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January 31, 2013

Please consider not doing a PhD.

Livre d'Or:

You're in your final year of university. You're doing really well, you're getting stunningly good marks and lots of praise from your tutors. You've probably never been so happy in your life, you're using your incredible brain to think about really interesting, really hard problems. And you're starting to be aware of the frontiers of knowledge in your field, the stuff that isn't in textbooks yet, the stuff that people are right now actively trying to find out. Perhaps you did a summer project or a long finals project where you got a taste of actually doing some original research yourself, and it was mindblowingly awesome.

What could possibly be better than spending the rest of your life doing this kind of thing, and hopefully even getting paid for it? Probably everybody around you is encouraging you to go for a PhD, because after all that's what brilliant students do. And universities look good when their best students go on to PhDs after graduating. The academics you most look up to are telling you that you, yes, you, could be like them one day. If you're at an elite university, you're perhaps experiencing the negative side to this, whispers and gossips and subliminal messages that anything other than a PhD is, well, y'know, a bit second-rate really.

Look, I am in fact a career academic. I know exactly what's attractive about it, I've made considerable financial and personal sacrifices to get myself to a position where I can work in a university environment and spend my time doing groundbreaking research. And yet. The gateway into this life is a PhD, and the PhD system is deeply, deeply fucked up when it isn't actively abusive. Doing a PhD will break you. It's pretty much designed to break you. Yes, even you, you who are brilliant (that almost goes without saying; it's because you're brilliant that you're contemplating doing a PhD in the first place). You who are resilient and have survived several kinds of shit that life has thrown at you just to get to the point where you're about to graduate with a brilliant degree. You who have the unconditional support of your family and friends and partners. If you have every admirable personal quality you can think of, if you have every advantage in life, still, getting through a PhD will grind you down, will come terrifyingly close to killing your soul and might well succeed. It will do horrible things to your mental and physical health and test to breaking point every significant relationship in your life.

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

The Danger of iPads in School

Matt Hall:

We're touring some schools for kindergarten in the fall, and I'm starting to see a trend. So far every school - every one - touted their expanding use and purchase of iPads. They downplayed their existing computers (usually iMacs or older Apple laptops) and assured the assembled parents they were getting "lots more" iPads. iPads have some really attractive features to schools - low maintenance, portability, touch screens, and so on. But they have one major downside: they're not directly programmable. This means the first experience kids are going to have with computers is with something that feels more like a game console than a real computer. They can't simply download something like Scratch (or other "real" programming languages) and make something themselves. There are a couple semi-exceptions to this on the iPad like Codify, but more or less you only get to run what Apple lets you.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

How University of Virgina cheats great students

Jay Matthews:

Last spring, Washington area students took more than 750 unnecessary Advanced Placement exams. At least 2,250 hours of effort and $67,000 in test fees were wasted because department heads in many of our finest colleges and universities haven't a clue about what is happening in high schools like ours.

The students who took the unnecessary AP exams were enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program, a system of college-level courses and tests similar to AP, although better at teaching writing. In a sensible world, good scores on IB exams would be enough to earn college credit, as good scores on AP exams do. But most colleges and universities don't give credit for successful completion of some IB courses and tests.

The Washington area students who took a one-year IB course and did well on the IB final exam also had to take the one-year AP course exam in that subject, even though they did not take the AP course. Otherwise, they would not get college credit. Students who do well on IB exams usually do well on AP exams because the IB and AP courses are similar in content and rigor, a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute confirmed. Some colleges will bump IB students to the next-level course but give them no credit unless they take the AP test.

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

Rocketship charter schools revamping signature 'Learning Lab'

Valerie Strauss:

The Rocketship network of charter schools has made a name for itself in the world of school choice -- and attracted $2 million from the Obama administration to help it grow -- with its "blended learning" model that incorporates traditional classroom settings with a computer "Learning Lab" for students.

The idea behind the lab was that students could learn basic lessons in math and reading while teachers could work with students on more complicated material. Part of the attraction, too, was that the computers would cost less than hiring more teachers. Well, it turns out that the vaunted "Learning Lab" isn't working so well. In fact, it has turned out to be so much less than expected that Rocketship is revamping it.

Here's what my colleague Lyndsey Layton wrote about the Learning Lab in this 2012 story about Rocketship and its co-founder and chief executive officer, John Danner:

In each Rocketship school, children file into a "Learning Lab" every day, where they sit at computer carrels that line the perimeter of the room.

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

On Japan's school lunch menu: A healthy meal, made from scratch

Chico Harlan:

In Japan, school lunch means a regular meal, not one that harms your health. The food is grown locally and almost never frozen. There's no mystery in front of the meat. From time to time, parents even call up with an unusual question: Can they get the recipes?

"Parents hear their kids talking about what they had for lunch," said Tatsuji Shino, the principal at Umejima Elementary School in Tokyo, "and kids ask them to re-create the meals at home."

Japan takes seriously both its food and its health and, as a result, its school lunches are a point of national pride -- not a source of dismay. As other countries, including the United States, struggle to design school meals that are healthy, tasty and affordable, Japan has all but solved the puzzle, using a system that officials here describe as utterly common sense.

In the United States, where obesity rates have tripled over the past three decades, new legislation championed by Michelle Obama has pushed schools to debut menus with controversial calorie restrictions. But even the healthiest choices are generally provided by large agri-food companies, cooked off site, frozen and then reheated, and forced to compete in cafeterias with all things fried, salty and sweet.

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

January 30, 2013

Doing the Math to Find the Good Jobs

Sarah Needleman:

Nineteen years ago, Jennifer Courter set out on a career path that has since provided her with a steady stream of lucrative, low-stress jobs. Now, her occupation -- mathematician -- has landed at the top spot on a new study ranking the best and worst jobs in the U.S.

"It's a lot more than just some boring subject that everybody has to take in school," says Ms. Courter, a research mathematician at mental images Inc., a maker of 3D-visualization software in San Francisco. "It's the science of problem-solving."

The study, released Tuesday from, a new job site, evaluates 200 professions to determine the best and worst according to five criteria inherent to every job: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. ( is published by Adicio Inc., in which Wall Street Journal owner News Corp. holds a minority stake.)


Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Why You Truly Never Leave High School

Jennifer Senior:

Robert Faris puts an even finer point on this idea. "If you put adults in a similar situation"--meaning airlifted into a giant building full of strangers with few common bonds--"you'd find similar behaviors." Like reality television, for instance, in which people literally divide into tribes, form alliances, and vote one another off the island. "And I think you see it in nursing homes," says Faris. "In small villages. And sometimes in book clubs." And then I realized, having covered politics for many years: Congress, too. "It's not adolescence that's the problem," insists Faris. "It's the giant box of strangers."

As adults, we spend a lot of time in boxes of strangers. "I have always referred to life as 'perpetual high school,' " Paul Feig wrote me in our first e-mail exchange, later adding, when we spoke, that his wife's first order when she landed her Hollywood dream job was to go fire her predecessor. Brown tells me she frequently hears similar things from men in finance--as a reward for outstanding quarterly earnings, they get to pick their new office, which means displacing someone else. (The corresponding shame led one to consider quitting: "I didn't sign up to terrorize people," he tells her in her latest book, Daring Greatly.) Today, we also live in an age when our reputation is at the mercy of people we barely know, just as it was back in high school, for the simple reason that we lead much more public, interconnected lives. The prospect of sudden humiliation once again trails us, now in the form of unflattering photographs of ourselves or unwanted gossip, virally reproduced. The whole world has become a box of interacting strangers.

Maybe, perversely, we should be grateful that high school prepares us for this life. The isolation, the shame, the aggression from those years--all of it readies us to cope. But one also has to wonder whether high school is to blame; whether the worst of adult America looks like high school because it's populated by people who went to high school in America. We're recapitulating the ugly folkways of this institution, and reacting with the same reflexes, because that's where we were trapped, and shaped, and misshaped, during some of our most vulnerable years.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Reshaping California Higher Education

Jennifer Medina:

LOS ANGELES -- During a 1960s renaissance, California's public university system came to be seen as a model for the rest of the country and an economic engine for the state. Seven new campuses opened, statewide enrollment doubled, and state spending on higher education more than doubled. The man widely credited with the ascendance was Gov. Edmund G. Brown, known as Pat.

Decades of state budget cuts have chipped away at California's community colleges, California State University and the University of California, once the state's brightest beacons of pride. But now Pat Brown's son, Gov. Jerry Brown, seems determined to restore some of the luster to the institution that remains a key part of his father's legacy.

Last year, he told voters that a tax increase was the only way to avoid more years of drastic cuts. Now, with the tax increase approved and universities anticipating more money from the state for the first time in years, the second Governor Brown is a man eager to take an active role in shaping the University of California and California State University systems.

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

Saving the city's young men, one boy at a time

James Causey:

The task was simple: Bring 25 at-risk black boys together, put them in a classroom, ask them questions about their lives and then have them write down their "true fears."

Easy, right? Wrong.

None of the students mentioned money, even though 83% of the students at Westside Academy II, 1940 N. 36th St., receive free or reduced-priced lunch, a proxy for poverty.

Instead, these fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders listed the basics, the things we take for granted: having a relationship with their father, having someone help them with their homework and not having the awful sounds of gunfire break the silence of their dark nights.

As community activists and spoken word poets Kwabena Antoine Nixon and Muhibb Dyer began to gain the trust of the youths, the conversation went even deeper.

The boys were sitting in a circle as Nixon and Dyer explained how senseless violence and incredibly high rates of incarceration were making the black males an endangered species.

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

UW prof says we owe students of color equal faith in their potential

Pat Schneider:

It is not an "achievement gap," says Gloria Ladson-Billings. The disparity in test scores and graduation rates between students of color and white students that is frustrating school officials, parents and communities across the country is an "education debt," says professor Ladson-Billings of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education.

The failure of U.S. school systems to adequately teach African-American students has historical, economic and sociopolitical underpinnings, she says. And it has a moral dimension as well. "We should be putting a lot of energy into ensuring, as the Bible says, we care for those who are the least. That's our barometer of who we are as a nation."

A former classroom teacher in her native Philadelphia, Ladson-Billings was later recruited to the UW by former Chancellor Donna Shalala, who reasoned that you have to diversify the faculty before you diversify the students.

More than two decades later, Ladson-Billings is an assistant chancellor and professor in what she says is the highest-ranked department of curriculum and instruction in the world, and there still are not enough teachers of color in collegiate training or in the classroom.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:23 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Teaching the Common Core: Debate Continues

Alice Mercer:

Fellow Sacramento teacher (and friend), Larry Ferlazzo, asked me to help him out by contributing to an article at EdWeek on "implementing Common Core". Little did I know the minefield I was stepping into. The article has morphed into a fight between the "agnostics" (Common Core skeptics like myself and Larry), and the atheists (folks who view Common Core with the same suspicion and loathing that Richard Dawkins has for Creation "Science").

Here is the original article on EdWeek. You'll really need to go down to the comments to see the fireworks. Then David Cohen chimed in and the discussion continued here. Two commenters in particular are leading the charge on this, P.L. Thomas, and Stephen Krashen, who argue with the point that Common Core implementation is "inevitable". Their argument boils down to "only if you agree that it is".

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

January 29, 2013

Urban League leader blasts hand-wringing about city's image

Paul Fanlund:

During 2011, Kaleem Caire became a household name in local public affairs by leading a passionate but ultimately unsuccessful fight to create the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.

When I mentioned it in an interview at his Park Street office last week, Caire, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, instantly recited the date of the Madison School Board's 5-2 rejection (Dec. 19, 2011).

Madison Prep was to be an academically rigorous school of mostly minority students who would dress in uniforms and be divided by gender. The school day would be longer and parental involvement required. Teachers would also serve as mentors, role models and coaches. The goal was to lessen the city's achievement gap between white and minority students.

But the board voted no, citing unanswered questions and worries about costs. Also in play were teacher union trepidations and widespread skepticism about the charter school concept, a favorite of conservatives, in liberal Madison.

Related: Achievement gap exists for both longtime, new Madison students.

Madison School district must solve problems no matter where they originate.

When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed...and not before (November, 2005).

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: "We are not interested in the development of new charter schools".

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:18 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Strife and Progress: Portfolio Strategies For Managing Urban Schools

Paul Hill, Christine Campbell, Betheny Gross, via a kind Deb Britt email:

This new book from Paul Hill and colleagues Christine Campbell and Betheny Gross explains the underlying idea of the portfolio strategy. Based on findings from studies of portfolio school districts, the book shows how mayors and other city leaders have introduced the strategy, compares different cities' implementation, tells about the civic coalitions that come together to support it, and analyzes the intense and colorful conflicts it can set off. The book also offers a clear, concise explanation of the main components of the strategy and how they work together under a model of continuous improvement to create a unified strategy.

One core theme is that entrenched interests are sure to fight any reform initiative that is strong enough to make a difference in big city education. The authors explain how the fact that no adult group's interests perfectly match those of children makes conflict inevitable and often productive.

The book also takes stock of results to date, which are mixed, though generally positive in the cities that have pursued the strategy most aggressively. However, Hill, Campbell, and Gross make clear that early reform leaders like Joel Klein in New York and Paul Pastorek in Louisiana have been too optimistic, assuming that the results would be so obviously good that careful assessment was unnecessary. The authors show what kinds of proof are necessary for a portfolio strategy and how far short the available evidence falls.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:16 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Udacity strikes deal to bring low-cost online classes to California university

Amar Toor:

Udacity, a startup that provides online college courses, is set to announce a partnership with San Jose State University this week, in a move that could set the stage for broader, less expensive web classes across California. According to the New York Times, this marks the first time that college professors have collaborated with a massive open online course (MOOC) to create a full slate of for-credit classes, including instructional videos and web-based quizzes.

Under a pilot program set to kick off this month, Udacity will offer San Jose State students both remedial and college-level algebra courses, as well as an introductory class on statistics. For now, each class will be limited to 300 students, with half of the slots allocated to San Jose State students, and the other half to students from nearby community colleges and high schools. The financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, but students will have to pay only $150 for each three-unit course, well below the tuition fees for standard classes at San Jose State.

The deal was reportedly spearheaded by California Governor Jerry Brown, who has been urging schools to adopt online classes as a way to deal with the state's educational shortcomings. According to Ellen N. Junn, San Jose State provost and vice president of academic affairs, more than 50 percent of students entering the California State University System cannot meet basic requirements in math and English. The idea, then, is for Udacity to help facilitate this transition.

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

Bucknell's admission raises questions about how many colleges are reporting false data

Scott Jaschik:

This month, responding to four instances in which colleges admitted to having provided false information for its rankings, U.S. News & World Report published an FAQ on the issue. One of the questions: "Do you believe that there are other schools that have misreported data to U.S. News but have not come forward?" The magazine's answer: "We have no reason to believe that other schools have misreported data -- and we therefore have no reason to believe that the misreporting is widespread."

Less than three weeks later, another college -- Bucknell University -- came forward to admit that it had misreported SAT averages from 2006 through 2012, and ACT averages during some of those years.

The news from Bucknell left many admissions experts wondering whether there are larger lessons to be learned by colleges as report seems to follow report with regard to inaccurate information being submitted by colleges.

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

Overeducated and underemployed

Annalyn Kurtz:

Getting a college degree still helps your chances of getting a job, but not necessarily a good one.

Some Americans are becoming overeducated for the jobs that are available to them, as data shows more college educated workers are taking low-skill jobs that are clearly below their qualifications.

Take taxi drivers for example. About 15%, or more than than 1 in 7, had at least a bachelor's degree in 2010, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Compare that to 1970 when less than 1% of taxi drivers had college degrees. And the job description hasn't changed much, if at all, since then.

"A lot of people, particularly people with bachelor's degrees, are getting jobs, but not good jobs," said Richard Vedder, an economist at Ohio University.

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

Catholic schools gave me an education grounded in faith, freedom

Heather Bernard:

"You never really know what you have till it's gone." It is these words that have a profound resonance with my experience here as a Battle Creek Area Catholic School (BCACS) student.

I tried to think of a way to describe the BCACS experience, and no other description did it justice other than the one above.

We hear these 10 words time and time again, mostly by adults or advice givers for consolation or a bit of wisdom to an unexpected ending.

But, I can say these words are inspiration to every student that passes through the doors of St. Joseph Elementary, Middle School, and St. Philip High School. They are inspiration to remember how lucky we are to go to a Catholic school.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Portuguese teachers protest against education cuts


Thousands of Portuguese teachers marched through Lisbon on Saturday to protest against cuts in education imposed as part of the government's austerity program.

Teachers union Fenprof estimated 30,000 teachers marched through Lisbon city center, demanding the resignation of the education minister and protesting against pay cuts and what they called a deterioration in working conditions.

"I am here to protect the public school, and, above all, I am here to defend the future of our country and the future of my children who are still growing," teacher Anabela Mendes told Reuters.

The protest was the biggest so far this year. Relative patience with the terms of Portugal's 78 billion euro ($105 billion) bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund ran out in the middle of last year and protests and strikes have become more common.

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

January 28, 2013

Madison Memorial science bowl team headed to national championship

Matthew DeFour:

Not even two months old, Madison Memorial High School's new science bowl team is headed to Washington in April to represent the state in the National Science Bowl Championship.

The team of seniors Srikar Adibhatla, Sohil Shah, Thejas Wesley and William Xiang and sophomore Brian Luo won the state regional qualifier at the Milwaukee School of Engineering on Saturday.

Madison has sent a team to the national middle school National Science Bowl Championship for the past two years, but has never fielded a high school team since the fast-paced quiz competition began in 1991. No Wisconsin team has won the championship.

A second team from Memorial, with seniors David Ho, Kevin Cao and Trang Nguyen, junior Rutvi Shah and sophomore Newton Wolfe, placed third at the regional qualifier. Neither team had lost a match until they faced off against each other in the semifinals, Coach Sowmya Partha said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:13 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Yes, Higher Education And College Is Going To Get Disrupted By New Technology

Tim Worstall:

One of the most hidebound areas of the modern economy, and this applies in Europe just as much as the US, is higher education. Productivity has actually been falling in the sector in recent decades: there are now more employees per student graduated than there used to be. Good grief, they still use medieval technology like the lecture.

So there's been some hope that all the lovely things being done on this internet might be able to shock the sector out of its indolence. Online lectures being only a part of it: physical libraries are becoming less important and so on.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:18 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Will Your College Go Out of Business Before You Graduate?

Mark Cuban:

I've been getting a lot of questions from High School kids asking whether or not they should go to college. The answer is yes.

College is where you find out about yourself. It's where you learn how to learn. It's where you get exposure to new ideas. For those of us who are into business you learn the languages of business, accounting, finance, marketing and sales in college.

The question is not whether or not you should go to school, the question for the class of 2014 is what is your college plan and what is the likelihood that your college or university you attend will still be in business by the time you want to graduate.

Still in business ? Yep. When I look at the university and college systems around the country I see the newspaper industry.

The newspaper industry was once deemed indestructible. Then this thing called the internet came along and took away their classified business. The problem wasn't really that their classifieds disappeared. It was more that they had accumulated a ton of debt and had over invested in physical plant and assets that could not adapt to the new digital world.

When revenue fell the debt was still there, as were all the big buildings they had purchased, all those presses they had bought and the acquisitions they had made declined in value, but the debt accumulated to pay for them never went away.

They were stuck with no easy way out.

The exact same thing is happening to our 4 year schools. You can't go to a big state university and not see construction. Why ?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:37 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison School district must solve problems no matter where they originate

Chris Rickert:

Madison learned last week that it might not be able to blame its long-standing achievement gap on outsiders, as a school district analysis of testing data throws cold some water on a theory making the rounds of some of Madison's opinion brokers.

Suggested by a previous district report and championed by Mayor Paul Soglin, the theory is that minority students are doing worse academically than their white peers because many of them have transferred in from other (presumably worse) districts.

Had they spent their whole careers in the (presumably better) Madison schools, goes the theory, they would be doing better.

Unfortunately for theory proponents, when controlling for demographic factors such as race and income, district number crunchers didn't find much difference between the test scores of students who grew up in the district and the scores of those who didn't.

The analysis suggests the achievement gap is a much more frightening, wholly owned subsidiary of the district; in other words, not something Madisonians can mentally file under "out of our control."

The question now is: Are we ready to believe it?

Related: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed...and not before (November, 2005).

Achievement gap exists for both longtime, new Madison students.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Say What About the Flex Degree?

Sara Goldrick-Rab:

On June 19, the University of Wisconsin System announced an initiative called the Flex Degree which was described as competency-based online instruction. That day, I blogged about it, noting that while I certainly had some concerns, there were enough potential positive effects of the program to withhold full judgment either way.

Friends on both sides were surprised. Colleagues who know and respect the priority I place on access and affordability for all potential students thought I should have been more strongly supportive of the "innovative" initiative that has the promise to drive down costs. Others, of the liberal activist persuasion, noted Governor Scott Walker's involvement, and the strong likelihood of negative repercussions for faculty job security and the quality of education delivered. Still, I demurred, deciding to wait to hear more.

Unfortunately, information hasn't exactly been forthcoming. I keep up to speed, reading the papers and blogs, and talking with those "in the know" and yet, I still have no clear picture what this Flex Degree really is. Perhaps it's because where I spend most of my time, UW-Madison, isn't involved? Maybe faculty at Parkside and Milwaukee have a clearer picture of what's happening? Maybe this initiative doesn't involve us tenured faculty at all, leaving the process to the administrators? I've tried to check things out-- and am hoping this blog stirs discussion so I can learn more. All I've heard thus far is that the faculty at Parkside are seriously concerned about the effort, and had a disagreement about the program with their Chancellor, resulting in the displacement of their Provost.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:18 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin School District Budget Outlook

Matthew DeFour:

Educators across Wisconsin blame 20 years of state-imposed limits on how much revenue they can generate from state aid and property taxes for perennial program cuts and increasing class sizes. When former Gov. Tommy Thompson introduced the limits in 1993 to help keep a lid on property taxes, he also committed the state to covering two-thirds of the cost of K-12 education, but the state share has declined to about 62 percent.

"The revenue limit is the villain," said Jamie Benson, superintendent of the River Valley School District just west of Dane County, which recently approved $630,000 in cuts, including 13 layoffs that affect art, English, business, technical education and computer classes.

The layoffs were based on the state increasing funding $50 per student. An increase of $200 per student might spare three of those layoffs, Benson said. Portage's layoffs are based on no increase.

"You can't have a revenue cap increase per year that goes up at 2 percent or less when your expenses, whether it's lighting, gas, books, technology or staff, go up at a higher rate," Benson said.

Related: Madison School District's Final 2012-2013 Budget: $385,911,793. 2012-2013 enrollment is 27095 PK-12. 2012-2013 per student spending is $14,242.

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

MBA's salary-enhancing power slashed

Della Bradshaw & Laurent Ortmans:

The MBA degree, often seen as the quickest route to a fat salary, no longer delivers the purchasing power it once did.

Students on the top US MBA programmes in the mid-1990s saw their salaries triple in five years, but those who graduated from the same schools in 2008 and 2009 saw that increase halved, according to data collected for the FT's annual Global MBA rankings.

At the same time, MBA fees have risen by 7 per cent a year. MBA students who enrolled in 2012 paid 62 per cent more in fees - up 44 per cent in real terms - than those who began their programmes in 2005, even though the increases in post-MBA salaries remained in line with inflation.

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Global MBA Ranking 2013

The Financial Times.

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

Teach for America in Milwaukee for the long haul

Alan Borsuk:

Rodney Lynk grew up on the north side. He went to Frederick Douglass School and the Milwaukee School of Languages, both part of the Milwaukee Public Schools system. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in finance, but signed up for a two-year stint teaching in high-needs schools instead of going off into the business world.

That was almost four years ago and Lynk is still at it, working in education in his hometown. "It doesn't feel right to leave something when it's solvable," he says. "It's our duty to solve it."

Frankly, I've seen so many people with praiseworthy determination come and go. Probably more important, I've seen so many organizations, campaigns and reforms with such determination come and go.

But I'm betting that Lynk is going to be in it for the long haul when it comes to working on better education outcomes in Milwaukee.

"This is where my passion lies," he says. "When you get bit by the bug . . ."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:13 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

January 27, 2013

The Cartography Of High Expectations

Matthew Di Carlo:

In October of last year, the education advocacy group ConnCAN published a report called "The Roadmap to Closing the Gap" in Connecticut. This report says that the state must close its large achievement gaps by 2020 - that is, within eight years - and they use to data to argue that this goal is "both possible and achievable."

There is value in compiling data and disaggregating them by district and school. And ConnCAN, to its credit, doesn't use this analysis as a blatant vehicle to showcase its entire policy agenda, as advocacy organizations often do. But I am compelled to comment on this report, mostly as a springboard to a larger point about expectations.

However, first things first - a couple of very quick points about the analysis. There are 60-70 pages of district-by-district data in this report, all of it portrayed as a "roadmap" to closing Connecticut's achievement gap. But it doesn't measure gaps and won't close them.

ConnCAN simply calculates, for 30 individual towns/districts, how many individual students (per grade, per year) would be required to improve in order for these systems to achieve 80 percent at grade level on state tests and 90 percent graduation, as well as the annual percentage point increase needed to get to an average SAT score of 1550. The first two targets correspond roughly to the proficiency and graduation rates among white students, while the third is the "college ready" benchmark score for the SAT.

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What price a top state school? The best things in life may be free, but buying a house in the vicinity of the best things in life is expensive

Tim Harford:

How much do parents value a safe environment, green spaces and a good education for their children? Such things are priceless - except that, of course, they are not. The best things in life may be free, but buying a house in the vicinity of the best things in life is expensive.

Economic researchers use house prices like a movie jewel-thief uses an aerosol spray. The aerosol isn't important by itself, but it reveals the otherwise invisible laser beams that will trigger the alarm. The house prices aren't necessarily of much direct interest, but indirectly they reveal our willingness to pay for anything from a neighbourhood free of known sex offenders to the more familiar example of a popular school.

In principle this is easy. Compare the market price of two otherwise identical houses, one of which enjoys the amenity in question (a nice view, a quiet street, access to an excellent school) while the other does not. In practice, houses are rarely identical, and all sorts of valuable amenities from good schools to good neighbours to low crime are likely to be jumbled up together.

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The American Case Against a Black Middle Class

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I went on a Twitter rant yesterday because I'd finished Isabel Wilkerson's phenomenal The Warmth Of Other Suns. The book is a narrative history of the Great Migration through the eyes of actual migrants. Several points stick out for me.

1) The Great Migration was not an influx of illiterate, bedraggled, lazy have-nots. Wilkerson marshalls a wealth of social science data showing that the migrants were generally better educated than their Northern brethren, more likely to stay married, and more likely to stay employed. In fact, in some cases, black migrants were better educated than their Northern white neighbors.

2) In this sense, the migrants to Northern cities resembled immigrant classes to whom black people in these same cities are often unfavorably compared to. There's a quote in Wilkerson's book which I can't find where a supervisor basically says that blacks are the favored workers because they will work hard at the worst jobs for relatively little money. You would have thought the guy was talking about Hispanic farm-hands today.

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Robot Makers Spread Global Gospel of Automation

John Markoff:

The robot equipment industry has one word for the alarmist articles and television news programs that predict a robot is about to steal your job: Fiddlesticks!

Well, that wasn't actually the word used this week at the Automate 2013 trade show held here through Thursday, but the sentiment was the same. During a presentation on Monday, Henrik I. Christensen, the Kuka Chair of Robotics at Georgia Institute of Technology's College of Computing, sharply criticized a recent "60 Minutes" report on automation that was based on the work of the M.I.T. economists Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson.

The two economists in 2011 wrote "Race Against the Machine," a book that renewed the debate about the relationship between the pace of automation and job growth. They argue that the pace of automation is accelerating and that robotics is pushing into new areas of the work force like white-collar jobs that were previously believed to be beyond the scope of computers.

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Higher Higher Ed Needs to Think Differently as Students Focus on the Economy

Jeff Selingo

The results of the annual survey of college freshmen, released this week by researchers at UCLA, confirm that the fragile economy continues to weigh heavily on the minds of today's students. Since 2006, freshmen have listed getting a better job as the most important reason to go to college, and this year, 88 percent of them said so, an all time high.

Previously, first-year students had said that learning about things that interest them was the number one reason to go to college. Nearly 3 in 4 students now say that making more money is a very important reason to go to college.

It's no wonder that economic concerns now dominate the discussion about the value of college. List prices for colleges continue to rise as the incomes of Americans lag. The median net worth of American families hasn't been this low since 1992, so tuition is eating up a greater share of income, now nearly 38 percent of median income, up from 23 percent in 2001.

From the report (4MB PDF):
The past year saw intensified discussion about almost everything connected with higher edu- cation, but especially the increasing cost of attending college and the worth of a college degree, graduation rates, what the impact of the massive open online course (MOOC) will be, and various takes on "disruption." While many differing viewpoints are espoused, one certainty is that well-conducted and relevant educational research is necessary. The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) is a leading source of such information, and the past year saw a variety of research published using CIRP data, some of which we highlight below.

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My master's wasn't worth it: Be careful what you study. Going to grad school isn't always worth the time, effort and money.


I once looked at the MBA as the crème de la crème of business degrees, but now I realize I'm a dime a dozen.

I have an MBA in media management from Metropolitan College of New York and a master's in organizational leadership from Mercy College. I am in debt to the tune of $120,000, and for me, it just wasn't worth it.

After graduating, I applied for jobs in New York for at least a year. In interviews, I was either overqualified, or high risk.

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Stay Focused: New research on how to close the achievement gap

The Economist:

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. By Paul Tough. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 256 pages; $27. Random House; £12.99. Buy from,

THE young teenagers who graduated from a special South Bronx middle school in 1999 became nationally famous. All black and Hispanic and largely from low-income families, the students had been recruited four years earlier to participate in an experimental programme called KIPP (ie, the Knowledge Is Power Program), designed to close the achievement gap between privileged and poor students. The experience seemed to pay off: in a citywide test, these students earned the highest scores of any school in the Bronx, and the fifth-highest in all of New York City. Most won admission to top high schools, often with full scholarships. They all seemed destined for college, and for successful, precedent-bucking, demographic-defying lives.

But six years after their high-school graduation, only about a fifth of KIPP's first class had completed a four-year college degree. Most ended up dropping out, reaffirming America's growing class divide on college campuses. KIPP's founders were distraught, particularly because a college degree has never been more valuable, enabling Americans to earn some 80% more than people with only a high-school diploma. So how had KIPP failed to prepare these students for college? What did they do wrong?

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Not Getting What You Paid For

Scott Jaschik:

Stories abound of college graduates working at Starbucks, living at home and facing an uncertain economic future. And many of these stories have led to increased questioning of the value of a college degree.

But a report released today says that -- despite the current economic hardships faced by people at all levels of education -- the value of a college degree remains strong.

The unemployment rate for recent four-year college graduates is 6.8 percent, higher than the rate for all four-year graduates of 4.5 percent. But the 6.8 percent is much, much better than the 24 percent rate for recent high school graduates. These figures, and a series of others, appear in "The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm," from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.

As the name of the report suggests, the report does not claim that college graduates have been immune from the recession. The report's summary begins with this sentence: "When it rains hard enough and long enough, everyone gets a little wet."

But the report seeks to distinguish between reports of the real difficulties facing recent graduates and the idea that these hardships mean that their degrees lack genuine economic value.

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January 26, 2013

Who are You Bargaining For?


The question of the day is: WHY is the SPEA Negotiating Team dragging out negotiations for 2012-13 (Hello! We're beyond the midway point! Time to start working for 2013-14!!!)

The school board offered a very fair package which addresses what SPEA (and WEAC) have declare o be a primary mission: raising the starting wage for teachers. But that's not good enough. You see, in order to do that with the pot of money available, a significant portion must be earmarked for those teachers with 1-6 years of experience. That means that a small amount would be available to more tenured teachers, most n the form of a stipend (as opposed to a base salary builder).

It's called compromise, people! You are getting to do some serious good for starting teachers. But you're not willing to accept that because this plan calls for either a small token stipend (or perhaps nothing) for those teachers that already earn like...say...$86,000 in base salary. REALLY? Is THAT what unions are all about?

and, a related post Sun Prairie's budget.

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Common Core leading districts to adopt unproved math programs and failed approaches

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

Many of America's public schools have incorporated "student-centered learning" models into their math programs. An adoption committee in Spokane appears poised to recommend the adoption of yet another version of a "student-centered" program for Grades 3-8 mathematics.

It's critically important that American citizens know what that term means. Aspects of the Common Core State Standards initiatives are leading many districts to adopt new curricular materials that have "student-centered learning" as a centerpiece.

In Spokane Public Schools, student-centered learning (also known as "inquiry-based" learning or "discovery-based" learning or "standards-based" learning) has been the driver of curriculum adoptions for nearly 20 years. This approach has not produced graduates with strong skills in mathematics. Spokane now suffers from a dearth of math skills in most of its younger citizens.

Nor is Spokane alone with this problem. Student-centered learning has largely replaced direct instruction in the public-school classroom. It was pushed on the country beginning in the 1980s by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the federal government, colleges of education, and various corporations and foundations. Despite its abject failure to produce well-educated students, student-centered learning is coming back around, again pushed by the NCTM, colleges of education, the federal government and various corporations and foundations.

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My College Experiment: Building a drone with financial aid money: Unlike technology, the American educational system is ancient.

Jacob Thomas:

Sure, we have laptops in high schools and most college professors are finally embracing electronic forms of communication and instruction, but that doesn't cut it. The technological forces and service industries of this country are being innovated in leaps and bounds, yet the educational foundation that is being set for future generations is, in many ways, pathetic. Since the system itself doesn't innovate, how can it stress and pass on an innovative mindset to pupils? It can't!

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The culture of the copy: On the printing press, the Internet & the impact of duplication

James Panero:

We now live in the early part of an age for which the meaning of print culture is becoming as alien as the meaning of manuscript culture was to the eighteenth century. "We are the primitives of a new culture," said Boccioni the sculptor in 1911. Far from wishing to belittle the Gutenberg mechanical culture, it seems to me that we must now work very hard to retain its achieved values.
--Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy, 1962

Technological revolutions are far less obvious than political revolutions to the generations that live through them. This is true even as new tools, for better and worse, shift human history more than new regimes do. Innovations offer silent coups. We rarely appreciate the changes they bring until they are brought. Whether or not we become the primitives of a new culture, as the Futurist Umberto Boccioni observed, most of us still live behind the times and are content to do so. We expect the machines of the present to fulfill the needs of the past even as they deliver us into a future of unknowns.

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At What Age Will You Stop Using Facebook?

Conor Friedersdorf:

Adults are typically grateful that social media didn't exist when they were teenagers -- that their Facebook photos and status messages date to their college years at the earliest, not their first years of high school or middle school. Would you retroactively give your 13-year-old self the power to permanently put anything he or she wanted on the Web? I'd sooner incapacitate him with arcade-prize finger traps, the unexpectedly hazardous technology of my youth.

What I'd never pondered, until a friend questioned me about it last weekend, is when I'll stop using Facebook. Assuming it endures as a company, will there be an age at which most people abandon it? Right now, I'm a light user who mostly exploits the platform to share links to my articles.

Some people in my "stream" do the same. We'll all follow the crowd.

As I reflect on the way most of my friends from high school and college have used Facebook in the past and how they use it today, I'd say that their activity is more often than not tied to life changes. A new "relationship status." A new job. A move to a new city. A wedding proposal, followed by photographs from the bachelorette party, the wedding, and the honeymoon. A pregnancy, followed by photos of the baby, her first steps, her second birthday, her last day of school, and her spot on the bronze medal podium after placing third in a state college swim meet.

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January 25, 2013

Hugh Pope Interview

Hugh Pope SIS interviewIt was a privilege to talk with author and adventurer Hugh Pope [website, International Crisis Group, Twitter] recently regarding education. Pope has lived and worked in the "Middle East" for three decades. His books (all highly recommended) include: Dining with al-Qaeda: Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East, Sons of the Conquerors: the Rise of the Turkic World and Turkey Unveiled: a History of Modern Turkey.

Here's an excerpt:

In your education as you think about growing up, when did your light go off about critical thinking and observation as opposed to just accepting? Was it your education, was it your experience? Was it your parents? What was decisive?

Hugh: Well, I think that I never felt that I had a particular base group to relate and I was born South Africa and lived the first nine years of my life there and saw things from a, I suppose, a English speaking South African perspective. Then I, because of political reasons we had to move out of South Africa...and the apartheid regime had made things difficult for my father, so we moved to England and I was put in a completely different area and they took, it was very puzzling because I spoke English, I thought it was English but it turned out that actually there's more to English that's being English than just language. I don't think that I ever completely fit in, and so I always saw things as a bit of an outsider there. I think that when you are an outside you take a much more careful view of everything that's going on. You see things rather more distinctly than someone who's always been inside it, so perhaps that was the critical thing for me, moving at the age of nine. Not that I would particularly recommend it as a course of action, I don't think it's a very...It's quite traumatic. I think that's where it comes from if anything.

Jim: If we could turn on the time machine and take you back to 18 or 16, would you study the same thing? Would you pursue the same career? What would you do, Hugh?

Hugh: Well, I always remember at the Oriental institute, in my University, that we used to really pity the people that were studying Chinese and Turkish, because when we were 18 those two countries really seemed to be completely pointless. What were they ever going to contribute? Everyone clamored to learn Arabic and Persian because those were oil-rich countries that were clearly going to be much better for peoples' careers, and of course it turned out to be exactly the other way around. [laughs] I suppose it's a bit like those advertisements about investments, don't judge past performance as an indication of future profits. It's very difficult to choose what to do. I think I was very lucky in that I was one of the last generation of people educated for free in Britain.

It actually didn't matter what one chose, because there was no debt associated with it. Nowadays if you go into University I think you've got to be much more aware of, "Whether this is going to be a possible investment of time and money?" because that debt is going to hang over people, isn't it? If I was going today I think I would be a bit more commercially minded, in a sense that I would choose something that was not just of intellectual interest.

Still, I did love learning Persian, and I think that was a benefit in itself, I still think that the Persian poetry we were taught about made a deep impact on me. I wouldn't change that. There are many things about the Middle East that make one really frustrated but at the same time there is a liveliness and an instantaneous about the Middle East which you don't find in Europe.

The way that countries like Turkey and elsewhere change rapidly is much more exciting than a country in Europe where everything is planned many, many years ahead. People start thinking about their pensions in their 20's.

I found Pope's comments on languages interesting as well. I hope you enjoy the conversation and appreciate Hugh's time.

Read the transcript or listen to the mp3 audio file.

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There are now 23,795 Chinese students in U.S. private high schools, up from 4,503 in 2008

John Millman:

As growing numbers of Chinese students seek a college education in the U.S., many are turning to American high schools as a steppingstone. The resulting surge in Chinese enrollment has helped private high schools, and religious academies in particular, reap much-needed revenue.

There are now 23,795 Chinese students in U.S. private high schools, up from 4,503 in 2008, according to federal figures.

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Why Gloomy Pundits and Politicians Are Wrong About America's Education System

Derek Thompson:

Here's what everybody knows about education in the United States. It's broken. It's failing our poorest students and codding the richest. Americans are falling desperately behind the rest of the developed world.

But here's what a new study from the Economic Policy Institute tells us about America's education system: Every one of those common assumptions is simplistic, misguided, or downright wrong.

When you break down student performance by social class, a more complicated, yet more hopeful, picture emerges, highlighted by two pieces of good news. First, our most disadvantaged students have improved their math scores faster than most comparable countries. Second, our most advantaged students are world-class readers.

Why break down international test scores by social class? In just about every country, poor students do worse than rich students. America's yawning income inequality means our international test sample has a higher share of low-income students, and their scores depress our national average. An apples-to-apples comparison of Americans students to their international peers requires us to control for social class and compare the performances of kids from similarly advantaged and disadvantaged homes.

That's precisely what Martin Carnoy, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, and Richard Rothstein have done in their new paper, "What Do International Tests Really Show About U.S. Student Performance?" Carnoy and Rothstein dive into international standardized tests and compare U.S. performance, by social class, to three post-industrial countries (Germany, the UK, and France) and three top-scoring countries (Canada, Finland, and Korea).


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A Profusion of Words

John Simpson:

The early modern period was an era of great change for the English language. According to the OED's record, the number of words 'available' to speakers of English more than doubled between 1500 and 1650. Many of the new words were borrowed into English from the Latin or Greek of the Renaissance (for example, hypotenuse), or from the far-off countries visited by travellers and traders (e.g. pangolin), and must have seemed hard to understand to many of the population.

At the same time, there were significant demographic shifts in Britain towards an urbanized culture based in the big cities, such as London: the population of London increased eightfold over these years. In retrospect, one can argue the growing availability of books and other printed matter as the period developed--alongside the emergence of the grammar school as a focus for education (especially for boys)--meant that the scene was set for the emergence of the English dictionary.

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What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? Just Cause

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter, via a kind Jeannie Bettner email (PDF):

JUST CAUSE does not mean "just because". It sets standards and procedures which must be met before an employee can be disciplined or discharged. Fortunately, for those in MTI's bargaining units, all have protection under the JUST CAUSE STANDARDS. They were negotiated by MTI to protect union members.

There are seven just cause tests, and an employer must meet all seven in order to sustain the discipline or discharge of an employee. They are: notice; reasonableness of the rule; a thorough and fair investigation; proof; equal treatment; and whether the penalty reasonably meets the alleged offense by the employee.

MTI's various Contracts enable a review and binding decision by a neutral arbitrator as to whether the District's action is justified and the burden of proof is on the District.

These steps are steps every employer should have to follow. They are not, but MMSD must follow them because of MTI's Contracts. Governor Walker's Act 10 destroys these protections. MTI is working to preserve them.

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New Federal Ruling: Students with Disabilities Must be Enrolled in Local District to Access Services

Laura Waters:

Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, VA found that, according to the National Association of School Boards, "a disabled student unilaterally placed in a private school is not entitled to special education services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504)."

While the ruling hasn't received much notice (beyond this write-up in Education Week), it has significant implications for students throughout the country who are enrolled in religious schools but receive services because of a diagnosed disability. In this particular case, the child, D.L., attends a yeshiva in Baltimore and is diagnosed with A.D.H.D. His parents sought services from the local Baltimore school, where he is not enrolled.

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At-Home Dads Make Parenting More of a 'Guy' Thing

Sue Shellenbarger:

Mr. Mom is dead.

At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn't know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade. In his place, research shows, is emerging a new model of at-home fatherhood that puts a distinctly masculine stamp on child-rearing and home life.

At-home dads aren't trying to be perfect moms, says a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Instead, they take pride in letting their children take more risks on the playground, compared with their spouses. They tend to jettison daily routines in favor of spontaneous adventures with the kids. And many use technology or DIY skills to squeeze household budgets, or find shortcuts through projects and chores, says the study, based on interviews, observation of father-child outings and an analysis of thousands of pages of at-home dads' blogs and online commentary.

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College Degree, No Class Time Required: University of Wisconsin to Offer a Bachelor's to Students Who Take Online Competency Tests About What They Know

Caroline Porter:

David Lando plans to start working toward a diploma from the University of Wisconsin this fall, but he doesn't intend to set foot on campus or even take a single online course offered by the school's well-regarded faculty.

Instead, he will sit through hours of testing at his home computer in Milwaukee under a new program that promises to award a bachelor's degree based on knowledge--not just class time or credits.

"I have all kinds of credits all over God's green earth, but I'm using this to finish it all off," said the 41-year-old computer consultant, who has an associate degree in information technology but never finished his bachelor's in psychology.

Colleges and universities are rushing to offer free online classes known as "massive open online courses," or MOOCs. But so far, no one has figured out a way to stitch these classes together into a bachelor's degree.

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January 24, 2013

Flash Mob at Madison West High School

Katie Dean, via a kind reader's email:

Madison West teachers Holly Walker and Kelle Adams choreographed this teacher flash mob for students as a surprise before finals.

Enjoy this medley of Gangnam style moves with One Direction, the Spice Girls and more!

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A Dream Deferred: How access to STEM is denied to many students

Scientific American - DNLee

My interest in teaching and science outreach crystallized with NSF GK-12 Fellowship experiences in St. Louis. I was graduate student assigned as a Resource Scientist to a nearby public high school. I was responsible for co-designing lesson plans and delivering lessons for biology and environmental science classes. Science Fair project came around and there was big push to get all students involved. There was a very low participation rate, but since I was the classroom scientist, I was responsible to helping students develop science fair projects and getting them ready for the competition.

Some of the students came up with some really amazing ideas. Not only because they developed some great questions and hypotheses, but because the questions were personally relevant to them. Do cheaper brakes stop as quickly as more expensive breaks? Will cheaper brakes wear faster than more expensive ones? Are One-touch Diabetes testers as effective as traditional blood sugar testing devices that require more blood? The first two questions were posed by one of my boys - who declared his hatred of science daily, but he loved cars. The third question was posed by one of my girls who had diabetes and had to test her 'sugar' many times a day. Her grandmother had diabetes, too. She wanted to enlist her granny in her project.

However, like most of the other projects proposed by my students, these projects never happened. And what was more heart-breaking was that these kids interests in science (and the science fair) was dashed and never to be rekindled again. For kids like my students - inner-city kids from poor families (whether working-class or on welfare), average or below-average academic performance, some with behavior problems - interests in STEM dies by 10th grade and one of three things kill the promise of opportunity.

  1. Lack of resources
  2. Benign discouragement by well-meaning adults
  3. Active exclusion by powerful gatekeepers
I witnessed all three during my time at Normandy Senior High School and the University of Missouri-St. Louis MO-STEP.
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Teachers' test boycott draws growing support

Linda Shaw:

Eleven years ago, Rachel Eells saw value in the tests that she and other teachers at Seattle's Garfield High School are now refusing to give their students.

Back then, she was a new middle-school teacher in the Highline School District, and the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) helped her identify the strengths and weaknesses of her students in reading.

But Eells grew disenchanted with the MAP, saying it was, at best, a rough diagnostic tool that often left her with more questions than answers, especially with her older students. She couldn't tell why, for example, a student would do well on literary terms one time, then poorly the next.

So when a Garfield colleague asked Eells last month whether she would consider boycotting the MAP, she said yes so quickly the colleague paused, a little taken aback.

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An Open Letter to the People of Purdue:

Mitch Daniels:

Words on paper cannot adequately convey the sense of honor and gratitude with which I joined your ranks this week. I accepted Purdue's presidency last June with a sense of profound respect for all that this historic institution represents, but the intervening half year has only served to deepen that conviction.

I have tried to use the time afforded by the first-semester interim to learn all I could from and about you. I have made spare-time and weekend "field trips" to the campus, totaling some seventeen days. These trips have featured briefings on all the major functions of the school and tours of many major facilities.
Daniels Speaking

I have spoken to a host of experts across the spectrum of higher education, including more than a dozen current and past university presidents. I have visited campuses including Harvard, Yale, and Chicago, and attended seminars on topics such as the impact of technology and the restructuring of student assistance. And I have read as much as I could manage of the gusher of books, articles, and interviews which are everywhere these days, predicting major change or even upheaval in American higher education.

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Is University Necessary?

James Paul Halloway & David Fontenot:

University is necessary. It is necessary as an institution because of the value that it brings to students, and through them to society. The education it provides is necessary for young people because of the discipline and structure that a university provides for intellectual development. This provides the strong foundation on which their future contributions to society are built.

Some of my readers are already chewing on what they imagine my arguments will be, searching for a single counter example. These are easy to find: Bill Gates. But of course Gates did go to college; he simply did not graduate. Michael Dell. Oops, same story. Andrew Carnegie! Never went to college at all. Success! University is not necessary! (And if you accept this argument, then university is exactly right for you.)

Of course Andrew Carnegie did endow a college, which is now a rather good place called Carnegie Mellon University. If university is not necessary, why did he do such a thing? Because Carnegie recognized the importance of education, as do Gates, and Dell. All three have supported higher education broadly, with significant sums. It is not useful to draw conclusions about the value of higher education from successful entrepreneurs like these. Carnegie was a singularity, as are Gates and Dell. They are not like everybody else: they were lucky, especially in their timing, they were wicked smart, they were hugely ambitious and driven, and they were not typical.

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Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching Force

Richard Ingersoll and Lisa Merrill (PDF):

Has the elementary and secondary teaching force changed in recent years? And, if so, how? Have the types and kinds of individuals going into teaching changed? Have the demographic characteristics of those working in classrooms altered? To answer these questions we embarked on an exploratory research project to try to discover what trends and changes have, or have not, occurred in the teaching force over the past few decades. We were surprised by what we found. We discovered that the teaching force has been, and is, greatly changing; yet, even the most dramatic trends appear to have been little noticed by researchers, policy makers, and the public.

To explore these questions, we used the largest and most comprehensive source of data on teachers available--the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and its supplement, the Teacher Follow-Up Survey (TFS). These data are collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Education. NCES has administered six cycles of SASS over a 20-year period--1987-88, 1990-91, 1993-94, 1999-2000,
2003-04 and 2007-08 (for information on SASS, see NCES, 2005). In each cycle, NCES administers questionnaires to a nationally representative sample of about 50,000 teachers, 11,000 school-level administrators and 5,000 district-level officials, collecting an unusually rich array of information on teachers, their students, and their schools. We decided to take advantage of both the depth and duration of these data to explore what changes have taken place in the teaching force and teaching occupation over the two decades from 1987 to 2008. Below, we summarize seven of the most prominent trends and changes; we found the teaching force to be:

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How Does Your Missouri School District Stack Up?

Children's Education Alliance:

Last month, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released a working draft of the new Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) 5 Annual Performance Report (APR) for school districts. MSIP is the system used by DESE to classify the performance of school districts.

MSIP 5 is slated to go into effect later this year. Once the new system is in place, districts will be classified based on the percentage of points they score on a 140-point system, instead of the number of points they score on a 14-point system.

School districts that earn 90% and above of the points on the MSIP 5 scale will be "Accredited with Distinction"

School districts that earn 70%-89.9% will be "Accredited"

School districts that earn 50% to 69.9% will be "Provisionally Accredited"

School districts that earn 0%-49.9% will be "Unaccredited"

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Making UK academies work

Chris Cook:

On the Today programme last week, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, announced that Ofsted, the inspectorate, will start trying to piece together which local authorities are good at driving school improvement and which are weak.

This plan, intended to focus fire on local government, could end up drawing attention to the Department for Education. This is because Sir Michael will hold the local authorities to account for all local schools - including academies, independent state charter schools.

On the radio, he was up against David Simmonds, a Tory councilor from Hillingdon representing the Local Government Association, who pointed out that there is a particular problem with academies. He noted that academies, which now constitute half of all secondaries, answer directly to civil servants in the DfE - not to their local authority.

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District analysis finds Madison 4K may help close achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Results from a fall kindergarten test that gauges school readiness show Madison's 4-year-old kindergarten program may help raise achievement levels of minority students, according to a new district analysis.

The analysis found attending 4K in Madison reduced a student's chance of being deemed unprepared for school by 5.5 percent and increased scores on the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) test by 2.7 points (an average score is 59).

The data also show black, Asian and multiracial 5-year-olds who attended Madison's 4K program scored higher on the test than those who didn't. Hispanic students who attended Madison's 4K program scored lower and white students scored about the same.

The results are only a first look at 4K effectiveness and future test results from the same group of students may show different outcomes, the analysis notes. But "these early results are encouraging and suggest that 4K in Madison has made an immediate and observable impact on kindergarten student literacy."

Students who attended 4K last year were more likely to be minority, low-income and from families with lower education levels than those didn't, the analysis found.

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Chief Keef is teaching our kids all too well

James Causey:

Over the age of 25? Then the name, Chief Keef, doesn't ring a bell, does it? But this Chicago-based rapper, who glorifies violence, speaks for many young hip-hop heads in urban neighborhoods.

And we're losing a street battle him and others, the street rappers, the drug dealers and the family members who don't have the best interests of our kids at heart.

Urban neighborhoods, in fact, are losing a generation of young men to senseless violence and incarceration.

When I hear rappers such as Keef glorifying all that with their filthy lyrics - and offering no solutions - it's apparent to me that they are part of the problem.

When kids can recite word-for-word the lyrics from Keef's hit "Don't Like" - words I won't subject you to - but then struggle to read, then we have a serious problem.

Keef is only 17, and he made news last week when he was sentenced for violating probation on a gun charge. The violation was not the news; it was how he reacted when a Chicago judge sentenced him to 60 days in juvenile detention.

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January 23, 2013

Early exams deter foreign-language learners, say teachers

Dennis Chong:

Pupils who study a foreign language at secondary schools must take the university entrance exam for the subject months before the tests in mainstream subjects are held, leading to a potentially high drop-out rate, teachers say.

The exam authority offers its own Chinese and English tests but exams for other language subjects must be outsourced to overseas providers, and that complicates the scheduling.

The teachers say an emphasis on foreign-language training, which the recent academic reforms stress as important, will amount to a waste of public resources if the situation is not fixed.

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The maths of GCSE reform in England

Chris Cook:

Last week, the TES, the leading UK teachers' magazine, ran a number of fascinating pieces on the "EBC", the proposed successor to the GCSE - the exam taken by English children at the age of 16. The basic point is that the Department for Education has come up with a plan for a new qualification that is causing grave concern within Ofqual, as has been made public, as well as among school leaders, inspectors and its own civil servants.

When the plan to reform GCSEs was originally leaked to the Daily Mail, it contained the claim that the new GCSE would only be for the brightest three-quarters of children. I wrote at the time that this would be problematic. The Lib Dems insist this aspect of the plan has gone. Some rightwingers appear to hold the opposite impression.

For their part, DfE officials are working under the assumption that children will need to know more to reach the lowest passing grade on the new qualification. But they also assume children will respond to the exam changes by learning more, so no more children will fail. This is, it is fair to say, an assumption resting on a rather thin evidence base.

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I Don't Want My Preschooler to Be a 'Gentleman'

Lynn Messina:

My 4-year-old son, Emmett, swallows a spoonful of cereal and asks me if I know what a gentleman is. Surprised, I tell him I have some idea; then I ask what the word means to him.

"A gentleman lets girls go first," he says, explaining that every day at naptime all the girls go to the bathroom before the boys.

His explanation, along with the quiet solemnity with which he delivers it, is completely endearing and yet it makes my heart ache. This adorable little boy, who is only beginning to learn the ways of the world, just got his first lesson in sexism -- and from a teacher who, I don't doubt, believes she's doing something wonderful for womankind.

She isn't the only one.

Start to complain about your preschooler adopting gentlemanly behavior and you quickly discover how out of step you are with the rest of the world. Almost everyone I mention it to thinks it's lovely and sweet. What's the harm in teaching little boys to respect little girls?

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Health Law Pinches Colleges: Reducing Adjunct Teaching

Mark Peters & Douglas Belkin:

The federal health-care overhaul is prompting some colleges and universities to cut the hours of adjunct professors, renewing a debate about the pay and benefits of these freelance instructors who handle a significant share of teaching at U.S. higher-education institutions.

The Affordable Care Act requires large employers to offer a minimum level of health insurance to employees who work 30 hours a week or more starting in 2014, or face a penalty. The mandate is a particular challenge for colleges and universities, which increasingly rely on adjuncts to help keep costs down as states have scaled back funding for higher education.

A handful of schools, including Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania and Youngstown State University in Ohio, have curbed the number of classes that adjuncts can teach in the current spring semester to limit the schools' exposure to the health-insurance requirement. Others are assessing whether to do so, or to begin offering health care to some adjuncts.

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Act 10 will hurt state, education in long run

Retired High School Teacher Rose Locander:

The public schools in Wisconsin are some of the best in the country. Over the years, businesses have moved into this state knowing their employees will be able to feel confident sending their children to the local public schools.

What will happen as the years go by and the public schools in this state lose their ability to meet the expectations of excellence in education? Exactly what will attract businesses to this state when the public schools are no longer quality schools? Are we going to woo companies with the promise of our wonderful weather?

Too many of us have taken our public schools for granted. From early childhood through high school, we have become used to well-trained, dedicated teachers, quality educational programs, identification and early intervention of learning issues and a host of other resources found only in the public schools. We expect this of our public schools, but with Act 10, these opportunities that were of great value to all of our children will continue to disappear.


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Lowell Elementary students embrace quilting

Pamela Cotant:

The plan is for six new quilts sewn by students to hang in Lowell Elementary School by the end of the school year.

The second and third graders are nearly finished with the first installment of four quilts that depict the seasons and will hang side-by-side.

"I've been surprised and amazed by how much the kids have gotten into it and how much they've enjoyed it," said Zoe Rickenbach, a Lowell parent and quilt artist who has been instrumental in the project. "I just didn't expect it to be so wonderful."

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January 22, 2013

Achievement gap exists for both longtime, new Madison students

Matthew DeFour:

The data showed the same result overall, but found new students are disproportionately low-income or minorities. Comparing students in similar racial and income groups, the district found time spent in the district did not explain the difference in test results.

The new district analysis challenges Mayor Paul Soglin's focus in recent months on students moving to Madison from larger cities such as Milwaukee and Chicago. Soglin has called for alternative programs specifically geared toward new students to help improve low-income and minority student achievement.

"The practical fact is that mobility and newness are things we take into consideration, but when we plan how we're going to address learning needs, they're not the most important factors," Superintendent Jane Belmore said.

I'm glad Mr. DeFour continues to look into this important issue.

Related links:

"When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous". An Update on Madison's Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: "We are not interested in the development of new charter schools".

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Building motivation, instilling grit: The necessity of mastery-based, digital learning

Michael Horn:

The potential of a competency-based (or mastery-based) education system powered by digital learning to customize for each individual student's needs and bolster learning excites many. A question some ask though is: What about the unmotivated students? Won't they be left behind?

Furthermore, in light of the recent publicity around the research on the importance of grit--defined as "sticking with things over the very long term until you master them"--to life success, some further suggest that although competency-based learning and blended learning are nice, unless we solve the problem of instilling grit or perseverance in all students, isn't it true that those next-generation learning things won't matter?

These questioners raise good questions. As we discussed in the Introduction to Disrupting Class, the fact that our education system does not intrinsically motivate a large percentage of students is a root cause of the country's education struggles. Solving this is imperative to improving the nation's schools.

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Pupils polled on three top changes for happier school life

KC Ng:

More school outings, more encouragement from teachers and less homework would make pupils happier, a survey by members of the Boys and Girls Clubs Association has found.

A total of 513 pupils from Primary Four up to Form Three were asked to rank a list of what schools could do to make their time in school more pleasant.

The survey found that 70 per cent of respondents wanted schools to organise more outings or field trips, instead of only conducting "boring" lessons in class. Ideally, they said, there should be one or two trips each month.

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Unreleased D.C. report exposed by tampering charges

Jay Matthews:

In the course of reporting Wednesday on the allegations of test tampering in the D.C. schools, I discovered a study commissioned by the school system that they apparently have never released. It may be unrelated to the greater issue of whether educators changed wrong answers to right ones to make their schools look good, but I thought I ought to report it even though it did not fit in my piece about Adell Cothorne.

D.C. schools spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz said D.C. leaders asked Caveon Test Security to interview educators at certain schools in 2011 about testing procedures on the DC-CAS annual test in 2010. Caveon had done an investigation of 2009 testing, some of which the school system revealed. But this 2010 testing study appears to have remained hidden and, according to Salmanowitz, will remain that way.

She told me about the study because she is trying to discredit Cothorne's account, a version of events Cothorne has told PBS, a federal court and me. Cothorne has said that she found signs of test tampering at the Noyes Educational Campus when she was principal there from 2010 to 2011. Cothorne does not appear to remember a visit by Caveon to Noyes that Salmanowitz said took place on March 17, 2011, when she was asked about test security in 2010.

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Reggio Emilia: From Postwar Italy to NYC's Toniest Preschools; Remembering the Rejected Madison Studio School (Charter)

Emily Chertoff, via a kind reader's email:

A teaching approach meant to perk up the children of war is popular at a handful of posh American schools. But wouldn't it make more sense to use it with underprivileged kids?

It's relatively rare to hear a preschool described as "luxurious." But in 2007 the New York Times used just that word in praising one on the Upper East Side. What did the reporter mean, exactly? Artisanal carob cookies? Cashmere blankets at nap time?

Not quite. The article was describing a school run on the principles of Reggio Emilia, an educational method that privileges beauty and art. Reggio, which is named after a town in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, often appears in the U.S. as part of the pedagogy of ultra-elite private schools -- but it was developed to help the humblest children.

On April 25, 1945, Allied forces in Italy, and their counterparts in the country's transitional government, declared an end to the Mussolini regime. Some Italians marked Liberation Day by throwing parties or pouring out into the streets. The residents of one small village near Bologna celebrated by founding a school.

The town of Reggio Emilia and its surrounding villages had been flattened by years of bombings and ground warfare. The Germans, who had retreated through the area, left behind tanks and ammunition in fine condition, but these were of no use to the townspeople.

Recall that the Madison Studio School (Wisconsin State Journal Article), rejected as a charter school by the Madison school board was based on the Reggio Emilia model.

Related: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: "We are not interested in the development of new charter schools"

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Cornell professor driven to convey beauty of mathematics

Jim Catalano:

Steven Strogatz wants to take the mystery and fear out of math -- and make it fun, even thrilling, in the process.

Whether it's through his New York Times columns, speaking engagements, appearances on National Public Radio's "Radiolab" or his new book "The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity," Strogatz -- the Schurman professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University -- strives to explain how and why mathematics are present in everyday life in a clear and compelling fashion.

Strogatz describes his mission to make mathematical concepts more accessible as "an act of friendship" that "feels very natural to me."

"I find in my daily life -- either with my kids, who are 10 and 12, or my wife, who's not mathematical, or with friends -- when they ask me what I'm working on, I have to find a way to explain," he said. in an interview at his Cornell office last month.

"So I've just always lived my whole professional life trying to communicate with people about what I'm doing and why I like doing it. It's not hard to do, but maybe hard to do well. But I do like trying to do it."

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January 21, 2013

American Calendar: Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.

What So Proudly We Hail, via a kind reader's email


Are we at last one nation, with liberty and justice for all? In this ebook, we reflect on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, and assess their efforts to overcome racial discrimination and to promote racial equality and integration. The first chapter explores the origins and traditions of the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration, with particular attention to the American character of the holiday. The second chapter presents powerful accounts of the black American experience during the era of racial segregation--from Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Zora Neale Hurston, to Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin--with a focus on showing the need for civil rights. The third chapter brings us to the Civil Rights Movement itself, evaluating the goals, strategies, and tactics of the Movement's various leaders. The final chapter raises questions about the challenging and vexed issues left open in the wake of the successes of the Civil Rights Movement: equality; family, religion, and culture; and identity.

Each selection includes a brief introduction by the editors with guiding questions for discussion. Also unique to this collection is a never-before published letter by coeditor Leon R. Kass about his and his wife Amy's experience working with civil rights activists in Mississippi during the summer of 1965.

"A civics and history curriculum done right".

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Soglin right not to soft-pedal problems

Carl Silverman:

I agree with Mayor Paul Soglin. Tackling our "urban problems" is preferable to soft-pedaling them and relying instead on improved public relations.

Given the wide achievement gap and the portion of black and Latino kids in our schools, it's hard to believe Superintendent Jane Belmore's claim that most of our school kids are doing very well. If, as Soglin believes, much of the gap is related to the many kids who transfer from other districts and are behind grade level upon entry, maybe the district should place them in grades appropriate for their achievement levels rather than basing placement solely on age. Similar reasoning might lead to abandoning present widespread use of social promotion, and promoting only those kids who have achieved grade level skills by the end of the year.

Related: "When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous": An Update on Madison's Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap.

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"The explosive growth in the state pension payments means every other part of the budget has less money" $400M less for education in Illinois

Ray Long:

Gov. Pat Quinn's administration is projecting a $400 million reduction in education spending in the next budget after the state failed to rein in government worker pension costs.

If that holds up, the governor would unveil a financial blueprint that would result in state education funding going down for the third consecutive year. The move also would be part of a broad-based, across-the-board slice made throughout most of state government. Among major exceptions would be health care spending for the poor, which is expected to rise after cuts last year, and public safety, an area projected to be mostly flat after the recent closure of two prisons, according to new preliminary figures.

"The explosive growth in the state pension payments means every other part of the budget has less money," said Abdon Pallasch, Quinn's budget spokesman. "The pain's going to get worse and worse every year before we fix this pension problem."

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Private schools funded through student jobs

Jay Matthews:

Twelve years ago, I stumbled across a story that seemed too good to be true. A Catholic high school in Chicago ensured its financial survival by having students help pay their tuition by working one day a week in clerical jobs at downtown offices.

This was a new idea in U.S. secondary education. New ideas are not necessarily a good thing, because they often fail. But the creator of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School was an educational missionary named John P. Foley who had spent much of his life helping poor people in Latin America. I was not going to dump on an idea from a man like that without seeing how it worked out.

Now I know. The Cristo Rey network has grown to 25 schools in 17 states, including a campus in Takoma Park, where more than half the students are from Prince George's County and more than a third are from the District. It is blossoming in a way no other school, public or private, has done in this region.

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Does having a high IQ makes you less creative?

There was a man named Lewis Terman who believed that only knowing the IQ of a person could predict their success in life and this potential could be measured since childhood, that's why he sent his colleagues to California schools and gave the children a few IQ tests, identifing 1500 children whose IQs averaged 150 points.

Terman took for granted that these children were going to make great contributions to their disciplines in the future.

After 35 years Terman error was obvious, the majority had regular careers, and a surprising number ended up with careers that even Terman considered failures. Nor were there any Nobel Prize winners in his group of geniuses.

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Math Fiction

Alex Kasman:

Do you like fiction and mathematics? Are you looking for a book or story that might be useful for the students in your math class? Are you interested in what our society thinks about mathematicians? Then you've come to the right place. This database lists over one thousand short stories, plays, novels, films, and comic books containing math or mathematicians

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How Tealeaf Academy increased student engagement 3x


This post is written by Kevin Wang, Chief Instructor at Tealeaf Academy. Tealeaf Academy is an online school for developers, and offers intensive, project based online bootcamps on web development. If you think this post is useful, you should check them out!

At Tealeaf Academy, creating a "Study Together, Progress Together" experience for our students is at core of our way of teaching. One of our core tools is the discussion board where students ask questions, share ideas, collaborate on homework assignments, and teachers quickly jump in to help students get unstuck on problems. One of our recent priorities was to reduce friction in discussion board usage and encourage more discussions with a complementary email notification and a "reply-to email to post on discussion board" workflow. Once we implemented the below code using the Mailgun Routes API, activity on our discussion board increased three fold, and questions are now typically getting answered within an hour, sometimes even minutes, and students are able to move on the next set of tasks a lot quicker. Here's how we did it:

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Bank Robber with $250,000 Student Loan Debt

Ed Treleven:

A man who wore a three-dimensional Bucky Badger hat when he allegedly robbed an East Side credit union last week told police that he wants to go to prison and needed the money because he has $250,000 in student debt.

Randall H. Hubatch, 49, of Madison, was charged Friday with armed robbery for the Jan. 11 robbery of the Summit Credit Union, 1799 Thierer Road. What stood out about the robbery was Hubatch's choice of apparel, which included the Bucky Badger hat.

"If the district attorney agrees to send me to prison for a long time, then I will confess and plead guilty," Hubatch told Madison police Detective Tom Helgren after his arrest on Monday, according to a criminal complaint. "Otherwise, I have nothing else to say, and if released I will do it again."

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Special needs vouchers are an empty promise

Gary E. Myrah, Janis Serak and Lisa Pugh:

As a new legislative session gets underway, a statewide group concerned about the education of students with disabilities is waving a yellow caution flag.

Parents often say what is most important to them about their children's education is that they receive quality instruction, they are safe and feel like they belong. Parents of children with disabilities are no different.

There is statewide disagreement about what ingredients go into creating a successful education for students with disabilities, but there is now a threat to students with disabilities that has the potential to harm not just them but all public school districts in Wisconsin.

Key legislative leaders have indicated that a proposal to expand school choice through "special needs scholarships," commonly known as vouchers, is in the works. We, Wisconsin proponents for quality education for students with disabilities, believe this is a shallow solution that funnels public funding to private schools without accountability.

Children with disabilities have a right to an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, where educators and parents collaborate to design a successful educational program. This includes expectations and accountability for what children learn, how they will learn it and the supports required. These rights are the result of decades of parent struggle and advocacy to move children with disabilities out of church basements and kitchen classrooms to the neighborhood school, where they are included and educated alongside their siblings and neighbors.

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Music & Math

Rachel Halliburton:

Not that Marcus du Sautoy - who, as well as being a professor of mathematics at Oxford university, has succeeded Richard Dawkins as Simonyi professor for the public understanding of science - can adequately be summed up by the word "mathematician". For a start there's the hurricane force of his personality (journalists have a lot of fun talking about his bright clothes), and the range of his ambition (theatre is a passion, as is the desire to be a chef). We meet at his home in Stamford Hill in north London and, as he waves his arms around talking about everything from turn-of-the-century polymath Poincaré to palindromes, his enthusiasm for music makes him resemble a follically challenged Simon Rattle.

I talk to du Sautoy about the riots that greeted Schoenberg's work. Why did atonal music disturb people so much? "I think musicians wanted to upset audiences," he replies. "They were breaking the complacency of previous music - people were expecting to reach one destination through harmony or rhythm, and suddenly they were pulled away to somewhere completely different. What's so exciting for me is how different that soundscape was - it was a time of complete change. In some ways one does have to go through the whole gamut of history to understand 20th-century music."

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January 20, 2013

An A+ student regrets his grades

Afraj Gill:

The purpose and meaning of education is widely misunderstood and wrongly presented.

This is why the education system needs "reinventing, not reforming," according to Harvard Innovation Education Fellow Tony Wagner. We're creating a culture - reinforced by society and habitually drilled into students from an early age and well into their teens - that revolves around textbooks, lectures, GPAs and exams, where failing or not doing well are either unacceptable or wrongly considered a sign of weakness or a lack of intellect.

Education is not confined to the walls of a classroom; it stretches well beyond that. Valuing success above all else is a problem plaguing the schooling systems, at all levels, of many countries including Canada and the United States, and undermining those very qualities that are meant to foster an educated and skillful society.

This very issue took a toll on my own educational career, not in terms of academic performance, but other aspects considerably more important.

Less than three years ago, I graduated high school. I was a driven student who scored a 100 per cent average, served as the students' council president and class valedictorian, earned over 16 scholarships/awards, etc. The bottom line is that I was a high achiever, but I mistakenly defined achievement in a way most do: with my GPA. It was only until a couple of years ago, when I began to question my own educational career, that I realized something profound: The academic portion of my high school life was spent in the wrong way, with cloudy motivations. I treated schooling and education synonymously. I had been directed not by my inner voice, but by societal pressures that limited my ability to foster personal creativity.

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Next Made-in-China Boom: College Graduates

Keith Bradsher:

Zhang Xiaoping's mother dropped out of school after sixth grade. Her father, one of 10 children, never attended.

But Ms. Zhang, 20, is part of a new generation of Chinese taking advantage of a national effort to produce college graduates in numbers the world has never seen before.

A pony-tailed junior at a new university here in southern China, Ms. Zhang has a major in English. But her unofficial minor is American pop culture, which she absorbs by watching episodes of television shows like "The Vampire Diaries" and "America's Next Top Model" on the Internet.

It is all part of her highly specific ambition: to work some day for a Chinese automaker and provide the cultural insights and English fluency the company needs to supply the next generation of fuel-efficient taxis that New York City plans to choose in 2021. "It is my dream," she said, "and I will devote myself wholeheartedly to it."

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Questions abound Wisconsin Governor Walker's education agenda

Alan Borsuk

So let's ask some detailed questions as a way of getting a glimpse of the education decisions that will be made between now and June. Walker has spoken only in generalities so far, including in his "state of the state" address last week. It's clear that supporters of charter, voucher and virtual schools are going to be a lot happier than a lot of folks involved in public schools. And Walker has talked a lot about creating ways to include the success (or lack thereof) of a school in decisions about how much money it gets. But talking points aren't policy.

So here are a dozen policy questions:

1: What will the governor propose for the revenue cap on public school students? Two years ago, the cap was cut by 5.5%, or $550 per student, in the first year of the budget, with most schools getting a $100 increase in the second year. That was dramatic after years in which the cap went up $200-plus each year. Walker appears on track to increase the cap this time. Will he go along with the $200 per year figure some, including some Republicans, are suggesting?

2: How much will state aid to schools go up? The revenue cap covers generally money that comes from the state and local property taxes combined. The more state aid, the less pressure on property taxes. Again, Walker has indicated he will support increasing state education spending. How much? And what portion will be in general aid increases and what portion in special funds such as money to reward high performing schools?

3: Walker said in the "state of the state" address, "We will lay out plans to provide a financial incentive for high-performing and rapidly improving schools." What does he mean by that? There's not much evidence nationally on what is really effective on this front. And Walker has been urged by people such as influential Republican Sen. Luther Olsen not to count on the new state report cards on schools as a basis for decisions. Olsen is among those saying it may be several years until the grades will be useful that way. Will Walker use the grades anyway as the basis for rewards and punishments?

4: What will Walker propose for the per-student payment for voucher and charter school students? The voucher payments have been held flat for four years at $6,442, while independent charter schools get $7,775 per student. (Depending on how you figure it, Milwaukee Public School gets something around $13,000 per student overall.) Charter and voucher leaders are pushing hard for sizable increases in the payments, and for high school vouchers to be worth more than grade school vouchers, just because high school is more expensive. Walker is clearly sympathetic.

Related: Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools' Per Student Spending. I'm glad Mr. Borsuk compared per student spending.

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Ritalin Gone Wrong

L. Alan Sroufe:

THREE million children in this country take drugs for problems in focusing. Toward the end of last year, many of their parents were deeply alarmed because there was a shortage of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall that they considered absolutely essential to their children's functioning.

But are these drugs really helping children? Should we really keep expanding the number of prescriptions filled?

In 30 years there has been a twentyfold increase in the consumption of drugs for attention-deficit disorder.

As a psychologist who has been studying the development of troubled children for more than 40 years, I believe we should be asking why we rely so heavily on these drugs.

Attention-deficit drugs increase concentration in the short term, which is why they work so well for college students cramming for exams. But when given to children over long periods of time, they neither improve school achievement nor reduce behavior problems. The drugs can also have serious side effects, including stunting growth.

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Education: From blackboard to keyboard

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson & Chris Cook:

Higher education online courses are growing in popularity but their business model is uncertain

Your keystrokes will find you out. Students tempted to enlist outside help for their college tests risk disqualification if the pace and style with which they type their answers does not fit their unique "keystroke biometrics".

This novel method of verifying that students are doing their own work is being pioneered by Coursera, one of the digital education start-ups that is rattling ivory towers and intriguing investors with so-called "Moocs" - "massive open online courses".

Cheating in your essays is just one time-honoured practice in higher education that is being upended by technology. In the past year, Coursera has signed up 33 leading universities to offer more than 200 online courses to 2.2m users - and to do it for free.

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A Bit of Sarbanes-Oxley for Universities, Please

Todd Zywicki:

The impulse to impose Sarbanes-Oxley on universities is tempting. Indeed, formal legal mandates on conflicts of interest and the other attributes of good governance might be even more appropriate for universities than for public corporations, as universities lack many of the safeguards of good governance, such as the ability to measure performance through profitability and engaged shareholders with incentives to monitor performance.

It has traditionally has been assumed that universities, as ostensibly charitable organizations, would be run with an eye on the public good, thus formal restraints on self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and rules that apply to private corporations would not be necessary. Today, however, universities are big businesses riven with self-interest. And there is little evidence that charitable purpose plays any role in their behavior. University president's salaries routinely reach into the seven figures--Dartmouth's recent president, for example, earned over one million dollars a year and demanded millions of dollars of renovations to the college president's house and access to a private jet as part of his compensation package, even while laying off dozens of staff members and issuing hundreds of millions of dollars in debt (to be financed by future generations of students and parents) to close a massive budget deficit caused when the endowment cratered in the wake of the financial crisis.

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Families and how to survive them: How differences that isolate individuals can unite humanity

The Economist:

Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. By Andrew Solomon. Scribner; 962 pages; $37.50. To be published in Britain by Chatto & Windus in February; £30. Buy from,

ANDREW SOLOMON never knew a time when he was not gay. He chose pink balloons over blue ones and described operas on the school bus rather than trade baseball cards. He was teased at school for being effete and ignored by children issuing party invitations. In his teens Mr Solomon began to suffer from depression. His parents, supportive and understanding, would have preferred their son to be straight and encouraged him to marry a woman and have a family. The recognition that he was gay came only when he understood that gayness was not a matter of behaviour, but of identity; and identity is learned by observing and being part of a subculture outside the family.

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The case for school choice

Torrey Jaeckle:

This year over 41,000 students took advantage of Wisconsin's open-enrollment policy to transfer to public schools outside their home district, according to the Department of Public Instruction. An additional 37,000 students attend over 200 charter schools. Over 25,000 students participate in the Milwaukee and Racine voucher programs, while 137,000 students attend over 900 private schools. Clearly demand for choice by parents and students is strong.

Yet choice is not without its critics. Some argue school choice is an effort to "privatize" public education. But Wisconsin is constitutionally required to provide public schools. And certainly families who are happy with traditional public schools (of which there are many) are not going to abandon them.

This fear of "privatization" begs the question: Is the goal of public education to achieve an educated public, or the creation of a certain type of school? Focusing on form over function is a mistake.

Others believe choice starves public schools of critical funding. But as the number of families exercising choice over the past few decades has grown dramatically, so have public school expenditures. According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, from 1999 to 2011 real inflation-adjusted per pupil public school expenditures in Wisconsin have increased almost 16 percent, from $10,912 to $12,653.

In addition, a University of Arkansas study on the Milwaukee voucher program estimates it saved Wisconsin taxpayers nearly $52 million in 2011 due to the voucher amount being far less than what Milwaukee public schools typically spend per student. Arguing that choice has hurt public school finances is not supported by the evidence.

Another frequent criticism of school choice is the objection to taxpayer money being spent on private educational institutions. But our government spends taxpayer dollars on products and services from private companies all the time. Why is it OK to pay private contractors to build our schools, private publishing companies to provide the books and private transport companies to bus our children, but when the teacher or administrator is not a government employee we cry foul?

Our focus should be on educating children and preparing them for life, through whatever school form that might take.

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Milwaukee school choice beats the alternative

Patrick J. Wolf & John F. Witte:

Education expert Diane Ravitch wrote in a Jan. 11 op-ed that Milwaukee should abandon its long-running school choice programs involving private and public charter schools and instead concentrate all education resources on a single, monopolistic public school system.

The actual research on school choice in Milwaukee argues against such a move. At the request of the State of Wisconsin, we led a five-year study of school choice in Milwaukee that ended last February. We found that school choice in Milwaukee has had a modest but clearly positive effect on student outcomes.

First, students participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice ("voucher") Program graduated from high school and both enrolled and persisted in four-year colleges at rates that were four to seven percentage points higher than a carefully matched set of students in Milwaukee Public Schools. Using the most conservative 4% voucher advantage from our study, that means that the 801 students in ninth grade in the voucher program in 2006 included 32 extra graduates who wouldn't have completed high school and gone to college if they had instead been required to attend MPS.

Second, the addition of a high-stakes accountability testing requirement to the voucher program in 2010 resulted in a solid increase in voucher student test scores, leaving the voucher students with significantly higher achievement gains in reading than their matched MPS peers. Ravitch claimed in a Nov. 5 blog post that private schools no longer have to administer the state accountability test to their voucher students and post the results, but that assertion is and always was false.

Notes and links on school choice in Milwaukee. Comparing Milwaukee Public Schools and Voucher school per student spending.

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January 19, 2013

Cleverer still: Geniuses are getting brighter. And at genius levels of IQ, girls are not as far behind boys as they used to be

The Economist:

SCIENCE has few more controversial topics than human intelligence--in particular, whether variations in it are a result of nature or nurture, and especially whether such variations differ between the sexes. The mines in this field can blow up an entire career, as Larry Summers found out in 2005 when he spoke of the hypothesis that the mathematical aptitude needed for physics and engineering, as well as for maths itself, is innately rarer in women than in men. He resigned as president of Harvard University shortly afterwards.

It is bold, therefore, of Jonathan Wai, Martha Putallaz and Matthew Makel, of Duke University in North Carolina, to enter the fray with a paper that addresses both questions. In this paper, just published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, they describe how they sifted through nearly three decades of standardised tests administered to American high-school students to see what had been happening to the country's brightest sparks.

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More Money at Risk on Teacher Evaluations

Al Baker:

A day after New York City's failure to create a new teacher evaluation system cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid, an exasperated state education official on Friday threatened to withhold more than $1 billion more from the city, including its share of federal Race to the Top grants.

John B. King Jr., the state education commissioner, said Obama administration officials had expressed such concern over the breakdown in the state's largest school system that the state's entire $700 million Race to the Top grant was also in danger.

Plans for evaluating teachers had to be in place by midnight Thursday for nearly 700 school districts in New York. When many of them were lagging behind a year ago, Arne Duncan, the federal education secretary, warned that the state could be a "national leader" or lose money from sliding back on commitments for reform. The city was one of only four districts to fail to submit a plan that is envisioned as an informed way to identify superior teachers and rid schools of ineffective ones.

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School's Twist on Going Private

Stephanie Banchero:

A Vermont town's plan to close its only public grade school and reopen it as a private academy puts an unusual twist on efforts by parents and residents nationwide to seize more control of educational opportunities.

Moves to overhaul control of public schools have usually sought to improve institutions that are low-performing. But in the case of North Bennington Graded School, parents are satisfied with its academic showing.

Richard Beaven for The Wall Street Journal
John Ulrich teaches children at North Bennington Graded School in Vermont. Mr. Ulrich said he is conflicted about changing the school's status.

Instead, their move was launched, in part, to ward off a state push for consolidation that the group fears could have led to the North Bennington, Vt., school being merged with another.

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Mathematicians aim to take publishers out of publishing

Richard Van Noorden:

Mathematicians plan to launch a series of free open-access journals that will host their peer-reviewed articles on the preprint server arXiv. The project was publicly revealed yesterday in a blog post by Tim Gowers, a Fields Medal winner and mathematician at the University of Cambridge, UK.

The initiative, called the Episciences Project, hopes to show that researchers can organize the peer review and publication of their work at minimal cost, without involving commercial publishers.

"It's a global vision of how the research community should work: we want to offer an alternative to traditional mathematics journals," says Jean-Pierre Demailly, a mathematician at the University of Grenoble, France, who is a leader in the effort. Backed by funding from the French government, the initiative may launch as early as April, he says.

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Slim Academy? Carlos Slim brings Khan Academy to LatAm

Adam Thomson:

¿Hablas inglés? If the answer is no, help is at hand: Carlos Slim, the world's richest man, has just signed an agreement to translate the Khan Academy's online classes into Spanish.

Through his Carlos Slim Foundation, the largest of its kind in Latin America, the Mexican telecoms tycoon has pledged to support the now-famous online academy founded by Salman Khan and popularised on Youtube.

The educational videos on subjects such as mathematics and science have racked up more than 225m views so far and the Khan Academy's youtube channel has 550,000 subscribers.

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January 18, 2013

Poor ranking on international test misleading about U.S. student performance, Stanford researcher finds

Jonathan Rabinovitz:

Socioeconomic inequality among U.S. students skews international comparisons of test scores, finds a new report released today by the Stanford Graduate School of Education and the Economic Policy Institute. When differences in countries' social class compositions are adequately taken into account, the performance of U.S. students in relation to students in other countries improves markedly.

An accurate comparison of nations' test scores must include a look at the social class characteristics of the students who take the test in each country, says Stanford education Professor Martin Carnoy.

The report, What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?, also details how errors in selecting sample populations of test-takers and arbitrary choices regarding test content contribute to results that appear to show U.S. students lagging.

In conducting the research, report co-authors Martin Carnoy, a professor of education at Stanford, and Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, examined adolescent reading and mathematics results from four test series over the last decade, sorting scores by social class for the Program on International Student Assessment (PISA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and two forms of the domestic National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Based on their analysis, the co-authors found that average U.S. scores in reading and math on the PISA are low partly because a disproportionately greater share of U.S. students comes from disadvantaged social class groups, whose performance is relatively low in every country.

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Schools need to teach soft skills

The Journal-Times:

"They just can't present themselves -- they have alcohol on their breath, bad hygiene, or some just kind of keep putting their foot in their mouth: They say they're looking for a job because their unemployment compensation is about to run out."

Nor are these just the extreme examples, stories swapped by business owners in a "you won't believe this one" conversation. There's a noticeable, serious lack of "soft skills" -- the skills you would need at any job, regardless of the field, just to remain in good standing with your employer -- among those looking for work, or newly employed, in Racine County .

Most of us learned these fundamental soft skills at home, at an early age: Show up for work every day you're scheduled, unless you're truly too sick to go in. Show up on time, ready to work. When you're on the clock, you're expected to be working.

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How and Why You Should Learn Speed Reading

Ryan Whiteside:

Whether it's reading more novels or keeping up with industry blogs, just imagine what it would be like if you could read 2, 3, or even 4 times faster than you do now.

The reality is you can do it... and it's much easier than you think!

My name is Ryan Whiteside and I'm a personal development junkie. I've read (literally) hundreds of personal development books over the past five years. One of those books that I gained incredible value from was called Breakthrough Rapid Reading by Peter Kump.

Before that book I had never taken the subject of speed reading seriously. Like most people I was a bit skeptical it was even possible to learn speed reading, and if it was I thought it would be too difficult for me to learn.

As it turns out, speed reading was much easier than I expected. In only a matter of a few hours of practice with the drills in the book, I went from reading 180 WPM (slightly below average) to 450 WPM (top 1% fastest in the world). I couldn't believe it!
I've been a slow reader my entire life, but now all of a sudden I was able to read over twice as fast as I did previously. A book that would normally take me 20 hours to read would now take me less than 10. I could now read 4-5 books a month instead of just 1-2.

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Innovative lenses will boost learning

Joshua Silver:

Sir, You identify the life-changing potential of glasses for children in the developing world, shortlisted for the Design Museum's Design of the Year award ("Design shortlist balances form against function", January 14), but credit for the design belongs not to me personally but to the team at the Centre for Vision in the Developing World, of which I am CEO, and consultants Goodwin Hartshorn.

The true innovation of these glasses is not that their size is adjustable but that the wearer can - under the supervision of, for instance, a schoolteacher - adjust the power of each lens to correct his or her own vision.

Clinical trials (references are available at have shown that young people aged 12-18 as well as adults are able to achieve good correction by this process of self-refraction. We estimate that today at least 60m short-sighted children in the developing world lack access to accurate vision correction.

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A Simple Choice Of Words Can Help Avoid Confusion About New Test Results

Matthew DiCarlo:

In 1998, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) lowered the threshold at which people are classified as "overweight." Literally overnight, about 25 million Americans previously considered as having a healthy weight were now overweight. If, the next day, you saw a newspaper headline that said "number of overweight Americans increases," you would probably find that a little misleading. America's "overweight" population didn't really increase; the definition changed.

Fast forward to November 2012, during which Kentucky became the first state to release results from new assessments that were aligned with the Common Core Standards (CCS). This led to headlines such as, "Scores Drop on Kentucky's Common Core-Aligned Tests" and "Challenges Seen as Kentucky's Test Scores Drop As Expected." Yet, these descriptions unintentionally misrepresent what happened. It's not quite accurate - or at least highly imprecise - to say that test scores "dropped," just as it would have been wrong to say that the number of overweight Americans increased overnight in 1998 (actually, they're not even scores, they're proficiency rates). Rather, the state adopted different tests, with different content, a different design, and different standards by which students are deemed "proficient."

Over the next 2-3 years, a large group of states will also release results from their new CCS-aligned tests. It is important for parents, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders to understand what the results mean. Most of them will rely on newspapers and blogs, and so one exceedingly simple step that might help out is some polite, constructive language-policing.

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The Brothers Who Busted Philly Unions. For Good.

Steve Volk:

All of the videos are voyeuristic--surveillance-quality film of a construction site. The worst ones, shot from three different angles on a sunny day in July 2012, involve the fence:

On the screen we see an engineering contractor who wants to enter the controversial Goldtex construction site at 12th and Wood streets, only to find his path blocked by eight union men. With mincing steps, the non-union contractor--a middle-aged man in a blue short-sleeved shirt--tries to sneak in behind them, sidling through a narrow gap between a temporary chain-link fence and a stone wall. But the union men spot him, move toward the fence, and start to lean against it. Then we see four of them take turns pushing--using the fence like a microscope slide to fix the contractor against the wall. In one of the videos, you can hear the man start to cry out, his voice tremulous as he's crushed. Finally, he slumps to the ground.

The most troubling part, though, isn't the sight of the men trapping the contractor; it's the brief glimpse of one of the protesters grinning as the contractor wails. And the way the union guys stroll casually away from the scene when their victim collapses.

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Common Core Standards: Which Way for Indiana?

Sandra Stotsky:

The defeat of Tony Bennett as Indiana's State Superintendent of Public Instruction was attributed to many factors. Yet, as one post-election analysis indicated, the size of the vote for his rival, Glenda Ritz, suggests that the most likely reason was Mr. Bennett's support for, and attempt to implement, Common Core's badly flawed standards.

Common Core's English language arts standards don't have just one fatal flaw, i.e., its arbitrary division of reading standards into two groups: 10 standards for "informational" text and nine for "literature" at all grade levels from K to 12. These are just the most visible; its writing standards turn out to be just as damaging, constituting an intellectual impossibility for the average middle-grade student, for reasons I hadn't suspected. The architects of Common Core's writing standards simply didn't link them to appropriate reading standards, a symbiotic relationship well-known to reading researchers. Last month, I had an opportunity to see the results of teachers' attempts to address Common Core's writing standards at an event put on by GothamSchools, a four-year-old news organization trying to provide an independent news service to New York City schools.

The teachers who had been selected to display their students' writing (based on an application) provided visible evidence of their efforts to help their students address Common Core's writing standards -- detailed teacher-made or commercial worksheets that structure the composing of an argument. It was clear that their students had tried to figure out how to make a "claim" and show "evidence" for it, but the problems they were having were not a reflection of their teachers' skills, or their own reading and writing skills. The source of their conceptual problems could be traced to the standards themselves.

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January 17, 2013

How Japanese Kids Learn To Multiply - Amazing, No Need to Learn Japanese

magical math:

Through a Japanese friend on twitter I came across this method and it shows how Japanese pupils learn to multiply in lessons. You do not need to learn Japanese to master this method. They are taught this method in Japanese primary schools at a very early age and learn this process.

This is an amazing video that needs to be watched to learn this Japanese method! It makes you ponder how we are teaching Mathematics to the kids of tomorrow in the west in comparison to the learning of Japanese students.

To learn how the Japanese do it and to get a better understanding watch the video showing the Japanese learning process.

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Teacher Bar Exams Would Be a Huge Mistake

Jason Richwine & Lindsey Burke:

He has 10 years of experience working in the engineering division of Lockheed Martin, and he'd like to share some of his extensive knowledge with high school students in Northern Virginia, where he lives. He'd prefer to take a couple of hours each day to teach a class on physics or calculus, which would enable him to stay in his current job. Bill imagines that this part-time teaching job will give him the opportunity not just to teach, but to mentor local students aspiring to science careers.

So Bill goes to the principal of the local public high school with his proposal. Before we detail the vast array of statutes and regulations governing who is allowed to teach in public schools, let's pretend--for a moment--that those regulations don't exist. Just consider how, in an ideal world, the principal would react to Bill's offer.

First, the principal needs to verify that Bill can be an effective teacher. How might the principal do that? Perhaps require him to give practice presentations of difficult material. Then maybe Bill should shadow seasoned teachers for a period of time to get a feel for classroom management and lesson planning. When Bill does get his own classroom, the principal will want to check each year that his students are learning what they're supposed to learn.

Related: MTEL teacher content knowledge requirements arrive in Wisconsin (in a very small way).

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A Point of View: In defence of obscure words


We chase "fast culture" at our peril - unusual words and difficult art are good for us, says Will Self.

We are living in a risk-averse culture - there's no doubt about that.

But the risk that people seem most reluctant taking is not a physical but a mental one: just as the concrete in children's playgrounds has been covered with rubber, so the hard truth about the effort needed for intellectual attainment is being softened by a sort of semantic padding.

Our arts and humanities education at secondary level seems particularly afflicted by falling standards - so much so that universities are now being called upon to help write new A-level syllabuses in order to cram our little chicks with knowledge that, in recent years, has come to seem unpalatable, if not indigestible - knowledge such as English vocabulary beyond that which is in common usage.

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The Early Education Racket

Melinda Wenner Moyer:

One morning last September, my husband dragged himself out of bed at 5 a.m. and rode his bike to a nearby preschool. The moonlit block was empty but for the first seeds of a sleepy line forming outside the school's doors--he was the sixth person to join it. By 8 a.m., the line stretched all the way down the block and disappeared around the corner. Eventually, my husband was invited inside, where he handed a stranger an application and a check for $50 and promptly left. So began our son's preschool application process for the 2013/2014 academic year, 12 months in advance.

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Our universities must stop charging so much, delivering so little and sending our kids into lifelong debt

Peter Morici:

Universities charge too much, deliver too little and channel too many students into a lifetime of debt. Genuine reform requires market disciplines be brought to bear on those abuses.

Overall, college graduates in America still earn more and are less likely to be unemployed than their peers who never get a college degree. However, with so many recent graduates serving cappuccino and treading water in unpaid internships after graduation, a four-year diploma is not quite the solid investment it once was, and should not be so-often viewed as such a necessity by society.

Since 2007-08, the average pay for recent four-year graduates has fallen nearly 5 percent, while the average earning of a typical American worker, as tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is up 10 percent.

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The Creepy Line


The technology, when packaged into a smartphone, for example, can be used to help some of those with Asperger's syndrome to read facial expressions. But it can also be used in a videotelephony app as a surreptitious "lie detector." It could be a great tool during remote diagnosis and counseling in the hands of trained professionals. But it could also be used to record, analyze and track people's emotional state in public venues: in front of advertising panels, as well as courtrooms or even job interviews. It can help overloaded elementary school teachers better decipher the emotional state of at-risk children. But it can also lead focus-group obsessed movie studios to further mechanize character and plot development.

The GPU in our computers is the ideal matrix-vector processing tool to decode facial expressions in real-time in the very near future. It would be highly conceivable, for instance, for a presidential candidate to be peering into his teleprompter to see a rolling score of a million viewers' reactions, passively recorded and decoded in real-time, allowing him to modulate his speech in synchronicity with that real time feedback. Would that be truly "representative" democracy or abdication of leadership?

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College admission may get easier as ranks of high school graduates drop

Larry Gordon:

High school graduates will face less competition for college admission in the next decade due to a demographic decline in their ranks, according to a report on education enrollment trends released Wednesday.

At the same time, Latinos and Asian Americans will constitute larger shares of high school populations and the numbers of white and black students will drop.

"Over the last two decades, colleges and universities have been able to count on an annually growing number of students graduating from the nation's high schools. But it appears that period of abundance will soon be history," said the study, Knocking at the College Door, issued by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Postsecondary campuses will have to recruit more heavily, possibly reaching beyond typical geographic territories and turning to older adults and other nontraditional populations, the report said.

The number of high school graduates increased nationally for a decade, peaking at 3.4 million in 2010-11, but then lower birth rates and less immigration contributed to a decline. Estimates show 3.21 million graduates are expected in 2013-2014, according to the report. Then it projects small ups and downs until 2023-24, when high school graduates will reach 3.4 million again.

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Online education: a leg up for high school kids?

Katy Murphy:

I've been at San Jose State today, learning about an online education experiment that could affect high school and college students - and would-be college students - alike.

The latest idea is to offer three entry-level or remedial courses online, for CSU credit, at $150 each. San Jose State professors created the course using the platform of a Palo Alto-based online education startup, Udacity.

The pilot will start with just 300 students - 150 from San Jose State and another 150 from community colleges and the two high schools Gov. Jerry Brown started when he was the mayor of Oakland -- Oakland Military Institute and Oakland School for the Arts.

If the experiment works - and, as Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun acknowledges, it might not -- the courses might be available to students throughout the U.S. as soon as this summer.

The three courses to launch at the end of the month are already offered at some high schools: entry level mathematics, elementary statistics and college algebra. Often, in college, these same courses have waiting lists, especially at the community college level. As a result, students get caught up in a "bottleneck" as they wait to take and pass them. The failure rate is high. Some drop their college studies after that.

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January 16, 2013

Transfer Students & London Achievement

Chris Cook:

I wrote a piece yesterday on the continued astonishing rise of London's state schools. One of my brilliant colleagues posed an interesting question: what happens if a child moves into London?

Below, I have published how children who lived outside London at the age of 11 went on to do in their GCSEs (using our usual point score) at the age of 16.

I have divided this set of pupils twice: first, by whether they had moved into London by the age of 16 or not and second by how well they did in standardised tests at the age of 11.

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Design thinking for educators

Tim Brown:

Design Thinking is the confidence that everyone can be part of creating a more desirable future, and a process to take action when faced with a difficult challenge. That kind of optimism is well needed in education.

Classrooms and schools across the world are facing design challenges every single day, from teacher feedback systems to daily schedules. Wherever they fall on the spectrum of scale--the challenges educators are confronted with are real, complex, and varied. And as such, they require new perspectives, new tools, and new approaches. Design Thinking is one of them.

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ORCA K-8 teachers join boycott of district-required (MAP) exams

Linda Shaw:

Eleven teachers and instructional assistants at ORCA K-8 have decided that they, too, will boycott district-required tests known as the MAP, according to ORCA teacher Matt Carter.

The Orca staffers join the staff at Garfield High, where all teachers who were scheduled to administer the Measures of Academic Progress exams are refusing, with the backing of nearly all their colleagues, who signed a letter supporting them. In the letter to district administrators, the Garfield staff members listed nine reasons why they oppose the test, which range from how few students take it seriously to how much time it takes away from class instruction and whether it measures what teachers are supposed to be teaching.

The middle school teachers at ORCA will not refuse to give the tests because they hope to get a grant from the city that requires that they give them, Carter said. But 11 of the 16 teachers and instructional assistants in kindergarten through grade 5 have decided to do so, Carter said. ORCA is an alternative school in the Rainier Valley.

If ORCA parents want their children to take the MAP exams anyway, the principal has told them that she will find other people to proctor the test, Carter said.

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Strategy for a post-neighborhood school Milwaukee

Alan Borsuk:

My wife grew up on the northwest side of Milwaukee and went to her neighborhood grade school, junior high and high school.

The grade school is now a Montessori school. The junior high is a charter school serving almost 1,000 Hmong children. The high school is a "gifted and talented" sixth through 12th grade program. There's a lot of good going on in those buildings, but none is a neighborhood school in the way the term is usually used.

The neighborhood school idea has just about died in Milwaukee. I believe the notion of the neighborhood school may be weaker in Milwaukee than anywhere else in the country. I tried unsuccessfully a few years ago to come up with data to prove that. But I do know that in recent years, only about a third of kindergarten through eighth grade students in Milwaukee Public Schools went to their "attendance area" school. In some cases, the children living in a specific attendance area were enrolled in more than 75 schools across the city.

The figures may be a bit more neighborhood-oriented now. MPS officials couldn't come up with current numbers late last week, but the system has tried to rein in busing options (and costs). Nonetheless, there are few schools of any kind in Milwaukee that are genuine neighborhood schools.

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Will longer school year help or hurt US students?

Julie Carr Smyth:

Did your kids moan that winter break was way too short as you got them ready for the first day back in school? They might get their wish of more holiday time off under proposals catching on around the country to lengthen the school year.

But there's a catch: a much shorter summer vacation.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a chief proponent of the longer school year, says American students have fallen behind the world academically.

"Whether educators have more time to enrich instruction or students have more time to learn how to play an instrument and write computer code, adding meaningful in-school hours is a critical investment that better prepares children to be successful in the 21st century," he said in December when five states announced they would add at least 300 hours to the academic calendar in some schools beginning this year.

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"We're All In This Together"

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity newsletter via a kind Jennie Bettner email (PDF):

As the Madison Metropolitan School District has evolved, so too has the membership of MTI. All public education employees face challenges that require collaboration to best serve the students and the staff. Given that many MTI members are now working in instructional, training and non-pupil contact positions such as Teacher Leaders, Instructional Resource Teachers and Dean of Students, it is important to remember that all MTI members are your fellow brothers and sisters in the union regardless of their work. What kind of union member you choose to be is dependent on your actions, not a job title; helping one another address concerns rather than pointing fingers, lending a hand when a colleague is struggling, and sticking together to achieve a shared goal. We have more strength when we work together, and in these changing times, we should not allow ourselves to be divided by dramatizing differences. Simply because one of your fellow MTI members works "downtown" or in an office, rather than a classroom, does not make them any more or less "union." If we want to succeed, we must work together, even when we disagree, to advocate what is best for the membership, the District and the students we serve.

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New Mexico Kids Count Report

4MB PDF via New Mexico Voices for Children:

The national KIDS COUNT Program, using the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), a standardized test that allows comparability of reading scores across states, ranks New Mexico 50th--dead last--among the states in 4th grade reading proficiency. Only about 20 percent--just two out of every ten New Mexico 4th graders--can read at a proficient level. If we consider the results from New Mexico's own 3rd grade reading proficiency test, the results are not any more encouraging. While in six school districts as many as 70 percent to 80 percent of 3rd graders score at a "proficient and above" level, in too many others--more than one-third of our public school districts - only 50 percent or less of the 3rd graders read proficiently or above. This does not bode well for many students' potential to succeed as they progress into higher grade levels.

This concern seems justified when we consider the low math proficiency rates of New Mexico's 8th graders. In only 11 out of the state's 89 public school districts do 60 percent or more of the 8th graders score at a "proficient or above" level. In two-thirds (60) of the school districts less than half the students can do math at the required level.

Given that skill in mathematics is considered vital for 21st century technical jobs, low proficiency in mathematics is alarming in its implications for New Mexico's future workforce capacity.

These low proficiency scores have an effect on the state's high school graduation rate. A 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Education ranked only one state lower than New Mexico in terms of the on-time high school graduation rate.5 The state's graduation rate, 63 percent (only 56 percent for economically disadvantaged students), means that more than one-third (37 percent) of our youth do not graduate from high school within four years.

There are better performance rates, however. Some public school districts-most of them in small communities-have graduation rates of 90 percent and above.

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The Test-Based Evidence On The "Florida Formula"

Matthew DiCarlo

Luckily, one need not rely on these crude methods. We can instead take a look at some of the rigorous research that has specifically evaluated the core reforms comprising the "Florida formula." As usual, it is a far more nuanced picture than supporters (and critics) would have you believe.

The easiest way to approach this review is to take the core components of the "Florida formula" one at a time. The plan seems to consist of several catchy-sounding concepts, each of which is embodied in a concrete policy or policies (noted below in parentheses).

Hold schools accountable ("A-F" school grading systems): In the late-1990s, Florida was one of the first states to adopt its own school grading system, now ubiquitous throughout the nation (see this post for a review of how Florida currently calculates these grades and what they mean).

The main purposes of these rating systems are to inform parents and other stakeholders and incentivize improvement and innovation by attaching consequences and rewards to the results. Starting in the late 1990s, the grades in Florida were high-stakes - students who attended schools that received an F for multiple years were made eligible for private school vouchers (the voucher program itself was shut down in 2006, after being ruled unconstitutional by the state's Supreme Court).

In addition to the voucher threat, low-rated schools received other forms of targeted assistance, such as reading coaches, while high-rated schools were eligible for bonuses (discussed below). In this sense, the grading system plays a large role in Florida's overall accountability system (called the "A+ Accountability Plan").

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January 15, 2013

The Homeschool Diaries

Paul Elie:

Homeschooling happened to me this way: The same winter I started teaching a graduate class one night a week, my family was compelled to move to a new apartment, 100 yards away from our old one and identical except for a 25 percent rent hike we couldn't afford, so that our 5-year-old twin sons could enroll in a "gifted" program in the Manhattan school district where we'd lived since they were born--until the city decided to redraw the lines. As I wrote yet another e-mail to a city Department of Education supervisor, asking her again if she could please arrange for the department's computer system to recognize our change of address, my wife's interest in homeschooling began to make a lot of sense. After all, I was teaching graduate students at Columbia. Why shouldn't I teach my own children, too? What if I took the time and energy I was putting into arranging our sons' education and devoted it to actually educating them?

Our sons enrolled in the gifted program, and Lenora and I volunteered for the usual parent activities. But when another substantial rent increase prompted a move to Brooklyn (to a lovely, affordable neighborhood whose public-school principal had recently been arrested for assaulting a teacher), and a first-grade teacher in our boys' program went on maternity leave and was replaced by a 23-year-old teaching assistant, and we faced the prospects of transporting them to Manhattan and back for five more years and begging for permission to enroll our youngest son despite our Brooklyn address, and the discounted tuition for three at a nearby Waldorf school came to $27,000--that's when I became a homeschooler.

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Top 10 education issues facing Georgia

Maureen Downey:

First up is Dr. Dana Rickman, policy and research director for the partnership, on the Top Ten Education Issues to Watch in 2013.

Please note that all these comments are from the speakers today, not from me. (I did add a few comments, but I clearly designate them as mine.) I am writing as folks speak and may miss a typo but will go back during the breaks and clean this up.

Top 10 issues, says Rickman:

Race to the Top: Halfway through implementing grant. Where do we stand?

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Illinois' Pension Debt

Sara Burnett:

Stacy Goodar was in her first year at a private hospitality management school when she learned she would lose several thousand dollars in state financial aid. Though she qualified for the need-based scholarship, the 22-year-old -- like about 18,000 other students statewide -- was cut off because Illinois' grant program ran out of money.

"It's why a lot of students drop out," Goodar says. "If you can't afford it, what else are you going to do?"

The college scholarships are just one casualty of the multibillion-dollar Illinois pension crisis continuing to wreak havoc with the state's budget, siphoning cash away from areas such as education, public safety and human services and jacking up the cost of borrowing money for the state and its cities, counties and school districts.

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What constitutes evidence of cheating?

KW Regan:

Today I write about the difficulty of detecting fraud at chess, and the role of statistical evidence.

The New York Times this morning joins several chess media outlets covering the allegations against a Bulgarian player who was searched during a tournament in Croatia last month. When we mentioned this case in our "Predictions and Principles" post earlier this month, I had the issue of principles regarding statistical evidence high in my mind, and this is reflected in my exemplar of a formal report. It accompanies a cover letter to the Association of Chess Professionals, raising the issue of what do you do when there is no physical or observational evidence but the statistical evidence is strong, and who should have oversight of standards and procedures for statistical tests.

Dunaway also had a small role in the 1999 remake, in which Crown again escapes uncaught but with a different endgame. Crown is played by Pierce Brosnan of James Bond fame. There is a James Bond quality to current speculation about possible cheating methods, from embedded chips to special reflective glasses. They are among items considered at the end of this 70-minute video by Bulgarian master Valeri Lilov, which was also covered by But none of this speculation is accompanied by any hard evidence. The real action may be not with the kind of gadgeteers to interact with M or Q or even Miss Moneypenny, but rather the actuaries down below who track the numbers.

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Parents' Financial Support Linked to College Grades

Tamar Lewin:

Parents saving for college costs, take heed: A new national study has found that the more college money parents provide -- whether in absolute terms or as a share of total costs -- the lower their children's college grades.

Students from wealthy families are more likely than those from poor families to go to college, and those whose parents pay their way are more likely to graduate. But according to "More Is More or More Is Less? Parent Financial Investments During College," a study by Laura Hamilton, a sociology professor at the University of California, Merced, greater parental contributions were linked with lower grades across all kinds of four-year institutions.

"It's a modest effect, not big enough to make the kid flunk out of college," said Dr. Hamilton, whose study was published in this month's American Sociological Review. "But it was surprising because everybody has always assumed that the more you give, the better your child does."

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An Interview with Seattle's Superintendent

Seattle 21:

Seattle Public Schools faces several key challenges, including overcrowding, a new strategic plan and a February special election seeking $1.25 billion in levy renewals. Will voters support the district's vision? How does the State Supreme Court's order for the legislature to fully fund public education impact Seattle students? In studio, we talk one-on-one with Superintendent Jose Banda. And we get perspective from Seattle School Board Member Michael DeBell, Save Seattle Schools blogger Melissa Westbrook and El Centro de la Raza's Executive Director Estela Ortega.

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A new topic for your college admissions essay: Money


College admissions officers say that more high school seniors than usual are writing their college essays about money issues. Applicants are tackling everything from foreclosures to parents getting laid off and how money fits into the happiness equation. Ron Lieber is the Your Money columnist for The New York Times. This week, he invited college applicants to send some of their finance-related essays to the paper.

"We've gotten a couple dozen already. I was expecting a lot of essays about class and discovering what it really means to be wealthy or what it really means to be poor. And we got some of those," says Lieber. "But the ones that have stuck out so far are ones that are actually about what it means to work and what it means not to work."

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3 New Charter Schools in Boston

Michael Goldstein, via a kind reader's email:

Our friends at Barr Foundation produced this 12-minute video. It profiles 3 new Boston schools.

The first is Margarita Muñiz Academy. MMA is a two-way bilingual Spanish-English High School. Shout outs to Meg Campbell and Greg Gunn for helping get this off the ground. If you want to know what 2-way bilingual means, watch the video.

Then there's Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School. I blogged about here in September. Christine, their principal, is married to our middle school principal, Megan. I'm pretty sure I noticed our 2-year-old checking out their almost 2-year-old on Thanksgiving.

Related: We are not interested in the development of more charter schools.

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January 14, 2013

A Math Teacher on Common Core Standards

Stephanie Sawyer, via a kind reader's email:

I don't think the common core math standards are good for most kids, not just the Title I students. While they are certainly more focused than the previous NCTM-inspired state standards, which were a horrifying hodge-podge of material, they still basically put the intellectual cart before the horse. They pay lip service to actually practicing standard algorithms. Seriously, students don't have to be fluent in addition and subtraction with the standard algorithms until 4th grade?

I teach high school math. I took a break to work in the private sector from 2002 to 2009. Since my return, I have been stunned by my students' lack of basic skills. How can I teach algebra 2 students about rational expressions when they can't even deal with fractions with numbers?

Please don't tell me this is a result of the rote learning that goes on in grade- and middle-school math classes, because I'm pretty sure that's not what is happening at all. If that were true, I would have a room full of students who could divide fractions. But for some reason, most of them can't, and don't even know where to start.

I find it fascinating that students who have been looking at fractions from 3rd grade through 8th grade still can't actually do anything with them. Yet I can ask adults over 35 how to add fractions and most can tell me. And do it. And I'm fairly certain they get the concept. There is something to be said for "traditional" methods and curriculum when looked at from this perspective.

Grade schools have been using Everyday Math and other incarnations for a good 5 to 10 years now, even more in some parts of the country. These are kids who have been taught the concept way before the algorithm, which is basically what the Common Core seems to promote. I have a 4th grade son who attends a school using Everyday Math. Luckily, he's sharp enough to overcome the deficits inherent in the program. When asked to convert 568 inches to feet, he told me he needed to divide by 12, since he had to split the 568 into groups of 12. Yippee. He gets the concept. So I said to him, well, do it already! He explained that he couldn't, since he only knew up to 12 times 12. But he did, after 7 agonizing minutes of developing his own iterated-subtraction-while-tallying system, tell me that 568 inches was 47 feet, 4 inches. Well, he got it right. But to be honest, I was mad; he could've done in a minute what ended up taking 7. And he already got the concept, since he knew he had to divide; he just needed to know how to actually do it. From my reading of the common core, that's a great story. I can't say I feel the same.

If Everyday Math and similar programs are what is in store for implementing the common core standards for math, then I think we will continue to see an increase in remedial math instruction in high schools and colleges. Or at least an increase in the clientele of the private tutoring centers, which do teach basic math skills.

Related links: Math Forum.

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THE SIX/FORTY-ONE/SIX Weekly Reading Plan for American Students

Carol Jago, Past President of NCTE, and Will Fitzhugh, penniless drudge at The Concord Review,

ARE pleased (proud, humble, thrilled, inspired, excited, etc.)


Their innovative, new, exciting, transformative, breakthrough:

THE SIX/FORTY-ONE/SIX Weekly Reading Plan for American Students

The Kaiser Foundation finds that Americans 8-18 spend 53 hours
a week (A WEEK) with electronic entertainment media.

Jago and Fitzhugh propose a bold new initiative, potentially in collaboration
with CCSSO, NGA, the College Board, NASSP, the Department of Education,
and others, which will ask students to spend SIX HOURS a week reading
a novel, SIX HOURS a week reading a history book, and that will still leave
them Forty-One HOURS a Week, or nearly six hours each day, for their electronic
entertainment media...

It could be called the 41/6/6/ Plan or the 6/6/41 Plan if either would appeal more to the media
covering this transformative and bold new and exciting innovative initiative.

Tweets and other comments on this exciting new initiative welcomed.

Will Fitzhugh

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State education dollars once again are diluted

Tulsa World:

Trish Williams, chief financial officer at Tulsa Public Schools, raised an interesting question this week and most people who value public education would like a straight answer - not a virtual one.

As state law stands - thanks to the Legislature and Oklahoma Department of Education - online, for-profit charter schools now are allowed to receive funds. Students who formerly got up and went to school can remain home and take algebra in their pajamas in the privacy of their homes.

For the second year in a row, expansion of those online charter schools drew a significant share of funds that traditionally had been divided up and distributed among public schools.

"As long as our state laws allow for these for-profit entities to come in, it's a good question to ask, 'Where it will end?' The pie is only so big," Williams said.

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Should You go to graduate school?

Ron Rosenbaum:

Apparently, people have been talking. Recently I received an email from an editor at Bookforum who was asking a number of writers to contribute essays to a book to be called Should I Go to Grad School? for an institution called the Platform for Pedagogy.

She told me, somewhat mysteriously, slightly ominously: "Several people have mentioned that you have strong feelings on the subject."

Hm. It's true, I had recently spoken to a grad school class on Shakespeare at NYU (led by my colleague, the gifted poet and memoirist Meghan O'Rourke) about my book The Shakespeare Wars.

And if all grad school teachers of literature were like her, I would have no problem with the institution.

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Oregon education chief talks about budgets and opportunity

Susan Palmer:

Oregon education chief Rudy Crew got upstaged on Friday by a local educator who filled in for him when he was an hour late for a speaking date with the Eugene City Club.

Crew, who said he was held up because of a doctor's appointment that couldn't be rescheduled, arrived at the weekly luncheon midway through extemporaneous remarks from Johnny Lake, an assistant professor of teacher education at Northwest Christian University. Lake is on loan this year as an administrator at the Eugene School District, and he stepped up to the mike to share his research on the importance of student relationships with teachers.

The more students interact with their teachers, the better they do, he said. The interactions aren't complicated or difficult, Lake said.

"It's not rocket science. These are everyday practices," he said. It's as straightforward as teachers staying after class or during recess to help with homework, expecting students to work hard and encouraging them to think well of their skills, he said.

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Gifted, Talented and Seperated, Deja Vu

Al Baker:

IT is just a metal door with three windows, the kind meant to keep the clamor of an elementary school hallway from piercing a classroom's quiet. Other than paint the color of bubble gum, it is unremarkable.

But the pink door on Room 311 at Public School 163 on the Upper West Side represents a barrier belied by its friendly hue. On one side are 21 fourth graders labeled gifted and talented by New York City's school system. They are coursing through public school careers stamped accelerated.

And they are mostly white.

On the other side, sometimes sitting for reading lessons on the floor of the hallway, are those in the school's vast majority: They are enrolled in general or special education programs.


English 10

TAG Complaint

"They're all rich, white kids and they'll do just fine" -- NOT!

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Education Matters: Making Reading Proficiency a State Priority


Parents, educators, community leaders, and state policymakers gathered at Philander Smith College this weekend to discuss making third-grade reading proficiency a state priority.

The Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading hosted the two-day Action Summit this weekend.

The goal of the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is that by 2020, all Arkansas children will read at grade level by the end of third grade.

Arkansas is currently ranked 37th in the nation in fourth grade reading proficiency according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Reading is surely job 1 for most Districts, including Madison.

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January 13, 2013

Handwriting: a joined-up case

Gillian Tett:

A couple of weeks ago, as I sat with friends in Maryland next to their Christmas tree, I heard their teenage daughter - who I shall call Julia - complain about her recent school tests. But what threw her off her stride were not the multiple choice questions or the essays. The shock came when the examiners asked her to write her name and a brief sentence in "cursive" style (or what British people call "joined-up" writing, as opposed to block print).

Never mind that Julia, 16, was supposed to have learnt cursive writing eight years before at her (excellent) school; or that cursive writing has long been the educational standard in the western world. In reality, Julia almost never uses it. Nor do her friends: an (entirely informal) survey of the American teenagers that I met during the holiday period suggests that almost all of them are now writing in a "printed" style, and struggle to do anything else.

"Nobody does cursive," I was repeatedly told by kids and young adults, whenever I could tear them away from their mobile devices long enough to discuss the issue. Indeed, they seemed so baffled that I might as well have asked them if they wrote using a quill pen.

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Understanding the Gates Foundation's Measuring Effective Teachers Project

Jay Greene:

If I were running a school I'd probably want to evaluate teachers using a mixture of student test score gains, classroom observations, and feedback from parents, students, and other staff. But I recognize that different schools have different missions and styles that can best be assessed using different methods. I wouldn't want to impose on all schools in a state or the nation a single, mechanistic system for evaluating teachers since that is likely to be a one size fits none solution. There is no single best way to evaluate teachers, just like there is no single best way to educate students.

But the folks at the Gates Foundation, afflicted with PLDD, don't see things this way. They've been working with politicians in Illinois, Los Angeles, and elsewhere to centrally impose teacher evaluation systems, but they've encountered stiff resistance. In particular, they've noticed that teachers and others have expressed strong reservations about any evaluation system that relies too heavily on student test scores.

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Under-Examined Higher Ed Data

Andrew Gillen:

The third capability of Education Sector's new Higher Ed Data Central that we would like to highlight is the ability to analyze under-examined data (see here and here for previous installments). While far from perfect data sources, Department of Education databases contain many hidden gems that get almost no attention.

For instance, the department used to collect the number of "Executive/administrative and managerial" university employees who make over $100,000. If we look at just private non-profit, four-year universities and put highly compensated employees in per-student terms, it is clear that some schools seem to have many more highly compensated administrators than others.

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Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study

Michael Puma, Chesapeake Research Associates, Stephen Bell, Abt Associates, Ronna Cook, Ronna Cook Associates, Camilla Heid, Pam Broene, and Frank Jenkins, Westat, Andrew Mashburn, Portland State University, and Jason Downer, University of Virginia:

Looking across the full study period, from the beginning of Head Start through 3rd grade, the evidence is clear that access to Head Start improved children's preschool outcomes across developmental domains, but had few impacts on children in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Providing access to Head Start was found to have a positive impact on the types and quality of preschool programs that children attended, with the study finding statistically significant differences between the Head Start group and the control group on every measure of children's preschool experiences in the first year of the study. In contrast, there was little rd evidence of systematic differences in children's elementary school experiences through 3 grade, between children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts in the control group.

In terms of children's well-being, there is also clear evidence that access to Head Start had an impact on children's language and literacy development while children were in Head Start. These effects, albeit modest in magnitude, were found for both age cohorts during their first year of admission to the Head Start program. However, these early effects rapidly dissipated in elementary school, with only a single impact remaining at the end of 3rd grade for children in each age cohort.
With regard to children's social-emotional development, the results differed by age cohort and by the person describing the child's behavior. For children in the 4-year-old cohort, there were no observed impacts through the end of kindergarten but favorable impacts reported by parents and unfavorable impacts reported by teachers emerged at the end of 1st and 3rd grades.

One unfavorable impact on the children's self-report emerged at the end of 3rd grade. In contrast to the 4-year-old cohort, for the 3-year-old cohort there were favorable impacts on parent- reported social emotional outcomes in the early years of the study that continued into early elementary school. However, there were no impacts on teacher-reported measures of social- emotional development for the 3-year-old cohort at any data collection point or on the children's self-reports in 3rd grade.

More here and here.

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All schools in China to hire security guards after Henan knife attack

Amy Li:

Repercussions from a Henan school knife attack that injured 23 pupils last month are still being felt as Beijing security officials announced on Wednesday that every kindergarten, and primary and middle school in China will hire at least one full-time security officer.

The officials, from the Central Comprehensive Social Management Commission that oversees law enforcement, said they had ordered a nationwide crackdown on crimes in neighbourhoods near schools. Illegal businesses and hazardous roads and construction projects nearby are also being inspected.

The announcement, reported by the People's Daily on Thursday, comes weeks after a man stormed into a village school and slashed several young children in a.brutal attack.

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Create a (Washington) state Department of Education that reports to the governor

Outgoing Washington Governor Chris Gregoire:

WASHINGTON'S education agencies are too often focused on the adults, not the children. Among my biggest goals as governor has been to change that, to return the focus to students in a seamless education system from early learning through college, and to provide accountability for that outcome.

It is our moral responsibility to get it right, and now it's also our legal one with the state Supreme Court's McCleary ruling on the constitutional mandate for K-12 basic education funding. In the budget I proposed for 2013-2015, I asked the Legislature to make a sizable down payment on that obligation. That starts with $1 billion for the next two years and grows to $3.4 billion a biennium in six years.

Similar sentiments have been raised in Wisconsin vis a vis the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Superintendent.

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Maryland Bill Would Make Teacher Union Agency Fees Mandatory

Mike Antonucci:

I won't repeat the arguments against agency fees, but Maryland's case has an additional irony: Ten of the state's 24 school districts already require non-members to pay agency fees to the union. The provision was negotiated into teachers' contracts through the collective bargaining process, which is supposed to be the sacrosanct method for achieving gains in teacher pay, benefits and working conditions. But the Maryland State Education Association has been unable to persuade the remaining 14 school districts to go along, so it calls on the state legislature to circumvent the negotiating process in those districts.

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In Support of The Milwaukee Public Schools

Diane Ravitch:

In his Jan. 6 column, Alan J. Borsuk says that a new vision for education in Milwaukee is needed to get beyond the stale and failed answers of the past. He is right.

Milwaukee has had voucher schools since 1990, longer than any school district in the nation. Students in the voucher schools perform no better than those in the public schools.

Milwaukee has had charter schools for about 20 years. Students in the charter schools do no better than those in the public schools.

As the other sectors have grown, Milwaukee Public Schools has experienced sharply declining enrollment. At the same time, the number of students with disabilities is far greater in the public schools than in either the voucher or charter schools. The latter are unable or unwilling to take the children who are most challenging and most expensive to educate. Thus, MPS is "competing" with two sectors that skim off the ablest students and reject the ones they don't want. Most people would say this is not a level playing field.

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Report says UW System overpaid health premiums, pensions by nearly $33M

Associated Press:

The University of Wisconsin System overpaid for health insurance premiums and pension contributions by nearly $33 million over the last two years, including $8 million for more than 900 employees who had already left their jobs, according to a report released Thursday.

The Legislative Audit Bureau's findings prompted state lawmakers to call for a deeper review of UW System's payroll and benefit protocols.

"This is a $32 million error," said Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Powers Lake, co-chairwoman of the Legislture's audit committee. "My initial response was I'm shocked. I'm really disappointed."

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January 12, 2013

"When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous": An Update on Madison's Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap

170K PDF via a kind Andrew Statz email:
MAJOR FINDINGS 1. Students who have spent more time in MMSD perform better on the WKCE than their peers who have spent less time in MMSD.

2. Students who have spent more time in MMSD are demographically different from recent arrivals, who are less likely to be white and more likely to be low-income.

3. When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous.

Based on these findings, MMSD may be better served by refining its core curriculum to meet students' needs based on demographic characteristics rather than the recency of their arrival in MMSD. The recent arrivals report is attached. Our official statement about our findings follows.

The most notable anomaly is among 10th grade students. In both Reading and Math, 10th grade students who had spent one year in MMSD performed as well as students who had spent their entire careers in MMSD and substantially better than new students as well as students who had spent between 2 and 9 years in MMSD. This suggests that students who enter MMSD in 9th grade are altogether different from students who enter in other grades. The high performance level for students spending one year in MMSD prior to 10th grade may reflect students entering MMSD in 9th grade after attending private schools through 8th grade.


It is the district's responsibility to meet students where they are in their learning and identify needed interventions, enrichment or other programs to advance that learning. That means we need to have curriculum and programs that work for all of the students we serve, regardless of demographic background or how long they have been in the district.

Unfortunately, we know that achievement gaps exist in schools across the country, and no single district has entirely eliminated them. Focusing only on how long a student has been in our district does not underscore the complexity of the issue and is not the most effective predictor of achievement.

Instead, strengthening classroom instruction and ensuring interventions and enrichment that advance learning for every student regardless of demographic characteristics will yield the best results.

However, we do know that mobility, including moving from another district or moves within MMSD, does have some impact on achievement. Exploring community solutions to enhance stability throughout a student's education could both increase achievement and help close gaps.

Related: Madison's Mayor on Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap; District Plans to Release Data "Within 3 Weeks".

Larry Winkler kindly published a more detailed analysis, here.

I asked several observers for their perspective on the rhetoric, assertions and the Friday report. Here's one:

"When the data were first presented, the argument put forth was that the performance of newly arrived students explained much of the performance gap that we see in our schools. However, when the District examined the effects of race and socioeconomic status in the analysis, they found that the performance of low income and minority students who had been in the MMSD for many years was not significantly different from the performance of low income and minority students who were new to the District.

It is disappointing that the District and the Mayor's office ran so far and so fast with their initial, incomplete analysis."

UPDATE: Larry Winkler kindly created a set of charts scaled by percentages.

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KIPP should be given a chance to run Camden charter schools

Laura Waters:

This week NJ Spotlight acquired, via a formal Open Records Act request, the application from KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy to the Camden City Board of Education. The applicants hope to create up to five charter schools under the auspices of N.J.'s Urban Hope Act, a bill passed last January that allows non-profits to operate new schools in Newark, Trenton, and Camden.

The application process has not been lacking in melodrama. (See here for previous Newsworks coverage.) While Mayor Dana Reed heartily supports other options in Camden besides its dismal traditional schools, the school board initially rejected all applications and later, only begrudgingly, agreed to consider the one from KIPP, a highly-regarded program that serves 41,000 kids in the country and operates five schools in Newark.

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Oil boom and trust of conservative lawmakers

Kevin Kiley:

Grant Shaft, a member of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education and its immediate past chair, gets funny looks from other states' board members when he talks about his system's plans.

"At meetings of the [Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges], there's no question we're the envy of everybody," he said. "We go to breakout sessions and hear about the dismal economic crisis in each other state, and it comes North Dakota's turn and we have such a different story."

That's because North Dakota, unlike almost every other state, is poised to make an unprecedented spending increase in its higher education system. The state's governor has proposed a 14 percent increase -- about $90 million -- in the 11-campus system's operating budget for the next biennium, as well as an additional $177 million in one-time capital expenditures. Politicians and education leaders hope an infusion of cash will help transform the system - which has struggled with inconsistent direction and leadership - into one of the country's best.

The proposal stands out in higher education because most states are still cutting budgets in the wake of the economic downturn, which led to a 25 percent decline in per-student funding between 2006-07 and 2011-12, according to the College Board. At the same time, Republican lawmakers in other states have begun to question the value of state investments in higher education, with some calling for even greater austerity.

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Don't Let Math Pull the Wool Over Your Eyes

Carl Bialik:

This column will make the case that many people, including holders of graduate degrees, professional researchers and even editors of scientific journals, can be too easily impressed by math. A mathematical model is developed to describe sequential effects. (See the highlighted equation in the graphic).

Did that second sentence make the first more persuasive? It did for most participants in a recent intriguing experiment whose result suggests people often interact with math in a way that isn't very logical. Other research has shown that even those who should be especially clear-sighted about numbers--scientific researchers, for example, and those who review their work for publication--are often uncomfortable with, and credulous about, mathematical material. As a result, some research that finds its way into respected journals--and ends up being reported in the popular press--is flawed.

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School Design May Affect a Child's Grades

Ian Steadman:

A study of school design has discovered that school layouts can influence a child's development by as much as 25 percent -- positively or negatively -- over the course of an academic year.

The 751 pupils using 34 classrooms across seven primary schools in Blackpool were studied over the 2011-12 academic year by the University of Salford's School of the Built Environment and architecture firm Nightingale Associates. Standardised data -- such as age, gender and academic performance -- were collected on each child at the start and end of the year, while each classroom was rated for quality on ten different environmental factors, such as orientation for natural light, shape, colour, temperature and acoustics.

The results, published in Building and the Environment, revealed that the architecture and design of classrooms has a significant role to play in influencing academic performance. Six of the environmental factors -- colour, choice, connection, complexity, flexibility and light -- were clearly correlated with grade scores.

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January 11, 2013

Advocating teacher content knowledge licensing requirements

Joel Klein:

For many critics of contemporary American public education, Finland is the ideal model. It performs at the top on international tests and has a highly respected teaching corps, yet it doesn't rely on policies like test-based accountability and school choice that are the cornerstones of U.S. reform. So, the critics argue, let's change course and follow Finland.

It's facile, at best, to look to a small, largely homogenous, country, with a very different educational pedigree as a model for a nation like ours. Still, the "go- Finland" crowd is onto something: Finland long ago decided to professionalize its teaching force to the point where teaching is now viewed on a par with other highly respected, learned professions like medicine and law. Today, only the best and brightest can and do become teachers: Just one in every 10 applicants are accepted to teacher preparation programs, which culminate in both an undergraduate degree and subject-specific Master's degree. Even after such selective admissions and competitive training, if there are graduates who are not deemed ready for the classroom, they will not get appointed to the system.

Like law and medical schools, education schools shouldn't be able to survive if fewer than half their students can pass a rigorous professional exam.
Contrast that with America, where virtually anyone who graduates from college can become a teacher, and where job security, not teacher excellence, defines the workforce culture. According to the consulting firm McKinsey, "The U.S. attracts most of its teachers from the bottom two-thirds of college classes, with nearly half coming from the bottom third." And, today, more than a third of math teachers in the U.S. don't have an undergraduate degree in math, let alone a Master's degree. Yet, even with this remarkably low threshold for entry, once someone becomes a teacher in the U.S., it's virtually impossible to remove him or her for poor performance.

What explains this cross-national difference? It does not seem to be teacher pay. Although teacher salaries in Finland are slightly higher than the average salary there, they are comparable to teacher salaries in other European countries. And when adjusted for national price indices, they're lower than teacher salaries in the U.S.

Instead, the difference seems to be rooted directly in the relative professionalization of the position. In addition to setting high standards of entry and providing high-quality professional education, Finland has established a culture that motivates teachers to excel at school and then innovate in the classroom. As a result, teaching holds an appeal comparable to that of other high-status careers in Finland.

Wisconsin has taken a baby step toward teacher content knowledge requirements via the adoption of MTEL.

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Parenthood & Life Expectancy

The Economist:

PARENTS often complain that their lives are being shortened by the stress of having children, yet numerous studies suggest the opposite: that it is the childless who die young, not those who have procreated. Such research has, however, failed to find out whether it is the actual absence of children which causes early mortality or whether, rather, it is brought about by the state of mind that leads some people not to have children in the first place.

To resolve the point Esben Agerbo of the University of Aarhus in Denmark and his colleagues conducted an investigation that tried to take the question of wanting children out of the equation, by looking only at those people who had demonstrated a desire to be parents by undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF). They discovered, as they report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, that there really does seem to be something about the presence of kids which makes a difference to the length of people's lives.

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Colleges Lose Pricing Power

Michael Corkery:

The demand for four-year college degrees is softening, the result of a perfect storm of economic and demographic forces that is sapping pricing power at a growing number of U.S. colleges and universities, according to a new survey by Moody's Investors Service.

Facing stagnant family income, shaky job prospects for graduates and a smaller pool of high-school graduates, more schools are reining in tuition increases and giving out larger scholarships to attract students, Moody's concluded in a report set to be released Thursday.

But the strategy is eating into net tuition revenue, which is the revenue that colleges collect from tuition minus scholarships and other aid. College officials said they need to increase net tuition revenue to keep up with rising expenses that include faculty benefits and salaries. But one-third of the 292 schools that responded to Moody's survey anticipate that net revenue will climb in the current fiscal year by less than inflation.

For the fiscal year, which for most schools ends this June, 18% of 165 private universities and 15% of 127 public universities project a decline in net tuition revenue. That is a sharp rise from the estimated declines among 10% of the 152 private schools and 4% of the 105 public schools in fiscal 2012.

Nearly half of the schools surveyed by Moody's reported enrollment declines this fall, though overall median enrollment remained relatively flat from the previous year. A stagnant high-school graduate population, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest, is contributing to the declines at some schools.

This will affect the K-12 world as well.

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Pupil Hernandez, who refused to wear RFID, loses appeal


A Texan student who refused to wear a badge with a radio tag that tracked her movements has lost a federal court appeal against her school's ID policy.

The radio chips track attendance, which in turn helps secure school funding.

But Andrea Hernandez, 15, stopped wearing the badge on religious grounds, saying it was the "mark of the beast".

After John Jay High School suspended her, she went to court and won a temporary injunction to continue going to the school, without the badge.

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Math Envy and CoffeeScript's Foibles, Part 2

John Bender:

In the previous post I presented the basics of operational semantics and showed how derivations trees can be used to differentiate two terms that are syntactically similar. This post develops the closing thoughts further with the introduction of type rules, example tools for automating evaluation and type derivation, and a concrete definition of semantic ambiguity. The primary goal is to establish the best way to detect ambiguous term pairings and then outline what will work for a tool that can be generalized beyond the CoffeeScript subset.

Type Rules
Type rules are similar in construction to evaluation rules, consisting of a premise and conclusion. As with evaluation rules the premise establishes the preconditions for the conclusion. Again, each rule is tagged with a name for reference but preceded by a t- in this case to distinguish them from inference rules (e-).

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The Education of Michelle Rhee

PBS Frontline. More here and here.

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2013 Madison Schools Wishlist

Madison schoolboard member Ed Hughes:

11. I wish for a successful introduction of the Mondo reading program in all our elementary schools. Superintendent Jane Belmore has particular interest and expertise in literacy and she has spearheaded the school district's decision to adopt the Mondo Bookshop Program at the K-5 level across all elementary schools, with the purchase of new curriculum materials funded through some of the unexpected state aid that came our way this fall. The Mondo program, which is said to have clearly-focused lesson guides that are aligned to the Common Core state standards, should be a significant step forward in terms of a district-wide, aligned, early literacy scope and sequence. I also wish that now that we have made a commitment to the Mondo program, we stick with it and don't lurch towards some other approach if the improved outcomes we're seeking take a while to arrive.

12. I realize there is initiative fatigue among our teachers and staff, but I wish for a continued push for new student-based ideas and initiatives developed at the school level, like the drive toward converting Toki Middle School to an Expeditionary Learning school. This fall, there was discussion of Toki possibly switching to a charter school structure as a way of accessing state funds that could help accelerate the conversion. I am sorry that this charter proposal has run into complications and has been withdrawn before the Board really had a chance to consider it, but I hope that principals, teachers and staff at all our schools continue to search for innovative approaches toward enhancing the engagement and learning of our students.

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January 10, 2013

Have We Lost the War on Drugs?

Gary Becker & Kevin Murphy:

President Richard Nixon declared a "war on drugs" in 1971. The expectation then was that drug trafficking in the United States could be greatly reduced in a short time through federal policing--and yet the war on drugs continues to this day. The cost has been large in terms of lives, money and the well-being of many Americans, especially the poor and less educated. By most accounts, the gains from the war have been modest at best.

The direct monetary cost to American taxpayers of the war on drugs includes spending on police, the court personnel used to try drug users and traffickers, and the guards and other resources spent on imprisoning and punishing those convicted of drug offenses. Total current spending is estimated at over $40 billion a year.

These costs don't include many other harmful effects of the war on drugs that are difficult to quantify. For example, over the past 40 years the fraction of students who have dropped out of American high schools has remained large, at about 25%. Dropout rates are not high for middle-class white children, but they are very high for black and Hispanic children living in poor neighborhoods. Many factors explain the high dropout rates, especially bad schools and weak family support. But another important factor in inner-city neighborhoods is the temptation to drop out of school in order to profit from the drug trade.

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High schools, take the online course

Patrick Welsh:

Like most school districts around the country, the Alexandria, Va., district where I teach has been guilty of churning out one initiative after another that has promised to revolutionize education. In reality, these innovations usually turn out to be old ideas disguised in new lingo.

Thankfully, there is one initiative in Alexandria and in a growing number of school systems nationwide that is revolutionizing the way kids learn: online classes. This approach not only helps potential dropouts keep working toward diplomas, but also allows the most motivated students to seek courses not often offered in a traditional school setting.

If teachers and school administrators are ever going to live up to their ideal of meeting the needs of all students, they are going to have to swallow their pride, put kids first and make online classes available to more and more kids.

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Madison's Mayor on Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap; District Plans to Release Data "Within 3 Weeks"

Paul Fanlund, via a kind reader's email

There is an achievement gap. A significant part of the achievement gap is not because of the failure on the part of the Madison public schools, but it is because of the number of students who have transferred here from other districts, districts like Chicago," he says.

"Those kids come here unprepared. They come from poorly performing schools. There is a reluctance to discuss this factor. The reluctance to discuss it has at least two consequences. The first is that we come to erroneous conclusions about the quality of education in Madison. The second problem is that we don't develop strategies for these kids so that we can close that achievement gap."

Soglin says a child who's far behind in reading "who transferred in from a poorly performing district as opposed to a child who's been in Madison her entire life, could require very different interventions. There are people who don't want to talk about this problem and that's one of the reasons we fail in addressing the achievement gap.

"Now, talking about this alone is not going to solve it, but addressing it and analyzing it properly may in the short term cast some negatives, but it is going to lead to a better job in terms of correcting the problem."

I (and others) inquired about the data behind the Mayor's assertion several months ago. I received an email today - after another inquiry - from the District's Steve Hartley stating that the data will be available in "under 3 weeks".

Related, also from Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: "We are not interested in the development of new charter schools".

Background links:

November, 2005 When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed...and not before

"They're all rich, white kids and they'll do just fine" -- NOT!

60% to 42%: Madison School District's Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags "National Average": Administration seeks to continue its use

61 Page Madison Schools Achievement Gap Plan -Accountability Plans and Progress Indicators

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Success of new UK academies as yet unproved

Chris Cook:

When the Henrietta Barnett School in north London became an academy, it wrote to parents saying this would give the school "greater access to financial resources". The story is a familiar one.

The business manager of a London secondary school told the Financial Times: "When we converted, we worked out exactly how much it was worth to us. We estimated that, all in, we could run a £750,000 surplus on becoming an academy. That's a lot of building repairs."

This is a big part of the coalition's academy success story. Five times as many schools have joined the scheme as were expected, including half of all state secondaries. The Department for Education encouraged this change through accidental overfunding.

It was intended that schools would become academies because of the legal benefits: they have exemptions from the national curriculum and teachers' pay arrangements, which should give them flexibility to be more innovative. The intention was to attract schools with extra rights not extra money.

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Employers, educators search for answers to technical jobs issue

Michael Burke:

The challenge of finding good employees is so long-standing and pervasive that Racine Metal-Fab has revised its hiring approach.

"If we see behaviors we don't like, we fire faster and hire slower," said company President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Lucas.

Area companies are doing what they can internally to cultivate and preserve the best possible workforce, while some talk about what else can be done to offer companies better candidates.

At Poclain Hydraulics, 1300 N. Grandview Parkway, "For every 20 resumes, we maybe bring in five to eight people," said Tom Shinners, vice president of finance and human resources. "Of those, we probably hire 40 percent. We might get two or three hires from 20 resumes."

"Years ago you had apprenticeships, companies that would bring you on and train you," said Andrew Beere, human resources manager at Pioneer Products, 1917 S. Memorial Drive. "And we have kind of gone back to that. If they have some experience, we're willing to train."

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2 Pi: Rhymes And Radii

NPR, via a kind reader's email:

It's fourth period at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., and students are filing into a classroom at the end of a long hallway. Jake Scott, who doubles as both varsity wrestling coach and math teacher, calls his algebra class to order, but some students are more orderly than others.

Keeping control of the class is one thing, but holding their attention through complicated calculations and theorems is another challenge altogether. So Scott gets a little extra help from his alter ego, 2 Pi.

About three years ago, Scott started infusing rap into his lessons. His alias comes from a math formula, and as 2 Pi the rapping math teacher, Scott makes learning math cool, while also developing a connection with his students.

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Mainland parents still willing to exploit loopholes in one-child policy

Fiona Tam:

How much are you willing to pay to have a second child with Hong Kong residency rights or American citizenship? That's the question Shenzhen authorities asked the city's residents when they introduced heavy fines this year for those who exploit loopholes in the mainland's one-child policy and give birth overseas.

Since Tuesday, Shenzhen permanent residents have faced fines of at least 219,000 yuan (HK$270,000) for giving birth to a second baby, whether in Hong Kong, the US or another foreign country. The amount is six times the city's average annual income last year but it can increase sharply if the parents' annual income is higher.

Rich couples earning more than 73,000 yuan a year will be required to pay an extra amount equal to twice the difference. For example, a couple earning 500,000 yuan a year could be fined 1.07 million yuan for their second child, including the basic 219,000 yuan fine and 854,000 yuan in additional fines.

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Madison Teachers, Inc. Newsletter

83K PDF, via a kind Jeannie Bettner email.

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January 9, 2013

WI Association of School Boards: Taxpayer Dollars at Work Against Taxpayers - Fighting Open Records: Resolution 13-16: Costs Associated With Open Records Requests

Wisconsin Association of School Boards (PDF), via a kind reader's email:

Create: The WASB supports legislation to allow a public records authority to charge a requester for all of the actual, necessary and direct costs associated with complying with requests under the Public Records Law.

Rationale: The committee advanced this resolution to allow the membership to decide whether to go on record in support of allowing public records authorities, including school districts, to charge a requester for all of the actual, necessary and direct costs associated with complying with requests under the Public Records Law. (A recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision held that public records authorities are not authorized to charge a requester for the costs of redacting non-disclosable information contained in otherwise disclosable public records.)
Related: Madison Schools' Report Cards Take a hit after data error and Where does MMSD get its numbers from?.

Open Records. Sunlight Foundation.

The publication of1996-2006 Madison Police call data occurred after a lengthy open records process. Perhaps the City is becoming more forthcoming?

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What measures the best teacher? More than scores, study shows

Stephanie Simon:

Effective teachers can be identified by observing them at work, measuring their students' progress on standardized tests - and asking those students directly what goes on in the classroom, according to a comprehensive study released Tuesday.

The three-year, $50 million Measures of Effective Teaching study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found it was difficult to predict how much students would achieve in a school year based on their teacher's years of experience or knowledge of pedagogical technique.

But researchers found they could pick out the best teachers in a school and even predict roughly how much their students would learn if they rated the educators through a formula that put equal weight on student input, test scores and detailed classroom observations by principals and peers.

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DNA Dreams -- documentary

Steve Hsu:

What would happen if the gene was found that IQ determines us? And when people and animals could be easily cloned? Wait there a new world full of perfect people? And we want that world be? In China's Pearl River Delta is that world in the making. On the outskirts of Shenzhen is BGI, recently the largest genetic research world. Working day and night here 4000 young scientists at mapping the DNA of plants, animals and humans. Knowledge of this code of life opens up many new possibilities. For instance, the eighteen year old high school dropout Zhao Bowen an international research team that wants to find the genes for intelligence. He works with the young, brilliant psychologist Yang Rui, that IQ tests decreases with gifted children and their blood samples to collect DNA. In a later lab work forty young people led by the 24-year-old Lin Lin a clone project, which includes fluorescent mini-pigs produces and clone factory will grow. Between the cloning of humans and animals exist ethical, but hardly practical differences. Which applications are in the offing as this knowledge will soon become common property? China has few legal obstacles to the life sciences and also to capital is not a defect. The young scientists can fully indulge their fascination. They are optimistic and want to progress. But reality is stubborn and it exists for them not only in bits, bytes and algorithms.

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Math even mathematicians don't understand (the sequel)

Kevin Hartnett:

On November 4 I published an article in the Ideas section about Shinichi Mochizuki, a mathematician who claims to have proved the ABC conjecture, one of the great unsolved problems in math. The only catch is that his proposed proof is written in mathematics so complex that literally no one in the world can evaluate its accuracy. Long, unintelligible tracts are not uncommon in mathematics and normally the math community chooses simply to ignore them -- but in this case Mochizuki is so highly regarded that experts around the world have decided to puzzle it out, which could take years.

A few weeks later I received an email from a friend of a 90-year-old mathematician named Henry Pogorzelski, an emeritus professor at the University of Maine. The email explained that for the last half-century, Pogorzelski has toiled at a proof of the legendary Goldbach Conjecture and after decades of effort he believes he has it, though his work runs thousands upon thousands of pages, and no mathematicians can understand it or are even willing to invest the time to try to. Pogorzelski's friend explained that he hoped I might write a story that would stir some interest in the professor's work.

Though Pogorzelski is 50 years older and less internationally noted than Mochizuki, their careers have some surface similarities. After promising starts -- early in his career Pogorzelski worked under the famed Andre Weil at the Institute for Advanced Study-- they devoted themselves to solving big "named" problems in mathematics. (One difference is that by the time he embarked on solving ABC, Mochizuki had already solved enough hard problems to build up considerable credibility with his peers; Pogorzelski had no similar track record at the time he embarked on Goldbach.)

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

For Newly Minted M.B.A.s, a Smaller Paycheck Awaits

Ruth Simon:

Like many students, Steve Vonderweidt hoped that a master's degree in business administration would open doors to a new job with a higher paycheck.

But now, about eight months after receiving his M.B.A. from the University of Louisville, Mr. Vonderweidt, 36 years old, hasn't been able to find a job in the private sector, and continues to work as an administrator at a social-service agency that helps Louisville residents obtain food stamps, health care and other assistance. He is saddled with about $75,000 in student-loan debt--much of it from graduate school.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:14 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

More teenage girls joining Hong Kong street gangs

Lana Lam:

A growing number of girls are muscling out the boys in Hong Kong's teenage street gang culture, according to a charity that has been helping troubled youngsters for over two decades.

Social workers at Youth Outreach, who take in 200 children off the streets every night at their Sai Wan Ho drop-in centre, say that in their early teens girls are often physically stronger than boys and have a more mature personality, making them natural authority figures.

"A lot of the gang leaders are now girls and they are getting younger and more masculine," said social worker Ted Tam Chung-hoi, 33, who has worked with Youth Outreach for 10 years.

Every night, the centre's staff pick up children found out on the streets all over Hong Kong, especially in more remote districts such as Tin Shui Wai, Tuen Mun and Tseung Kwan O, and bring them back to the centre, which stays open from 9pm to 7am.

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Students of math and physics may enjoy these 323 pages of notes by Alex Alaniz:

Alex Alaniz:

These are step-by-verifiable-step notes designed to take students with a year of calculus based physics who are about to enroll in ordinary differential equations all the way to doctoral foundations in either mathematics and physics without mystery. Abstract algebra, topology (local and global) folds into a useful, intuitive toolset for ordinary differential equations and partial differential equations, be they linear or nonlinear. The algebraist, the topologist, the theoretical physicist, the applied mathematician and experimental physicist are artificial distinctions at the core. There is unity.

Mathematician, you will see step-by-verifiable-step algebra, topology (local and global) in a unified framework to treat differential equations, ordinary, partial, linear and nonlinear. You will then see why the physicists created a great font of differential equations, the calculus of variations. You will see why the physicists care about both discrete and continuous (topological) Lie groups and understand what quantum mechanics is as a mathematical system from its various historical classical physical roots: Lagrangian mechanics, Hamiltonian mechanics, Poisson brackets. You will have the tools to understand the Standard Model of physics and some of our main paths forward to grand unified theories and theories of everything. With these notes you should never again be able to practice abstraction for the sake of abstraction. Physicist, you will not be held hostage to verbiage and symbology. You will see that mathematics has deep, unavoidable limitations that underlie physics, itself suffering unavoidable limitations. You will see unity, e.g., summing angular momentum in terms of tensor products and directions sums, ladder operators, Young's tableaux, root and weigh diagrams as different codifications of the same thing. Neither of you have to take your required courses as exercises in botany and voodoo as exemplified by ordinary differential equations. You will have context and operational skills. As lagniappes you will have the calculus of variations, the fractional calculus, stochastic calculus and stochastic differential equations.

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January 8, 2013

Cerebral circuitry: Researchers are focusing on whether gadgets are changing how our brains work as regards empathy and human interaction

April Dembosky:

I am flying. No plane, no wings, just me soaring over rooftops with a mild flip in my belly as I dip closer to the grid of city streets. I lean to the right to curve past a skyscraper, then speed up and tilt left to skirt by a tree. There has been an earthquake and I am looking for a lost child who is diabetic and needs insulin.

This is not a dream. I am awake, wearing my normal clothes - no cape or leotard - standing squarely on both feet in a room of the virtual reality laboratory at Stanford University.

About 70 test subjects have done the same simulation, half of them flying in a virtual helicopter, the other half granted the virtual superpower of flight. Half from each group have a mission: find and save the lost child.

After the simulation, head gear returned to a hook on the wall, a researcher reaches for her clipboard to ask a few questions. She accidentally knocks over a tin of pens. In sociology studies, this is a classic trick for measuring altruistic intent. The test subjects who flew Superman-style rushed to help clean up the spill. They responded four seconds faster and picked up two more pens on average than the helicopter passengers.

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Deferring Six Figures on Wall Street for Teacher's Salary

Scott Eidler:

Four years after the financial crisis, Wall Street hiring has remained weak, and many college graduates have searched for jobs and even careers in other fields. In the last several years, hundreds of such would-be finance professionals and management consultants have taken their high-powered ambitions and spreadsheet modeling skills to the classroom.

Teach for America, the 22-year-old nonprofit organization that recruits high-achieving college graduates to teach in some of the nation's poorest schools for two years, in particular has garnered renewed interest among the business-oriented set. Teach for America says that its 2012 class contained about 400 recent graduates with a major in business or economics. Of those with professional experience, about 175 worked in finance.

Those participants include Zachary Dearing, 23, a recent graduate of M.I.T. Two summers ago, he was an intern at McKinsey & Company, and the year before, Goldman Sachs.

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The 2012 "Borsuk Awards"

Alan Borsuk, via a kind reader's email:

"Organization of the Year: Schools That Can Milwaukee. Unfortunately, anything that even smells of voucher and charter issues is controversial. Can't we set that aside and stick to the quality of the work these folks are doing? If a school is working with Schools That Can, I can be confident it is a school that is determined to be outstanding. The organization, a nonprofit that coaches and trains school staffs, includes some of the most talented educators in town. They are working with more than 20 schools - MPS, charters and vouchers - and building a track record of success."

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All I learned in college was how to work for someone else

Stefan Kendall:

Recently, there have been a number of points and counter-points made about leaving college to join or found a start-up. The most popular point against leaving is that a degree will market you better to join big corporations.

And that's exactly it.

College prepares you for a life of the corporate stooge, but it's worse than that. Classes in college actively teach you lessons you must unlearn, and fail to teach you anything even marginally related to what it takes to run a company. If you want to work for someone else, college is great. Having a bachelors in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Drama prepares you *excellently* to get hired as a product manager at a product company. If you want to be an entrepreneur, though, you're screwed.

Things I've unlearned
1. Plagiarism is bad.

Wrong! If the licensing is right, copy to your heart's content. If you're not in violation of copyright, trademark, or patent, you can do whatever you want with someone else's creation. Sometimes they even give you permission. Did you find a real swell formula online? Did you know you can't copyright formulas?

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Pressure to Rein In Tuition Squeezes Colleges

Michael Corkery:

Private colleges are facing pressure to slow tuition hikes and boost aid, as families question the cost.

College officials say the long-held faith among many Americans that college is worth whatever it costs is starting to waver under the weight of lackluster job prospects, stagnant wages and a pileup of student debt.

The shift is already threatening to put stress on some schools' finances. Average tuition this past year rose by the smallest percentage in at least 40 years among the 960 private schools that belong to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which collectively enroll 90% of the students in private colleges. It climbed 3.9% to $29,305.

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

Life, death and sport: The best culture is not divorced from life, but our most profound way to make sense of it

Harry Eyres:

Maybe I've overvalued culture, retreated into its ivory tower too much as an escape from noisy, messy reality. I remember driving along the Westway out of London, past rows of what the cartoonist Osbert Lancaster called "bypass variegated" semi-detached houses, designed "to achieve the maximum of inconvenience ... [using] the least attractive materials and building devices known to the past", while listening to Mozart or Beethoven and finding the coexistence of angelic beauty and aesthetic disaster hard to reconcile.

Of course the best culture is not divorced from life, but the most profound way we have of making sense of it. Two of my musical highlights this year were dark, rich confrontations with mortality as interpreted by artists bringing all their life-experience to bear on music of almost unbearable poignancy: in one case by a young composer, aware of his limited time and raging against the dying of the light, the other by an elderly one looking back with nostalgia and infinite regret, but also with warmth and love.

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Measures of Segregation

Scott Jaschik:

Court decisions dating to the 1950s theoretically ended racial segregation of higher education in the United States. But data to be presented today at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association show that the pace of desegregation has slowed over time. And in a finding that could be controversial, the study finds that states that ban the consideration of race in admissions may see the pace of desegregation accelerate.

The study is by Peter L. Hinrichs, an assistant professor of public policy at Georgetown University. He focuses on black and white students, not those in other racial and ethnic groups, and he examines "exposure" and "dissimilarity" (defined below) of black and white students as two measures of desegregation. Hinrichs uses federal data from every college, filed since the era in which desegregation started. He argues that these measures illustrate the extent to which colleges are truly desegregated, which may not be reflected simply by increases or decreases in black student enrollments (which can be concentrated at certain institutions).

Exposure is the percentage of black students at colleges attended by white students, and vice versa. Here he shows that from 1968, the typical white student attended a college that was 2.3 percent black. But by 2009, the typical white student attended a college that was 9.8 percent black. This percentage gain is much larger than overall black enrollment during this period, which also rose, from 5.5 percent to 13.7 percent.

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

January 7, 2013

Twelve States Receive Failing Grades from StudentsFirst

Motoko Rich:

In a report issued Monday, StudentsFirst ranks states based on how closely they follow the group's platform, looking at policies related not only to tenure and evaluations but also to pensions and the governance of school districts. The group uses the classic academic grading system, awarding states A to F ratings.

With no states receiving an A, two states receiving B-minuses and 12 states branded with an F, StudentsFirst would seem to be building a reputation as a harsh grader.

Ms. Rhee said that the relatively weak showing reflected how recently statehouses had begun to address issues like tenure and performance evaluations. "We didn't say in any way that we want to show people how bad it is," she said in a telephone interview. "We wanted to show the progress that is being made, but in places where progress is slower to come, be very clear with leaders of that state what they could do to push the agenda forward and create a better environment in which educators, parents and kids can operate."

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:
"Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk - the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It's as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands." Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI's vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the "impossibility" of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars ("Similar to GM"; "worry" about the children given this situation).

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Promoting Quality Teaching: New Policy Report from Accomplished California Teachers

Accomplished California Teachers:

Approximately one-third of all new teachers in the United States leave the profession within five years, and veteran teachers are leaving at ever higher rates. Teacher attrition, which has grown by 50 percent in the past 15 years, costs the nation roughly $7 billion a year for recruiting, hiring, and inducting new teachers. With this revolving door of teachers and the resulting hemorrhage of resources, schools suffer from instability and students lose out on the opportunity to learn from high-quality teachers.

Among the factors behind this high turnover are outdated teacher compensation systems and narrow career options for professional growth, according to a new report by Accomplished California Teachers (ACT), a teacher-leadership network based at Stanford.

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Finally, EdTech That is Based on Real Research

Annie Murphy Paul:

Imagine you're walking down the street when your phone buzzes. "What is the capital of Maryland?" it asks you. You know the answer but you can't quite grasp it until all of a sudden you remember: "Annapolis." The question prompted your brain just in time.

That is the scenario envisaged by the makers of software Cerego, which launched last week, writes Hal Hodson in New Scientist:

"It uses a basic principle of cognitive science called 'spaced repetition' to improve learning. To remember something long term, a student must return to it several times, increasing the interval between each revision. The concept isn't new, but Cerego aims to harness the idea to let people learn anytime, anywhere.

'The amount of information we need to retain is growing rapidly,' says Cerego co-founder Andrew Smith Lewis. 'Current solutions do a fine job of bringing information to the screen, but we're not seeing much on how we learn.' Smith Lewis says Cerego's grand ambition is to 'handle learning and relearning for the duration of the user's lifetime.'

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Higher ed: an obituary

New Criterion:

The fate of American higher education has been a central concern of The New Criterion from its very first issue in September 1982. About academia, as about other cultural institutions--the art museums, orchestras, media and entertainment industries, as well as the law and those social institutions through which the past perpetuates itself into the present--The New Criterion has cast a wary eye, celebrating the vital, where it can be found, but also criticizing the many signs of decadence and irresponsibility wherever they have been on display, which, alas, has been almost everywhere. When it came to the academic world, our chief complaints have revolved around the anti-Western politicization of intellectual life. We focused on the way ideology subjugated the life of the mind to the hermetic lucubrations of deconstruction, post-structuralism, and all the other increasingly quaint-sounding efforts to dismiss or subvert the main currents of what Matthew Arnold famously extolled as "the best that has been thought and said in the world."

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The Philosophy of Computer Science

Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy:

The Philosophy of Computer Science (PCS) is concerned with philosophical issues that arise from reflection upon the nature and practice of the academic discipline of computer science. But what is the latter? It is certainly not just programming. After all, many people who write programs are not computer scientists. For example, physicists, accountants and chemists do. Indeed, computer science would be better described as being concerned with the meta-activity that is associated with programming. More generally, and more precisely, it is occupied with the design, development and investigation of the concepts and methodologies that facilitate and aid the specification, development, implementation and analysis of computational systems. Examples of this activity might include the design and analysis of programming, specification and architectural description languages; the construction and optimisation of compilers, interpreters, theorem provers and type inference systems; the invention of logical frameworks and the design of embedded systems, and much more. Many of the central philosophical questions of computer science surround and underpin these activities, and many of them centre upon the logical, ontological and epistemological issues that concern it. However, in the end, computer science is what computer scientists do, and no exact formulaic definition can act as more than a guide to the discussion that follows. Indeed, the hope is that PCS will eventually contribute to a deeper understanding of the nature of computer science.

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A greater role in math education for parents: mathematical reasoning at home

Katie Kormanik:

While policymakers, researchers and educators decide how our children learn math, parents don't seem to be anywhere in the mix. Yet parents can and should play a greater role in their children's math education. The problem is that most parents simply don't know how. This situation is complicated by the fact that many parents struggled with math themselves, making it more difficult for them to help their children and often resulting in their inadvertently passing on their own math phobia.

One of the best things parents can do to improve their children's math literacy is to regularly expose them to practical applications of math at home. This is not "teaching," per se, as much as it is helping them develop mathematical reasoning on their own. What students observe, discover and learn outside the classroom can often benefit them more than what they learn in class. The former tends to be practical and applicable in real situations outside academia; the latter often focuses on the theoretical and the abstract. Parents can help merge these two realms.

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What would you have to say to the (Seattle) superintendent?

Charlie Mas:

I don't make a habit of asking the staff to do things so much as asking them for information. That's because they don't work for me and they aren't accountable to me. I don't hesitate to offer suggestions for action to the Board because they are accountable to the public and they are supposed to represent the public.

So if I had the opportunity to speak with the superintendent, I wouldn't so much have suggestions for him as questions. They are big questions and perhaps some of them will be answered in the Strategic Plan. Perhaps not. The previous Strategic Plan was a management plan more than an academic plan. Is that what it's supposed to be? The new Strategic Plan is shaping up to be more of an academic plan.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

MoMath: Manhattan's Museum of Mathematics

Lisa Grossman:

MATHEMATICS is awesome, full stop. That's the philosophy behind a new museum opening next week in New York City.

The founders of the Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) know they have a fight on their hands, given the pervasive idea that the subject is boring, hard and scary. But they are determined to give mathematics a makeover, with exhibits that express an unselfconscious, giddy joy in exploring the world of numbers and forms.

"We want to show a different side of mathematics," says museum co-founder Cindy Lawrence. "Our goal is to get kids excited, and show them the math they're doing in school is just one tree in a whole huge forest."

To this end, mathematics pervades every aspect of the design, sometimes in surprising places. Take the museum's Enigma Café. At first glance, it looks like any other trendy, modern Manhattan cafe. But instead of coffee, puzzles will be served. And a careful look reveals that the floor is a 6-by-6 grid, the walls are made of Tetris-like puzzle shapes called pentominoes, and the tables are arranged as a knight would progress across a chessboard.

"We try to hide math everywhere," says Lawrence.

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State law change keeps Wisconsin principal evaluations under wraps

Matthew DeFour:

A change in state law creating a new teacher and principal evaluation system also exempts those evaluations from public disclosure, even though the public has previously had access to principal evaluations.

Open government advocates were unaware of the new exemption to the state's open records law, but said the Legislature should revisit the principal evaluation issue.

"I hope that there would be some willingness to reassess this decision," said Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. "There are few issues that matter more to ordinary people than the quality of their children's education. For that reason the evaluations of the top school official, the principal, have traditionally been open, and we think they should stay that way."

Jim Lynch, executive director of the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, said the group of state education leaders who designed the evaluation system recommended the records exemption in the law based on the purpose of the new system, which is not to compare educators.

"The focus of this is to have assessments meant for organizations to make human resources decisions and for people to learn and grow," Lynch said. "That is done best in a confidential environment."

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January 6, 2013

English Letter Frequency Counts: Mayzner Revisited

Peter Norvig:

On December 17th 2012, I got a nice letter from Mark Mayzner, a retired 85-year-old researcher who studied the frequency of letter combinations in English words in the early 1960s. His 1965 publication has been cited in hundreds of articles. Mayzner describes his work:
I culled a corpus of 20,000 words from a variety of sources, e.g., newspapers, magazines, books, etc. For each source selected, a starting place was chosen at random. In proceeding forward from this point, all three, four, five, six, and seven-letter words were recorded until a total of 200 words had been selected. This procedure was duplicated 100 times, each time with a different source, thus yielding a grand total of 20,000 words. This sample broke down as follows: three-letter words, 6,807 tokens, 187 types; four-letter words, 5,456 tokens, 641 types; five-letter words, 3,422 tokens, 856 types; six-letter words, 2,264 tokens, 868 types; seven-letter words, 2,051 tokens, 924 types. I then proceeded to construct tables that showed the frequency counts for three, four, five, six, and seven-letter words, but most importantly, broken down by word length and letter position, which had never been done before to my knowledge.
and he wonders if:
perhaps your group at Google might be interested in using the computing power that is now available to significantly expand and produce such tables as I constructed some 50 years ago, but now using the Google Corpus Data, not the tiny 20,000 word sample that I used.
The answer is: yes indeed, I am interested! And it will be a lot easier for me than it was for Mayzner. Working 60s-style, Mayzner had to gather his collection of text sources, then go through them and select individual words, punch them on Hollerith cards, and use a card-sorting machine.

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Chris Christie's education reform plan: Part II

Laura Waters:

School funding is never just about dollars and cents. Instead, it subsumes a whole slew of issues, including educational needs, politics, economic constraints, and public perception. New Jersey's 2013 Education Adequacy Report, issued last week by Ed. Comm. Cerf, incorporates one other factor: the Christie Administration's education reform agenda.

New Jersey funds most schools through local property taxes and, historically, this has led to vast educational inequities between poor and rich districts. After all, wealthy communities have a much higher tax base to devote to public education.

A series of Supreme Court decisions, known as Abbott v. Burke, ordered that N.J.'s poorest school districts be given enough state money - from N.J.'s first income tax -- to even out those inequities. In 2008, the Corzine Administration passed the new School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), which tried to render the Abbott designations obsolete through a new formula in which "the money follows the child," regardless of zip code.
Part of our new system of education funding (which is on a sort of probationary status after challenges from Education Law Center) is that the Commissioner must present an annual Educational Adequacy Report that specifies the amount of money needed to "adequately" educate a child for the year.

Here's the bottom line, courtesy of NJ Spotlight: "the base proposal for funding is $11,009 per child in fiscal 2014, up almost $500 from this year." However, adds Spotlight, "certain at-risk students will see decreases in funding by as much as $1,000 per year."

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After Arrest, a Wider Inquiry on SAT Cheating

Jenny Anderson:

When Samuel Eshaghoff, a 19-year-old sophomore at Emory University, was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly accepting money to take the SAT for six Long Island high school students, testing officials said it was an isolated event. But school officials and prosecutors disagree, and a continuing investigation is focusing on other schools and students.

"I do believe it's more systemic than just Great Neck North," said Kathleen M. Rice, the district attorney for Nassau County.

Ms. Rice brought criminal charges against Mr. Eshaghoff and misdemeanor charges against six current and former Great Neck North students who said Mr. Eshaghoff took the test for them. Five of the six said they paid him a fee of up to $2,500. Mr. Eshaghoff has pleaded not guilty. She said she was investigating two other schools and various other test takers. She said the cheating problem was widespread, a sentiment echoed by school administrators and superintendents.

"As tests have become higher-stakes tests, as the competition between kids for scholarships and college entrance has increased, the likelihood of kids looking for ways to beat the system -- to cheat -- has increased," said Henry Grishman, superintendent of Jericho Public Schools on Long Island, which has 3,200 students.

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Like math? Thank your motivation, not your IQ

Tia Ghose:

Looks like Tiger Mom had it half-right: Motivation to work hard and good study techniques, not IQ, lead to better math skills, a new study shows.

But there's a catch: The findings, published this month in the journal Child Development, show that keeping children's heads in the math books by force probably won't help.

The analysis of more than 3,500 German children found those who started out solidly in the middle of the pack in the fifth grade could jump to the 63rd percentile by eighth grade if they were very motivated and used effective learning strategies, said lead author Kou Murayama, a psychology researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles.

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An F for effort on holding down college tuition

Charles Lane:

At the University of Minnesota, the number of employees with "human resources" or "personnel" in their job titles has grown from 180 to 272 since the 2004-05 academic year. Since 2006, the university has spent $10 million on consultants for a vast new housing development that is decades from completion. It employs 139 people for marketing, promotions and communications. Some 81 administrators make $200,000 per year or more.

In the past decade, Minnesota's administrative payroll has gone up three times as fast as the teaching payroll, and twice as fast as student enrollment.

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School-business analogy is off

Thomas Zachek:

Schools are not like businesses.

Analogies drive our thinking. It can be helpful to see complex or unfamiliar concepts in terms of the simple or familiar. But analogies also can be faulty and deceptive.

One of the most common, yet most misleading, analogies in current vogue is the notion that schools are like businesses or should be. Even school administrators who should know better talk about "the business model."

Schools are fundamentally unlike businesses, and what applies to one doesn't necessarily apply to the other.

Businesses are funded by revenue they generate, and their success is defined and measured by their profit. Schools are funded by an outdated and problematic revenue formula based on property taxes. A highly successful school may be just as hurting for revenue as a poor one. Consequently, schools are beholden to taxpayers in a way that no business is. What business has ever had to beg the public for permission to modernize or add on?

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

Lindsay Unified students blazing their own paths to higher achievement

Benjamin Riley:

Those of us who travel in education reform circles hear a lot of skepticism about whether traditional school districts can truly innovate.

Yet, more than five years ago, a small rural school district in the Central Valley that serves predominately English language learners from low-income families reimagined its entire strategic approach to education and learning. And now, Lindsay Unified School District may just win a $10 million "Race to the Top-District" grant from the federal government.

You see, a few years back the leadership of Lindsay Unified started asking provocative questions about the traditional method of schooling, where students progress based on a preset length of time and are given simple letter grades at the end of their courses. Questions such as:

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Milwaukee Public Schools moving forward to meet challenges

Gregory Thornton:

When I became superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools in July 2010, I knew the district - like many other urban school districts - faced deep financial challenges. But I had confidence that the Board of School Directors, administration and staff understood the urgency and were committed to make tough decisions to secure the district's financial future for the 79,000 students we serve.

An independent, third-party analysis of MPS finances released recently by the Public Policy Forum found the tough decisions made by the district over the past two years are showing signs of paying off. MPS' fiscal condition has improved significantly, with savings of nearly $400 million. While much of the Public Policy Forum report focused on past years, the real story is the future of MPS and the continued efforts of the district to move forward to address additional fiscal challenges.

Four key factors are the root causes of MPS' financial pressures: rising health care costs; increased legacy costs for retiree benefits; declining enrollment, which results in less revenue; and the high level of dependency on state and federal funding, which can be very volatile and complicates MPS' ability to be in control of its own financial future.

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

UW-Platteville experiences enrollment boom

Karen Herzog:

The fastest-growing campus in the University of Wisconsin System has a tri-state advantage.

Nestled in the rolling hills of southwestern Wisconsin, 20 miles from the Iowa and Illinois borders, UW-Platteville's enrollment has ballooned 39% since it began offering a tuition break to students from neighboring states who pursue high-demand fields.

Under the Tri-State Initiative, which started in 2005, students from Illinois and Iowa majoring in agriculture, business, criminal justice, education, engineering, industrial technology, math and science pay the same tuition and fees as Wisconsin residents - $7,463 this year - plus $4,000. That's $4,573 less than students from other states pay, with the exception of Minnesota, whose residents benefit from the Wisconsin-Minnesota Reciprocity Agreement and pay $7,829.

It's an especially sweet deal for Illinois residents, whose own state schools generally cost significantly more than UW-Platteville, officials said. Of the 7,822 undergraduates who enrolled at Platteville this fall, about 15% were from Illinois and about 5% from Iowa - a total of 1,489 students.

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A collection that identifies California as a world apart: Early maps depicting the region as an island draw academics

Larry Gordon:

Something was unusual about the 1663 map of the Western Hemisphere.

Yes, much of the North and South American coasts followed contours geographers would recognize today. And in California, Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara and Point Reyes were clearly marked. But wait! What was that body of water marked Mare Vermiglio, or Red Sea, separating California from the mainland? And why was California a big carrot-shaped island?

That geographic oddity caught the attention of Glen McLaughlin, an American businessman who was browsing through antique maps at a shop in London in 1971. He bought it -- and began pursuing a quirky and expensive passion that would lead him to devote an entire room in his San Jose-area home to what is believed to be the largest private collection of such maps.

"It was not a very pretty map, but it had the concept that California was a very different place, a special place," McLaughlin recalled about that first purchase.

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January 5, 2013

The Secular Faith: The results of our obsession with fairness are comical, as when schools legislate equal valentine outcomes for students every Feb. 14.

Meghan Clyne:

If the U.S. Treasury received a dollar every time President Obama demanded that the rich pay their "fair share" to eliminate our deficits, the problem might take care of itself. After incessant use on the campaign trail, the line is again getting a workout in negotiations over the fiscal cliff. It is a surefire rhetorical tactic: Who could possibly argue against fairness?

Stephen Asma is willing to try. Contemporary society, he argues in "Against Fairness," is obsessed with fairness, which he takes to mean a universal egalitarianism and its attendant ideologies and practices, including meritocracy, redistribution and utilitarian ethics. Our "hunger for equality" prohibits favoritism, Mr. Asma says, but this great leveling also razes the virtues that arise from favoritism--duty, honor, loyalty, compassion--leaving us with a shallow notion of the good.

Mr. Asma's breezy book reads as a series of episodic reflections on the fairness question, each from a different perspective--scientific, anthropological, cultural and political. The author, a philosophy professor at Columbia College in Chicago, believes that we should ditch our fairness-based morality in favor of an ethics based on "tribes," which he defines as any "us in a milieu of thems," the most obvious bonds being those of blood and friendship. Mr. Asma thus cheerfully defends nepotism, preferential hiring and patronage politics, our resistance to which, he says, "encourages the civic success of a whole population of detached, expedient eunuchs."

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3D improves test scores in the classroom

Nigel Brown & Leo Kent:

A recent study has revealed that 3D technology dramatically improves concentration and learning in the classroom. The study, which introduced 3D projectors and provided 3D glasses to class members, was conducted by researchers at the International Research Agency on behalf of Texas Instruments.

Improving learning rates
Led by Professor Anne Bamford, the study showed that 86% of pupils improved from the pre-test to the post-test in the 3D classes, compared to only 52% who improved in the 2D classes.

In the 3D in Education White Paper, Professor Bamford wrote, "Individuals improved test scores by an average of 17% in the 3D classes, compared to only an 8% improvement in the 2D classes between pre-test and post-test. The teachers commented that the pupils in the 3D groups had deeper understanding, increased attention span, more motivation and higher engagement."

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Mother who kept girl from school given hard lesson

Winnie Chong:

A single mother has been ordered into Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre for two months after keeping her daughter from school.
Kung Lai-kung, 48, not only wasted public resources with her long-running defiance of an Education Bureau order but also denied her daughter two years of schooling, said Fan Ling deputy magistrate Cherry Hui Shuk-yee.

The secondary-age student was kept away from school from September 1 last year to May, the court heard. She was also stopped from attending school previously.

Kung had rejected the school where her daughter was allocated a place, insisting on a slot in a top- line Band 1 secondary school.

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Yet Another Rankings Fabrication

Scott Jaschik:

Tulane University has admitted that it sent U.S. News & World Report incorrect information about the test scores and total number of applicants for its M.B.A. program.

The admission -- as 2012 closed -- made the university the fourth college or university in that year to admit false reporting of some admissions data used for rankings. In 2011, two law schools and one undergraduate institution were found to have engaged in false reporting of some admissions data.

A statement issued by Tulane said that it discovered the problem when preparing a new set business school data for U.S. News and found that numbers, "including GMAT scores and the number of applications, skewed significantly lower than the previous two years. Since the school's standards and admissions criteria have not changed, this raised a concern that our data from previous years had been misreported."

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Rhode Island Schools Spend $2 Billion-Only Half Goes to the Classroom

Stephen Beale:

School districts in Rhode Island spend more than $2 billion annually, but barely half that money has made it into the classroom, state data shows.
For fiscal year 2009--the most recent year for which detailed data is available--52.1 percent of the $2,135,367,785 spent on local education went towards instruction. The remaining 48 percent was for instructional support, operations, administrative costs, and expenses for other commitments, according to data available from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE). (See below charts.)

"Only 52 percent is going into the classroom," said Jim McGwin, the president of the North Kingstown Taxpayers Organization. "That seems small."

McGwin, who has 30 years of experience in the business world evaluating balance sheets and operations, said school districts on average should be spending a minimum of 60 percent of their funds on their core function: teaching children in the classroom.

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Math in a Child's World: Policy and Practical Challenges for Preschool Mathematics


Several studies have shown that basic math concepts acquired at a preschool level--including counting, sorting, and recognizing simple patterns and shapes--are the most powerful predictors of later learning, even more than reading.

But preschools face many challenges in implementing a high quality math curriculum, including:

The paucity of math content in preschool teacher preparation;

The uneven quality or lack of professional development and in-service learning opportunities for teachers;

Linking what children learn in preschool with what they are expected to learn in the K-3 grades;

The barriers imposed by "math anxiety" among many preschool teaching staff

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

New NJ Special Education Ruling: Providing Appropriate Services to Kids with Autism

Laura Waters:

A special education case came through the transom last week, courtesy of a group of parents in Millburn, New Jersey. The case pinpoints a few percolating problems in NJ's special education arena, particularly school districts' struggles to provide adequate services to kids with a diagnosis of autism. This case, J.S. and K.S. v. Millburn Township Board of Education (not yet online, but I've posted it here for reference) touches on some districts' reluctance to classify kids as autistic, the politics of district/parent negotiations, and the role of our consortium of private education schools.

This December 7th ruling involves a young girl, referred to in court documents as A.C., and the services offered to her by Millburn Public Schools, an Essex County district that is rated as a "J" District Factor Group, the wealthiest possible designation. In October 2008, the child's parents approached the district because of concerns with her speech and social development. A.C. had just turned three years old and, under federal and state law, was eligible for special education services through her local school district.

To any informed lay reader, A.C. displayed clear signs of autistic-like symptoms. Most of her speech was unintelligible. She made little or no eye contact, rocked back and forth, exhibited repetitive behavior, showed no evidence of imaginary play, had no interest in peers, and recited scripts from "Dora the Explorer" episodes.

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

UW a great value in public education, survey says

Bill Novak:

If Wisconsin students and parents are looking for one of the best values in the country in higher education, stay at home.

Kiplinger's Personal Finance has ranked UW-Madison 13th in its list of the 100 best values in public colleges, the second year in a row the state's flagship university has been ranked in that spot.

The survey tapped North Carolina as the best value in public education for the 12th year in a row, or since the survey started.

The publication looked at data from close to 600 public four-year colleges and universities to come up with the survey results, based on criteria such as admission rates, percentage of student returning to school as sophomores, student-faculty ratios, tuition, financial aid and low average debt at graduation.

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

UW a great value in public education, survey says

Bill Novak:

If Wisconsin students and parents are looking for one of the best values in the country in higher education, stay at home.

Kiplinger's Personal Finance has ranked UW-Madison 13th in its list of the 100 best values in public colleges, the second year in a row the state's flagship university has been ranked in that spot.

The survey tapped North Carolina as the best value in public education for the 12th year in a row, or since the survey started.

The publication looked at data from close to 600 public four-year colleges and universities to come up with the survey results, based on criteria such as admission rates, percentage of student returning to school as sophomores, student-faculty ratios, tuition, financial aid and low average debt at graduation.

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

50 Things

MIT Admissions:

As you begin your college experience, and I prepare for my 10-year college reunion, I thought I'd leave you with the things that, in retrospect, I think are important as you navigate the next four years. I hope that some of them are helpful.

Here goes...

Your friends will change a lot over the next four years. Let them.

Call someone you love back home a few times a week, even if just for a few minutes.

In college more than ever before, songs will attach themselves to memories. Every month or two, make a mix cd, mp3 folder, whatever - just make sure you keep copies of these songs. Ten years out, they'll be as effective as a journal in taking you back to your favorite moments.

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

January 4, 2013

Statistics vs. Machine Learning, fight!

Brendan O'Connor:

10/1/09 update -- well, it's been nearly a year, and I should say not everything in this rant is totally true, and I certainly believe much less of it now. Current take: Statistics, not machine learning, is the real deal, but unfortunately suffers from bad marketing. On the other hand, to the extent that bad marketing includes misguided undergraduate curriculums, there's plenty of room to improve for everyone.

So it's pretty clear by now that statistics and machine learning aren't very different fields. I was recently pointed to a very amusing comparison by the excellent statistician -- and machine learning expert -- Robert Tibshiriani. Reproduced here:

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

Madison schools starting to embrace 'restorative justice' for problem behavior

Pat Schneider:

The Madison School District is betting that restorative justice practices -- giving people in conflict the opportunity to hear each other's side of the story in an attempt to heal a rift -- are a powerful tool in making schools safer, more productive places.

Following a two-year pilot project at La Follette High School and Black Hawk and Sennett middle schools, the district has entered into an agreement with the YWCA Madison to extend the program to East High School as well as Sherman, O'Keeffe, and Whitehorse middle schools.

The school district has allocated $164,420 for payment to YWCA, which trains staff and helps run restorative practice circles, and made restorative practices part of its plan to close the achievement gap between students of color and white students.

To hear the students at Sennett Middle School tell it, restorative practices hold a lot of potential for helping students do better in school and for building more positive relationships.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Understanding School Discipline in California: Perceptions and Practice


This report on a new EdSource survey of 315 school districts--representing two-thirds of public school students in California--sheds new light on how the state implements student discipline policies.

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Do online courses spell the end for the traditional university?

Carole Cadwalladr:

Two years ago, I sat in the back seat of a Toyota Prius in a rooftop car park in California and gripped the door handle as the car roared away from the kerb, headed straight towards the roof's edge and then at the last second sped around a corner without slowing down. There was no one in the driver's seat.

It was the prototype of Google's self-driving car and it felt a bit like being Buck Rogers and catapulted into another century. Later, I listened to Sebastian Thrun, a German-born professor of artificial intelligence at Stanford University, explain how he'd built it, how it had already clocked up 200,000 miles driving around California, and how one day he believed it would mean that there would be no traffic accidents.

A few months later, the New York Times revealed that Thrun was the head of Google's top-secret experimental laboratory Google X, and was developing, among other things, Google Glasses - augmented reality spectacles. And then, a few months after that, I came across Thrun again.

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5 Most Inspirational Videos of 2012

Geoffrey James:

These five short videos will remind you what's important in life and work.

This has been a difficult few days for everybody, especially for those of us who have children in primary school.

I had already selected the following five clips as the most inspirational and motivational videos of the year.

I think they are testament to the fact that the human spirit is greater than tragedy and to remind us that the reason we all work so hard is because we want to make a difference in the world.

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

The Schoolmaster

Dana Goldstein:

David Coleman is an idealistic, poetry-loving, controversy-stoking Rhodes Scholar and a former McKinsey consultant who has determined, more than almost anyone else, what kids learn in American schools. His national curriculum standards and pending overhaul of the SAT have reignited a thorny national debate over how much we should expect from students and schools, and how much is out of their control.

On a hot June morning in suburban Delaware, in the chintzy, windowless ballroom of a hotel casino, David Coleman stood at a podium reciting poetry. After reading Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," a classic example of the villanelle form, Coleman wanted to know why green is the only color mentioned in the poem, why Thomas uses the grammatically incorrect go gentle instead of go gently, and how the poet's expression of grief is different from Elizabeth Bishop's in her own villanelle, "One Art."

"Kids don't wonder about these things," Coleman told his audience, a collection of 300 public-school English teachers and administrators. "It is you as teachers who have this obligation" to ask students "to read like a detective and write like an investigative reporter."

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

Why Kids Should Grade Teachers

Amanda Ripley:

Nubia Baptiste had spent some 665 days at her Washington, D.C., public school by the time she walked into second period on March 27, 2012. She was an authority on McKinley Technology High School. She knew which security guards to befriend and where to hide out to skip class (try the bleachers). She knew which teachers stayed late to write college recommendation letters for students; she knew which ones patrolled the halls like guards in a prison yard, barking at kids to disperse.

If someone had asked, she could have revealed things about her school that no adult could have known. Once Nubia got talking, she had plenty to say. But until that morning of her senior spring, no one had ever asked.

She sat down at her desk and pulled her long, neat dreadlocks behind her shoulders. Then her teacher passed out a form. Must be another standardized test, Nubia figured, to be finished and forgotten. She picked up her pencil. By senior year, it was a reflex. The only sound was the hum of the air conditioning.

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January 3, 2013

"I Was Adam Lanza"

The Daily Beast

Recently, the Huffington Post published an article titled "I am Adam Lanza's mother" by a woman named Liza Long. The article presents a picture of a 13-year-old boy who threatened his mother, sometimes going so far as to pull a knife on her, scream obscenities at her, and leap out of cars as they're driving down the highway.

The rest of the world has reacted to the idea of such a child with horror and incomprehension. I sympathize with the horror. I can only wish that I shared the incomprehension. I understand, intimately, how Liza Long's son feels. I was like him.

Like the author of that piece, Liza Long, my mother had no idea what to do about my sudden transformation (in my case, around 16) into a borderline homicidal maniac. Like her son, I used knives to try and make my threats of violence seem more real. Like her son, I would leap out of our car in the middle of the road just to get away from my mother, over the most trivial of offenses. Like her son, I screamed obscenities at my mother shortly after moments of relative peace. And worse than this poor woman's son, whose mindset toward his peers we can only guess, I will admit that I fantasized multiple times about taking ordnance to my classmates.

By the logic which leads Liza Long to say, "I am Adam Lanza's mother," I have to say: "I was Adam Lanza."

This is a very honest, generous, and thought-provoking piece ... and one from an important source.

Posted by Laurie Frost at 8:58 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Milwaukee Public Schools needs a new backbone & A Few Useful Madison Data Points

George Lightbourn:

The Public Policy Forum recently published a new report (4MB PDF Link) that, like many previous reports from a variety of think tanks, casts doubt on the fiscal future of Milwaukee Public Schools. However, the PPF report added an interesting twist by throwing down a challenge to state and local political leadership.

It is time "to define where MPS fits into Milwaukee's education framework," they concluded, and to "define and secure the resources needed to effectively fulfill that role."

In other words, quit complaining about MPS and do something. The district, beset with long-term budget woes, is rapidly losing students whose parents want safer, better schools.

Generations of School Boards, superintendents and sympathizers have decried the inadequacy of state school aids. True or not, the more important question is: Will there be more money? While state aid will likely increase, it's unlikely to match the expectations of some people, including Mayor Tom Barrett. The price tag to fix the state aid "funding flaw" as the mayor advocates is $50 million. Even on his best day, I doubt the mayor could convince the Legislature to write a check for that kind of money.

View the complete Public Policy Forum report on the Milwaukee Public Schools, here (4MB PDF).

It would be interesting to see a peer comparison (State, National & Global) of Madison, as well.

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The maths of exam marks

Chris Cook:

At the moment, the Department for Education is considering changes to the league tables and the exam system. This seems an opportune moment to make a simple point about qualification-awarding and accountability: English school examinations are subject to measurement error in a really big way.

Here is a simple thought experiment to flesh it out. Imagine a class of 100 students. Let us specify that each one has a "true" ability that means that one pupil should get one point, one pupil should get two, one should get three and so on - up to 100 marks. Now, let's award this class one of 10 grades: 90+ gets you an A, 80+ a B and so on.

Let us assume that the tests are perfect. If that were the case, you would get ten individuals in each grade. Easy enough. But what happens if we start introducing errors into the test? We can do that with a set of exotically named (but very simple) "Monte Carlo" estimates, which I calculated using this simple spreadsheet.

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2013 Wisconsin DPI Superintendent and Madison School Board Candidates

Patrick Marley & Erin Richards:

"I've been frustrated with the fact that our educational system continues to go downhill even with all the money the Legislature puts into it," he said.

Pridemore said he will release more details about his educational agenda in forthcoming policy statements and has several education bills in the drafting phase. Asked if he believed schools should have armed teachers, he said that was a matter that should be left entirely to local school boards to decide.

Evers, who has been school superintendent since 2009, is seeking a second term. He has previously served as a teacher, principal, local school superintendent and deputy state schools superintendent.

Wisconsin's education landscape has undergone some major changes during his tenure, including significant reductions in school spending and limits on collective bargaining for public workers that weakened teachers unions, which have supported Evers in the past.

Evers wants to redesign the funding formula that determines aid for each of Wisconsin's 424 school districts and to provide more aid to schools. Also, he wants to reinvigorate technical education and to require all high schools to administer a new suite of tests that would offer a better way to track students' academic progress and preparation for the ACT college admissions exam.

Don Pridemore links: SIS, Clusty, Blekko, Google and link farming. Incumbent Tony Evers: SIS, Clusty, Blekko, Google and link farming.

Matthew DeFour:

School Board president James Howard, the lone incumbent seeking re-election, faces a challenge from Greg Packnett, a legislative aide active with the local Democratic Party. The seats are officially nonpartisan.

Two candidates, low-income housing provider Dean Loumos and recently retired Madison police lieutenant Wayne Strong, are vying for Moss' seat.

The race for Cole's seat will include a primary on Feb. 19, the first one for a Madison School Board seat in six years. The candidates are Sarah Manski, a Green Party political activist who runs a website that encourages buying local; Ananda Mirilli, social justice coordinator for the YWCA who has a student at Nuestro Mundo Community School; and T.J. Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and local education blogger whose children attend West High and Randall Elementary schools.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Don't allow phony retirements

The Wisconsin State Journal

The findings of a recent state audit should remind state leaders -- and their constituents -- that the Legislature still needs to fix the "double dip."

Taxpayers deserve tighter rules to guard against abuse, something the audit confirmed.

Double dipping allows public workers to "retire" and then return to their jobs just 30 days later to collect full-time salaries and pension income at the same time.

In the worst cases, some public employees -- often top managers -- have returned and stayed in their six-figure, full-time jobs for years after supposedly "retiring." That costs more money, both in longer guaranteed pension payments and higher salaries than what younger, new hires in those positions would likely earn.

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The Best Speech About Education -- Ever

Nick Morgan:

Every now and then a speech comes along that reminds me why public speaking is still essential and why I said back in 2003 that the only reason to give a speech is to change the world.

Today, Mike Johnston is a state senator from Colorado, but his passion is education, and it was ignited as a Teach for America teacher in the Mississippi delta in 1997. From that came a searing book, In the Deep Heart's Core, about the terrible challenges facing teachers and learning in that state. Johnston moved on to become the principal of a school for challenged kids in Colorado.

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Our creative director waxes lyrical about The Orchestra


A delight to behold - a feast for the eyes, the ears, and the heart.

The Orchestra is quite simply the most beautiful thing my company has ever made. Beautiful in every sense of the word. It's filled with beautiful music. It's filled with beautiful images. And it communicates its subject more beautifully than anything I've ever seen before.

Anything? Yes, anything.

Sure, there may be more beautiful paintings, more beautiful poems, or more beautiful sunsets. But I'm talking about things whose purpose is to communicate a sizable body of knowledge, to teach me something interesting about the world, to expand my horizons and deepen my understanding. I cannot think of anything, anywhere, in any medium, ever, that has done this as beautifully as the interactive experience we call The Orchestra.

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

Jerry Brown pushes new funding system for California schools

Kevin Yamamura:

Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing hard to overhaul California's convoluted school funding system. His plan has two major objectives: Give K-12 districts greater control over how they spend money, and send more dollars to impoverished students and English learners.

Studies show that such children require more public help to reach the same level of achievement as their well-off peers. But as rich and poor communities alike clamor for money in the wake of funding cuts, Brown's plan could leave wealthy suburbs with fewer new dollars than poorer urban and rural districts.

That makes perfect sense, said Michael W. Kirst, president of the State Board of Education and a Stanford University professor who co-wrote a 2008 paper that became the model for Brown's proposal.

"Low-income people have less resources to invest in their children," Kirst said. "A lot of investment comes from parental ability to buy external things for their kids that provide a better education. In the case of low-income groups, they can't buy tutors, after-school programs or summer experiences."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Worst College Majors for Your Career


Make no mistake: An undergraduate degree can improve your employment prospects and paycheck size. A high school graduate earns 40% less than someone with a bachelor's degree and is more than twice as likely to be unemployed. But not all college majors are created equal. In fact, grads with certain majors sometimes fare worse in the labor force than workers who stopped studying after high school.

Considering the time and expense that goes into earning a college degree, knowing whether your course of study is a career-killer is powerful knowledge indeed. That's why we analyzed the jobless rates and salaries for graduates with the 100 most popular majors to come up with our list of the ten worst values in college majors.

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Special Team: Chy Johnson & Her Boys

Rick Reilly:

How about a little good news?
In the scrub-brush desert town of Queen Creek, Ariz., high school bullies were throwing trash at sophomore Chy Johnson. Calling her "stupid." Pushing her in the halls.

Chy's brain works at only a third-grade level because of a genetic birth defect, but she knew enough to feel hate.

"She'd come home every night at the start of the school year crying and upset," says her mom, Liz Johnson. "That permanent smile she had, that gleam in her eye, that was all gone."

Her mom says she tried to talk to teachers and administrators and got nowhere. So she tried a whole new path -- the starting quarterback of the undefeated football team. After all, senior Carson Jones had once escorted Chy to the Special Olympics.

"Just keep your ear to the ground," Liz wrote to Carson on his Facebook page. "Maybe get me some names?"

But Carson Jones did something better than that. Instead of ratting other kids out, he decided to take one in -- Chy.

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

January 2, 2013

Study: Education Extends Longevity--Except for Black Males

Barbara Peters Smith:

The human longevity bonanza that gives newborns today three decades more of life expectancy than they would have had a century ago appears to have no real stopping point.
Now researchers are trying to determine how U.S. society should change to accommodate so many longer, healthier lifespans, and why one group of white Americans does not seem to be benefiting from the trend.

Published in the August issue of Health Affairs and reported widely in the media, the researchers' study found that while everybody else is living longer, non-Hispanic white women without high school diplomas have actually lost five years of life expectancy and their male counterparts lost three years.

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Why Education Emancipation is the Moral Imperative of our Time

C. Bradley Thompson:

These are--to be sure--radical claims, but they are true, and the abolition of public schools is an idea whose time has come. It is time for Americans to reexamine--radically and comprehensively--the nature and purpose of their disastrously failing public school system, and to launch a new abolitionist movement, a movement to liberate tens of millions of children and their parents from this form of bondage.1

Twenty-first century Abolitionists are confronted, however, by a paradoxical fact: Most Americans recognize that something is deeply wrong with the country's elementary and secondary schools, yet they support them like no other institution. Mention the possibility of abolishing the public schools, and most people look at you as though you are crazy. And, of course, no politician would ever dare cut spending to our schools and to the "kids."

For those who take seriously the idea that our public schools are broken and need to be fixed, the most common solutions include spending more money, raising standards, reducing class size, issuing vouchers, and establishing charter schools. And yet, despite decades of such reforms, our schools only get worse.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:47 AM | Comments (2) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

National Education Reform: School Choice Equals Opportunities For Hispanics

John Benson:

The Latino population is one of many groups affected by a national education reform. One of the most discussed programs is that of school choice, which varies from state to state, and offers families the opportunity to choose a school for their children other than the one assigned by geographic default.

Take for instance in Indiana, where a private-school choice program has more than 9,300 students involved.

"There's a fairly extensive sort of tiered school choice/voucher program in its second year where based on income, kids could qualify for partial or full dollar amounts of what the state would spend on them in their district," Indiana Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs Executive Director Daniel Lopez tells VOXXI. "It could be applied either partially or fully to a private school of their choice."

Lopez said the program can be compared to a similar initiative in Florida, the only difference being the Hoosier State impacts more students. He added that enrollment is growing, which is a result of advocates spreading the world out in the Latino

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5 Things to Know Before Taking Out a Student Loan

Josh Mitchell:

Wednesday's Wall Street Journal reports that the federal lending program designed to make college education available to everyone is creating a pile of debt so large it is fanning worries that it has become too easy to borrow too much.

Looking to take out a student loan? Here are five things to know.

1. Research what aid is available to you--including scholarships, state and federal grants, and then federal loans. Meet with your school's financial-aid counselor to learn these options. Visit the government's website. The private website also has good resources.

2. Know the terms of your loans. What is the interest rate, what is the repayment period, and when precisely will payments begin? More importantly, find out what your expected monthly payment will be upon graduation. The financial aid counselor should be able to provide this. Also, learn about the federal government's income-based repayment program.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:27 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Out Of Bounds: High Schools Should Ban Football

Talk of the Nation:

During a meeting of the Dover, N.H. school board in October, board member Paul Butler proposed a ban on high school football. The idea received stiff opposition. He told the board he believes they have "a moral imperative" to start ending the game in light of concussion research.

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A tutorial from the business school of life

Michael Skapinker:

We cover many subjects in this section: new working patterns, women in management, immigrant start-ups, the future of computing, empowering staff, business's responsibility to society. It is a wide spread and it is unusual to find it all in just one person.

But all these themes run through the life of Dame Stephanie Shirley - child refugee, software pioneer and crusading philanthropist - who, at the age of 79, has published her autobiography.

It is called Let IT Go, the capitalised middle word a play on "it" and "information technology", which is a slightly limp introduction to the book's bracing start.

Dame Stephanie was among the last of the 10,000 German, Austrian, Polish and Czech children allowed into the UK, without their parents, as the second world war loomed. Aged five, she and her older sister tumbled on to the platform at London's Liverpool Street station, flotsam in a "river of exhausted, bewildered, tear-stained faces".

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January 1, 2013

Long Time Madison School District Citizen Activist Hospitalized After Stroke

Via Matthew DeFour. My prayers are with Don and his family. Madison and all schools could certainly use more citizen activists. Don Severson SIS notes and links.

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College Football's Big-Money, Big-Risk Business Model

Rachel Bachman & Matthew Futterman:

On one side are the nation's largest universities, which face sharp declines in public funding. On the other, the cable and broadcast television networks, which are struggling to hold on to viewers and advertisers.

Like dynastic rulers desperate to protect their holdings, the two sides have engineered an alliance. The schools have offered up their most marketable asset, college football. The networks have agreed to marry the sport to the most important segment of their audience: the millions of viewers across the country who can still be counted on to drop whatever they are doing to watch live sports.

As a dowry, TV has agreed to pump about $25.5 billion in rights fees into college conferences and their member schools over the next 15 years. That includes a recent deal for ESPN to televise major-college football's first playoff--a four-team bracket launching in 2014--that is valued at $5.6 billion over 12 years. The schools, meanwhile, are doing whatever is needed to maximize what they can command from TV: playing more games, jumping to new conferences, abandoning long-standing rivalries, dismantling the old system of postseason bowl games and, last June, approving that first-ever playoff.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

How to make computer science courses better

Sophie Chou:

As I sit here working on a project in lieu of going to class for the umpteenth time, I realized with sudden clarity that perhaps the current way that Computer Science is taught in universities is not the optimal way. Large lecture halls, clunky languages- it's a bad sign when even a die-hard "learning for learning's sake" student skips class on a regular basis.

anyway, a few thoughts on how I would change the structure of Computer Science courses to maximize efficiency + interest and minimize pain:


Seriously. I have never, ever been required to interview in a specific language at any company (even the "big names"), and if the people you're talking to are deadset on Java, you probably don't want to work there anyway. C is a much, much better "lower" level language for really grasping the way programming works, and Python is a much, much more fun language if you want to lower the barriers to entry and get students making things right away.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:59 AM | Comments (1) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New Apps Show The Music Education Revolution Is Just Getting Started

John Paul Titlow:

Music will never be the same. But you knew that. You see it everyday when you share a playlist from Spotify or Songza, comment on a SoundCloud waveform or discover an artist who, as it turns out, got their start not in some Brooklyn dive bar, but on YouTube. Both the creation and distribution of music have been radically altered by technology.

So too has the way people learn how to play it.

This revolution is still young. As neat as some of this stuff is, innovation in music education is just beginning to heat up, and a handful of recent apps point to a future where learning music is easier, more accessible and even fun.

That technology is changing music education isn't exactly breaking news. Music lessons come installed with GarageBand on every new Mac and app stores are overflowing with portable software that teaches music theory and guitar chords. Earlier this year, the New York Times ran a feature detailing how music teachers are using Skype and other digital communication tools to interface with students regardless of their physical location, a phenomenon that opens up new possibilities for teachers and learners alike. Meanwhile, sites like Coursera and Berklee Music offer comprehensive university-level classes in everything from songwriting to record production.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:43 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Is big disruption good for urban school districts?

Jay Matthews:

My colleague Emma Brown has been looking closely at Chancellor Kaya Henderson's plans to close one of every six traditional D.C. public schools.

In one piece, she cited activists who raised the possibility that the education system of our nation's capital might, as a consequence of the downsizing, be split in two: Charter schools would rule the low-income neighborhoods, while regular public schools would thrive only in the affluent areas where achievement rates remain high.

This is not some wild nightmare. Education finance lawyer Mary Levy, a careful and longtime analyst of D.C. schools, said at one meeting: "What we are rapidly approaching is a [public school system] concentrated west of Rock Creek Park and perhaps around Capitol Hill, and a separate charter school system filled by lottery in most of the rest of the city."

This is upsetting to many D.C. residents and people in the region who work or have lived in the city. But to some reformers, it is a great opportunity, a way to let parent choice energize the schools and give urban children more chances for success.

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Football BCS Rankings, if Academics Mattered

New America Foundation:

The college football Bowl Championship Series rankings have been announced, but what would the list look like ranked instead by the teams' academic achievement? The New America Foundation's Education Policy Program today released its sixth annual BCS Academic Bowl rankings aiming to show just that.

The rankings use information collected by the NCAA -- federal graduation rates and academic progress -- to track educational success, not in-game performance. New America's BCS Academic Bowl looks at data from the top 25 teams in the Bowl Championship Series' final standings to rank their academic prowess.

New America's analysis found:

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Amsterdam schools to bring in 'no toking zones'

Associated Press:

Eberhard van der Laan's introduction of a law that in other countries either already exists or seems so obvious it wouldn't even require a rule is the result of the Netherlands' unique drugs policy. Under the "tolerance" principle, marijuana is technically illegal here, but police can't prosecute people for possession of small amounts.
That's the loophole that made possible Amsterdam's famed "coffee shops" - cafes where marijuana is sold openly. But it has also had the unwanted side effect that Dutch children are frequently exposed to the drug in public areas.

City spokeswoman Iris Reshef says schools have always forbidden pot, but found it difficult to enforce the policy when students smoked on or near campus and challenged administrators to do anything about it.
"It's not really what you have in mind as an educator, that children would be turning up for class stoned, or drunk either for that matter," she said. "But it has been a problem for some schools."

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

Ten myths about gifted students and programs for gifted

Carolyn Coil:

American educators have struggled for more than 40 years to define giftedness. Yet even now, there is no universally agreed upon definition of what it means to be gifted. U.S. federal law defines gifted students as those who perform or who show promise of performing at high levels in any one of five categories: general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability or visual/performing arts.

Beyond that definition, there are no specific national criteria for identifying gifted and talented students nor does federal law provide funding or mandates for identification of these students or programming for them. This definition is left to the states.

The result has been a wide variety of state definitions and methods for the identification of gifted children. Some states have specific definitions for giftedness, while others have none. Some states require programs for gifted students, while others do not.

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

Open source groups warn Greece will waste millions on school software


Advocates of free and open source are warning that the Greek government is going to waste millions of euro on proprietary software licences for the country's schools. They are calling on the Ministry of Education to cancel its latest procurement.

"Favouring proprietary software while ignoring the potential of open source, constitutes a choking of the educational process."
The ministry published a request for tender in November, seeking suppliers of 26,400 laptops, 1760 servers and 1760 wifi access routers. The value of the contract is set at just over 15 million euro. The purchase will be partly financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

The ministry is asking for laptops and servers that can run either a ubiquitous proprietary operating system or Linux. But, say the Greek Linux User Group (Greeklug) and Eel/lak, a Greek open source advocacy organisation founded by 25 universities and research centres, the technical requirements clearly favour proprietary solutions over open source. "The specification is a copy of the proprietary vendor's e-mail and office software."

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