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November 30, 2011

Masters of the Game and Leaders by Example

Dylan Loeb McClain via a kind reader's email:

Fewer than 2 percent of the 77,000 members of the United States Chess Federation are masters -- and just 13 of them are under the age of 14.

Among that select group of prodigies are three black players from the New York City area -- Justus Williams, Joshua Colas and James Black Jr. -- who each became masters before their 13th birthdays.

"Masters don't happen every day, and African-American masters who are 12 never happen," said Maurice Ashley, 45, the only African-American to earn the top title of grandmaster. "To have three young players do what they have done is something of an amazing curiosity. You normally wouldn't get something like that in any city of any race."

The chess federation, the game's governing body, does not keep records on the ethnicity of its members. But a Web site called the Chess Drum -- which chronicles the achievements of black chess players and is run by Daaim Shabazz, an associate professor of business at Florida A&M University -- lists 85 African-American masters. Shabazz said many of them no longer compete regularly.

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Has Teacher Quality Declined Over Time?

Matthew Di Carlo:

One of the common assumptions lurking in the background of our education debates is that "quality" of the teaching workforce has declined a great deal over the past few decades (see here, here, here and here [slide 16]). There is a very plausible storyline supporting this assertion: Prior to the dramatic rise in female labor force participation since the 1960s, professional women were concentrated in a handful of female-dominated occupations, chief among them teaching. Since then, women's options have changed, and many have moved into professions such as law and medicine instead of the classroom.

The result of this dynamic, so the story goes, is that the pool of candidates to the teaching profession has been "watered down." This in turn has generated a decline in the aggregate "quality" of U.S. teachers, and, it follows, a stagnation of student achievement growth. This portrayal is often used as a set-up for a preferred set of solutions - e.g., remaking teaching in the image of the other professions into which women are moving, largely by increasing risk and rewards.

Although the argument that "teacher quality" has declined substantially is sometimes taken for granted, its empirical backing is actually quite thin, and not as clear-cut as some might believe.

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Chicago Public Schools' Unveils School Turnaround Targets

Rebecca Vevea:

Chicago Public Schools officials plan to overhaul 10 schools next year, six of which will be managed by a private organization in the latest move by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration to turn to the private sector to aid poorly performing public schools.

The proposed overhauls--commonly called turnarounds--involve the firing of existing staff and improvements to school curriculum and culture. Turnarounds are the first step in a series of school actions that include consolidating and closing underperforming schools.

A new state law requires CPS to announce all school closings and turnarounds by Thursday. There was vociferous opposition to any proposed closings at recent public hearings, which were also required by the law, even though though the list of targeted schools had not yet been released.

The elementary schools slated for turnaround are: Pablo Casals, 3501 W. Potomac Ave.; Melville W. Fuller, 4214 S. Saint Lawrence Ave.; Theodore Herzl, 3711 W. Douglas Blvd.; Marquette, 6550 S Richmond St.; Brian Piccolo, 1040 N Keeler Ave.; Amos Alonzo Stagg, 7424 S Morgan St.; Wendell Smith, 744 E 103rd St. and Carter G. Woodson South Elementary Schools, 4414 S Evans. The Chicago Vocational Career Academy, at 2100 E 87th St., and Tilden Career Community Academy, 4747 S Union Ave., high schools also are targeted for turnaround.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:29 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Decline of the English Department

William M. Chace:

During the last four decades, a well-publicized shift in what undergraduate students prefer to study has taken place in American higher education. The number of young men and women majoring in English has dropped dramatically; the same is true of philosophy, foreign languages, art history, and kindred fields, including history. As someone who has taught in four university English departments over the last 40 years, I am dismayed by this shift, as are my colleagues here and there across the land. And because it is probably irreversible, it is important to attempt to sort out the reasons--the many reasons--for what has happened.

First the facts: while the study of English has become less popular among undergraduates, the study of business has risen to become the most popular major in the nation's colleges and universities. With more than twice the majors of any other course of study, business has become the concentration of more than one in five American undergraduates. Here is how the numbers have changed from 1970/71 to 2003/04 (the last academic year with available figures):

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Can Unions Be Saved By Making Them Weaker?

Kevin Drum:

Reihan Salam directs us to an essay about labor unions by Alan Haus, an IP and employment law attorney in San Francisco. Haus thinks that conservatives ought to be more supportive of the power of labor unions in promoting higher wages:
There is much that could be said about the economic effects of promoting higher wages. For Republicans, the disadvantages should be trumped not only by the advantages but also by a vital consideration of political philosophy: the society of limited government to which most Republicans aspire will only come about in the real world if most Americans earn enough money to save for retirements and college educations, and provide for their long-term healthcare through substantially private markets. Achieving this requires some measure of support for a high wage economy.
But Haus is a lot less enthralled with every other aspect of organized labor:

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For young math phenom, age is just another number

Mila Koumpilova:

In his first algebra class last year, Mani Chadaga slumped low in his front-row seat and pretended to read his new textbook intently.

Mani could make himself only so inconspicuous: He was, after all, a second-grader in a junior high class at St. Paul's Capitol Hill Gifted and Talented Magnet School.

So he stopped trying.

Soon, he was piping up with solutions to the teacher's questions and standing before his stumped classmates, explaining how he arrived at them. These days, as a third-grader juggling Algebra II and geometry, he kneels in his seat, only a smidgen of his early shyness and all his humility intact.

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America's Public Sector Union Dilemma

Lee Ohanian:

There is much less competition in the public sector than the private sector, and that has made all the difference.

Since the Great Recession began in 2008, there has been a growing criticism of public sector unions, reflecting taxpayer concerns about union compensation and unfunded pension liabilities. These concerns have led to proposals to change public sector union policy in very significant ways. Earlier this month, voters in Ohio defeated by a wide margin a law that would have restricted union powers, although polls showed broad support for portions of the law that would have reduced union benefits. In Wisconsin, a state with a long-standing pro-union stance, Governor Scott Walker advanced policy in February that would cut pay and substantially curtail collective bargaining rights of many public sector union workers. In Florida, State Senator John Thrasher introduced legislation that would prevent governments from collecting union dues from union worker state paychecks. And it is not just Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida that are attempting to change the landscape of public unions. Cash-strapped governments in many states are considering ways to reduce the costs associated with public unions.

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November 29, 2011

Madison School District agrees to release teachers' sick notes

Steve Verburg:

The Madison School District has agreed to terms for releasing more than 1,000 sick notes submitted by teachers who missed work in February during mass protests over collective bargaining.

The district will remove the teachers' names and other identifying information from the notes, under an agreement reached Monday with the Wisconsin State Journal, which requested the records under the state's Open Records Law.

"It's essentially what we asked for in May," State Journal Editor John Smalley said Tuesday. "It was never our intention to publish any names or individual situations, but to look at the collective situation of all of these sick notes and how the district as an institution handled it."

School Board President James Howard said the agreement protects teachers while complying with the newspaper's needs and a Nov. 21 court ruling ordering the district to turn over the notes. The newspaper sued the district for the records after the district denied requests for them.

Jack Craver:
Many friends of mine are upset with the legal battle the Wisconsin State Journal waged to obtain the 1,000 sick notes Madison teachers used to get off work during the union protests in February. My own radio host and boss, Kurt Baron, referred to the paper as the "Wisconsin State Urinal" in describing his decision to no longer have the paper as his home page online. Some called into the show and promised to cancel their subscriptions.

Teachers should have a right to individual privacy over their medical records. We shouldn't know whether John Q. cited herpes or hemorrhoids on his doctor's note.

I am less sympathetic, however, to the teachers' right to collective privacy. As long as their names are redacted, the public has the right to know if 273 teachers cited malaria and 345 claimed to suffer from ebola.

Unfortunately the recent ruling will violate individual privacy by allowing the State Journal to see the names of the teachers on the sick notes.

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Keep KC's school board, but get it plenty of help

The Kansas City Star

No one wants to see the Kansas City School District recover just enough to regain provisional accreditation and limp along in wounded form for another decade or so.

Kansas Citians are looking for an administrative structure capable of running schools that meet the state's expectations and prepare students for college and jobs.

With the school district scheduled to become unaccredited on Jan. 1, the Missouri Board of Education is contemplating structural changes. Chris Nicastro, the education commissioner, has spent considerable time trying to figure out what to recommend to the board when it meets Thursday and Friday. At one point, she asked members of the Kansas City school board if they'd be willing to step aside in favor of an appointed board. Most would prefer to remain in charge.

School board governance has not served Kansas City well in recent decades. Candidate choices have mostly been weak. Voter participation in elections has been abysmal. Boards have been factious and meddlesome.

Money And School Performance:
Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment by Paul Cioti:
For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, "You can't solve educational problems by throwing money at them." The education establishment and its supporters have replied, "No one's ever tried." In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.

Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil--more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers' salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.

The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

The Kansas City experiment suggests that, indeed, educational problems can't be solved by throwing money at them, that the structural problems of our current educational system are far more important than a lack of material resources, and that the focus on desegregation diverted attention from the real problem, low achievement.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Taking healthcare to students

Anna Gorman:

As soon as the school day ended, the rush at the health clinic began.

Two high school seniors asked for sports physicals. A group of teenagers lined up for free condoms. A girl told a counselor she needed a pregnancy test.

The clinic, at Belmont High School near downtown Los Angeles, is part of a rapidly expanding network of school-based centers around the nation offering free or low-cost medical care to students and their families.

In California, there are 183 school health centers, up from 121 in 2004. Twelve more are expected to open by next summer, according to the California School Health Center Assn.

The centers have become a small but important part of the nation's healthcare safety net, experts say, treating low-income patients who might otherwise not have regular medical care. Now, they add, campus clinics are serving as a model for health officials trying to reduce costs.

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Scottish education 'falling behind' other countries

BBC:

Scottish education is being overtaken by systems in other countries around the world, it has been claimed.

The warning comes from Keir Bloomer, a former leader of council education directors and one of the architects of the Curriculum for Excellence.

Mr Keir is heading the Commission on School Reform which will carry out an inquiry into scope for improvement.

He said Scottish education had many strengths but there was a need to increase the pace of improvement.

The commission, established by independent think tanks Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy, includes representatives from political parties, heads of schools and colleges and figures from the business and sporting worlds.

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English Teacher Reaches Through Student's Haze

John Burnett:

Christine Eastus was a double major in English and chemistry with plans to go to medical school. Instead -- to the chagrin of her parents -- she became a teacher.

In the 1970s, she taught English at Greenhill School in Addison, Texas.

"Once I started teaching, it was a completely new world, sort of frightening in a sense, because you're dealing with students who are so impressionable, but it's heady stuff particularly when people like you, catch the bug and become writers and let you know about it," she tells NPR's John Burnett. "That is a real high, to hear from someone who's your age still remembering me and I'm sure many of them curse me because I guess I was a bit demanding."

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Virtual schools are multiplying, but some question their educational value

Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown:

A Virginia company leading a national movement to replace classrooms with computers -- in which children as young as 5 can learn at home at taxpayer expense -- is facing a backlash from critics who are questioning its funding, quality and oversight.

K12 Inc. of Herndon has become the country's largest provider of full-time public virtual schools, upending the traditional American notion that learning occurs in a schoolhouse where students share the experience. In K12's virtual schools, learning is largely solitary, with lessons delivered online to a child who progresses at her own pace.

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The other student loan problem: too little debt

Justin Pope:

Jesse Yeh uses the University of California-Berkeley library instead of buying textbooks. He scrounges for free food at campus events and occasionally skips meals. He's stopped exercising and sleeps five to six hours per night so he can take 21 credits -- a course load so heavy he had to get special permission from a dean.

The only thing he won't do: take out a student loan.

"I see a lot of my friends who took out student loans, then they graduated and because of the economy right now they still couldn't find a job," said the third-year student, whose parents both lost their jobs in 2009 and who grew up in the boom-and-bust town of Victorville, Calif., on a block with several houses in foreclosure. "The debt burden is really heavy on them."

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Reverse Mentoring Cracks Workplace

Leslie Kwoh:

Workplace mentors used to be older and higher up the ranks than their mentees. Not anymore.

In an effort to school senior executives in technology, social media and the latest workplace trends, many businesses are pairing upper management with younger employees in a practice known as reverse mentoring. The trend is taking off at a range of companies, from tech to advertising.

The idea is that managers can learn a thing or two about life outside the corner office. But companies say another outcome is reduced turnover among younger employees, who not only gain a sense of purpose but also a rare glimpse into the world of management and access to top-level brass.

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November 28, 2011

Korean teen held after pushy mother's death

Christian Oliver and Song Jung-a:

South Korean police have detained a teenager suspected of murdering his mother after she allegedly beat him with a golf club to get better school grades, in a case that has raised questions about the high-pressure nature of the country's education system.

The macabre incident has shocked the nation, with younger mothers questioning the values of previous generations who have been pushing children hard to improve their school performance.

"Children are being driven to the limit ... so many of them suffer from depression, kill themselves or commit impulsive crimes out of desperation," says Oh Sung-sook, head of the Citizens' Council for Educational Reform, an activist group.

Psychologists argue that the educational rat-race - children are routinely forced to study late into the night seven days a week and corporal punishment is still permitted - is stunting social development.

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Rice makes plea for education in America

Lucy Madison:

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she's concerned about the economy, the deficit, and the "jaded" nature of American politics - but she says the country's "biggest single problem" is with the public school system.

Rice, speaking to CBS' Bob Schieffer on a special Thanksgiving edition of "Face the Nation," argued that the nation's educational system is failing crucial populations, and that "it's gonna drive us into class warfare like we've never seen before."

Responding to a question about the current state of American politics, Rice argued that "we've become a bit jaded as a country."

But she said that wasn't her biggest concern with the future of America right now.

"I think we've got a deeper problem," she said. "It speaks to the way that, for instance, I and my family got ahead. I think the biggest single problem we've got is the K-12 education system."

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Finland puts bar high for teachers, kids' well-being

Erin Richards:

English class is about to start, and Taneli Nordberg introduces the day's guests: a row of fresh-faced university students sitting in the back of the classroom. They're training to be teachers at the University of Helsinki.

Nordberg, 31, wants the eighth-graders to become teachers for a moment.

"I want you to tell the teacher trainees something you would like them to do when teaching and something you want them to avoid doing," he explains. "In English, please."

The students tumble up to the chalkboards and start writing. Some of the advice is predictable - "not too much homework" - but much of it is insightful.

The exercise, though short and light, is something of a microcosm of the Finnish educational approach - engagement and collaboration between teacher and student, a comfortable atmosphere, and the expectation of quality in how students express themselves.

Over the past decade, students in Finland have soared on international measures of achievement. They've continued to post some of the best scores in the developed world in reading, math and science, according to a respected international exam. The country has one of the narrowest gaps in achievement between its highest and lowest-performing schools, and on average spends less per pupil than the United States.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison Schools' dual-language program prompts concerns

Matthew DeFour:

Students in the Madison School District's dual-language immersion program are less likely than students in English-only classrooms to be black or Asian, come from low-income families, need special education services or have behavioral problems, according to a district analysis.

School Board members have raised concerns about the imbalance of diversity and other issues with the popular program.

As a result, Superintendent Dan Nerad wants to put on hold expansion plans at Hawthorne, Stephens and Thoreau elementaries and delay the decision to the spring on how to expand the program to La Follette High School in 2013.

"While the administration remains committed to the (dual-language) program and to the provision of bilingual programming options for district students, I believe there is substantial value in identifying, considering and responding to these concerns," Nerad wrote in a memo to the board.

In Madison's program, both native English and Spanish speakers receive 90 percent of their kindergarten instruction in Spanish, with the mix steadily increasing to 50-50 by fourth grade.

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New initiatives making schools data readily available

Bill Turque and Michael Alison Chandler:

Parents across the Washington region will soon have more readily available -- and useful-- information about how their public schools are doing, the result of new initiatives underway at the local and state level for reporting and displaying education data.

The District, Maryland and Virginia are pledging some changes as part of their applications to the Obama administration for exemption from unpopular requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, among them the mandate for 100 percent proficiency by 2014 on standardized reading and math tests.

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

Milwaukee Public Schools' Quietly Implement Changes

Alan Borsuk:

Alas, Milwaukee Public Schools: The School Board and administration will never take the kind of bold action that's needed to stabilize the financial picture. The system is awash in empty buildings, and they won't do anything about it. They'll never take real action to improve what goes on in classrooms. It's hopeless.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong. And maybe wrong about the fourth one.

Without much fuss or attention, this has been an autumn of big change in the way MPS is run. It is still a highly troubled system, but it's time to give credit to the leaders for taking action on some of the things that most threaten MPS. You can criticize them for not acting sooner or for other things, but let's take advantage of some holiday cheer to look at recent events. There's still life in the lumbering giant.

If you ask Superintendent Gregory Thornton, he'll tell you what's under way is "a quiet storm, and, when we wake up, the flowers will have bloomed."

(Thornton, by the way, seems to be talking like a guy who isn't going to pack up and leave soon, which has been a matter of speculation since shortly after he arrived 17 months ago.)

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:22 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Do schools conceal violent incidents and threats to avoid negative press and parent outrage?

Maureen Downey:

Among the extended family I saw over the holiday was a young relative who is working as a substitute teacher in the Northeast since he can't find a full-time teaching post. He shared a story that surprised me, and I wanted to run it by folks here.

He was subbing at a low-performing high school that recently had a well-publicized stabbing. A student in his class pulled what he thought was a real gun on him, and they had a standoff for several minutes until the teen put the "gun" away and the teacher tackled him to the floor. It turned out the gun was a toy, and the student received a three-day suspension for the incident.

The substitute teacher was disappointed with the punishment, but said the school wanted to prevent another round of negative press.

Would such an incident be kept quiet in Georgia? Could it go so easily unreported under zero tolerance policies in which students can get suspended for Tweety Bird key chains?

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November 27, 2011

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California vs. the Other States Rev. 11/18/11

Richard Rider:

Here's a depressing but documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is breaking bad, and getting worse (twice a month, I update crucial data on this fact sheet):

California has the 3rd worst state income tax in the nation. 9.3% tax bracket starts at $46,766 for people filing as individuals. 10.3% tax starts at $1,000,000. http://www.taxfoundation.org/files/bp59_es.pdf

Highest state sales tax rate in the nation. 7.25% (as of 1 July - does not include local sales taxes)
http://www.taxfoundation.org/files/bp60.pdf Table #15

California corporate income tax rate (8.84%) is the highest west of the Mississippi (our economic competitors) except for Alaska. http://www.taxfoundation.org/files/bp59.pdf Table #8 - we are 8th highest nationwide.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Secret of My Success: How Status, Prestige and School Performance Shape Legal Careers

Richard Sander & Jane Yakowitz:

Rewards are distributed more unevenly within the legal profession than in virtually any other occupation. Most of those who study the careers of lawyers would agree that law school eliteness, law school grades, and social status each play a role in determining which lawyers capture the greatest rewards. But remarkably little effort has been made to directly compare these inputs in explaining career outcomes, to see which of the three matters most, and how they interact.

In this paper, we first examine general beliefs about the importance each of these three factors has upon lawyer careers - beliefs among academics as well as beliefs among the actual participants in the sorting process. We next present some specific findings about each of the three factors. Finally, we directly compare the three factors in regression models of career outcomes. The consistent theme we find throughout this analysis is that performance in law school - as measured by law school grades - is the most important predictor of career success. It is decisively more important than law school "eliteness." Socioeconomic factors play a critical role in shaping the pool from which law students are drawn, but little or no discernible role in shaping post-graduate careers. Since the dominant conventional wisdom says that law school prestige is all-important, and since students who "trade-up" in school prestige generally take a hit to their school performance, we think prospective students are getting the wrong message.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:57 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Welcome to India's Higher Education system . God Bless You!!!

Karam:

I have been taking an Under-Graduate Course in Computer Science and Engineering(in short B.Tech CSE) in a reputed Private Engineering in India for one and half years.My college has given me 7.5 grades till now. I would rate them 5/10. I wanted to give them 2 or 3 but presence of Infrastructure and some encouraging professors saved them.

Every day when I go to college I expect to learn something new that would encourage me for research and thinking. And after coming back to my hostel room, I do have something new that make me thinking. But mind you its not because of the college or their intensive study program that I'm paying high fees for; but it is the Internet, the articles at Hacker News and Reddit and other sites that does this. Whenever I get time I tend to open these sites on my not so good Nokia touchscreen phone. It doesn't have much of features that i can boost of but it does my work. That is the state of our private Universities.

Well I agree with my college friends that most of the students that come to private universities don't want education but a degree, a campus life and guys they can hook up with. They have their contacts and their Dad's business after that. Most of the students that come here want spoon feeding. Tell them what is important and coming in exam and they will cram it, cram it so much they can recite it word to word. But still it doesn't mean professors also does spoon feeding for them and come here for high salaries, comfort and increasing their teaching experience so that later on can go to some Top Government College.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:55 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other state leaders concerned with education should work toward a common school evaluation system.

Milwaukee Journal - Sentinel:

Wisconsin needs a new system of school accountability, but implementing effective measures will be difficult because there are so many different ideas about what it takes to make a good school.

The best schools have high standards in the basics - reading, math, science and writing. But they also excel at art, music and gym. They are places with strong leadership, inspired teachers and an organic system of training and mentoring.

To create more such schools and hold all schools accountable in a fair manner, though, requires all those with an interest in that issue to be at the table. Unfortunately, that's not the case now.

When Gov. Scott Walker and State Superintendent Tony Evers formed a team to improve school accountability, the Wisconsin Education Association Council chose to sit this one out.

We get it: The state's largest teachers union has plenty of reason to be upset with Walker for stripping it and other public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights - and for cutting funding to schools. But we still think the union's refusal to take a place at the table was a mistake. The union needs to be involved in such efforts. Now, it's on the outside looking in.

Wisconsin's current assessment system is the oft-criticized WKCE, which has some of our nation's lowest standards.

A Closer Look at Wisconsin's Test Scores Reveals Troubling Trend by Christian D'Andrea.

WEAC's Mary Bell advocates a "holistic" approach to school accountability.

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Middleton seeks 11.5 percent increase in property tax levy

Rob Schultz:

In each of the past three years, the city of Middleton tried to avoid raising property taxes as it paid for three new $18 million public safety buildings.

That will change if the city's proposed 2012 budget, which calls for an 11.5 percent increase in total property taxes, is approved by the City Council Tuesday night. The increase would amount to about a $150 jump for a $250,000 home, according to city administrator Mike Davis. More specific figures were not available Friday.

"The jump is practically directly related to the debt service for the new public safety buildings," Davis said.

Middleton opened new fire and EMS stations in 2008 and a new police station in 2010 at a total cost of $18 million, Davis said. The city's 2011 borrowing costs were more than $3.5 million, and Davis said most of that bill was paid with previously raised money. The tab for 2012 will be $3.6 million.

"Now it's being picked up mainly by property taxes," Davis added.

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

Smart, Young, and Broke: White-collar workers are China's newest underclass.

Melinda Liu:

At first glance, Guo Yilei looks like a Chinese success story. Born to a poor peasant family in China's remote Gansu province, he's now a 26-year-old computer programmer in the Big Cabbage (as some call Beijing nowadays). By Chinese standards he makes decent money, more than $70 a week. When he has work, that is. It can take months to find the next job. And meanwhile, he's living in Tangjialing, a reeking slum on the city's edge where he and his girlfriend rent a 100-square-foot studio apartment for $90 a month. "When I was at school, I believed in the saying, 'Knowledge can help you turn over a new leaf,'" says Guo. "But since I've started working, I only half-believe it."

Guo and an estimated million others like him represent an unprecedented and troublesome development in China: a fast-growing white-collar underclass. Since the '90s, Chinese universities have doubled their admissions, far outpacing the job market for college grads. This year China's universities and tech institutes churned out roughly 6.3 million graduates. Many grew up in impoverished rural towns and villages and attended second- or third-tier schools in the provinces, trusting that studying hard would bring them better lives than their parents had. But when they move on and apply for jobs in Beijing or Shanghai or any of China's other booming metropolises, they get a nasty shock.

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

California Teachers Association opposes Think Long Committee's new tax measure

Kevin Yamamura:

A sweeping tax overhaul unveiled this week by a billionaire-backed coalition of political leaders has drawn fire from the California Teachers Association, one of the most influential groups at the Capitol and on the campaign trail.

The Think Long Committee for California hopes to place initiatives on the November 2012 ballot to raise $10 billion in taxes each year, mostly by charging sales taxes on services. Half of that money would go to K-12 schools. But deep within the plan is a proposal to eliminate a constitutional requirement that California increase funding for schools in good years to compensate for prior cuts.

Education groups like CTA rely on that Proposition 98 requirement as leverage each year when negotiating school funding in the state budget.

The union's president, Dean E. Vogel, said in a statement, "The Think Long Committee Report was supposed to be a bipartisan path to rebuilding California's future, not a dangerous detour that would hurt students and the poor. Educators are alarmed by these recommendations to raise taxes on the poor, lower taxes for corporations, dismantle Proposition 98 - the state's minimum school funding law - and avoid repaying $10 billion already owed to public schools and students."

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Where Does Passion Come From?

Jared Cosulich:

A Pivot (someone who works for Pivotal Labs) gave an excellent presentation on observational astronomy the other day. The presentation was so well done that I think it could easily inspire people to learn more about astronomy.

This is one of the questions I think about a lot. I truly believe that for education to be effective you need to tap in to intrinsic motivation. You can't rely on extrinsic motivators like grades otherwise you run the risk of losing all motivation once the extrinsic motivators are removed.

Passion is a vague term, but it's often to used to identify some subject or activity that people are strongly intrinsically motivated to do. You never hear people talk about passions rooted in the desire to get a good grade or a big bonus or the chance of promotion. People talk about being passionate about something because of the importance it plays in the world or how it makes them feel at fundamental level.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:20 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Detroit Tackles Dropout Crisis By Engaging Students, Parents

PBS Newshour:

JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn to the high school dropout problem.

Over the next 18 months, the NewsHour and other public media partners are examining the consequences of, and solutions for, one of this country's most pressing education issues. The project is called American Graduate.

Tonight, a look at Detroit, where four out of 10 children don't graduate. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called it "arguably the worst school district in the country." But he's also said he's encouraged by new efforts to improve the schools.

NewsHour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan reports on some of those efforts in this co-production with Detroit Public Television.

HARI SREENIVASAN: It's another morning at Cody High School in Detroit, and teachers like Antonio Baker know that, for some of their students, just getting here is a victory.

ANTONIO BAKER, Medicine and Community Health Academy, Cody Small Schools: I had a young man who came in the classroom. He was really upset and he was just lashing out. He had, like, little dried-up blood on his uniform.

So I asked him, you know, what's going on?

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Seattle's Advanced Learning Task Force

Charlie Mas:

The new Advanced Learning Task Force (or Steering Committee or Advisory Committee or whatever) has had its first meeting. It's kind of a mess.

I'm on the committee. So is Melissa. So are Dr. Vaughan and Dr. Thompson. There are principals, central staff, teachers and community members. The committee is too big for any real discussion. It will be almost impossible for it to reach any authentic consensus. I suspect that staff will just write our conclusions for us and then allow us a final meeting to argue for small edits - which they will unilaterally decide to accept or reject. That's how the Demographic Task Force worked.

The committee met once in November and will meet again in December. By that time we will already be overdue with our recommendation to FACMAC on the placement of elementary north-end APP. FACMAC needs it now. Without it, they will just move forward with their decisions without input from the Advanced Learning Committee.

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Conception to birth -- visualized

Alexander Tsiaras:

mage-maker Alexander Tsiaras shares a powerful medical visualization, showing human development from conception to birth and beyond. (Some graphic images.)

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November 26, 2011

Support grows for abolishing property tax in ND

Dan Gunderson:

Many Minnesota residents expect a bigger bill when their property tax statements arrive this month. But across the border, North Dakota residents are considering a proposal to make the state the first in the nation to abolish property taxes.

Supporters gathered more than 28,000 signatures to put that question on the ballot next June.

Backers of the measure say there's plenty of revenue to go around without property taxes. But local government officials say eliminating property tax would create chaos.

That worries officials like Terry Traynor, assistant director of the North Dakota Association of Counties.

"I'm fearful that it has a possibility of passing," Traynor said. "The proponents have a very attractive message to sell: Do you like property taxes? If you don't, vote for this and they go away."

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

Perth Amboy superintendent: Tenure laws keep bad apples in the classroom

Janine Walker Caffrey:

As the superintendent of the Perth Amboy school district, I am responsible for the education of more than 10,000 children.

We are fortunate to have the dedication of hundreds of committed and talented teachers and administrators who focus on education every day. But for 15 to 20 percent of each week, I shift focus from our students, who should be at the center of all we do, to certain adults who no longer have a place in our education system, yet simply can't be dismissed.

There has been much discussion about teacher evaluation and its potential to improve learning in our classrooms. This issue focuses on things like linking teacher tenure and pay to student test scores, and so-called value-added data. There are many disagreements about these measures, but I believe we can agree on the fact that there are certain teachers who just should not be working with children. We don't want teachers in our classrooms who talk explicitly about sexual acts, or who hit children, put soap in their mouths or curse at them. We certainly don't want teachers who make repeated sexual advances to other teachers, do drugs at school or fly into rages for no apparent reason. I have active cases like these, and have returned almost all of these teachers to their positions.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:39 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

iPads, not chalkboards: Kindergartners at home with technology; teachers want more apps

Paula Owen:

Eric M. DeHays has a vision -- a vision of every elementary student in the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District holding an iPad.

And, like most visions, he had to start small -- kindergarten small.

He first introduced his idea earlier this year to the School Committee. His proposal sought to implement a pilot program that would put an Apple iPad2 in the hands of every kindergartner in the district this fall.

As technology coordinator for the district, Mr. DeHays said he knew it was the way to go. He drew partly on firsthand knowledge, he said.

"Kids are using them earlier and earlier in life," he said. "My son Kenyon was a kindergartner last year and I looked at the way he would use the technology (iPad). He was not trained properly. He was trained to see it as a gaming system, but it is more than that."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Idaho teachers union leader has tough task ahead

Jessie Bonner:

The new president of the statewide teachers union has a tough task reorganizing the 13,000-member group after it took a beating during the 2011 Idaho Legislature, with measures passed to weaken their collective bargaining and phase out some job protections.

But Penni Cyr says she's up for the assignment.

Cyr is starting a three-year term as president of the Idaho Education Association after nearly 30 years teaching in Moscow public schools. Her husband, Craig, works at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc., in Pullman, Wash., and remains in Moscow, where their four adult children also live.

"I go home when I can, but it's often time to work," Cyr said.

Among her top priorities: A campaign to repeal the sweeping education changes that were signed into law earlier this year with backing from public schools chief Tom Luna and Gov. Butch Otter. The laws will go before Idaho voters in November 2012.

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A High School Guidance Counselor's Lasting Lessons

All Things Considered:

Guy Raz thanks his former high school guidance counselor, Walter Roig, for being in his corner and teaching him about wielding power. The conversation is part of the StoryCorps National Day of Listening project. On Friday, you can thank a teacher, too, on Twitter, with hash tag #thankteacher, or on the StoryCorps Facebook page.

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November 25, 2011

A Closer Look at Wisconsin's Test Scores Reveals Troubling Trend

Christian D'Andrea:

When the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released their 2011 results, things seemed to be working out well for Wisconsin's public schools. The state posted above average numbers in key subjects like reading and mathematics in fourth and eighth grade.

However, a deeper look into those numbers exposes some troubling trends. Namely, Wisconsin's Hispanic students are regressing when it comes to reading in the state's classrooms.

The state's 2011 results held steady at 202 points for fourth-grade reading amongst Hispanic pupils. This was down from a score of 208 in 2007 and less than the state's score of 209 in 1992, the first iteration of the test. In eighth grade, the average score dropped from 250 to 248. This is a decrease from 1998's average of 256 - the first year the test was recorded for the group.

These results highlight a grim trend. Over the past two decades, reading achievement amongst the state's Hispanic students has regressed. While national averages have seen a growth of 5.7 percent in fourth grade reading and 5.5 percent in eighth grade reading amongst Hispanic test takers, Wisconsin has posted losses. The state's scores dropped by 3.4 percent and 2.8 percent in the two grades, respectively.

Related: Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1; Thrive's "Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report"
Earlier this year Wisconsin teachers and their supporters compared Wisconsin and Texas academically and claimed that Wisconsin had better achievement because it ranked higher on ACT/SAT scores. The fact that this claim ignored the ethnic composition of the states, prompted David Burge to use the National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP) to compare educational achievement within the same ethnic groups. His conclusion, based on the 2009 NAEP in Reading, Mathematics, and Science (3 subject areas times 2 grades, 4th and 8th, times 3 ethnicities, white, black, and hispanic equals 18 comparisons), was Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1.

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2011/03/longhorns-17-badgers-1.html

The 2011 NAEP results are now available for Reading and
Mathematics. The updated conclusion (2 subject areas times 2 grades, 4th and 8th, times 3 ethnicities, white, black, and hispanic equals 12 comparisons) is Longhorns 12 - Badgers 0. Not only did Texas students outperform Wisconsin students in every one of the twelve ethnicity-controlled comparisons, but Texas students exceeded the national average in all 12 comparisons. Wisconsin students were above the average 3 times, below the average 8 times, and tied the average once.

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

Santa Clara County friendliest to charter schools

Sharon Noguchi:

Charter schools, once considered the experimental outliers of public education, are poised to go mainstream in Santa Clara County.

That's due in part to sheer numbers. Eight new charter schools opened this school year, taking in 1,600 students. Last week alone, five charter schools were approved to open next August in the county. But perhaps more important, key places in the county have seen a transformation in attitude, from hostility and suspicion to acceptance and collaboration.

The growing number of charters cements the county's reputation, along with the giant Los Angeles Unified district, as the most charter-friendly place in the state. In a month or so, the county school board will consider approving 20 more charters schools for Rocketship Education. The increase comes amid widespread growth of charter schools in California. Today about 7 percent of the state's public school children attend a charter, which are public schools operating independently from local school boards and most of the state Education Code.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:39 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Scott Walker Tilts School Accountability Standards to Favor Charter and Private Schools

Rebecca Kemble:

Scott Walker is now waging his war on public education by coming up with accountability standards that favor charter and private schools. His School and District Accountability Design Team consists of thirty business and education professionals from across the state.

The Design Team is led by "Quad-Chairs" Governor Scott Walker, Senator Luther Olsen, chair of the Senate Education Committee, Representative Steve Kestell, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, and Tony Evers, State Superintendent of Schools in Wisconsin. The proceedings are being facilitated by a team of high-paid consultants working with the American Institute for Research (AIR), a company that racked up $299 million in revenue for the 2009 fiscal year.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:32 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

China to Cancel College Majors That Don't Pay

Laurie Burkitt:

College students wait in line to hand in their resumes to get interview opportunities from a company at a job fair held on the campus of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in Shanghai, China.

Much like the U.S., China is aiming to address a problematic demographic that has recently emerged: a generation of jobless graduates. China's solution to that problem, however, has some in the country scratching their heads.

China's Ministry of Education announced this week plans to phase out majors producing unemployable graduates, according to state-run media Xinhua. The government will soon start evaluating college majors by their employment rates, downsizing or cutting those studies in which less than 60% of graduates fail for two consecutive years to find work.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:28 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Help Math & Science Education

Jim Young, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:


Dear Colleague: I am writing this letter because I sincerely fear that the future of our children and grandchildren could be in jeopardy. While there are numerous important issues facing America today, one continues to be high on my priority list, K-12 Math and Science. What scares me the most is that no one seems to care - not parents, teachers, administrators, politicians or business people - that we have FALLEN TO 25th GLOBALLY IN MATH.

It has been our strength in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and the resultant innovation that fueled the great businesses of the 20th century. Automobiles, airplanes, radio, television, space travel, telecommunications and the Internet are just a few industries that are reliant on strong Math and Science skills and have produced a significant number of good jobs. There is a very good chance that our personal good fortunes can in some way be tied to the early innovation of our grandparents.

This comparative table needs no detailed explanation. Based on 2009 statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it clearly shows how far we have fallen and how competitive the rest of the world has become

Related: www.wisconsin2.org Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1; Thrive's "Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report".

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

Education's good old days? Please, you've been sniffing too many chemical-soaked mimeograph sheets

Tom Breuer:

If you spend any amount of time on Facebook, eventually you'll see a copied-and-pasted status update that looks something like this: "If you learned long division by hand, bicycled to school in the rain, drank lead-tainted water directly from the hose, played fast-pitch baseball in the dark with shiftless strangers, skinned your knee and ignored it until it became infected and led to a series of painful brain hemorrhages, sucked mercury from thermometers like marrow from the bones of dead hobos, and lived to tell about it, repost this and be thankful for the good old days."

The implication, of course, is that kids are too mollycoddled these days, and we're overthinking their upbringing - why can't we just do things the way we used to? After all, we turned out fine.

I can't help but believe that this notion - as well as sharp resistance to it - has contributed greatly to the statewide rift over collective bargaining that's culminated in the current gubernatorial recall effort.

After all, in the past, kids did just fine under the tutelage of bitter, underpaid nuns and schoolmarms. Why spend more money for worse results? Teachers deserve a pay cut. They're not holding up their end of the bargain.

I suspect that this attitude is actually fairly pervasive. Commenting on one of my recent blog posts, a reader said this: "Go back to teaching math, science, history and [E]nglish the way it was taught in the 50's. Students either passed or failed based on work not on some stupid self-esteem."

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

November 24, 2011

Lady Gaga Makes It to Harvard

[well, at least these guys don't have students reading history books, writing history papers--stuff like that!!]

Charlotte Allen:

What is it about academics and Lady Gaga? Last year it was a freshman writing course at the University of Virginia titled "GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity." This fall there's an upper-division sociology course at the University of South Carolina titled "Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame." Meghan Vicks, a graduate student in comparative literature at the University of Colorado, co-edits a postmodernist online journal, "Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga," in which the names "Judith Butler" and "Jean Baudrillard" drip as thickly as summer rain and the tongue-tripping sentences read like this: "And her project?--To deconstruct the very pop culture that creates and worships her, and to explore and make problematic the hackneyed image of the pop icon while flourishing in the clichéd role itself."

And now Gaga has reached the very pinnacle of academic recognition: a Harvard affiliation. On Nov. 2 she announced that she and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet Society will launch a nonprofit foundation, to be called Born This Way (after one of Gaga's songs), which will focus on mentoring teenagers and combating bullying.

What is fascinating is how, well, gaga the tenured scholars and highly placed academic administrators are for the 25-year-old singer whose main claim to fame is her rise from unknown to superstar and multiple Grammy winner in just three years. She managed this feat mostly on the basis of outré costumes and transgressive dancing--plus her world-class flair for self-promotion--rather than her ho-hum musical ability. Mathieu Deflem, the sociology professor who is teaching the Gaga course at South Carolina, for example, owns more than 300 of her records, maintains a fan website called gagafrontrow.net, and (according to a 2010 New York Times article) has attended more than 28 of her live concerts, following her from city to city around the world. Similarly, Harvard's Berkman Center is a well-funded interdisciplinary think tank whose faculty consists of prestigious professors of law, engineering, and business at Harvard (two of the biggest names are Lawrence Lessig and Charles Ogletree). But when the forthcoming Gaga-Berkman partnership went public last week, the center's mental heavyweights sounded as besotted as the teen-age girls and starstruck gays who hang onto every Gaga Twitter tweet. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson John Palfrey, a Harvard law professor who is the Berkman Center's co-director, praised as "impressive" the "research" that Gaga had done and hailed the forthcoming partnership as "a good chance for Harvard to be one University."

Gaga's faculty fans like to clothe their obsessive interest in her with a dense coat of academic-speak. Christa Romanosky, the graduate student at U.Va. who made Gaga the centerpiece of her freshman writing course last year, told the student newspaper, the Daily Cavalier, "We're exploring how identity is challenged by gender and sexuality and how Lady Gaga confronts this challenge." The reading list for Deflem's course at South Carolina includes several articles about Gaga by Victor Corona, a postdoctoral fellow in sociology at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University. Corona's writing is a kudzu-like tangle of po-mo jargon: "Gaga's hypermodern gospel of liberation hints at the irrelevance of truth or, rather, the creation of one's own truth, a performance that is relentlessly enacted until some version of it becomes true."

Yet Corona has nothing on Judith "Jack" Halberstam, English professor and director of the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California. In an essay analyzing Gaga's Grammy-nominated 2010 music video "Telephone" for Gaga Stigmata, Halberstam drops trendy poststructuralist surnames like coins into a wishing well: "[I]t is a [Michel] Foucaultian take on prison and 'technological entrapment'; here... it has been read as the channeling of [Judith] Butler's 'Lesbian Phallus'; it is obscene, murderous, cruel to animals, misogynist, man-hating, homophobic and heterophobic; and I think you could safely place it as a [Gilles] Deleuzian exploration of flow and affect not to mention an episode in Object Oriented Philosophy. So whether the philosophy in question is drawn from [Slavoj] Zizek on speed, [Avital] Ronell on crack or [Quentin] Meillassoux on ecstasy, this video obviously chains a few good ideas to a few very good bodies and puts thought into motion." Neither Halberstam nor Corona permit any negative assessments of their idol. Corona characterized a recent critical biography, Poker Face: The Rise and Rise of Lady Gaga, as "embittered."

Since Gaga's academic fan base indulges heavily in "theory," as the po-mo types like to call it, allow me to indulge in my own "theory" about why college professors and other self-proclaimed avant-garde intellectuals have taken her to their bosoms. Take note of the academic fields represented by the scholars I have quoted above: sociology (Deflem and Corona), English (Halberstam), comparative literature (Vicks), and creative writing (Romanosky). Once those were real fields, with genuine bodies of knowledge to be studied and then enlarged by their scholarly practitioners. English professors taught and wrote about the literature of English-speaking nations. Sociologists studied the writings of Emil Durkheim and C. Wright Mills and built upon their paradigms for understanding how human beings function in social groups. Instructors of freshman writing focused on teaching their students how to write, often using models of particularly effective rhetoric and style.

Now, it seems, professors and their graduate students want to do anything but teach or do research in the fields with which they are supposedly affiliated. Sociologists want to devote class time to their record collections. English professors want to gush on about music videos. Writing instructors want to immerse their students in "gender and sexuality," not the mechanics of constructing a coherent term paper. In short, professors want to teach pop culture and nothing but pop culture. Christa Romanosky, for example, was hardly unusual in turning her freshman writing class into a class about something else besides writing. The freshman writing course list for this fall at U.Va. includes sections titled "Gender in Film," "Graffiti and Remix Culture," "Cinematic Shakespeare," "Queer Studies," "Race Matters," "Pirates," and "Female Robots." Fortunately for themselves, those professors who have turned the humanities and social sciences into vehicles for indulging their hobbies have the vast and unintelligible apparatus of postmodern theory to give their fanboy preoccupations intellectual respectability. Or at least to make it look that way to outsiders--such as parents--who might wonder why they are spending up to $6,000 per course so that little Johnny or Jenna can write an essay about "Telephone."

I admit that I'm not much of a fan of Lady Gaga. I find her music monotonous, although she cleverly camouflages that defect with histrionic visuals and shocking costumes. I give her an A+, however, for brains, a sure market sense, and an entrepreneurial spirit worthy of Henry A. Ford. She has also snookered an entire generation of academics into deeming her profound. The Harvard Business School has just added Lady Gaga to its curriculum, with a case study of the decisions she and her manager made that catapulted her to fame. Now that's where Lady Gaga belongs as an object of scholarly study.

Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 5:43 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Mathematical beauty

Javier Irastorza:

Reading science books for the general public, you'll often find physicists talking about elegance, beauty and words of the like describing laws or theories.

The Wikipedia has an entry for "Mathematical Beauty". Another entry says "Many mathematicians talk about the elegance of mathematics, its intrinsic aesthetics and inner beauty. Simplicity and generality are valued. There is beauty in a simple and elegant proof [...]".

The Spanish journal El Pais is publishing each week a mathematical challenge to its readers to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Spanish Royal Mathematics Society.

Last week's challenge was to solve the sides of the different inner squares that compose the following rectangle, knowing that the red one has a side of 3.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:36 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

College Does Pay Off, but It's No Free Ride

Carl Bialik:

The swelling ranks of unemployed young college graduates are left with a diploma, stacks of student-loan bills and lingering questions about just how much that degree is worth.

A million dollars? Sorry, say economists, but that widely reported figure significantly overstates the boost a bachelor's degree gives to earnings over a career. The estimate isn't baseless, but it doesn't account for the cost of college, nor the opportunity cost of forgoing income during school.

Another complication: Even before stepping foot on campus, students who attend college generally have better earnings prospects than their high-school classmates who go straight to work. So any estimate of college's monetary value needs to separate out those factors.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:17 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Thumbs Up for Leopold; Thumbs Down for No Child Left Behind

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

As my previous post described, things are looking up at Leopold Elementary School. Leopold, the largest elementary school in Madison, has strong leadership and a talented and hard-working staff. Their efforts are paying positive dividends for the school's 700+ young students.

There's a millstone around Leopold's neck, however, and it's called No Child Left Behind. According to that much-maligned federal law, Leopold is a "School Identified for Improvement" (SIFI).

What gives? If so many signs point toward Leopold succeeding, why do the feds consider that it is falling short.

While many criticize the Ted Kennedy / Bush No Child Left Behind initiative, we parents certainly have a great deal more information on our publicly financed schools than before. For that, I am thankful. I am also thankful that NCLB has, to some extent, increased attention on our schools, including curricular issues.

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

Worried parents storm Dubai school premises

Muaz Shabandri:

Chaos and confusion broke out early on Saturday morning as hundreds of parents knocked on the doors of the Rajagiri International School in Al Warqaa demanding a meeting with the school's management.

With more than a thousand students studying at the school, an alleged change of management has left the parents furious.

"We really don't know what's happening at the school. There is a new management and an old management and both of them are at loggerheads over the school's ownership," said a parent who did not wish to be named.

By afternoon, the number of parents had swelled up to more than 200 as the school staff hosted a parent-teacher discussion to inform parents of the developments. In a letter issued to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the school's management alleged that the school premises had been sold by the landlord to another group. "The new group has come to the school asking the senior academic and administrative staff to hand over the school documents to them. According to them, it's their school and we need to get out of the school," read the letter issued on November 10.

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

Detroit School District Shoring Up its Finances

Matthew Dolan:

After more than two years under state control, Detroit's public school district appears to be getting its basic finances in order by privatizing services, cutting wages, restructuring debt and aggressively seeking out students to fill its classrooms.

The district's operating deficit stands at $83 million, down from $327 million at the start of the year, according to documents released by the district Monday. The progress under the district's new state-appointed emergency financial manager could offer a roadmap for the city of Detroit, which is running out of cash and may itself fall into state hands.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:22 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Misleading the Taxpayer: the Per-Pupil Expenditure Dilemma: How Much Do We Spend Per Pupil?

The Common Sense Institute of New Jersey, a libertarian organization that opposes current levels of government spending, has just put out a new report called "Misleading the Taxpayer: the Per-Pupil Expenditure Dilemma." The author, Mark Jay Williams, compares various ways that New Jersey estimates education costs and concludes that the variability among different formulas amounts to systemic underestimation by local school districts and a veritable sleight-of-hand for taxpayers.

If you can compartmentalize the political bent there's some interesting stuff. For example, New Jersey spends 54.9% more per pupil than the national average ($16,271 vs. $10,499) . Also, the three ways residents can view per pupil costs -- the DOE's User-Friendly Budgets (the "primary tool responsible for misleading taxpayers"), costs-per-pupil in the NJ State Report Cards, and The Taxpayer's Guide to Education Spending - have a surprisingly wide range. The author writes, "[d]epending on the reporting source utilized, Asbury Park's per-pupil expenditures ranged from $22,090 to $39,149, a difference of $17,059.

Madison's recently finalized 2011-2012 budget spends about $372,000,000 for 24,861 students ($14,963/student).

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December 1 means School Board Nomination Paper Time!

sp-eye:

It's that time again!
December 1 marks the date on which those interested in running for the Sun Prairie School Board can start circulating nomination papers. All it requires is a cakewalk 100 signatures.
We've already heard rumors of several potential candidates...possibly enough to require a primary!

The seats available this year are (at least currently occupied by) John Whalen and Terry Shimek.
Will they even run for re-election????

Whalen hasn't been looking so hot lately...with all the squirmingly unprofessional body language he's shown at the board table. Shimek is well....the King of all Flip Flops and a Teller of Tall Tales. Neither is serving the taxpayers of this community, particularly senior citizens.

Madison has two seats on the spring, 2012 ballot. They are currently occupied by Lucy Mathiak, who is not running for re-election and Arlene Silveira.

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November 23, 2011

Connecticut Graduation Rates

conncan.org, via a kind Doug Newman email:

For the past five years, ConnCAN has analyzed the state's graduation rates; this Issue Brief provides a more detailed examination of the latest data. In addition to relatively flat graduation rates across the board in Connecticut, the data reveal dramatic, persistent gaps by race.1 These numbers point to an urgent need for policy change to reverse these trends. By 2020, nearly one-third of Connecticut's population and nearly half of the youngest workers (25-29 year olds) will be non-white.2 If we fail to increase graduation rates significantly, especially for students of color, we risk seeing a continued increase in the proportion of children who are not prepared for success in our state--and we put our state's economic future in peril.

As with previous years, our analysis also reveals that Connecticut State Department of Education graduation rates are significantly higher than the rates reported in Education Week's Diplomas Count report. Edu- cation Week uses a more accurate cohort method to calculate these rates. Connecticut plans to use this method beginning with the class of 2009.3 The analyses in this report draw on data for the Class of 2008, which is the most recent data available from both the Connecticut State Depart- ment of Education and from Education Week's Diplomas Count report.4

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Baltimore schools launching Saturday School initiative

Erica Green:

The Baltimore school system will launch its first districtwide Saturday School initiative in December, a program promised by city schools CEO Andrés Alonso to help remedy declining scores on state tests.

The $3 million Saturday School program will run for 10 weeks, primarily targeting students who scored basic in math on the 2011 Maryland School Assessments. Students in grades four through eight are eligible for the program, which will offer between 20 and 30 hours of additional math instruction for up to 7,000 students before the 2012 assessments in March.

A principal whose school will host one of the programs said she is convinced that the additional instructional time will benefit her students.

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Get Smart, Connecticut Campaign Report

conncan.org, via a kind Doug Newman email:

Back in January, we launched the Get Smart Connecticut campaign, calling on our state leaders to staff smart (improve the way we evaluate and retain teachers) and spend smart (fix our broken school funding system). This is our report
to you, the people who seek meaningful education reform in Connecticut, about what happened during the 2011 legislative session.

To be sure, the legislature made some modest gains on the education front. But as an advocacy movement, we hold our leaders and ourselves accountable for meaningful policy change, the kind of change that will close our state's achievement gap and improve opportunities for even our highest performing students. How did we do on our two legislative goals? Well, to put it plainly, we got bupkis. That's right--the legislature did not pass any legislation to improve Connecticut's teacher evaluation and layoff policies or to fix our broken school finance system.

We could look at that and say, wow, nothing happened, so let's just pack it up and go home. But we have no desire to call it quits. In fact, we're more motivated now than ever to push forward. Despite the fact that legislation on these two issues was not enacted, we're proud that the statewide conversation about wholesale education reform has changed dramatically during this campaign. When we consider the public dialogue around fixing the education funding system and effectively evaluating teachers, we are incredibly hopeful.

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Toronto school not the first to try a 'hard ball' ban

CTV:

While students at a Toronto school were aghast when administrators banned hard balls from their playground this week, the decision isn't a new one.

Debate on whether kids should be playing with sponge balls in lieu of harder play objects has raged on in schools across Canada and beyond.

Almost two weeks ago, a student in St. Catharines, Ont. managed to overturn his school's ban on all balls except basketballs.

Ten-year-old Mathew Taylor started a petition and arranged a meeting with the principal of Lockview Public School, the Niagara Falls Review reported. Thanks in part to his efforts, the report said balls have returned to the school's playground.

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Autism: What A Big Prefrontal Cortex You Have

Neuroskeptic:

A new paper has caused a lot of excitement: it reports large increases in the number of neurons in children with autism. It comes to you from veteran autism researcher Eric Courchesne.

Courchesne et al counted the number of cells in the prefrontal cortex of 7 boys with autism and 6 non-autistic control boys, aged 2-16 years old. The analysis was performed by a neuropathologist who was blind to the theory behind the study and to which brains were from which group. That's good.

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State now can track kids from kindergarten to college

Donna Gordon Blankinship:

Washington state education officials know a lot more about your kids than they ever knew about you.

They can now track a child from kindergarten through college enrollment and soon will be able to tell you everything about every kid who has gone to school in Washington from preschool through their first job.

Everything includes every school they attended, every achievement test they passed or failed, their ethnic identity, whether they qualified for free lunch, what college they chose, if they had to take remedial courses, when they started college, and more.

Of course this information is anonymous to outside viewers, including researchers and the public, but it gives local school officials a lot to comb through to find ways to improve their preparation of students for college and the world.

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400 Free Online Courses from Top Universities

Open Culture:

Get free online courses from the world's leading universities. This collection includes over 250 free courses in the liberal arts and sciences. Download these audio & video courses straight to your computer or mp3 player.

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Wisconsin DPI survey still looks partisan

Rick Esenberg:

Last week, I posted a quick and dirty reading of the DPI/WASD survey on the impact of the biennial budget on school districts. I thought that the survey needs a more thorough vetting but that it seemed to be a polemical document and did not support the claims of disaster that some are making in response to it.

Jay Bullock tries to defend the survey but I am afraid that he totally misses the mark. I have no reason to doubt that a number of districts had some kind of staff reduction. Most did not but it appears that somewhere in the neighborhood of 42% of the surveyed districts did.

But the doesn't tell us much. How deep were the reductions? How do they relate to changes in enrollment? What impact, if any, do they have on the delivery of services. Jay thinks that any reduction in staffing is a catastrophe, writing "[s]o, yes, a lot of districts were able to stave off disaster in this area but, you know, a full third didn't. " (emphasis in original)

The Florida Department of Education has taken a strong position on higher academic standards and comparing their students to the world. I've seen nothing from Wisconsin's DPI regarding substantive curricular improvements.

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Middleton school board president speaks out against budget cuts

Susan Troller:

Ellen Lindgren, 62, has served on the Middleton Cross Plains Area Board of Education for 17 years. She is currently the board president. Lindgren became involved with issues affecting children and schools when her oldest child -- now in his early 30s and a high school social studies teacher in California -- was in pre-school. All three of her children attended public elementary, middle and high schools in the Middleton area district.

A registered nurse who has experience on both sides of the bargaining table, she is now mostly retired. Even before Gov. Scott Walker announced unprecedented cuts in state funding for Wisconsin public schools last spring, Lindgren had been raising her voice to protest nearly two decades of state-imposed revenue caps that made it difficult, even in affluent communities like hers, to balance school budgets and keep up with inflationary costs.

Now she is speaking out even more forcefully on a number of topics, including the governor's budget, which she says is balanced on the backs of teachers, his near elimination of collective bargaining and his support for voucher schools over funding for conventional public schools.

Last week, Lindgren took questions from members of the press during a telephone conference call with Mike Tate, chair of Wisconsin's Democratic Party. Lindgren was objecting to a recent TV ad that touts the governor's record of helping school boards balance their budgets and features Karin Rajcinek, a recently elected Waukesha School Board member who praises Walker for his efforts.

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

Redistributed state tax spending for K-12 is coming back to earth after decades of growth. It would certainly be useful to debate statewide priorities, though Wisconsin is not facing another round of budget changes, like California...

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Stanford's Cryptography Class

Dan Boneh:

Cryptography is an indispensable tool for protecting information in computer systems. This course explains the inner workings of cryptographic primitives and how to correctly use them. Students will learn how to reason about the security of cryptographic constructions and how to apply this knowledge to real-world applications. The course begins with a detailed discussion of how two parties who have a shared secret key can communicate securely when a powerful adversary eavesdrops and tampers with traffic. We will examine many deployed protocols and analyze mistakes in existing systems. The second half of the course discusses public-key techniques that let two or more parties generate a shared secret key. We will cover the relevant number theory and discuss public-key encryption, digital signatures, and authentication protocols. Towards the end of the course we will cover more advanced topics such as zero-knowledge, distributed protocols such as secure auctions, and a number of privacy mechanisms. Throughout the course students will be exposed to many exciting open problems in the field.

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November 22, 2011

Updated Madison Prep Business and Education Plan and Response to Administrative Analysis

The Urban League of Greater Madison:

Response to P4-5 of the Admin Analysis (No College Going Culture) [Page 23 of BP][Response] MMSD and the Boys & Girls Club have done an excellent job implementing the AVID/TOPS program in MMSD's four high schools. While AVID is beginning to build a college going culture among the students it serves (students with 2.0 - 3.5 GPAs), more than 60% of African American high school students in MMSD, for example, have GPAs below a 2.0 and therefore do not qualify for AVID. At 380 students, AVID serves just 10% of all students of color enrolled in MMSD high schools.

While the Urban League believes AVID/TOPS should continue to grow to serve more students, it also believes MMSD must invest more resources in programs like Schools of Hope, MSCR, Aspira/Juventud, ACT Prep, Culturally Relevant Teaching and Commonwealth's middle school careers program.

It must also invest in a system-wide, whole school reform agenda that addresses not only educational skill-building among students, but establishes a college going culture in all of
its schools for all students while addressing curriculum quality, instructional and school innovation, teacher effectiveness, diversity hiring and parent engagement at the same time. ULGM is ready to help MMSD accomplish these goals.

Response to P6 of the Admin Analysis (NO COLLEGE GOING CULTURE) [Page 23 of BP]
[Response] While MMSD offers advanced placement classes, very few African American and Latino students enroll in or successfully complete AP classes by the end of their senior year (see page 5 of the Madison Prep Business Plan). Nearly half of African American and Latino males don't make it to senior year. Additionally, MMSD states that its students "opt to participate," meaning, they have a choice of whether or not to take such classes. At Madison Prep, all students will be required to take rigorous, college preparatory courses and all Madison Prep seniors will complete all IB examinations by the end of their senior years, which are very rigorous assessments.

E. Response to questions from P7 of Admin Analysis (STUDENT PERFORMANCE MEASURES) [Page 29 of BP]
[Response] The Urban League acknowledges that WKCE scores of proficient are not adequate to predict success for college and career readiness. In the Madison Prep business plan, WKCE is not mentioned; instead, ULGM mentions "Wisconsin's state assessment system." It is ULGM's understanding that by the time Madison Prep reaches the fifth and final year of its first charter school contract, Wisconsin will have implemented all of the new standards and assessments affiliated with the Common Core State Standards that it adopted last year. ULGM anticipates that these assessments will be more rigorous and will have an appropriate measurement for "proficiency" that is consistent with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and work. Additionally, Madison Prep will provide several supports to assist students below proficiency. These strategies are explained in Madison Prep's business and education plans.

F. Response to Recommendation on P7 of Admin Analysis (STUDENT PERFORMANCE MEASURES) [Page 29 of BP]
[Response] Madison Prep will adjust its goals in its charter school contract to be commensurate with existing state and district accountability standards. However, to move a school whose student body will likely have a sizeable number of young people who are significantly behind academically to 100% proficiency in one academic year will require a miracle sent from heaven.

Related: Madison School District Administrative Analysis of the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School; WKCE Rhetoric.

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Learning to Play the Game to Get Into College

Michael Winerip, via a kind Doug Newman email:

There is rarely a minute when Nathaly Lopera, a high school senior, isn't working to improve herself.

Since second grade, she has taken advantage of a voluntary integration program here, leaving her home in one of the city's poorer sections before 6:30 a.m. and riding a bus over an hour to Newton, a well-to-do suburb with top-quality schools. Some nights, she has so many activities that she does not get home until 10 p.m.; often she's up past midnight studying.

"Nathaly gets so mad if she doesn't make the honor roll," says Stephanie Serrata, a classmate.

Last Wednesday, Nathaly did it again, with 5 A's and 2 B's for the first marking period.

She has excelled at Newton North High, a school with enormous resources, in part by figuring out whom to ask for help.

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New Jersey Governor Christie at Notre Dame: K-12 education 'most important issue in America'

Margaret Fosmoe:

Calling K-12 education "the single most important issue in America today for our long-term future," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie today offered a list of recommendations for improving the nation's public schools.

He sharply criticized teachers unions and challenged Americans to have the strength to help poor children in failing schools.

"We neither have the guts nor the will to change the status quo and to stand up to the comfort of adults in favor of the potential of children," the Republican governor said during a speech at Notre Dame Law School.

Christie, 49, spoke during a symposium about educational innovation and the law. Notre Dame is hosting events throughout this academic year focusing on ways to improve K-12 education.

There is no doubt that uninvolved parents are a serious problem, but children's futures can't be discarded because of the flaws of their parents, he said.

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Recipe for a revolution in school lunches Healthful offerings like saffron rice, Jerusalem salad and free-range chicken are a low-cost hit with low-income students.

Monica Eng:

For lunch, Josh Rivera chose a plate of saffron rice, Jerusalem salad and a Greek-marinated kebab of free-range chicken raised without antibiotics.

"Last year I used to get a burger and pizza, but they were really greasy," the high school sophomore said. "This is a lot tastier than before."

Lynn Vo, a sophomore who was eating organic fruit salad along with penne in a Bolognese sauce made with grass-fed beef, agreed. "Last year the pasta tasted like sweat," she said. "But this year it's really good."

It's astonishing enough that notoriously picky high schoolers would have something nice to say about their cafeteria, in this case the one at Niles North High School in Skokie, Ill., just north of Chicago. But these meals containing premium ingredients are provided free to low-income students or sold for $2.25 at most.

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Survey finds ethnic divide among voters on DREAM Act

Larry Gordon:

Among Latinos, 79% support government financial aid for illegal immigrants who attend state universities, compared with 30% of whites. And 49% of all respondents say UC and Cal State campuses are not very affordable or are unaffordable.

Many Californians worry that they are being priced out of the state's public university systems, and they object to allowing illegal immigrants the same financial aid that U.S. citizens can receive at the campuses, a new poll has found.

Fifty-five percent of the voters questioned said they oppose a new state law known as the California DREAM Act. It will permit undocumented students who graduated from California high schools and meet other requirements to receive taxpayer aid to attend the University of California, Cal State and community colleges starting in 2013. Forty percent support it.

But there is a huge ethnic divide on the issue, according to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey: 79% of Latinos approve of the law, while only 30% of whites do.

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Mayor could take Indianapolis Public Schools reins

Indianapolis Star:

Although he didn't ask for it in his re-election campaign, Mayor Greg Ballard could become the boss of Indianapolis Public Schools in the coming year.

The most likely plan would include mayoral appointment of the School Board, combined with a decentralization of IPS. Schools would have an independence similar to what charter schools have, along with strict accountability to the mayor for performance.

A formal proposal along these lines will come from The Mind Trust, a local education reform organization led by David Harris, who was the city's charter school czar during Bart Peterson's administration. A shift in oversight of IPS would have to be approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Mitch Daniels. Informal talks about IPS reform took place earlier this year among Republican and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly as well as Indianapolis civic leaders.

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A new 'report card' would help parents

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Of Milwaukee's 187 elementary schools, only a dozen exceeded the statewide average in reading on Wisconsin's standardized test last year, according to statistics compiled on the whole range of schools in the city by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. When it comes to math, only 22 of those schools made that grade.

Shouldn't parents have easy access to this information? Shouldn't they know which schools didn't make the grade?

We think so, and so does the MMAC.

MMAC and an array of education experts, including Howard Fuller of Marquette's Institute for the Transformation of Learning, and UW-Madison's Value-Added Research Center, are developing a community "report card" for all city schools. The "report card" would include schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system but also voucher and charter schools outside of the traditional district. While a wealth of data is available for all public schools on the state Department of Public Instruction website, creating an easily accessible, easily digestible common report makes sense to us. Look for that new "report card" sometime after the first of the year.

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Life Expectancy PowerPoint

Hans Rosling:

Life expectancy is a very important measure when we compare the health of different countries. However, students often misunderstand some of the characteristics of life expectancy. This PowerPoint presentation focuses on two of these characteristics:

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From Gingrich, an Unconventional View of Education

Trip Gabriel:

Newt Gingrich has some unconventional ideas about education reform. He wants every state to open a work-study college where students work 20 hours a week during the school year and full-time in the summer and then graduate debt-free.

In poverty stricken K-12 districts, Mr. Gingrich said that schools should enlist students as young as 9 to14 to mop hallways and bathrooms, and pay them a wage. Currently child-labor laws and unions keep poor students from bootstrapping their way into middle class, Mr. Gingrich said.

"This is something that no liberal wants to deal with," he told an audience at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard on Friday, according to Politico.

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Madison School District ordered to turn over sick notes

Ed Treleven:

A Dane County judge on Monday ordered the Madison School District to turn over more than 1,000 sick notes submitted by teachers who didn't come to work in February during mass protests over collective bargaining.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas said the district violated the state's Open Records Law by issuing a blanket denial to a request for the notes from the Wisconsin State Journal rather than reviewing each note individually.

Under the records law, government agencies must make public the records they maintain in most circumstances.

State Journal editor John Smalley said the court ruling was a victory for open records and government accountability. He said the newspaper was not planning to publish individual teacher names but rather report on the general nature of the sick notes the district received from employees.

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Newt: Fire the janitors, hire kids to clean school

Maggie Haberman:

Via POLITICO's Reid Epstein, Newt Gingrich tonight said at an address at Harvard that child work laws "entrap" poor children into poverty - and suggested that a better way to handle failing schools is to fire the janitors, hire the local students and let them get paid for upkeep.

The comment came in response to an undergrad's question about income equality during his talk at Harvard's Kennedy School.

"This is something that no liberal wants to deal with," Gingrich said. "Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods, crippling them by putting them in schools that fail has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid.

"You say to somebody, you shouldn't go to work before you're what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You're totally poor. You're in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I've tried for years to have a very simple model," he said. "Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising."

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November 21, 2011

Law, contract limit Madison Prep plan's promise

Chris Rickert:

Let's see: Longer school year, parent report cards, meaningful teacher evaluations and bonus pay, union staff, teacher compensation of between $60,000 and $65,000.

Sounds about right to me. Where do I sign up?

Unfortunately, I can't, because while this seems like a pretty good model for a proposed charter school targeting under-performing, low-income minority students -- really, for any public school -- it was looking less and less possible last week.

The sticking points are an overly rigid Madison teachers union contract and a punitive new state law that pretty much makes tinkering with that contract tantamount to killing it.

Or, to put it another way, the issue, as it so often is, is money.

Under the proposal released last month by the backers of Madison Preparatory Academy, the school would employ union teachers at salaries of about $47,000, with benefits bringing total compensation to between $60,000 and $65,000.

In its own analysis of Madison Prep's financials, though, the district found the school would be required to pay about $76,000 per teacher, with benefits bringing total compensation to about $100,000.

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

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Looking Out for #1: Professors, like other professionals in American society, are losing sight of their civic obligations

Donald Downs:

A troubling attitude seems prevalent today in many professional circles: confusing one's own self-interest or viewpoint with the public interest. This problem is especially troubling in fields that have historically prided themselves on service.

Take universities and their role in training teachers. In April, the Wisconsin Association of Colleges of Teacher Education -- the umbrella group representing 13 UW System campuses and prominent private colleges and universities such as Marquette, Beloit and Alverno -- announced that its members would not participate in a U.S. News and World Report survey intended to assess the quality of teaching programs.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this survey would be the "first-ever review of the nation's roughly 1,400 colleges of education" and a response to a 2006 report issued by Teachers College at Columbia University, which claimed that less qualified students are going into teaching.

Teacher quality is of growing importance for at least two reasons beyond the concern noted by the Columbia report. First, reports continue to show American students falling further behind those of other nations, especially in the vital subjects of math and science. Second, many education schools teach progressive pedagogical theories and methods that critics claim are not rigorous enough to prepare students to master arduous subjects.

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Rethinking education reform in California

James Guthrie:

As California's budget crisis deepens, many fear that education funding could soon be placed back on the chopping block. Per-student funding of K-12 schools has already been reduced by more than 20 percent. If budgets are cut further, will it even be possible to get a high-quality education in California public schools?

The simple answer is yes. A high-quality education might be priceless in today's economy. But it doesn't have to be overly expensive to provide.

In this recession, nearly every state has already cut services. In fact, "elementary and high schools are receiving less state funding than last year in at least 37 states," according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

But if we operate under the assumption that primary and secondary education have to be expensive to be good, we will be needlessly trading quality for austerity and thereby shortchange students.

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Spanish in America: Language of the ghetto?

The Economist:

As it happens, one of Johnson's first posts was on this subject. The short version: Spanish causes anxiety among many non-Latino Americans. Many believe that while previous waves of immigrants quickly learned English, today's Latino immigrants do not, retaining Spanish and refusing or ignoring English, enabled by widely available television and radio in Spanish.

All of the evidence is to the contrary. The first generation raised in America overwhelmingly learns English--one study has found that 94% of immigrants raised in concentrated communities like South Florida and Southern California speak English "well" or "very well" by 8th grade (roughly age 13). As the charts I posted last year demonstrate, the language Latino children growing up in America don't speak so well is Spanish. English abilities quickly improve through the generations; Spanish skills quickly decay. Typically the pattern is one of three generations: the arriving generation speaks Spanish and learns only limited English. The first generation raised in America speaks fluent English and some Spanish. The third generation is completely immersed and fluent in English, speaking little to no Spanish.

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LAUSD won't release teacher names with 'value-added' scores

Jason Song:

The Los Angeles Unified School District has declined to release to The Times the names of teachers and their scores indicating their effectiveness in raising student performance.

The nation's second-largest school district calculated confidential "academic growth over time" ratings for about 12,000 math and English teachers last year. This fall, the district issued new ones to about 14,000 instructors that can also be viewed by their principals. The scores are based on an analysis of a student's performance on several years of standardized tests and estimate a teacher's role in raising or lowering student achievement.

Much more on value-added assessment, which, in Madison is based on the oft-criticized WKCE.

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Intensive Introduction to Computer Science: Free Course Videos

Harvard University.

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Education lobbying rises in Michigan amid changes

Tim Martin:

Teachers' unions and some other education-related groups in Michigan have increased their spending to lobby state officials in 2011, largely in response to sweeping changes in school policy and budget cuts adopted by the Republican-led state Legislature.

The Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, reported lobbying expenses of $324,197 for the first seven months of the year, according to state records. The Michigan chapter of the American Federation of Teachers reported expenses of $119,748. That's a combined increase of about 11% compared with the same period in 2010.

The unions have opposed much of the education-related legislation passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder so far this year. The changes include making teacher performance the key factor in awarding tenure and deciding layoffs rather than seniority, a law that gives state-appointed emergency managers for school districts and cities more power, and education funding cuts adopted as part of the budget year that began Oct. 1.

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School district touts virtues of Leopold Elementary, fights bad perceptions

Matthew DeFour:

While giving tours of Leopold Elementary to prospective area home buyers, Principal John Burkholder counters "myths" about overcrowding, chaotic hallways and "that we are a black hole when it comes to education."

"I always give them a challenge when I take the tour to find a chaotic hallway." Burkholder said, noting the school is at 82 percent capacity this year and calmer than it was as recently as five years ago.

But some parents also ask about one stigma that's harder to dispel -- Leopold is designated as a failing school under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The designation and related sanctions, which cost the Madison School District nearly $300,000 this year, were imposed despite a UW-Madison analysis showing Leopold students made some of the biggest improvements in the district on state test scores last year.

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November 20, 2011

Stepping Back on Madison Prep Governance Rhetoric

Susan Troller:

Late last week I got an email from Kaleem Caire, Urban League CEO and champion of the Madison Preparatory Academy charter school proposal.

Caire was unhappy with the way I had characterized the latest version of the charter school proposal.

In a blog post following the Madison Prep board's decision late Wednesday to develop the proposed school as what's known as a "non-instrumentality" of the school district, I described this type of school as being "free from district oversight."

While it's true that the entire point of establishing a non-instrumentality charter school is to give the organization maximum freedom and flexibility in the way it operates on a day-to-day basis, I agree it would be more accurate to describe it as "largely free of district oversight," or "free of routine oversight by the School Board."

In his message, Caire asked me, and my fellow reporter, Matt DeFour from the Wisconsin State Journal, to correct our descriptions of the proposed school, which will be approved or denied by the Madison School Board in the coming weeks.

In his message, Caire writes, "Madison Prep will be governed by MMSD's Board of Education. In your stories today, you (or the quotes you provide) say we will not be. This continues to be a subject of public conversation and it is just not true."

I wonder if other Madison School District programs, many spending far larger sums, receive similar substantive scrutiny compared with the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school? The District's math (related math task force) and reading programs come to mind.

Ideally, the local media might dig into curricular performance across the spectrum, over time along with related expenditures and staffing.

From a governance perspective, it is clear that other regions and states have set the bar much higher.

Related: Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1; Thrive's "Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report".

In my view, the widely used (at least around the world) IB approach is a good start for Madison Prep.

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The unseen academy: As officialdom's demands for meaningless Transparency and Information multiply, Thomas Docherty asks: has clandestine scholarship become the only way to carry out real research and teaching?

Thomas Docherty:

For a number of years, the university, in common with much of public life in general, has become obsessed with the need to present itself to the world through the twin pillars of Transparency and Information. It is taken for granted that we will piously revere, and robustly comply with, the demands of these iconic towers. Ostensibly, demands for Transparency and Information are positively good: after all, who would want important decisions to be based on a lack of information; and who would want procedures to be covert, operated according to unspoken laws or whimsy, and governed by secretive cabals?

But Information and Transparency are not as innocuous as they seem, especially in the university. When unquestioning respect for them is simply taken for granted as an axiomatic good, they start to assume the power of the obsessive fetish, and the price of fealty exacted is high. Transparency and Information become the means of securing the university's official conformity with the prevailing social or governmental orthodoxy and dogma. When they assume a primary importance, they govern the official identity of the university, and they thereby deprive the institution of the capacity to make any serious claim for a cultural function beyond the society's or the government's official views of the academy.

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Midyear "trigger cuts" likely for California schools

Katy Murphy:

The news today out of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office was not good for public education in California: The LAO has forecasted that state tax revenues will fall $3.7 billion short of the level on which the June budget deal was based.

About $1.4 billion in automatic, mid-year cuts to k-12 schools and community colleges will be triggered if the shortfall is $2 billion or greater. Steve Harmon, our Capitol reporter, lays it out here.

The final word on the trigger cuts comes on December 15, when the Department of Finance issues its predictions. The rosier of the two projections prevails.

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Could Apprenticeships Replace College Degrees?

Liz Dwyer:

With college costs skyrocketing and the number of jobs for new grads on the decline, it's no wonder that students are questioning whether a degree is worth the investment. But given that the jobs of the future are projected to require some form of post-secondary education, a key question is how to provide academic knowledge and industry-specific training that will prepare students for the future. The answer might come from a throwback to the Middle Ages: apprenticeships.

Traditionally, we think of interning as the way for students to get on-the-job experience. But internships vary in quality and often aren't paid, which means that students from low-income backgrounds are unable to take advantage of the opportunity. Apprenticeships offer a new model, combining paid on-the-job training with college or trade school classes.

The demand for apprenticeships is particularly acute in the United Kingdom, where a recent BBC survey of high schoolers revealed that two-thirds say they'd forgo attending college in favor of entering an apprenticeship. Businesses there also support the apprenticeship revival. Adrian Thomas, head of resourcing for Network Rail, a company that maintains the U.K.'s rail infrastructure told The Independent that "the investment that we make in our apprentices is driven by needing people with the right skills coming in to support our maintenance teams." Thomas says organizing an apprenticeship program makes "both economic and safety sense," because without the trainees, his company would be in the position of having to look outside the country for employees, or retrain workers from other industries.

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How Should We Pay Teachers?

Andrew Rotherham:

Listen to the pundits, and public education has a Goldilocks problem. Are teachers being overpaid, underpaid or paid just right? Few arguments in education are as contentious -- or as misleading. A report released Nov. 1 by two conservative think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, set off fireworks with the claim that teachers are overpaid by a collective $120 billion each year and that their pensions, health care and other benefits make their total compensation 52% higher than "fair market levels."

The report looked at a variety of factors to reach its conclusion. Some are well known issues; for instance, teachers enjoy more generous benefits than most workers. But the analysis also rested on a variety of debatable assumptions about the quality of the teaching force, the job security that teachers have and opportunities for teachers in the private sector. Only by accepting all of the authors' assumptions do you reach the eye-popping $120 billion figure.

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Gov. Christie details his education agenda, urges Legislature to act

New Jersey News:

Gov. Chris Christie Wednesday unveiled what he describes as a comprehensive education reform agenda to address teacher accountability, improving low-performing schools, and rewarding those that do better.

The governor said the plan, unveiled in an No Child Left Behind waiver application to the U.S. Department of Education, is shaped in a manner consistent with President Obama's national education reform package and includes his education proposals that are awaiting consideration in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

"There is no issue more important to the future of our state and country than putting the opportunity of a quality education within every child's reach, no matter their zip code or economic circumstances," Christie said. "Our education reforms, contained in four specific bills sitting in the Legislature today, are aggressive in meeting this challenge, bipartisan and in-line with the Obama Administration's national agenda to raise standards, strengthen accountability systems, support effective teachers and focus more resources to the classroom.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America

Don Peck:

The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults. It will leave an indelible imprint on many blue-collar men. It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many inner cities into a despair not seen for decades. Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture, and the character of our society for years to come.

HOW SHOULD WE characterize the economic period we have now entered? After nearly two brutal years, the Great Recession appears to be over, at least technically. Yet a return to normalcy seems far off. By some measures, each recession since the 1980s has retreated more slowly than the one before it. In one sense, we never fully recovered from the last one, in 2001: the share of the civilian population with a job never returned to its previous peak before this downturn began, and incomes were stagnant throughout the decade. Still, the weakness that lingered through much of the 2000s shouldn't be confused with the trauma of the past two years, a trauma that will remain heavy for quite some time.

The unemployment rate hit 10 percent in October, and there are good reasons to believe that by 2011, 2012, even 2014, it will have declined only a little. Late last year, the average duration of unemployment surpassed six months, the first time that has happened since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking that number. As of this writing, for every open job in the U.S., six people are actively looking for work.

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Madison's National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists & National Achievement Scholarship Program Semi-Finalists Recognition Program

The Madison School District. Congratulations.

Much more on National Merit Semi-finalists, and cut scores, here.

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Wisconsin Act 10 Enables Milwaukee Public Schools to Address Its Unfunded Liability

Mike Ford:

Wednesday I wrote about some of the ways collective bargaining can have a monetary cost. Last night the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) provided an example of how its reform has given local governments a path to financial stability. The MPS board, reports Erin Richards in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, approved by a vote of 6-3 a set of reforms projected to reduce the district's post-retirement benefit liability by $900 million over the next thirty years.

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Thank a Teacher on November, 25

storycorps:

The National Day of Listening is a new national holiday started by StoryCorps in 2008. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks all Americans to take an hour to record an interview with a loved one, using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps' free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

Celebrating the National Day of Listening provides a noncommercial alternative to "Black Friday" shopping sprees. Tens of thousands of Americans have participated in the National Day of Listening, and educators and community organizations have incorporated StoryCorps' interviewing techniques into their programs.

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School Dist. 126 contract proposals available online

Judy Masterson:

Taxpayers in Zion-Benton Township High School District can now compare contract proposals put forward by the union and school board.

The proposals are posted online on the Web site of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board at http://www2.illinois.gov/elrb/Pages/FinalOffers.aspx. The two sides have been negotiating since April 21 and after several mediation sessions, the district declared an impasse on Oct. 31.

The online posting is mandated under SB7, the state's school reform law, which orders more transparency in contract negotiations. The law stipulates that any unsuccessful mediation be followed by publication of last best offers -- a move intended to help the public understand unresolved issues and positions taken by each side.

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Harvard Open Courses: Open Learning Initiative

Harvard:

The following noncredit free Harvard courses are offered online by Harvard Extension School's Open Learning Initiative. Featuring Harvard faculty, the courses are open to the public.

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November 19, 2011

Quality doesn't follow rise in voucher schools

Alan Borsuk:

Keith Nelson says it has been a godsend for Wisconsin Academy to take part in Milwaukee's school voucher program. Thirteen voucher students are enrolled this fall, which stands to bring the school more than $83,000 in public money this school year.

The 13 students are less than a thousandth of the 23,198 city of Milwaukee residents whose education in private schools - the vast majority of them religious - is being supported by tax dollars this fall.

But the Wisconsin Academy involvement is eye-catching: The coed boarding high school with about 100 students is in Columbus, northeast of Madison and more than 70 miles from Milwaukee.

And the school's involvement illustrates the core essence of the voucher program. Whether you find it wonderful, enraging or simply really interesting, it is (best as I've ever figured out) a fact that nowhere in America, present or past, has so much public money been spent on sending children to religious schools. Both the Wisconsin and United States supreme courts have found this constitutional.

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IBM reveals secrets of Watson's Jeopardy triumph

Iain Thomson:

IBM has explained the principles behind how its Watson machine bested the world's finest Jeopardy players, even if it can't handle Siri.

In a lecture at the University of California at Berkeley, IBM research scientist Eric Brown outlined the history of the project, and provided some details about how Watson was able to sort through a variety of structured and unstructured data in the fastest time possible. His team of 30 engineers spent four years designing the current system, and believe it has great potential for non-gimmicky purposes.

Watson runs on 90 IBM 750 servers, with 2,880 Power7 cores running on 3.55GHz processors. It has 15TB or memory and can pump out 80 teraflops. This is a commercially available configuration, but Watson's secret sauce is IBM's DeepQA data-handling software. Brown said that to answer a question on this rig eventually took under three seconds, compared to the two days it would have taken a single processor.

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Georgia Tech Invokes FERPA, Cripples School's Wikis

Audrey Watters:

Does FERPA ban schools from allowing students to post their schoolwork on the open Web?

Of the trio of laws that address children's and students' privacy and safety online, FERPA is often the one least cited outside of educational circles. The other two, COPPA and CIPA, tend to be in the news more often; the former as it relates to some of the ongoing discussions about privacy and social networking, the latter as it relates to BYOD and filtering programs. But in all cases, there seems to be a growing gulf between the laws and their practical application or interpretation, particularly since these pieces of legislation are quite old: COPPA was enacted in 1998, and CIPA in 2000. FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, dates all the way back to 1974.

FERPA is meant to give students control over access to and disclosure of their educational records. This prevents schools from divulging information about a student's grades, behavior or school work to anyone other than the student without that student's consent (with some exceptions, such as to parties involved with student aid or to schools to which students are transferring). The classic example used to explain how FERPA works: you can't post a list of students' names and grades on a bulletin board in the hallway.

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Teacher Evaluations More Prevalent In Schools Across The Country

Kimberly Hefling:

Teachers and principals are worrying more about their own report cards these days.

They're being graded on more than student test scores. The way educators are evaluated is changing across the country, with a switch from routine "satisfactory" ratings to actual proof that students are learning.

President Barack Obama's recent use of executive authority to revise the No Child Left Behind education law is one of several factors driving a trend toward using student test scores, classroom observation and potentially even input from students, among other measures, to determine just how effective educators are. A growing number of states are using these evaluations to decide critical issues such as pay, tenure, firings and the awarding of teaching licenses.

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Wisdom from Stanford's Jim March on the Numbing Effect of Business Schools

Bob Sutton:

There is a great interview on leadership with Jim March (probably the most prestigious living organizational theorist) by Joel Podolny (current head of HR at Apple, but also a very accomplished academic researcher) in the current edition of the Academy of Management Learning and Eduction journal (Vol. 10, No. 3, 502-506.) The link is here, but someone will likely make you buy it.

March, as always, looks at things differently than the rest of us. For example, he does a lovely job of arguing -- using historical figures like Aristotle and Alexander the Great -- that the time frames used in most leadership research are often too short to be useful. But what really caught my eye was a line that reminded me of that old Pink Floyd song :

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Oakland teachers push for changes beyond charter school conversion

Katy Murphy:

Teachers from two East Oakland elementary schools are on a mission to shake up the status quo in the Oakland school district.

This fall, they voted to turn their schools -- ASCEND and Learning Without Limits - into independently run charters so that they could have more control over staffing, curriculum, budgeting and other things, such as the school calendar. Hearings on those charter conversion petitions and others begin at 6 p.m. Monday evening in the district office at 1025 Second Avenue.

But the teachers at these two schools have goals beyond charter conversion. They want to organize like-minded educators around some of their ideas, such as changing the way teachers are evaluated. They also want to do away with a layoff system driven almost entirely by credential and years of service in a district (though they're not against including seniority as a factor). They, like the union's current leaders, think teachers should have more say in what materials they use to teach children.

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'Prima donna' professors lambasted for failure to mentor

Jack Grove:

A lack of leadership and the failure to support and mentor junior colleagues have been highlighted in a major study of the professoriate.

Of the 1,200 academic staff from lower grades who responded to a survey commissioned by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, more than half (53 per cent) said they did not receive sufficient help or advice from professorial staff.

Only about one in seven (14 per cent) said they did receive enough support.

Asked if they had received excellent leadership or mentoring from professors in their university, 26 per cent said "never" and 36 per cent "occasionally". This compares with 9 and 19 per cent who responded "very often" and "quite often", respectively.

The study was led by Linda Evans, a reader in education at the University of Leeds, who revealed the provisional findings to Times Higher Education.

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A Steppingstone to Better Teacher Evaluation

Terry Grier:

There are some questions every school leader should be able to answer: Are my teachers helping their students learn? Who are the outstanding teachers I need to fight hard to keep? Which teachers aren't meeting my expectations? How can I help my good teachers become great?

As the superintendent of one of the nation's largest school districts, I believe helping our campus leaders answer these questions is the most important part of my job. After all, decades of research show that nothing we can do to accelerate student learning matters more than ensuring a great teacher leads every classroom.

Unfortunately, the teacher-evaluation systems that should help principals answer such questions are often useless. Most evaluation systems rate nearly all teachers "satisfactory," based on infrequent and cursory classroom observations, and they rarely consider how much students are actually learning.

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A Vested Interest in the Traditional School Recipe

Larry Grau:

I recently read an editorial piece by Arlene Ackerman, former Philadelphia public schools superintendent and longtime educator, on how she came to the realization that our public education system will not improve on its own. I have come to the same realization, because among other reasons, there is no indication school districts are suddenly going to hold themselves accountable for elevating the academic achievement of all students; or take every step necessary to ensure all students only have effective teachers. There are also just too many people who have a vested interest in keeping the current system intact, who are resistant to even the smallest of changes - let alone the dramatic improvements most of us recognize must be made in order for the system to succeed.

The traditional school establishment and its supporters know if you change the ingredients, it likely changes the recipe. If you change the recipe, you get a different dish; and, there are no real internal motivators to change a system that has served a whole bunch of adults so well for such a long time.

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November 18, 2011

The Educational Lottery: on the four kinds of heretics attacking the gospel of education

Steven Brint:

Education is as close to a secular religion as we have in the United States. In a time when Americans have lost faith in their government and economic institutions, millions of us still believe in its saving grace. National leaders, from Benjamin Rush on, oversaw plans for extending its benefits more broadly. In the 19th century, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie famously conceived of schools as ladders on which the industrious poor would ascend to a better life, and he spent a good bit of his fortune laying the foundations for such an education society. After World War II, policy makers who believed in the education gospel grew numerous enough to fill stadiums. One by one, the G.I. Bill, the Truman Commission report, and the War on Poverty singled out education as the way of national and personal advance. "The answer to all of our national problems," as Lyndon Johnson put it in 1965, "comes down to one single word: education."

The American education gospel is built around four core beliefs. First, it teaches that access to higher levels of education should be available to everyone, regardless of their background or previous academic performance. Every educational sinner should have a path to redemption. (Most of these paths now run through community colleges.) Second, the gospel teaches that opportunity for a better life is the goal of everyone and that education is the primary -- and perhaps the only -- road to opportunity. Third, it teaches that the country can solve its social problems -- drugs, crime, poverty, and the rest -- by providing more education to the poor. Education instills the knowledge, discipline, and the habits of life that lead to personal renewal and social mobility. And, finally, it teaches that higher levels of education for all will reduce social inequalities, as they will put everyone on a more equal footing. No wonder President Obama and Bill Gates want the country to double its college graduation rate over the next 10 years.

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Forget Wall Street. Go Occupy Your Local School District

Andrew Rotherham:

It's easy to get angry at banks and CEOs, especially as more Americans slip below the poverty line while the rich keep getting richer. But if the goal of Occupy Wall Street is improving social mobility in this country, then the movement really needs to focus as much on educational inequality as it does on income inequality. There is perhaps no better example of how the system is rigged against millions of Americans than the education our children receive.

Public schools are obviously not to blame for the mortgage crisis, over-leveraged investment banks or the other triggers of our current economic woes. But when it comes to giving Americans equal opportunity, our schools are demonstrably failing at their task. Today zip codes remain a better predictor of school quality and subsequent opportunities than smarts or hard work. When you think about it, that's a lot more offensive to our values than a lightly regulated banking system.

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School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era

Paul Hill, via a kind Deb Britt email:

America's system for financing K-12 education is not neutral about innovation and the use of new technologies. Indeed, that system is stacked against them. To remedy this, our education-funding system needs to shift dramatically. Instead of today's model which rigidly funds programs, staff positions, and administrative structures, instead of schools and students we need an approach in which funding follows the student. At present, America's charter-school finance structure provides the best prototype, but even it does not go far enough. An appropriate school- finance system must also be able to defund ineffective schools and provide space and incentives for online providers to bring their products to the marketplace.

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Teachers and test scores: A lawsuit spotlights the need for unions to work with school districts on effective evaluations.

The Los Angeles Times:

Smaller schools? More charters? Those are yesterday's headlines in the world of school reform. The hot-button topic now is the inclusion of student test scores in teacher evaluations. Yet as school administrators and the teachers union battle it out in current contract negotiations in Los Angeles, who would have guessed that state law addressed this issue long ago?

A lawsuit filed by a group of parents, aided by the reform group EdVoice, claims that the Los Angeles Unified School District must include standardized test scores or some other measure of student progress to comply with the 40-year-old Stull Act. Though filed only against the district, the suit has statewide implications.

The Stull Act mainly concerned itself with the appeals process for teachers who had been fired. But it included some common-sense language about teacher evaluations, instructing school districts to make student progress one of many factors in teachers' performance reviews. In 1999, specifics were added to the law, requiring teacher evaluations to measure that progress in part through state-approved assessments.

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Do Too Many or Too Few People Get Degrees? New Evidence.

Richard Vedder:

I have often written in this blog space about an important question: Should we be encouraging more persons to try to complete a college degree? Some new evidence, although far from authoritative, adds to my doubts about the advisability of promoting additional college attendance.

Let me point out we are almost at 1,000 days since President Obama said (on February 24, 2009) about higher education that "...it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it." Not a right, not an entitlement, but a responsibility. The idea is that college graduation is vital to being a major player in the world economy, and patriotic Americans therefore must go to college.

Is it true that college graduation promotes economic growth? I divided the 34 nations on which we have consistent OECD data on adult degree attainment into two groups--the 17 High Attainment nations (including the U.S.), and the 17 Low Attainment nations. The High Attainment nations all have attainment rates between 28.8 percent and 45.5 percent (averaging around 34 percent), while the Low Attainment nations have rates between 15.3 percent and 25.7 percent (averaging around 21-22 percent).

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November 17, 2011

Florida Students Take Global Examinations, Wisconsin's Don't

Lydia Southwell

Before full implementation of the Common Core State Standards, Florida is gathering information about how our students compare internationally in reading, mathematics and science. We are participating in Trends in the International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Adjustments to Florida standards will be made based on the results of these studies.
How does Wisconsin compare? Learn more at www.wisconsin2.org.

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November 17, 2011 Madison, Wis. - Last night, by unanimous vote, the Board of Directors of Madison Preparatory Academy announced they would request that the Madison Metropolitan School District's Board of Education approve their proposal to establish it

The Urban League of Madison, via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

November 17, 2011

Madison, Wis. - Last night, by unanimous vote, the Board of Directors of Madison Preparatory Academy announced they would request that the Madison Metropolitan School District's Board of Education approve their proposal to establish its all-boys and all-girls schools as non-instrumentality public charter schools. This means that Madison Preparatory Academy would employ all staff at both schools instead of MMSD, and that Madison Prep's staff would not be members of the district's collective bargaining units.

If approved, the Board of Education would retain oversight of both schools and likely require Madison Prep to submit to annual progress reviews and a five year performance review, both of which would determine if the school should be allowed to continue operating beyond its first five-year contract.

"We have worked for six months to reach agreement with MMSD's administration and Madison Teachers Incorporated on how Madison Prep could operate as a part of the school district and its collective bargaining units while retaining the core elements of its program design and remain cost effective," said Board Chair David Cagigal.

Cagigal further stated, "From the beginning, we were willing to change several aspects of our school design in order to find common ground with MMSD and MTI to operate Madison Prep as a school whose staff would be employed by the district. We achieved agreement on most positions being represented by local unions, including teachers, counselors, custodial staff and food service workers. However, we were not willing to compromise key elements of Madison Prep that were uniquely designed to meet the educational needs of our most at-risk students and close the achievement gap."

During negotiations, MMSD, MTI and the Boards of Madison Prep and the Urban League were informed that Act 10, the state's new law pertaining to collective bargaining, would prohibit MMSD and MTI from providing the flexibility and autonomy Madison Prep would need to effectively implement its model. This included, among other things:

Changing or excluding Madison Prep's strategies for hiring, evaluating and rewarding its principals, faculty and staff for a job well done;
Excluding Madison Prep's plans to contract with multiple providers of psychological and social work services to ensure students and their families receive culturally competent counseling and support, which is not sufficiently available through MMSD; and
Eliminating the school's ability to offer a longer school day and year, which Madison Prep recently learned would prove to be too costly as an MMSD charter school.

On November 1, 2011, after Madison Prep's proposal was submitted to the Board of Education, MMSD shared that operating under staffing and salary provisions listed in the district's existing collective bargaining agreement would cost $13.1 million more in salaries and benefits over five years, as compared to the budget created by the Urban League for Madison Prep's budget.

Cagigal shared, "The week after we submitted our business plan to the Board of Education for consideration, MMSD's administration informed us that they were going to use district averages for salaries, wages and benefits in existing MMSD schools rather than our budget for a new start-up school to determine how much personnel would cost at both Madison Prep schools."

Both MMSD and the Urban League used the same district salary schedule to write their budgets. However, MMSD budgets using salaries of district teachers with 14 years teaching experience and a master's degree while the Urban League budgeted using salaries of teachers with 7 years' experience and a master's degree.

Gloria Ladson Billings, Vice Chair of Madison Prep's Board and the Kellner Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison stated that, "It has been clear to all parties involved that the Urban League is committed to offering comparable and competitive salaries to its teachers but that with limited resources as a new school, it would have to set salaries and wages at a level that would likely attract educators with less teaching experience than the average MMSD teacher. At the budget level we set, we believe we can accomplish our goal of hiring effective educators and provide them a fair wage for their level of experience."

Madison Prep is also committed to offering bonuses to its entire staff, on top of their salaries, in recognition of their effort and success, as well as the success of their students. This also was not allowed under the current collective bargaining agreement.

Summarizing the decision of Madison Prep's Board, Reverend Richard Jones, Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church and Madison Prep Board member shared, "Our Board has thought deep and hard about additional ways to compromise around the limitations that Act 10 places on our ability to partner with our teachers' union. However, after consulting parents, community partners and the MMSD Board of Education, we ultimately decided that our children need what Madison Prep will offer, and they need it now. A dream deferred is a dream denied, and we must put the needs of our children first and get Madison Prep going right away. That said, we remain committed to finding creative ways to partner with MMSD and the teachers' union, including having the superintendent of MMSD, or his designee, serve on the Board of Madison Prep so innovation and learning can be shared immediately."

Cagigal further stated that, "It is important for the public to understand that our focus from the beginning has been improving the educational and life outcomes of our most vulnerable students. Forty-eight percent high school graduation and 47 percent incarceration rates are just not acceptable; not for one more day. It is unconscionable that only 1% of Black and 7% of Latino high school seniors are ready for college. We must break from the status quo and take bold steps to close the achievement gap, and be ready and willing to share our success and key learning with MMSD and other school districts so that we can positively impact the lives of all of our children."

The Urban League has informed MMSD's administration and Board of Education that it will share with them an updated version of its business plan this evening. The updated plan will request non-instrumentality status for Madison Prep and address key questions posed in MMSD's administrative analysis of the plan that was shared publicly last week.

The Board of Education is expected to vote on the Madison Prep proposal in December 2011.

Copies of the updated plan will be available on the Urban League (www.ulgm.org) and Madison Prep (www.madison-prep) websites after 9pm CST this evening.

For more information, contact Laura DeRoche Perez at Lderoche@ulgm.org or 608.729.1230.
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Matthew DeFour:

A Madison School Board vote to approve Madison Preparatory Academy has been delayed until at least December after the proposed charter school's board decided to amend its proposal to use nonunion employees.

The Madison Prep board voted Wednesday night after an analysis by the school district found the pair of single-sex charter schools, geared toward low-income minority students, would cost $10.4 million more than previously estimated if it were to use union staff.

Superintendent Dan Nerad said the district would have to update its analysis based on the new proposal, which means a vote will not happen Nov. 28. A new time line for approval has not been established.

In announcing Wednesday's decision, the Madison Prep board said the state's new collective bargaining law made the school district and teachers union inflexible about how to pay for employing teachers for longer school days and a longer school year, among other issues.

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Will Madison School Board go for non-union Madison Prep?

Susan Troller:

Backers of the Madison Preparatory Academy are now recommending establishing the proposed single-sex public charter school as what's known as a "non-instrumentality" of the district.

Ultimately, that means the school's staff would be non-union, and the Urban League-backed charter school would have an unprecedented degree of autonomy in its operations, free from district oversight.

With the recommendation, made at a meeting Wednesday, Madison Prep supporters, the school district and the local School Board wade into uncharted waters.

Because of the change, school officials will need to revise their administrative analysis of the charter school proposal in advance of a School Board vote on whether to approve the Madison Prep plan.

Related: Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes provides his perspective on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.

Much more on Madison Prep, here.

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The Two Year Window: The new science of babies and brains--and how it could revolutionize the fight against poverty.

Jonathan Cohn:

A decade ago, a neuroscientist named Charles Nelson traveled to Bucharest to visit Romania's infamous orphanages. There, he saw a child whose brain had swelled to the size of a basketball because of an untreated infection and a malnourished one-year-old no bigger than a newborn. But what has stayed with him ever since was the eerie quiet of the infant wards. "It would be dead silent, all of [the babies] sitting on their backs and staring at the ceiling," says Nelson, who is now at Harvard. "Why cry when nobody is going to pay attention to you?"

Nelson had traveled to Romania to take part in a cutting-edge experiment. It was ten years after the fall of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, whose scheme for increasing the country's population through bans on birth control and abortion had filled state-run institutions with children their parents couldn't support. Images from the orphanages had prompted an outpouring of international aid and a rush from parents around the world to adopt the children. But ten years later, the new government remained convinced that the institutions were a good idea--and was still warehousing at least 60,000 kids, some of them born after the old regime's fall, in facilities where many received almost no meaningful human interaction. With backing from the MacArthur Foundation, and help from a sympathetic Romanian official, Nelson and colleagues from Harvard, Tulane, and the University of Maryland prevailed upon the government to allow them to remove some of the children from the orphanages and place them with foster families. Then, the researchers would observe how they fared over time in comparison with the children still in the orphanages. They would also track a third set of children, who were with their original parents, as a control group.

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School's over. Now pay back the loan

Alex Lo:

If you're late on your mortgage payment, you risk losing your flat. Default on your bank loan and scary collectors pay you a visit. But if you're a university graduate and bail on your student loan, you get letters in the mailbox. If you move, the government administrator may lose track of you and you'll no longer get bothersome mail.

The government has been excessively lenient in collecting student loans given by the Student Financial Assistance Agency. Up to the past academic year, about 13,000 students had failed to repay loans totalling HK$213 million. This sends a bad message to the young: be irresponsible; don't pay back money you owe.

Now officials want to take action by transferring a student defaulter's credit history to a credit reference agency. But the proposal has generated howls of protest from the usual suspects.

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Evaluation system required to apply for No Child waiver

Marquita Brown:

It looked like a typical Friday reading block in Stephanie Jierski's third-grade class at Van Winkle Elementary.

The students were divided into groups with some reading on their own, some paired to finish assignments and others working with the teachers. Those gathered by Jierski received remediation on compound words.

What a visitor to the Jackson school wouldn't see - the related planning behind the scenes - helps explain why Principal Wanda Walker-Bowen says Jierski is a good teacher.

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Mimicking the brain, in silicon

Anne Trafton:

For decades, scientists have dreamed of building computer systems that could replicate the human brain's talent for learning new tasks.

MIT researchers have now taken a major step toward that goal by designing a computer chip that mimics how the brain's neurons adapt in response to new information. This phenomenon, known as plasticity, is believed to underlie many brain functions, including learning and memory.

With about 400 transistors, the silicon chip can simulate the activity of a single brain synapse -- a connection between two neurons that allows information to flow from one to the other. The researchers anticipate this chip will help neuroscientists learn much more about how the brain works, and could also be used in neural prosthetic devices such as artificial retinas, says Chi-Sang Poon, a principal research scientist in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

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Teacher suspended for rejecting peer evaluator hopes for compromise

Marlene Sokol:

High School teacher Joseph Thomas, suspended for refusing to meet with a district-assigned peer evaluator, said he hopes for a compromise that will put him back in the classroom.

Thomas said he met with school district officials for more than an hour Monday and told them he would be willing to be evaluated by a middle school teacher with experience in grades 7 through 12. "As long as they're playing by the rules, I fell that I should too," said Thomas, an 18-year teacher.

If that cannot be arranged, Thomas was told he could be suspended without pay, fired and have 10 days to appeal. There was no comment Monday from the district, which suspended Thomas with pay pending an investigation into behavior officials are calling insubordinate.

News of Thomas's suspension generated a variety of reactions.

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Why Kids Can't Search

Clive Thompson:

We're often told that young people tend to be the most tech-savvy among us. But just how savvy are they? A group of researchers led by College of Charleston business professor Bing Pan tried to find out. Specifically, Pan wanted to know how skillful young folks are at online search. His team gathered a group of college students and asked them to look up the answers to a handful of questions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the students generally relied on the web pages at the top of Google's results list.

But Pan pulled a trick: He changed the order of the results for some students. More often than not, those kids went for the bait and also used the (falsely) top-ranked pages. Pan grimly concluded that students aren't assessing information sources on their own merit--they're putting too much trust in the machine.

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November 16, 2011

Stanford's latest iPhone and iPad apps course now free to the world on iTunes U

Sarah Jane Keller:

Students may covet seats in Stanford's popular iPhone and iPad application development course, but you don't need to be in the classroom to take the course.

Anyone with app dreams can follow along online.

Stanford has just released the iOS 5 incarnation of iPhone Application Development on iTunes U, where the public can download course lectures and slides for free. Some of the most talked-about features of Apple's latest operating system include iCloud, streamlined notifications and wireless syncing.

When Stanford's first iPhone apps course appeared online in 2009, it made iTunes history by rocketing to a million downloads in just seven weeks.

Alberto Martín is an engineer and independent iOS developer in Salamanca, Spain. He has been a diligent student of the online app development class since it first appeared.

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No Child Left Behind waiver could cost $2 billion, report says

Howard Blume:

It would cost cash-strapped California at least $2 billion to meet the requirements for relief from the federal No Child Left Behind law, state officials said.

Although the state Board of Education made no decision at its meeting in Sacramento, the clear implication of a staff report presentation was that California should spurn an opportunity to seek a waiver from federal rules that sanction schools for low test scores. The No Child Left Behind rules are widely unpopular here and elsewhere in the country.

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Lawmakers Probe Law Schools' Data

Ashby Jones:

U.S. Senate staff members are gathering a trove of information about legal education in the U.S., including figures on law school job placement and student-loan debt, in response to questions about whether the nation's law schools have been luring students with bogus data.

The information could serve as a backdrop to hearings on legal education that U.S. senators are "strongly considering," according to a congressional staffer.

So far this year, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), has sent three letters to the American Bar Association, a section of which accredits law schools, urging the organization to do more "to increase its efforts to protect current and prospective law school students from misleading information."

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The New Physiocrats, or, Is There Value in the Humanities?

Kenneth Anderson:

In general, I agree entirely with the many commentators who have argued that the United States needs to produce more STEM graduates. But I also take note of the many people who have written to me to argue that the only truly employable STEM fields at the moment are engineering and computer science, and only certain disciplines within those. (I.e., I take the point made by many commenters that STEM graduates are not doing all that well in this economy either -- when we say STEM = employment, so commenters point out, we don't mean scientists or mathematicians as such, we mean particular fields of engineering and computer science. I can't vouch for that but do accept it.)

It's also worth keeping in mind that the United States could easily produce an excess of engineers -- yes, even engineers. The labor market of a complicated, division-of-labor society means many, many specializations, and most of them are not STEM. We need lawyers, human resources staff, janitors, communications specialists, and many things that too-reductionist a view might lead one to believe are purely frivolous intermediary occupations. Maybe they are parasitical, and maybe they will get squeezed out of existence over time. But there is a sometimes incorrect tendency these days to believe that since innovation is the heart of all increases in productivity and hence in long run growth and wealth, STEM must be responsible for it and that because STEM is the root of innovation, only STEM jobs are truly value added. I exaggerate for effect, but you see the point.

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Concern Over Changing Teacher Evaluations

Rebecca Vevea:

For the first time next year, thousands of Chicago Public Schools teachers will be evaluated based partly on how well their students are doing academically. Many fear they will face dismissal if the standards are not applied fairly.

"It's going to make people really angry," said Ruth Resnick, a librarian at O'Keefe Elementary School, who spoke last week at a public forum about carrying out a new state law that changes how teachers, principals, librarians and other staff are graded.

But state and district leaders say the new evaluations will be better than the decades-old system now in use. They say more thoughtful and effective evaluations will not only increase student achievement, but also provide teachers with better feedback for how to improve.

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MMAC Milwaukee Schools plan falls short

George Mitchell:

During the past three decades, Milwaukee no doubt has led the nation in the number of plans advanced to improve K-12 education. With another initiative announced last week, Journal Sentinel readers can be excused for feeling they've heard this story before.

New recommendations - from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce - are encouraging in one important area. MMAC and its allies have convinced innovative educators from elsewhere to open schools in Milwaukee. Two years ago, I visited a Rocketship charter school in San Jose. It's great news that impressive operation is coming here.

However, the worthwhile goal of adding high-quality charter schools stands in contrast to other aspects of the MMAC plan. Business leaders who will be asked to finance it should apply the kind of scrutiny required in the world where they operate.

The plan comes up short in two major areas. First, it relies on a dated, narrow and misleading description of the major problem. Second, it walks back from the organization's historic commitment to creating a real education marketplace.

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Parents applaud huge breakthrough as Gove's great schools shake-up spreads to special needs children

Simon Walters:

A major breakthrough in Michael Gove's education revolution will be heralded tomorrow with the launch of the first-ever 'free schools' for special needs children.pecial needs children Read more: http://www.dailym

And two of Britain's oldest football clubs, Everton and Derby County, are to open free schools for children from difficult backgrounds.

Education Secretary Mr Gove believes the latest batch of establishments will silence critics who claim they are designed to be the elitist preserve of pupils of sharp-elbowed, middle-class parents.

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Congress Backslides on School Reform

Kevin Chavous:

A funny thing happened on the way to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the sweeping school-reform law better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB): The debate over reauthorization has spawned a political alliance between the tea party and the teachers unions. These strange bedfellows have teamed up to push for turning teacher-evaluation standards over to the states--in other words, to turn back the clock on educational accountability.

On the right are tea party activists who want the federal government out of everything, including establishing teacher standards. On the left are teachers unions who bridle at the notion of anyone establishing enforceable teacher standards. And in the middle is another generation of American kids who are falling further and further behind their European and Asian counterparts.

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Want More Parents? Make Them Want to Come

Stephen Slater:

Parent-teacher conferences for elementary-school children are scheduled for Tuesday afternoon and evening, and for middle-school children on Wednesday. One teacher explains how his school has been able to draw parents in.

Many teachers and schools are wondering how to get more parents to come to parent-teacher meetings. At my school, the Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science, where over 90 percent of parents come to the meetings, something seems to be working well.

What is the school doing to make them want to come? First it expends serious effort. A.M.S., as we call it, took responsibility for reaching out to the parents by making visits to the home of every new student before school started. So, come parent meetings, it is the parents' turn to go out of their way to meet the teachers.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:22 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

November 15, 2011

Occupy School Boards?

Mike Petrilli:

After its big referendum victory last week, Ohio teachers union vice president Bill Leibensperger said "There has always been room to talk. That's what collective bargaining is about. You bring adults around a table to talk about serious issues." He voiced an argument made by union supporters through the fight over Senate Bill 5 (and the similar battle in Wisconsin over public sector union rights): All employees want is the right to bargain; they are more than willing to make concessions during these difficult times.

If we want to win the fight for the more immediate future, we're going to need to take on the unions directly, and take over the school boards.And to be sure, you can find examples of unions--of police, firefighters, even teachers--who have agreed to freeze wages or reduce benefits in order to protect the quality of services or keep colleagues from being laid off. But they are the exceptions that prove the rule.

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What's Wrong With Education?

Wall Street Journal Video:

Peter Thiel, founder of Clarium Capital and The Thiel Foundation, explains why young Americans need to be encouraged to take on more risk to spur innovation and why the cost of a U.S. education is hindering that.

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Are Quincy Schools Adequately Funded & Supported?

Edward Husar:

Several members of the audience joined in the discussion over the public's relative support for Quincy schools. Among them was Larry Troxel, a local minister, who said the public has a desire to support education but has lost trust over the years in the School Board's handling of finances.

"I've seen previous boards buy out the contracts of two previous superintendents so they could bring in their own local person to be superintendent," Troxel said.

He also pointed to a previous board decision to build Lincoln Elementary School only to close it and sell it after a relatively short period of time.

"The boards over the last 30 years have lost the confidence of the taxpayers in this community," he said. "And just this sort of argument -- and especially saying that we don't care about education -- is dead wrong. We care. But we don't trust the board that wants to always raise taxes and spend more money, because we've seen money wasted."

Board member Steve Krause said "you can't damn the current board in front of you for past indiscretions."

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Madison Math Circle gives young students a taste of higher math and science

Pamela Cotant:

Every week, middle and high school students are invited to the UW Madison campus to hear a talk designed to stimulate their interest in math and science and then to mingle with professors and their peers over pizza.

Called Madison Math Circle, the activity was started this fall as a replacement for the former High School Math Nights previously run on campus every other week. Organizer Gheorghe Craciun, associate professor in the math and biomolecular chemistry departments, said middle school students are now included because he found high school students are often too busy with other activities to attend.

Kevin Zamzow, who attended the Nov. 7 Madison Math Circle with his son, Noah Zamzow-Schmidt, approached the UW Madison math department about organizing the activity. Math circles are held at campuses around the country although Zamzow doesn't know of another one in Wisconsin.

"I enjoy math," said Noah, 12, a seventh grader at Edgewood Campus School who is taking 10th and 11th grade math classes at Edgewood High School. "I really enjoyed the topic tonight."

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Intrusion into SCU Student Grade Records

Fr. Engh:

I write to inform you that later today Santa Clara University will release the statement below to the media regarding an intrusion into the University's computerized academic records system. Unauthorized access to the system took place between June 2010 and July 2011 and resulted in grades being altered, affecting a handful of current undergraduate students and approximately sixty former undergraduate students.

Upon learning of the computer intrusion, we notified the FBI and have continued to cooperate fully with its ongoing investigation. The FBI's investigation has now reached a stage where they have permitted us to notify the community of this intrusion.

Under the direction of Dennis Jacobs, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, we have undertaken a comprehensive examination of all affected records and are taking steps to restore them to their proper form. This will include contacting individual faculty, students, and former students whose grades may have been altered. We have also enlisted the assistance of outside experts to review our internal processes and data security measures to enhance the integrity of our computer system.

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Can Virtual Schools Really Replace Classrooms?

KJ Dellantonia:

If the home-schooling anarchist parents in the Sunday Magazine played to a fantasy of what home schooling could be -- the traveling, the rebellion against the authority of the classroom, the rugged individualist children -- then The Wall Street Journal's counterpoint, "My Teacher Is an App," is the disillusioning reality for many.

The article reports that an estimated 250,000 students in 2010-11 attend school online, sometimes in the form of full-time public cyberschools, sometimes in a cyber "hybrid" school. These children aren't "home schooled" from a statistical point of view; they're enrolled in schools with names that sound like online degree factories (Georgia Cyber Academy, Florida Virtual School), but are legitimately run by states and districts or outsourced to for-profit corporations. They're going to school. At home.

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In a time of crisis, Buffalo School Board must either lead or get out of the way

The Buffalo News:

The problems facing the children attending Buffalo's public schools are supposed to be addressed by the School Board. The nine members ran for office because they felt they were the best able to take care of our kids.

The fact is they are not getting the job done; student achievement and graduation rates are both far too low. Board members need to act in new ways and not get bogged down with the same failed ideas. And if they are incapable of seeing that our kids get the education they are entitled to, the state must step in and take over.

The district faces many problems, but the most immediate one is how to turn around its seven failing schools. A total of $42 million is available -- $2 million a year for each school for three years -- to turn those schools around. But first the district must come up with a turnaround plan for each school that is acceptable to the state Education Department. The district must choose from three models outlined by the state. The state also says, for reasons never explained, that the same model can't be used for all seven schools.

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AI-Class Exams at the University of Freiburg

University of Freiburg:

Both exams, that is the midterm and final exam for the online course "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig, can be taken at the University of Freiburg, supervised by Prof. Dr. Wolfram Burgard. For both exams, you will have to be physically present at the location mentioned below. If you should be unable to come to Freiburg for both exams, you cannot receive the certificate.

Why you would want to do that, if you can do it at home, too? Because if you will pass the exams, you will get a certificate (in German: Schein) signed by Prof. Wolfram Burgard that you have passed the exam of the course and that this is equivalent to the AI course at the Department of Computer Science of the University of Freiburg. Typically, German and many international Universities accept such a certificate.
If you would like to take part in the exams at the University of Freiburg, please write an e-mail to Prof. Dr. Burgard to enroll:
burgard@informatik.uni-freiburg.de. Please use the subject "Stanford AI Course Exam Registration" for your email.

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November 14, 2011

Madison School Board's DIFI (District Identified for Improvement) Plan Discussion Documents

Wisconsin DPI:

The federal Elementary/Secondary Education Act, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act requires that districts and schools make adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward state-established benchmarks in four areas: test participation, reading proficiency, math proficiency, and the other academic indicator: attendance or high school graduation.

This letter is to inform you that your district, or one or more of your schools, has either missed AYP; is identified for improvement; is no longer identified for improvement status; or missed AYP in the prior school year bnt remains in satisfactory status by meeting AYP for the current school year: 2010-11.

The enclosed Preliminary Annual Review of Performance report(s) are color coded according to the following:

Sanctions Document.

DIFI by subgroup.

District Identified for Improvement (DIFI)- Documentation for DPI (306 pages)

via a kind reader's email.

The School Board discussed these documents earlier this evening.

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Cost for union teachers could be game changer for Madison Prep deal

Nathan Comp:

A new analysis (PDF) by the Madison school district shows that the budget submitted by the Urban League of Greater Madison for a pair of sex-segregated charter schools could potentially cost the district an additional $13 million over the schools' first five years.

The new numbers came as a shock to Urban League president Kaleem Caire, who says that Madison Prep may pull out of a tentative agreement with Madison Teachers, Inc., that would require Madison Prep to hire mostly union staff.

"It's become clear to us that the most reasonable path to ensure the success of these kids is as a non-instrumentality," says Caire. "Others on our board want to look at a couple of other options, so we're looking at those before we make that final determination."

One of those options would be to scale back the program, including the proposed longer school days and extended school year.

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

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Spokane Public Schools is a "tale of two cities" - and I live in the other one

Laurie Rogers:

On Nov. 10, Spokane Public Schools hosted a lovely “Breakfast for Community Leaders.” The district’s goal was to assure well-connected and like-minded folks in the city that – as the district put it – it’s “better preparing all students for success after graduation.” A few students also were brought in to “share their stories about the effectiveness of that preparation and what high school is like today.”

Superintendent Nancy Stowell began the breakfast by saying she wanted to “put to rest” the “fingerpointing and blame” the district faced during the 2011 board election. Here are a few examples of how she put things to rest.
  • Stowell praised the district for higher graduation rates, saying the next challenge is college readiness. Wasn't college readiness always the goal? Most parents think so. So, the district is letting more of the kids leave, and at some point, they'll start getting them ready for postsecondary life? How does that work?
  • Stowell showed us how enrollment is increasing in Advanced Placement classes. Had she shown AP pass rates -- we also would have seen a precipitous drop in the percentage passing, and an alarming drop in the average AP grade.

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Understanding Wisconsin's Charter School Landscape

Mike Ford:

WPRI polling shows that more Wisconsinites support charter schools than oppose them (42% vs. 32%). But what exactly are charter schools?

The concept of charter schools is all the more confusing in Wisconsin because we have three types operating in the state. However, all three types do have some basic similarities.

The Wisconsin Charter Schools Association has additional basic information on Wisconsin Charters on their FAQ site worth checking out.

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The "21st Century Skills" Every Teacher Should Have

Educational Technology:

In one of my previous post entitled what every teacher should know about google. reference was made to the notions of the 21st century learner and how these learners depend wholly on media and social networking to live in this fast_paced world. In today's post i will present two short videos that will hopefully change what some think about teaching. The following videos are among the top educative videos online .

With the advance of technological innovations into our lives , education has been radically transformed and teachers who do not use social media and educational technology in thier teaching no longer fit in the new system.That's why every educator and teacher should reconsider certain values and principles . watch this first one minute 40 seconds video to see the negative side that every teacher must not have

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Britain's elite colleges look East for funds

Ng Yuk-hang:

Some of England's most prestigious universities, strapped for cash after deep cuts in government subsidies, are to step up fund-raising drives in Hong Kong and the mainland.

While Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics say government grants will still make up the bulk of their income, these elite institutes are increasingly looking eastward to diversify funding.

And the amount donated by Hong Kong philanthropists is expected to rise this year, with new scholarships and projects to be announced.

"Oxford University has put an increasing emphasis on our relationship with China and Hong Kong," a spokesman for the English-speaking world's oldest university said. "We are looking more to philanthropy."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Sixth-Grade Developer Teaches Students How to Make Apps

Liz Dwyer:

Where can today's students go to learn how to make an app? That's the question Thomas Suarez, a sixth-grader from suburban Los Angeles, asked himself after realizing that most of his peers like to play games and use apps, but schools don't teach the basic programming skills needed to make them. So Suarez, who taught himself how to make apps using the iPhone software development kit--he created the anti-Justin Bieber, Whac-a-Mole-style game "Bustin Jieber"--decided to start an app club at school.

Suarez has been a technophile since kindergarten, and he already knows several programming languages. At a recent TEDx conference, he explained how students in the app club get the opportunity to learn and share their app making with each other. The club even asked the school's teachers what kinds of apps they could use in the classroom and then set out to design them.

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Mandarin & The Sun Prairie Schools

sp-eye:

Not the food. That would be just fine. The course is the problem.
It passed the committee level this past Monday and on the 14th it goes to the full board.

Problem #1
Here's our first problem. This is a major shift; an introduction of a whole new language. One with a plan to offer II,III, and IV plus AP all in the next several years. Yet, it's lumped in with 7 other courses within the agenda heading, where you vote Yes/No on the entire suite: 2012-2013 New Courses: AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination); Chinese I; Arts of Industry; African Literature; Native American/Latin American Literature; Science of Motion; Weather and Climate

Solution: It takes a board member motion to pull out the Chinese I for a separate discussion/vote.

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Anger at transfer by elite Hong Kong school

Dennis Chong:

A plan to move hundreds of pupils at a top international school to temporary premises inside a public housing estate has angered their well-off parents.

The Hong Kong International School proposes to demolish its lower primary school building in Repulse Bay and redevelop it into what it says will be a first-class facility.

During the three-year project - the first major redevelopment of the Repulse Bay campus since the school started in 1966 - about 500 pupils aged five to eight would be taught in a disused school building in Chai Wan, a 25-minute drive away.

The plan has ignited debate ahead of a meeting today of the Town Planning Board, which will be asked to approve it.

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November 13, 2011

My Teacher Is an App

Stephanie Banchero & Stephanie Simon:

It was nearing lunchtime on a recent Thursday, and ninth-grader Noah Schnacky of Windermere, Fla., really did not want to go to algebra. So he didn't.

Tipping back his chair, he studied a computer screen listing the lessons he was supposed to complete that week for his public high school--a high school conducted entirely online. Noah clicked on his global-studies course. A lengthy article on resource shortages popped up. He gave it a quick scan and clicked ahead to the quiz, flipping between the article and multiple-choice questions until he got restless and wandered into the kitchen for a snack.

Noah would finish the quiz later, within the three-hour time frame that he sets aside each day for school. He also listened to most of an online lecture given by his English teacher; he could hear but not see her as she explained the concept of a protagonist to 126 ninth graders logged in from across the state. He never got to the algebra.

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Real answer to poverty, and poor schools, has to be the power to chose

Chuck Mikkelsen:

The Star article, "Poverty tightens its grip in cities," described a recent Brookings Institution study on the increasing concentration of poverty in cities, including Kansas City.

Poor public schools, such as the Kansas City School District, are a major factor in creating pockets of poverty. Those with enough resources move out of underperforming districts leaving the poorest of the poor behind.

Reversing this trend requires, among other things, fixing the school district problem. A number of solutions have been proposed, most of which will be as effective as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Real change requires something more fundamental: What the left calls giving "power to the people" and what the right calls being "free to choose."

Educational diversity is essential to progress.

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Madison School District placed on College Board's AP® District Honor Roll for significant gains in Advanced Placement® access and student performance

The Madison School District:

The Madison Metropolitan School District is one of fewer than 400 public school districts in the nation being honored by the College Board with a place on the 2nd Annual AP® Honor Roll, for simultaneously increasing access to Advanced Placement coursework while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP exams. Achieving both of these goals is the ideal scenario for a district's Advanced Placement program, because it indicates that the district is successfully identifying motivated, academically-prepared students who are likely to benefit most from AP coursework.

Since 2009, the MMSD increased the number of students participating in AP from 692 to 824 (up 19 percent), while maintaining the percentage of students earning AP Exam scores of 3 or higher above the 70 percent criteria threshold (87% in 2009, 79% in 2011). The majority of U.S. colleges and universities grant college credit or advanced placement for a score of 3 or above on AP exams.

"We are thrilled with this recognition for AP access and student performance," said Superintendent Dan Nerad. "Obviously, credit goes to the students who score well on AP Exams, and parents and guardians, teachers and other MMSD staff share in this Honor Roll placement. This shows that the Madison School District is on the right path with our work to elevate the performance of all students, but we have much more work to do."

Related: 2008 Dane County High School AP Course Offering Comparison.

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Special Tax Deductions for Special Education

Laura Sanders:

More than six million children in the U.S. fall into the "special needs" category, and their ranks are expanding. The number of those affected by one developmental disability alone--autism--grew more than 70% between 2005 and 2010.

The tax code can help--if you know where to look.

There are numerous tax breaks for education, but the most important one for many special-needs students isn't an education break per se. Instead, it falls under the medical-expense category.

Although students with disabilities have a right to a "free and appropriate" public education by law, some families opt out and others pay for a range of supplemental therapies.

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Rethinking How Kids Learn Science

Ira Flatow:

How important are museums, TV shows and after school clubs to teaching kids science? Ira Flatow and guests look at "informal science education" and what researchers are learning about learning science. Plus, what's the best way to keep undergraduate science majors in science?

IRA FLATOW, host: This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. We're going to be hearing President Obama talking about the need to help kids learn science in places other than the classroom.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it's science festivals, robotic competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent, to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.

FLATOW: And we keep hearing about how American students are falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to math and science, but new studies are showing that the places to teach science, places where kids will soak up science, are not in the classrooms, but museum trips, TV shows, afterschool clubs, even radio shows about science. Has that been your experience, too? What do you think? How much of what you know about science comes from your experience outside of a classroom?

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The ABCs of Online Schools

Stephanie Simon:

The growing popularity of online public schools lets states and local school districts effectively outsource some teaching functions--to parents.

Students enrolled in an online school full-time are required to work closely with a "learning coach," usually mom or dad, to ensure that they are staying on track in their studies.

For younger students, the learning coach becomes the primary teacher. A typical first-grade language arts lesson, for instance, asks the student to brainstorm a list of words about her favorite place, then write three complete sentences. Parents go online to certify that their child has done the work and to answer questions about its quality--for instance, did the child use proper punctuation?

"It's not about just putting them in front of a computer and saying, 'Here, get this work done,'" says Allison Brown, who has three young children attending Georgia Cyber Academy, a statewide online charter school run by the private firm K12 Inc.

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Seattle School Board presses on, minus a solid contributor

The Seattle Times:

SEATTLE School Board President Steve Sundquist's re-election defeat underscores the axiom that no good deed goes unpunished.

A good board member is exiting.

The Seattle Times endorsed Sundquist, inspired by his background as a proven business leader with deep roots of volunteerism in our local schools. Sundquist was a calm and able presence during some of the district's most contentious times. He did not hesitate to move the board toward firing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and her financial chief in the wake of a small-business-contracting scandal. City Hall and state legislators found him someone they could work with.

Perhaps Sundquist's defeat to retired teacher Marty McLaren was to be expected. The election was the first after a year of financial and management upheaval in the Seattle Public Schools. Indeed, a big story last week was the arrest of the former district employee facing felony theft charges connected to the scandal.

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Generation Jobless: What Hedge Funds Can Teach College Students

Matt Wirz:

Ask hedge fund manager Daniel Ades about the future for recent college graduates and he likes to draw a picture, a very ugly picture. He sketches out a bell curve mapping the historical default rate on student loans - then he draws another curve much higher to show the likely default rate for the Class of 2011.

Mr. Ades has become an expert in the $242 billion market for bonds backed by bundles of student loans, delivering consistently strong returns by trading hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the debt over the past four years. "We know all these deals inside out and we know their default rates," he said.

But when it comes to the loans banks made to students who graduated in 2010 and 2011, the 31-year-old investor is steering well clear, "because we can't quantify the risk," he said.

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California school districts have inconsistent cellphone policies, ACLU report finds

Rick Rojas:

A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that school districts across California have inconsistent policies regarding a school's ability to search the contents of a student's cellphone, often encroaching on a student's right to privacy.

The ACLU of California said searches have become a bigger, and more common, issue as cellphones have become pervasive among students. The report's authors -- Brendan Hamme and Hector O. Villagra of the ACLU of Southern California -- contend that searching phones could be a serious invasion of privacy, considering the amount of personal data a device could contain, including financial information, photos, videos and text messages with intimate conversations.

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Political Protest 101: Indoctrinating fourth graders in Wisconsin

Gary Larson:

"What did you learn in school today, dear?" a mother asks her fourth grader.

"Oh, mom, it was so exciting! We learned to chant slogans and clap and sing protest songs," says her nine-year old after a school field trip to the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

The field trip got mixed up somehow in the on-going political protest of Governor Scott Walker's budget reform law. You know, that hotly-contested-by-unions law curbing certain collective bargaining privileges of entitlement-minded Wisconsin public employees? Yeah, that one. It created quite a a stir in February, causing Senate Democrats to flee to Illinois on behalf of their generous gift-giving friends in, yes, those same public employee unions igniting the protests and the recall elections.

Who knew kids from Portage, Wisconsin, 40 miles north of Madison, would be thrust into the hornets' nest of political protesters, mostly teachers, doing battle with a duly-elected governor and those mean and nasty budget-minded Republicans? Who knew? Not parents, certainly.

Instead of a lesson in state government, the kids got an impromptu lesson in raucous, union-driven, leftist power politics at the State Capitol, still strewn with placards of the February protests against budget reforms to erase a $3.5 billion shortfall. Most of the physical damage to the Capitol done by February protesters occupying it had been repaired, at a cost to taxpayers in the low millions. Despoiling public property is apparently what they do?

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November 12, 2011

Wisconsin's annual school test (WKCE) still gets lots of attention, but it seems less useful each year

Alan Borsuk:

Wisconsin (and just about every other state) is involved in developing new state tests. That work is one of the requirements of getting a waiver and, if a bill ever emerges form Congress, it will almost certainly continue to require every state to do testing.

But the new tests aren't scheduled to be in place for three years - in the fall of 2014. So this fall and for at least the next two, Wisconsin's school children and schools will go through the elaborate process of taking a test that still gets lots of attention but seems to be less useful each year it lives on.

The oft-criticized WKCE often provides grist for "successes". Sometimes, rarely, the truth about its low standards is quietly mentioned.

I remember a conversation with a well educated Madison parent earlier this year. "My child is doing well, the WKCE reports him scoring in the 95th percentile in math"......

www.wisconsin2.org is worth a visit.

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Madison School District Administrative Analysis of the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School; WKCE Rhetoric

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Critique of the District (MMSD)
Page # 23: MPA - No College Going Culture among Madison's New Student Population
The data on student performance and course-taking patterns among students in MMSD paint a clear picture. There is not a prevalent college going culture among Black, Hispanic and some Asian student populations enrolled in MMSD. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. The majority of these students are failing to complete a rigorous curriculum that would adequately prepare them for college and 21st century jobs. Far too many are also failing to complete college requirements, such as the ACT, or failing to graduate from high school.

Page # 23: No College Going Culture among Madison's New Student Population -

MMSD Response
MMSD has taken many steps towards ensuring college attendance eligibility and readiness for our students of color. Efforts include:

AVID/TOPS
East High School became the first MMSD school to implement AVID in the 2007-2008 school year. Teens of Promise or TOPS became synonymous with AVID as the Boys and Girls Club committed to an active partnership to support our program. AVID/TOPS students are defined as:
"AVID targets students in the academic middle - B, C, and even D students - who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard. These are students who are capable of completing rigorous curriculum but are falling short of their
potential. Typically, they will be the first in their families to attend college, and many are from low-income or minority families. AVID pulls these students out of their unchallenging courses and puts them on the college track: acceleration instead of remediation."

Source: http://www.avid.org/abo_whatisavid.html

The MMSD has 491 students currently enrolled in AVID/TOPS. Of that total, 380 or 77% of students are minority students (27% African-American, 30% Latino, 10% Asian, 10% Multiracial). 67% of MMSD AVID/TOPS students qualify for free and reduced lunch. The 2010- 2011 school year marked an important step in the District's implementation of AVID/TOPS. East High School celebrated its first cohort of AVID/TOPS graduates. East Highs AVID/TOPS class of 2011 had a 100% graduation rate and all of the students are enrolled in a 2-year or 4- year college. East High is also in the beginning stages of planning to become a national demonstration site based on the success of their program. This distinction, determined by the AVID regional site team, would allow high schools from around the country to visit East High School and learn how to plan and implement AVID programs in their schools.

MMSD has a partnership with the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) and they are conducting a controlled study of the effects of AVID/TOPS students when compared to a comparison groups of students. Early analysis of the study reveals positive gains in nearly every category studied.

AVID pilot studies are underway at two MMSD middle schools and support staff has been allocated in all eleven middle schools to begin building capacity towards a 2012-2013 AVID Middle School experience. The program design is still underway and will take form this summer when school based site teams participate in the AVID Summer Institute training.

I found this commentary on the oft criticized WKCE exams fascinating (one day, wkce results are useful, another day - this document - WKCE's low benchmark is a problem)" (page 7):

Page # 28: MPA - Student Performance Measures:
85% of Madison Prep's Scholars will score at proficient or advanced levels in reading, math, and science on criterion referenced achievement tests after three years of enrollment.

90% of Scholars will graduate on time.
100% of students will complete the SAT and ACT assessments before graduation with 75% achieving a composite score of 22 or higher on the ACT and 1100 on the SAT (composite verbal and math).
100% of students will complete a Destination Plan before graduation.
100% of graduates will qualify for admissions to a four-year college after graduation.
100% of graduates will enroll in postsecondary education after graduation.

Page # 28: Student Performance Measures - MMSD Response:
WKCE scores of proficient are not adequate to predict success for college and career readiness. Cut scores equated with advanced are needed due to the low benchmark of Wisconsin's current state assessment system. What specific steps or actions will be provided for students that are far below proficiency and/or require specialized support services to meet the rigorous requirements of IB?

Recommendation:
No Child Left Behind requires 100% proficiency by 2014. Madison Prep must be held to the same accountability standards as MMSD.

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

Madison School District links & notes on Madison Prep.

TJ Mertz comments, here.

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Why the ACLU is targeting the Proposed Madison Prep IB Charter School

Susan Troller:

Single-gender classrooms, and, to a lesser degree, single-gender schools, are a hot trend in education circles. In less than a decade, Wisconsin has gone from zero classrooms segregated by gender to more than a dozen scattered across the state. That mirrors increasing numbers throughout the country.

But there's growing pushback from researchers, who claim the desire to separate boys from girls in school is based on what they call "pseudoscience."

In September, the prestigious journal, Science, published results of a study that showed sex segregation did not contribute to increased academic performance and harmed students by making sex stereotypes acceptable. Seven well-regarded researchers, including UW-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde, write in the article, "A new curriculum, like a new drug or factory production method, often yields a short-term gain because people are motivated by novelty and belief in the innovation. Novelty-based enthusiasm, sample bias and anecdotes account for much of the glowing characterization of (single-sex) education in the media."

In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union has successfully sued on the basis of sex discrimination, recently forcing a public high school in Pittsburgh to abandon its single-sex classrooms and a school board in Louisiana to end its practice of separating boys and girls at a middle schoo

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

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Panel Urges Cholesterol Testing for Kids

Ron Winslow & Jennifer Corbett Dooren:

Government health experts recommended Friday that all children be tested for high cholesterol before they reach puberty, in an effort to get an early start in preventing cardiovascular disease.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute said a child's first cholesterol check should occur between ages 9 and 11 and the test should be repeated between ages 17 and 21. The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the guideline.

The recommendation reflects growing evidence the biological processes that underlie heart attacks and other consequences of cardiovascular disease begin in childhood, even though manifestations of the diseases generally don't strike until middle age or later.

The guidelines also come amid broad concern about growing numbers of American children who are overweight or obese and thus potentially on course for diabetes, high blood pressure and other abnormalities. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 17% of American children are obese, triple the level three decades ago.

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Princeton University Acceptance Letter

Edward Tufte:

Source: Howard Wainer, "Clear Thinking Made Visible: Redesigning Score Reports for Students," Chance 15 (Winter 2002), pp. 56-58. Howard Wainer (Distinguished Research Scientist at the National Board of Examiners, Philadelphia) discusses Princeton's admission letter and also the forms for reporting SAT scores in his interesting article in Chance.

Perhaps the rejection letter should be less blunt. In fact, applicants can detect their fate by whether they get the thick or the thin envelope.

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My Parents Were Home-Schooling Anarchists

Margaret Heidenry:

Tired of the constraints of the 40-hour workweek, my father, in 1972, quit his job in publishing. My parents were in their early 30s, and they had four children under 7. "But we still wanted to explore the world," my father recalled recently. They bought six one-way tickets to Europe, leaving only a laughable $3,000 to subsist on. Young and idealistic, they thought they could easily educate us along the way. "Life itself would become a portable classroom."

For the next four years, my parents embarked on an uncharted "free-form existence." We traipsed to Nerja, Spain; Dorset, England; a Midwestern farm; and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, before settling in St. Louis. My father worked on his novel. The task of teaching the children -- Mary, James, John and me -- fell to my mother.

For much of this time, I was an educational tag-along. Yet I clearly remember San Miguel, where we spent six months in 1975, when I was 4. Art class was held outside in the jardin. When we giggled and chatted among ourselves, Mom never shushed us, but calmly told us to pick a subject. Why not draw idling mariachis, or the dog drooling at a vendor's feet? she'd suggest. Or maybe the kids our age who sold gum to make ends meet? I'd invariably copy what my brothers drew, usually just a car.

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Union, UNO Clash Over School

Rebecca Vevea:

More than 100 people turned out for a community meeting on a new charter school proposal Tuesday night on the city's far Northwest Side, with public school teachers pressing freshman Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th Ward) to block the plan put forward by one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's staunch allies.

At the urging of Chicago Teachers Union organizers, teachers and union representatives packed the meeting room to oppose the proposal from the United Neighborhood Organization, the city's most prominent Latino community group.

UNO wants to buy a parcel in the ward, at 2102 N. Natchez Ave., for a new school that would open next year. But the proposal for the site in the Galewood neighborhood first needs a zoning change, so Sposato called the meeting to gather feedback from constituents.

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Reforming Higher Education: Incentives, STEM Majors, and Liberal Arts Majors -- the Education versus Credential Tradeoff

Kenneth Anderson:

The Wall Street Journal's excellent series on jobless young people features an article today on why students study liberal arts in college over STEM subjects, and why so many would-be STEM majors shift to liberal arts, despite the apparent loss of career prospects. Larry Ribstein follows up with commentary suggesting that law school becomes a logical option for students who were badly guided in their choices of majors -- leading them to liberal arts with few skills and few prospects in today's world.

I want to reiterate something I wrote about a few weeks ago about the incentive structures for students. I'm basing this on my current experience as a law professor who talks a lot with students at a mid-tier law school and what led them there, as well as my experience as a parent of a student who will be doing humanities as her major at Rice, a school with world class STEM and world class humanities.

There are a lot of smart students out there who will nonetheless not be able to compete in world class institutions in STEM. Why? They might have, say, near 800s in verbal and writing, and mid 600s in math on the SAT. (This matches up, btw, to Gene Expression blog's mapping of the GRE scores of various college majors for the highest testing of the humanities majors -- the philosophy students, who have about exactly those scores. I'll put up the charts in a later post, but very roughly the verbal and math scores flip for the highest scoring of the sciences -- physics, and are somewhere in the middle for the highest scoring of the social sciences, economics.) At a school like Rice -- and any university ranked above it -- specialization has already taken place, sorting by subject area. A tiny handful of students can be true polymaths, but that's hardly the norm. Instead, the STEM students are sought competitively on a world-wide basis, and it will be academic suicide and frankly impossible for a student who is not at the top of those competitive areas even to pass the classes.

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U. of I. probe of law school reveals intense culture, falsified data

Jodi Cohen:

When the University of Illinois law school announced a new early entrance program in 2008, the stated reason was to recruit top U. of I. undergraduates and give them "the first shot at the limited number of seats" at their school.

But behind the scenes, now-disgraced College of Law admissions dean Paul Pless revealed another motive was at play. By admitting high-achieving students in their junior years, without a law school entrance exam, the students' high GPAs would be included in the class profile but no test scores could potentially drag down the class.

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Students of Professor Who Didn't Show Up Keep Their A's and Get Refunds, Too

Katherine Mangan:

Students at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences who received A's for two courses that were never taught will get their money back, but they'll still get to keep the academic credit, an administrator reported on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the university is investigating what it referred to as "egregious breaches of professional ethics and academic standards" that led to last month's resignation of Venetia L. Orcutt, department chair and director of the physician-assistant-studies program.

According to a statement released by the university on Wednesday, Ms. Orcutt had been assigned to teach a sequence of three one-credit courses in evidence-based medicine over three semesters last year. The first semester of the required course was face to face, and she showed up for that. But according to three students who complained to the university's provost last month, Ms. Orcutt went missing when the course sequence shifted online.

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The Toll on Parents When Kids Return Home

Joanna Lublin:

Many young adults find themselves still tethered to the Bank of Mom and Dad, and that dependence is taking a toll.

Kevin Davis moved back home last December after receiving a business finance degree from the University of North Carolina. He has yet to land a full-time job.

The 25-year-old often commiserates with his father, John, an information-technology professional who was laid off as a project manager in October 2010 for the second time since 2007. "At times, it's hard for me to keep up my own spirits as well as Kevin's," admits John Davis, a resident of Winston-Salem, N.C., who currently receives unemployment insurance.

As recent college graduates scramble to find full-time jobs, numerous parents are helping their children pay bills or letting them live at home again. About 59% of parents provide or recently provided financial assistance to children aged 18 to 39 who weren't students, concluded a May survey of nearly 1,100 people by the National Endowment for Financial Education.

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November 11, 2011

Inclusion: The Right Thing for All Students

Cheryl Jorgensen:

It's time to restructure all of our schools to become inclusive of all of our children.

We have reached the tipping point where it is no longer educationally or morally defensible to continue to segregate students with disabilities. We shouldn't be striving to educate children in the least restrictive environment but rather in the most inclusive one.

Inclusion is founded on social justice principles in which all students are presumed competent and welcomed as valued members of all general education classes and extra-curricular activities in their local schools -- participating and learning alongside their same-age peers in general education instruction based on the general curriculum, and experiencing meaningful social relationships.

Cheryl M. Jorgensen, Ph.D., is a member of the affiliate faculty with the National Center on Inclusive Education at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. In 2008 she received the National Down Syndrome Congress Education Award for her leadership and pioneering research supporting the inclusion of students with Down syndrome. She has written this open letter to Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer for New York City schools.

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Teacher evaluations should not be watered down

Jocelyn Huber:

Excellent teachers and excellent education are inseparable. In fact, teacher quality is one of the most important determinants of whether a child succeeds in school and continues to college.

A handful of states have been working hard to recruit and nurture great teachers -- starting with strong, effective evaluation systems. Tennessee has led the charge.

When it comes to improving public schools, ideas can only take us so far. It's effective implementation of those ideas that yields results. Last year, the state passed bold, bipartisan legislation, the First to the Top Act, to create a rigorous teacher and principal evaluation system that has the potential to set an example for the rest of the country. The legislation was supported by the teachers' union, the business community and a wide range of education stakeholders.

Related: Teacher evaluation system a good start, but seems not to go far enough by Chris Rickert:
It was encouraging to see the state Department of Public Instruction release a framework for evaluating public school teachers that is the product of much time and thought by a broad array of smart people.

I can even ignore that it took until now to devise such a framework when the quality of public school teachers and, indeed, public education itself have been among the hottest of public policy topics since, well, forever.

Harder to ignore is that while the state took a decidedly top-down approach to grading teachers, it's taking a decidedly hands-off approach to how districts use the grades.

DPI's 17-page "preliminary report and recommendations" employs plenty of euphemisms and academia-speak to go into great detail about technical aspects of the proposed evaluation system without saying how the evaluations should be used when it comes to paying teachers -- or dismissing bad ones.

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Girls Just Want to Go to School

Nick Kristof:

Sometimes you see your own country more sharply from a distance. That's how I felt as I dropped in on a shack in this remote area of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

The head of the impoverished household during the week is a malnourished 14-year-old girl, Dao Ngoc Phung. She's tiny, standing just 4 feet 11 inches and weighing 97 pounds.

Yet if Phung is achingly fragile, she's also breathtakingly strong. You appreciate the challenges that America faces in global competitiveness when you learn that Phung is so obsessed with schoolwork that she sets her alarm for 3 a.m. each day.

She rises quietly so as not to wake her younger brother and sister, who both share her bed, and she then cooks rice for breakfast while reviewing her books.

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Tantrum Tamer: New Ways Parents Can Stop Bad Behavior

Shirley Wang:

Forget everything you may have read about coping with children's temper tantrums. Time-outs, sticker charts, television denial--for many, none of these measures will actually result in long-term behavior change, according to researchers at two academic institutions.

Instead, a set of techniques known as "parent management training" is proving so helpful to families struggling with a child's unmanageable behavior that clinicians in the U.S. and the U.K. are starting to adopt them.

Aimed at teaching parents to encourage sustained behavior change, it was developed in part at parenting research clinics at Yale University and King's College London.

Even violent tantrums, or clinging to the point of riding on a parent's leg, can be curbed, researchers say.

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Digital Badges for 21st Century Learning

Kris Amundson:

Over the past few years, a new approach to signaling individual skills and competencies has emerged the cutting edge of the education sector. Badges, already used successfully in games, social networking sites and youth development groups such as the Girl Scouts and 4-H, are now being developed in digital form to represent the wide range of non-traditional learning experiences critical to success in a global society.

Digital badges can showcase learning that takes place outside of traditional school structures, such as that of a high school student studying physics via MIT's OpenCourseWare or a middle schooler that has taught himself how to design and program educational games. What's more, so many of the skills that we rely upon for success in our global knowledge economy are not captured well by a traditional resume.

Kevin Carey has written here and elsewhere about the importance of expanding systems that rely on open education resources. And Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently said, "Today's technology-enabled, information-rich, deeply interconnected world means learning not only can - but should - happen anywhere, anytime. We need to recognize these experiences, whether the environments are physical or online, and whether learning takes place in schools, colleges or adult education centers, or in afterschool, workplace, military or community settings."

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Making Common Core Standards Mean Something

Richard Lee Colvin:

This week the Montana Board of Education voted to become the 45th state to adopt the national Common Core standards. Standards, of course, don't matter at all if they just sit on shelves. If they're serious about ensuring that more students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college or postsecondary training programs, states and school districts have to see them, and the curriculum associated with them, as the organizing principle of public education. Decisions about accountability, teacher preparation, professional development, instructional materials, technology, teacher evaluations, class size, how to use time and even how money is spent have to be made with the standards in mind. They aren't a program. They are the program.

Except, apparently, in California. There the standards, which the state board of education voted to adopt in August of 2010, are being treated as an add-on, an unfunded mandate, an optional program.

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Survey finds school districts have taken hits; Walker touts reforms

Tom Tolan:

A new survey of the majority of the state's school districts shows many of them were forced to make staff reductions and increase class sizes as a result of school aid cuts in Gov. Scott Walker's state budget, according to the state Department of Public Instruction and a school administrators association.

But the governor's office, briefed Wednesday afternoon on the survey to be announced at a Thursday news conference, says the Walker administration's reforms are working and points out that the majority of teacher layoffs have been in districts that didn't adopt the reforms - notably in Milwaukee, Kenosha and Janesville.

The survey, by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, was conducted in the early fall of the current school year, after the state Legislature passed a two-year budget that trimmed $749 million in aid to public school districts, in addition to reductions in the limits of what districts can levy in property taxes.

The survey was sent to administrators in all 424 state school districts, and 83% of the districts responded.

Wisconsin shed about 3,400 education positions this year, triple the number from last year. At least one-third of the state's districts increased elementary class sizes. And at least four in 10 districts are using one-time federal stimulus funds to balance their budgets.

But there have been no widespread reductions in course offerings, and the number of students per teacher, librarian and counselor remained about the same.

Those are the findings of a statewide survey of school superintendents about their 2011-12 budgets. Two-thirds of those responding to the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators survey anticipate next year's staff cuts will be as bad or worse than this year.

The survey didn't ask about property taxes, but the Legislative Fiscal Bureau has projected an average increase of just 0.6 percent on the December tax bills, far less than the average 4.84 percent annual increase over the previous decade.

Wisconsin Governor Walker:
Today the Department of Public Instruction released the data for a survey done by the Wisconsin Association of Schools District Administrators. The administrators for 353 school districts responded, which accounts for 83% of Wisconsin school districts. The median student to teacher ratio in Wisconsin this year is 13.5 to 1. Attached is a copy of the survey questions, and the raw data responses.

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Vouchers and Low-Income: Reality Check

Jay Greene:

Have school vouchers moved away from their historic focus on low-income students? The political hacks at the Center on Education Policy think so. And as we know, whenever CEP weighs in, that's reason enough to check the facts.

Paul DiPerna of the Friedman Foundation did a headcount and found that as of now:

11 of 17 existing voucher programs have no income limits

7 of these are statewide special-needs programs (FL, GA, LA, OHx2, OK & UT), 3 have geographic caps (ME, VT & OH) and one has a numeric cap (CO)

Of the 6 programs with income limits, 5 have limits that are above 200% of the poverty line

What do you know? CEP is right!

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November 10, 2011

Madison School Board's DIFI (District Identified for Improvement) Plan Discussion

The Madison School Board (the discussion begins at about 58 minutes) video archives (11.7.2011) is worth a watch.

Related: Madison School District Identified for Improvement (DIFI); Documentation for the Wisconsin DPI

1. Develop or Revise a District Improvement Plan

Address the fundamental teaching and learning needs of schools in the Local Education Agency (LEA), especially the academic problems o f low-achieving students.

MMSD has been identified by the State of Wisconsin as a District Identified for Improvement, or DIFI. We entered into this status based on District WKCE assessment scores. The data indicates that sub-groups of students-African American students, English Language Learner Students with Disabilities or Economically Disadvantaged -did not score high enough on the WKCE in one or more areas of reading, math or test participation to meet state criteria.

Under No Child Left Behind, 100% of students are expected to achieve proficient or advanced on the WKCE in four areas by 2014. Student performance goals have been raised every year on a regular schedule since 2001, making targets more and more difficult to reach each year. In addition to the curriculum changes being implemented, the following assessments are also new or being implemented during the 2011-12 school year (see Attachment 1):

Perhaps the No Child Left Behind requirement waivers that Education Secretary Duncan has discussed remove the urgency to address these issues. Of course, the benchmark used to measure student progress is the oft-criticized WKCE "Wisconsin, Mississippi Have "Easy State K-12 Exams" - NY Times".

Related: Comparing Wisconsin & Texas: Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1; Thrive's "Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report".

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Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1; Thrive's "Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report"

Peter Theron via a kind Don Severson email:

Earlier this year Wisconsin teachers and their supporters compared Wisconsin and Texas academically and claimed that Wisconsin had better achievement because it ranked higher on ACT/SAT scores. The fact that this claim ignored the ethnic composition of the states, prompted David Burge to use the National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP) to compare educational achievement within the same ethnic groups. His conclusion, based on the 2009 NAEP in Reading, Mathematics, and Science (3 subject areas times 2 grades, 4th and 8th, times 3 ethnicities, white, black, and hispanic equals 18 comparisons), was Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1.

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2011/03/longhorns-17-badgers-1.html

The 2011 NAEP results are now available for Reading and
Mathematics. The updated conclusion (2 subject areas times 2 grades, 4th and 8th, times 3 ethnicities, white, black, and hispanic equals 12 comparisons) is Longhorns 12 - Badgers 0. Not only did Texas students outperform Wisconsin students in every one of the twelve ethnicity-controlled comparisons, but Texas students exceeded the national average in all 12 comparisons. Wisconsin students were above the average 3 times, below the average 8 times, and tied the average once.

Again, as in 2009, the achievement gaps were smaller in Texas than in Wisconsin.

2011 Data from http://nationsreportcard.gov/
2011 4th Grade Math

White students: Texas 253, Wisconsin 251 (national average 249)
Black students: Texas 232, Wisconsin 217 (national 224)
Hispanic students: Texas 235, Wisconsin 228 (national 229)

2011 8th Grade Math

White students: Texas 304, Wisconsin 295 (national 293)
Black students: Texas 277, Wisconsin 256 (national 262)
Hispanic students: Texas 283, Wisconsin 270 (national 269)

2011 4th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 233, Wisconsin 227 (national 230)
Black students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 196 (national 205)
Hispanic students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 202 (national 205)

2011 8th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 274, Wisconsin 272 (national 272)
Black students: Texas 252, Wisconsin 240 (national 248)
Hispanic students: Texas 254, Wisconsin 248 (national 251)

2009 data compiled by David Burge from NAEP
http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2011/03/longhorns-17-badgers-1.html
2009 4th Grade Math

White students: Texas 254, Wisconsin 250 (national average 248)
Black students: Texas 231, Wisconsin 217 (national 222)
Hispanic students: Texas 233, Wisconsin 228 (national 227)

2009 8th Grade Math

White students: Texas 301, Wisconsin 294 (national 294)
Black students: Texas 272, Wisconsin 254 (national 260)
Hispanic students: Texas 277, Wisconsin 268 (national 260)

2009 4th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 232, Wisconsin 227 (national 229)
Black students: Texas 213, Wisconsin 192 (national 204)
Hispanic students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 202 (national 204)

2009 8th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 273, Wisconsin 271 (national 271)
Black students: Texas 249, Wisconsin 238 (national 245)
Hispanic students: Texas 251, Wisconsin 250 (national 248)

2009 4th Grade Science

White students: Texas 168, Wisconsin 164 (national 162)
Black students: Texas 139, Wisconsin 121 (national 127)
Hispanic students: Wisconsin 138, Texas 136 (national 130)

2009 8th Grade Science

White students: Texas 167, Wisconsin 165 (national 161)
Black students: Texas 133, Wisconsin 120 (national 125)
Hispanic students: Texas 141, Wisconsin 134 (national 131)

Related: Comparing Madison, Wisconsin & College Station, Texas.

Thrive released its "Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report," which compares the Madison Region to competitors Austin, TX, Des Moines, IA, and Lincoln, NE, across the major areas of People, Prosperity and Place, 3MB PDF via a kind Kaleem Caire email.

Finally, www.wisconsin2.org is worth a visit.

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Charter Schools: Getting Your Child on the List

Gene Maddaus:

On a weekday evening in early spring, about 40 parents crammed into a classroom at Larchmont Charter elementary school. They perched on kindergarten chairs, or sat on the floor, or stood in the hallway, craning their necks.

Larchmont is one of the most desirable schools in Los Angeles. It's also nearly impossible to get into. At that moment, 500 kids were on the waiting list. Admission is by lottery, so it comes down to luck.

Unless you can find a way around the lottery.

That's why these parents came to Larchmont. They were looking for a way to cut to the front of the line.

School officials explained how it would work. Parents who agreed up front to make an extraordinary volunteer commitment to the school could get admissions priority. They would be called "founding parents."

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Public School Teachers Aren't Underpaid

Andrew Biggs & Jason Richwine:

A common story line in American education policy is that public school teachers are underpaid--"desperately underpaid," according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a recent speech. As former first lady Laura Bush put it: "Salaries are too low. We all know that. We need to figure out a way to pay teachers more."

Good teachers are crucial to a strong economy and a healthy civil society, and they should be paid at a level commensurate with their skills. But the evidence shows that public school teachers' total compensation amounts to roughly $1.50 for every $1 that their skills could garner in a private sector job.

How could that be? First, consider salaries. Public school teachers do receive salaries 19.3% lower than similarly-educated private workers, according to our analysis of Census Bureau data. However, a majority of public school teachers were education majors in college, and more than two in three received their highest degree (typically a master's) in an education-related field. A salary comparison that controls only for years spent in school makes no distinction between degrees in education and those in biology, mathematics, history or other demanding fields.

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Reading, Writing And Roasting: Schools Bring Cooking Back Into The Classroom

Allison Aubrey:

Lots of kids have tried lentils. But what about Ethiopian-style lentils, accompanied by injera bread, couscous and cucumber salad?

Fourth graders in Santa Fe, N.M. prepared this lunch feast themselves as part of a nutrition education program called Cooking with Kids. And nutrition experts say programs like this one are not just about expanding timid kids' palates.

Even as home economics classes have been phased out in recent years, some schools are bringing cooking back. And a new study that evaluates cooking curriculum says these hands-on classes do more than just prepare students to cook a decent meal.

"Teachers and principals are seeing how the classroom cooking experience helps support critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills," says study author Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, a nutrition researcher at Colorado State University. The study appears this week in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

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Teaching With the Enemy

Joe Nocera:

Last month, Randi Weingarten held a book party for Steven Brill, the veteran journalist and entrepreneur who had just published "Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools," his vivid account of the rise of the school reform movement. When Brill told me this recently, I nearly fell out of my chair. Weingarten, you see, is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and for much of his book, Brill treats Weingarten the way reformers always treat her and her union: as the enemy.

"Class Warfare" takes us into the classrooms of the Harlem Success Academy and other successful charter schools, where the teaching is first-rate and those students lucky enough to be admitted are genuinely learning. It charts the transformation of the Democratic elite, starting with President Obama, from knee-jerk defenders of the status quo to full-throated reform advocates. It recounts the efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to increase the effectiveness of public school teaching. And it tells the stories of the country's two best-known reformers, Joel Klein in New York City and Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C., as they push to establish performance measures that will allow them to reward good teachers -- and fire bad ones. (Klein and Rhee left their posts as school department heads last year.)

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U. of Texas at Arlington Proposes a Tuition Freeze

Beckie Supiano:

As president of the Student Congress, Jennifer Fox knew in advance that the University of Texas at Arlington was going to propose a tuition freeze for the 2012-13 academic year.

When Ms. Fox, a senior accounting major, was told of the plan by the university's president, James Spaniolo, a couple of weeks ago, "my initial reaction was shock," she says. Student leaders had assumed tuition would go up, Ms. Fox says, especially in light of state budget cuts.

Ms. Fox was not alone in her response. On Tuesday, Mr. Spaniolo presented the plan to the Tuition Review Committee, which includes students representing each of the university's colleges, as well as representatives of other groups, like faculty and alumni, and is chaired by Ms. Fox. "I think there was a little bit of surprise," Mr. Spaniolo says.

Under the plan, UT-Arlington would not raise undergraduate or graduate tuition and fees, or the price of room and board, for the coming year. Currently, undergraduate tuition and fees average $9,292 for full-time students (the price varies depending on which college students are in), and room and board costs $7,554. Nearly all of the university's students are Texas residents.

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Generation Jobless: Students Pick Easier Majors Despite Less Pay

Joe Light & Rachel Emma Silverman:

Biyan Zhou wanted to major in engineering. Her mother and her academic adviser also wanted her to major in it, given the apparent career opportunities for engineers in a tough job market.

Robert Pizzo
But during her sophomore year at Carnegie Mellon University, Ms. Zhou switched her major from electrical and computer engineering to a double major in psychology and policy management. Workers who majored in psychology have median earnings that are $38,000 below those of computer engineering majors, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by Georgetown University.

"My ability level was just not there," says Ms. Zhou of her decision. She now plans to look for jobs in public relations or human resources.

Ms. Zhou's dilemma is one that educators, politicians and companies have been trying to solve for decades amid fears that U.S. science and technology training may be trailing other countries. The weak economy is putting those fears into deeper relief.

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Are We Deluding Ourselves About Our Schools?

Jon Schnur:

Today, I walked my first-grade son to our neighborhood public school before joining over 500 leaders converging on New York City to make tangible commitments to promote economic mobility in America at the Opportunity Nation summit. I told Matthew that people were coming virtually every sector -- business, education, non-profit and community organizations, religious institutions and the military -- to focus on how to provide him and his peers from every background a great education and a shot at the American dream. When I dropped Matthew off at his school's front door, he looked at me and warned me with a big smile not to follow him inside -- something I occasionally do partly to make him laugh and partly out of that desire to support him wherever he goes.

I didn't follow my son inside that schoolhouse door. But I have been working hard to determine what commitments I can personally make to provide our kids and all of America's children with tools they can use to create opportunity once they walk as young adults out of our sight-line into America's future.

One must know where one is in order to determine where to go and how to get there, but today's parents face significant challenges in that regard.

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November 9, 2011

Autism Linked to Excess Neurons

Crystal Phend, via a kind Larry Winkler email:

Children with autism appear to have bigger brains with more neurons than normal for their age, a small preliminary study affirmed.

Postmortem examinations of seven boys with autism showed 67% more neurons in the prefrontal cortex (1.94 billion), which controls social and emotional development as well as communication, compared with six controls (1.16 billion, P=0.002), Eric Courchesne, PhD, of the University of California San Diego, and colleagues found.

Autistic brains also weighed 17.6% above normal for age (P=0.001), the group reported in the Nov. 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Point out that the brains from autistic boys in this study were 17.6% above what is considered normal brain weight based on age.
Neuron counts in the autistic children should have been accompanied by brain weights of 29.4% versus the observed 17.6% enlargement, they said. "Thus, the size of the autistic brain, overlarge though it is, might actually underestimate the pathology of excess neuron numbers," the group explained.

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XIAO HUA Interview; Chinese International School, Hong Kong

William Hughes Fitzhugh, Founder & Publisher, The Concord Review

1. Please tell us about yourself. What inspired you to start The Concord Review?

Diane Ravitch, an American historian of education, wrote a column in The New York Times in 1985 about the ignorance of history among 17-year-olds in the United States, based on a recent study of 7,000 students, and as a history teacher myself at the time, I was interested to see that what concerned me was a national problem. I did have a few students at my high school who did more than they had to in history, and when I began a sabbatical leave in 1986, I began to think about these issues. In March 1987, it occurred to me that if I had one or two very good students writing history papers for me and perhaps my colleagues had one or two, then in 20,000 United States high schools (and more overseas) there must be a large number of high school students doing exemplary history research papers. In June of 1987, I incorporated The Concord Review to provide a journal for such good work in history. In August 1987, I sent a four-page brochure calling for papers to every high school in the United States, 3,500 high schools in Canada, and 1,500 schools overseas. The papers started coming in, and in the Fall of 1988 I was able to publish the first issue (of now 89 issues) of The Concord Review.

2. What makes for a great history research essay?

In order to write a great history essay it is first necessary to know a lot of history. Students who read as much as they can about a historical topic have a better chance of writing an exemplary history paper. Of course they must make an effort to write so that readers can understand what they are saying and so they will be interested in what they are writing, and they must re-write their papers, but without knowing a good deal about their topic, their paper will probably not be very interesting or very good.

3. Please tell us about some of the most outstanding essays you have received. What made them special?

In 1995, I as able to begin awarding the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes for the best few papers from the 44 published in each volume year of The Concord Review. Many of these papers are now on our website at www.tcr.org, and students and teachers who are interested may read some there. I have several favorites and would be glad to send some to anyone who asks me at fitzhugh@tcr.org.

4. Please tell us about some of your most interesting authors. Where did they go to college, what did they study, and what are they doing now?

About 30% of our authors have gone to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford and Yale, and many have gone to other good colleges, such as those at Cambridge and Oxford. Three, that I know of, have been named Rhodes Scholars. I work alone, so that I am not able to follow up on authors very well. I know that many are doctors and lawyers and some are professors and entrepreneurs, but I have lost track of almost all of them, for lack of funding and staff to help me keep in touch with them.

5. Please tell us how you evaluate and select essays for publication in The Concord Review.

The purpose of The Concord Review is two-fold. We want to recognize exemplary work in history by secondary students (from 39 countries so far) but we also want to distribute their work to inspire their peers to read more history and work harder on their own research papers, because being able to read nonfiction and write term papers are important skills for future success in college and beyond, and also because students should know more history if they want to be educated. So I look for papers that are historically accurate, well-researched, serious and worth reading.

6. What are your favorite books and why?

I was an English Literature major at Harvard College and I read English Literature at Cambridge for one year, and I still enjoy Dickens, Thackeray, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope, and so on, but I also have a number of favorite historians, such as Martin Gilbert, David McCullough, David Hackett Fischer, James McPherson, G.M. Trevelyan, John Prebble, Max Hastings, and others. I also read a fair number of books on education and contemporary intellectual culture.

7. Do you have any advice on how to write well?

As I suggested, there is no substitute for knowing a lot about the subject you are writing about. I think it helps to read your drafts to a friend or family member as you go along as well. You will find all sorts of things you want to improve or correct as you offer what you write to another person. So, read (study), write, and re-write...that is about it. And read the good writing of other authors.

8. Do you have advice on how students can best prepare themselves to do well in college?

There is a great deal of emphasis, at least in the United States, on math and science, but, in my view, there is much too little attention here on the importance for secondary students of being able to read complete nonfiction books and to write serious (e.g. 6,000-word) research papers. I have heard from a few of my authors that they are mobbed when they get to college by their peers who never had to write a research paper when they were in high school and so have no idea how to do it. Students who write Extended Essays for the International Baccalaureate Diploma have an advantage, as do the many students from all over the world who write history research papers on their own as independent studies and send them to The Concord Review.

Chinese International Schools' website, Hong Kong.

Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 4:17 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Merger of Memphis and County School Districts Revives Race and Class Challenges

Sam Dillon:

When thousands of white students abandoned the Memphis schools 38 years ago rather than attend classes with blacks under a desegregation plan fueled by busing, Joseph A. Clayton went with them. He quit his job as a public school principal to head an all-white private school and later won election to the board of the mostly white suburban district next door.

Now, as the overwhelmingly black Memphis school district is being dissolved into the majority-white Shelby County schools, Mr. Clayton is on the new combined 23-member school board overseeing the marriage. And he warns that the pattern of white flight could repeat itself, with the suburban towns trying to secede and start their own districts.

"There's the same element of fear," said Mr. Clayton, 79. "In the 1970s, it was a physical, personal fear. Today the fear is about the academic decline of the Shelby schools."

Much more, here.

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What other school districts are doing (security) around the country

Susan Snyder:

Of the nation's 10 largest cities, eight use armed police in some form. And in the ninth city, New York, officers receive far more training and scrutiny prior to hiring.

Five of those city school districts - San Diego, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio - employ their own police officers, who receive comparable training to regular city police.

Chicago, Phoenix, and the San Jose Unified School District base city police officers in some of their buildings. In the case of San Jose, the officers are not in uniform, but rather dress casually in polo shirts and conceal their weapons.

In New York - the nation's largest school system - the city police department's school-safety division staffs the schools with unarmed officers who receive 14 weeks of training, intensive background scrutiny, and drug and character screening. (Armed precinct-based officers, however, also come into the schools.)

The nation's largest cities are by no means alone.

The Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of large urban districts, surveyed members in 2004 and found that 29 of 37 respondents indicated its officers were armed. Las Vegas, Miami, and Indianapolis are among other bigger districts with their own police forces.

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Focus on standardized tests may be pushing some teachers to cheat

Howard Blume:

The stress was overwhelming.

For years, this veteran teacher had received exemplary evaluations but now was feeling pressured to raise her students' test scores. Her principal criticized her teaching and would show up to take notes on her class. She knew the material would be used against her one day.

"My principal told me right to my face that she -- she was feeling sorry for me because I don't know how to teach," the instructor said.

The Los Angeles educator, who did not want to be identified, is one of about three dozen in the state accused this year of cheating, lesser misconduct or mistakes on standardized achievement tests.

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Banning Sugary Soda From School Fails to Cut Teen Consumption, Study Finds

Nicole Ostrow:

Banning sugar-filled sodas from American schools as an effort to combat childhood obesity doesn't reduce overall consumption levels of sweetened beverages, research found.

In U.S. states that banned only soda, about 30 percent of middle-school students still purchased sugary drinks like sports and fruit beverages at school, similar to states that had no policy, according to a study released online today in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. In states that banned all sugar-sweetened beverages, students still consumed the drinks outside of school, the researchers said.

Over the past 25 years, children have gotten more of their calories from sugary beverages and consumption of the drinks has been associated with childhood obesity and weight gain, the authors said. Today's study is the first to look at whether efforts by states to curb these drinks really works, said Daniel Taber, the lead study author.

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

Charter Schools Have Accountability

The Wall Street Journal:

Marla Sole recognizes the positive success stories of many charter schools ("approximately four times as likely as public schools to be ranked in the top 5%"), but then she comments that charter schools "were approximately two-and-a-half times as likely as public schools to be ranked in the bottom 5%" (Letters, Oct. 31).

What Ms. Sole fails to mention is that when a charter school is failing, its charter can be revoked. The parents also have the opportunity to send their children to a different school, possibly one of those in the top 5%. When the public school is a failure, we do not close it. Instead we hear calls demanding even more money to fix the failure, and we continue to force the children to attend that failing school, with no other opportunities for an education. Charter schools have that flexibility to be reformed and if that fails, the school is shut down.

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Newport-Mesa school chief gets no confidence vote from teachers

LA Now:

An overwhelming majority of Newport-Mesa Unified School District teachers have no confidence in their beleaguered superintendent, according to a vote announced by the teachers union.

Ballots sent out Oct. 20 to the teachers in the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers showed 91.2% voted no confidence in Jeffrey Hubbard, union officials confirmed.

Of the 959 members, 379 participated -- a nearly 40% voter turnout.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Federal borrowing mounts while household debt shrinks

Dennis Cauchon:

The substitution of government debt for consumer debt helped end the recession and start a recovery, economists say, but it leaves the nation's long-term economic health in peril.

Households have reduced debt by $549 billion since 2007, mostly by cutting mortgages through defaults and paying down credit cards. During that time, the federal government has added more than $4 trillion in debt, pushing the country's total borrowing to a record $36.5 trillion, excluding the financial industry, according to the Federal Reserve.

"Government will eventually need to reduce the deficit," says Susan Lund, research director at McKinsey Global Institute, part of the business consulting firm. "But it's a very difficult balancing act to avoid withdrawing stimulus too soon while stopping before you borrow too much."

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Wisconsin Governor Walker taking schools backward

WEAC President Mary Bell:

Anyone following what's been happening in Wisconsin's public schools can see what Gov. Scott Walker's $1.6 billion budget cut and extreme policies have meant for our students and communities.

Across the state, class sizes are on the rise and students have fewer opportunities -- including in key areas such as reading, math and science.

Walker has taken an ax to our public schools, while at the same time increasing taxpayer funding of private schools. He's turned his back on the Wisconsin tradition of valuing public education. As a result, his extreme policies are hurting our students.

The governor says everything is fine, but we can see for ourselves that he's not telling the whole story. With 97 percent of local school districts receiving less state aid this year, and a promise of more cuts next year, local schools will continue to struggle.

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November 8, 2011

Spokane Public records/Public Disclosure Commission complaint

Laurie Rogers:

On Sept. 28, 2011, a PDC complaint was filed with the Public Disclosure Commission because of concerns noted in multiple public records from Spokane Public Schools. This PDC complaint is about Washington State's RCW 42.17.130.


Sept. 26 (filed Sept. 28), 2011: PDC complaint

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Is an Ivy League Diploma Worth It?

Melissa Korn:

Daniel Schwartz could have attended an Ivy League school if he wanted to. He just doesn't see the value.

Mr. Schwartz, 18 years old, was accepted at Cornell University but enrolled instead at City University of New York's Macaulay Honors College, which is free.

Mr. Schwartz says his family could have afforded Cornell's tuition, with help from scholarships and loans. But he wants to be a doctor and thinks medical school, which could easily cost upward of $45,000 a year for a private institution, is a more important investment. It wasn't "worth it to spend $50,000-plus a year for a bachelor's degree," he says.

As student-loan default rates climb and college graduates fail to land jobs, an increasing number of students are betting they can get just as far with a degree from a less-expensive school as they can with a diploma from an elite school--without having to take on debt.

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Challenging, customized education for Florida students

Michael Kooi:

One of the priorities of the Department is to provide a challenging, yet customized education for Florida's students and families. To deliver this type of education system for our individual students, the Department is able to showcase a variety of school choice options offered statewide.

Florida's public schools offer a wide variety of curriculum options. Some of these aim to strengthen the availability, accessibility, and equity of educational options for parents including Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, dual enrollment and Advanced International Certification of Education, just to name a few.

While many gifted students may enroll in these options, I want to stress that any qualified student can take advantage of these options. These school choice options have demanding, personalized curriculum. I have heard many stories about students who struggled in traditional classes but excelled when they entered a more challenging program that focused on their needs and strengths.

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Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It's Just So Darn Hard)

Christopher Drew:

LAST FALL, President Obama threw what was billed as the first White House Science Fair, a photo op in the gilt-mirrored State Dining Room. He tested a steering wheel designed by middle schoolers to detect distracted driving and peeked inside a robot that plays soccer. It was meant as an inspirational moment: children, science is fun; work harder.

Politicians and educators have been wringing their hands for years over test scores showing American students falling behind their counterparts in Slovenia and Singapore. How will the United States stack up against global rivals in innovation? The president and industry groups have called on colleges to graduate 10,000 more engineers a year and 100,000 new teachers with majors in STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math. All the Sputnik-like urgency has put classrooms from kindergarten through 12th grade -- the pipeline, as they call it -- under a microscope. And there are encouraging signs, with surveys showing the number of college freshmen interested in majoring in a STEM field on the rise.

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The World's 7 Most Powerful Educators

Wendy Kopp:

"Providing an excellent education for all students-especially the 16 million children growing up in poverty- requires extraordinary commitment," says Wendy Kopp. "These individuals, who aren't often in the national spotlight, demonstrate the leadership we need to ensure all children gain the skills necessary to get to and through college."

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Two Out of Three Ain't Bad...

Katy Venskus:

DFER Wisconsin headed into the fall of 2011 with three major objectives: two of objectives required action by the state legislature (a phrase that is oxymoronic at best right now) and the third required action by the Milwaukee City Council. I'm happy to say we won more than we lost, but there is plenty of work left to be done.

Good news first:

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Shaking up the status quo in L.A. schools

Steve Lopez:

Six million, give or take. That's how many children are in public school in California.

Arguably, we won't have a strong economic future if they don't get a good education.

But boy, do the grown-ups love to muck things up for the kids.

Politics, ego, endless skirmishes between school districts and teacher unions -- it all gets in the way of the kids' best interests. And California spends less per pupil than all but a few states when you adjust for regional cost-of-living differences, leading to an annual ritual of laying off thousands of teachers and other staffers.

But in Los Angeles, the status quo is under attack.

Parents and education advocates are suing L.A. Unified in an effort to enforce an overlooked state law that requires teacher and principal evaluations to be linked to student achievement.

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Scientists and autism: When geeks meet

Simon Baron-Cohen:

In the opening scene of The Social Network, Jesse Eisenberg portrays a cold Mark Zuckerberg getting dumped by his girlfriend, who is exasperated by the future Facebook founder's socially oblivious and obsessive personality. Eisenberg's Zuckerberg is the stereotypical Silicon Valley geek -- brilliant with technology, pathologically bereft of social graces. Or, in the parlance of the Valley: 'on the spectrum'.

Few scientists think that the leaders of the tech world actually have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which can range from the profound social, language and behavioural problems that are characteristic of autistic disorder, to the milder Asperger's syndrome. But according to an idea that is creeping into the popular psyche, they and many others in professions such as science and engineering may display some of the characteristics of autism, and have an increased risk of having children with the full-blown disorder.

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November 7, 2011

Wisconsin Framework for Educator (Teacher) Effectiveness


Design Team Report & Recommendation:

1. Guiding Principles

The Design Team believes that the successful development and implementation of the new performance-based evaluation system is dependent upon the following guiding principles,
which define the central focus of the entire evaluation system. The guiding principles of the educator evaluation system are:

The ultimate goal of education is student learning. Effective educators are essential to achieving that goal for all students. We believe it is imperative that students have highly effective teams of educators to support them throughout their public education. We further believe that effective practice leading to better educational achievement requires continuous improvement and monitoring.

A strong evaluation system for educators is designed to provide information that supports decisions intended to ensure continuous individual and system effectiveness. The system must be well-articulated, manageable

Related: Wisconsin 25th in 2011 NAEP Reading, Comparing Rhetoric Regarding Texas (10th) & Wisconsin NAEP Scores: Texas Hispanic and African-American students rank second on eighth-grade NAEP math test, Wisconsin, Mississippi Have "Easy State K-12 Exams" - NY Times and Seidenberg endorses using the Massachusetts model exam for teachers of reading (MTEL 90), which was developed with input from reading scientists. He also supports universal assessment to identify students who are at risk, and he mentioned the Minnesota Reading Corps as a model of reading tutoring that would be good to bring to Wisconsin.

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Game-changing steps needed to improve Wisconsin reading

Alan Borsuk:

The new results once again underscore how true it is that the reading proficiency of African-American students is in a crisis. But the smugness about kids elsewhere in the state, especially white kids, is misguided.

Here are a few slices of how Wisconsin kids did in the latest round of National Assessment of Educational Progress tests:

White fourth-graders scored below the national average for white kids by a statistically significant amount. White eighth-graders scored exactly at the national average.
Wisconsin fourth-graders who don't qualify for free or reduced-price lunch - that is to say, who aren't poor - scored below the national average for such kids, again by a significant amount. Eighth-graders were, again, exactly at the national average.
Only 35% of Wisconsin eighth-graders were rated as proficient or advanced readers. The figures haven't budged since at least 1998.
(In fairness, the national figure is 32%, and it hasn't budged in a long time, either. But there are states such as Massachusetts and Florida, where there have been significant improvements.)

NAEP is a strict grader - Wisconsin's own tests last year rated 86% of eighth-graders proficient or advanced. Some argue NAEP is too strict. However, it uses the same measuring stick for everyone, so comparisons to other states and the nation are fair.

Related: Comparing Rhetoric Regarding Texas (10th) & Wisconsin NAEP Scores: Texas Hispanic and African-American students rank second on eighth-grade NAEP math test; and Wisconsin 25th in 2011 NAEP Reading.

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How Online Innovators Are Disrupting Education

Jason Orgill and Douglas Hervey:

Four years ago Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen predicted that online education would take off slowly and then hit everyone by surprise: the S-curve effect. And indeed, while it initially grew slowly, online education has exploded over the past several years. According to the 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning, approximately 5.6 million students took at least one web-based class during the fall 2009 semester, which marked a 21% growth from the previous year. That's up from 45,000 in 2000 and experts predict that online education could reach 14 million in 2014.

Consider a recent Economist article featuring Bill Gates's educational poster child: Khan Academy, founded by Salman Khan in 2006. Khan's business model is simple, yet impactful. As The Economist noted, it flips education on its head. Rather than filling the day with lectures and requiring students to complete exercises after school, Khan focuses on classroom exercises throughout the day and allows students to download more lectures after school. When students arrive at their Silicon Valley suburb classroom with their white MacBooks, they begin their day doing various online learning exercises. The teacher, aware of what her students are working on based on her own monitor screen, then approaches students and provides one-on-one feedback and mentoring, tailoring her message to students' particular learning paces and needs.

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Overhaul nation's education policy

Abdul Jalil Hamid:

THERE are many ways to interpret the Education Ministry's latest solution to its controversial policy with regard to the teaching of Mathematics and Science in schools.

Many parents would applaud the ministry's decision to allow children currently learning the two core subjects in English to continue doing so until they reach Form Five.

The "soft-landing" approach may be the best way out of this contentious issue and gradually pave the way for Bahasa Malaysia to be fully reinstated by 2016 at the primary school level and 2021 at the secondary school level.

This could be enough to avert the anger of parents and pressure groups who are opposed to the removal of the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) policy. In essence, the policy stays for now.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who went to great lengths to explain to editors on Friday why the six-year-old policy was unsustainable, insisted that the soft-landing approach was necessary.

"It is a fair decision. We are very considerate," he said.

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A Secret Education Department Rule

Libby A. Nelson:

Among the many new program integrity rules the U.S. Education Department issued a little over a year ago was one that went relatively unnoticed at the time: a rule that defines the "last date of attendance" for students who withdraw from online programs more stringently than in the past, and differently than for students in a traditional classroom.

At the time, the rule was lost in the hubbub over state authorization rules, the definition of a "credit hour," and other, more controversial, regulations, some of which colleges challenged in Congress or in court. But before the program integrity rules took effect in July 2011 -- and even before they were published publicly, in October 2010 -- the Education Department was already using the new definition of "last date of attendance," which varied considerably from the previous version, to begin investigations and, in some cases, collect financial aid refunds for students who dropped out.

When the Education Department began using the "last day of attendance" rule to evaluate colleges in audits, it had never been publicly announced. In effect, a group of higher education associations has argued, the department was expecting institutions to play a game without knowing the rules.

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Assessing the Compensation of Public School Teachers

Jason Richwine, Ph.D. & Andrew G. Biggs, Ph.D.:

The teaching profession is crucial to America's soci- ety and economy, but public-school teachers should receive compensation that is neither higher nor lower than market rates. Do teachers currently receive the proper level of compensation? Standard analytical approaches to this question compare teacher salaries to the salaries of similarly educated and experienced private-sector workers, and then add the value of employer contributions toward fringe benefits. These simple comparisons would indicate that public-school teachers are undercompensated. However, comparing teachers to non-teachers presents special challenges not accounted for in the existing literature.

First, formal educational attainment, such as a degree acquired or years of education completed, is not a good proxy for the earnings potential of school teach- ers. Public-school teachers earn less in wages on aver- age than non-teachers with the same level of education, but teacher skills generally lag behind those of other workers with similar "paper" qualifications. We show that:

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Our Universities: Why Are They Failing?

Anthony Grafton:

American universities crowd the tops of many world rankings, and though these ratings are basically entertainment for university administrators and alumni, they do reflect certain facts. A number of American universities offer their faculty salaries and working conditions, laboratories and libraries that few institutions elsewhere can match. They spend more not only on their staff, but also on their graduate and undergraduate students, than their peers overseas. Though their fees seem enormous by European or Asian standards, they have worked hard in recent years to keep them from deterring poor students by offering more generous aid for undergraduates and by paying full fees for all doctoral students. At every level of the system, dedicated professors are setting students on fire with enthusiasm for everything from the structure of crystals to the structure of poems.

Yet American universities also attract ferocious criticism, much of it from professors and from journalists who know them well, and that's entirely reasonable too. Every coin has its other side, every virtue its corresponding vice--and practically every university its festering sores. At the most prestigious medical schools, professors publish the work of paid flacks for pharmaceutical companies under their own names. At many state universities and more than a few private ones, head football and basketball coaches earn millions and their assistants hundreds of thousands for running semiprofessional teams. Few of these teams earn much money for the universities that sponsor them, and some brutally exploit their players.

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Tracking Caribou, Shooting Hoops, Winning Trophies

William Yardley & Erik Olsen:

Spring means murre eggs and bowhead whales. Summer is seals and salmon and berries. Fall and winter are a time to track caribou.

And then there is that other season here at the edge of the earth, the one that never seems to end.

It is called basketball season, and it, too, has become crucial to existence.

"When I leave school I don't have to think about it, I know I'm coming here," said Caroline Long, 18, a senior at Tikigaq School. "I know for a fact that this is where I'm going to be."

The "this" Ms. Long was referring to is this tiny village's magical redoubt from the dark and forbidding Arctic and one of the secrets of its outsize stature in Alaska sports lore: open gym.

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Does Inequality Make Us Unhappy?

Jonah Lehrer:

Inequality is inevitable; life is a bell curve. Such are the brute facts of biology, which can only evolve because some living things are better at reproducing than others. But not all inequality is created equal. In recent years, it's become clear that many kinds of wealth disparity are perfectly acceptable -- capitalism could not exist otherwise -- while alternate forms make us unhappy and angry.

The bad news is that American society seems to be developing the wrong kind of inequality. There is, for instance, this recent study published in Psychological Science, which found that, since the 1970s, the kind of inequality experienced by most Americans has undermined perceptions of fairness and trust, which in turn reduced self-reports of life satisfaction:

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November 6, 2011

Live Stream of violinist Wendy Sharp tomorrow from Yale, plus a SAVE-THE-DATE for Feb 13

Lisa Bielawa, via a kind email:

Hi dear friends- So great to see so many of you at the performances of Koyaanisqatsi with the Glass Ensemble & the NY Philharmonic this past week. It was pretty great to share the stage with So Much Brass! and a great experience for us to share that incredible piece with the hometown audience.

I'm writing you because there's a great way tomorrow Nov 6 at 4pm EST for you to hear some of my music - Live! - from anywhere in the world.

Violinist Wendy Sharp will be playing the solo Meditations from my cycle "The Lay of the Love and Death" in concert at Yale University at 4pm EST tomorrow (November 6), and I will be playing the role of reciter, reading the heartbreaking epic poem by Rilke, written in one night when he was just 22 years old. In its original form as a song cycle for baritone, with solo violin meditations, "The Lay of the Love and Death" was commissioned by the Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation in 2006 and received its world premiere on the Premiere Commission Gala concert in Alice Tully Hall that same year. As always, it is a great pleasure to be sharing the program with some superb, albeit not-too-social, colleagues: some guys named Brahms, Beethoven, and Korngold. Wendy is a beautiful player with a rich and very personal tone. I am really looking forward to it!

YOU CAN SEE/HEAR IT ALL ON LIVE STREAMING VIDEO HERE, at 4pm EST, broadcast straight from Sprague Hall at my own alma mater, Yale University: http://music.yale.edu/media/index.html

And speaking of Premiere Commission...

SAVE THE DATE: On February 13, 2012, Premiere Commission and its Artistic Director/Founder/Impresario Bruce Levingston (acclaimed pianist and commissioner of much important music of our time!) will be presenting a 10th Anniversary Gala celebraton concert at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC, with performances of my music by Bruce himself, the peerless string quartet Brooklyn Rider, and myself. Bruce has honored me by curating the evening around music I have written for him, for Brooklyn Rider with myself singing, and - a world premiere for piano quintet for Bruce with Brooklyn Rider entitled Rondolette (it's still in progress, but it does have a title...). And there will be some more historically-remote colleague composers on the program too!

In an extra show of support that is characteristic of Bruce, who is a great musical citizen, he is making it possible for some of the proceeds of this important and festive gala celebration to go towards the Tempelhof Broadcast project in Berlin. Thank you Bruce! Hope many of you can come out and help us celebrate 10 years of Premiere Commission on February 13! I'll be in touch again as the date approaches, with more details.

With warm wishes as we plunge into this cold season,
Lisa

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The U.S. Should Adopt Income-Based Loans Now

Kevin Carey:

A new generation of student debtors has seized the public stage. While the demands of the Occupy Wall Street movement are many, college lending reform is near the top of every list. Decades of greed, inattention, and failed policy have created a growing class of young men and women with few prospects of landing jobs good enough to bear the weight of their crushing college loans.

Some activists have called for wholesale student-loan forgiveness--a kind of 21st-century jubilee. That's unlikely. But there's something the federal government can do right now to help students caught by our terribly unjust higher-education financing system: End all federal student-loan defaults forever by moving to income-contingent loans.

The concept is simple. Right now, students pay back their loans on a fixed schedule, typically amortized over 10 years. Since people usually make less money early in their careers, their fixed monthly loan bill is hardest to manage in the first years after graduating (or not) from college. People unlucky enough to graduate during horrible recessions are even more likely to have bad jobs or no jobs and struggle paying back their loans. Not coincidentally, the U.S. Department of Education recently announced a sharp rise in loan defaults.

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Do education colleges prepare teachers well?

Leslie Postal and Denise-Marie Balona:

Teachers have been under a hot spotlight in recent years, blamed for public education's shortcomings. Now the colleges that train them are feeling the heat.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is calling for reforms in the nation's education schools, arguing too many are "mediocre" and send out graduates who aren't ready to teach.

In a speech last month, Duncan noted 62 percent of new teachers reported feeling unprepared. He called that figure from a 2006 study "staggering."

The Florida Department of Education (Reports) has crunched student-test-score data and tied results back to teachers' education schools, looking to tease out which institutions are best. That effort could ramp up into a more-detailed rating system for all Florida's education schools.

The most intense, and controversial, scrutiny likely will come when teacher colleges find themselves graded A to F next year, with the results posted in U.S. News & World Report.

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Why I Might Stop Assigning Essays

Jason Fertig:

In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey characterizes job tasks as either important or urgent. We desire to focus our time on important activities; the urgent ones are the persistent fires we must extinguish in order to focus on those important projects. The dissonance between putting off important work because of the need to tackle urgent tasks often causes people to become dissatisfied in their job performance. Hence, I've been thinking about Covey's book a lot lately as I question whether essay grading is an important or urgent part of my job.

In addition to Covey, my latest copy of Rutgers magazine features an article on giving great lectures. The article presented several members of the university faculty describing how they engage a classroom while lecturing. Reading through the lengthy article leaves me to ponder - am I doing too much in my classes? Why don't I just lecture?

My creative writing time has been sparse these past few months because my current courses involve grading 50-75 essays per week, along with fulfilling my university service requirements (another story for another day). I have spent around 20 hours per week grading essays, and my cost-benefit radar is telling me to question whether such assessments are worth it. Some readers may wonder why I am not more efficient, but I do aim for efficiency- I even stagger submission dates.

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Independent charter school bill fails to muster votes

Susan Troller:

A controversial bill that would have established a state-run authorizing board to help expand the number of independent charter schools in Wisconsin was not able to gather the 17 votes necessary for passage in the state Senate by the end of the day Thursday.

Now, with the current floor session complete and legislators heading home until January, the bill, at least in its current form, is dead.

Whether the bill -- first introduced early last spring -- comes back with enough adjustments to make it palatable during the spring session remains to be seen.

Sources close to Republican legislators at the Capitol say that several GOP senators raised questions about a number of elements of the bill, suggesting it could be difficult to rework it sufficiently to pass muster in a chamber where Republicans have a razor-thin 17-16 majority and Democrats have indicated their opposition.

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Analysis of New Jersey's Census-Based Special Education Funding System

Augenblick, Palaich and Associates:

As part of the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, New Jersey changed how special education was funded. Prior to 2008, special education students in New Jersey were funded based on their level of need. Each student was placed into one of four need tiers, with higher per pupil funding associated with the higher need tiers. A study done in 2003 by Center for Special Education Finance (CSEF) showed that New Jersey had higher per pupil spending for special education than the national average. 1 The study suggested switching to a census-based special education funding model might help New Jersey control its spending. In 2008, the state made the switch to a census-based model.

Under a census-based funding model all districts are funded for the same percentage of special education students. For the 2008-09 through 2010-11 school years the funding percentage was 14.69%. (This percentage does not include students receiving only speech services, who are funded separately.) Each district's special education funding, excluding extraordinary aid2, is calculated by multiplying the district's resident student population by 14.69% to determine the number of special education students to fund. This funded count is then multiplied by the special education per pupil funding amount to determine the total special education funding allotted to the district. The new system then wealth equalizes two thirds of this amount, splitting it up into a state and local share, and then funds the remaining third entirely from the state. Wealth equalization is a process commonly used in school funding formulas that determines what percentage of funding the state pays based inversely on the relative wealth of each individual district (the wealthier the district, the lower percentage the state pays). It is important to note that districts also receive extraordinary aid for special education students who are extremely expensive to serve. This aid is beyond the basic special education funding.

New Jersey Left Behind:
First, a little back story. New Jersey currently has about 185,000 kids who are eligible for special education services, out of a total enrollment of about 1.3 million. Before SFRA, costs for special ed kids was calculated based on the individual level of need. But after the passage of SFRA, we went to a census-based model which calculates state aid for kids with disabilities based on a percentage above cost-per-pupil of 14.69%. The idea behind the census-based model was that we could control our special ed costs, which are among the highest across the nation.

The formula is also weighted for high high cost-disabilities (like autism, emotional disturbances, deaf/blind, severe cognitive impairment); moderate-cost disabilities (like moderate cognitive impairment, auditory); and low-cost disabilities (like specific learning disabilities or communication-impaired).

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Common-Core Math Standards Don't Add Up

Grant Wiggins, via a kind reader's email:

There is little question in my mind that national standards will be a blessing. The crazy quilt of district and state standards will become more rational, student mobility will stop causing needless learning hardships, and the full talents of a nation of innovators will be released to develop a vast array of products and services at a scale that permits even small vendors to compete to widen the field to all educators' benefit.

That said, we are faced with a terrible situation in mathematics. In my view, unlike the English/language arts standards, the mathematics components of the Common Core State Standards Initiative are a bitter disappointment. In terms of their limited vision of math education, the pedestrian framework chosen to organize the standards, and the incoherent nature of the standards for mathematical practice in particular, I don't see how these take us forward in any way. They unwittingly reinforce the very errors in math curriculum, instruction, and assessment that produced the current crisis.

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Intelligence Is Still Not Fixed at Birth

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman:

In 1932, the entire population of Scottish 11-year olds (87, 498 children) took an IQ test. Over 60 years later, psychologists Ian Deary and Lawrence Whalley tracked down about 500 of them and gave them the same test to take again. Here are the results:

Some things to note here. Firstly, the correlation is pretty high-- .66, to be exact. Those who were at the top of the pack at age 11 also tended to be at the top of the pack at age 80, and those who were at the bottom also tended to stay at the bottom. Secondly, the correlation is not perfect. A few outliers can be found. One person had an IQ of over 100 at age 11, but scored just over 60 at age 80. There are many possible reasons for this outlier, including dementia. Other folks showed IQ increases as they aged. In fact, on average, people's individual (or absolute) scores on the test taken again at age 80 was much higher (over 1 standard deviation) than their scores had been at age 11, even though the rank ordering among people stayed roughly the same.

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November 5, 2011

Madison Prep, More Questions than Answers

TJ Mertz:

With only 24 days remaining till the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will vote on the Madison Preparatory Academy charter and only 9 days until the MMSD administration is required to issue an analysis of their proposal (and that is assuming the analysis is issued on a Sunday, otherwise we are talking only one week), there are still many, many unanswered questions concerning the school. Too many unanswered questions.

Where to start?

All officially submitted information (and more) can be found on the district web site (scroll down for the latest iterations, and thanks to the district public info team for doing this).

The issues around instrumentality/non instrumentality and the status of staff in relation to existing union contracts have rightfully been given much attention. It is my understanding that there has been some progress, but things seem to be somewhat stalled on those matters.

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

Do current schools face the same scrutiny as the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter?

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The National Study of Charter Management Organization (CMO) Effectiveness

Joshua Furgeson, Brian Gill,Joshua Haimson, Alexandra Killewald, Moira McCullough, Ira Nichols-Barrer, Bing-ru Teh, Natalya Verbitsky-Savitz, Melissa Bowen, Allison Demeritt, Paul Hill, Robin Lake

Charter schools--public schools of choice that are operated autonomously, outside the direct control of local school districts--have become more prevalent over the past two decades. There is no consensus about whether, on average, charter schools are doing better or worse than conventional public schools at promoting the achievement of their students. Nonetheless, one research finding is clear: Effects vary widely among different charter schools. Many educators, policymakers, and funders are interested in ways to identify and replicate successful charter schools and help other public schools adopt effective charter school practices.

Charter-school management organizations (CMOs), which establish and operate multiple charter schools, represent one prominent attempt to bring high performance to scale. Many CMOs were created in order to replicate educational approaches that appeared to be effective, particularly among disadvantaged students. Attracting substantial philanthropic support, CMO schools have grown rapidly from encompassing about 6 percent of all charter schools in 2000 to about 17 percent of a much larger number of charter schools by 2009 (Miron 2010). Some of these organizations have received laudatory attention through anecdotal reports of dramatic achievement results.

Andrew Rotherham comments on the study.

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The 2011 NAEP Guide Where Not to be Reincarnated as a Poor Child

Matthew Ladner:

The chart on the right presents scores for Free and Reduced Lunch Eligible students on the 2011 NAEP 4th grade reading test. Memo to self: remember not to come back as a poor kid in Alaska or DC in the next life. Ten points roughly equals a grade level worth of progress. Low-income kids in Alaska and DC are reading almost as poorly as 1st graders in Massachusetts, which is to say, not much all.

Florida hit a wall in terms of improvement (more on that later), DC saw nice math gains but not much progress in reading, Arizona finally started to move the needle a bit, and it is not entirely isolated to Hispanic children.

The 2009-2011 scores are pretty "meh" so far, and this biggest story I am finding is something big and positive going on with Maryland's reading scores: 8 point gain for FRL kids between 2009 and 2011, and a nothing to sneeze at five point gain among middle and high income students.

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Task force moves toward rationing access to community colleges

Carla Rivera:

Jasmine Delgado is one of the lucky ones. With advice from an older sister, the Santa Monica College student developed a plan that has helped her enroll in the classes she needs to transfer next year to a four-year university.

But many California community college students lack the motivation, guidance and resources to reach that goal. So, for the past year, a statewide task force has been studying ways to help them get there.

The panel held its first town hall meeting this week at the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, attracting a packed audience of educators, community members and students who were given an overview and the chance to comment on draft recommendations that will be presented to the California Community Colleges' Board of Governors.

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When Will the Education Bubble Explode?

Peter Reilly:

Is the education bubble about to explode? Some bloggers, like Mish, tend to think so, while others, like Catherine Rampellof Economix, still see value in education. Even entrepreneurs, like Peter Thiel, recently joined in the discussion, as some entrepreneurs are offering alternatives outside of education and trying to change the current zeitgeist of "college degrees are absolutely necessary." One thing many of these individuals agree on: the cost of education is growing and it's placing an enormous burden on students.

In order to assess the value of education and its future, three areas come into immediate focus: the current attitudes about education among the Millennial generation (most of whom are being educated), the warning signs of an education bubble, and the changing attitudes toward education.

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NAEP reaction in the blogosphere

Mandy Zatynski:

Education think tanks and reformers have been abuzz today with the release of NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores — also known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” The biennial release charts student achievement in math and English in fourth and eighth grades. (For an explainer on all things NAEP, go here.) The 2011 stats showed slight improvement in math across both levels, but reading scores among fourth-graders remained stagnant.

NAEP provides us the data, but officials do not surmise causes or reasons for growth – or lack thereof. That’s why we have eduwonks. Here’s what they had to say (in no particular order):

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New Rhode Island teaching evaluation system links annual ratings to certification

Associated Press:

Rhode Island teachers who receive poor evaluations for five consecutive years will lose their certification under new rules adopted by state Education officials.

Teachers will receive one of four ratings during annual evaluations: highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. Any teacher deemed "ineffective" for five years in a row will automatically lose their certification.

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Key Minnesota GOP lawmaker wants to limit school districts' levy votes

Tom Weber:

State Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, says schools should only hold levy votes in even-numbered years, when turnout is already higher for other elections.

He plans to push for such a requirement in law when lawmakers reconvene in January. Garofalo, who chairs the House Education Finance Committee, says the levy bill will be the first his committee will discuss.

"Everybody knows that next Tuesday we're going to see unbelievably low voter turnout," Garofalo said. "The irony is at the same time we're seeing so much press about a $300-million state subsidy for a Vikings stadium, there's going to be $900 million in tax revenue on the ballot next Tuesday -- and there's been very little coverage of it."

Voters in 126 school districts will see tax questions on the ballot next Tuesday. Garofalo cited data from the state Education Department that finds more than 70 percent of referenda pass during odd-numbered years, a number that falls to 52 percent during even-numbered years.

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"Chinglish" on Broadway Lost in translation

The Economist:

IN "CHINGLISH", a new Broadway play by David Henry Hwang, an American businessman goes to China to rustle up business for his family's ailing sign-making company. The title of the play refers to those famously kooky translations found in China, where a mundane phrase in English such as, "Please keep off the grass" is translated into, "I like your smile, but unlike you put your shoes on my face."

Set in Guiyang, a "small" city of 4.3m in south-west China, Mr Hwang's shrewdly funny play, directed by Leigh Silverman, is performed in English and Mandarin with English supertitles, and features plenty of faux pas and intrigue. But what is surprising is just how well Mr Hwang, a Chinese-American playwright, manages to capture the nuances of rapidly changing China and a shifting global order. He also conveys the skewed expectations that Westerners and Chinese have of each other--and themselves.

Now 54, Mr Hwang pioneered plays with Asian and Asian-American themes in the 1980s. Since then he has worked on a variety of projects, including co-writing the libretto for Elton John's Broadway musical "Aida". He is best known for his 1988 play "M. Butterfly", about a French diplomat who has a 20-year affair with a Chinese singer who turns out to be a man, which won a Tony award and was a Pulitzer prize finalist. At the time Mr Hwang's plays were, as he recalls, "exotic ethnic theatre". But now that China plays a bigger role on the world stage, the country is becoming more visible on a theatrical one.

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November 4, 2011

Madison School District Identified for Improvement (DIFI); Documentation for the Wisconsin DPI

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad 15MB PDF

1. Develop or Revise a District Improvement Plan

Address the fundamental teaching and learning needs of schools in the Local Education Agency (LEA), especially the academic problems o f low-achieving students.

MMSD has been identified by the State of Wisconsin as a District Identified for Improvement, or DIFI. We entered into this status based on District WKCE assessment scores. The data indicates that sub-groups of students-African American students, English Language Learner Students with Disabilities or Economically Disadvantaged -did not score high enough on the WKCE in one or more areas of reading, math or test participation to meet state criteria.

Under No Child Left Behind, 100% of students are expected to achieve proficient or advanced on the WKCE in four areas by 2014. Student performance goals have been raised every year on a regular schedule since 2001, making targets more and more difficult to reach each year. In addition to the curriculum changes being implemented, the following assessments are also new or being implemented during the 2011-12 school year (see Attachment 1):

  1. The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Grades 3-7. MAP is incorporated into the MMSD Balanced Assessment Plan as a computer adaptive benchmark assessment tool for grades 3-7. Administration of the assessment was implemented in spring, 2011.
  2. Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT): Grades 2 and 5. As proposed in the Talented and Gifted Plan approved by the Board of Education in August, 2009, the district requested approval of funds to purchase and score the Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT) which was administered in February, 2011, to all second and fifth graders.
  3. The EPAS System: Explore Grades 8-9, Plan Grade 10, ACT Grade 11. The EPAS system provides a longitudinal, systematic approach to educational and career planning, assessment, instructional support, and evaluation. The system focuses on the integrated, higher-order thinking skills students develop in grades K-12 that are important for success both during and after high school. The EPAS system is linked to the College and Career Readiness standards so that the information gained about student performance can be used to inform instruction around those standards.
Attached are six documents describing programs being implemented for the 2011-12 school year to address the needs of all students.

1. Strategic Plan Document: Year Three (Attachment 2)
2. Strategic Plan Summary of Three Main Focus Areas (Attachment 3)
3. Addressing the Needs of All Learners and Closing the Achievement Gap Through K-12 Alignment (Attachment 4)
4. Scope and Sequence (Attachment 5)
5. The Ideal Graduate from MMSD (Attachment 6)
6. 4K Update to BOE- Program and Sites- (Attachment 7)

Clusty Search: District Identified for Improvement (DIFI)

Matthew DeFour:

Madison School District administrators aren't keeping track of the best classroom instruction. Not all principals create a culture of high expectations for all students. And teachers aren't using the same research-based methods.

Such inconsistencies across the district and within schools -- stemming from Madison's tradition of school and teacher autonomy -- are hurting student achievement, according to a district analysis required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

"There are problems within the entire system," Superintendent Dan Nerad said. "We do have good practice, but we need to be more consistent and have more fidelity to our practices."

Inconsistencies in teaching and building culture can affect low-income students, who are more likely to move from school to school, and make teacher training less effective, Nerad said.

The analysis is contained in an improvement plan the district is scheduled to discuss with the School Board on Monday and to deliver next week to the state Department of Public Instruction.

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Open Enrollment Changing the Face of Wisconsin Public Schools

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, via a kind Senn Brown email:

In 2010-11, a record number of students took advantage of Wisconsin's open enrollment program to attend school elsewhere than in their own district. The 34,498 participants was 8.1% higher than in 2010 and nearly five times higher than in 2001. Open enrollment numbers varied widely, with 13 districts experiencing net outflows of more than 10% of their student populations and 34 with net inflows of similar magnitude. These findings are detailed in SchoolFacts11, the annual reference book from the Wisconsin Tax- payers Alliance (WISTAX) that provides, for every school district in the state, a wide range of information on enrollment, finance, staffing, and test scores.

In 2010-11, 4.0% of Wisconsin's public school students attended a district other than their own. Dover (26.2%) and South Shore (23.0%) both had net outflows (students leaving less those coming) of more than 20%. Eleven other districts (Florence, Mercer, Neosho, Palmyra-Eagle, Richfield, Stockbridge, Twin Lakes, Washington-Caldwell, Wheatland, Winter, and Wonewoc-Union Center) had net outflows of over 10%.

Related: Madison School District 2009 outbound open enrollment survey. Much more, here.

Student counts drive a District's tax and spending authority.

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Coloradans Vote Heavily Against a Tax Increase That Would Benefit Schools and Colleges

The Denver Post:

Colorado voters have rejected an attempt to raise state income and sales taxes to fund education, The Denver Post has declared.

With 61 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 103 was going down in flames across the state, with 35 percent in favor to 65 percent against.

That was also true in Denver. With 86,978 ballots counted through 8:30 p.m., the measure was failing 45.3 percent to 54.7 percent.

Even in liberal Boulder County -- home to the measure's chief supporter -- the measure was struggling. Most recent results showed it was winning there, but just by 1,804 votes.

Tim Hoover and Kurtis Lee:
Colorado voters Tuesday resoundingly defeated an attempt to raise state income and sales taxes to fund education.
With 83 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 103 was going down in flames across the state, with 36 percent in favor to 63.9 percent against.

That was also true in Denver, where the measure was failing 45.7 percent in favor to 54.3 percent against, in nearly complete returns.
Boulder, Pitkin and San Miguel counties appeared to be the only places the measure was passing -- by fewer than 400 votes in Pitkin County and by only 54 votes in San Miguel County.

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Accountability necessary for charter schools

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

Charter schools have been a welcome addition to Wisconsin's educational environment. For supporters of education reform, charter schools are a win-win: They are free to adopt curricula that differ from often-rigid public school methods, yet they remain accountable to taxpayers because they answer to local school boards. Examples include Chippewa Valley Montessori and McKinley charter schools in the Eau Claire district and Wildlands School, a collaboration between the Augusta school district and Beaver Creek Reserve.

Institutions like these offer options within public education for students who might not reach their full potentials, or even learn effectively, in traditional settings. Nonetheless, the state Legislature should be cautious as it considers opening the door to so-called independent charter schools. Unlike traditional charter schools, which maintain contracts with local school districts, independent charter schools are answerable instead to outsiders - in the case of pending legislation, a yet-to-be-created statewide board. Currently, such independent charter schools are allowed only in Milwaukee and Racine; under the bill, they could operate in any district with more than 2,000 students - including Eau Claire.

Last week, the Legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance Committee passed the bill. Next it will go to the full Legislature.

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Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis on Rahm, Brizard, Arne Duncan, and the Longer School Day

Carol Felsenthal:

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has had some ugly squabbles with Rahm Emanuel--the longer school day battles, for starters, including his recent charge that the union is "cheating children out of an education"--and, in my opinion, she has often emerged the loser.

Last week, she filed the CTU's latest lawsuit against the city, charging that the school board is using its "TeacherFit" questionnaire to hire teachers who are willing to buck the union.

The camera doesn't favor her, and in her battle to stop the new mayor from pushing through a longer school day, she seems on the side of outmoded, lumbering labor. Who, after all, wants to deny Chicago public school kids more time for math, reading, lunch, and recess?

But in person, Lewis, 58--South Sider (grew up in Hyde Park, now lives in the Oakland neighborhood), CPS lifer (Kenwood, '71), daughter of two teachers, former high-school chemistry teacher (Sullivan, Lane Tech, King College Prep), wife of a now-retired CPS P.E. teacher--has a sharp sense of humor, and intelligence and articulateness to spare. After an hour spent with her at a conference table at the CTU's headquarters in the Merchandise Mart, if someone asked me to choose a few words to describe her, I'd say "substantial, self-confident, direct."

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Wisconsin Education Dept. Responds To DOJ Voucher Probe

Joy Resmovits:

The Department of Justice has begun an investigation into Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction, probing whether Milwaukee's state-administered voucher system is discriminating against students with disabilities. In response, the state is arguing that federal obligations don't apply to Wisconsin's voucher schools, according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post Thursday.

Milwaukee's voucher system, which allows low-income students to attend private schools using tax dollars, came under fire in June for allegedly discriminating based on disability. The complaint ultimately led to the Department of Justice investigation.

Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction responded to the DOJ Sept. 27 in a letter that has not yet been made public.

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Give high school kids more than one option

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

About 5,500 students at Milwaukee Public Schools are on a path that research shows leads to better understanding of science, engineering and math, more engagement in school and improves their academic performance. Project Lead the Way does all that.

Which is why William Symonds thinks more kids should have such "apprenticeship" opportunities.

And we think he's right.

Symonds, head of the Pathways to Prosperity Project at Harvard University, says kids need to be more firmly connected to the workplace - at a younger age. His message: Four-year college degrees aren't for everyone, and by overemphasizing that goal, parents, schools and businesses have left a huge swath of kids behind. There is certainly evidence of that in Milwaukee.

And while it's a fact that southeastern Wisconsin needs more college graduates, the goal of more baccalaureate degrees is not incompatible with the idea of offering high school students multiple pathways to careers.

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College College Bobollege

Joseph Knippenberg:

But today, I want to talk about higher education, where the long and steep upward climb of tuition offers at least prima facie evidence of yet another bubble. We've been willing to pay more and more for our "higher" education because it was supposed to be the guarantee of a good job upon graduation (hence a good investment of time and money) and because the government's willingness to subsidize it (thorough grants and guaranteed loans) would help insulate us from the real costs.

The Occupiers aren't the only ones wondering about the former. There are lots of reasons to ask about the value of a college education, not just in terms of the connection between credentials and the marketplace, but even in terms of the more intangible relationship between higher education and a life well-led. That latter relationship is, for me, the central concern, but in terms of the economics of higher education, it's a luxury good.

Properly understood, of course, it's a relatively cheap luxury good. You need students, professors, and great (or at least good) books. Unfortunately, however, we've lost our focus on that time-honored nexus (the first discussion of it that I can think of is in Xenophon's Memorabilia). Instead, we have professors who have science envy and need to do ground-breaking research (which means studying things that have in the past, for better or worse, been neglected and inventing new ways of looking at things, as if novelty were always a good thing). And we have students who wish to be entertained and coddled in country club-like surroundings. Finally, although I'm leaping ahead of myself a bit here, the fact that so much of this already bloated enterprise is financed by the federal government means that there are significant costs connected with regulatory compliance.

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New Grades On Charter Schools

Andrew Rotherham:

The two most common criticisms about charter schools are that A) many of them aren't that good and B) the good ones can't be replicated to serve enough kids to really make a difference. TIME got an exclusive first look at the most comprehensive evaluation of charter school networks ever, and although the study, which will be released on Nov. 4, underscores the challenge of creating quality schools, it also makes clear that it is indeed possible to build a lot of schools that are game-changers for a lot of students.

The study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education, examined networks of affiliated charter schools, which in the education world are referred to as charter school management organizations (CMOs). There are more than 130 of these non-profit networks serving about 250,000 students nationwide. I was on an advisory board for the early conception and design of this study, the goal of which was to better understand how CMOs operate and how effective they are. The study is filled with valuable data about how CMOs manage their teachers, how much funding they get and how they use it and what kinds of students they serve. But I'm focusing here on student achievement, which is, of course, the most contentious issue in the national debate about charter schools.

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A Thought Experiment for Union Leaders

Rick Hess:

I've had the privilege of meeting with union leaders from around the country to explain what Teach Plus is. Many love it; plenty are skeptics.

In every case, I begin with three opening points. First, I describe our mission as very similar to the union's: to retain excellent teachers in the classroom and strengthen the teaching profession. Second, I talk about our belief that leadership opportunities are a key lever to helping promising young teachers extend their commitment to the classroom. Third, I state my personal belief in the value in the role of unions and describe the role Teach Plus has been able to play in helping a subset of Gen Y teachers to see that value for the first time. We're usually off to a good start.

Then I say we focus our work on high-performing teachers* in years 3-10. It is at that point that many union leaders begin scratching their heads about whether our presence in a city will be a headache or a help. By design, our approach is not about the unity and equality of all teachers. In that way, it is at odds with an industrial union model.

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For some, college not best option

Zach Thomae:

I know talking about schools bores most people in Wisconsin, but something interesting has been overlooked for the past few weeks. State Rep. Mark Radcliffe, D-River Falls, has introduced a bill in the Wisconsin state Legislature giving high school students the option of skipping traditional academic classes in favor of vocational ones.

The problem Radcliffe sees is simple--conventional high school classes try to prepare students for college, even though many students won't be attending one. These students may be misplaced in college preparatory classes, so it would benefit them to be allowed to take classes more relevant and useful to them. In other words, some kids just shouldn't take math.

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November 3, 2011

School Has a Charter, Students and a Strong Opponent: Its District

Winnie Hu, via a kind Carla McDonald email:

Charter schools, publicly financed but independently operated, have encountered fierce resistance in many suburban communities, criticized by parents and traditional educators who view them as a drain on resources.

But since the Amani Public Charter School won state approval to open this year, officials at the Mount Vernon City School District have taken that opposition to a new level.

The district, in Westchester County, sued the State Education Department and the Amani school this year, calling the approval an "arbitrary and capricious" decision, and sought to block Amani from moving forward. It has refused to turn over state, federal and local aid money to Amani, so the state has begun paying the charter directly. During the summer, district workers were sent to knock on the doors of Amani students to check that they lived in the district, a tactic that angered some parents. And in recent weeks, the district has delayed providing special education services to Amani students.

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Everything you wanted to know about urban education and its solutions!

Dr. Armand A. Fusco, via a kind email:

"No one has been able to stop the steady plunge of young black Americans into a socioeconomic abyss." Bob Herbert / Syndicated columnist

Everything you wanted to know about urban education and its solutions!

For over 50 years this shame of the nation and education has remained as a plague upon its most vulnerable children. All reform efforts involving billions of dollars have not alleviated this scourge in our public schools. The rhetoric has been profound, but it has been immune to any antidote or action and it is getting worse; but it doesn't have to be!

The following quotes summarize the 285 pages and over 400 references from my book.

Edited Insightful Quotes

The explanations and references are found in the contents of the book.

  • School pushouts is a time bomb exploding economically and socially every twenty-six seconds
  • Remember what the basic problem is--they are in all respects illiterate and that is why they are failing.
  • Every three years the number of dropouts and pushouts adds up to a city bigger than Chicago.
  • Politics trump the needs of all children to achieve their potential.
  • One reason that the high school dropout crisis is known as the "silent epidemic" is that the problem is frequently minimized.
  • Simply stated black male students can achieve high outcomes; the tragedy is most states and districts choose not to do so.
  • In the majority of schools, the conditions necessary for Black males to systematically succeed in education do not exist.
  • While one in four American children is Latino--the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States--they are chronically underserved by the nation's public schools and have the lowest education attainment levels in the country.
  • Miseducation is the most powerful example of cruel and unusual punishment; it's exacted on children innocent of any crime.
  • Traditional proposals for improving education--more money, smaller classes, etc.--aren't getting the job done.
  • The public school system is designed for Black and other minority children to fail.
  • The U.S. Department of Education has never even acknowledged that the problem exists.
  • Though extensive records are kept...unions and school boards do not want productivity analysis done.
  • Educational bureaucracies like the NEA are at the center of America's dysfunctional minority public schools.
  • Does bonus pay alone improve student outcomes? We found that it does not.
  • Performance pay is equivalent to "thirty pieces of silver."
  • Data necessary to distinguish cost-effective schools are all available, but our system has been built to make their use difficult.
  • Districts give credit for students who fail standardized tests on the expectation that students someday will pass.
  • We saw some schools that were low performing and had a very high parent satisfaction rate.
  • We're spending ever-greater sums of money, yet our high school graduates' test results have been absolutely flat.
  • America's primary and secondary schools have many problems, but an excess of excellence is not one of them.
  • Not only is our use of incarceration highly concentrated among men with little schooling, but corrections systems are doing less to correct the problem by reducing educational opportunities for the growing number of prisoners.
  • Although states will require school districts to implement the common core state standards, the majority of these states are not requiring districts to make complementary changes in curriculum and teacher programs.
  • We can show that merit pay is counterproductive, that closing down struggling schools (or firing principals) makes no sense.
  • The gap between our articulated ideals and our practice is an international embarrassment.
  • It's interesting to note that despite the growing support by minority parents for charters, the NAACP, the National Urban League, and other civil rights groups collectively condemn charter schools.
  • Public schools do respond constructively to competition by raising their achievement and productivity.
  • Gates Foundation has also stopped funding the small school concept because no results could be shown.
  • The policies we are following today are unlikely to improve our schools.
  • Our country still does a better job of tracking a package than it does a student.
  • Indeed, we give these children less of all the things that both research and experience tell us make a difference.
  • Reformers have little knowledge of what is working and how to scale what works.
  • The fact is that illiteracy has persisted in all states for generations, particularly among the most vulnerable children, and getting worse is a testament that national policy and creative leadership rings hollow.
  • We can't change a child's home life, but what we can do is affect what they do here at school.
  • Only a third of young Americans will leave high school with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.
  • Black churches can no longer play gospel in the sanctuaries while kids drop out into poverty and prison. They must embrace school reform and take the role that Catholic churches have done for so long and for so many.
  • There is only one way to equalize education for all--technology.
  • Whatever made you successful in the past won't in the future.
  • The real potential of technology for improving learning remains largely untapped in schools today.
  • Can't read, can't learn, can't get a job, can't survive, so can't stay within the law.
  • Of the 19.4 million government workers, half work in education, which rivals health care for the most wasteful sector in America.
  • The only people not being betrayed are those who feed off our failing education system...that group gets larger every year.
  • Mediocrity, not excellence, is the national norm as demonstrated by the deplorable evidence.
  • Parents are left to face the bleak reality that their child will be forever stuck in a failing school and a failing system.
  • The key is that unless there is accountability, we will never get the right system.
  • The very public institutions intended for student learning have become focused instead on adult employment.
  • We conclude that the strategies driving the best performing systems are rarely found in the United States.
  • No reform has yet lived up to its definition!
  • Minority males don't get the beef, they get the leftovers.
  • The cotton plantations have become the school plantations (children held in bondage of failing schools) and the dropouts move on to the prison plantations.

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9.27.2011 Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force Notes

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

Guest Speaker Mark Seidenberg (Donald O. Hebb and Hilldale Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, UW-Madison): Professor Seidenberg gave an excellent presentation on the science of reading and why it is important to incorporate the findings of that science in teaching. Right now there is a huge disconnect between the vast, converged body of science worldwide and instructional practice. Prospective teachers are not learning about reading science in IHE's, and relying on intuition about how to teach reading is biased and can mislead. Teaching older students to read is expensive and difficult. Up-front prevention of reading failure is important, and research shows us it is possible, even for dyslexic students. This will save money, and make the road easier for students to learn and teachers to teach. Seidenberg endorses using the Massachusetts model exam for teachers of reading (MTEL 90), which was developed with input from reading scientists. He also supports universal assessment to identify students who are at risk, and he mentioned the Minnesota Reading Corps as a model of reading tutoring that would be good to bring to Wisconsin.
Lander: Can Seidenberg provide a few examples of things on which the Task Force could reach consensus?

Seidenberg: There is a window for teaching basic reading skills that then will allow the child to move on to comprehension. The balanced literacy concept is in conflict with best practices. Classrooms in Wisconsin are too laissez-faire, and the spiraling approach to learning does not align with science.
Michael Brickman: Brickman, the Governor's aide, cut off the discussion with Professor Seidenberg, and said he would be in touch with him later.

Much more on the Read to Lead Task Force, here.

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Now is the Time for States to Help High Schools Get the Postsecondary Data They Want

College Summit:

Particularly in rough economic times, states must make hard choices about resources. But there is one targeted investment that mayors, business leaders, educators, and parents are crying out for, and that states have already initiated. It is reports for high schools on their students' postsecondary performance, answering the critical questions: Do students enroll in a postsecondary institution? Do they pass their non-remedial courses? In which academic areas are they thriving, or struggling? These data will enable high schools everywhere in a state to find out how their graduates are doing anywhere in the state. Without this information, high schools are handicapped in their ability to prepare students for college and career.

Indeed, too many students, especially low-income students, are not prepared. In the last decade, Americans have enrolled in college in record numbers. But once there, they are stumbling at alarming rates and at enormous cost to themselves, their families, and their city and state tax bases. By one estimate, the lost personal income for one year of one class of these students is $3.8 billion; the federal government loses $566 million and the states lose $164 million in taxes from this cohort of college students who should have graduated and the numbers multiply each year. 1

Superintendents and principals are desperate to know what went wrong. Business leaders anx- iously hope for employees who are ready for 21st century work. Governors, too, know that above all they need an educated workforce to compete in the national and global marketplace.

States are making progress toward producing the high school postsecondary performance data these stakeholders need. But in the meantime, the stakeholders are restless.

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Reforming Teacher Prep

Jocelyn Huber:

Students across the country have settled into another school year and many prospective teachers are in their first year of student teaching experience. Student teaching gives prospective teachers the opportunity to put theory into practice and ideally to learn the art of teaching from a skilled educator. Despite the importance of the student teaching experience, in some cases too little attention is paid to the quality of these programs. Some states are bravely tackling the arduous task of developing and refining teacher evaluation systems, but have yet to look carefully at the institutions and pre-service experiences that have the ability to deliver either exceptional or failing teachers. Rather than struggling to find the fairest way to identify, remediate, or ultimately remove bad teachers, wouldn't it be far more beneficial for the profession and for students' learning to ensure that only the very best teachers are earning certification and entering the classroom? (See DFER's white paper, Ticket to Teach, to read some of our recommendations on reforming the profession here.)

In an attempt to more carefully examine the quality of pre-service training and education for teachers, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has begun a review of teacher preparation. In July, they released "Student Teaching in the United States." The report and the larger review are controversial and have generated some backlash. But, if one can look past the defensiveness and posturing on all sides, the report suggests some helpful guidelines for teacher preparation programs and states to begin setting clearer and more rigorous training criteria for the benefit of students.

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Just the research we all want to see: Multiple measures doesn't mean muddied mess

The National Council on Teacher Quality

Value-added measures are often criticized for providing a narrow view of a teacher's performance. Conversely, broader measures like observations are seen as too subjective. A new study shows--happily--that both types of evaluations are consistent and complementary: they predict future students' achievement. Teachers who score well on one also score well on the other. Best of all, combining them produces a stronger and more accurate measure of a teacher's effectiveness than using either alone.

Jonah E. Rockoff and Cecilia Speroni of Columbia University looked at the ability of three measures to predict teacher effectiveness: a rigorous job application process, observations and ratings by trained mentors, and value-added calculations based on students' math and English scores.

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Madison Prep's ambitious plan to close achievement gap sparks vigorous debate

Susan Troller:

Nicole is a teacher's dream student. Bright, curious and hard-working, she has high expectations for herself and isn't satisfied with anything less than A grades. In fact, her mother says, she sometimes has to be told not to take school too seriously.

But when Nicole was tested in seventh grade to see if she'd qualify for an eighth-grade algebra course that would put her on track for advanced math courses in high school, her score wasn't top-notch. She assured the teacher she wanted to tackle the course anyway. He turned her down.

In fact, her score could not predict whether she'd succeed. Neither could the color of her skin.

As an African-American girl, Nicole didn't look much like the high-flying students her teacher was accustomed to teaching in his accelerated math classes at a Madison middle school. But instead of backing off, Nicole and her family challenged the recommendation. Somewhat grudgingly, her teacher allowed her in the class.

Fast forward a year: Nicole and one other student, the two top performers in the eighth-grade algebra class, were recommended for advanced math classes in high school.

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

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Some CPS schools giving parents progress reports -- on themselves

Joel Hood:

It was report card pickup day at Walsh Elementary School on Wednesday, and Principal Krish Mohip was feeling a little exposed.

In addition to their children's report cards, Walsh parents were among the first in Chicago Public Schools to receive a progress report on the school itself, showing precisely how well, and in many cases how poorly, that school is keeping students on track for college.

At Walsh, a modern brick building in the city's Pilsen neighborhood, parents learned that math and reading proficiency was good in the early grades but fell off when the curriculum became more difficult in eighth grade.

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Unions, reformers hit "overpaid" study

Ben Smith:

We reached out to teachers' unions and education reform groups to see how they felt about the Heritage Foundation/American Enterprise Institute study out yesterday saying teachers are "overpaid."

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten slammed the report, saying it's full of "ridiculous assertions":

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November 2, 2011

Wisconsin 25th in 2011 NAEP Reading

Wisconsin Reading Coalition E-Alert, via a kind Chan Stroman Roll email:

The 4th and 8th grade NAEP reading and math scores were released today. You can view the results at http://nationsreportcard.gov. The presentation webinar is at http://www.nagb.org/reading-math-2011/.

Following is commentary on Wisconsin's NAEP reading scores that was sent to the Governor's Read to Lead task force by task force member Steve Dykstra.

2011 NAEP data for reading was released earlier than usual, this year. Under the previous timeline we wouldn't get the reading data until Spring.

While we returned to our 2007 rank of 25 from our 2009 rank of 30, that is misleading. All of our gains come from modest improvement among Black students who no longer rank last, but are still very near the bottom. The shift in rank is among Wisconsin and a group of states who all perform at an essentially identical level, and have for years. We're talking tenths of points as the difference.

It is always misleading to consider NAEP scores on a whole-state basis. Different states may have very different demographic make-ups and those difference can either exaggerate or mask the actual differences between the two states. For instance, the difference between Florida and Wisconsin (all scores refer to 4th grade reading) at the whole-state level is only 3 points. In reality, the difference is much greater. Demographic variation masks the real difference because Florida has far more minority students and far more poverty than Wisconsin. When we look at the subgroups, comparing apples to apples, we see that the real differences are vast.

When we break the groups down by gender and race, Florida outperforms Wisconsin by a statistically significant margin in every group. The smallest difference is 8 and some are as large as 20. If we break the groups down by race and school lunch status Florida outperforms Wisconsin by a statistically significant margin in every group, except black students who don't get a free lunch. For that group Florida does better, but not by enough to declare statistical certainty. The smallest margin is 9, and many are at or above 15.

10 points are generally accepted as a grade level for this range of the NAEP. Every Florida subgroup except one exceeds it's Wisconsin counterpart by a nearly a full grade level, and most by a lot more.

When we compare Wisconsin to Massachusetts the story is the same, only worse. The same groups are significantly different from each other, but the margins are slightly larger. The whole-state difference between Wisconsin and Massachusetts (15+ pts) only appears larger than for Florida because Massachusetts enjoys many of the same demographic advantages as Wisconsin. In fact, Wisconsin students are about the same 1.5 grade levels behind both Florida and Massachusetts for 4th grade reading.

If you want to dig deeper and kick over more rocks, it only gets worse. Every Wisconsin subgroup is below their national average and most are statistically significantly below. The gaps are found in overall scores, as well as for performance categories. We do about the same in terms of advanced students as we do with low performing students. Except for black students who don't get a free lunch (where the three states are in a virtual dead heat), Wisconsin ranks last compared to Florida and Massachusetts for every subgroup in terms of percentage of students at the advanced level. In many cases the other states exceed our rate by 50-100% or more. Their children have a 50 -100% better chance to read at the advanced level.

We need a sense of urgency to do more than meet, and talk, and discuss. We need to actually change the things that will make a difference, we need to do it fast, and we need to get it right. A lot of what needs to be done can be accomplished in a matter of days. Some of it takes a few hours. The parts that will take longer would benefit from getting the other stuff done and out of the way so we can devote our attention to those long term issues.

Our children are suffering and so far, all we're doing is talking about it. Shame on us.

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Comparing Rhetoric Regarding Texas (10th) & Wisconsin NAEP Scores: Texas Hispanic and African-American students rank second on eighth-grade NAEP math test

Texas Hispanic and African-American students rank
second on eighth-grade NAEP math test

Texas Education Agency:

Texas Hispanic and African-American students earned the second highest score among their peer groups on the 2011 eighth-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics test. The state's white eighth grade students ranked fourth, missing out on the second place position themselves by less than one point.

Only Hispanic students in Montana earned a higher scale score on the math test than did eighth-grade Hispanic Texans. Only African-American students in Hawaii earned a higher average score than did their counterparts in Texas.

White students in the District of Columbia earned an average scale score of 319, the highest score for that ethnic group. Texas students ranked fourth, with less than a fraction of a point separating this group from students in Massachusetts and New Jersey. Massachusetts students had the second highest scale score at 304.2876, while Texas received an average score of 303.5460.
Overall, the state ranked 10th among the states with an average scale score of 290, substantially above the national average score of 283.

NAEP math on upward trend, state reading results stable

Wisconsin DPI:
Wisconsin's biennial mathematics and reading results held steady on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation's Report Card. The state's overall trend in mathematics is improving.

For fourth-grade mathematics, the state's 2011 scale score was 245, up one point but statistically the same as in 2009, compared to the national scale score of 240, a one-point increase from 2009. Wisconsin results for fourth-grade math are significantly higher than in 2003 when the average scale score was 237. At eighth grade, the Wisconsin scale score for mathematics was 289,
the same as in 2009 and up five points from 2003, which is statistically significant. For the nation, the 2011 mathematics scale score was 283, up one-point from 2009. State average scale scores in mathematics at both grade levels were statistically higher than the national score.

Average scores for fourth grade
AllWhiteBlackHispanicAsian Amer-Pac.IslandNative Amer
US240249224229256227
Texas241253232235263***
Wisconsin245251217228242231
Average scores for eighth grade
US283293262269302266
Texas290304277283316***
Wisconsin289295256270290***
via a kind Richard Askey email.

Erin Richards has more on Wisconsin's results.

Steve Dykstra's comments on Wisconsin's NAEP reading scores.

Related: Madison and College Station, TX.

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The End of College Admissions as We Know it

Kevin Carey:

But there's another culprit at work: the college admissions process itself. If you want to buy shares of stock, bid on antiques, search for a job, or look for Mr. Right in 2011, you will likely go to a marketplace driven by the electronic exchange of information. There will be quick, flexible transactions, broad access to buyers and sellers, and powerful algorithms that efficiently match supply and demand. If you are a student looking for a college or a college looking for a student, by contrast, you're stuck with an archaic, over-complicated, under-managed system that still relies on things like bus trips to airport convention centers and the physical transmission of pieces of paper. That's why under-matching is so pervasive. The higher education market only works for students who have the resources to overcome its terrible inefficiency. Everyone else is out of luck.

As a result, the odds appear to be against Jameel, who attends a 1,600-student public high school where the large majority of children qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program and the staff of three guidance counselors was cut to two last year. Determination can take you only so far if there's no one to help you find your way.

But Jameel's local school system has made one recent move that might work significantly in his favor. A few days after returning from the college fair, Jameel logged on to a new Web site that is the result of a contract between the Miami-Dade County school system and a Boston-based company called ConnectEDU. The site offered Jameel loads of information about different colleges and universities, along with strategies for filling out college applications and getting scholarships and financial aid. It was also a vessel for information about Jameel himself--his grades, courses, and activities, along with short animated quizzes designed to identify his strengths and goals. There were checklists and schedules and friendly reminders, all tailored to the personal aspirations the site had gleaned from Jameel, all focused on identifying the colleges that might meet them.

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Teacher layoffs: Did the sky fall or not?

The National Council on Teacher Quality :

Since the recession began, the specter of massive teacher layoffs has been hanging over the nation's schools. The feds have repeatedly come to the rescue--even when some parts of the country didn't seem to be particularly struggling--providing funds first in the form of stimulus dollars, followed by last year's EduJobs.

So far this year there appears to be little likelihood of a comparable rescue package. The president's job bill offers the only hope, but we all know how far that one isn't going. The White House has been making the case nonetheless, supplying sobering evidence of a decline in education jobs and that as many as 280,000 "educator jobs" are at risk this school year.

Not discounting this evidence, we've been struck by the lack of reports on layoffs in newspapers this fall. Last spring, they were all reporting about school districts handing out pink slips by the thousands, but there's been little follow up on teachers converting from pink-slip status to no-job-at-all status.

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Student loans - forgive and forget

Debra Saunders:

One of the great things about America, President Obama told students at the University of Colorado, is that no matter how humble your roots, you still have a shot at a great education. He also told students that his goal is to "make college more affordable." Alas, the president's prescription for making higher education affordable seems likely to yield the same results as his plan for curbing health care costs - that is, it is likely to drive prices higher than inflation.

The nation's next fiscal nightmare may well be a higher-education bubble.

Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards. As USA Today reported, America's student loan debt is expected to exceed $1 trillion this year. Rising costs have left many graduates in a deep hole. Many of last year's graduates walked away with a diploma and, on average, $24,000 in student loans. The default rate on student loans rose to 8.8 percent in 2009.

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Elmhurst District 205 School Report Card Data Now Available Online

Karen Chadra:

Elmhurst Unit District 205 has posted links to Illinois School Report Card data for the district's schools on its web site.

The Illinois State Board of Education issues School Report Cards each fall for all public schools and school districts in the state. The reports include data on school finances, demographics, instruction and student assessments, which are based on student testing done during the 2010-2011 school year.

York High School and Churchville Middle School failed to meet adequate yearly progress as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which stipulates 100 percent of students must meet AYP by 2014. If any subgroup of a school fails to meet AYP, then the whole school does not meet AYP.

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Chart: One Year of Prison Costs More Than One Year at Princeton

Brian Resnick:

One year at Princeton University: $37,000. One year at a New Jersey state prison: $44,000.

Prison and college "are the two most divergent paths one can take in life," Joseph Staten, an info-graphic researcher with Public Administration, says. Whereas one is a positive experience that increases lifetime earning potential, the other is a near dead end, which is why Staten found it striking that the lion's share of government funding goes toward incarceration.

The comparison between higher education spending and correction spending highlighted in the following chart is not perfect. Universities have means to fund themselves; prisons rely on the government. So it makes some sense that a disproportional amount of money flows to the correction centers. Also, take note, comparing African Americans in college and African Americans in dorms is not completely fair. For one, college implies an 18-22 age range, and incarcerated adults can be of any age. Also, it doesn't take into account African Americans who commute to school.

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A Shocking Chart on Vaccination

Megan McArdle:

Yet I am surprised--surprised and disappointed. This is a very dangerous level of immunization--the level where herd immunity gets lost, disease reservoirs are established, and children emerge from their school to infect infants, immunocrompromised adults, and people whose vaccinations didn't take or have waned, with potentially fatal diseases.

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Charter school deserves Milwaukee's approval

Tim Sheehy:

On Tuesday, the Milwaukee Common Council will consider the Charter School Review Committee's recommendation that the City of Milwaukee contract with Rocketship Education to open a network of independent charter schools.

Rocketship Education selected Milwaukee as its first expansion city outside of California because it saw great need but also because it sees the opportunity to be part of a systemic change in a community that desperately needs it. Rocketship has never promised miracles. It does promise a chance - a chance for children and a chance for Milwaukee.

Milwaukee has serious challenges and an urgent need to grow, develop and attract more schools that are effective in educating low-income children. Closing the gap in educational achievement for all 127,000 of the city's K-12 schoolchildren is a community-wide responsibility.

There are no miracles, and we cannot wait for Superman. What we can do is expand our best-performing schools and work to improve our high-potential schools that operate as Milwaukee Public Schools or under the charter and choice programs. This requires the development of quality teachers and school leaders.

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Lesson In Stupidity

Peter Bachmann:

*Note start required*I am a parent of one of the kids at the Lantau International School in Pui O and I have the strong urge to comment on the ridiculous ruling by the High Court judge (The Standard, November 1).

First does it take only one person to complain - in September 2008 - for the government to send an officer from the Environmental Protection Department to measure noise levels?

That's an absolute joke and this person must have had a "nightmare" over the past three years spending time in their bedroom waiting for the kids to make a noise during their few minutes break in the morning and at lunch time.

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November 1, 2011

The $10,000 College Degree Rick Perry's $10,000 degree plan is just one option to obtain an inexpensive education.

Jenna Ashley Robinson:

Editor's Note: Scroll down to the bottom to view OnlineCollege.org's infographic about rising costs and the $10,000 degree.

The latest news on Wall Street is that the occupiers want forgiveness of student debt. And while President Obama didn't meet their demands in his recent speech, he is still focusing on the same side of the equation: more money for higher education.

But down the road, the best way to deal with the high cost of college education is to reduce it! And Texas governor Rick Perry has thrown out the gauntlet by demanding that his regents come up with a plan for a $10,000 degree--not $10,000 per year but $10,000 for a full degree.

Is such a price possible? At the Pope Center, we've looked at affordability--and the innovation that will be required to get prices to that level--from many angles. My view is that extreme reductions are possible, but they may be far in the future. Meanwhile, however, you can save a lot of money if you take care.

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Student loans in America Nope, just debt The next big credit bubble?

The Economist:

IN LATE 1965, President Lyndon Johnson stood in the modest gymnasium of what had once been the tiny teaching college he attended in Texas and announced a programme to promote education. It was an initiative that exemplified the "Great Society" agenda of his administration: social advancement financed by a little hard cash, lots of leverage and potentially vast implicit government commitments. Those commitments are now coming due.

"Economists tell us that improvement of education has been responsible for one-fourth to one-half of the growth in our nation's economy over the past half-century," Johnson said. "We must be sure that there will be no gap between the number of jobs available and the ability of our people to perform those jobs."

To fill this gap Johnson pledged an amount that now seems trivial, $1.9m, sent from the federal government to states which could then leverage it ten-to-one to back student loans of up to $1,000 for 25,000 people. "This act", he promised, "will help young people enter business, trade, and technical schools--institutions which play a vital role in providing the skills our citizens must have to compete and contribute in our society."

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Parents Outsource the Basics

Sophia Hollander & Melanie Grayce West:

Some New York City children take after-school classes in dance, pottery or softball. Once a week, Gillian and Hunter Randall add an unusual activity to the list: lessons on how to shake hands.

It's a class taught by SocialSklz:-), a company founded in 2009 to address deteriorating social skills in the age of iPhones, Twitter and Facebook friends.

"It's hard to have a real conversation anymore. And you know what? I'm guilty of it too," said the Randalls' mother, Lisa LaBarbera, noting that her 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son both have iPod touches and handheld videogame devices. "You get carpal tunnel, but you're not building those communication

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Parents Outsource the Basics

Sophia Hollander & Melanie Grayce West:

Some New York City children take after-school classes in dance, pottery or softball. Once a week, Gillian and Hunter Randall add an unusual activity to the list: lessons on how to shake hands.

It's a class taught by SocialSklz:-), a company founded in 2009 to address deteriorating social skills in the age of iPhones, Twitter and Facebook friends.

"It's hard to have a real conversation anymore. And you know what? I'm guilty of it too," said the Randalls' mother, Lisa LaBarbera, noting that her 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son both have iPod touches and handheld videogame devices. "You get carpal tunnel, but you're not building those communication

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A Scottish child stumbling to school in the dark. An English child strolling to class in daylight: How Berlin Time could spell the end of the United Kingdom

Tim Luckhurst:

A compelling new argument has emerged to clinch the case against Berlin Time - otherwise known as Double Summer Time.

This unwelcome import from the Eurozone could be the straw that breaks Britain, and the rapture with which the Scottish National Party has greeted Government plans to consult on implementation proves it.

Already euphoric about the first opinion poll in years to put support for independence ahead of opposition to it, the SNP has seized on the proposed time shift like manna from heaven. Nationalist spokesmen blame 'Tory time bandits' for plans they claim will endanger the lives of Scottish children, cripple business and plunge Scotland into perpetual darkness.

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Campus Connection: Student-athletes nationally graduating at record levels

Todd Finkelmeyer:

More than four out of every five student-athletes who play sports at the NCAA's highest level now graduate within six years, according to an annual report released this past week by the college sports oversight body.

A formula used by the association indicates a record 82 percent of NCAA Division I student-athletes who entered school in 2004 earned a degree within six years. That figure is three percentage points higher than last year and eight points above the graduation success rates (GSR) first collected by the NCAA with the entering freshman class of 1995.

Of the student-athletes who entered UW-Madison in 2004, the NCAA reports 81 percent graduated within six years. Not all the news at UW-Madison is so rosy, however, but more on that later. (To check out how your favorite school did or to view a sport-by-sport breakdown for each institution, check out this NCAA database.)

"There is a stereotype about college athletes that they're here to play sports and not to be academically successful, but as you can see from the report the overwhelming majority of student-athletes are getting through school," says Adam Gamoran, a professor of sociology and educational policy studies who chairs the UW Athletic Board's academics and compliance committee. "We select great students and only enroll those who we are confident can be academically successful here."

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Physics vs. Phys Ed: Regardless of Need, Schools Pay the Same

Tom Gantert:

There are 19 gym teachers in the Farmington School District who make more than $85,000 a year each. The average gym teacher's salary in Farmington is $75,035. By comparison, the science teachers in that district make $68,483 per year on average.

That's not unusual in Michigan schools, according to Freedom of Information Act requests received from around the state.

In the Woodhaven-Brownstown district, 18.5 (FTE) science teachers average some $58,400 per year in salary, while 12 gym teachers averaged nearly $76,700. In Harrison, science teachers earned $49,000 on average while gym teachers averaged $62,000.

This is not unusual, because school districts don't differentiate what a teacher does when considering compensation, regardless of the district's educational needs. Teachers are paid on a single salary schedule based on seniority and education level.

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