The field of technology is the odd kid in its class.
From its outset it's been an outlier. Modern computing sprung rather quickly out of nowhere late into our history as a species. However few things  before or since have had such a profound impact on the world as the development of computing and circuits. It's clear to see that no other field of study can hope to compete - they've all been revolutionized by (and in many cases started or brought to prominence because of) technology.
But unfortunately, technology is an outlier for another reason: technology education is severely underfunded. Demand for computer scientists, for example, is exceeded by the supply at a ratio of more than 2:1 .
Computer science education is also vastly under-researched. Even using a CS degree as a filter , the difficulty finding graduates who actually know a programming language or have any critical thinking skills is an extremely common complaint I've heard from those in charge of hiring at larger firms. It's clear that technology is an extremely easy space to understand, but requires a lot of hands-on experience to master.
Ah, high school english class. A time to read classic literature, build your vocabulary and learn to write proper essays. Reading great literature is wonderful, but the latter 2 goals were often in conflict. Because the way teachers measure your essays was in part based on how many fancy vocabulary words to you could cram into them. Using big words not only improved your grade, it also took up space, getting you closer to the critical 5 page minimum. However, this push to utilize advanced diction, albeit to the detriment of semantic transfer, makes for awful writing.
I don't remember many of the books I read in high school, but one that sticks in my mind, ironically, is an essay by George Orwell, called Politics and the English Language. (Also note Orwell's 5 Rules for Effective Writing.) You may wonder what this has to do with sales, but remember politics is simply sales of a different sort.
Orwell noted how vague language made it easier to describe, and therefore commit, political atrocities. I wasn't committing any atrocities, except perhaps against the English language. I took a writing course my first semester in college and got quite a rude awakening. Pages came back redder than a murder victim in a Law and Order episode. Whole paragraphs were called "unnecessary garbage", superfluous words and clauses, which my high school teachers seemed to reward, came back with red lines through them. It was great. For a brief time, I learned to write clean, crisp, compelling papers. I focused on clarity of thought, transmitted through the proper words, to the reader.
Voters in several states will weigh in next month on some of the most contentious issues in public education, including teacher tenure, charter schools and merit pay for teachers, as a national fight over education reform hits the ballot box.
The campaigns have been fierce and often nasty.
In one corner: proponents of dramatically overhauling public education, including several of America's wealthiest families, led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton. They seek to inject more free-market forces into the education system by requiring schools to compete for students and teachers to compete for pay raises.
In the opposite corner: Teachers unions and their allies, on the left, who say the reformers' proposals would strip resources from the public schools without boosting student achievement.
As taped piano music plays, Ashley Brown issues a stream of commands. Firm and insistent, she strides around the tiny studio and puts her third-period ballet students through their steady, rhythmic paces.
What her eighth- and ninth-grade dancers may not notice is the larger ballet they're part of: the fraught, decades-old dance â?? one step forward, two steps back â?? of who goes to school where, and with whom.
They're doing nothing less than integrating a city.
This past spring I had the pleasure of teaching a course for Udacity, an online education company putting high quality college level courses online for free. I was recruited to Udacity by a former college professor and friend of mine, Dave Evans, Udacity's VP of Education.
When I was a Computer Science student at the University of Virginia, I was fortunate to take a cryptology course taught by Professor Evans. He presented us two ways to get an A in this course. We could either do it the old fashioned way--do well on tests and homeworks as well as completing a course-long project of our choosing; or, we could break into his computer and set our grade to an A. Naturally, we pretended to do the former, while spending our evenings huddled outside Professor Evans' house working on the latter. My team received A's.
It was one of the first times where I felt I was not just completing course objectives as a student, but thinking about real-world problems as a computer scientist. When Professor Evans emailed me early this year inquiring whether I'd be interested in teaching a course on Web Developement, I said, "Yes!" long before my brain had a chance to remind me that I already had a full-time job.
Last March, an interviewer archly asked President Barack Obama whether he was aware that he had been "surpassed" by basketball phenomenon Jeremy Lin "as the most famous Harvard graduate." The question was misformulated. If there was any surpassing going on, it was that Mr. Lin had become, briefly, more famous than Mr. Obama as the country's most exemplary figure from a hitherto marginalized minority.
Mr. Lin's triumph on the basketball court is a living metaphor for the social group he comes from. No one would dispute the opening paragraph of the Pew Research Center's massive study of Asian-Americans, released over the summer: "Asian-Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States. They are more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place more value than other Americans do on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success." Or as Mr. Lin put it in a video of congratulation he made last spring for the overwhelmingly Asian-American graduates of New York City's famed Stuyvesant High School: "Never let anyone tell you what you can't do."
To All it May Concern:
I'm doing something I thought I would never do--something that will make me a statistic and a caricature of the times. Some will support me, some will shake their heads and smirk condescendingly--and others will try to convince me that I'm part of the problem. Perhaps they're right, but I don't think so. All I know is that I've hit a wall, and in order to preserve my sanity, my family, and the forward movement of our lives, I have no other choice.
Before I go too much into my choice, I must say that I have the advantages and disadvantages of differentiated experience under my belt. I have seen the other side, where the grass was greener, and I unknowingly jumped the fence to where the foliage is either so tangled and dense that I can't make sense of it, or the grass is wilted and dying (with no true custodian of its health). Are you lost? I'm talking about public K-12 education in North Carolina. I'm talking about my history as a successful teacher and leader in two states before moving here out of desperation.
In New Mexico, I led a team of underpaid teachers who were passionate about their jobs and who did amazing things. We were happy because our students were well-behaved, our community was supportive, and our jobs afforded us the luxuries of time, respect, and visionary leadership. Our district was huge, but we got things done because we were a team. I moved to Oregon because I was offered a fantastic job with a higher salary, a great math program, and superior benefits for my family. Again, I was given the autonomy I dreamed of, and I used it to find new and risky ways to introduce technology into the math curriculum. My peers looked forward to learning from me, the community gave me a lot of money to get my projects off the ground, and my students were amazing.
The practical implications of misplaced confidence when dealing with statistical evidence are obvious and worrying
A little two-part test for you. Imagine you're a doctor, considering whether to recommend a particular kind of cancer screening, "A". You discover that this form of screening improves five-year survival rates from 68 per cent to 99 per cent. (The five-year survival rate is the proportion of patients alive five years after the cancer was discovered.) The question is: does the screening test "A" save lives?
Part two: now you consider an alternative screening test, "B". You discover that test "B" reduces cancer deaths from two per 1,000 people to 1.6 per 1,000 people. So: does screening test "B" save lives?
Nearly 3,000 Massachusetts students suffered a concussion or other head injury while playing sports during the last school year, according to the results of a first-of-its-kind survey completed by 164 schools.
The reports from middle and high schools across Massachusetts, collected under a state law passed in 2010, highlight the extent of the problem at a time when medical experts and sports leagues, from Pop Warner to the NFL, are increasingly worried about the long-term effects of head injuries.
Boston College High School, an all-boys private school in Dorchester with grades 7 through 12, reported the highest number, with 76 head injuries sustained last school year during "extracurricular athletic activities,'' according to reports released to the Globe by the state Department of Public Health under a public records request. Lexington High School followed with 69 reported head injuries or concussions.
I recently attended a screening of "TEACHED," a trio of short films marketed as documentaries but in truth, rather superficial looks at three important topics in education. The screening was organized by some graduate student groups at Stanford, open to the public but mostly attended by grad students in education, law, and business. According to a brochure I picked up at the screening, TEACHED has as part of its mission to "Analyze the causes and the consequences of the 'achievement gap' between students of color and their peers," but I'm sorry to say that these films offered very little analysis, certainly nothing that would advance a serious policy discussion or aid the work of graduate students.
The first short was called "The Path to Prison" and it tackled the links among illiteracy, dropping out of school, crime and incarceration. Highlighting statistics about the rate of incarceration in the United States, especially for youth who drop out of high school, and especially for young African-American males, the film used the story of one young man, Jerone, to illustrate the issues. Jerone was moved from grade to grade without learning enough to succeed, and looking back, identifies a number of problems in his schooling, including disaffected, alcoholic, and racist teachers. He relates that his needs "went unrecognized, my issues went unchecked." Jerone was a gang member at age thirteen, and locked up by age seventeen. Finally, in prison, Jerone seems to have developed some skills and discipline, and at the time he's talking to the filmmakers, he's describing how hard it is to find a decent job now that he has a record. At the end of the film, text on the screen informs us that Jerone is now back in prison, serving a term of forty-to-life.
Thrown under the school bus this week by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) were 76 Wisconsin schools, which "Failed to Meet Expectations" as calculated under the state's new-fangled school accountability system.
DPI's new school report card system is pay off to Arne Duncan's Department of Education so most Wisconsin schools can avoid federal sanctions imposed by the poorly-designed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation.
PUNE: The Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE) will meet on November 1 to take a final call on a slew of proposed reforms in the teacher education system. The sweeping reforms were recommended by a Supreme Court-appointed high-powered commission under former Chief Justice of India J S Verma.
Bringing teacher education under the higher education system, a policy framework for in-service teacher educators, enhancing duration of teacher education programmes, a teacher education assessment and accreditation centre and an organisational restructuring of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) are some of the key reforms. The NCTE is the regulatory body for teacher education in the country.
A new proposal for Boston school assignments presented Saturday by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral student was essentially pushed to front-runner status by an advisory committee, as five other proposals began to fall off the table, just one month after they were unveiled.
The External Advisory Committee, appointed by the mayor, heard a presentation on the MIT proposal for the first time during a meeting Saturday morning at City Hall. Several members said it showed the greatest potential of providing equitable access to the city's limited number of quality schools, as the panel seeks to create a student-assignment system that allows more students to attend schools closer to their homes.
A key challenge in overhauling the current system, which provides students a wide range of school choices, has been a troubling reality: Long after Boston's period of busing students, the system continues to be unfair, with many students attending schools that are lackluster or failing, typically located in impoverished areas, while others go to better ones.
Wisconsin high schools look pretty good...right? Only 17 of over 400 high schools "Fail to Meet Expectations". Over 86% of all WI public high schools meet or exceed expectations. Life is good...yes?
And it looks like a good plan to evaluate districts/schools on more than just test scores....right?
One think to keep in mind that 40 high schools received overall scores of "Not Rated" due to either suspected errors, or insufficient data.
This question has the same spirit of what papers should everyone read and what videos should everybody watch. It asks for remarkable books in different areas of theoretical computer science.
The books can be math-oriented, yet you may find it great for a computer scientist. Examples:
Design & Analysis of Algorithm
Theory of Computation / Computational Complexity Theory
The days when auto shop was a major part of the high school curriculum have long since been consigned to revivals and reruns of the musical "Grease."
But auto shop's long skid in the face of budget cuts and a shift toward college-prep classes may be reversing.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the San Diego Unified School District, where officials have built automotive program facilities at three high schools and hope to upgrade shops at two other schools if voters approve a bond issue next month.
John Abad, who is 17 and studying auto body repair at a $3.7-million facility opened last month at Morse High, knows why this is being done.
It's fitting that the College Board released its trends in college pricing just before Halloween. It's frightening what many families are paying to help their children realize the American dream of a middle-income-or-better lifestyle.
The average annual sticker price for tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities increased 4.8 percent, to $8,655 over the past year. Prices increased 4.2 percent, to $29,056, at private nonprofit four-year schools. That's not including room and board.
It's widely accepted that unscrupulous bankers tricked unknowing consumers into loans they could not afford, leading to the financial crisis. No doubt, plenty of that occurred--underscored Wednesday with a $1 billion federal suit against Bank of America's mortgage arm Countrywide Financial.
But it turns out the "victoms" were not, by and large, unsophisticated rubes. A new study finds that highly educated Americans were most likely to take on unmanageable debt in the pre-crisis years. What's more, gross personal financial mismanagement occurred across the population and not just in the mortgage market and not just among the unsophisticated.
The study draws a line at the point where monthly payment on household debt equals 40% of income. That's where default or bankruptcy becomes most likely should the household experience a decline in income, say researchers led by Sherman Hanna, professor of consumer sciences at Ohio State University.
The Department of Public Instruction expects many districts to initially address the three categories that can result in severe point reductions -- test participation, absenteeism and dropout rates.The Wisconsin DPI's school report cards can be found here.
About 9 percent of schools that received ratings, including Madison West and East High School, lost points in those areas.
West would have had the highest score among the city's high schools if one additional student with a disability had taken the state reading test last year.
Instead, the school received a five-point deduction and a score of 68.8, good enough to "meet expectations" but below average compared with other schools around the state.
Prospect Street Elementary in the Lake Mills School District, another school with high test scores, received a below-average score because it received a low "closing achievement gaps" score.
The University of Mississippi's School of Education is developing a curriculum that could impact early education across the state.
Starting next fall, undergraduates who complete the required classes can earn an emphasis in early education along with their bachelor's degree in education. The school also will offer a graduate degree in early childhood education. That endorsement or degree would qualify them to work with elementary school-aged children, as well as children ages 3, 4 and 5, said David Rock, dean of the Ole Miss School of Education.
That effort is being funded with a $1.1 million grant from the Jackson-based Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation. In all, the foundation has awarded the university five different grants totalling $5.7 million to support different programs that aim to improve education in Mississippi.
The California student movement has a slogan that goes, "Behind every fee hike, a line of riot cops." And no one embodies that connection more than the Ronald Reagan of the 1960s. Elected governor of California in 1966 after running a scorched-earth campaign against the University of California, Reagan vowed to "clean up that mess in Berkeley," warned audiences of "sexual orgies so vile that I cannot describe them to you," complained that outside agitators were bringing left-wing subversion into the university, and railed against spoiled children of privilege skipping their classes to go to protests. He also ran on an anti-tax platform and promised to put the state's finances in order by "throw[ing] the bums off welfare." But it was the University of California at Berkeley that provided the most useful political foil, crystallizing all of his ideological themes into a single figure for disorder, a subversive menace of sexual, social, generational, and even communist deviance.
When Reagan assumed office, he immediately set about doing exactly what he had promised. He cut state funding for higher education, laid the foundations for a shift to a tuition-based funding model, and called in the National Guard to crush student protest, which it did with unprecedented severity. But he was only able to do this because he had already successfully shifted the political debate over the meaning and purpose of public higher education in America. The first "bums" he threw off welfare were California university students. Instead of seeing the education of the state's youth as a patriotic duty and a vital weapon in the Cold War, he cast universities as a problem in and of themselves--both an expensive welfare program and dangerously close to socialism. He even argued for the importance of tuition-based funding by suggesting that if students had to pay, they'd value their education too much to protest.
In the March 14, 2001, issue of Education Week, Victor Henningsen, director of the history department at Phillips Academy in Andover, had this to say about term papers: "There's no substitute for the thrill that comes from choosing a topic of your own and wrestling with a mass of evidence to answer a question that you have posed, to craft your own narrative and your own analysis. We've been teaching kids to write research papers here for a long time. Kids don't remember the advanced placement exam, but they do remember the papers they have written, and so do I."
March 1, 2002
It seems likely that the history research paper at the high school level is now an endangered species. Focus on creative writing, fear of plagiarism, fascination with PowerPoint presentations, and lack of planning time have been joined by a notable absence of concern about term papers in virtually all of the work on state standards. As a result, far too many American high school students never get the chance to do the reading and writing that a serious history paper requires. They then enter college with no experience in writing papers, to the continual frustration of their professors, and of the employers who later hire them. The Ford Motor Co., for example, had to institute writing classes to ensure that their people are able to produce readable reports, memos, and the like.
A few years ago, a survey of English and social studies standards by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation showed that term papers are, indeed, ignored. The Pew Charitable Trust's Standards for Success program, with its focus on high school and college articulation of standards and expectations, likewise includes no term papers. Neither has the American Diploma Project in Washington, D.C., working to define the expectations of high schools, colleges, and employers, yet found a place in its deliberations for history research papers. One problem for these groups and others, of course, is that serious term papers cannot be assessed in a one-hour objective test. But their impact on students and the consequences of never having done one can be incalculable.
In the early 1980s, while I was teaching American history to high school sophomores in Concord, Massachusetts, each of my students had to write a biographical paper on a U.S. president. One student chose John F. Kennedy, and I lent him a copy of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s A Thousand Days. The boy took a look at the rather large book, and told me, "I can't read this." I said, "Yes, you can," and eventually, he was able to finish it. Five or six years later, out of the blue, I got a letter from the student. He was now a Junior at Yale, and he wanted to thank me for making him read Schlesinger's book. It was the first serious work of nonfiction he had ever read, and being able to get through it had done something for his self-confidence. Of course, he was the one who had forced himself to read the book, but the anecdote points up one of the great advantages of working on a history term paper. The experience often will mark the first time a high school student discovers that he or she is capable of reading a book on an important topic.
When I was an alumni interviewer for Harvard College, I asked one high school boy what he thought he might major in. History, he replied. I had said nothing about my own interest in the subject, and all he knew about me was that I was an alum. But after he gave me his answer, I naturally asked what his favorite history book was. Before long, it became clear that, while this student had achieved good grades and advanced placement scores, he had studied only textbooks. No one had ever handed him a good history book and encouraged him to read it, apparently. More than likely, he had never had to write a serious history paper either. If he had, he might have been forced to read a book or two in the field.
In the March 14, 2001, issue of Education Week, Victor Henningsen, director of the history department at Phillips Academy in Andover, had this to say about term papers; "There's no substitute for the thrill that comes from choosing a topic of your own and wrestling with a mass of evidence to answer a question that you have posed, to craft your own narrative and your own analysis. We've been teaching kids to write research papers here for a long time. Kids don't remember the advanced placement exam, but they do remember the papers they have written, and so do I."
Since 1987, I have been the editor of The Concord Review, a quarterly journal of history research papers written by high school students. We've published 528 [1,044] papers (averaging 5,000 words, including endnotes and bibliography) by students from 42  states and 33  foreign countries. Out of some 22,000 public and private high schools in the United States, we receive about 600 essays a year, from which we publish 11 in each issue. If you do the calculation, that means that more than 21,000 high schools do not even submit one history essay for consideration in a given year. While this may not prove that exceptional history essays are not being written at those schools, it is not an encouraging sign.
As for what teachers expect in their high school history classes in lieu of research papers, I have only anecdotal evidence. I met with the head of the history department at a public high school in New Jersey once, a man very active in the National Council for History Education, and asked him why he never sent papers from his best students to The Concord Review. He said he didn't have his students do research papers anymore; they make PowerPoint presentations and write historical fiction instead. When I asked the now-retired head of history at Scarsdale High School in New York, why, even though he subscribed to The Concord Review, he never submitted student papers for consideration, he too said he no longer assigned papers. After the AP exam, he would hold what he called the Trial of James Buchanan for his role in helping to precipitate the Civil War. His students would then write responses on that subject instead.
After I published her paper on the Women's Temperance Union, the class valedictorian at a public high school on Staten Island wrote me to say she felt weak in expository writing and offered some reasons. Here are her words: "I attend a school where students are given few opportunities to develop their talents in this field. It is assumed students will learn how to write in college." I feel confident in saying that, on the college side, there is the expectation that students will learn at least the rudiments of putting together a research paper while they are still in high school. College humanities professors, slow to learn perhaps, are routinely surprised when they find that this is not the case. And rightly so. What is at work here?
For one thing, creative writing often rules at the high school level (and earlier in many cases). Even the director of Harvard's Expository Writing program for undergraduates has said she thinks that teenagers don't get enough chances to write about their feelings, anxieties, hopes, and dreams, and that they shouldn't be pushed to work on research papers until college. The National Writing Project in Berkeley, California, a program that reaches hundreds of teachers each year, takes a postmodern approach to what it calls "Literatures," and never comes within a mile of considering that students could use some work on research skills and expository writing.
I have actually seen what teenagers can do, and it is more like the following, an excerpt from an essay published a few years back in The Concord Review. (more examples at www.tcr.org) This passage concludes an essay by a high school Junior who went on to major in civil engineering at Princeton, get a Ph.D. in earthquake engineering at Stanford, and she is now an assistant professor of engineering at Cornell.
As is usually the case with extended, deeply-held disagreements, no one person or group was the cause of the split in the woman suffrage movement. On both sides, a stubborn eagerness to enfranchise women hindered the effort to do so. Abolitionists and Republicans refused to unite equally with woman suffragists. Stanton and Anthony, blinded for a while by their desperation to succeed, turned to racism, putting blacks and women against each other at a time when each needed the other's support most. The one thing that remains clear is that, while in some ways it helped women discover their own power, the division of forces weakened the overall strength of the movement. As a result of the disagreements within the woman suffrage movement, the 1860s turned out to be a missed opportunity for woman suffragists, just as Stanton had predicted. After the passage of the 15th Amendment, they were forced to wait another 50 years for the fulfillment of their dream.
High school kids are fully capable of writing long, serious history papers. And they will get a lot out of doing so, not only in terms of reading nonfiction, but also in learning to write nonfiction themselves. These days, too many of our students are not given that chance to grow. Colleges may continue doing what they can to help teenagers master the rudiments of expository writing, but much of what these high school students have lost can never be recouped in remedial coursework.
"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® 
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
For the first time, there is a substantial effort to show how much progress students in a school are making from year to year. The reports also go much deeper than before into how schools are doing on closing gaps between student groups. And they measure performance by the tougher standards coming into use pretty much from coast to coast - which means that the percentage of students rated as proficient is down sharply everywhere.
There's information that should give every school community reasons to feel challenged and, in many cases, chastened. The day after the release, the principal of one of the best schools in Milwaukee told me he took the report on his school as a wake-up call that they weren't doing as well as they thought. That's good.
But this is just the start of a process of building better report cards. A big limitation is the current WKCE testing system. Only so much can be done with a test that is not really state-of-the-art and that is given once a year. (I say this as this year's round gets under way.)
Kourtnee Brooks, a 21-year-old Middle Tennessee State University student, welcomes the help that federal student loans provide, but also fears them.
"Without the loans, I wouldn't be able to attend school," said the nursing student.
But then she added, "I know I am borrowing too much."
Brooks, a junior from Jackson, has been borrowing about $5,000 a year, which she combines with federal grants, some scholarship funds and money she earns working as a waitress three times a week, to make ends meet.
Are We Getting Smarter?: Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century
by James R. Flynn
Cambridge University Press, 310 pp., $22
IN THE MID-'80s, the political philosopher James Flynn noticed a remarkable but puzzling trend: for the past century, average IQ scores in every industrialized nation have been steadily rising. And not just a little: nearly three points every decade. Every several years, IQ tests test have to be "re-normed" so that the average remains 100. This means that a person who scored 100 a century ago would score 70 today; a person who tested as average a century ago would today be declared mentally retarded.
This bizarre finding--christened the "Flynn effect" by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in The Bell Curve--has since snowballed so much supporting evidence that in 2007 Malcolm Gladwell declared in The New Yorker that "the Flynn effect has moved from theory to fact." But researchers still cannot agree on why scores are going up. Are we are simply getting better at taking tests? Are the tests themselves a poor measure of intelligence? Or do rising IQ scores really mean we are getting smarter?
Ting Shi said his first two years in the United States were wretched. He slept in a bunk bed in the same room with his grandparents and a cousin in Chinatown, while his parents lived on East 89th Street, near a laundromat where they endured 12-hour shifts. He saw them only on Sundays.
Even after they found an apartment together, his father often talked about taking the family back to China. So, following the advice of friends and relatives from Fuzhou, where he is from, Ting spent more than two years poring over dog-eared test prep books, attending summer and after-school classes, even going over math formulas on the walk home from school.
Few of us are as smart as we'd like to be. You're sharper than Jim (maybe) but dull next to Jane. Human intelligence varies. And this matters, because smarter people generally earn more money, enjoy better health, raise smarter children, feel happier and, just to rub it in, live longer as well.
But where does intelligence come from? How is it built? Researchers have tried hard to find the answer in our genes. With the rise of inexpensive genome sequencing, they've analyzed the genomes of thousands of people, looking for gene variants that clearly affect intelligence, and have found a grand total of two.
One determines the risk of Alzheimer's and affects I.Q. only late in life; the other seems to build a bigger brain, but on average it raises I.Q. by all of 1.29 points.
Other genetic factors may be at work: A report last year concluded that several hundred gene variants taken together seemed to account for 40 to 50 percent of the differences in intelligence among the 3,500 subjects in the study. But the authors couldn't tell which of these genes created any significant effect. And when they tried to use the genes to predict differences in intelligence, they could account for only 1 percent of the differences in I.Q.
I participated in CCK 11 and the facilitators were Stephen Downes and George Siemens. The course was unlike any learning experience I had ever had before. Here's why:
1. Changed relationship between teacher & learner
Teacher, as the term is usually understood, is someone who teaches. In CCK 11, that definition gave way to a multiplicity of understandings, articulated by Stephen Downes here:
Stephen Downes: (Long Quote) "We don't need no educator: The role of the teacher in today's online education
American history has been radically transformed on our campuses. Traditional topics are now not only marginalized but "re-visioned" to become more compatible with the dominant race/class/gender paradigm.
In two posts last fall, I took a look at U.S. history offerings at Bowdoin College. The liberal arts college, one of the nation's finest, long enjoyed a reputation as a training ground of Maine politicians, at both the state and federal level. The staffing of its History Department suggests that the college has abandoned that mission, with the intent to exclude significant portions of the American past. (Two of the department's five Americanists specialize in U.S. environmental history; the department's only non-environmental 20th century U.S. historian has a Ph.D. in the history of science.)
The department's own U.S. offerings featured a heavy course emphasis on Western U.S. history, including a history of California, seemingly odd choices for a school in Maine but a subfield that heavily stresses such trendy themes as environmental degradation, exploitation of Native Americans, and discrimination against Hispanics and Asians. In the previous semester, the department's token "traditional" course topic, a class on the Cold War, was taught by the school's historian of science and featured heavy use of film.
What about the situation at a larger--and more nationally renowned--History Department? To find out, I turned to the fall 2012 offerings at UCLA.
Several blog readers have responded grumpily to my posts suggesting that states might be better off investing incremental education dollars in raising teacher salaries rather than hiring more teachers. Fair enough. But one point many of us have agreed on is that too much of the education budget has gone to hiring more and more administrators. I've linked to at least one study that supports this point. Now I've got much better ammunition!
According to today's edition of the Education Gadfly Weekly (published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute), a new study has found that:Between 1950 and 2009, the number of K-12 public school students increased by 96 percent. During that same period, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew by 386 percent. Of those personnel, the number of teachers increased by 252 percent, while the ranks of administrators and other staff grew by 702 percent--more than 7 times the increase in students.http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-weekly/2012/october-25/the-school-staffing-surge.html#body
To put that in perspective, the same article notes that:if student growth had matched that of non-teaching personnel from 1992 to 2009 and if the teaching force had only grown 1.5 times faster than the pupil enrollment, American public schools would have an additional $37.2 billion to spend per year--the equivalent of an $11,700 a year increase in salary for every American public school teacher.
Location, location, location--it matters in real estate, and the harsh reality is, it matters in student achievement, too. While wealthy Americans can pay for private school or move to a top-ranked district in suburbia, countless other parents are left with their neighborhood public school default. That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course. But what if the choice is not good enough?
Montgomery County, Maryland, one of the nation's top 20 wealthiest school districts, has one answer. Federally subsidized homes have been purchased by the government and used to offer safe rental housing for eligible low-income families. This arrangement sometimes referred to as "inclusionary zoning" or "policy-induced integration," means that families whose incomes fall below the poverty line can relocate to homes in more affluent areas with better schools. A 2010 Century Foundation report by Heather Schwartz finds that students in public housing who were randomly assigned to low-poverty elementary schools outperformed their peers who were assigned to moderate-poverty schools in math and reading.
Academic tracking in secondary education appears to confound an increasingly common method for gauging differences in teacher quality, according to two recently released studies.
Failing to account for how students are sorted into more- or less-rigorous classes--as well as the effect different tracks have on student learning--can lead to biased "value added" estimates of middle and high school teachers' ability to boost their students' standardized-test scores, the papers conclude.
"I think it suggests that we're making even more errors than we need to--and probably pretty large errors--when we're applying value-added to the middle school level," said Douglas N. Harris, an associate professor of economics at Tulane University in New Orleans, whose study examines the application of a value-added approach to middle school math scores.
The parents of a Kalama Valley kindergartner said they reluctantly sold their house, are looking for new jobs and moving to the East Coast to enroll their gifted son in a special school. And they fault the state for not offering enough support for extraordinarily talented students in Hawaii public schools.m
Parents who believe they have a gifted child should seek help from school officials, conduct plenty of online research and get deeply involved in their child's education inside and outside of the classroom, according to a local expert and the parents of a gifted Oahu boy whose family moved to the East Coast to go to a special school for gifted students.
"Work with the principal to see what can be done at the school that your student attends," said Anna Viggiano, the educational specialist in charge of gifted and talented programs for the state of Hawaii Department of Education.
Most public schools have a period during which you can nominate your child to be designated gifted, she said. Parents can nominate their children for screening and testing by school officials who will evaluate the students to see if they are eligible for special classes.
"As a parent, you can't depend totally on the school," Viggiano said. The DOE does not have the money for any statewide initiatives for gifted students, she said. The state gives each public school $914 per gifted student, money that every principal decides how to use.
Viggiano said parents should ask, "What can I do on my parent time to make my child love learning and feel happy?"
Education is crucial to the future of the US, both as a gateway to the middle class and to secure a competitive edge in the global talent pool. Both Democrats and Republicans are concerned that rising tuition is putting college out of reach for too many people - potentially blighting the country's future prosperity as higher education expands rapidly around the world. Both parties are concerned by international comparisons that show the academic performance of US high school students is relatively mediocre. But when it comes to solving these problems, there are marked differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
In schools, the president has pushed for increased accountability for teachers, by tying teacher evaluations to students' results in standardized tests. He has promoted charter schools, which are state-funded but independently run, giving parents an alternative to traditional public schools.
Romney supports both these goals, but is also keen to provide federal cash for school vouchers that would educate children in private or religious schools at public expense.
We have come a long way since the 1960s, when a plane ride to Europe from the United States required a fueling stop in Gander, Newfoundland. Today we can reach airports in far-off Asia in a single flight. Combine this ease of travel with the technology-facilitated communication afforded us through e-mail and the Internet, and clearly the world has shrunk in the past few decades. Correspondingly, at all levels of education it is our responsibility to help our students appreciate their place as citizens of the world by giving them the most enriched view of the global environ- ment in which we study, work and live.
The growing chorus of higher education critics calling for change is eliciting some public resistance by the academic establishment. But if the reasoning in a recent rebuttal to such criticism by John Tierney, a former Georgetown University and Boston College political science professor, is representative of how the Ivory Tower thinks, the need for reform is even more urgent than previously imagined. Educators need to be clear-thinking to train the young, not muddled and illogical.
In an article in the Atlantic, "Let's Calm Down About Higher Education," Tierney took issue with critics who question higher education's utility, citing articles entitled "How Liberal Arts Colleges Are Failing America" and "Is College a Lousy Investment?" He wrote that higher education is doing just fine financially and intellectually.
He offers two explanations why higher education criticism is proliferating. One is that calls for reform are merely incessant clatter; Tierney considers such critiques to be little more than background noise as it has been for centuries. The other is that critics of academia are often driven by political agendas. He even suggests that there is something nefarious and inappropriate about reformers' objections: they are "meant to scare, not to inform; to back agendas, not to enlighten or improve."
Late October in Atlantic City? It must be time for N.J. School Boards Association's Annual Workshop and Exhibition. Picture it: school board members and administrators in grey blazers and sensible shoes roaming Atlantic City's cavernous Convention Center, attending sessions like "Energy Improvement Program (ESIP): How to Implement Energy Facilities Projects Without Spending More Money" and "Voluntary Model Curricula and Assessments Aligned with the Common Core Standards," indulging in that perennially favorite activity of snatching up free candy and pens from vendors in the Exhibition Hall. Can anyone say "PAR-TAY!"
(Actually, yes. Your staid school board members might surprise you.)
So, what's the vibe here? I hear none of last year's inflamed political rhetoric about tenure and teacher evaluation reform and nary a debate about the wisdom or idiocy of N.J.'s pending shift from binary (satisfactory/unsatisfactory) and superficial teacher and principal annual reviews to granular evaluations infused with meaningful direction and longitudinal data. I see no rending of garments over the unreliability of measuring student growth through standardized tests or the subjectivity of classroom observations.
Sue Schaar, MMSD TAG Coordinator, via a kind reader's email
There will be a workshop for parents on "Supporting the Socio-Emotional Needs of Advanced Learners" at LaFollette on Saturday, November 10, from 8:30-noon. I've tried to send the program out twice but the server rejects it as too large. Go to MMSD to see details and to register: https://tagweb.madison.k12.wi.us/node/111
TIME's cover package this week is on reinventing college in general and specifically on whether a new breed of online megacourses can finally offer higher education to more people for less money. That story dives deep into Udacity, which was co-f0unded by a former Stanford professor. I've been looking into rival Coursera, which has partnered with dozens of prestigious schools, including Princeton, Duke and the University of Virginia. After six weeks of participating in Coursera's massive open online course (MOOC) on gamification, conducted by Kevin Werbach of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, I've successfully completed my studies and earned a certificate. Or at least I'm pretty sure I have.
Actually, Coursera hasn't told me what my final grade is--it'll show up within a few weeks, the site says--but I followed the calculations provided by a fellow student in the class forums, and I think I got an 83. That's more than good enough to receive the certificate, but not enough to brag about.
I may be one of a tiny minority who think that schools are for student academic work.
Of course, sports, concerts, social programs, dances, and all sorts of other youth activities are important, but students don't need schools to do them in.
My view is that without student academic work, all the buildings, bond issues, budgets, school boards, teacher unions, superintendent and teacher training programs, Broad/Gates/WalMart grants, local-state-federal education departments, NCLB, RTT, CC, CCSSO, Schools of Education, standards projects, legislation, regulations, and all the rest of the Adults Only paraphernalia surrounding education in this country these days are just a waste of money and time.
The Education Punditocracy, including blogs, magazines, newspapers, foundations, Finn/Hess/Petrilli, etc., and even my friend and inspiration, Diane Ravitch, among hundreds and hundreds of others, are completely preoccupied with and absorbed in their consideration of what Adults are doing in education. The actual academic work of students takes place at much too low a level to attract their notice. They seem to be making the assumption that if they can just fix all the Adults Only stuff, then somehow student academic work will take care of itself. But they don't pay any attention in the meantime to whether students are actually doing any academic work or not. And they have not learned that the students, and the students alone, have the power to determine whether they will do any academic work, and also what its quality will be.
To reiterate: without student academic work, all the rest of the bustle, noise, commentary, and the hundreds of billions of dollars spent will amount to nothing, so it should be important to pay attention to student academic work, should it not?
I came to understand this because for the last 25 years in particular, and for about 10 years before that, I have been fully engaged in efforts that completely depend upon good student academic work, and I have been fascinated to discover how few Education people seem to be involved with that, and that just about every one of them, though laboring away quite seriously and conscientiously, seems to spend all their time on the Adults Only matters, and to have almost no interest, other than to give it lip service and quickly move on, in the serious academic work of students.
If that should somehow change, and if student academic work were to become the central focus of what we pay attention to in education, there is a chance we might see more of it, and that its quality might improve too. But if we continue to ignore it and focus on Adults Only, that most assuredly is not going to happen. As the Hindus say: "Whatever you give your Attention to grows in your life," and we have been giving, IMHO, far too much attention (almost all of it) to the Adults Only aspects of education and far too little to student academic work.
To test what I am saying, if a kind Reader would go back over articles, books, blogs, and speeches on education in recent years, please do let me know if you find any that talk about student science projects, the complete nonfiction books they are reading, or the serious history research papers they are writing. I believe if you look closely, almost all that you find will show people caught up in what Adults Only are doing, should do, will do, must do, or might do, and there will be little to no attention to the actual academic work of students in our schools. But please prove me mistaken, with evidence, if you would be so kind.
"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® 
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
I seem to have touched a raw nerve with my posts about (government-approved) lower educational standards for minority kids. Is it possible that the common core standards will similarly lower the bar, this time for math performance?
Common core critics have noted that California's new law on math standards will roll back California's decade long effort to move as many eighth graders as possible into Algebra. As Bill Evers and Ze'ev Wurman (both former Department of Education officials) note, the algebra reform dramatically increased the number of minority kids who took Algebra 1 and beyond . . . and raised their test scores.The results are a rarely-told story of stunning success in public education. In 1998, only 17 percent, just 70,000 of our students, took Algebra by grade eight. But this year, 68 percent, or more than 324,000 did.This translates to almost quarter of a million more students taking Algebra by grade eight. Not only had we successfully quadrupled the fraction of Algebra-taking by grade eight -- which is a major accomplishment for those students and their teachers -- but an ever larger percentage of students have over time scored "proficient" and above.
The success of minorities and students in poverty increasing their Algebra 1 proficiency was the most significant achievement. In 2003, fewer than 1,700 African-Americans successfully took Algebra by grade 8. By 2012, more than 6,900 did; that was more than a four-fold increase.
For many years, national survey and polling data have shown that Americans tend to like their own local schools, but are considerably less sanguine about the nation's education system as a whole. This somewhat paradoxical finding - in which most people seem to think the problem is with "other people's schools" - is difficult to interpret, especially since it seems to vary a bit when people are given basic information about schools, such as funding levels.
In any case, I couldn't resist taking a very quick, superficial look at how people's views of education vary by important characteristics, such as age and education. I used the General Social Survey (pooled 2006-2010), which queries respondents about their confidence in education, asking them to specify whether they have "hardly any," "only some" or "a great deal" of confidence in the system.*
According to the Department of Public Instruction, 272 of the state's 424 public school districts will receive less aid for the 2012-2013 school year than they did last year. Although there was a slight increase in general school aid overall, public schools are receiving less because Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP Legislature not only trimmed a good billion dollars from public school spending, but expanded school choice vouchers and other goodies for private institutions at the expense of public schools.Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding.
All told, the state has taken away $900 from each of its public school students in the past five years, the bulk of which has come during Walker's two years as governor. Much of that $900 decrease has been on the backs of public school teachers, who were stripped of their union representation and forced to pay more for their health insurance and pensions. In addition, some 2,300 teacher positions were eliminated in the 2011-2012 school year.
MARK TWAIN observed that "it's not what you don't know that kills you, it's what you know for sure that ain't true." After 15 years doing fieldwork in more than 100 public schools and interviewing more than 1,000 students, parents, and educators, we're convinced that no area is more fraught with myths and misconceptions than education policy, especially during election seasons like this one. Indeed our friend Jay Greene wrote a whole book, "Education Myths," devoted to debunking them.
With apologies to Jay here are our own favorite myths about public education.
It took just one play on Sept. 15 to suggest the game between the Southbridge Pop Warner pee wees and their rivals, the Tantasqua Braves, could mean trouble. Two Tantasqua players were hit so hard that their coach pulled them off the field. An emergency medical technician on the sidelines evaluated the boys, grew worried that they might have concussions, and had them take their pads off.
The boys on the teams were as young as 10, and, because of rules about safety, none could weigh more than 120 pounds. Shortly after 3 p.m. at McMahon Field in Southbridge, though, things quickly became worse. Six plays into the game, another Brave was removed after a hard hit. An official with the Tantasqua team said the eyes of one of the boys were rolling back in his head.
But the game, an obvious mismatch between teams from neighboring towns in central Massachusetts, went on, with Southbridge building a 28-0 lead in the first quarter. The game went on without the officials intervening. It went on despite the fact that the Braves, with three of their players already knocked out of the game, no longer had the required number of players to participate.
MIAMI (AP) -- One of the country's most prestigious education prizes was awarded Tuesday to the Miami-Dade County Public Schools for improving student achievement, raising the graduation rates of minority students, and increasing the percentage of minorities reaching advanced levels on state exams.
Miami-Dade, the country's fourth-largest school district, had been a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education five times before winning the honor this year. National education officials announced the award at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
"To give every child a fair shot at the American dream, big-city school systems must deliver an education that prepares young people for college and careers," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. "I commend the entire Miami-Dade community for establishing a district-wide culture of results that empowers teachers and students, puts more resources into helping children in the lowest-performing schools, and is helping narrow the achievement gap.
It's simple to teach mathematical positives and negatives to a child. It's been done successfully with the number line around the world, in private schools, homes, tutoring businesses and online. Unfortunately, many schools in America no longer teach the number line, don't teach it to mastery, or they cloud any fledgling understanding of it by emphasizing other, less-effective methods.
First, I'll explain the number line. Then I'll show you what's being emphasized in its place.
Traditional Math Method Used to Teach Negatives
The Number Line
A number line is a straight line with numbers listed at intervals. Typically, "zero" is a point in the middle, negative numbers are listed to the left of zero, and positive numbers are listed to the right of zero. Arrowheads are placed at each end to show that the line and numbers continue to infinity. Each point is assumed to correspond to a real number, and each real number corresponds to a point. Like this:
Here's a trick question: How do we get people to understand programming?
Because my work was cited as an inspiration for the Khan system, I felt I should respond with two thoughts about learning:
Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School has received a Merck "Neighbor of Choice" community grant for the purpose of designing and implementing a Lourdes GLOBE Imagination Station.
The station will feature the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program, a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program.
Funding from the "Neighbor of Choice Community Grants Program" will assist in establishing training, materials and implementation of the Lourdes "GLOBE Imagination Station" to promote students' scientific critical thinking and verbal skills while exposing them to a full range of opportunities to further their understanding of earth sciences.
On Sept. 17, the Pakistani government shut down access to YouTube. The purported reason was to block the anti-Muslim film trailer that was inciting protests around the world.
One little-noticed consequence of this decision was that 215 people in Pakistan suddenly lost their seats in a massive, open online physics course. The free college-level class, created by a Silicon Valley start-up called Udacity, included hundreds of short YouTube videos embedded on its website. Some 23,000 students worldwide had enrolled, including Khadijah Niazi, a pigtailed 11-year-old in Lahore. She was on question six of the final exam when she encountered a curt message saying "this site is unavailable."
Act 10 & WEAC Reorganization
Governor Walker's Act 10 was intended to kill public sector unions and it has caused a significant negative impact on them. Other than the urban unions, WEAC's membership is about one-half of that prior to the enactment of Act 10. This has caused WEAC and the Wisconsin American Federation of Teachers to discuss merger. And, that is the subject of a Special WEAC Representative Assembly to be held December 1.
If you are interested in serving as an MTI Delegate contact Vicky Bernards at MTI Headquarters (608-257-0491 or email@example.com) by October 24.
At its October 16 meeting, the MTI Faculty Representative Council re-elected Greg Vallee (Thoreau) to one of the at-large positions on the MTI Board of Directors. For the other position, the vote was tied between Pete Smith (Lowell) and Lauren Mikol (Lincoln). They will meet at MTI Headquarters today to participate in a drawing to determine the winner. The Board consists of the MTI President, President-Elect, Vice-President, Past-President, Secretary, Treasurer and four at-large positions. Officers are elected by the general membership each April, and two at-large positions by the MTI Faculty Representative Council each October.
In other elections, the Council re-elected Nancy Roth (West) and elected Susie Hobart (Lake View) to the MTI Cabinet on Personnel. The Cabinet, which oversees MTI's employment relationship with its staff, consists of four at-large positions elected by the Council, the MTI President and Treasurer, and the Presidents (or his/her designee) from MTI's educational assistant, school security assistant, substitute teacher, and clerical/technical bargaining units.
For the MTI Finance Committee, the Council re-elected Bruce Bobb (Shabazz/Cluster) and Andrew Waity (Crestwood) and elected Karen Lee-Wahl (Huegel). The Finance Committee oversees the development of the Union's budget for presentation to and action by the MTI Joint Fiscal Group. The Committee consists of the MTI President and Treasurer, three at-large positions elected annually by the Council, and the Presidents (or his/her designee) from MTI's educational assistant, school security assistant, substitute teacher, and clerical/technical bargaining units.
The Council also re-elected to MTI's Political Action Committee (MTI-VOTERS) Andy Mayhall (Thoreau), Karen Vieth (Sennett), Kathryn Burns (Shorewood), and Liz Wingert (Elvehjem). The Committee consists of the MTI President, Treasurer, the Presidents (or his/her designee) from MTI's educational assistant, school security assistant, substitute teacher, and clerical/technical bargaining units, and nine members elected by the MTI Faculty Representative Council, one of whom is a member of MTI's retired teacher organization.
Due to a retirement, a vacancy existed as MTI Delegate to the South Central Federation of Labor. The Council elected David Fawcett (Allis) to fill the remainder of the term.
In addition, due to retirements and a person taking a position out of the bargaining unit, four vacancies existed on the MTI Bargaining Committee. The Council elected Laurie Solchenberger (Lincoln) for Elementary School Representative; Gabe Chavez (Jefferson) for Middle School Representative; Peggy Ellerkamp (La Follette) for High School Representative; and Matt Gray (Jefferson) for At-Large Representative.
EARLIER this year a Gallup poll found that confidence in America's public schools was at an all-time low. Its data go back to 1973. Few politicians who speak about education these days forget to lament the country's poor rankings in international league tables, or the urgent need to produce more college graduates. Poor schools, increased student debt, higher tuition fees and lower pay for the middle classes are causing, if this is possible, more angst than ever about education. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are doing their best to tap into this vein of concern.
Both candidates begin at roughly similar places in the debate--recognising the problem and proposing some of the same remedies, such as more charter schools, teacher evaluations and pay related to merit. Both also have to bear in mind that education is an area presidents cannot do much to change. But a second-term Mr Obama is likely to have education reform higher on his agenda than a first-term Mr Romney. Mr Obama's priorities on entering office in 2009--the economy and health care--were just what Mr Romney's will be if he arrives in 2013.
High school popularity may pay off.
A study released Monday argues those in the top fifth of the high school popularity pyramid garnered a 10% wage premium nearly 40 years after graduation, compared to those in the bottom fifth.
The study was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Its authors say they don't view popularity as an "innate personality trait." Instead, popularity pays because those who learn to play the game in high school are figuring out what they need to know to succeed when they enter the workplace. The report suggests schools may want to join their academic mission with one that helps students build their social skills.
Almost three decades ago, I applied to Cambridge university in England for an undergraduate degree. Just before my interview, a schoolteacher proffered some advice: "Don't mention that your father went to Cambridge - or not unless you are asked!"
The reason? Back then in 1980s Britain, there was an aversion to the idea that family connections could help students get an elite university place. Indeed, the only thing considered more taboo by admissions officers was the idea that somebody could "buy" their way into a university with charitable donations, coupled with family ties.
How times change. Or, more accurately, how perceptions vary according to geography and social customs. This autumn, the children of several American friends entered a clutch of elite US colleges, such as Brown, Harvard and Princeton. Most of these kids have earned their places, in the sense of having high-performing SAT tests and a curriculum vitae packed with accolades. And yet these intelligent teenagers had another advantage: connections. More specifically, their parents and relatives are usually alumni of those elite universities, visibly involved in the alumni network and have often made philanthropic donations.
If you have not seen GapMinder yet, it is a must from every math and history teacher!
I was introduced to this amazing graphing software about a year ago at a conference, and I was so excited to play with it and use it in my classroom. But the how was a bit vague... Unfortunately the craziness of getting back to my classroom after three days out distracted me from the goal of figuring it out.
Well, the Common Core placing statistics back into Algebra 1 pushed me forward. I am so grateful. I want my students to understand numbers in the context of the larger world around them. And this is the perfect tool!
Flakes of green paint are peeling from the third-floor windowsills. Some desks are patched with tape, others etched with graffiti. The view across the street is of a row of boarded-up brownstones.
The building and its surroundings in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, may look run-down, but inside 150 Albany Avenue may sit the future of the country's vocational education: The first 230 pupils of a new style of school that weaves high school and college curriculums into a six-year program tailored for a job in the technology industry.
By 2017, the first wave of students of P-Tech -- Pathways in Technology Early College High School -- are expected to emerge with an associate degree in applied science in computer information systems or electromechanical engineering technology, following a course of studies developed in consultation with I.B.M.
Want to live a long, healthy and happy life?
It's not all about broccoli or jogging or vitamins, says a noted researcher, who re-examined and updated results of a famous longevity study that started in the 1920s to determine that much of contemporary advice on aging well is wrong.
Wearing your seat belt, watching stress, being cheerful and optimistic -- all may be factors in making one's life more enjoyable,Leslie Martin and co-author Howard Friedman wrote in "The Longevity Project."
But their study findings "clearly revealed that the best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness," they wrote. People who had aged well tended to have shown -- already as children and consistently through life -- the qualities of prudence, persistence and organization.
Update: One in eight public schools in Wisconsin aren't meeting expectations set out by the state's new accountability system, the Department of Public Instruction announced Monday.
Three in four schools are either meeting expectations or exceeding expectations, while about 10 percent of the state's 2,118 public schools did not receive a rating.
No Madison schools failed to meet expectations, though 10 Madison schools received ratings in the second-lowest "meets few expectations" category. The Madison school with the lowest rating was East High School with a score of 55.6 on a scale of 0 to 100.
Seven Madison schools "significantly exceed expectations," a designation assigned to only 3 percent of schools in the state. They were Van Hise, Randall, Shorewood Hills, Marquette, Franklin and Lapham elementaries and Hamilton Middle School.
The Department of Public Instruction on Monday released report cards for more than 2,000 public schools in Wisconsin. They can be accessed here.
In American schools, mathematics is taught as a dark art. Learn these sacred methods and you will become master of the ancient symbols. You must memorize the techniques to our satisfaction or your performance on the state standardized exams will be so poor that they will be forced to lower the passing grades. Never mind the foundational principles, proofs, or derivations - you'll learn those in due course.
Why? Why do math? Because you'll need it, that's why. You'll use it in your physics classes. And I'm sure I can think of examples of how you'll use math in real life, whatever your chosen career may be. Right? Right. I hear engineers have to know how to solve differential equations, for example, and before you can do differential equations you need to learn logarithms. So get back to chapter 14 and get working.
This is the message we're giving our children, and it's no wonder so few students develop an interest in mathematics. Ask any math major: Math isn't about memorizing some formulas and learning how to factor polynomials. It's... well, it's something much deeper. It's fascinating. But what is it exactly?
Coursera certainly deserves praise for opening access to higher education, especially since they also offer courses in the humanities, unlike competitors like Udacity or EdX. Solutions to exercises in mathematics or computer science can easily be graded because there is an expected correct answer at undergraduate level courses, but assessing the relative merits of an essay in, say, literary studies isn't quite so straightforward. Coursera attempts to solve this problem by letting students grade the essays of their peers.
I do see some issues with automated grading even in code submissions, but that's a topic for another article. Right now I am more concerned with the peer review system Coursera has implemented. I am sure they will attempt to modify their system eventually, but at the moment there are some serious issues. Please note that I am not speaking as an observer on the sidelines. I have sampled numerous courses, and finished finished three so far. Especially in more technical courses, the content seems to be very good, and for a motivated self-learner you could easily substitute a course at a brick-and-mortar university by one of Coursera's, if you are more concerned about learning something new and care little about getting a paper.
Not too long ago, I wrote about my sister Linda, who passed away this summer.m
Nobody could love a daughter more than my father Michael loved Linda.
My father (who is a doctor) was realistic from the start about what modern medicine might be able to do to save his precious daughter from cancer. Even with those low expectations, he was shocked at how impotent -- and actually counterproductive -- her interactions with the medical system turned out to be.
Here, in his own words, is my father's poignant account of my sister's experience with medical care.
Boys in the United States are beginning to see the first signs of puberty from six months to two years earlier than previously observed, according to a new study published Saturday in Pediatrics. The study is the first to look at the onset of puberty for U.S. boys in 25 years and seems to mirror similar findings that have already been well documented in girls, points out the Wall Street Journal. The difference appears most pronounced in African-American boys, who are starting to see the first signs of puberty at 9.1 years. The average for Hispanic boys is 10 and 10.1 years for white boys, compared with the average age of 11.5 in previous studies.
The study has been a long time coming and is widely considered to be the most comprehensive attempt to measure puberty in U.S. boys. Still, experts cautioned that since previous studies were smaller or approached the issue through a different light, it might not be so easy to pinpoint how much earlier boys are developing, points out the New York Times.
The Department of Public Instruction is busy putting those report cards together. So busy that today they declined our request for an interview.
However on DPI's website they break down how to read the new report cards.
The more in depth progress reports will give faculty, staff and you the parent a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your child's school.
Madison Metropolitan School District's Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore says, " This is just a new way to put it together so that it can be communicated, we hope, in a stronger way. "
Schools are graded on a scale from 0-to-100. Accoridng to Jane Belmore a failing school will not neccasarily face disciplinary action from the district.
An increasing number of educators say Louisiana's new evaluations make it more likely that teachers at high-achieving public schools will get poor reviews, which would threaten their job security.
"You are looking at trouble," said Norma Church, principal of Westdale Heights Academic Magnet School in Baton Rouge, one of the top-rated schools in the state.
But state Superintendent of Education John White said data show the concerns are mostly misplaced and that teachers in the state's best schools are better positioned to get good reviews than most of their colleagues.
"And I have the statistics that show that," White said.
He is young, gifted, and Black and a senior at Madison West High School in Madison, Wisconsin. David Pontes is an exemplar model of a student scholar. His current overall 3.30 GPA and 24 cum ACT average for example earned him an invitation to the highly selective 100 Black Men Chicago Chapter sponsored Honor Student Reception (HSR) held at the UIC Forum on the campus of the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus.
The HSR is an annual event for upwards of 200 Chicago area African American seniors to interface with representative from top colleges and universities from around the country to explore admissions and scholarship opportunities. This is the fourth year since 2009 that Milwaukee has been granted the opportunity to attend and the third consecutive occasion since 2010 that African American seniors from Madison, Beloit, and Kenosha have been included on this roster.
David joined fifteen other seniors from the greater Milwaukee and Wisconsin school districts who met the minimum 3.3 GPA and 23 cum or above score on the ACT to qualify for invitational selection to the HSR gathering held Friday, October 12, 2012.
Roughly 225,000 -- or nearly a quarter of the New York City school system's students -- spent part or all of their first days in school in overcrowded classes, according to a UFT survey released on Sept. 25.
Dino Sferazza, the chapter leader at Queens' Cardozo HS, which had 266 oversize classes, the most of any school in the city, described the situation at his school as "absurd." One teacher had 58 students in a class, Sferazza said; another had five classes, none of which had fewer than 43 students.
"Kids are standing in the hallway, sitting on the floor, sitting on windowsills," Sferazza said. "There's not enough anxiety in these kids' lives already? And now they have to worry about getting a seat in class?"
If you drive south on the Hoan Bridge and the Lake Parkway, you can see Bay View High School rising over the surrounding neighborhood, massive and prominent on the landscape.
That symbolized the role of Bay View High School for decades, a pillar of the close-knit Bay View area, the place where thousands of neighborhood kids got diplomas that showed they were on good paths, often toward becoming part of working-class Milwaukee.
It's been a long time since Bay View High was so connected to the social fabric of the community around it. The high school became the place kids from Bay View don't go. Name a long list of other schools in the city and suburbs and Bay View kids are enrolled in all of them.
Bay View High stands now as a symbol of the problems facing large high schools in Milwaukee. When 30 teens were arrested at the school on Thursday because of a large outbreak of fights - and all of it before breakfast was over - Bay View became the hot spot for worry about schools in the city.
We could discuss for a long time the changes in the school, talking about race, racism, family breakdown, class, culture, changing times and more. The realities are that Bay View has become a school where large numbers of students come from homes shaped by social dysfunctions and poverty, where seven out of eight students in the formerly 100% white school are from minority groups, where a large portion of the school is bused from elsewhere, where academic performance is not strong and the culture that supports academic excellence is limited to small groups of kids, where safety and behavior are big concerns, and where unhappiness about student-related problems is high among neighbors.
California's public higher education crisis has a flip side: swelling enrollment, expanding faculty, and state-of-the-art construction at the state's private colleges and universities.
With five years of funding cuts causing stumbles in the state's public higher education systems, California students are increasingly turning to private institutions, as well as out-of-state schools, to get their degrees.
California independent colleges report big upticks in enrollment of both freshmen and transferring students disillusioned with spiraling tuition for fewer classes at California State University, University of California, and community colleges.
Universities in neighboring states also say they're seeing more interest from California students than ever before.
WHEN Ayinde Alleyne arrived at the Trinity School, an elite independent school on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, he was eager to make new friends. A brainy 14-year-old, he was the son of immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago, a teacher and an auto-body repairman, in the South Bronx. He was soon overwhelmed by the privilege he saw. Talk of fancy vacations and weekends in the Hamptons rankled -- "I couldn't handle that at that stage of my life," said Mr. Alleyne, now a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania -- and he eventually found comfort in the school's "minority corner," where other minority students, of lesser means, hung out.
In 2011, when Mr. Alleyne was preparing to graduate, seniors were buzzing about the $1,300-per-student class trip to the Bahamas.
He recalls feeling stunned when some of his classmates, with whom he had spent the last four years at the school, asked him if he planned to go along.
New York City recently released official progress reports for the city's 1,230 schools, including measures of how each school compares with other schools that have similar students. The reports provide yet more proof that charter schools--which outperformed traditional public schools by a wide margin--are working. Eight of the top 11 elementary and middle schools by student performance are charters, and four of those charters are in Harlem.
What might be most notable about the city's findings, however, is that Harlem's experiment with school choice has improved educational outcomes not just for the select few (some 10,500 currently) who win lotteries to attend charter schools. Although critics claim that charter schools succeed at the expense of district-run schools--because, the argument goes, charters "cherry pick" students, leaving behind those who are hardest to educate--Harlem's results prove otherwise.
Of New York City's 32 school districts, three serve students in Harlem. Suppose we treat all of Harlem's charter and district schools as a single district (while separating out the Upper West Side, which shares a district with Harlem). In 2006, the third-graders in this Harlem district were near the bottom of the citywide heap--28th in math and 26th in English. Today, this overall group of Harlem students ranks 16th in math and 18th in English.
This week, French President François Hollande suggested something that many American children could only dream about: banning homework forever. Some educational pros say he may on to something. Students are better off without homework, studies stretching back over the last 20 years around the world show. It disrupts family life and overburdens children, says Etta Kralovec, co-author of "The End of Homework ." The most recent major study, "Trends In International Mathematics and Science Study," which compared 425,000 students in 59 countries, found that in nations where students are required to do excessive amounts of homework (four hours or more) performance on math tests is often below average. But "Hollande is making a serious mistake if he is seriously considering banning homework for all students," says Gerald Le Tendre, head of Education Policy Studies at Pennsylvania State University. Here's how 12 nations scored (ranked from heaviest homework load to lightest):
A growing body of research suggests that allowing students in high school to complete even a single college class could significantly increase their chances of attending college and eventually graduating. After studying tens of thousands of Texas students who completed college courses in high school, this report found that these students attended and completed college within the state at much higher rates than students with similar backgrounds who did not take college courses in high school.
States and school districts have been searching for ways to raise rates of college readiness and success among students, and particularly among groups that are underrepresented in college. Providing students with the opportunity to take college courses in high school, known as dual enrollment, is one promising strategy.
If you were to ask me what has been the biggest change in the education climate over the last 15 years, I would have to say that the two sides battling over education reform no longer coincide with the two political parties. In 1997 it was rare to find a Democrat who would publicly say an unkind word about teachers' unions and the rest of the education establishment. Today you could argue that those Democrats are the party's mainstream and reach all the way into the White House.
This is causing a lot of agony on the left, where in many places you can find Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel and even President Obama placed in the Axis of Evil hosted by the Koch Brothers and Scott Walker. The consternation over this turn of events prompted In These Times to seek out the latest savior of old-timey unionism, Karen Lewis of the Chicago Teachers Union, and ask her such penetrating questions as "Why do people seem to have so much trouble with democracy?"
Still, Lewis's answers are worth paying attention to, because they reveal that everyone is having trouble with democracy. Democracy requires accommodating, in some way, people whose opinions differ from your own. Lewis states that even CTU wasn't democratic - that is, of course, until her slate was elected.
University of Michigan students upset by the cost of a college degree have a new outlet for their frustration: a one-credit course that delves into the university's own finances.
Fifty-six students are registered this semester for "The Challenge of College Affordability: Financing the University," a series of seven two-hour lectures taught by top administrators at the public university. The course, geared toward sophomores, is designed to explain where the school gets revenue, what drives its costs and how that translates into tuition rates and financial-aid packages.
"We were interested in elevating the thinking about the topic," said Phil Hanlon, the university provost who co-teaches the course. "It is often the case that it's controlled by sound bites."
Coursera offers free, online courses to people around the world, but if you live in Minnesota, company officials are urging you to log off or head for the border.
The state's Office of Higher Education has informed the popular provider of massive open online courses, or MOOC's, that Coursera is unwelcome in the state because it never got permission to operate there. It's unclear how the law could be enforced when the content is freely available on the Web, but Coursera updated its Terms of Service to include the following caution:
There is no more troubling fact about U.S. education than this: The reading scores of 17-year-olds have shown no significant improvement since 1980.
The new Common Core State Standards in 46 states and the District are designed to solve that problem. Among other things, students are being asked to read more nonfiction, considered by many experts to be the key to success in college or the workplace.
The Common Core standards are one of our hottest trends. Virginia declined to participate but was ignored in the rush of good feeling about the new reform. Now, the period of happy news conferences is over, and teachers have to make big changes. That never goes well. Expect battles, particularly in this educationally hypersensitive region.
Teaching more nonfiction will be a key issue. Many English teachers don't think it will do any good. Even if it were a good idea, they say, those who have to make the change have not had enough training to succeed -- an old story in school reform.
The clash of views is well described by two prominent scholars for the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based public policy group, in a new paper. Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas and Mark Bauerlein of Emory University say the reformers who wrote the Common Core standards have no data to support their argument that kids have been hurt by reading too much fiction. They say analyzing great literature would give students all the critical thinking skills they need. The problem, they say, is not the lack of nonfiction but the dumbed-down fiction that has been assigned in recent decades.
Two-thirds of college seniors graduated with debt last year, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.
How much they owe depends a lot on the college. Average debt loads at four-year public and nonprofit colleges ranged from $3,000 to more than $55,000.
The advocacy group's president Lauren Asher says a tough job market has made it harder for recent grads to pay down their loans.
"Young college graduates are having a harder time finding jobs than they might have expected, and those that do find jobs may be under-employed-working part-time when they'd rather be working full-time, or working in jobs that don't require a degree."
Newark and its teachers union on Thursday are expected to sign a tentative contract deal blessed by Gov. Chris Christie that would overhaul teacher pay, introducing lucrative merit bonuses and giving teachers a role in grading each other.
The contract, fueled by about $50 million from the foundation started by Facebook Inc. FB -4.55% founder Mark Zuckerberg, covers the next three years and would offer a compensation system that removes lifetime pay increases for those who earn advanced degrees and blocks poorly rated teachers from receiving automatic pay raises for years of experience, officials said.
Teachers could, however, choose to stick with the current pay scheme, which offers small, annual pay bumps for years served and for advanced degrees earned, officials said. They wouldn't be eligible for some bonuses.
This past Monday, parents of three young Camden City Public Schools students filed a class action complaint with N.J. Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. The parents contend that enrollment in Camden's bleak public school system constitutes a breach of their children's constitutional right to a "thorough and efficient public education system."Related Homeless and hungry: Sobering images of Camden, New Jersey, expose the poverty plaguing the United States' most destitute city.
Are the parents' children being denied their constitutional rights? Sure. Twenty-three of Camden's 26 schools are on the State's list of our worst schools (the bottom 5 percent). Based on SAT scores, less than 1 percent of Camden High School's graduates are ready for college. One plaintiff has a twelve-year-old son, Keanu Vargas, who attends 7th grade at Pyne Point Family School. The most recent data from the N.J. DOE (2010-2011) shows that hardly any kids at Pyne Point pass the state standardized tests in language arts and math. Forty-two percent of the student body was suspended during the year.
Not so hard to make an argument that Keanu doesn't have access to a decent education system. By way of contrast, at Cherry Hill Public Schools, a mere seven miles away, just about all kids achieve proficiency on state tests.
Studies comparing identical and nonidentical twins show that genes play an important role in the development of the cerebral cortex, the thin, folded structure that supports higher mental functions. But less is known about how early life experiences influence how the cortex grows.
To investigate, neuroscientist Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania and her colleagues recruited 64 children from a low-income background and followed them from birth through to late adolescence. They visited the children's homes at 4 and 8 years of age to evaluate their environment, noting factors such as the number of books and educational toys in their houses, and how much warmth and support they received from their parents./i>
This past Monday, parents of three young Camden City Public Schools students filed a class action complaint with N.J. Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. The parents contend that enrollment in Camden's bleak public school system constitutes a breach of their children's constitutional right to a "thorough and efficient public education system."
Are the parents' children being denied their constitutional rights? Sure. Twenty-three of Camden's 26 schools are on the State's list of our worst schools (the bottom 5 percent). Based on SAT scores, less than 1 percent of Camden High School's graduates are ready for college. One plaintiff has a twelve-year-old son, Keanu Vargas, who attends 7th grade at Pyne Point Family School. The most recent data from the N.J. DOE (2010-2011) shows that hardly any kids at Pyne Point pass the state standardized tests in language arts and math. Forty-two percent of the student body was suspended during the year.
The financial aid award letters that colleges send to prospective students can be confusing: Many mix grants, scholarships and loans all under the heading of "Award," "Financial Assistance," or "Offered Financial Aid." Some schools also suggest loans in amounts that families can't afford.
Take Parent Plus loans, a federal program that allows families to take out as much as they need, after other aid is applied, to pay for their children's college costs. As we recently reported with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Plus loans are remarkably easy to get. With minimal underwriting and no assessment of whether parents can actually afford the loans, families can end up overburdened by debt.
Diane Senechal, Ph.D., has written a book (The Republic of Noise--2012) about the virtues of solitude for young people living in our mad, mad, Wired World.
I fear she may be insufficiently aware that every moment one of our high school students spends in reflection, musing, thinking, contemplation, meditation or indeed in solitude, unless those moments are product-focused, can grow, over time, into a huge barrier to sales of computers, software, games, and other products of our marketing efforts in technology. After all, the business of education is business, right?
To put it plainly, thinking, and other sorts of reflection, constitute a serious threat to all efforts to meet hardware/software sales quotas, especially in the huge and growingly lucrative education market.
This should make it clearer why the companies which are the commercial engines of our economy, especially the technology companies which are concentrating on education for a large portion of their consumer marketing and sales, are so opposed to having students read actual nonfiction books or spend time working on history research papers while they are in high school.
While it may be true that having students read one or more complete history books while they are still in high school may not only teach them some history, but will also help them to get ready for the nonfiction books they will be asked to read in the college, and that any work they do in high school on serious history research papers will better
prepare them for college writing tasks, it must be borne in mind that both of those activities can seriously cut into their use of social media and associated products, and limit the time they will spend buying and using video games and other important products!
We have to decide if we want our high school students to be scholars or customers! Apple Computer did not spend $650 million or thereabouts to persuade our students to read books and write papers to further their education, but instead to buy iPhones and iMacs to help distract them from homework and other obstacles to buying products. As Mark Bauerlein noted in The Dumbest Generation, one sign in an Apple store promised that the MacBook would be "the only book you will ever need."
There has been attention recently given to the disadvantages of colleges inflating grades and doing other things in their attempts to attract paying customers, because treating students as customers interferes with the essential responsibility of Upper Education to serve and challenge them as students.
But even in Lower Education, the multi-multi-billion market in digital equipment and software has employed major efforts to induce students to spend 53 hours a week with electronic entertainment media, according to the Kaiser Foundation, while most of them spend no more than 3 or 4 hours a week on homework.
There are always a few people who don't get the Word of course. Since 1968, the International Baccalaureate Program has required a 4,000-word (16-page) Extended Essay for candidates for the Diploma, and that may very well have resulted in some students reading nonfiction books.
In addition, the Advanced Placement Program of the College Board, while it has not yet managed to include a serious term papers (a small pilot experiment is now underway), nevertheless has not exiled some teachers who go ahead and assign them anyway, a good number of which have been published in The Concord Review since 1987. In fact a special issue of AP history essays was published by The Concord Review in 1995, and this issue is available on the the website at www.tcr.org. But those teachers (and students) have always been outside the mainstream with their efforts.
A few high school students, in some cases inspired by the exemplary work of their peers published in The Concord Review have worked to read for and write their serious history term papers as independent studies, some ranging from 8,000 words (24 pages) up to 15,000 words (60 pages), but without any encouragement from the electronic entertainment, computer/software and STEM communities, these scholarly "mountaineers" have not been numerous over the years.
If we continue to value sales over education for our students, we will sell a lot of products, but we will also naturally continue to have students in need of extensive remediation and to produce unemployable graduates. However, if we decide to relax our visa barriers for skilled immigrants, we can continue to count on them to carry our civilization forward or at least keep it going by making use of the benefits they bring with them from the non-commercial educations still available in other countries in South and East Asia and elsewhere.
"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
As we try to make sure that no child gets left behind, are we keeping others from getting ahead? Or, as Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett put it in "Exam Schools": "As the country strives to . . . close its wide achievement gaps [and] repair its bad schools . . . is it also challenging its high achieving and highly motivated students?"
This isn't an easy question to answer. Most high-achieving students are educated in ordinary public schools, often taking the more challenging courses in an honors-track curriculum or Advanced Placement classes. But some are educated in academically selective high schools that require students to score well on tough exams just to get in. According to the criteria chosen by Mr. Finn and Ms. Hockett--principally, that schools be publicly funded and admission competitive--there are 165 such high schools in the U.S., out of 22,568.
These days, when parents seem ever more eager to get their children into Ivy League colleges, competitive high schools may seem uncontroversial--merely an early version of the selectivity that universities routinely practice in their own admissions practices. But during the 1960s and 1970s, exam schools came under attack for their elitism. When the country was trying to desegregate schools and provide more money to low-income districts, schools for the gifted were countercultural--out of step with the egalitarian spirit of the times.
If you were to encounter my son, Tim, a tall, gaunt man in ragged clothes, on a San Francisco street, you might step away from him. His clothes, his dark unshaven face and his wild curly hair stamp him as the stereotype of the chronically mentally ill street person.
People are afraid of what they see when they glance at Tim. Policymakers pass ordinances to keep people who look like him at arm's length. But when you look just a little more closely, what you find is a young man with a sly smile, quick wit and an inquisitive mind who -- when he's healthy -- bears a striking resemblance to the youthful Muhammad Ali.
Tim is homeless. But when he was a toddler, my colleagues in the Connecticut state legislature couldn't get enough of cuddling him. Yet it's the policies of my generation of policymakers that put that formerly adorable toddler -- now a troubled 6-foot-5 adult -- on the street. And unless something changes, the policies of today's generation of policymakers will keep him there.
Last week, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation held its annual Liberty Forum in New York City. The foundation's mission is to strengthen freedom around the globe by sponsoring institutes that promote limited government. Among the panel discussions at the two-day program was one entitled "Disruptions in Higher Education: An Opportunity for the Freedom Movement?"
I spoke on that panel, along with Professor Tyler Cowen of George Mason University and Ines Calzada Alvarez, Secretary General of Online de Madrid Manuel Ayau, an organization that provides online economics education in the free-market tradition of Manuel Ayau. (Ayau founded the University Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala.)
The consensus was that the impending disruption in higher education--the bursting of the bubble and subsequent changes in the way students learn--should indeed create opportunities for education to advance liberty.
A DMCA takedown noticed issued by publishing house Pearson resulted in approximately 1.45 million education blogs being taken offline without notice, according to the service that runs them.
James Farmer, founder and CEO of Edublogs, penned a blog post last week that said its hosting company, ServerBeach, "turned off our webservers, without notice, less than 12 hours after issuing us with a DMCA email."
At issue was an Edublogs teacher who in 2007 shared a copy of Beck's Hopelessness Scale, a 20-question list intended to measure aspects of hopelessness. Pearson sells access to this list for $120, Farmer said, and objected to it being posted freely online.
A 2010 Michigan law requires that public schools "shall implement and maintain a method of compensation for its teachers and school administrators that includes job performance and job accomplishments as a significant factor in determining compensation and additional compensation." But Michigan Capitol Confidential learned that some districts are showing contempt for the law by awarding their highly effective teachers a bonus of $1 to $3.
The problem is that the districts and their unions couldn't come to an agreement on a system to implement the law's provisions, so this is what they dreamed up.
My 7 year old son is in grade 2. In the previous grade, despite his intelligence, he was significantly behind his class in handwriting, letter reversals, and spelling. He was getting extra help from his teacher, but he still had an uphill battle. So I decided to start a flashcard routine to assist. This solved the original problem. Here is a description of the current routine, and how it has evolved to this point.
It will surprise nobody who has read Teaching Linear Algebra that I started with the thought of some sort of spaced repetition system to maximize his long-term retention with a minimum of effort. I needed to help him with around handwriting, so I wanted to be personally evaluating how he was doing. This seemed simplest with a manual system. I therefore settled on a variation of the Leitner system because that is easy to keep track of by hand.
To make things simple for me to track, I am doing things by powers of 2. Every day we do the whole first pile. Half of the second. A quarter of the third. And so on. (Currently we top out at a 1/256th pile, but are not yet doing any cards from it.) Cards that are done correctly move into the next pile. Those that he get wrong fall into the bad pile, which is the next day's every day pile.
Via a kind reader's email:
To: Community Leaders and Parents
From: Shahanna Baldon, Chief Diversity Officer, MMSD
This year, the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) is working to scale-up the foundational work on transforming student outcomes that has been done through our CPR (Cultural Practices that are Relevant) initiative and other programming aimed at closing gaps in student achievement by working for equity and access at all levels of the organization-the classroom level, the managerial level, and the institutional level.
The kickoff event for this scale-up is a district-wide introductory training for all instructional staff on Culturally and Linguistically Repsonsive Pedagogy, led by Dr. Sharroky Hollie of the Culture and Language Academy of Success. Dr. Hollie has been central to our District's work in this area over the past few years.
We now have the opportunity to open one of the sessions to community members. We hope you may be able to attend on Friday, October 26, from 12:30 to 3:30, at the Alliant Energy Center.
I look forward to seeing you at what will be a groundbreaking learning experience for our community.
Dr. Sharroky Hollie
on Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching
Oct. 26, 2012
Alliant Energy Center
off the Beltline Hwy. at John Nolen Drive in Madison
The Milgram/Bishop essay that Boaler said has unfairly damaged her reputation is called "A Close Examination of Jo Boaler's Railside Report," and appears on Milgram's Stanford website. ("Railside" refers to one of the schools Boaler studied.) The piece says that Boaler's claims are "grossly exaggerated," and yet expresses fear that they could be influential and so need to be rebutted. Under federal privacy protection requirements for work involving schoolchildren, Boaler agreed to keep confidential the schools she studied and, by extension, information about teachers and students. The Milgram/Bishop essay claims to have identified some of those schools and says this is why they were able to challenge her data.
Boaler said -- in her essay and in an interview -- that this puts her in a bind. She cannot reveal more about the schools without violating confidentiality pledges, even though she is being accused of distorting data. While the essay by Milgram and Bishop looks like a journal article, Boaler notes that it has in fact never been published, in contrast to her work, which has been subjected to peer review in multiple journals and by various funding agencies.
Further, she notes that Milgram's and Bishop's accusations were investigated by Stanford when Milgram in 2006 made a formal charge of research misconduct against her, questioning the validity of her data collection. She notes in her new essay that the charges "could have destroyed my career." Boaler said that her final copy of the initial investigation was deemed confidential by the university, but she provided a copy of the conclusions, which rejected the idea that there had been any misconduct.
The invaluable Gotham Schools brings us the news of the possible closure of the United Federation of Teachers Charter School in New York, which was opened with much fanfare back in 2005. There is no mystery about the reason:
"But seven years into its existence, the nation's first union-run school is one of the lowest-performing schools in the city. Fewer than a third of students are reading on grade level, and the math proficiency rate among eighth-graders is less than half the city average."
I have a few thoughts:
1) The Gotham Schools headline strikes directly to the heart of the matter - "Opened to prove a point, UFT's charter school could be closed." Proving a point is not a firm foundation to build a successful school, particularly a point that is only indirectly connected to student learning. In 2005, the UFT committee tasked to evaluate the charter idea expected the school to "demonstrate to other charter schools the value of organizing" and to "serve as part of the fight against privatization and union-busting." At the time I remarked, "Now there's a mission statement designed to appeal to parents and students!"
I've long argued that the teacher unions are hardly better at running their political interests than they are at running schools. They compensate for lousy ideas and poorly made arguments with the brute force of mountains of cash and an army of angry teachers.
My view of the teacher unions was confirmed by their mangled reaction to my piece in the Wall Street Journal noting the trade-offs between the number of teachers we hire and their quality. The boss of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, tweeted her response: "They don't want to pay teachers comp salaries..."
Gov. Rick Scott called Tuesday for the State Board of Education to overhaul its strategic plan, inserting himself into the racially-charged debate over how much should be expected of students from different groups.
"The actions taken last week by the State Board of Education in adopting their strategic plan did not clearly articulate our shared commitment to fully close that achievement gap for all students, regardless of race, geography, gender or other circumstance," Scott said in a statement issued by his office late Tuesday.
Scott contended that all students can perform at grade level, and the state should strive to get rid of the achievement gap between students of different ethnic and racial groups.
Creativity is often part of a mental illness, with writers particularly susceptible, according to a study of more than a million people.
Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, the Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute found.
They were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves.
The dancers and photographers were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.
It is important that we do not romanticise people with mental health problems, who are too often portrayed as struggling creative geniuses"
The mental health charity Mind
As a group, those in the creative professions were no more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people.
Tennessee education officials withheld $3.4 million from Nashville's school district after the city barred a charter school from opening in an affluent neighborhood, in a fight that highlights the growing tension over the expansion of such schools.
The Tennessee Department of Education's unusual move came after it told Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools in July that its school board had violated state law by not allowing Great Hearts Academies to open a charter school, a public school run by an outside entity. The Arizona-based nonprofit wanted to open a school in 2014 in West Nashville, and four more in later years.
The Nashville tussle reflects a broader controversy over a recent push into middle-class and suburban communities by operators of charter schools, which typically have been seen as an alternative for low-income and minority students in underperforming urban schools.
For some children, learning in girls-only or boys-only classes pays off. Opponents of the idea are irresponsible.
Education proponents across the political spectrum were dismayed by recent attempts to eradicate the single-gender options in public schools in Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Maine and Florida. We were particularly troubled at efforts to thwart education choice for American students and their families because it is a cause we have worked hard to advance.
Studies have shown that some students learn better in a single-gender environment, particularly in math and science. But federal regulations used to prevent public schools from offering that option. So in 2001 we joined with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Susan Collins to author legislation that allowed public schools to offer single-sex education. It was an epic bipartisan battle against entrenched bureaucracy, but well worth the fight.
Since our amendment passed, thousands of American children have benefited. Now, though, some civil libertarians are claiming that single-sex public-school programs are discriminatory and thus illegal.
I conducted a (very) informal poll last night on Facebook--out of curiosity I asked my friends how often their teachers used Infinite Campus. The results didn't shock me-most respondents answered either "half" or "some" of their teachers updated their gradebook regularly. Personally, "half" accurately describes my teachers. For some classes, I consistently know what grade I'm getting because the teachers add assignments often. However, many classes aren't updated regularly, making it hard for me to know what assignments I'm missing and how to prioritize my time.Much more on the Madison School District's Infinite Campus experience, here.
Infinite Campus is a six-year old program that the district has continuously struggled to implement. It's in every school and every teacher has access, but the system isn't always user friendly for teachers and staff inputting data. I'm pretty sure teachers don't update because of the clunky interface. In fact, tonight's Board Meeting confronted an issue with Infinite Campus: not everyone uses it.
Ed Hughes got mad tonight. After a string of public appearances condemning IC, disappointing news that the Infinite Campus developers weren't flexible about changing and a suggestion that we abandon the Infinite Campus system entirely, Mr. Hughes practically shouted that "we should either require all teachers to be compliant or get some direction from the administration on what we need to change."
Libby mentioned "developers weren't flexible about changing"... There may well be opportunities for improvement. But, Infinite Campus has a large installed base. Why is it working in other Districts, and not Madison? My 18 years in the software business informs me that leadership is critical to successful implementation. It also means that such systems must be mandated. Waiting six years is a disaster, financially and from a credibility perspective.
Nearby Districts such as Verona have managed to implement student information systems. Why can't Madison? Time to pull the plug if the Administration can't make it happen.
Fraudulent schemes come in all shapes and sizes. To work, they typically wear a patina of respectability. That's the case with Advanced Placement courses, one of the great frauds currently perpetrated on American high-school students.
That's a pretty strong claim, right? You bet. But why not be straightforward when discussing a scam the scale and audacity of which would raise Bernie Madoff's eyebrows?
The miscellany of AP courses offered in U.S. high schools under the imprimatur of the College Board probably started with good intentions. The idea, going back to the 1950s, was to offer college-level courses and exams to high-school students. The courses allegedly provide students the kind of rigorous academic experience they will encounter in college as well as an opportunity to earn college credit for the work.
The fourth-grader, his dark hair cropped close, has been staring at a computer screen for close to 20 minutes, trying again and again to solve a devilish little puzzle built around rectangles' axes of symmetry.Rocketship will be opening in Milwaukee during the fall of 2013.
Two friends appear, offering unsolicited advice and urging him to try their solutions. Nothing works, and their teacher, who could offer help, is nowhere in sight.
"This one's hard," classmate Brian Aguilera says. Zepeda keeps trying. Finally, after 15 minutes' more work, he cracks the puzzle. His reward: another, harder puzzle.
Another morning in Learning Lab at Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy, a 3-year-old charter school built on a sliver of city-owned land in the shadow of the I-680 off-ramp. Si Se Puede -- Spanish for "Yes It's Possible" or "Yes We Can" -- is part of a tiny chain of schools set to expand nationwide.
A similar fate could soon await Canada's universities. On the surface, they may seem in good health. Competition is fierce and lecture halls are packed with young, tech-savvy learners. But as The Globe and Mail's series on higher education has clearly revealed, deep anxieties exist.
The university is in danger of losing its monopoly, and for good reason. The most visible threat are the new online courses, many of them free, with some of the best professors in their respective fields. Students are beginning to wonder whether to pay today's hefty tuition fees, especially if third-party testers will provide certificates, diplomas, even degrees.
But cheap online courses aren't the biggest challenge. There is a much deeper threat. There is a rapidly widening gap between the model offered by big universities and the natural way that young people who have grown up immersed in digital technologies best learn. If universities want to prosper, they need to embrace a new model of pedagogy.
Since the invention of chalk and blackboard, professors have given lectures standing in front of many students. The student's job was to absorb this content and regurgitate it on exams. It's a teacher-focused, one-way, one-size-fits-all model and the student is isolated in the learning process.
Despite the ubiquity of computers in society, computer science is glaringly absent from K-12 education. In 2010, only nine states counted computer science as a core graduation credit and none required it as a condition of a student's graduation.
This situation is not improving. To the contrary, there are signs of stagnation. According to a recent report by Microsoft, only 2,100 high schools offered the Advanced Placement test in computer science last year, down 25% over the last five years.
School officials in Eau Claire and around the state are anticipating some fallout later this month when the state releases new "report cards" to districts reflecting more stingent proficiency levels than in the past.
The result is that only about half as many students in Wisconsin achieved what amounts to a passing score, the state Department of Public Instruction reports.
"I have slight concern about how this is going to be reported to the public," Eau Claire school board President Carol Craig said at last week's board meeting.
As few as 10 years from now, quality higher education will be largely free--unless, of course, nothing much has changed. It all depends on whom you believe. But one thing is clear: The debate about financing education grows louder by the day.
Experts with a wide range of views on the subject, including the always-interesting Harvard professor and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, weighed in last weekend at the Nantucket Project, a big-think conference in the spirit of TED and Aspen Ideas Festival. The most provocative, though, were hedge fund billionaire Peter Thiel and the author and entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa.
Thiel has gotten a lot of attention for his view that higher education is broken, and that many kids would be better off saving their money and going straight from high school into a trade or developing a business. His "20 under 20" fellowship grants high school graduates with a sound business idea $100,000 if they agree to skip college and go right to work on their idea.
The proof that is, that I have dumbed down...
My mother recently gave me a book of old 'A' level exam papers. Here's a 4 mark (ie low mark) question from the June 1982 University of London "Syllabus B" paper, that I think I'd really struggle with - I'll try it later:
After graduating with a bachelor's degree from the University of Hong Kong (HKU), Kenny Chan spent one year as an assistant civil engineer and two years as an auditor at a Big Four accounting firm, where he specialised in auditing financial institutions.
But Chan was not happy with the nature of his work and wanted a job in investment or asset management. When the subprime mortgage crisis hit in 2008, he decided that an MBA would best pave the way to a career switch.
He quit his job, reasoning that his "opportunity costs" were at their lowest due to the financial crisis, and enrolled in a full-time MBA at the China Europe International Business School (CEIB) in Shanghai. He is now an assistant investment manager at UBS SDIC Fund Management Company.
[Atlantic Editor: High school athletes are the pride of their communities. But if we want to inspire kids to write well, we should be putting the exemplary work of our best young high school scholars on display.]
As the editor of The Concord Review, I have been glad to publish more than 1,000 exemplary high school history research papers by students from 46 states and 38 other countries since 1987. Yet I have long been aware that little "personal" essays have killed off academic expository writing in most of our schools.
For generations, American children in our schools have had their writing limited to short pieces about themselves, from primary school up through their "college essays" (those little 500-word "personal" narratives). As long as English teachers have borne all the responsibility for reading and writing in the schools, the reading has been fiction, the writing personal and "creative." Lately a genre has emerged called "creative nonfiction," but that turns out to be just more solipsistic autobiography.
Most of our students never read a single history book and they very rarely write a serious term paper before graduating from high school. They learn to write without learning anything beyond their own feelings and the events of their present lives, and their teachers are able to grade that work without knowing much either.
Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, put it very well in August this year: "The single biggest complaint from college teachers and employers is that high school graduates cannot write as well as they need to." As a result, the member companies of the Business Roundtable have been saddled with a $3 billion bill for remedial writing courses every year, not only for their hourly hires but for their current and new salaried employees.
There are a few exceptions, of course. For decades, the International Baccalaureate has required a 4,000 (16-page) Extended Essay for the Diploma, and thousands of American students have done that. Even the College Board has begun to think of a small pilot program on term papers as well.
The New Common Core standards, a set of reforms that will soon be applied by most states, talk about nonfiction reading, but that category seems to include more memos, short speeches, brochures, and technical articles than anything like a complete history book. The standards also mention something about nonfiction writing, but all of the examples in the Appendix seem to be only more two-page efforts that will far from challenge the capability of our students in academic writing.
By publishing Peg Tyre's story "The Writing Revolution," The Atlantic is doing a great service for our students who need to learn to do some serious academic expository writing while they are still in high school. However, I would add that students also benefit from seeing exemplary expository essays written by their peers.
At The Concord Review, I've seen many examples of first-rate academic writing on historical topics. Students are startled, challenged, and inspired when they see this kind of work by people their own age. "When I first came across The Concord Review, I was extremely impressed by the quality of writing and the breadth of historical topics covered by the essays in it," one New Jersey public school girl wrote to me. "The chance to delve further into a historical topic was an incredible experience for me, and the honor of being published is by far the greatest I have ever received. This coming autumn, I will be starting at Oxford University, where I will be concentrating in Modern History."
It may be objected that this is a letter from a good student. Where are the letters from struggling students? I would respond that in sports, we are quite happy to present other students with the very best public performances of their most athletic peers. But when it comes to academics, we seem afraid to show students the exemplary work of their peers, for fear of driving them away. This dichotomy has always seemed strange to me.
Of course we must pay attention to our least able students, just as we must pay attention to the those who have the most difficulty in our gym classes. But it would't hurt, in my view, to dare to recognize and distribute some of our students' best academic work, in the hopes that it may challenge many others of them to put in a little more effort. Surely that is worth a try.
"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Lorie Raihala, via a kind email:
At the recent WATG conference in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Dr. Scott Peters from the UW Whitewater gave a presentation on "Data-Based Curriculum for RtI Implementation (Including Gifted Ed)." Dr. Peters spends a lot of time analyzing data. One thing he has discovered is just how wide the "excellence gaps" are in Madison. Take a look at this website, where you can view the breakdown of "advanced" WKCE scores for specific MMSD schools according to race/ethnicity and economic status: WINNS. You can also change variables to compare results by subject over the past several years.
For Dr. Peters's "Data-Based Curriculum" presentation, he gave audience members sample MAP score reports for a sixth grade classroom, along with a sheet of sample MAP questions that showed what students at the various score levels can be expected to do. The range in "Reading" scores extended from the 1st to the 90th percentile, with all points between. This range in reading levels represents the difference between, for instance, this question:
Which is a toy?
and this question:
Read the passage.
Our database of more than 3,000 articles of documented investigations is an easy-to-use tool for scientific research. Users may look for a general topic or narrow their search through the use of three topic code parameters...[passage continues, and then there's a chart].
How does the chart complement the text?
1. It summarizes the text.
2. It provides detail not in the text.
3. It serves to contrast information in the text.
4. It provides transition between the two parts of the text.
Can you imagine having to stretch this far to reach students in your classroom? Dr. Peters's concluding recommendation was for schools to use assessment data to compose classrooms that would limit the range each teacher must stretch in order to reach most students.
* The "WINNS" information is based on the oft-criticized, weak WKCE.
Jareau Hall breezed through high school in Syracuse, N.Y. Graduating in the top 20% of his class, he had been class president and a successful athlete, and he sang in gospel choir. He was actively recruited by Colgate University in rural New York, one of the nation's top liberal-arts colleges.
None of Colgate's recruiters mentioned to Mr. Hall that his combined math and verbal SAT scores were some 250 points below the class median--let alone that this would put him at great risk of academic difficulty.
Arriving at Colgate in 2002, he quickly found himself struggling in class, with far more rigorous coursework than he had ever faced. "Nobody told me what would be expected of me beforehand," recalls Mr. Hall, now 28. "I really didn't know what I was getting into. And it all made me feel as if I wasn't smart enough."
Creating a business-school class isn't unlike casting a reality-television show or assembling guests for a dinner party: it's all about the mix.
Admissions officers spend every fall and winter weighing how certain types of students may fare in a classroom and debating how many bankers, business owners, consultants and Classics scholars add up to a diverse student body. Schools insist they have no set caps for the types of students they accept, but each one is chosen because he or she checks at least a few boxes--geography, industry background, career goals--that, when combined, result in a rich variety.
"It's a little bit like putting together a Rubik's Cube," says Dawna Clarke, director of admissions at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business. Though every student should have strong intellectual chops, leadership potential and communication skills, Ms. Clarke says, some may differentiate themselves based on career experience or their affinity for taking risks, professional or otherwise.
Brock Rosenkranz's first concussion came on the football field during his freshman year at Richland Center High School. The otherwise sturdy offensive lineman, who packs 255 pounds on his 6-foot-6 frame, kept the injury to himself so he could finish the season.
He didn't realize he would never play football again.
A few months later, while playing varsity basketball, Rosenkranz sustained three more concussions over a span of two and a half weeks. He sat out for nearly a month, returning to suffer yet another concussion while rebounding late in the regular season.
He gave up football as a sophomore but stayed with basketball, which led to three more concussions. Left with headaches, memory loss and withdrawn behavior, he finally took his doctor's advice and gave up contact sports.
In the spring of 2012 data was collected indicating a wide array of teacher grade book usage on Infinite Campus. Following the distribution of the letter on August 27, 2012 a number of concerns were brought forth regarding the use of grade book. Music and Physical Education teachers at the middle school level have larger class sizes and teach on an alternate day rotation in many cases. Currently, members of Curriculum and Assessment are working with Music and Physical Education teachers to develop a set of guidelines that are practical due to their schedules.Infinite Campus (million$ have been spent) usage issues continue...
Following the end of the first quarter, November 7, we will gather data and measure the use of teacher grade book. The Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools will share the data with building principals to address areas of concern.
Across our middle and high schools, a number of you have utilized the Infinite Campus grade book.
Parents,guardians and other youth service providers appreciate the information regarding student progress. This year, the MMSD opened an online student enrollment option for families. The feedback is clear, a high percentage of MMSD families utilize Infinite Campus. The Research and Evaluation Department has analyzed the number of Infinite Campus grade book entries in all of our schools and it is evident to me that we have yet to reach our full implementation by having all teachers using the Infinite Campus grade book and consistently updating student progress. Therefore, it is my expectation that all teachers follow the below guidelines as we enter the 12-13 school year.
A few links:
Washington state's education system must change in big ways -- and it will, partly by stick and potentially by choice.
The stick is the recent state Supreme Court decision in McCleary v. State of Washington, which declared the state has utterly failed in its paramount duty to adequately fund basic education.
The choice is on the Nov. 6 ballot: Initiative 1240 asks voters to approve a limited experiment with charter schools. In today's section, The Seattle Times editorial board strongly endorses I-1240, asking voters to provide this tool to help better serve students, specifically those most at risk for failing or dropping out.
Washington state has been behind the curve on this issue -- 41 states have charter schools and Washington lost out on a federal Race to the Top grant because it did not.
Washington state's education system must change in big ways -- and it will, partly by stick and potentially by choice.
The stick is the recent state Supreme Court decision in McCleary v. State of Washington, which declared the state has utterly failed in its paramount duty to adequately fund basic education.
The choice is on the Nov. 6 ballot: Initiative 1240 asks voters to approve a limited experiment with charter schools. In today's section, The Seattle Times editorial board strongly endorses I-1240, asking voters to provide this tool to help better serve students, specifically those most at risk for failing or dropping out.
Washington state has been behind the curve on this issue -- 41 states have charter schools and Washington lost out on a federal Race to the Top grant because it did not.
When Jonathan Goldman arrived for work in June 2006 at LinkedIn, the business networking site, the place still felt like a start-up. The company had just under 8 million accounts, and the number was growing quickly as existing members invited their friends and colleagues to join. But users weren't seeking out connections with the people who were already on the site at the rate executives had expected. Something was apparently missing in the social experience. As one LinkedIn manager put it, "It was like arriving at a conference reception and realizing you don't know anyone. So you just stand in the corner sipping your drink--and you probably leave early."
Goldman, a PhD in physics from Stanford, was intrigued by the linking he did see going on and by the richness of the user profiles. It all made for messy data and unwieldy analysis, but as he began exploring people's connections, he started to see possibilities. He began forming theories, testing hunches, and finding patterns that allowed him to predict whose networks a given profile would land in. He could imagine that new features capitalizing on the heuristics he was developing might provide value to users. But LinkedIn's engineering team, caught up in the challenges of scaling up the site, seemed uninterested. Some colleagues were openly dismissive of Goldman's ideas. Why would users need LinkedIn to figure out their networks for them? The site already had an address book importer that could pull in all a member's connections.
One by one, the formerly profluent tributaries merging into the higher education revenue stream seem to face increasing obstruction. This time the bad news hits endowments.
In the past month several of the country's wealthiest universities have announced investment returns for the past fiscal year (which ran from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012) that fall significantly short of the growth they saw the previous year - when institutions with more than $1 billion endowments saw returns averaging 20 percent - and in the pre-recession years. The headline report is Harvard's 0.05 percent loss on its $30.7 billion endowment, the largest in the country.
That return raised flags for the analysts at Moody's Investors Service, who wrote in an Oct. 1 report that diminished returns were a bad sign for universities where endowment spending makes up a significant component of the budget. "Based on highly variable investment returns over the past decade, we expect endowment-dependent institutions to make more conservative spending decisions for future fiscal years and to more fully assess their operational vulnerability to investment volatility," the agency wrote. "Budgetary models are increasingly stress tested, and management teams are adjusting to more conservative assumptions about long-term rates of return on their endowment. Many have lowered their assumed annual endowment returns to 7 percent to 8 percent, compared to the higher 9 percent to 10 percent return assumptions that were common prior to 2009."
Some potentially troubling news came out late this week.
Final fall equalized values were released (remember, that is the denominator) in the mill rate equation; the proposed tax levy is the numerator. If the denominator is reduced, the mill rate goes up.
We've all seen the new construction, so we were all anticipating at the very least a small INCREASE in the equalized values. The City of Sun Prairie was using 1% growth in its estimates. The school district stayed with 0%. It looks like the 0% is at least 1% closer to actual.
Case studies are a time-honoured approach for teaching key business concepts and strategies in MBA programmes. While most business schools use a combination of teaching approaches, the Richard Ivey School of Business claims to be one of only four business schools in the world to teach exclusively using the case-study method.
"Our case-study method draws on real-world business experience and provides an interactive education experience. This equips Ivey graduates with the skills and capabilities to tackle the real-world leadership challenges in today's complex business environment," says Dr Janet De Silva, dean of Ivey Asia.
Honest academic debate lies at the core of good scholarship. But what happens when, under the guise of academic freedom, people distort the truth in order to promote their position and discredit someone's evidence? I have suffered serious intellectual persecution for a number of years and decided it is now time to reveal the details.Scott Jaschik has more.
I am a Stanford University professor and researcher of mathematics education. My research focuses on the most effective learning environments for students learning mathematics and has won awards in both England and the United States. My different studies have shown that students who engage actively in their mathematics learning, rather than simply practicing procedures, achieve at higher levels.
Since joining the faculty of Stanford University in 1998 I have experienced fierce personal and professional attacks from two mathematicians - James Milgram (Stanford, retired) and Wayne Bishop (CSU, Northridge). Milgram and Bishop are opposed to reforms of mathematics teaching and support the continuation of a model in which students learn mathematics without engaging in realistic problems or discussing mathematical methods. They are, of course, entitled to this opinion, and there has been an ongoing, spirited academic debate about mathematics learning for a number of years. But Milgram and Bishop have gone beyond the bounds of reasoned discourse in a campaign to systematically suppress empirical evidence that contradicts their stance. Academic disagreement is an inevitable consequence of academic freedom, and I welcome it. However, responsible disagreement and academic bullying are not the same thing. Milgram and Bishop have engaged in a range of tactics to discredit me and damage my work which I have now decided to make public.
In The Atlantic's ongoing debate about how to teach writing in schools, Robert Pondiscio wrote an eye-opening piece called "How Self-Expression Damaged My Students." In it, he tells of how he used modern-day techniques for teaching writing--not teaching rules of grammar or correcting errors but treating the students as little writers and having them write. He notes, however that "good writers don't just do stuff. They know stuff. ... And if this is not explicitly taught, it will rarely develop by osmosis among children who do not grow up in language-rich homes."
What Pondiscio describes on the writing front has also been happening with mathematics education in K-6 for the past two decades. I first became aware of it over 10 years ago when I saw what passed for math instruction in my daughter's second grade class. I was concerned that she was not learning her addition and subtraction facts. Other parents we knew had the same concerns. Teachers told them not to worry because kids eventually "get it."
One teacher tried to explain the new method. "It used to be that if you missed a concept or method in math, then you were lost for the rest of the year. But the way we do it now, kids have a lot of ways to do things, like adding and subtracting, so that math topics from day to day aren't dependent on kids' mastering a previous lesson."
This was my initiation into the world of reform math. It is a world where understanding takes precedence over procedure and process trumps content. In this world, memorization is looked down upon as "rote learning" and thus addition and subtraction facts are not drilled in the classroom--it's something for students to learn at home. Inefficient methods for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing are taught in the belief that such methods expose the conceptual underpinning of what is happening during these operations. The standard (and efficient) methods for these operations are delayed sometimes until 4th and 5th grades, when students are deemed ready to learn procedural fluency.
The Florida State Board of Education recently announced that its K-12 academic achievement goals for math and reading will vary depending on a student's race.
By 2018, the Florida BOE hopes to see the following reading outcomes:
90% of Asian-American students reading at or above grade level
88% of Caucasian students reading at or above grade level
82% of American Indian students reading at or above grade level
81% of Latino students reading at or above grade level
74% of African-American students reading at or above grade level
The goals for grade level proficiency in math show a similar breakdown.
CNN's LZ Granderson says the differing goals reflect current reality:
PARISIANS are in a tizz about capitalism. New Yorkers get stressed about sex. In Seoul and San Antonio, Texas, 11,000km apart, citizens fret about the relationship between humans and apes. What goes into school textbooks--and, even more, what is left out--spurs concern and controversy all over the world.
And so it should. Few, if any, instruments shape national culture more powerfully than the materials used in schools. Textbooks are not only among the first books most people encounter; in many places they are, along with religious texts, almost the only books they encounter. A study in South Africa showed that fewer than half of pupils had access to more than ten books at home. In 2010 a study by Egypt's government found that, apart from school textbooks, 88% of Egyptian households read no books.
Young Invincibles and NERA Economic Consulting released a report today entitled "Lost Without a Map: A Survey About Student Experiences Navigating the Financial Aid Process" detailing the results from a survey of nearly 13,000 college students and recent graduates with high levels of student debt. Strikingly, over 40% of respondents with federal student loans reported that they had not received federally mandated student loan counseling. The results suggest that students across the country are not receiving adequate information about the financial aid process - particularly students who need it most.
"This survey sheds light on a key failing of our federal financial aid system. Too many students are confused by the FAFSA, lack adequate counseling, and do not understand basic student loan terms," said Rory O'Sullivan, Policy Director at Young Invincibles and co-author of the report. "Clearly colleges are not doing enough to provide meaningful student loan counseling, as required by law. Our survey also shows broad student support for the Department of Education's recent initiative to promote a standardized financial aid letter. Students badly need this information and see their schools as trusted sources."
HEALTH-CARE expenditure in America is growing at a disturbing rate: in 1960 it was just over 5% of GDP, in 2011 almost 18%. By 2105 the number could reach 60%, according to William Baumol of New York University's Stern School of Business. Incredible? It is simply the result of extrapolating the impact of a phenomenon Mr Baumol has become famous for identifying: "cost disease". His new book* gives a nuanced diagnosis, offerings both a vision of a high-cost future and a large dose of optimism. The cost disease may be incurable, but it is also survivable--if treated correctly.
To understand the cost disease, start with a simple observation: whatever the economy's average rate of productivity growth, some industries outpace others. Take car manufacturing. In 1913 Ford introduced assembly lines to move cars between workstations. This allowed workers, and their tools, to stay in one place, which cut the time to build a Model T car from 12 hours to less than two. As output per worker grows in such "progressive" sectors, firms can afford to increase wages.
In some sectors of the economy, however, such productivity gains are much harder to come by--if not impossible. Performing a Mozart quartet takes just as long in 2012 as it did in the late 18th century. Mr Baumol calls industries in which productivity growth is low or even non-existent "stagnant".
President Obama has more than doubled funding for Pell Grants and made them a campaign issue this year. But no data exist showing exactly how many Pell Grant recipients ever graduate from college.
What evidence there is suggests less than half do.
Pell Grants are subsidies the federal government gives to college students of primarily low-income families, although middle-class families are also eligible.
Obama has criticized the budget plan of Mitt Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, which reduces funding for Pell Grants.
In turn, Romney has backed away some from Ryan's plan, saying he'd let Pell Grants grow at the rate of inflation.
At the 2012 meeting, physics was on the agenda again. The hottest topic was particle physics because mid-way through the meeting, scientists at CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs particle. The following morning, we filmed George Smoot and Martinus Veltman as they digested the news with three young researchers. Veltman, who helped to shape the standard model of particle physics, was surprising cynical about the discovery. See his reaction in film 3: Is dark matter real? The other films deal with the relationship between theory and experiment, the state of science education, the looming energy crisis and in film 1 we ask: is this the golden age of astronomy? As you'll see, the Nobel laureates and young physicists in our films have quite different views on these matters.
According to a media advisory released yesterday, three Camden parents whose children attend Camden City Public Schools will file a class action petition on Monday demanding "immediate access to a constitutionally adequate education for their children."
It's sort of an inversion of the Abbott litigation, which resulted many years ago in a State Supreme Court ruling that children trapped in poor urban districts were denied access to the same educational opportunities as New Jersey children in wealthier districts. Therefore, ruled the Court, the State must fund our 31 poorest districts (called "Abbotts") at the same level as our wealthiest. Education Law Center has a terrific history of the litigation and all the decisions on its website.
If the principal at your child's school was rated "ineffective" by the district, would you have the right to know? According to one school district and a state department, the answer is "no."
Danny Shaw, a reporter for Heritage Newspapers, made a simple FOIA request for the one principal rated "ineffective" by Willow Run Community Schools. The state denied the request because the information was "of a personal nature" and disclosing it would constitute an "unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy."
One year ago, the Wall Street Journal dubbed 2011 "the year of school choice," opining that "this year is shaping up as the best for reformers in a very long time." Such quotes were bound to circulate among education reformers and give traditional opponents of school choice, such as teachers unions, heartburn. Thirteen states enacted new programs that allow K-12 students to choose a public or private school instead of attending their assigned school, and similar bills were under consideration in more than two dozen states.
With so much activity, school choice moved from the margins of education reform debates and became the headline. In January 2012, Washington Post education reporter Michael Alison Chandler said school choice has become "a mantra of 21st-century education reform," citing policies across the country that have traditional public schools competing for students alongside charter schools and private schools. "It took us 20 years to pass the first 20 private school-choice programs in America and in the 21st year we passed 7 new programs," says Scott Jensen with the American Federation for Children (AFC), a school-choice advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. "So we went from passing, on average, one each year, to seven in one fell swoop." Programs enacted in 2011 include:
a tax-credit scholarship program in North Carolina
Arizona's education savings account system for K-12 students
Three subjects that are fundamental to leading an examined life go unaddressed in the college curriculum: money, leisure, and death. All students should be required to take a single course that considers these subjects together.
Money, you will say, is already taught in college. More students than ever enroll in business programs, and economics is among the most popular academic majors. But I am speaking about money in personal and philosophical ways that these academic subjects don't take up.
This means thinking about money in a larger context: How important is it to you, and how much of it do you need to lead the life you want? Tolstoy addresses these questions cogently in his short story "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" In it, a peasant farmer is told that he can own as much land as he can encircle in a day. The man sets his sights high, pushing himself to run around a very large space, and when he finishes, drops dead.
PARIS -- French President Francois Hollande potentially won the hearts of thousands of future voters on Tuesday by announcing he wants to abolish homework.
Unveiling a new education programme, Hollande said school work should "be done at school, rather than at home", to foster educational equality because some students do not have support at home.
He also however advocated a return to the four-and-a-half-day school week from the current four-day week in place in most French schools.
Imagine thousands of government employees reporting to work each morning at their government offices and then doing no government work. They use government workspace, government telephones and government computers, all while working on projects unknown and unidentified to their government employers. They receive hefty taxpayer-funded salaries, promotions, bonuses and benefits, plus generous government pensions when they retire--all without doing any work on behalf of the taxpayer. Instead, they work as paid political operatives for powerful government unions.
Welcome to the common practice of "official time." Sometimes called "release time," it's a mechanism by which the government pays union officials to work on union matters during their government workdays. This mechanism--enshrined in law and contracts--is an enormous subsidy to public-employee unions, who defend it fiercely.
The Office of Personnel Management reports that federal employees spent over three million hours on official time in 2010, costing the taxpayers about $137 million in salary and benefits costs.
Pioneer Institute is thrilled to announce the second annual Ruth and Lovett Peters Fellowship, an opportunity for a current or recent graduate student with a passionate interest in education policy and strong entrepreneurial and analytic abilities.
The fellow, who carries the title of Ruth & Lovett Peters Fellow, will develop a broad range of research and public policy skills; he or she will also have an opportunity to devise and complete a "Lead" project, which can consist of research or a practical policy project. The Fellowship will commence in the spring/summer of 2013.
Forge Your Future in Public Policy
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The Ruth and Lovett Peters Fellowship will commence in the spring/summer of 2013. A Peters Fellow at Pioneer Institute will:
The Fellowship may span up to 15 months. During the first six months of the Fellowship, the fellow will receive training and research assistance as well as develop a thorough grounding in think tank and idea marketing. Staff and outside trainers will ensure skill acquisition in research project assistance, op-ed and press release writing, blogging, foundation grant management, event direction, and public speaking.
- Enhance leadership skills
- Gain extensive training in research writing and the peer review process
- Apply statistical knowledge to research output
- Publish at least one research paper that may be sponsored by Pioneer
- Develop public speaking experience
- Procure grant-writing experience
- Develop wide-ranging social media communications experience
- Advance presentation skills
- Develop a broad network within the public policy community
- Participate in coordinating a policy event
- Interact with opinion writers
- Learn how to successfully market a research project
During the final nine months, the fellow will work on a self-directed "Lead" project and may continue to work out of Pioneer's office in Boston or, if mutually agreed with Pioneer, work remotely. The "Lead" project, defined and managed by the fellow, can be oriented toward research or practice. Pioneer's staff will continue to be available for the Fellow's guidance during this project phase. The Lead project will be compatible with Pioneer's mission and approved by Pioneer's
Executive Director prior to this second phase of the fellowship.
The Institute's education policy priorities are related to charter, vocational, and virtual schools; inter-district public and private school choice; standardized testing and assessments; and teacher quality. Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals for projects as part of the application process.
The Ruth & Lovett Peters Fellowship is available to applicants with Master's level course completion; preferably those with an MBA, MPA, MPP, other Master's programs or those currently enrolled in a doctoral program. The Fellow will report to James Stergios, Pioneer's
The Fellow will receive a stipend ranging from $45,000 to $56,000, depending on experience and other criteria, for the 15-month period. Doctoral students may be eligible for a higher stipend.
Mandatory Requirements for Application
Applications must be submitted and received electronically by November 30, 2012. Selection of the fellow will be determined by a team consisting of both Pioneer Institute staff as well as external professionals.
- Reside in the Boston area during the initial six months of the program.
- Be a recent graduate or currently enrolled in an accredited Masters or PhD program.
- Possess a passion for public policy and goals consistent with Pioneer's mission.
- Possess solid skills in quantitative analysis, evidenced by graduate-level statistics and methods courses.
- Be a U.S. citizen, have permanent residency, or possess Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization.
Applications and Process
No application will be considered unless all of the required information is submitted by the deadline. Please e-mail:
If you have questions about the fellowship, please contact:
- Application form (attached).
- A copy of both undergraduate and graduate transcripts (if selected, an official copy will be requested).
- A recommendation from a faculty member using the form included above.
- An essay (no greater than 600 words) explaining why you chose your current field of study, why your goals are consistent with Pioneer's mission and how this Fellowship would help you to achieve your goals. We encourage you to also include the nature of projects you would propose for the last nine months of the Fellowship (with an understanding that the projects are subject to refinement).
- If selected to proceed further, an interview will be conducted.
Mary Z. Connaughton
Director of Finance and Administration
85 Devonshire Street
Boston, MA 02109
CLIP ON A harness, lift your legs and hurtle down a wire towards the sharp corners of a 15th-century Rajasthani fort. As you whizz, you might have a few niggling doubts. Was the zip-wire serviced by someone who knew what he was doing? Is the safety adviser any good? Who is trained in first aid?
Fortunately the staff in Neemrana, a tourist spot some 130km south-west of Delhi, are on the ball. Raj Kumar, the lead instructor of Flying Fox, has an impressive (if not entirely relevant) qualification as a Master of Philosophy in ancient Indian history. "I had planned to do my PhD, but this opportunity came along," he says. The outfit's British owner-manager, Jonathan Walter, explains that getting and keeping reliable workers is his greatest headache. The problem is not so much the onerous labour laws but finding skilled people. To deal with foreigners his staff need good English; for Indian customers they need social skills to cajole the reluctant into the walk up the hill.
A new working paper (abstract; PDF) from William N. Evans, Timothy J. Moore, and Craig Garthwaite presents one explanation for the decline in black high-school graduation rates beginning in the 1980s:We propose the rise of crack cocaine markets as an explanation for the end to the convergence in black-white educational outcomes beginning in the mid-1980s. After constructing a measure to date the arrival of crack markets in cities and states, we show large increases in murder and incarceration rates after these dates. Black high school graduation rates also decline, and we estimate that crack markets accounts for between 40 and 73 percent of the fall in black male high school graduation rates. We argue that the primary mechanism is reduced educational investments in response to decreased returns to schooling.How did crack cocaine depress schooling returns? "Crack markets had three primary impacts on young black males: an increased probability of being murdered, an increased risk of incarceration, and a potential source of income," explain the authors. "Each limits the benefits of education." In other words, high school looks less attractive when you're more likely to end up dead or in jail, or earn money.
New research from Stanford shows that brain scans can identify the neural differences between these two children, and could one day lead to an early warning system for struggling students.
The researchers scanned the brain anatomy of 39 children once a year for three consecutive years. The students then took standardized tests to gauge their cognitive, language and reading skills.
In each case, the rate of development (measured by fractional anisotropy, or FA) in the white matter regions of the brain, which are associated with reading, accurately predicted their test scores.
Many of us are preoccupied with behind-the-scenes election questions this week. Does the panicky Obama campaign really think that Big Bird is the President's best surrogate? Is the Sesame Street reference meant as a subliminal reminder of the Romney Campaign's gaffe comparing the candidate's platform to an Etch-a-Sketch? What's with the toy theme? Never mind. School boards in New Jersey are concerned with more substantive election questions, specifically how our new system of voting for school board members will fly during its inaugural avigation on November 6.I hope many others, including Wisconsin, move to November elections.
The Garden State has always had school board member and school board budgets on the third Tuesday in April, but on Jan 12, a new law gave communities the option of moving elections to November. This can be done in three ways: a school board resolution, municipal governing body vote, or by a petition signed by 15 percent of the voting public.
Different versions of this bill, introduced in 2008 by state Senator Shirley Turner, had died multiple deaths in committee. However, during the lame duck session last winter the bill passed with broad bipartisan support.
College admissions officers have learned to check applicants' Facebook profiles, and what they see there can have a negative impact on the students' chances. Guess what? The kids are a step ahead of them.
Parents, teachers and guidance counselors warn high school students that what they post on Facebook could hurt their chances of getting into college. And according to a Kaplan survey of college admissions officials released last week, it's not an idle threat: More than one in four respondents said they check Google and Facebook for information on applicants, up from one in 10 when Kaplan started tracking the trend in 2008.
It's official: Higher education is shrinking, for the first time in at least 15 years.
Total enrollment at American colleges and universities eligible for federal financial aid fell slightly in the fall of 2011 from the year before, according to preliminary data released Tuesday by the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics.
The data from the department's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System show that 21,554,004 students were enrolled in fall 2011, down from 21,588,124 in fall 2010. While that drop is smaller than two-tenths of one percent, it is the first such dip since at least 1996, according to officials at NCES.
To Gerald and Lily Chow, education consultant Mark Zimny must have seemed like the answer to many parents' prayer: Please let my child get into Harvard University.
The Chows, who lived in Hong Kong, knew little about the US educational system, but they did know that they wanted an Ivy League education for their sons. And they had money to spend on consultants like Zimny, who, they believed, could help make the dream come true.
What transpired, however, turned out to be a cautionary tale for the thousands of parents who are fueling the growing global admissions-consulting industry.
Zimny, whom they met in 2007, had credentials. He had worked as a professor at Harvard. He ran an education consultancy, IvyAdmit. And he had a plan to help the Chows' two sons, then 16 and 14.
In "The Writing Revolution," Peg Tyre traces the problems at one troubled New York high school to a simple fact: The students couldn't write coherent sentences. In 2009 New Dorp High made a radical change. Instead of trying to engage students through memoir exercises and creative assignments, the school required them to write expository essays and learn the fundamentals of grammar. Within two years, the school's pass rates for the English Regents test and the global-history exam were soaring. The school's drop-out rate -- 40 percent in 2006 -- has fallen to 20 percent.
The experiment suggests that the trend toward teaching creative writing was hurting American students. In a debate about Tyre's story, we asked a range of experts, from policymakers to Freedom Writers founder Erin Gruwell, to share their thoughts on Tyre's story
A school district in Texas came under fire earlier this year when it announced that it would require students to wear microchip-embedded ID cards at all times. Now, students who refuse to be monitored say they are feeling the repercussions.
Since October 1, students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School in San Antonio, Texas, have been asked to attend class with photo ID cards equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips to track every pupil's location. Educators insist that the endeavor is being rolled out in Texas to stem the rampant truancy devastating the school's funding. If the program is judged successful, the RFID chips could soon come to 112 schools in all and affect nearly 100,000 students.
Students who refuse to walk the school halls with the card in their pocket or around their neck claim they are being tormented by instructors, and are barred from participating in certain school functions. Some also said they were turned away from common areas like cafeterias and libraries.
Experts now believe that frozen strawberries from China are behind a massive outbreak of the norovirus that recently affected thousands of schoolchildren in eastern Germany. The episode merely illustrates the deplorable state of school lunches, a problem no one seems willing to fix.
The first school lunch that Martha Payne photographed in May consisted of a croquette, a small pizza, a bit of corn and a muffin. The nine-year-old from Scotland gave the meal six out of 10 points for taste on her "food-o-meter" and four out of 10 for healthiness.
Her plan had only been to take a shot in order to show her father that the meal wasn't enough to fill her up, she wrote on her blog. After only a week, Payne had 25,000 hits on her blog, and now hundreds of thousands are reading it.
In Why Johnny Can't Read: And What You Can Do About It, published in 1955, Rudolf Flesch argued that our method of teaching kids to read was wrongly denying them the pleasures of "Andersen's Fairy Tales or The Arabian Nights or Mark Twain ... or anything interesting and worthwhile." Instead, said Flesch, they get "horrible, stupid, emasculated, pointless, tasteless little readers." It wasn't just the lack of literary merit that incensed Flesch. He hated the rationale for those dumbed-down books. Vocabulary, it was thought, must only be introduced gradually. Nonsense, said Flesch. If you equip kids with the right conceptual tools they can read anything. But one fundamental concept -- phonics, the decoding of words by mapping symbols to sounds -- wasn't being taught.
In Why Johnny Can't Encrypt: A Usability Evaluation of PGP 5.0, presented at the 1999 USENIX Security Symposium, Alma Whitten and J.D. Tygar explored why people couldn't figure out how to encrypt their outbound email or authenticate their inbound email. If you've ever used PGP you won't be surprised by their conclusion: its user interface didn't present the underlying model -- which involves public and private keys, encryption and authentication -- in a way that made sense. Of course that was true, and remains true, for every implementation of the model. User interfaces are surely part of the problem, but not the whole story. Here's the question Whitten and Tygar asked:
As a politics professor, I feel I should know something about health policy, but it is mostly dread that made me sign up for Ezekiel Emanuel's class, Health Policy and the Affordable Care Act, through Coursera. Word is that higher education is about to be disrupted by online providers, like Coursera and Udacity, and their MOOCs (massive open online courses). If students can take political philosophy with Harvard's Michael Sandel for free, why will they pay to take it with me?
Have you seen Professor Sandel's course? I bet I am not alone in wanting to take his more than I want to take mine. Sebastian Thrun, co-founder of Udacity, predicts that in 50 years there will be no more than 10 higher education institutions. Thrun isn't quietly waiting for his prediction to pan out, either. Pearson VUE recently contracted to administer proctored final exams for some of Udacity's courses, an important step toward offering credit that most colleges will find hard to reject.
What are we to make of the seemingly miraculous success of New Dorp, the high school that is the subject of Peg Tyre's recent Atlantic story? The history of education is littered with flavor-of-the-month interventions, many of which began at a model school, but that, once implemented elsewhere, flopped. Dejected educators then begin scouting for the next "big thing."
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In this instance, a heavy emphasis on writing seemed to make kids better writers, better readers, and perhaps, better thinkers. What does published research say? Is there any reason to expect that a writing curriculum, if implemented in other schools, would bring the same benefits?
There is, but implementing it correctly is no small matter.
Better writing: Perhaps the least surprising claim is that a focus on writing improves student writing. In general, there is good evidence that explicit teaching of writing makes kids better writers (for a recent review, see Graham et al, 2012). I emphasize explicit because these interventions concerned with the nuts and bolts of writing: instruction in text structure, how to use specific strategies for planning, revising, or editing text, and so on. As Tyre notes, if a teacher does not show students how to construct a paragraph or a well-written argument, some will figure out it anyway, but many will not.
Matt Yglesias has a good post on the recent Steven Pearlstein column. Here is Matt:
...people need to start paying much more attention to questions of tax efficiency. It's overwhelmingly likely that we're going to want the public sector to be a larger share of the economy in 10, 20, 30, 40 years than it is today and we need to find relatively growth-friendly ways to make that happen.
Here is Pearlstein:
From a political perspective, Baumol's most important insight is that government spending must grow as a percentage of the economy. Most of the services that are provided by, or financed by government -- health care, education, criminal justice, national security, diplomacy, industry regulation, scientific research -- are those that suffer most acutely from Baumol's disease. That's not because of incompetence or self-interest on the part of public servants or even the socialist instincts of Democratic politicians -- it's in the nature of those activities.
A recent outbreak of illness among German schoolchildren has highlighted the questionable quality of meals served in schools. German TV chef Cornelia Poletto says that one way to improve nutrition is to get parents involved in preparing lunches -- and to teach children what they are eating.
Cornelia Poletto, 41, is a well-known German chef and the mother of a 10-year-old daughter. She owns a restaurant and specialty food shop in Hamburg and appears regularly as a professional chef on television.
SPIEGEL: Ms. Poletto, you have tested many school cafeterias. What experiences have you had in doing so?
Poletto: Very different ones! But I can say this: It is only in places where parents actively volunteer that truly good food is provided.
The Madison School District's student population increased slightly this year to 26,925, including a 7 percent increase in 4-year-old kindergarten.
Superintendent Jane Belmore noted the 4K program in its second year now reaches 90 percent of 4-year-olds who live in the district.
"We are pleased that our enrollment remains stable and that our incredibly important 4K program continues to grow," Belmore said in a statement. "Starting learning early is key to closing gaps, and this year, our 4K program will do that important work for more students."
The district added 275 students, about a 1 percent increase, overall. The 4K program added 125 students for a total of 1,914 participants in the optional half-day program.
It is the 12th straight year that K-12 enrollment (excluding 4K) has ranged between 24,000 and 25,000 students.
The other major change to the CBA affects the hiring process for teachers. Currently, teachers have the opportunity to seek to transfer to vacant positions at other schools until four weeks prior to the start of the school year. Once the internal transfer process has been completed, principals can select applicants for teaching positions from outside the district. It is pretty obvious that the school district was placing itself at a competitive disadvantage in hiring if it could not tell a potential new hire where he or she would be teaching until a month before school starts.Much more on the Madison School District's rather unique action, here.
According to the new procedure that is now set forth in the CBA, teachers who find themselves surplused will be placed in new positions by the school district by May 1 of each year. Then vacant positions will be posted for internal transfers. While a change was proposed in the district's initial bargaining proposal, the final agreement retains the requirement that principals must select an internal transfer applicant if any applicants for a vacant position possess the minimum qualifications. The internal transfer process closes on June 15 and at that point principals can choose external candidates for any positions that remain unfilled. This change represents a big step toward a hiring process that maximizes our chances to hire the kind of skilled and diverse applicants we are looking for.
As I mention above, the new agreement does not address wages. At this point we don't have sufficient information to make any sort of decision about raising salaries for the 2013-14 school year. Most importantly, we have no idea what the governor and new legislature will do about revenue limits for the next biennium and so we don't know whether we will be able to increase our spending and by how much, or whether we will have to cut our per-pupil spending, as was the case for the first year of the current biennium.
Tomorrow, we'll talk about my dream school information system - what I'd really like to see out there to power informed school choice.
Before we do that, though, I'd like to share how I would go about assessing the quality of an elementary school if I was choosing one for my daughters today. This is all in the spirit of keepin' it real. I'd love to hear your ideas.
As the CEO of GreatSchools, I have to start with the data, of course. At GreatSchools.org, I can access data about test scores and student diversity. In some locations, I can also find about special programs, curriculum, extra-curricular activities and transportation options. This is great stuff - it helps get me oriented.
My job provides me the opportunity to travel a lot. I've visited many countries and cities of the world, but I still consider this area home.
I guess a love of math runs in my family. My sister is a math teacher, and it was my favorite subject, too. In fact, you could say she was my first teacher, as she would come home from school and teach me what she had learned that day.
While my math teachers were inspirational to me, there was another teacher who encouraged me to think more broadly and be open to new ideas. The encouragement I received from her helped me to build confidence in my own abilities. Math remained my favorite subject, but I was always interested in new ideas, exploring different concepts
When Dr. Michael Anderson hears about his low-income patients struggling in elementary school, he usually gives them a taste of some powerful medicine: Adderall.
The pills boost focus and impulse control in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although A.D.H.D is the diagnosis Dr. Anderson makes, he calls the disorder "made up" and "an excuse" to prescribe the pills to treat what he considers the children's true ill -- poor academic performance in inadequate schools.
"I don't have a whole lot of choice," said Dr. Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. "We've decided as a society that it's too expensive to modify the kid's environment. So we have to modify the kid."
Webster Bank signed on this summer to become a major sponsor of University of Connecticut athletics and help build a new basketball training center, but UConn has refused to say how much the bank is spending or what exactly it will get in return for its millions.
Though it is a public institution, UConn keeps some of the financial information about its athletic fundraising secret by using private entities.
Many universities use private tax-exempt foundations to raise money, but what separates Connecticut from other schools is a measure passed by the state legislature a decade ago that exempts the University of Connecticut Foundation from state freedom of information laws. Also, the state Supreme Court in February ruled the school can keep its lists of donors and season-ticketholders private, saying they amount to trade secrets.
Pop quiz! Tests are good for: (a) Assessing what you've learned; (b) Learning new information; (c) a & b; (d) None of the above.
The correct answer?
According to research from psychological science, it's both (a) and (b) - while testing can be useful as an assessment tool, the actual process of taking a test can also help us to learn and retain new information over the long term and apply it across different contexts.
New research published in journals of the Association for Psychological Science explores the nuanced interactions between testing, memory, and learning and suggests possible applications for testing in educational settings.
The Supreme Court picks up another hot potato. Affirmative Action is back before the high court. We'll look at the issue and the stakes.
Not too long ago, I witnessed a child, about two months shy of 3, welcome the return of some furniture to his family's apartment with the enthusiastic declaration "Ottoman is back!" The child understood that the stout cylindrical object from which he liked to jump had a name and that its absence had been caused by a visit to someone called "an upholsterer." The upholsterer, he realized, was responsible for converting the ottoman from one color or texture to another. Here was a child whose mother had prepared him, at the very least, for a future of reading World of Interiors.
Though conceivably much more as well. Despite the Manhattan parody to which a scene like this so easily gives rise, it is difficult to overstate the advantages arrogated to a child whose parent proceeds in a near constant mode of annotation. Reflexively, the affluent, ambitious parent is always talking, pointing out, explaining: Mommy is looking for her laptop; let's put on your rain boots; that's a pigeon, a sand dune, skyscraper, a pomegranate. The child, in essence, exists in continuous receipt of dictation.
Things are very different elsewhere on the class spectrum. Earlier in the year when I met Steven F. Wilson, founder of a network of charter schools that serve poor and largely black communities in Brooklyn, I asked him what he considered the greatest challenge on the first day of kindergarten each year. He answered, without a second's hesitation: "Word deficit." As it happens, in the '80s, the psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley spent years cataloging the number of words spoken to young children in dozens of families from different socioeconomic groups, and what they found was not only a disparity in the complexity of words used, but also astonishing differences in sheer number. Children of professionals were, on average, exposed to approximately 1,500 more words hourly than children growing up in poverty. This resulted in a gap of more than 32 million words by the time the children reached the age of 4.
This issue, though seemingly crucial, has been obscured in the recently intensified debate over the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, the multiple-choice exam used as the sole metric for entrance into some of New York City's elite public high schools, including Stuyvesant and Bronx Science.
Thousands of students in the city are in the throes of preparing for the test to be administered the last weekend of this month. Two weeks ago, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, along with other organizations, filed a federal civil rights complaint challenging the single-score admissions process as perilously narrow and arguing that it negatively affected black and Hispanic children, who are grossly underrepresented in these schools, so long considered forceful agents of mobility.
As the complaint makes note, of the 967 eighth-grade students offered admission to Stuyvesant for the current school year, only 19 were black and 32 Hispanic. During the previous school year, only 3.5 percent of students at Bronx Science were black and 7.2 percent Hispanic. At Staten Island Tech, the figures were even lower. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg quickly defended the process, contending that it was so free of subjectivity that it must inherently be regarded as fair.
Others called the system Darwinian. The Education Department, required by state law to rely exclusively on the test, volunteered defensively that it offered free exam preparation to low-income students. The fact that so many children of means take costly tutorials to ready themselves for testing has always been a matter of concern to anyone hoping to see the racial imbalances redressed.
And yet, all of this focus on the test -- which examines reading comprehension, math skills, the ability to reason logically -- suggests a myopia of its own. Expanding the ranks of poor black and Hispanic children in the top high schools would seem to require infinitely more backtracking. Consider that Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Brooklyn, one of the major pipelines to top public high schools, last year had a student population that was 0.52 percent black.
As the education theorist E. D. Hirsch recently wrote in a review of Paul Tough's new book, "How Children Succeed," there is strong evidence that increasing the general knowledge and vocabulary of a child before age 6 is the single highest correlate with later success. Schools have an enormously hard time pushing through the deficiencies with which many children arrive.
According to state education data, a far higher percentage of children in New York City charter and district schools in grades three through eight score at the highest level (a four) in math than they do in what is known as English Language Arts. In the 2011-12 school year, only 3.2 percent of children in district schools scored at the four level on the end-of-year statewide English exam. (For charter schools, the figure was 1.9 percent.)
All of this would seem to argue for a system in which we spent ever more of our energies and money on early, preschool education rather than less. The city has taken the right direction with the announcement of a new preschool in Brownsville, Brooklyn, scheduled to open next year, that will start with children as young as 6 weeks old. But that's one program in a city where 7,500 children reached kindergarten this year without preschool preparation. Obviously we want equal opportunity; we also want children to know what words like "equal" and "opportunity" mean.
I'm teaching graph theory this year. It was one of my favourite areas of mathematics when I was a student. It contains many gems, ranging from with Euler's solution to the problem of the seven bridges of Konigsberg to the power of Ramsey's Theorem. The arguments seem to me to be unusually varied, and often sufficiently elementary that great depth of study is not required.
I have had very little contact with graph theory in the time since I graduated. As an undergraduate I used Robin Wilson's Introduction to Graph Theory, and I am now using it as the basis of my course. I remember enjoying the book in my youth, and finding it approachable, but I don't remember finding the material as straightforward as it now seems. (My students aren't finding it entirely straightforward, either, but that may be my fault.)
Why is this? I don't think I'm a better mathematician than I was 35 years ago. In terms of solving exam questions, I would not perform as I did when I was twenty. Even with practice, I am sure I could not get back to that level, and not only because I no longer value that kind of cleverness enough to put the effort in. I now have a much better general understanding of mathematics and how it all fits together, but I no longer have the ability to master detail that I once did.
Last week's presidential debate revealed one area of agreement between the candidates: We need more teachers. "Let's hire another hundred thousand math and science teachers," proposed President Obama, adding that "Governor Romney doesn't think we need more teachers."
Mr. Romney quickly replied, "I reject the idea that I don't believe in great teachers or more teachers." He just opposes earmarking federal dollars for this purpose, believing instead that "every school district, every state should make that decision on their own."
Let's hope state and local officials have that discretion--and choose to shrink the teacher labor force rather than expand it. Hiring hundreds of thousands of additional teachers won't improve student achievement. It will bankrupt state and local governments, whose finances are already buckling under bloated payrolls with overly generous and grossly underfunded pension and health benefits.
The moment was brief but telling for Lydia Hsiuling Chen as she watched one of her students accidentally step on the foot of another as they headed out to recess.
"Dui bu qi," the kindergartner said quickly as she continued on her way. The classmate, looking slightly annoyed but accepting of her apology, muttered his reply, telling her it was OK -- also in Chinese.
It was a natural inclination to use what was an entirely foreign language to them less than two months ago. And it was an early sign of success for The Chinese School, the newest program that began this year at St. Louis Language Immersion Schools.
"They are not just learning Chinese, they are living with Chinese," said Chen, who serves as head of the school.
Over the past decade, hundreds of articles and scores of book have chronicled "boy troubles," the odd phenomenon of boys flailing in school and men adrift in life.
That is so yesterday's story. Today's story is about what happens to women when men fail, and the storytellers are women. Look no further than The End of Men and the Rise of Women, by Hanna Rosin, and The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family, by Liza Mundy.
Why shouldn't women be the ones to write about the world of failing men? Women actually read books (Checked out the men's vs. women's section in your local bookstore lately?). You can't argue with the market. If women are ruling our colleges and taking over fields such as veterinary medicine, clinical psychology and pharmacy, and well, pretty much everything other than plumbing, they might as well chronicle the demise of men.
Finally, those curious why the government will do everything in its power to pump any and every possible dollar into the economy under the guise of student subsidies, here it is again: at last check there were $914 billion in Federally-Funded student loans and rising at a rate of $20 billion per month.
Madison Teachers Inc. wants to shake up the Madison School Board after another negotiation in which it conceded several member benefits to stave off the effects of the state's new collective bargaining law.
MTI's weekly newsletter equates the School Board with the Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker, and calls the board's statements opposing changes in collective bargaining "not worth the paper they were written on."
"Keep in mind that to get fully out from under the cloud caused by Act 10, what is needed is a change in the Legislature, the governor and the Board of Education," the newsletter states. "All can be impacted by elections this fall, next spring and in 2014."
The faculty at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee (UWM) has received no general raises over the last five years, so it has become a target for poaching. The campus has lost 40 faculty members recently to competing institutions.
Crippled from of a decade of major cuts from governors and legislatures of both parties, the entire university system is in a financial straight jacket.
Leadership at UWM is trying to fund $2 million as a stop-gap to retain good professors, but needs as much as $18 million to bring pay levels up to par.
Lots of luck. The 2013-2015 state budget, now in the making, has already been hammered by a request from Dennis Smith, the governor's secretary for health services, requested an increase of more than $650 million for Medicaid over the two years. That bloated request will chew up much of the new revenue dollars coming from the meager growth in the economy and will crowd out investments in big priorities like education.
Fortunately, there is a solution.
A talented head cook at a school in central Sweden has been told to stop baking fresh bread and to cut back on her wide-ranging veggie buffets because it was unfair that students at other schools didn't have access to the unusually tasty offerings.I've seen similar issues in Madison, with respect to extracurricular activities.
Annika Eriksson, a lunch lady at school in Falun, was told that her cooking is just too good.
Pupils at the school have become accustomed to feasting on newly baked bread and an assortment of 15 vegetables at lunchtime, but now the good times are over.
The model method is a very powerful problem-solving strategy extensively used in the Primary Mathematics curriculum in Singapore, sometimes referred to as "Singapore Math" by other countries. Model Method help students visualize and simplify a math problem in a pictorial way. It was developed and popularized by Mr Hector Chee, a Singapore teacher, in 1990s.
Versatile and used in various topics
It is used to teach a wide range of Mathematics topics taught in the Primary Mathematics curriculum in Primary schools (elementary schools). Some of these include arithmetic, fractions, percentage, decimals, average, ratio and of course various problem sums testing these topics. It provides the pictorial perspective of the Mathematical problems and also provides easy analysis of 'parts whole' and comparison between quantities
Keeping students in school has been a problem in school districts nationwide. In urban areas, studies have shown that just 50% of students graduate with a high school diploma. Across the country, efforts to curb school absenteeism and truancy vary from extravagant to practical, with a plethora of measures in between.
On the extravagant side, Get Schooled, a non-profit based in New York, awarded a middle school in Seattle a free concert by R&B performer NeYo, as the prize for winning an attendance competition. Similarly, Get Schooled offers computer-games and weekly wake-up calls recorded by popular celebrities as motivation for students to show up for school.
The Alabama State Department of Education will investigate allegations of improper grade changes within Montgomery Public Schools, state superintendent of education Tommy Bice said in a statement Friday morning.
Bice said MPS superintendent Barbara Thompson requested the state agency conduct an investigation, which will be separate from an internal investigation operated by MPS.
The Montgomery Advertiser reported Thursday on allegations of grade changes, charges that were made by numerous current and former MPS teachers at three Montgomery high schools -- Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Sidney Lanier.
"Local school boards do not have the legal authority to expend funds or other resources to advocate or oppose the ratification of a constitutional amendment by the voters," the letter reads. "They may not do this directly or indirectly through associations to which they may belong."
Olens cites Georgia law in his letter, holding that elected officials have no right to free speech at taxpayer expense. The letter does say elected officials have the right to support or oppose the amendment in their individual capacities.
Douglas County School System Superintendent Dr. Gordon Pritz responded that the resolution doesn't attempt to influence voters. Also of note, school board funds were not used in the passage of its resolution.
"The resolution our board passed 4-1 expresses the board's view, but did not urge voters to take an action on the amendment at all," Pritz said. "The board has a right to express itself on educational matters of public concern. In fact I think they have a moral and ethical obligation to do so, as do I. This is also a normal part of board and superintendent duties and practices as evidenced by the three other resolutions the board passed that same night."
Read more: Douglas County Sentinel - BOE's charter school stance draws complaint
This Lansing State Journal article covers my recent appointment as VP of Research and Graduate studies at MSU. It's journalism, so as you can expect they emphasized potentially controversial topics like my work in genomics. (I expend about 10% of my research effort on this work, but it's much more titillating than the quantum mechanics of black holes!)
In order to set the record straight I have excerpted from the article and added my own comments.
... He is working with BGI-Shenzhen, a Chinese company that runs one of the world's largest gene-sequencing operations, on a project to identify the genetic basis of intelligence.
ONCE upon a time most of the tiny island-state of Singapore was a jungle. That is nearly all gone now, but the country is still heavily populated by tigers. These strict, unyielding felines, celebrated by Amy Chua in her book on the superiority of Chinese parenting, "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", load their cubs down with extra homework and tuition to make them excel at school. Western parents are usually horrified at the pressure the tiger mums exert on their children to get better grades or become concert violinists, preferably before puberty. But in Singapore this style of parenting, especially among the ethnic Chinese majority, is rarely questioned.
Imagine, then, the surprise when the prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, launched an attack on tiger mothers in a speech in late August to mark Singapore's national day. Most of his remarks celebrated Singapore's success, as usual. But then he berated parents for coaching their three- or four-year-old children to give them that extra edge over the five-year-old competition. And he added: "Please let your children have their childhood...Instead of growing up balanced and happy, he grows up narrow and neurotic. No homework is not a bad thing. It's good for young children to play, and to learn through play."
Outside Pittsburgh, they are proclaiming a strike, taking to Twitter and Facebook to spread the word. In a village near Milwaukee, hundreds staged a boycott. In a small farming and ranching community in western Kansas, they have produced a parody video. And in Parsippany, N.J., the protest is six days old and counting.
They are high school students, and their complaint is about lunch -- healthier, smaller and more expensive than ever.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which required public schools to follow new nutritional guidelines this academic year to receive extra federal lunch aid, has created a nationwide version of the age-old parental challenge: persuading children to eat what is good for them.
Enrollment in college is still climbing, but students are increasingly saying no to graduate school in the United States.
New enrollment in graduate schools fell last year for the second consecutive year, according to a report from the Council of Graduate Schools.
The declines followed surges in enrollment in 2008 and 2009 as many unemployed workers sought a haven during the recession. Financial considerations probably played a role in the shift. Students may be dissuaded from continuing their education in part because of the increasing debt burden from their undergraduate years.
Additionally, state budget cuts are forcing public institutions to reduce aid for graduate students, who in some disciplines have traditionally been paid to attend postgraduate programs.
Bill Gross has compared the US government's reliance on debt financing to a "crystal meth" addict, in the latest in a series of dire warnings from one of the most influential investors in the bond market.
"The US, in fact, is a serial offender, an addict whose habit extends beyond weed or cocaine and who frequently pleasures itself with budgetary crystal meth", said Mr Gross, who manages the $273bn Total Return bond fund for Pimco.
In an investment outlook that began with a discussion of the 69-year old investor's lack of long-term memory, Mr Gross returned again to a theme that he has visited over the last decade: unsustainable US spending.
Mr Gross places the US in a "ring of fire" that includes countries with precarious finances such as Greece, Spain and Japan.
One of the most dramatic signs of the momentous changes in how Wisconsin is trying to improve schools, teachers and student performance is about to hit every public school community in the state.
There have been a lot of warnings that a new way of picturing how schools are doing is coming and that the view isn't going to be as cheery as the old grades. But it's unlikely many people except school officials have been paying attention.
You can bet a lot more people will take notice when the state Department of Public Instruction releases report cards for every school and school district on Oct. 22.
The new data is going to be massive and sometimes complex. There will be a two-page summary report on each school, as well as an 18-page report.
Backers of the new approach - and a broad array of education and political figures - say that the report cards are a pillar of efforts to get more children in Wisconsin better prepared to go on to college and the work world.
But a lot of people almost surely will look at the grades for their local schools and ask: What in heaven's name is going on? How did local schools we thought were A or B quality suddenly get worse?
n the excellent film The Insider, Jeffrey Wigand, an ex-tobacco company executive, faces a dilemma. In return for a severance package and the health insurance coverage it provides his family, he signs confidentiality agreements promising not to reveal the company's research effort to boost the addictive power of cigarettes. When it appears that he is preparing to speak to journalists anyway, tobacco company-contracted PR hacks assassinate Wigand's character in the national media, and local thugs threaten his family's safety. In the end, Wigand strikes the match that blows up tobacco industry deceit on CBS's Sixty Minutes televised investigative news program.
I was reminded of Wigand's story recently when a testing industry executive warned me not to reveal the specifics of a secret document currently being written--a document that, in my judgment, will effectively embed the findings of fraudulent, biased research in educational testing into US law. Among the several nasty effects should be an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars on millions of new and worse-than-worthless "audit tests". The number of tests administered to our elementary-secondary students could double in some areas, but the quality of the results available from all tests will deteriorate.
Though this document will profoundly affect all Americans, whether directly involved in education or not, you cannot see it before it is published in its final, legal form, as a fait accompli in early 2013. I and perhaps a few hundred other testing aficionados read an early draft in 2011 but, legally, we cannot show it to you. We all signed confidentiality agreements.
Education insiders are currently writing in secret what is arguably the single most influential document in US education and psychology. Last updated in 1999, the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing is being revised and, if on schedule, will be presented in its completed form to the public in early 2013. (The testing Standards should not be confused with more common, and far more public, content standards, a.k.a. curriculum).
Within several months, the most important document in US education testing--the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing--will incorporate the conclusions of biased, irreparably flawed research that favors education's vested interests. School districts and taxpayers will be compelled to pay for the administration of more tests, perhaps twice as many in some areas. But, these new tests will not be used for any of the proven benefits of testing, such as feedback or motivation. Their only purpose will be to "audit" other, already-existing tests.
Why do current tests need "auditing" you ask? Allegedly, scores and score trends on standardized tests with consequences, or "stakes", can never be trusted and need to be verified by those from parallel "no stakes" tests. Presumably, scores from no-stakes tests, no matter how administered and no matter who administers them, are as trustworthy as a pug-nosed Pinocchio.
The notion reminds me of the Will Smith-Jon Voight film Enemy of the State, in which corrupt politicians and federal intelligence agents misuse their power to monitor their fellow citizens for mutual self-aggrandizement. After the miscreants' criminal activity is exposed, officials promise to "monitor the monitors", apparently within the same institutional structures that harbored the original malfeasance. To that announcement, the Regina King character in the film replies "Well, who's gonna monitor the monitors of the monitors?"
DEMOGRAPHERS like to say that Texas today is the United States tomorrow. That being the case, a look at San Antonio--the second-largest city in Texas, and seventh-largest in the country--suggests that America had better get cracking. In many respects the city is in an enviable position: young, diverse, and growing by bounds. It also includes a huge number of children--a quarter of whom live in poverty, most of whom need more education, and all of whom live in a state where government spending is a hard sell. At the Democratic National Convention recently the mayor, Julián Castro, made a pitch for change: "We know that you can't be pro-business unless you're pro-education," he said.
To that end, he said, the city was working for a bigger pre-school programme. The idea is part of a national trend towards early childhood education. "Give me a child until he is seven," runs the famous Jesuit saying, "and I will give you the man." Why wait that long, though? By the time children start kindergarten, some are manifestly more ready than others, in terms of their health, cognitive skills, and ability to pay attention to the teacher.
When you hear Salman Khan's story, it sounds like an Internet-age fairy tale, one that goes something like this. Once upon a time, a brainy MIT graduate working as a hedge-fund analyst started tutoring his cousin in math and science online. He decided to make YouTube videos of his tutorials. The videos racked up millions of views and reached audiences around the world, and appreciative students offered stirring testimonials. After three years, the hedge-fund analyst quit his day job to set up an educational nonprofit called The Khan Academy. The mission: provide a world-class education to anyone, anywhere for free.
Khan knows that his mission statement is a bit grandiose, but he believes the Khan Academy's online teaching materials, including its archive of more than 3,000 videos, have the power to reach students in ways that classroom settings sometimes can't. The Khan Academy combines video tutorials with exercises and problems tailored to an individual student's performance level.
During his sophomore year, Jose Avalos was urged by a principal to drop out of high school. The next year, his brother was told to do the same after entering the 10th grade. A third Avalos brother shared the same fate in 2009.
Administrators at Bowie High School cited excessive tardiness in their efforts to remove the siblings. But now the brothers suspect they were targeted for an entirely different reason: The district was trying to push out hundreds of low-performing sophomores to prevent them from taking accountability tests. The scheme was designed to help El Paso schools raise academic standards, qualify for more federal money and ensure the superintendent got hefty bonuses.
"I thought I was going crazy. I even doubted my sons," said the boys' mother, Grisel Avalos. She said she tried several times to keep her sons in class, but district officials "were on the side of the teachers and the principal."
Don and Jan Weideman lost their youngest son in June after a year-and-a-half battle with heroin, and they have formed a group to address the growing concern about heroin in Columbia County.
Don Weideman found his son, Cody, dead in their home from a heroin overdose.
Cody's addiction was triggered by a girlfriend who also used the drug. His parents went through inpatient and outpatient programs, counseling and treatment options.
It's an experience Don Weideman described as "a living hell."
"Children are supposed to bury parents. Parents aren't supposed to bury children," Don Weideman said.
Just 56 percent of college students complete four-year degrees within six years, according to a 2011 Harvard Graduate School of Education study. Among the 18 developed countries in the OECD, the U.S. was dead last for the percentage of students who completed college once they started it ― even behind Slovakia.
College dropouts tend to be male, and give reasons such as cost, not feeling prepared, and not being able to juggle family, school and jobs, according to the Harvard study. An American Institutes for Research report last year estimated that college dropouts cost the nation $4.5 billion in lost earnings and taxes.
wenty years ago, Paula Ambos enrolled her daughter at MacDowell Montessori School after a friend raved about how well the style of education worked for her kid.
Ambos started helping in the classroom - common for Montessori parents because the "freedom with responsibility" philosophy of learning requires at least one classroom assistant - then pursued formal teacher training herself.
Today, she's the primary teacher of a 3-, 4- and 5-year-old kindergarten classroom at MacDowell, which incorporated a high school this year and became one of several new or revamped public Montessori options that Milwaukee Public Schools is championing to parents all over the city.
The public Montessori-school community in Milwaukee is now one of the largest in the country - growing to eight schools under the MPS umbrella, and a ninth that operates as a City of Milwaukee-authorized charter school.
urdue University was always a back-up school for Kemsley Corell. But once she was accepted, she was won over by the barrage of mail advertising the school. She received plenty of marketing materials from other schools, but what impressed her about Purdue were the letters from faculty and staff from the Animal Sciences department, the College of Agriculture. She even received one from the dean himself.And, many colleges spend a boatload of money on marketing, often paid by prospective students' application fees.
Specific phrases in the letters made them seem personal - like the one from Marcos Fernandez, associate dean at the College of Agriculture, who underlined the words, "Congratulations" and "I look forward to meeting and getting to know you." The letters made the Pleasant Grove, Utah applicant , feel "like I was important to Purdue and that I could really fit in there." She started as a freshman at Purdue this fall.
Corell's story is music to the ears of Teri Lucie Thompson, chief marketing officer for Purdue University. She's one of the many marketing pros hired recently by universities to reach out more aggressively to students. The economic downturn and growing competition among institutions for students is prompting many schools to employ increasingly sophisticated marketing techniques to appeal to their pool of applicants - including those that can pay full price - and ensure they'll get the highest caliber of students.
The term "marketing" once was a dirty word at universities and colleges, as many faculty felt the school's stellar reputation should be enough to draw students. But now many schools have hired chief marketing officers, or CMOs, with six-figure salaries. Thompson, who makes a base salary of $265,000 with an annual 14-percent pension contribution, points to Bentley University and Utah State University as just two recent examples. Others schools are also hiring outside marketing firms.
"More than ever, higher education is a buyer's market," said Tony Pals, a spokesman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. He says students are increasingly concerned about the economic returns of their degree and are looking for a college with the best value.
Good morning, class. I'd like you all to open your books to Act I, Scene 2, Line 398.
Pages rustle as everyone flips through their books in search of that spot.
"Usually there's a whole lot of shuffling," says Bryn Mawr professor Katharine Rowe. But not if the class is using an app she and Notre Dame professor Elliott Visconsi built. In their app of Shakespeare's Tempest students can just enter "1.2.398" and be transported there immediately. Or, alternatively, search for the words: "Full fathom five thy father lies."
That tool "gets my students on the line, at the same time, almost instantly. That's a big deal for a Shakespeare prof," she says. "We get our brains faster into the text that way."
Unemployment among workers without a college degree is at a staggering 24 percent, but young college grads without an advanced degree are also suffering from the worst jobs crisis since World War II, with about 19 percent out of work or underemployed for their level of education. Is it fair to ask American schools to respond to the Great Recession? Great teachers and principals can help students maximize their potential, but they can't make firms hire workers.
But the education system is not powerless in the face of high unemployment--as long as employers are partners. What's clear is that there are a few, relatively small sectors of the economy in which there are real shortages of trained workers. Some of those sectors require an advanced degree or very high-level skills, such as in engineering or computer programming. But not all of them do. One of these sectors is mid-skill manufacturing. There is a shortage of machinists who can operate the new, computer-programmed, robotic assembly lines that build cars, turbines, generators, steel and iron plumbing products, armaments, and shipping and packing equipment. There may be as many as 600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs of this type, but compared with their European counterparts, American companies have shown little willingness to invest in training workers to fill these positions.
Six months ago, they dropped dozens of boxed iPads into two extremely remote villages in Ethiopia, where the population was completely illiterate, dirt poor and had no prior exposure to electronics. They did not leave any instructions, aside from telling the village elders that the iPads were designed for kids aged four to 11. They also showed one adult how to charge the iPads with a solar-powered device. Then the researchers vanished and monitored what happened next by making occasional visits and tracking the behaviour of the children via Sim cards, USB sticks and cameras installed in the iPads.
The results, which will be unveiled in Boston later this month, are thought-provoking, particularly for anyone involved in the education business. Within minutes of the iPads landing among the mud huts, the kids had unpacked the boxes and worked out how to turn them on.
Then, in both villages, activity coalesced around a couple of child leaders, who made the mental leap to explore those tablets - and taught the others what to do. In one village, this leader turned out to be a partly disabled child: although he had never been a dominant personality before, he was a natural explorer, so became the teacher.
The discovery process then became intense. When the children used the iPads, they did not behave like western adults might, namely sitting with a machine each on their laps in isolation. Instead they huddled together, touching and watching each other's machines, constantly swapping knowledge. Within days, they were using the pre-installed apps, with games, movies and educational lessons. After a couple of months, some were singing the American "alphabet song" and recognising letters (at the request of the Ethiopian government, the machines were all in English). More startling still, one gang of kids even worked out how to disable a block that the Boston-based researchers had installed into the machines, which was supposed to stop them taking pictures of themselves. And all of this apparently happened without any adult supervision - and anyone in those mud huts having handled text before.
It was the greatest education system the world had ever seen. They built it into the eucalyptus-dotted Berkeley hills and under the bright lights of Los Angeles, down in the valley in Fresno and in the shadows of the San Bernardino Mountains. Hundreds of college campuses, large and small, two-year and four-year, stretching from California's emerald forests in the north to the heat-scorched Inland Empire in the south. Each had its own DNA, but common to all was this: they promised a "public" education, accessible and affordable, to those with means and those without, a door with a welcome mat into the ivory tower, an invitation to a better life.
Then California bled that system dry. Over three decades, voters starved their state--and so their colleges and universities--of cash. Politicians siphoned away what money remained and spent it more on imprisoning people, not educating them. College administrators grappled with shriveling state support by jacking up tuitions, tacking on new fees, and so asking more each year from increasingly pinched students and families. Today, many of those students stagger under a heap of debt as they linger on waiting lists to get into the over-subscribed classes they need to graduate.
After saying last August that a public records request would be fulfilled, Louisiana's education department is again refusing to provide The Associated Press with records on how schools were chosen to participate in Gov. Bobby Jindal's new statewide voucher program.
The Associated Press requested the records on June 12. The department initially rejected the request on Aug. 3. However, a spokesman for Education Superintendent John White later told an AP capital bureau reporter that the records request would be fulfilled in September -- after the final voucher enrollment numbers were tallied.
Kent Taylor, superintendent of education in southern Kern County, was selected Wednesday to lead the Inglewood school district -- the first major move by the state after its takeover of the financially troubled district.The Wall Street Journal:
Before his Kern County stint, Taylor worked as a teacher, principal, administrator and school board member in several Southern California districts, mostly in the San Bernardino area. He grew up in Inglewood and graduated from Inglewood High in 1982, facts he emphasized repeatedly during a Wednesday news conference.
The appointment is about "coming back to the community that I love, the community that produced me," he said, recalling several teachers who mentored him as a youngster. "This is a great district, a wonderful district, and we have great things happening here.... Do we need to figure out some fiscal things? Yes, we do. But I'm the guy who is going to come and work with everyone and listen to everyone.... We're going to continue to move forward."
The unions are blaming Inglewood's shortfall on education cuts, but per-pupil spending is about the same as it was five years ago. The real problem (other than too generous benefits, which are an issue in most districts) is that enrollment has declined by more than 20% since 2006, which has shrunk the total pot of available money. Many of the city's working class families have left. Meanwhile, about 10% of students have fled to charter schools--and for that the unions have only themselves to blame.
Seven charters have sprouted up within the last five years as alternatives to Inglewood's failing schools, which are among the worst in the state. Only 30% of seventh graders meet state math standards while merely a quarter of 11th graders are proficient in English. The charters outperform traditional schools by 100 to 200 points on the state Academic Performance Index (which ranges from 200 to 1000). Most charters also operate at lower cost.
The district intends to float bonds to renovate facilities in order to draw back students, but energy efficient buildings and a spiffy, new athletic center won't make up for a poor education. And they sure won't help close the district's $10 million structural deficit.
I have two points to make. The first is something that I think everyone knows: Educational outcomes, such as graduation and test scores, are signals of or proxies for the traits that lead to success in life, not the cause of that success.
For example, it is well-documented that high school graduates earn more, on average, than non-graduates. Thus, one often hears arguments that increasing graduation rates will drastically improve students' future prospects, and the performance of the economy overall. Well, not exactly.
The piece of paper, of course, only goes so far. Rather, the benefits of graduation arise because graduates are more likely to possess the skills - including the critical non-cognitive sort - that make people good employees (and, on a highly related note, because employers know that, and use credentials to screen applicants).
Bias alert: I love my kids' Milwaukee Public School, La Escuela Fratney.
It's a smaller school, K4 to grade 5, which means we'll be playing the "where're-the-kids-going-for-middle-school game" sooner than I'd like. But I'm a monolingual mom whose heart races every time I hear my 6- and 8-year-old speak beautifully accented Spanish. I appreciate their help when I fail to bridge the language gap at our neighborhood taqueria, and they can multiply in two languages. Neat.
Anyway, 2012 has been a big year for Fratney. Our longtime principal, Ms. Rita Tenorio, retired and Fratney was just named a GE Foundation Demonstration School. Alongside their peers across Wisconsin and in 45 other states, Fratney students, teachers and parents are adjusting to the Common Core State Standards for career and college preparation. In all this flurry of activity, some folks don't even know about our new principal. Read below for the inside scoop on Ms. Llanas Buckman, ripped from the front page of the Fratney PTA newsletter!
Act 10, which Governor Walker designed to kill unions of public sector workers, caused massive protests in early 2011 because of it quashing peoples' rights. And, that is the way Judge Colas saw it in ruling on MTI's challenge to Act 10. Colas ruled that Act 10 violates the Constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association and equal protection of public sector union members (ruling did not address state employees). Enabled by Colas' decision, MTI petitioned the Madison Metropolitan School District to commence negotiations over a Contract to succeed that which ends June 30, 2013.Links:
Following Judge Colas' order, both the City of Madison and Dane County negotiated new Contracts with their largest union, AFSCME Local 60. MTI, along with hundreds of supporters, pressed the MMSD to follow suit. After 37 hours of bargaining last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, negotiators for MTI, SEE- MTI (clerical/technical employees), EA-MTI (educational assistants and nurse assistants), SSA-MTI (security assistants) and USO-MTI (substitute teachers) were successful in reaching terms for a new Contract through June 30, 2014.
The Union achieved the #1 priority expressed by members of MTI's five bargaining units in the recent survey, protecting their Contract rights and benefits, and keeping their Union Contract. The "just cause" standard for any kind of discipline or dismissal is in tact, as is arbitration by a neutral third party of any such action by the District, and of all claims that District administration violated the terms of an MTI Contract. The Union was also successful in preserving salary and wage schedules (except for substitutes), as well as fringe benefits, another priority of members responding to MTI's recent survey.
Solidarity was evident from the outset as, for the first time ever, representatives from all five (5) of MTI's bargaining units worked together to bargain simultaneously. Representatives from the Custodial and Food Service units, represented by AFSCME Local 60, also lent support throughout the negotiations, even as they were rushing to bargain new contracts for their members. And, in a powerful display of solidarity, MTI's Teacher Bargaining Team repeatedly put forth proposals enabling the District to increase health insurance contributions for teachers, if the District would agree NOT to increase contributions from their lower paid brothers and sisters in MTI's EA, SEE and SSA bargaining units. Unfortunately, the District rebuffed the offers, insisting that all employees work under the cloud of uncertainty that employee health insurance contributions may be increased up to 10% of the premium after June 30, 2013.
The District entered the negotiations espousing "principles that put student learning in the forefront, with a respect for the fact that our employees are the people who directly or indirectly impact that learning". MTI heard these concerns and made major accommodations in many contractual areas to address these needs. Areas where MTI accommodated the District's stated need to attract staff who can close the achievement gap: 1) enable the District to place new hires anywhere on the salary schedule; 2) give new hires a signing bonus of any amount; 3) appoint new hires and non-District employees to any coaching or other extra duty position (annual District discretion of continuing extra duty position); 4) current staff to have no right to apply for vacancies occurring after June 15, to enable District to offer employment to outsiders; 5) enable the District to assign new hires to evening/weekend teaching positions; and 6) enable the District to hold two evening parent-teacher conferences per school year.
Yet, other District proposals appeared to have nothing to do with either student achievement or respecting the employees who make that happen. The District insisted on eliminating sick leave benefits for all substitute teachers hired after July 1, 2013. The District insisted on language which would non-renew the contracts of teachers on medical leave for more than two years. And the District's numerous other "take backs", unrelated to either of their stated principles, but just to take advantage of the leverage enabled by the uncertainty of Act 10. These concessions were received bitterly by the thousand who gathered at Wednesday's MTI meeting, hoping for positive signs that the District's messages of respect would be reflected in the settlement.
On the downside was the District's attack on other Contract provisions. In violation of the principles they espoused to Walker's then-proposed Act 10, in February 2011, Board members enabled District management to demand concessions from AFSCME and MTI in exchange for a new Contract. All seven Board members said of Act 10, "The Governor's proposals are a damaging blow to all our public services and dedicated public employees. The legislation's radical and punitive approach to the collective bargaining process seems likely to undermine our productive working relationship with our teachers and damage the work environment, to the ultimate detriment of student achievement."
Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore espoused similar feelings just last month. In referring to Act 10, she wrote District employees "... we still need to determine together how to go forward in the best interest of our employees and our district."
The pledges of Board members and Supt. Belmore were not worth the paper they were written on. Demanding significant changes and deletion of terms which they had agreed - some since the 1960's - the District negotiators were relentless.
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation awarded $100,000 today in a competition to develop innovative software to help teachers score student written responses to test questions. The prize was divided among five (5) teams. The competition compared the ability of software to score short-answer student essays in a way that was similar to human graders. The results showed that the software is not yet able to achieve the same scores as human graders.
"Giving school systems the tools to challenge students to develop critical reasoning skills is crucial to making those students competitive in the new century," said Barbara Chow, Education Program Director at the Hewlett Foundation. "And critical reasoning is one of the capabilities, along with communicating clearly, working cooperatively, and learning independently, that we call Deeper Learning would like to see broadly embraced throughout the country."
The Hewlett Foundation sponsored the Automated Student Assessment Prize (ASAP) to address the need for high quality standardized tests to replace many of the current ones, which test rote skills. The goal is to shift testing away from standardized bubble tests to tests that evaluate critical thinking, problem solving and other 21st century skills. To do so, it's necessary to develop more sophisticated tests to evaluate these skills and reduce their cost so they can be adopted widely. Computer aided scoring can play an important role in achieving this goal.
In 1996, in a journal called the National Teaching & Learning Forum, two professors from Indiana University -- Joan Middendorf and Alan Kalish -- described how research on human attention and retention speaks against the value of long lectures. They cited a 1976 study that detailed the ebbs and flows of students' focus during a typical class period. Breaking the session down minute-by-minute, the study's authors determined that students needed a three- to five-minute period of settling down, which would be followed by 10 to 18 minutes of optimal focus. Then -- no matter how good the teacher or how compelling the subject matter -- there would come a lapse. In the vernacular, the students would "lose it." Attention would eventually return, but in ever briefer packets, falling "to three- or four-minute [spurts] towards the end of a standard lecture," according to the report. This study focused on college students, and of course it was done before the age of texting and tweeting; presumably, the attention spans of younger people today have become even shorter, or certainly more challenged by distractions.
Middendorf and Kalish also cited a study from 1985 which tested students on their recall of facts contained in a 20-minute presentation. While you might expect that recall of the final section of the presentation would be greatest-- the part heard most recently -- in fact the result was strikingly opposite. Students remembered far more of what they'd heard at the very beginning of the lecture. By the 15-minute mark, they'd mostly zoned out. Yet these findings -- which were quite dramatic, consistent and conclusive, and have never yet been refuted -- went largely unapplied in the real world.
Eleven years ago I was a legislative assistant to a US Congressman, and K-12 was in my portfolio. NCLB was making its way through the House, and the congressman was leaning against. I took it upon myself to change his mind.
I gave him our state testing data showing enormous achievement gaps. This legislation, I argued, was social justice for disadvantaged kids. Standards, assessments, accountability, and transparency were not only reasonable but also necessary. We had to do something about failing schools. You have to vote for this legislation!
Ten years later I was Deputy Education Commissioner of New Jersey, and I was leading our effort to write a waiver to free our state from NCLB.
Were I interested in reputational self-protection, I'd take the easy way out and simply say that America learned a great deal over that decade; that I was right as a zealous 26-year old to agitate, and I was right as a wiser, more prudent 36-year old to retrench.
But that's not how I feel. To this day, I'm deeply conflicted about the proper role of the federal government in our schools. As I alluded to yesterday, as a blogger, but more importantly, as a guy who's done a good bit of education policy making and writing, I ought to have an answer. And I don't.
The Madison School Board unanimously approved one-year collective bargaining agreements with some of its employees at noon Thursday, taking advantage of a legal window to change longstanding policies favored by the teachers union.Related: Is Teacher Union "Collective Bargaining" Good for Students?
Additional agreements with the rest of its represented employees are expected to be approved at 6 p.m.
Whether the new agreements will stand depends on what happens to the state's new collective bargaining law, known as Act 10. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas ruled key portions of the law unconstitutional, but the state plans to appeal the decision.
School, city and county officials in Madison have quickly hammered out new agreements since Colas' Sept. 14 ruling. The School District and Madison Teachers Inc. exchanged initial proposals Sunday and completed in three days a closed-door process that historically plays out over months.
The second type of teaching is a form of compression, making things easier to understand. I don't mean simply eliding details, or making your proofs more terse. I mean compression in the time it takes to explain an idea and its implications.
Computer science is hard. Logic is hard. And that's fine. But if we leave this world as complicated as we found it then we've failed to do our jobs. Think about it this way: if the next generation learns at the same speed as yours, they won't have time to move beyond you. Type II teaching is what enables Type I progress.
Physics went through a period of compression in the middle of the last century. Richard Feynman's reputation wasn't built on discovering new particles or laws of nature, but for discovering better ways to reason about what we already knew.  Mathematics has gone though several rebuilding periods. That's why you can pick up a child's math book today and find negative numbers, the square root of two, and many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse. Every one of those mundane ideas was once the hardest problem in the world. My word, people died in arguments over the Pythagorean Theorem. Now we teach it to kids in a half hour. If that's not progress I don't know what is.
Long-time Democratic education activist Jack Jennings, in a recent Huffington Post column, argued that Republican support for private school choice is a somewhat recent (i.e., the last 45 years) phenomenon, driven by a political desire to appeal to segregationists and weaken teacher unions. Jennings writes, "The Republicans' talk about giving parents the right to choose is a politically expedient strategy ... Just beneath the surface of the education rhetoric are political motivations to thwart integration, weaken the Democratic coalition, and cripple the teachers' unions."
Jennings is being disingenuous by not acknowledging that Democrats have also changed their position on public funding for private school choice over the years. Democrats George McGovern and Hubert Humphrey both ran for president on platforms supporting tuition tax credits for private schools, and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., was the U.S. Senate's leading advocate for giving parents public funding to attend private schools. The Democratic Party reversed its support of public funding for private school choice in the late 1970s - as a political payback to the National Education Association for giving Jimmy Carter its first ever presidential endorsement.
The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any wealthy nation, with about 2.3 million people behind bars at any given moment. (That's 730 out of 100,000, vs. just 154 for England and Wales.) There are more people in U.S. prisons than are in the country's active-duty military. That much is well known. What's less known is that people who are incarcerated are excluded from most surveys by U.S. statistical agencies. Since young, black men are disproportionately likely to be in jail or prison, the exclusion of penal institutions from the statistics makes the jobs situation of young, black men look better than it really is.Related: Robert Francis, the Texan judge closing America's jails
That's the point of a new book, Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress, by Becky Pettit, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington. Pettit spoke on Thursday in a telephone press conference.
Until recently, these people would have been discarded in overcrowded prisons. After all they were caught in Texas - the toughest state of a nation that locks up more offenders than any other in the world, with more than one in every 100 adults behind bars. Instead they receive counselling and assistance with housing and employment, although they can be sent back to jail if they fail drug tests, abscond or reoffend. One woman, a crystal meth addict, tells me the sessions in court are like walking on eggshells. But there are small incentives for those doing well, such as $10 gift vouchers or - on the day I visited - barbecue lunch out with Francis. "These people have to believe we care and want them to succeed," he tells me later. "Once they believe in me they can start to change."Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
They are beneficiaries of a revolution in justice sweeping the United States, one with illuminating lessons for Britain. It is a revolt led by hardline conservatives who have declared prison a sign of state failure. They say it is an inefficient use of taxpayers' money when the same people, often damaged by drink, drugs, mental health problems or chaotic backgrounds, return there again and again.
Remarkably, this revolution was unleashed in "hang 'em high" Texas, which prides itself on its toughness and still holds more executions than other states. But instead of building more prisons and jailing ever more people, Texas is now diverting funds to sophisticated rehabilitation programmes to reduce recidivism. Money has been poured into probation, parole and specialist services for addicts, the mentally ill, women and veterans. And it has worked: figures show even violent crime dropping at more than twice the national average, while cutting costs and reducing prison populations.
Vidya is in a dilemma. The curriculum makes it mandatory for her to submit a project by the end of the term. After three years of engineering education, the final year student is struggling to make even a simple circuit work, let alone come up with a BE-level project.
Vidya need not worry, Pune's vast 'project-making' industry promises to rescue students like her. 'We make all kinds of engineering projects' is a signboard found across the city and its outskirts, especially outside private engineering colleges. With private engineering colleges mushrooming across Maharashtra in the past decade, the project making industry has grown exponentially in the city.
Coming up with science projects is not so easy and requires a lot of research. They have to keep innovating and updating with technological advance in all fields to fulfill students' demands.
Over the last week a remarkable story has unfolded in Camden, N.J. At the Camden City Public School Board's most recent meeting on Tuesday, board members considered four applicants for N.J.'s newly-legislated Urban Hope Act and voted them all down.Related: The Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy recently.
The Urban Hope Act (pdf), signed by Gov. Chris Christie this past January, allows non-profits to build, manage, and operate up to four "renaissance" schools in three long-suffering school districts: Camden, Newark, and Trenton. Four organizations applied for Camden's new Renaissance "district," including one highly-regarded organization called KIPP, which runs some of Newark's most successful charter schools. After six hours in closed session the Board members, in a move that surprised just about everyone (including the Camden mayor, who appointed them), rejected KIPP's application by a split vote of 4-4, with one abstention.
This outcome is noteworthy on several levels, and the story itself elucidates one of the thorniest dilemmas that stump people who value public education. When faced with a chronically failing school system like Camden, should the priority be providing children with immediate relief from a district where the majority of the students never master basic academic skills? Or should the priority be lengthy efforts to rebuild the whole system? Does the urgency of the plight of current students trump long-term fixes, or is it the other way around?
This conundrum was put into sharp relief this week in Camden, especially in the context of some new documents up on Camden City Public Schools' website. These reports are a brave and honest assessment of the district's predicament. They also detail necessary corrective steps, some of which involve cultural and procedural changes which, by definition, will take years to implement.
John Patriarche in Chandler, Ariz., logs on from home to check grades and assignments with his 13-year-old daughter, Anna.
Ever since her 12-year-old twin sons went back to school in August, Catherine Durkin Robinson has been telling herself, "Steer clear. Think first, and keep away," she says.
The hazard she's avoiding? Logging on to her school's online grade-reporting system to see how her boys are doing. When she checked their grades online late last year, "I saw Cs and I almost lost my mind," she says. Her sons' teachers later explained that the grades weren't up-to-date and that Zachary and Jacob were actually doing very well. But it was a shock she'd rather not repeat, says the Tampa, Fla.-based manager for a nonprofit education organization.
A drop in the number of high school students and competition from for-profit and online universities are factors pinching enrollment at some University of Wisconsin System schools, forcing them to fine-tune their recruiting efforts.
The issue is expected to deepen in the next few years, and university leaders are bracing for the financial fallout if new recruitment and retention efforts don't work.
"We're entering into a trough we'll come out of in several years," UW System spokesman David Giroux said Tuesday, referring to a demographic shift in Wisconsin brought by declining birthrates that started 17 to 18 years ago. "We knew this was coming," Giroux said.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will discuss the trend later this week during their regular meeting at UW-Stout.
At UW-Milwaukee, the focus is shifting to recruiting more international and graduate students, more out-of-state-students and continuing to improve retention of students already on campus, as freshman enrollments continue to decline from their peak in 2007.
Virtual public schools, which allow students to take all their classes online, have exploded in popularity across the United States, offering what supporters view as innovative and affordable alternatives to the conventional classroom.
Now a backlash is building among public officials and educators who question whether the cyber-schools are truly making the grade.
In Maine, New Jersey and North Carolina, officials have refused to allow new cyber-schools to open this year, citing concerns about poor academic performance, high rates of student turnover and funding models that appear to put private-sector profits ahead of student achievement.
I spent a few hours recently with the head of a brand new blended-learning school. The school is pushing the bounds of blended learning with a Flex model that is competency-based. Students move on when they have mastered the appropriate standards and skills, have individualized learning plans, and, along with their parents, receive daily progress reports based on how they are doing. The role of the teacher in this new school looks very different from that in a standard school.
Many parts of the schooling model are also still evolving as the school learns what does and does not work.
Uncertainty exists, and teachers are both teaching amidst the uncertainty and helping to create and refine the school model itself on the fly. Because new innovations rarely emerge fully baked and launch with perfect success, this is both natural and good.
n a summer day four years ago, a Stanford University computer-science professor named Andrew Ng held an unusual air show on a field near the campus. His fleet of small helicopter drones flew under computer control, piloted by artificial-intelligence software that could teach itself to fly after watching a human operator. By the end of the day, the copters were hot-dogging--flipping, rolling, even hovering upside down.
It was a milestone for the field of "machine learning," the same area of artificial intelligence that lets Amazon recommend books based on a shopper's previous habits and helps Google tailor search results to a user's behavior. Mr. Ng and his team of graduate students showed that artificial-intelligence software could control one of the hardest-to-maneuver vehicles and keep it stable while flying at 45 miles an hour. That same year, Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, included Mr. Ng among the top 35 innovators in the world under the age of 35.
Today Mr. Ng is an innovator in an entirely different setting: online education. He is a founder of the start-up Coursera, which works with 33 colleges to help them deliver free online courses. After less than a year of operation, the company already claims more students--1.3 million--than just about any educational institution on the planet. Mr. Ng likes to say that Coursera arrived at an "inflection point" for the idea of massive open online courses, or MOOC's, which are designed so a single professor can teach tens of thousands of students at a time.
There's a tale behind the death of California's proposed school funding allocation overhaul. The measure, Assembly Bill 18, was one of the casualties as Gov. Jerry Brown waded through hundreds of bills from the hectic, final hours of the 2012 legislative session. -- Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, carried the bill, a watered-down version of her proposal to overhaul how the $60-plus billion in state, local and federal funds are allocated to California's K-12 school districts each year.
She wanted to streamline state aid and shift more money to low-performing schools with large numbers of students who are poor or "English learners," responding to criticism that the state was not focusing money on its most urgent needs.
The state Supreme Court four decades ago decreed the "equalization" of school finances, which were then rooted in property taxes.
If the government ran its student loan programs the way banks do, Ivy Leaguers would probably get a steep discount, those at state universities would pay a bit more, and many at community colleges and for-profit schools would be deemed subprime borrowers.
No college degree guarantees one will be able to afford to pay off their student loans, but Ivy League borrowers rarely default on their debt: Just 1% of Harvard University students defaulted within three years of their loans coming due in 2009, according to Department of Education data released last week; and at the higher end, just under 3% of Columbia University alumni defaulted. Compare that with for-profit schools such as the University of Phoenix, where 26% of students defaulted in that same time period -- nearly twice the national average.
Here's a chilling thought: What if our English teachers were wrong? Maybe not about everything, but about a few memorable lessons. So many millions of writers have needlessly contorted their prose to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition. So many well-intentioned editors have fought to change "a historic" to "an historic." If it turns out that the guidelines we cling to ("to which we cling"?) are nonsense, maybe the texters have the right idea when they throw out the old rules and start fresh.
But if you aren't ready to give up -- if the "flaunt" in that headline raised your blood pressure -- then how can you tell the difference between a sound rule of English and a made-up shibboleth? Where do good rules come from, and how do bad ones catch on?
It's hard to guess whether the topic of education will come up in this week's presidential debate, or any of the others. With the economy and the whole 47% debacle on everybody's mind, there hasn't been much talk about the public schools, even though they're at a critical juncture.
Of course, President Obama's views are pretty clear because he's been putting them into policy for the last few years. And in ways, those policies have been problematic. He's obviously a big believer in giving the federal government a major role in education, which has traditionally been left to state and local governments in this country.
There are policies he can't legally force on states, such as a common curriculum and rules about how they have to evaluate teachers. (He and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are insistent that scores on standardized tests have to be a "significant" part of teacher evaluations; it's not bad policy to include them in some way, but there's a real lack of research to show that they are absolutely key to rating teachers or will improve learning significantly.) So what the administration has done is twist states' arms by making funding via such programs as Race to the Top conditional on meeting its vision of what education should look like, or, more recently, allowing waivers to states from the more onerous and nonsensical elements of the No Child Left Behind Act if they go along.
One answer looks at how external testing, state academic standards, federal accountability regulations, teacher certification, and the unofficial national curriculum of Advanced Placement influence what teachers present. These largely unnoticed structures in the policy landscape set the boundaries within which teachers teach. To answer the above question on why teachers tilt toward "traditional" teaching, then, I also want to identify other factors that often go unmentioned by those eager to improve the teaching of history in K-12 schools.
Consider that cultural beliefs about the function of public schools to socialize children and youth into the dominant civic and social values (e.g., honesty, respect for others' values, cooperating) are anchored in age-graded school structures. They become a powerful organizational mechanism for carrying out societal expectations (i.e., kindergarten prepares children for the first grade, a high school diploma is essential to going to college or getting a decent job). Teachers operating separately in their classrooms move 25 to 30-plus students through a 700-page history text, and give frequent tests to see whether students have learned the required knowledge and skills.
Abstract: Good jobs in the nation's twenty-first-century economy require advanced literacy skills such as categorizing, evaluating, and drawing conclusions from written texts. The adoption of the Common Core State Standards by nearly all the states, combined with tough literacy assessments that are now in the offing, will soon reveal that literacy skills of average students fall below international standards and that the gap in literacy skills between students from advantaged and disadvantaged families is huge. The authors offer a plan to help states develop and test programs that improve the quality of teaching, especially in high-poverty schools, and thereby both improve the literacy skills of average students and narrow the literacy gap.
U.S. schools are struggling to enable students, especially those from poor families, to attain the advanced literacy skills required by the twenty-first-century American economy. One approach to enhancing schools' efficacy in this area is improved educational standards. Standards are routine in American life. Sports have them; businesses have them; professions have them. Standards are useful in clarifying the knowledge, skills, and competencies that society expects from individuals and organizations. Society also needs a way to determine whether the standards have been met, usually through testing, certification, licensing, or inspection systems. And a respected body of experts must be responsible for maintaining the integrity of the standards.
In the winter of 2010, inspired by Elmore Leonard's 10 rules of writing published in The New York Times nearly a decade earlier, The Guardian reached out to some of today's most celebrated authors and asked them to each offer his or her commandments. After Zadie Smith's 10 rules of writing, here come 8 from the one and only Neil Gaiman:
Philip V. Streich '13, a Harvard student known for his exceptionally broad range of enthusiastic commitments, died in an accident Tuesday on his family's farm near Platteville, Wis., Leverett House administrators wrote in an email Sunday.
At times an enthusiastic entrepreneur, a scientific prodigy, a political activist, a record producer, and a grandiose party host, Streich carved himself a Gatsby-esque role among the Class of 2013 during its first year at Harvard. Friends said Sunday that he will be remembered not only for his impressive accolades but also for serving as a socially unifying force for his freshman class.
"He was happiest at the center of anything," said C. Tucker Pforzheimer '13-'14, one of Streich's freshman roommates.
At press time, information about the cause of Streich's death was not available.
There are two reasons why universities never "fail" in the sense that they cease to operate. First, of course, with governments paying part of the bill, the probability that revenue won't cover expenses, leading to bankruptcy, is remote. If a school can manage to cover even only, say, 75 percent of its costs through tuition fees and other sources of revenue, it is likely that government will cover the rest -- through operating and federal research grants; indirectly through federal student financial aid, which allows higher tuition fees; or through private donations and investment income enhanced by favorable tax status.
Universities don't fail for another reason, as well: We don't meaningfully define "success" or "failure" in higher education. Did Wesleyan University or Trinity College in Connecticut have a good year in 2011? Who knows? Did their students learn more than they did the year before, or develop better critical-thinking skills? Does the "value added" from an expensive education at those private schools exceed that at, say, the state-supported University of Connecticut, which is far less pricey?
It may well be that some schools are "failures" in a meaningful sense -- their seniors know no more than their freshmen; their graduates are underemployed or have low-paying jobs; and they provide less student satisfaction per dollar spent than at comparable institutions -- but we really don't know that.
Trachtenberg's students funded this triumph. When he became president, they paid $25,000 (in today's dollars) in tuition, room, and board to attend; by the time he retired, they paid $51,000. Trachtenberg made George Washington the most expensive school in the nation. The burst of cash powered his agenda, but the freshmen who borrowed to enroll--46 percent of the class--during his final year graduated with an average of $28,000 of debt.
Trachtenberg also set a trend that other colleges--first his private competitors, then universities across the country--felt compelled to follow. Today, George Washington is only the 21st most expensive school, and the average American student accumulates $24,300 of debt earning her diploma. Collectively, Americans hold more student-loan debt than credit-card debt, and graduates enter a world where more than half of them are jobless or underemployed.
A recession requires austerity, and Trachtenberg concedes that the charge-more/spend-more model cannot continue in today's economy. "I don't think the current model can go on," he says, pointing out that schools can't spend when their cash reserves run low.
But his misgivings go only so far. He still swears by the system he built, and he believes that the economy will improve to accommodate universities' ambitions before schools have to scale back in response to the slowdown. If he has any regrets about his presidency, it is that he wishes he had pushed his board harder to spend more. "I would have been bolder," Trachtenberg says. "I devoted too much time and energy worrying about a rainy day."
At 7.15 every morning, Professor Wen Shuming and eight Chinese colleagues share a breakfast prepared by two local maids, who have been taught how to cater to the tastes of alien educators.
The group then leave their shared home and head for the office: two tube-shaped rooms with bare walls and fluorescent lights in a one-storey building on a busy road, next to a cash machine, a sportswear store and a deserted private school.
They are employed by Soochow University, but this office isn't in Jiangsu province, nor even in China. It is on the outskirts of Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
Wen's life is about to get a lot busier. After years of preparation and lobbying, the university campus he has been setting up will open its doors to undergraduate students in a couple of weeks. Little has been made of the undertaking, but as well as being Laos' first foreign campus, it marks the first time a Chinese university (as opposed to the government-linked Confucius Institute) has opened a branch abroad.
The Public Employment Relations Board found Rocklin Unified School District retaliated against four nurses and ordered the district to reinstate them with two years of back pay, plus 7 percent interest.
In a ruling released today, Administrative Law Judge Robin Wesley found Rocklin school district violated the Educational Employment Relations Act by laying off nurses Jennifer Hammond, Genevieve Sherman, Susan Firchau and Jennifer Bradley.
"We've always been very unhappy with what happened and we feel vindicated," Hammond said today. "I'm ready and willing to take my job back."
The Rocklin Teachers Professional Association filed an unfair practice charge against the school district in 2010, alleging the four nurses were laid off in retaliation for asking their union for assistance regarding workload and safety issues.
On the window sill in Qian Yingyi's Beijing office, a framed photo of Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, sits next to one of Goldman Sachs's Lloyd Blankfein and another of Vikram Pandit of Citigroup. All three bankers are members of the advisory board for Tsinghua's school of economics and management where Prof Qian has been dean since 2006.
Few, if any, business schools anywhere in the world can rival Tsinghua in attracting these captains of business and Prof Qian is understandably proud as he talks through the list of board members. At the annual get-
together, Pepsi's Indra Nooyi shares the boardroom table with Coca Cola's Muhtar Kent; they rub shoulders with Axa's Henri de Castries, Victor Fung of the Li & Fung group, Renault-Nissan's Carlos Ghosn and Howard Stringer, chairman and former chief executive of Sony.
For these corporate superstars, the draw is a foothold in what is arguably China's most influential university and one that has the ear of government. Prof Qian was even approached personally by Zhu Rongji, China's former premier, to be the dean of Tsinghua's management school.
"If the premier asks you to come back [from the US] to be dean, how can you say no?" he asks.
Urban League President Kaleem Caire said the Urban League Scholars Academy shouldn't be viewed as a repackaged version of Madison Preparatory Academy.
"We believe in the strategies of Madison Prep, but we're trying to invoke change among our students in the schools," Caire said. "This gives us an opportunity to do that."
School Board President James Howard said a majority of the School Board supports the program, though questions have been raised about why board approval isn't required and why the proposal flew under the radar for months while the district developed a separate plan to raise student achievement.
"This is not a huge program, and it does not require any taxpayer funding," Howard said. "It's one thing if we were asking for taxpayer dollars. Then you would need to inform the public more so."
Matthews said a few proposals gave him "heartburn," such as one that would allow the district to dismiss someone who had been on medical leave for two years. A proposal converting workloads from four class periods and one study hall to 25 hours per week could also give the district latitude to shorten class periods and increase each teacher's number of classes, he said.Madison Teachers', Inc. Solidarity eNewsletter (PDF):
One change that Matthews said could be easily resolved is a proposal from both sides to make Unity health insurance available to employees. The district wants to be able to choose Physicians Plus, which it currently offers, or Unity, while MTI wants the district to offer both.
The union's proposal seeks to reverse some of the changes that were negotiated before Act 10 took effect in 2011. They include giving teachers control over their time during Monday early release and deleting a clause that allows the district to require up to 10 percent health insurance premium contributions.
Last Monday's Board of Education meeting brought a pleasant surprise. With nearly every chair and all standing room taken in the McDaniels' Auditorium by MTI members in red solidarity shirts or AFSCME members sporting their traditional green, those present erupted in applause when Board of Education member Ed Hughes announced that Board members (who arrived 40 minutes late because of the length of their prior meeting) had agreed to bargain with MTI and AFSCME over Contract terms for 2013-14.
Governor Walker's Act 10, which forbid public sector bargaining (except over limited wage increases) has been set aside by Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas who ruled that Act 10 violated the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech, freedom of association, and equal protection, in response to MTI's lawsuit.
Honoring a vote majority of 76% in Madison and 68% in Dane County, Mayor Soglin and County Executive Parisi have negotiated contracts through June 2015 with City and County employees.
Now the Madison Board of Education has seen the light. Negotiations in the District are to commence today. MTI members should stay in contact with their elected leaders and via MTI's webpage (www.madisonteachers.org) as regards the Contract ratification process.
Mathematics education in the United States is at a pivotal moment. At this time, forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core standards, a set of uniform benchmarks for math and reading. Thirty-two states and the district have been granted waivers from important parts of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. As part of the agreement in being granted a waiver, those states have agreed to implement Common Core. States have been led to believe that adoption of such standards will improve mathematics and English-language education in our public schools.
My fear (as well as that of many of my colleagues) is that implementation of the Common Core math standards may actually make things worse. The final math standards released in June, 2010 appear to some as if they are thorough and rigorous. Although they have the "look and feel" of math standards, their adoption in my opinion will not only continue the status quo in this country, but will be a mandate for reform math -- a method of teaching math that eschews memorization, favors group work and student-centered learning, puts the teacher in the role of "guide" rather than "teacher" and insists on students being able to explain the reasons why procedures and methods work for procedures and methods that they may not be able to perform.
In 2008, I met with Spokane Public Schools' superintendent, Nancy Stowell, to discuss the district's weak academic outcomes. Stowell was accommodating, but during our meeting, she consistently sidestepped any critique of the district's "reform math" curricula or its heavy dependence on constructivism (i.e. discovery learning). Her go-to answer for weak results was to wish for more "alternative" programs to keep students in school. She appeared to see no problems with the district's delivery of academic content.
I didn't know how to break through that with her. Over the next four years, I never figured it out. But one thing she said in 2008 stuck with me. While discussing the high number of families leaving the district, Stowell said, "Sometimes I think people don't want to know (why) because when you know ... you have to ... do something about it."
Truer words were never spoken. Nancy Stowell didn't appear to want to acknowledge the children's academic suffering. She kept telling the public that things were improving, even as her administration obstinately fought doing what was necessary to fix the problems. That was her failure. Good leaders accept the blame and pass the credit, but Stowell and her administrators had a habit of accepting the credit and passing the blame.
He thinks Milwaukee has advantages in shooting for success, including its size, the overall value system of the city, strong business and philanthropic support of education, and three streams of schools - public, charter and private (including many religious schools) - that each want to improve. He says he is more convinced than ever that the model being pursued by St. Marcus works and can be replicated.Related: Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee's St. Marcus Elementary School.
These are controversial beliefs - for one thing, anything involving voucher schools remains highly charged. Tyson says politicians should focus less on such disputes and more on how to offer quality through whatever schools offer it.
According to MIT professor Richard Larson, a pioneer in applying STEM capabilities to a wide variety of problems, one of the main reasons for this is a series of misconceptions about STEM and the careers that result from that sort of educational track -- misconceptions often perpetuated by STEM teachers themselves. Conversely, educators and professionals don't do a good enough job of explaining why STEM literacy is a critical skill, even for students who don't intend to become engineers or PHDs.
Larson recently made an excellent case for widespread literacy in STEM. He explained why it is as important to our 21st century information economy as basic reading-writing literacy has been to the industrial economy of the past two centuries. According to Larson, STEM literacy is a way of thinking and doing:
"A person has STEM literacy if she can understand the world around her in a logical way guided by the principals of scientific thought. A STEM-literate person can think for herself. She asks critical questions. She can form hypotheses and seek data to confirm or deny them. She sees the beauty and complexity in nature and seeks to understand. She sees the modern world that mankind has created and hopes to use her STEM-related skills and knowledge to improve it."
Yesterday the annual summary of SAT--formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test--scores came out, and the news was once again disheartening. Indeed, average reading scores hit a record low, and math remained stagnant. Writing scores also dipped, but that part of the test has only existed since 2006.
There are important provisos that go with drawing conclusions about the nation's education system using the SAT. Most notably, who takes it is largely self-selected, and growing numbers of people sitting for it--some of whom might not have bothered in the past--could lower scores without indicating the system is getting worse. That said, as the chart below shows, no likely amount of self-selection or changing test-takers can account for the overwhelming lack of correlation between spending and scores. Per-pupil outlays have taken off like a moonshot while scores have either sat on the runway, or even burrowed down a bit.
Here are some key highlights related to HR Design:
Concerns about salary equity are losing ground. Nearly 32% of HR Directors at public research universities said they are paying less attention to equity in faculty and staff salaries than they did five years ago, and just 17% are attending to those issues more often, despite the strong likelihood (given austerity practices) that inequities are growing.
Almost all HR Directors take a dim view of unions. Close to 90% of HR Directors at public research universities contend that unions inhibit their ability to re-deploy people and define job tasks, discourage pay for performance, and inappropriately protect poor performing employees. Less than 1/3 of such Directors acknowledge unions' demonstrable roles in securing better salaries and benefits and ensuring fair treatment of employees.
Few HR Directors seem able to ground their assessments in data. Just 28.6% of HR Directors at public research universities report that they have good data on employee performance, productivity, and satisfaction, and only 21.4% say they use such data in campus planning and policy decisions. (Sidenote: Oh. My. God.)
And yet somehow, HR Directors are able to attribute low morale among employees to recent budget cuts. 74% of those at public research institutions agree that budget cuts did major damage to staff rationale, and 20-30% say their offices are unfairly blamed for cuts to employee benefits and services and even layoffs. The frequency of these statements is twice as common at public research institutions as compared to elsewhere.
Those universities now offer classes through consortiums like Coursera, a tech company that's partnered with more than 30 of the top universities in the world to offer online classes from its course catalogue -- for free. Other companies offering online courses include Udacity and edX.
Earlier this year in Kazahkstan, 22-year-old computer science student Askhat Muzrabayev had a problem.
"The problem is our university is relatively small, it has about 2,000 students, and we didn't have [Artificial Intelligence] classes in the syllabus," Muzrabayev says.
So Muzrabayev went online to Coursera and enrolled in Stanford's Machine Learning class for free. He watched the lectures, did the quizzes, joined online discussions with students from around the world and then took the final exam. He passed, and when it was over he received a certificate that said he completed an online course at Stanford.
When the journalist Mickey Kaus reviewed cars, he would sometimes ask if they passed the "Saturday night test" -- meaning regardless of how well they drove, would he want to pick a date up in one? After watching Won't Back Down a few times in screenings this year, I found myself asking essentially the same question: my wife and I work in education, but I'm not sure the new Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, and Holly Hunter film clears the bar for date night. The predictable storyline feels more like a 1980s after-school special than a big screen movie. But what's actually on the screen for two hours isn't what makes Won't Back Down matter so much for education.
Despite its sugary Hallmark quality, Won't Back Down is a serious film about a grim reality -- parents and teachers stuck in a system that puts kids last. Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Fitzpatrick, a mom struggling to help her daughter while juggling all the other balls a single mom must keep in the air -- work, life, flickering hope of romance. Her daughter's dysfunctional school is a roadblock to a better future for her, and Fitzpatrick is determined to fix that. She enlists the help of a frustrated teacher (Viola Davis) to try to force the school board to improve the school under a district rule giving parents the ability to force action.
Anyone who has spent much time in classrooms has the sense that just a couple of disorderly kids can really disrupt learning for everyone. These kids distract the other students, and the teacher must allocate a disproportionate amount of attention to them to keep them on task.
Obvious though this point seems, there have been surprisingly few studies of just how high a cost disruptive kids exact on the learning of others.
Lori Skibbe and her colleagues have just published an interesting study on the subject.
Skibbe measured self-regulation in 445 1st graders, using the standard head-toes-knees-shoulders (HTKS) task. In this task, children must first follow the instructors direction ("Touch your toes. Now touch your shoulders.") In a second phase, they were instructed to do the opposite of what the instructor said--when told to touch their toes, they were to touch their head, for example. This is a well-known measure of self regulation in children this age (e.g., Ponitz et al., 2008).
Researchers also evaluated the growth over the first grade year in children's literacy skills, using two subtests from the Woodcock-Johnson: Passage Comprehension and Picture Vocabulary.
We would guess that children's growth in literacy would be related to their self-regulation skill (as measured by their HTKS score). What Skibbe et al showed is that the class average HTKS score also predicts how much an individual child will learn, even after you statistically account for that child's HTKS score. (Researchers also accounted for the school-wide percentage of kids qualifying for free or reduced lunch, as academic growth might covary with self-regulation as due to SES differences.)
The economic downturn has made it more difficult for lower-income people to obtain educational opportunities they need to improve their lot in life, University of Kansas researchers found.
Their studies looked at the instability caused by the Great Recession and the effect on the educational opportunities for children. The conclusions were that lower-income residents lacked the financial assets to weather the downturn and still have money for college.
"Assets do affect educational achievement in the long run," said William Elliott III, one of the authors of the reports. "The educational path is being weakened. That's one of the main aspects of the American dream: that you can achieve through education."