School Information System
Newsletter Sign Up | Send Ideas | Directory | | Sponsorships

June 30, 2013

End of union contract at the Milwaukee Public Schools ushers in new era

Alan Borsuk:

A friend of mine has two signs in her office. One says, "Stay calm and carry on." The other says, "Freak out and throw things."

Both offer paths to grasping the realities of Milwaukee Public Schools as the system reaches a milestone. Sunday is the last day of the contract between MPS and its teachers union, the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association. It is, at least for the foreseeable future, the end of the teacher contract era in MPS.

The teachers' contract was a huge shaping force in MPS for roughly the last half century, setting not only pay and benefits, but lots of the operating rules for daily life. Especially in the last 15 years, as the price of health insurance and commitments to current and future retirees escalated, the contract drove the financial realities of MPS -- and the direction was rather startling.

Now, the contract is gone. What impact will that have on MPS? A few observations:

Stay calm and carry on: In many ways, not much will be different. As is true in general in Wisconsin school districts, the contract is being succeeded by a "handbook," a statement by management of what the rules of the school road will be. A lot of the provisions are in line with the past. A lot of school systems around the state have realized it's good to have some stability and to keep teachers generally feeling they are being treated with some dignity and in ways that have some rationale.

Much more on "Act 10", here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:52 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Molly Conley's mom shares a final letter her daughter wrote

Linda Thomas:

Molly Conley's mom, Susan, received a packet from Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle today.

Along with her report card, it included a letter molly wrote to her class as an end of the year assignment.

The 15-year-old girl was killed while walking with friends along a Lake Stevens road. A 26-year-old Marysville man has been arrested in connection with the drive-by shooting death.

The City of Lake Stevens first confirmed that an arrest had been made in the case Friday evening. The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office said the suspect was arrested at his home and would be booked into jail for first-degree murder, but provided no further details.

Last week, dispatchers made reverse-911 calls to nearly 4,000 phones, seeking information that could help catch the shooter. Detectives asked people to respond if they had video of vehicles driving in the area during the hours before and after the shooting.

A reward for information in the case had reached $34,000.

Here is Molly's letter:

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:44 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

What Some Call Delay Is At Times Just Good Policy Making

Matthew DiCarlo:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently announced that states will be given the option to postpone using the results of their new teacher evaluations for high-stakes decisions during the phase-in of the new Common Core-aligned assessments. The reaction from some advocates was swift condemnation - calling the decision little more than a "delay" and a "victory for the status quo."

We hear these kinds of arguments frequently in education. The idea is that change must be as rapid as possible, because "kids can't wait." I can understand and appreciate the urgency underlying these sentiments. Policy change in education (as in other arenas) can sometimes be painfully slow, and what seem likes small roadblocks can turn out to be massive, permanent obstacles.

I will not repeat my views regarding the substance of Secretary Duncan's decision - see this op-ed by Morgan Polikoff and myself. I would, however, like to make one very quick point about these "we need change right now because students can't wait" arguments: Sometimes, what is called "delay" is actually better described as good policy making, and kids can wait for good policy making.

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

What's Really 'Immoral' About Student Loans

Glenn Reynolds:

Unless Congress acts, interest rates for government subsidized student loans will double to 6.8% from 3.4% on July 1. In May, House Republicans passed a bill that would index rates on new loans to the rate on 10-year Treasurys (currently about 2.6%), plus 2.5 percentage points, with an 8.5% cap. But with little Democratic support in the Senate, that bill is dead in the water.

Most Democrats want to lock the current 3.4% rate in place for two more years while Congress debates a "fairer" solution. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has even proposed letting students borrow directly from the government at the same ultra-low rate that banks currently get on short-term loans from the Federal Reserve--0.75%. She calls the Republican proposal "immoral."

In the student-loan world, there's immorality to spare--not in the still historically low interest rates, but in the principal of the thing. Student debt, which recently surpassed the trillion-dollar level in the U.S., is now a major burden on graduates, a burden that is often not offset by increased earnings from a college degree in say, race and gender issues, rather than engineering.

According to an extensive 2012 analysis by the Associated Press of college graduates 25 and younger, 50% are either unemployed or in jobs that don't require a college degree. Then there are the large numbers who don't graduate at all. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, more than 40% of full-time students at four-year institutions fail to graduate within six years. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that almost 75% of community-college students fail to graduate within three years. Those students don't have degrees, but they often still have debt.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:36 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

UW-Whitewater education program criticized in national study

Samantha Jacquest:

A national study that gave UW-Whitewater teacher education a low score was incomplete and shallow, the dean of education at the school said.

"They never talked to our students, and they never interviewed student teachers or principals to find out how our students were doing," said Katy Heyning, dean of the UW-Whitewater College of Education and Professional Studies.

"It's a very incomplete picture in terms of what they were looking at, so I don't know how they can possibly understand our program," she said.

Kate Walsh, president of National Council on Teacher Quality, said the Teacher Prep Review gives a "pretty good indication" of teachers UW-Whitewater and other schools are turning out.

The study released Tuesday judged the quality of teacher training programs across the nation, analyzing course documents, state laws and requirements and school districts' needs for teachers.

Much more here and here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:41 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

How Kid Apps Are Data Magnets

Jeremy Singer-Vine & Anton Troianovski:

While 7-year-old Eros ViDemantay played with a kid's app on his father's phone, tracing an elephant, behind the scenes a startup company backed by Google Inc. GOOG +0.38% was collecting information from the device--including its email address and a list of other apps installed on his phone.

"My jaw dropped," says Lee ViDemantay, Eros's father and a fifth-grade teacher at the Los Angeles Unified School District. "Why do they need to know all that?" The app, called "How to Draw--Easy Lessons," also sent two of the phone's main ID numbers.

A Wall Street Journal examination of 40 popular and free child-friendly apps on Google's Android and Apple Inc.'s AAPL +0.70% iOS systems found that nearly half transmitted to other companies a device ID number, a primary tool for tracking users from app to app. Some 70% passed along information about how the app was used, in some cases including the buttons clicked and in what order.

Some three years after the Journal first tested data collection and sharing in smartphone apps--and discovered the majority of apps tested sending details to third parties without users' awareness--the makers of widely used software continue to gather and profit from people's personal information.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Judge Considers Tossing School-Cheating Charges

Cameron McWhirter & Meredith Rutland:

A conspiracy case stemming from one of the largest school-cheating scandals in U.S. history could be scuttled or drastically diminished if a judge rules that investigators coerced some educators into talking.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry W. Baxter is considering a defense motion that he strike down many, if not all, of the charges--most notably conspiracy--against the former superintendent of Atlanta's public schools and 34 other former educators. Defense lawyers say the charges are based on interviews by state investigators who told some defendants they would be fired if they didn't talk, which they argue violated defendants' constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Judge Baxter is expected to make a ruling soon, though the precise timing is unclear.

A 2011 report by the state investigators found that cheating on state standardized tests was rife in Atlanta schools, including allegations that teachers erased incorrect answers because they would get bonuses if their students got higher scores. The report found the educators were responding to pressure from the administration of Beverly Hall, the superintendent from 1999 to 2011, to show marked improvement in their students' scores or face discipline or less pay.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:37 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Tighter federal lending standards yield turmoil for historically black colleges

Nick Anderson:

Tighter standards in a federal loan program have dealt a significant blow to Howard University and other historically black colleges and universities over the past year, curtailing funds for thousands of students and contributing in some places to a sudden decline in enrollment.

The change in federal lending to parents of college students had an acute impact at Howard, where finances are also under pressure from the federal budget sequester and expenses at its hospital. Howard President Sidney A. Ribeau announced budget cuts in January in response to shortages in revenue from tuition and other sources.

Federal data show that parent loans for Howard students fell by at least $7 million in the 2012-13 academic year compared with the previous year, a 17 percent decline.

Howard's 5 percent enrollment drop and loss of revenue fueled a debate over fiscal issues that has roiled the university community. The vice chairwoman of the board of trustees, Renee Higginbotham-Brooks, warned in a letter to trustees disclosed June 7 that the school "is in genuine trouble." Days later the board chairman, Addison Barry Rand, countered that it remains "financially and operationally strong."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Folsom Cordova special education violations trigger review

Loretta Kalb:

The Folsom Cordova Unified School District has violated special education rules 63 times in the past four years, according to state records.

The violations ranged from placing a child in a restraint chair without informing the child's parents to failing to provide families with progress reports in a timely fashion.

According to state files obtained by The Bee covering the last four school years, families filed 25 separate complaints alleging that Folsom Cordova violated state laws or federal regulations a combined 92 times.

Investigators subsequently concluded the district had failed to comply with special education rules 63 times, or in nearly two-thirds of the allegations.

The California Department of Education launched a formal review of the district after complaints spiked in 2010-11, when parents alleged the district committed 50 violations.

District officials say they have since addressed and resolved the problems identified that year.

Folsol-Cordova spent $135,777,901 for 19,198 students, or $7,072.50/student.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 29, 2013

Schools out for summer: Re-thinking 21st Century Education

Naveen Jain:

If you have school-age children, you already know how hard it can be to get them to quit playing their video games and settle down to their school work. And with the summer upon us, it's frightening to imagine how little time most children will invest to advance their knowledge and intellect in the next 80 days.
However, imagine education that is as entertaining and addictive as video games. Sound far-fetched? I believe that this is exactly the idea -- driven by dynamic innovation and entrepreneurism -- that will help bring our education system out of the stone ages.

Indeed, our education system is obsolete. For starters, we are educating students under a system based on industrial-age thinking, where they advance to the next level based on their age, not ability. Some children are naturally good at one subject and can master it quickly but may take a little longer to comprehend a different subject. It's astounding that we are advancing children on a fixed-time basis, leaving our exceptional students to languish for a full year and our challenged students to struggle and yet advance.

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

Newark Teacher Union's Opposition Party: Link to "Manifesto"

Laura Waters:

For a glimpse into Newark's educational politics, Newark Teacher Union President Joseph Del Grosso barely squeaked out a victory in this week's contentious battle for the top spot in the association: he won by a scant nine votes. However, his opposition - represented under a new faction called "NEW Vision" or "Newark Education Workers Caucus" - won 18 of 31 seats on NTU's Executive Board. NJ Spotlight, in recounting the story, says that this will be the "first time since his first term that Del Grosso's slate will not control the board."

Del Grosso has been widely criticized by by some NTU members for agreeing to a merit pay structure in NTU's new contract and associating with Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson. Consorting with the enemy, if you will.

So what does NEW Vision want?

Handily, Intercepts has posted NEW Vision's "manifesto," a thoughtful and well-written strategic plan that defines this union's activism as "a movement of social justice, a "supreme act of devotion" to schoolchildren in Newark and the city's future. Part of that devotion is declaring enmity to "the privatization of public schools, the corporatization of public life, and the commodification of human life in general."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Promise of Prizes Helps People Save

Khadeeja Safdar:

Can the lure of gambling be used to help people save?

A new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research explores the possibility of using lotteries to induce savings behavior. The concept is called a prize-linked savings (PLS) account, in which holders have the chance of winning cash or other kinds of prizes for contributing money.

The authors of the paper -- Emel Filiz-Ozbay, Jonathan Guryan, Kyle Hyndman, Melissa Schettini Kearney and Erkut Y. Ozbay -- conducted a controlled experiment with 96 University of Marylandstudents to compare the success of a PLS account to that of a standard interest-bearing account. They found that participants were more likely to save when offered the possibility of winning a prize. "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first evidence showing that PLS products are more effective at inducing savings as compared to a standard interest bearing account offering the same expected return," write the authors.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 28, 2013

UW-Madison professor nets highest jazz honor

Channel3000, via a kind reader email

An 83-year-old music professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has played bass with Bruce Springsteen and classical conductor Igor Stravinsky has been awarded the nation's highest honor in jazz.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Richard Davis won a 2014 Jazz Masters Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Davis says, "It feels good to be honored amongst your peers."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 11:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Repairing America's Unhealthy Relationship with Student Debt

Judah Bellin:

Sallie Mae, the largest private lender of student loans, recently announced that it will split into two entities. The first company will manage nearly all of Sallie Mae's assets--$118.1 billion worth of federal loans and $31.6 billion worth of private loans--and the second will continue to lend to students.[1] This development underscores a disquieting truth: Americans have a healthy attitude toward higher education but an unhealthy relationship with student debt. While household debt comes in many forms, only student debt grew during the Great Recession. Federal policy has encouraged this habit. In the two years following the financial crisis, spending on student loans grew 19 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Though students and families are borrowing more to cope with the ever-growing cost of college, the loans that they are taking out may actually be a cause, as well as a result, of the problem. Many studies suggest that colleges are capturing part of this increase in federal loan funds and using it to pay for high-cost expenditures--such as research labs, student amenities, and administrators--that are then passed on to students in the form of higher tuition and fees. Since colleges are guaranteed funding for students who demonstrate need, they are insulated from the consequences of raising prices.

Therefore, student loan reform needs to introduce competitive pressure into the student loan system. De-linking the cost of specific colleges from decisions on loan awards is one way of achieving this goal. Instead, colleges could offer every eligible student four possible loan awards based on financial need and the median cost of college. This reform would force colleges to compete for students' loan money by demonstrating the actual value that their education provides. And since colleges would no longer be shielded from market pressures, they would be forced to become more cost-conscious.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:52 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Parents cast their votes in voucher debate

Chris Rickert:

Jim Bender, of the pro-voucher group School Choice Wisconsin, said there are a range of legitimate reasons parents choose voucher-funded private schools, but that the rising number of voucher students proves parents want that choice.

That's probably what you'd expect to hear from a leader in what voucher critics see as a national effort to privatize -- and profit from -- education.

Of course, what you hear from Democratic lawmakers and a DPI run by a Democratically leaning state superintendent -- who rely for political support on teachers unions -- is about what you'd expect to hear from those with a vested interest in public schools' hegemony.

Vouchers might be one of those childhood-related policy debates that has less to do with what children need than with what lawmakers and their special interests want.

And if what children need is to be ignored, the next best thing might be to pay a little more attention to what parents say their children need.

Much more on vouchers, here.

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

Skipping Campus

Ry Rivard:

Students seeking online degrees might soon resemble traditional on-campus students, according to a new survey sponsored by two companies involved in online education consulting.

The survey, in its second year, continues to show the typical student seeking a degree or certification online is a married middle-aged white woman, but the new results suggest the overall population of online learners is beginning to include more students who are of traditional college age, but not going to a college campus. The survey is only of students who have taken, are taking or plan to take courses from an online program.

"It's obvious that more and more people from traditional college-age populations are electing to do their college online -- they are just skipping the campus," said David Clinefelter, a co-author of the study and the chief academic officer at the Learning House, Inc., which advises colleges on online education ventures.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:56 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Written Chinese collides with the digital age in Asia

Agency France Press:

As a schoolboy, Akihiro Matsumura spent hundreds of hours learning the intricate Chinese characters that make up a part of written Japanese. Now, the graduate student can rely on his smartphone, tablet and laptop to remember them for him.

"Sometimes I don't even bother to take notes in seminars. I just take out my tablet to shoot pictures of what instructors write on blackboards," he said.

Like millions of people across East Asia, 23-year-old Matsumura is forgetting the pictographs and ideographs that have been used in Japan and greater China for centuries.

While some bemoan what they see as the loss of history and culture, others say the shift frees up brainpower for more useful things, like foreign languages, and even improves writing as a whole.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:54 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin school staffing holds steady after years of decline

Bill Lueders:

Newly released data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction show that staffing levels at state public schools held steady last year, despite fears that changes initiated by Gov. Scott Walker would prompt additional losses.

The number of employees did drop in some program areas and in some districts, according to the DPI's summary report. And overall staffing remains significantly lower than five years ago.

"District job losses as the result of budget cuts have stabilized, and in some cases become one-year positive readjusts," DPI spokesman John Johnson said. Despite this rebound, he said, many districts are still hurting for staff, "and student services programs have been cut dramatically."

The data, released this week, tally staff levels for the 2012-13 school year as they existed on the third Friday in September.

They show that the state's 424 school districts had 99,265 full-time equivalent positions in 2012-13. That's up 25 positions from 2011-12, but down a total of 5,200 FTE positions since 2008-09.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

U.S. education gap narrows between whites and minorities: report

Stephanie Simon:

The achievement gap between white and minority children has narrowed considerably in recent decades, as black and Hispanic students have posted strong gains on math and reading tests, according to a new report out Thursday.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as "the nation's report card," found that minority students at all ages tested - 9, 13 and 17 years old - have made substantial progress on standardized tests since the early 1970s.

Black and Hispanic students made up a third to half of the gulf that had separated their average reading scores from the average scores of white students, the report found. The progress was nearly as good in math.

Proficiency at specific skills also grew over the decades. In math, for instance, 13-year-olds of all races tested in 2012 were far more likely than their counterparts from the 1970s to be proficient at interpreting data from a table and factoring numbers. In reading, 9-year-olds were more adept at making inferences from nonfiction texts and grasping figures of speech.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:26 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Is the labor market return to higher education finally falling?

considers that possibility in his recent column. About one in four bartenders has some kind of degree. Orszag draws heavily on this paper by Beaudry and Green and Sand, which postulates falling returns to skill. It's one of the more interesting pieces written in the last year, but note their model relies heavily on a stock/flow distinction. They consider a world where most of the IT infrastructure already has been built, and so skilled labor has not so much more to do at the margin. This stands in noted contrast to the common belief -- which I share -- that "IT-souped up smart machines" still have a long way to go and are not a mature technology. You can't hold that view and also buy into the Beaudry and Green and Sand story, unless you think we have suddenly jumped to a new margin where machines build machines, with little help from humans.

Rather than accepting "falling returns to skill," I would sooner say that education doesn't measure true skill as well as it used to.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Automated Coach to Practice Conversations

Mohammed (Ehsan) Hoque:

We present a real-time system including a 3D character that can converse, capture, analyze and interpret subtle and multidimensional human nonverbal behaviors for possible applications such as job interviews, public speaking, or even automated speech therapy. The system works in a personal computer and senses nonverbal data from video (i.e., facial expressions) and audio (i.e., speech recognition and prosody analysis) using a standard webcam. We contextualized the development and evaluation of our system as a training scenario for job interviews. Using user-centered design and iterations, we determine how the nonverbal data could be presented to the user in an intuitive and educational manner. We tested efficacy of the system in the context of job interviews with 90 MIT undergraduate students. Our results suggest that the participants who used our system to improve their interview skills were perceived to be better candidates by human judges. Participants reported that the most useful feature was being given feedback on their speaking rate, and overall they reported strong agreement that they would consider using this system again for self-reflection.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:03 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 27, 2013

Cheating to Learn: How a UCLA professor gamed a game theory midterm.

Visakan Veerasamy:

On test day for my Behavioral Ecology class at UCLA, I walked into the classroom bearing an impossibly difficult exam. Rather than being neatly arranged in alternate rows with pen or pencil in hand, my students sat in one tight group, with notes and books and laptops open and available. They were poised to share each other's thoughts and to copy the best answers. As I distributed the tests, the students began to talk and write. All of this would normally be called cheating. But it was completely okay by me.

Who in their right mind would condone and encourage cheating among UCLA juniors and seniors? Perhaps someone with the idea that concepts in animal behavior can be taught by making their students live those concepts.

Animals and their behavior have been my passions since my Kentucky boyhood, and I strive to nurture this love for nature in my students. Who isn't amazed and entertained by videos of crafty animals, like Betty the tool-making crow, bending wires into hooks to retrieve baskets containing delicious mealworms? (And then hiding her rewards from a lummox of a mate who never works, but is all too good at purloining hard-won rewards of others?)

Much more on Visakan Veerasamy, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Is Personalization in Education About Students or Profit?

Chris Thinnes:

The end-run of the logic of the "free market model" of education--and its application to schools--is simple: the repudiation of schools as we have come to know them; the abandonment of democratic principles on which they are based; and the service of a technocratic vision of education as matrix of individual relationships with private providers. In recent years, this vision takes the form of crude assertions that online learning platforms might not only extend or enrich the learning that takes place in schools, but might obviate the need for the "school" as we know it.

This claim is supported by politicians, pundits, and policy wonks--the vast majority of whom would make vitally different decisions for their own children's education, than they might for yours or mine. It's obvious to educators that we should embrace the opportunities provided by digital tools, services, and platforms to supplement and to inform the learning that takes place in a school, but we should beware the growing and disturbing focus on the replacement of the school by those technologies.

We have known for many decades in schools that differentiation, individuation, and responsiveness to student voice and choice are hallmarks of effective schools' support of each learner in a school community. Now, however, the discussion of vaguely related imperatives is dressed in the language of "personalization" of products, content, and services, as though this represents a new-found metaphor for redefining education as we know it. We lay faith--lazily, or purposefully, and even in the most sophisticated and insightful writing about mutations in 21st century capitalism--in the promises of private corporations that mimic this language, extolling selfless commitments to service our individual needs.

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

These are the 100 smartest cities in America (study)

Sean Ludwig:

Ithaca, N.Y. is a relatively small college town, but one thing that might make up for its size is its brain power. That's because Ithaca tops a new list from Lumosity that ranks U.S. cities by their raw cognitive performance.

San Francisco-based Lumosity creates brain-training exercises and has raisedmore than $70 million in funding to date from Discovery Communications, Menlo Ventures, and others. Since it launched back in 2007, Lumosity claims to have amassed the world's largest dataset of human cognitive performance, with data and insights collected from more than 40 million people.

The study is available here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:42 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Postcards from home: two perspectives on returning to the nest

Ruth Spencer, Nadja Popovich and Greg Chen:

It's been a month since graduation season has come and gone, and while many college grads have entered the working world, financial challenges have left many back where they started: with Mom and Dad. We asked recent grads (so-called boomerang kids) and later, parents about life inside their respective nests. Here are their dispatches from home

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:37 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

English is no longer the language of the web

Ethan Zuckerman:

Conventional wisdom suggests that English is becoming "the world's second language," a lingua franca that many forward--looking organizations are adopting it as a working language. Optimists about the spread of English as a global second language suggest it will enable collaboration and ease problem solving without threatening the survival of mother tongues. Pointing to hundreds of thousands of Chinese children who learn English by shouting phrases back at teachers, the American entrepreneur Jay Walker offers the idea that English will be a language of economic opportunity for most speakers: they'll work and think in their mother tongue, but English will allow them to communicate, share, and transact.

Cultural-preservation organizations like UNESCO aren't as confident of this vision. They warn that English may crowd out less widely spoken languages as it spreads around the world through television, music, and film. But something more subtle and complicated appears to be going on. While English may be emerging as a bridge language, a wave of media is being produced in other languages, in newspapers, on television, and on the Internet. As technologies make it easier for people to communicate to broad and narrow audiences in their native languages, we're discovering that linguistic difference is surprisingly persistent.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:35 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Case for the Humanities Not Made

Stanley Fish:

The humanities and social sciences "enable us to participate in a global economy that requires understanding of diverse cultures and sensitivity to different perspectives."

In each of these sentences, and many others that might be instanced, the key words -- "framework," "context," "complex," "meaningfully," "understanding," "diverse," "sensitivity," "perspectives" -- are spectacularly empty; just where specificity is needed, sonorous abstraction blunts the edge of what is being asserted, rendering it unexceptionable (no one's against understanding, complexity and meaningfulness) and without bite.

Then there are the recommendations.

"Increase NEH funding." Fine idea, but only political efforts of a kind not mentioned here will do that trick. College teachers should "reach out" to their colleagues in K-12. Sure, let's have a joint bake sale or a dance. "Embrace the chance to connect with the larger community." What exactly does "connect with" mean and where does the "chance" reside? "Deepen knowledge of other cultures." Add "deepen" to the list of words that say nothing. Develop "intercultural skills." First tell me what they are and how they differ from mono-cultural skills. "Expand the pool of qualified teachers." Wait a moment while I wave my magic wand. "Promote Language Learning." Yes, that's something we could and should do, but it will take money, and money has systematically been withdrawn from public higher education for decades.

The report alludes to this unhappy fact, but doesn't take it up. Nor does it take up the converging factors that accelerate the rush to vocationalism and short-term payoffs -- the mania for online education, unsupportable student debt, rising costs in every area of a college's operation, the Internet's preference for chunked-up bits of information, the elimination or radical downsizing of French, Russian, German, religious studies, theater and other programs because they cannot be justified under zero-based budgeting assumptions.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wages Fall At Record Pace

David Cay Johnston:

Breaking news alert! Wages fell at the fastest rate ever recorded during the first quarter of this year, the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Hourly wages fell 3.8 percent in the first quarter, the biggest drop since the BLS began tracking compensation in 1947. Productivity rose half a percentage point. The result was that what economists call "labor unit costs" fell 4.3 percent.

In plain English, that means paychecks overall shrank, but work output grew. If you are a business owner, that is news worthy of a toast with a bottle of the finest Cristal champagne, which at $595 is more than the $518 that a median-wage worker earns in a week.

If you have not heard this news about plummeting wages, it is not surprising. Except for right-wing websites, and an item at the liberal Huffington Post, the June 5 announcement went unreported.

The networks and the major newspapers all have staffs of business reporters, yet they missed the third paragraph of the official government announcement that contained this important news.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:23 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős -- great kids' book

Cory Doctorow:

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős is a beautifully written, beautifully illustrated kids' biography of Paul Erdős, the fantastically prolific itinerant mathematician who published more papers than any other mathematician in history.
Boy is written by Deborah Heiligman, with illustrations by Leu Pham, and the pair really worked to weave numbers and mathematics through the text, with lively, fun illustrations of a young Erdős learning about negative numbers, becoming obsessed with prime numbers and leading his high-school chums on a mathematical tour of Budapest. They also go to great lengths to capture the upside and downside of Erdős's legendary eccentricity -- his inability to fend for himself and his helplessness when it came to everyday tasks like cooking and doing laundry; his amazing generosity and brilliance and empathy in his working and personal life.

Ultimately, this is a book that celebrates the idea of following your weird, wooing the muse of the odd, and playing to your strengths rather than agonizing over your weaknesses. It's an inspiring and sweet tale of one of humanity's greatest mathematicians, and a parable about the magic of passion and obsession.

Much more on Paul Erdős, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:23 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 26, 2013

Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap

Matthew DeFour

The Madison School District has the money to improve low-income and minority student achievement but needs to reorganize its central administration to put more resources in the classroom, according to a group of local and national education experts who conducted a district review.

"We're recommending the system turn on its head," said Robert Peterkin, the former director of Harvard University's Urban Superintendents Program who led the review team.

New Madison schools superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, a graduate of the Harvard program, organized the team of experts as part of her transition. She plans to consult their recommendations before releasing next month a set of specific strategies and 2013-14 budget proposal.

According to the team's analysis, students need to be at the top of the "power pyramid" rather than district administration, with the focused goal of turning out graduates ready to attend college or start a career.

Central office administrators need to spend more time in the classroom and cut down on new programs that contribute to what teachers call "initiative fatigue."

Principals should have more input into hiring a more diverse staff. Teachers need more focused professional development. And all district employees need specific goals that can be measured and used to hold them accountable.

Students also need "demand parents" who take an active role, not only in school bake sales and sports, but in understanding the curriculum and educational goals for their students.

"Resources even in this environment can be brought to bear from existing dollars to your more focused set of goals and activities, rather than supporting proliferation of those activities," Peterkin told the Madison School Board on Monday night.

Cheatham said the review team had not taken a deep enough look at district finances to conclude that funding is available, but based on her assessment of the budget so far, she said the conclusion was "fairly accurate."

"The recommendations from the transition team warrant a deep look at the central office organization and our allocation of resources," she said.

The "Transition Team" Report (3MB PDF) and Superintendent Cheathem's "Entry Plan" summary.


Madison's disastrous long-term reading results.

Deja Vu: A Focus on "Adult Employment" or the Impossibility of Governance Change in the Madison Schools.

Madison has long spent more per student than most districts. The most recent 2012-2013 budget, via a kind Donna Williams and Matthew DeFour email is $392,789,303 or $14,496.74 per student (27,095 students, including pre-k).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:25 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

U.S. spends big on education, but results lag many nations: OECD

Stephanie Simon:

The United States is one of the world's biggest spenders when it comes to education, but with much of the money flowing to the wealthiest students, the country is losing ground to other nations from pre-school through college, according to a report released on Tuesday on educational progress around the world.

The United States spends 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product on education from pre-kindergarten through the university level, according to the report, by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The rate, which encompasses both public and private spending, is the fifth highest in the world. But the results don't match the spending.

America used to have one of the highest college completion rates for young adults in the world. It has now dropped to 14th place, behind countries including Korea, Russia, Ireland and Canada, according to the OECD report .

The United States also falls behind in early childhood education. Just half of 3-year-olds were enrolled in preschool in 2011 compared with more than 90 percent in nations such as France, Italy and Norway, according to the report.

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

New generation of elite universities rises around the globe

Stephanie Simon:

Watch out Ivy League, there's a new generation of elite universities on the rise around the globe, according to a new "100 Under 50" report from Times Higher Education magazine.

The report, published on Wednesday, ranks the best young universities - defined as those founded no more than 50 years ago - in categories including research prowess, student-to-faculty ratio and international reputation.

South Korea's Pohang University of Science and Technology came out on top. Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale of Lausanne ranked second, followed by another rising Asian star, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

Britain had 18 institutions in the top 100, more than any other nation. Other countries with strong showings included France, Spain and Taiwan.

Eight American institutions made the list - all of them public universities. Two University of California campuses, Irvine and Santa Cruz, cracked the top 15, as did the University of Texas at Dallas. Rounding out the list of U.S. upstarts: The University of Illinois at Chicago, George Mason University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:56 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Are You Smart Enough to Be a Citizen? Take Our Quiz

Eric Liu:

To become a citizen of the United States, naturalizing immigrants must take a test. Many native-born Americans would fail this test. Indeed, most of us have never really thought about what it means to be a citizen. One radical idea from the immigration debate is the repeal of birthright citizenship--guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment--to prevent so-called anchor babies. Odious and constitutionally dubious as this proposal may be, it does prompt a thought experiment: What if citizenship were not, in fact, guaranteed by birth? What if everyone had to earn it upon turning 18, and renew it every 10 years, by taking an exam? What might that exam look like?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:53 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The CIA Wants Your Kids

Micah Zenko:

The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) is a sprawling network of roughly 210,000 civilian and military employees across seventeen agencies as well as approximately 30,000 private contractors. With a budget of $75 billion between the national and military intelligence programs, the IC is authorized to carry out a range of activities and programs, including monitoring suspected nuclear weapons programs, killing suspected terrorists, and analyzing ongoing events for everyone from President Obama to soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.
In an effort to counter some myths and misperceptions, create positive associations, and recruit future employees, eleven of the seventeen agencies of the IC have web pages dedicated to "kids," which are equal parts informative, entertaining, creepy, and borderline inappropriate. (Beware that some of these pages have broken links, depriving American children fascinated by the National-Geospatial Intelligence Agency.)

Most U.S. government agencies also have websites for children, which are intended to provide useful information in an entertaining format. For example, the Consumer Products Safety Commission features a self-described "goatboy!" named Kidd Safety: "I'm eleven years old and live in Goatlahoma. Don't try to find it on a map. It is in the middle of nowheresville." Kidd Safety emphasizes wearing safety gear during playtime, and gives tips on ways to make your home less dangerous. A related "Hey Kids!" page includes this daunting challenge for young children: "Find out how to help save lives and protect yourself and your family."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

GOP complaint: Poll tests possible gubernatorial run by Madison School Board Member Mary Burke

Matthew DeFour

A Democratic poll testing gubernatorial candidates asks respondents their opinions about Madison School Board member Mary Burke, a complaint with state regulators says.

In one of the strongest signs yet that Madison School Board member Mary Burke is considering a run against Gov. Scott Walker in November 2014, a polling firm is apparently testing her favorability rating among potential voters.

The poll came to light Tuesday after the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board regarding a telephone poll that included questions about the former Trek Bicycle executive and Commerce Secretary under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.

The Associated Press also reported Tuesday that online records show that on June 12, the day before the poll was conducted, six Internet domain names that point toward a Burke candidacy were registered anonymously, including:,,,, and

Burke did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The GOP complaint, filed against Burke and the state Democratic Party, alleges a telephone pollster asked questions about Burke and whether certain statements would influence the respondent's vote.

The PDF complaint (1.2MB).

Not much, if anything has changed within our public schools over the past year that Mary has been on the Board. There is plenty to do, starting with the District's long-term, disastrous reading scores.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:42 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Chinese students and families fight for the right to cheat their exams

Malcolm Moore:

Beijing: What should have been a hushed scene of 800 Chinese students sitting their university entrance exams erupted into siege warfare after invigilators tried to stop them cheating.

The relatively small city of Zhongxiang in Hubei province has always performed suspiciously well in China's tough ''gaokao'' exams, winning a disproportionate number of places at the country's elite universities.

We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat.

Last year, the city was cautioned by the province's education department after it discovered 99 identical papers in one subject.

This year, a pilot scheme was introduced to enforce the rules.


When students at the No.3 high school in Zhongxiang arrived to sit their exams this month, they were dismayed to find that they would be supervised by 54 randomly selected external invigilators.

The invigilators used metal detectors to relieve students of mobile phones and secret transmitters, some of them designed to look like pencil erasers.

A team of female invigilators was on hand to intimately search female examinees, the Southern Weekend newspaper reported.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:42 AM | Comments (1) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 25, 2013

Charter Schools Receive a Passing Grade: Overall Reading Gains Stronger Than on Regular Public Campuses, but Results Vary Widely by State

Stephanie Banchero:

Students attending publicly funded, privately run charter schools posted slightly higher learning gains overall in reading than their peers in traditional public schools and about the same gains in math, but the results varied drastically by state, according to one of the most comprehensive studies of U.S. charter schools.

The study [PDF], published Tuesday by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, found that charter students in Rhode Island, for example, gained the equivalent of an additional 86 days of reading comprehension and 108 days of math comprehension annually compared with peers in traditional public schools. In Nevada, however, charter students had 115 fewer days of learning in reading and 137 fewer in math annually, the study found.

Overall, the new study found that charter students gained an additional eight days of reading, while the math gains were identical. Low-income Hispanic and African-American students did much better in charters than their peers in the traditional school option, while white children did worse in charters.

The researchers and some charter proponents said the results suggest some states need to be more particular about which groups they award charters, and more aggressive about shutting low-performers.

Center for Research on Education Outcomes Press Release:
According to the 26-state study:
  • Students in poverty, black students, and those who are English language learners (ELL) gain significantly more days of learning each year in both reading and math compared to their traditional public school peers. Performance differences between charter school students and their traditional public school peers were especially strong among black and Hispanic students in poverty and Hispanic students who are ELL in both reading and math.
  • Charter school enrollment has grown among students who are in poverty, black students, and Hispanic students.
  • The 11 new states added marginally to the mathematics gains seen since the 2009 study, but more so to gains in reading.
More from Stephanie Simon.

Related:One year in, Oconomowoc High School staff, students adjusting to change and May, 2012: Budget Cuts: We Won't Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That's Okay.

A majority of Madison school board members rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School in 2012.

Madison's long term, disastrous reading scores.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

University of Michigan looks to out-of-state students to subsidize low in-state tuition increase

Kellie Woodhouse:

University of Michigan has adopted its lowest in-state tuition increase in three decades -- and it's doing so in part by putting an additional cost burden on out-of-state students.
During a public meeting Thursday afternoon, the school's eight-member governing board in a 6-2 vote approved a 1.1 percent increase for underclassmen residents, bringing the in-state rate to $13,142, and a 3.2 percent increase for out-of-staters, bringing the non-resident rate to $40,392 for freshmen and sophomores.

"The people of Michigan have made an investment in the university over a long period of time and I think that creates an equity that makes it fairer to do what we can to make in-state tuition go up at a slower rate than out-of-state," U-M regent Larry Dietch said in an interview. "And the data would indicate, at least at this point, that there is elasticity in terms of the demand from out-of-state and the ability of people to pay."

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

Putting your own kids at risk for an ideal Advice from a parent already trying to lead a 'textured life'

Esther Cepeda:

In his revealing book "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010," Charles Murray spends hundreds of pages using statistics to illustrate the rising inequality that is increasingly putting the white working class on the path toward generational poverty.
Murray concludes by suggesting that the "new upper class" -- which increasingly is cloistered in pockets of rich, highly educated super-neighborhoods -- move into the communities of "regular" people.

"Age-old human wisdom has understood that a life well lived requires engagement with those around us," writes Murray, who himself lives in what he describes as an increasingly troubled "blue-collar and agricultural region of Maryland."

He closes: "A civic Great Awakening among the new upper class can arise in part from the renewed understanding that it can be pleasant to lead a glossy life, but it is ultimately more rewarding -- and more fun -- to lead a textured life, and be in the midst of others who are leading textured lives."

Murray's invocation sprung to mind a few weeks ago as I was reading stay-at-home dad Andy Hinds' "Why I Want to Choose the 'Disadvantaged' Local School (and Why I Might Not)" on The New York Times' "Motherlode" blog.

Hinds describes the gut-wrenching choice he has to make about whether to put his "mixed-race, socioeconomically advantaged, English-proficient twin girls" into the good school where his neighbors' kids go or into the troubled school only a five-minute walk from his home. His idealism makes him wonder if he and a group of caring, motivated parents could change a school with 100% poverty and a predominantly Hispanic student body. Ultimately, such participation could make a difference for the whole community.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New state budget continues to support some bad voucher schools

Alan Borsuk:

It's been an excellent state budget season for lousy voucher schools.
Of course, it's been an excellent budget season for all private schools that want public financial support -- statewide expansion of vouchers, tax deductions for those who pay tuition to elementary and high schools, big jumps in state payments for each voucher student a year from now, some last-minute helpful surprises.

But the lousy operators must be feeling especially good. Why? Because nothing was done to drive them to improve or stop taking state money. Come this fall, a cluster of low performing, poorly run voucher schools will still enroll thousands of kids and take millions of dollars in state money.

Even the most adamant voucher supporters agree that there are schools in Milwaukee that don't merit public support. There is a large range of quality among the 110+ schools that take voucher students. Some are excellent, many are of average quality. And some really stand out when it comes to being bad.

Somehow, a solution that promotes quality and responsible use of public money seems off the table in Wisconsin.

I regard myself as one of the few people on Earth who has no pro or con position on vouchers. A professional obligation -- I'm neutral. But I've followed the program closely for 15 years and visited something around 100 voucher schools. I'm not neutral when it comes to quality.

Do we apply the same governance standards to all publicly funded schools?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Wretched Defense of the Humanities

Peter Wood:

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has just issued the Heart of the Matter, a 61-page report (plus appendices) aimed at persuading Congress to spend more money on the humanities. This is one of the report's immediate goals, phrased of course in the financial imperative, "Increase investment in research and discovery." The report as a whole is presented as a response to a "bipartisan request from members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives" in 2010. The American Academy took up this request and appointed a 54-member commission to figure out what "actions" are needed to "maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship."

Let's see. That works out to 1.1296 pages of report per commissioner. Many of the commissioners also appear in a 7-minute accompanying video, which begins with the actor (and commissioner) John Lithgow explaining that the humanities are the "beautiful flower" at the end of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math.) With a piano softly playing Christian Sinding's Rustles of Spring in the background and a camera exploring the petals of a yellow gerbera, Lithgow continues, "Without the blossom, the stem is completely useless." Cut to George Lucas, Rustling Spring pianissimo: "The sciences are the how and the humanities are thewhy." Cut to the Milky Way with Lucas's voiceover, segueing to architect Billie Tsien, "The measurable is what we know and the immeasurable is what the heart searches for."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:25 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck

CNN Money:

Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Monday.

Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults. Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:15 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The solution to US public schools is not corporate America

Daniel Denvir:

America's K-12 schools are being hollowed out, dismantled and converted to private management. It's the ultimate outsourcing of our children's futures.

In Philadelphia, one of America's largest school districts, layoff notices were recently delivered to 3,859 teachers, aides, administrators and other staff. In Chicago, 850 teachers and staff are being let go. Nationwide, a staggering 335,100 teachers and other local public school jobs have been lost from June 2009 to May 2013, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

It's easy to blame those layoffs on the sour economy, but that's only part of the story. The education "reform" movement, a code for privatizing schools, has been using the economic crisis to push its agenda. After the public schools have their budgets and staff cut, private management companies offer to come in and save the day.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:09 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Heart of Texas: Why Colleges Admit the Way They Do

Louis Menand:

The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit, which had earlier ruled in the University's favor, with instructions to give "strict scrutiny" to the admissions policy--that is, to investigate whether the (legitimate) educational goal of racial diversity could not be achieved by a race-neutral admissions process. The vote was 7-1. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the only one to uphold the Fifth Circuit's decision. Justices Scalia and Thomas said that they would have gone further and voted to overturn the precedent on which U.T. relied, a case called Grutter v. Bollinger, decided in 2003. (Justice Kagan recused herself.)

Grutter concerned the admissions policy at the University of Michigan Law School. In an opinion by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Court affirmed Justice Lewis Powell's opinion for the Court in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, in 1978.

Powell said that setting racial quotas (as done by the U.C. Davis School of Medicine, to which Allan Bakke, who was white, had applied) is unconstitutional, but that race may be counted as a "plus" factor in college and university admissions. Powell cited the "Harvard plan," a statement of holistic application evaluation adopted by the admissions office at Harvard University, where I teach, as a constitutional model.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 24, 2013

Summary of UW System Teacher Preparation in Early Reading and Struggling Reader Curricula

National Council On Teacher Quality: Teacher Prep Report, June, 2013 (PDF) and National Council On Teacher Quality: Teacher Prep Details, June, 2013 (PDF):

via a kind Wisconsin Reading Coalition email:

Earlier this week we provided a link to the teacher preparation report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality. We have pulled out the ratings for UW system schools in the areas of preparing teachers to teach early reading and struggling readers.

On the summary attachment, you can see which five schools scored zero stars for early reading, which 2 schools scored 1 star, which two schools scored 3 stars, and which school received the maximum 4 stars. You can also see which two schools scored 4 stars in the area of struggling readers, and which 10 schools received zero stars.

On the detail attachment, you can read the NCTQ comments on why each school received certain scores.

Much more on the recently released NCTQ teacher quality study, here.

Related: Teacher Training's Low Grade.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:49 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The soft sciences matter as much as ever

James Cuno:

A report released this week bears out what many educators have been predicting: Amid rising college tuition, increased global economic competition and a job market that disproportionately rewards graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields, students are seeking degrees in what they and, indeed, many in our nation view as lucrative business and hard-science disciplines. The study is from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, on which I serve.

Some institutions have responded by cutting budgets in the arts and humanities and directing those funds elsewhere. That's the wrong thing to do. The humanities -- the study of languages, literature, history, jurisprudence, philosophy, comparative religion, ethics, social sciences -- and the arts are vital to our future. We should be investing more funds, more time and more expertise, not less, into these endeavors.

What detractors of the "soft" subjects miss is that the arts and humanities provide an essential framework and context for understanding the wider world. Studying the humanities strengthens the ability to communicate and work with others. It allows students to develop broad intellectual and cultural understanding; it nurtures creativity and deepens participation in public discourse and modern democracy.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:15 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Seattle Superintendent Evaluation

Seattle Schools:

Each year, the Board of Directors performs a formal evaluation of the Superintendent's performance. The evaluation is based upon goals adopted by the School Board in November 2012.
These evaluation criteria focus on five areas:

Hire, Develop and Strengthen Leaders: Teacher/Principal and Central Staff evaluations; Hire quality leadership to fill vacant positions; professional development

Raising expectations and improving academic performance and opportunities of all students: narrow achievement gaps, growth for English Language Learners; implementation of Common Core State Standards;

Building relationships with selected stakeholders to connect them to our schools: Family engagement, Labor Partners and community based organizations.

Governance Team Priorities and Areas of Continuing Emphasis: Develop a plan for BEX IV and EP&O levies; a framework and process for collective bargaining; bring professional growth and Evaluation system to scale; develop community outreach for the strategic plan; develop the Equitable Access Framework; develop student support strategies; expand the transparency of district decision-making

Core Competencies: Collaboration; Getting Results, Decision Quality and Problem Solving, Integrity, Accountability, and Fiscal Responsibility

The Superintendent was evaluated based upon the agreed on evaluation criteria. The Superintendent issued a report to the Board, which is attached, detailing performance during the last year.

The District retained Robin Boehler, of Mercer Island Group, to facilitate the evaluation process. Ms. Boehler interviewed each Director, as well as the key senior staff.

The evaluation ratings of Mr. Banda were evaluated using a numeric rating system. These are the same ratings used for classified employees in the District. The ratings were made using a five point rating system with a numeric rating of five as "Outstanding"; four is described as "Exceeds Expectations", three is described as "Meets Expectations", two is "Below Expectations" and one is "Unsatisfactory".

Melissa Westbrook has more.

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

Reflections on teaching 11 year old girls web development

Asha Elizabeth Gupta:

I spent the past 7 weeks teaching middle school girls to build websites as part of an after school program, CodeEd.

We didn't teach anything too fancy, just basic HTML. Our goal was to introduce girls to the wonderful world of programming and technology and dispell some common myths: programming isn't scary or impossibly hard, and programming can be creative and expressive.

We took a project-based approach: the girls spent their time building a site on any topic their heart desired, which this semester, turned out to be music, fashion, cats and Sims FreePlay.

Here's what surprised me:

1. helloworld.html BLOWS THEIR MIND (creating an html file with a silly sentence and then seeing it in their browser). I think the realization is twofold: "whoa the internet is actually just made by people writing text in files", and "whoa, this is something that I can do". One girl immediately exclaimed,"Oh I'm going to show my mom that. She won't believe it."

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

Wisconsin Private Schools Consider Whether to Join Voucher System

Matthew DeFour:

"If you have 10 students on vouchers in your school, are the test scores for those 10 going to be used for a report card when you've got 200 or 300 in your school?" Lancaster said.

The Legislature has yet to introduce a bill that would bring private voucher schools into the state's public school accountability system, though the budget requires those schools to receive report cards a year after linking to the state's student information system.

Walker said earlier this year he hoped to sign a bill with the details before the budget passed, which won't happen. His office didn't respond to a request for comment.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he expects legislators to make progress on a proposal this summer and pass a bill during the next fall or spring session.

Lancaster said many schools were concerned about paying $900 to sign up for the program, only to not make the top 25. Last week the Assembly addressed that concern with a budget amendment that ensures the registration fee would be reimbursed to schools that don't make the cut.

Some schools in the rural and suburban parts of the diocese don't expect to have large enough low-income student populations to make it into the top 25, Lancaster said.

Much more on vouchers, here.

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

North Korean schools in Japan

The Economist:

A TOKYO schoolyard is an unlikely venue to find North Korea's red star fluttering in the wind. Children inside the Tokyo Korean Middle and High School study textbooks in Korean beneath portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. When classes end, the girls shed their traditionaljeogori dresses for anonymous teenage clothes and blend back into the city.

This school and around 70 more like it in Japan are an unusual legacy of Japan's difficult relationship with Korea. Large numbers of Koreans came or were brought to Japan during the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula between 1905 and 1945. At the end of the second world war, about 700,000 of them stayed on rather than return to their homeland, which was by then sliding into the Korean war that would split the country into two bitterly opposed states. They were stateless for 20 years until 1965 when Japan recognised South Korea, at which point Koreans in Japan could become South Korean. Those who didn't became North Korean by default and went to North Korean schools. The schools are an accident of history, often more about continuing a connection to the homeland than about ideological indoctrination.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 23, 2013

The Decline and Fall of the English Major

Verlyn Klinkenborg:

In the past few years, I've taught nonfiction writing to undergraduates and graduate students at Harvard, Yale, Bard, Pomona, Sarah Lawrence and Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. Each semester I hope, and fear, that I will have nothing to teach my students because they already know how to write. And each semester I discover, again, that they don't.
They can assemble strings of jargon and generate clots of ventriloquistic syntax. They can meta-metastasize any thematic or ideological notion they happen upon. And they get good grades for doing just that. But as for writing clearly, simply, with attention and openness to their own thoughts and emotions and the world around them -- no.

That kind of writing -- clear, direct, humane -- and the reading on which it is based are the very root of the humanities, a set of disciplines that is ultimately an attempt to examine and comprehend the cultural, social and historical activity of our species through the medium of language.

The teaching of the humanities has fallen on hard times. So says a new report on the state of the humanities by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and so says the experience of nearly everyone who teaches at a college or university. Undergraduates will tell you that they're under pressure -- from their parents, from the burden of debt they incur, from society at large -- to choose majors they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs. Too often, that means skipping the humanities.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

In Dallas, 3-Year High School Diploma Would Expand Preschool

Morgan Smith:

The senior year of high school, a time when students sometimes seem more focused on social pursuits than academics, may soon be a thing of the past for some Texas students.

Dallas Independent School District, the state's second largest, is developing a voluntary three-year high school diploma plan that is likely to start in the 2014-15 school year and would funnel cost savings to finance prekindergarten.

A bill passed in the recently concluded legislative session, sponsored by two Dallas Democrats, Representative Eric Johnson and Senator Royce West, will allow the district to use savings that occur when students in the new plan graduate early. Under current Texas law, districts get state funding on a per-pupil basis, and the Dallas I.S.D. would have lost state aid for a senior year for students who graduated early.

"It's a way to start thinking about the system differently," said Mike Morath, the Dallas district trustee who promoted the three-year concept. "Do we view education as schools and buildings and first grade and second grade and third grade? Or do we view education as a way to enrich the lives of young people, and do we start taking these institutional blinders off and thinking about it more creatively?"

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

The 4 arrows of education reform

Neerav Kingsland:

In my contribution to the AEI-coordinated book A Roadmap for Education Reform, I outlined how Recovery School Districts can accelerate the three primary strategies of Relinquishment: (1) letting educators operate schools (2) giving families choice amongst these schools and (3) promoting sound government regulation over performance and equity.

Writing this chapter got me thinking: What if we were to create a roadmap not for immediate implementation but to guide us over the next couple of decades? This train of thought was further spurred on by a conversation I had with Seth Andrew, founder of Democracy Prep - where Seth told me that he's sold on Relinquishment but that we need more arrows in our quiver if we want to significantly increase student achievement. I, of course, agreed.

So, to answer Seth's question, what are the other arrows? Or, to put it another way, if in thirty years the United States develops an improved educational system, how will this have occurred?

My best guess: It will because of the following Four Arrows.

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

Federal Workers Get Millions in Student Loan Relief

Paul Singer:

The perk was designed to make government jobs more appealing to those who might earn more in the private sector. But a debate is brewing about whether it's due for the chopping block.

Congress may let student loan interest rates double July 1, but some federal workers and congressional staff likely are protected from the impact by a taxpayer-funded benefit that provided more than $20 million last year for them to pay down their college debts.

Congress created the benefit more than 10 years ago to make government jobs more appealing to job candidates who could get higher-paying jobs in the private sector. Meanwhile, a 2007 law that cut student loan interest rates in half will expire July 1, and Congress has been unable to reach a deal to extend it.

A review of congressional spending records by USA TODAY and the non-profit Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group, showed that the House of Representatives spent almost $15 million last year to pay down staffers' student loans, while the Senate spent almost $6 million. Members of Congress are not eligible for the program.

Federal agencies -- which provide more detailed information -- spent about $72 million in 2011, the last year for which data are available, to pay down student loans for 10,134 federal workers.

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

The Future of Education Can Be Found in The (Really Distant) Past

Andre Plaut:

It's time to retire the blackboards and go back to the town squares.

Over the last 30 years, the United States has increased education funding dramatically: from around $11 billion to $77 billion (source: Dept. of Education) but it seems like we're no closer to figuring out a solution to bettering the quality of educational.

Nothing about education is straight-forward, even its origins. Education "began either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770" says Dieter Lenzen (source: Wikipedia) and yet we're still asking some fundamental questions about how to best approach it: how do you measure it? How do you scale it? Is it a right? Is it a privilege? How do people learn best?

The education field hasn't changed much since its supposed origins in 1770, but technology has finally begun to shine its spotlight on those who seek a learning experience. The result has been a bloom of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), online learning tools, and so forth. But, I'm not sure if those hold the answer.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:57 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

An Update on the Madison Schools' Administrator Contracts

Robert Nadler (PDF):

The list of administrators who are receiving a non-extension of contract is extensive due to the decision to move from rolling two-year contracts to straight two-year contracts and the desire to have approximately half of the administrators on odd-year contracts and half on even-year contracts. Other than the normal one-year contracted administrators, volunteers were solicited from the group of administrators who would have normally received a one-year contract extension to accept a non- extension this year and then accept a two-year contract for 2014-16. After the volunteers were accounted for, a lottery was held.

There is a group of 33 administrators in their first two years of employment with the district who are on one-year contracts. These contracts were approved in January 2013 and are not reflected on the attached lists (REVISED Appendix 000-12-5).

Deja Vu: A Focus on "Adult Employment" or the Impossibility of Governance Change in the Madison Schools.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:17 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

South Korea Tries to Curb Parents' Education Spending

Cynthia Kim

Housewife Ahn Jee Eun began looking for a job to supplement her husband's income after the cost of sending their twin 3-year-old daughters to preschool pushed the family's bank account into the red. "My husband and I are spending about half of our income on education," says Ahn, who pays more than 1.7 million won ($1,500) a month on tuition. Ahn says she'd rather spend less on groceries than pull her girls out of their exclusive kindergarten, where the other kids are from wealthy families and the mothers know which schools and tutors are the best.

In the latest quarter, private consumption in South Korea fell the most since the 2009 global recession. Heavy spending on schools and tutors had an impact. "The cost of education is the biggest contributor to the decline in household spending after household debt," says Lee Ji Sun, an economist at the LG Economic Research Institute. "Worse, some are taking out new loans to pay for schooling."

In mid-June, President Park Geun Hye set up a task force to scale back a common practice in Korean high schools: teaching material not required by national curriculum standards and thus forcing one high school student in five to seek help from private tutors. The Ministry of Education said on June 14 that out of 17,158 private schools or tutors investigated by regulators over the past three months, almost 1,900 had broken some or all of the rules regulating the fees parents pay for extra schooling, as well as the 10 p.m. curfew after which private schools and tutors cannot teach students.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

LA to give every student an iPad; $30M order

Peter Svensson:

Los Angeles' school system, the second largest in the United States, is ordering iPads for all its students, handing Apple a major success in its quest to make the tablet computer a replacement for textbooks.

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday approved the purchase of $30 million worth of iPads as the first part of a multi-year commitment. It found that the iPad was the least expensive option that met its specifications.

The initial order is for more than 31,000 iPads, Apple said. The Los Angeles Unified School District has more than 640,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The textbooks will be delivered through an application from Pearson, a major publisher, rather than through Apple's own iBooks. Apple and its publisher partners launched a suite of textbooks for iBooks in early 2012.

According to biographer Walter Isaacson, changing the textbook market was a pet project of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, even in the last year of his life. At a dinner in early 2011, Jobs told News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch that paper textbooks could be made obsolete by the iPad. Jobs wanted to circumvent the state certification process for textbook sales by having Apple release textbooks for free on the tablet computer.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:08 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Pathway to success for Milwaukee schools

American Enterprise Institute & Wisconsin Policy Research Institute:

For Milwaukee schools to experience widespread improvement, fundamental changes must be made from top to bottom, Hess and Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj write in "Roadmap for Education Reform in Wisconsin," one of the project's essays.
The eight other essays focus on:
  • New schools and innovative delivery
  • Rigorous quality control measures
  • Opportunities for creating a recovery school district
  • A comprehensive approach to talent management
  • Human capital strategy
  • Efficient management of financial capital
  • Robust research and development efforts
  • Effective governance and central management
Among the findings: Schools must be laboratories of innovation, not implementers of rigid rules and regulations; and they must do a better job of empowering their teachers to maximize their impact on students.

One reason decades of MPS "reform" have fallen short is that underlying systems, regulations, policies and practices have been difficult to eliminate or change - until now. At the end of June, for the first time in almost 50 years, the Milwaukee Public Schools will no longer be subject to collectively bargained union contracts. New powers given to the MPS school board, the approved statewide No Child Left Behind Waiver, and the significant market-share of non-traditional options puts Milwaukee in a unique position to enact positive change.

"Education leaders in city schools - traditional as well as choice and charter schools - have an opportunity here," said Lightbourn. "But the ultimate power shaping the condition of Milwaukee schools is in the hands of the public that needs to hear a more persuasive case for both systemic and very specific change. This volume of research can help accomplish that."

Read individual Pathway chapters here:

More, from Erin Richards: MPS needs more non-union charter schools, other reforms, report says

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

University of Minnesota Support for spatial research


Research universities create mountains of data, and more and more, that data is tethered to a place in the world. The world is, after all, spatial--and information is not an island.

The technology and field behind that spatial data are called Geographical Information Sciences (GIS). The University of Minnesota has embarked on a visionary endeavor, called U-Spatial, to develop a network to support spatial research across the University, in fields ranging from nursing to watershed restoration. By using expert consultants and providing training and support in spatial research, U-Spatial is making research more meaningful and usable to researchers and society. It's also reducing redundancy in support for spatial science research.

A leader in GIS

For more than 50 years, the University of Minnesota has been a national and international leader in spatial research. The U helped create one of the first geographic information systems in the 1960s, and offered the first professional degree program in GIS in the United States. As the world makes the "spatial turn," as some have called the GIS revolution, the U is the place to be.

More than Google Maps
GIS is growing, and it will play an ever-increasing role in the future. If you've used Google Maps, you've used an element of GIS, but it is much more than this. Society uses spatial data, for example, in responding to disease outbreaks or climate change, and in resource management, transportation, and more. The U.S. Department of Labor identifies spatial technology alongside nanotechnology and biotechnology as high growth industries in the 21st century.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 22, 2013

Madison Schools' Mental Health Task Force Recommendations

Nancy Yoder (PDF):

The Mental Health Task Force completed its work in May 2013, culminating in the development of a comprehensive vision and strategic roadmap entitled, The Plan for a School and Community Integrated Model for Children's Mental Health in Madison. This plan embodies the collective vision and tireless work of hundred of individuals representing families, children and youth, policymakers, advocates and key systems including mental health, education, health, child welfare, violence prevention and juvenile justice. These groups recognize and support the need to prioritize the social emotional well-being of our children and ensure that all students have access to the mental health services they need to support the achievement of their full potential as healthy and contributing community members. This Plan is presented to the Board with the resounding support of the Task Force and offered as a springboard for moving forward the recommendations that have been created with a high level of collective energy, engagement and commitment.

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

3 Teachers, 3 Classrooms, Same Insight

Asha Elizabeth Gupta:

These three expert pedagogical experimenters,
Maria Montessori, Italian school teacher and founder of the teaching method by the same name,
Sugata Mitra, creator of the esteemed "Hole in the Wall" experiment and winner of the 2013 Ted Prize, and
Paul Anderson, a high school biology teacher, 2011 Montana Teacher of the Year, and creator of over 300 biology videos on Youtube, all speak of a similar insight about learning:

The need for exploratory learning environments, where students can tinker, investigate and discover central concepts for themselves.

Maria Montessori, spoke of the "Prepared Environment" that allows a child to discover concepts like reading, writing, colors and numbers. Her Sandpaper Letters are a wonderful example: each letter is cut from sandpaper and pasted on a smooth card. The tactile difference between the letter and the surrounding card acts as a natural writing guide for a kid. Kids are able to 'discover' the motion of writing on their own just by tracing the sandpapered letter with their finger.

Sugata Mitra's Hole-in-the-wall is another example. Mitra setup computers in public places in impoverished neighborhoods in India and South Africa. Within weeks, children who had never touched a computer before were able to learn basic computer skills just by exploring the machine amongst themselves. No formal lessons required. Further, discovery and exploration is fun, so kids were self-motivated and dedicated to learning.

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

Feds investigating Durham school suspension rates

Jane Porter:

The federal government has begun investigating a complaint that Durham Public Schools suspends black and disabled students at disproportionately high rates, a group that filed the complaint said Thursday.
Advocates for Children's Services, a project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, and the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project of UCLA filed the complaint against DPS in April with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

In the 2009-2010 school year, 14.1 percent of black students were suspended while 3.3 percent of white students were; 17 percent of disabled students were suspended while 8.4 percent of non-disabled students were, according to the complaint.

It describes the experiences of two students identified only as "N.B." and "T.H." Both are black and both spent years in DPS; both were suspended from school repeatedly.

"N.B.," a 17-year-old student diagnosed with several mental health issues, wasn't evaluated for her eligibility for special education and related services by DPS until she was well into high school. "T.H." has been diagnosed with behavioral disabilities; instead of addressing those issues which the complaint says contributed to his falling behind in school, "(his school) responded punitively with out-of-school suspension."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:26 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

iPads in Los Angeles & TCO

Larry Cuban:

One of the downsides of raising questions about the classroom effectiveness of new technologies is when a school district buys tablets and laptops, journalists call to ask for my view of the purchases.
That happened yesterday when the Board of Education for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)-the second largest school system in the nation-approved a $30 million contract with Apple Inc. to buy iPads for every student in 47 schools in the first phase of a district-wide plan to have 655,000 students equipped with tablets. Funds for these iPads come from two bond referenda aimed at construction and maintenance of facilities in LAUSD.

Called The Common Core Technology Project, each iPad costs the district $678, higher than the price of an iPad bought in an Apple store, but it comes with a case (no keyboard, however) and an array of pre-loaded software aimed at preparing students for the impending Common Core standards and the state online testing system. The Board of Education and Superintendent John Deasy want each student to have access to an iPad. With mostly Latino and poor students in LAUSD, the eventual cost of this contract with Apple Inc. could run over $400 million.

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

Improving the Quality, Efficiency and Access to Basic Education in Djibouti

The World Bank:

Djibouti is one of the poorest countries in the world, where roughly 74 percent live below the poverty line and 42.2 percent suffer from extreme poverty. The country also has some of the lowest enrollment (39 percent) and illiteracy rates (70 percent) in the world, with women comprising 85 percent of the illiterate population. Although some encouraging progress had been achieved under Projet d'Amélioration d'Accès aux Écoles (PAAE I), Djibouti's education system continued to face serious challenges that called into question the country's ability to achieve the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Despite the government's effort to expand access, demand still outpaced supply, and the quality of education continued to face persistent issues, such as a shortage of qualified teachers, outdated pedagogic modules, insufficient numbers of textbooks, high repetition and dropout rates, and overcrowded classrooms. Finally, in spite of the substantial government budget allocation to the education sector (6.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004), there was little financial margin to improve education quality.


The objectives of the Second School Access and Improvement Projectawere increasing access to basic education equitably, improving the quality of education and increasing the efficiency of the education system, which were integral parts of the Government of Djibouti's master plan. The project was divided into three main components with the following objectives: 1) increase student enrollment and retention with a special focus on girls and children with special needs, and provide adequate facilities for them to complete primary education; 2) improve the quality of education service provision so that it would be conducive to quality learning and teaching, and help reduce repetition and dropout rates; and 3) improve the management of the education system for a more efficient utilization of sector resources.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:24 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 21, 2013

Montana leads nation in increasing college grads with 2-year degrees

Associated Press:

President Barack Obama set a goal early in his first term for the U.S. to turn out more college graduates than any other nation, but there hasn't been much progress as most states have stumbled in their attempts to improve.
Montana, however, stands apart.

By investing in junior colleges, the Treasure State boasts a 6 percent rise in adult graduation rates over a span where the rest of the country showed an increase of less than 1 percent, according to census data.

Montana, and the nation, still has a long way to go to accomplish the president's objective by his 2020 deadline. It would take roughly a 50 percent increase in graduation rates to hit Obama's target. Meanwhile, the percentage of degree-holders has decreased in 15 states since the president's 2009 announcement, and other states have seen only marginal bumps.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Why Study Humanities? What I Tell Engineering Freshmen

John Horgan:

What's the point of the humanities? Of studying philosophy, history, literature and "soft" sciences like psychology and poly sci? The Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, consisting of academic, corporate, political and entertainment big shots, tries to answer this question in a big new report to Congress. The report is intended to counter plunging enrollment in and support for the humanities, which are increasingly viewed as "luxuries that employment-minded students can ill afford," as The New York Times put it.

Titled "The Heart of the Matter," the report states: "As we strive to create a more civil public discourse, a more adaptable and creative workforce, and a more secure nation, the humanities and social sciences are the heart of the matter, the keeper of the republic--a source of national memory and civic vigor, cultural understanding and communication, individual fulfillment and the ideals we hold in common. They are critical to a democratic society and they require our support."

I find this a bit grandiose, and obscure. I have my own humble defense of the humanities, which I came up with a couple of years ago, when I started teaching a new course required for all freshmen at Stevens Institute of Technology. The syllabus includes Sophocles, Plato, Thucydides, Shakespeare, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Mill, Marx, Nietzsche, William James, Freud, Keynes, Eliot--you know, Greatest Hits of Western Civilization.

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

Wisconsin DPI & Data Politics

Jason Stein:

In the most recent release of schools data by DPI, the agency gave the information to the media ahead of time -- a practice known as an embargo that gives journalists time to properly digest the data with an agreement not to publish until a certain deadline.

But DPI highlighted all the voucher students' scores against all the Milwaukee Public Schools' students scores, instead of separating out the scores of low-income MPS students and comparing only those to the voucher students. That data was not included in the initial release. As a result, it was not included in the stories that the media initially wrote about the results, but was addressed in follow-up stories.

The DPI said the income limit was moot because of a GOP-led law change that allowed more mixed-income children to use vouchers, meaning it was fair to compare all the students in voucher schools to all the children in public schools. Voucher advocates said DPI had an agenda and made their students' scores appear lower than they would have been against those of only the low-income MPS students.

Other data that can be requested from DPI about voucher schools include: school policies, accreditation status, hours of instruction, the number of applications they have accepted and not accepted, their waiting list numbers, application numbers and payment amounts.

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

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:56 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Entry Plan Report summarizes strengths, challenges, and planning efforts

Madison Times:

After two months on the job, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has released a report summarizing what she's learned during her entry process and previewing the district's planning work going forward.

"I'd like to thank our staff, parents, students and the Madison community for helping me build a shared understanding of our district's strengths and challenges," Cheatham said. "The work ahead will take urgency, determination and tenacity, but my experience over the past two months has made me so confident because I know that all of the ingredients for success are here in Madison."

Over the past two months, Superintendent Cheatham has visited all 48 MMSD schools, as well as several after-school programs, alternative programs, community early childhood care and education centers, and the district's alternative high school. Each visit included a meeting with teachers and staff, classroom observations and a meeting with the principal and members of their leadership team. In high schools, visits also included discussions with students and culminated in community meetings. The superintendent also met with parents, elected officials, community leaders, university partners, religious leaders, business leaders and union leaders.

Much more, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:27 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Human Voice May Not Spark Pleasure In Children With Autism

Jon Hamilton:

The human voice appears to trigger pleasure circuits in the brains of typical kids, but not children with autism, a Stanford University team reports. The finding could explain why many children with autism seem indifferent to spoken words.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 20, 2013

Stronger teacher preparation needed to improve schools

Gloria Romero:

We Californians like to think our state is the national leader in policy change and innovation, that new ideas are born here and other states follow our lead.

In one area, I am sad to say, that is not the case.

California is short-selling too many of its public school students because of education programs that inadequately prepare the next generation of teachers. A new review from the National Council on Teacher Quality that evaluates educational institutions, state by state, produced some sobering results for anyone who cares about what's going on inside California schools of education.

Among the more disturbing findings from the institutions that provided data:

  • Half of 72 programs for elementary school preparation failed the evaluation, a higher failure rate than programs in any other state.
  • California's secondary certification structure combined with inadequate coursework requirements, particularly in the sciences and social sciences, showed that only 17 percent of programs adequately prepared secondary teaching candidates in core subjects. That compared with 34 percent nationally.
  • Coursework in a majority (63 percent) of California elementary programs did not mention a single strategy for teaching reading to English language learners.
  • Of the 139 elementary and secondary programs that were evaluated on a four-star rating system, 33 programs earned no stars and only three earned as many as three. Not a single program earned four stars.
Related: Richard Askey: Examinations for Teachers Past and Present:
I have written about the problem in mathematics and hope that some others will use the resouces which exist to write about similar problems in other areas.

In his American Educational Research Association Presidential Address, which was published in Educational Researcher in 1986, Lee Shulman introduced the phrase "pedagogical content knowledge". This is a mixture of content and knowing how to teach this content and is the one thing from his speech which has been picked up by the education community. However, there are a number of other points which he made which are important. Here is an early paragraph from this speech:

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:34 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Round and Round Way: Federal waver from waver for State Teacher Evaluation Systems...

Andrew Rotherham

It's starting to look like Tommy James and the Shondells might be the new theme music over at the Department of Education. Federal elementary and secondary education policy, already a barely cohesive mess because of the Administration's waiver program, just got even more complicated. Yesterday Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that - if they apply for a waiver from their existing waiver - states can delay consequences for their new teacher evaluation systems until the 2016-2017 school year. He also announced a sensible step to avoid double-testing of students during the transition from existing assessments to new ones as part of Common Core implementation. Although critics are understandably jumping all over them for the waiver waivers, the Administration's plan is not entirely indefensible because it's aimed at a real issue. But it is quite problematic. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

- This is a big political win for AFT President Randi Weingarten. It's not her moratorium per se but it's awfully close and does hit the pause button on the issue that matters most to her members. And while state chiefs like Tony Bennett in Florida are already saying they won't apply for a waiver waiver, many chiefs are going to face a lot of political pressure to do so. As you might expect there was a lot of behind the scenes back and forth on this and some state leaders worried this step would pull the rug out from under them. The Department is hoping that the September 30 deadline for applying for a waiver wavier will help stem the tide but the pressure will be intense.

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

The Glaring Hypocrisy of the NCTQ Teacher Prep Institution Ratings

Bruce Baker:

But, given that NCTQ has just come out with their really, really big new ratings of teacher preparation institutions... with their primary objective of declaring teacher prep by traditional colleges and universities in the U.S. a massive failure, I figured I should once again revisit why the NCTQ ratings are, in general, methodologically inept & vacuous and more specifically wholly inconsistent with NCTQ's own primary emphasis that teacher quality and qualifications matter perhaps more than anything else in schools and classrooms.

The debate among scholars and practitioners in education as to whether a good teacher is more important than a good curriculum, or vice versa, is never-ending. Most of us who are engaged in this debate lean one way or the other. Disclosure - I lean in favor of the "good teacher" perspective. Those with labor economics background or interests tend to lean toward the good teacher importance, and perhaps those with more traditional "education" training lean toward the importance of curriculum. I'm grossly oversimplifying here (perhaps opening a can of worms that need not be opened). Clearly, both matter.

I would argue that NCTQ has historically leaned toward the idea that the "good teacher" trumps all - but for their apparent newly acquired love of the Common Core Standards.

Now here's the thing - if the content area expertise of elementary and secondary classroom teachers and the selectivity and rigor of their preparation matters most of all - how is it that at the college and university level, faculty substantive expertise (including involvement in rigorous research pertaining to the learning sciences, and specifically pertaining to content areas) is completely irrelevant to the quality of institutions that prepare teachers? That just doesn't make sense.

Much more, here.

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

Unpaid Internship? Some Colleges Pick Up the Tab

Melissa Korn:

The plight of the unpaid intern is improving. Not because businesses are paying more for summer helpers, but because colleges are stepping in to pay when companies can't, or won't, compensate student hires.

Schools have long granted stipends for stints in nonprofits and the arts, where unpaid labor is common, but now they are paying the way for students to work at profit-making enterprises, including a New York money-management firm, a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm and even a General Motors Co. GM -0.32% plant.

Colleges' job-placement rates have come under intense scrutiny as cost-conscious families, stung by rapidly rising tuition, want proof that universities can deliver on both academic and career fronts.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:24 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Tenure's Fourth Rail

Colleen Flaherty:

Collegiality can be a dirty word in higher education -- particularly in regard to tenure or promotion, where it frequently becomes a catchall for likability and other subjective qualities that some faculty advocates say can be used to punish departmental dissenters. But two researchers are trying - through data-based definitions and metrics - to sanitize collegiality enough for it to be a viable, fourth criterion in personnel decisions.

In academic departments, "what we want is productive dissent," Robert Cipriano, professor emeritus and former chair of the department of recreation of leisure studies at Southern Connecticut State University, and author of Facilitating a Collegial Department in Higher Education: Strategies for Success, said during the American Association of University Professors' annual meeting Thursday (where their push to formalize the role of collegiality in faculty employment decisions drew some skepticism from the assembled professors). "As passionate as the discussion is, it has to be respectful. You go to lunch and it's over."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

NYU's 'Toxic' Expansion Prioritizes Marketing Over Debt-Saddled Students, Professors Say

Ben Hallman:

n a time of growing alarm over soaring student loan debt, New York University -- which graduates the most indebted classes of students in the country -- has embarked on an ambitious real estate expansion that could make the school even more expensive.

A vocal group of professors has mounted a rebellion aimed at halting the university's plans, which call for the addition of 6 million square feet of new space over the next two decades. NYU's administration has refused to publicly disclose the cost, but faculty critics point to estimates that the build-out could run several billion dollars.

"The situation is so toxic right now," said Adam Becker, an associate professor of religious studies at the university, and a member of the faculty opposition movement. "People are angry at the place. We feel like we have been pushed into the corner."

Like many of its students, NYU will need to finance its ambitions through borrowing. The plan's critics argue that these costs will surely get passed along to future classes in the form of higher tuition and less financial aid.

"I think they should put more money back into scholarships for students instead of expanding," said Sashika Gunawardana, who graduated from NYU in 2012 with about $150,000 in student loans.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:19 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 19, 2013

Wisconsin Leglislative Fiscal Bureau Budget Memo on Fund 80 and School Related Changes

Bob Lang, Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau (PDF):

Prohibit a district from levying more for community service activities in 2013-14 and 2014- 15 than it did in the most recent year preceding 2013-14 in which the district levied for those activities. Provide that if a district wishes to exceed the limit on the community service levy, the school board could adopt a resolution to exceed the limit by a specified amount and submit the resolution to the electors of the district for approval. Specify that the limit otherwise applicable to the district would be increased by the amount approved by a majority of those voting on the question.

Under ASA 1, a school district would be prohibited from levying more for community service activities in 2013-14 and 2014-15 than it did in 2012-13.

Specify that under the ~xpandedchoice program outside of Milwaukee and Racine, a private school would be required to give preference to a pupil who satisfies either of the following: (a) the pupil was enrolled in a public school in the school district in the previous year and is applying to attend the school in grades 2 through 8 or 10 through 12; or (b) the pupil was not enrolled in school in the previous school year.

Under current law, choice schools must select pupils on a random basis, except that they may give preference in accepting applications to siblings of pupils selected on a random basis. Under ASA 1, schools would be allowed to give preference in accepting applications to any of the following: (a) pupils who attended the school under the choice program during the school year prior to the school year for which the application is being made; (b) siblings of pupils who attended the school during the school year prior to the school year for which the application is being made and to siblings of pupils who have been accepted to the school for the school year for which the application is being made; and (c) pupils who attended another school under a parental choice program during the school year prior to the school year for which the application is being made.

Require DPI, when publicly releasing data related to, but not limited to, enrollment of, standardized test results for, applications submitted by, waiting lists for, and other information related to pupils participating in or seeking to participate in parental choice programs, to release the data all at the same time, uniformly, and completely. Provide that DPI may selectively release portions of the information specified above only to the following: (a) the school district or an individual school; and (b) an entity requesting the information for a specific participating school or the school district, provided that the entity is authorized to obtain official data releases for that school or the school district.

Modify current law that specifies that a teacher in a choice school have a bachelor's degree, to also allow a degree or educational credential higher than a bachelor's degree, including a masters or doctorate.

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

Big "take-aways" about teacher preparation in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Elementary Teacher Prep Rating Distribution

Wisconsin Secondary Teacher Prep Rating Distribution

National Council on Teacher Quality:

Highly rated programs -- The undergraduate secondary program at the University of Wisconsin - Stout is on the Teacher Prep Review's Honor Roll, earning at least three out of four possible stars. Across the country, NCTQ identified 21 elementary programs (4 percent of those rated) and 84 secondary programs (14 percent) for the Honor Roll.

Selectivity in admissions -- The Review found that 32 percent of elementary and secondary programs in Wisconsin restrict admissions to the top half of the college-going population, compared to 28 percent nationwide. Countries where students consistently outperform the U.S. typically set an even higher bar, with teacher prep programs recruiting candidates from the top third of the college-going population.

Some worry that increasing admissions requirements will have a negative effect on the diversity of teacher candidates. By increasing the rigor and therefore the prestige of teacher preparation the profession will attract more talent, including talented minorities. This is not an impossible dream: 83 programs across the country earn a Strong Design designation on this standard because they are both selective and diverse, although no such programs were found in Wisconsin.

Early reading instruction -- Just 25 percent of evaluated elementary programs in Wisconsin are preparing teacher candidates in effective, scientifically based reading instruction, an even lower percentage than the small minority of programs (29 percent) providing such training nationally. The state should find this especially alarming given that Wisconsin now requires elementary teacher candidates to pass one of the most rigorous tests of scientifically based reading instruction in the country.

Elementary math -- A mere 19 percent of evaluated elementary programs nationwide provide strong preparation to teach elementary mathematics, training that mirrors the practices of higher performing nations such as Singapore and South Korea. 25 percent of the evaluated elementary programs in Wisconsin provide such training.

Student teaching -- Of the evaluated elementary and secondary programs in Wisconsin, 58 percent entirely fail to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, in which candidates are assigned only to highly skilled teachers and receive frequent concrete feedback. 71 percent of programs across the country failed this standard.

Content preparation -- None of Wisconsin's elementary programs earn three or four stars for providing teacher candidates adequate content preparation, compared to 11 percent of elementary programs nationwide. At the high school level, 23 percent of Wisconsin secondary programs earn four stars for content preparation, compared to 35 percent nationwide. The major problem at the secondary level is that programs' requirements for general science or general social science certifications do not ensure that candidates are prepared in the content of every subject they will be licensed to teach, since the states licensing test requirements do not provide this assurance.

Outcome data -- None of the evaluated programs in Wisconsin earn four stars for collecting data on their graduates, compared to 26 percent of evaluated programs in the national sample. In the absence of state efforts to connect student achievement data to teacher preparation programs, administer surveys of graduates and employers or require administration of teacher performance assessments (TPAs), programs that fare poorly on this standard have not taken the initiative to collect any such data on their own.

Related: "Transparency Central" National Review of Education Schools and Georgia, Wisconsin Education Schools Back Out of NCTQ Review.

Erin Richards

  • Some of the education programs in Eau Claire, Platteville, River Falls, La Crosse and Madison received between two and two and a half stars.
  • Other programs in Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Stout, Superior and Whitewater received between one and one and a half stars.
  • About 1 in 3 teacher training programs reviewed restrict admission to the top half of the college-going population.
  • About 1 in 4 elementary education programs reviewed prepare teacher candidates in effective, scientifically based reading instruction
  • About 1 in 4 elementary ed programs reviewed provide strong preparation to teach elementary mathematics. That's better than the national average of 19% of elementary education programs that offer strong math prep.
  • No Wisconsin programs evaluated earned any credit for collecting data on their graduates, compared with 26% of programs that did so in the national sample.
Nationally, more than 200,000 candidates graduate from teacher preparation programs each year, then enter systems where teacher quality has long been a point of debate.

Finally, Wisconsin recently adopted Massachusett's elementary teacher content knowledge licensing (English only, not math) requirements beginning in 2014 (MTEL).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:56 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

More US Schools Go International

Stephanie Banchero & Caroline Porter:

An educational curriculum that originally catered to the children of globe-trotting diplomats is making rapid inroads in K-12 public schools across the U.S., boosting test results and academic readiness even at inner-city schools.

An educational curriculum designed for the children of globetrotting diplomats is making rapid inroads in K-12 schools across the U.S., showing surprising improvements in test results and academic readiness even at inner-city schools. Caroline Porter has details.

Houston, Chicago, Tampa, Fla., and other cities are embracing the International Baccalaureate [SIS IB Link] program as a way to overhaul low-performing schools, attract middle-income families who might otherwise favor private schools, or offer more choice.

"It's not a program for the elite," said Samuel Sarabia, who runs the IB program for Houston Independent School District, where 10 schools have IB programs, including two where the majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Five more low-income schools are in the midst of an IB conversion process run by the nonprofit International Baccalaureate group.

The program began in Geneva in the 1960s as a two-year high-school diploma offering for the children of diplomats and itinerant business executives. It later expanded into elementary- and middle-school programs.

Today, there are 1,651 IB programs in the U.S.--including 1,493 public schools--up from 503 in 2003. About 90% of them are in public schools, and most are aimed at U.S. students, not the children of diplomats.

Officials tout the programs' emphasis on critical thinking. Unlike the traditional model of teachers imparting knowledge in a lecture format, IB programs emphasize individual and group projects governed by a philosophy of "international mindedness." Students are required to take a second language.

The Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school in 2012, largely sponsored by the local Urban League.

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

How Poor Students Subsidize Unworthy College Sports

Richard Vedder:

As parents and students struggle to keep up with rising college tuition and take on greater burdens of debt, universities are being challenged to justify the ballooning athletic fees they tack on to the bill.

In the 2010-11 academic year, the 227 public institutions in Division 1 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association collected more than $2 billion in athletic fees from their students -- or an average of more than $500 per enrollee -- according to research by Jeff Smith at the University of South Carolina Upstate.

These fees, which can exceed $1,000 a year, are often itemized as a "student activity" or "general" expense. That may explain why separate research, by David Ridpath of Ohio University, found that students were only dimly aware of the extent of the fees, and weren't pleased once they found out how much they were paying.

Worse yet, institutions with high proportions of poorer students carrying substantial education debt appeared to be charging the highest fees. While all students must pay the costs of maintaining athletic programs, few actually benefit from the services they subsidize. In this sense, the fees are comparable to a regressive tax -- and one that is more onerous for lower-income students than for the more affluent, who are able to attend schools where athletic fees are lower.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Schooling Ourselves in an Unequal America

Rebecca Strauss:

Averages can be misleading. The familiar, one-dimensional story told about American education is that it was once the best system in the world but that now it's headed down the drain, with piles of money thrown down after it.

The truth is that there are two very different education stories in America. The children of the wealthiest 10 percent or so do receive some of the best education in the world, and the quality keeps getting better. For most everyone else, this is not the case. America's average standing in global education rankings has tumbled not because everyone is falling, but because of the country's deep, still-widening achievement gap between socioeconomic groups.

And while America does spend plenty on education, it funnels a disproportionate share into educating wealthier students, worsening that gap. The majority of other advanced countries do things differently, at least at the K-12 level, tilting resources in favor of poorer students.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Data Suggest Boomer Faculty Are Putting Off Retirement

Colleen Flaherty:

At the height of the financial crisis, it was unclear how diminished 401(k)s and general economic uncertainty would impact retirement trends for baby boomer professors. But new data suggest that professors are either significantly - or indefinitely - putting off retirement, and not just for financial reasons. Experts say the trend is forcing institutions to rethink traditional faculty models.

Some 74 percent of professors aged 49-67 plan to delay retirement past age 65 or never retire at all, according to a new Fidelity Investments study of higher education faculty. While 69 percent of those surveyed cited financial concerns, an even higher percentage of professors said love of their careers factored into their decision.

"While many would assume that delayed retirement would be solely due to economic reasons, surprisingly 8 in 10 -- 81 percent -- cited personal or professional reasons for delayed retirement," said John Rangoni, vice president of tax exempt services at Fidelity. "Higher education employees, especially faculty, are deeply committed to their students, education and the institutions they serve."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Our Schools, Cut Off From the Web

Luis Ubinas:

ON June 6, at a middle school in Mooresville, N.C., President Obama set a goal of high-speed Internet in nearly every public school in America in five years. It was a bold and needed pronouncement -- except that in 1996 President Clinton said virtually the same thing, calling for libraries and classrooms to be "hooked up to the Information Superhighway by the year 2000."

Many people reading this article are probably doing so on a smartphone, tablet or computer. They might not know that half of Americans don't own a smartphone, one-third lack a broadband connection and one-fifth don't use the Web at all.

Since 2007, when I was named president of the Ford Foundation, we've given $44.5 million to dozens of organizations -- like Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the Mozilla Foundation and the Media and Democracy Coalition -- to make the Internet more accessible, affordable and mindful of privacy.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:03 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Sesame Street Creates a Muppet Whose Dad Is in Jail. Way Too Many Kids Relate.

Amanda Marcotte:

Grab your hankies: To help kids coping with a parent in prison, Sesame Street created a Muppet whose father can't play with him because he's in jail.

Sesame Street has always made it part of its larger mission to address all children, not just the ones with traditional families or easily digestible experiences. In the latest move toward that goal, the popular children's program created an online toolkit, titled "Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration," for those struggling to raise a child who has an incarcerated parent. Released just in time to help kids in need get through Father's Day, the toolkit has its detractors. Alex Jones naturally went into full-blown conspiracy theory mode, calling it a "propaganda program designed to help children accept the fact that daddy is in jail" by dangerously telling kids that "all you have to do is talk about your feelings, draw a few pictures, write letters to your dad, and toddle off to visit him in jail every now and then and everything will be all rainbows and lollipops." (Better to tell them ... what?) Mike Riggs at Reason was also angry, though not at Sesame Street but at the U.S. government for incarcerating so many people that these kinds of materials are necessary. He points out that nearly 7 million people are under correctional supervision in this country, writing, "congratulations, America, on making it almost normal to have a parent in prison or jail."

Obviously, Sesame Street can't do anything about the growth of the police state or the war on drugs that has resulted in the massive incarceration numbers in this country. The show is just trying to help innocent children deal with the repercussions. But Riggs is absolutely right: That this even has to exist in the first place shows how much pointless damage our prison system does not just to people who are caught up in the overly punitive, often racially biased justice system, but also to their families. As Jill Filipovic writes in the Guardian:

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 18, 2013

School ignores advice from learning disability experts

Jay Matthews:

Stacie Brockman is the Prince George's County mother of lively twin 9-year-old boys. Her sons were born two months premature. She has done everything possible to deal with the disabilities that often impede the progress of such children.

She took them to the developmental pediatricians at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, one of the top U.S. providers of care for children with learning disabilities. They gave the boys many tests. They diagnosed mixed expressive/receptive language disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dysgraphia (a writing disability) and dyslexia (a reading disability).

The doctors told Brockman that her sons need to be in small classes with research-based reading instruction and intensive math and language remediation. As the law requires, administrators at Potomac Landing Elementary School set up an individualized education program (IEP) team, which meets with Brockman.

As sometimes happens, these meetings have not gone well, Brockman said. Learning disability issues appear to be one of the greatest sources of friction between parents and schools. Brockman's account reveals how clumsy educators can be in communicating to parents what they are doing with their children, and why.

Both boys have IEPs, Brockman said in an e-mail, but the team chairperson dismissed some Kennedy Krieger assessments, "saying that all of KKI's reports say the kids are dysgraphic and dyslexic, thus suggesting that the reports have little or no validity."

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

When words are not enough: The dying art of professional letter writing

Xenia Chan and Hedy Bok:

Professional letter writers were once a common sight on Hong Kong's streets, but today only a few survive. In the latest episode of our Uniquely Hong Kong series, we talk to Pun Tse-ching about the dying art
Pun Tse-ching, 73, performs a role which is dying out in Hong Kong. He is a professional Chinese letter writer.

As is that case with so many other industries, the rise of modern technology, coupled with higher rates of literacy, have led to a sharp fall in the number of letter writers.

Once they performed a vital role in Chinese society. During the 1950s, for example, they were needed because Hong Kong only had a literacy rate of about 60 per cent.

A professional letter writer or "se seun lou" (寫信佬) writes formal letters for customers in Chinese characters. These can include business letters or correspondence to family and friends abroad.Usually well-educated and highly literate, they were skilled in writing and performed the role of professional secretary. As well as writing letters, they also had to read letters to their customers.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Graduates from low-performing D.C. schools face tough college road

Emma Brown:

Johnathon Carrington grew up on the sixth floor of a low-income D.C. apartment complex, a building most recently in the news for a drive-by shooting that injured 13.

His parents told him early on that education could be his escape, and Carrington took them at their word. He graduated Friday as the valedictorian of his neighborhood school, Dunbar High, and against all odds is headed to Georgetown University.

But Carrington, 17, is nervous, and so are his parents. What if Dunbar -- where truancy is chronic and fewer than one-third of students are proficient in reading -- didn't prepare him for the rigors of college? What if he isn't ready?

"I don't think I'm going to fail everything," Carrington said. "But I think I'm going to be a bit behind."

It's a valid concern. Past valedictorians of low-performing District high schools say their own transitions to college were eye-opening and at times ego-shattering, filled with revelations that -- despite taking their public schools' most difficult classes and acing them -- they were not equipped to excel at the nation's top colleges.

When these students arrived on campuses filled with students from high-flying suburban public schools and posh privates, they found a world vastly different from the one they knew in their urban high schools.

For Sache Collier, it meant writing her first research paper. For Darryl Robinson, it meant realizing that professors expected original ideas, not just regurgitated facts. For Angelica Wardell, who grew up going to school almost exclusively with African American students, it meant taking classes with whites and Asians.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Evidence suggests voucher expansion won't lift education

Karl Dommershausen:

I started out against the voucher program in Wisconsin, even organizing a letter from the Janesville School Board to our lawmakers opposing this effort. Later, I decided to research vouchers/charters and their tax credits/scholarships to understand them better. I didn't study existing private schools, unless they were involved with vouchers.

Gov. Tommy Thompson started Wisconsin's voucher system in 1990 in Milwaukee. It has grown, and other programs have emerged throughout the country. With thousands of voucher programs in 20 states, solid evidence for evaluation should exist. From Florida's scholarship programs, Texas' charter schools, Indiana and Louisiana's charter-to-voucher adjustments, Tennessee's Muslim question, and other adaptations, I searched for answers. Surprisingly, very little documentation of results exists, and what is available appears to be selectively picked.

Private companies and their associations have created the "mantra of choice and competition" for the impoverished, challenged and underperforming. This method focuses on the hopes and fears of parents. It also labels public schools and teachers as culprits, while ignoring social-economic factors, dwindling funding, or lack of parental involvement and responsibility.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:20 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Voucher Boondoggle in Wisconsin

Barabara Miner:

When Gwen Moore walked into Milwaukee's North Division High School in September 1965, she was terrified.

"North was seen as this jungle," she explains more than 40 years later. "All black, segregated, inferior."

Moore had wanted to attend West Division high School, a "white" school closer to home. When she tried to register at West, school officials told her she had to go to North Division. (It would be another decade before the federal courts would order the desegregation of Milwaukee's schools.)

"My mom was in Texas at a Baptist convention, and I talked to her and said, 'Mom, they wouldn't let me go to West,' " Moore remembers.

"Gerrymandering," her mom muttered.

"Gerry who?" Moore asked.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Getting Real Value Out of An Engineering Education

Eric Evenchick:

Succeeding in most engineering courses is a matter of memorizing material and passing an exam. Some courses will have lab exercises, but most of these boil down to following a predefined list of instructions as closely as possible, and collecting the highly predictable results.

To me, engineering is about applying knowledge to solve problems. Memorizing equations wont help you much with this, nor will repeating a list of steps. To get experience solving problems, you need real problems to solve.

This is where engineering student teams come in. These teams usually operate as extracurriculars, with only a handful of students participating.

These teams tackle problems that range from building a race car to designing nano-robotics. They need support with everything from software development to business and fundraising. My experience with student teams has been the most valuable part of my undergraduate education.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

ESF teacher's quest to visit every province in China

Simon Parry:

The strangeness of English Schools Foundation teacher Chris Taylor's quest to visit every mainland province dawned on him as he sat down on a bench in a town square in Ningxia - an obscure northwestern chunk of China most foreigners have never heard of, let alone considered visiting.
Alone and nearly 2,000 kilometres away from his family in Hong Kong and his job as head of senior school at Sha Tin College, the 43-year-old suddenly found himself surrounded by a throng of locals. "They just sat really close to me and stared and stared," he recalls.

"As soon as I did anything like get my notebook out, everyone would be really interested and lean over and stare. I distinctly remember just wanting to be left alone and sitting there doing nothing until people finally dispersed and gave me a bit of space."

Being the object of intense curiosity is an experience Taylor relived in different ways throughout 10 years visiting all 27 provinces and five autonomous regions of the mainland, an adventure recounted in his newly published book, Riding the Dragon.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 17, 2013

Half of Americans below or near poverty line

Paul Bucheit:

The Census Bureau has reported that 15% of Americans live in poverty. A shocking figure. But it's actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.

1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009

Analysis of Economic Policy Institute data shows that Mitt Romney's famous 47 percent, the alleged 'takers,' have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.

2. It's Even Worse 3 Years Later

Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An OECD report states that "inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve," with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year decline in wages has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs have replaced formerly secure middle-income positions.

3. Based on wage figures, half of Americans are in or near poverty.

The IRS reports that the highest wage in the bottom half of earners is about $34,000. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to 130% of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.

Even the Census Bureau recognizes that its own figures under-represent the number of people in poverty. Its Supplemental Poverty Measure increases, by 50%, the number of Americans who earn between one-half and two times the poverty threshold.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:58 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Experts' wrong way to pick best principals

Jay Matthews:

Anyone involved with schools has noticed that many governors, legislators and school boards think business practices can improve education. There is little proof of this. It's a fad. If we leave it alone, it will go away.

But sometimes the latest business idea is too foolish to ignore. Take, for instance, this recent commentary piece in Education Week, "We Need a New Approach to Principal Selection," by Ronald J. and Bill J. Bonnstetter.

"Identifying an effective principal requires a clear vision of the job duties, expectations and required personal attributes," they wrote. "While most selection committees would agree with these criteria, the present selection system ends up being filled with personal biases and status quo mentalities. That's why we recommend using benchmarking."

Ronald Bonnstetter is professor emeritus of science education at the University of Nebraska. He now works as senior vice president of research and development for his brother Bill, chairman of Target Training International, a private company that does human behavior and skill assessments for businesses and groups in 90 countries. The Bonnstetters know much about business and education, but they fail in this piece to consider the importance of finding out how well principal candidates have done with students.

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

America's worst Charities

Kris Hundley & Kendall Taggert:

Across the nation, hundreds of charities take your donations in the name of cancer patients, dying children and homeless veterans. But the real beneficiaries are the charity founders themselves and the for-profit companies they pay to run boiler rooms that dial for dollars. To tell the stories of America's worst charities, reporters reviewed thousands of charities and charted their finances going back a decade. These charities use deception, and in some cases outright lies, to persuade donors to give. Then they spend as much as 90 cents of every dollar raised to generate more donations. Regulators have proven powerless to stop the cycle of waste and deceit.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:00 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

My mother was named teacher of the year: Her job is to get students college-ready

Michael Alison Chandler:

My mother, Rebecca Worthen Chandler, was named Teacher of the Year at a charter school in North Carolina where she teaches English, bringing an unexpectedly buoyant end to what has been one of the toughest years of her 36-year career.

The award "floored" her, she said, because by the last day of school, all she could think about was what she wished she had accomplished. She didn't give personal feedback on all her students' papers. She wasn't able to set up individual writing conferences for everyone. She never made it to the games.

"You know in 'Alice in Wonderland,' where the Queen says she thinks about six impossible things before breakfast?" she said. "I feel like teachers do six impossible things and probably don't have breakfast."

For most of her career, she taught middle-school English at a private girls school in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where class sizes were small and college ambition was assumed, and where she was able to make a first-rate education affordable for my sisters and me (and to be our eighth-grade English teacher.)

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:42 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Race vs. class in college admissions: A false dichotomy or not?

Valerie Strauss:

The Supreme Court will soon hand down its verdict in a case that challenges racial preferences in admissions at the University of Texas. In this post, Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the nonprofit public policy research organization The Century Foundation, and a proponent of class-based affirmative action in higher education admissions, looks at the issue. This appeared on the foundation's blog.

By Richard Kahlenberg
Sherrilyn A. Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc., just wrote a New York Times op-ed in defense of race-based affirmative action. The future direction of such policies is likely to be decided at some time in the next two weeks when the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling in a challenge to racial preferences in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas.
In particular, Ifill is concerned that "an alarming number of scholars, pundits and columnists--many of them liberal--have declared that economic class, not race, should be the appropriate focus of university affirmative-action efforts." As a longtime proponent of class-based affirmative action (author of a 1996 book, "The Remedy: Class, Race and Affirmative Action," coauthor a 2012 Century Foundation report, "A Better Affirmative Action: State Universities that Created Alternatives to Racial Preferences") and a liberal, to boot, let me explain why I disagree with the four central arguments Ifill advances in favor of racial preference policies.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:41 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Mexico's Spoiled Rich Kids

David Luhnow:

You can spot them prowling the streets of Mexico City's wealthy enclaves in sports cars. The guys wear their hair slicked back and designer shirts with the top three buttons open. The women have expensive bags and sunglasses. They are nearly always followed by a black SUV packed with armed bodyguards.

They are known in Mexico as "Juniors"--the sons and daughters of the country's elite, young people whose love of brand names is surpassed only by their sense of entitlement. Juniors grow up to dominate the upper echelons of business and politics. They live behind high walls, travel in private jets and seem utterly untouchable--and out of touch in a country that struggles with poverty and violence.

For the first time, though, Mexico's Juniors are coming under fire. In April, Andrea Benitez, the daughter of a well-connected politician, turned up at a trendy restaurant in Mexico City without a reservation and threw a fit when she was not given the table she wanted. So she called inspectors at Profeco, the government's consumer protection agency--which happened to be run by her father. Inspectors promptly shut down the restaurant.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:35 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Big data meets the Bard

John Sunyer:

Here's some advice for bibliophiles with teetering piles of books and not enough hours in the day: don't read them. Instead, feed the books into a computer program and make graphs, maps and charts: it is the best way to get to grips with the vastness of literature. That, at least, is the recommendation of Franco Moretti, a 63-year-old professor of English at Stanford University and unofficial leader of a band of academics bringing a science-fiction thrill to the science of fiction.

For centuries, the basic task of literary scholarship has been close reading of texts. But for digitally savvy academics such as Moretti, literary study doesn't always require scholars actually to read books. This new approach to literature depends on computers to crunch "big data", or stores of massive amounts of information, to produce new insights.

Who, for example, would have guessed that, according to a 2011 Harvard study of four per cent (that is, five million) of all the books printed in English, less than half the number of words used are included in dictionaries, the rest being "lexical dark matter"? Or that, as a recent study using the same database carried out by the universities of Bristol, Sheffield and Durham reveals, "American English has become decidedly more 'emotional' than British English in the last half-century"?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:31 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A wallflower becomes a confident leader

Doug Erickson:

Myles Strong didn't want to be noticed in middle school.
He kept to himself and never spoke in class. He wore bland polo shirts to avoid drawing anyone's eyes.

"The Myles in middle school would not recognize this person. He'd think this was an alternate version of himself," Strong, 19, said of himself Thursday at Madison East High School, where he is one of 360 seniors graduating Friday. La Follette High School also holds commencement exercises Friday, and ceremonies for Memorial and West are scheduled for Saturday.

High school is meant to stretch and push students. Strong's transformation was particularly pronounced, faculty members say, turning a wallflower into a confident leader.

"This is one top-notch young man here," East Principal Mary Kelley said Thursday when she ran into him in a school hallway.

Kelley was Strong's principal at Black Hawk Middle School. By coincidence, they transitioned together to East four years ago.
Strong was so shy at Black Hawk he wouldn't give his opinions in public, Kelley said. Strong puts it more pointedly: "I was living inside myself."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:19 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 16, 2013

A Ripon Graduation Speech

Retired Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

The first speech was at a family dinner following that graduation ceremony 44 years ago. My father told me the most important thing to remember was to choose my career carefully. He said that I should do something I loved because 40 years is a long time doing something you don't like or you don't care about.

That's Lesson #2: "Work is a 4-letter word," my father said, "but so is the word play. Find a job that brings playful joy every day and you'll never work a day in your life." Not that it hasn't had its ups and downs, but being an educator has been a labor of love for me, and I'm thankful that I followed my father's advice. Now it's your turn to find your own labor of love.

My mother then said, "Not so fast, young man," as she leaned over, elbowing my father lovingly in the process. "It's not all about enjoying yourself," she said. "It's not all about you--that's selfish and useless." She insisted, "Find something that will make the world a better place than you found it." Although my mother was not a camper, and never saw an insect that she didn't run from, she believed in the good camper rule. "Always leave your campsite better than you found it," and she preached it constantly.

That's Lesson #3: Make a positive difference for others. When you look back at your life, you won't be proud of the money you made or the stuff you've accumulated or even the fun times you had for yourself. No, you'll look back and be most proud of what you did for others. You will feel your life was worth living because you made the world a better place for others. Then, my mother told me to stop chewing with my mouth open and to save room for dessert, and the speeches were over.

I hope that Zimman stats active on education issues.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:55 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

One year in, Oconomowoc High School staff, students adjusting to change

Alan Borsuk:

Time, time, time, see what's become of Oconomowoc High School.

The nearly 1,500-student high school 30 miles west of Milwaukee attracted a lot of attention a year ago with a transformation plan: Reduce the staff, give most teachers increased workloads and pay, and implement learning approaches that call for more initiative by students and a lot of technology.

As Superintendent Patricia Neudecker (now retired) and high school Principal Joseph Moylan saw it, it was a way to tighten spending while personalizing and improving learning. As critics, including many teachers and students, saw it, it was a way to make things worse.

One year into the new reality, Oconomowoc High still stands. The critics haven't been proved wrong, but it appears it was a pretty decent year by many measures. Change did not derail the basic flow of a healthy, energetic school and in some ways it helped. But there are signs of the stress the approach is putting on all involved, and change does not come easily.

With a bow to Simon and Garfunkel ("Hazy Shade of Winter," of course), consider this an update focused on time, time, time.

Teachers' time: For about a decade, the high school has used a block schedule, which means the school day is built around four longer periods rather than six or seven periods. The conventional teaching load in such a situation is three blocks a day. Many Oconomowoc teachers now teach all four blocks, which means they are in front of students just about all day.

Neudecker said the change was made to reduce staff and save money without reducing offerings to students. "We haven't cut one program," she said. "We have not increased our class size."

In exchange for the heavier workload, teachers receive an additional $14,000 a year. For those affected, that has raised salaries to $50,000 at the starting level and $70,000 or more for experienced teachers.

Related: May, 2012: Budget Cuts: We Won't Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That's Okay. Indeed. Madison appears to have mastered the art of status quo governance.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

How to Survive the Higher-Ed Meltdown

Thomas Lindsay:

Higher education is reeling. A recent study demonstrates that a third of colleges and universities are now financially unstable through overbuilding, over-borrowing, and over-diversifying. But the good news is there are schools not only surviving but prospering in these harsh times.

This good news comes from ARAMARK Higher Education's Presidential Perspectives Series, a national forum authored by college and university presidents. Its Responding to the Commoditization of Higher Education includes an article by Michael MacDowell, president of Pennsylvania's Misericordia University. MacDowell traces the historical roots of the higher-education crisis. Key to how we got to this point was society's decision that nearly all should attend college, which raised costs for taxpayers. Moreover, with more-universal admissions, greater numbers of entering-college students find themselves "not ready for the experience," leading them to drop out (often with student-loan debt) or to "take many years to graduate, thereby increasing the cost to taxpayers, themselves, and their families." Simply put, with rising access, costs increased while student success fell.

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

A Letter to the President

Chris Callison-Burch

Omar F. Zaidan, a Jordanian citizen, was denied re-entry to the US on the eve of his PhD defense at Johns Hopkins University. It has been over a year and a half, and he has not yet been allowed to return. This is madness. Omar is exactly the type of person who the US should be actively recruiting to come to the country. Here is a shortlist of reasons why:
  • The US government invested approximately $200,000 in Omar's education through DARPA grants that paid for his tuition and his PhD stipend.
  • Omar had accepted a job at Microsoft Research in Seattle, where he would have repaid his moral debt to the country many times over by paying taxes on his high salary, and through his intellectual contributions to the US tech industry.
  • Omar is the best PhD student who I have supervised in the 6 years that I have been a computer science professor. Omar's research into computational linguistics and Arabic dialects has implications for national defense as well as for the technology sector.
  • Omar is a model Muslim. Omar perfectly assimilated into US culture, while being proud of his own culture and religion. He made efforts to be an ambassador for Islam, patiently explaining aspects of his religion (like fasting at Ramadan) to his friends and classmates.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:45 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham calls for accountability across the board in Madison School District

Pat Schneider:

Fresh off a two-month tour to observe the operations of all 48 schools, various programs, and the Madison School District's central administrative offices, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is promising to "ensure accountability at every level."
Accountability as Cheatham describes it will include student achievement on standardized tests of the type that current school reform movements emphasize, but will go far beyond that to a new understanding of educators' roles, the support they need to master them, and refined local measures of progress, she said.

"I worry that people perceive accountability as standardized test results, for example, and what I'm talking about is accountability for everybody playing well the function they are best positioned for in the service of children learning well," Cheatham told me Thursday in an interview. "Educators at every level of the system lack clarity on what that particular function is for them."">Accountability was one of five priority areas Cheatham identified in anEntry Plan Report released Wednesday. The others are: well-rounded, culturally responsive instruction; personal educational pathways for students; attracting, developing and retaining top-level talent; and engaging families and community members as partners.

Related: Deja Vu: A Focus on "Adult Employment" or the Impossibility of Governance Change in the Madison Schools.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:43 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Much Ado About MOOCs

Rob Reich:

The backlash against MOOCs and online learning in higher education has begun. Philosophers at San Jose State University recently wrote an open letter to Harvard's Michael Sandel, explaining why they were declining to support the use of his acclaimed class, Justice, in an online format provided by edX, an online course platform created jointly by Harvard and MIT. "There is no pedagogical problem in our department that JusticeX solves," they wrote.

Moving beyond Sandel's class to MOOCs of all kinds, they broadly rejected "products that will replace professors, dismantle departments, and provide a diminished education for students in public universities."
The letter is an exceptional document, articulating with welcome clarity several distinct objections and concerns. In considering the future of higher education in an era of MOOCs and the expansion of online learning, these objections and concerns are worthy of widespread attention and debate.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:37 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Peer to Peer: Portable Reviews set to speed up the publication of papers

The Economist:

ASK a researcher what annoys him most about scientific publishing, and slowness will come near the top of the list of gripes. It takes nearly six months, on average, for a manuscript to wend its way from submission to publication. Worse, before a paper is accepted by a journal, it is often rejected by one or more others. The reason need not be a fatal flaw in the research; sometimes the work is simply not splashy enough for outlets high up in the pecking order. But in the process, each journal's editors send the paper for peer review--appraisal by experts in the relevant field--in much the way that each prospective purchaser of a house commissions his own survey. And, unlike those multiple, parallel surveys, the reviewers do not even get paid for their efforts.

Some publishers are at last beginning to twig that this is an awful waste of resources. Last month a number of them, including big ones like the Wellcome Trust, BioMed Central (BMC), the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and the European Molecular Biology Organisation, said they would give authors of papers they reject the option of making referees' reports available to the other publishers.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Brazilian students protest over inflation

Joe Leahy:

A series of student protests against bus fare rises in São Paulo have turned increasingly violent, bringing chaos to the centre of South America's largest city and highlighting discontent with inflation in Brazil.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to stop protesters occupying the city's main thoroughfare, Avenida Paulista, disrupting evening traffic and leaving office workers stuck in their buildings. There were similar clashes in Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre in Brazil's south.

In Sâo Paulo, 232 people were detained and 12 officers hurt, police said, while figures for the number of protesters injured were not yet available. "There were [tear gas] bombs landing on all sides," said a protester, Bruna Gisi Martins de Almeirda, a student at the University of São Paulo. "I took one [rubber] bullet in the leg and one in the arm."

The intensity and violence of the protests, which follow those in Turkey and were dubbed by one economist as Brazil's "tropical spring", are uncommon for a country that has enjoyed a decade of economic growth and represent a new challenge for President Dilma Rousseff.

Related: US student loan bubble.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:24 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 15, 2013

Study Gauges Value of Technology in Schools

Motoko Rich

With school districts rushing to buy computers, tablets, digital white boards and other technology, a new report questions whether the investment is worth it.

In a review of student survey data conducted in conjunction with the federal exams known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nonprofit Center for American Progress found that middle school math students more commonly used computers for basic drills and practice than to develop sophisticated skills. The report also found that no state was collecting data to evaluate whether technology investments were actually improving student achievement.

"Schools frequently acquire digital devices without discrete learning goals and ultimately use these devices in ways that fail to adequately serve students, schools, or taxpayers," wrote Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the author of the report. The analysis of the N.A.E.P. data found that 34 percent of eighth graders who took the math exams in 2011 used computers to "drill on math facts" while less than a quarter worked with spreadsheets or geometric figures on the computer. Only 17 percent used statistical programs.

The federal survey data showed striking differences among racial groups and income levels. More than half of the black students who took the eighth-grade math exam in 2011 said they used computers to work on math drills, while only 30 percent of white students said they did. Similarly, 41 percent of students eligible for free and reduced lunches said they used computers for math drills, compared with 29 percent of students whose families earn too much for them to qualify for the lunches. In high school science classrooms, the use of technology evidently has not advanced much past the 1980s. According to the report, 73 percent of students who took the 12th-grade National Assessment science exam said they regularly watched a movie or video in class.

Such data, Mr. Boser said, suggested that technology "doesn't seem to have dramatically changed the nature of schooling." Experts who study the effectiveness of instructional technology say there is potential for some digital programs to improve teaching. John Pane, a senior scientist at the RAND Corporation, said good technology allowed students to work at their own pace and independently while teachers worked with smaller groups.

Mr. Pane conducted a study, financed by the federal Department of Education, of an algebra software program created by Carnegie Learning, a math curriculum developer. He found that high school students who used the program, which was designed to accompany a teacher-led curriculum, showed gains on their state-standardized math tests that were nearly double the gains of a typical year's worth of growth using a more traditional high school math curriculum.

Whether those gains came from the use of technology or changes in the curriculum, he said, was hard to say. But Steve Ritter, chief scientist at Carnegie Learning, said one of the benefits of the technology was that it used the principles of cognitive science to help students gain a deeper understanding of concepts rather than simply drill math problems. "We're not just seeing whether they got the answer right or wrong," Mr. Ritter said, "but why they got it right or wrong."

Posted by Jeff Henriques at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New Jersey's interdistrict school choice program is working well

Laura Waters:

Take over Camden Public Schools! Reform tenure and evaluate teachers and principals on student growth data! Strengthen and expand charter schools! Enact a school voucher bill!
Education reformers in New Jersey and elsewhere sure do love radical change, seven-league strides towards the imagined Bethlehem of high-achieving schools accessible to all children. We've no patience for baby-steps that gingerly transverse the mired ruts of the status quo, no time for triangulated compromises that slap a coat of paint on failing schools and call it an improvement.

But sometimes meaningful change does occur incrementally. This is hard to hear for die-hard reformers. But one particular Jersey-grown school reform measure argues for a gradual approach: the state's Interdistrict Public School Choice Program.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Intensity and Attachment: How the Chaotic Enrollment Patterns of Community College Students Affect Educational Outcomes

Peter Crosta:

This paper examines the relationship between community college enrollment patterns and two successful student outcomes--credential completion and transfer to a four-year institution. It also introduces a new way of visualizing the various attendance patterns of community college students. Patterns of enrollment intensity (full-time or part-time status) and continuity (enrolling in consecutive terms or skipping one or more terms) are graphed and then clustered according to their salient features.
Using data on cohorts of first-time community college students at five colleges in a single state, the author finds that, over an 18-semester period, 10 patterns of attendance account for nearly half the students. Among the remaining students who persisted, there is astounding variation in their patterns of enrollment. Clustering these patterns reveals two relationships: the first is a positive association between enrollment continuity and earning a community college credential, and the second is a positive association between enrollment intensity and likelihood of transfer.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:32 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Texas students to seek federal help to soften 'cruel' truancy

Stephanie Simon:

Several students from northeast Texas said they plan to file a federal complaint on Wednesday accusing their school districts of cruel and unusual punishment by prosecuting them in criminal court for missing school or being late for class.

The civil rights complaint, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, is directed at school districts in Dallas and three other communities.

The districts funnel truancy cases to a special court system that prosecuted more than 36,000 cases and collected $2.9 million in fines last year from students convicted of multiple unexcused absences or tardy arrivals, according to the complaint.

Students as young as 12 can be arrested and handcuffed at school. Once they turn 17, they can be jailed for failing to pay past fines, which can run into thousands of dollars, according to the complaint, which was drafted by the National Center for Youth Law and advocacy groups Texas Appleseed and Disability Rights Texas.

"I'm getting treated like a criminal," Ashley Brown, 16, one of the complainants, told Reuters late on Monday. She said she had been erroneously sent to truancy court for four excused absences after her grandmother's death.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Inconvenient Educational Truths

Steve Prestegard:

The new money added to the K-12 system by 2010 equaled $4,714/pupil. Given public school enrollment of 872,000 students that year, Wisconsin taxpayers had provided public schools with a spending windfall of more than $4.1 billion a year by the time Governor Walker took office. So much for being "oblivious."

Wisconsin journalists have failed to report this history. Further, they have failed to explain adequately that much of the new spending has not reached the classroom. Instead, it has gone to pension, health care, and other fringe benefits. Where such costs once equaled about a quarter of teacher salaries, in many school districts that share now exceeds fifty per cent. In the Milwaukee Public Schools, the meteoric rise in fringe benefits is the principal reason for reductions in education programming that have been part of recent budgets. ...

The overall journalistic failure has predictable consequences when it comes to public opinion. In scientific polling, scholars at Harvard University have found that the public is clueless when it comes to public school spending and levels of teacher compensation.

These scholars have reported their findings in the respected journal Education Next. They find that the average citizen has a "wildly inaccurate" understanding of school finance. For example, "...[w]e asked respondents to estimate average per-pupil expenditures within their local school district and the average teacher salaries in their states...[W]e discovered that those surveyed, on average, underestimated per-pupil expenditures by more than half and teacher salaries by roughly 30 percent..."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:19 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Voucher Schools: Inherently Unequal

Wisconsin Senator Tim Cullen:

Last week, I expressed my extreme disappointment when the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines to create a statewide unaccountable school voucher program.

Make no mistake - this plan creates two separate school systems in Wisconsin, both paid for by taxpayers.

In 1954, late Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Earl Warren said, "Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." His words hold true today.

While the agreement creates a 500-student cap during the program's first year and a 1,000-student cap in subsequent years, the cap could be lifted in the future or may be line-item vetoed by the governor. The ultimate goal of voucher supporters is not to open the voucher program to 500 or 1,000 students, but an unrestricted expansion of vouchers.

The private school voucher effort is a political movement, not an educational movement. It is a top-down movement funded by tens of millions of dollars in out-of-state campaign contributions and the hiring of several highly-paid lobbyists.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:17 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Plans Press Conference on Negative Affect of Voucher Expansion on Public Schools

DPI Superintendent, Tony Evers, and legislators who want to maintain Wisconsin's proud system of public education, are holding a press conference on Monday, June 17 at 10 AM in the Assembly Parlor to address the recent decision by the Joint Committee on Finance to expand voucher funding at the expense of public schools. The Senate and Assembly will be voting to pass this extreme budget within weeks. Please join these folks to inform and educate the public about the negative impact that private school voucher expansion will have on Wisconsin's public schools. Wear Red for Public Ed. We need a wall of support behind the speakers. Time is running short to stop this train wreck but we cannot allow our opposition to go unnoticed!

TIME / LOCATION: 10 am in the Assembly Parlor with Superintendent Tony Evers.

Governance change is apparently quite difficult within the present school district model.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:09 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 14, 2013

Deja Vu: A Focus on "Adult Employment" or the Impossibility of Governance Change in the Madison Schools

The Madison School Board discussed the renewal of Administrator contracts (500K PDF) during their June 10, 2013 meeting (video, about 50 minutes into the meeting). Listen via this 5mb mp3 audio.

The timing and length of administrator contracts along with substantive reviews is not a new subject:

February, 2006: Are Administrators Golden?

Lawrie Kobza pointed out last night that 2-year rolling administrative contracts may be important for some groups of administrators and that the School Board should consider that issue. Otherwise, if the annual pattern continues, extensions will occur in February before the School Board looks at the budget and makes their decisions about staffing. Even though the Superintendent has indicated what positions he proposes to eliminate for next year, when the School Board has additional information later in the budget year, they may want to make different decisions based upon various tradeoffs they believe are important for the entire district.

What might the School Board consider doing? Develop criteria to use to identify/rank your most "valuable" administrative positions (perhaps this already exists) and those positions where the district might be losing its competitive edge. Identify what the "at risk" issues are - wages, financial, gender/racial mix, location, student population mix. Or, start with prioritizing rolling two-year contracts for one of the more "important," basic administrative groups - principals. Provide the School Board with options re administrative contracts. School board members please ask for options for this group of contracts.

Ms. Kobza commented that making an extension of contracts in February for this group of staff could make these positions appear to be golden, untouchable. Leaving as is might not be well received in Madison by a large number of people, including the thousands of MMSD staff who are not administrators on rolling two-year contracts nor a Superintendent with a rolling contract (without a horizon, I think). The board might be told MMSD won't be able to attract talented administrators. I feel the School Board needs to publicly discuss the issues and risks to its entire talent pool.

Mr. Nadler reported that MMSD might be losing its edge in the area of administration. He gave one example where there more than a few applicants for an elementary school position (20 applicants); however, other districts, such as Sun Prairie, are attracting more applicants (more than 100). The communities surrounding Madison are becoming more attractive over time as places to live and to do business. If we don't recognize and try to understand the issues, beyond simply wages and benefits, the situation will continue to worsen. I feel the process in place needs to change in order to be a) more responseive to the issues, b) more flexible for the School Board in their decisionmaking processes, especially around budget time.

Administrator Contracts - School Board Adds to Agenda
Questions that are not clear to me include: a) is a two-year rolling contract required for all administrators, b) what is the difference between non-renewal and extension of a contract - is the end of January date really an extension?, c)is there a Board policy - if not, does one need to be developed, d) are there options open to the School Board to hold on one-year contract extensions due to upcoming cuts to the budget, e) how can changes be made by moving/retraining staff if needed, and f) can grant money being used to pay for administrators be used in other ways (not including grant oversight/accounting? We're in the same spot as the past two years - not talking about administrator contracts until one week or so before a deadline.

I feel this information needs to be clear and to be transparent to all employees, the board and the community. I believe a multi-year staffing strategy as part of a multi-year strategic plan is important to have, especially given the critical nature of the district's resources. This idea is not proposed as a solution to the public school's financial situation - not at all, that's not the point.

Retired Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman on the "adult employment focus".

Additional administrator contract links, here.

It is ironic, in my view, that there has not been much change in the District's administration from the Rainwater era....

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

China grapples with attacks on teachers after cheating halted on college exam

Amy Li:

Days after dozens of Hubei teachers were attacked by angry students whose attempts at cheating on China's highly competitive national college entrance exam were foiled, the nation is struggling to understand what exactly went wrong.

Shocked by the violence, many students and parents have urged an immediate overhaul of the gaokao, a system known to drill students into testing-taking machines.

The attack happened on Saturday afternoon outside a school in Hubei's Zhongxiang city. After the exam, students besieged teachers who had reportedly imposed strict measures and stopped students from cheating.

Students and parents block teachers from leaving the Hubei school after the exam. Photo: Screenshot via WeiboMore than 50 teachers from outside Zhongxiang had been assigned to invigilate the exam on purpose, said media reports. Of those, two were attacked.

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

Public education's "culture of power": Small minds, thin skins, fragile egos

Laurie Rogers:

"Culture of Power": That's what a parent recently called the prevailing attitude in the local school district. It's an apt description. Power is what people in public education know, and power is what they crave. In any culture of power, dissenters are seen as the problem and dealt with accordingly.

I'm privileged to know some teachers and staff members who care deeply about the children and who work hard to do what's best for them. But there are many, many others whose interests begin and end with themselves and with their own economic/political/social agenda. Conversing with these self-interested people in a reasonable, intelligent way is impossible, a fruitless exercise. They want; they don't want. It's all they can see. Their logic is infantile and their perspective constricted and unyielding. With thin skins and fragile egos, it doesn't take much for them to start showing teeth and claws.

Public education has been infiltrated by a willfully ignorant, bureaucratic, obscenely expensive, narcissistic, dictatorial mob. The Edu Mob is an enterprise concerned with enriching, maintaining and expanding itself -- not with accountability, responsibility or transparency. Derelict in its duty to the children and morally bankrupt, the Edu Mob blames others, attacks dissenters, and finds creative ways to get more money (such as filing lawsuits; trading private student information for grants and other payments; and training children to support the enterprise without question).

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

New Denver Public Schools remedial classes aimed at college success

Zahira Torres:

KayLynn McAbee is one of thousands of high school graduates across the state slated to take costly remedial courses that do not count toward her college degree.
But McAbee will not have to pay for the courses because of a new summer program developed by Denver Public Schools. The program, which will offer free remedial classes in math and English, is geared toward curbing the number of DPS graduates taking remedial courses in college.

"This will help a lot of students because they're not just remedial classes, they're also classes that will help kids be more confident in college," McAbee said.

District officials said they came up with the program after the release of a report earlier this year from the Colorado

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

The family of Mann Scholars continues to grow, achieve

A. David Dahmer:

The Mann Scholars Ceremony was celebrated at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery Town Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus June 7.

"It's a thrill to welcome you all here today to celebrate our new Mann Scholars and our graduating seniors," said Madison Metropolitan School District Partnerships Coordinator Kathy Price. "The Madison Board of Education and our new [MMSD] Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham are extending their warmest wishes to you tonight and their sincere congratulations. For the Madison District, the Mann Scholars program represents one of our premiere collaboration of family, school, and community partners. This is one that has served as a model for additional scholarship programs that have been launched including the Sanchez Scholars and our the newest scholarship that we have launched -- the Reading Recovery Scholarship Program."

The Mann Educational Opportunity Fund is a scholarship that honors the late Bernard and Kathlyn Mann, long-time African American residents of Madison whose strong belief in education helped ensure the graduation of their five children from Madison Memorial High School and later from universities. The Mann Program's goal is to provide mentoring and educational tools to students from the Madison Metropolitan School District who show potential for academic achievement but face significant challenges to reaching their full potential.

Mann Scholars are picked every year based on their academic promise, their motivation, their financial need, and the willingness of their families to encourage participation in enrichment activities. They are primarily, but not exclusively, students of color.

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

Sweden's data protection Authority bans Google cloud services over privacy concerns

a Simon Davies:

In a landmark ruling, Sweden's data protection authority (the Swedish Data Inspection Board) this week issued a decision that prohibits the nation's public sector bodies from using the cloud service Google Apps.

The ruling - which bans Google cloud products such as calendar services, email and data processing functions - is based on inadequacies in the Google contract. A risk assessment by the Board determined that the contract gives Google too much covert discretion over how data can be used, and that public sector customers are unable to ensure that data protection rights are protected.
The assessment gives several examples of this deficiency, including uncertainty over how data may be mined or processed by Google and lack of knowledge about which subcontractors may be involved in the processing. The assessment also concluded that there was no certainty about if or when data would be deleted after expiration of the contract.

Many schools use Google apps.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:31 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 13, 2013

Madison Superintendent's "Entry Process Report"

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):


Overall Themes
Quality of teachers, principals, and central office staff: By and large, we have quality teachers, principals, support staff and central office staff who are committed to working hard on behalf of the children of Madison. With clarity of focus, support, and accountability, these dedicated educators will be able to serve our students incredibly well.

Commitment to action: Across the community and within schools, there is not only support for public education, but there is also an honest recognition of our challenges and an urgency to address them. While alarming gaps in student achievement exist, our community has communicated a willingness to change and a commitment to action.

Positive behavior: District-wide efforts to implement an approach to positive student behavior are clearly paying off. Student behavior is very good across the vast majority of schools and classrooms. Most students are safe and supported, which sets the stage for raising the bar for all students academically.

Promising practices: The district has some promising programs in place to challenge students academically, like our AVID/TOPS program at the middle and high school levels, the one-to-one iPad programs in several of our elementary schools, and our Dual Language Immersion programs. The district also does an incredibly successful job of inclusion and support of students with special needs. Generally, I've observed some of the most joyful and challenging learning environments I've ever seen.

Well-rounded education: Finally, the district offers a high level of access to the arts, sports, world language and other enriching activities that provide students with a well- rounded learning experience. This is a strength on which we can build.

"AVID is totally paying off. Kids, staff, everyone is excited about what it has brought to the school." - Staff member

"Positive Behavior Support has made a dramatic improvement in teaching and the behavior expected. We've seen big changes in kids knowing what is expected and in us having consistent, schoolwide expectations"
- Staff member

Focus: Principals, teachers and students have been experiencing an ever-changing and expanding set of priorities that make it difficult for them to focus on the day-to-day work of knowing every child well and planning instruction accordingly. If we are going to be successful, we need to be focused on a clear set of priorities aimed at measurable goals, and we need to sustain this focus over time.

"One of the strengths of MMSD is that we will try anything. The problem is that we opt out just as easily as we opt in. We don't wait to see what things can really do."
- Staff member

Coherence: In order for students to be successful, they need
to experience an education that leads them from Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade, systematically and seamlessly preparing them for graduation and postsecondary education. We've struggled to provide our teachers with the right tools, resources and support to ensure that coherence for every child.

Personalized Learning: We need to work harder than ever to keep students engaged through a relevant and personalized education at the middle and high school levels. We've struggled to ensure that all students have an educational experience that gives them a glimpse of the bright futures. Personalized learning also requires increased access to and integrated use of technology.

Priority Areas
To capture as many voices as accurately as possible, my entry plan included a uniquely comprehensive analysis process. Notes from more than 100 meetings, along with other handouts, emails, and resources, were analyzed and coded for themes by Research & Program Evaluation staff. This data has been used to provide weekly updates to district leadership, content for this report and information to fuel the internal planning process that follows these visits.

The listening and learning phase has led us to five major areas to focus our work going forward. Over the next month, we'll dive deeper into each of these areas to define the work, the action we need to take and how we'll measure our progress. The following pages outline our priorities, what we learned to guide us to these priorities and where we'll focus our planning in the coming month.

Matthew DeFour collects a few comments, here.

Much more on Madison's new Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:39 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Ethnicity, Class and Suicide Lead a Hamptons School to Reach Out

Jim Rutenberg:

As he walked the East Hampton High School campus on the last day of classes last week, Adam S. Fine seemed to be one satisfied principal. Graduating seniors were moving on to colleges including Brown and Cornell Universities; class-cutting was down; and Newsweek had ranked the school among the 2,000 best public schools in the nation, all to be expected in a ZIP code synonymous with success.
But, asked to reflect on the year that was, he sighed and moved his hand up and down, suggesting a roller coaster. "Resiliency," he said. "That's my theme word for graduation."

This has been a year like none other for East Hampton High, which faced an uncomfortable ethnic integration problem that had been festering in the background for years but was thrust to the foreground by a tragedy at the opening of the school year.

A 16-year-old junior from Ecuador, David Hernandez, hanged himself just a few days after homecoming in September; it was the second student suicide in three years. Two months later, a student who was about to transfer to the school committed suicide. Three suicides in three years in a school community of about 900 students is far above the regional average. And all of the students who killed themselves were Hispanic.

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

In Raising Scores, 1 2 3 Is Easier Than A B C

Motoko Rich:

David Javsicas, a popular seventh-grade reading teacher known for urging students to act out dialogue in the books they read in class, sometimes feels wistful for the days when he taught math.

A quiz, he recalls, could quickly determine which concepts students had not yet learned. Then, "you teach the kids how to do it, and within a week or two you can usually fix it," he said.

Helping students to puzzle through different narrative perspectives or subtext or character motivation, though, can be much more challenging. "It could take months to see if what I'm teaching is effective," he said.

Educators, policy makers and business leaders often fret about the state of math education, particularly in comparison with other countries. But reading comprehension may be a larger stumbling block.

Here at Troy Prep Middle School, a charter school near Albany that caters mostly to low-income students, teachers are finding it easier to help students hit academic targets in math than in reading, an experience repeated in schools across the country.

Students entering the fifth grade here are often several years behind in both subjects, but last year, 100 percent of seventh graders scored at a level of proficient or advanced on state standardized math tests. In reading, by contrast, just over half of the seventh graders met comparable standards.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:37 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

When did parents and teachers become enemies of education?

Steve Norton:

The evidence is piling up that the Snyder administration was closely involved in the effort to construct an alternative "education" system whose top priority is to minimize public school costs, not improve education. According to emails obtained by the Detroit News, top advisers to Gov. Rick Snyder helped put the so-called "skunk works" group together or approved of its creation as early as September 2012.

From the parent perspective, one of the most disturbing discoveries was a statement by Gov. Snyder's chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore. "Frankly, there's nothing I enjoy more than seeing the education community in a fratz," Muchmore wrote not long after the "skunk works" story first broke.

Thousands of parents, educators, and other concerned citizens who care about quality public education expressed their outrage at the secrecy and narrow vision of the "skunk works" project. Since when did we become the enemy? What kind of distorted lens must members of the Snyder administration be using that they see in concerned parents an opponent to be overcome rather than a constituency to be heard?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:30 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Filling India's Huge Need for Vocational Training

Amy Yee:

In a simple classroom above a storefront on a bustling street, four young men crowded around the colorful innards of an open computer hard drive while their teacher explained in Hindi how it all worked.

The computer repair course was among 25 offerings at Gras Academy, a private institution with 58 skills training centers across India, including this one in Ghaziabad, a city on the outskirts of New Delhi.

Gras is one of a burgeoning number of private academies providing hands-on job training in India, filling a gap between government vocational centers and four-year universities. These schools -- which offer short, practical, nondegree programs -- have been growing since the early 2000s.

India has a vast population of young people, with more than half of its population of 1.2 billion younger than 25. It faces the immense challenge of harnessing this generation as a productive work force, or else facing the combustible prospect of hundreds of millions of unemployed youth in the future. The Indian government estimates that 500 million young people must be trained by 2022 and has made skills training a major policy issue.

Inderjeet Singh, 19, is a first-year student at a government college; but attendance there is not mandatory, giving him time to attend Gras's computer repair class. His college tuition is about 5,000 rupees, or less than $90, per year, but he is willing to pay 22,000 rupees for the six-month Gras course. He thinks it will be worth it, because 70 percent to 75 percent of Gras's graduates find jobs immediately, according to the academy.

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

My sister absolutely refuses to learn math

Mathematics Stack Exchange:

My 13-year-old sister has a problem which, given the way math is currently taught, I doubt is anything but all too common. She has a low grade in her math course and only ever attempts to memorize formulas and tricks, but never actually learn any of the reasoning behind the math. Cross multiplication is the perfect example.
She knows that from


.. she can "cross multiply" to get


.. and from there get x=6. She has absolutely no idea what any of this means, however. She's simply memorized a pattern and is applying that pattern to a recognizable arrangement of numbers.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:20 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 12, 2013

Is the college process fair?

Elizabeth Hong:

Is the college admissions process fair? That's been the question of this year's college admission season, with articles like Suzy Lee Weiss's Wall Street Journal Op-Ed "To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me" and the Fisher v. University of Texas Supreme Court case challenging race-based Affirmative Action. As a recent high school graduate from a private school in New York, I have thought much about this topic.

I first read Weiss's piece when it was published in March. Since then, it has gone viral and has received a mostly negative response, with Weiss criticized for having a sense of white entitlement (See "To (All) the White Girls Who Didn't Get Into The College of Their Dreams"). Weiss was lucky enough to get into some of the Big 10 schools, including the University of Michigan and Penn State, but was upset she did not get into more elite schools. She felt discriminated against for being Caucasian. In herWall Street Journal editorial, she wrote, "What could I have done differently over the past years? For starters, had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school. Show me to any closet and I would've happily come out of it. 'Diversity!'...If it were up to me, I would've been any of the diversities: Navajo, Pacific Islander, anything. Sen."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:10 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Ed school dean: Urban school reform is really about land development (not kids)

Leslie T. Fenwick:

The truth can be used to tell a lie. The truth is that black parents' frustration with the quality of public schools is at an all time righteous high. Though black and white parents' commitment to their child's schooling is comparable, more black parents report dissatisfaction with the school their child attends. Approximately 90 percent of black and white parents report attending parent teacher association meetings and nearly 80 percent of black and white parents report attending teacher conferences. Despite these similarities, fewer black parents (47 percent) than white parents (64 percent) report being very satisfied with the school their child attends. This dissatisfaction among black parents is so whether these parents are college-educated, high income, or poor.

The lie is that schemes like Teach For America, charter schools backed by venture capitalists, education management organizations (EMOs), and Broad Foundation-prepared superintendents address black parents concerns about the quality of public schools for their children. These schemes are not designed to cure what ails under-performing schools. They are designed to shift tax dollars away from schools serving black and poor students; displace authentic black educational leadership; and erode national commitment to the ideal of public education.

Consider these facts: With a median household income of nearly $75,000, Prince George's County is the wealthiest majority black county in the United States. Nearly 55 percent of the county's businesses are black-owned and almost 70 percent of residents own homes, according to the U.S. Census. One of Prince George's County's easternmost borders is a mere six minutes from Washington, D.C., which houses the largest population of college-educated blacks in the nation. In the United States, a general rule of thumb is that communities with higher family incomes and parental levels of education have better public schools. So, why is it that black parents living in the upscale Woodmore or Fairwood estates of Prince George's County or the tony Garden District homes up 16th Street in Washington D.C. struggle to find quality public schools for their children just like black parents in Syphax Gardens, the southwest D.C. public housing community?

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

What Critical Problems in K-12 Schools Does Online Instruction Solve?

Larry Cuban:

K-12 online instruction attracts policy-inclined school reformers and reform-minded policymakers because it appears as a technological and inexpensive solution for serious problems at a time when public schools are viewed as a double failure: in urban districts where largely poor and minority youth get a third-rate education and many suburban and rural schools that fall short of producing skilled and knowledgeable graduates who can contribute to a strong, competitive global economy.

Here is a brief list of those problems that promoters say will get solved through virtual instruction.

Traditional whole-class instruction. Teaching lessons to the whole group of 25-30 students at one time generation after generation has resulted in tedium and boredom for students who already know the content or are too far behind to grasp the lesson. It has been difficult for teachers with these size classes and district and state requirements to cover the curriculum to hit the sweet spot of learning that brings all students along at the same time.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Professional Development Goes Rogue

David Cohen:

My last professional development experience occurred at a bar, with a pitcher of beer passed among participants at the table. Don't worry - no district funds were misspent. It was my second time joining an informal evening tweet-up (i.e., organized on Twitter) of Computer-Using Educators (CUE) in the San Francisco Bay Area. These gatherings go by hashtag #brewcue. There's an occasional afternoon version - same idea, more caffeinated - called #coffeecue, with gatherings popping up in a wider variety of locations.

I won't be able submit any paperwork from these experiences, won't be reimbursed or move up the pay scale - but I have benefitted from the experience. At my first #brewcue I talked with peers about how we manage paperless assignments and grading, and even had a chance to talk with someone working on the technical side of this matter, developing a product called Voice Comments. Then I heard about how different schools organize teacher time in different ways to promote technology integration. And then I listened in as two tech gurus shared their perspectives on how to make informed and cost-effective purchasing decisions that promote student learning and autonomy. And then I learned how students can use Minecraft in a variety of educational ways. As the parent of a California fourth-grader, I found the online California Mission Reports particularly interesting.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Cameras in Schools: Extra Safety Measure or Violation of Privacy?


Everyone is familiar with camera surveillance at banks, high-end stores, and office buildings. In a post-Newtown world, however, surveillance cameras are becoming increasingly familiar in neighborhood schools. In fact, after the tragedy in December, over 62 of the 400 bills relating to school safety nationwide, pertained to surveillance cameras.

Proponents argue that cameras in schools can be an efficient, minimally intrusive method of security. Unlike metal detectors or guards, cameras do not significantly impact the daily lives of students and teachers. Cameras are also more affordable than other forms of security. "They (schools) can now buy 10 cameras where they could afford two before, so they're becoming more mainstream," said Bob Stockwell, a global technology leader with Stanley Security.

Cameras are not only easily accessible, they are also able to provide sharper images and greater storage capacity, enabling footage that is easy to view, store, and share. This technology is considered a cutting edge way of keeping schools safer.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:43 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The University of Wisconsin Tuition Freeze in Context

Sara Goldrick-Rab:

The only problem is that neither the chart or the accompanying article addresses the likely assumption of many readers: students who can't pay these costs, even by working, are "held harmless" through financial aid. For that reason, many say, we should simply raise tuition further and invest that additional revenue in financial aid distributed to the neediest students.

To evaluate that claim, let's take a look at the "net price" of attending UW-Madison and UW-comprehensives-- the cost paid by the poorest students after taking into account all grant/scholarship aid provided to offset the sticket price.

At UW-Madison, for the upcoming year 2013-2014, that amount is $13,635.00 for Pell recipients with no expected family contribution. As you can see in the chart above, that means students from families typically earning less than $30,000 a year are expected to either work 1,866 hours a year (~35 hours/week) or borrow around $68,000 (5 years is typical time-to-degree for these students at Madison). Is this a reasonable proposition?

In addition, consider that no more than say 3-4% of UW-Madison undergraduates come from this sort of family. After all, more than 85% of students do not receive any Pell at all. For those students, the net price is over $21,000 in the coming year (total cost in 2013-14i s $24,000). Redistribution is helping very, very well-- and many students with substantial need deliberately overlooked by the federal "needs analysis" are being left out in the cold. It's no wonder there's now backlash against our financial aid system-- there's universal need and a narrow means-tested system. Never works.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:28 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison school with steepest growth in poverty

Pat Schneider:

How does an elementary school adjust to a steep and rapid rise in the number of poor children coming through its doors?

With programs to build language and technological literacy, resilient character, and ties to the community, says Brett Wilfrid, principal of Sandburg Elementary School, 4114 Donald Drive, on Madison's far east side.

"When people come and spend time in this school, they see a lot of happy children and adults. It is a wonderful, thriving community," Wilfrid told me in a phone interview Thursday.

I spoke with Wilfrid after a Cap Times data report published this week showed that Sandburg Elementary had the greatest increase in the Madison School District -- 34.3 percentage points -- in the number of children from low-income families in the past decade.

The percentage of low-income children, based on eligibility for free or reduced price lunch, rose from 37.9 percent of Sandburg enrollment in the 2003-2004 school year to 72.2 percent this year.

(One district evening program to help students who have left school to get their high school diplomas saw a slightly higher rate of increase, 35.4 percent, in the percentage of low-income students enrolled.)

Related: Madison Schools' Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessment Results Released.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 11, 2013

Failing Math Curriculum in Seattle Public Schools

Cliff Mass:

If I was a Seattle Public School parent, I would be getting angry now.

Why? Most Seattle students are receiving an inferior math education using math books and curriculum that will virtually insure they never achieve mastery in key mathematical subjects and thus will be unable to participate in careers that requires mathematical skills.

There are so many signs that a profound problem exists in this city. For example,
Parents see their kids unable to master basic math skills. And they bring home math books that are nearly indecipherable to parents or other potential tutors.

Nearly three quarters of Seattle Community College students require remediation in math.

Over one hundred Seattle students are not able to graduate high school because they could not pass state-mandated math exams.

Minority and economically disadvantaged students are not gaining ground in math.

Much more on Seattle's math battles, here.


Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:31 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

And Yet, Another Bomb

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

In Governor Walker's first legislative session, using the ruse that the State was millions in debt, he proposed eliminating collective bargaining for public employees as the means to fill in the alleged budget deficit. As he described it, he dropped the bomb.

Last week, another legislative session and another bomb. Walker's budget will hit education and educators once again. It is a giant step to privatize education. This is done by forcing pubic schools to pay tuition for children to attend religious and private schools by giving the parents of such children a voucher which forces the public school district to send money to the religious or private school. Walker and his right- wing legislators made vouchers available in every school district in the State. To this, UW Education Dean Julie Underwood said, "School Boards beware", that this is, "the model legislation disseminated by the pro-free market American Legislative Exchange Council's network of corporate members and conservative legislators to privatize education and erode local control." In criticizing the legislation, State Superintendent Tony Evers chided, "A voucher in every backpack."

Public school districts lose twice. Once by having to use money intended to educate children in their schools, and also losing State aid because they cannot count the child attending the religious or private school on which State aid is based. It is projected that this will cost MMSD $27 million over the next five years. Vouchers provide parents $4,000 per year for an elementary school student and $10,000 for a high school student. State Senator Jennifer Schilling calls it, "Vouchers on steroids!" Research shows that most voucher schools in Wisconsin underperform compared to their public school counterparts.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Open Letter to Dr. Diane Ravitch from Ben Austin

Ben Austin, via a kind email:

Parents, educators, and education advocates have a lot in common when it comes to a kids-first first agenda. But we can never seize that common ground if those with whom we disagree are deemed to be "evil" and sentenced to Hell, as you did last week in your now infamous blog post.

If we can't start from that basic premise, then we are no more mature than the children we endeavor to serve. We cannot purport to encourage tolerance and discourage bullying on the schoolyard if the adults in charge of the schoolyard can't adhere to those same basic principles.

For the past year, the organization for which I serve as executive director - Parent Revolution - has been working with parents from the Watts neighborhood community school Weigand Avenue Elementary to help turnaround their failing school. Although there appear to be some areas of improvement at the school, Weigand is currently ranked 15th worst of nearly 500 elementary schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and has been on a continual overall downward slide for the past 3-4 years under its current school leadership.

Four years is a long time for parents to wait for improvements in a failing school, despite even the best of intentions from dedicated professionals like Weigand's current principal. Unfortunately, the current principal was unable to make the progress needed to turnaround the school.

In 2011 many of these same parents petitioned along with Weigand's teachers to oust their failed principal, but had no real power to force change, and the principal retained her job. Every teacher who signed that 2011 petition is now gone, and the school has gotten even worse since then.

Many of the kids have now "graduated" without having learned basic skills. Currently, more than half of kids at Weigand cannot read, write, or do math at grade level.

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

The Teacher Pension Crisis: Is There a Solution?


Teacher pensions are in danger in many states. Educators deserve a secure retirement; however, lawmakers have for years promised benefits that the system cannot afford. According to some estimates, America's pensions are underfunded by nearly one trillion dollars. This reality has caused experts to debate who is at fault, and what can be done to create a solvent system.

Yesterday, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute held a panel discussing a new report, "The Big Squeeze: Retirement Costs and School District Budgets." Participants included Sandi Jacobs from the National Council on Teacher Quality, Josh B. McGee from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Charles Zogby, Pennsylvania's budget secretary, and Leo Casey, from the Albert Shanker Institute.

The panelists discussed the teacher pension issue through the lens of three school districts: Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. One panelist simplified the situation in these three states, stating that the cost to repair these underfunded systems lie either on the state (tax payers), retired teachers, or new teachers. Something must be done to ensure that teachers are compensated fairly and currently retired teachers do not lose promised benefits.

When Milwaukee was faced with a crippling pension situation in 2011, under Governor Walker's Act 10 labor reforms, retiree costs were deescalated by requiring employees to pay in to their pension accounts, instead of being covered exclusively by the district. Similarly, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District was able to scale back retiree costs by increasing taxes on new employees, whose future pensions will be funded differently.

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

School board stipends: Fair compensation or a luxury of the past?

Danielle Arndt:

Ann Arbor Board of Education members earn $130 per month for attending meetings. Broken down per meeting, that's about $43. Other school board members in Washtenaw County earn $25 or $30 per meeting -- or nothing at all.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.
It's a statement that recently has played out in school districts across the state of Michigan, as the number of traditional public schools facing staggering deficits and elimination of key educational services for Fiscal Year 2014 grows.

In Ann Arbor, high school transportation; more than 80 employees, including about 50 teachers; middle school pools; and several athletics programs are on the chopping block for the 2013-14 academic year.

However, one item not on the table is school board members' per diem stipends.

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

On Writing in English: Language Evolves Over The Years

Chiew-Siah Tei:

My childhood memory is crowded with people, with their different languages and accents: my family spoke Mandarin and Hokkien; my playmates Cantonese, Hakka, Teochew and Hainan; there were Malays among my neighbours; and every evening the Indians got themselves drunk at the toddy hut opposite our house, before stopping by my father's butcher stall for a piece of wild boar meat for dinner, if they had some cash left.

For a child, everything seemed to be natural, the languages and the way they were spoken. As I grew up, though, I noticed how these languages intertwined, and how new words, new phrases - shared by different languages - were created. '苦力' (kuli), labourer, originated in the Malay synonym 'kuli'; and vice versa, '巴刹' (basha), market, derived from the Malay word 'pasar'.

This form of integration, I realised years later, is no longer about language but culture. It is the need to be understood and to understand, the need for this understanding to be recognised and, most importantly, the natural drive of these cultures to complement each other that had created, not just the words and phrases, but a new form of culture, of life. This discovery had planted the seed of my interest in experimenting with language in future.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:27 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Online Education Will Be the Next 'Bubble' To Pop, Not Traditional University Learning

John Tamny:

Speaking in Providence, RI not too long ago, the post-speech conversation turned to college education. The word was that Brown University's tuition alone had risen above $50,000 per year.

The above number is staggering. For the most part college students tune out during their four years on campus; that, or they memorize what's needed to get As on the tests. Why then would any parent pay the sky-high tuition, and then barring parental help, what 18-year old would take on that kind of debt in order to be the recipient of lots of largely useless information?

Brown is course not alone in this regard. Whether at public or private schools, college tuition over the years has skyrocketed. One factor, though it's certainly not as big as analysts presume, is the federal government's growing role in the financing of education.

With the above entity increasingly the only market for college loans, and with that same entity rather generous with the money of others, colleges and universities have very little incentive to do anything but raise tuition. Since our federal government is price insensitive, tuition can keep rising.

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

Who's Minding the Schools?

Andrew Hacker & Claudia Dreifus, via a kind Erich Zellmer email:

IN April, some 1.2 million New York students took their first Common Core State Standards tests, which are supposed to assess their knowledge and thinking on topics such as "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and a single matrix equation in a vector variable.

Students were charged with analyzing both fiction and nonfiction, not only through multiple-choice answers but also short essays. The mathematics portion of the test included complex equations and word problems not always included in students' classroom curriculums. Indeed, the first wave of exams was so overwhelming for these young New Yorkers that some parents refused to let their children take the test.

These students, in grades 3 through 8, are taking part in what may be the most far-reaching experiment in American educational history. By the 2014-15 academic year, public schools in 45 states and the District of Columbia will administer Common Core tests to students of all ages. (Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia have so far held out; Minnesota will use only the Common Core English test.) Many Catholic schools have also decided to implement the Common Core standards; most private, nonreligious schools have concluded that the program isn't for them.

Many of these "assessments," as they are called, will be more rigorous than any in the past. Whether the Common Core is called a curriculum or not, there's little doubt that teachers will feel pressured to gear much of their instruction to this annual regimen. In the coming years, test results are likely to affect decisions about grade promotion for students, teachers' job status and school viability.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:35 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Education is for parents as well

Esther Cepeda:

When I saw a recent Pew Hispanic Center report with the sunny title, "Hispanic High School Graduates Pass Whites in Rate of College Enrollment," I thought, "What's the catch?"

There was none on this exact point. A record 69 percent of Hispanic high school graduates in the class of 2012 enrolled in college that fall. But this was the only bright spot in the Pew survey. The high school dropout rate is falling, but it is still far above the rate for whites. In 2011, 14 percent of Hispanics ages 16 to 24 were dropouts. This was half the level in 2000. White students, in comparison, had a 5 percent dropout rate in 2011.

And all those college-going Latinos don't have such great prospects for earning a degree. According to Pew, Hispanic students are much less likely than their white counterparts to enroll in a four-year college (56 percent versus 72 percent). They are less likely to attend a selective college, less likely to be enrolled in college full time, and less likely to complete a bachelor's degree.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Visualizing 10 years of poverty growth in Dane County schools

Todd Milewski:

Where has the rise in poverty been the sharpest in Dane County schools over the last 10 years? Use our interactive graphic showing the changes in percentage of children approved for free or reduced-price meals by school or by district.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:28 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 10, 2013

The Return of "Ability Grouping"

Vivian Yee:

It was once common for elementary-school teachers to arrange their classrooms by ability, placing the highest-achieving students in one cluster, the lowest in another. But ability grouping and its close cousin, tracking, in which children take different classes based on their proficiency levels, fell out of favor in the late 1980s and the 1990s as critics charged that they perpetuated inequality by trapping poor and minority students in low-level groups.

Now ability grouping has re-emerged in classrooms all over the country -- a trend that has surprised education experts who believed the outcry had all but ended its use.

A new analysis from the National Assessment of Educational Progressa a Census-like agency for school statistics, shows that of the fourth-grade teachers surveyed, 71 percent said they had grouped students by reading ability in 2009, up from 28 percent in 1998. In math, 61 percent of fourth-grade teachers reported ability grouping in 2011, up from 40 percent in 1996.

"These practices were essentially stigmatized," said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who first noted the returning trend in a March report, and who has studied the grouping debate. "It's kind of gone underground, it's become less controversial."

We have seen this movie before English 10.

Much more on ability grouping, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Education winners, losers in Wisconsin budget talks

Alan Borsuk:

I usually give awards for special distinction for work on kindergarten through 12th-grade matters only at year's end. But we're having bonus presentations now to mark completion of the work of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee on the state budget for the next two years.
The budget still has to go to the Assembly, Senate and Gov. Scott Walker, but Republican leaders are determined to kibosh any substantial changes, so it's a strong bet this is basically the final version. Without further ado, the awards:

The Surprise! Surprise! Award:
Intense competition for this, given all that happened after a 10-hour, closed-door session of Republicans led to an all-nighter for the committee. The prize goes to tax credits for private school tuition. Never put forth earlier as a proposal, never subject to public input, it was introduced and approved around dawn Wednesday. Starting in 2014, taxpayers could deduct as much as $10,000 from their income for state tax purposes to offset private school tuition. That translates into as much as $600-plus in actual money for some families and probably somewhat of a boost to the appeal of private schools.

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

Number of Homeschoolers Growing Nationwide Researchers are expecting a surge in the number of students educated at home by their parents over the next ten years as more families spurn public schools.

Julia Lawrence:

As the dissatisfaction with the U.S. education system among parents grows, so does the appeal of homeschooling. Since 1999, the number of children who are being homeschooled has increased by 75%. Although currently only 4% of all school children nationwide are educated at home, the number of primary school kids whose parents choose to forgo traditional education is growing seven times faster than the number of kids enrolling in K-12 every year.

Any concerns expressed about the quality of education offered to the kids by their parents can surely be put to rest by the consistently high placement of homeschooled kids on standardized assessment exams. Data shows that those who are independently educated typically score between 65th and 89th percentile on such exams, while those attending traditional schools average on the 50th percentile. Furthermore, the achievement gaps, long plaguing school systems around the country, aren't present in homeschooling environment. There's no difference in achievement between sexes, income levels or race/ethnicity.

Recent studies laud homeschoolers' academic success, noting their significantly higher ACT-Composite scores as high schoolers and higher grade point averages as college students. Yet surprisingly, the average expenditure for the education of a homeschooled child, per year, is $500 to $600, compared to an average expenditure of $10,000 per child, per year, for public school students.
College recruiters from the best schools in the United States aren't slow to recognize homeschoolers' achievements. Those from non-traditional education environments matriculate in colleges and attain a four-year degree at much higher rates than their counterparts from public and even private schools. Homeschoolers are actively recruited by schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University and Duke.
Related: A focus on adult employment.

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

Accreditation Fast Track?

Libby Nelson:

A proposal is circulating quietly on Capitol Hill to ask accreditors to create a new, more flexible form of approval for new and nontraditional providers of higher education.
The measure, a slight 37 words, contains few details about the new system it envisions. Its odds are long; so far, no lawmakers have volunteered to sponsor it. And its backers are few, albeit potentially influential: Bob Kerrey, the former New School president and Nebraska senator and governor, and Ben Nelson, the founder of the Minerva Project, the for-profit, startup online university with Ivy League-level ambitions. (Kerrey is executive chairman of the Minerva Institute for Research and Scholarship, a fledgling nonprofit established by the Minerva Project.)

Still, the proposal represents a shot across the bow at the traditional system of higher education accreditation, which has been under increasing pressure since the second half of the Bush administration. Margaret Spellings, the former education secretary, tried to take on the system through tighter scrutiny and new regulations, but met opposition in Congress.

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

Dialect Survey Results

Joshua Katz:

Starting with the point-referenced data from Bert Vaux's online survey of English dialects, we used a k-nearest neighbor smoothing algorithm to estimate the probability of seeing a particular answer--eg, whether a person would say soda, pop, or coke--at every point in the continental US.

The composite map gives a picture of the overall distribution, coloring each cell according to whichever answer is estimated to be most likely at that location. The more clearly one answer dominates, the darker the color. Individual maps show estimated probability of each particular answer at a given location, with larger probabilities shown in red and smaller probabilities shown in blue. At the moment, only the four most popular answers for each survey question are displayed.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:27 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Go to Homeschool My Education Among the Strange Kids of Rural Georgia in the 90s

Jon Bois:

"To a very great degree, school is a place where children learn to be stupid." - John Holt

My brother's first-grade classroom was a repurposed janitor's closet. There wasn't enough room for aisles, so he and his 40 classmates would crawl over the tops of the desks to enter and exit the room. They went on exactly one field trip that year, to one of the actual, honest-to-God classrooms the Cherokee County, Georgia, school system was frantically building to catch up to the massive influx of families moving to suburban Atlanta. "You'd better be on your best behavior," his teacher said, "or we'll never move into this classroom." They never did.

I reckon that my fourth-grade classroom, on the other end of the school, didn't suffer from as many health-code violations. There were a half-dozen leaks in the ceiling, but those would have probably helped if the classroom had ever caught on fire. We didn't really have aisles either; the desks were arranged in a sort of amorphous jumble to avoid the drips from above.

My parents were more concerned with the curriculum than what the classroom looked like. In third grade up North, I was learning long division, and then we moved to Georgia, where I stepped down to single-digit addition and subtraction. Worksheets featured such problems as 6-2, 3+9, even the occasional 1+1. One day, the kid next to me scooted his desk over. I thought he was going to laugh with me about the 1+1. He spoke in a thoroughly Southern drawl I was still getting used to. "You know how to do this? I don't get it," he said as he pointed at the first problem on his worksheet. Eight plus zero.

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

Chart of the Day: Student Loan Debt Is Skyrocketing

Kevin Drum:

You've probably seen this chart before, but it's worth seeing again: Student loan debt is just flatly out of control. I understand why this has happened, and I understand why it's hard to get a handle on, but we're going to regret it if we don't do something about this. We're training a whole generation to be wary of going to college, and for those who do, we're forcing them to start out their lives living under a mountain of debt. This is a recipe for disaster. More here from Maggie Severns.

It's also yet another fault line between young and old that's not likely to turn out well. My generation got a cheap college education when we were young, and we're getting good retirement benefits now that we're old. Pretty nice. But now we're turning around and telling today's twentysomethings that they should pay through the nose for college, keep paying taxes for our retirements, and oh by the way, when it comes time for you to retire your benefits are going to have to be cut. So sorry. And all this despite the fact that the country is richer than it was 50 years ago, and will be richer still 50 years from now.

But at least today's kids don't have to worry about being drafted. That's something, I suppose.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:09 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

PISA based Wealth Comparison

Die Zeit:

How do families live these days? OECD's comprehensive world education ranking report, PISA 2009, was published in December of 2010. All participants of the test (fifteen-year-old pupils) completed a questionnaire about their living situation at home. ZEIT ONLINE analyzed and visualized this data to provide you with a unique way of comparing standards of living in different countries. Click on any icon to see further details.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:35 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

It's the Results, Stupid

Paul Fain:

Mitch Daniels is agnostic on the various delivery modes of higher education or the tax status of colleges offering them, as long as students are getting a quality education at an appropriate price.

"I'm only interested in results per dollar charged," Daniels, president of Purdue University and the former Indiana governor, said in a speech to for-profit-college leaders here on Thursday. "That's the value equation."

Daniels was speaking at the annual meeting of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, which is the for-profit sector's primary trade group. The mood may have been glum here for some attendees, because most for-profits are coping with steep dips in enrollment and revenue.

However, the rest of higher education also faces challenges, Daniels said, many of which have similar dimensions to those that are buffeting for-profits. Tests for public universities include declining state support and questions from lawmakers and the general public about the value of college credentials.

"You must sense some of the same shifting of the ground that I do," said Daniels.
Furthermore, no college will be exempt from the growing clamor for accountability, he said. "It's coming and high time for it."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:11 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 9, 2013

Madison Schools' 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers


The charts reveal several larger stories:

First, the State of Wisconsin "committed" to 2/3 K-12 funding in the mid-1990's. The increase in redistributed state tax dollars is apparent. [Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau: State Aid to School Districts (PDF)]

Second, Madison's substantial real estate growth during the 2000's supported growing K-12 spending while reducing the property tax rate (the overall pie grew so the "rate" could fall somewhat). The real estate music stopped in the late 2000's ("Great Recession) and the tax rate began to grow again as the District consistently raised property taxes. *Note that there has been justifiable controversy over Madison's large number of tax exempt properties. Fewer exemptions expands the tax base and (potentially) reduces individual homeowner's taxes.

Third, Madison has long spent more per student than most public schools.

Fourth, the District's June 10, 2013 budget document fails to address two core aspects of its mission: total spending and program effectiveness. The most recent 2012-2013 District budget number (via a Matthew DeFour email) is $392,789,303. This is up 4.4% from the July, 2012 District budget number: $376,200,000. The District's budget has always - in my nine years of observation - increased throughout the school year. The late, lamented "citizen's budget" was a short lived effort to create a standard method to track changes over time.

Fifth, the June 10, 2013 document does not include the District's "Fund balance" or equity. The balance declined during the 2000's, somewhat controversially, but it has since grown. A current number would be useful, particularly in light of Madison's high property taxes.

Sixth, I took a quick look at property taxes in Middleton and Madison on a $230,000 home. A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38. Local efforts to significantly increase property taxes may grow the gap with Middleton.

Finally, years of spending and tax growth have not addressed the District's long term-disastrous reading results. Are we doing the same thing over and over?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Ein neuer Deal? Germany's vaunted dual-education system is its latest export hit

The Economist:

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, Germany's labour minister, likes to point out that the two European Union countries with the lowest unemployment, especially among the young, have dual-education systems: Austria and Germany. Like Switzerland, they have a tradition of combining apprenticeships with formal schooling for the young "so that education is always tied to demand," she says. When youths graduate, they often have jobs to walk into.

With youth unemployment in Germany and Austria below 8% against 56% in Spain and 38% in Italy, Mrs von der Leyen has won Europe's attention. Germany recently signed memoranda with Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain to help set up vocational-education systems. Mrs von der Leyen discussed the topic in visits to Madrid in May and to Paris this week. There is even talk of a "new deal" for Europe, including bringing youths from crisis-hit countries to work in Germany and making more loans.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New Lincoln math pages suggest more education

David Mercer:

Two math-notebook pages recently authenticated as belonging to Abraham Lincoln suggest the 16th president, who was known to downplay his formal education, may have spent more time in school than usually thought.
And the Illinois State University math professors behind the discovery say the work shows Lincoln was no slouch, either.

Math professors Nerida Ellerton and Ken Clements said Friday at the university in Normal that they'd recently confirmed that the two pages were part of a previously known math notebook from Lincoln's childhood. It was found in the archives of Houghton Library at Harvard University, where it remains.

The book, known as a cyphering book in Lincoln's day, is a sort math workbook in which Lincoln wrote math problems and their answers. It's the oldest known Lincoln manuscript.

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

Graduates finish GED before changes to testing GED testing will be computer-based, have essay portion starting in 2014


Madison College GED students graduated Thursday night before major changes are made to testing.

The class that graduated Thursday night is the last to graduate before GED requirements change January 2014. Starting in 2014 the tests will be computer-based and an essay portion will be added.

Students who don't finish before the deadline will have to start over.

"The students have made quite an accomplishment tonight," said Jim Merritt, director of testing and assessment at Madison College. "They have worked very hard and some of them have been working at it for years and have felt a little pressure to get done with the changes coming this year."

For most students, it takes years to complete the degree they hope will lead to better employment.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:59 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Further Evidence That IQ Does Not Measure Intelligence

Annalee Newitz:

Every ten years, the average IQ goes up by about 3 points. Psychologist James Flynn has spent decades documenting this odd fact, which was eventually dubbed the Flynn Effect. The question is, does the Flynn Effect mean we're getting smarter? Not according to Flynn, who argues that the effect simply reveals that IQ measures teachable skills rather than innate ones. As education changed over time, kids got better at standardized tests like the IQ test. And so their scores went up.

But some thinkers cling to the idea that IQ measures an inborn intelligence that transcends culture and schooling. If that's true, one would expect that the most abstract, "culture free" elements of IQ testing wouldn't be subject to the Flynn Effect. But they are. And now two psychology researchers have shown why that is.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Metropolitan (Philadelphia) Education Problem: Why High School Students Are Walking Out; Madison Spends about 36% More Per Student

Jon Shelton:

Philadelphia is far from the only American city with major fiscal problems in the school system at the moment. Just a few weeks ago, a similar student walkout took place in Newark, and for much of this week, teachers and students have been protesting the Chicago Public School District's plan to close fifty-four public schools, mostly in Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods. These are not mere coincidences; indeed, both Newark and Chicago have demographic and economic trajectories that are similar to Philly. It is high time that we stop slashing budgets, closing schools, and blaming teachers and instead revisit the notion of metropolitan and even federal solutions to the crisis in urban education, which has been exacerbated by our seemingly endless economic downturn. We need to reconsider bold solutions to these problems--like integrating city and suburbs or legislating counter-cyclical revenue sharing that would pump up urban budgets during times of economic difficulty.

Because of the fractured nature of American metropolitan areas, those who live in the suburbs enjoy many of the privileges that cities offer--high-paying professional jobs, top-notch restaurants, museums, public transit, sports arenas--without contributing nearly as much to the city's tax base in return. Beyond that, all Americans have a vested interest in providing a great education for all young people: developing civic responsibility, an educated electorate, and the human capital necessary to compete in an integrated global economy should be in everyone's best interest. We may not live in a time in which these policies seem politically possible, but we must introduce them into the political conversation, instead of wallowing in the limits of what seems doable. If those thousands of marching students have shown us anything, it is that each of them wants an education. When historians look back at this period, perhaps they can point to 2013 as a time when talk about viable long-term solutions began, and every student was ensured the kind of education they deserve, no matter where they live.

Philadelphia plans to spend 2,224,219,000 for 202,300 students or $10,994 each. Madison spends 36% more, about $15k per student.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:11 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Higher education for the masses

The Roanoke Times:

Larry Sabato doesn't need to teach a free online course to become a celebrity professor. The director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics is one of the most visible and quoted academics in the country, analyzing topics as broad as presidential elections and as close to home as your local House of Delegates race.

But this fall, Sabato will enter the brave, new world of "massive open online courses," or MOOCs. Sabato will lead a free online course examining the administration of President John F. Kennedy and his legacy in the half-century since his assassination. The noncredit class will be offered through the educational technology company Coursera, a Silicon Valley startup that partners with some of the nation's top universities to offer free online courses.

Sabato said he was willing to conduct the course as part of UVa's experiment with MOOCs, one of the hottest trends in American higher education. Companies such as Coursera and Udacity and the nonprofit edX have partnered with scores of universities in the U.S. and abroad to offer online courses on their sites, potentially expanding the institutions' reach to millions of students worldwide.

Virginia Tech, which has developed its own strong distance-learning program, is not making an institutional push to experiment with MOOCs. Nor is it discouraging faculty from exploring opportunities. The Roanoke Times reported Monday that Tom Sanchez, a Tech urban affairs and planning professor, teamed with an Ohio State colleague to teach a course through Coursera for 21,000 students.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:09 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Drew Houston's Commencement address 'I stopped trying to make my life perfect, and instead tried to make it interesting.'

Drew Houston:

Thank you Chairman Reed, and congratulations to all of you in the class of 2013.

I'm so happy to be back at MIT, and it's an honor to be here with you today. I still wear my Brass Rat, and turning this ring around on graduation day is still one of the proudest moments of my life.

There are a lot of reasons why this is a special day, but the reason I'm so excited for all of you is that today is the first day of your life where you no longer need to check boxes.

For your first couple decades, success in life has meant jumping through one hoop after another: get these test scores, get into this college. Take these classes, get this degree. Get into this prestigious institution so you can get into the next prestigious institution. All of that ends today.

The hard thing about planning your life is you have no idea where you're going, but you want to get there as soon as possible. Maybe you'll start a company, or cure cancer, or write the great American novel. Or who knows? Maybe things will go horribly wrong. I had no idea.

Being up here in robes and speaking to all of you today wasn't exactly part of my plan seven years ago. In fact, I've never really had a grand plan -- and what I realize now is that it's probably impossible to have one after graduation, if ever.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The power of names

Adam Alter:

The German poet Christian Morgenstern once said that "all seagulls look as though their name were Emma." Though Morgenstern was known for his nonsense poetry, there was truth in his suggestion that some linguistic labels are perfectly suited to the concepts they denote. "Dawdle" and "meander" sound as unhurried as the walking speeds they describe, and "awkward" and "gawky" sound as ungainly as the bodies they represent. When the Gestalt psychologist and fellow German Wolfgang Köhler read Morgenstern's poem, in the nineteen-twenties, he was moved to suggest that words convey symbolic ideas beyond their meaning. To test the idea more carefully, he asked a group of respondents to decide which of the two shapes below was a maluma and which was a takete:

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 8, 2013

European MOOCs in Global Context Workshop (19-20 June 2013 @ UW-Madison)

Kris Olds:

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were 'invented' in Canada in 2008, and then became transformed, institutionalized and scaled up via the efforts of people, universities, and firms, in the Boston and San Francisco Bay Area city-regions. In the process debates about MOOCs have blossomed, entangled as they are in discussions about online pedagogy through to longer-standing debates about lifelong learning, internationalization, austerity, 'disruptive innovation,' public service, deterritorialization, education reform, and many (many) other issues.

The European MOOCs in Global Context Workshop, a free and open access (i.e. no RSVP) event will be held in the Wisconsin Idea Room, Education Building, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 19-20 June 2013, This workshop is designed to engender discussion and debate about the MOOCs phenomenon from a European perspective, as well as about the implications of the MOOCs juggernaut for European universities and students. We seek to learn about MOOCs by contextualizing them, speaking about their histories and geographies, their technologies and aspirational futures, as well as their uneven geographies and power geometries. In doing so we hope that participants will become more astute thinkers about potentials and limits of MOOCs, not to mention how to situate the fast changing MOOCs phenomenon. Given this workshop attendees need not be Europeanists; you simply need to be interested in MOOCs, online learning, and the transformation of higher education more generally.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Does Expanding School Choice Increase Segregation?

Matthew M. Chingos:

Advocates of expanding the educational options available to students from low-income families raise not only social justice arguments--pointing to the choices made by families that can afford to live close to a good public school or pay private-school tuition--but also the theory that competition induced by expanded school choice will be "the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats." Breaking the ironclad link between residence and school attended will, proponents argue, force schools to compete for students and resources in ways that increase the quality of education provided.

But critics of school choice policies argue that these reforms will lead to increased segregation by race and class as more motivated families move to better schools, leaving the most disadvantaged students behind in the worst public schools. Criticism has often focused on charter schools given the growth in the charter sector in recent years. Nationwide, charter enrollment grew from 1 to 3 percent of all students between 1999-2000 and 2009-10. Charters make up a much larger share of the market in several places, including 11 percent of Arizona students and 37 percent in the District of Columbia.

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

The Dark Side of Dual Enrollment

Ken Smith and Diana Nixon:

Different students learn in different ways--we know that. Students know that too.
A precalculus student I talked to on a recent afternoon failed the class last fall and was on her way to failing it again this spring. Sadly, she will probably fail the class in the fall, too. Despite all the class aids (and there were many), she had not reacted to her consistently low exam scores until I spoke to her after class.
Her science major requires that she complete Calculus 1 and possibly Calculus 2. Her mathematics SAT score was 380.
We talked a little bit about the class, her performance, and where she should go next. The student explained that my class is not compatible with her "learning method." She said that she prefers "that multiplying method, you know, where there are letters, A, B, C."
I said, "You mean, multiple choice?"

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

Humanities Fall From Favor

Jennifer Levitz & Douglas Belkin:

The humanities division at Harvard University, for centuries a standard-bearer of American letters, is attracting fewer undergraduates amid concerns about the degree's value in a rapidly changing job market.

A university report being released Thursday suggests the division aggressively market itself to freshmen and sophomores, create a broader interdisciplinary framework to retain students and build an internship network to establish the value of the degree in the workforce.

This "is an anti-intellectual moment, and what matters to me is that we, the people in arts and humanities, find creative and affirmative ways of engaging the moment," said Diana Sorensen, Harvard's dean of Arts and Humanities. The division needs to show "what it is our work does so they don't think we're just living up in the clouds all the time."

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

A father who saw untapped forces in his son's autism

Emma Jacobs:

When Thorkil Sonne's son Lars was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and a half in 1999, the last thing the chief technology officer expected was a career change. "I was a happy employee. I was happy to be employed by a big company," he says.
Today, the 52-year-old who once oversaw technology at a spin-off of TDC, Denmark's largest telecoms company, has sold his family home - after remortgaging it several times - and is relocating to the US state of Delaware. It is all part of his mission to persuade high-tech companies of the merits of employing autistic workers.

This month Specialisterne, the social enterprise he formed in 2004, which recruits autistic people for work on data entry, software programming and testing projects, announced a partnership with SAP, the German business software company. SAP's ambition is to recruit hundreds of autistic employees to test its software. By 2020, the tech company aims to employ 650 autistic workers, or 1 per cent of its workforce.

The announcement, he says, has sparked interest from other employers.CAI, an IT consulting firm, last week announced it would work with Mr Sonne's organisation to recruit autistic employees.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:38 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Florida colleges to drop remedial classes for thousands

Denise-Marie Ordway:

For years, men and women wanting to take classes at their local community colleges have been discouraged to learn they must complete a remedial program before enrolling in college-level courses.

Almost 200,000 students, including recent high-school graduates, had to take refresher classes in math, reading or writing last school year. Some needed extra help in all three subjects, adding a semester or two or more -- and hundreds of dollars in tuition -- onto their educational plans.

It's a situation that has prompted numerous students to drop out before they ever enroll in their first college-level course.

Educators and lawmakers have long agreed the system needs revamping, considering colleges statewide pay tens of millions of dollars a year for a program with dismal results. Nationally, fewer than 1 in 10 students who started in remediation graduate from community colleges within three years, according to one estimate. Recent reliable data for Florida students were not immediately available, but old figures show it's just as bad.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:18 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas



Absolutely. In fact, a good fraction of quantitative analysts, traders and developers make the change to finance only in their late twenties or early-to-mid thirties. In this article I'm going to talk about how you can achieve the same thing.

Age really isn't a barrier in financial markets. What matters the most is competence, drive and initiative. It is a very meritocratic industry (for better or worse!) in that good performers of all ages are well-rewarded. It is quite common to enter the industry after a stint elsewhere in some other technical field, particularly within the asset management (hedge fund) sector, so don't be put off applying, even if you think you're too senior for the roles.

If you're considering a switch to quantitative finance then the first task you must carry out is to make a frank assessment of your background, experience and skill set. Most forms of quantitative finance are highly mathematical and require solid undergraduate experience in linear algebra, calculus (real analysis in the UK!), probability and statistics. If you have gained, or built upon, these skills in subsequent qualifications such as a MSc (science masters program) or quantitative PhD then so much the better. Prospective employers will also prefer you to have made use of such skills in previous roles.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:16 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 7, 2013

Is Coding the New Second Language?

Peg Tyre:

It's first period at Harlem's Cristo Rey high school, a private Catholic school for motivated low-income kids. In a third floor classroom, 10 sophomores and juniors stare into their wide Apple monitors and puzzle over what line of code they need to add to their rudimentary computer programs in order to make their names appear in a gray block between the word "'Welcome" and an exclamation point.

Their teacher, Kevin Mitchell, 29, is a software engineer and volunteer at the tiny nonprofit startup, ScriptEd, which provides coding instruction in underserved high schools in New York City. Mitchell, a calm figure with an easy smile, suggests his students write a line of code: a word bookended by some simple punctuation. The students diligently attempt to implement it on their own.

For some, the code works on the first try. Welcome Jorge! Welcome Sonya! Around the room, a few other students make low groans--unexpected results. "Did you forget your curly brackets," queries Mitchell, referring to the punctuation that looks like this "}" Other students have gotten no results at all.

Byron Acosta, a junior at Cristo Rey, seems satisfied when his name pops up. Before he took this class, Acosta says he didn't know anyone with the skills he was learning in class. Even though he's a self-described "English and history guy" he jumped at the chance to learn some basics. So far, he likes it. And he's absorbed Mitchell's Golden Rule: "You have to be specific in your language," he offers. "One typo and you can mess everything up."

Mitchell walks among the students, troubleshooting. Writing code is like giving commands, he tells the students. "The computer can't know what you don't tell it."

Peg Tyre interview.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:58 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Why does France insist school pupils master philosophy?

Hugh Schofield:

My primary thought is: Thank the Lord I was spared the torment.

I mean, can you imagine having to sit down one morning in June and spend four hours developing an exhaustive, coherent argument around the subject: Is truth preferable to peace?

Or: Does power exist without violence?

Or possibly: Can one be right in spite of the facts?

Perhaps you would prefer option B, which is to write a commentary on a text. In which case, here is a bit of Spinoza's 1670 Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Or how about some Seneca on altruism?

I take these examples from my daughter's revision books. My heart bleeds for her, as I look at the list of themes that have to be mastered.

Ruby has chosen to take what they call a Bac Litteraire - the Literature Baccalaureat.

There are alternative, more science-biased versions of the Baccalaureat. They all include an element of philosophy.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:06 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Racial and Income Gaps Persist in AP and IB Enrollment

Caralee Adams:

Record numbers of high school students are participating in Advanced Placement courses and International Baccalaureate programs in hopes of being better prepared for college. But a new report from the Education Trust finds students of color and those from low-income families are less likely to enroll in these rigorous programs, even if they show the academic promise to succeed.

Finding America's Missing AP and IB Students by Christina Theokas and Reid Saaris from the Washington, D.C.-based organization notes that more students from all backgrounds are signing up for these programs, and efforts have been made to boost minority and low-income student participation, yet gaps exist. Nearly 91 percent of students attend a high school that offers AP. Those without the advanced programs tend to be rural, small, and high-poverty schools, the report says.

Each year, about 640,000 low-income students and students of color are "missing" from AP and IB participation--students who could benefit if they merely enrolled at the same rate as other students in their schools, the report says.

It is not just a matter access. About 1 million students do not attend schools that offer AP, and the authors note that only a small percentage of the gaps by race or family income can be accounted for by which schools do and do not offer the classes.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Bernanke to Grads: Get Dirty and Call Mom

Jon Hilsenrath:

Everyone wants to psychoanalyze Ben Bernanke these days. Does he want another term as chairman of the Federal Reserve? Is he preparing to walk off into the sunset when his current term ends next January? What is his secret motive for skipping the Fed's annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming this year?

In that vein, his unusually personal and wistful commencement address at Princeton University Sunday afternoon is sure to be closely scrutinized for hidden meaning. But let's leave the psychobabble to unqualified bond traders and take the speech for what it is: His best graduation address as a public official.

Mr. Bernanke -- a former Princeton economics professor -- has delivered his share of clunkers before, such as a 2008 address to Harvard students about inflation, which was panned in the Harvard Crimson.

Others have been thoughtful but wound up rather dry, such as a recent talk on innovation and the economy's long-run growth prospects at Bard College at Simon Rock.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:57 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Americans Short on Financial Know How

Brendan Cronin:

Some household balance sheets have mended during the recovery but that may be thanks less to fiscal stewardship than the improving economy.

In fact, Americans' grasp of concepts such as investment risk and inflation has weakened since the recovery began in mid-2009. Research released last week shows that on a five-question test (Take the test here), respondents did worse in 2012 than in 2009. The average number of correct answers fell to 2.9 in 2012 from 3.0 on the test in 2009.

The test, along with a wide-ranging survey of financial capability of more than 25,000 American adults, was conducted during the fall and funded by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation.

"People are finding it a little easier to make ends meet," Finra Chief Executive Richard Ketchum said in presenting the 2012 National Financial Capability Study results last week in Washington. "More respondents have rainy-day funds, which puts them in a better position to deal with life's unexpected events...But there are still very significant concerns," he said, adding that debt continues to be a serious problem.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:56 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Mathematica at 25

Stephen Wolfram:

I never liked calculational math, and was never good at it. But starting around the age of 10, I became increasingly interested in physics--and doing physics required doing math.

Electronic calculators arrived on the scene when I was 12--and I immediately became an enthusiast. And around the same time, I started using my first computer--an object the size of a large desk, with 8 kilowords of 18-bit memory, programmed mostly in assembler using paper tape. I tried doing physics with it, to no great success. But by the time I was 16, I had published a few physics papers, left high school, and was working at a British government lab. "Real" theoretical physicists basically didn't use computers in those days. But I did. Alternating between an HP desk calculator (with a plotter!) and an IBM mainframe programmed in Fortran.
I was basically just doing numerics, though. But in the physics I wanted to do, there were all sorts of algebra. And not just a little algebra. Huge amounts. Expressions from Feynman diagrams with hundreds or thousands of terms, all of which had to be precisely right if one was going to get the right answer.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:55 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Rushed Reforms in Delhi University: Akshita Nagpal

Akshita Nagpal:

It was only in 2012 that we got a subtle whiff of the broth brewing in the minds of the bosses of Delhi University. While this isn't the first time that authorities have attracted opposition from everyone on the other side of the ideological fence, the repercussions of the present push for hasty implementation of the Four Year Undergraduate Programme(FYUP) might be much more damning. Refuting change is not what the displeased body of teachers and students mean to convey. The opposition is against the hasty implementation and lack of insight sharing on the workings of the new system. Keeping up with the absurd pace of implementation, procedural requisites as pivotal as UGC approval have been done away with!

Change can't be injected like a shot of medicine, but has to be administered gradually, and in viable dosages if you mean to erect a healthier model. Anyone associated with DU would know how much precious time is lost due to strikes and protests. There was a spate of these in 2010, when the administration wanted to similarly inject semester system at the undergraduate level (which it eventually did). Though it is too soon to give any verdict, much less any polarised verdict, on the good and evils of the post-semester system quality of undergraduate education, some of its foibles have already exposed themselves. The swelled up scores are an amusing justification of the system by university authorities.

The university, in a hopeless bid to assuage allegations of being an authoritarian body held a 2 day Open House session to pretend to address the concerns of prospective students and their parents. But how impressively can a blatant façade function? Newspaper reports informed how the officials convening the session were suffering from selective hearing syndrome, owing to which they were able to comfortably dodge queries related to the viability of the FYUP and credence for a student putting in an extra year for graduation. Thus, the university seems to have failed to tide the opinions of the student community in favour of the hurried imposition of FYUP, who happen to be the direct beneficiaries or the ones to be saddled with encumbrance on account of any radical academic reforms. A recent General Body Meeting (GBM) of the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) held on May 12 concluded with the teaching fraternity projecting an immoveable opposition to the hasty changes. All this sets up the stage for the classic Creon-Antigone ideological clash; the establishment and the individual at loggerheads.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Why aren't voucher schools subject to open records law?

Jack Craver:

Last week, Sarah Karon of the American Civil Liberties Union argued in a Cap Times column that voucher schools should be held to the same standard of public scrutiny to which public schools are currently subjected.

She noted that many private schools that participate in the Milwaukee School Choice Program receive the great majority of their money from taxpayer-financed vouchers.

Open records advocates, such as the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, agree. If voucher schools are receiving taxpayer dollars, then shouldn't the fourth estate be allowed to shine a light on them?

"We feel that because there's a significant amount of money from taxpayers and because there is intense public interest in the metrics (for evaluating schools), they should provide a comparable level of transparency that public schools provide," says Bill Lueders, president of the WFIC.

Among Republicans, there appears to be a divide over just how much accountability taxpayers can demand from vouchers. Whereas the GOP leadership and Gov. Scott Walker are pushing measures that will subject vouchers to the Common Core academic standards and include voucher student test scores in the statewide Student Information System, conservative stalwart Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, one of the loudest advocates of voucher schools, believes those measures pervert the entire idea behind school choice.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:08 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 6, 2013

Poor and Rich Kids: Here's How They Can Get the Same Education

Lauren McAlee

When parents imagine the ideal school for their kids, many probably envision a place where children can not only master basic skills and content, but also be valued as individuals, encouraged to delve into interesting topics, and safe to take healthy risks. Many schools offer this kind of rich education. Unfortunately, they disproportionately serve children who come from privileged backgrounds.

Right now, many students receive an imbalanced education. Kids need to develop defined sets of skills like reading and writing words and solving equations; they also need to know how to apply these skills and solve problems in open-ended contexts. Curriculum reform has found a relative balance, recognizing that students need to learn defined sets of skills as well as explore open-ended contexts to succeed in the 21st century. But students living in poverty disproportionately miss out on opportunities for balanced education.

Over 30 years ago, Jean Anyon wrote Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work, observing that in sample working-class schools, "work is following the steps of a procedure," usually "involving rote behavior and very little decision making or choice," while in affluent and elite schools, "work is creative activity carried out independently" and "developing one's analytical intellectual powers."

Based on my experience working with educators and students around the country, this pattern persists.

Counterexamples such as Big Picture Learning schools, public Montessori and Expeditionary Learning schools, and schools using the Schoolwide Enrichment Model exist, but are the exception for students living in poverty, rather than the rule.

Having taught in both high- and low-poverty schools, I understand why open-ended thinking is easier to emphasize in privileged communities. Varying education and economic status of families creates a serious gap in vocabulary, reasoning, background knowledge, and social-emotional skills. Teachers in my pre-K through eighth-grade high-poverty school spend countless hours teaching students skills that affluent students already know. This leaves less school time for play, projects, and exploration.

In Teaching Other People's Children, Lisa Delpit writes that, "skills are a necessary but insufficient aspect of black and minority students' education. Students need technical skills to open doors, but they need to be able to think critically and creatively to participate in meaningful and potentially liberating work inside those doors."

Skating over open-ended competencies is impractical for any school as the Common Core State Standards shift learners towards deeper, more nuanced thinking. With or without Common Core, we cannot accept our current state of curriculum segregation.

So how can we fix curriculum segregation? We can do a lot, but none of it will be easy. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  1. Urgently identify, study, and share learning about the existing pockets of educators who excel in balanced education for children living in poverty.
  2. Provide more intensive school services for children who come to school with less formal knowledge, including longer school days and years, and deeper and wider school staffing. Students with more to learn need more support.
  3. Share concrete tools. Open-ended education is harder to scale than defined education, and we need to share as much as we can.
  4. Ensure teacher evaluations, especially those including unannounced observations, reward rather than punish healthy risk-taking.
  5. Measure schools' success with metrics that include students' ability to think in robust, open-ended contexts.
Children in my school and around the country need all hands on deck to ensure their education is rigorous, rich, and respectful of their potential.
Posted by Jeff Henriques at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The UnCommon Core of Learning: Researching and Writing the Term Paper

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1) Will, you have been advocating for the high school term paper for years--why the persistence?

I have worked on The Concord Review for 26 years for several reasons. It pays almost nothing, but we have no children, the house is paid for and my wife has a teacher's pension. Most of all, I am constantly inspired by the diligent work of high school students from 39 countries on their history research papers. I thought, when I started in 1987, that I would get papers of 4,000, words. But I have been receiving serious readable interesting history research papers of 8,000, 11,000, 13,000 words and more by secondary students, who are often doing independent studies to compete for a place in this unique international journal.

2) I remember with fondness, my term papers in both high school and college--and the feeling of accomplishment I received. Am I alone in this regard?

We did the only study done so far in the United States of the assignment of term paper in U.S. public high schools and about 85% of them never assign even the 4,000-word papers I had hoped for. Most American high school students just don't do term papers. Teachers say they are too busy, and students are quite reluctant to attempt serious papers on their own, so they arrive in college quite unprepared for college term paper assignments. Many of our authors say that their history papers were the most important and most satisfying work they did in high school.

3) People write and talk about "curriculum issues"--are there any curriculums that you are aware of that focus on library research and writing?

As you know the hottest topic in American education now is "The Common Core Standards," which are quite explicit in saying over and over that they are "not a curriculum." They say that nonfiction reading is important, but they recommend no history books, and they say nonfiction writing is important, but they provide no examples, of the kind they might find, for example, in the last 97 issues of The Concord Review. To my mind, the CC initiative is "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" as the man said. As you know, by a huge margin, the focus for writing in our schools is on personal and creative writing and the five-paragraph essay, even for high school students.

4) Let's discuss some of the skills needed to write a good term paper--what would you say they are?

The most important skill or effort that leads to a good term paper is lots and lots of reading. Too often our literacy experts try to force students to write when they have read nothing and really have nothing to say. So the focus becomes the students' personal life, which is often none of the teachers' business, and there is little or no effort to have students read history books and learn about something (besides themselves) that would be worth trying hard to write about. Many of our authors learn enough about their topic that they reach a point where they feel that people ought to know about what they have learned--this is great motivation for a good term paper.

5) You have been publishing exemplary high school research papers from around the world for years--how did you get started doing this and why?

I had been teaching for enough years at the public high school in Concord, Massachusetts to earn a sabbatical (1986-1987). That gave me time to read What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know, Horace's Compromise, Cultural Literacy and some other books and articles that helped me understand that a concern over students' knowledge of history and their ability to write term papers was not limited to my classroom or even to my school, but was a national issue. I had usually had a few students in my classes who did more work than they had to, and it occurred to me that if I sent out a call for papers (as I did in August, 1987) to every high school in the United States and Canada and 1,500 schools overseas, I might get some first-rate high school history essays sent to me. I did, and I have now been able to publish 1,066 of them in 97 issues of the journal. [Samples at] No one wanted to fund it, so I started The Concord Review with all of an inheritance and the principal from my teacher's retirement.

6) Has the Internet impacted a high school student's ability to research? Or is it a different kind of research?

I read history books on my iPad and so can high school history students. I also use the Internet to check facts, and so can students. There is a huge variety of original historical material now available on the Web, as everyone knows, but I would still recommend to students who want to do a serious history research paper that they read a few books and as many articles as they can find on their topic. This will make their paper more worth reading and perhaps worth publishing.

7) It seems that getting a paper into your Concord Review almost always guarantees admission to a top notch college or university--am I off on this?

Thirty percent of our authors have been accepted at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale, but I have to remember that these serious authors doing exemplary papers for my journal are usually also outstanding in many other areas as well. A number of our authors have become doctors as well, but at least at one point in their lives they wrote a great history paper!

8) I was recently on the East Coast and was reading The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. I was astounded by the quality of writing. There are still good writers out there--but do we treasure, promote and encourage good writing?

Those papers can hire a teeny tiny percent of those who want to make a living by their writing, and they provide a great service to the country, but for the vast majority of our high school students, reading and writing are the most dumbed-down parts of their curriculum. Many never get a chance to find out if they could write a serious history paper, because no one ever asks them to try. And remember, we have nationally-televised high school basketball and football games, but no one knows who is published in The Concord Review and they don't ask to know.

9) What have I neglected to ask?

My greatest complaint these days is that all our EduPundits, it seems, focus their attention on guidelines, standards, principals, teachers, and so on, and pay no attention to the academic work of students. Indiana University recently interviewed 143,000 U.S. high school students, and found that 42.5% do one hour or less a week on homework. But no one mentions that. Our education experts say that the most important variable in student academic achievement is teacher quality (and thus all the attention on selection, training, assessment and firing of teachers). I maintain that the most important variable in student academic achievement is student academic work, to which the experts pay no attention at all. But then, most of them have never been teachers, and so they usually do not know what they are talking about.
The Concord Review

Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 9:10 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Asia's teachers say copying their school hours won't help Britain

Justin Harper:

Turning out successful pupils is about more than making them sit at their desks for hours, according to top-performing schools overseas
Asia's schools produce successful pupils by focusing on plenty of homework and a "meritocratic" approach, according to teachers, who rejected suggestions that longer hours in the classroom are key.

They were responding to recent remarks from the British education minister, Michael Gove, who pointed out that a longer school day is the norm in East Asian nations.

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

Afghan students flock to India's universities

Bijoyeta Das:

Upon arriving in India, the first place Arif Ahmady visited was the Taj Mahal.

But it was hope for a better future that enticed Ahmady to leave his home in Kabul, Afghanistan last February. The second place he visted was Delhi University. Now he is busy scouting graduate schools to study computer science, checking out housing options, and connecting with other Afghan students in India.

"I want to study in a peaceful space, get an Indian degree because it has a great reputation in Afghanistan, go back and build a career," says the 23-year-old, wearing a black cotton tunic, baggy pants, and a traditional Afghan scarf wrapped around his neck.

Indian cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Bhubaneswar attract thousands of Afghan youth to study. About 5,500 Afghan students are currently in the country, says Shaida Mohammad Abdali, Afghanistan's ambassador to India, of whom about 300 are women.

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

Reconciling the Common Core State Standards with reading research

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

During her recent visit to CESAs 1 and 6 in Wisconsin, Louisa Moats recorded a podcast on the topic of reconciling the Common Core State Standards with reading research. This podcast, which comes in three parts for viewing, is an excellent source of information on what is necessary to effectively implement the CCSS in the area of reading. You can access the podcast at either of the following sets of links, depending on your computer system.

PART 1 -

PART 2 -

PART 3 -


PART 1 -

PART 2 -

PART 3 -

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

Voucher schools should be more open

Sarah Karon:

Back in 1990, when Milwaukee launched the nation's first publicly funded voucher program, participating schools could enroll no more than 49 percent voucher students. These schools were considered private, because the majority of their students paid private tuition.

Fast-forward to 2013.

Now, more than half of Milwaukee's 110 voucher schools have at least 95 percent of students on publicly funded vouchers. In one-fifth of these schools, every student receives a voucher.

Yet because voucher schools are still classified as "private," they can -- and do -- ignore Wisconsin's open records and meetings laws. It's a double standard that undermines transparency and shields information from parents and the public.

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

School database loses backers as parents balk over privacy

Stephanie Simon:

A $100 million database set up to store extensive records on millions of public school students has stumbled badly since its launch this spring, with officials in several states backing away from the project amid protests from irate parents.

The database, funded mostly by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is intended to track students from kindergarten through high school by storing myriad data points: test scores, learning disabilities, discipline records - even teacher assessments of a child's character. The idea is that consolidated records make it easier for teachers to use software that mines data to identify academic weaknesses. Games, videos or lesson plans would then be precisely targeted to engage specific children or promote specific skills.

The system is set up to identify millions of children by name, race, economic status and other metrics and is constructed in a way that makes it easy for school districts to share some or all of that information with private companies developing education software.

The nonprofit organization that runs the database, inBloom Inc, introduced the project in March with a presentation at an education technology conference, complete with a list of nine states that it said were committed partners.

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

How Gov't Student Loans Ruined College

Liz Peek:

President Obama and Congress are squabbling again - this time over the rates charged on federal college loans.
Surrounded by students nicely turned out in suits and dresses, looking more like the Mormon Youth Chorus than today's undergraduates, Mr. Obama recently chastised Congress for not yet blocking a doubling of rates for new Stafford loans set to occur on July 1.

As the president well knows, the House has already passed a bill preventing the hike and tying new loan terms to market levels. The president's solution is similar, but would lock in rates for the duration of the loan. The spat is like bickering over menu choices on the Titanic.

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

College in Sweden is free but students still have a ton of debt. How can that be?

Matt Phillips:

Swedish colleges and universities are free. Yep. Totally free.

But students there still end up with a lot of debt. The average at the beginning of 2013 was roughly 124,000 Swedish krona ($19,000). Sure, the average US student was carrying about 30% more, at $24,800.

But remember: Free. College in Sweden is free. That's not even all that common in Europe anymore. While the costs of education are far lower than in the US, over the past two decades sometimes-hefty fees have become a fact of life for many European students. Britain got them in 1998. Some German states instituted them after a federal ban on student fees was overturned in the courts. In fact, since 1995 more than half of the 25 OECD countries with available data on higher education have overhauled their college tuition policies at public institions, with many adding or raising fees.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 5, 2013

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Increases, Voucher Changes

Jason Stein

Lawmakers also want to expand school voucher programs beyond the borders of Milwaukee and eastern Racine County. The programs allow parents who meet income thresholds to send their children to religious schools and other private schools at taxpayer expense.

Under the motion approved 12-4 along party lines by Republicans on the budget panel:

  • Public schools would receive $150 more per student in general aid this fall and another $150 increase the following year. The plan would cost $289 million over two years, with $231.5 million funded with state taxes and the rest with an additional $52 million in higher local property taxes and an increase in expected revenues from the state lottery.

    School districts would have the authority to spend this new money. Walker wanted to give schools $129 million in state aid but require all of it to go toward property tax relief, rather than be used for new expenses.

    Under the budget committee's proposal, total property taxes would increase by less than 1% per year, with school levies going up somewhat more than that.

  • A new voucher program would become available to all students outside Milwaukee and Racine. It would be limited to 500 students the first year and 1,000 students every year thereafter. Walker wanted no limits on the number of students in the program after the second year.

    If there are more students seeking slots in the program than allowed, the proposal would allocate the available slots by lottery. The slots would go to the 25 schools with the most applications, with each school getting at least 10 seats.

  • The new program would be available to students in any school district. Walker wanted to make it available in districts with 4,000 or more students that were identified as struggling on school report cards issued by the state.
  • No more than 1% of the students of any given school district could participate in the new program.
  • Over 12 years, the negative financial impacts for the Milwaukee Public Schools from the voucher program here would be phased out.
  • The new program would be available to students of families making 185% of the federal poverty level or less -- well below the income thresholds for Milwaukee and Racine. Those programs are available to families making up to 300% of the federal poverty level, with a higher threshold for married couples.
  • Voucher schools in all parts of the state would receive $7,210 per K-8 student and $7,856 per high school student -- up from $6,442 currently. Walker wanted to provide $7,050 for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and the same larger increase to high school students.

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers (PDF):
Today, Republican leaders are finalizing a deal to likely expand Wisconsin's private school voucher program statewide. While this dramatic proposal has significant implications for citizens and taxpayers across Wisconsin, it has been developed behind closed doors with no public input, no public hearings, and no public fiscal analysis. If this proposal becomes law, taxpayers across Wisconsin will be financing a new entitlement for private school children whose tuition is currently paid for by their parents. To address the lack of information about the potential fiscal effects of this program, the attached table estimates potential long-term costs of statewide subsidization of private school tuition on a district-by-district basis. Cost to subsidize current private school students only: up to $560 million annually

While some lawmakers claim the purpose of the program is to provide educational choices to those who cannot afford it, the current school choice programs in Milwaukee and Racine provide vouchers to families who are already choosing to send their children to private schools. As many as 50% of the children participating in the Racine choice program were already in private schools when they began receiving a state-funded subsidy in
2011-12. If the voucher program is expanded statewide, it can be assumed that current private school families would also be eligible for this new entitlement.


Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:03 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The number of high-poverty schools increases by about 60 percent

Jill Barshay:

Poverty is getting so concentrated in America that one out of five public schools was classified as as a "high-poverty" school in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education. To win this unwelcome designation, 75 percent or more of an elementary, middle or high school's students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. About a decade earlier, in 2000, only one in eight public schools was deemed to be high poverty. That's about a 60 percent increase in the number of very poor schools!

This figure was part of a large data report, The Condition of Education 2013, released by the National Center for Education Statistics on May 23, 2013. There's a lot to chew on in it. But school poverty jumped out at me as a really depressing data point showing the growing income inequality in America.

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

Not Impossible: The Story of Daniel, a 17 Year Old with Severe Autism & His 6 Completed Coursera Courses

Coursera Blog:

It is impossible to overstate the benefit and happiness that Coursera has brought to our son Daniel and our family.
Five years ago (next month) our severely autistic son Daniel had a major breakthrough. Then twelve years old, with a using vocabulary of thirty or forty words (though we knew he understood far more) he suddenly learned to answer questions by picking the answers out, one letter at a time, on a letterboard. Within a couple of weeks, Daniel could use the thousands of words he had heard but could not speak.

The teacher who created this breakthrough, Soma Mukhopadhyay, also taught us how to read to Daniel: read him a sentence, stop, ask him a comprehension question, get his answer on the letter board, go on to the next sentence, ask another question...

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

An Open Letter to Science Students and Science Teachers

Carl Zimmer:

I never heard from Davis again. But I have continued to get a steady stream of emails from other students. Some are a pleasure to read. They are the products of young minds opening up to the rich rewards of science. These young correspondents are starting to understand something important about the natural world, and that understanding triggers a flood of questions that will take them even deeper.

But a lot of the emails follow in the tradition of Davis. Essentially: I have homework. I need information from you.

In the past couple years, I've noticed a shift in the tone of these requests. They're not furtive acts of desperation. They seem to bear the seal of approval from adults-either from teachers or parents.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:24 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

If Employment Game Has Changed, Who's Teaching The Rules?


It still pays to earn a college degree. That is, if you get the right one. Georgetown University published a report Wednesday that looked into this dilemma.

Highlights From Georgetown's Study:

(1.) Unemployment is generally higher for non-technical majors, such as the arts (9.8 percent) or law and public policy (9.2 percent).

(2.) Unemployment rates for recent graduates in information systems, concentrated in clerical functions, is high (14.7 percent) compared with mathematics (5.9 percent) and computer science (8.7 percent).

(3.) Unemployment rates are relatively low for recent graduates in education (5 percent), engineering (7 percent), health and the sciences (4.8 percent) because they are tied to stable or growing industry sectors and occupations.

(4.) Graduates in psychology and social work also have relatively low rates (8.8 percent) because almost half of them work in health care or education sectors.
-- Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
"The labor market demands more specialization. So, the game has changed," says Anthony Carnevale, the report's co-author and director of Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce.

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

Professors Are About to Get an Online Education

Andy Kessler

Anyone who cares about America's shortage of computer-science experts should cheer the recent news out of Georgia Tech. The Atlanta university is making major waves in business and higher education with its May 14 announcement that the college will offer the first online master's degree in computer science--and that the degree can be had for a quarter of the cost of a typical on-campus degree. Many other universities are experimenting with open online courses, or MOOCs, but Georgia Tech's move raises the bar significantly by offering full credit in a graduate program.

It comes just in time. A shortfall of computer-science graduates is a constant refrain in Silicon Valley, and by 2020 some one million high-tech job openings will remain unfilled, according to the Commerce Department.

That's why Georgia Tech's online degree, powered by Udacity, is such a game-changer. For the same $7,000 a year that New York City spends per student on school buses, you can now get a master's from one of the most well-respected programs in the country. Moore's Law says these fees should drop to $1,000 by 2020--a boon for students and for the economy.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Simpson Street Free Press Event: David Maraniss Talk

Simpson Street Free Press.

David Maraniss mentioned his four pillars:

1 Go there
2 Get the docs
3 Interviews
4 Organization thinking figure it out

He urged the students to focus on telling stories and to be perpetually curious.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:26 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

How to retain more of what you read

Shane Parrish:

One of the keys to getting smarter is to read a lot.

But that's not enough. Reading is only one part of the equation.

We're going to borrow a tip from Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, to make our reading go deeper and stay with us longer.

Cialdini revealed a trick that he uses, to a reader of Farnam Street, who was kind enough to share it with me.

While on the flight to Omaha, he was reading. He took notes on the material itself, and every time he completed a chapter he pulled out a sheet of white paper and wrote a single page summary on what he had just read. He places the paper in another folder. This is how he gets his learning deeper and this also enables him to refer to summaries in the future.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:18 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Teacher's Personality & 5 Great Schools of Teachers

Professor Baker:

For more than 400 years, the personal essay has been one of the richest and most robust of all literary forms. Distinguished from the detached, formal essay by its warm, friendly, conversational tone, its loose structure and drive towards candor and self-disclosure, the personal essay seizes on the minutiae of daily life - vanities, fashions, food, culture, language and identity. It is poetry, it is song, it is speech, at once both call and response in the hands of a master story teller...

For some time now I have been researching into the schools of yesteryear. "5 Great Schools" is a gem that I wish to share with you. Though written over 100 years ago, the continued validity and wisdom displayed by President DeWitt (from Bowdoin College) is well worth a bit of reflection, even today...

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:07 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Many Well-Prepared US High School Grads Don't Enroll/Persist in College

ACT News:

Nearly one in five 2011 U.S. high school graduates who were prepared to succeed in first-year college coursework either never enrolled in college or didn't return for a second year, according to national and state-specific reports from ACT entitled The Reality of College Readiness 2013.

The data show 19 percent of college-ready, ACT-tested 2011 graduates were not enrolled in a two- or four-year college a little more than a year later, in the fall of 2012, including 10 percent who had never enrolled. Those data are based on graduates who had achieved the ACT College Readiness Benchmark scores on at least three of the four sections (English, math, reading and science) of the ACT® college readiness exam, suggesting they were ready for success in first-year college coursework in core subject areas from an academic standpoint.

"Academic readiness is vital to college success, but other factors such as self-discipline, financial stress and effective educational planning can also have an impact," said Steve Kappler, head of postsecondary strategy for ACT. "It's important for students to find the right college, be aware of financial aid opportunities and ensure their major matches their personal interests, among other things. We need to pay attention to multiple dimensions of readiness in helping students achieve their educational goals."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 4, 2013

"The four-year graduation rate for African-American students in Madison is only 53 percent while in Milwaukee it is 59 percent."

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson::

Nearly 25 years ago, business leaders in Milwaukee came to me deeply concerned that they couldn't find enough qualified workers among the students leaving the Milwaukee Public Schools. At the same time, African-American parents came to me worried about their children's future in a school system that wasn't meeting their needs.

So, together, the city's parents and the business community pleaded with state leaders to give these families a better option. Working with a Democratic Assembly and Senate, we created both the nation's first private school choice program and a series of additional educational options including independent charter schools.

And it worked. Today, the children of Milwaukee have a wider array of educational options than students anywhere else in America. Children in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college than their peers in the Milwaukee public school system. That accomplishment is all the more impressive because graduation rates in the Milwaukee Public Schools are also up. Choice and competition has improved the graduation rates for all of Milwaukee's students.

Now school choice must be expanded to other communities in Wisconsin where students are struggling to graduate from high school.

A high school degree is the first step to success in this economy. Yet, the chances that an African-American student will earn a high school diploma are now better in Milwaukee than in the Madison. The four-year graduation rate for African-American students in Madison is only 53 percent while in Milwaukee it is 59 percent. In Green Bay, the odds for an African-American student are even more daunting - only half of that city's African-American students will graduate from high school.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:32 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Commentary & Links on Montgomery County English, Biology and Math Failure Rates

John Dickert, via a kind email

1. The problem concerns the results of the half year exams given at the end of January. I have not heard anything on what the results are for the end of year exams.

2. This problem has been building up over 5 years.

3. These are county wide tests. I'm not sure what information about the range of coverage is given to teachers. One article I read spoke to the issue that not enough time is allotted for covering important topics.

4. Honors classes do better than regular classes, but the results are still not good. One (make that I) also wonders why honors classes are tested on the same materials as regular classes.

5. Not enough emphasis is given to the disconnect between what is taught and what is tested.

6. This is not a situation that would encourage students to continue in STEM disciplines.

Montgomery considers multiple factors in math exam failure rates.

Large percentages of Montgomery students fail final exams in English, history and biology

Links: Biology English Math

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:16 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Advice for College Grads from 2 Sociologists

Lisa Wade & Gwen Sharp:

1. Don't Worry About Making Your Dreams Come True
College graduates are often told: "follow your passion," do "what you love," what you were "meant to do," or "make your dreams come true." Two-thirds think they're going find a job that allows them to change the world, half within five years. Yikes.

This sets young people up to fail. The truth is that the vast majority of us will not be employed in a job that is both our lifelong passion and a world-changer; that's just not the way our global economy is. So it's ok to set your sights just a tad below occupational ecstasy. Just find a job that you like. Use that job to help you have a full life with lots of good things and pleasure and helping others and stuff. A great life is pretty good, even if it's not perfect.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:15 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

History Lessons about Preschools in U.S.

Larry Cuban:

"Our four-year-olds do have a place in school, but it is not at a school desk," said Ed Zigler, Yale University psychologist who helped design Head Start in President Johnson's "War on Poverty" and led the Office of Child Development in President Nixon's administration. He wanted K-12 systems to welcome all young children but was concerned about pre-kindergartens becoming another academic boot camp for four-year-olds.

Many others, however, were strongly opposed to putting preschoolers into an already bureaucratized, ineffective K-12 system. For example, the head of the Commonwealth Foundation (PA) asked: "Would you hire a carpenter to remodel the first floor of your home if he was already working on the second and third floors and doing a poor job? Would you expect the results on the second and third floors to improve just because the carpenter was also remodeling the first floor?"

Both quotes stake out different positions on the significant policy question whether preschools for all children should be part of the existing K-12 system-as it is in Oklahoma, New York, Georgia, and New Jersey-or be part of the private market for child care in homes, churches, and corporate-owned facilities as it has been in most cities and suburbs for decades or, another option, a mix of public schools and private child care. These policy options capture the dilemma facing decision-makers on the issue of expanding access of three- and four-year-olds to preschool in the U.S.

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

The Algebra of Algebraic Data Types, Part 1

Chris Taylor:

In this series of posts I'll explain why Haskell's data types are called algebraic- without mentioning category theory or advanced math.

The algebra you learned in high school starts with numbers (e.g. 1, 2, 3 ...) and operators (e.g. addition and multiplication). The operators give you a way to combine numbers and make new numbers from them. For example, combining 1 and 2 with the operation of addition gives you another number, 3 - a fact that we normally express as

When you get a little older you are introduced to variables (e.g. x, y, z ...) which can stand for numbers. Further still, and you learn about the laws that algebra obeys.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:35 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Tracking Progress & Learning from Top Performers

The Unstudent Blog:

In the summer of 2008 I was working in the basement of the Seeley W. Mudd building where Columbia University's Plasma Physics Lab is located. Our experiment was contained in a large steel vacuum chamber that sat on top of the concrete housing of an never-used Mark III TRIGA nuclear test reactor. Attached to our experiment were cryopumps, high voltage lines, an RF generator, and hundreds of diagnostic sensors. We were studying hydrogen plasmas in a dipole magnetic fields, such as the ones that surround the Earth and are responsible for aurorae.

It was one of my first experiences doing serious research and I was still an undergraduate in Applied Physics at the time. In our group we had this one stellar guy, who really looked like he had it together. He worked more efficiently then any other scientist I've spent serious time with. He always seemed like he had a clear idea about what he was doing and kept scrupulous notes as he tracked his progress.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:28 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

This session's winners and losers in Texas education

Will Weissert:

Six days before Christmas, state Sen. Dan Patrick decamped from the Capitol to a nearby Roman Catholic school. The start of the legislative session was still two-plus weeks away, but the tea party Republican wanted to be in a classroom as he declared he was ready to lead the largest public education overhaul Texas had seen in decades.

"We don't have time for evolution in public schools," said Patrick, who hails from Houston and heads the powerful Senate Education Committee. "We need a revolution."

It was a line he often repeated in the following months. And, by the time the 140-day session ended this week, Patrick had succeeded -- at least partially.

Lawmakers restored nearly $4 billion of the $5.4 billion cut from public education in 2011, transformed high school standardized testing and curriculum standards, and expanded charter schools. Patrick's push to allow students to attend private school with public funds fell flat -- but could be revived during an ongoing 30-day special session that so far is focused solely on redrawing the state's political maps.

"I'm really pleased," Patrick said during the session's final hours. Referencing the 150 House and 31 Senate lawmakers, he continued: "I'm just one of 181 members and there will always be members who disagree on a lot of things. But we've made a lot of progress."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Jeb Bush, Accountability And Support On Reading

Andrew Rotherham:

Getting students reading well by 3rd-grade is again emerging as a policy priority in many states. WaPo's Lyndsey Layton took a look at the trend in March and Reading Partners' Michael Lombardo responded.

What's interesting is that a focus on early-learning was a key part of Florida's success over the past decade (along with accountability, choice, and some other elements). Today, Jeb Bush's advocacy on education is one reason states are adopting these reading policies. But while some states are now simply adopting the hard-edged policies around retention, the former Florida governor makes clear that the policies should be paired with support. I've asked experts on reading policy why they think some states are ignoring the support side and while answers vary, "selective listening based on underlying ideology on spending," as one person put it, is the consensus response.

When I interviewed Bush for TIME late last year, I asked him about what had worked in Florida and why? Here's what he said about coupling hard-edged policies with supports for students:

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The End of the Beginning for Common Core

Jay Greene:

The folks at Pioneer have landed another blow against Common Core in the mainstream Conservative press. This time Jim Stergios and Jamie Gass have a lengthy piece in the Weekly Standard detailing the start of troubles for Common Core, both substantively and politically. This follows on a piece by Gass and Charles Chieppo in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. A central part of the strategy for Common Core was to create the impression that it was inevitable, so everybody might as well get on board. That aura of inevitability has been shattered.

My reasons for opposing Common Core are slightly different from those articulated by the folks at Pioneer, but we agree on the political analysis of its fate. To become something meaningful Common Core requires more centralization of power than is possible under our current political system. Pushing it forward requires frightening reductions in parental control over education and expansions of federal power. These are not the unnecessary by-products of a misguided Obama Administration over-reach. Constraining parental choice and increasing federal power were entirely necessary to advance Common Core. And they were perfectly foreseeable (we certainly foresaw these dangers here at JPGB).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Vouchers: First He Came for the Teachers; then He Came for the Kids; School Calendar 2013-14; Ready, Set, Goal Conferences; Parent-Teacher Conferences

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

As he described it in February, 2011, Governor Scott Walker "dropped a bomb" on Wisconsin's public employees, attempting to strip them of their rights to collectively bargain. Now he's aiming at our kids. Walker's 2013 biennial budget goes a long way in his plan to crush public education in Wisconsin; a move to privatize via VOUCHERS (i.e. providing funding from the area public school to enable parents to pay tuition to send their children to private or religious schools).

In its press conference on May 17, the Forward Institute released their study of the impact of school funding on educational opportunity. The study found that schools with higher poverty levels have experienced greater loss in funding when compared to more affluent schools across the state. The number of students in Wisconsin living in poverty has doubled since 2007, and since 2007 state funding of public education has fallen to its lowest level in 17 years. Walker's biennial budget proposes to further exacerbate the situation by expanding voucher schools into nine additional areas, including Madison.

Expanding voucher schools will take away funding from our public schools. Not only are school districts required to pay 38.4% of the cost of each voucher; they lose the ability to count the student attending private/parochial schools in the state aid formula on which the amount of revenue is based. In Madison, a person would receive $6,442 from the MMSD to send their child to a private or parochial school. Yet Madison would receive no additional state aid to offset that cost, so payments come directly from money that would have supported education in Madison public schools. It is projected that in the first five years of vouchers, Madison schools could lose nearly $27 million to vouchers.


MTI has received several concerns regarding the calendar, as recently released by the District, for the 2013-14 school year. Among the demands by the District, enabled by Governor Walker's Act 10, in last year's negotiations, was that one of the Voluntary Days, August 28, be converted to a mandatory attendance "development day". It is specifically designated as "development", not "staff development". The latter is designated for August 29. Since the 1970's the Contract provided returning teachers three Voluntary Days, days for which they are paid, but did not have to be at their assigned work site. The new Contract, effective July 1, 2013, reduces that to two days. "All Staff Day" is August 30.

Secondly, an agreement provides that the District has full
discretion as to whether to enable Ready, Set, Goal Conferences. The agreement provides teachers compensation or flex time for engaging parents in such conferences. Because of the proposed cut in State aid under Governor Walker's Budget, MMSD may not authorize RSG Conferences this fall. They ask that teachers prepare letters inviting parents for such conferences, should funding enable them.

Third, is the issue of Parent-Teacher conferences. The Contract provides that there will be two evenings for conferences and that the day following conferences will also be for conferences with no students present to enable conferences which were not held on the prior evening. The District has failed to list November 13 as being with no students, while they scheduled evening conferences on November 12. The District has proposed to MTI changing the day following each conference to be with students, and having the only "no student" day be November 27, the day before Thanksgiving.

Vouchers are not an existential threat to our local public school structure. Long-term disastrous reading scores are, and merit everyone's full attention.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

City of Monona to fine parents of bullies

Chris Walker:

The Monona City Council passed the measure last month (PDF), which levies fines on parents of bullies if they continually harass their peers.

It's an unprecedented move that, so far as anyone can tell, hasn't been adopted anywhere else in the nation.

The law wouldn't target parents of first-time bullyers, but rather those whose children are consistent offenders. Before receiving a ticket, parents would have to be informed of a bullying incident that had occurred within the past 90 days. If the child continued to bully after the initial warning, the parents could then be fined.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:00 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 3, 2013

Support Our Public Schools

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

David Maraniss Speaks This Evening (6.3.2013, 7:00p.m.); Edgewood College Distinguished Lecture Series

PDF version.
Via a kind reader's email.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Commodification of Learning: Economic value is being attached to learning; in turn, this is giving the wrong incentives to students. Memorisation is winning over mind-broadening.

Michael Moore-Jones:

You can learn a huge amount by reading a novel, examining an artwork, or watching a movie. You can usually learn a lot more by doing one of those things than you can by reading a school textbook that spoon-feeds you information.

But every day, I see people choose to read a textbook they've already read a dozen times over a new novel, because they can see an immediate reward for reading that book. Namely, that reward is better grades.

But getting better grades doesn't mean you've learned more. Getting a better grade on a topic usually shows that you've trained your brain to regurgitate information on a given topic so well that your brain isn't even conscious of it anymore. It wasn't learning beyond the point that you understood the concepts - from there, it was simple memorisation.

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

Why Men Are Avoiding College

Helen Smith:

Among minorities, the male-female balance is even more skewed. When economist Andrew Sum and his colleagues at the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University looked at gender disparities in the Boston Public Schools, they found that for the class of 2008, among blacks there were 188 females for every 100 males attending a four-year college or university. Among Hispanics the ratio was 233 female for every 100 males. The facts are incontrovertible: young women from low-income neighborhoods in Boston, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C., do much better than the young men from those same neighborhoods. There are now dozens of studies with titles like "The Vanishing Latino Male in Higher Education" and "African-American Males in Education: Endangered or Ignored?"
Males Fading Away
So where are all the men? Media accounts are short on insight and often just insult males, calling them lazy and dumb. Maybe we would be better off if the media and elites weren't so openly pleased that women are outpacing men in college. The college strike didn't happen overnight. It started years ago when the war against boys began after the feminist era. Initially, feminism was presented as being about equal rights between the sexes. Now it is often about revenge and special privileges for women and girls. Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of The War Against Boys, argues that feminists and their sycophants have worked hard to turn the educational system into one that favors girls at the expense of boys. Boys are now seen as "defective girls" in need of a major overhaul. Sommers says, "Gender experts at Harvard, Wellesley, and Tufts, and in the major women's organizations, believe that boys and men in our society will remain sexist (and potentially dangerous) unless socialized away from conventional maleness. . . . The belief that boys are being wrongly 'masculinized' is inspiring a movement to 'construct boyhood' in ways that will render boys less competitive, more emotionally expressive, more nurturing--more, in short, like girls."

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

Web Courses Woo Professors

Douglas Belkin & Melissa Korn:

Technology companies trying to reinvent higher education through online instruction are looking to win over the group with the most to lose from the effort: professors.

Coursera, one of the biggest providers of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, plans to announce Thursday it will open its doors to professors at 10 major university systems to create their own online courses.

Until now, Coursera content has come almost exclusively from professors at the world's most prestigious institutions, making it vulnerable to charges that it was helping to create a system where elite professors would produce the content and eventually cost faculty at less selective schools their jobs.

The contracts broaden Coursera's audience, currently 3.68 million people, by giving it access to more than 1.25 million students enrolled in the combined university systems. Professors will be able to incorporate MOOCs into their campus-based classes, creating a blended model designed to free up time for more classroom discussions as students watch lectures on their own.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:27 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Prosecutors Should Be Ashamed of Their Egregious "Terrorism" Prosecution of Olutosin Oduwole

Justin Peters:

In 2007, an Illinois college student named Olutosin Oduwole was arrested after a campus police officer found a note promising "a murderous rampage similar to the [Virginia Tech] shooting" inside Oduwole's locked car. Even though Oduwole insisted that the note was only a draft of some rap lyrics, he was nevertheless convicted of attempting to make a terrorist threat and sentenced to five years in prison. This March, Oduwole's conviction was reversed on appeal, but the Illinois attorney general's office promised to fight the reversal. Yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to review the appellate court's decision. Oduwole is a free man.

This is great news for Oduwole--and, indeed, for everyone who cares about free speech. But it's still worth noting that Oduwole should never have been tried in the first place. As I've written before, the "attempt" charge was baffling, given that, by all reasonable standards, Oduwole had not actually attempted to threaten anyone. The note was found face-down inside a locked car, where nobody would have been able to see or become alarmed by it. Police found no other evidence to support their charges.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:13 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Racial segregation continues to impact quality of education in Mississippi--and nationwide

Alan Richard:

Debate is raging this year in Mississippi about whether state legislators should agree to start public pre-k programs for the first time. They're also arguing about school funding and charter schools.

In decades of debate on school reform in Mississippi, though, one issue is ever-present but draws little public discussion: race.

The state's public schools remain nearly as segregated, in some cases, as they did in the 1960s. In many communities across the state, especially in towns where black children are in the majority, white children almost exclusively attend small private schools founded around the time of court-mandated desegregation in the late 1960s.

Black children, by contrast, usually attend the public schools in these communities. This is also true in Jackson, the state capital. The consequences have been devastating for the state in terms of educational attainment and economic disparities.

White students are a minority in Mississippi's public schools: Only 44 percent of the students in the state who attended public schools in 2010 were white, compared with 51 percent of whom were black and 3 percent who were Hispanic (a growing population), according to the National Center for Education Statistics' annual Condition of Education report. This is one of the lowest percentages of white students attending public schools in the nation--and remember that the majority of Mississippi's population is white.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:04 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Learning styles, science, practice, and Disneyland

Daniel Willingham:

A teacher from the UK has just written to me asking for a bit of clarification (EDIT: the email came from Sue Cowley, who is actually a teacher trainer.)

She says that some people are taking my writing on the experiments that have tested predictions of learning styles theories (see here) as implying that teachers ought not to use these theories to inform their practice.

My own learning style is Gangnam
Her reading of what I've written on the subject differs: she thinks I'm suggesting that although the scientific backing for learning styles is absent, teachers may still find the idea useful in the classroom.

The larger issue--the relationship of basic science to practice--is complex enough that I thought it was worth writing a book about it. But I'll describe one important aspect of the problem here.

There are two methods by which one might use learning styles theories to inspire ones practice. The way that scientific evidence bears on these two methods is radically different.

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

Online Instruction for K-12

Larry Cuban:

For those familiar with past efforts to install new technologies in schools, the many claims for online instruction transforming traditional teaching and learning in K-12 public schools either cause snickers for their hyperbole or strike a flat note in their credibility. Consider the following answer Clayton Christensen author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Transform the Way the World Learns gave to an interviewer's question: "Do you think that education is finally ready for the Internet?"

I absolutely do. I think that not only are we ready but adoption is occurring at a faster rate than we had thought... We believe that by the year 2019 half of all classes for grades K-12 will be taught online... The rise of online learning carries with it an unprecedented opportunity to transform the schooling system into a student-centric one that can affordably customize for different student needs by allowing all students to learn at their appropriate pace and path, thereby allowing each student to realize his or her fullest potential....

Such hype from academic gurus is unfortunate. Apart from mirth, they contribute to low credibility because of the history of exaggerated claims for earlier technologies (e.g., distance education, instructional television, and desktop computers) and thereby mask the complexity of online instruction. Moreover, the claims ignore differences among students who take online courses, how teachers deliver instruction, the quality of online teaching, assessments of student learning, and design of research studies.

Consider, for example, that students receiving online instruction span children of home-schoolers and those with disabilities who cannot attend school to students enrolled in the International Baccalaureate diploma program and Advanced Placement courses to those teenagers who have failed courses and sign up for credit recovery. And recently, there are now elementary schools that blend individual "learning labs" with regular classroom instruction. [i]

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:09 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Teachers Clash With Union Prez Over Turnaround

Melissa Bailey

Community, teachers are discovering they may have less power than before--not more.

That's the thrust of an emerging disagreement between teachers and their union leadership at the 230-student magnet school on Water Street.

High School in the Community (HSC) has been teacher-run since its inception in 1970: Instead of answering to a principal, teachers elect their own peers to run the school through a democratic process.

That democratic process may soon change. The new boss threatening to change the rules is not a central office bureaucrat, but the very man teachers elected to lead their union, Dave Cicarella (pictured above).

Cicarella took on a new role last fall, when his union took over management of HSC as part of a new experiment aimed at turning around a failing school.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:54 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Message for the Class of 2013

Rob Lazebnik:

Thank you, President and Trustees.

I have to confess that coming here to speak today raised a question in my mind: Now that high-school students are so accomplished and work so hard, would I even be admitted today to this eminent liberal arts school, from which I graduated 25 years ago? I was curious enough about this that I contacted an admissions officer here. I asked her to dig up my old application and give me a quick opinion.

This turned out to be a grave mistake. Not only was her answer "absolutely not," but a few days later I received a letter informing me that I had been retroactively denied admission to my own alma mater. To make matters worse, they culled through the entire cabinet of applications from my year and decided to revoke admission for 73% of my classmates.

If that includes any parents here today, I'm really sorry. I've printed out the non-admit list, and after my speech I'll nail it to the door of our 300-year-old memorial church, which has recently been transformed into the student-run coffee shop Jitters and Beans.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:21 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The new F-word: Father

Kathleen Parker:

News that women increasingly are the leading or sole breadwinner in the American family has resurrected the perennial question: Why do we need men?

Maureen Dowd attempted to answer this question with her 2005 book, "Are Men Necessary?" I responded three years later with "Save the Males."

With each generation, the question becomes more declarative and querulous. Recent demographic shifts show women gaining supremacy across a spectrum of quantitative measures, including education and employment. Women outnumber men in college and in most graduate fields. Increasingly, owing in part to the recession and job loss in historically male-dominated fields, they are surpassing men as wage-earners, though women still lag behind at the highest income and executive levels.

My argument that men should be saved is that, despite certain imperfections, men are fundamentally good and are sort of pleasant to have around. Most women still like to fall in love with them; all children want a father no matter how often we try to persuade ourselves otherwise. If we continue to impose low expectations and negative messaging on men and boys, future women won't have much to choose from.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:10 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Towards the end of poverty: Nearly 1 billion people have been taken out of extreme poverty in 20 years. The world should aim to do the same again

The Economist:

IN HIS inaugural address in 1949 Harry Truman said that "more than half the people in the world are living in conditions approaching misery. For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of those people." It has taken much longer than Truman hoped, but the world has lately been making extraordinary progress in lifting people out of extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2010, their number fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries, from 43% to 21%--a reduction of almost 1 billion people.

Now the world has a serious chance to redeem Truman's pledge to lift the least fortunate. Of the 7 billion people alive on the planet, 1.1 billion subsist below the internationally accepted extreme-poverty line of $1.25 a day. Starting this week and continuing over the next year or so, the UN's usual Who's Who of politicians and officials from governments and international agencies will meet to draw up a new list of targets to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were set in September 2000 and expire in 2015. Governments should adopt as their main new goal the aim of reducing by another billion the number of people in extreme poverty by 2030.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:09 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 2, 2013

Were all those standardized tests for nothing? The lessons of No Child Left Behind

Thomas Ahn & Jacob L. Vigdor:

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) introduced the first nationwide annual standardized testing requirement for students in grades 3 through 8. The law officially expired in 2007, and there is little or no legislative momentum to reauthorize it now. Should NCLB be thought of as a well-intentioned initiative that failed? Or did it make some progress in its stated goal of improving academic achievement, particularly for disadvantaged students?

This paper reviews the basic structure of the school incentives introduced by NCLB, as well as research and data from North Carolina public schools on the effect of these various sanctions on student learning. Among the main findings:

  • Evidence indicates that school accountability systems in general, and NCLB in particular, have beneficial systemic effects on standardized test scores. The overall effects are modest; however, accountability systems are complex policies that may entail a mix of beneficial and harmful elements. The most critical question is not whether NCLB worked, but which components worked.
  • Schools exposed to punitive NCLB sanctions, or the threat of sanctions, tend to outperform nearly identical schools that barely avoided them. Studies come to varying conclusions regarding differential effects by subject.
  • Most of the individual sanctions in the NCLB regime--including offering students transfers, tutoring, or modest "corrective actions"--appear to have had no effect.
  • Schools forced to undergo restructuring under NCLB posted significant improvements in both reading and math scores, suggesting that leadership change is an essential component of reform in persistently low-performing schools.
  • While a pure focus on proficiency can lead to scenarios where schools divert resources from higher- or lower-performing students, complementary policies focusing on those students appear to mitigate the risk substantially.
  • State and local initiatives have taught us much about promising strategies for offering schools incentives to improve student performance. NCLB encouraged a bottom-up approach to some extent, but in the final analysis did not go far enough. In imagining "accountability 2.0," evidence indicates that a series of modifications to the NCLB approach would improve the system:

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

Charter Schools and the Road to College Readiness: The Effects on College Preparation, Attendance and Choice

The Boston Foundation & New Schools Venture Fund (PDF):

Boston charter schools are making a substantive difference in the lives of their students. For the Boston Foundation, recognition of this began in 2009, when we partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to publish an Understanding Boston report that compared the results of students in Boston's charter schools, pilot schools and traditional schools.

The report, Informing the Debate, by a team of researchers from MIT and Harvard, which used data from the state, followed individual students over time. While it showed few advantages for students attending pilot schools, which the Boston Foundation had heavily invested in at the time, it did show that charter schools--at both the middle and high school levels had a decidedly positive impact on student achievement. The results in math achievement for middle-school students were nothing short of remarkable.

Informing the Debate helped to fuel the movement to partially lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts, spurred by President Barack Obama's Race to the Top federal funding strategy for education, which emphasizes innovation and encourages the establishment of more charter schools. Inspired by the potential for federal funds for education, in the spring of 2009 Governor Deval Patrick announced support for in-district charter schools. On a local level, Mayor Thomas M. Menino filed legislation that would allow local school districts to open new, district-run charter schools.

In January of 2010, a major education reform act was passed in Massachusetts. Through our convening of the Race to the Top Coalition, the Boston Foundation was proud to play a key role in the passage of An Act Relevant to the Achievement Gap, which, among other advances, doubled the number of charter school seats in the state.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Real Mismatch The Supreme Court should not force universities to trade affirmative action for socioeconomic diversity. Schools can have both.

Lee Bollinger:

The distance the United States has traveled in overcoming racial discrimination reflects one of our nation's greatest achievements. Our long struggle toward redeeming the country's founding ideal of equality has been embraced for decades by virtually every institutional sector in American society. But we still have a long way to go. And with an imminent Supreme Court ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case in which a white student has challenged the school's affirmative action policy, we are at risk of historical amnesia, of unraveling a heroic societal commitment that we have yet to fulfill. This is occurring amid a public debate too often framed by a false choice about diversity in higher education.
On university and college campuses, the educational benefits of racial and ethnic diversity are not theoretical but real and proven repeatedly over time. This is a conclusion embraced both by the Supreme Court in its definitive 2003 ruling on the matter, Grutter v. Bollinger (as University of Michigan's president at the time, I was the named defendant), and by my colleagues at 13 schools which, along with Columbia, jointly submitted a brief in the Fishercase asserting that "diversity encourages students to question their assumptions, to understand that wisdom and contributions to society may be found where not expected, and to gain an appreciation of the complexity of the modern world." Empirical studies havedemonstrated that exposure to a culturally diverse campus community environment has a positive impact on students with respect to their critical thinking, enjoyment of reading and writing, and intellectual curiosity. Indeed, there is a nearly universal consensus in higher education about these benefits.
For many years now, the value of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints has been embraced as essential to the fabric of our major institutions, from the military services to private corporations. Yet there is evidence that, particularly in the private sector, the commitment to racial diversity is eroding. A change in the law at this moment making it harder for colleges and universities to supply racially diverse professional talent could be devastating.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:33 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Applying to Harvard Business Gets Easier

Melissa Korn:

Getting into Harvard Business School just got easier. At least, the application form did.

HBS announced that applicants seeking admission for the Fall 2014 incoming class will no longer need to submit two 400-word essays, and may not even have to write anything at all. The prompt now reads:

"You're applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extracurricular activities, awards, post-M.B.A. career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?"

There's no word limit, and Dee Leopold, managing director of M.B.A. admissions and financial aid, says it's possible HBS will even accept (or at least consider) candidates who decide to leave the section blank.

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

College Longreads Pick of the Week: 'Freefall Into Madness,' from Students at Fresno State

Aileen Gallagher:

There's a lot of great writing on the Internet, but not as much great reporting. And that's what we mean when we talk about "the death of newspapers." It's less about the end of a product and more about the dearth of watchdogs. Investigative reporting is expensive. It takes time, people and money. When it's done well, it's often upsetting, and not something that advertisers rally around.

But exposing injustice, malfeasance, waste, fraud, courage, humanity, and truth are the most important things journalists can do with their talents, skills and platforms. With that in mind, we selected an investigative piece as the inaugural #college #longreads selection.

Students at Fresno State, under the guidance of former Los Angeles Times reporter Mark Arax, produced "Freefall Into Madness: The Fresno County Jail's Barbaric Treatment of the Mentally Ill." Through their reporting, the team learned that Fresno County Jail denies medication to mentally ill inmates. "Because they are not mentally competent to stand trial, they bounce back and forth in a perverse revolving door between the county jail and state mental hospitals, costing taxpayers even more money," the article notes in a chilling early paragraph.

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

Outsourced Lectures Raise Concerns About Academic Freedom

Steve Kolowich:

Students at Massachusetts Bay Community College this year got a rare opportunity to take a computer-science course designed and taught online by some of the top professors in the field.
The 17 students in a programming course at MassBay's Wellesley Hills campus watched recorded lectures and completed online homework assignments created by professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and offered as a massive open online course through edX, a nonprofit MOOC vendor co-founded by MIT.

The MassBay students met for regular class sessions with Harold Riggs, a professor of computer science at the community college. Students were required to come for only 90 minutes each week, rather than the customary three hours. And in addition to graded in-class projects from Mr. Riggs, the students completed homework assignments and three major exams written by the MIT professors and graded automatically by edX. At the end of the semester, the students who passed the class got three credits from MassBay and a certificate of achievement from edX.

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

Opposition to Common Core standards defies political lines Tea party activists, union leaders form strange bedfellows

Erin Richards

or the past three years, teachers in Wisconsin's public schools -- and some private schools -- have been changing curriculum and practices to make sure what's taught in class fulfills the expectations of a common set of national standards in reading and math.

West Bend School District Superintendent Ted Neitzke calls them the highest standard he's seen as a teacher.

"West Bend is now benchmarking itself against some of the best school districts in the country, such as Montgomery County, Md., because of the impetus of the Common Core State Standards," Neitzke told a committee of legislators earlier this month.

"This is putting us in a position to move forward," he said. "Whatever happens, we can't go backward."

But a growing movement of national resistance to the common core threatens to derail a movement that many Wisconsin education leaders say is a big step forward for the state.

Recently lawmakers in at least nine states have introduced legislation that would pause or block implementation of the common core. And last week the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee made a less aggressive move, voting to implement a more rigorous review process for any new standards introduced.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:22 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Zazes, Flurps and the Moral World of Kids

Alison Gopnik

Here's a question. There are two groups, Zazes and Flurps. A Zaz hits somebody. Who do you think it was, another Zaz or a Flurp?

It's depressing, but you have to admit that it's more likely that the Zaz hit the Flurp. That's an understandable reaction for an experienced, world-weary reader of The Wall Street Journal. But here's something even more depressing--4-year-olds give the same answer.

In my last column, I talked about some disturbing new research showing that preschoolers are already unconsciously biased against other racial groups. Where does this bias come from?

Marjorie Rhodes at New York University argues that children are "intuitive sociologists" trying to make sense of the social world. We already know that very young children make up theories about everyday physics, psychology and biology. Dr. Rhodes thinks that they have theories about social groups, too.

In 2012 she asked young children about the Zazes and Flurps. Even 4-year-olds predicted that people would be more likely to harm someone from another group than from their own group. So children aren't just biased against other racial groups: They also assume that everybody else will be biased against other groups. And this extends beyond race, gender and religion to the arbitrary realm of Zazes and Flurps.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:20 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 1, 2013

California District To Test Student Location

Dian Schaffhauser:

An unnamed school district in Northern California will be testing a free system that communicates the location of students whose families have opted into the service. The district will run its test in June 2013 using StudentConnect, a service from East Coast Diversified (ECDC).

StudentConnect uses global positioning satellites (GPS) and radio frequency identification (RFID) to provide wireless communications to parents and schools regarding the status of students during their daily bus pickup and arrival at school and their school bus stop drop-off. Each child wears or carries an RFID tag, which is detected by an RFID reader on the bus when it's in range and transmits data to a GPS system. That system sends parents text alerts to their mobile phones.

The same system also communicates with classroom RFID readers to track student entry and exit, allowing parents and schools to view online where the student is located during a given period.

Not a good idea in any way shape or form....

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

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Illinois plans to shift pension costs from the state to universities and community colleges

Kurt Erickson:

A plan to slowly shift employee retirement costs from the state to universities and community colleges won approval in the Illinois House on Thursday as part of a last-minute push by lawmakers to find a solution to the state's pension mess.

The move came as Democrats in the Senate killed off a pension reform proposal that had won earlier approval in the House. They said the plan, backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, wasn't constitutional.

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

Income based diversity lags at some universities

Richard Perez Pena:

Opponents of race-based affirmative action in college admissions urge that colleges use a different tool to encourage diversity: giving a leg up to poor students. But many educators see real limits to how eager colleges are to enroll more poor students, no matter how qualified -- and the reason is money.

"It's expensive," said Donald E. Heller, dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University. "You have to go out and identify them, recruit them and get them to apply, and then it's really expensive once they enroll because they need more financial aid."

The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon in a closely watched case over admissions at the University of Texas at Austin, and the court could outlaw any consideration of race.

Opponents of affirmative action welcome that prospect, arguing that race-conscious admissions favor minority applicants who are not disadvantaged, and people on both sides of the issue contend that colleges should do more to achieve socioeconomic diversity. Polls show that while most Americans oppose racial or ethnic preferences in college admissions, they also think colleges should give extra help to the poor.

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

States sinking in pension plan debt: Column

Nathan Benefield:

Taxpayers nationwide are staring down a swelling tidal wave of government pension debt. Recent estimates put the combined unfunded liability of state pension systems at $2.5 trillion. Nearly every state has tried to reduce these unsustainable costs, but most reforms have proven to be baby steps or worse -- leaving future generations up to their necks in waves of debt.

One inescapable fact remains: Without meaningful reform, paying down these liabilities would cost the average American household an additional $1,385 in taxes every year for the next three decades.

Not all state reforms have merely kicked the can down the road, however. Some states have pursued -- or are pursuing -- a shift to a defined contribution plan like the 401(k), which most private companies already offer. These states are leading the way in government pension reform. By simply moving to a 401(k)-style plan, states will put themselves on surer financial footing and protect taxpayers from the political games that have created this funding crisis.

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

Would Smell As Sweet: Geo-popularity of Given Names

Frank Jacobs:

Maybe you've never heard of Emmaland or Sophialand, but if you're reading this in the United States, there's a better than 90% chance that you live in either one of these two curious nations.

The former is made up of the 31 states where 'Emma' was the most popular baby name for girls in 2012. In spite of that institutional majority, another girl's name proved more popular nationwide. 'Sophia' also came out ahead in 16 states, including America's three most populous ones [1].

Last year, a total of 20,791 Emmas were born in the United States. The size of that cohort [2] was only surpassed by the 22,158 Sophias added to the US population in 2012. Together, both names came out on top in 47 of the 50 states. The exceptions were Florida, where baby girls were most likely to be named Isabella (#3 nationwide); Idaho, where new parents preferred Olivia for their girls (#4 overall); and Vermont, where new parents favoured Ava for their newborn daughters (#5 in the national rankings).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:31 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Modern Writing-School Paradox: More Students, Fewer Jobs, More Glory

Jon Reiner:

Never before have there been so many teachers telling so many students how to write. This is very good for the teachers. However meager the money, teaching is a paying gig and a subsidized education. Nothing helps you understand something like being forced to explain it.

The students, though, are a mystery. The number of traditional MFA programs, undergraduate writing programs, non-traditional low-residency writing programs, online writing courses, weekend writing workshops, summer writing conferences, writers' colony retreats, private instruction classes, and How-to-Write books, blogs, and software programs has grown so colossally you'd think there is as much demand for new writers in the marketplace as there is for mobile app designers. You'd be wrong. But given the explosion of writing academies, you may be persuaded to chuck that programming job at Y Media Labs to join the monster literary salon.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:19 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The GOP and the Common Core

Chester E. Finn Jr.:

Though few Americans have ever heard of the "Common Core," it's causing a ruckus in education circles and turmoil in the Republican Party. Prompted by tea party activists, a couple of influential talk-radio hosts and bloggers, some disgruntled academics, several conservative think-tanks, and a couple of mysterious but deep-pocketed funders, the Republican National Committee recently adopted a resolution blasting the Common Core as "an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children." Several red states that previously adopted it for their schools are on the verge of backing out. Indiana has already hit the "pause" button.

What, you ask, is this all about?

Thirty years after a blue-ribbon panel declared the United States to be "a nation at risk" due to the weak performance and shoddy results of our public-education system, one of the two great reforms to have enveloped that system is the setting of explicit academic standards in core subjects, standards that make clear what math youngsters should know by the end of fifth grade, what reading and writing skills they must acquire by tenth grade, and so on. (The other great reform: school choice.)

Up to now, individual states set their own academic standards. A few did this well but most, according to reviews undertaken by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and others, faltered badly, putting forth vague expectations that lack content and rigor, are unhelpful to teachers and curriculum directors, and often promote left-wing dogma. Even the good ones differ so much from state to state that school and student performance cannot be compared around the country, much less with other lands.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:16 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas