is devoted to further understanding the connections between humans and the world around them.

"We're interested in understanding the links between humans and their natural environment," he said. "We're interested in the linkages that exist between people, and how our connections that exist between people and cultures and governments and the economies affect one another."

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September 15, 2011

What if the Secret to School Success Is Failure?

Paul Tough, via a kind reader's email:

Dominic Randolph can seem a little out of place at Riverdale Country School -- which is odd, because he's the headmaster. Riverdale is one of New York City's most prestigious private schools, with a 104-year-old campus that looks down grandly on Van Cortlandt Park from the top of a steep hill in the richest part of the Bronx. On the discussion boards of, worked-up moms from the Upper East Side argue over whether Riverdale sends enough seniors to Harvard, Yale and Princeton to be considered truly "TT" (top-tier, in UrbanBabyese), or whether it is more accurately labeled "2T" (second-tier), but it is, certainly, part of the city's private-school elite, a place members of the establishment send their kids to learn to be members of the establishment. Tuition starts at $38,500 a year, and that's for prekindergarten.

Randolph, by contrast, comes across as an iconoclast, a disrupter, even a bit of an eccentric. He dresses for work every day in a black suit with a narrow tie, and the outfit, plus his cool demeanor and sweep of graying hair, makes you wonder, when you first meet him, if he might have played sax in a ska band in the '80s. (The English accent helps.) He is a big thinker, always chasing new ideas, and a conversation with him can feel like a one-man TED conference, dotted with references to the latest work by behavioral psychologists and management gurus and design theorists. When he became headmaster in 2007, he swapped offices with his secretary, giving her the reclusive inner sanctum where previous headmasters sat and remodeling the small outer reception area into his own open-concept work space, its walls covered with whiteboard paint on which he sketches ideas and slogans. One day when I visited, one wall was bare except for a white sheet of paper. On it was printed a single black question mark.

For the headmaster of an intensely competitive school, Randolph, who is 49, is surprisingly skeptical about many of the basic elements of a contemporary high-stakes American education. He did away with Advanced Placement classes in the high school soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and to middle school are "a patently unfair system" because they evaluate students almost entirely by I.Q. "This push on tests," he told me, "is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human."

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Education: crisis reinforces importance of a good education, says OECD


People with university degrees have suffered far fewer job losses during the global economic crisis than those who left school without qualifications, according to the latest edition of the OECD's annual Education at a Glance. Good education and skills are crucial to improving a person's economic and social prospects.

Unemployment rates among university graduates stood at 4.4% on average across OECD countries in 2009. But people who did not complete high school faced unemployment rates of 11.5%, up from 8.7% the year before. This adds to the huge problem of youth unemployment that today exceeds 17% in the OECD area.

"The cost to individuals and society of young people leaving school without a qualification keeps rising," said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. "We must avoid the risk of a lost generation by all means. Despite strained public budgets, governments must keep up their investment to maintain quality in education, especially for those most at risk."

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Do You Like Me? Click Yes or No

Jason Harrington:

To: Alice

First day of school. Sucks, huh? This class is so boring. I hate long division. Anyway, I like you. I set up a Tumblr for you while we were supposed to be doing #5. Just a poll with your name as the site's title:

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Why you need to become an Expert

Conditioned for Accomplishments:

Recently I interviewed many experts to find out how they got to where they are. They ranged from world champion arm wrestlers to New York Times bestselling authors. I wanted to know what made them tick and if they were really any different from you and I.

The first thing I did was to redefine what an expert is. Often we hear the word expert and we think of one person who is unique above any other person. He or she has developed qualities and skill that surpass the average person, but that is not what it means to be an expert.

An expert is someone who has tested or tried, a person who is wise through experience.

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One of the world's oldest publishing companies brought in a ringer to revolutionize the way the company does business. The result? The first fully-interactive textbook

Eric Markowitz:

Nature Publishing Group, which publishes several highly regarded scientific journals and textbooks, was founded in England in 1869, eight years before electric lights illuminated the streets of London. Now, 140 years later, with the help of Harvard Classics scholar Vikram Savkar, the company is beginning to disrupt the traditional textbook model that it helped to create. This month at California State University, the company released Principles of Biology, an interactive, constantly updating biology textbook that retails for less than $50. Like most digital textbooks, the software is accessible on laptops and tablets, but unlike most digital textbooks, it's not just a scan of a .pdf. The company calls it a "digital reinvention of the textbook," meaning that students can interact with the material; they can literally match amino acids and corresponding DNA with their fingers.'s Eric Markowitz spoke with Vikram Savkar about what it takes to create a culture of innovation in an old-school company.

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26 National Merit Semifinalists from Madison West High School

Susan Troller:

It's not supposed to be a competition among schools or states, or anything beyond the recognition of individual academic excellence. But the numbers of students from West High School ranking as semifinalists in the annual National Merit Scholarship Program are always impressive, and this year is no exception.

Twenty-six West students are on the list, announced Wednesday. Other Madison students who will be now eligible to continue in the quest for some 8,300 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $34 million, include 10 students from Memorial, six from Edgewood, five from East, one from St. Ambrose Academy and one home-schooled student. Winning National Merit scholars will be announced in the spring of 2012.

Other area semifinalists include 20 additional students from around Dane County, including seven students from Middleton High School, four from Stoughton High School, three from Mount Horeb High School and one student each from Belleville High School, DeForest High School, Monona Grove High School, Sun Prairie High School, Waunakee High School and a Verona student who is home-schooled.

Much more on national merit scholars, here.

A Deeper Look at Madison's National Merit Scholar Results.

Madison School Board member Ed Hughes' recent blog post:

We brag about how well Wisconsin students do on the ACT, and this is certainly good. But about 30 states have higher cut scores than Wisconsin when it comes to identifying National Merit Scholars, which means that their top 1% of students taking the test score higher than our top 1% do. (We in the MMSD are justly proud of our inordinate number of National Merit semi-finalists, but if - heaven forbid - MMSD were to be plopped down in the middle of Illinois, our number of semi-finalists would go down, perhaps significantly so. Illinois students need a higher score on the PSAT to be designated a National Merit semi-finalist than Wisconsin students do.)
Qualifying Scores for the Class of 2011 National Merit Semifinalists:
Illinois 214

Minnesota 213

Iowa 209

Massachusetts 223

Michigan 209

Texas 215

Wisconsin 209

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Chicago Teachers union: Pattern longer CPS day after Emanuel kids' school

Rosalind Rossi:

Using the elite private school where Mayor Rahm Emanuel now sends his kids as a starting point, Chicago Teachers Union officials have crafted a proposed schedule that adds 75 minutes to the typical public elementary school student's day.

The union's latest salvo in the battle over a longer school day uses as a comparison point the schedule of one third-grade classroom at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, union officials said Tuesday.

Just like at what U of C kids often call "the Lab School,'' the CTU proposal offers a well-rounded curriculum featuring far more art, music, physical education and other extras than most CPS kids now get and even includes the study of a second language.

Ultimately, the proposed CTU schedule would provide an even longer school day than the Lab School , where a third-grader's tuition is $21,876. And it does so without requiring Chicago Public School teachers to add any minutes to their work day.

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R.I. union leaders says national study shows 20 percent of charter schools perform better than traditional public schools and 40 percent perform worse

James Parisi:

During a recent discussion on Channel 10's "News Conference" about efforts to expand charter schools in Rhode Island, James Parisi, field representative and lobbyist for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, challenged the notion that charter schools improve student performance.

"I think one of the studies that I pay most attention to," Parisi said, "indicated, on a nationwide basis, looking at two and a half thousand charter schools around the country, maybe 20 percent do better than the community public schools, 40 percent or so do worse and the rest are not having any significant difference."

Rhode Island has 16 charter schools, including a new one opening Sept. 7, and more are expected to open soon. The state has a three-year, $9.4-million federal grant to expand existing charter schools, open additional ones and build partnerships between charter and traditional public schools.

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Reinventing California's higher education system

John Aubrey Douglass:

For most of the 20th century, California led the nation -- and the world -- in the number of high school graduates who went on to college and earned degrees. Its famed public higher education system profoundly shaped the aspirations of the state's citizens and, ultimately, their views on what it meant to be a Californian. That system also attracted talent from throughout the nation and the world, and it helped build and sustain an entrepreneurial spirit that shaped new sectors of the state's economy -- from microchips to biotechnology.

California's higher education system will help define the state's future too. However, the next chapter may be much less positive. The danger signs are numerous: falling public funding on a per-student basis, unprecedented limits on new enrollments, cuts in faculty positions and relatively low degree-production rates compared with economic competitors in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. Whereas California was always among the top states in degree-completion rates, it now ranks among the bottom 10. And yet educational attainment levels are exactly what predicts the overall economic performance of states and nations.

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Panel: Strict school discipline should be scrapped

Ivan Moreno:

Colorado lawmakers and police said Monday that strict disciplinary policies at schools created after the Columbine High School shootings should be scaled back or scrapped and that administrators should have more control over student punishment.

The state laws put in place after high-profile cases of youth violence have tied the hands of school administrators with zero-policy standard, said members of a panel looking at school discipline trends. In turn, the officials are left with no choice but to refer a high number of students to law enforcement for minor offenses that pose no threat to school safety, they said.

"Zero tolerance has outlived its shelf life and is often inappropriately and inconsistently applied," John Jackson, the police chief for Greenwood Village, wrote in a memo by the panel. He suggested that officials come up with a better definition for what's considered a "dangerous weapon" on school grounds.

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September 14, 2011

Charter school bill passes U.S. House

H.R. 2218: Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act, a summary.

bill information.

Vote tally.

TJ Mertz emails local Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who voted for the bill.

Thanks to Chan Stroman-Roll for sending the links.

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Madison Preparatory Academy today announced its inaugural Board of Directors

Laura DeRoche-Perez, via email:

Media Release

Madison Preparatory Academy today announced its inaugural Board of Directors. Board members represent a diverse cross-section of corporate and community leaders from the Greater Madison area who are all passionate about and dedicated to ensuring Madison Prep becomes a reality for young men and women. They are:

Tyler Beck, Undergraduate Student, UW-Madison
Dave Boyer, CEO, MCD, Inc.
David Cagigal, Vice Chair, Urban League of Greater Madison
Elizabeth Donley, CEO, Stemina Corporation
Rosa Frazier, Clinical Professor/Immigration Law, UW-Madison Law School
Dennis Haefer, Vice President of Commercial Banking, Johnson Bank
Donna Hurd, Executive Director, Boardman Law Firm
Torrey Jaeckle, Vice President, Jaeckle Distributors
Rev. Richard Jones, Pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church
Gloria Ladson-Billings, Chair of Urban Education and Professor of Curriculum & Instruction and Education Policy Studies, UW-Madison
Maddy Niebauer, Managing Director of Strategy & Human Assets, Teach for America
J. Marshall Osborn, Retired Math Professor, UW-Madison
Fran Petonic, President, Meriter Foundation
John Roach, Owner & CEO, John Roach Projects
Mario Garcia Sierra, Director of Programs, Centro Hispano
Derrick Smith, Area Manager, Thermo Fisher Scientific Corporation
Terrence Wall, President, T. Wall Properties

About Madison Preparatory Academy:
Madison Preparatory Academy (Madison Prep) is a tuition-free public charter school that will serve as a catalyst for change and opportunity, particularly for young people of color. Its mission is to prepare students for success at a four year college or university by instilling excellence, pride, leadership, and service. The school will open in the Fall of 2012 to students in the Madison Metropolitan School District, pending approval from the Board of Education in the Fall of 2011.

For more information, contact Laura DeRoche-Perez at 608-729-1230 or


Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, here.

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Awesome! Stanford Quality Master's in Computer Science Degree Online for $2,000


Awesome! Sebastian Thrun of Stanford is absolutely on the right track.

Reply to him @sebastianthrun to let him know you'd like that.

And, more Stanford courses may come online in the near future.

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Caire, supporters have steep uphill battle

Chris Rickert:

It's no surprise Kaleem Caire, a black man and head of the Urban League of Greater Madison, took a lot of guff from pundits last week after he banned the media from a forum for parents of black school children.

Strike at our bread and butter -- access -- and we shall strike back.

I wrote Thursday that closing a meeting on a topic already so fraught with sidestepping -- race -- doesn't really move us toward honest talk.

After speaking with Caire on Friday, I still think that's true. But it also might be beside the point.

Caire and his proposed Madison Prep charter school are conundrums for those who control the city's levers of power, who are overwhelmingly liberal, middle class and white.

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The 1979 6-Year-Old: Less Reading, More Range

KJ Dell Antonia:

Is your child ready for first grade? Earlier this month, Chicago Now blogger Christine Whitley reprinted a checklist from a 1979 child-rearing series designed to help a parent figure that one out. Ten out of 12 meant readiness. Can your child "draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?" Of course. Can she count "eight to ten pennies correctly?" Heck, yeah, I say for parents of kindergarteners everywhere. "Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?" Isn't that what preschool is for?

"Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend's home?"

It's amazing what a difference 30 years have made. Academically, that 1979 first grader (who also needed to be "six years, six months" old and "have two to five permanent or second teeth") would have been considered right on target to start preschool. In terms of life skills, she's heading for middle school, riding her two-wheeled bike and finding her own way home. It's not surprising that I came to this link via Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids blog. What is surprising is just how shocking a jolt it is to realize how stark the difference is between then and now.

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WEAC has its own union troubles

Daniel Bice:

Wisconsin's largest teachers union has a problem.

A union problem.

This week, National Support Organization, which bills itself as the world's largest union of union staffers, posted an online notice discouraging its members from seeking work with the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

"Don't apply for WEAC vacancies!" screams the headline.

The reason for the boycott?

Chuck Agerstrand, president of the National Support Organization, is accusing WEAC officials of "breaching staff contracts and destroying any working relationship with its employees."

"WEAC management is taking a page out of Gov. (Scott) Walker's playbook and making up new employment rules not in the (United Staff Union) contract," Agerstrand said on the labor group's website. "They should be looking to the 42 employees they laid off to fill vacancies before they go outside the state."

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Student-Loan Default Rate Rises

Kevin Hilliker:

The percentage of federal student-loan borrowers who defaulted during the two years ended last Sept. 30 rose to 8.8% from 7%, according to figures that the U.S. Department of Education released Monday.

That increase reflects the difficulty graduates are facing finding jobs amid a weak economy, particularly those who attended for-profit schools. The default rate for for-profit schools rose to 15% from 11.6%, compared with a rise to 7.2% from 6% at public institutions and a jump to 4.6% from 4% at private institutions.

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New Jersey school accountability task force report

New Jersey, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

To be sure, the Task Force recognizes, these are not always easy lines to draw. How do we define the level of school failure that is sufficiently injurious to children that we can no longer afford to "empower" districts with the authority to be the primary decision-maker? In addition to the core duty of setting goals and enforcing a schedule of consequences for failure, are there other areas that are so central to success that a state should continue to hold them "tight" rather than devolve them to local control?

(Examples might include teacher certification and evaluation criteria, requirements that schools have systems and processes in place to enable data driven decision-making to adjust instruction and address deficiencies, or matters related to health and safety.) As the entity ultimately responsible for the fiscal health of the State and the legal distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds, should state authorities reserve a larger measure of involvement to assure that districts are responsible wards
of taxpayers' money?

These are difficult questions, which the Task Force will continue to wrestle with throughout its tenure.Whatever the answer in these more nuanced areas however, the Task Force believes that there is much that can and should be accomplished as quickly as possible with respect to the two inextricably connected elements of the Governor's charge: 1) an evaluation and redesign of the State's accountability system, and 2) reduction of "empowerment - restricting" red tape.

With respect to the first, the Task force has concluded that the State's accountability system warrants significant revision. More likely to frustrate than positively affect behavior, the system is a patchwork of essentially unconnected, sometimes contradictory, federal (No Child Left Behind) and State (QSAC, etc.)mandates.

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Scottish teachers in strike ballot over pensions


Members of Scotland's largest teaching union are to be balloted on strike action over proposed changes to teachers' pensions.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) is to recommend that its members vote in favour of a strike, with action set to begin in November.

Its executive committee agreed to send out ballot papers later this month.

EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith claimed teachers had already taken their fair share of pain.

The decision comes after an EIS sub-committee recommended balloting its members over UK government proposals to increase pension contributions while reducing the amount teachers will receive in retirement.

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Brainwave controllers: Put your thinking cap on

The Economist:

THE idea of moving objects with the power of the mind has fascinated mankind for millennia. At first it was the province of gods, then sorcerers and witches. In the late 19th century psychokinesis, as the trick then came to be known, became a legitimate object of study, as part of the nascent field of parapsychology, before falling into disrepute in the arch-rationalist 20th century. Since the 1990s, however, it has seen something of a revival, under a more scientifically acceptable guise.

There is nothing particularly magical about moving things with thoughts. Human beings perform the feat every time they move a limb, or breathe, by sending electrical impulses to appropriate muscles. If these electrical signals could be detected and interpreted, the argument goes, there is in principle no reason why they could not be used to steer objects other than the thinker's own body. Indeed, over the past two decades brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) which use electrodes implanted in the skull have enabled paralysed patients to control computer cursors, robotic arms and wheelchairs.

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Arkansas Education Opinion

Roby Brock:

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) released a much-anticipated opinion about the director's position of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

The opinion was requested after GOP lawmakers questioned the legality of Gov. Mike Beebe's recommendation that former State Sen. Shane Broadway (D) be appointed by the higher education board to the post. Broadway removed himself from consideration for the position on Friday (Sept. 9) citing his wife's health and the stress of travel related to the job.

McDaniel said in his opinion, "I cannot resolve the group of questions asking me to specifically decide the case of the proposed appointment of Shane Broadway." McDaniel cited the office's long-standing policy of not addressing hypothetical situations in opinion decisions.

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September 13, 2011

K-12 Tax and Spending Climate: Household Income Falls, Poverty Rate Rises

Conor Dougherty:

The typical American household saw its income fall for the third straight year in 2010 and the poverty rate clicked up to its highest level since 1993 as the aftermath of the latest recession continued to take a toll.

The median household income—what the statistical middle earns in a year—fell 2.3% to $49,445 in 2010, adjusted for inflation, according to the Census Bureau's annual snapshot on living standards released Tuesday. This comes on the heels of a so-called lost decade for earnings: Inflation-adjusted household income is down 7.1% from its 1999 peak, and 2010 was the first time since 1997 that American households made less than a median of $50,000.

The official poverty rate—defined as a family of four earning less than $22,314—was at 15.1% in 2010, up from 14.3% last year and up from 12.5% in 2007, before the recession was in full force. The official poverty rate has been criticized by economists and researchers because it doesn't take into account many of the programs the government uses to aid the poor, such as subsidized housing and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

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New Studies Show Severe Racial Discrimination at University of Wisconsin

Center for Equal Opportunity:

Two studies released today by the Center for Equal Opportunity reveal severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with African Americans and Latinos given preference over whites and Asians.

The studies are based on data supplied by the schools themselves, some of which the university had refused to turn over until a lawsuit was filed by CEO and successfully taken all the way to the state supreme court. The studies were prepared by Dr. Althea Nagai, a research fellow at CEO, and can be viewed on the organization's website,

CEO president Roger Clegg will answer questions about the studies when they are formally released at a press conference today at 11:00 a.m. at the DoubleTree hotel in Madison--525 W. Johnson St.

The odds ratio favoring African Americans and Hispanics over whites was 576-to-1 and 504-to-1, respectively, using the SAT and class rank while controlling for other factors. Thus, the median composite SAT score for black admittees was 150 points lower than for whites and Asians, and the Latino median SAT score was 100 points lower. Using the ACT, the odds ratios climbed to 1330-to-1 and 1494-to-1, respectively, for African Americans and Hispanics over whites.

Adelaide Blanchard:
Two reports released today allege the University of Wisconsin discriminates against whites and Asian applicants and have electrified both UW administration and some student leaders.

A crowd of more than 150 students filled the Multicultural Student Center in the Red Gym on Monday after an ominous message from UW Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate Damon Williams claimed a threat had been made against the diversity efforts in the campus community.

The reports were released at midnight on Tuesday from the Center for Equal Opportunity in conjunction with a press conference CEO President Roger Clegg will hold at the Double Tree Inn at 11 a.m. today. Clegg will also be at a debate on the future of Affirmative Action at the UW Law School at 7 p.m. this evening.

Williams said the timing of the events is no coincidence.

In an interview with The Badger Herald, Clegg said the reports show how a heavy preference is given to blacks and Latinos over whites and Asians in the admissions process for undergraduate programs and in the law school.

Todd Finkelmeyer:
Whites and Asians aren't getting a fair crack at being admitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

That's what two studies released late Monday night by the Center for Equal Opportunity indicate. The organization states in a press release accompanying the studies that there is "severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions" at Wisconsin's flagship institution of higher education.

The CEO -- a conservative think tank based out of Sterling, Va., that pushes "colorblind public policies" and backs the elimination or curtailment of existing racial preference and affirmative action programs -- reports that UW-Madison gives "African Americans and Latinos preference over whites and Asians" in admissions. The studies, which initially were embargoed until Tuesday morning, were released late Monday on the CEO website.

According to the executive summary of the report examining undergraduate admissions at UW-Madison: "In 2007 and 2008, UW admitted more than 7 out of every 10 black applicants, and more than 8 out of 10 Hispanics, versus roughly 6 in 10 Asians and whites."

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab:
The Center for Equal Opportunity and its president and general counsel, Roger Clegg, claim to advance educational opportunity by punishing colleges and universities for attempting to level a highly unequal playing field.

The CEO's name is laughable. It is the exact opposite of what the organization does. The misnomer is a deliberate deception. It is a lie so blatant that it would be considered a joke in very poor taste were it not so outrageously fallacious.

The record of CEO's lawsuits has never been in support of equality--it has always been to preserve and protect educational opportunity for those most fortunate social classes and racial/ethnic groups. There is no no record of this organization filing a lawsuit on behalf of newly emerging and underrepresented populations in higher education--it always and only files lawsuits on behalf of the already-advantaged.

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Teachers Are Put to the Test More States Tie Tenure, Bonuses to New Formulas for Measuring Test Scores

Stephanie Banchero & David Kesmodel:

Teacher evaluations for years were based on brief classroom observations by the principal. But now, prodded by President Barack Obama's $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, at least 26 states have agreed to judge teachers based, in part, on results from their students' performance on standardized tests.

So with millions of teachers back in the classroom, many are finding their careers increasingly hinge on obscure formulas like the one that fills a whiteboard in an economist's office here.

The metric created by Value-Added Research Center, a nonprofit housed at the University of Wisconsin's education department, is a new kind of report card that attempts to gauge how much of students' growth on tests is attributable to the teacher.

For the first time this year, teachers in Rhode Island and Florida will see their evaluations linked to the complex metric. Louisiana and New Jersey will pilot the formulas this year and roll them out next school year. At least a dozen other states and school districts will spend the year finalizing their teacher-rating formulas.

"We have to deliver quality and speed, because [schools] need the data now," said Rob Meyer, the bowtie-wearing economist who runs the Value-Added Research Center, known as VARC, and calls his statistical model a "well-crafted recipe."

Much more on value added assessment, here.

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Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?

Mark Edmundson:

Welcome and congratulations: Getting to the first day of college is a major achievement. You're to be commended, and not just you, but the parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts who helped get you here.

It's been said that raising a child effectively takes a village: Well, as you may have noticed, our American village is not in very good shape. We've got guns, drugs, two wars, fanatical religions, a slime-based popular culture, and some politicians who--a little restraint here--aren't what they might be. To merely survive in this American village and to win a place in the entering class has taken a lot of grit on your part. So, yes, congratulations to all.

You now may think that you've about got it made. Amidst the impressive college buildings, in company with a high-powered faculty, surrounded by the best of your generation, all you need is to keep doing what you've done before: Work hard, get good grades, listen to your teachers, get along with the people around you, and you'll emerge in four years as an educated young man or woman. Ready for life.

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Incomplete: How Middle Class Schools Aren't Making the Grade

Tess Stovall and Deirdre Dolan:

f you discovered that only one in four graduates from your neighborhood high school would earn a college degree, would you be alarmed?

For decades, there has been a laser-like focus in education reform on the lowest-performing students and schools. This focus continues to be critical for maintaining America's social fabric and ensuring that all children have an opportunity to succeed, but it is not enough. In this paper, we urge that America must embark upon a second phase of education reform that squarely focuses on dramatically improving achievement in the middle-class schools that the majority of children attend.

Our findings show that middle-class schools seem to be forgotten in the education debate. There is a paucity of academic literature on their performance, expectations, and on ideas for reform. Yet, they produce the students who are the backbone of the U.S. economy. Among parents of school-aged kids in middle-class jurisdictions, there is a strong belief that these schools are educating students at the highest levels. More than seven of ten parents with children in the public schools grade their kids' schools as either an A or a B,1 and nine of ten parents of school-age children expect their kids to go to college.2 But that is far from the reality. Middle-class schools are falling short on their most basic 21st century mission: to prepare kids to get a college degree.

In order to maintain a prosperous middle class, grow our economy, and foster a public education system that taxpayers deserve, it is necessary to shine a light on the experience of middle-class students. These are students that don't attend America's best schools but also don't attend the worst. They attend the schools that are in every city, town, and suburb. For our nation to succeed, their schools must be college factories--graduating high school students who are prepared to get to and through college.

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Never a better time for Seattle Schools?

Linda Thomas:

The new school year begins in Seattle today, with the superintendent feeling "excited and hopeful that anything is possible" in the year ahead.

I'm not as confident, yet.

My daughter starts her junior year of high school. She's enthusiastic, optimistic and one of those students who always gets a "she's a delight to have in class" comment on her report cards. She has the school system figured out. Today she's on the team who will help incoming, possibly nervous, freshmen. Have a great day sweetie; I know you will.

This is not a routine day for my son. He's making the transition from elementary to middle school. No more bubbly fish tank in the school lobby, little kids' artwork on the walls and shock absorbing wood chips on the playground. Instead, he'll be surrounded by the echoing thud of steel locker doors slamming, the shuffle of grown up-sized tennis shoes tromping through the halls and concrete sidewalks with weeds growing through the gaps. Have a great day son; I don't know how your day will go. I can't wait to find out this afternoon.

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Milwaukee Public Schools' fast-tracks proposal to make 'voucher tax' transparent

Karen Herzog:

A proposal that Milwaukee taxpayers be told on tax bills exactly how much of their money is going to private schools through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is on the fast track for school board consideration.

During a special MPS board meeting Saturday morning to discuss the district's long-range master plan for buildings, board member Larry Miller asked that his "voucher tax" transparency proposal be discussed at a school board committee meeting Tuesday, rather than wait to be introduced at the board's next regular meeting Sept. 22, and then be referred to committee for discussion at a later date.

"The urgency of this is there's a huge tax burden on the community and it's important for the community to be educated on this burden," Miller told the board Saturday morning.

The tax that MPS must levy under state law to support low-income Milwaukee students enrolled in private schools under the choice program would have ranked just behind Milwaukee Area Technical College and ahead of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District if it had been broken out, ranked, and displayed under the "Levy by Unit of Government" section of tax information sent to taxpayers in 2010, Miller said.

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What College Can Mean to the Other America

Mike Rose:

It has been nearly 50 years since Michael Harrington wrote The Other America, pulling the curtain back on invisible poverty within the United States. If he were writing today, Harrington would find the same populations he described then: young, marginally educated people who drift in and out of low-pay, dead-end jobs, and older displaced workers, unable to find work as industries transform and shops close. But he would find more of them, especially the young, their situation worsened by further economic restructuring and globalization. And while the poor he wrote about were invisible in a time of abundance, ours are visible in a terrible recession, although invisible in most public policy. In fact, the poor are drifting further into the dark underbelly of American capitalism.

One of the Obama administration's mantras is that we need to "out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build" our competition in order to achieve fuller prosperity. The solution to our social and economic woes lies in new technologies, in the cutting edge. This is our "Sputnik moment," a very American way to frame our problems. However, the editors of The Economist wrote a few months back that this explanation of our economic situation is "mostly nonsense."

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Teachers union president says Mayor Emanuel 'exploded' at her

Rosalind Rossi:

The president of the Chicago Teachers Union says Mayor Rahm Emanuel "exploded" at her during a debate over a longer school day, pointing his finger in her face and cursing.

CTU President made the allegations in a Friday morning press release detailing a complaint filed by the union to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board over the ongoing battle between the union and City Hall.

"A couple of weeks ago I sat down with the mayor in his office to talk about how to roll out a longer school year and what components would go into making it a better school year for our students but he did not want to have that conversation," said Lewis. "When I explained to him that a longer school day should not be used for warehousing or babysitting our youth he exploded, used profanity, pointed his finger in my face and yelled. At that point the conversation was over -- soon thereafter we found ourselves subject to a full-scale propaganda war over a moot point."

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Kenya Teachers strike called off ‎

Lordrick Mayabi:

Learning in public schools is set to resume on Monday after striking teachers accepted on Sunday a Government offer to hire more tutors in phases.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) officially called off the four-day strike on Sunday and urged teachers to ignore the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) which has defied a call by the Government to end the industrial action.

KNUT's Secretary General David Okuta told journalists in Nairobi that the resolution to call off the strike was reached by KNUT National Executive Council following a commitment by Government to meet most of their demands.

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September 12, 2011

Value Added Report for the Madison School District

Full Report 1.1MB PDF

Value added is the use of statistical technique to isolate the contributions of schools to measured student knowledge from other influences such as prior student knowledge and demographics. In practice, value added focuses on the improvement of students from one year to the next on an annual state examination or other periodic assessment. The Value-Added Research Center (VARC) of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research produces value-added measures for schools in Madison using the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) as an outcome. The model controls for prior-year WKCE scores, gender, ethnicity, disability, English language learner, low-income status, parent education, and full academic year enrollment to capture the effects of schools on student performance on the WKCE. This model yields measures of student growth in schools in Madison relative to each other. VARC also produces value-added measures using the entire state of Wisconsin as a data set, which yields measures of student growth in Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) relative to the rest of the state.

Some of the most notable results are:

1. Value added for the entire district of Madison relative to the rest of the state is generally positive, but it differs by subject and grade. In both 2008-09 and 2009-10, and in both math and reading, the value added of Madison Metropolitan School District was positive in more grades than it was negative, and the average value added across grades was positive in both subjects in both years. There are variations across grades and subjects, however. In grade 4, value-added is significantly positive in both years in reading and significantly negative in both years in math. In contrast, value-added in math is significantly positive--to a very substantial extent--in grade 7. Some of these variations may be the result of the extent to which instruction in those grades facilitate student learning on tested material relative to non-tested material. Overall, between November 2009 and November 2010, value-added for MMSD as a whole relative to the state was very slightly above average in math and substantially above average in reading. The section "Results from the Wisconsin Value-Added Model" present these results in detail.

2. The variance of value added across schools is generally smaller in Madison than in the state of Wisconsin as a whole, specifically in math. In other words, at least in terms of what is measured by value added, the extent to which schools differ from each other in Madison is smaller than the extent to which schools differ from each other elsewhere in Wisconsin. This appears to be more strongly the case in the middle school grades than in the elementary grades. Some of this result may be an artifact of schools in Madison being relatively large; when schools are large, they encompass more classrooms per grade, leading to more across-classroom variance being within-school rather than across-school. More of this result may be that while the variance across schools in Madison is entirely within one district, the variance across schools for the rest of the state is across many districts, and so differences in district policies will likely generate more variance across the entire state. The section "Results from the Wisconsin Value-Added Model" present results on the variance of value added from the statewide value-added model. This result is also evident in the charts in the "School Value-Added Charts from the MMSD Value-Added Model" section: one can see that the majority of schools' confidence intervals cross (1) the district average, which means that we cannot reject the hypothesis that these schools' values added are not different from the district average.

Even with a relatively small variance across schools in the district in general, several individual schools have values added that are statistically significantly greater or less than the district average. At the elementary level, both Lake View and Randall have values added in both reading and math that are significantly greater than the district average. In math, Marquette, Nuestro Mundo, Shorewood Hills, and Van Hise also have values added that are significantly greater than the district average. Values added are lower than the district average in math at Crestwood, Hawthorne, Kennedy, and Stephens, and in reading at Allis. At the middle school level, value added in reading is greater than the district average at Toki and lower than the district average at Black Hawk and Sennett. Value added in math is lower than the district average at Toki and Whitehorse.

3. Gaps in student improvement persist across subgroups of students. The value-added model measures gaps in student growth over time by race, gender, English language learner, and several other subgroups. The gaps are overall gaps, not gaps relative to the rest of the state. These gaps are especially informative because they are partial coefficients. These measure the black/white, ELL/non-ELL, or high-school/college-graduate-parent gaps, controlling for all variables available, including both demographic variables and schools attended. If one wanted to measure the combined effect of being both ELL and Hispanic relative to non-ELL and white, one would add the ELL/non-ELL gap to the Hispanic/white gap to find the combined effect. The gaps are within-school gaps, based on comparison of students in different subgroups who are in the same schools; consequently, these gaps do not include any effects of students of different subgroups sorting into different schools, and reflect within-school differences only. There does not appear to be an evident trend over time in gaps by race, low-income status, and parent education measured by the value-added model. The section "Coefficients from the MMSD Value-Added Model" present these results.

4. The gap in student improvement by English language learner, race, or low-income status usually does not differ substantively across schools; that between students with disabilities and students without disabilities sometimes does differ across schools. This can be seen in the subgroup value-added results across schools, which appear in the Appendix. There are some schools where value-added for students with disabilities differs substantively from overall value- added. Some of these differences may be due to differences in the composition of students with disabilities across schools, although the model already controls for overall differences between students with learning disabilities, students with speech disabilities, and students with all other disabilities. In contrast, value-added for black, Hispanic, ELL, or economically disadvantaged students is usually very close to overall value added.

Value added for students with disabilities is greater than the school's overall value added in math at Falk and Whitehorse and in reading at Marquette; it is lower than the school's overall value added in math at O'Keefe and Sennett and in reading at Allis, Schenk, and Thoreau. Value added in math for Hispanic students is lower than the school's overall value added at Lincoln, and greater than the school's overall value added at Nuestro Mundo. Value added in math is also higher for ELL and low-income students than it is for the school overall at Nuestro Mundo.

Much more on "value added assessment", here.

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Madison School District High School REaL Grant Updates

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Year four of the five-year REaL Grant has several key areas of focus to support our three grant goals:

Increase student achievement for all students

Strengthen student-student and student-staff relationships

Increase post-secondary outcomes for all students

Following the completion of the K-12 Literacy Evaluation during the 2010-2011 school year there is a renewed commitment and expectations to develop core practices in literacy across the content areas. Professional development around literacy has been scheduled for the 2011-2012 school year and includes: instructional resource teachers, reading interventionists, learning coordinators, literacy coaches. Data from WKCE and EXPLORE indicate the need to improve core practices in literacy.

The division of Curriculum and Assessment has structured the entire 2011-2012 school year with high school department chairperson meetings across the district. The central purpose of this important dialogue is to build consensus around a curriculum scope and sequence that is aligned to both the ACT Career and College Readiness Standards and the Common Core State Standards. Much progress has been made with the adoption of common course names and numbers throughout our high schools.

AVID/TOPS has increased in capacity throughout the high schools and preliminary data indicates continued significant differences in the success of our AVID/TOPS students and their comparison group counterparts. Several teachers and departments outside of our AVID/TOPS classrooms have adopted the AVID/TOPS strategies and we look forward to supporting this demand helping our schools develop consistent systems of support and shared high expectations for all students.

Several professional development opportunities over the summer were supported by the REaL grant. Examples include: Critical Friends, Adaptive Schools, AVID Institute, and Align by Design. Additionally, school leadership teams under the direction of principals, REaL grant coordinators and literacy coaches met to create the Welcome Back Conference sessions for their respective schools.

Principals and teacher leaders continue to increase their capacities as instructional leaders. This year we also have in place a coordinated plan to help assistant principals progress their roles as instructional leaders. This has been an area clearly lacking in the first three years of the grant. Principals and all assistant principals will receive the same professional development each month.

The four high schools received a significant grant from the DPI to support safe schools. These added resources and action plans will compliment the REaL grant goals of improved relationships. High schools continue to address critical student behavior issues with a greater systematic approach. Two areas identified district wide based on the success in one school are: Youth Court and Restorative Justice classes.

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SpongeBob In Hot Water From Study Of 4-Year-Olds

The cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is in hot water from a study suggesting that watching just nine minutes of that program can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds.

The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to either watch "SpongeBob," or the slower-paced PBS cartoon "Caillou" or assigned to draw pictures. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the kids took mental function tests; those who had watched "SpongeBob" did measurably worse than the others. Previous research has linked TV-watching with long-term attention problems in children, but the new study suggests more immediate problems can occur after very little exposure -- results that parents of young kids should be alert to, the study authors said.

Kids' cartoon shows typically feature about 22 minutes of action, so watching a full program "could be more detrimental," the researchers speculated, But they said more evidence is needed to confirm that.
The results should be interpreted cautiously because of the study's small size, but the data seem robust and bolster the idea that media exposure is a public health issue, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis. He is a child development specialist at Seattle Children's Hospital who wrote an editorial accompanying the study published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Christakis said parents need to realize that fast-paced programming may not be appropriate for very young children. "What kids watch matters, it's not just how much they watch," he said.

University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard, the lead author, said Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob" shouldn't be singled out. She found similar problems in kids who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming. She said parents should realize that young children are compromised in their ability to learn and use self-control immediately after watching such shows. "I wouldn't advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they're expected to pay attention and learn," she said.

Nickelodeon spokesman David Bittler disputed the findings and said "SpongeBob SquarePants" is aimed at kids aged 6-11, not 4-year-olds. "Having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show's targeted (audience), watch nine minutes of programming is questionable methodology and could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust," he said.

Lillard said 4-year-olds were chosen because that age "is the heart of the period during which you see the most development" in certain self-control abilities. Whether children of other ages would be similarly affected can't be determined from this study. Most kids were white and from middle-class or wealthy families. They were given common mental function tests after watching cartoons or drawing. The SpongeBob kids scored on average 12 points lower than the other two groups, whose scores were nearly identical.

In another test, measuring self-control and impulsiveness, kids were rated on how long they could wait before eating snacks presented when the researcher left the room. "SpongeBob" kids waited about 2 1/2 minutes on average, versus at least four minutes for the other two groups. The study has several limitations. For one thing, the kids weren't tested before they watched TV. But Lillard said none of the children had diagnosed attention problems and all got similar scores on parent evaluations of their behavior.


Online: Pediatrics:

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Badge of Shame and Bigger Paychecks: Arne Duncan's Mixed Bag Comments for Teachers

Josh Mogerman:

Arne Duncan ended a week-long education and jobs stump speech bus tour in Chicago this week. And he had plenty to say about what is going on in his old stomping grounds at CPS. Some of what he had to say was undoubtedly music to the ears of the Chicago Teachers Union, given the weird and ugly battle brewing with the Emanuel administration (complete with a curious mix of F-bombs and hugs). Friday, he called for a doubling of teacher salaries nationally:

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An Open Letter to a College Freshman

Timothy Dairymple:

At last your time has come. Leaving behind the old world and the deep ruts you carved in the corner of that world that belonged to you, you're off to explore undiscovered countries, to join a new and ever-replenishing society of fascinating people and learned scholars and impassioned artists and driven achievers, off to a place where the world is new and so are you. Whether or not your college years will be "the best years of your life," they will almost certainly be among the most transformative.

The question is whether that transformation will be for the better. Unmoored from the people and places that once defined you, you'll feel a fluidity in your identity that's both thrilling and frightening. You may feel as though you can be anyone and become anything. I pray that you will become who you are -- the individual you most truly and deeply are, the one God dreamt of when he made you -- and not the person that you or your parents or your friends think you should be. In service to that end, I thought I would offer seven pieces of advice. Though it feels churlish to say so, I offer this advice on the basis of some personal experience -- more than many and less than some, with four undergraduate years at Stanford, three at Princeton Seminary and seven at Harvard for my Ph.D. I did a fair amount of teaching, came to know many professors well, and spent time too at universities overseas. So, on the basis of those experiences, here are my thoughts:

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The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle applied to schools

Anneliese Dickman:

Werner Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle states that one cannot simultaneously measure the location of a particle while also measuring the momentum of that particle. When you apply this principle to schools, it's a little disheartening--if we attempt to measure where we are now, we are no longer certain how fast we're improving. If the environment in which the measurement is taking place is also moving (think of the vast legal and budgetary changes at the state level), the uncertainty is all but overwhelming.

Thus, this year's analysis of public school data in southeast Wisconsin heeds Heisenberg and emphasizes the use of the 2010-11 data as a baseline. Knowing that all Wisconsin school districts will be in a state of flux over the next few years due to changes in contractual bargaining legislation, the state budget, a slow economic recovery, a new standardized testing system, and new standards for curriculum, in the future we hope to measure their improvements over time as these various "new normals" kick in. For now, we emphasize where they've been and where they are currently.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Geography of Jobs

TIP Strategies:

Map Highlights
This animated map provides a striking visual of employment trends over the last business cycle using net change in jobs from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on a rolling 12-month basis. We used this approach to provide the smoothest possible visual depiction of ongoing employment dynamics at the MSA level. By animating the data, the map highlights a number of concurrent trends leading up to the nation's present economic crisis. The graphic highlights the 100 largest metropolitan areas so that regional trends can be more easily identified.

The timeline begins in 2004 as the country starts its recovery from the 2001 recession, following the bursting of the dot-com bubble. At first, broad economic growth was apparent across most of the country. Two notable exceptions are the Bay Area -- the hub of the tech boom that drove job growth during the prior decade -- and several metropolitan areas within the Midwest. The map reveals that much of the industrial Midwest never fully recovered from the previous recession, as manufacturers continue to shed jobs while other parts of the country were adding them in large number.

A rather spirited discussion of Madison school finances and spending priorities occurred during the recent last minute Board Meeting on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school.

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Study: Atlanta education gap grows, could hurt employment

David Markiewicz:

Employment in metro Atlanta has been hurt in recent years by the area's dependence on troubled job sectors, including administrative and support services, and specialty trade contracting. One thing that's helped the employment rate has been a relatively strong supply of educated workers.

But a new report from the Brookings Institution says the area's "education gap" is growing and could become a problem if the trend is not reversed. The education gap refers to the difference between local employer demand for educated workers and a community's ability to provide enough of them.

Metro Atlanta had the nation's fifth-largest increase in education gap from 2005-2009, the study found. No market of comparable size was in the top 10.

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The Chicago Forward: Education essay winners are ...

Trib Nation:

For our Sept. 13 public affairs forum with Chicago schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard and teachers union leader Karen Lewis, we asked Trib Nation to write an essay on what makes public education succeed or fail.

Here are the contributions from winners Ray Salazar, G. A. Finch, Trevon Martin, Eva Delgado, Cassandra Eddings and Devyn Rigsby, along with two other noteworthy essays from Gary Lawson and Ron Barker:

G. A. Finch, parent:
I chair the LSC at Decatur Classical, an obscure selective enrollment school that the Tribune, Sun-Times, and Chicago Magazine have ranked the highest performing elementary school in Illinois. Despite its diversity in income, ethnicity, race and religion, it consistently exceeds state testing standards.

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Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist

George Monbiot:

Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the western world? Whose monopolistic practices make Walmart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch a socialist? You won't guess the answer in a month of Sundays. While there are plenty of candidates, my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but - wait for it - to academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.

Everyone claims to agree that people should be encouraged to understand science and other academic research. Without current knowledge, we cannot make coherent democratic decisions. But the publishers have slapped a padlock and a "keep out" sign on the gates.

You might resent Murdoch's paywall policy, in which he charges £1 for 24 hours of access to the Times and Sunday Times. But at least in that period you can read and download as many articles as you like. Reading a single article published by one of Elsevier's journals will cost you $31.50. Springer charges €34.95, Wiley-Blackwell, $42. Read 10 and you pay 10 times. And the journals retain perpetual copyright. You want to read a letter printed in 1981? That'll be $31.50.

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Concern rising about quality of education

Wannapa Khaopa:

Although, the majority of Thai children have access to basic education, as net enrolment for primary and secondary schoolage children increases, people still question the quality of education being provided as international learning assessments show Thai students' performances lag behind most Asian countries.

So, the Office of the Education Council (OEC) is preparing to propose government strategies to enhance the teaching levels and ensure quality education for all children in collaboration with the United Nations Country Team (UNCT).

The net enrolment for primary schoolage children in Thailand increased from 81 per cent in 2000 to 90 per cent in 2009. And, net enrolment for secondary schoolage children increased from 55 per cent in 2000 to 72 per cent in 2009, according to UN Data Online and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Education for All Monitoring Report.

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Mount Horeb School Gets 21st Century Makeover

Jeff Glaze:

Ten months after Mount Horeb area voters approved $10.5 million in renovations to the village's first- and second-grade building, a walk through the Primary Center reveals little resemblance to the building's previous 93 years of life. Classroom walls and staircases have been removed, and a gaping hole allows workers to see the basement from the second floor.

The construction is part of a year-long project that Mount Horeb Area School District Superintendent Wayne Anderson said "will bring the school into the 21st century."

The Primary Center, constructed in 1918, provided a challenging place for teachers to hold class, with inconsistently sized rooms, split levels and distractions including a bug infestation, said Vicky Rosenbaum, a first- and second-grade teacher at the school. The school was without air conditioning and operated its heating system on the original 1918 boilers, which made the building prone to extreme and fluctuating temperatures. The Primary Center also had a mysterious problem with bees, she said.

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September 11, 2011

Lies, damn lies and the myth of "standardized" tests

Marda Kirkwood:

[Note from Laurie Rogers: Recently, results from the 2011 state standardized test scores came out, and the general impression given to the public -- for example from the state education agency (OSPI) and from media in Seattle and in Spokane -- was that improvements had been made. It's all in the definitions: How do you define "improvement"? Did some of the numbers go up? Assuredly. Did that mean that real improvments in real academic knowledge had been made? It's best to remain skeptical.

Most students in Spokane are as weak in math skill this year as they were last year. Given a proper math test that assesses for basic skills, many high schoolers still test into 4th or 5th-grade math. College remedial rates are still high. Parents are still frantic, and students are still stressed out about math. So ... what do those higher scores actually mean? I've been trying to find out. It's hard to say.

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Building the largest Chess AI ever

Sylvain Zimmer:

Many people are familiar with the SETI@home project: a very large scale effort to search for patterns from alien civilizations in the ocean of data we receive from the sky, using the computing power of millions of computers around the globe ("the grid").

SETI@home has been a success, obviously not in finding aliens, but in demonstrating the potential of large-scale distributed computing. Projects like BOINC have been expanding this effort to other fields like biology, medicine and physics.

Last weekend, a team at Joshfire (Thomas, Nathan, Mickael and myself) participated in a 48-hour coding contest called Node Knockout. Rules were simple: code the most amazing thing you can in the weekend, as long as it uses server-side JavaScript.

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Administrators Ate My Tuition Want to get college costs in line? Start by cutting the overgrown management ranks.

Benjamin Ginsberg:

No statistic about higher education commands more attention--and anxiety--among members of the public than the rising price of admission. Since 1980, inflation- adjusted tuition at public universities has tripled; at private universities it has more than doubled. Compared to all other goods and services in the American economy, including medical care, only "cigarettes and other tobacco products" have seen prices rise faster than the cost of going to college. And for all that, parents who sign away ever-larger tuition checks can be forgiven for doubting whether universities are spending those additional funds in ways that make their kids' educations better--to say nothing of three times better.

Between 1975 and 2005, total spending by American higher educational institutions, stated in constant dollars, tripled, to more than $325 billion per year. Over the same period, the faculty-to-student ratio has remained fairly constant, at approximately fifteen or sixteen students per instructor. One thing that has changed, dramatically, is the administrator-per-student ratio. In 1975, colleges employed one administrator for every eighty-four students and one professional staffer--admissions officers, information technology specialists, and the like--for every fifty students. By 2005, the administrator-to-student ratio had dropped to one administrator for every sixty-eight students while the ratio of professional staffers had dropped to one for every twenty-one students.

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City, Union Stories on Votes Conflict

Hunter Clauss:

In an attempt to counter Mayor Rahm Emanuel's relentless campaign for a longer school day, the Chicago Teachers Union claimed Friday that 30 elementary schools have voted to reject the city's offer to extend the school day in exchange for financial incentives.

Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools have offered up to $150,000 in discretionary funds and a roughly 2 percent raise for teachers at city elementary schools that elect to waive a portion of the union contract and add 90 minutes to the day. CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll told the Chicago News Cooperative that the union's list is not accurate. She said the only schools that have voted are the four elementary schools that have accepted the district's deal.

"Not a single school voted down waivers. Not true," Carroll said in an email. "Only four have voted on waivers and they all supported them."

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The typewriter lives on in India

Mark Magnier:

It's a stultifying afternoon outside the Delhi District Court as Arun Yadav slides a sheet of paper into his decades-old Remington and revs up his daily 30-word-a-minute tap dance.

Nearby, hundreds of other workers clatter away on manual typewriters amid a sea of broken chairs and wobbly tables as the occasional wildlife thumps on the leaky tin roof above.

"Sometimes the monkeys steal the affidavits," Yadav said. "That can be a real nuisance."

The factories that make the machines may be going silent, but India's typewriter culture remains defiantly alive, fighting on bravely against that omnipresent upstart, the computer. (In fact, if India had its own version of "Mad Men," with its perfumed typing pools and swaggering execs, it might not be set in the 1960s but the early 1990s, India's peak typewriter years, when 150,000 machines were sold annually.)

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Duncan energizing U.S. education scene

Alan Borsuk:

rne Duncan has the across-the-spectrum appeal to make just about everybody on the Wisconsin education scene eager to be in the room with him, and the political guts to tell Gov. Scott Walker face-to-face and in front of all those folks that he was wrong to kibosh collective bargaining in Wisconsin.

In short, he is about as interesting and significant a person as anyone in American education.

The U.S. secretary of education stopped by the Milwaukee School of Career and Technical Education (that's the new version of Custer High School) for an hour and a half Friday, enough time for several hundred people, from big shots to students, to get a dose of the highly demanding form of optimism that is a key to Duncan.

You want to get some positive re-enforcement for the things you're doing, Duncan is your guy. You want to hear how what you're doing isn't anywhere near enough, Duncan is your guy.

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California's Math Pipeline: The Grade 7 Pivot Point


For students to be career- and college-ready when they complete high school, they must build a strong base of mathematics knowledge. The end of 7th grade provides an important moment to assess how prepared California's students are to succeed in the more advanced math curriculum that starts with algebra.

California's 1997 academic content standards in mathematics outline the stepping stones to algebra, and the Grade 7 Mathematics California Standards Test (CST) provides a benchmark measure of students' readiness.

In addition, 7th grade is the point where students' math course-taking paths clearly begin to diverge:

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The Great Candy Debate


"Motivation is part of education and classroom teachers should have input because they are the ones doing the work. "
"Not all candy purchases are used for motivation."
"The question becomes do we want to be the food police in the schools. "
"Teachers and principals might not understand why this issue is being pushed so hard. "
---Administration Response to "Candy Purchases" issue (Minutes of the Finance Committee meeting 8-22-11)

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What teachers really want to tell parents

Ron Clark:

This summer, I met a principal who was recently named as the administrator of the year in her state. She was loved and adored by all, but she told me she was leaving the profession.

I screamed, "You can't leave us," and she quite bluntly replied, "Look, if I get an offer to lead a school system of orphans, I will be all over it, but I just can't deal with parents anymore; they are killing us."

Unfortunately, this sentiment seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. Today, new teachers remain in our profession an average of just 4.5 years, and many of them list "issues with parents" as one of their reasons for throwing in the towel. Word is spreading, and the more negativity teachers receive from parents, the harder it becomes to recruit the best and the brightest out of colleges.

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Why You Should Drop Out of High School

Susannah Breslin:

There is a great deal of debate going on over whether or not you should go to college. Is it worth it? You will enter a difficult job market deeply in college loan debt. Despite your degree, your job prospects will be slim. And nobody can quite figure out what the future really holds for college grads' futures.

Here's another question: Why bother graduating from high school?

1. It doesn't matter.

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Iowa says 415 schools not making enough progress

Sioux City Journal:

An annual report on Iowa public schools shows students in 30 districts aren't making the progress required by the federal No Child Left behind law, triggering required actions such as changing staff members.

The report released by state education officials Thursday showed that 415 schools weren't making adequate progress. That nearly 30 percent of all Iowa schools.

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September 10, 2011

Why They Chose STEM, 20% say "extremely well prepared"

Libby Nelson:

Most college students studying for degrees in science, technology, engineering or math make the decision to do so in high school or before -- but only 20 percent say they feel that their education before college prepared them "extremely well" for those fields, according to a survey released today by Microsoft and polling company Harris Interactive.

The survey, which asked college students pursing STEM degrees and the parents of K-12 students about attitudes toward STEM education, also found that male and female students enter the fields for different reasons: females are more likely to want to make a difference, while males are more likely to say they've always enjoyed games, toys or clubs focused on the hard sciences.

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Cambridge tops league table of world's best universities

Jeevan Vasagar:

Cambridge has topped a league table of the world's best universities, with Harvard and MIT ranked second and third.

The annual QS World University Rankings remains dominated by US institutions, which took 13 of the top 20 places.

There are five British universities in the top 20 - Oxford ranks fifth, Imperial sixth, UCL seventh and Edinburgh 20th. The only university in the top 20 which is not from the English speaking world is the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Zurich, at 18. The highest ranking Asian universities are Hong Kong at 22, Tokyo at 25, and the National University of Singapore at 28. King Saud University, in Saudi Arabia, made the top 200 for the first time. At 200, it was the highest rated institution in the Arab world.

It is the second year running that Cambridge University has taken the top spot.

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Connecticut Education reform group presents proposals to state board

Caitlin Emma:

A group of business and philanthropic leaders appointed by Governor Dannel P. Malloy presented their education reform proposals to the state Board of Education Wednesday, pitching changes to teacher certification requirements, preparation programs and evaluations to help close Connecticut's dramatic achievement gap.

Members of the Connecticut Council on Education Reform said they considered the timing appropriate, coming as Malloy introduced his new education commissioner and reiterated that education will be a priority in next year's legislative session.

"We think next year could be the lynchpin," said Steve Simmons, vice chair of the council and CEO of Simmons/Patriot Media and Communications. "The governor has said that this first year was focused on the budget crisis and the second year was going to be education reform. I think we have a great chance here over this next nine or ten month period to really push for change."

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Education in China: a path to unity with diversity

Liu Lili:

China is a united multicultural country. The development of each national minority (with its unique language, culture, location and shared experience) has different requirements and the educational needs of each nationality within China involve unique challenges.

What is the best way to renew thinking about education for minority nationalities and improve multicultural education in ethnic minority areas?

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Needs of schools, not seniority, best way to manage staff

Eau Claire Leader Telegram:

A debate related to the repeal of collective bargaining rights for most public employees in Wisconsin is whether teachers' job security should be tied to seniority.

The Cadott school board recently rewrote its employee handbook, which now says the needs of the district, not the seniority of its employees, will be the "prime consideration" to determine which employees should be laid off.

Other school districts are deciding how to proceed. In the past, representatives of the school board and teachers union would negotiate the handbook's contents. Now, the board can unilaterally set the rules, which has teachers understandably unnerved. Job security, especially in this economy, is paramount.

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September 9, 2011

Technology in the Classroom

Michael Horn:

Simply put, people should not take from this article that technology will not be a significant part of the answer for the struggles of the country’s education system. It will likely be the very platform for it.

Technology has the potential to transform the education system—not by using technology for technology’s sake through PowerPoint or multimedia at the expense of math and reading or something like that—but instead as a vehicle to individualize learning for students working to master such things as math and reading, thereby creating a student-centric system as opposed to today’s lockstep and monolithic one.

According to the article (and with a full caveat that the article of course may not capture the true intent of the school officials profiled), a goal here was to create a computer-centric classroom. If this is true, it dramatically misses the point. As others have noted, a critical problem with the notion of creating the “classroom of the future” is just that phrase—“the classroom of the future”—for the ways in which that language locks in our imagination around the current paradigm of schooling and even sometimes implies that creating this should be the goal in and of itself.

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Madison Preparatory IB Charter School School Board Discussion Notes

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy will receive the first half of a $225,000 state planning grant after the Madison School Board determined Thursday that the revised proposal for the charter school addresses legal concerns about gender equality.

Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad announced the decision following a closed School Board meeting.

Questions still remain about the cost of the proposal by the Urban League of Greater Madison, which calls for a school for 60 male and 60 female sixth-graders geared toward low-income minorities that would open next year.

"I understand the heartfelt needs for this program," Nerad said, but "there are other needs we need to address."

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes
The school district does not have a lot of spare money lying around that it can devote to Madison Prep. Speaking for myself, I am not willing to cut educational opportunities for other students in order to fund Madison Prep. If it turns out that entering into a five-year contract with Madison Prep would impose a net cost of millions of dollars on the school district, then, for me, we'd have to be willing to raise property taxes by that same millions of dollars in order to cover the cost.

It is not at all clear that we'd be able to do this even if we wanted to. Like all school districts in the state, MMSD labors under the restrictions of the state-imposed revenue caps. The law places a limit on how much school districts can spend. The legislature determines how that limit changes from year to year. In the best of times, the increase in revenues that Wisconsin school districts have been allowed have tended to be less than their annual increases in costs. This has led to the budget-slashing exercises that the school districts endure annually.

In this environment, it is extremely difficult to see how we could justify taking on the kind of multi-million dollar obligation that entering into a five-year contract with Madison Prep would entail. Indeed, given the projected budget numbers and revenue limits, it seems inevitable that signing on to the Madison Prep proposal would obligate the school district to millions of dollars in cuts to the services we provide to our students who would not attend Madison Prep.

A sense of the magnitude of these cuts can be gleaned by taking one year as an example. Since Madison Prep would be adding classes for seven years, let's look at year four, the 2015-16 school year, which falls smack dab in the middle.

TJ Mertz:
Last night I (TJ) was asked to leave the meeting on African American issues in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) advertised as being facilitated by the Department of Justice Community Relations Service (DOJ CRS) and hosted or convened by the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) with the consent and participation of MMSD. I was told that if I did not leave, the meeting would be canceled. The reason given was that I write a blog (see here for some background on the exclusion of the media and bloggers and here for Matt DeFour's report from outside the meeting).

I gave my word that I would not write about the meeting, but that did not alter the request. I argued that as a parent and as someone who has labored for years to address inequities in public education, I had both a legitimate interest in being there and the potential to contribute to the proceedings. This was acknowledged and I was still asked to leave and told again that the meeting would not proceed if I did not leave. I asked to speak to the DOJ CRS representatives in order to confirm that this was the case and this request was repeatedly refused by Kaleem Caire of the ULGM.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
An idea hatched in Madison aims to give parents with boys in Wisconsin's second-largest city another positive option for their children. It's an idea that ought to be channeled to Milwaukee.

Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men would feature the rigorous International Baccalaureate program, longer days, a longer school year and lofty expectations for dress and behavior for boys in sixth grade through high school. And while it would accept all comers, clearly it is designed to focus on low-income boys of color. Backers hope to open a year from now.

One of the primary movers behind Madison Prep is Kaleem Caire, the head of the Urban League of Madison, who grew up in the city and attended Madison West High School in 1980s, Alan J. Borsuk explained in a column last Sunday. Caire later worked in Washington, D.C., as an education advocate before returning to Madison.

Caire saw too many young black men wash out and end up either dead or in jail, reported Borsuk, a senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School. And Caire now is worried, as are we, about the atrocious statistics that place young black boys so far behind their white peers.

Rebecca Kemble:
The Department of Justice official explained the shadowy, confidential nature of the Community Relations Service to the audience by describing the kinds of situations it intervenes in, mostly having to do with hate crimes and rioting. He said in no uncertain terms, "We are not here to do an investigation," and even asked for the audience members to repeat the sentence with him. He then went on to ask for people to respect the confidentiality of those raising issues, and laid out the structure of the meeting: 30 minutes for listing problems relating to the achievement gap and 45 minutes generating solutions.

I will respect the confidentiality of the content of the meeting by not repeating it. However, I will say that what was said in that room was no different that what has been said at countless other open, public meetings with the School District and in community groups on the same topic, the only difference being that there were far fewer parents in the room and few if any teachers.

It turned out that the Department of Justice secretive meeting was a convenient way to pack the house with a captive audience for yet another infomercial about Madison Prep. Kaleem Caire adjourned the one meeting and immediately convened an Urban League meeting where he gave his Madison Prep sales pitch yet again. About 1/3 of the audience left at that point.

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Many School Boards Replace Union Contracts with Employee Handbooks

Wisconsin Public Radio:

School boards across Wisconsin are coming out with employee handbooks to replace union contracts after the elimination of most collective bargaining powers for teachers. Some major trends include elimination of seniority protection and just cause for teacher non renewal.

Cadott School District Administrator Joe Zydowsky says the school board has been working since spring on the employee handbook that will set the work rules for district personnel. Zydowsky says they did solicit comments from teachers and staff while writing the book, "We tried to have as much input as possible but ultimately it came down to being the responsibility of the school board."

The finished product eliminates layoff protections based on seniority and a provision that the district provide just cause for not renewing a teacher's contract. Zydowsky says those changes give the district flexibility in personnel matters, "Sometimes that might mean that we have to make a reduction in staff. Sometimes that might mean we need to make a change in staff and the new employment policies of our school district will make it easier for us to make those changes when they're necessary."

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Back-to-school virtually: Separating fact from fiction

Michelle Mueller:

very principal looks forward to the first day of school when students return with fresh minds eager to learn and ready to work. But as students prepare to hit the books in the next couple weeks, some of them won't have to take the bus to school, wander the halls looking for their classroom or search rows of desks to find their seat.

Virtual schooling with Wisconsin Connections Academy (WCA) allows students to receive a top-notch public education online from the comfort of their homes. Virtual education is an increasingly popular alternative to the traditional brick and mortar classroom, but many parents still don't fully understand online learning and how it works.

Virtual public schooling is not homeschooling. In fact, the two are quite different. Virtual public schools deliver public education to a student's home at no cost that combines state-certified teachers and a rigorous curriculum that correlates to state standards. At WCA, students learn at home under the guidance of a Wisconsin certified teacher. A Learning Coach, typically a parent, assists the student in day-to-day activities. Our teachers work directly with both the student and Learning Coach to develop an individual learning plan, provide instruction and evaluate assignments.

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Colorado's Story: A key narrative in Steven Brill's Class Warfare

Moira Cullen:

While they say that all politics is local, Colorado seems to be national news, yet again. Our state is featured prominently in Steven Brill's new book, Class Warfare, which is receiving a lot of press from national news outlets.

Weaving a narrative around the passage of Senate Bill 10-191 in Colorado, Brill tells a good story, replete with heroic figures like Senator Mike Johnston. I worked closely on SB 191 from its inception to passage, I can tell you that the on the ground details of its success are even more interesting than what's depicted in Brill's account.

Please see DFER's case study on SB 191 here for a close examination of the strategy, the broad coalition, and the bipartisan champions that helped make SB 191 a reality. Without the active support of the sophisticated coalition of political leaders on both sides of the aisle, including House sponsors Rep. Christine Scanlan and Rep. Carole Murray, non-profit organizations such as Stand for Children Colorado, civil rights groups, and business leaders that worked with the media, spoke with legislators, and reached out to their communities, the bill would not have passed. For further reading, Van Schoales, a DFER-CO Advisory Committee member, has written a review of Class Warfare: available here.

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Web of Science

Thompson Reuters:

Web of Science ® provides researchers, administrators, faculty, and students with quick, powerful access to the world's leading citation databases. Authoritative, multidisciplinary content covers over 10,000 of the highest impact journals worldwide, including Open Access journals and over 110,000 conference proceedings. You'll find current and retrospective coverage in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities, with coverage available to 1900.

Overcome information overload and focus on essential data across 256 disciplines.

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Ohio reduces convictions in closely watched school-choice case

Jo Ingles:

Ohio Governor John Kasich said on Wednesday that an Akron-area mother convicted of felony charges for lying about where she lived to enroll her children in a suburban school district deserves a second chance.

Kelley Williams-Bolar, 41, attracted national attention and drew the support of school-choice advocates after she was convicted and jailed for using her father's address to enroll her two daughters in the higher performing Copley Fairlawn School District instead of the Akron Public Schools.

Kasich, a Republican, reduced Williams-Bolar's two felony convictions to misdemeanors, overruling the state's parole board, which last week rejected a pardon in the case.

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Do schools need a state-wide student computer system?

Kathleen Vinehout:

Did Joey show up to school today? What grade did Britney receive in third grade English? Did the Larson Family pay the towel fee? Does Mrs. Rendell cover metrics in her math class?

Some in Wisconsin are making plans for a state-wide student information system set for implementation next year. The plan is to have every school in the state use the same web-based system. A single private company will be awarded a five year contract.

Most of the cost for operating the system will be shouldered by cash strapped schools.

The private vendor will be paid by fees assessed on each school district. The annual cost of maintaining the system has not yet been determined; estimates run between eight and twenty-two million a year. Fifteen million dollars in start-up costs for the new system was set aside in a special account controlled by the Legislature's budget writing committee. But the money to run the new system has not been budgeted.

I see the effects of deep budget cuts when I visit our local schools. Class sizes are larger, bus rides longer, experienced teachers retired, fewer electives, support staff reduced to bare bones and fees increased. Some teachers are reduced to part time.

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People are biased against creative ideas, studies find

Mary Catt:

The next time your great idea at work elicits silence or eye rolls, you might just pity those co-workers. Fresh research indicates they don't even know what a creative idea looks like and that creativity, hailed as a positive change agent, actually makes people squirm.

"How is it that people say they want creativity but in reality often reject it?" said Jack Goncalo, ILR School assistant professor of organizational behavior and co-author of research to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science. The paper reports on two 2010 experiments at the University of Pennsylvania involving more than 200 people.

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A Story about Learning

Brad Hargreaves:

So will we open a bunch more campuses? Put all our classes online? Start training executives? We don't know. Right now we're singularly focused on continuing to create a great, meaningful experience at our New York campus. That said, we see the bigger picture: there is immense demand for social, application-driven education in technology, design, and entrepreneurship, and we're committed to addressing this real need.

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September 8, 2011

Will Madison School Board pull the plug on Madison Prep's planning grant?

Susan Troller:

The threat of possible litigation has roiled the already turbulent waters surrounding the proposal for a single-sex Urban League charter school.

Madison school officials began feeling skittish over recommending a $225,000 planning grant for the Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men after the state Department of Public Instruction raised concerns recently that the school doesn't meet state and federal requirements to provide gender-equal education.

Now, a new legal threat has emerged, this one from Madison Teachers Inc. Together, the two issues could cause the board to pull back from supporting the planning grant, possibly as early as Thursday.

First, some background: After DPI put the planning grant on hold, the Urban League of Greater Madison last week submitted a new proposal to simultaneously establish a separate campus for girls. Kaleem Caire, Urban League president and a driving force behind Madison Prep, wants to see the schools open next year, initially with 60 sixth-grade girls and 60 sixth-grade boys. The proposal calls for adding 120 additional sixth-graders in each of the four subsequent years. Because the proposal now envisions 600 students rather 480 as originally planned, it would require more funding from the Madison Metropolitan School District than originally planned.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, here.

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ESF school offers fast-track way in for HK$400,000 Discovery College has introduced a priority waiting list - but not all parents are happy about the scheme

Dennis Chong:

The English Schools Foundation (ESF) has angered parents by introducing a fast-track system for its private school in Discovery Bay, in which parents can get priority on the waiting list by agreeing to pay HK$400,000 if their child is accepted.

The ESF started the system for "nomination rights" on Thursday and said it had been introduced for parents seeking to enrol children at Discovery College from the next academic year.

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Back to (the wrong) school

Seth Godin:

A hundred and fifty years ago, adults were incensed about child labor. Low-wage kids were taking jobs away from hard-working adults.

Sure, there was some moral outrage at seven-year olds losing fingers and being abused at work, but the economic rationale was paramount. Factory owners insisted that losing child workers would be catastrophic to their industries and fought hard to keep the kids at work--they said they couldn't afford to hire adults. It wasn't until 1918 that nationwide compulsory education was in place.

Part of the rationale to sell this major transformation to industrialists was that educated kids would actually become more compliant and productive workers. Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn't a coincidence--it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child labor wages for longer-term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they're told.

Large-scale education was never about teaching kids or creating scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system.

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Oregon Democrat Governor Kitzhaber: Outdated education system needs change

Jonathon Cooper:

Oregon's public schools are stuck in an old-fashioned way of doing business, Gov. John Kitzhaber said Tuesday, telling an audience of school teachers and administrators that improving education "requires the courage to change."

He laid out a vision of an education system that identifies at-risk children from birth, gives their parents the tools they need to help children be ready to read by kindergarten, and helps students transition through the education system without falling behind.

"The path forward in this new century requires innovation, requires the willingness to challenge assumption, requires the courage to change," Kitzhaber said at the annual back-to-school event for Springfield Public Schools employees.

As students in much of the state returned Tuesday to classrooms more crowded than last year, Kitzhaber said education is underfunded at all levels. But he said the lack of money makes it even more important to overhaul the education bureaucracy and turn "islands of excellence" into a "culture of excellence."

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Confessions of a bad teacher

John Owens:

By the time we sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 9th grade English, it was too late to save me. So I didn't even try to keep the kids quiet, and joined the class as they burst into song.

Almon, an A-average boy whose parents had emigrated from the Dominican Republic by way of Milwaukee, was absolutely sure our national anthem includes the lyric "cheese bursting in air."

Daria, who came from Honduras just a few years ago and was struggling with English, was gamely singing, trying to guess what words would be appropriate for a song about her new country. "Nice!" "Nice! In air!"

Sarah, the daughter of Ghanese immigrants, got every word right and hit every note with church-choir perfection. And from Rikkie, the highly intelligent, perhaps brilliant, boy, whose father is serving six years in an upstate prison, to Cristofer, a skinny kid who fancies himself a Puerto Rican tough ("I didn't even cry when my father died"), to A'Don, whose mother doesn't speak English, to Michael, whose father doesn't speak English, to Macon, who only seems to care about basketball, we sang loud, we sang laughing, we sang whatever words we knew, and we sang for all we were worth.

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Degrees of separation over top US university's online courses

Lisa Krieger:

Going online to get a college degree has been championed as a cost-effective way to educate the masses and challenged as a cheapening of academia. Now, the online classroom is coming to the vaunted University of California system, making it the nation's first top-tier university to offer undergraduate credit for cyberstudies.

By dislodging education from its brick-and-mortar moorings, the University of California - short on money and space - hopes to ease the path to a diploma for students who are increasingly forced to wait for a vacant seat in a lecture hall. Especially in high-demand "gateway courses," such as chemistry, calculus and composition.

This summer, UC Berkeley tested its first pilot course: Chemistry 1A. For one student, working as a lifeguard in San Rafael, it accelerated her progress toward a joint degree in biology and economics. Another was able to live at home in Sacramento, because she registered for summer school too late to get dorm space.

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Emanuel urges parents to demand longer school day

Rosalind Rossi:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel focused on parents Tuesday in his quest for a longer school day, saying they should demand the extra hours teachers already approved outside the Chicago Teachers Union contract at STEM Magnet Academy and two other schools.

"Three schools took this step forward. We hope other schools will do the same," Emanuel said as he kicked off a new school year at STEM, a new magnet school in an old Chicago Public School building.

"Most important, the parents want this," said Emanuel, whose campaign promises included a longer school day. "Parents need to ask their schools, 'How can we get the same thing?'"

Meanwhile, CPS officials Tuesday invited all elementary schools to join the "Longer School Day Pioneers Program," which adds 90 minutes of daily instructional time this school year in exchange for pro-rated teacher raises of 2 percent. Plus, schools that join in September will net an extra $150,000; those that start in January will get $75,000, a CPS news release explained.

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Donna Shalala in the news: Stanford, Notre Dame and ... Miami?

Allie Grasgreen:

With the institution she leads, the University of Miami, in the midst of a football scandal that threatens to be among the worst in National Collegiate Athletic Association history, Donna E. Shalala might be forgiven for trying to change the conversation about Miami's sports program away from acknowledged rule breaking by current and former players, possible wrongdoing by university employees, and the potential imposition of the NCAA's "death penalty."

In the latest in a series of public statements she has made since the controversy broke several weeks ago, Shalala shifted the focus this week to the academic performance of Miami's athletes. In doing so, however, she engaged in some hyperbole about the institution's standing and the company it keeps.

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Copernicus: the man who changed the world

Dave Sobel:

Nicolaus Copernicus, the man credited with turning our perception of the cosmos inside out, was born in the city of Torun, part of "Old Prussia" in the Kingdom of Poland, at 4:48 on Friday afternoon, February 19 1473. By the time his horoscope for that auspicious moment was created - at the end of the astronomer's life - his contemporaries already knew that he had fathered an alternative universe: that he had defied common sense and received wisdom to place the Sun at the centre of the heavens, then set the Earth in motion around it.

Copernicus grew up Niklas Koppernigk, the second son and youngest of four children of a merchant family. He was raised in Torun, in a tall brick house that is now a museum to the memory of the town's famous son. From here, he and his brother, Andrei, could walk to classes at the parish school of St. John's Church or to the family warehouse near the river Vistula. When Niklas was 10, his father died, and he and his siblings came under the care of their maternal uncle, Lukasz Watzenrode, a minor cleric, or "canon", in a nearby diocese. He arranged a marriage contract for one niece and consigned the other to a convent, but his nephews he supported at school, until they were ready to attend his alma mater, the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. By then, Uncle Lukasz had risen to become Bishop of Varmia.

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On the Size Increase in Football Players

Gregg Easterbrook:

Randy White of the Dallas Cowboys, star defensive tackle of the 1970s, member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame: What a joy it was to watch him play! White was a master of leverage, burst and anticipation. Today, he might not even make an NFL roster. If White got on the field, he'd be crushed.

White played defensive tackle at 257 pounds, across from centers weighing 240 or 250 pounds and guards who were considered huge if 265. Last year's Super Bowl featured defensive tackles B.J. Raji (337 pounds) and Casey Hampton (330 pounds) versus guards Chris Kemoeatu (344 pounds) and Josh Sitton (318 pounds). Either guard would have steamrolled Randy White as if he wasn't there.

As for today's biceps: Your Honor, I call to the stand America's leading expert on these matters, Mel Kiper Jr. Everyone assumes today's football players are bigger, faster and stronger than those who came before. But what does the data show? No one is better suited to answer that question than Kiper.

Far, far in the past -- about 1980 -- the United States was not obsessed with the NFL draft. Of course that's hard to imagine today. Once, bread did not come sliced. But I digress.

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Time for union to jettison Matthews

Tom Consigny:

While attending a recent party on the shores of Lake Mendota, the use of drug-sniffing dogs in city high schools became a discussion topic. As parents and taxpayers, we concluded that the use of random sweeps is an excellent idea because Madison and Dane County have seen dramatic increases in drug use among younger people.

We thought it incredible that John Matthews, the teachers union boss, would utter such nonsense that there wouldn't be better control with drug-sniffing dogs and "why do we want to make kids go to school in that environment?"

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September 7, 2011

Urgent - Support Need; School Board schedules abrupt hearing on Madison Prep; Revised Proposal Submitted to the Madison School District

Kaleem Caire, via email:

September 7, 2011

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

On Thursday, August 25, 2011, leadership of the Urban League of Greater Madison, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Madison Metropolitan School District met at DPI's Madison offices to discuss how the Urban League and MMSD would address DPI's concerns that a comparable option to Madison Prep's charter school for boys also be available to girls at the same time the boys' school would open in August 2012.

During that meeting, all three parties discussed ways "comparability" could be achieved. DPI suggested and the Urban League agreed that starting the girl's campus at the same time as the boy's campus would be the best way to achieve comparability and sufficiently comply with state law and federal Title IX regulations that address single-sex public schools.

Initially, the Urban League planned to wait 12-24 months to start the girls' campus of Madison Prep. However, given DPI's concerns, we saw this as the perfect opportunity and argument to serve girls right away, and subsequently adjusted our plans to include a girls' campus of Madison Prep last week. You can review a copy of the proposal we submitted last week to DPI and MMSD that explains how we'll adjust our plans and add the girls' campus in 2012 by clicking here. We have also attached the document to this email here.

Today, we were excited to learn from a DPI official, Mr. Bob Soldner, that our proposal for adding the girls' campus now satisfies DPI's concerns that a comparable option would be available for boys and girls at the same time. Mr. Soldner also said he was awaiting a response to our plan from the Madison Metropolitan School District before releasing our $225,000 charter school planning grant, which DPI put on hold two weeks ago.

I just learned 2 hours ago from MMSD Superintendent, Dr. Daniel Nerad, that the Board of Education decided today to hold an executive session tomorrow at 4:30pm at the Doyle Administration Building to "discuss the legal implications of Madison Prep and the potential for litigation." Dr. Nerad said that immediately following their executive session, the Board of Education would also hold a "special public meeting" to discuss Madison Prep.

Unfortunately, the Urban League of Greater Madison and the Board members of Madison Prep will not be able to attend the public meeting on Madison Prep tomorrow as we are attending a long-scheduled fundraiser for the school at the same time tomorrow - 5:30pm. This will be the first major fundraiser for the school, and is being hosted by four prominent leaders and advocates for children in Greater Madison.

We hope that those of you who support Madison Prep and are not attending our fundraiser tomorrow night will be available to attend the public meeting of the Board of Education tomorrow to express your support for our proposal to establish Madison Preparatory Academy campuses for boys and girls. We assume a critical decision regarding our charter school grant application will be decided tomorrow. You can find the agenda for the Board of Education's meeting by clicking here.

For more information about tomorrow's Board of Education meeting, please contact the Madison Metropolitan School District's Board of Education at or 608-204-0341. For more information about our updated Madison Prep proposal, please contact Ms. Laura DeRoche Perez at or 608-729-1230.

We intend to host our own public forum on Madison Prep in the near future. More details and information will be shared with you soon.

Thank you so much. It's all about the future of our children.


Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, here.

The Madison Urban League's 9.2.2011 memorandum to the Madison School District 311K PDF.

Matthew DeFour:

A Madison charter school geared toward low-income, minority students would include single-gender classrooms for both boys and girls in 2012 under a revised proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy.

The new proposal from the Urban League of Greater Madison would nearly double the contribution required by the Madison School District in the fifth year -- from $4.8 million in the original plan to $9.4 million -- but the net cost to the district remains unclear.

The Urban League submitted the proposal to the school district and the state Department of Public Instruction on Friday, and it was made public by the district Wednesday. The revision came after DPI withheld support for a $225,000 planning grant for an all-boys charter school that the Urban League had discussed creating for more than a year. State officials said that such a school would discriminate against girls and that if they open an all-male school, they must open a similar school for girls at the same time.

The Madison School Board has scheduled two meetings for Thursday, one in closed session at 4:30 p.m. to discuss legal issues related to the new proposal and the second in open session at 5:30 p.m., Superintendent Dan Nerad said.

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USDOE taking student loan enforcement seriously

Mickey Muldoon:

Yes, the US Department of Education owns guns. Its Office of the Inspector General has statutory authority to make arrests, conduct warrants, and pound open your front door. Usually if you get involved in some sort of fraud scheme related to federal student loans.

Here's a message from a recent victim:

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Madison Urban League Meeting Closed, Unless its Open

Samara Kalk Derby:

A meeting Wednesday to discuss the minority achievement gap in the Madison district will be closed to the media, even if that means kicking School Board members out, the organizer said Monday.

The Urban League of Greater Madison invited Madison School Board members to its meeting facilitated by an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, but if four board members attend, it would be considered a quorum of the school board and need to abide by the open meetings law.

Four of the seven school board members confirmed with the State Journal Monday that they plan to attend the meeting.

"We'll have to kick one of them out," said Urban League President Kaleem Caire, laughing. "I'm serious."

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Plain Talk: Who'd want to be a teacher?

Dave Zweifel:

couple of newspaper stories in the past few days said all too much about the kind of society we've been building for ourselves in recent years.

One was a piece in the Wisconsin State Journal that told of the enormous salaries the medical establishment is paying its administrative executives. Some of the hospital CEOs are making more than $1 million a year and one in Janesville is pulling down more than $3 million. Even midlevel executives are well into the six figures. Same is true for the executives at the hospitals' and clinics' ancillary health insurance plans.

The justification is that running medical institutions today is terribly complicated and includes ensuring that patients get quality care and are satisfied with it. So, in order to attract the best managers, the pay needs to be substantial. Never mind the impact those substantial pay packages have on the growing cost of the nation's health care, which is passed on to consumers just as certainly as governments levy taxes.

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Wisconsin's cuts to school aid steepest of 24 states studied

Susan Troller:

Wisconsin has the dubious distinction of reducing state aid per student this school year the most of 24 states studied by an independent, Washington-based think tank, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

According to a preliminary study released Sept. 1 by the nonprofit research organization, the dollar change in spending from the last fiscal year to this year dropped $635 per student under Gov. Scott Walker's budget that took effect July 1. New York was in second place, cutting state school aid $585 per student. California was third at $484.

The study only reports on the 24 states where current-year data is available. Those states educate about two-thirds of the nation's K-12 students.

In percentage terms, Wisconsin had the third sharpest state school aid cut, at 10 percent. Illinois was worst, cutting state aid 12.9 percent. Texas was second at 10.4 percent. Wisconsin now provides an average of about $9,500 per student.

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

Madison spends roughly $14,476 per student, according to the recent Madison Preparatory Academy charter school discussions.

Federal, State, and Local Expenditures as a Share of GDP at WWII Levels.

Much more on our K-12 tax & spending climate, here.

The "Great Recession" has certainly changed our tax base....

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Khan Academy Competitor? Mike Feerick of Talks About The Future of Online Education

Paul Glader:

In the camp of free online learning, Irishman Mike Feerick believes his has more to offer than the buzz-heavy Khan Academy. Feerick, a Harvard MBA and serial entrepreneur, has an impressive track record at several startups including his current project: It offers 300 free courses online that lead to training certificates and it has nearly 700,000 people taking the courses globally. Mr. Feerick, an Ashoka Fellow, says the enterprise has turned the corner on profits in recent months. "I think we're proving there is a market for education online," he said recently over coffee in Berlin. He points to the United Nation's 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26, as justification for his business model: "Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free..." He's a key figure in the open-source learning world and a rival of sorts to Salman Khan. Wired Academic editor Paul Glader recently interviewed Mr. Feerick:

WA - How did you first decide to become a social entrepreneur in the education space?

MF - I've always been interested in social enterprise. Part of that came from working with Chuck Feeney - an american philanthropist [and founder of the Duty Free Shoppers Group]. I worked closely with him as an assistant 20 years ago. He's been a huge funder of education. You can't spend too much time with him without feeling responsibility for the world and wanting to do something about it... The wonderful thing about education is that it really underpins progress on nearly everything - from climate change, to ecology to economics. It's all about people learning and teaching and improving. If I could make quality education free online, than I could be making my contribution to society.

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Grading The Teacher's Teachers

Erin Dillon and Elena Silva:

Largely ignored during the past 30 years of efforts to reform K-12 schools, the higher education community is about to feel the glare of the public spotlight on its work -- and that attention is causing concern and skepticism.

In January 2011, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), an independent, nonprofi t group that advocates for reforms in teacher policies, said it would rate all teacher preparation programs and publish the results next year in U.S. News & World Report. The announcement has rankled many, even in the teacher reform movement, and highlights in sharp relief the divergent factors and strategies at play. Most school reform efforts have focused on schools, districts, and communities. But the move to assess teacher education and publicize the results puts higher education under a spotlight that it has rarely experienced.

Schools of education have responded to the news with alarm, describing the national review of teacher preparation as "flawed," "unnecessary," and "a violation of sound research." The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), a national alliance of educator preparation programs, found in a recent survey that only 12% of its member institutions plan to participate willingly.

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Angst for the educated A university degree no longer confers financial security

The Economist:

MILLIONS of school-leavers in the rich world are about to bid a tearful goodbye to their parents and start a new life at university. Some are inspired by a pure love of learning. But most also believe that spending three or four years at university--and accumulating huge debts in the process--will boost their chances of landing a well-paid and secure job.

Their elders have always told them that education is the best way to equip themselves to thrive in a globalised world. Blue-collar workers will see their jobs offshored and automated, the familiar argument goes. School dropouts will have to cope with a life of cash-strapped insecurity. But the graduate elite will have the world at its feet. There is some evidence to support this view. A recent study from Georgetown University's Centre on Education and the Workforce argues that "obtaining a post-secondary credential is almost always worth it." Educational qualifications are tightly correlated with earnings: an American with a professional degree can expect to pocket $3.6m over a lifetime; one with merely a high-school diploma can expect only $1.3m. The gap between more- and less-educated earners may be widening. A study in 2002 found that someone with a bachelor's degree could expect to earn 75% more over a lifetime than someone with only a high-school diploma. Today the premium is even higher.

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The 2011 Report of the Task Force on Instructional Technology

Virginia Tech:

The Case For Change. We live in extraordinary times. The Internet began as a communications link to enable information sharing and collaboration between universities, research centers, and other institutions of higher learning. The World Wide Web began for many of the same reasons. Both are now a primary means of communication on the planet, with an unprecedented speed, reach, and multimodal capacity born of the computer's inherent property as a "universal machine," a machine that can simulate or model any other machine. These advances have come within an astonishingly short time frame. Interactive computing is about fifty years old. The concept of personal computing emerged a little less than forty years ago, at a time when notions of personal computers seemed laughable to many people. Within the last thirty years we have moved from slow desktop computers with dual floppy disk drives to powerful laptops to sophisticated smart phones that are essentially full-featured, always-connected pocket computers that also do telephony, audio-video recording and editing, and geo-location. Moreover, some believe that we will soon be carrying web servers around in our pockets, context-sensitive machines that can seamlessly link us to many types of devices in settings ranging from offices to trains, planes, and automobiles--and everywhere in between.

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America is losing another generation to science illiteracy

Margaret Honey:

Steven Brill has it exactly right when he says that "our nation's economy, security, and core values depend on [the] success" of our public schools.

That's what President George W. Bush had in mind when he signed "No Child Left Behind" into law in 2001. Signaling his strong concerns about that legislation's shortcomings, it is also why Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced earlier this month that he would override the requirement under No Child Left Behind that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014.

Mr. Duncan said he is waiving the law's proficiency requirements for states that have adopted their own testing and accountability programs and are making other strides toward better schools. Without the waivers, he said, 80 percent of American schools would get failing grades under the law.

But No Child Left Behind has an even more pernicious effect - it is discouraging the teaching of science courses, particularly at the elementary level, at a time when America needs them the most. What is more central to our current economy, security and core values than science? Where would we be without Google and Apple, stealth technology, gene-based therapy, and high-tech prosthetics?

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College students living in the lap of luxury

Roger Vincent:

Housing is moving away from the dorms and cracker-box apartments of old as part of a national trend. At USC, tanning beds, hot tubs, HD televisions and a club room are all on the amenities list. But it doesn't come cheaply.

Odds are slim that the cast of "Jersey Shore" will ever enroll at USC. But if they could, TV's legendary sybarites would find that gym-tan-laundry is just the beginning at a new luxury apartment complex near campus.

Nearly every detail at West 27th Place is upmarket, from the fountains, landscaping and custom outdoor light fixtures to the granite countertops and big-screen HD television sets in every unit. There are also televisions in the well-appointed gym, along with a professional-grade Sundazzler -- a walk-in tanning booth that resembles a science-fiction movie prop.

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September 6, 2011

School Curriculum Falls Short on Bigger Lessons

Tara Parker-Pope

Now that children are back in the classroom, are they really learning the lessons that will help them succeed?

Many child development experts worry that the answer may be no. They say the ever-growing emphasis on academic performance and test scores means many children aren't developing life skills like self-control, motivation, focus and resilience, which are far better predictors of long-term success than high grades. And it may be distorting their and their parents' values.

"What are we really trying to do when we think about raising kids?" asked Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, an expert in adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "We're trying to put in place the ingredients so the child is going to be a successful 35-year-old. It's not really about getting an A in algebra."

Take the question of praising a child's academic achievement. In his new book "Letting Go With Love and Confidence: Raising Responsible, Resilient, Self-Sufficient Teens in the 21st Century" (written with Susan Fitzgerald), Dr. Ginsburg draws a crucial distinction between hard work and simply getting an A or "being smart."
In one set of studies, children who solved math puzzles were praised for their intelligence or for their hard work. The first group actually did worse on subsequent tests, or took an easy way out, shunning difficult problems. The research suggests that praise for a good effort encourages harder work, while children who are consistently told they are smart do not know what to do when confronted with a difficult problem or reading assignment.

"When we focus on performance, when we say 'make sure you get A's,' we have kids who are terrified of B's," Dr. Ginsburg said. "Kids who are praised for effort, those kids learn that intelligence is something that can be built."

Academic achievement can certainly help children succeed, and for parents there can be a fine line between praising effort and praising performance. Words need to be chosen carefully: Instead of saying, "I'm so proud you got an A on your test," a better choice is "I'm so proud of you for studying so hard." Both replies rightly celebrate the A, but the second focuses on the effort that produced it, encouraging the child to keep trying in the future.

Praise outside of academics matters, too. Instead of asking your child how many points she scored on the basketball court, say, "Tell me about the game. Did you have fun? Did you play hard?"

Dr. Ginsburg notes that parents also need to teach their children that they do not have to be good at everything, and there is something to be learned when a child struggles or gets a poor grade despite studying hard.

"One of the feelings people often have is that in order to succeed, a child has to be good at absolutely everything," he said. "Human beings in the adult world are absolutely uneven, but we don't accept that in our children -- which pressures them in a way that's incredibly uncomfortable for them."

One strategy is to teach children that the differences between easy and difficult subjects can provide useful information about their goals and interests. Subjects they enjoy and excel in may become the focus of their careers. Challenging but interesting classes or sports can become hobbies. Subjects that are difficult and uninteresting are just something "you have to get past," Dr. Ginsburg said.

"We need to approach failure and difficulty and struggle as data that teach us what we should do with our lives," he said. "It's when you say to a child, 'I expect you to do well in everything,' that we're preparing them to fail."

Outside of school, parents have many opportunities to teach children about focus, self-control and critical thinking, said Ellen Galinsky, author of "Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs" and president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group in New York.

When reading to children, for example, ask them what a character is thinking or feeling. That simple exercise helps develop perspective, an important social cognition skill.

In one experiment, children are given a crayon box but discover it really contains paper clips. Then the child is asked what a friend might think is in the box. Children younger than 4 typically respond "paper clips" because that's what they know to be true. But about 4, they begin to see things from others' perspective, understanding that the packaging would mislead another person just as it misled them.

"Perspective taking helps with school readiness and literacy," Ms. Galinsky said. "The child has to understand a teacher has a different perspective, their friends have different perspectives."

In young children, playing board games or games like Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light can help develop focus and self-control.

And in older children, parents willing to put in a little extra effort can help children develop critical thinking skills rather than just answering their questions. Ms. Galinsky recalls the time her son complained about boys being portrayed more negatively than girls on television.

She suggested he conduct an experiment: collect data on positive and negative portrayals by watching different shows and keeping a record. And when her son thought his data proved his point, Ms. Galinsky challenged the television sample, noting that he had watched only shows aimed at boys.

"Rather than dismiss it, I told him it was interesting, let's make a chart," she said. "I kept pushing back and talked about how to design a really good experiment. He got really into it, and it was an example of not answering him too quickly and letting him find out himself in order to help him become a critical thinker."

Of course, parents don't have to help children set up complicated experiments every time they ask a question. But when a question arises, Ms. Galinsky said, resist the temptation to say, "Look it up." Instead, say, "Let's look it up," and guide your child in ways to get the information.

"It's not just knowing the information," she said. "It's knowing how to find the answers to the questions that is the basis of critical thinking."

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State Controlled Curriculum... A question of identity

Dennis Chong:

British science fiction author and futurist Arthur Clarke once said: "It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars."

He was referring to competing human space programmes, but the quote may be seen to have some relevance to the debate over the proposed "national education" of Hong Kong school pupils.

To many the question is simply whether Beijing-style propaganda should be introduced through the public education system in what has remained largely a free city in the 14 years since the handover of sovereignty from Britain in 1997.

Conflict has erupted in the Legislative Council, in public forums and on the street, with one faction accusing the government of sacrificing personal liberty and the other saying it has sacrificed national unity by not introducing the subject earlier. A public consultation ended on Wednesday.

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Sticking it to 'The Man'

Neerav Kingsland:

Once, someone asked me about the modern education reform movement, and this is what I said: "The past twenty years of education reform consist of brilliant people working very, very hard to achieve moderate gains."

Why has this occurred? See picture below:

In short: we've built an irrational system. Let's just call it 'The Man' -- and we all know who the Man is. The Man is the existing structure, one that evolved over time to serve a now-vanished 19th century world and no longer serves its original purpose. The Man causes rational people to act in ways that cause the whole system harm. And, when it comes to educators -- specifically, unions and charters -- who are held down by the Man, I can sympathize with both sides of the debate.

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Parents of seven told: Your children are too fat, so you will never see them again

Jane Simpson:

Four obese children are on the brink of being permanently removed from their family by social workers after their parents failed to bring their weight under control.

In the first case of its kind, their mother and father now face what they call the 'unbearable' likelihood of never seeing them again.

Their three daughters, aged 11, seven and one, and five-year-old son, will either be 'fostered without contact' or adopted.
Torn apart: The parents, far left and right, with six of their children who they fear will be taken away from them

Torn apart: The parents, far left and right, with six of their children who they fear will be taken away from them

Either way, the family's only hope of being reunited will be if the children attempt to track down their parents when they become adults.

The couple, who have been married for nearly 20 years and are not being named to protect their children's identities, were given a 'draconian' ultimatum three years ago - as reported at the time by The Mail on Sunday.

Warned that the children must slim or be placed in care, the family spent two years living in a council-funded 'Big Brother' house in which they were constantly supervised and the food they ate monitored.

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What's wrong with our universities?

James Piereson:

This fall more than 19 million students will enroll in the 4,000 or so degree-granting colleges and universities now operating in the United States. College enrollments have grown steadily year by year, more than doubling since 1970 and increasing by nearly one-third since the year 2000. More than 70 percent of high school graduates enroll in a community college, four-year residential college, or in one of the new online universities, though only about half of these students graduate within five years. The steady growth in enrollments is fed by the widespread belief (encouraged by college administrators) that a college degree is a requirement for entry into the world of middle-class employment. A college education is now deemed one of those prizes that, if good for a few, must therefore be good for everyone, even if no one in a position of academic authority can define what such an education is or should be. These conceptions are at the heart of the democratic revolution in higher education.

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Why Are Textbooks So Expensive?

Ethan Trex:

The beginning of a freshman's college experience is an exciting time. Dining halls! No bedtime! Taunting your RA! Exorbitantly expensive textbooks!

Wait, that last one is no fun at all. It's hard to make that first trip to the college bookstore for required texts without leaving with a bit of sticker shock. Why are textbooks so astonishingly expensive? Let's take a look.

Publishers would explain that textbooks are really expensive to make. Dropping over a hundred bucks for a textbook seems like an outrage when you're used to shelling out $10 or $25 for a novel, but textbooks aren't made on the same budget. Those hundreds of glossy colorful pages, complete with charts, graphs, and illustrations, cost more than putting black words on regular old white paper. The National Association of College Stores has said that roughly 33 cents of every textbook dollar goes to this sort of production cost, with another 11.8 cents of every dollar going to author royalties. Making a textbook isn't cheap.

There's certainly some validity to this explanation. Yes, those charts and diagrams are expensive to produce, and the relatively small print runs of textbooks keep publishers from enjoying the kind of economies of scale they get on a bestselling popular novel. Any economist who has a pulse (and probably some who don't) could poke holes in this argument pretty quickly, though.

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Teachers at 3 small schools act early to approve longer school day By opting out of union pact, teachers will get bonuses and schools will get discretionary funds

Joel Hood:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard landed a pre-Labor Day body blow in the fight over longer school days, getting three small CPS elementary schools on Friday to sign waivers opting out of their teachers union contract and extending their school day 90 minutes.

The teachers will be rewarded with bonuses and the schools with discretionary funds for agreeing to the changes before a new state law allows CPS to institute a longer day without union agreement.

The votes are "a historic step forward in bringing the kind of change we need in the classroom to help our children get the world class education they deserve," according to a written statement issued by CPS and attributed to Emanuel and Brizard.

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Public education still pays for most school leaders

Alissa Smith and M.D. Kittle:

John Knight said he didn't get into education for the money.

The superintendent of the Drummond Area School District, a 400-student public school system in the far northern Wisconsin community of Bayfield, this year is expected to make an arguably comfortable salary of $96,000.

But he has to work five jobs to earn his pay.

This past school year, Knight earned $19,050 as superintendent. He also served as the district's director of pupil services, director of transport and director of food services and technology coordinator and principal of Drummond Elementary School. All positions combined will net Knight's $96,000 salary.

This jack-of-many-educational-trades earned nearly the same salary as the previous district administrator, whose sole position was superintendent.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Federal, State, and Local Expenditures as a Share of GDP at WWII Levels

Matthew Mitchell:

In this week's chart, Mercatus Center Research Fellow Matthew Mitchell uses data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to illustrate the increase in the size of federal, state, and local expenditures as a share of GDP over the course of the past century.

The chart shows how expenditures as a share of GDP spiked during World War II but were reduced rapidly and significantly. However, spending never returned to the pre-war level and has followed a general upward trend ever since.

Today federal, state, and local expenditures as a share of GDP are back at the highs reached during World War II. This time, however, we are unlikely to see a swift decrease. Wartime expenditures on items like weaponry and salaries for conscripted soldiers were relatively easy to wind down. The bulk of current and future government spending is on entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. This variety of spending is nearly impossible to reduce in the near term.

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September 5, 2011

The Community of Math Teachers, from Elementary School to Graduate School

Sybilla Beckmann:

Why should mathematicians be in- terested and involved in pre-K-12 mathematics education? What are the benefits of mathematicians working with school teachers and mathematics educators?1 I will answer these questions from my perspective of research math- ematician who became interested in mathematics education, wrote a book for prospective elemen- tary teachers, and taught sixth-grade math a few years ago. I think my answers may surprise you because they would have surprised me not long ago.

It's Interesting!

If you had told me twenty-five years ago, when I was in graduate school studying arithmetic geometry, that my work would shift toward improving pre-K- 12 mathematics education, I would have told you that you were crazy. Sure, I would have said, that is important work, it's probably hard, and somebody needs to do it, but it doesn't sound very interesting. Much to my surprise, this is the work I am now fully engaged in. It's hard, and I believe what I'm doing is useful to improving education, but most surprising of all is how interesting the work is.

Yes, I find it interesting to work on improving pre-K-12 math! And in retrospect, it's easy to see how it could be interesting. Math at every level is beautiful and has a wonderful mixture of intri- cacy, big truths, and surprising connections. Even preschool math is no exception.

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A Teacher Finds Good in Testing

Ama Nyamekye:

In college, I pumped my fist at a rally against standardized testing. I'd never seen the exam I was protesting, but stood in solidarity with educators and labor organizers who felt the testing movement was an attack on teachers, particularly those working in poor public schools. My opposition grew when I became a teacher in the South Bronx, one of America's poorest communities. I wanted to uplift my students and resented the weight of a looming high-stakes test.

Besides, I thought good teachers should be left to their own devices. And, I was certain that I was a good teacher. For the most part, my students were punctual, respectful, and engaged. It wasn't until my second year in the classroom that I began questioning this assumption.

In a routine evaluation, my principal praised my organization, management, and facilitation, but posed the following question: "How do you know the kids are really getting it?" She urged me to develop more-rigorous assessments of student learning. Ego and uncertainty inspired me to measure the impact of my instruction. I thought I was effective, but I wanted proof.

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Is Our Students Earning? A new way of measuring how different colleges pay off in the long run.

Erin Dillon:

The college class of 2011 just graduated into one of the worst job markets in recent history. Twenty-four percent of 2011 grads had a job offer in hand by graduation, compared with 51 percent of students graduating in the prerecession year of 2007. As these recent college grads move back in with their parents, and as student loan bills come due, many will wonder--was college worth the money?

The short answer is: probably. While studies of past recessions suggest that the unlucky Great Recession grads will do less well economically than those graduating during better times, they are still likely to earn more and have better job prospects than their peers who lack college credentials. The June 2011 unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma, for example, was 10 percent, as opposed to 4.4 percent for those with a college degree. And earnings for college graduates were 66 percent higher in 2010 than for high school graduates. Moreover, the benefits of a college degree are not just financial: college graduates tend to lead healthier lives, have lower divorce rates, and have children who are better prepared for school. On average, a college degree is a worthwhile, if increasingly expensive, investment.

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Work together to serve our students

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad:

A new school year is upon us. For a school superintendent, this is often the best time of year. Planning and hiring draw to a close, and we return to the work of educating our community's children.

A new school year also stimulates many emotions in our students, parents, guardians and staff: anticipation, excitement, a sense of being ready and for some, a sense of uncertainty. This uncertainty is why I write.

The dawn of a new school year causes us to look forward, especially knowing how difficult last year was. One year ago, we could not have predicted what would happen in our community from a social fabric point of view. It is more than clear how various legislative changes have affected staff morale.

At a time when we need our staff to feel as good as possible about their important work, they feel less valued and less hopeful than when the fray began. Our children need much from us as employees of this district, but our staff also needs much from this community. While there is room for differences of opinion about priorities, our new school year needs to start with a sense of optimism and hope about the work our great staff members are doing in the Madison School District.

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The 2011 College Football Grid of Shame

Darren Everson:

College football, to put it as charitably as possible, had a less-than-ideal offseason.

From the Southeast to the Pacific Northwest, a series of scandals, controversies, academic outrages and incidents of boorish behavior has taken a toll on the good names of several schools.

This weekend's spotlight game, for instance, pits No. 3-ranked Oregon, a school that's under NCAA investigation for possible recruiting violations, against No. 4 LSU, whose top quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, is suspended for his part in a brawl outside a campus watering hole called Shady's.

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Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?

Mark Edmundson:

Welcome and congratulations: Getting to the first day of college is a major achievement. You're to be commended, and not just you, but the parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts who helped get you here.

It's been said that raising a child effectively takes a village: Well, as you may have noticed, our American village is not in very good shape. We've got guns, drugs, two wars, fanatical religions, a slime-based popular culture, and some politicians who--a little restraint here--aren't what they might be. To merely survive in this American village and to win a place in the entering class has taken a lot of grit on your part. So, yes, congratulations to all.

You now may think that you've about got it made. Amidst the impressive college buildings, in company with a high-powered faculty, surrounded by the best of your generation, all you need is to keep doing what you've done before: Work hard, get good grades, listen to your teachers, get along with the people around you, and you'll emerge in four years as an educated young man or woman. Ready for life.

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Does Chicago have scandalously short school days?

Eric Zorn:

Houston, do we have a problem?

Your school days and years are strikingly longer than Chicago's -- a bit more than an hour more instructional time per day and 10 additional instructional days on the annual calendar, according to calculations by the Chicago Teachers Union.

That's about 250 extra hours in the classroom per year, which is roughly equivalent to three extra school years from first grade through 12th grade. That eye-opening number is figuring into the debate here about increasing classroom time for Chicago's students, as Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has said he wants to do.

So, Houston, is all this extra schooling paying off?

The average ACT score for Houston's public high school students is 19.7, compared with 17.3 in Chicago, according to state report-card figures. From 2002 to 2009, your average eighth-grade reading scores inched up 4 percent while our scores were flat, and your average eighth-grade math scores rose 13 percent compared with our 9 percent increase, according to the National Association of Educational Progress.

On the other hand, Houston's four-year graduation rate is basically the same as Chicago's, depending on who's crunching the numbers. And 87 percent of Chicago's pupils are classified as "low income," compared with 79 percent of pupils in Houston labeled "economically disadvantaged."

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What makes a good principal? It takes a principal

Laura Schubert:

Due to a slew of administrative retirements, 39 schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system will have new principals this school year. The aptitude of this incoming class of leaders is unarguably pressing in the turbulent wake of the spring's budget showdown and its rippling effects on education.

Principals are charged with the daunting task of cultivating and maintaining school environments that are conducive to learning. Their performance strongly correlates to the ultimate success or failure of their schools.

While it's easy to spot those who excel in the role, it's trickier to pinpoint the attributes that define principals on the high end of the efficacy spectrum. What exactly sets them apart?

Effective principals recognize the value of each employee's role in achieving schoolwide success. They treat staff members as competent professionals, involve them in goal-setting and school improvement plans and delegate key responsibilities as much as plausible.

While they monitor progress to ensure accountability, proficient principals don't fall into the trap of micromanagement. Rather, they articulate high expectations and trust staff members to successfully fulfill their obligations.

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September 4, 2011

All-male Madison IB charter school could put minority boys on road to success

Alan Borsuk:

Kaleem Caire knows what it is like to be a young black man growing up in Madison and going on to success. A troubled kid when he was a student at Madison West High School in the 1980s, he went on to become a nationally known Washington-based education advocate before returning in 2010 to head the Urban League of Greater Madison.

Kaleem Caire knows what it means to be a young black man growing up in Madison and going on to failure. He saw what happened to many childhood friends who ended up dead or in prison. He sees it now in the disturbing statistics on African-American education outcomes and unemployment.

And Kaleem Caire has an eye-catching idea he thinks will put more black and Latino youths on the path to success - enough to make a difference in the overall troubling picture of minority life in the state's second largest city.

The idea? An all-male charter school for sixth- through 12th-graders with longer days and longer school years than conventional schools, an International Baccalaureate program, and high expectations of students and teachers, including academic performance, the way they treat others, and the way they dress.


Notes and links on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School.

Susan Troller:Madison Prep now says girls will be welcome:

Kaleem Caire says there's a simple fix for concerns that a proposal for an all-male charter school in Madison would discriminate against girls.

"If it's a problem, we'll introduce a single-sex charter school for girls at the same time we start the boys' school, in the fall of 2012-2013," Caire said in an interview Friday.

Caire, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, first began talking a year ago about creating a rigorous, prep-style public charter school for boys aimed at improving minority student performance. With its single-sex approach, International Baccalaureate curriculum, emphasis on parent involvement and expanded hours and days, Madison Preparatory Academy would not only be unique in the Madison district, but also unique in the state.

The fate of Madison Preparatory Academy will be a defining moment for our school climate.

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School Days

Steve Prestegard:

Today begins school in Ripon and in most of Wisconsin. So parents breathe a sigh of relief that the kids are finally out of the house, until they realize that now they have to get their children to their various after-school activities.

This has been an unusual summer for one glaring reason, and yet it hasn't been unusual in the day-to-day things. All three kids went to summer school. All three played baseball (T-ball in Shaena's case). All three went to church camp, Shaena with me. (Which was not how I expected to spend her summer vacation, although those three days were far from summerlike.) All three visited their grandparents, and we got back reports that made us wonder whose children they had. We didn't go on vacation, in part for the aforementioned glaring reason, but I'm not sure the family is up to being locked inside a van for extended periods of time anyway. More than once, in fact, I've wondered how everyone would have gotten to everything had there been two working parents, particularly with the occasional added complication of orthodontist and veterinarian appointments.

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New technologies are promising, but what about the teachers?

Monica Bulger:

This post is not going to promise dramatic learning gains from using a new technology. It's not one of those stories where at first a teacher was skeptical, but in the end, the classroom was like a sports movie where the technology scored the winning homerun. I feel skeptical when I read those stories. I don't doubt the success, but I wonder whether the learning gains, increased student interest/participation, or higher levels of reported satisfaction have less to do with the iPad, blog, twitter stream, or virtual environment and more to do with who is in the classroom.

Cathy Davidson recently described an idyllic experience of teaching a course in which she and the students shared in the discovery of new applications of technologies for learning. She describes the process of developing the course, the thrill when the students actually invited and facilitated a guest lecture, and the ways in which the students challenged her to really be collaborative, even in grading.

If we step back for a moment, though, and consider a class with Davidson and those same students without the new technologies, what would the learning experience be like? I imagine it would still be exceptional, because Davidson is an obviously engaged teacher and the students are obviously engaged learners. She employs teaching strategies that were effective before the new technologies she describes. In particular, she encourages students to take ownership of their learning experience and creates a flexible environment to support whatever direction they take. When developing assignments, Davidson incorporates research in motivation, particularly students' likelihood to put more effort into writing for an authentic audience. She also has deep experience with her topic and an obvious enthusiasm for both the content and the teaching. These factors are consistently linked to positive learning experiences in educational research. Additionally, the students clearly seem motivated to learn. She describes the class list as a diverse collection of disciplines, so the students appear to be choosing the course. They demonstrate active involvement with the assignments and content and even provide substantive feedback for future courses.

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Report: Florida's low-income tax credit students making academic gains

Jon East:

A new report on the academic performance of low-income students receiving Tax Credit Scholarships in Florida finds they are making modestly larger gains in reading and math than their counterparts in public school.

That conclusion from 2009-10 test data is encouraging for those of us who work to provide these learning options, which served 34,550 low-income students statewide last year. But the report, released today and written by respected Northwestern University researcher David Figlio, is also a reminder of the inherent complexities of judging whether these programs work.

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1 in 4 students can pass geography exam

Brian Tynes:

Do you know who is responsible for collecting fuel wood and water for families in East Africa?

Can you identify South America by looking at a diagram of its elevation changes in profile?

Those are sample questions found on the National Assessment of Educational Progress geography assessment test for 12th-grade students this year.

If you don't know the answers, you're not alone. Only 25 percent of American students passed the test.

It's a far cry from most people's perception of geography skills, such as identifying a river or mountain range on a map. It's one of the main reasons the subject doesn't get the same attention as others, such as math and English.

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A weaker Public School Choice initiative

Los Angeles Times Editorial:

By keeping charter operators out of the first round of applications to run new schools, the L.A. Unified board has scaled back its goal of making educational excellence the highest priority.

The Public School Choice initiative was a landmark reform for the Los Angeles Unified School District. By allowing alternative operators -- whether charter school organizations, the mayor or groups of teachers -- to apply to manage scores of new and low-performing schools, it set the standard for putting students first. The theory was that anyone could apply and the very best applications would win, ensuring that students attended the best-run schools the district could offer. Just as important, charter operators in the program would have to accept all students within each school's enrollment area rather than using the usual lottery system under which more-motivated families tend to apply to charter schools.

Of course, this is L.A. Unified, which means things didn't always work out. More than one management contract was awarded on the basis of political alliances. Charter schools were disappointingly unwilling to take on the tougher challenge of turning around failing schools; most of their applications were for the new, pretty campuses.

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The Amazing Colossal Syllabus

Thomas Bertonneau:

Instructors have to spell out every detail for today's students, and do some of their thinking for them.

When I was an undergraduate at UCLA in 1972, I was enrolled in four classes. On the first day of the term, each instructor went through the ritual of introducing the course and handing out the syllabus, if there was a syllabus. In the freshman composition course, taught by a man who later distinguished himself as a James Joyce scholar, I remember no syllabus at all, only the comment that we would be writing a number of formal papers.

In Cultural Anthropology there was a syllabus--a single mimeographed sheet with a few dates on it (exams, deadlines for papers) and the mandatory bibliography. In first-term German, as in freshman composition, the teacher issued no syllabus. The chapters of the primer were syllabus enough. For my fourth course, a survey of ancient civilizations, the textbook's table of contents served as the syllabus.

Admission to UCLA in the mid-twentieth century was still rigorous and exclusive; our preceptors rightly took for granted that students understood that the ten weeks of the term would correspond to a structure. Students would expect regular quizzes, that they would have to submit formal essays at the midterm and at the end of the quarter, and that they would have to keep up with the reading.

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Charter Schools ARE Public Schools

Jed Wallace:

Despite the success of charter schools, especially here in Los Angeles, or perhaps because of it, misconceptions abound about what charter schools are and what they do. A recent piece in City Watch by Janet Denise Kelly echoed many of these common misunderstandings, following them to the wrong conclusions. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are open to all students who apply. The only reason they have admission lotteries is that many charter schools have more students applying than they can serve. Unlike exclusive private schools or district magnet schools, charter public schools are prohibited from "cherry picking," or selecting "the best" students. In fact, research has shown that charters serve diverse students with a wide range of needs.

I start by highlighting charter school lotteries because their very existence flips on its head the argument that charter schools are growing for the sake of growth. The fact is, new charter schools have opened in direct response to overwhelming demand from parents for better educational options in their communities. For too long, families in south LA haven't had many options if they were dissatisfied with their local traditional public school. They could pay a steep price for a private school or they could fight to get into one of LAUSD's exclusive magnet programs, which might be a long bus ride away.

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"A New York Times Reporter Tips His Hand"

Eugene Volokh:

That's the title of a post from Heather Mac Donald (Secular Right); here's an excerpt, though you should read the whole post:
In the course of a column blasting media entrepreneur Steven Brill's new book on the school reform movement, New York Times reporter Michael Winerip inadvertently sets out his economic assumptions. A revelation of an entire world view does not get any more crystalline than this. (Regarding education, Winerip almost equally tellingly criticises Brill for not showing enough respect to teachers and teachers unions.)
Winerip lists several of Brill's sources -- the "millionaires and billionaires who attack the unions and steered the Democratic Party to their cause" -- then adds:

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September 3, 2011

Out of School and Into the Red

Jenna Ashley Robinson:

Last month, Smart Money released a “payback scorecard,” which ranked universities based on whether graduates’ salaries justify the tuition paid to the school. They surveyed 50 top-priced Ivy League, public, and private schools across the country.

Since none of North Carolina’s 54 colleges or universities is one of the most expensive schools, none of them showed up on Smart Money’s rankings.

But data showcased on the North Carolina College Finder (a Pope Center website) will help potential students assess North Carolina schools and decide whether their salaries after graduating are likely to justify the expense. A summary of the data can be seen below.

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Language learning: No, she's foreign!

The Economist:

LANGUAGE-learning is fascinating, but not for those who can't take the occasional humiliation.

I live in São Paulo and though I'm sure my Portuguese accent is horrible, it's horrible in a recognisably Paulistano way. I say the "e" in duzentos (two hundred) with a twang; and I don't say "sh" for "s", as Cariocas, or residents of Rio, do. Generally people in São Paulo understand what I'm trying to say--and so do taxi drivers and hotel staff in Rio. Indeed, they are usually so delighted to meet a foreigner who speaks any Portuguese at all that they are highly complimentary, which even if it is more to do with Brazilian hospitality and courtesy, is delightfully confidence-inducing.

Not so Cariocas who don't have regular contact with tourists. On holiday in Rio with my family recently, I tried to strike up conversation with some children aged around 11 or 12 on the top of the Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf Mountain, one of Rio's most famous tourist spots. I asked one if they were visiting with their school. (This was an easy guess; they were wearing uniform. But I wanted to practise.) He stared at me, bemused. I repeated: "Vocês estão aqui com sua escola?" No good. He called over a friend. By now I was getting embarrassed, but I tried again. This time he turned to her and said: "Não entendi nada" (I didn't understand a thing). Only when a teacher came over and repeated my sentence to the children did we get anywhere. Very depressing.

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Speculations on the future of reading

Shreeharsh Kelkar:

In 2008, Nicholas Carr published an essay in the Atlantic Monthly titled "Is Google making us stupid?" The article got a lot of play and was later turned into a book titled "The Shallows." At its heart, Carr's thesis is a simple one. He argues that the extensive internet reading - meaning the the copious amount of reading that we do on the internet as well as our need to be always "plugged in" into, for instance, email and Facebook - is changing the way we think. He is explicitly worried about the future of reading. He thinks that the art of reading deeply - think about being immersed in a novel for a few hours - is dying out; that, instead, reading has become a "sampling" activity: a little bit here, then a quick glance through email, another little bit there. Since reading did not come naturally to the human brain and in fact helped shaped the brain as we know it today, this new form of reading - all stops and starts - will change it as well. If that happens, will the decline of quiet contemplative deep reading result in the decline of deep thinking? (Obviously Carr poses this question rhetorically; his answer is an emphatic yes.)

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Lunch with the FT: Toby Young

Chris Cook:

Toby Young is not nervous about publicity. I first met him at last year's Conservative party conference in Birmingham. The journalist and author approached me in a bar, pretended to punch me in the stomach several times, then looked up and asked: "Why haven't you written about my school yet?"

Young, 47, is chairman of the governors at the West London Free School, a new secondary school in Hammersmith, which will welcome its first pupils (120 children aged 11) next month. It is a high-profile project that has made Young a regular participant in debates about education in Britain.

The school is one of the first wave of "free schools", funded by the state but founded by private groups such as churches or community groups (in Young's case, local parents), intended to bring new providers into the education system.

What makes the West London Free School particularly unusual is the celebrity of its chairman. Young first attracted attention in the early 1990s as the bumptious co-founder and editor of the Modern Review magazine before moving to the US. In New York he worked as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine where he was not a success and fell out with Graydon Carter, its editor, though subsequently Young managed to convert the experience into a successful book, play and film, all called How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

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Ivy League Fooled: How America's Top Colleges Avoid Real Diversity

Cord Jefferson:

Back in March, as colleges began to herald their newly admitted classes for PR purposes, the Ivy League schools got to patting themselves on the back.

The Harvard Gazette bragged that Harvard's newest batch of accepted students included record numbers of blacks and Latinos. Brown said its admitted class was "the most racially ... diverse" in the school's centuries-long history. Dartmouth shared actual percentages, declaring that a full 44 percent of its newest class was composed of students of color. Coincidentally, that was the same percentage of minorities in Penn's freshman class.

Numbers like these might lead someone to believe that diversity is no longer an issue at America's most elite colleges. Like everyone else, students of color have long strived to make it to the Ivy League, where the education and connections can set a person up for life. Now, evidently, huge numbers of minorities are getting their chance. When nearly half of an Ivy League school's accepted class is made up of people of color--America as a whole is only 47 percent non-white (PDF)--aren't we nearing perfect equality? If only.

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Guardian and New York Times crowdsource schools databases

Katherine Travers:

Education, along with health and taxes, is a principal public concern; politicians win elections because of it, and therefore it's vital that newspapers provide good coverage of it.

Both The Guardian and The New York Times have launched crowd-sourcing projects on their websites, which intend to provide readers with information relating to the quality of schools.

As it is GCSE results day in the UK, The Guardian has appealed to teachers on its website to fill in a simple online form, which will then allow them to map the exam results of schools across the country.

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A K-8 school by day, adult club by night?

Kathleen McGrory, via a kind Marc Eisen email:

By day, the Balare Language Academy is an A-rated charter school, home to children in kindergarten through middle school.

But when the kids are tucked into bed, Balare apparently becomes a playground of a different kind.

Party fliers, printed and on the Web, indicate that the campus at 10875 Quail Roost Dr. has been hosting raunchy, booze-soaked bashes into the wee hours. One flier for an upcoming party features a voluptuous, scantily clad woman posing with champagne bottles. Another shows a woman in a string bikini bending over suggestively and a man with flashy jewelry sitting on a stack of currency in front of a gold sports car.

Asked if the school was hosting any parties, founder and principal Rocka Malik responded: "Not that I'm aware of."

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Lessons From the One-Room Schoolhouse

Sue Shellenbarger:

Before classes began at Spring Creek School near Decker, Mont., community volunteers cut back the grass, cleared tumbleweeds and made sure there were no rattlesnakes around the playground. Last week, the one-room schoolhouse opened for its six K-5 students.

"We all pitch in out here to support the school," says Loren Noll, a neighbor who showed up to dig weeds. Even though his 4-year-old daughter isn't old enough to attend, Mr. Noll volunteers as chairman of the school board.

In the U.S., 237 public schools had only one teacher, according to 2009 federal data, down from 463 in 1999. Most are located in remote areas. And while conditions are far from the rough-hewn rooms of "Little House on the Prairie," such schools often lack the amenities typically associated with high-quality schooling, such as computer labs, libraries, sports, art, music, nurses and psychologists.

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Emily's Post: In defense -- and praise -- of public school teachers

Emily Mills:

My mother was a public school teacher. She graduated college with a degree in elementary education and spent the rest of her life -- nearly up until the time of her death at age 50 -- teaching children. I remember the hours she spent at home working on projects, grading, and just making decorations for the classroom, and all this even though she spent most of those years as a substitute teacher.

Eventually she found a niche teaching children with learning disabilities how to read. My mother worked tirelessly to see that these kids had a leg-up and didn't fall through the cracks of the system. She knew how important it is to be able not only to read, but to read well.

Through all of the time spent, hours worked, problems tackled, gold stars given, lives changed, she barely made any money. I was too young to know her exact salary but I know it wasn't much, especially given that she had three kids of her own at home. We made do -- my parents took good care of us despite what I now know were some very rough financial times. And I never heard my mom complain, not in front of us, anyway. She loved her work and the kids she worked with, and that's what mattered.

And so I know it to be the same case, far more often than not, with teachers. Teaching is not a career that is entered into lightly. It's some of the hardest, if most rewarding, work around -- all for some pretty petty cash. They're not living in mansions. Average yearly salary is just $46,390 in Wisconsin, with an average starting salary of a mere $25,222, ranking us 20th in the nation. For some perspective, that starting salary would put you under the federal poverty line for a family of five, and just barely over it for a family of four.

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Insure Stuff at School

The Wall Street Journal:

As parents prepare to send kids off to college, here's one thing to think about: how to insure the belongings students are taking with them.

A homeowners insurance policy will generally cover your child's things if he or she is living on campus. But the coverage for his or her belongings may be limited to 10% of your total possessions coverage, which varies by insurer. If your child will live off campus, coverage could be more limited.

If the 10% rule applies and you have $50,000 of personal-possessions coverage, only $5,000 is covered off-site.

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Why I think Higher Education should experiment with an incubator model

Jesse Rodgers:

In Canada the rise of the incubator choices is quite noticeable. The success of the Y-Combinator (YC) model is hard to ignore, it seems to be the accepted way to grow young tech companies at the moment. However, it isn't clear if the model works anywhere but YC and TechStars, these programs cost a lot of money to run so does the math hold up for everyone?

How many companies make it a big enough exit (assuming you need a $30 million exit per incubator) and in what time frame? In Canada there is a trend that shows some crazy growth in exits but how many are in that 'big enough' range or more that haven't been around for 5-10 years or more? I think one maybe two. It isn't just Canada though, how many exists are there in a year for any tech startup anywhere? Likely not enough to sustain the current number of incubators globally.

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Duncan Worries About Losing "Great Young Talent": What About Us Old Timers?

Anthony Cody:

Last week during Arne Duncan's Twitter Town Hall there was one phrase that keeps sticking in my mind. John Merrow asked him what his message is for teachers who feel under attack.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's response included this:

"We have to do everything we can to support teachers. I worry about losing too much of our great young talent."

It is hard to disagree with this. I spent the last four years leading a program in Oakland designed to do just that. We created TeamScience to give novice science teachers a professional community to belong to, offering them experienced colleagues as mentors as well as workshops, curriculum and professional development. We did this because we have a huge turnover issue among our science teachers. Most of the vacancies are filled with interns from Teach For America and other programs, and three years after they start, 75% of these teachers have left the District.

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September 2, 2011

Team Real on Drug Abuse, via Judy Reed:

TEAM REAL is made up of students from your community that are in-the-know about drugs of abuse. The facts provided will raise awareness of the local drug trends, costs of illicit drugs, ways kids are getting high, and the use of over-the-counter and licit medications as drugs of abuse.
A larger version of this image is available here.

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New Jersey set to pilot new teacher evaluation systems

Christopher Cerf:

Every child deserves a great teacher. New Jersey -- which ranks among the top states in the nation in student achievement -- is making great strides in delivering on that promise.

Research shows that the effectiveness of the teacher in front of the classroom is the most important in-school factor affecting student learning, and we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our teachers for our children's success.

Precisely because teaching is an honored craft, we must recognize and respect effective educators, support teachers in their efforts to continue to develop their skills and ensure that those comparatively few individuals who are unable to improve no longer remain in the classroom.

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Ex-LA teacher union head AJ Duffy to launch charter school

Christina Hoag:

The former president of the teachers union in the nation's second largest school district is moving on to a new job that might surprise many: He is launching a charter school organization after often criticizing such schools in his previous role.

A.J. Duffy, 67, who headed United Teachers Los Angeles for six years before he was termed out in June, said Thursday he will be executive director of the newly formed Apple Charter Academy Public Schools.

If approved by the Los Angeles Unified School District, the schools are planned to open next year, possibly as soon as February or in September at the latest, with campuses in South Los Angeles, he said.

The model he wants to create will be a radical departure from both traditional and charter schools, promised Duffy. "We want to create a system that's not just good for kids and fair to teachers, but that's revolutionary," he said.

Charters are an opportunity for teacher unions.

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Time to focus on excesses of football practice

Gregg Easterbrook:

From the standpoint of most spectators, football is all about the game. From the standpoint of most players, football is all about practice. What players go through at practice, particularly two-a-days, can be more grueling than what they go through during games. When coaches tell players, "Compared to practice, the game will be fun," they aren't kidding.

Though spectators and viewers think of games as the dangerous part of football, because it's during games that injuries are widely seen -- coaches whom I have interviewed think players are more likely to be injured at a practice than during a game. Partly this is simply because players spend so much more time practicing than performing, meaning more hours of risk.

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In praise of modest accomplishment

Harry Eyres:

Being an artist seems to require a magnification of ego, but being a craftsperson involves its diminution.

Art and craft might be in their origins indistinguishable - the Greek word techne means art, and craft, and technique - but artists and craftspeople, at least in the past 100 years or so, have developed very different ways of behaving. The cartoon series Young British Artists in the satirical magazine Private Eye, featuring a group of foul-mouthed, self-obsessed and self-promoting yahoos, could not by any stretch of the imagination be called Young British Craftspeople.

For those who want to promote craft, I was thinking as I attended two craft-oriented events in recent weeks, this presents both an opportunity and a problem. Craftspeople are just too modest and self-effacing and even nice to be obvious subjects for the contemporary media circus, with its taste for extravagant and self-destructive lifestyles. Craftspeople are somehow less likely to produce scores of illegitimate children, in the manner of Lucian Freud, or to die in unexplained circumstances at 27, in the manner of Amy Winehouse, than artists. You might think that was a salutary thing but try telling that to a tabloid newspaper editor.

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John Kuhn's rousing speech at SOS march

Substance News:

Let me speak for all public school educators when I say unequivocally: We will. We say send us your poor, send us your homeless, the children of your afflicted and addicted. Send us your kids who don't speak English. Send us you special-needs children, we will not turn them away.

But I tell you today, public school teacher, you will fail to take the shattered children of poverty and turn them into the polished products of the private schools. You will be unacceptable, public school teacher. And I say that is your badge of honor. I stand before you today bearing proudly the label of unacceptable because I educate the children they will not educate.

Day after day I take children broken by the poverty our leaders are afraid to confront and I glue their pieces back together. And at the end of my life you can say those children were better for passing through my sphere of influence. I am unacceptable and proud of it.

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More heat on Hong Kong national education: Controversial plan suffers a fresh blow with a pro-government teachers' body raising objections and calling for a trial scheme first

Dennis Chong:

The government faces mounting pressure to scale back its controversial plan to introduce national education to all schools within two years. Many teachers have raised objections during the four-month public consultation which ends today.

The plan to require all primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong to include national education as a study subject has triggered heated debate in the city. It is one of the key political objectives for Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who step downs as chief executive next year.

For years, the pro-Beijing camp in Hong Kong have been critical of schools' lack of efforts to instil a sense of national identity in students, and feared it would alienate them from the rest of the country. The opposition worried compulsory national education would be used to rationalise autocratic rules on the mainland and become a "brain-washing" tool.

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Wanted: More involved parents

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Listen carefully, and you can hear it everywhere:

Schoolgirls chattering about clothes and music and, of course, boys. Schoolboys rough-housing on the playground, boasting of touchdowns and soccer goals, and pretending not to notice the girls, who are pretending not to notice the boys.

As summer gives way to fall, the sweet sound of education is back.

From kindergarten classrooms with fears and tears always close, to middle school mixers where "tweens" finally begin to find themselves, to high school hallways where the minds get sharper and the humor gets darker, school is again in session.

For many it was a summer of discontent as recall elections were ripple-effect reminders of the political unrest from last spring, when K-12 educators and other public employees were at the center of a debate that featured much disagreement.

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Teacher turnover: New class of educators entering the classroom

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School District is on pace to add 300 new teachers this year -- the most in at least 19 years.

Already this year, the district has hired 260 new classroom leaders, largely a response to a wave of teacher retirements prompted by a new law curtailing collective bargaining by public employees. Another 40 or so could be added throughout September.

For the thousands of students heading back to school Thursday, the turnover means both the loss of institutional memory and the potential for fresh ideas to reshape the classroom experience, Madison principals say.

"You lose a lot of knowledge around education that's critical to helping kids be successful," said Bruce Dahmen, principal at Memorial High School, which hired about 30 new teachers, including 12 first-timers. "With that change comes new opportunities. (New teachers) sometimes bring a different energy."

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Are Texas' Schools Really that Bad?

National Center for Policy Analysis:

The Obama administration recently attempted a pre-emptive strike on Texas Governor Rick Perry by unleashing Education Secretary Arne Duncan to attack Texas' record on education. Duncan's arguments have generated a lot of useful discussion across the web, but Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, throws some rudimentary data analysis into the picture.

If you look at Texas' simple average test scores in reading and math for fourth and eighth grade students, they're about average. But Texas' schools serve a population with several challenges, in particular many low-income and Spanish speaking children.

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DOJ group to discuss Madison's academic disparities among racial minorities

Matthew DeFour:

An arm of the U.S. Department of Justice that mediates racial tension in communities is intervening in the debate over the achievement of racial minorities in the Madison School District.

The Justice Department's Community Relations Service won't discuss its role.

But in an email announcement this week, the Urban League of Greater Madison said DOJ this summer "raised concerns about academic achievement disparities among students of color in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) to the District's administration."

DOJ officials will participate in a meeting Wednesday called by the Urban League to discuss minority achievement, graduation rates and expulsion rates in the Madison district, according to Urban League President Kaleem Caire.

Related: the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.

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September 1, 2011

Public high school grads struggle at college

Diane Rado, Jodi S. Cohen and Joe Germuska, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

Ariana Taylor thought she was ready for college after taking Advanced Placement physics and English at her Chicago public high school and graduating with a 3.2 GPA.

Instead, at Illinois State University, she was overwhelmed by her course load and the demands of college. Her GPA freshman year dropped to 2.7 -- and that was significantly better than other graduates from Morgan Park High School, who averaged a 1.75 at Illinois State.

"It was really a big culture shock," said Taylor, 20, now a junior who has started a mentorship program for incoming freshmen. "I had no idea what it would be like."

A Tribune analysis of data available to Illinois citizens for the first time raises fundamental questions about how well the state's public high schools are preparing their students for college. The data show these students struggle to get a B average as freshmen at the state's universities and community colleges, even after leaving top-performing high schools with good grades. In fact, public school graduates at 10 of the state's 11 four-year universities averaged less than a 3.0 GPA their freshman year.

First-year performance at Illinois public universities and colleges

First-year performance at Illinois public universities and colleges
The newly-released High School-to-College Success Report shows how Illinois public school graduates fared when they became freshmen at the state's universities and community colleges. The ACT company tracked more than 90,000 students who graduated from public high schools between 2006 and 2008, and then enrolled full-time at an Illinois university or community college that fall. The data do not include students who went to a private college or out-of-state. For each high school, families can look up average high school GPAs and grade point averages earned at each public university and community college that students attended.

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Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force 8.25.2011 Meeting Summary

Wisconsin Reading Coaltion, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

Summary of the August 25, 2011 Read to Lead Task Force Meeting
Green Bay, WI

The fifth meeting of the Read to Lead task force was held on August 25, 2011, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Governor Walker was delayed, so State Superintendent Tony Evers opened the meeting. The main topic of discussion was accountability for reading outcomes, including the strategy of mandatory grade retention. Troy Couillard from DPI also presented an overview of reading reform in Milwaukee Public Schools.

Superintendent Evers said that Wisconsin will seek a waiver from the No Child Left Behind proficiency requirements by instituting a new system of accountability. His Educator Effectiveness and Accountability Design teams are working on this, with the goal of a new accountability system being in place by late 2011.

Accountability at the educator level:
The concept of using student achievement or growth data in teacher and principal evaluations is not without controversy, but Wisconsin is including student data in its evaluation model, keeping in mind fairness and validity. The current thought is to base 50% of the educator evaluation on qualitative considerations, using the Danielson Framework ("promoting professional learning through self assessment, reflection on practice, and professional conversations"), and 50% on student data, including multiple measures of performance. 10% of the student data portion of the evaluation (5% of the total evaluation) would be based on whole-school performance. This 5% would be based on a proficiency standard as opposed to a value-added measurement. The 5% is thought to be small enough that it will not affect an individual teacher adversely, but large enough to send a message that all teachers need to work together to raise achievement in a school. The task force was asked if it could endorse whole-school performance as part of teacher evaluation. The task force members seemed to have some support for that notion, especially at the principal level, but had some reservations at the level of the individual teacher.

Kathy Champeau was concerned that some schools do not have the resources to serve some children. She also felt it might not be fair to teachers, as they have no control over other teachers in the school or the principal.
Steve Dykstra said it is important to make sure any value-added system is designed to be fair.

Rachel Lander felt it would be better to use value-added data for whole-school performance rather than a proficiency standard, but supported the importance of schoolwide standards.

Rep. Steve Kestell supported the 5% requirement, and questioned what the qualitative half of the evaluation would be based on. He felt perhaps there could be some schoolwide standards to be met in that part of the evaluation, also.

Tony Evers responded that the Danielson Framework was research-based observations, and that the evaluators would need to be highly trained and consistent in their evaluations.

Tony Pedriana had questions about the type of research on which the Danielson Framework is based.

Evers said he would provide further information to the task force.
Mara Brown said she cannot control what the teacher down the hall does, and that the 5% should apply only to principals.

Linda Pils agreed with the 5%, but felt principals need to be watching and guiding new teachers. She agreed with Dykstra's comments on measuring growth.

Sen. Luther Olsen was concerned that the 5% portion of a teacher's evaluation may be the part that tips the balance on job retention for an individual, yet that individual has no control over whole-school performance. He understood the principle of getting everyone involved and committed to a goal, but was concerned with possible consequences.

Mandatory Retention:
The task force was asked to consider whether Wisconsin should implement a mandatory retention policy. If so, what would it look like, and if not, what can be done to make sure students are reading at grade level?

After a guest presentation and discussion, the consensus of the task force was that Wisconsin should not have mandatory retention. Reasons cited were negative effects on later achievement, graduation, self esteem, and psychological well-being. Third grade was felt to be far too late to start intervention, and there needs to be more emphasis on developing teacher expertise and focusing on the responsibility of teachers, principals, and higher education as opposed to threatening the students with retention. Retention without changing the curriculum for the student the following year is pointless.

Dr. Elaine Allensworth, a director at the Consortium on Chicago School Research, joined the task force by telephone to summarize the outcomes of a mandatory retention project in Chicago. Students more than 1 year below the cut-off level on certain tested skills were retained unless they passed the test after a summer bridge program. Students identified as at-risk were given after-school tutoring during the year. Retention was thought to have three primary mechanisms that would affect student performance: motivation for students, families, and teachers to work harder, supplemental instruction after school and during the summer, and an additional year in the grade for failing students. All students in the school could be affected by the motivation and the supplemental instruction, but only the retained students by the extra year of instruction. The study found that the threat of retention worked as a positive motivator for teachers, parents, and some older students. However, there were also negatives in terms of higher-achieving students receiving less attention, more time on test preparation, and an instructional shift to focus on tested skills. The supplemental instruction, especially the summer bridge program, was the biggest positive of the retention project. There was high participation, increased personal attention, and higher-quality instruction. Retention itself had more negative effects than positive. Academic gains were either non-existent or rapidly-disappearing. Multiple year retentions resulted in a problematic mix of ages in classrooms, students unable to finish high school by age 18, and a negative overall attitude toward school.

Dykstra said it appeared that the impetus to do things differently because of the threat of retention had some benefit, but the actual retention had either no effect or a negative effect. He wondered if there was some way to provide the motivation without retention.

Allensworth agreed that the challenge was to provide a motivation without having a threat.

Pils asked if third graders could even understand the threat of retention.
Allensworth replied that they understood if teachers helped them. She also said that some schools with low-quality instruction had no way to improve student learning even with the threat of retention.

Rep. Jason Fields asked how you could avoid teaching to the test.

Allensworth replied that teaching the skills on the test was productive, but not the excessive time that was spent on test-taking strategies. She also said the tendency to teach more narrowly could cause problems later in high school where students needed to be able to participate in broader learning.

Marcia Henry inquired about students who returned to their old rate of learning when they returned to the regular classroom after successfully completing the summer bridge.

Allensworth replied that the summer program used higher quality curriculum and teachers, there was more time provided with students, and the students were more highly motivated.

Dykstra asked if it was possible to determine how much of the summer gain was due to student motivation, and how much due to teachers or parents.
Allensworth said those factors could not be pulled apart.

Champeau questioned whether the summer bridge program taught to the test.
Allensworth replied that it taught in a good way to the skills that the test assessed.

Brown asked if intervention was provided for the first time in third grade.
Allensworth replied that some schools began providing intervention and retaining in first or second grade.

Dykstra asked if the project created a situation where a majority of the school's resources were concentrated in third grade, leaving other grades short.
Allensworth said they didn't look at that, though some schools appeared to put their better teachers at certain grades.

Dykstra thought it was the wrong approach to tie services and supports to a specific grade rather than a specific student.

Are some types of consequences necessary to achieve the urgency and intensity necessary for performance improvement? Should there be mandatory summer school or other motivators? The task force did not seem to arrive at a consensus on this.

Lander said schools need the resources to do early intervention, plus information on what should be done in early intervention, and this is not currently the case in Wisconsin.

Pils questioned where teachers would find the time to provide intervention. She liked the idea of after-school and summer programs as well as reading the classics to kids. Providing a model of best instruction is important for teachers who don't have that background.

Mary Read commented on Bill Gates' experience with spending a lot of money for minimal results, and the conclusion that money needs to go into teacher training and proven programs such as the Kipp schools or into a national core curriculum.

Dykstra noted that everyone agrees that teacher training is essential, but there is disagreement as to curriculum and training content. His experience is that teachers are generally unable to pinpoint what is going wrong with a student's reading. We must understand how poor and widespread current teacher training is, apologize to teachers, and then fix the problem, but not at teachers' expense.
The facilitators asked what the policy should be. Is there an alternative to using retention? Should teacher re-training be mandatory for those who need the support?

Evers said that a school-by-school response does not work. The reforms in Milwaukee may have some relevance.

Olsen suggested that there are some reading programs that have been proven successful. If a school is not successful, perhaps they should be required to choose from a list of approved instructional methods and assessment tools, show their results, and monitor program fidelity. He feels we have a great resource in successful teachers in Wisconsin and other states, and the biggest issue is agreeing on programs that work for intervention and doing it right the first time.

Kestell said some major problems are teachers with high numbers of failing students, poor teacher preparation, the quality of early childhood education, and over-funding of 4K programs without a mandate on how that money is used. There has been some poor decision-making, and the kids are not responsible for that. We must somehow hold schools, school board, and individual educators accountable.

Champeau said teachers have no control over how money is spent. This accountability must be at the school and district level. More resources need to be available to some schools depending on the needs of their student population.
Lander: We must provide the necessary resources to identified schools.

Dykstra: We must develop an excellent system of value-added data so we can determine which schools are actually doing well. Right now we have no way of knowing. High-performing schools may actually be under-performing given their student demographics; projected student growth will not be the same in high and low performing schools.

Pedriana: We have long known how to teach even the most at-risk readers with evidence-based instruction. The truth is that much of our teacher training and classroom instruction is not evidence-based. We need the collective will to identify the evidence base on which we will base our choices, and then apply it consistently across the state. The task force has not yet taken on this critical question.

Pils: In her experience, she feels Wisconsin teachers are among the best in the country. There are some gaps we need to close.

Pedriana: Saying how good we are does not help the kids who are struggling.
Pils: We need to have our best teachers in the inner city, and teachers should not need to purchase their own supplies. We have to be careful with a limited list of approved programs. This may lead to ethics violations.

Pedriana: Referring to Pils' mention of Wisconsin's high graduation rates in a previous meeting, what does our poor performance on the NAEP reading test say about our graduation standards?

Michael Brickman (Governor's aide): There is evidence of problems when you do retention, and evidence of problems when you do nothing. We can't reduce the failing readers to zero using task force recommendations, so what should we do with students who leave 3rd grade not reading anywhere near grade level? Should we have mandatory summer school?

Henry: Response to Intervention (RTI) is a perfect model for intervening early in an appropriate way. A summer bridge program is excellent if it has the right focus. We must think more realistically about the budget we will require to do this intervention.

Olsen: If we do early intervention, we should have a very small number of kids who are still behind in 3rd grade. Are we teaching the right, most efficient way? We spend a lot of money on K-12 education in Wisconsin, but we may need to set priorities in reading. There is enough money to do it. Reading should be our mission at each grade level.

Facilitator: What will be the "stick" to make people provide the best instruction?

Dykstra: Accountability needs to start at the top in the state's education system. When the same people continue to make the same mistakes, yet there are no consequences, we need to let some people go. That is what they did in Massachusetts and Florida: start with two or three people in whom you have great confidence, and build from there.

Facilitator: Is there consensus on mandatory summer school for failing students?
Michele Erickson: Summer school is OK if the right resources are available for curriculum and teachers.

Kestell: All grades 4K - 3 are gateway grades. They are all important.

Champeau: Summer school is a good idea, but we would need to solve transportation issues.

Dykstra: We should open up the concept of summer school beyond public schools to any agency that offers quality instruction using highly qualified instructors from outside the educational establishment.

Lander: Supports Dykstra's idea. You can't lay summer instruction on schools that can hardly educate during the school year.

Brown: Could support summer school in addition to, but not in place of, early intervention during the school year.

Erickson: Look at the school year first when allocating resources. Summer school is a hard sell to families.

Pedriana: Agrees with Olsen that we probably have sufficient funds for the school year, but we need to spend it more wisely. We cannot expect districts to make the commitment to extra instruction if there is no accountability at the top (including institutions of higher education). We need to resolve the issue of what knowledge and content standards will be taught before we address summer school or other issues.

Milwaukee Public Schools' tiered RTI system was presented by DPI's Troy Couillard as an example of an accountability system. MPS chose a new core reading program for 2010-11 after submitting its research base to DPI. Teachers were provided with some in-service training, and there are some site checks for fidelity of implementation. Tier 2 interventions will begin in 2011-12, and Tier 3 interventions in 2012-13. He felt that the pace of these changes, plus development of a data accountability system, student screening with MAP and other testing, progress monitoring, and professional development, has MPS moving much faster than most districts around the county on implementing RTI. DPI embedded RTI in the district's Comprehensive Literacy Plan. DPI is pushing interventions that are listed on the National RTI site, but teachers are allowed to submit research for things they are using to see if those tools might be used.

Pils: Kids in MPS are already struggling. Reading First would suggest that they have 120 minuets of reading a day instead of the 90 minutes provided in the MPS plan.

Couillard: Tier 2 intervention for struggling students will add onto the 90 minutes of core instruction.

Olsen: Can this system work statewide without DPI monitoring all the districts?

Couillard: Districts are trained to monitor their own programs.

Pils: Veteran schools with proven strategies could be paired with struggling schools as mentors and models.

Pedriana: We have no way of knowing what proven strategies are unless we discuss what scientific evidence says works in reading. The task force must grapple with this question.

Brickman: Read to Lead task force needs to start with larger questions and then move to finer grain; this task force may not be able to do everything.
Pedriana: Is there anything more important for this task force to do than to decide what evidence-based reading instruction is?

Brickman: Task force members may submit suggestions for issues to discuss at the final meeting in September. Tony could submit some sample language on "evidence-based instruction" as a starting point for discussion.

Henry: The worst schools should be required to at least have specific guidelines, whether it is a legislative or DPI issue. Teacher retraining (not a 1-day workshop) is a necessity. Teachers are unprepared to teach.

Olsen: Wisconsin has always been a local control state, but one of the outcomes of the task force may be that we have a method for identifying schools that are not doing well, and then intervene with a plan. The state is ultimately responsible for K-12 education. Districts should take the state blueprint or come up with their own for approval by the state.

Erickson: Can we define what will work so districts can just do it?

Evers: MPS experience shows there is a process that works, and districts can do their own monitoring.

Dykstra: Sees value in making a list of things that districts are not allowed to do in reading instruction; also value in making a list of recommended programs based on alignment with the convergence of the science of reading research. That list would not be closed, but it should not include programs based on individual, publisher-funded studies that do not align with the convergence of the science. This could be of benefit to all districts. Even those doing relatively well could be doing better. Right now there is no list, and no learning targets. The MPS plan contains the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, which contain errors. DPI needs to correct that information and distribute it right now. That would be a good example of accountability at the state level.

Couillard: The new statewide data collection system will help districts monitor their own data.

Champeau: School needs change depending on demographics. The goal should be to build decision-making capacity at the local level, not dictation from outside. We should be talking more about people than programs. Have MPS teachers been doing a better job? What will they do if their program goes away? We need to work on the underlying expertise and knowledge base.

Facilitator: There appears to be agreement that the state can intervene in failing districts.

Lander: We might have some consensus as to what teachers need to know, and then go into schools to see if they know it. If not, we need to teach them.
Pedriana: What is so bad about providing a program, with training, of course? It would help people.

Facilitator: There is consensus around training of teachers.

Dykstra: Some of the distinction between training and programs is artificial. You need both.

Other things the state could require: weighting of reading in evaluation systems, grading of schools etc.

Dykstra: If giving schools grades, they should get separate grades for how they do in teaching separate content areas. In addition, everything should be reported in the best value-added system we can create, because it's the only way to know if you're doing a good job.

Pils: Doesn't like grading of schools. She has a whole folder on cheating in districts that have grading of schools and high stakes tests.

Evers: Do we just want to measure what schools are doing, or do we want to use it to leverage change?

Erickson: Wisconsin has gone from 3rd to 30th on the NAEP, so of course we should be seeking change.

Walker: The idea is not to pick on failing schools, but to help them. We must be able to deploy the resources to the things that work in accordance with science and research to teach reading right.

Dykstra: We should seek small kernels of detailed information about which teachers consistently produce better results in a given type of school for a given type of student. There is a problem with reliability when using MAP data at an individual student level.

Supt. Evers talked about the new state accountability system as being a better alternative to no Child Left Behind. Governor Walker said the state is not just doing this as an alternative to NCLB, but in response to comments from business that our graduates are not well-prepared. Parents want to know what all schools are doing.

Olsen: We need a system to monitor reading in Wisconsin before we get into big trouble. Our changing population is leading us to discover challenges that other states have dealt with for years.

Kestell: The accountability design team is an excellent opportunity to discuss priorities in education; a time to set aside personal agendas and look for solutions that work.

Next Meeting/Status of Report
Michael Brickman will try to send out a draft of a report the week of August 29 with his best interpretation of task force consensus items. The final meeting will be Sept. 27, perhaps in Madison, Eau Claire, or Wausau. Some task force issues will need to be passed on to other task forces in the future.

Related: A Capitol Conversation on Wisconsin's Reading Challenges and Excellence in Education explains Florida's reading reforms and compares Florida's NAEP progress with Wisconsin's at the July 29th Read to Lead task force meeting and

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:36 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

In education, money isn't all

Mark Fermanich:

The amount of funding available for K-12 education in Colorado has led to considerable debate. The Lobato case being heard before the state Supreme Court challenges the constitutionality of our school finance system, and Proposition 103 is a ballot initiative for raising additional state revenues for public schools. If either of these efforts is successful, hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenues will flow to K-12 education. But if Colorado significantly increases funding for schools, can it reasonably expect dramatically better results?

It is true that studies examining the link between school funding levels and student outcomes, typically standardized test scores, have failed to find a strong relationship. These results have led some to conclude that money does not much matter.

However, this research may be misleading. Schools have many other responsibilities than teaching reading and math. Parents and policymakers expect schools to teach many other subjects such as social studies, science and the arts. We also expect schools to help socialize children. To the extent that schools dedicate resources to these ends, an aggregate fiscal measure such as total spending per student is not an appropriate metric when coupled with a narrowly defined outcome such as math or reading test scores.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:55 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Brizard, teachers union agree on more rigorous curriculum: "Comprehension, analysis favored over rote learning"

Joel Hood:

After weeks of public feuding over teacher salaries and longer school days, Chicago Public Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard and the teachers union came together Tuesday to embrace a more rigorous curriculum for CPS students beginning the 2012-13 school year.

At a luncheon with civic leaders from the City Club of Chicago, Brizard announced plans to implement the Common Core State Standards curriculum, a national initiative to improve student performance in key subjects such as math and reading by favoring comprehension and analysis over rote memorization.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:54 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Student Education Reform Protests Rock Chile

Allie Morris:

What started as a student demonstration has turned into the largest protest against the Chilean government since the return of democracy two decades ago, and has harmed the popularity of the current conservative government.

For more than three months, Chilean high school and university students have staged kiss-a-thons, hunger strikes, fake suicides and massive marches to demand the government provide access to free, quality education.

The Chilean Confederation of Students, a group that leads the student movement, agreed to meet with President Sebastian Pinera on Saturday, following his call for dialogue last week.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:52 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Online Venture Energizes Vulnerable College

Marc Parry:

If you sketched a portrait of a college in a dicey economic spot, it might look like Southern New Hampshire University.

The private nonprofit university is little known nationally, not selective, and depends on tuition. It sits in a state whose population of public high-school graduates is projected to decline for years.

But rather than limping along, this obscure institution is becoming a regional powerhouse--online.

With 7,000 online students, the university has grown into the second-largest online education provider in college-saturated New England, aiming to blow the University of Massachusetts out of the top spot. It recently began testing TV advertisements in national markets like Milwaukee and Oklahoma City, too, sensing that scandals tarring for-profit colleges have opened an opportunity for nonprofit competitors.

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

The best choice for your child's school is most likely the local school

David Staples:

The grass isn't greener and the teachers aren't really keener at some other school.

If you are the parent of an elementary-age school kid, I'm going to offer you some unsolicited advice: the best school for your child is most likely your neighbourhood school.

Not the school across the city with the cool-sounding special program.

Not the school many blocks away where the provincial tests scores for Grade 3 and Grade 6 are higher than those in your own school.

No, the best choice is usually the community school, the one within walking distance, the school of your neighbours and their children, who will soon be your acquaintances and maybe even your very good friends, but only if your children attend that neighbourhood school.

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

Three-fifths of colleges get C or worse in general education

Daniel de Vise:

An analysis of core education requirements at 1,007 colleges found that three-fifths of those schools require three or fewer of seven basic subjects, such as science, math and foreign language.

This is the third annual report on general education by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, titled What Will They Learn? The group has set out to illustrate the failings of America's colleges in requiring students to learn essential subjects over the course of their education.

Most colleges allow students to study pretty much what they please. Schools make some effort to guide course choices through a system of "distribution requirements," which typically state that students must take a certain number of classes in each of several broad areas of study.

But the general education system is deeply flawed, as higher education leaders openly admit. Very few schools come close to requiring that students learn any particular topic or work, for political reasons. Colleges are made up of competing academic departments and no department wants to be left off any list of "required" study.

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

Public education and the tentacles of profit

Emanuele Corso:

A new reality is beginning to unfold. This other-reality is inhabited by fabulously wealthy people who want, indeed are compelled, to become even more wealthy, since having all but a tiny percentage of the real world's income is not quite enough - they apparently want it all.

The May 2011 edition of Vanity Fair reports that 1 percent of the U.S. population takes in 25 percent of all income and holds 40 percent of the nation's wealth. There is today, it seems, an epidemic of consummate greed by people who profit on everyone else's losses and who buy politicians with the same ease that normal people buy groceries.

To further their ends, the other-reality hosts pool-side gatherings at plush resorts for ambitious and eager other-reality wannabes to discuss how best to go about achieving their agendas. In these settings the wannabes rub shoulders with the other-reality folks and offer their services and willingness to assist the sponsors in their quest for an even greater slice of the National Pie.

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

RheeFirst, Michelle Rhee Attack Site, Defended By Teachers Union

Joy Resmovits:

n the eyes of Steven Brill, the American Federation of Teachers building a website attacking Michelle Rhee and masking its origins is worse than Rhee's creating a billion-dollar organization aimed at revamping education that doesn't disclose its backers.

Brill, author of the recent Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools, came to the education beat after writing a piece for the New Yorker about the "Rubber Room," a place where New York City public school teachers were paid to stay out of classrooms.

"People are generally making a mistake when they don't disclose who's donating," Brill told The Huffington Post. "But when you set up a website to attack them for it and don't define the source, that's worse."

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

Black Hawk Middle School earns recognition for third straight year

Jeff Glaze:

Black Hawk Middle School was recognized for the third year running as a Wisconsin School of Recognition by the Department of Public Instruction.

Wisconsin School of Recognition awards go to top performing schools that have high numbers of students who qualify for the free and reduced-price school lunch program.

Madison has had as many as seven schools recognized in 2005 and no schools recognized in 2008 in the nine years the state has awarded schools as part of its accountability program under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

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