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April 10, 2013

Debt And The Modern Parent Of College Kids

NPR Staff

t's college touring season, and many parents are on the road with their teenagers, driving from school to school and thinking about the college application -- and financial aid -- process that looms ahead.

Many baby boomers have already been through this stage with their kids, but because the generation spans about 20 years, others still have kids at home. So how should boomers plan to pay for school when, on average, students graduate from college in the U.S. with $25,000 in debt?

Ron Lieber, who writes about personal finance for The New York Times, tells Morning Edition's David Greene about planning strategies and pitfalls to avoid. Go to npr.org to read or listen to the rest of the story



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Study: More Adult Pell Grant Students, Not Enough Graduating

Claudio Sanchez
National Public Radio

The federal government each year gives needy college students billions of dollars they don't have to pay back -- $34.5 billion to be exact. More than 9 million students rely on the Pell Grant program. But a new study says much of the money is going to people who never graduate.

Sandy Baum, an expert on student financial aid, has been leading a group in a study of the 48-year-old Pell Grant program. Their report, commissioned by the nonprofit College Board, confirms what many have known for years about grant recipients.

"We have always known that the completion rates are lower than what we'd like them to be," Baum says. "But what we really learned was that there are so many students who are not the traditional Pell Grant student, who are not young people from low-income families but rather are adults seeking to improve their labor force opportunities. So understanding how important Pell Grants are to these students, and how poorly designed they are to actually serve these students, was something of an awakening."
aum says these are people 25 years and older who were hit hard by the recession -- lost their jobs, went back for more training and education, but have struggled to complete their schooling.

Baum says they get little or no guidance about what to study or even what school to choose. "If you're an adult, you're more likely to see a sign on the bus or hear that your neighbor went to school someplace. You really don't have many options," she says. Older, nontraditional students, Baum says, now make up nearly half of all Pell Grant recipients, but only 3 percent ever earn a bachelor's degree. High dropout rates, though, are not limited to older students. Among 18- to 25-year-olds in the program, only a fraction earn a bachelor's degree within six years -- often because they're just not ready for college-level work.

Sophia Zaman, a recent graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, says Pell Grant recipients like her don't drop out because they can't handle the work -- higher tuition and fees push them out. "I have numerous friends who were unable to afford taking on a fourth year of college because -- and my university was not unique -- we faced a 16 percent tuition increase," she says. Zaman, who now lobbies Congress on behalf of the U.S. Student Association, says the $8,600 she received in Pell Grants over four years wasn't enough. She still had to work three part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Researchers agree that Pell Grants cover only a fraction of what they once covered. Their key finding, however, is that the Pell Grant program must now serve two equally needy but very different populations -- young and old.

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March 21, 2012

Percentages of poor students keep rising

The percentage of low-income students in Wisconsin and Madison schools continues to grow.

Madison's percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch reached 56.5 percent this year, up from 51 percent last year, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. That's up from 44 percent five years ago and 31 percent a decade ago. Wisconsin's rate reached 42.5 percent, up from 41.5 percent last year and 29.5 percent in the 2003-04 school year. More than 100 of the state's 424 school districts have a majority of students who qualify as low-income.

Children from households with annual incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty rate, or $29,055 for a family of four, qualify for a free lunch. Children from households with annual incomes under 185 percent of the federal poverty rate, or between $29,055 and $41,348 for a family of four, qualify for a reduced-price lunch.

Wisconsin State Journal
March 20, 2012

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February 10, 2012

Maine Education Reform Proposal

Jay Field:

Students could enroll outside their home districts, and public tuition dollars would flow to private religious schools, under education reforms laid out by the LePage administration in Skowhegan this morning. Besides expanded school choice, the administration is also pushing legislation to toughen and standardize teacher and principal evaluation statewide and expand career and technical education. Some praise the proposals as bold and innovative, but others dismiss them as divisive and unfair.

The scene of the big announcement invoked a part of the governor's education agenda that pretty much everyone seems to agree with. At just after 9 a.m., LePage welcomed guests assembled inside an automotive garage at a Skowhegan technical school, then turned the podium over to his education commissioner.

Stephen Bowen turned and marveled at the hydraulic lifts and other machinery. "It's great to be in this facility," he said. "I love this backdrop back here. I have a car, by the way, that I may bring in here later, 'cause there was something rattling on my way up here."

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It's education, smarty

Rolf Wegenke:

Before I became president of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, I worked in economic development in the administrations of five Wisconsin governors, both Democrats and Republicans. Over those years, leaders in both parties called for "jobs, jobs, jobs."

Some economists rate Wisconsin's personal income growth levels in 48th place. Now, in an election year and in a time of recession and jobless recovery, the critical question is what can the state do to promote job creation? The Journal Sentinel Editorial Board has rightly made jobs and job creation its sole agenda item for 2012.

There is a direct link between the level of educational attainment (percentage of the population with a postsecondary degree) in a state and the growth of personal income in that state. Because of that link, there is also a clear and certain pathway to economic growth and job creation.

The Wisconsin Technology Council has called upon the state to add 150,000 degree-holders to bring Wisconsin to the national average. Competitive Wisconsin Inc., a coalition of corporate and union leadership, not wishing our state to be average, urged Wisconsin to add 170,000 baccalaureate degree-holders to bring this state up to the level of our neighbor, Minnesota.

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Should Home-Schoolers Play for High School Teams?

Room for Debate:

Legislation to allow home-schooled students to play varsity sports at public schools passed the Republican-controlled Virginia Assembly on Wednesday. It will now go before the State Senate. Robert McDonnell, Virginia's Republican governor, has said he supports the bill.

Alabama and Mississippi are considering similar legislation, and 25 states now allow home-schooled students to play sports at public schools with varying restrictions. Is this a move in the right direction?

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February 9, 2012

UW-Madison on the Value of AP Courses; AP Report to the Nation

UW News:

The College Board AP Report to the Nation shows that students who earn advanced placement credit in high school typically experience greater academic success in college, are better prepared for coursework, and are more likely to earn a college degree than their peers.

In 2011, 903,630 seniors took an AP exam before leaving high school with 540,619 scoring a three or higher. That doubles the 431,573 who took the exam in 2001 when only 277,507 scored a three or higher. In all, 62,068 students across Wisconsin took AP exams in 2011.

Joanne Berg, University of Wisconsin-Madison vice provost for enrollment management, says that "students who took AP credits were able to graduate sooner than other students, were able to start advanced courses sooner, and actually free up courses for other students who weren't able to take AP credits."

Along with the release of the report, representatives from the UW-Madison are also featured in several videos speaking to the value of the AP program. The videos can be viewed here.

View and download the 2011 AP Report to the Nation, here:
The 8th Annual AP Report to the Nation (.pdf/1.7MB) reports on each state's efforts to improve high school achievement by involving greater segments of the student population -- and traditionally underserved minority students in particular -- in rigorous AP courses.
The state supplements can be viewed here.

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Q&A with Deborah Gist: Involving teachers in evaluation policy

Nick Pandolfo:

Deborah Gist, Rhode Island's Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, has implemented some major reforms since assuming her role in 2009. She has raised the score required to pass teacher-certification tests and allowed a superintendent to fire all of the teachers at a school that was resisting reforms. Perhaps most notably, she has overseen the implementation of a new teacher-evaluation system. The Hechinger Report recently interviewed Gist about her state's new approach to evaluating teachers.

Since changing your teacher-evaluation process in 2009 to include students' standardized test-scores and yearly evaluations of teachers and administrators, what has the feedback been? Where are you at as far as implementing the changes, how is it going, and what have you learned?

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Apps for Kids interview

Mark Frauenfelder:

I started Apps for Kids because my 8-year-old daughter Jane and I like to play games on the iPhone and iPad together. We have a lot of fun checking out new apps, and then seeing if we can beat each other's high scores. My friends who have kids of their own were always asking Jane and me what apps they should download, and so I thought maybe we should share that advice to a larger audience. So we started Apps for Kids, and people seem to really like it

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Report cards for schools? Only if done thoughtfully

The Sacramento Bee:

California voters made a pact in 1988 when they approved Proposition 98.

The state would provide a guaranteed minimum level of funding for public schools. In exchange, schools would be held "accountable for the job they do and the tax dollars they spend." Every year each school would publish a School Accountability Report Card - the SARC.

A generation later, that report card still is not very readable and has little role in driving school improvement. A 2004 UCLA report concluded, "Running the school system without a useful and understandable SARC is like driving a $100,000 sports car with a broken speedometer, temperature gauge and gas gauge."

Unfortunately, political leaders faced with the overly complex, confusing system seem to lunge in opposite directions.

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Detroit Schools' No. 1 Mission: Getting Kids To Class

Larry Abramson:

Ask Detroit teachers about their biggest challenge, and many will say, "You can't teach kids who don't come to class." Last year, the average Detroit public high school student missed at least 28 days of school.

Now, as part of its effort to get parents more involved, the district has launched a major initiative to improve attendance. The effort includes parent workshops and attendance agents charged with pushing parents to send their kids to school every day.

George Eason is one of Detroit's 51 attendance agents. He's staring at a printout that says a lot about the city's attendance problems. He flips the pages, counting the absences that one student has racked up only midway through the school year.

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Connecticut Governor Malloy pushes education spending

Ben Prawdzik, via a kind reader's email:

Gov. Dannel Malloy has indicated that he plans to make good on his promise to enact education reform -- he has announced a series of legislative proposals over the past week aimed at improving and expanding schooling opportunities in Connecticut.

Malloy's proposals, if enacted by the state's General Assembly convening for its legislative session today, would affect students in levels ranging from preschool to professional job training programs. Last Thursday, Malloy proposed allocating an additional $12 million of the state budget to boost the quality and accessibility preschool education in the state. The next day, the governor announced that he will propose legislation to change the Connecticut Technical High School (CTHSS) system to tailor its curricula to the needs of the state's employers so that students will be better prepared for employment upon graduation. On Monday, Malloy put forth a legislative proposal to improve low-achieving schools and increase charter and magnate school funding.

"We made a promise to our kids that education will prepare them for college or the workforce," Malloy said in a Feb. 6 press release. "Transforming our educational system -- fixing the schools that are falling short and learning from the ones that are graduating high-achievers -- will help us develop the skilled workforce that will strengthen our state and our economy."

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February 8, 2012

Madison Prep, unions overshadow School Board races

Jack Craver:

Two seats on the eight-member board are opening up. In both races, opponents of the proposed charter school, which is being championed by the Urban League of Madison as a way to target the long-standing achievement gap between white and minority students, are pitted against supporters of the plan.

Arlene Silveira, an incumbent who voted against Madison Prep, is being challenged by Nichelle Nichols, the vice president of learning for the Urban League. Similarly, in an open seat that Madison Prep supporter Lucy Mathiak is vacating, Mary Burke, a wealthy philanthropist (and former state secretary of Commerce) who pledged $2.5 million to the Madison Prep project, is running against Michael Flores, a firefighter with union backing.

John Matthews, president of Madison Teachers Inc, says his union is planning to be very active in support of Silveira and Flores. In not-so-subtle terms, he challenged Burke's ability to understand the challenges that the Madison middle class and poor face in the school system.

"She's a one percenter," he said, invoking the language of the Occupy Wall Street movement. "She's a very nice person, a very well-intentioned person but you want somebody who understands what it's like to be a parent and understands the needs of parents to be involved."

Related: 1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com

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

Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A.

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We're ripe for a great disruption in higher education

Margaret Wente:

How would you like to go to MIT - for free? You can now. Starting this spring, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will be offering free online courses to anyone, anywhere in the world, through its new digital arm, MITx. These courses will be much more than lectures on videotape. Students will be able to interact with other students online and have access to online labs and self-assessment tools. And here's the really revolutionary part: If you can show you've learned the material, for a small fee, MITx will give you a credential to prove it. No, it's not a full-blown MIT degree. But employers will probably be impressed.

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Bill aims to give home-schooled students access to public high school sports

Anita Kumar:

Seventeen-year-old Katie Wormald has more than a passing interest in soccer. She's been playing since she was 5, plans to compete in college -- and maybe earn a business degree to start a soccer-related company.

But because Wormald attends classes in her living room instead of a classroom, she lost a chance to play on a more competitive public high school team. Instead, she plays in recreational leagues, on travel teams and at a small, local private school.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Heartland Tax Rebellion

The Wall Street Journal:

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is starting to feel surrounded. On her state's southern border, Texas has no income tax. Now two of its other neighbors, Missouri and Kansas, are considering plans to cut and eventually abolish their income taxes. "Oklahoma doesn't want to end up an income-tax sandwich," she quips.

On Monday she announced her new tax plan, which calls for lowering the state income-tax rate to 3.5% next year from 5.25%, and an ambition to phase out the income tax over 10 years. "We're going to have the most pro-growth tax system in the region," she says.

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Why Pay for Intro Textbooks?

Mitch Smith:

If ramen noodle sales spike at the start of every semester, here's one possible reason: textbooks can cost as much as a class itself; materials for an introductory physics course can easily top $300.

Cost-conscious students can of course save money with used or online books and recoup some of their cash come buyback time. Still, it's a steep price for most 18-year-olds.

But soon, introductory physics texts will have a new competitor, developed at Rice University. A free online physics book, peer-reviewed and designed to compete with major publishers' offerings, will debut next month through the non-profit publisher OpenStax College.

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The GAAP in Wisconsin state finances

Steve Prestegard:

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute's George Lightbourn on the correct way to assess state finances (which is not now being done by the Walker administration, nor was it done by the Doyle, McCallum, Thompson, Earl, Dreyfus, Schreiber or Lucey administrations, and so on, and so on, and so on):
Sheila Weinberg from the Institute for Truth in Accounting coined the term, "political math." When politicians delay a payment and refer to the delay as a "savings," they're using political math. Or when no money is set aside for a bill they know is coming due, practitioners of political call the IOU a "savings." It's political math that allows state government to meet the balanced budget requirement while state accountants show it to be running a $3 billion deficit (according to the official tally released over the Christmas holiday).

Both Republicans and Democrats have used political math to make budgets balance over the years. Political math allowed my former boss Scott McCallum to balance the budget using one-time tobacco money and it was political math that green lighted Jim Doyle to "borrow" over $1 billion from the transportation fund. Thanks to political math, Governors and legislatures of all political stripe have been able to buy more government than they could really afford.

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Digital Exams on the iPad

Fraser Speirs:

It's prelim week at Cedars. In Scotland, pupils with additional needs can use a "Digital Question Paper" to complete their exam.

A DQP is a PDF with embedded forms. The pupil sits at a computer and fills in the form to answer the questions. For exams involving graphs, equations or other hard-to-do-on-the-computer things, they can also switch to working on paper. At the end of the exam, the PDF is printed out and the exam goes away on paper with the rest to be marked.

So this week it's been my job to get this going. I thought it would be useful to write down the process and considerations for doing this on our computer infrastructure.

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February 7, 2012

More on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad's Achievement Gap Presentation: $105,600,000 over 5 Years

Pat Schneider:

Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad packed the house Monday night for what he termed "a call to action" to the community to join his administration in a strategy to close the racial achievement gap that has haunted the school district for decades.

His blueprint for change, "Building our Future," weighs in at 100 pages and took an hour to outline with a Power Point presentation to an audience of about 200 at the Fitchburg Community Center. The proposal will be digested, dissected and debated in the weeks to come, including at a series of community meetings hosted by the school district.

But one thing is clear: from Nerad's point of view, the future of children of color in our city lies not only in the hands of the teachers and administrators who shape their lives at school, but also in the hands of their families, their neighbors, and members of the community who live and work all around town.

"It can't be the schools alone; it has to be the schools working with the community if we're going to have outcomes," he said.

Tepid response to Nerad's plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years.

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Tepid response to Nerad's plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years

Nathan Comp:

Madison school superintendent Dan Nerad unveiled his long awaited, and much anticipated plan (mp3 audio) to close the district's more than 40-year-old racial achievement gap Monday night before the full school board and around 75 citizens who packed into a room inside the Fitchburg library.

The 109-page plan, titled "Building Our Future: The Preliminary Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement," makes about 40 recommendations at a cost of $60.3 million over the next five years.

Several recommendations called for building on existing programs, like AVID/TOPS, an acclaimed program that focuses on students in the academic middle.

Others, like a "parent university," a model school for culturally relevant teaching, career academies within the high schools and a student-run youth court, would be new to the district.

Ideally, substantive program review in necessities such as reading and math would occur prior to the addition of new spending.

Matthew DeFour helpfully puts dollars ($105,600,000 over 5 years, about 5.6% of the roughly $1,860,000,000 that the District will spend over the same period) to the proposal. How does that compare with current programs and the proposed the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school?

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Union Upset by Comments From Emanuel on Schools

Hunter Clauss:

As the Chicago Public Schools begin what are certain to be contentious contract talks with the Chicago Teachers Union, Mayor Rahm Emanuel emerged as the star of a new online video criticizing the union and promoting charter schools, whose teachers mostly are not unionized.

An interview with Mr. Emanuel is a highlight of the 35-minute video, produced by the Michigan-based Education Action Group Foundation and the Fox News political analyst Juan Williams. Mr. Williams narrates the video, saying the union is "radically politicized" and is "repeatedly providing terrible examples for Chicago's schoolchildren."

A spokeswoman for Mr. Emanuel said last week that the mayor did not share those views of the union, and his comments in the video were more measured, but union officials were still upset. The mayor discussed how he faced union opposition to some of his education proposals, such as extending the length of the school day this year.

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Ten Thoughts on the Preliminary MMSD Budget Figures for 2012-13

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

It's a little early for budget season, but Sunday's State Journal included an article by Matt DeFour that kicks off discussion of the school district's finances for 2012-13. According to the article, preliminary numbers indicate about a $12.4 million budget gap for the district.

Here are ten quick thoughts on these preliminary figures.

1. To make sense of budget gap talk, it's helpful to understand the assumptions behind the concept. Budget gaps are traditionally calculated within the context of a school district's state-imposed revenue limit authority. (For the sake of clarity, it's helpful to think of revenue limits as spending limits.). Costs are projected to go up by X millions, the school district is constrained by revenue limits to increase its spending by no more than Y millions, and the difference between X and Y is the measure of the gap that traditionally has to be bridged through painful budget cuts.



Wisconsin Property Tax Growth: 1984-2012 (!)

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Outsider's wild teacher-evaluation idea

Jay Matthews:

Luke Chung, president and founder of a software development company in Tysons Corner, volunteered many times to help the Fairfax County school system with computer and business issues. He was a nice guy, so when the county needed to fill two slots reserved for outsiders (what educators often call non-educators) on the Teacher Performance Evaluation Task Force, he was appointed.

He might have seemed to some a genial innocent who would not get in the way of the teachers, principals and administrators who were the majority. But Chung was an experienced manager motivated to nudge the task force in new directions. He revealed in his company blog his astonished reaction to the key issue:

"As an outsider who has never been evaluated as a teacher, you can imagine my surprise to discover that although principals were judged by their school's student performance, student performance is not part of a teacher's performance evaluation in our county," he wrote. "Are you kidding me?" Chung's italics, not mine.

He got the basics. "Not all students are equal, and we don't want to have a system where teachers are evaluated solely on student performance because the incentive would be to only want to teach good students," he wrote. He saw some sense in value-added measurements, rating teachers on how much their students improved. But there were practical problems, he said, "such as kids moving in and out of classes within the year, impacts on kids outside teacher control, whether the test is a good measurement, multiple teacher collaborative environments, etc."

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Pennsylvania Schools' Financing Fight Pits District Against 'Charter on Steroids'

Sabrina Tavernise:

The Chester Upland School District is more than $20 million in debt, its bank account is almost empty and it cannot afford to pay teachers past the end of this month.

To make matters worse, the local charter school, with which the district must divide its financing, is suing the district over unpaid bills.

The district's fiscal woes are the product of a toxic brew of budget cuts, mismanagement and the area's poverty. Its problems are compounded by the Chester Community Charter School, a nonprofit institution that is managed by a for-profit company and that now educates nearly half of the district's students.

The district sees the charter as a vampire, sucking up more than its fair share of scarce resources. The state, it says, is giving the charter priority over the district.

"It's not competition, it's just draining resources from the district," said Catherine Smith, a principal at Columbus Elementary, a district school. "It's a charter school on steroids."

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University has become an unaffordable luxury

The Investor:

I think going to university is now too expensive, time consuming, restrictive and potentially soul-destroying for people with talent to bother with anymore.

University has become a terrible deal, and most ambitious people shouldn't go.

There, I said it.

I don't know why it's taken me so long to admit to myself that tuition fees, student loans, and the fact that any muppet who can write his or her own name now goes to university means it's a waste of time to do so.

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More time for open enrollment

Matthew DeFour:

Wisconsin's public school open enrollment period begins Monday, and for the first time, families will have three months to decide whether and where to enroll their students outside of their home school district.

For the Madison School District, the extra time could mean more families choosing to leave for other districts or virtual schools, though Superintendent Dan Nerad said it's too early to know what the affect will be.

"By the nature that there's an open window, that's likely to happen for us as well as other districts around the state," Nerad said.

Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last week extending the official open enrollment period from three weeks in February to three months. Applications must be completed by April 30.

Proponents of the change, including school choice advocates and the virtual school industry, tout open enrollment as giving parents and students more control of their educational options.

Related: Madison School District Outbound Open Enrollment Applications 2010-2011 School Year; As of 3/18/2010.

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February 6, 2012

Madison Schools Superintendent Nerad unveils $12.4 million plan to close school achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Altogether, Nerad makes about 40 recommendations in six categories -- instruction, college and career readiness, culturally relevant practices, school environment, family engagement and staff diversity.

"The plan is based on the view that there isn't one thing alone the school district can do to eliminate achievement gaps," Nerad said. "We're attempting to be comprehensive with the proposal."

The plan's projected cost for next year is $12.4 million, which Nerad is recommending come from the district's untapped property taxing authority under state-imposed limits. The amount includes adding about 67.5 positions, including behavioral support staff, reading specialists and parent liaisons.

Some recommendations wouldn't take effect until future years. The district estimates they will cost $20.9 million in 2013-14 and $26.6 million by 2016-17. The district doesn't have the authority to raise property taxes by that amount, though Nerad said part of the discussion in coming months will involve whether the private and nonprofit sectors can help fund the strategies.

"We're going to have to struggle through the conversation of how to get it done," Nerad said.

Related:Listen to most of the speech via this 25mb .mp3 file.

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Evaluating the Madison Metropolitan School District's 2012 Plan to Eliminate the Racial Achievement Gap

Kaleem Caire, via email:

February 6, 2011

Greetings Community Member.

This evening, at 6pm at the Fitchburg Library, Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Daniel Nerad will present his plan for eliminating the racial achievement gap in our public schools to the Board of Education. We anticipate there will be many citizens in the audience listening in.

While we are pleased that our advocacy over the last 19 months has resulted in the District developing a plan to address the gap, we are also mindful of history. Our organization has pushed hard for our public school system to embrace change, address the gap and expand educational opportunity many times before.

In the 1960s, Madison learned that a wide gap existed between black and white students in reading, math and high school completion in Madison's public schools. In the 1970s, the Urban League of Greater Madison reported that just 60% of black students were graduating from the city's public high schools. In the 1980s, ULGM released a widely reported study that found the average GPA for a black high school student attending the city's public high schools was 1.58 on a 4.00 scale, with 61% scoring below a 2.0 GPA. It also found that a disproportionate number of black students were enrolled in remedial math and science classes, and that black students were significantly over-represented in special education and school suspensions. Then, in the 1990s, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute issued a report that stated there were two school districts in MMSD, one that poorly served black children and one that served everyone else.

Today, just 48% of black and 56% of Latino students are graduating from high school. Just 1% of black and 7% of Latino high school seniors are academically ready for college. Nearly 40% of all black boys in middle school are enrolled in special education, and more than 60% of black and 50% of Latino high school students earn below a 2.0 GPA.

Over the years, several district-wide efforts have been tried. Unfortunately, many of these efforts have either been discontinued, unevenly implemented, ineffective, lacked the support of parents/community/teachers, or failed to go far enough to address the myriad needs of students, families, teachers and schools. Madison also has a well-documented history of not heeding the advice of leaders and educators of color or educational experts, and not investing in efforts to codify and replicate successful strategies employed by its most effective educators. MMSD also has not acted fast enough to address its challenges and rarely looks beyond its borders for strategies that have proven effective elsewhere in the country.

The stakes are higher now; too high to continue on our present course of incrementalism rooted in our fear of the unknown, fear of significant change, and fear of admitting that our view of Madison being the utopic experience of the Midwest and #1 city in the U.S. doesn't apply to everyone who lives here. We no longer have the luxury of time to figure out how to address the gap. We cannot afford to lose nearly 300 black, 200 Latino and an untold number of Southeast Asian and underprivileged white students each year from our public schools. And we cannot afford to see hundreds of students leave our school system each year for public and private schools outside of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

We must embrace strategies that work. We must also behave differently than we have in the past, and can no longer afford to be afraid of addressing intersection or race and poverty, and how they are playing out in our schools, social relationships and community, and impacting the educational success of our kids.

Furthermore, we need all hands on deck. Everyone in our community must play a role in shaping the self-image, expectations and outcomes of our children - in school, in the community and at home. Some children have parents who spend more quality time with their career and coworkers than with their family. Some children have a parent or relative who struggles to raise them alone. Some have parents who are out of work, under stress and struggling to find a job to provide for their family. And unfortunately, some children have parents who make bad decisions and/or don't care about their well-being. Regardless of the situation, we cannot allow the lack of quality parenting to be the excuse why we don't reach, teach, or hold children accountable and prepare them for the future.

As we prepare to review the Superintendent's plan, we have developed a rubric that will allow for an objective review of his proposal(s). The attached rubric, which you can access by clicking here, was developed and informed by members of the staff and Board of Director of ULGM, business and community leaders, and teachers and leading experts in the field of K-12 and higher education. The tool will be used by an independent Community Review Panel, organized by the Urban League. pver the next several weeks to vet the plan. The intent of this review is to ensure MMSD has an optimal plan for ensuring that all of the children it serves succeed academically and graduate from high school prepared for college and work.

Specifically, our reasons for establishing this rubric and a Community Review Panel are four-fold:
  • Develop an objective and comprehensive understanding of the plan and its many elements;
  • Objectively review the efficacy of the plan, its goals and objectives, and desired outcomes;
  • Formally communicate thoughts, concerns and ideas for supporting and/or improving the plan; and
  • Effectively engage the Madison community in supporting and strengthening its public schools.
We have high expectations of the Superintendent's plan. We hope for a bold, transformational, aggressive and concise plan, and stand ready to assist the Superintendent and his team in any way we can. We hope you will be standing their with us, with your arms outstretched and ready to uplift or babies - the next generation.

All Hands on Deck!

Onward.
Team Urban League of Greater Madison

Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205
www.ulgm.org
www.madison-prep.org
Urban League of Greater Madison 2012 Agenda

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No Money Down

Kevin Kiley:

With public university administrators continually arguing for tuition increases to counter state appropriations cuts, it seems far-fetched that their budget problems could be solved by eliminating student tuition and fees altogether.

But that's the idea put forth by a group of students from the University of California at Riverside, who in January proposed a new funding model for the University of California system that seeks to solve two of the system's biggest problems: unpredictable and large decreases in state appropriations, and the steady increase in tuition costs.

Under the students' plan, called the UC Student Investment Proposal, students in the system would pay no upfront costs for their education but would agree to pay 5 percent of their income to the system for 20 years after graduating and entering the workforce

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Successful schools get high marks for culture

Alan Borsuk:

Here are things that impressed Desiree Pointer Mace when she and her husband were considering where to send their first child for school: The seventh and eighth graders at Woodlands School, 5510 W. Blue Mound Road, held the door for guests, said hello and shook hands. And you could ask a student in any class what he or she was working on and get a good answer.

Pointer Mace is not your typical parent. She is associate dean for graduate programs in education at Alverno College.

But if her credentials are distinctive, the goals she has for school for her children are not unusual: A place where they thrive and develop, both in academics and in personal traits.

Only some of the things she - or any good parent - want can be reduced to numbers or grades. A lot of important aspects of a school involve quality, not quantity. They can be put under the broad label of "school culture."

Show me a good school and I'll show you a place where kids not only get good grades and scores, but a place where relationships of all kinds matter and are healthy.

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What would Sharon do?

Cringely:

This is my third and (I hope) last column in a series on education. If things work as planned this is where I'll make some broad generalizations that piss-off a lot of people, incite a small riot in the comments section, after which we'll all feel better and switch to discussing the Facebook IPO. So let's get to it. I believe that education is broken in the U.S. and probably everywhere else, that it is incapable of fixing itself, and our only significant hope is to be found in the wisdom of Sharon Osbourne.

These conclusions are based on my experiences as a teacher, a parent, on the content of those two previous columns, one visit to OzzFest, and on my having this week read a couple books:

The Learning Edge: what technology can do to educate all children, by Alan Bain and Mark E. Weston.

Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools, by Roger Schank.

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February 5, 2012

Research about the (Achievement) Gap

Mary Battaglia kindly forwarded this email sent to the Madison School Board:

The high school graduation racial gap has been in the Madison news as though it only affects our fair city. It does not require much research, something the local media has failed to do, to see this is a national concern. According to an analysis called "Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education," nationally only 47% of black males graduated from high school in 2007. (1) It has been reported that Madison's graduation rate for black males is 50%. Obviously a pathetic rate compared to the 87% for whites, but what has not been a part of the local conversation is how Madison compares in relationship to the rest of the nation, and perhaps figure out where black males are graduating at a higher rate, and why. The Schott's report, revealed two communities with large minority populations with much better graduation outcomes than the rest of the nation, Baltimore and Fort Bend, Texas. What MMSD should be looking into is what are these cities doing, and what curricula or community effort has made them successful? One interesting part of the gap for Madison and the state of Wisconsin is the high rate of whites graduating. While Wisconsin is the worst defender in the racial gap, the states total graduation rate is one the highest in the nation.

When you read various assessments of the "reason" for the gap nationally, the theories include the lack of financial investment, lack of good teachers, and the lack of community structure. While I find these proposals reasonable, I fail to understand how in this community they are relevant. MMSD spends well over $13,000 per student, lack the overwhelming urban problems of Milwaukee and Chicago, and have many fine teachers that somehow get non-minority students educated. These excuses ring hallow as to why MMSD has such a poor rate. What does ring true is we are not educating the population as it exist today. In the last 25 years the MMSD's minority rate has increased from 20% to one closer to 48%. (2) In the last 25 years MMSD has changed from a district of less than 25% free and reduced lunch to one that is closer to 50%. (3)Madison is still teaching to the population of 25 years ago, the students have changed, but the curriculum has not.

Perhaps, MMSD could improve the graduation rate for all students, with a significant change of focus. For example, MMSD's high school's emphasize 4 year college candidates when many of the students would do better in a 2 year or technology school focus. There has been an increased coordination with MATC, but what would be beneficial is to offer a dual graduation for students, so as they graduate from MMSD, they also have a 2 year degree or a certificate from MATC. This is a system that has been successful in a high school in North Carolina. (4) A student that wants to head to college still has that opportunity and perhaps a chance to make some money to support the effort. Perhaps, another way to improve graduation outcomes would include an overhaul of the summer school program. Currently, MMSD summer school staff are paid poorly, the programs focus is mostly on students that have flunked their classes and need a recovery grade, and the programs poor reputation have lead many staff to discourage students from participating. (5) Why not invest in a comprehensive retooling of the summer program that provides a better salary for staff, and includes enrichment, regular classes, as well as recovery options. Let's find a creative summer program with smaller class sizes and build a program that is the envy of the country and one that works. If summer school is going to be provided, then make it an awesome program, not just a warehouse for failing kids. Perhaps, as most research reveals, early education is a key component to better graduation outcomes, and the district finally is getting a 4K program up and running after a decade long battle with the union.

Madison Prep was an idea, but it is a unique group of students that would select to participate in such a rigorous program, which means an already motivated student or parents with very high expectations, both factors that frequently mean a student would do well anyway. MMSD needs to look at students that may not be that motivated or academically talented and assess what works to keep them engaged. The one thing MMSD has no control over is probably the most important issue for a students outcome. Research concludes the number one predictor of a students academic success is parental expectations. (6) Our schools cannot change parental expectations, however, they can change what a student expects. MMSD students need to expect a positive future, a purpose and a reason to stay in school. Not all kids will succeed but more than half of the black male students should. Let's develop a district that gives all the students the opportunity to succeed.

blackboysreport.org
http://legistar.cityofmadison.com/attachments/3b609f41-9099-4e75-b894-06f56ab57ca5.pdf
DPI.wi.gov Public school data
http://www.durhamtech.edu/admissions/highschoolstudent.htm

This statement is based on personal experience of having many staff, from middle school up to high school, discourage my daughter who struggles in math from attending summer school. I have also spoke to many parents with the same experience.

http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/366

*** Of note the data of graduation rate is debated in academic circles as the data is not always standardized. Some data includes GED and 5 year rates others include only 4 year rates.

Thanks,


Mary Kay Battaglia

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

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Parents hold keys to setting higher education expectations

Pearl Chang Esau:

Arizonans cannot afford to wait for better education. Although Arizona is one of the fastest improving states in education, at the current rate, it would take decades for our students to catch up with those in the number one state in the country, Massachusetts.

Arizona students continue to lag their national and international peers in academic performance, high school graduation rates and degree attainment. With 74 percent of Arizona fourth graders below proficient in reading and 69 percent of our eighth graders below proficient in math, the gap is only widening between the preparedness of our graduates and the skills and knowledge Arizona employers require.

Fortunately, Tucson has many examples of bright spots that show all of us the potential for Arizona education. Tucson Unified School District's University High School was recently named a 2011 Higher Performing School by the National Center for Education Achievement; Vail Unified School District is nationally recognized for its use of technology to engage students and raise student achievement; BASIS Charter School, which started in Tucson and has grown to other parts of the state, was named a top high school by Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report; and the University of Arizona is ranked among the top public research universities in the nation. All of them embrace a culture of high expectations and are working to ensure all students graduate ready to compete and succeed in the 21st century global economy.

Pearl Chang Esau is President/CEO of Expect More Arizona.

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Scientific publishing: The price of information

The Economist:

SOMETIMES it takes but a single pebble to start an avalanche. On January 21st Timothy Gowers, a mathematician at Cambridge University, wrote a blog post outlining the reasons for his longstanding boycott of research journals published by Elsevier. This firm, which is based in the Netherlands, owns more than 2,000 journals, including such top-ranking titles as Cell and the Lancet. However Dr Gowers, who won the Fields medal, mathematics's equivalent of a Nobel prize, in 1998, is not happy with it, and he hoped his post might embolden others to do something similar.

It did. More than 2,700 researchers from around the world have so far signed an online pledge set up by Tyler Neylon, a fellow-mathematician who was inspired by Dr Gowers's post, promising not to submit their work to Elsevier's journals, or to referee or edit papers appearing in them. That number seems, to borrow a mathematical term, to be growing exponentially. If it really takes off, established academic publishers might find they have a revolution on their hands.

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School expulsion law challenged as unconstitutional

Matthew DeFour:

A state law that allows school districts to deny enrollment to students expelled by other districts is unconstitutional, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Dane County Circuit Court.

The suit was filed against the Oregon School District, which denied enrollment to a middle school student after the Janesville School District expelled him in November.

The student was expelled after serving suspensions last October for an alleged sexual assault and possession of tobacco on campus, according to the complaint. The student denied both charges, the complaint states.

Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, an attorney with Disability Rights Wisconsin. said his organization disapproves of the expulsion law, which has been on the books since 1997. The state constitution guarantees a free education to all students between the ages of 4 and 20.

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Erin School to kids: BYO gadgets

Erin Richards:

The eighth-graders sat hunched over photos of European art, looking for a single painting to emulate for a class project.

But only one student cracked open an actual art history book; the rest slid their thumbs across vivid photos on iPod Touches, or clicked through Google image files on laptops or netbooks they'd brought from home.

In an attempt to bring more technology into the classroom without investing in school-funded 1-to-1 laptop initiatives, more school districts like Erin are experimenting with "bring your own device" opportunities, in which teachers adjust curriculum to leverage whatever hand-held or portable computing device children's parents allow them to bring to school.

The first "BYOD" day at Erin School was an experiment undertaken in honor of Wisconsin's Digital Learning Day, part of a national initiative Wednesday spearheaded by the nonprofit Alliance for Excellent Education marked by real-life activities in 39 states and virtual participation in online forums.

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More on the economic benefits of universities

Andrew Gelman, via a kind reader's email:

Last year my commenters and I discussed Ed Glaeser's claim that the way to create a great city is to "create a great university and wait 200 years."

I passed this on to urbanist Richard Florida and received the following response:

This is a tough one with lots of causality issues. Generally speaking universities make places stronger. But this is mainly the case for smaller, college towws. Boulder, Ann Arbor and so on, which also have very high human capital levels and high levels of creative, knowledge and professional workers.

For big cities the issue is mixed. Take Pittsburgh with CMU and Pitt or Baltimore with Hopkins, or St Louis. The list goes on and on.

Kevin Stolarick and I framed this very crudely as a transmitter reciever issue. The university in a city like this can generate a lot of signal, in terms of innovation or even human capital and the city may not receive it or push it away. A long ago paper by Mike Fogarty showed how innovations in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, by universities in these communities, tended to be picked up in Silicon Valley or even Tokyo.

I responded: Another factor in the interaction is: how good does the university have to be? Glaeser cited UW and Seattle, but that's kind of a funny example, because I don't think UW was such a great university 30 years ago. On the other hand, given the existence of Boeing and Microsoft, UW is good enough to do the job of providing a center for the creative class. Perhaps Ohio State (another good but not great university) has played a similar role in Columbus.

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Imbalance of power in education

The Guardian:

The dangers which Peter Wilby points out (Does Gove realise he is empowering future dictators?, 31 January) were recognised 70 years ago. Unfortunately secretaries of state know very little history. The Oxford historian Dr Marjorie Reeves, when invited to be on the Central Advisory Council For Education (England) in 1946, was told by the permanent secretary, John Redcliffe-Maud, that the main duty of council members was "to be prepared to die at the first ditch as soon as politicians try to get their hands on education".

A war had been fought to prevent the consequences of such concentrated power. The 1944 Education Act, hammered out during the war years, created a "maintained system" of education as a balance of power between central government, local government responsibility, the voluntary bodies (mainly the churches) and the teachers. That balance is now disappearing fast, without the public debate it needs and with hardly a squeak from Labour. The existing education legislation refers to the fast-disappearing "maintained schools", leaving academies and free schools exposed, without the protection of the law, to whatever whimsical ideas are dreamt up by the present or future secretaries of state, to whom they are contracted with minimal accountability to parliament.
Professor Richard Pring
Green Templeton College, Oxford

• The removal of 3,100 vocational subjects from the school performance tables from 2014 (Report, 31 January) has major implications. It is certainly the case that "perverse incentives" were created by the league tables to use soft options to boost school league table positions - the phenomenon known as gaming. However, the cull to 70 accepted vocational subjects, with 55 allowed on the margins, essentially destroys vocational and technical education. Given that the old basis is the one for the current (2012 and 2013) tables, a whole raft of students are on worthless courses.

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The Perilous Conflation Of Student And School Performance

Matthew Di Carlo:

Unlike many of my colleagues and friends, I personally support the use of standardized testing results in education policy, even, with caution and in a limited role, in high-stakes decisions. That said, I also think that the focus on test scores has gone way too far and their use is being implemented unwisely, in many cases to a degree at which I believe the policies will not only fail to generate improvement, but may even risk harm.

In addition, of course, tests have a very productive low-stakes role to play on the ground - for example, when teachers and administrators use the results for diagnosis and to inform instruction.

Frankly, I would be a lot more comfortable with the role of testing data - whether in policy, on the ground, or in our public discourse - but for the relentless flow of misinterpretation from both supporters and opponents. In my experience (which I acknowledge may not be representative of reality), by far the most common mistake is the conflation of student and school performance, as measured by testing results.

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February 4, 2012

'Business as usual' isn't working for Madison schools

Nichelle Nichols:

I am running for the Madison School Board because I care about the state of our public schools and this community.

The facts are: I am employed at the Urban League of Greater Madison and spoke in support of Madison Prep as a parent and citizen. Am I running because Madison Prep was voted down? No. My focus is broader than the charter school proposal, but the Madison Prep vote was a defining moment in my decision to declare candidacy.

It became apparent to me as I sat in the auditorium that night that we can no longer afford to wait for our district to take the casual approach to the urgent matter of minority under-achievement. Our entire community is affected by the failure to do so.

Every child in this district -- from the at-risk, the middle-of-the-road student, to the most academically talented -- should have an equal opportunity to thrive in our school system. And here's the reality, Madison -- we are not delivering.

It's been hard for us to accept that we are a different community than we were 10 years ago, but we are. If we move beyond politically correct conversations about race and poverty, we'd readily realize that we cannot go about "business as usual."

The 2012 Madison School Board Contest:

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com

email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org

email: floresm1977@gmail.com

Listen to the recent DCCPA candidate forum via this 75MB mp3 audio file.

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Challenge to schools: Embracing digital textbooks

Kimberly Hefling:

Are hardbound textbooks going the way of slide rules and typewriters in schools?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski on Wednesday challenged schools and companies to get digital textbooks in students' hands within five years. The Obama administration's push comes two weeks after Apple Inc. announced it would start to sell electronic versions of a few standard high-school books for use on its iPad tablet.

Digital books are viewed as a way to provide interactive learning, potentially save money and get updated material faster to students.

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US university endowments post 19% return

Anji Raval:

The performance of US university endowments has continued to improve, with an average return of 19.2 per cent posted in the year to June 30, according to a new study.

The financial crisis and accompanying slide in equity markets negatively affected educational endowments, putting further stress on a sector that has been reeling from a decline in government funding. Public universities have been pushed in recent years to fill budget gaps through investments and donations as the cost of education has increased, a problem highlighted in last week's state of the union address by President Barack Obama.

In spite of the upturn in returns from the 11.9 per cent reported for 2010, the first positive returns since 2007, educational endowments were unlikely to recover to pre-crisis levels for several years yet, said John Walda, president and chief executive of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (Nacubo), which represents more than 2,500 US higher education institutions.

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My Evening With Diane Ravitch and a Couple Thousand of Her Closest Friends

Darren:

On Friday night, January 20th, my friend and fellow conservative blogger Mr. Chandler of Buckhorn Road zipped down to the Sacramento Convention Center to hear a talk by noted "education historian" Diane Ravitch. I didn't realize it was sponsored by a bunch of teachers unions; I thought it was going to be an intellectual talk by someone who used to agree with me but now has switched sides. I thought I was going to get some really good information that would "challenge my assumptions" and make me think. Instead, what I got was, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor, a liberal red-meat bacchanalia. As Mr. Chandler described it, we were "pilgrims in an unholy land".

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Teaching With Authenticity & Authority

Eugene Wallingford:

What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
-- Mark 1:27

Over the last few weeks, we've been processing student assessments from fall semester. Reading student comments about my course and other profs' courses has me thinking about the different ways in which students "see" their instructors. Two profs can be equally knowledgable in an area yet give off very different vibes to their class. The vibe has a lot to do with how students interpret the instructor's behavior. It also affects student motivation and, ultimately, student learning.

Daniel Lemire recently offered two rules for teaching in the 21st century, one of which was to be an authentic role model. If students know that "someone ordinary" like a professor was able to master the course material, then they will have reason to believe that they can do the same. Authenticity is invaluable if we hope to model the mindset of a learner for our students.

It is also a huge factor in the classroom in another way as well. Students are also sensitive to whether we are authentic users of knowledge. If I am teaching agile approaches to software development but students perceive that I am not an agile developer when writing my own code outside the course, then they are less likely to take the agile approaches seriously. If I am teaching the use of some theoretical technique for solving a problem, say, nondeterministic finite state machines, but my students perceive that I do something else when I'm not teaching the course, then their motivation to master the technique wanes.

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February 3, 2012

An Open Letter to Urban Superintendents in the United States of America

Neerav Kingsland:

You work immense hours and subject yourself to scathing criticism all in the pursuit of better serving children. I know a few of you--and without fail you are all passionate about your work. In short, I'm a fan. So know that I'm not writing this letter to attack anyone--rather, I aim to offer advice, which I hope some of you accept.

In the following letter I aim to convince you of this: the single most important reform strategy you can undertake is to increase charter school quality and market share in your city--with the ultimate aim of turning your district into a charter school district.

In other words: rid yourself of the notion that your current opinions on curriculum, teacher evaluation, technology, or anything else will be the foundation for dramatic gains in student achievement. If history tells us anything, they will not be:

Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

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Harvard Targeted in U.S. Asian-American Discrimination Probe

Daniel Golden:

The U.S. Education Department is probing complaints that Harvard University and Princeton University discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions.

The department's Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint it received in August that Harvard rejected an Asian- American candidate for the current freshman class based on race or national origin, a department spokesman said. The agency is looking into a similar August 2011 allegation against Princeton as part of a review begun in 2008 of that school's handling of Asian-American candidates, said the spokesman, who declined to be identified, citing department policy.

Both complaints involve the same applicant, who was among the top students in his California high school class and whose family originally came from India, according to the applicant's father, who declined to be identified.

Steve Hsu on Transparency in college admissions:
Today we learned from Bloomberg that the U.S. Education Department is investigating complaints that Harvard University and Princeton University discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions. It is a common belief among Asian-American families that their children are held to higher academic standards than applicants from other ethnic groups, including whites. Such practices were openly acknowledged as a result of internal investigations at universities like Berkeley and Stanford in the 1980s and 1990s. Have they now been corrected?

Statistics seem to support a claim of widespread discrimination across most of elite higher education. For example, in comprehensive statistics compiled as part of Duke University's Campus Life and Learning project (as reported in a recent analysis by Duke economist Peter Arcidiacono and collaborators), Asian-American students averaged 1457 out of 1600 on the math and reading portion of the SAT, compared to 1416 for whites, 1347 for Hispanics and 1275 for blacks. There is every reason to believe that a similar pattern holds at nearly all elite universities in America, with some notable exceptions such as Caltech. In fact, Duke may be one of the mildest offenders when it comes to Asian-American admissions: with the goal of increasing its overall student quality, Duke has reportedly been more friendly recently to Asian-American applicants than traditional powers such as Harvard and Princeton.

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Why Urban, Educated Parents Are Turning to DIY Education

Linda Perlstein:

They raise chickens. They grow vegetables. They knit. Now a new generation of urban parents is even teaching their own kids.

In the beginning, your kids need you--a lot. They're attached to your hip, all the time. It might be a month. It might be five years. Then suddenly you are expected to send them off to school for seven hours a day, where they'll have to cope with life in ways they never had to before. You no longer control what they learn, or how, or with whom.

Unless you decide, like an emerging population of parents in cities across the country, to forgo that age-old rite of passage entirely.

When Tera and Eric Schreiber's oldest child was about to start kindergarten, the couple toured the high-achieving public elementary school a block away from their home in an affluent Seattle neighborhood near the University of Washington. It was "a great neighborhood school," Tera says. They also applied to a private school, and Daisy was accepted. But in the end they chose a third path: no school at all.

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Inflated SAT Scores Reveal 'Elasticity of Admissions Data'

Eric Hoover:

In the Wild West of college admissions, there is no Data Sheriff.

The latest reminder arrived on Monday when Claremont McKenna College announced that a senior administrator had resigned after admitting to falsely reporting SAT statistics since 2005. In an e-mail to the campus, Pamela B. Gann, the college's president, said an internal review found that scores for each fall's freshman class had been "generally inflated by an average of 10-20 points each." The apparent perpetrator was Richard C. Vos, long the college's dean of admissions and financial aid, who has resigned from the college.

The announcement has shaken those who work on both sides of the admissions process. In the span of 24 hours, Mr. Vos, described by several colleagues as an engaging and thoughtful dean, has become a symbol of the pressures that come with top-level admissions jobs. As one mid-career dean said on Tuesday, "I just keep thinking about how much pressure an experienced and mature admissions professional must be under to do whatever he did."

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Reversal of the Trend: Income Inequality Now Lower than It Was under Clinton

William McBride:

Numerous academic studies have shown that income inequality in the U.S. over the 20th century exhibits a U-shape. After reaching a peak in the 1920s, it fell during the Great Depression and World War II and rebounded mainly in the 1980s and 1990s.1 The rebound has been attributed to various economic factors, such as globalization, immigration, the growth of super-star salaries, and the computer revolution. However, these factors might better be described as the normal outcomes of a growing economy, according to Adam Smith's idea that the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market. The resurgence of inequality has also been attributed to tax policy, particularly the reduction of top marginal rates on personal income from 94 percent in 1945 to 28 percent in 1988.2

The first decade of the 21st century does not exhibit the same trend. Based on the most recent IRS data, from 2009, income inequality has fluctuated considerably since 2000 but is now at about the level it was in 1997. Thus, the Bush-era tax cuts (which had provisions benefitting both high- and low-income taxpayers) did not lead to increased income inequality. By contrast, inequality rose 12 percent between 1993 and 2000, following two tax rate increases on high-income earners. Thus, changes in inequality over the last two decades appear to be driven more by the business cycle than by tax policy.

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India's schools fail to keep pace with growth

James Lamont

In a dim, windowless classroom at GMS Moradbas school in rural Haryana state in north India, 40 young girls in their dark blue uniforms crouch on the floor in four straight lines.

Each is following a monotone reading by one of their classmates from a history book about one of India's liberation heroes. Not a computer, let alone a desk is in sight. Outside, beyond a field of yellow mustard seed and sparring goats, a new high-rise medical college rises above the mist on the edge of the town of Nuh, an hour's drive from Gurgaon, a new city born out of India's IT outsourcing boom.

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February 2, 2012

Madison Public Schools' Superintendent Nerad's request community input into his plan to eliminate the long-standing Racial Achievement Gap

via email:

Below is a letter from Dr. Daniel Nerad, Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District. Please show up on Monday, February 6 to learn about his plan and register to participate in an input session. We need you to exercise your voice, share your view and speak to our children's needs. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
-- "Letter from Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963

February 2, 2012

RE: Invitation to attend Board of Education meeting on Monday, February 6, 2012

Dear Community Leader:

As you may know, this Monday, February 6, 2012, we are poised to present to the Board of Education a significant and system-wide plan to close the achievement gaps in the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Building Our Future: A Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement

We invite you to attend Monday's Board of Education workshop at the Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Road in Fitchburg beginning at 6:00 p.m. This workshop is for presentation purposes only. Members of the public will not have the opportunity to speak. However, Monday's workshop marks the beginning of a two-month, community-wide engagement process. We invite parents, students, and residents concerned about the future of our children to join one or more of the many sessions held throughout Madison to learn about the achievement gaps in the MMSD and discuss and provide input into the plan.

I have greatly appreciated your concern, commitment, and willingness to challenge us to provide the kind of education that every child deserves and is due. Together, we must eliminate our achievement gaps.

The Board of Education workshop on Monday, February 6th is just the beginning. Please consider participating in one of the upcoming information and input sessions. To register for a session, go to: www.mmsd.org/inputsession

Beginning Tuesday, February 7, go to: www.mmsd.org/thefuture to read more about the Plan.

Sincerely,
Daniel A. Nerad
Superintendent of Schools

Reprinted from a letter sent to community leaders today by Superintendent Nerad. We are sharing this to inform you and help the Madison Metropolitan School District get the word out. We have not yet seen the plan and therefore, this email should not viewed as an endorsement of it. We will reserve judgment until after the plan is released, we have had a chance to review it, and the public has responded.

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Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Michael Flores

Arlene Silveira

Question 23 has implications for the future of our public schools, along with the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school:

Given Act 10's negative Impact on Collective Bargaining Agreements, will you introduce and vote for a motion to adopt the Collective Bargaining Agreements (182 page PDF Document) negotiated between MTI and The Madison Metropolitan School District as MMSD policy?
Both Silveira and Flores answered Yes.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Photos & Audio

Listen to the event via this 77MB mp3 audio file.

I suspect that at least 60% of Wisconsn school districts will adopt their current teacher contracts as "handbooks". The remainder will try different approaches. Some will likely offer a very different environment for teachers.

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Stakes high for Nerad on achievement gap proposal, including his contract which currently expires June, 2013

Matthew DeFour:

lot is riding on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad's upcoming plan for improving low-income, minority student achievement.

The plan is billed as a blueprint for addressing an intractable, divisive issue in Madison, and it could also factor into the upcoming School Board discussion of Nerad's future in Madison.

The United Way of Dane County has made closing the achievement gap one of its primary issues for more than 15 years through the Schools of Hope tutoring program. But president Leslie Howard said the recent debate over the proposed Madison Prepatory Academy charter school has drawn more public attention to the issue than ever before.

"I don't want to say something so grandiose that everything's at stake, but in some ways it feels like that," Howard said.

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

Related links:

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

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

Acting White

Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison's Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)

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Wisconsin Schools "Among the Best", Financial Literacy

Tony Evers & Peter Bildsten:

Wisconsin is fortunate to have many fine K-12 schools educating our young people. The quality of this state's educational system is among the best in the United States, and the same can be said for Wisconsin teachers.

Those accolades notwithstanding, there is one area in which Wisconsin schools should consider focusing some of their educational muscle: personal financial literacy.

More than ever before, our children -- by the time they graduate from high school -- need to be able to cope in the increasingly fast-paced world of financial services.

Today, many young people rarely handle cash, opting instead for the use of debit cards, credit cards and smartphones to make purchases. Those who have jobs probably never see a paycheck because most employers use direct deposit for their payrolls. And, most teens probably have never read the fine print of the contract for their mobile telecommunications devices.

Wisconsin 25th in 2011 NAEP Reading, Comparing Rhetoric Regarding Texas (10th) & Wisconsin NAEP Scores: Texas Hispanic and African-American students rank second on eighth-grade NAEP math test.

Fascinating. Tony Evers is Superintendent of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Much more at www.wisconsin2.org.

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Getting Ready For The Common Core

Susan B. Neuman:

States are now working intently on developing plans that will make new, common standards a reality. A recent report from Education First and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center concludes that that all but one of the 47 states adopting the Common Core State Standards is now in the implementation phase. Seven states have fully upgraded professional development, curriculum materials, and evaluation systems in preparation for the 2014-2015 school year.

Nary a word has been spoken about how to prepare teachers to implement common standards appropriately in the early childhood years. Although the emphasis on content-rich instruction in ways that builds knowledge is an important one, standards groups have virtually ignored the early years when these critical skills first begin to develop.

Young children are eager to learn about the sciences, arts, and the world around them. And, as many early childhood teachers recognize, we need to provide content-rich instruction that is both developmentally appropriate and highly engaging to support students' learning.

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Can Obama Really Lower the Cost of College?

Andrew Rotherham:

Let's cut right to the chase -- I have about the same chance of being picked up by the Boston Red Sox as a utility player as President Obama does of having his proposals to control college costs get through Congress this year. But looking at what the President proposed on Friday (in a raucous speech at the University of Michigan) through the lens of short-term Capitol Hill feasibility misses the significance of what Obama is up to. Just a few years ago, the ideas the President hinted at in last week's State of the Union and is now describing in more depth were considered fringe topics, basically the province of a few wonks and reform-minded policymakers. Talk of improving productivity in higher education bordered on blasphemy. Now the President of the United States is on board.

Obama wants to provide more data to parents and students about what colleges cost and how their students do after graduation. He also wants to change how federal aid works in order to create incentives for schools to keep costs down and keep interest on federal student loans low. Most noteworthy is his attempt to catalyze innovations at colleges and universities to improve productivity and encourage states to reform higher education through a grant competition similar to his Race to the Top program that has led many states to adopt K-12 reforms in order to win federal dollars. More specifics on the higher-ed competition will accompany the President's budget request in February.

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Media, district levy advocacy not appropriate, not leadership

Laurie Rogers

"And I tell you this: you do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it's usually called 'assault' - not 'leadership'."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, as told to Emmet John Hughes, for "Re-Viewing the Cold War: Domestic Factors and Foreign Policy in the East-West Confrontation"


Last year, someone said to me: "Laurie, I heard you're a nut job. So tell me, who are you, really?" I said: "You've heard me talk. What do you think?" The person chuckled and said: "I kind of like you. I think you care."

I do care. I have a fierce protective instinct toward the community, the country, and the children. I'm a patriot, but no politician. I'm not interested in making money or gaining political allies through District 81, the union or the media. I was trained as an old-style reporter, with an eye to supportable facts and a determination to know and report the truth. I'm not a natural extrovert, but five years of dealing with administrators and board directors have turned me into a fighter. I'm not a liar, and I'm no quitter, and I don't know how to do just the bare minimum of anything (except dusting).

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How to grade a teacher: United Teachers Los Angeles and the school district should get behind a teacher-led evaluation system.

James Encinas, Kyle Hunsberger and Michael Stryer:

We're teachers who believe that teacher evaluation, including the use of reliable test data, can be good for students and for teachers. Yes, yes, we know we're not supposed to exist. But we do, and there are a lot more of us.

In February the membership of United Teachers Los Angeles will vote on a teacher-led initiative urging union leaders to negotiate a new teacher evaluation system for L.A. Unified. The vote will allow teachers' voices to be heard above the din of warring political figures.

Although LAUSD and UTLA reached a contract agreement in December that embraced important school reforms, they haven't yet addressed teacher evaluation. Good teaching is enormously complex, and no evaluation system will capture it perfectly. But a substantive teacher-led evaluation system will be far better for students and teachers than what we have now, a system in which virtually all teachers receive merely "satisfactory" ratings from administrators.

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Stanford Professors Daphne Koller & Andrew Ng Also Launching a Massive Online Learning Startup

Audrey Watters:

These are interesting times to be a Stanford professor. Or to stop being a Stanford professor, as the case may be...

Last week, news broke that Professor Sebastian Thrun would be stepping down from teaching at Stanford to launch an online learning company called Udacity. Udacity is an outgrowth of his incredibly popular Artificial Intelligence class offered through Stanford last fall.

Now it appears that two other Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng (Ng taught last term's massive Machine Learning class) have started their own company, Coursera, one that offers a very similar service as Thrun's.

According to the startup's jobs page, the two are "following up on the success of these courses to scale up online education efforts to provide a high quality education to the world. Out platform delivers complete courses where students are not only watching web-based lectures, but also actively participating, doing exercises, and deeply learning the material."

Education is undergoing a revolution (curricular deliver, opportunities for students, high and low cost delivery). Will Madison be part of it? We certainly have the resources and infrastructure. Will intransigence reign?

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Jindal's Education Moon Shot

Wall Street Journal:

Newt Gingrich wants the U.S. to return to the moon, but as challenges go he has nothing on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's school reform plans.

Mr. Jindal wants to create America's largest school voucher program, broadest parental choice system, and toughest teacher accountability regime--all in one legislative session. Any one of those would be a big win, but all three could make the state the first to effectively dismantle a public education monopoly.

Louisiana is already one of 12 states (including Washington, D.C.) that offer school vouchers, but its program benefits fewer than 2,000 students in New Orleans. Governor Jindal would extend eligibility to any low-income student whose school gets a C, D or F grade from state administrators. That's almost 400,000 students--a bit more than half the statewide population--who could escape failing schools for private or virtual schools, career-based programs or institutions of higher education.

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February 1, 2012

Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison's Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)

Kaleem Caire, via email

In 2011 Kaleem Caire, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, reintroduced the topic of the Academic Achievement Gap that exists in theMadison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). As reported, just 48% of African American students and 56% of Latino students graduated on time from MMSD in 2010.

Just as staggering as these statistics is the fact that until the conversation was reintroduced, a large majority of our community was not aware that the academic achievement gap even existed. Why is that? Four more important questions may be: How did we get here?What have we proposed before? Why has this problem persisted? AND - What should we do now? To answer these questions, and many more, the Urban League of Greater Madison would like to invite you to participate in a community forum moderated by Derrell Connor.


Agenda:

6:00 Welcome Derrell Connor

6:05 Introduction of Panel
Milele Chikasa Anana
Dr. Richard Harris
Joseph Hill
Dr. John Odom
Alfonso Studesville
6:15 History of Madison's Academic Achievement Gap

6:30 Panel

6:45 Q&A from Audience Members

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

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Milwaukee School Board majority chooses jobs over saving money

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The Milwaukee School Board is once again ignoring Superintendent Gregory Thornton's request to explore privatizing a portion of the school lunch program. And that's just another sign that the board is more concerned with saving union food service jobs than with saving money that could be better spent on educating kids.

The board and Thornton have been down this road before. In his latest proposal, Thornton asked the board to approve the establishment of a leased commissary. The board voted down the proposal, 5-4, in favor of a central kitchen run by district staff. They would not even consider the possibility of looking at other options to see if those would be more cost effective.

In a cash-strapped district, this makes absolutely no sense.

"I was just talking about privatizing a piece of it," a frustrated Thornton said. "I was not talking about how to transport the food or service the food."

The board appears to be against exploring any food service options that would eliminate union jobs. Currently, the food service workforce includes 48 temporary employees and more than 100 part-time employees. Administrators say they have had a hard time filling food service jobs.

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The Perils of 'Bite Size' Science

Marco Bertamini & Marcus Munafo:

IN recent years, a trend has emerged in the behavioral sciences toward shorter and more rapidly published journal articles. These articles are often only a third the length of a standard paper, often describe only a single study and tend to include smaller data sets. Shorter formats are promoted by many journals, and limits on article length are stringent -- in many cases as low as 2,000 words.

This shift is partly a result of the pressure that academics now feel to generate measurable output. According to the cold calculus of "publish or perish," in which success is often gauged by counting citations, three short articles can be preferable to a single longer one.

But some researchers contend that the trend toward short articles is also better for science. Such "bite size" science, they argue, encourages results to be communicated faster, written more concisely and read by editors and researchers more easily, leading to a more lively exchange of ideas.

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2011 Annual Florida School District Rankings

Gerard Robinson Video.

Florida Department of Education:

The Florida Department of Education today released a numerical ranking of the state's 3,078 public and charter schools, grouped by elementary, middle, high and combination schools. This ranking coupled with the district rankings, makes it easier for parents and taxpayers to view information about Florida's education system.

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Sustained Positive Effects on Graduation Rates Produced by New York City's Small Public High Schools of Choice

Howard S. Bloom and Rebecca Unterman:

During the past decade, New York City undertook a district-wide high school reform that is perhaps unprecedented in its scope, scale, and pace. Between fall 2002 and fall 2008, the school district closed 23 large failing high schools (with graduation rates below 45 percent), opened 216 new small high schools (with different missions, structures, and student selection criteria), and implemented a centralized high school admissions process that assigns over 90 percent of the roughly 80,000 incoming ninth-graders each year based on their school preferences.

At the heart of this reform are 123 small, academically nonselective, public high schools. Each with approximately 100 students per grade in grades 9 through 12, these schools were created to serve some of the district's most disadvantaged students and are located mainly in neighborhoods where large failing high schools had been closed. MDRC researchers call them "small schools of choice" (SSCs) because of their small size and the fact that they do not screen students based on their academic backgrounds.

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January 31, 2012

Wisconsin's "F" on Science Curriculum Standards; "Worthless"; Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Comments

Fordham Institute: The State of State Science Standards 2012:

Wisconsin's science standards--unchanged since 1998, in spite of much earlier criticism, ours included--are simply worthless. No real content exists to evaluate.

In lieu of content, the "authors" have passed the buck by merely citing unelaborated references to the now outdated National Science Education Standards (NSES). Rather than using the NSES as building blocks for a comprehensive set of science standards, however, Wisconsin has used them as an escape hatch to avoid hard work and careful thought

WKOW:
Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad says the state already has plans to review its standards in all areas.

"I think we have to be cautious not to look at the current state because it is very much in flux right now," Nerad says. "Things are going to change. it doesn't makes sense to look backwards as it does to look forward."

Remarkable. Much more at www.wisconsin2.org.

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American school kids trash Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

Graeme Culliford and Nick Owens:

It was Jamie Oliver's toughest challenge... getting US ­youngsters to ditch junk food and eat a healthier diet.

But six months after he ­convinced an LA school to swap fattening burgers for low-calorie salads, his ­revamped menu is - literally - being binned.

Hundreds of students at West Adams Preparatory High School, where his hit show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution was filmed, are ­refusing to eat his cuisine.

Instead, bins are overflowing with the TV chef's veg curries, quinoa salads, Thai ­noodles and wheatbread burgers.

Many youngsters even go without lunch altogether.

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Old-school system needs its own recess

Chris Rickert:

The Janesville Gazette reported last week that principals at some of the city's public elementary school are attributing some major positive academic and behavioral trends to a relatively minor change: moving recess from after to before lunch.

I remember the post-lunch recess -- chasing girls, pick-up football, the bloody nose I gave my best friend.

In fact, I remember school-day and school-year schedules being much the same as the ones my 5-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son experience at their Madison public elementary school -- from the timing of recess, to summer vacation, to days off to honor such notables as Polish-born Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski (keep in mind this was the Chicago area, which has a large Polish population).

I suppose that could be because at some point decades ago, the public education establishment discovered the perfect academic schedule and, well, why tinker with something that works?

Janesville's experience suggests something else, though: that post-lunch recess is just another public education tradition among a slew of public education traditions that could benefit from a fresh pair of eyes.

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My experience with the new iTunes U Course Manager

Sunset Lake Software:

Last week, Apple unveiled two new education-related products: iBooks textbooks and the new iTunes U courses. While both interest me, I was particularly fascinated by the new iTunes U courses and how they bundle information together. I converted my existing Advanced iPhone Development iTunes U class into a full course (which you can subscribe to for free) a few days ago. I wanted to write about what I learned in the process of doing this.

As I mentioned, I taught a course in 2010 at the Madison Area Technical College on advanced iPhone (now iOS) development. We recorded this course and made videos of the sessions available for free on iTunes U. Both the spring semester and fall semester of 2010 can be found as video collections in 720p HD on iTunes U. Each class session is roughly three hours long, because they were part of a once-a-week professional development course.

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Obama Proposes College-Aid Changes

Laura Meckler:

Seeking to control spiraling college costs, President Barack Obama is proposing tying federal student aid to universities' tuition rates and the value they provide graduates.

The plan would affect three programs that provide institutions with student aid--Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Perkins Loans and Work Study. Under the current formula, schools with the highest tuitions get the most money, because the programs help fill the gap between what students can afford and what they are charged.

Mr. Obama would change that by rewriting the formula so that schools that keep tuition down and that provide "good value" would be rewarded with more money. The White House didn't say what would constitute good value but said the new formula would include measures such as graduation rates; that's in contrast to the current formula, which rewards longevity in the program.

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January 30, 2012

Madison Prep's Private School Plans "in Doubt"

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy doesn't have the money to open as a private school next fall and its future is in the hands of the Madison School Board, according to a lead supporter of the charter school proposal.

Supporters still want to open Madison Prep in the fall but haven't been able to raise about $1.2 million needed to run the school because its future beyond next year remains uncertain, Madison Prep board chairman David Cagigal said last week; moreover, a key donor said her support is contingent on School Board backing.

Cagigal said the private school option was never intended to be more than an interim plan before the school opened as a public charter school. One of the most common reasons charter schools fail is lack of funding, he added.

"We can't approach these donors unless we mitigate the risk," Cagigal said. "The only way we can do that is seek a 2013 vote."

Cagigal acknowledged that if the School Board doesn't vote on opening Madison Prep as a charter school in 2013, "then we may have to wait."

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

The fate of Madison Prep was discussed at a recent school board candidate forum.

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Oakland schools denied secession bids

Katy Murphy:

Charter schools: The Oakland school board rejected the charter school petitions submitted by the faculties of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits, public elementary schools in the Fruitvale area that want to secede from the school district. The district's charter schools office recommended that the board approve the request, but Superintendent Tony Smith took a different stance, pointing to the financial investment the district has made in the schools since they opened.

This section of a staff resolution seems to sum up the superintendent's position: "Whereas, the District cannot succeed at its strategic plan to create a Full Service Community School District that serves the whole child ... if after millions of dollars in investment, individual schools that have achieved because of the District's investment can separate and opt out of the District, with the consequence that the District loses its collective identity as a school system serving children in all neighborhoods in

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An L.A. teacher reviews her review

Coleen Bondy:

For the first time this year, LAUSD has prepared reports for teachers that rate their effectiveness. When I received an email saying I could now view my own personal "Average Growth over Time" report, I opened it with a combination of trepidation, resignation and indignation.

First, the indignation. It is, I think, the key factor that has kept me teaching past the five-year mark, when most new teachers quit the profession. I am in my sixth year of teaching after a nearly 20-year career as a professional writer. I know that I am smart, hardworking and competent, and despite the many frustrations of teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I have refused to throw in the towel -- as so many do.

Indignation is also what fueled my reaction when I saw the rating the school district sent. It showed me to be on the low side of average for high school English teachers in the district.

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Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching

Harvard:

PLEASE NOTE: This is a provisional website meant to convey vital information to those interested. Our much-improved website will launch here soon, so stay tuned!

Launched through a generous gift from Gus and Rita Hauser, the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) is a Presidential Initiative to catalyze experimentation in teaching that improves student learning. It will capitalize on, strengthen, and broaden the scope of existing learning and teaching activities at Harvard, transform Harvard students' educational experience in keeping with current and future technological and pedagogical needs, build on Harvard's leadership in the research, application, and assessment of innovative pedagogy, and develop a robust, synergistic network of expertise, scholarly work, and creativity through dedicated University support that flows to the Schools and allows for sharing across Harvard campuses.

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Groundswell of Approval for Moving School Board Elections to November

New Jersey Left Behind:

Yesterday there were 38 New Jersey school boards that had voted to move their elections to November. Today, just a week after passage of the new legislation, there are 56. Odds are the numbers will continue to increase as boards hold regular business meetings, debate the pros and cons, and pass the required resolution. (Coverage from NJ Spotlight and Trenton Times; here's a FAQ sheet from the DOE, which includes a sample resolution.)

Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, who sponsored the bill, said, "When we spend in the state of New Jersey anywhere from $7 to $9 million a year on school board elections, with voter turnout across the state at approximately 15 percent, I think we're doing a disservice to the residents."

This is a good idea.

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ALEC Reports on the War on Teachers

Anthony Cody:

As state after state rewrites their education laws in line with the mandates from Race to the Top and the NCLB waiver process, the teaching profession is being redefined. Teachers will now pay the price - be declared successes or failures, depending on the rise or fall of their students' test scores. Under NCLB it was schools that were declared failures. In states being granted waivers to NCLB, it is teachers who will be subjected to this ignominy. Of course we will still be required to label the bottom 5% of our schools as failures, but if the Department of Education has its way, soon every single teacher in the profession will be at risk for the label.

This revelation came to me as I read the Score Card on Education prepared by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), authored by Dr. Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips. This is a remarkable document. It provides their report on where each of the states stands on the education "reform" that has become the hallmark of corporate philanthropies, the Obama administration and governors across the nation.

It begins with a histrionic comparison between the struggle over our schools and the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. The authors write:

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History, Not "Conspiracy": Kaleem Caire's Connections

Allen Ruff, via a kind email:

First of a series

The recent controversy over the Urban League of Greater Madison's proposal for a Madison Preparatory Academy has been framed primarily as a local story pitting contending interests within the city. The charter school's promoters, supporters and mainstream media have portrayed the ULGM's CEO and President, Kaleem Caire as the Prep's public champion and native son returned home on a mission to help "close the achievement gap," the racial disparities in Madison's schools.

But Caire's well-established national ties, spanning more than a decade, to numbers of conservative foundations, think tanks and individuals bent on privatizing public school coffers, creating for-profit schools, and destroying teachers' unions, certainly suggest that there is more to the story.

Caire has consistently dismissed any suggestion of his links to various right-wing efforts. On occasion he has admitted some distant connections but asserted his independence by saying, "They have their agenda, but we have ours." Lately, he has taken to waving off critic's references to such ties as nothing more than "guilt-by-association crap" or part of a "conspiracy" and "whisper campaign" coming from those trying to discredit the Mad Prep Academy project. However, a readily traceable history reveals some truth to the charges.

180K PDF version.

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

Clusty Search: Allen Ruff, Blekko, google, bing.

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January 29, 2012

Under education reform, school principals swamped by teacher evaluations

Amanda Paulson:

School principals, including some who back more rigorous review of teachers, are balking at education reforms required by Race to the Top. New teacher evaluations are all-consuming, they say.

Sharon McNary believes in having tough teacher evaluations.

But these days, the Memphis principal finds herself rushing to cram in what amounts to 20 times the number of observations previously required for veteran teachers - including those she knows are excellent - sometimes to the detriment of her other duties.

"I don't think there's a principal that would say they don't agree we don't need a more rigorous evaluation system," says Ms. McNary, who is president of the Tennessee Principals Association as well as principal at Richland Elementary. "But now it seems that we've gone to [the opposite] extreme."

In New York, which is also beginning to implement a new teacher evaluation system this year, many principals are even less constrained in their opinion

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The True Cost of High School Dropouts

Henry Levin and Cecilia Rouse:

ONLY 21 states require students to attend high school until they graduate or turn 18. The proposal President Obama announced on Tuesday night in his State of the Union address -- to make such attendance compulsory in every state -- is a step in the right direction, but it would not go far enough to reduce a dropout rate that imposes a heavy cost on the entire economy, not just on those who fail to obtain a diploma.

In 1970, the United States had the world's highest rate of high school and college graduation. Today, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, we've slipped to No. 21 in high school completion and No. 15 in college completion, as other countries surpassed us in the quality of their primary and secondary education.

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A Disrupted Higher-Ed System

Jeff Selingo:

The "disruption" of the higher-ed market is a popular refrain these days. Rising tuition prices and student debt have left many wondering if the current model is indeed broken and whether those like Harvard's Clay Christensen are right when they say that innovations in course delivery will eventually displace established players.

What exactly those innovations will look like remains a matter of debate. One view from Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, envisions a future in which every industry will be disrupted and "rebuilt with people at the center."

In this recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Sandberg talked specifically about the gaming industry, which has been upended by the popularity of social-gaming venues, such as Words With Friends and Farmville.

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Education & The State of Our Union

Matthew McKnight:

On primary and secondary education, Obama essentially advocated three directives: raise the dropout age to eighteen, continue his Race to the Top program, and loosen the standardized restrictions on teachers. Obama is right to say that the minimum requirements set by No Child Left Behind, in the ten years the law has been in effect, have done little to shrink the achievement gap, and to consider an alternative. But it's too early to know if Race to the Top is the right one. The first, sufficiently rigorous evaluation will begin in March, and will only be completed and released two years later. He's also right to say that "teachers matter," and that good ones ought to have the freedom and income to do their job well.

That education cannot be treated in a bubble is an important truth that should not be missed. And yet, while the President's diagnosis--even with its simplifications--was accurate, his prescriptions were light on details. "Challenges remain," he said, but "we know how to solve them." Do we? It was not even clear how to resolve tension between his stated desire not to confine educators to "teaching to the test" and the way the Race to the Top rewards testing, aside from handing it off to individual states. Injunctions like "more competition" miss the wide scope of the problem. Indeed, in a country where the fault lines in education align so neatly along economic, racial, and geographic divisions, there's almost an urge to accept rhetorical shows of confidence, and not look too far beyond them.

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Raising Wisconsin's Student Achievement Bar?

Alan Borsuk:

What if you suddenly found out that half of the eighth-graders in Wisconsin, all kids you thought were highly rated readers, really didn't merit being called proficient? That instead of four out of five being pretty decent in math, it was really two out of five?

You better start thinking how you'd react because it's likely that is what's coming right at us. That's how dramatic a proposal last week by the state Department of Public Instruction is.

As parents, teachers, school leaders, politicians, community leaders and taxpayers, will we be motivated to do better? Will we see the need for change? Will we rise to the occasion? Or will we settle for being discouraged and basically locked into what we've come to expect?

Here's what's going on: With Congress failing to pass a revision, originally due in 2007, of the education law known as No Child Left Behind, the U.S. Department of Education has begun issuing waivers from the enforcement program of the increasingly dysfunctional law. Wisconsin wants a waiver - it's one of the things people such as Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic-oriented Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers agree on. So a task force developed a proposal. People have until Feb. 3 to react to the proposal and the application is to be submitted Feb. 21.

The plan will change a lot of important dynamics of what students and schools in Wisconsin are expected to accomplish. It calls for publicly rating all schools on a 1 to 100 point scale, with student outcomes as a key factor. Schools that score low will face orders to improve and, possibly, closing. And that goes for every school with students whose education is paid for with public dollars - in other words, private schools in the voucher programs for Milwaukee and Racine kids are included.

Overall, the waiver plan means we are at the point where Wisconsin gets serious about raising expectations for student achievement. Wisconsin is regarded as having one of the lowest bars in the U.S. for rating a student as proficient. No more, the proposal says.

....


Eighth-grade reading: Using the WKCE measuring stick, 86% of students were rated as "advanced" or "proficient." Using the NAEP measuring stick, it was 35% - a 51-point difference. At least as vivid: Using the WKCE measure, 47% of eighth-graders were "advanced," the top bracket. Using the NAEP measure, it was 3%. Three percent! In other words, only a handful of kids statewide would be labeled advanced under the new system, not the nearly half we're used to.

Fourth-grade reading: On the WKCE scale, 82% were proficient or advanced. On the NAEP scale, it was 33%.

Eighth-grade math: WKCE, 78% proficient. NAEP: 41%.

Fourth-grade math: WKCE: 79% proficient. NAEP: 47%.

A substantial improvement in academic standards is warranted and possibly wonderful, assuming it happens and avoids being watered down. The rightly criticized WKCE was an expensive missed opportunity.

Related: www.wisconsin2.org

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January 28, 2012

NCTQ Sues UW Ed Schools over Access to Course Syllabi

Kate Walsh, via a kind reader's email:

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Associated Press, NCTQ filed a lawsuit yesterday -- a first for us -- against the University of Wisconsin system.

UW campuses issued identically worded denials of our requests for course syllabi, which is one of the many sources of information we use to rate programs for the National Review of teacher preparation programs. They argue that "syllabi are not public records because they are subject to copyright" and therefore do not have to be produced in response to an open records request.

We believe that the University's reading of the law is flawed. We are engaged in research on the quality of teacher preparation programs, and so our request falls squarely within the fair use provision of copyright law. What's more, these documents were created at public institutions for the training of public school teachers, and so should be subject to scrutiny by the public.

You can read our complaint here.

Related Georgia, Wisconsin Education Schools Back Out of NCTQ Review
Public higher education institutions in Wisconsin and Georgia--and possibly as many as five other states--will not participate voluntarily in a review of education schools now being conducted by the National Council for Teacher Quality and U.S. News and World Report, according to recent correspondence between state consortia and the two groups.

In response, NCTQ and U.S. News are moving forward with plans to obtain the information from these institutions through open-records requests.

In letters to the two organizations, the president of the University of Wisconsin system and the chancellor of Georgia's board of regents said their public institutions would opt out of the review, citing a lack of transparency and questionable methodology, among other concerns.

Formally announced in January, the review will rate education schools on up to 18 standards, basing the decisions primarily on examinations of course syllabuses and student-teaching manuals.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?
Lake Wobegon has nothing on the UW-Madison School of Education. All of the children in Garrison Keillor's fictional Minnesota town are "above average." Well, in the School of Education they're all A students.

The 1,400 or so kids in the teacher-training department soared to a dizzying 3.91 grade point average on a four-point scale in the spring 2009 semester.

This was par for the course, so to speak. The eight departments in Education (see below) had an aggregate 3.69 grade point average, next to Pharmacy the highest among the UW's schools. Scrolling through the Registrar's online grade records is a discombobulating experience, if you hold to an old-school belief that average kids get C's and only the really high performers score A's.

Much like a modern-day middle school honors assembly, everybody's a winner at the UW School of Education. In its Department of Curriculum and Instruction (that's the teacher-training program), 96% of the undergraduates who received letter grades collected A's and a handful of A/B's. No fluke, another survey taken 12 years ago found almost exactly the same percentage.

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What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

Anu Partanen:

Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West's reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.

The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known -- if it was known for anything at all -- as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life -- Newsweek ranked it number one last year -- and Finland's national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.

Finland's schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

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Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter

65K PDF, via a kind email.

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New Study Gives Small Schools Initiative a Thumbs Up

Mary Ann Giordano

The small schools initiative that has been the hallmark of the Bloomberg administration's schools policy seems to be working, a new study has found.

Winnie Hu reports in The New York Times on Thursday that the study found that students who attend public high schools that have about 100 students in each grade were more likely to graduate.

The continuing study is described as "one of the largest and most comprehensive reviews of the impact of small schools on learning." Its $3.5 million cost is covered by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the study is conducted by MDRC, a nonprofit education research group based in Manhattan.

The study found that students at small high schools were more likely to earn a diploma than students who attend larger schools, The Times reports.

Related: Small Learning Communities

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Can Computers Replace Teachers?

Andrew Rotherham:

Steve Jobs didn't think that technology alone could fix what ails American education. It's worth remembering that in the wake of last week's breathless coverage of Apple's new iBooks platform, which the company promises will radically change how students use and experience textbooks. Under Apple's plan, companies and individuals will be able to self-publish textbooks, ideally creating a wider array of content. Students will be able to download and use these books on their iPad much like they would use a regular textbook -- including highlighting passages, making notes and pulling out passages or chapters that are especially important to them. Apple says it also plans to cap the price of textbooks available through iBooks at $14.99, a significant departure from the price of many textbooks now.

Critics were quick to pounce that Apple wasn't being revolutionary enough. Former school superintendent and current ed-tech investor Tom Vander Ark chided Apple for not thinking past textbooks, which he considers hopelessly 20th century. Others worried that Apple's real goal wasn't to open up the textbook industry but to control it and profit from it through restrictive licensing agreements and a platform that dominates the market. I'm sure the for-profit company's shareholders will be horrified at that news.

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Madison to get 1,400 iPads for schools by next fall

Matthew DeFour:

Madison teachers will soon be handing out Apples to students.

The School District for the first time plans to buy more than 600 iPads for use in the majority of schools this spring. Another 800 iPads are expected to be in classrooms by next fall, all paid for with money from a state settlement with Microsoft.

District officials are enthusiastic about the possibilities presented by tablets, from students wirelessly sharing classroom work to replacing workbooks purchased each year with online "apps." Other districts in Dane County and around the state are already experimenting with tablets.

In Madison, the popular computing device presents a "jumping off" moment for technology in classrooms that hasn't happened with desktop and laptop computers, said Bill Smojver, the district's director of technical services.

"This is the most significant transition point for having digital learning at the optimal level," Smojver said.

Matthew DeFour:
Madison isn't the first school district in Dane County to experiment with iPads in the classroom.

Amy Nelson, a Sun Prairie School District speech therapist, uses tablets with all students from fifth graders to 4-year-olds. One program makes it easier to teach verb tenses, as she can show a boy running, rather than explain running with a motionless picture card.

"It's definitely the up-and-coming technology and kids are really excited about it too," Nelson said. "They're learning something and working on skills, but to them they just think they're playing sometimes."

The Monona Grove School District is also using iPads to help autistic and other disabled students communicate, said Kathy Sanders, a library media and technology specialist in the Monona Grove School District.

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High Schools Are Step One Of Two

mckaythomas:

MG Siegler in his latest TechCrunch article posits that although Apple's new iBooks strategy is admirable in its effort to fix problems in public high schools, that it's not realistic and that their market strategy should revolve around colleges and college textbooks.

On the surface, which seems logical enough, his argument is sound. But It ignores the one, HUGE driving force in education: money.

Nearly all high schools are public, or receive public funding in one way or another and help to satisfy the law which states that students of high school age must attend school. Textbooks are merely a means of teaching these students topics which help these schools qualify for their funding.

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Louisiana Governor Jindal says education reforms can't wait for another generation of kids

Barabar Leader:

Education was the topic of discussion in northeast Louisiana Thursday as Governor Bobby Jindal and the state's new Superintendent of Education John White visited the area.

Jindal spoke to the Monroe Chamber of Commerce about what he called a "critical time" in Louisiana's history and the role his aggressive education reform package will play in the state's continuing journey to improvement.

White joined Jindal at the Monroe Chamber of Commerce but spent most of his visit in area schools observing teachers and students.

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January 27, 2012

Madison Teachers Candidate Endorsement(s)



To all of you with #recallwithdrawal: Time to focus on Arlene and Micheal for #MMSDBOE!! #99percent

MTI is officially endorsing Arlene Silviera for Madison School Board. Come meet her tonight! 100 WI Ave #700 5-7pm

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com

via a kind reader's email

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Progessive Dane Endorses Michael Flores & Arlene Silveira (i) for Madison School Board

Progressive Dane:

Madison School District Board
Seat 1: Arlene Silveira Website / Facebook
Seat 2: Michael Flores Website / Facebook

Now we have to make sure they get elected! That takes money (some) and work (lots).

The money part is easy--come to the Progressive Dane Campaign Fund-raiser

Sunday February 12, 5-7 pm
Cardinal Bar, 418 E Wilson St
(Potluck food, Cash Bar, Family Friendly)

Meet the candidates, hear about Madison School District and Dane County issues, pick some to work on this year!

Both Madison School Board races are contested this year.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com



1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.

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First Niagara's $3M to shape CT school-reform debate

Hartford Business, via a kind Doug Newman email:

First Niagara Bank has pledged $3 million to support a nonprofit group that is representing business interests in Connecticut's education reform debate.

The money will go to Hartford's Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), which is led by a group of prominent Connecticut business leaders including former Hartford Financial Services Group CEO Ramani Ayer, and Peyton Patterson, the former chief executive of NewAllinace Bank, which was acquired by First Niagara Bank last year.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform also unveiled Thursday its education agenda for the upcoming legislative session, which includes urging the state to adopt:

--Teacher and leader employment and retention policies that attract the highest quality professionals and insist upon effectiveness as defined by their ability to demonstrate improvement in student performance, not seniority, as the measure of success defined by redesigned evaluation systems.

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Has Students Come First hurt teacher unions in Idaho?

Kristin Rodine:

Idaho's controversial new school reform laws gutted teacher associations' collective bargaining powers, but local union leaders say they can still work effectively with their district administration to help shape policies.

"This (legislation) basically said to districts that if you don't want to work with teachers in these areas, you can say by law you don't have to do it anymore," Boise Education Association President Andrew Rath said. "But I think they've found that districts want to work with the teachers."

Association leaders Sam Stone of Caldwell and Luke Franklin of Meridian agreed.

"We can always talk to our district," Franklin said. "Our relationship isn't really 'us against them.'"

The Students Come First laws, unveiled by schools Superintendent Tom Luna one year ago and approved by the 2011 Legislature, limits teacher contract negotiations to the issues of pay and benefits and eliminates working conditions and other issues from master contracts.

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Björk's Latest Experiment: Teaching Science

Nick Neyland:

Björk turned her last album into an app. Now she's turning her music into a science exhibit for city students, with an unusual three-week run at a Queens museum better known for its molecule models and retired spacecraft.

The singer arrives at the New York Hall of Science next month to hold a series of classes for middle school students, as well as six open-to-the-public concerts in the museum's Great Hall. Björk will also stage four shows at a more conventional concert venue: Manhattan's Roseland Ballroom.

"The whole idea is to take music education out of a bookish, academic thing and into a more physical, tactile experience," said Björk, 46 years old, in an interview as she was preparing for the event.

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Let's evaluate all ways to close gap

Madison School Board Candidate Mary Burke

n recent listening sessions with Madison parents, I heard how we can improve our schools, what we can be really proud of and stories about our wonderful teachers. In these discussions and in others, people have talked about addressing the racial achievement gap and shared concerns about Madison Prep.

For the 12 years I have been involved in Madison schools, I have been championing education and addressing the racial achievement gap. An East High teacher and I co-founded the AVID/TOPS program, which I also supported financially and continue to co-chair. This program has increased the number of students graduating and going on to post-secondary education. But AVID TOPS alone is not enough. We need to do more.

When Madison Prep was discussed last fall, it was the only proposal put on the table in the last five years to significantly address the racial achievement gap. At that time the teachers union and the planners of Madison Prep were in agreement that the school would run with Madison School District employees, union teachers and under the leadership of the district (as an instrumentality). A major concern raised was that Madison Prep would pull resources needed by existing schools.

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January 26, 2012

Learning to Write Teaches Westerly Students Science
"Therefore, in conclusion, learning to write promotes scientific thinking. Other districts would do well to take notice."

Posted by Julia Steiny Columnist EducationNews.org on January 25, 2012

Back in December 2009, excited 4th graders at Westerly's State Street School (http://sss.westerly.k12.ri.us/) sat down to take a practice science test. Like little sports jocks, the kids approached the task as if it were training for the big game coming in the spring, the statewide science NECAP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NECAP).

In 2008, the whole Westerly district had performed so poorly on that test that teachers actually volunteered their time to form a K-12 Science Task Force focused on redeeming their sullied academic reputation. (See last week's column about this Task Force (link to my column from last week) .)

Then, insult to injury, in 2009 State Street's scores tanked again.

The heat was on. State Street had already started implementing the Task Force's recommendations, including its strong emphasis on teaching writing.

Wait. Writing? That's English, not science. But more on this in a moment.

Westerly's students had struggled particularly with the "inquiry" part of the NECAP, where kids to do a hands-on task and draw conclusions from what they see in front of them.

State Street's Principal Audrey Faubert says, "Science (NECAP) is only given at the 4th grade (and later at 8th and 11th), so K-3 weren't exposed to the rigors of testing. We decided to give all the kids an inquiry task to complete. And the faculty also took some of the released test items from the RIDE website. (http://www.ride.ri.gov/assessment/necap_releaseditems.aspx) Even though they'd been teaching inquiry with the science kits (http://www.uri.edu/hss/education/GEMSNET-URI/index.html) , it was interesting for the teachers to be on the other side of a test."

But the spotlight's glare was on those 4th graders.

Faubert smiled sadly, "The room was buzzing. The kids thought they did fantastic."

Working in pairs, the school's entire teaching staff scored the kids' work. The results were enough to induce clinical depression.

But as it turns out, the school's good efforts hadn't quite paid off yet. The Task Force was onto a good thing when they decided writing was key to learning science. State Street's instruction had only just started to take root.

Here's the problem: Old science was about answers. When a test asks a question like: "How does wind change sand dunes?" somewhere in the science textbook was an answer that the kid was supposed to have memorized.

New science is about thinking and reasoning. The way Faubert puts it is: "The (NECAP) science test is a thinking test, not a knowledge test. Science isn't about recall any more, but about synthesizing information." New science poses essential questions, such as the sand dunes example, but now the kids need to derive the answer themselves, by sorting through data. Teachers provide techniques, tools, research methods, and experiences. But like scientists themselves, students must do their own research and figure out what their discoveries mean.

Writing is always the product of thinking. Writing forces a kid to organize her thoughts to be expressive and communicate clearly.

Middle-school principal Paula Fusco says "Prior to the work of the Task Force, we'd left writing up to the English teacher. But whatever the kids did or didn't know, they weren't able to communicate their understanding of science."

To work on that understanding, Fusco says, "we've been taking the vocabulary out of NECAP--infer, predict, explain. So the kids aren't afraid of the words they're encountering."

The ability to define "predict" doesn't help at all if the ability to MAKE a prediction isn't also a familiar habit. Kids need to demonstrate, by their writing, that they understand what they need to DO when the test asks them to predict, infer or explain.

Similarly, Fusco's teachers began to work with the kids on "sentence starters" to guide their thinking--However, In conclusion, Whereas, Therefore.

Fortunately, Westerly's students were in the habit of writing in science journals. But they had used them mainly to record observations. Faubert says, "Every teacher brought in examples of their students' science journals. Oh, here are the strengths and weaknesses right in our own notebooks. We'd never had the kids prove their thinking in their journals. Think like a scientist, based on what's in front of you. Prove your thinking. Prove your thinking. We said that so many times."

At the end of the day, teaching the kids to EXPLAIN their predictions and reasoning was the clearest way to teach them habits of scientific thinking. And those explanations also helped the teachers assess kids' understanding and misunderstanding.

By February, State Street dared to try another practice test with the 4th graders. Again, the staff scored it together. Ahhh, much better. So much so, Faubert felt more confident about improving on the 49 percent proficiency they'd managed in the prior year's test.

In fact, when the results were released last Fall, State Street kids hit 80 percent proficiency, 8th highest in the state, out of over 150 schools that take that test. (And Westerly is the 8th lowest-income community in the state.)

Superintendent Roy Seitsinger's take on the situation is this: "Nobody (meaning veteran educators) signed up for what we're doing now. Most of the people weren't trained to bring students through a thinking process. Now the educators' job is to teach kids how to sift through all that information and to be critical, reflective and make decisions. We have too much information and not nearly enough sorting skills."

Therefore, in conclusion, learning to write promotes scientific thinking. Other districts would do well to take notice.

Julia Steiny is a freelance columnist whose work also regularly appears at EducationViews.org and GoLocalProv.com. She is the founding director of the Youth Restoration Project, a restorative-practices initiative, currently building a demonstration project in Central Falls, Rhode Island. She consults for schools and government initiatives, including regular work for The Providence Plan for whom she analyzes data. For more detail, see juliasteiny.com or contact her at juliasteiny@gmail.com or c/o GoLocalProv, 44 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI 02903.

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

Tenured Professor Departs Stanford U., Hoping to Teach 500,000 Students at Online Start-Up

Nick DeSantis:

he Stanford University professor who taught an online artificial intelligence course to more than 160,000 students has abandoned his tenured position to aim for an even bigger audience.

Sebastian Thrun, a professor of computer science at Stanford, revealed today that he has departed the institution to found Udacity, a start-up offering low-cost online classes. He made the surprising announcement during a presentation at the Digital - Life - Design conference in Munich, Germany. The development was first reported earlier today by Reuters.

During his talk, Mr. Thrun explored the origins of his popular online course at Stanford, which initially featured videos produced with nothing more than "a camera, a pen and a napkin." Despite the low production quality, many of the 200 Stanford students taking the course in the classroom flocked to the videos because they could absorb the lectures at their own pace. Eventually, the 200 students taking the course in person dwindled to a group of 30. Meanwhile, the course's popularity exploded online, drawing students from around the world. The experience taught the professor that he could craft a course with the interactive tools of the Web that recreated the intimacy of one-on-one tutoring, he said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:06 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

How School Choice Became an Explosive Issue

Kevin Carey:

Bill Cosby and Dick Morris presumably disagree about most things, so it's instructive to note that both have officially endorsed "School Choice Week," which began yesterday with a series of rallies and events around the country celebrating the idea of parents being able to decide where their children go to school. Indeed, school choice seems like such an obviously good idea that the most interesting thing about School Choice Week is why it exists at all.

That school choice is valuable is beyond dispute. That's why there's a multi-billion dollar private school industry serving millions of students. And it's why there is a much larger system of school choice embedded in the American real estate market. While some parents pay school tuition directly, many more pay it through their monthly mortgage and property tax bills. Anyone who has deliberately purchased a home in a "good" school district is, by definition, a beneficiary and supporter of school choice.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:55 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Matthew Battles: It doesn't take Cupertino to make textbooks interactive

Matthew Battles:

Absent the glamour of the black mock turtleneck, Apple's Thursday event, held at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, still came bearing flowers of rhetoric, lovingly transplanted from their native soil in Cupertino's sunny clime. One such rhetorical staple, the feature checklist, made its appearance about nine minutes in. Usually, the checklist is used to contrast Apple's latest magical object with the feature set of lesser smartphones or other misbegotten tech tchotchkes; it was more than a little eye-popping to see the same rhetoric of invidious comparison used against the book in full -- that gadget which, as senior VP Phil Schiller reminded us, was invented (in its print incarnation) back at the end of the Hundred Years' War.

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

University of Washington Admissions and Failing K-12 Education

Cliff Mass:

A week ago there was an article in the Seattle Times describing a large drop in applicants to the UW this year. Considering that other WA State schools have not seen a similar decline and all state colleges are experiencing essentially the same tuition increases, why are UW applications down?

Could it be the incessant articles and editorials by the Seattle Times about how the UW is turning down strong applicants to let in more out of state students? How about this Seattle Times headline last spring:

"Why straight-A's may not get you into the UW this year"

which suggested that
"High-school seniors with top test scores didn't get in.
Students who got into more prestigious schools were wait-listed at the UW.
Valedictorians with straight-A's were denied admission, while out-of-state students with lower grades were accepted."

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

School choice is alive and growing -- in other states

Richard Rider:

The most important domestic subject that I FAIL to adequately cover is K-12 education. It's potentially the most effective tool we have for increasing vertical mobility in our society -- and hence is currently misused as the best single method to repress disadvantaged minorities.

What the education unions and their bought-and-paid-for Democrat allies have done to inner city black and Hispanic kids would warm the cockles of any KKK Grand Dragon. The Progressives' steadfast opposition to improving education angers me every time I think about it.

Thus I include intact below an excellent op-ed on the topic from the LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS. It's upbeat -- giving the growing success of the school choice movement in all its many flavors.

Sadly, California is one of the least successful states in this effort to improve education. All we hear from CA liberals is that we don't spend enough. But the growing popularity and acceptance of school choice in other states is going to make it more and more difficult for our voters to ignore this innovation.

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

Education a key solution

Barbara Prindiville:

The top priority facing southeastern Wisconsin - and, indeed, the biggest challenge for the entire state - is the creation of more new jobs.

There are many good ideas for creating new jobs, and many deserve further consideration. The creation of new venture capital funds, tax breaks for industries and workforce training incentives for companies that locate in Wisconsin are all worthy of further consideration and possible action.

But the best strategy for creating new jobs is to look at what companies want when deciding where to expand a plant or locate a production facility. No doubt, they look at quality of life, housing, transportation, the overall community and other factors.

However, time and again, one of the top assets that attracts new jobs is a quality education system at all levels that produces bright, articulate and engaging future workers who accept the challenge of the new international economy and the interdependent global economic landscape. That starts at kindergarten and continues beyond high school. Gone are the days when a student could graduate from high school and move to a job that could last a lifetime.

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

January 25, 2012

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio







Listen to the event via this 77MB mp3 audio file.

The event was sponsored by the Dane County Council of Public Affairs.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com

via a kind reader. It is great to see competitive races.

UPDATE 2.8.2012: A transcript is now available.

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Pennsylvania's Property Tax Independence Act

Pennsylvania Representative Jim Cox, via a kind reader's email:

Details of the latest plan to eliminate and replace school property taxes have been finalized and the legislation will be introduced shortly in the Pennsylvania House and Senate.

House Bill 1776, The Property Tax Independence Act, looks in part to the former School Property Tax Elimination Act (SPTEA) for its basic structure. While The Property Tax Independence Act mirrors some of the provisions of the former SPTEA, the plan has been comprehensively rewritten to account for lawmakers' concerns and preferences in order to eliminate objections common to the previous legislation.

  • The Property Tax Independence Act will eliminate school property and local school nuisance taxes across the Commonwealth and will replace those taxes with funding from a single state source.
  • The Property Tax Independence Act introduces a modernized school funding method that is based on 21st century economic realities.
  • The Property Tax Independence Act will ABOLISH the school property tax as well as eliminate the local school earned income tax and nuisance taxes such as the per capita and privilege-to-work taxes imposed by school districts.
  • The Property Tax Independence Act uses in great measure our current sales tax mechanism to fund schools, restoring the original intent of the tax.
  • The sales tax provides a predictable and stable funding source that is tied to economic growth. This is in clear contrast to the school property tax which is not based on economic growth and is subject to much variation.
  • Current school spending regularly exceeds tax revenue and The Property Tax Independence Act addresses this problem head on by limiting school budget increases to the rate of inflation.
Wisconsin's property taxes have increased significantly over the years. How long will this continue?


Much more, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:45 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Highland Park (MI) Schools in jeopardy of closing, governor says in letter

Melanie Scott:

As Highland Park schools officials pleaded their case against an emergency manager to officials in Lansing on Friday, Gov. Rick Snyder sent a letter to the district's parents informing them that without state intervention there would be no district by the end of next month.

Parents of Highland Park School District students told district officials today they received a letter from the governor informing them of the school district's dire financial situation.

In a letter dated Jan. 20, Snyder told parents finances for the school district have reached a crisis stage and during the 2010-11 school year, the district was $3 million over budget.

The letter also mentioned the state forwarded an emergency advance of $188,000 to the district on Jan. 13.

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

The Dangerous Notion That Debt Doesn't Matter

Steven Rattner:

WITH little fanfare, a dangerous notion has taken hold in progressive policy circles: that the amount of money borrowed by the federal government from Americans to finance its mammoth deficits doesn't matter.

Debt doesn't matter? Really? That's the most irresponsible fiscal notion since the tax-cutting mania brought on by the advent of supply-side economics. And it's particularly problematic right now, as Congress resumes debating whether to extend the payroll-tax reduction or enact other stimulative measures.

Here's the theory, in its most extreme configuration: To the extent that the government sells its debt to Americans (as opposed to foreigners), those obligations will disappear as aging folks who buy those Treasuries die off.

Larry Summers Executive Summary of Economic Policy Work, December 2008 (PDF):
Closing the gap between what the campaign proposed and the estimates of the campaign offsets would require scaling back proposals by about $100 billion annually or adding newoffsets totaling the same. Even this, however, would leave an average deficit over the next decade that would be worse than any post-World War II decade. This would be entirely unsustainable and could cause serious economic problems in the both the short run and the long run.
via Ryan Lizza.

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Coming soon: A new Florida school grading formula

Kathleen McGrory:

The way Florida grades its public schools will soon be changing.

On Tuesday, the state Board of Education heard an extensive presentation on proposed changes to the school grading formula.

The ideas ran the gamut, from incorporating the test scores of children with disabilities, to giving extra points to students who boost their test scores into the highest range.

Of course, high school grades will have to take into account the new end-of-course exams, which are being given this year in algebra, geometry and biology. Some middle-school students will also be taking the exams -- and the grades given to middle schools need to reflect that, too.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:57 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Building debt

Michael Pettis:

In the paper Flyvbjerg looks at infrastructure projects in a number of countries (not in China, though, because he needed decent data) and shows how the benefits of these projects are systematically overstated and the costs systematically understated. More important, he shows how these terrible results are simply the expected outcomes of the way infrastructure projects are typically designed and implemented.

It is not a very happy paper in general, but I am pretty sure that many people who read it probably had a thought similar to mine: if infrastructure spending can be so seriously mismanaged in relatively transparent systems with greater political accountability, what might happen in a country with a huge infrastructure boom stretching over decades, much less transparency, and very little political accountability? Isn't the potential for waste vast?

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Skype helps Lodi students interact with teacher in Thailand

Pamela Cotant:

Learning about southeast Asia from a teacher in Thailand is making the curriculum come alive for Lodi High School students.

Every morning, the students receive instruction via Skype from Tuke-Karnteera Ingkhaninan, a teacher from the Sa-nguan Ying School in Suphanburi, Thailand. Then early in the evening, Mark Kohl, a Lodi High School teacher, instructs students at the Thailand school about United States history.

"We can see it a lot more clearly instead of reading about it in a textbook," said Lodi senior Becky Thuot, 18.

Senior Savannah Sundt, 17, agreed, noting that is was meaningful when Ingkhaninan talked about a festival she would attend that evening and the Lodi students could hear fireworks going off as part of it.

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

The New American Divide

Charles Murray:

The ideal of an 'American way of life' is fading as the working class falls further away from institutions like marriage and religion and the upper class becomes more isolated. Charles Murray on what's cleaving America, and why.


America is coming apart. For most of our nation's history, whatever the inequality in wealth between the richest and poorest citizens, we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world--for whites, anyway. "The more opulent citizens take great care not to stand aloof from the people," wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, the great chronicler of American democracy, in the 1830s. "On the contrary, they constantly keep on easy terms with the lower classes: They listen to them, they speak to them every day."

Americans love to see themselves this way. But there's a problem: It's not true anymore, and it has been progressively less true since the 1960s.

People are starting to notice the great divide. The tea party sees the aloofness in a political elite that thinks it knows best and orders the rest of America to fall in line. The Occupy movement sees it in an economic elite that lives in mansions and flies on private jets. Each is right about an aspect of the problem, but that problem is more pervasive than either political or economic inequality. What we now face is a problem of cultural inequality.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Sharing a Screen, if Not a Classroom

Kyle Spencer:

In a hushed first-grade classroom at Public School 55 in the South Bronx, Edward Muñoz, a bashful 7-year-old in scuffed sneakers and a worn hoodie, was sounding out tricky words with his tutor.

Together they plowed through a book about a birthday barbecue, tackling the words "party" and "presents." Then they played a rousing game of word-based tic-tac-toe, with Edward eventually declaring victory.

Exchanges like theirs take place every day in classrooms around the country, now that links between early literacy gains and later school success have been clearly documented.

But Edward's tutor was not in the classroom. His school, a 20-minute walk from the nearest subway stop in a crime-plagued neighborhood, has long had trouble finding tutors willing to visit. "It is hard to get anyone to volunteer," said the school's principal, Luis Torres, who sometimes cancels fire drills because of the gunfire he hears outside.

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

January 24, 2012

First details of proposed Wisconsin school accountability system revealed

Matthew DeFour:

The state could more aggressively intervene in the lowest-performing publicly funded schools under a proposed accountability system unveiled Monday.

The system would rate schools on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student performance and growth on state tests, closing achievement gaps and preparing students for college and careers. Ratings also would be tied to dropout rates and third-grade literacy levels.

The http://dpi.state.wi.us/esea/pdf/eseawaiver_coverletter.pdf">http://dpi.state.wi.us/esea/index.html">Department of Public Instruction released a draft application to the U.S. Education Department for a waiver from the 10-year-old federal No Child Left Behind Act, which State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said "has shackled schools by being overly prescriptive and prohibiting creative reforms."

"Wisconsin's request for flexibility from NCLB is driven by the belief that increasing rigor across the standards, assessment and accountability system will result in improved instruction and improved student outcomes," Evers said

DPI's Initial Draft Full Waiver Proposal (2.5MB PDF):
Raising Expectations, Increasing Rigor
As noted in Principle 1, DPI has significantly raised expectations for schools and the proportion of students who graduate ready for college and career, as indicated by the adoption of rigorous academic standards, higher cut scores based on NAEP as the state transitions to SBAC, increasingly rigorous and adaptive assessment systems, and increased graduation requirements. The new accountability report card and the new system of support, rewards, and recognition will reflect these new expectations. While the state has previously emphasized graduation rates (and boasted one of the highest in the nation), DPI also recognizes the state has significant achievement and graduation gaps. The accountability index prioritizes achievement and attainment using measures which emphasize not only graduation, but also the proportion of students graduating college and career ready. Additionally, the system examines achievement gaps within and across schools as a means to address the state's existing gaps. Using a multifaceted index will help pinpoint areas of need within a school, as well as areas of strength, and help schools track their progress at meeting the needs of all student subgroups. Within the system of support, identified schools will participate in diagnostic reviews and needs assessments (Priority and Focus Schools, respectively) to identify their instructional policies, practices, and programming that have impacted student outcomes and to differentiate, and individualize reforms and interventions. While planning and implementing reforms, schools and districts will have access to increasingly expansive and timely data systems to monitor progress. Additionally, the state will require Priority and Focus Schools to implement RtI (with the support of the Wisconsin RtI Center and its resources) to ensure that all students are receiving customized, differentiated services within a least restrictive environment, including additional supports and interventions for SwDs and ELLs as needed, or extension activities and additional challenge for students exceeding benchmarks.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:59 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

2012 Madison School Board Candidate Website & Contact Information

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com

via a kind reader. It is great to see competitive races.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:51 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Hold district accountable for deceit, academic failure and questionable activity
"Where ignorance is bliss, ignorance of ignorance is sublime." - Paul Dunham

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

Last week, I went to a Spokane Public Schools math presentation at Indian Trail Elementary School. It was billed as a forum in the school newsletter and on the reader board outside of the school. It was not, in any way, a forum. It was a tightly controlled 20-minute presentation that offered no data, little information, allowed for no parent input and was patronizing in tone.

At one point, parents were asked to define math to the person next to us. (The principal said he would not offer his definition.) We also were told to describe to our neighbor a math experience we'd had. These conversations ended right there, thus being pointless. We watched a video of several small children talking about the importance of math. The kids were cute, but the video was long. It was made clear to us that math is hard, parents don't get it (see slide 7 of the presentation), "traditional math" is no longer useful, and math is intimidating to all. Printed materials reinforced the idea of parent incompetence, with students supposedly "taking the lead" and teaching their parents.

Parents were warned to stay positive about math, however, despite our supposed fear and lack of skill, and we also were told what a "balanced" program looks like - as if that's what Spokane actually has.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

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

Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform

Dr. Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips:

ALEC's 17th edition of the Report Card on American Education contains a comprehensive overview of educational achievement levels (performance and gains for low-income students) for the 50 states and the District of Columbia (see full report for complete methodology). The Report Card details what education policies states currently have in place and provides a roadmap for legislators to follow to bring about educational excellence in their state.

Focusing on the reforms recently enacted in Indiana, and with a foreword by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, this Report Card on American Education examines the experiences other states can learn from the struggles and triumps in Indiana.

Authors Dr. Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips analyze student scores, looking at both performance as well as how scores have improved over recent years. Additionally, each state is graded based on its current education policies.

Wisconsin ranks 19th.

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Minnesota's public pensions: A worse-case scenario

Mark Haveman:

This is the status of Minnesota's public pension fund obligation. And it may be optimistic.

You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going," Yogi Berra once famously said. "Because you might not get there."

Berra's characteristically unique advice is worth keeping in mind for anyone addressing the issue of public pensions.

Lots of uncertainty, to say the least, comes into play in guaranteeing lifetime retirement incomes for hundreds of thousands of Minnesota public employees -- past, present and future. And wherever we do arrive in this effort will have profound implications for government employees and taxpayers, and for the future of public services in our state.

According to the latest data on the condition of Minnesota's public pension funds, the bleeding has stopped but there is still considerable work to do.

As of last summer, the three major statewide pension plans that provide pensions for the bulk of Minnesota's public employees -- the Minnesota State Retirement System for state workers, the Public Employees Retirement Association for local workers and the Teachers Retirement Association for teachers -- were, altogether, $10.5 billion short of meeting their long-term obligations.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:06 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Seattle's Pendulum Problem

Charlie Mas:

District leadership style has swung back and forth between two extremes. It needs to be stopped and held at the center.

The Seattle School Board of 2000 - 2003 contributed to the financial fiasco that toppled the Olchefske administration. It was not just their misplaced trust, but the blindness of their trust that allowed things in the district - not just the financial reporting - to spiral down. They could have found the budget problem in the numbers reported to them (Director Bass did find it), but the majority of them lacked the necessary skepticism to look for it.

In response, the voters replaced them with a more activist board. It started with Director Bass elected in 2001. The four board directors elected in 2003 formed a much more hands-on and skeptical board majority - perhaps too much. They found a District that was poorly managed. They found all kinds of problems that had grown over the years and they were blunt and public about exposing it. I won't say that they were wrong, but they were perhaps impatient. Culture doesn't change overnight. This Board was accused of micro-managing the district and they were accused of being dysfunctional.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:02 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Public speaking for normal people

Jason Freedman:

I just gave a presentation on 42Floors to 150 people. It went well. I was really proud of: 1) our team, 2) our product and 3) the way we were able to present it. It was as if we were telling people about it in our living room, but there just happened to be 150 people there. Afterwards, several people told me that it felt like it was a very polished presentation. But the reality is we didn't practice at all. In fact, three minutes before we went on stage, my co-founder turned to me and said, "Jason, we really should've practiced." I said, "Nah, don't worry. We'll be fine." And we winged it, and it came off ever so naturally.

Before I pat myself on the back too much, let me tell you how I felt inside. Thirty seconds before I was supposed to go on, I was standing there on the side and all of a sudden my heartbeat went from normal to racing like I was in the middle of marathon. Uggghhh. I hate it when this happens. It's kind of like how you feel when you blush: you're reminded how little control you have over your own body. For a brief moment, I was upset with my body for reacting this way. I was upset with myself for reacting this way, actually. I should be more confident than this.

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

The Inevitability of the Use of Value-Added Measures in Teacher Evaluations

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

Value added" or "VA" refers to the use of statistical techniques to measure teachers' impacts on their students' standardized test scores, controlling for such student characteristics as prior years' scores, gender, ethnicity, disability, and low-income status.

Reports on a massive new study that seem to affirm the use of the technique have recently been splashed across the media and chewed over in the blogosphere. Further from the limelight, developments in Wisconsin seem to ensure that in the coming years value-added analyses will play an increasingly important role in teacher evaluations across the state. Assuming the analyses are performed and applied sensibly, this is a positive development for student learning.

The Chetty Study

Since the first article touting its findings was published on the front page of the January 6 New York Times, a new research study by three economists assessing the value-added contributions of elementary school teachers and their long-term impact on their students' lives - referred to as the Chetty article after the lead author - has created as much of a stir as could ever be expected for a dense academic study.

Much more on value added assessment, here.

It is important to note that the Madison School District's value added assessment initiative is based on the oft-criticized WKCE.

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

The business of high school sports drives Wisconsin tournament fight

Kevin Binversie:

Like it or not, sports is a business. From big-time professional leagues like the National Football League to local high school action, sports have been a reliable revenue stream for decades.

At the college level, successful athletic programs have paid dividends for their schools by generating cash. Sporting events boost local economies in tourist dollars, money spent at bars, restaurants and hotels, and of course tax revenue for local government.

It's the fight over local business and tax revenue that has become the real center stage in a battle over tournament scheduling and the location of tournaments that is raging between the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Athletic Department and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, which officiates high school sports in the Badger State. At issue is where the boys and girls state basketball tournaments will play in 2013 and beyond.

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

Texas school district cuts sports in desperate attempt to improve grades and prevent shutdown

Associated Press:

Eliminating high school athletics during a school year is unusual, especially in a sports-loving state such as Texas.

But that's exactly what's happening in this small ranching community where the school district is taking desperate measures to prevent a state-mandated closure due to poor academics.

The Premont Independent School District is even deploying its superintendent, a constable and high school principal to the homes of truant students in an effort to improve dismal attendance.

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

School reform proposals are in limbo in Missouri General Assembly

Jason Hancock:

Missouri lawmakers are facing increasing pressure to deal with a potential flood of student transfers stemming from the loss of accreditation in urban school districts like Kansas City's.

But looming over this year's legislative session is a pledge by House Speaker Steve Tilley, a Perryville Republican, that any plan to deal with school transfers to suburban districts, or adjustments to the state's school funding formula, be coupled with ideas that have doomed previous reform efforts.

Those include controversial measures such as expanding charter schools, eliminating teacher tenure, basing teacher pay on student achievement and offering tax credit vouchers to parents who want to send children to private schools.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

January 23, 2012

Wisconsin DPI seeks comments on draft NCLB waiver request; "Education for today's world requires increased rigor and higher expectations"

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, via a kind reader's email:

MADISON -- Wisconsin's request for waivers from several provisions of federal education law creates the expectation that every child will graduate ready for college and careers by setting higher standards for students, educators, and schools.

"Education for today's world requires increased rigor and higher expectations," said State Superintendent Tony Evers. "The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has shackled schools by being overly prescriptive and prohibiting creative reforms that would help more students gain the skills needed for further education and the workforce. Wisconsin's request for flexibility from NCLB is driven by the belief that increasing rigor across the standards, assessment, and accountability system will result in improved instruction and improved student outcomes."

To receive waivers, state education agencies must demonstrate how they will use flexibility from NCLB requirements to address four principles: transitioning to college- and career-ready standards and assessments; developing systems of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support; evaluating and supporting teacher and principal effectiveness; and reducing duplication. The Department of Public Instruction has posted its draft waiver request online and is asking for public comment through a survey. After the two-week comment period, the agency will revise the waiver request and submit it to the U.S. Department of Education by Feb. 21.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:29 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Oakland schools try new way of placing teachers

Jill Tucker:

In the world outside public education, people apply for a job they want, interview with their potential boss, compete against other applicants and are ultimately selected if they look like a good fit for the position.

It doesn't work that way in public education.

In schools, teachers do all the normal things to get hired, but when it comes to placement, seniority is what counts, not the perfect fit. The teacher with the longest tenure in a district gets first dibs on any available job at a school, with the principal - the school's boss - getting little or no input.

School district officials in Oakland want to change that, believing that it's in the best interests of students when a teacher - new, veteran or in between - wants to work at a school and the school wants that teacher.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Making Longer Chicago School Day Happen May Have a Budget-Busting Price Tag

Rebecca Vevea:

Six months after barely closing a $712 million deficit, Chicago Public Schools officials have spent nearly $10 million that has not yet been budgeted in their aggressive push to lengthen the school day.

Fifty schools have gone to a longer day this year. With the entire city school system moving to a seven-and-a-half-hour school day next year, parents and community members are questioning how the cash-strapped district plans to pay for the extended time at more than 675 schools.

Becky Carroll, the school district's spokeswoman, said that cuts would need to be made elsewhere to allow the costs of a longer day to fit into the district's nearly $6 billion budget.

"A budget is about priorities, and you invest in what your priorities are," she said. "At the end of the day, this is a critical priority."

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Madison Teachers' Solidarity Newsletter

January 17, 2012 PDF

January 09, 2012 PDF. Via Madison Teachers, Inc..

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UK Schools minister cracks down on league table 'incentives'

BBC:

Schools minister Nick Gibb has said he wants to stop schools prioritising their rankings in exam league tables over ensuring a good education for all their pupils.

New league tables for England, out next week, show which schools boost pupils' progress from ages 11 and 16.

Mr Gibb said the old system allowed schools to exploit tables, and some used it to help boost their rankings.

Labour gave the move a cautious welcome.

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January 22, 2012

Hopes, Fears, & Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2011

Robin Lake, Betheny Gross, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Charter schools are public schools. Historically, however, the relationship between school districts and charters has been nonexistent at best, antagonistic at worst. As the charter sector continues to grow steadily, an analysis of the national landscape explores how that relationship needs to start changing--and where it already has.

This year's 6th annual edition of Hopes, Fears, & Reality provides a clear roadmap for school districts and charter schools interested in working together to improve education options. The report explains the risks and technical challenges behind charter-district collaboration and provides powerful examples of how they can be overcome.

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What Hawaii Teachers Are Saying About Agreement

Katherine Poythress:

Emails and direct messages from teachers wanting to vent about the proposed contract between their union and the state have been flowing into my inbox.

Every single one came with a request not to publish the name of the writer. "I just want you to know," they say, of the reason they're writing. The problem with knowing, though, is that you can never un-know. These teachers were sharing thoughts that give deep insight into educators' concerns as they head to the polls Thursday to vote on the new contract.

You might be shocked to learn that some of them said they would prefer abiding with the "last, best and final" offer Gov. Neil Abercrombie imposed on them last July, than take the deal struck earlier this month. They all have their reasons for thinking the way they do about the current agreement. Reasons that deserve to be aired.

So we made a deal of our own. I asked the ones who had contacted me if it would be OK to share their words with our readers -- with the understanding that I will not publish or share names, positions or any information that could betray their identities. We granted them anonymity because they said they feared retaliation and wouldn't share their thoughts otherwise.

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Are national charter schools a game changer or a fad?

Alan Borsuk:

Where will the thin blue line lead these children? What will their path mean to Milwaukee's education scene?

I'm talking about the 330 kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Milwaukee Scholars Charter School.

The corridors of the school's new building at 7000 W. Florist Ave. have gray carpeting - except for blue stripes near each wall.

When students pass in the halls, whether in groups or solo, they are required to walk only on the blue stripe on the right side of the hall as they face it. Get caught off that stripe and you can get marked down in the school's discipline system.

Minus the blue lines and with a discipline system that isn't structured quite so firmly, Milwaukee Math and Science Academy, a charter school at 110 W. Burleigh St., brings to mind the same questions for its 160 kindergarten through fifth-grade pupils.

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Is Milwaukee back on the reform radar?

Katy Venskus:

There used to be a time when Milwaukee was considered one of the most active education reform cities in the country. The City's private school choice program, the oldest and largest in the country, was our ticket to fame (or infamy, depending on who you ask) through most of the 1990's. The choice program was supposed to be a game changer to public education. It was supposed to set off a chain reaction of innovation and competition that would not only improve the lives of children, but change the way we configured our education policy for the City of Milwaukee. In short, we were going to be the hotbed of the reform movement for decades to come.

Sadly, the game changing education movement we expected didn't come to pass. There is no doubt, however, that the existence of parent choice in Milwaukee has changed the lives of thousands of kids. The movement that created and protected the choice program fostered the development of two of the City's best charter schools and promoted a small sector of independent charters authorizers and schools. Unfortunately, aside from these developments there has been little large-scale reform in Milwaukee since the mid-1990's. Instead of a catalyst, the choice program became a scapegoat for both political parties and many status quo stakeholders. The failing public school district in Milwaukee has been allowed to sink deeper and deeper into the quicksand while union interests and their status quo Democrats blamed the choice program for all the public schools considerable ills. The GOP used the choice program as the be-all-end-all urban education solution, and was happy to let thoughtful public school policy and funding fall by the way side. The independent charter school community put their heads down and tried to stay out of the political fray - they served small pockets of kids very well, but without the ability or the will to take their model to scale. As a result, Milwaukee, not only fell behind, we fell off the map entirely.

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Counting the costs of a digital classroom

Kai Ryssdal:

It's not the iPhone 5, it's not the iPad 3, but there was a big Apple product announcement today. A new version of its iBooks software geared at providing interactive student textbooks, which would be read -- of course -- on the iPad. The potential hurdles are many, including the fact that iPads still cost around $500.

We wanted to get away from the business case study, though, and explore what this might actually eventually mean in the classroom. So we called Katie Cohen. Until June of last year, she was a high school science teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Katie, thanks for being with us.

Katie Cohen: Thank you very much.

Ryssdal: So listen, in any ideal world, if all of your had had iPads, what would that have meant for you as a teacher?

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January 21, 2012

Apple, America and A Squeezed Middle Class

Keith Bradsher & Charles Duhigg:

Companies like Apple "say the challenge in setting up U.S. plants is finding a technical work force," said Martin Schmidt, associate provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In particular, companies say they need engineers with more than high school, but not necessarily a bachelor's degree. Americans at that skill level are hard to find, executives contend. "They're good jobs, but the country doesn't have enough to feed the demand," Mr. Schmidt said.

Some aspects of the iPhone are uniquely American. The device's software, for instance, and its innovative marketing campaigns were largely created in the United States. Apple recently built a $500 million data center in North Carolina. Crucial semiconductors inside the iPhone 4 and 4S are manufactured in an Austin, Tex., factory by Samsung, of South Korea.

But even those facilities are not enormous sources of jobs. Apple's North Carolina center, for instance, has only 100 full-time employees. The Samsung plant has an estimated 2,400 workers.

....

"We shouldn't be criticized for using Chinese workers," a current Apple executive said. "The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need."

Well worth considering from a curricular, finance and social perspective.

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Student Math Scores Jump 20 Percent with HMH Algebra Curriculum for Apple® iPad®; App Transforms Classroom Education

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

Pilot study finds students in Riverside Unified School District who used Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's HMH Fuse™: Algebra 1 app were also more motivated, attentive, and engaged than traditionally educated peers.

Global education leader Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) today announced the results of a yearlong pilot of HMH Fuse: Algebra I, the world's first full-curriculum Algebra app developed exclusively for the Apple iPad, involving the Amelia Earhart Middle School in California's Riverside Unified School District. The pilot showed that over 78 percent of HMH Fuse users scored Proficient or Advanced on the spring 2011 California Standards Tests, compared with only 59 percent of their textbook-using peers.

The pilot showed that over 78 percent of HMH Fuse users scored Proficient or Advanced on the spring 2011 California Standards Tests, compared with only 59 percent of their textbook-using peers."

The first assessment of the pilot-- Riverside's district Algebra benchmark -took place during the second trimester of the 2010-2011 year. Students using HMH Fuse scored an average of 10 percentage points higher than their peers. The app's impact was even more pronounced after the California Standards Test in spring 2011, on which HMH Fuse students scored approximately 20 percent higher than their textbook-using peers.

Christina Bonnington has more.

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Comparability of State and Local Expenditures Among Schools Within Districts: A Report From the Study of School-Level Expenditures

Ruth Heuer RTI International, Stephanie Stullich U.S. Department of Education:

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) requires that, taken as a whole, services provided in Title I schools from state and local funds be at least comparable to those provided in non-Title I schools (Section 1120A). The purpose of this comparability requirement is to ensure that federal assistance is providing additional resources in high-need schools rather than compensating for an inequitable distribution of funds that benefits more affluent schools. The Title I comparability requirement allows school districts to demonstrate compliance in a number of ways, including through a district-wide salary schedule, and does not require districts to use school-level expenditures. Several recent policy reports have called for revising the Title I comparability provision to require comparability of actual school-level expenditures (Hall and Ushomirsky, 2010; Miller, 2010; Luebchow, 2009; Roza, 2008).

Until recently, data on school-level expenditures have not been widely available, in part because most school districts have not designed their accounting systems to track revenues and expenditures at the school level. However, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) required each school district receiving Title I, Part A, ARRA funds to report a school-by- school listing of per-pupil education expenditures from state and local funds for the 2008-09 school year to its state education agency and required states to report these data to the U.S. Department of Education.
This report from the Study of School-Level Expenditures presents findings on how state and local education expenditures at the school level vary within school districts. This study is not examining compliance with the current Title I comparability requirement, nor does it examine the comparability of resources between districts. Rather, it focuses on the question of whether Title I schools and higher-poverty schools have comparable levels of per-pupil expenditures as non-Title I schools and lower-poverty schools within the same district. More specifically, this report examines three questions:

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Wisconsin Property Tax Growth: 1984-2012 (!)



A chart from the January 9, 2012 edition of WISTAX's Focus. One wonders how long this can be sustained.

Wistax.

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Madison's Phoenix Program Review

Madison School District (150K PDF):

Basic Information
The Phoenix program began serving students in the fall of 2010-11. The Phoenix program was housed in the Doyle Administration Building

During this school year the program served
35 middle school students and
33 high school students
28 middle school students progressed through the Phoenix program and returned to an MMSD educational environment
24 high school students progressed through the Phoenix program and returned to an MMSD educational environment
7 middle students were expelled from the Phoenix program due to behavioral issues 9 high students were expelled from the Phoenix program due to behavioral issues

Curriculum

The first year the curriculum consisted of on-line academics supported by additional resource material.
Each quarter a student could receive up to a .25 credit in Community Service, Career Planning, English, Writing, Math, Physical Education, Science, Social Studies

The program's partnership with community FACE and district PBST staff allowed the students to participate in social emotional skill development forty-five hours per week.

Much more on the "Phoenix Program", here.

P.S. This Madison School District document includes a header that I've not seen before: "Innovative Education". I also noticed that the District (or someone) placed a billboard on the Beltline marketing Cherokee Middle School's Arts education.

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January 20, 2012

Why Does Buffalo Pay for Its Teachers to Have Plastic Surgery?

Jordan Weissmann:

In Buffalo, New York, the heart of the American rust-belt, the public school system pays for its teachers to get plastic surgery. Hair removal. Miscrodermabrasian. Liposuction. If you can name the procedure, it's probably covered.

No, I am not exaggerating. And no, this article is not an excuse to make "Hot For Teacher" cracks. When I write that Buffalo's school system pays, I mean it literally. The perk is included as a self-insured rider in its teachers' contract. Therefore, the district has to cover the cost of each nip and tuck itself. There's no co-pay, so the school district ends up footing the entire bill. It estimates the current annual cost at $5.2 million, down from $9 million in 2009.

This in a city where the average teacher makes roughly $52,000 a year. The plastic surgery tab would pay salaries for 100 extra educators.

s The Buffalo News has reported, the rider existed for years with little notice. It dates back at least to the 1970s, when "getting a little work done" wasn't par for the course among women (and some men) of a certain age. Instead, it was intended to cover serious reconstructive surgery, on burn victims, for instance. In 1996, the rider was nearly cut. But after the daughter of a district employee was hurled through a windshield during a car wreck, requiring surgery to repair scars on her face and body, union officials lobbied to keep the benefit in place.

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How Does a School Board Enforce Policy?

Charlie Mas:

I see a lot of support among the District leadership for clear job descriptions and duties for everyone in the District - everyone, that is, except the District leadership. Each Board member will acknowledge that the Board has the duty to enforce policy yet no Board member will allow that duty to be explicitly stated in any document. It does not appear in the newly adopted Series 1000 Policies. It does not appear in the policy that describes the duties of the Board. It does not appear in the policy on governance. Now the Board is going to adopt two more elements of Board policy that should mention this duty yet fail to do so.

The board policy preamble on the Board meeting agenda this week is an ideal place for it, but instead the preamble makes reference to it only vaguely and euphemistically as "governance tools". It says that policies can be used by the superintendent to hold staff accountable but it neglects to say that they can be used by the Board to hold the superintendent accountable.

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Wisconsin Governor Walker says education bill based on task forces is nearing

Erin Richards:

Before a crowd of hundreds of school district officials and school board members in Milwaukee, Gov. Scott Walker announced Thursday that recommendations from a variety of state education task forces will soon be solidified in formal legislation.

The work of three main groups spearheaded by Walker over the past year - a reading task force, a team that's looked at how to design a statewide teacher and principal evaluation system, and a group figuring out how to rate school quality - will make up a reform package of education legislation, Walker said.

Meanwhile, some critics questioned the governor's tone of collaboration and cooperation Thursday, saying that after cutting education spending and limiting collective bargaining, he's trying to play nice now only because he's likely facing a recall election.

Even state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who has worked closely with Walker on the task forces and praised the work of those involved, made it clear he was concerned about being left out of the legislation-drafting process.

Matthew DeFour:
The proposed legislative reforms have been developed over the past year by three statewide task forces working separately on improving literacy, developing a teacher evaluation model and creating a school accountability system to replace No Child Left Behind.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who helped lead all three groups, said he wasn't involved in drafting the education legislation, but would support any actions that are the direct product of the task forces "and deliver on the intent of these collaborative groups."

"Many students' schools are already planning for more budget cuts next year on top of cuts made this year," Evers said in a statement. "Education reforms must be fully funded and not simply be more unfunded mandates that result in further cuts to educational programming for our students."

Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, ranking Democrat on the Assembly Education Committee, said in a statement she has concerns the work of the task forces was "being hijacked for political gain."

"It is unnerving to hear that (Evers) was not consulted during the drafting of this legislation," Pope-Roberts said. "Cutting our state's foremost education experts out of the process at this time is very shortsighted and reckless."

Much more on the Read to Lead Task Force, here.

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Stormy waters ahead as 'disruptive forces' sweep the old guard

Sarah Cunnane:

Online education will turn the academy inside out, argue US authors. Sarah Cunnane reports

Graduation rates in the US have fallen, and states have slashed funding for higher education. As a result, public universities have raised tuition fees, and many are struggling to stay afloat during the recession. But two authors working in the US higher education sector claim that the academy has a bigger battle on the horizon: the "disruptive innovation" ushered in by online education.

This disruption, they say, will force down costs, lure prospective students away from traditional "core" universities, transform the way academics work, and spell the end for the traditional scholarly calendar based around face-to-face teaching.

Clayton M. Christensen, the Kim B. Clark professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and Henry J. Eyring, advancement vice-president at Brigham Young University-Idaho, outline their ideas in The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out.

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Why Education Publishing Is Big Business

Tim Carmody:

On the heels of Apple's big education and iBooks event, it's worth taking a quick snapshot of the education publishing industry as it stands today.

Not because the tools announced today will inevitably transform the future of education the way iTunes and the iPhone did the music and smartphone industries -- however fun that may be to imagine.

Rather, you simply can't understand Apple's interest in breaking into the education market without at least a little understanding of that market's scope. And you can't understand why Apple's adopted the approach that it has without understanding that market's connection to our wider media ecosystem.

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One Education Spending & Reform

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

Renewing his call for passage of a vouchers pilot program, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, the governor drilled into his education reform proposals for government cost-savings.

"Let's face it: more money does not necessarily lead to a better education," Christie said. "Today, in Newark, we spend $23,000 per student for instruction and services. But only 23% of ninth graders who enter high school this year will receive high school diplomas in four years. Asbury Park is similar: per pupil costs, at almost $30,000 a year, are nearly 75% above the state average. But the dropout rate is almost 10 times the state average. And math S.A.T. scores lag the state average by 180 points.

"It is time to admit that the Supreme Court's grand experiment with New Jersey children is a failure," the Governor added. "63% of state aid over the years has gone to the Abbott Districts and the schools are still predominantly failing. What we've been doing isn't working for children in failing districts, it is unfair to the other 557 school districts and to our state's taxpayers, who spend more per pupil than almost any state in America."

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The Coming Higher-Ed Revolution

  Stuart Butler:

In recent decades, key sectors of the American economy have experienced huge and disruptive transformations -- shifts that have ultimately yielded beneficial changes to the way producers and customers do business together. From the deregulation that brought about the end of AT&T's "Ma Bell" system, to the way entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs forever changed the computer world once dominated by IBM, to the way the internet and bloggers have upended the business model of traditional newspapers, we have seen industries completely remade -- often in wholly unexpected ways. In hindsight, such transformations seem to have been inevitable; at the time, however, most leaders in these fields never saw the changes coming.

The higher-education industry is on the verge of such a transformative re-alignment. Many Americans agree that a four-year degree is vastly overpriced -- keeping many people out of the market -- and are increasingly questioning the value of what many colleges teach. Nevertheless, for those who seek a certain level of economic security or advancement, a four-year degree is absolutely necessary. Clearly, this is a situation primed for change. In as little as a decade, most colleges and universities could look very different from their present forms -- with the cost of a college credential plummeting even as the quality of instruction rises.

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Schools likely to lose accreditation, experts say

Greg Toppo:

It happens more often than you'd think, but it needs to happen more often than it does," says Mark A. Elgart, president and CEO of AdvancED, a private Atlanta-based accreditation agency that works with about 30,000 schools. In the past five years, the organization has pulled accreditation on four school systems and a dozen private schools, for reasons ranging from poor academic performance to governance to financial fraud.

"It's become more rigorous," says Terry Holliday, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education. "I think there was a time accreditation just meant you had a certain number of library books and staff." Now, he says, "accreditation does look at outcomes."

Accreditation, sort of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for schools, matters to districts because losing it can lead to a state takeover or an exodus of students. For individual high schools, it can mean that students lose a competitive edge as they apply to college.

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January 19, 2012

How to solve the achievement gap in Madison?

Nathan Comp:

Just when all signs indicated that supporters of Madison Preparatory Academy were abandoning hope of joining forces with the Madison school district, they've decided to give it one more shot. They're seeking another vote on the controversial charter-school proposal in late February.

Urban League of Greater Madison CEO and president Kaleem Caire says Madison Prep will open this fall as a private entity, but hopes it will transition into the district in 2013, once the district's union contract expires.

Board members who voted against the charter school in December expressed concerns that it would put the district in breach of its contract with Madison Teachers Inc., due to a provision requiring district schools to hire union staff.

School board president James Howard, who voted for Madison Prep, says the board may not have time to address the proposal in February.

Whether the Urban League -- which proposed Madison Prep as an ambitious step toward closing the district's decades-old achievement gap -- can recapture its earlier momentum is uncertain, considering that Superintendent Dan Nerad and school board members seem particularly excited about their own plans to address the issue.

"We're going at it from so many different angles right now," says board member Beth Moss. "I can't see how we can't make some improvement."

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

Fascinating.

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Video: Is school choice good or bad for public education?

Ted Bauer, via a kind email:

We produced the above piece for PBS NewsHour in November of 2011; the focus was on new school choice initiatives in Indiana and the backlash they're receiving. School choice remains a major issue in education as 2012 begins, so we wanted to convene several experts for a discussion on the topic. Feel free to add your own comments below, as well.

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Apple's Electronic Textbook/Book Event



The Verge.

Apple's controversial license terms are discussed here.

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The thread of knowledge

Leora Moldofsky:

Two decades after it was first devised at Princeton's Center for Creative Leadership, the learning development concept known as 70/20/10 is transforming Melbourne Business School's approach to workplace learning.

The concept has spurred Mt Eliza, the executive education arm of MBS, to develop an interactive online tool called Thread, which is due to be launched this month. Mt Eliza has high expectations for Thread, with hopes that it can transform the executive education provider in Victoria, Australia, into a world leader in e-learning.

It is canvassing for a partnership with Ashridge - the UK business school that provides Mt Eliza with online modules through Virtual Ashridge - as well as with other international business schools.

While Mt Eliza will not comment on the talks, Matt Williams, design manager for Thread, says: "Whenever we need to partner with a European institution, it tends to be Ashridge". The two schools collaborate on a Masters of Management programme and several executive education courses.

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Slip in India's school standards: Decline in reading, math skills despite right to study

The Telegraph:

The quality of elementary education is falling in rural schools almost two years after education was made a fundamental right in April 2010.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2011, a survey of government and private schools in rural areas conducted by the NGO Pratham, shows a decline in schoolchildren's "learning outcome levels" compared with the previous year, whether in reading or arithmetic skills. (See chart)

However, students of private schools have done slightly better than those of government schools, reveals the annual survey, started seven years ago and considered most authoritative.

For example, 56 per cent Class V students at government schools were unable to read Class III-level text but the figure was 38 per cent in private schools.

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School voucher program gets fresh look in Louisiana

Sarah Carr:

When Gov. Bobby Jindal pushed through New Orleans' school voucher program four years ago, political interest in using taxpayer money to send students to private schools had waned across the country. School choice advocates had suffered several stinging defeats, causing some to throw their weight behind charter schools, which generally receive more bipartisan support.

In 2009, St. Joan of Arc School in New Orleans had more than 80 students receiving vouchers.

Now, as officials expect Jindal to begin an effort to expand Louisiana's voucher program, the national landscape has changed dramatically.
Although charter schools continue to dwarf vouchers in terms of overall growth, voucher programs have rebounded on the national political and educational scene in the past year. In 2011, more than 30 states introduced bills that would use taxpayer dollars to send children to privately run schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That's up more than 300% from the previous year, when only nine voucher bills were introduced.

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NY Governor Reduces State Spending .2%; Crafts Budget On Public Pension, Teacher Evaluation Reform

Zack Fink:

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday proposed an overhaul to the state's pension system and new teacher evaluation system while presenting his $132.5 billion budget plan for the next fiscal year.

The plan reduces overall spending by .2 percent from last year.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Cuomo said his executive budget includes no new taxes, one shot revenues or gimmicks.

It also closes a budget gap of $3.5 billion.

However, while the governor plans to increase education spending by 4 percent or roughly $805 million, he also plans to make that increase contingent upon real reform and, specifically, teacher evaluations.

He's giving the state's teachers 30 days to come up with a statewide evaluation system or he will write his own into the budget for the legislature to approve.

Districts would have one year to get the new system up and running or the state would withhold the promised 4 percent increase in school aid.

Philissa Cramer has more.

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EdWeek Ranks Wisconsin's education system 18th in U.S.

Matthew DeFour:

Wisconsin's education system ranks 18th in the nation, according to an annual analysis published by Education Week.

The analysis draws on a variety of data, some of which are a couple of years old, so it doesn't reflect changes in the past year under Gov. Scott Walker.

The report rated Wisconsin in six categories: chance for success; K-12 achievement; standards, assessments and accountability; teachers; school finance; and transitions and alignment.

The state scored highest in school finance, ranking ninth nationally. The lowest marks came in standards, assessment and accountability, where Wisconsin ranked 46th.

Much more at wisconsin2.org

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What is this Voucher Loophole?

Mike Ford:

Last Friday's Capital Times included an article by Jessica Van Egeren on the need to close what DPI spokesman John Johnson and others have deemed the voucher loophole. Van Egeren writes:

"The so-called loophole was inserted into the state budget at the final stage of approval in June by members of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee. The last-minute language allowed voucher schools to expand from their sole location in Milwaukee to Racine."

It is worth pointing out that the while the language enabling the expansion of school choice to Racine did occur near the end of the budget process, expanding the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) to Racine was hardly a new concept. A proposal to bring vouchers to Racine was included and passed in the original Assembly version of the 2007-2009 budget (it was eventually removed during the budget process).

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Do Charter Schools Sacrifice Non-Charter Kids?

New Jersey Left Behind:

Dr. Bruce Baker has a good blog post up called "NJ Charter School Data Round-Up" in which he compares demographics between NJ charter schools and traditional schools in high-poverty urban areas and considers the policy implications. He discusses problems with scalability, and that charters in cities like Newark "continue to serve student populations that differ dramatically from populations of surrounding schools" when one examines eligibility for free/reduced lunch, special education enrollment, and students still learning English.

The comments to his post are worth pondering.

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Leveling the field: What I learned from for-profit education

Christopher R. Beha:

It was the second week of UNIV 101: University of Phoenix New Student Orientation, and Dr. U. was talking about goals.

"What is goals?" she asked in her melodious Polish accent. There were four of us in UNIV 101, me and Ty and Rob and Junior, and no one seemed quite sure what to make of the question. Thus far there had been little evidence of Socratic irony or indirection holding a prominent place in the pedagogical toolkit here at Phoenix, so if Dr. U. was asking what is goals? then the answer was almost certainly somewhere in the reading. Shuffling through the printouts in front of me, I saw it written at the top of a page: "Simply stated, goals are outcomes an individual wants to achieve in a stated period of time." By then, Ty's hand was already up.

"Goals," he told Dr. U., "are when you have something you want to accomplish in the future."

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January 18, 2012

Wolfram Education Portal

Wolfram Education:

Wolfram has long been a trusted name in education--as the makers of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha, and the Wolfram Demonstrations Project, we've created some of the most dynamic teaching and learning tools available. We are pleased to offer the best of all of our technologies to you here in the Wolfram Education Portal, organized by course. In the portal you'll find a dynamic textbook, lesson plans, widgets, interactive Demonstrations, and more built by Wolfram education experts. You can take a look at the types of materials we offer below, but to get full access to all materials, you need to sign up for a free account.

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Teaching & Learning with Digital Tools in the Humanities

Monica Bulger:

During graduate school, I participated in an experimental seminar, "Literature+: Cross-Disciplinary Models of Literary Interpretation," taught by Alan Liu. He asked students to form groups around topics of their choosing and perform analyses using digital tools on their materials. Most students shared similar research interests and organized their projects around a content-based theme. Our group represented four different disciplines and formed around our interest in digital tools, rather than content. Professor Liu created a toybox of links to various textual analysis tools that generated visualizations, translations, data about word counts, etc. Each of us took a tool in which we were to become "expert," and applied that tool to data we had collected for our research.

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Driven off the Road by M.B.A.s

Rana Foroohar:

Bob Lutz, the former Vice Chairman of General Motors, is the most famous also-ran in the auto business. In the course of his 47-year rampage through the industry, he's been within swiping range of the brass ring at Ford, BMW, Chrysler and, most recently, GM, but he's never landed the top gig. It's because he "made the cars too well," he says. It might also have something to do with the fact that Maximum Bob, who could double as a character on Mad Men, is less an éminence grise than a pithy self-promoter who has a tendency to go off corporate message. That said, his new book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business, has a message worth hearing. To get the U.S. economy growing again, Lutz says, we need to fire the M.B.A.s and let engineers run the show.

Lutz's main argument is that companies, shareholders and consumers are best served by product-driven executives. In his book, Lutz wisecracks his way through the 1960s design- and technology-led glory days at GM to the late-1970s takeover by gangs of M.B.A.s. Executives, once largely developed from engineering, began emerging from finance. The results ranged from the sobering (managers signing off on inferior products because customers "had no choice") to the hilarious (Cadillac ashtrays that wouldn't open because of corporate mandates that they be designed to function at -40°F). It's pretty easy to imagine Car Guy Lutz removing his mirrored shades and shouting to the cowering line manager, "Well, customers in North Dakota will be happy. Too bad nobody else will!"

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January 16, 2012 Reaction to WPRI's Report on Teacher Compensation

Mike Ford:

Unsurprisingly, the new WPRI report on reforming teacher compensation (authored by yours truly) has some critics. The response from the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) in today's Journal Sentinel was disappointing, but totally expected. WEAC calls my proposal a distraction. President Mary Bell states it is unfair to administrators who, among other things, do not have time to "develop a system for distributing funds."

Opposition from WEAC to $50 million in new funding for teachers on the grounds that administrators will not have the time to find a way to spend it was a surprise. The real threat of the proposal, I imagine, is that it ties additional funding to school performance, and allows principals in successful schools to manage as they see fit.

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College presidents suggest differentiated tuition

Kathleen McGrory:

Should an engineering degree cost more than a degree in English? Or a degree in education?

The question was posed at a House Education Committee meeting Friday.

On hand for the discussion: University of Florida President Bernie Machen, Florida State University President Eric Barron and state University System Chancellor Frank Brogan.

The topic is timely. Gov. Rick Scott has called on universities to produce more majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- but without extra dollars from the state. Scott's proposed budget does not boost funding for public colleges and universities.

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Mike's school groove: Why taking on union will pay off

Joe Williams:

After a pretty rough year at Department of Education headquarters, Mayor Bloomberg appears to have gotten his school-reform groove back. It couldn't come at a more crucial time. The city's public schools have made some real progress on Bloomberg's watch, but need a new shot in the arm to help many more students meet higher standards and ensure they're ready for college.

The mayor laid out a bold and aggressive agenda in his State of the City Address last week, full of common-sense ideas that hark back to the early days of his tenure when no cow was too sacred in the pursuit of higher achievement.

Back then, he took on the three pillars of the education bureaucracy -- tenure, seniority and lock-step teacher pay -- and refocused our schools on empowerment for teachers and principals and more accountability for results.

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January 17, 2012

Emergent Spanish for Educators @ Madison's Cherokee Middle School

Rafael Gomez, via a kind email:

Dear Cherokee Staff:

We have an opportunity to have Emergent Spanish for Educators (Jan. to April 2012) The class will take place at Cherokee every Mondays starting Jan. 23 at 3:30 to 5:45 except the session it will be from 3:45 to 4:45.

Calender:1/30, 2/6, 2/13, 2/20 2/27 3/5 3/12 3/ 19 3/26. 4/4 4/11 4/16 4/23 4/30

All participants will get 3 PAC credits. It is 30 hours of instruction.

Description of the course:
This course will provide participants with skills needed to make an easy transition from English only into Emergent Spanish and have fun while doing it. Participants will be assisted to become more comfortable using their Spanish pronunciation, construction of basic statements and conversing in Spanish with instructor and/or participants.All participants will end up with a learning center to continue learning Spanish.

Objectives:

1. Acquire a repertoire o Spanish vocabulary
2. Increase comfort level to use Spanish
3. Increase awareness of culture and language
4. Gain skill to use their learning center.

Ritual:Participants will interact with parents and students who are native Spanish speakers.

If you have any questions, please contact me.

Rafael Gomez

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Apple to announce tools, platform to "digitally destroy" textbook publishing

Chris Foresman:

Apple is slated to announce the fruits of its labor on improving the use of technology in education at its special media event on Thursday, January 19. While speculation has so far centered on digital textbooks, sources close to the matter have confirmed to Ars that Apple will announce tools to help create interactive e-books--the "GarageBand for e-books," so to speak--and expand its current platform to distribute them to iPhone and iPad users.

Along with the details we were able to gather from our sources, we also spoke to two experts in the field of digital publishing to get a clearer picture of the significance of what Apple is planning to announce.

So far, Apple has largely embraced the ePub 2 standard for its iBooks platform, though it has added a number of HTML5-based extensions to enable the inclusion of video and audio for some limited interaction. The recently-updated ePub 3 standard obviates the need for these proprietary extensions, which in some cases make iBook-formatted e-books incompatible with other e-reader platforms. Apple is expected to announce support for the ePub 3 standard for iBooks going forward.

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Unions adapt to new rules, even as they fight to reverse them

Ben Wieder:

It took nearly a year for Dale Kleinert to negotiate his first teachers' contract. When Kleinert started his job as schools superintendent in Moscow, Idaho, the talks were already underway. Then, discussions reached an impasse. There were disagreements over pay and health care costs, and the pace slowed further when first an outside mediator and later a fact-finder didn't render a decision. It wasn't until May of 2011 that Kleinert and his union counterparts finally reached an agreement.

Just before then, while Kleinert and the teachers were still stuck, Republican lawmakers in Boise were finishing work on plans to take away much of the leverage that Idaho teachers had long enjoyed in these kinds of negotiations. So for Kleinert's next round of talks with Moscow's teachers, which began pretty much right after the previous ones wrapped up, the rules were very different.

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Yes, vote for kids by asking the adult questions about school levies

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

In Eastern Washington, voters are being asked to approve school district levies in a Feb. 14 election. Spokane residents might have seen one or two or 10 billion signs about it strategically placed around the city. I saw a "vote yes for kids" sign at City Hall, tacked to the incoming side of the city bulletin board. I mentioned it to a woman at the counter, and she took it down.

Twice on its front page, The Spokesman-Review published pro-levy material that (to a journalist), can only be seen as full-page advertisements. First was "Anatomy of a Levy." Then there was "Faces of a Levy." Where can it go from there? Ears of a Levy? Elbows of a Levy? Butt-cheeks of a levy?

Meanwhile, the union president published a pro-levy article in the KIDS Newspaper, and the school district helpfully delivered that pro-levy article to elementary schools and students across the city.

Clearly, the district, union and newspaper want us to support the levy. Some local advocates would rather we not. Whatever you decide, please don't just stay home. If just three people vote on the levy, it will pass or fail based on the three votes. As you're bombarded with a heavy emotional campaign to "vote yes for the kids," however, here are a few things to consider.

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Sun Prairie's $2.4M Ashley Field Construction

sp-eye:

How does a project increase 42% in less than a year? How does it mushroom 83% in less than 2 years?
WHY WHY WHY does this district continue to pound for more than more, better than best? And how do these numbers keep growing? What originally was discussed as a maximum taxpayer commitment of $475,000 has ballooned into the idea of going to referendum with the "new building (elementary school) referendum? Note once again that no decision has been made to even BUILD a new building...but athletic director McClowry and district administration put forth a Situation Report that sure seems certain that that is what's going to happen?

Let's stroll back through time, shall we? Take a look see at how the landscape of the Ashley Project has changed.

More, here.

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January 16, 2012

Wisconsin Senate to take up Open Enrollment schools bill Tuesday

Jason Stein:

The state Senate will take up a bill Tuesday to rewrite the open enrollment law governing when students can transfer out of their home district into another district.

The bill would allow students and parents more time to request a move to a district outside their own. It would require students' home districts to share details about any discipline problems with the outside district.

The bill has ping-ponged back and forth between the Senate and Assembly for the last year as the two houses have worked to agree on amendments.

The Senate action will come amid a busy day at the Capitol, with opponents to Walker expected to deliver more than 700,000 signatures seeking to force a recall election against him.

Supporters said the open enrollment bill would help students struggling in one district move into another one where they can thrive. Opponents argue the legislation could harm some school districts by siphoning off students to other districts, including virtual schools that rely on the Internet to help teach students in their own homes.

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Video: What Can Charter Schools Do?

Eva Moskowitz with Maria Bartiromo, via a kind Doug Newman email.

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Teachers Or Algorithms?

Vinod Khosla:

In my last post, I argued that software will take over many of the tasks doctors do today. And what of education? We find a very similar story of what the popular - and incredibly funny! - TED speaker Sir Ken Robinson calls "a crisis of human resources" (Click here for the RSA talk from the same speaker which has been animated in a highly educational fashion). At the TED 2010 conference, he stated that "we make poor use of our talents." Indeed, in the same way that we misuse the talents and training of doctors, I believe we misuse the talents and training of teachers.

I want to comment on what I consider a far greater misuse of talent and training: that of our children/students, mostly here talking about high school education. We have focused so much of our education system on children attending primary school, then middle school, then high school, all with the objective of attending university. This is a progression that still remains unchanged and largely unchallenged. Yet, this system is completely linear and, most tragically, unwaveringly standardized not only through instruction methods, but also through testing. Worse, it is mostly what I call "fixed time, variable learning" (the four-year high school) instead of "fixed learning, variable time" to account for individual students' capabilities and status.

Identifying Emerging Trends In Education

There are new key trends that I see emerging in education enabled by advancing technology: namely decentralization and gamification. By understanding these trends, it is much easier to imagine why we won't need teachers or why we can free up today's teachers to be mentors and coaches. Software can free teachers to have more human relationships by giving them the time to be guidance counselors and friends to young kids instead of being lecturers who talk at them. This last possibility is very important--in addition to learning, schools enable critical social development for children through teacher student relationships and interacting with other children--classrooms of peers and teachers provide much more than math lessons. And by freeing up teachers' time, technology can lead to increased social development rather than less as many assume.

Well worth reading.

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We Should All Vote in the Same Place We Pay Our Taxes

Mike Nichols:

Six school districts in Wisconsin - Hartland-Lakeside, Phelps, Oregon, Oshkosh, Beloit and Sparta - have scheduled school referendums for either February or April.

My advice to school officials who want to prevail: encourage high turn-out among voters who cast their ballots at polling places that are actually inside the schools themselves. It, oddly enough, makes a significant difference.

You probably don't believe this. Neither did voters who were part of an extensive study of polling places in Arizona in 2000 when a ballot initiative proposed raising the state sales tax to support education spending.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study on what's known as "priming" concluded that voters in school buildings are unaware of the influence of so-called "environmental stimuli." We like to think we're smarter than that. Who wants to admit that their vote was based even in part on whether they were standing in a school hallway or a gym rather than a church or a town hall when they cast their ballot? Are we that easily manipulated?

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Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Medicaid Meltdown

Steven Walters

A long-awaited audit documents the perfect storm that swamped state government's ability to manage Wisconsin's Medicaid program, which provided health care to 1.18 million elderly, poor and disabled at a cost of $7.5 billion last year.

It's an alarming read, even for an eyes-glaze-over financial report. It could be a tea party manifesto. It explains why Democrats, who ran the Capitol for a two-year period that ended a year ago, blocked earlier requests for the audit.

Between 2007 and 2011, state Auditor Joe Chrisman and his staff found, Medicaid budget and program controls were drowned by factors that included:

A state hiring freeze and a requirement that state workers take eight unpaid days for two straight years.

The 2008-'09 expansion of Medicaid to more than 100,000 children, families, pregnant women and adults without dependent children.

The recession, which cost thousands their jobs, forcing them and their families onto Medicaid rolls.

Between 2007 and 2011, the cost of Medicaid went up by 51% (from $5 billion to $7.5 billion), while its caseload went up by 36% (from 870,201 to 1.18 million). But there's so much more to ask about those numbers. At some point, lawmakers who must approve Medicaid budgets should ask the state Department of Health Services:

Out of control healthcare spending certainly affects K-12 budgets....

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Schools As Collateral Damage: The Price We Pay For A Decade Of Tweed's Failed Policies

Leo Casey:

Much like the brief torrential rain which drenched New Yorkers on Thursday morning, Mayor Bloomberg's Thursday afternoon State of the City Address received a deluge of media attention. Today, the print and electronic media feature talk of his jeremiad against the UFT, of his attempted resurrection of 'market reforms' such as merit pay which have been discredited even in 'reform' circles, as study after study has shown them ineffective, and of his claims that he will introduce a new evaluation system by fiat. Tellingly, nowhere will you read an account of what the Mayor's proposed imposition of closure under the Turn-Around model would mean for the PLA schools, were he to be successful in implementing it.

Consider what is happening to just a few of the PLA schools. Note that we use here the performance data that, the DoE insists, informs their decisions on the future of schools.

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New York City gets a Software Engineering High School

Joel Spolsky:

This fall New York City will open The Academy for Software Engineering, the city's first public high school that will actually train kids to develop software. The project has been a long time dream of Mike Zamansky, the highly-regarded CS teacher at New York's elite Stuyvesant public high school. It was jump started when Fred Wilson, a VC at Union Square Ventures, promised to get the tech community to help with knowledge, advice, and money.

I'm on the board of advisors of the new school, which plans to accept ninth graders for fall of 2012. Here's why I'm excited about this new school:

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Take note: Buy-in required for teaching success

Alan Borsuk:

Naomi Lemberger says the way she takes notes in class helps things stick in her brain. She doesn't use the usual approach (scribble for page after page, then promptly forget - I've been doing it all my life).

In a typical instance, she takes those conventional notes within a box covering the upper right section of a sheet of paper and equal to about half the sheet. In a column on the left side of the paper, she writes down questions or sometimes phrases that her main notes cover. And, after a class or at the end of a unit, she writes in a box across the bottom of the sheet a reflection - basically, a summary of what she thinks she learned. She reviews the overall results, especially when she's preparing for tests. Teachers frequently review her notes.

It's a system called Cornell Notes. It goes back more than half a century and has been used (and often dropped) in many schools, including several in the Milwaukee area.

At Brookfield East, where Lemberger is a junior, Cornell Notes is a key element of the education program - and a key, in the opinion of school leaders and many teachers, to why the already high-performing school has seen an uptick in overall student success in recent years.

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Commentary on Teacher Pay for Performance, with UW-Madison Ed School Reflections

Todd Finkelmeyer

School principals then would have discretion over how to use those funds, as long as they go to teachers. Those dollars could be spent on one-time teacher bonuses, teacher development projects or however the principal sees fit. "The idea is to give principals more power and to help them create a culture of success," says Ford.

To be eligible to participate in the program, schools also would have to agree to eliminate the traditional teacher pay schedules that mainly reward longevity on the job.

"The No. 1 goal of public education in everything we do is raising academic achievement," says Ford. "So in the report I propose a framework that takes into account the views of teachers and the existing research on what motivates teachers."

It's certainly an interesting concept. But would it work?

Adam Gamoran, a UW-Madison professor of sociology and educational policy studies, says that while research clearly shows some teachers are much more effective than others, what's not so clear is which attributes these top educators share and whether or not it's even possible to lead them to teaching more effectively with incentives.

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January 15, 2012

School superintendents' bonuses may be 'an issue from the public's point of view'



Matthew DeFour:

Next year, Verona superintendent Dean Gorrell is in line to collect a $50,000 longevity bonus on top of his $140,000 salary.

In 2014, Madison superintendent Dan Nerad qualifies for a $37,500 payment for six years of service, which like Gorrell's would be paid into a retirement account. Nerad already receives an annual $10,000 payment into his retirement account, which is separate from his state pension and in addition to a $201,000 yearly salary.

And in 2017, Monona Grove superintendent Craig Gerlach can leave the job with an extra year's salary, currently $150,000, paid into a retirement account over the following five years.

Over the past decade, such perks have been added to some Dane County superintendent contracts, even as, on average, their salary increases outpaced teacher pay hikes, according to data provided by the Department of Public Instruction.

"Any type of payout at that level is clearly going to be an issue from the public's point of view," Dale Knapp, research director at the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, said of the longevity payouts. "The problem becomes once these start getting into contracts, it becomes competition and then they become more prevalent."

Adding bonus language to superintendent contracts became increasingly popular in recent years as school districts faced state-imposed rules on increasing employee compensation.

Perhaps, one day soon, teachers will have similar compensation freedom, or maybe, superintendents should operate under a one size fits all approach...

I'd rather see teacher freedom of movement, and compensation.

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A New Approach to Teacher Compensation

Mike Ford:

Teachers are the most important factor in determining the success of students. No technology, curriculum, or standard can supplant the need for a quality teacher in every classroom. We know children learn differently, we know there is no single recipe for a successful teacher, yet we continue to pay teachers as if they are interchangeable assembly-line workers producing an identical commodity called education.

In a report released this week I propose dumping district-wide lock-step pay schedules that reward only formal education and years on the job in favor of a compensation reform that rewards and motivates teachers in a way conducive to raising the academic achievement. I do not propose a merit pay system that gives bonuses to individual teachers in return for raising test scores.

Why? The track record of such systems can at best be called uneven. Teachers are not uniformly motivated by monetary compensation. Research by UW-Madison professor Allan Odden and others shows teachers value collaboration and student success above other factors. Any reform that does not recognize this is doomed to fail. No less important, students need schools that deliver consistent teacher quality from start to finish so that the work of a good teacher in one grade is not undone by a sub-par teacher the next.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: It's Worse Than You Think

Steve Prestegard

Regular readers know that state finances were worse than the Doyle administration admitted during its eight years of fiscal incompetence. But state finances are also worse than the Walker administration admits now.

The proof is the state's Comprehensive Annual Fiscal Report, an inch-thick annual tree-killer that summarizes the differences between politicians' claims about the state's fiscal health, and the reality of the state's fiscal health.

The differences lie in correctly measuring state finances, as the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance explains:

A recent WISTAX publication mentioned that Wisconsin Medicaid spending increased 87% from 2006 to 2011!

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Charter schools on Washington legislative agenda 'worth the fight': Many say we can't wait longer for solution; others worry

Brian Rosenthal:

The proposals would allow charter schools in the state, establish a process for failing schools to be taken over by outside organizations and continue an overhaul of the way all teachers and principals are evaluated.

Charters, which are public but independent schools allowed to use unconventional techniques, would be closely monitored by a state board, lawmakers said. Only 50 would be allowed in the state - with no more than 10 new ones authorized each year. Each would be required to adopt a specific plan to serve educationally disadvantaged children.

The evaluations, which would include student test scores and classroom observations, would build on a pilot system already used in several districts in the state, lawmakers said.

Poor performance on the evaluations could lead teachers to lose their tenure, but the focus would be on improvement of teaching methods.

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Contempt, confusion, and cheers in State of the City reactions

Philissa Cramer:

Minutes after Mayor Bloomberg finished delivering his State of the City address today, reactions started flying about his aggressive slate of education proposals.

The reactions ranged from withering (in the case of UFT President Michael Mulgrew) to bewildered (Ernest Logan, principals union president) to supportive (charter school operator Eva Moskowitz and others whose organizations would benefit from the proposals).

Below, I've compiled the complete set of education-related reactions that dropped into my inbox. I'll add to the list as more reactions roll in.

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January 14, 2012

Madison Prep backers seek school board re-vote

Nathan Comp:

When asked why he didn't second Ed Hughes' motion at the Dec. 19 meeting to delay the schools' opening until 2013, Howard replied, "We had not discussed the implications of what that means. I think we have time if we're talking about 2013, to make sure we do it correctly, because we don't know what the rules of the game will be in 2013."

Superintendent Dan Nerad said, "Whether it will move forward I don't know. That depends on whether the motion gets on the floor. I don't have a read on it at this point."

Others aren't as diplomatic. "This is a waste of time and money for all involved," said TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College professor and district watchdog who is among Madison Prep's most ardent critics.

"The votes are not there and will not be there," he continued. "It distracts from the essential work of addressing the real issues of the district, including issues of achievement for students in poverty."

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

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Arkansas Education Board approves 4 new charter Schools

Associated Press:

Arkansas' education board has approved four new charter schools.

The board voted unanimously Monday in favor of Cross County School District's proposed charter elementary school. The board also approved applications for proposed charter schools in Lincoln, Osceola and Warren.

Department of Education spokesman Seth Blomeley says charter schools are eligible to apply for up to $600,000 in federal money to use toward startup and other one-time costs.

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Adelanto parents pull 'trigger' to upgrade school

Christina Hoag:

Cecelia Thornton sets up a makeshift classroom at her kitchen table every day after school to tutor her grandchildren in reading and writing with materials she buys at the local thrift store in the Mojave Desert town of Adelanto (San Bernardino County).

The 5- and 6-year-olds, she said, just aren't learning enough in their classes at Desert Trails Elementary School.

That's the key reason why she and a band of other parents and guardians filed a petition Thursday under California's "parent trigger" law to demand reforms at the K-6 school where just 35 percent of pupils last year tested proficient in reading and 46 percent in math.

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The Evil Economics Of Judging Teachers

Maria Bustillos:

The Times and a host of other publications heralded last week's new study extolling the lifelong money-earning benefits of having a good primary/middle-school teacher. Oh, yay! Let's do what these economists from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggest, right?

Actually, ugh, no. What economists Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia want to do, apparently, is to identify and fire "weaker" teachers, for the sake of a barely perceptible increase in students' "lifetime income." Nobody has actually tried this yet; the report doesn't describe an experiment. It's just the conclusion they draw from their analysis of massive amounts of data gathered from public schools in New York City and cross-referenced against IRS records and the like.

Here's a bit from the summary of the original paper. Note that a "high-VA" ("value-added") teacher is a "good" one--meaning by this, solely, that the teacher in question has succeeded in raising standardized test scores.

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It's hard to overestimate the value of a good teacher

Nicholas Kristof:

Our faltering education system may be the most important threat to our economy and well-being, writes Nicholas D. Kristof, so it's frustrating that the presidential campaign is mostly ignoring the issue. The obvious policy solution is more pay for good teachers, more dismissals for weak teachers.

Suppose your child is about to enter the fourth grade and has been assigned to an excellent teacher. Then the teacher decides to quit. What should you do?

The correct answer? Panic!

Well, not exactly. But a landmark new research paper underscores that the difference between a strong teacher and a weak teacher lasts a lifetime. Having a good fourth-grade teacher makes a student 1.25 percent more likely to go to college, the research suggests, and 1.25 percent less likely to get pregnant as a teenager. Each of the students will go on as an adult to earn, on average, $25,000 more over a lifetime -- or about $700,000 in gains for an average size class -- all attributable to that ace teacher back in the fourth grade. That's right: A great teacher is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to each year's students, just in the extra income they will earn

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Royal Society offers ways to overhaul ICT Teaching

BBC:

The Royal Society has suggested ways the government can overhaul information and communications technology (ICT) teaching in schools.

It follows promises from Education Secretary Michael Gove to scrap the way the subject is taught currently.

The body, which oversees UK sciences, recommends dividing computing into distinct subjects such as computer science and digital literacy.

It said the government must do more to recruit specialist ICT teachers.

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January 13, 2012

Madison Prep supporters vow to keep pushing until vote is yes

Dan Simmons:

Leaders of a proposed charter school for low-income minority students said Friday that they expect to have sufficient funding and will open Madison Prep as a private academy next fall but will continue to return to the Madison School Board for approval, starting with a proposed revote in February to make the school a publicly funded charter starting in 2013.

That would be just weeks before a Madison School Board election in which two Madison Prep supporters are vying for seats.

"We will go back, and we'll go back, and we'll go back until the vote is a yes," said Laura DeRoche-Perez, director of school development at the Urban League of Greater Madison. "That is because we cannot wait."

The prospects for school board approval for the 2013 opening, at least with the current board, appear uncertain after the same board voted against the school opening in 2012 by a 5-2 margin in December. Those who opposed cited the school's plan to use non-union teachers and staff and concerns over the school's accountability to taxpayers and the district and don't appear to have wavered in their opposition.

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

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The Value-Add Map Is Not the Teaching Territory, But You'll Still Get Lost without It

Greg Forster:

Since we're so deep into the subject of value-added testing and the political pressures surrounding it, I thought I'd point out this recently published study tracking two and a half million students from a major urban district all the way to adulthood. (HT Whitney Tilson)

They compare teacher-specific value added on math and English scores with eventual life outcomes, and apply tests to determine whether the results are biased either by student sorting on observable variables (the life outcomes of their parents, obtained from the same life-outcome data) or unobserved variables (they use teacher switches to create a quasi-experimental approach).

Much more on value added assessment, here.

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The Great Teacher Debate

Jerry Ortiz y Pino:

New Mexico lawmakers are considering a proposal from the Martinez administration to link teacher evaluations to student test scores. This is a crucial element in the overall reform plan offered by Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera. Not surprisingly, it's proving contentious. It will be a huge topic in the coming 30-day legislative session set to begin Tuesday, Jan. 17.

The Obama administration's education secretary, Arne Duncan, favors eliminating legal barriers to linking student test scores to teacher evaluations. That means student tests could determine tenure, raises and even termination. He talks about it in the Atlantic Monthly article "What Makes a Great Teacher?" which goes into great detail about the efforts of educational researchers to tease out what constitutes excellence in teaching. Are great teachers just hard-wired that way, or can we cultivate them?

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The Costs of Online Learning

Tamara Butler Battaglino, Matt Haldeman, and Eleanor Laurans:

The latest installment of the Fordham Institute's Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning series investigates one of the more controversial aspects of digital learning: How much does it cost? In this paper, the Parthenon Group uses interviews with more than fifty vendors and online-schooling experts to estimate today's average per-pupil cost for a variety of schooling models, traditional and online, and presents a nuanced analysis of the important variance in cost between different school designs. These ranges--from $5,100 to $7,700 for full-time virtual schools, and $7,600 to $10,200 for the blended version--highlight both the potential for low-cost online schooling and the need for better data on costs and outcomes in order for policymakers to reach confident conclusions related to the productivity and efficiency of these promising new models. Download "The Costs of Online Learning" to learn more.

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Parents Rebel Against School

Stephanie Banchero:

Fed-up parents of students attending a low-performing school in Southern California aim to use the power given to them by the state to take an unusual step: fire the school.

This power, called a Parent Trigger, was passed into law in California in 2010, but parents are attempting for only the second time to use it at Desert Trails Elementary outside Los Angeles. Their effort to force Adelanto Elementary School District to overhaul the school, or turn it into a charter school run by the parents themselves, is expected to be closely watched across the nation.

Similar legislation passed in Texas and Mississippi last year and is under consideration in Florida, Pennsylvania and Indiana this year.

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Bloomberg Vows Tougher Steps to Help Troubled Schools

David Chen & Anna Phillips:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, directly confronting leaders of the teachers' union, proposed on Thursday a merit-pay system that would award top performers with $20,000 raises and threatened to remove as many as half of those working at New York City's most troubled schools.

Delivering his 11th and penultimate State of the City address, Mr. Bloomberg vowed to double down on his longstanding efforts to revive the city's long-struggling schools, saying, "We have to be honest with ourselves: we have only climbed halfway up the mountain, and halfway isn't good enough."

"We cannot accept failing schools," he said during an often-passionate one-hour speech at Morris High School in the Bronx. "And we cannot accept excuses for inaction or delay."

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January 12, 2012

Madison Prep and Urban League to seek new vote on Madison Prep

Kaleem Caire, via email:

MEDIA ADVISORY

For immediate release: January 12, 2012
Contact: Laura DeRoche-Perez
Director of School Development
Urban League of Greater Madison
2222 S. Park St., Suite 200
Madison, WI 53713
Lderoche@ulgm.org
608-729-1230 (office)
608-556-2066 (cell)


Urban League and Madison Prep Boards to Hold Press Conference
Will announce their plans to seek a new vote on authorizing the opening of Madison Prep for 2013

WHAT: Madison Preparatory Academy and the Urban League of Greater Madison will announce their intentions to seek a February 2012 vote by the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education to authorize Madison Prep to open in the fall of 2013. Three MMSD Board of Education members have already shared their support of the motion.

WHEN: 3:30 pm CST, Friday, January 13
WHERE: Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St., Madison, WI 53713
WHO: Madison Preparatory Academy Board of Directors
Urban League of Greater Madison
Others

For more information, contact Laura DeRoche-Perez, Director of School Development, Urban League of Greater Madison, at lderoche@ulgm.org or 608-729-1230.

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

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Time to Ax Public Programs That Don't Yield Results (Start with Head Start)

Joel Klein, via a kind reader's email:

Barack Obama has been accused of "class warfare" because he favors closing several tax loopholes -- socialism for the wealthy -- as part of the deficit-cutting process. This is a curious charge: class warfare seems to be a one-way street in American politics. Over the past 30 years, the superwealthy have waged far more effective warfare against the poor and the middle class, via their tools in Congress, than the other way around. How else can one explain the fact that the oil companies, despite elephantine profits, are still subsidized by the federal government? How else can one explain the fact that hedge-fund managers pay lower tax rates than their file clerks? Or that farm subsidies originally meant for family farmers go to huge corporations that hardly need the help?

Actually, there is an additional explanation. Conservatives, like liberals, routinely take advantage of a structural flaw in the modern welfare state: there is no creative destruction when it comes to government programs. Both "liberal" and "conservative" subsidies linger in perpetuity, sometimes metastasizing into embarrassing giveaways. Even the best-intentioned programs are allowed to languish in waste and incompetence. Take, for example, the famed early-education program called Head Start. (See more about the Head Start reform process.)

The idea is, as Newt Gingrich might say, simple liberal social engineering. You take the million or so poorest 3- and 4-year-old children and give them a leg up on socialization and education by providing preschool for them; if it works, it saves money in the long run by producing fewer criminals and welfare recipients -- and more productive citizens. Indeed, Head Start did work well in several pilot programs carefully run by professionals in the 1960s. And so it was "taken to scale," as the wonks say, as part of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty.

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Race talk fuels tension in Madison Prep debate

Pat Schneider:

That Kaleem Caire, the charismatic champion of the Madison Preparatory Academy, is frustrated by the proposal's defeat before the Madison School Board last month should surprise no one.

But the prospect that resentment over the defeat of the proposal runs so deep that it could poison the initiative's future prospects as a private school or public charter -- that's a distressing possibility whose existence is just now emerging.

The proposal for the school by the Urban League of Greater Madison has won many supporters because of the embarrassingly persistent achievement gap between whites and minorities in the Madison School District, but when Caire spoke Monday to Communities United, a community group dedicated to social justice, his passionate appeal to go beyond the district's existing model was laced with anger towards the School Board members who voted down the plan.

Much of the discussion Monday between Caire and a handful of staffers from the Urban League -- where he is president and CEO -- and those at the Communities United meeting centered around the ultra-sensitive topics of race and racism.

Even in that friendly environment (the informal, nonpartisan coalition was already on record in favor of the school), Caire's accusations against school officials were rejected as political spin by a Madison City Council member on hand and criticized as more of the "race card" by an African-American activist who has skirmished with Caire before over Madison Prep. But a Latina parent and activist greeted his words as an apt assessment of the situation in Madison schools.

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

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Minnesota Dual High School/College Credit

Center for School Change:

Take advantage of great dual credit courses at your high school! Many of Minnesota's high schools offer Dual Credit programs that allow qualifying students to earn college credit while still in high school at little or no cost. Dual Credit programs are a great way for high school students to challenge themselves academically, earn college credit, and save time and money. Eligible high school students can choose to participate in the following dual credit programs: Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO),Concurrent Enrollment (CE), Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:16 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

On Her Majesty's School Inspection Service

Craig Jerald:

After more than a decade (and four years behind schedule) Congress finally seems ready to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. For years, critics have complained that the law's focus on test scores offers far too narrow a picture for judging school quality. There is also concern that the "adequate yearly progress," or AYP, formula is too inflexible to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of schools.

The track record of NCLB also suggests that it hasn't been especially successful in turning around the most troubled schools. In fact, among the 1,200 schools identified for "corrective action" in 2005-06, fully 70 percent were still under an improvement category three years later.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:20 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Oregon districts start their own charter schools to gain federal funding, flexibility

Nicole Dungca:

When a fledgling charter school took over the Cottrell Elementary building this fall, district administrators didn't worry about losing per-pupil state funding, and there were no protests decrying the move as a threat to public education.

That's because the Oregon Trail School District created the charter school.

Amid increasing budget constraints and continued pressure to reform public education, some savvy educators are taking advantage of federal charter school grants of up to $500,000 to create a hybrid: the district-initiated charter school.

In Oregon, taxpayers finance charter schools, which are typically run by organizations independent from school districts. But two Clackamas County districts have discovered the Oregon charter school law can provide extra funds and flexibility for their own innovative programs.

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

A Radical Solution For America's Worsening College Tuition Bubble

Kevin Carey:

Over the last three decades, through good economic times and bad, one of the few constants in American life has been the relentless rise in the price of higher education. The numbers are stark: According to the non-profit College Board, public four-year universities raised tuition and fees by 8.3 percent this year, more than double the rate of inflation. This was typical: Over the last decade, public university tuition grew by an average of 5.6 percent above inflation every year. And the problem is also getting worse: In the 1990s, the annual real increase was 3.2 percent. In the 1980s, it was 4.5 percent.

Even as the economy has reorganized itself to make college degrees increasingly indispensable for the pursuit of a decent career, federal financial aid programs and family income haven't been able to keep up with incredibly buoyant tuition bills. Students and families have been left with only one recourse: borrowing. The federal government is now lending college students over $100 billion per year, a 56 percent per-student increase, after adjusting for inflation, from just ten years ago. Most undergraduates borrow today, and leave college with an average of over $25,000 in debt. And as the many signs displayed by the Occupy movement attest, some young people owe much more than that. For a growing number of students, entering the lucrative college-educated realms of the economy is like being smuggled across the border--you can get to the promised land if you try hard enough, but you arrive in a state of indentured servitude to the shady operators who overcharged you for the trip.

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Madison's La Follette High School team shows off financial savvy at Investment Challenge

Judy Newman:

More than 125 high school students from the Madison area showed off their financial savvy Tuesday at the Finance and Investment Challenge Bowl.

The contest pitted teams from 32 local schools against each other, two teams at a time, with experts in the financial industry serving as moderators and judges.

The teens fielded questions such as:

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Gates Foundation Urges Better Teacher Evaluations, Neglects to Mention Quick and Easy Method

Nina Shapiro:

​The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just came out with its latest advice for how to improve schools. As the foundation sees it, districts don't have a good sense of who their good and bad teachers are, and need better evaluations. But is this really the problem?
Ever since it abandoned its former educational preoccupation, small schools, the Gates Foundation has hit upon stellar teaching as the key to transforming the nation's schools. It's not exactly a new idea, but it's one worthy of rediscovering.

A Stanford economist named Eric Hanushek has put into numerical terms a concept that most people know with their gut. A New Yorker story on the matter a few years ago summarized his findings: "Students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year's worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half's worth of material."

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January 11, 2012

Science Envy

Historian David McCullough was asked by a reporter recently if he started writing any of his books with a theme. He said that when he became interested in a subject he started reading to see what he could find out about it, but he had no advance idea of what would result.

Even those of our teachers who do work with students on research papers too frequently indulge in the science envy of requiring them to have a thesis. Students are asked to have some prior notion of the history they will read which they will test to see whether it is falsifiable or not.

Science is rich, famous and powerful, so it is not surprising that it is envied in our culture, but it should be remembered that its practice is to reduce, as much as possible, reality to numbers.

History does not lend itself well to a reduction to numbers, as it is about human beings, who also cannot very well be competently encompassed by numerical descriptions.

Words are the numbers of history, and words connote as much as they denote, they contain and evoke possibility and ambiguity in ways that the number users of science sometimes find annoyingly imprecise and quite uncomfortable.

The study of history should begin with curiosity about people and events: What was that person really like? How did that event come to happen and what resulted from it? These are the sort of non-thesis questions that our students of history should be asking, instead of fitting themselves out for their journey of learning about the past hampered with the straitjacket of a thesis.

Serious history students are often curious over something they have read about. They want to know more, and, when they have learned quite a bit, they frequently want to tell others what they have discovered. Like scientists, they are curious, but unlike them, they are willing to live with the uncertainties that are the essential ingredients of human experience.

Science has earned our admiration, but its methods are not suitable to all inquiries and we should not let envy of the success of science mislead us into trying to shrink-wrap history to fit some thesis with which students would have to begin their study of history.

David McCullough has reported that when he speaks to groups very often he is asked how much time he spends doing research and how much time he spends writing. He said he is never asked how much time he spends thinking.

The secondary students of history published in The Concord Review do not generally begin their work with a thesis to prove or disprove, but rather with wonder about something in history. The quality of their papers reveals that not only have they done a good deal of reading and research--if there is any difference there--but that they also have spent some serious time thinking about what they have learned, as well as how to tell someone else about it.

They have inevitably encountered the complex causes of historical events (no control groups there) and the variety of forces and inclinations both within and without the historical figures they have studied.

Some of these students are very good in calculus, science, and so forth, but they realize that history is a different form of inquiry and provides a non-reductionist view of the truth of human life, but one that may be instructive or inspiring in several ways.

So I urge teachers of students of history, who are asking them to write serious research papers, to let them choose their own topics, based on their own wonder and curiosity about the past, and to relieve them of the science envy of a thesis requirement. Let them embark on their own study of some part of the immense and mysterious ocean of history, and help them return with a story and an understanding they can call their own and can share, through serious research papers, with other students of history.


------------------------
"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®
www.tcr.org/blog

Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 5:26 AM | Comments (1) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

James Howard: Board responsible for narrowing gap

Madison School Board President James Howard

Accountability for significantly narrowing the achievement gap must be at the top of the Madison School District agenda in 2012. How long should the current members of the School Board, Superintendant Dan Nerad, the administration and staff have to demonstrate gains in narrowing the gap?

In 2010 a five-year strategic plan was implemented with narrowing achievement gaps as the number one priority, and we are now starting to get results from the initiatives in the plan.

What will the level of accountability be for those of us who approved the plan? What will the level of accountability be for those of us who have responsibility for implementing the plan?

The question must be: Have we achieved the desired results or educational outcomes demanded by the taxpayers?

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California community colleges approve overhaul

Nanette Asimov:

Over the objections of angry college students and worried faculty members, California community college leaders voted Monday to support a systemwide overhaul that could end many free classes for older adults and squeeze out students who fail to move quickly through the system.

The 22 recommendations approved by the college system's Board of Governors are intended to address a devilish problem: Essential classes are in critically short supply and thousands of students are turned away from classes they need because of the state's economic crisis.

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Scott Milfred talks Madison Prep, Walker recall, Iowa results on "For the Record"

Wisconsin State Journal:

Click here to watch Sunday's "For the Record" on WISC-TV (Ch. 3) with Neil Heinen. Panelists include State Journal editorial page editor Scott Milfred, Republican insider Brandon Schulz and The Progressive editor Matt Rothschild. They bantered about the recent Iowa caucus results, the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin, the likely gubernatorial recall and the coming Madison School Board elections, which Milfred argues are likely to decide whether a charter school called Madison Preparatory Academy opens its doors."

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January 10, 2012

Charter-School Management Organizations: Diverse Strategies and Diverse Student Impacts

Joshua Furgeson, Brian Gill,
Joshua Haimson, Alexandra Killewald, Moira McCullough, Ira Nichols-Barrer, Bing-ru Teh, Natalya Verbitsky-Savitz Mathematica Policy Research; Melissa Bowen, Allison Demeritt,
Paul Hill, Robin Lake Center on Reinventing Public Education

Charter schools--public schools of choice that are operated autonomously, outside the direct control of local school districts--have become more prevalent over the past two decades. There is no consensus about whether, on average, charter schools are doing better or worse than conventional public schools at promoting the achievement of their students. Nonetheless, one research finding is clear: Effects vary widely among different charter schools. Many educators, policymakers, and funders are interested in ways to identify and replicate successful charter schools and help other public schools adopt effective charter school practices.
Charter-school management organizations (CMOs), which establish and operate multiple charter schools, represent one prominent attempt to bring high performance to scale. Many CMOs were created in order to replicate educational approaches that appeared to be effective, particularly among disadvantaged students. Attracting substantial philanthropic support, CMO schools have grown rapidly in the past decade. Some of these organizations have received laudatory attention through anecdotal reports of dramatic achievement results.

The National Study of CMO Effectiveness aims to fill the gap in systematic evidence about CMOs, providing the first rigorous nationwide examination of CMOs' effects on students' achievement and attainment. The study includes an examination of the relationships between the practices of individual CMOs and their effects on student achievement, with the aim of providing useful guidance to the field. Mathematica Policy Research and the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) are conducting the study with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation and project management assistance from the NewSchools Venture Fund. This updated edition of the report provides key findings from the study on CMO practices, impacts, and the relationships between them. A forthcoming report will explore promising practices in greater depth.

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Stanford Free Classes - A review from a Stanford Student

pennyhacks:

Recently Stanford has started a new initiative to bring free classes to the public. From what I've seen from statistics, this venture has been extraordinarily successful with over 100,000 sign ups. Most likely only a fraction went through with the class, but that's still a lot of people, especially for the first time. There has been quite a lot of press about these classes, but none seem to take into account the effects it has on the students that attend Stanford. Despite the success and the raves of great reviews, I was not at all satisfied by the CS229a: Applied Machine Learning, one of the three courses offered to the public fall quarter. Before I begin though, I want to say that I completely agree that education should not be locked up for only a few to use and I also agree that since education, in my mind, is a right, then it should be provided for free. Thus the Stanford initiative to do this is a great thing. However, there are quite a few things that hopefully Stanford will change in the future.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:40 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

January 9, 2012

Teacher Retention: Estimating The Effects Of Financial Incentives In Denver

Eleanor Fullbeck:

There is currently much interest in improving access to high-quality teachers (Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2010; Hanushek, 2007) through improved recruitment and retention. Prior research has shown that it is difficult to retain teachers, particularly in high-poverty schools (Boyd et al., 2011; Ingersoll, 2004). Although there is no one reason for this difficulty, there is some evidence to suggest teachers may leave certain schools or the profession in part because of dissatisfaction with low salaries (Ingersoll, 2001).

Thus, it is possible that by offering teachers financial incentives, whether in the form of alternative compensation systems or standalone bonuses, they would become more satisfied with their jobs and retention would increase. As of yet, however, support for this approach has not been grounded in empirical research.

Denver's Professional Compensation System for Teachers ("ProComp") is one of the most prominent alternative teacher compensation reforms in the nation.* Via a combination of ten financial incentives, ProComp seeks to increase student achievement by motivating teachers to improve their instructional practices and by attracting and retaining high-quality teachers to work in the district.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:58 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Ignominious Ignorance Behind Bonnie Dumanis' Education Plan for San Diego

Doug Porter:

In a move that qualifies as one of the most ignorant and opportunist positions ever taken by a local politician; the Dumanis Mayoral Campaign announced its "Bold" educational initiative this past Thursday at a press conference. The details of the effort--expanding the school board, creating oversight committees and establishing a bureaucracy within the City government to oversee "liaison" efforts were widely reported in the local news media. Candidate Dumanis got lots of face time on local tv news as her plan was uncritically rolled out to the electorate.

The local press failed to notice that Carmel Valley, where the Dumanis presser was held isn't even in the San Diego Unified School District. The Mayoral candidate appeared blissfully unaware that schools in that area are part of the San Dieguito district as she prattled on about "Leadership, vision and experience are needed to put our schools on a new path because it's clear the path we are on today is the wrong one."

Asked about who she worked with in drafting her plan, Dumanis would only say that she'd consulted with an unnamed group of teachers, parents, students and others interested in reform. It's clear though, that if you look at her list of campaign contributors, the "Bold" plan is largely drawn from the wreckage of the failed San Diegans for Great Schools ballot initiative that, despite receiving over $1 million in donations from a few well heeled "philanthropists", couldn't gather enough signatures to be placed in front of the voters.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Senator's bill would cap Cal State University presidents' salaries

Nanette Asimov:

The salaries of California State University campus presidents would be capped, and discussions about their pay would be held in public, under a bill being proposed by a state senator frustrated that CSU has been raising executive pay as well as tuition.

The proposal comes months after CSU trustees hired a campus president in San Diego for $400,000 a year - $100,000 more than his predecessor - and at the same meeting that they approved a 12 percent tuition increase.

"It is not reasonable to give $100,000 raises to executive positions, especially when simultaneously raising tuition," said state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance (Los Angeles County), author of SB755.

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

Fewer Kids in the U.S.

Conor Dougherty:

The U.S. under-18 population fell between 2010 and 2011, the first time in at least two decades that the country has seen its minor population decline, according to demographers and new Census data.

The U.S. under-18 population was 73,934,272 in July 2011, a decline of 247,000 or 0.3% from July of 2010, according to an analysis of Census data by William H. Frey, a demographer at The Brookings Institution. The child population is still up 2.3% from 2000, largely because of gains made in the early-decade boom years.

The child population is falling because fewer immigrant children are coming across U.S. borders, and because fewer children are being born. Meantime, the so-called millennial generation is moving into adulthood. With fertility rates down, Mr. Frey says "it doesn't look like a youth boom will reverberate anytime soon."

The U.S. minor population fell in the 1970s as well, as baby boomers moved into adulthood and women entered the labor force en masse, delaying families in the process. A large drop in fertility was also behind a decline in minors between 1920 and 1930.

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In New Jersey, a year makes quite a difference

Kathleen Nugent:

Sometimes it's hard to realize progress when you're caught up in the daily grind. You tend to take for granted where you are since the focus is always on what's next. So, this post is a glance back at where we were a year ago in three priority areas in New Jersey education: tenure reform, leadership at the NJ Department of Education, and the search for Newark Public Schools' superintendent.

1) New Jersey's tenure reform debate

On December 9, 2010, Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), Chairwoman of the NJ Senate Education Committee, held the state's first-ever hearing on tenure reform. Although conversations on tenure reform today are commonplace in New Jersey, there was no substantive discussion of it before Ruiz's hearing.

Witnesses at the hearing included officials from NJ Department of Education (NJDOE), Colorado state Senator Michael Johnston (sponsor of Colorado's "Great Teachers and Great Leaders" bill - aka SB 191, considered to be one of the strongest teacher evaluation and tenure reform bills in the nation), TNTP's Executive Vice President and General Counsel Daniel Weisberg, and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), among others. A few highlights from the day's testimony:

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New Study Gauges Teachers Impact on Students' Lifetime Earnings

NewsHour:

JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, putting a price on the value of good teachers. A large and new study addresses just that.

Ray Suarez has the story.

RAY SUAREZ: The debate over testing in schools, and whether students' scores adequately reflect a teacher's performance, has been raging for well over a decade. Now a new study has tracked more than two-and-a-half million students over two decades.

It found test scores are indeed a good gauge for evaluating student performance. And the study found replacing a bad teacher with an average or a good one can translate into a huge economic difference. Combined, the students could earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more over their working lifetimes.

We look at the study and the response it's stirred with Harvard economist Raj Chetty, one of its three authors. And we hope to be joined by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second largest teachers union.

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New York Governor Cuomo picks fight with schools, gets one

Associated Press:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo picked a fight last week with what has long been Albany's most powerful force: public schools.

In his State of the State address, he accused teachers' unions, school boards and school aid lobbyists of being more interested in adults than children.

"We need major reform," he said Wednesday. "We need to focus on student achievement. ... We've wasted enough time."

In their best Robert DeNiro, they shot back: "You talkin' to me?"

In the balance could hang whether the poorest school districts, mostly in larger cities and in rural areas, will get a larger share of state school aid. That had been the case for most of the past decade after the state's highest court found New York failed to adequately fund education for years. But not last year, in Cuomo's first budget.

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January 8, 2012

In Defense of No Child Left Behind

Andrew Rotherham:

Bashing the No Child Left Behind Act has become so politically popular that it's easy to forget how overwhelmingly bipartisan it was -- the legislation passed the House with 384 votes and the Senate with 91. As the law marks its 10-year anniversary on Jan. 8, it's important to look at both its successes and its failures. Did NCLB solve all of our public education problems? No. But it set a lot of good things in motion and was specifically designed to be revised after five or six years (in a reauthorization that has yet to happen and is unlikely to before this year's election.) The No Child law didn't get everything right the first time, but that's the wrong yardstick. If we held other policy areas -- think food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security -- to the same standard No Child is held to these days, i.e., flawlessness, then we would have jettisoned those and many other worthy programs long ago.

No Child Left Behind was designed to bring accountability into public schools. It is not a new federal program. Rather, it is the latest modification to the mammoth Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the omnibus law that governs most federal involvement in public schools. The No Child revisions built on President Bill Clinton's 1994 Improving America's Schools Act, which built on the lessons learned during the Reagan years. As former governors, both Clinton and President George W. Bush shared a commitment to having specific standards for what skills children should be learning and holding schools accountable for teaching them. By the late 1990s, key organizations including the Education Trust and the Citizens Commission for Civil Rights were calling for stricter accountability measures, and Democrats on Capitol Hill -- including California Representative George Miller, a key player on education policy in the House -- were responding. When Bush became President and got recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line and support his accountability measures, it was a Nixon-to-China move on education policy.

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New Education Report: Does Money Matter?

Matthew Di Carlo:

Over the past few years, due to massive budget deficits, governors, legislators and other elected officials are having to slash education spending. As a result, incredibly, there are at least 30 states in which state funding for 2011 is actually lower than in 2008. In some cases, including California, the amounts are over 20 percent lower.

Only the tiniest slice of Americans believe that we should spend less on education, while a large majority actually supports increased funding. At the same time, however, there's a concerted effort among some advocates, elected officials and others to convince the public that spending more money on education will not improve outcomes, while huge cuts need not do any harm.

.....

Our new report, written by Rutgers professor Bruce Baker and entitled "Revisiting the Age-Old Question: Does Money Matter in Education?" reviews this body of evidence.

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Are Teachers Overpaid?

Room for Debate:

In the private sector, people with SAT and GRE scores comparable to those of education majors earn less than teachers do. Does that mean teachers are overpaid? Or that public schools should pay more to attract top applicants who tend to go into higher-paying professions?

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Is California's "API Growth" A Good Measure Of School Performance?

Matthew Di Carlo:

California calls its "Academic Performance Index" (API) the "cornerstone" of its accountability system. The API is calculated as a weighted average of the proportions of students meeting proficiency and other cutoffs on the state exams.

It is a high-stakes measure. "Growth" in schools' API scores determines whether they meet federal AYP requirements, and it is also important in the state's own accountability regime. In addition, toward the middle of last month, the California Charter Schools Association called for the closing of ten charter schools based in part on their (three-year) API "growth" rates.

Putting aside the question of whether the API is a valid measure of student performance in any given year, using year-to-year changes in API scores in high-stakes decisions is highly problematic. The API is cross-sectional measure - it doesn't follow students over time - and so one must assume that year-to-year changes in a school's index do not reflect a shift in demographics or other characteristics of the cohorts of students taking the tests. Moreover, even if the changes in API scores do in fact reflect "real" progress, they do not account for all the factors outside of schools' control that might affect performance, such as funding and differences in students' backgrounds (see here and here, or this Mathematica paper, for more on these issues).

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Gov. Jerry Brown's new budget plan targets schools

Anthony York and Nicholas Riccardi:

Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his new budget plan, calling for a painful $4.8-billion cut in public school funds if voters reject a proposed tax hike that he hopes to put on the ballot in November.

Despite the possible reduction -- the equivalent of slashing three weeks from the school year -- the spending blueprint Brown released Thursday is a relatively optimistic document. It assumes he will have to close a $9.2-billion deficit, a vast improvement over last year's $26-billion gap.

Half of the deficit would be wiped out through the temporary half-cent sales-tax hike and increased levies on the wealthy that Brown wants voters to approve -- or by the schools cuts. The remainder would be eliminated with reductions in welfare, Medi-Cal and other programs.

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It's The Teacher!

Harrison Blackmond:

My views about education are, like many others, informed by my own experiences. Born the son of a black sharecropper in rural Alabama near the end of WWII, I attended segregated schools for most of my early years of education, including the first three. And, my teachers in Alabama were all black, all female. The remainder of my primary and secondary schooling was in low income, mostly black communities in Cincinnati, Ohio. All of my teachers in Cincinnati were white and mostly female. I had both good and bad educational experiences in Alabama and Ohio. The one thing these experiences had in common was that those experiences, both good and bad, were determined by the quality of teachers I had. No surprise there.

What is surprising is that the good teachers I had overcame all the "social and economic disabilities" a student like me brought to class with him. My parents were typical of most black families: uneducated or under-educated. My father had no education and could not read or write. My mother had a fifth or sixth grade education. So she could read and write, but knew little about how urban education systems worked. We were very poor, living on the largess of the landowners where we lived in Alabama and on welfare most of the time in Cincinnati. I worked at school and after school from seventh grade on. My experience was not atypical. Most of my classmates had similar stories. Some of us succeeded against great odds. The ones who did succeed educationally did so because there were teachers along the way who encouraged, inspired, and demanded our best.

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Connecticut Teacher's Union Reform Plan: Better education 'not just test scores'

Linda Conner Lambeck:

The education reform package advanced Tuesday by the state's largest teachers' union would speed up the dismissal process for poor teachers, but would not strengthen the link between job security and how well students do on state tests.

Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said student achievement has always factored into teacher evaluations.

"There are multiple indicators. It's not just about test scores," she said, adding true reform would be to streamline the dismissal process for bad teachers and do more to make sure teachers have proper training before and once they get into the classroom.

The CEA package, called A View From the Classroom, contains a number of other suggestions to provide universal preschool and all-day kindergarten and increase state funding for local education expenses.

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Schools Sue States for More Money

Nathan Koppel:

School districts and their supporters around the country have launched a wave of lawsuits asking courts to order more spending on public education, contending they face new pressures as states cut billions of dollars of funding while adding more-rigorous educational standards.

About half of the school districts in Texas have sued the state since the legislature cut more than $5 billion from school budgets last year, citing fiscal pressures. School-funding suits also are pending in California, Florida and Kansas, among other states. The suits generally claim schools lack the resources to provide the level of education required by state constitutions.

Critics of such lawsuits--and states being sued--say it is the prerogative of legislatures to decide how much states should spend on education.

In Washington state, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the state legislature to come up with a plan for additional funding. Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, said in a statement she agreed with the ruling, noting that without ample funds it is "difficult for students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to compete in today's global economy."

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January 7, 2012

Seeing a child like a state: Holding the poor accountable for bad schools -- Guest post by Lant Pritchett

anonymous @ World Bank:

In the early 20th century Helen Todd, a factory inspector in Chicago, interviewed 500 children working in factories, often in dangerous and unpleasant conditions. She asked children the question: "If your father had a good job and you didn't have to work, which would you rather do--go to school or work in a factory?" 412 said they would choose factory work. One fourteen year old girl, who was interviewed lacquering canes in an attic working with both intense heat and the constant smell of turpentine, said "School is the fiercest thing you can come up against. Factories ain't no cinch, but schools is worst."

The recent expansion of the "ASER-like" simple assessments of literacy and numeracy skills of all children in a village based approach provides an accurate, and chilling, picture of just how little learning is going on inside schools in many poor countries. The ASER data can show the learning profile, the association of measured skills and grade completion, by showing what fraction of children who have completed which grade can read a simple story (expected of a child in grade 2) or do simple arithmetic operations. Take Uttar Pradesh in 2010. By the end of lower primary school (grade 5) only one in four children could divide. Even by grade 8, the end of upper primary only 56 percent could. Similarly, by grade 5 only 44 percent could read a level 2 paragraph and by grade 8 still only 77.6 could. A large plurality of children, even of those that had persisted and been promoted through eight full grades or primary school--roughly 8000 hours of available total instruction--were either illiterate or innumerate or both.

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Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gain

Annie Lowrey, via several kind reader emails:

Elementary- and middle-school teachers who help raise their students' standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students' lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy rates and greater college matriculation and adult earnings, according to a new study that tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years.

The paper, by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, all economists, examines a larger number of students over a longer period of time with more in-depth data than many earlier studies, allowing for a deeper look at how much the quality of individual teachers matters over the long term.

"That test scores help you get more education, and that more education has an earnings effect -- that makes sense to a lot of people," said Robert H. Meyer, director of the Value-Added Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which studies teacher measurement but was not involved in this study. "This study skips the stages, and shows differences in teachers mean differences in earnings."

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The school that George built

Thomas Escritt:

George Soros's latest multimillion dollar gift to the Central European University Business School underlines the gulf between the Budapest-based private institution and its rivals elsewhere in the region.

"They are unique in the region in having a serious endowment," says the head of a competitor school. "Everybody else has to survive off tuition fees."

Soros, the Hungarian-born billionaire investor founded the business school in 1988, a year before the fall of communism in the country. It does not want for resources - all students will receive an iPad this year, for example - but Mel Horwich, who was appointed dean at the beginning of this year, clearly has a mandate to shake things up.

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January 6, 2012

Middle school teacher takes on giant math problem: Getting kids to love numbers

Katy Murphy:

Some math classrooms are so quiet you can hear the sound of pencils on paper.

Robert MacCarthy's class at Willard Middle School in Berkeley has a different soundtrack. His sixth-graders problem-solve out loud -- sometimes into a big blue microphone -- and applaud each other afterward. They take on lively games and challenges that mix math with art.

Maybe, if they're lucky, they'll get to star in a math music video produced by their teacher and classmates under the label mathisnotacrime productions. "Integer Eyes" is the latest hit. "Math Hustla," released in 2009, quickly became a Willard classic.

"I never met an expression that I couldn't simplify. I never met a problem that I couldn't solve," two students rap, alternating lines, as they move to the beat.

Math can be a tough sell for adolescents. When students hit middle school, they often grow frustrated with math and begin to question the importance of knowing how to isolate a variable or graph an equation. Some end up failing the same courses again and again and eventually drop out of school -- even as their schools devote more time to the subject, said Harold Asturias, director of the Center for Mathematics Excellence and Equity at UC Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science.

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California's Higher Education Disaster

Kevin Carey:

There's no doubt that the ongoing crisis of governance in California and resulting disinvestment in the University of California system is deplorable. But this recent Washington Post dispatch from UC-Berkeley doesn't exactly paint a picture of a campus in deep crisis:
Star faculty take mandatory furloughs. Classes grow perceptibly larger each year. Roofs leak; e-mail crashes. One employee mows the entire campus. Wastebaskets are emptied once a week. Some professors lack telephones...The state share of Berkeley's operating budget has slipped since 1991 from 47 percent to 11 percent. Tuition has doubled in six years, and the university is admitting more students from out of state willing to pay a premium for a Berkeley degree...the number of students for every faculty member has risen from 15 to 17 in five years. Many classes are oversubscribed, leaving students to scramble for alternatives or postpone graduation, a dilemma more commonly associated with community college...Berkeley's overall budget continues to rise modestly from year to year. Total university revenue rose from $1.7 billion in fiscal 2007 to $2 billion in 2010.
Reliable email is free and I assume Berkeley professors own cell phones like everyone else. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that small increases in class size negatively affect learning for the kind of cream-of-the-crop college students who attend Berkeley. Over 90 percent of Berkeley students graduate from the university. If Berkeley's star professors are lured away to Stanford, it's bad for the university but not necessarily bad for America, particularly if (as is frequently the case) those professors teach few if any undergraduates. They'll be the same people doing the same thing at another university an hour away.

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The Disruptive MBA

Maxwell:

Thomas Kuhn wouldn't be impressed with the hordes of MBAs departing from top tier business schools to start new media companies, build the next big mobile gaming company, or launch another clone daily-deal site.  But that's not where Kuhn's disappointment would end.  Kuhn would probably be disheartened by the slew of intelligent students learning to code in computer science programs instead of pursuing degrees in electrical engineering or computer engineering degrees.  In short, despite the fact that technology is one of the last bright spots in an otherwise stagnating economy, Kuhn would argue that we're encouraging the wrong types of innovation in the sector.  Kuhn would push the best and brightest in our society away from building Birchbox for Baby Products and ask them to start innovating to enable less qualified builders.

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The Insider View of Education Reform

Whiteboard Advisors:

Education Insider is a monthly report and webinar that provides real-time insights on federal education policy trends, debates, and issues--from the handful of decision makers that are driving the process.

Trying to follow the ins-and-outs of Federal education reform -- a morass of legislation, regulations, grants, mandates and more -- is like assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle. It is often difficult to see the entire picture when all you have is a few pieces. The challenge is piecing together bits of conversations, speeches, legislation, regulations, and other expressions of policy intent to discern what is happening in the debate. This process is even more complex since other policy issues and political agendas can change the trajectory of education policy.

As with any issue, there are only a handful of insiders that will shape the debate but never before has there been an attempt to tap their collective insights and forecasts.

Organizations must anticipate and react to Federal policy and funding changes need high quality information and analysis and the complete picture that Education Insider provides.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: A Look at California

Richard Rider:

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

REVISED: California has the 3rd worst state income tax in the nation. 9.3% tax bracket starts at $46,766 for people filing as individuals. 10.3% tax starts at $1,000,000. Governor Brown is putting on the ballot a prop to change the "millionaires' tax" to 12.3%, starting at $500,000. If approved, CA will be #1 in income tax rates. http://www.taxfoundation.org/files/bp59_es.pdf

Highest state sales tax rate in the nation. 7.25% (as of 1 July, 2011 - does not include local sales taxes).
http://www.taxfoundation.org/files/bp60.pdf Table #15

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

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: On Saving the American Health System: Dr. Donald Berwick's Farewell Speech

Don Berwick is an American hero and also a victim of the obscene stalemate in Washington; the one being heaped on us by our Congress that has a 9% approval rating. Most people that I know with a score that low would have the self-respect to quit rather than to point fingers at others. Well, as part of this mess, Congress wouldn't approve the appointment of Dr. Don Berwick, who is a true American hero because he is among one of the real leaders of the movement to save American health care. Before coming to Washington, the organization he led, a small non-profit called the Institute for Health Improvement, organized and guided an effort in American hospitals that -- by doing simple, evidence things like hand washing, raising the bed when people are on a respirator, and other small but effective things -- saved more than 100,000 lives by some estimates. This little non-profit recruited over 3000 hospitals that had over 70% of the beds in the U.S. to participate in this effort to reduce preventable deaths.

Obama, recognizing his greatness, appointed him as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Or he tried to. Our do nothing -- or actually do nothing but screw the other side -- Congress opposed his appointment, so Obama did one of those sneaky interim appointments that Berwick to keep the position for 17 months before being forced out. The New York Times Joe Nocera did a great piece on him, check it out.

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January 5, 2012

MTEL 90: Teacher Content Knowledge Licensing Requirements Coming To Wisconsin....

The Wisconsin adoption of teacher content knowledge requirements, on the form of MTEL 90 (Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure) by 2013-2014 would (will?) be a significant step forward via the Wisconsin Read to Lead Report), assuming it is not watered down like the oft criticized (and rightfully so) WKCE

There are significant implications for :Education School preparation/curriculum with the addition of content knowledge to teacher licensing requirements. 

Much more on Read to Lead, here and a presentation on Florida's Reading Reforms

www.wisconsin2.org

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Guessing the Teacher's Password

Eliezer_Yudkowsky:

When I was young, I read popular physics books such as Richard Feynman's QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. I knew that light was waves, sound was waves, matter was waves. I took pride in my scientific literacy, when I was nine years old.

When I was older, and I began to read the Feynman Lectures on Physics, I ran across a gem called "the wave equation". I could follow the equation's derivation, but, looking back, I couldn't see its truth at a glance. So I thought about the wave equation for three days, on and off, until I saw that it was embarrassingly obvious. And when I finally understood, I realized that the whole time I had accepted the honest assurance of physicists that light was waves, sound was waves, matter was waves, I had not had the vaguest idea of what the word "wave" meant to a physicist.

There is an instinctive tendency to think that if a physicist says "light is made of waves", and the teacher says "What is light made of?", and the student says "Waves!", the student has made a true statement. That's only fair, right? We accept "waves" as a correct answer from the physicist; wouldn't it be unfair to reject it from the student? Surely, the answer "Waves!" is either true or false, right?

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Five Predictions for the Next Five Years

Om Malik:

In each of the past five years, IBM has come up with a list of five innovations it believes will become popular within five years. In this, the sixth year, IBM has come up with the following technologies it thinks will gain traction. Hold on to your sci-fi novels, because some of these are pretty far out there. And some of them, well, I wish we had them today.

People power will come to life. Advances in technology will allow us to trap the kinetic energy generated (and wasted) from walking, jogging, bicycling, and even from water flowing through pipes. A bicycle charging your iPhone? There's nothing wrong with that, though I think it might be a while before we see this actually become a mainstream practice.

You will never need a password again. Biometrics will finally replace the password and thus redefine the word "hack." Jokes aside, IBM believes multifactor biometrics will become pervasive. "Biometric data--facial definitions, retinal scans, and voice files--will be composited through software to build your DNA-unique online password." Based on the increasing hours we spend online, I would say we need such solutions to come to market ASAP.

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January 4, 2012

Chicago's poor fleeing to Wisconsin for safer streets, greater welfare benefits

New York Times news service, via a kind reader:

In Madison, the influx of poor people from Chicago is testing the city's historical liberalism. About one-quarter of the 3,300 Madison families receiving welfare are former Illinois residents.

Even Mayor Paul Soglin, who earned his liberal stripes in the anti-establishment politics of the 1960s as a Vietnam War protester, now talks of "finite limits of resources" for the poor.

"We're like a lifeboat that holds 12 people comfortably," Mr. Soglin said. "We've got about 16 in it now, and there's a dozen more waiting in the water. Since we're already in danger of going under, what can our community be expected to do?"

A vibrant economy in Wisconsin accounts for much of the migration among poor people, most of them looking for jobs. The state's unemployment rate has dipped below 4 percent while that in Illinois is 4.4 percent.

my correspondent notes:
Here is an interesting article from 1995.  Worth revisiting with Soglin back in office (just because he is the mayor quoted at the time), but mostly as it pertains to our discussions around Madison Prep.  What are the unique attributes and qualities that make up both our white population and our minority population?

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Wisconsin Read to Lead Report Released

Wisconsin Read to Lead Final Report (PDF), via several readers.  Mary Newton kindly provided this summary:

Summary of the Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force Recommendations, January, 2012
 
    Teacher Preparation and Professional Development

    All teachers and administrators should receive more instruction in reading pedagogy that focuses on evidence-based practices and the five components of reading as defined by the National Reading Panel (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension).


  1. There must be more accountability at the state level and a commitment by institutions of higher education to improving teacher preparation.

    Licensure requirements should be strengthened to include the Massachusetts Foundations of Reading exam by 2013.

    Teacher preparation programs should expand partnerships with local school districts and early childhood programs.

    Information on the performance of graduates of teacher preparation programs should be available to the public.

    A professional development conference should be convened for reading specialists and elementary school principals.

    DPI should make high quality, science-based, online professional development in reading available to all teachers.

    Professional development plans for all initial educators should include a component on instructional strategies for reading and writing.

    Professional development in reading instruction should be required for all teachers whose students continually show low levels of achievement and/or growth in reading.

  2. Screening, Assessment, and Intervention

    Wisconsin should use a universal statewide screening tool in pre-kindergarten through second grade to ensure that struggling readers are identified as early as possible.


    Proper accommodations should be given to English language learners and special education students.

    Formal assessments should not replace informal assessments, and schools should assess for formative and summative purposes.

    Educators should be given the knowledge to interpret assessments in a way that guides instruction.

    Student data should be shared among early childhood programs, K-12 schools, teachers, parents, reading specialists, and administrators.

    Wisconsin should explore the creation of a program similar to the Minnesota Reading Corps in 2013.
     

  3. Early Childhood

    DPI and the Department of Children and Families should work together to share data, allowing for evaluation of early childhood practices.

    All 4K programs should have an adequate literacy component.

    DPI will update the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards to ensure accuracy and alignment with the Common Core State Standards, and place more emphasis on fidelity of implementation of the WMELS.

    The YoungStar rating system for early childhood programs should include more specific early literacy criteria.
     
     

  4. Accountability

    The Educator Effectiveness Design Team should consider reading outcomes in its evaluation systems.

    The Wisconsin School Accountability Design Team should emphasize early reading proficiency as a key measure for schools and districts. Struggling schools and districts should be given ongoing quality professional development and required to implement scientific research-based screening, assessment, curriculum, and intervention.

    Educators and administrators should receive training on best practices in order to provide effective instruction for struggling readers.

    The state should enforce the federal definition for scientific research-based practices, encourage the use of What Works Clearinghouse, and facilitate communication about effective strategies.

    In addition to effective intervention throughout the school year, Wisconsin should consider mandatory evidence-based summer school programs for struggling readers, especially in the lower grades, and hold the programs accountable for results.
     

  5. Family Involvement
    Support should be given to programs such as Reach Out and Read that reach low-income families in settings that are well-attended by parents, provide books to low-income children, and encourage adults to read to children.

    The state should support programs that show families and caregivers how to foster oral language and reading skill development in children.

    Adult literacy agencies and K-12 schools should collaborate at the community level so that parents can improve their own literacy skills.

Related:  Erin Richards' summary (and Google News aggregation) and many SIS links

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Spokane Paper declines to inform voters about critical school-district election issues

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

This article is second in a series of articles regarding media coverage of public education. This article and its predecessor in the series show that Spokesman-Review coverage of the 2011 school-board election in Spokane was biased in favor of a particular candidate and a particular agenda.

On Sept. 28, I filed a Public Disclosure Commission complaint regarding election activity in 2009 and 2011 by Spokane Public Schools administrators, board directors, (new school board director) Deana Brower, and bond and levy advocacy organization Citizens for Spokane Schools (CFSS).

According to Washington State law, articulated in RCW 42.17.130, school district employees and school board directors are prohibited from using public resources to promote - directly or indirectly - elective candidates or ballot propositions such as bonds and levies. This is what RCW 42.17.130 says, in part: 

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The Research Bust

Mark Bauerlein:

In my hand I have a hefty article on a canonical English poet, published 10 years ago in a distinguished journal. It runs for 21 pages and has 31 footnotes, with extensive references to philosophy and art. The article is learned, wide-ranging, and conversant with scholarship on the poet and theoretical currents in literary studies. The argument is dense, the analysis acute, on its face a worthy illustration of academic study deserving broad notice and integration into subsequent research in the field.

That reception doesn't seem to have happened. When, on May 25, I typed the title into Google Scholar, only nine citations of the original article showed up. Of those nine, six of them make only perfunctory nods in a footnote, along the lines of "Recent examples include ... " and "For a recent essay on the subject, see. ... " The other three engage with the essay more substantively, but not by much, inserting in their text merely two or three sentences on the original essay. Additionally, in books on the English poet published from 2004 to 2011 that don't show up on Google Scholar (the search engine picks up most major humanities journals but is sketchy on books), the original article receives not a single citation.

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State Board of Education OKs tougher FCAT grading system

Laura Isensee:

With a unanimous vote Monday, the State Board of Education approved a tougher scoring system for the FCAT, the state's standardized reading and math exam.

The change is meant to raise the academic standards for Florida students. Last year, state officials rolled out the FCAT 2.0, a new version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. A new scoring system is needed for the new test, state officials have said.

However, many students are expected to score lower under the newly approved grading system, which determines the "cut scores" or the scores that determine failing and passing grades. State officials estimate:

Related: Excellence in Education explains Florida's reading reforms and compares Florida's NAEP progress with Wisconsin's at the July 29th Read to Lead task force meeting

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Minority Parents On Education: Schools Need Reform, But Children's Academic Success Is On Us

Huffington Post:

Studies have consistently shown that compared to their white counterparts, minority students are less likely to graduate high school on time or receive any form of higher education, and more likely to drop out of high school.

While some experts point to methods for closing achievement gaps and enhancing the performance of the bottom 5 percent of schools and students by way of legislation and policy, a new report out by the Public Education Network examines the role of the parent.

Whereas just 37 percent of the general public considers schools in their communities -- versus schools in other areas -- as examples of institutions needing reform, about 70 percent of black and Latino parents point to those in their neighborhoods.

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Advancing the Open Front: From Credential to Credit

Steve Kolowich:

Among the "open courseware" projects at elite U.S. institutions, MITx will be the first to offer an institutional credential -- albeit not from MIT proper but from MITx, which will exist as a nonprofit apart from the university. (The Stanford professors who offered an interactive open course in artificial intelligence to all comers in the fall plan to send each non-enrolled student a certifying letter with their cumulative grade and class rank, but Stanford itself is not recognizing them.)

But MIT stamp or no, that is still a big step, says Kevin Carey, policy director at Education Sector, a D.C. think tank.

"I think this is the future," says Carey, who has written on the emerging relevance of nontraditional credentials. "It's just the logical next step for the ethic behind the [open educational resources] movement," he says.

In interviews, MIT officials took care to emphasize that MITx is not meant to supplant the traditional "residential education" that the university cultivates in its Cambridge, Mass., enclave.

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January 3, 2012

America's Best High Schools: A state-by-state look at the best-performing high schools in the U.S. Does your child already go to one?

Prashant Gopal:

Kimberly Lynch, a redhead with freckles, had a keen interest in sunblock. So much so that she spent the past year developing a new method to test the effectiveness of sunscreens and recently submitted the results to a medical journal.

The 17-year-old senior at Bergen Academies in Hackensack, N.J., is quite a bit younger than most scientists submitting papers to accredited medical journals. Then again, Lynch doesn't go to a typical public high school.

Bergen Academies, a four-year high school, offers students seven concentrations including science, medicine, culinary arts, business and finance, and engineering. It even has its own stem-cell laboratory, where Lynch completed her experiments under the guidance of biology teacher Robert Pergolizzi, a former assistant professor of genetic medicine at Cornell University.

View Bloomberg Business Week's "great schools" state by state rankings, here.

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In Washington, Large Rewards in Teacher Pay

Sam Dillon, via a kind Doug Newman email:

WASHINGTON -- During her first six years of teaching in this city's struggling schools, Tiffany Johnson got a series of small raises that brought her annual salary to $63,000, from about $50,000. This year, her seventh, Ms. Johnson earns $87,000.

That latest 38 percent jump, unheard of in public education, came after Ms. Johnson was rated "highly effective" two years in a row under Washington's new teacher evaluation system. Those ratings also netted her back-to-back bonuses totaling $30,000.

"Lots of teachers leave the profession, but this has kept me invested to stay," said Ms. Johnson, 29, who is a special-education teacher at the Ron H. Brown Middle School in Northeast Washington. "I know they value me."

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MIT launches online learning initiative 'MITx' will offer courses online and make online learning tools freely available.

MIT News:

MIT today announced the launch of an online learning initiative internally called "MITx." MITx will offer a portfolio of MIT courses through an online interactive learning platform that will:
  • organize and present course material to enable students to learn at their own pace
  • feature interactivity, online laboratories and student-to-student communication
  • allow for the individual assessment of any student's work and allow students who demonstrate their mastery of subjects to earn a certificate of completion awarded by MITx
  • operate on an open-source, scalable software infrastructure in order to make it continuously improving and readily available to other educational institutions.
MIT expects that this learning platform will enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students, offering them online tools that supplement and enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences. MIT also expects that MITx will eventually host a virtual community of millions of learners around the world.

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Charter schools get voice on school board

Travis Andersen and Christopher J. Girard:

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino has appointed the founder of a Dorchester charter school to the School Committee, in the latest signal of warming relations between Menino and the independently run institutions.

The appointee, Meg Campbell, is founder and executive director of the Codman Academy Charter Public School. The school has been noted for its good track record for college admissions, the mayor's office said yesterday in a prepared statement.

Campbell said last night in a telephone interview that she believes Menino made a bold choice by appointing her to the panel, given her leadership position at a charter school.


"I think it's a tribute to the mayor's overriding commitment'' to education, she said. "It doesn't matter to the mayor where you go to school. It matters that you get a phenomenal education.''

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Primary Education

Jenna Ashley Robinson:

Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series discussing the presidential candidates' views and likely policies toward higher education. This part focuses on the Republican candidates' positions. On December 12, Jay Schalin presented the higher education track record and statements of Barack Obama.)

For the most part, the Republican primary has focused on economic issues such as employment, taxation, and government spending. Higher education hasn't been a prime topic.

But for future students, taxpayers, and university officials, the presidential hopefuls' higher education policies could loom large. Decisions at the top could further inflate the higher education bubble or, alternatively, spur educational innovations. A look at the Republican field (in alphabetical order) reveals a variety of policy choices gleaned from their websites, statements, and debates.

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2011 Closeout - Was Act 10 ALL Bad?

sp-eye:

We're in duck and cover mode...purely from the title of this entry.

But, you know what, folks? Whether you are a Walker devotee or a Walker detractor, you have to admit that EVERYTHING that Act 10 did was not bad. Yes, at its heart, Act 10 was a heinous attempt to cut public employees down at the knees. That was neither right nor fair. You can argue whatever you like, but the fact remains that for these scorned public workers, benefits were improved over the years IN LIEU OF salary increases. Rightly or wrongly so, that is what it boiled down to. Publicly, governors declared victory by giving public employees only modest raises (1-2%) each year. In some years, they got nothing. Quietly, however, behind the scenes, they negotiated with the unions to pick up the tab for a greater percentage of benefits...or offered another few days of annual leave(vacation).

This didn't happen overnight, people! This process developed over the past 25-35 YEARS! We know of many examples of private sector workers who took a job with in the public sector at a substantial demotion in terms of pay. These workers made a choice to do so in exchange for enhanced job security. Again...be it right or wrong, that's what they did. It took many of these workers 10 years or more to be earning the same salary they did when they left the private sector. But it was a choice, and they were OK with their choice.

Don't tell us that the private sector is struggling. Certainly, many private businesses and employees have suffered since the economic crisis which began over 3 years ago. But many are faring much better. We are hearing of BONUSES being given this holiday season. Public employees have never and WILL never hear of such a thing. We also know many private sector employees that have good to excellent health and retirement benefits.

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European schools create 'pipeline' of 'boardable' women

Charlotte Clarke:

When Cristina Vicini, chairwoman of the Executives' advisory board of Boston University in Brussels was in the early years of her career, in the late eighties, she had the impression that gender imbalance - a much debated topic at the time - was changing and would soon be resolved. "I cannot believe we are still talking about this in the twenty-first century," she says today.

The discussion is indeed continuing, which is why some of Europe's leading business schools have published a Call to Action designed to increase the number of women on company boards.

Written with the support of European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, who appealed to European schools for help in September, the seven-page manifesto has four pillars:

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January 2, 2012

Casper College GIS students map history of Eadsville on Casper Mountain

Elysia Conner:

Only a few logs remain of Eadsville, a mining camp where people worked, lived and raised families on Casper Mountain. A handful of children learned there in a log schoolhouse.

A century later, another school uses computer technology to learn about the natural features and history there. The Casper Mountain Science School (CMSS) teaches K-12 students on that very site as an enrichment program.

A group from Casper College's advanced GIS (geographic information system) class created a layer of digital, interactive maps complete with pictures and historical information about Eadsville for those students. Each year, groups from the college class complete real projects for various local organizations. Three students braved wind and cold on four trips to Casper Mountain. There, they mapped the CMSS property boundary along with historical mine sites and buildings in and around the old mining town of Eadsville using GPS (global positioning system). Those three, Crocker Hollis, Karen Sue McCutcheon and Nancy Doelger, also saw leftovers of a mountain lion's skunk and bird meals.

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Is Education the Next Industry That Will Be Killed by the Internet?

Tim Worstall:

I'd say that it probably will be, yes, and I've been saying so for some time. Think about it for a moment, we still use the educational techniques of the Early Middle Ages.

I first saw this point at Brad DeLong's place. When books are hand written, extremely expensive (as in, more than a year's wages possibly) then it makes sense for students to gather in one place and listen to the book being read to them.

Thus what we call a lecture. However, once printing has made the book cheap there's really not all that much point to such a gathering. Classes, OK, that's different, they're more interactive. And yes, of course, there's more to college than just the lectures and the education.

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'Coasting' schools told to improve within six years

Judith Burns @BBC:

Schools which fail to improve within six years of being classed "satisfactory" should be relabelled inconsistent and pushed harder to improve, a report says.

The Royal Society of Arts report says half of the 40% of England's schools classed as "satisfactory" failed to improve within two Ofsted inspections.

Last month Ofsted said nearly 800 schools were "coasting" in this way.

The report says such schools are more likely to be in poorer areas.

The RSA report , published jointly with Ofsted, focused on the 40% of secondary schools in England rated as "satisfactory".

It noted that half of these schools remained "satisfactory" for at least two inspections and about 8% declined to an "inadequate" rating.

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And the 2011 education awards go to

Alan Borsuk:

Quite the year we had in Wisconsin education in 2011, so we have lots of awards to give out in our annual recognition ceremony. Let's get right to the big one for this year:

The "Honey, I Blew Up the Education Status Quo" Award: No surprise who is the winner. Like him or hate him (and there certainly is no middle ground), when you say Gov. Scott Walker, you've said it all. State aid cuts. Tightened school spending and taxing. Benefit cuts to teachers. An end to teacher union power as we knew it. No need to say more.

Book of the Year: In some school districts - and the number will grow quickly - it was the handbook issued by the school board, replacing contracts with teachers unions. No more having to get union approval for changing every nitpicky rule about the length of the school day or assigning teachers to lunch duty.

Tool of the Year: Well, it wasn't anything small. In the Legislature, it was more like a jackhammer, as Republicans and Democrats engaged in all-out battle. As for schools, Walker talked often about giving leaders tools to deal with their situations. This is where it will get very interesting. Will leaders act as if they are holding precision tools to be used cautiously or as if they, too, are holding jackhammers? As one state school figure said privately to me, how school boards handle their new power is likely to be a key to whether there is a resurgence of teacher unions in the state. Which leads us to:

I think Borsuk's #3 is critical. I suspect that 60ish% of school boards will continue with the present practices, under different names. The remainder will create a new environment, perhaps providing a different set of opportunities for teachers. The April, 2012 Madison School Board election may determine the extent to which "status quo" reins locally.

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N.J. should revisit fundamental reasons for creating charter schools

Neil Brown:

New Jersey lawmakers are rightfully concerned about the proliferation of applications for new charter schools and their subsequent lack of effective oversight, but legislation proposed by Assemblywoman Mila Jasey requiring proposed charter schools to be approved at the polls is thoroughly misguided and symptomatic of a disappointing trend in how we view charter schools and the role they play in addressing the horrible inequities in our state.

I am disappointed by what is said by many of those who will establish recently approved charters. When asked what is special about their school's program, they often say something like: "We plan to hire high-quality teachers and have longer hours." My former students would call that a "duh" statement -- their fancy term for a tautology.

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January 1, 2012

The IPS (Indianapolis Public Schools) Opportunity Schools Plan

The Mind Trust:

The Mind Trust's plan for transforming Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) would dramatically shrink the central administration, send about $200 million more a year to schools without raising taxes one cent, provide pre-k to all 4-year-olds, give teachers and principals more freedom, hold them accountable for student achievement gains, and provide parents with more quality school choices. It is the boldest school reform plan in the country.

Take five minutes and watch a short video of The Mind Trust's Founder and CEO David Harris outlining highlights from the plan.

Nonprofit's proposal would radically reorganize the Indianapolis Public Schools:
An Indianapolis nonprofit has unveiled an ambitious 160-page reform proposal to completely overhaul Indianapolis Public Schools.

If it came to fruition, the sweeping proposal offered by the Mind Trust would create one of the nation's most radical new organizational approaches to public education.

"If we're going to be serious about doing something transformational, we need an aggressive plan," Mind Trust CEO David Harris said. "Incremental reforms haven't worked here, and they haven't worked in other parts of the country."

The proposal features four key changes:

Report should encourage a serious discussion about district's future
Here's my Christmas wish:

It's that the new Mind Trust report that calls for a sweeping overhaul of the way Indianapolis Public Schools operates will not turn into another tired battle over turf, pride and special interests. Instead, my hope is that it will lead to a broad and much-needed communitywide discussion about the future of the state's largest, and in some ways most important, school district.

The thorough, sensible and provocative report should spark the same kind of urgent discussion and action that we're seeing over mass transit, and that we've seen for decades over sports stadiums.

Those other issues are important. The education debate is vital.

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The Most Important Graphs of 2011

Derek Thompson:

What is it about graphs and economics? In a discipline where facts are murky and certainty is elusive, graphs offer a bright light of information and a small confidence that the world can be summed up between two axes. So when the BBC asked a group of economists to name their graph of the year, we decided to do the same (so did Wonkblog!). Here, from economists on left and right, and from economic journalists from around the beat, are the graphs of the year. Click through the gallery or scroll down to find the graphs organized under categories including Europe, spending & taxing, and energy.

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Are High-Quality Schools Enough to Increase Achievement Among the Poor? Evidence from the Harlem Children's Zone

Roland Fryer:

Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), which combines community programs with "No Excuses" charter schools, is one of the most ambitious social experiments to alleviate poverty of our time. We provide the first empirical test of the causal impact of attending the Promise Academy charter schools in HCZ on educational outcomes, with an eye towards informing the long-standing debate on whether schools alone can eliminate the achievement gap or whether the issues that poor children bring to school are too much for educators alone to overcome. Both lottery and instrumental variable identification strategies suggest that the effects of attending the Promise Academy middle school are enough to close the black-white achievement gap in mathematics. The effects in elementary school are large enough to close the racial achievement gap in both mathematics and English Language Arts. We conclude by presenting two pieces of evidence that suggest high-quality schools are enough to significantly increase academic achievement among the poor. Community programs appear neither necessary nor sufficient.

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December 31, 2011

Competition for 2 Madison School Board Seats

Matthew DeFour:

Nichols said though she disagreed with Silveira's vote, "This is bigger than Madison Prep."

"My motivation comes from listening to a lot of the community dialogue over the last year and hearing the voices of community members who want greater accountability, who want more diversity in the decision-making and just a call for change," Nichols said.

Silveira did not return a call for comment Friday.

Two candidates have announced plans to run for the other School Board seat up for election next spring, which is being vacated by Lucy Mathiak. They are Mary Burke, a former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive, and Michael Flores, a Madison firefighter, parent and East High graduate.

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Will high-school football become a big-money sport?

Ben McGrath:

THE SPORTING SCENE about the football program at Don Bosco Preparatory School in Ramsey, New Jersey. Don Bosco, which belongs to the Salesian order of Roman Catholicism, was founded in 1915, as a boarding school for Polish boys, and shut its dormitories for good in 1969. Its reinvention as a football factory began in 1999, with the arrival of a new principal, Father John Talamo.) Talamo, who was thirty-four, had grown up on the outskirts of New Orleans, and brought with him the football-centric values of his native Louisiana.

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Want to Improve Schools? Make Parent Involvement Meaningful

Al Vann:

Truly involving parents and communities in our public schools, and the decisions that affect them, is essential to improving our school system.

While parent involvement is crucial to a child's educational success, the reality is that such involvement is not always present for various reasons. However, the larger communities in which a student's school and home are located also play an instrumental role in nurturing educational achievement, as expressed by the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child."

Unfortunately over the past several years, the Department of Education has consistently failed to meaningfully empower and involve these important stakeholders in its decisions about schools. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the Education Department's decisions and proposals regarding closing or phasing out schools, and opening new ones.

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Fargo's Plains Art Museum to open K-5 art education center

Dan Gunderson

The Plains Art Museum announced plans Thursday to open a "Center for Creativity" that will teach art to thousands of local elementary school students.

The $2.8 million center will open next fall near the museum in downtown Fargo.

Museum Director Colleen Sheehy said in the first year the center will serve 5,000 Fargo elementary students. Schools will pay a fee for the classes.

Ultimately, Sheehy said the new center will teach art education to the 12,000 K-5 students in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Programs offered at the center will replace some existing art education programs in the schools.

The center will significantly increase the number of people who use the museum, she said.

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Undocumented students learn about path to college

Rupa Shenoy:

More than 100 students attended Minnesota's first-ever conference for undocumented high school students seeking a college education Saturday at the University of Minnesota.

The event, organized by the group Navigate, included workshops on the legal and financial steps to college.

Navigate Executive Director Juventino Meza said the group had a lot of support for the event, but he says there was some criticism over calling it a conference for, quote, "undocumented students."

"And we decided, you know what, there is a negative rhetoric already in our communities and there is fear, and we want to make sure students have a space where they can be undocumented -- where they can talk about it and ask questions," he said.

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Study finds faults in S.C. colleges and universities

Wayne Washington:

Many South Carolina public colleges and universities are excessively expensive and have strayed too far from their core mission: educating students, according to a recent study by a Columbia-based think tank.

Tuition is rising faster than household income in South Carolina, says the study of eight colleges and universities by the S.C. Policy Council, a public policy research and education foundation that advocates for more limited government.

The study, which did not include Winthrop University, The Citadel and many other state institutions, also says:

The colleges and universities do a poor job of retaining and graduating students.

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L.A. schools' healthful lunch menu panned by students

Teresa Watanabe:

It's lunchtime at Van Nuys High School and students stream into the cafeteria to check out the day's fare: black bean burgers, tostada salad, fresh pears and other items on a new healthful menu introduced this year by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

But Iraides Renteria and Mayra Gutierrez don't even bother to line up. Iraides said the school food previously made her throw up, and Mayra calls it "nasty, rotty stuff." So what do they eat? The juniors pull three bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos and soda from their backpacks.

"This is our daily lunch," Iraides says. "We're eating more junk food now than last year."

For many students, L.A. Unified's trailblazing introduction of healthful school lunches has been a flop. Earlier this year, the district got rid of chocolate and strawberry milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, nachos and other food high in fat, sugar and sodium. Instead, district chefs concocted such healthful alternatives as vegetarian curries and tamales, quinoa salads and pad Thai noodles.

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December 30, 2011

Paper pursues a political agenda as it accuses teacher of pursuing a political agenda

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

It's dangerous to be away. I briefly left the country a few weeks ago, and while I was gone, the district superintendent announced her retirement and The Spokesman-Review (SR) launched what I see as a media "lynching" of a local high school teacher.

Did you read about the attack on Jennifer Walther, an Advanced Placement English teacher (news.google.com search) at Ferris High School in Spokane, WA? Are you shocked by the newspaper's biased coverage? I'm not shocked. Nowadays, the SR doesn't bear much resemblance to the newspapers I've enjoyed reading. Smaller, thinner and nastier, it contains less content, less local news and more ads. Often biased, incomplete or hypocritical, the paper tolerates questionable material that fits an editorial agenda.

I'm an avid newspaper reader, but I canceled the SR in 2008 when it kept quoting unsubstantiated rumors from the ex-boyfriend of the daughter of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Things have not improved since then.

Now, the SR is using its bully pulpit to accuse Walther of doing something the SR appears to do nearly every day of the week - pursue a biased political agenda. Evidence suggests that, rather than stand up for this teacher, the school district and teachers union initiated or are assisting with the pile-on.

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Five Things the Census Revealed About America in 2011

William H. Frey, Alan Berube, Audrey Singer, Jill Wilson:

A cascade of statistics from the 2010 Census and other Census Bureau sources released during 2011 show a nation in flux--growing and moving more slowly as it ages, infused by racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants in its younger ranks, and struggling economically across a decade bookended by two recessions. The nation's largest metropolitan areas, and especially their suburbs, stood on the front lines of America's evolving demographic transformation. Following is a slideshow of the five most important findings to emerge from our State of Metropolitan America analyses over the past year. Additional insight from co-author William H. Frey is available in a related video and at time.com.

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Final 2011-12 Sun Prairie Tax Levies & Mill Rates

SP-EYE:

Wow....talk about standing out in a crowd!
The SPASD Administration wants SPASD to stand out, and it sure does now.
We're the leaders! Well...in millrate anyway.

If we look at SPASD vs. the 20 similar sized school districts (10 larger and 10 smaller in enrollments), Sun Prairie is head and shoulders above the rest in mill rate ($12.62) and has the 4th highest tax levy!

While our rival, Middleton-Cross Plains bests out slightly in terms of tax levy, we cream them in mill rate.
A $200,000 home in Sun Prairie will pay $482 MORE in taxes this year than a similar value home in MCPSD.

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The Uncertain Future Of Charter School Proliferation

Matthew Di Carlo:

As discussed in prior posts, high-quality analyses of charter school effects show that there is wide variation in the test-based effects of these schools but that, overall, charter students do no better than their comparable regular public school counterparts. The existing evidence, though very tentative, suggests that the few schools achieving large gains tend to be well-funded, offer massive amounts of additional time, provide extensive tutoring services and maintain strict, often high-stakes discipline policies.

There will always be a few high-flying chains dispersed throughout the nation that get results, and we should learn from them. But there's also the issue of whether a bunch of charters schools with different operators using diverse approaches can expand within a single location and produce consistent results.

Charter supporters typically argue that state and local policies can be leveraged to "close the bad charters and replicate the good ones." Opponents, on the other hand, contend that successful charters can't expand beyond a certain point because they rely on selection bias of the best students into these schools (so-called "cream skimming"), as well as the exclusion of high-needs students.

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Buffalo group's education initiative receives federal funding

Mary Pasciak:

Buffalo's Promise Neighborhood project was one of five in the nation to secure federal funding to provide "cradle to career" services for children in an effort to improve educational outcomes among low-income areas, federal officials announced today.

The local initiative will receive five years of funding from the federal government, including $1.5 million in its first year. M&T Bank this fall pledged to match the federal funds and to raise an additional $9 million in private funding.

The initiative is largely modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone, where families in a 100-block area receive wraparound services, from health care to educational support, beginning with prenatal care and leading through high school graduation.

Buffalo's Promise Neighborhood will focus on the 14215 ZIP code, building on the success that has been realized in the Westminster Community Charter School. The plan seeks to stabilize the neighborhood, increase services to families, and ultimately improve the education at three schools in that area: Bennett High School, Highgate Heights Elementary and Westminster Community Charter School.

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'No Excuses' Is Not Just for Teachers

Laura Klein:

When asked to identify the qualities that lead to success in life, experts often list the ability to overcome obstacles. Pushing past adversity, through determination and persistence, is the hallmark of the greatest leaders, the most successful parents, the most prized employees, we are told. Those who make no excuses, who do whatever it takes to get something done, are the ones who have the capacity to achieve greatness.

In education, we focus a lot on accommodating our student's needs. We have English Language Learners (E.L.L.s) and special education students. We have kids with emotional disturbances and anger issues. We have kids who are acting out, and kids who are uninterested or bored.

It's our job to teach them no matter what. We are often the adults that children see with the most consistency and frequency, and we are responsible for their educations, in the broadest sense of that word. But to truly help them be successful, we ourselves have to embody the "no excuses" attitude.

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Glass says Iowa education reforms will take time

Mike Glover:

The director of the Iowa Department of Education said he's willing to be patient with his plan to overhaul the state's public school system, acknowledging that many people aren't ready for changes he thinks are essential.

Gov. Terry Branstad chose 40-year-old Jason Glass largely because of his background in education reform, and since coming to Iowa he has been leading the push for dramatic changes to the state's public schools.

Because he began his job only a couple weeks before the last legislative session began, this was supposed to be the session where Glass would see his ambitious plans enacted. He proposed a 15-page package of proposals that would shake up the state's schools, changing the way they do business on everything from paying teachers to opening the profession to non-traditional educators.

That still may happen, but Branstad has temporarily shelved a proposed tiered system of teacher pay that increased salaries for beginning teachers and let teacher move through a series of pay grades based on performance in the classroom.

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December 29, 2011

529 college savings plans have their downsides

Walter Hamilton and Stuart Pfeifer:

Sherri and Cliff Nitschke thought they were planning wisely for their children's college educations when they opened a 529 savings account in 1998.

The Fresno couple saved diligently over the years in hopes of avoiding costly student loans. But their timing couldn't have been worse.

When they needed the money a decade later, their 529 account had plunged in value during the global financial crisis. Their portfolio sank 30% in 2008, forcing the Nitschkes to borrow heavily to send their two sons to UCLA.

"529s were no friend to us," Cliff Nitschke said. "Honestly, it's probably one of the worst things we did. I could have made more money putting it in a mayonnaise jar and burying it in the backyard."

Over the last decade, 529 savings plans have surged in popularity as parents scramble to keep up with rapidly escalating college costs.

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State education plan underwhelms

The Virginian - Pilot:

With one hand, Gov. Bob McDonnell touted his plan this week to pump millions more dollars over the next two years into Virginia's K-12 education system. With the other, he proposed cutting millions of dollars that will leave holes in the budgets of school districts across the commonwealth.

The result, unfortunately, is a budget that fails to boost the quality of K-12 education in Virginia and, in fact, may ultimately undermine it.

McDonnell's decision to withhold inflationary adjustments for so-called "non-personal" education expenses, including school utilities and employee health care and student transportation, means localities will be forced to cover an extra $109 million over the next two years. Revising a formula that factors in federal funds will allow the state to save another $108 million.

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Schools Look to Donors: Private Fund Pours Money Into Bridgeport's System, Following National Trend

Shelly Banjo & Lisa Fleisher:

Wealthy donors have created a fund to pay the salary of a new Bridgeport school superintendent, ushering in hopes of a new era of private money for reform efforts in Connecticut's most troubled school system.

City and school officials said the fund would be administered by the Fairfield County Community Foundation, a $150 million organization where Democratic Rep. Jim Himes and former Bridgeport mayoral hopeful Mary-Jane Foster serve as board members.

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'Alarming' new test-score gap discovered in Seattle schools

Brian M. Rosenthal:

African-American students whose primary language is English perform significantly worse in math and reading than black students who speak another language at home -- typically immigrants or refugees -- according to new numbers released by Seattle Public Schools.

District officials, who presented the finding at a recent community meeting at Rainier Beach High School, noted the results come with caveats, but called the potential trend troubling and pledged to study what might be causing it.

Michael Tolley, an executive director overseeing Southeast Seattle schools, said at the meeting that the data exposed a new achievement gap that is "extremely, extremely alarming."

The administration has for years analyzed test scores by race. It has never before broken down student-achievement data by specific home language or country of origin -- it is rare for school districts to examine test scores at that level -- but it is unlikely that the phenomenon the data suggest is actually new.

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Iowa Governor Branstad reforms could bring more class time

Associated Press:

Sweeping education reforms proposed by Gov. Terry Branstad are likely to include the creation of a task force that would consider extending the amount of time Iowa students spend in school.

Branstad announced in October that he'll ask lawmakers to approve reforms aimed at improving education for Iowa's 468,000 students and better the quality of the state's teachers.

Class-time extensions were not included in his original plan.
But Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education, last week told an advisory group of school superintendents that Branstad is expected to add the creation of a task force to consider such extensions. The task force would likely consider adding 10 days to the school year, lengthening school days and requiring struggling students to go to school on Saturdays or take summer classes, the Des Moines Register reported ( http://dmreg.co/rFkPsg).

Iowa currently has a 180-day school year. State law mandates that each school day last at least 5.5 hours, but most students are in class an average of 6.5 hours.

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Education expert offers views after visiting Alaska schools: Discusses Finland Schools

ROSEMARY SHINOHARA:

Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Teachers College, Columbia University, and national expert on why schools in Finland are so successful, visited Anchorage and Bethel area schools last month, ate the lunches and sat in on classes.

Some things impressed him, and others illustrated problems that schools face across the U.S., he said.

Abrams was here to participate in a conference on how to improve Anchorage schools that was sponsored by Mayor Dan Sullivan.

Before and after the November conference, Abrams went to King Career Center and William Tyson Elementary in Anchorage for half-day each, and spent full days at Denali Montessori, Begich Middle and East High in Anchorage. He also observed classes at a school-within-a-school run by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council at Bartlett High.

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December 28, 2011

The profiteers have failed our exam system: In the rush for revenue, standards have been driven down and learning in schools devalued

Martin Stephen:

It would be easy to be shocked by The Daily Telegraph's revelations about exam boards - but the truth is that Britain's examination system has been heading for a crash for years. The culprit? The process that saw it transformed from a national treasure to a profit-driven industry. Today, examining is not an extension of teaching and learning, but a career in itself - one that has, on occasion, meant acting as little more than an arm of government.

The first mistake was to divorce the examination system from its end-users. In the past, academic exam boards were not only named after leading universities, but had a significant number of dons actually marking scripts. Today, the boards' management structures hardly have any connection with the universities. Control of the content and structure of the examination system needs to be placed firmly in the hands of universities - and, in the case of vocational training, of employers - so they can ensure that students possess the knowledge and skills their bosses or lecturers require, not what is cheapest, most convenient or most politically correct.

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Philanthropist Mary Burke believes everybody deserves a chance to be successful

Nathan Comp:

The phone call came late one afternoon last March. Rachel Krinsky -- then the executive director for the Road Home, a nonprofit agency serving homeless families in Dane County -- was preparing to meet with the board of directors, which had recently voted to end a three-year campaign to raise money to build apartments for homeless families.

Having fallen $900,000 short of its fundraising goal, the board decided to build seven apartment units instead of the 15 it had sought, meaning eight families would remain on the street. "We had been fundraising for a long time and were out of ideas," Krinsky recalls. "Everyone was tapped out."

On the phone was Mary Burke, a wealthy 52-year-old philanthropist and former business executive, calling with unexpected news: She wanted to give the $450,000 needed to build those eight additional units. (The remaining $450,000 was an endowment goal.)

Krinsky's jaw dropped.

"I was just stunned," she says. "Mary wasn't even in our database."

Burke announced recently that she plans to run for one of two Madison School Board seats on the April, 2012 ballot.

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The agony of Madison Prep

Ruth Conniff:

The whole agonizing conflict over Madison Preparatory Academy did not end on Monday night, when the school board voted 5-2 against allowing the African American charter school to open next fall. Now comes the lawsuit.

But first, our community faces two immediate tasks: healing the wounds that were ripped open during the Madison Prep controversy, and getting something done about the urgent problem the charter school was developed to address -- Madison's disgraceful achievement gap for African American children.

Monday night's six hours of emotional testimony mostly highlighted the first of those two problems. In front of the packed auditorium at Memorial High School, Urban League president and Madison Prep founder Kaleem Caire read "What happens to a dream deferred?" to the school board. Nichelle Nichols, the Urban League's vice president of learning, read a poem that placed the blame for her own children's spoiled futures squarely on Madison Metropolitan School District officials: "My kids are in the gap, a chasm so dark.... I ask, Mr. Superintendent, what happened to my sons...?"

The sense that Madison has mistreated children of color was a powerful theme. White business leader and former teacher Jan O'Neil pointed out the "huge amount of capital in this room," all focused on solving the historic educational inequality for African American kids. A "no" vote, she warned the board, might be hopelessly polarizing.

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A Push to Have Students Factor Into Teacher Evaluations

Rebecca Vevea:

The Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union opened negotiations earlier this month on a state-mandated requirement about what should-and should not-be included in teachers' performance evaluations.

CPS and the union have until March to grapple with the specific terms, such as what tests to use for measuring academic growth, how much the results should factor into the evaluations, and how to measure the performance of teachers whose subjects are not tested on state exams.

To add to the mix, an organized group of public school students, the Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), are preparing a formal request to CPS in the coming months to include student input in the new teacher evaluation system.

Some teachers want their students to weigh in on their performance.

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Q & A With Washington Governor Chris Gregoire on Teacher Evaluations

Publicola:

ubliCola: What do you think of Attorney General Rob McKenna's education reform agenda? [McKenna, a Republican, is running for governor.]

Gregoire: What is it? You'll have to help me on that.

PubliCola: It seems more aggressive than the one you laid out. [Gregoire announced a reform proposal last week - AP report here - that will put a pilot project of 4-tiered teacher evaluations in play statewide]. It ties teacher evaluations to student test scores, calls for charter schools, and allows the state to step in and take over failing schools. It's in sync with President Obama's education reform agenda. The proposal you came out with last week seems like a "lite" version of that to education reformers [because the evaluations aren't tied explicitly to "student academic growth"].

Gregoire: I don't really think so. I think what it is is a Washington reform. The most recent studies on charter schools come out of Stanford. And there's no guarantee of anything there. As many as there are doing OK, there are an equal number that are not. ... Why would we go down a path where there's no big success to be had? And our voters have already turned [charters] down three times.

I developed this lab school idea, which serves two purposes: One, you have our four-year university schools partner up with one of our bottom five percent schools and really run the school and get them to transition out of their low performance. And two, you really do take your schools of education and improve them dramatically, because if they're going to train teachers, what better training for them than to be inside a classroom and see what works and what doesn't work?

PubliCola: What about tying test scores to teacher evaluations?

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How the Food Industry Eats Your Kid's Lunch

Lucy Komisar:

An increasingly cozy alliance between companies that manufacture processed foods and companies that serve the meals is making students -- a captive market -- fat and sick while pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. At a time of fiscal austerity, these companies are seducing school administrators with promises to cut costs through privatization. Parents who want healthier meals, meanwhile, are outgunned.

Each day, 32 million children in the United States get lunch at schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program, which uses agricultural surplus to feed children. About 21 million of these students eat free or reduced-price meals, a number that has surged since the recession. The program, which also provides breakfast, costs $13.3 billion a year.

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Schools race teaches states a hard lesson

Ben Wolfgang:

Every race has losers, and the Obama administration's Race to the Top education grant competition is proving to be no exception.

As nine states await their prize money after coming out on top late last week in the Education Department's Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, the rest are left empty-handed, having spent thousands of hours carefully crafting plans that ultimately fell short.

"We invested a ton of time. That time equates to money," said Bobby Cagle, commissioner of Georgia's Department of Early Care and Learning.

Mr. Cagle estimated that he and his staff spent more than 2,000 hours on the effort, and said his agency is greatly disappointed by the result.

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December 27, 2011

Rankings of the States 2010 and Estimates of School Statistics 2011; Wisconsin Ranks 18th in K-12 Staffing

National Education Association Research via a kind reader's email:

The data presented in this combined report―Rankings & Estimates―provide facts about the extent to which local, state, and national governments commit resources to public education. As one might expect in a nation as diverse as the United States--with respect to economics, geography, and politics--the level of commitment to education varies on a state-by-state basis. Regardless of these variations, improvements in public education can be measured by summary statistics. Thus, NEA Research offers this report to its state and local affiliates as well as to researchers, policymakers, and the public as a tool to examine public education programs and services.
Part I of this combined report--Rankings 2010--provides state-level data on an array of topics relevant to the com- plex enterprise of public education. Since the 1960s, Rankings has presented facts and figures useful in determining how states differ from one another--or from national averages--on selected statistics. In addition to identifying emerging trends in key economic, political, and social areas, the state-by-state figures on government financing, state demographics, and public schools permit a statistical assessment of the scope of public education. Of course, no set of tables tells the entire story of a state's education offerings. Consideration of factors such as a state's tax system, pro- visions for other public services, and population characteristics also are needed. Therefore, it is unwise to draw con- clusions based solely on individual statistics in this report. Readers are urged to supplement the ranked data with specific information about state and local service activities related to public education.

Part II of this combined report--Estimates 2011--is in its 67th year of production. This report provides projections of public school enrollment, employment and compensation of personnel, and finances, as reported by individual state departments of education. Not surprisingly, interest in the improvement and renewal of public education continues to capture the attention of the nation. The state-level data featured in Estimates permit broad assessments of trends in staff salaries, sources of school funding, and levels of educational expenditures. The data should be used with the un- derstanding that the reported statewide totals and averages may not reflect the varying conditions that exist among school districts and schools within the state.

Public education in the United States is a joint enterprise between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, progress in improving public education stems primarily from the efforts of state education agencies, local districts, and indi- vidual schools. These public organizations deserve credit for recognizing that spending for education needs to be ac- knowledged as an investment in our nation's most valuable resource--children. Similarly, this publication represents a collective effort that goes well beyond the staff of the National Education Association. Individual state departments of education and the NEA's state affiliates participate in collecting and assembling the data shown here. As a result, the NEA appreciates and acknowledges the cooperation it receives from all those whose efforts make this publication possible.

Wisconsin ranks 21st in average teacher salaries (page 35), 10th in property tax revenue as a percentage of total tax revenue (page 52), 16th in per capita state individual income tax revenue (page 53) and 15th in public school revenue per student.

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Teachers union leads effort that aims to turn around West Virginia school system

Lyndsey Layton:

The American Federation of Teachers, vilified by critics as an obstacle to school reform, is leading an unusual effort to turn around a floundering school system in a place where deprivation is layered on heartache.

The AFT, which typically represents teachers in urban settings, wants to improve education deep in the heart of Appalachia by simultaneously tackling the social and economic troubles of McDowell County.

The union has gathered about 40 partners, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cisco Systems, IBM, Save the Children, foundations, utility companies, housing specialists, community colleges, and state and federal governments, which have committed to a five-year plan to try to lift McDowell out of its depths.

The McDowell Initiative, to be announced Friday, comes in the middle of a national debate about what causes failing schools in impoverished communities: the educators or the environment?

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On Land and in the Bay, Innovation Tackles Truancy

Trey Bundy:

On Monday morning, the start of the school week, five teenagers rowed toward the breakwater leading into San Francisco Bay.

"It's so foggy you can't even see the Golden Gate Bridge," said Austin, a 17-year-old student at Downtown High School in Potrero Hill, as he worked the oars. When the students passed an old sailboat, their instructor, Jeff Rogers, told them it was built 120 years ago in Hunters Point.

"Hey," Austin said. "My 'hood."

If not for the boating expedition, Austin might have still been home, in bed, instead of in school. But on that day his classroom happened to be a sailboat. Before coming to Downtown, he was a chronic truant in the San Francisco school system, one of the thousands of students at risk of dropping out. Now he attends school about 80 percent of the time.

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In rating child care provider quality, Wisconsin can learn from other states

Milwaukee Public Policy Forum:

In June 2010, Wisconsin's Joint Committee on Finance approved YoungStar, a new quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) for the state's nearly 8,500 child care providers. YoungStar supporters believe the new system will improve the overall quality of childcare in Wisconsin by motivating and supporting providers to make quality improvements and by providing parents with the information they need to choose high-quality child care options.

In the Forum's latest Research Brief, we examine several issues and challenges that have arisen in other states or jurisdictions with QRIS policies, how those entities have tackled those challenges, and the lessons their experiences might yield for Wisconsin. We found five common implementation challenges that have confronted other states and that have the potential to occur in Wisconsin, as well.

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Trenton brings special ed. in-house

Matt Ruiz:

A year after Luiz Munoz-Rivera School shut its doors as the public school system dealt with a budget shortfall, the district has opted to reopen it for nearly the same reason.

Rebranded as the Rivera Learning Community, the school has become the flagship for the district's efforts to invest in in-house special education programs rather than send students to expensive out-of-district institutions.

The rising cost of out-of-district placement for special education students has dogged the district for years and drawn heavy criticism from the state Department of Education.

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December 26, 2011

Other cities might help Seattle close achievement gaps among black students

Paul Hill:

AFRICAN-American students are lagging behind other students, including other black ethnic students whose home language is not English, according to new numbers released by Seattle Public Schools. ["'Alarming' new test-score gap discovered in Seattle schools," page one, Dec. 19.]

This is an important problem that other cities have confronted head-on. First, they have admitted they really don't know how to solve the problem. Second, they acknowledge that the normal remedies school districts use to solve achievement problems are too weak to work.

These admissions have led other cities to open themselves up to experimentation in schools serving the most disadvantaged: longer school days and years; no-excuses instructional models; new sources of teachers; partnerships with businesses and cultural institutions that can provide enrichment and role models; use of online instruction to teach subjects like science where school staff are often not qualified; new schools run by national institutions with track records of improving achievement for the most disadvantaged.

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A Closer Look at Charter Practices

Christina Collins:

Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer's new study of 35 New York City charter schools attempts to find a preliminary answer to the question of how different practices within charters are correlated with student progress on math and ELA tests. In general, this study's premise and methods represent a promising shift away from just looking at test scores to measure school quality; it acknowledges variations between charters and gets to the issue of what policies and practices are actually happening inside these schools.

The researchers looked at a wide variety of possible practices based on surveys of principals, interviews with teachers, visits to schools, and reviews of site visit reports from authorizers. The result was that they found five policies that were significantly correlated to increased test scores: "frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations." As Matt DiCarlo recently noted, the efficacy of some these factors in raising test scores -- particularly increased instructional time -- has also been supported in other studies.

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3 Kansas counties join rural tuition program

Associated Press:

Three more Kansas counties have enrolled to participate in a new program that aims to attract new residents to rural areas by offering to repay college tuition debts.

The Kansas Department of Commerce said that Chautauqua, Gove and Pawnee counties had joined the state's rural opportunity zone program aimed at slowing or reversing the rate of population decline in the counties. To date, 43 of 50 eligible counties are participating.

Counties participating in the program agree to partner with the state to offer student loan reimbursements of up to $3,000 a year for five years to new college graduates. The department said there were 158 applications from across the country for the program.

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Stanford Online Classes. Like A Great Movie With A Bad Ending

Hernan Amiune:

Professors are AWESOME!
The exercises are AWESOME!
The classes are AWESOME!

But then they send you the Statement of Accomplishment. This was obviously done by engineers with no knowledge of public relations, marketing or people feelings. And maybe under the pressure of Stanford (lawyers?) to clarify that this wasn't a Stanford class.

Before the course started they promised the Statement of Accomplishment as an incentive to get you in the course.
When they got a lot of users they said "You will receive a statement of accomplishment from the instructor, which will include information on how well you did and how your performance compared to other online students. Only students admitted to Stanford and enrolled in the regular course can receive credit or a grade, so this is not a Stanford certificate."
At the end they send you a pdf file that says something like this: hey you didn't complete any Stanford course, you were just part of an experiment and this is an automated message.

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Choice program attributed to increase in Catholic school enrollment

Erin Richards:

Pierre "Nic" Antoine, principal of two Catholic schools in Racine formed by school mergers, understands the pain families feel when their schools are closed.

But with the expansion of private-school vouchers to Racine, Antoine believes Catholic education has been reinvigorated this year. Enrollment is stable at Our Lady of Grace Academy, which added 30 voucher students this year, and up by about 20% at John Paul II Academy, which added 40 voucher students.

"We went from being 70% full in 2010-'11 to being 95% full this year," Antoine said of John Paul II Academy.

The boost in student enrollment is part of a larger trend in the Milwaukee Archdiocese this year - enrollment is up for the first time in 13 years, driven by voucher student enrollment that increased from 7,502 students last year to 8,831 students this year.

Nationwide and in Milwaukee, Catholic school enrollment has decreased over the years. After the recession caused families to tighten their budgets, some private schools' enrollment figures dropped even further, prompting mergers and closures.

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Hong Kong Rally urges 15 years of free schooling

Phila Siu:

Around 2,000 teachers, parents and children rallied outside the Legislative Council building in Tamar yesterday, urging the government to implement 15 years of free education starting from kindergarten.

The coalition of 17 groups - including the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union and the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers - also demanded a pay scale for kindergarten teachers that guarantees an annual salary rise, a better teacher- to-pupil ratio, and an improved Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme.

Union chairman Fung Wai-wah said the public has already agreed on the 15 years of free education and it should be implemented immediately.

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Bill would require transparency in charter school management

Kathleen McGrory & Scott Hiaasen:

A Miami lawmaker wants public charter schools to be more transparent.

State. Sen Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, filed a bill Wednesday that would require charter schools to post information about their management companies on their school websites.

Bullard, vice chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Her proposal was submitted days after The Miami Herald concluded a three-part series examining South Florida's $400 million-a-year charter school industry. The investigation found that charter schools have given rise to a cottage industry of for-profit management companies, some of which have almost total financial control over the charter schools they run.

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Suburbs Brace For Kansas City Students

Sylvia Maria Gross:

Kansas City, Mo., schools are losing their accreditation on Jan. 1. Missouri law allows students from unaccredited districts to enroll for free in nearby school systems, so the suburban districts outside Kansas City are bracing for an influx of students.
Much more on the Kansas City schools, here.

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December 25, 2011

ROOTLESSNESS

Two of our overriding efforts in Lower Education in recent years have been: 1) raising the low math and reading scores of black and Hispanic students, and 2) increasing the number of our high school and college graduates capable of employment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM}.

Very recently evidence has been allowed to surface pointing out that while students in the bottom 10% of academic performance have indeed improved, students in the top ten percent of academic performance have stagnated, where they have not dropped out from boredom. Related evidence now suggests that complacency with secondary public education in our more affluent suburbs may have been quite misplaced as well.

As Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum point out in their recent book, That Used To Be Us, "average is over." That is to say, students in other cities (Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai) and countries (Finland, South Korea, Japan) take their educations so much more seriously than our students (and teachers) do that their economies are achieving gains on our own that are truly startling, if we take the time to notice.

If we are to retain good jobs, restart our manufacturing, and otherwise decide to compete seriously with others who seem to take both education and work more seriously than we have come to do, it might be wise to increase the interest of our students in STEM fields. According to the Kaiser Foundation, our students aged 8-18 are spending, on average, more than seven hours a day with electronic entertainment media.

Now of course we want our young people to buy our electronic entertainment hardware and software and we definitely want them to have a good time and be happy, but probably we would like them to be employable some day as well. Friedman and Mandelbaum point out that not only blue collar jobs and white collar jobs, but increasingly sophisticated professional work can be done to a high standard at a much lower cost in other countries than it can be done here.

Having our students spend 53 hours a week on their electronic entertainment media, while their high school homework tops out, in many cases, according to ACT, at three to four hours a week, is not a plan that will enable us to resume our competitive position in the world's economies.

So perhaps we should assign students in high school 15 hours a week of homework (which would reduce their media time to a mere 38 hours a week) and pass on to them the information that if they don't start working to a much much higher academic standard they will probably face a more depressing future in a greatly diminished nation than they currently imagine they will have.

But, is STEM enough? I remember the story told about a visit Sir Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, made to the gleaming new Salk Laboratory in La Jolla. A young biologist, thrilled to be a guide to the Nobel Prize-winner, was very proud to be able to show off all the bright new spotless expensive state-of-the-art research equipment. When they finished the tour, the young man could not stop himself from saying, "Just think, Sir Alexander, with all this equipment, what you could have discovered!" And Sir Alexander said, "not penicillin."

Because the discovery of penicillin relied on serendipity and curiosity. Fleming found some petri dishes contaminated by something that had come in, probably, through one of the dirty old badly-closed windows in his lab in England. Instead of washing the dishes so he could start over with them, as most scientists would have done, he asked himself what could have killed off those bacteria in the dishes. And a major breakthrough was made possible.

Just in passing, amid the rush for more STEM, I would like to put in a word for serendipity, which often fuels creativity of many kinds, by making possible the association of previously unrelated ideas and memories when in contact with a new fact or situation not deliberately sought out.

I argue that serendipity is more likely to occur and to be fruitful if our students also have a lot of experience with the ROOTS of civilization, that is, the history, literature, art, music, architecture and other fields which have provided the background and inspiration for so much that we find worthwhile in human life. Steve Jobs found his course in calligraphy useful when he came to think about Macintosh software, but there are countless examples of important discoveries and contributions that have been, at least in part, grounded in the ROOTS of civilized life. So let us push for more STEM, by all means, but if, in the process we neglect those ROOTS, our achievements will be fewer, and our lives will be the poorer as a result, IMHO.

Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review

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Louisiana to Push AP Courses for All

Will Sentell:

Louisiana education leaders have launched a five-year plan to reach the national average for high school students who earn college credit.

The courses, called Advanced Placement, can enhance college success and even make students more likely to attend college, officials said.

But only 4 percent of Louisiana students passed at least one AP exam in 2009, which is 49th in the nation and ahead of only Mississippi.

The national average is 16.9 percent, which state officials said is reachable by 2017.

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Magnet Schools Are an Important Option for Los Angeles

Gary Orfield:

The Los Angeles Unified School District, second biggest in the United States with some 700,000 students, located in the center of the most segregated area in the country for Latino students, is a place where students of color are very often denied any opportunity to do any meaningful preparation for college and are often attending dropout factory high schools. In this system, where mandatory desegregation was abandoned in 1981, there's one small place where's there some racial and economic diversity and special programs offered for students who choose to participate in them.

More than 170 magnet school programs exist in the Los Angeles Unified School District. They have been funded with billions of dollars of state money for desegregation assistance. The strong magnets are one of the last vestiges of middle class education that exist in the City of Los Angeles and one of the few places where students from really disadvantaged backgrounds can come to classes with students from more advantaged backgrounds, in schools where the teachers want to participate in those schools and where there's a special curriculum offered to draw them there. Not all of these schools are great schools. Some of them are phony magnets, and some of them are wonderful schools. But they are a really important option for the City of Los Angeles. When a student can transfer from a dropout factory school to one where many students go to college, a bus is a great educational investment.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Health care spending in Wisconsin 6% above average

Guy Boulton:

Health care spending in Wisconsin averaged $7,233 for each person - or almost $29,000 for a family of four - in 2009, according to a report released last week.

The amount was 6% higher than the national average of $6,815.

Wisconsin, which spent an estimated $40.9 billion on health care in 2009, ranked 35th in the country in per-capita spending, according to the report by researchers at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Thirty-four states spent less.

The study shows the wide variation in health care spending from state to state. The variation stems largely from demographics, such as the average age of the population, and the percent of the population with health insurance.

States with higher incomes and higher cost of living also tended to spend more on health care.

Utah, with a young population and healthy lifestyle, spent an average of $5,031 per person on health care, or 26% less than the national average. In contrast, Massachusetts, with higher incomes and nearly universal insurance coverage, spent an average of $9,278, or 36% more than the national average.

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Quick Question: Do you agree with the Madison School Board's rejection of the Madison Prep Academy proposal?

Kevin Murphy:

Here's how five people answered this week's question posed by Capital Times freelancer Kevin Murphy. What do you think? Please join the discussion.

"I don't agree with that decision. We need something to close that achievement gap and this was something that could have closed that gap and they won't even take a chance with it. It's the best idea to come forward so far and it should have been tried."

Easter Carson

retired school district employee

Madison

"It was a good idea and I think anything new in the way of education needs to be tried. Give it a try. It was a pretty proposal with non-coed instruction, uniforms for students, minority staff. It certainly is worth a try given the track record the school district has had with minority students so far."

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December 24, 2011

We Blew It on Madison Prep

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I can't shake the feeling that something important was going on at our School Board meeting last Monday night to consider the Madison Prep charter school proposal, and that the actual School Board vote wasn't it.

The bare-bone facts are that, after about 90 public speakers, the Board voted 2-5 to reject the Madison Prep proposal. I reluctantly voted against the motion because I was unwilling to violate the terms of our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers.

After the motion failed, I moved that the Board approve Madison Prep, but delay its opening until the fall of 2013. My motion failed for lack of a second. (And no, I don't have an explanation for why neither James Howard nor Lucy Mathiak, who voted in favor of the first motion, was willing to second my motion.)

Probably like most who attended Monday night's meeting, I have thought a lot about it since. People who know I voted against the proposal have come up to me and congratulated me for what they say was the right decision. I have felt like shaking them and saying, "No, you don't understand. We blew it Monday night, we blew it big time. I just hope that we only crippled Madison Prep and didn't kill it."

I appreciate that that's an odd and surprising place for me to have ended up. To echo the Talking Heads, "Well, how did I get here?" I'll try to explain.

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

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Special education costs threaten to put Darien schools in a $250,000 hole

David DesRoches:

Despite efforts by school administration to streamline its special education services, an unforeseen 59 students joined special ed this year, causing the district to face a deficit for the third year running.

Superintendent Dr. Stephen Falcone told the Board of Education that he's expecting a $251,866 shortfall, primarily due to out of district tuition increases of more than $550,000, and another year of reduced state funding. Darien also lost $225,000 in stimulus money after receiving it for the past two years.

To close some of this gap, Falcone advised a number of saving measures to get the schools back on track. [see related story]

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Charter association's call for closure of charter schools stirs controversy

Louis Freedberg and Sue Frey:

In a bold move that is generating controversy within its own ranks, the California Charter School Association is urging that 10 of the 145 charter schools up for renewal this year be denied their charters because they failed to meet academic performance benchmarks set by the association.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hailed the association for its "courageous leadership" in attempting to "hold schools accountable." "This is an important conversation for California to have, and one that we need to have across the country," Duncan said, echoing remarks made by several charter school leaders.

But the association's action has also provoked fierce criticism from schools it has recommended for closure, as well as from some long-time supporters of the charter movement.

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December 23, 2011

A Christmas Carol For Our Schools

Peter Meyer:

A new round of the popular education board game, Poverty Matters, began last week with a New York Times op-ed by Helen Ladd and Edward Fiske, titled, "Class Matters: Why Won't We Admit It?" (Interestingly, the essay is really about poverty, not class, and the paper that Ladd wrote on which the essay is based is titled Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence. See also Kathleen Porter-Magee's The `Poverty Matters' Trap from last July's Flypaper.)

Ladd and Fiske's essay was one of those broadsides that spreads through the teacher ranks like a brush fire. I received my email copy from one of our district's veteran teachers, a hard-working, dedicated woman who rarely misses an opportunity to remind me that she and her colleagues would be doing a fine job were it not for unmotivated kids and their irresponsible parents. And Diane Ravitch weighed in, calling to mind, in tune with the season, the story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim, offering to "update this tale for today's school reformers" by calling attention to Ladd and Fiske's op-ed. (Ravitch says she uses Ladd'sEducation and Poverty paper in her post.)

What I don't understand in all of this is who exactly is claiming that class (or poverty or parents or kids) doesn't matter? Ladd and Fiske spend most of their essay stating the obvious: that socio-economic circumstance matters to education outcomes. The evidence that our policymakers and reformers are in denial of this salient fact?

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Segregated Charter Schools Evoke Separate But Equal Era in U.S.

John Hechinger:

At Dugsi Academy, a public school in St. Paul, Minnesota, girls wearing traditional Muslim headscarves and flowing ankle-length skirts study Arabic and Somali. The charter school educates "East African children in the Twin Cities," its website says. Every student is black.

At Twin Cities German Immersion School, another St. Paul charter, children gather under a map of "Deutschland," study with interns from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and learn to dance the waltz. Ninety percent of its students are white.

Six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down "separate but equal" schools for blacks and whites, segregation is growing because of charter schools, privately run public schools that educate 1.8 million U.S. children. While charter-school leaders say programs targeting ethnic groups enrich education, they are isolating low-achievers and damaging diversity, said Myron Orfield, a lawyer and demographer.

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Iowa Education report: Minority enrollment up, total student numbers fall

Mike Wiser:

Iowa's school population is shrinking at the same time it becomes poorer and more racially and ethnically diverse, according to an Iowa Department of Education report released Wednesday.

The Annual Condition of Education report compiles a variety of statistics from the previous school year.

Wednesday's 209-page report shows the continuation on several trends in Iowa's school systems across the state.

"It's useful in many ways," said Jay Pennington, the department's bureau chief of information and analysis services. "It provides local districts with a way to compare themselves with others in the state and provides the public with a lot of information about their district and others."

Highlights of the report include:

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Madison Prep, at Bottom

Rebecca Kemble:

The most straightforward, clear and dispassionate vote taken on the Madison Preparatory Academy charter school proposal at last Monday's Madison Metropolitan School District Board meeting didn't even count. It was the advisory vote cast by the student representative, Philippo Bulgarelli.

The School Board turned down the controversial proposal on a 5-2 vote, and after nearly five hours of public testimony, all the school board members gave speeches explaining how they arrived at their decisions. In addition to being the most succinct, Bulgarelli's statement penetrated all of the intense emotions and wildly divergent interpretations of data and personal anecdotes used to argue both for and against the proposal. Bulgarelli said that the students for whom he speaks did not have enough information to make a reasonably good decision, so he voted to abstain.

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

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School Police Have Uncertain Impact On Student Arrests, Crime Prevention

Radley Balko:

A headline-generating study, published in the journal Pediatrics this week, suggests that approximately one in three Americans is arrested before age 23. That's up from about one in five in 1965, the last time a similar study was conducted. The study used data from surveys given to the 7,335 people who enrolled in the federal government's National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1996.

This study, a recent joint initiative between the Departments of Justice and Education and a spate of anecdotal stories in the news all suggest a surge in the arrests of minors, and particularly in arrests that originate in schools. But the federal government is both fighting the "school-to-prison" pipeline while continuing to fund the same programs that critics say are causing it. Moreover, because the government hasn't been collecting data on school-based arrests, and the little available data shows overall arrests of juveniles are down, it's difficult to determine if a problem exists, much less whether federal initiatives are solving it -- or contributing to it.

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After Kim Jong Il's death, a Korean language class shifts format

Geoff Decker, via a kind reader's email:

Students in Democracy Prep High School's Korean classes typically learn words that boost their vocabulary and develop basic grammar -- standard fare for introductory foreign language instruction. But this week the lessons took a turn for the geopolitical.

Youngjae Hur greeted his students yesterday with an unusual pop quiz in English and asked them to define words such as "despotism," "denuclearize," and "repressive."

For Hur, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's abrupt death over the weekend offered the school a unique opportunity to infuse what students learn about the South Korean language and culture every day with the politics that have shaped life on the Korean Peninsula for decades.

"It's important to let them know not just the skills to understand the language, but also the culture, the history, the politics," said Hur, a first-year teacher who moved to the United States from South Korea three years ago. "Especially at this special moment."

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Terry Moe on Teacher Unions

Jay Greene:

Rick Hanushek interviews Terry Moe about his new book, Special Interest, which is the definitive, new work on teacher unions and education.

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Rainy River District School Board concedes 'systemic failure'

Peggy Revell:

Changes to policies and procedures over the handling of funds will ensure that nothing like the theft of more than $300,000 from Fort High should occur again, the Rainy River District School Board said following the sentencing last Thursday of former FFHS secretary Fawn Lindberg.

"Obviously, there were some shortcomings in terms of oversight, both at the school and right through the board office--and those things hopefully have now all been corrected," noted board chair Michael Lewis.

A press release issued by the board called the theft a "systemic failure from the top down."

While Lindberg didn't have the authority to authorize or sign cheques, it was noted during last Thursday's court proceedings that a practice had developed whereby blank cheques would be signed in advance by the principal and vice-principal, who did have signing authority.

From June, 2005 to October, 2007, Lindberg fed a gambling addiction by stealing $312,426.45, using some 146 cheques she had made out in her name or to "cash."

The theft came to light in the fall of 2007 after a deficit of more than $175,000 was noticed by board administration and investigated.

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College Football Wins Lower Guys' GPA

Tom Jacobs:

The gap in grade point averages between male and female students widens when their college football team is winning.

As the college football season approaches its climax, a just-released set of statistics should give fans of Bowl-bound teams pause.

According to three University of Oregon economists, when a university's football team has a winning season, the grade point average of male students goes down.

At least, that was the case at their own school over the course of nine recent seasons. Given that the University of Oregon is "largely representative of other four-year public institutions," they have no reason to believe the equation won't apply elsewhere.

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December 22, 2011

The five-member majority of the board blew it this week by voting down the Urban League of Greater Madison's request for an unusual charter school called Madison Prep

Wisconsin State Journal:

The school would have offered a longer school day and year, higher standards and expectations, uniforms, mandatory extracurricular activities, same-sex classrooms, more minority teachers as role models, and stepped-up pressure on parents to get involved in their children's education.

Madison Prep represented a huge opportunity -- with unprecedented community support, including millions in private donations -- to attack the stubborn achievement gap for low-income and minority students.

But a majority of the School Board rejected Madison Prep, citing excuses that include a disputed clause in its teachers union contract and a supposed lack of accountability.

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

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Cal State campuses overwhelmed by remedial needs

Matt Krupnick:

Wracked with frustration over the state's legions of unprepared high school graduates, the California State University system next summer will force freshmen with remedial needs to brush up on math or English before arriving on campus.

But many professors at the 23-campus university, which has spent the past 13 years dismissing students who fail remedial classes, doubt the Early Start program will do much to help students unable to handle college math or English.

"I'm not at all optimistic that it's going to help," said Sally Murphy, a communications professor who directs general education at Cal State East Bay, where 73 percent of this year's freshmen were not ready for college math. Nearly 60 percent were not prepared for college English.

"A 15-hour intervention is just not enough intervention when it comes to skills that should have been developed over 12 years," Murphy said.

The remedial numbers are staggering, given that the Cal State system admits only freshmen who graduated in the top one-third of their high-school class. About 27,300 freshmen in the 2010 entering class of about 42,700 needed remedial work in math, English or both.

Related: Madison's Math Task Force and K-12 Literacy Program Evaluation.

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Kaleem Caire should run for School Board

The Capital Times:

Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire fought hard to win approval of his Madison Prep project. But the Madison School Board ultimately rejected a plan that would have steered tens of millions of taxpayer dollars into a project that board members felt lacked sufficient oversight and accountability.

The response of Caire and his fellow Madison Prep advocates was to suggest a variety of moves: the filing of a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, or perhaps a request for state intervention to allow the project to go forward without state approval.

We would suggest another approach.

Caire has succeeded in garnering a good deal of support for Madison Prep. He could capitalize on that support and make a run for the School Board.

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

Changing the school board would either require: patience (just two of seven seats: Lucy Mathiak, who is not running after two terms and Arlene Silveira, who apparently is seeking a third term) are up in April, 2012 or a more radical approach via the current Wisconsin method (and Oakland): recalls. Winning the two seats may not be sufficient to change the Board, given the 5-2 no vote. Perhaps the "momentum", if realized, might sway a vote or two?

Perhaps the TAG complaint illustrates another approach, via the courts and/or different government agencies.

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Madison Preparatory Academy Board Commits to Establish Madison Prep as an Independent School in Fall 2012 and address the Achievement Gap in Madison's Public Schools

Kaleem Caire, via email

For Immediate Release: December 21, 2011

Contact: Laura DeRoche-Perez
Director of School Development
Urban League of Greater Madison
2222 S. Park St., Suite 200
Madison, WI 53713
Lderoche@ulgm.org
608-729-1230 (office)
608-556-2066 (cell)

Madison, WI - This morning, the Board of Directors of Madison Preparatory Academy unanimously decided to pursue a set of actions that will assist with eliminating the racial achievement gap in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). These actions are consistent with the objectives of the Urban League of Greater Madison.

Specifically, Madison Prep's Board has committed to partnering with the Urban League of Greater Madison to:

Work with the Madison Metropolitan School District to ensure MMSD has a bold and effective plan for eliminating the racial achievement gap that embraces innovation, best practices and community engagement as core strategies.
Evaluate legal options that will ensure MMSD affirmatively and immediately addresses the racial achievement gap.
Establish Madison Preparatory Academy as an independent school within the boundaries of the Madison Metropolitan School District in August 2012 as a model of whole school reform and a necessary education option for disadvantaged children and families.

David Cagigal, Chair of Madison Prep's Board, shared that "Madison Prep is a necessary strategy to show how our community can eliminate the achievement gap and prepare our most vulnerable students for college. MMSD's rejection of our proposal does not change this fact."

Cagigal further stated that, "We look forward to engaging the Greater Madison community in addressing the racial achievement gap in Madison's public schools and supporting the establishment of Madison Prep next fall."

For more information, contact Laura DeRoche Perez, Director of School Development, Urban League of Greater Madison, at Lderoche@ulgm.org or 608-729-1230.
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Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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An RTT Cookbook With One Recipe

Julie McCargar:

I am ambivalent. My state, Tennessee, is the first state that has implemented the annual teacher and principal evaluations as required by Race to the Top (RTT). In 2010, I was involved with writing Tennessee's successful RTT application, especially the section on "great teachers and leaders." In my state role, I celebrated the RTT requirement for annual teacher and principal evaluations based substantially on student growth as one of the most important levers to accelerate student achievement.

Now, in 2011, I am at the local level watching the fall-out. Although I still support annual teacher evaluations that include student achievement growth and regular teacher observation scores, it is clear that the initiative is off to a rocky start. And this has implications for more than just the educators and students in Tennessee. As noted in Education Week, many policymakers are concerned that the rocky implementation of Tennessee's new teacher evaluation system may hinder efforts in other states.

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Madison Prep proponents raise possibility of creating private school

Matthew DeFour:

Supporters of a controversial charter school proposal geared toward low-income, minority students said Tuesday they will continue to fight to establish it next fall -- including possibly as a private school.

Their comments came Tuesday after the Madison School Board voted 5-2 early that day to reject a proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy, which would offer single-sex classrooms and a college preparatory curriculum.

The board didn't vote on an alternate proposal to approve the school but delay its opening until 2013.

David Cagigal, president of the Madison Prep board, said a private school would be expensive because the school's target low-income population wouldn't be able to afford tuition. Instead, the board would ask private donors to replace the roughly $9,300 per pupil it had sought from the School District.

"Maybe money is not the issue if we want to go ahead and prove our point," Cagigal said. "I can assure you we will persist with this idea of closing the achievement gap."

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

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:15 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Whither Madison Prep...

Peter Sobol:

The proposed Madison Prep Charter School was voted down by the Madison school board on Monday. A bold proposal to address the achievement gap in Madison, Madison Prep supporters have a very good point- the status quo is not working for minority students.

There wasn't any magic to the Madison Prep proposal: longer school year, extended school days, smaller class ratios, additional support services, we know these things work, and taken together these things would likely make a significant impact on student achievement. But all these things cost significant amounts of money which is ultimately the problem. What distribution of resources is the most effective and fair?

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

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Time to take a breath and solve the Madison Prep problem

Dave Cieslewicz:

Sometimes it's possible to be absolutely right on the specifics of a thing and totally wrong about the big picture.

That's what can be said about the Madison school board's decision the other night to reject the proposal for the Madison Preparatory Academy. Board members were correct to be concerned that their support for the academy could have violated their contract with the Madison teachers union, and they were right to be concerned about lack of oversight over public funds.

But what the Urban League was saying about the big picture remains paramount:

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

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Do colleges with test-optional admissions inflate their U.S. News ratings?

Jay Mathews:

Some readers mentioned, after a recent Admissions 101 discussion of using the average SAT score of the incoming class to pick the school best for you, that this method might be ruined by the growing number of colleges that do not require SAT or ACT tests. Some even suggested that these test-optional colleges might look better than they are on some measures, like the ranked U.S. News college list, because the lowest scorers in their freshmen classes are the ones most likely not to reveal their scores, and thus by not revealing, raising the freshman class SAT or ACT average that forms part of the U.S. News formula.

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Where is UW support for charter school?

Chris Rickert:

Last week I wrote that it seemed hypocritical that average Madisonians and other liberals in city government and the left-leaning Madison press haven't been beating the drum for proposed charter school Madison Preparatory Academy.

The school's target clientele, after all, is one the left usually considers sympathetic: poor, disenfranchised minority youth historically denied access to educational opportunity.

But it took a reader to point out an even bigger elephant in this oddly somnolent room: UW-Madison.

It was only a few months ago that Madison's prime educational attraction and the jewel of the UW System mounted a vigorous and very public defense of attempts to create a more diverse student body through its affirmative action policies.

You'd think this powerful institution might also be showing a little love for a similar social justice cause in its own backyard.

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

Cornell Alumnus Is Behind $350 Million Gift to Build Science School in City

Richard Perez-Pena:

The donor whose $350 million gift will be critical in building Cornell University's new high-tech graduate school on Roosevelt Island is Atlantic Philanthropies, whose founder, Charles F. Feeney, is a Cornell alumnus who made billions of dollars through the Duty Free Shoppers Group.

Mr. Feeney, 80, has spent much of the last three decades giving away his fortune, with large gifts to universities all over the world and an unusual degree of anonymity. Cornell officials revealed in 2007 that he had given some $600 million to the university over the years, yet nothing on its Ithaca campus -- where he graduated from the School of Hotel Management in 1956 -- bears Mr. Feeney's name.

The $350 million gift, the largest in the university's history, was announced on Friday, but the donor was not named. Officials at Atlantic Philanthropies confirmed on Monday evening that it was Mr. Feeney, a native of Elizabeth, N.J., who is known for his frugality -- he flies coach, owns neither a home nor a car, and wears a $15 watch -- as well as his philanthropic generosity, particularly to medical research.

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December 21, 2011

Mitch Henck, Lucy Mathiak & John Roach on the Madison School District's 5-2 No Vote on Madison Prep

Mitch Henck, Lucy Mathiak & John Roach (mp3 audio): Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:48 AM | Comments (11) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Shocking outcome of School Board vote: MMSD says NO to Madison Prep

Kaleem Caire, via email:

Dear Madison Prep,

First, thank you to all of you who have supported the Madison Prep effort to this point. Your volunteer hours, work on Design Teams, attendance at meetings, letters to the district and media, and many other acts of support have not gone unnoticed by the Urban League and Madison Prep.

In earlier morning hours today, the MMSD Board of Education voted 5-2 AGAINST Madison Prep. This outcome came after hours of testimony by members of the public, with Madison Prep supporters outnumbering opponents 2:1. Lucy Mathiak and James Howard voted YES for Madison Prep; Ed Hughes, Arlene Silviera, Beth Moss, Maya Cole, and Marj Passman voted NO. After the vote was taken, Ed Hughes made an amendment to the motion to establish Madison Prep in 2013 (rather than 2012) in order to avoid what some see as a conflict between Madison Prep and the teachers' union contract. Mr. Hughes' motion was not seconded; therefore there was no vote on establishing Madison Prep one year later.

While the Urban League and Madison Prep are shocked by last night's outcome, both organizations are committed to ensuring that Madison Prep becomes a reality for children in Madison. We will continue to press for change and innovation in the Madison Metropolitan School District and Dane County to ensure that the racial achievement gap is eliminated and that all children receive a high quality education that adequately prepares them for their future.

We will advance a number of next steps:

1.We will pursue different avenues, both public and private, to launch Madison Prep. We are still hopeful for an opening in 2012. There will be much the community will learn from Madison Prep and our children need this option now.

2.We will continue to coordinate community support and action to ensure that the Madison Metropolitan School District is accountable for eliminating the racial achievement gap. We will consider several strategies, such as implementing a Citizen Review Board that will hold the school board and district administration accountable for good governance, planning, implementation, execution, community engagement and student achievement results. We will also consider legal avenues to ensure MMSD understands and responds to the community's sense of urgency to address the sizable and decades-long failure rates of Black and Latino children.

3.We must also address the leadership vacuum in K-12 education in Madison. Because of this, we will ensure that parents, students and community members are informed of their rights and responsibilities, and have a better understanding of promising educational strategies to close the achievement gap. We will also work to ensure that they have opportunities to be fully engaged in planning, working and deciding what's best for the children educated in our public schools.

4.We will continue to work in collaboration with MMSD through our existing partnerships, and hope to grow these partnerships in the future.

Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to ensure that children in our schools and families in our community have hope, inspiration, support and opportunity to manifest their dreams and make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.

Onward.
Kaleem

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

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Down Goes Madison Prep

Mike Ford:

As expected, the Madison Metropolitan School Board voted 5 -2 last night against authorizing the Madison Prep charter school. Only two board members overseeing a school district with an African-American graduation rate below 50% saw fit to support a new approach

Those voting against the school did offer reasons. Board member Beth Moss told the Wisconsin State Journal she voted no because of concerns about the school's ability to serve students needing more than one year of remedial education. Board member Ed Hughes said he could not support the school until after the Madison teachers union contract expires in 2013.

But no worries, Superintendent Dan Nerad told the Wisconsin State Journal he has a plan:

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

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After Madison Prep vote, it's time to shake things up

Joseph Vanden Plas:

There's nothing like standing in the schoolhouse door.

For me, the Madison School Board's 5-2 vote to shoot down Madison Preparatory Academy, a proposed charter school specifically designed for low-income minority students, brings to mind images of George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door to block the integration of the University of Alabama, or state officials blocking James Meredith's enrollment at the University of Mississippi.

If you think that's harsh, remember that those pieces of history were not only about Civil Rights and desegregation, they were about every person's right to pursue a quality education.

In the Madison Metropolitan School District, a 48% graduation rate among African American students indicates that quality has not been achieved. Not even close.

Fortunately, this is one dream that's not going to be allowed to die. Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is the driving force behind Madison Prep, and he isn't ready to wave the surrender flag.

Following the school board vote, Caire vowed to file a racial discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice, and he also urged supporters of Madison Prep to run for school board.

Love it, love it, love it.

At one point in the development of Madison Prep, Caire sounded optimistic that the school district was a real partner, but the majority of board members had other ideas. Caire and the Urban League did their best to address every objection critics put in their way, and now it's clear that the intent all along was to scuttle the project with a gauntlet of hurdles.

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

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LearnZillion does a number on classrooms

Marketplace:

Kai Ryssdal: For those who haven't been in a modern public school classroom lately, there have been some changes since the days you had to whack the erasers together after class to clean them out. Chalkboards have been replaced not just by whiteboards, but by high-tech "smart" boards. Students are using laptops and iPads all over the place. In all, public schools spend roughly $3 billion a year on education technology -- things meant to make teaching faster, easier and better.

Change can be hard, but companies are trying to ease the transition. From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR, Amy Scott reports.

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To Stay Great, Never Forget Your Basics

This interview with Geoffrey Canada, president and C.E.O. of the nonprofit Harlem Children's Zone, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Q. What were some early management challenges for you?

A. At a school in Massachusetts where I once worked, we managed early on through consensus. Which sounds wonderful, but it was just a very, very difficult way to sort of manage anything, because convincing everybody to do one particular thing, especially if it was hard, was almost impossible.

Q. How big a group was this?

A. There were about 25 teachers and instructors and others. And very quickly I went from being this wonderful person, "Geoff is just so nice, he's just such a great guy," to: "I cannot stand that guy. He just thinks he's in charge and he wants to do things his way." And it was a real eye-opener for me because I was trying to change something that everybody was comfortable with. I don't think we were doing a great job with the kids, and I thought we could perform at a higher level.

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Teachers to be evaluated on new system in 2012-13

Megan Rolland:

Educators from across the state made a last-ditch effort Thursday to sway the state Education Board toward adopting their favorite of three teacher evaluation systems that next year will be used to evaluate every teacher in Oklahoma.

In the end, the board decided not to decide.

After an almost equal amount of support was expressed for two of the three systems, the board voted to adopt all three models for a one-year pilot.

School districts will be able to select any of the three models and will receive a portion of approximately $1.5 million in funding for the evaluation system based on student enrollment numbers.

"When I hear the dialogue back and forth about the strengths and weaknesses of these systems, I wonder if it's really about the strengths and weaknesses of these systems or if it's about who gets the money to further develop their model," said state Education Board Member Lee Baxter, of Lawton. "I'd like to find a way to not make this decision. I'd like to find a way to go through the pilot program and allow the districts to be involved with the evaluation system that they want to over a year's period of time."

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Urban League Plans Legal Action After Madison Prep Vote Fails

Channel3000.com:

Proponents of the Madison Preparatory Academy said they're looking to take legal action against the Madison Metropolitan School District after the school board voted against the proposed charter school.

The Madison Board of Education put an end to the Madison Prep proposal with a 5-2 vote early Tuesday morning, and reaction was swift.

"Because (the school board members) don't take us seriously -- they will sit right up here and look in our face and not even know they're insulting us with the things that they say," said Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League Of Greater Madison President, shortly after the vote. "We are going to turn our attention immediately, immediately, to address this legally."

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

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10 Years of Assessing Students With Scientific Exactitude

Michael Winerip:

In the last decade, we have emerged from the Education Stone Age. No longer must we rely on primitive tools like teachers and principals to assess children's academic progress. Thanks to the best education minds in Washington, Albany and Lower Manhattan, we now have finely calibrated state tests aligned with the highest academic standards. What follows is a look back at New York's long march to a new age of accountability.

DECEMBER 2002 The state's education commissioner, Richard P. Mills, reports to the state Regents: "Students are learning more than ever. Student achievement has improved in relation to the standards over recent years and continues to do so."

JANUARY 2003 New York becomes one of the first five states to have its testing system approved by federal officials under the new No Child Left Behind law. The Princeton Review rates New York's assessment program No. 1 in the country.

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For Cornell Tech School, a $350 Million Gift From a Single Donor

Richard Perez-Pena:

The donor whose $350 million gift will be critical in building Cornell University's new high-tech graduate school on Roosevelt Island is Atlantic Philanthropies, whose founder, Charles F. Feeney, is a Cornell alumnus who made billions of dollars through the Duty Free Shoppers Group.

Mr. Feeney, 80, has spent much of the last three decades giving away his fortune, with large gifts to universities all over the world and an unusual degree of anonymity. Cornell officials revealed in 2007 that he had given some $600 million to the university over the years, yet nothing on its Ithaca campus, where he graduated from the School of Hotel Management in 1956.

The $350 million gift, the largest in the university's history, was announced on Friday, but the donor was not named. Officials at Atlantic Philanthropies confirmed on Monday evening that it was Mr. Feeney, a native of Elizabeth, N.J., who is known for his frugality -- he flies coach, owns neither a home nor a car, and wears a $15 watch -- as well as his philanthropic generosity, particularly to medical research.

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On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)

The Madison School Board voted early Tuesday morning against a charter school geared toward low-income minority students.

Moments later, Urban League of Greater Madison President Kaleem Caire announced to a crowd of emotional supporters that he planned to file a racial discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Justice Department. He also urged the supporters to run for School Board.

"We are going to challenge this school district like they've never been challenged before, I swear to God," Caire said.

The School Board voted against the plan 5-2, as expected, just after midnight. In the hours leading up to the vote, however, hundreds of Madison Preparatory Academy supporters urged them to change their minds.

More than 450 people gathered at Memorial High School for public comments, which lasted more than four hours.

It was the first School Board meeting moved to Memorial since a 2001 debate over the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.

Nathan Comp:
But the night's harshest criticism was leveled not at the proposal but at the board itself, over a perceived lack of leadership "from the superintendent on down."

"You meet every need of the unions, but keep minority student achievement a low priority," said one parent.

Others suggested the same.

"This vote is not about Madison Prep," said Jan O'Neill, a citizen who came out to speak. "It's about this community, who we are and what we stand for -- and who we stand up for."

Among the issues raised by opponents, the one that seemed to weigh heaviest on the minds of board members was the non-instrumentality issue, which would've allowed Madison Prep to hire non-union staff.

A work preservation clause in the district's collective bargaining agreement with the teacher's union requires the district to hire union staff. Board member Ed Hughes said he wanted to approve Madison Prep, but feared that approving a non-instrumentality school would put the district in breach of its contract with Madison Teachers, Inc.

"It's undeniable that Madison school district hasn't done very well by its African American students," he said. "But I think it's incumbent upon us to honor the contract."

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

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December 20, 2011

Middleton's Clark Street Community Charter School

Clark Street Community Charter School, via a kind reader's email:

(new charter school being opened in the MASH [Middleton Alternative Senior High School] building. This proposal got started less than a year ago, got a planning grant from DPI in August, and will open in the fall.)
Middleton High School Black Students Find A Voice
It's Thursday morning and a group of students are seated around an oblong table in a classroom at Middleton High School.

Most of the students are black. A few are white. Together they make up the school's Black Student Union (BSU), which was founded last year thanks in large part to the work of a few dedicated teen-agers. Today they are passing around a small toy, a black and white Holstein cow (the student holding the cow has the floor), and talking candidly about issues of race.

"I don't want us to be a joke," said one student. "I don't see other student organizations treated like a joke, and I want this one taken seriously, too."

Another turns her criticism inward, saying she feels it is important that African-American students not perpetuate negative stereotypes about themselves in the school's corridors.

Yet another suggests holding more public events and charitable activities, prompting one young woman to volunteer to prepare food for a bake sale.

Much more on the Clark Street Community Charter School.

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Buying the Professor a BMW

Perry Zirkel:

In a casual conversation between an upper-middle-class parent and a senior faculty member at a four-year institution of higher education, the parent bemoaned the steep increase in the cost of sending his youngest daughter to college, compared to that of her eldest sibling. Clearly intimating that the substantial monetary difference went into the faculty member's pocket, the parent quipped, "I hope you are enjoying the car that I bought for you."

This parent's conclusion raises two questions -- one about rising costs and the other about faculty salaries. Addressing these questions must take into consideration various factors. First, for example, institutions of higher education vary widely. The answers here are limited to four-year public and private, nonprofit colleges and universities. Second, the sources of data vary in their objectivity and in their time periods. These answers identify the sources, which are reputable as not particularly skewed. Similarly, although not uniformly available for the same long-term period, the cited data cover at least 8-10 years so as not to rely on short-term changes.

Question 1: Have college prices to parents really risen steeply, when inflation, institutional financial aid grants, and other sources of "tuition discounting" are taken into account?

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Myth of Madison Prep, Part 2

TJ Mertz:

Part 1 here, (the introductory material is copied from there).

The discussion around the Madison Preparatory Academy (MPA) proposal and the related events and processes has been heated, but not always grounded in reality. Many have said that just having this conversation is a good thing. I don't agree. With myths being so prevalent and prominent, a productive conversation is nearly impossible. Since the vote is scheduled for Monday (12/19), I thought it would be good to take a closer -- fact based, but opinionated -- look at some of the myths. This is part two, although there are plenty of myths left to be examined, I've only gotten one up here. I may post more separately or in an update here on Monday.

Three things to get out of the way first.

One is that the meeting is now scheduled to be held at 6:00 Pm at the Memorial High School Auditorium and that for this meeting the sign up period to speak will be from 5:45 to 6:00 PM (only).

Second, much of the information on Madison Prep can be found on the district web page devoted to the topic. I'm not going do as many hyperlinks to sources as I usually do because much of he material is there already. Time constraints, the fact that people rarely click the links I so carefully include, and, because some of the things I'll be discussing presently are more along the lines of "what people are saying/thinking," rather than official statements, also played a role in this decision. I especially want to emphasize this last point. Some of the myths being examined come straight from "official" statements or sources, some are extensions of "official" things taken up by advocates, and some are self-generated by unaffiliated advocates.

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

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MIT Will Offer Certificates to Outside Students Who Take Its Online Courses

Marc Parry:

Millions of learners have enjoyed the free lecture videos and other course materials published online through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's OpenCourseWare project. Now MIT plans to release a fresh batch of open online courses--and, for the first time, to offer certificates to outside students who complete them.

The credentials are part of a new, interactive e-learning venture, tentatively called MITx, that is expected to host "a virtual community of millions of learners around the world," the institute will announce on Monday.

Here's how it will work: MITx will give anyone free access to an online-course platform. Users will include students on the MIT campus, but also external learners like high-school seniors and engineering majors at other colleges. They'll watch videos, answer questions, practice exercises, visit online labs, and take quizzes and tests. They'll also connect with others working on the material.

The first course will begin around the spring of 2012. MIT has not yet announced its subject, but the goal is to build a portfolio of high-demand courses--the kind that draw more than 200 people to lecture halls on the campus, in Cambridge, Mass. MIT is investing "millions of dollars" in the project, said L. Rafael Reif, the provost, and the plan is to solicit more from donors and foundations.

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Shorewood writer is voice for change in substitute teaching

Alan Borsuk:

Carolyn Bucior now has greater respect for classroom teachers.

She also has a greater sense of annoyance at some teachers.

And she has a grasp on a generally ignored issue in education that has led to her voice being heard nationally.

Substitute teaching is usually looked at somewhat benignly as one of those things that is part of school life. Like everyone else, teachers get sick sometimes or have other reasons to be absent. So someone gets called in to fill in.

I suspect everyone knows this is unlikely to be productive. Goofing off (or worse) when a sub is in the classroom has been a staple of student life since schools were invented.

You have to have an adult keep an eye on what kids are doing, but to expect education to move forward when someone steps in cold is rarely realistic. Well, maybe to watch a video the teacher left behind.

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School Board won't back Madison Prep Academy opening in 2012

Matthew DeFour:

A majority of the Madison School Board won't support opening next fall a controversial, single-sex charter school geared toward low-income minority students.

But it's unclear whether a compromise proposal to start Madison Preparatory Academy in 2013 will gain enough votes Tuesday night when the board meets.

School Board members Beth Moss and Arlene Silveira were the latest to publicly express their opposition to the current proposal for the school.

Moss said Monday in a letter to the State Journal published on madison.com that she doesn't believe the school will help the neediest students. Silveira confirmed her opposition in an interview.

The seven-member board is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on the proposal.

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

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Nothing will change if we do nothing -- or more of the same

Kaleem Caire:

For the last 17 months, I have followed the commentary and misinformation shared about our organization's proposal to establish Madison Preparatory Academy.

Some who have written and commented about our proposal have been very supportive; others don't think Madison Prep should exist. With less than 24 hours until the Madison School Board votes on the school, we would like to bring the public back to the central reasons why we proposed Madison Prep in August 2010.

First, hundreds of black and Latino children are failing to complete high school each year. In 2009, the Madison School District reported that 59 percent of black and 61 percent of Latino students graduated. In 2010, the percentage of graduates dropped to 48 percent for Black and 56 percent for Latino students. This not only has an adverse impact on our young people, their families and our community, it results in millions in lost revenue to the Madison district every year.

Second, in 2010, just 20 percent of the 387 black and 37 percent of the 191 Latino seniors enrolled in the district completed the ACT college entrance exam. The ACT is required for admission by all public colleges and universities in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, just 7 percent of black and 18 percent of Latino student who completed the ACT were "ready for college." This means that only 5 of 387 black and 13 of 191 Latino students were academically ready for college.

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

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Education reform: We need transparency not ideological zeal

The Observer:

The motto of fee-paying Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen is: "Now you should use all your masterly skills" (Omni nunc arte magistra).

Michael Gove, the education secretary, is a former pupil. Since his appointment, he has given every sign that he has taken the motto to heart. In a blizzard of reforms, his skill has been to appear charming, collaborative and collegiate, while exercising a determination to do it his way, "it" in this case being the radical remodelling of the education system.

Yesterday, a glimpse of how his affability camouflages an iron resolve was again revealed when it was announced that the final results of an independent review of the national curriculum, expected in the new year, will now be delayed for 12 months. Critics say the delay is driven by the minister's desire to stamp his authority on the review process.

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12/19/2011 Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (450K PDF), via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

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December 19, 2011

Education reformer urges zero tolerance for failure

Deidre Williams:

The main principle of the Harlem Children's Zone is simple: When failure is not allowed, success prevails.

"Are your kids graduating high school? No. Are your kids going to college? No. That's not success," Geoffrey Canada, president and chief executive officer of the Harlem Children's Zone, asked a Buffalo audience Friday.

Canada, nationally recognized as an advocate for education reform, was the keynote speaker at the first Education Summit presented by the Community Action Organization of Erie County's Education Task Force.

Entitled "Power of Education -- Children First," the summit was held at the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Buffalo. The purpose was to advance the cause of educational reform in the interests of children across Western New York and explore how to create those opportunities. About 300 people attended.

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Union leaders see changed landscape even if Dems prevail in 2012

WisPolitics:

Public employee union leaders Mary Bell and Marty Beil say the collective bargaining restrictions on their members enacted this year have galvanized the state's labor movement and paved the way for victory in potential recall elections in 2012.

But even if Dems are swept into the governor's office and the Senate majority, the union heads say they aren't necessarily seeking a complete return to the way things were before February.

"There has to be some changes ... has to be some tweaking there," said Beil (left), executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union. "But certainly not tweaking in the areas of the unions being able to bargain collectively for wages, hours and working conditions."

Bell, leader of the Wisconsin Education Association Council -- the state's largest teachers union -- added she's simply hoping for a collective bargaining environment that ensures the voice of workers and "whether that is the law we had or the law that we needed even then, I think, is the question."

"But the most important piece of this is that if you're going to make that kind of significant change, you do not do it without a conversation among the people that are affected," Bell told a WisPolitics.com luncheon. "That's what's been so offensive about the last year."

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Duncan's Dilemma: What will be Done to States without NCLB Waivers?

Anthony Cody:

As No Child Left Behind becomes an ever bigger disaster, Secretary Duncan faces a major dilemma. How can he continue to enforce this law he has declared a train wreck?

Last spring, in an attempt to goad Congress into accepting his formula for revising No Child Left Behind, Education Secretary Arne Duncan made some dire predictions.

In his testimony, he said:

...we did an analysis which shows that -- next year -- the number of schools not meeting their goals under NCLB could double to over 80 percent -- even if we assume that all schools will gain as much as the top quartile in the state.


So let me repeat that: four out of five schools in America many not meet their goals under NCLB by next year. The consequences under the current law are very clear: states and districts all across American may have to intervene in more and more schools each year, implementing the exact same interventions regardless of the schools' individual needs.

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Delaware tells Brandywine schools to make time for teachers to plan

NICHOLE DOBO

The state has threatened to withhold $2.5 million in federal funding from the Brandywine School District because it believes it is not giving teachers enough time to plan how to best educate students.

State Department of Education officials decided to put the school district on notice after it was discovered it failed to properly implement required 90-minute common planning times for high school teachers.

The state has offered to help the school find a way to incorporate the program properly. But if that's not accomplished by next school year, the district stands to lose its portion of the state's Race to the Top grant.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Illinois Tax Indulgences

Allysia Finley:

In 2008, lawmakers in Springfield cobbled together a $530 million rescue package for Chicago's transit system, which was on the brink of collapse because of sky-high labor and legacy costs. Just this week they pushed through $300 million of tax credits for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board Options Exchange and Sears to prevent the businesses from fleeing to lower-tax climes. Both Indiana and Ohio have been aggressively poaching Illinois businesses, especially since January, when lawmakers raised the state income tax to a flat 5% from 3% and the corporate tax to 9.5% from 7.3%.

The special carve-outs may stop Sears and the financial exchanges from flying the coop, but the income-tax hikes will still prove job-killers. While the jobless rate in other Midwest states has stayed relatively flat over the past year, Illinois's unemployment rate has risen to 10.1% from 9%. Most of the lost jobs are in information technology and financial services, which are some of the easiest to move.

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Audit Blasts Hawaii Charter School System

Katherine Poythress:

Hawaii's charter school system received a scathing report from the state auditor's office Thursday.

The Charter School Review Panel, which is the agency charged with overseeing charter schools, "has misinterpreted state law and minimized its role in the system's accountability structure," the report states in its summary. It adds that the panel has delegated too much of the monitoring and accountability to the boards of individual schools.

The auditor's two overarching findings were:

The Charter School Review Panel fails to hold charter schools accountable for student performance.
Charter school operations fail to comply with state law and principles of public accountability.

Most of the information in the report was not news to the officials who oversee the 32-school charter school system, or to members of the public following the numerous nepotism, ethics and other scandals at charter schools around the state.

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December 18, 2011

So what do students think about Madison Preparatory Academy?

Pat Schneider:

No matter where the votes fall Monday when the Madison School Board decides whether to OK a charter school proposal for the controversial Madison Preparatory Academy, the idea of a buttoned-down, no-nonsense alternative to the city's public schools already has entered the local popular culture. It is not only a beacon of hope in efforts to end a lingering race-based academic achievement gap, but also has become an emblematic stick to nudge underperforming kids into line.

As high school senior Adaeze Okoli tells it, when her little brother isn't working up to his potential, her mom jokingly threatens to send him to Madison Prep.

That anecdote says a lot about how distinct a presence the proposed school already has become in local communities of color. It makes me wonder how kids would feel about attending a school that is boys-only or girls-only and requires uniforms, longer school days, a longer school year and greater parental involvement.

Put the kids first for a change, Urban League of Greater Madison president Kaleem Caire, the architect and unflagging advocate of the school plan, chided school district administrators after they declared that his proposal would violate the district's union contract with its teachers and provide inadequate accountability to the School Board. But for all the analysis and debate about the Madison Prep plan, I haven't heard much from young people about how they would like to go to such a school, and how they think the strict rules would influence learning.

To sound out some students, I turned to the Simpson St

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

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Don't reject Madison Prep

Wisconsin State Journal:

Superintendent Dan Nerad acknowledged last week that existing Madison School District programs aimed at boosting minority achievement "are not having the impact we need for our kids."

"The data is telling us we need to do different things," Nerad added.

And the Urban League of Greater Madison's proposal for an unusual public charter school catering to low-income blacks and Latinos "has elevated the conversation, and I appreciate that," the superintendent said.

"I'm not raising any concerns about the programming side of it," he told the State Journal editorial board.

It sounded like a windup to endorsing the Madison Preparatory Academy, which faces a final vote by the Madison School Board on Monday night.

Instead, Nerad is recommending the School Board reject the academy, primarily because of complicated contract language.

That shouldn't happen.

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Supporting Strategies to Eliminate the Achievement Gap in Madison Public Schools

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce:

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors met on December 15, 2011, and adopted the following resolution:
Motion: The Board of Directors encourages a comprehensive approach to eliminate the student achievement gap currently present in Madison schools.

The Board strongly endorses the advancement of the Urban League of Greater Madison's proposed Madison Preparatory Academy. The Board also acknowledges and endorses the continued investment in successful strategies already employed by the Madison Metropolitan School District and the United Way of Dane County.

Comments:
The Chamber Board recognizes that there is no panacea or singular solution to eliminating the student racial achievement gap. Rather, a comprehensive approach should be employed utilizing multiple strategies to address this problem.
The Chamber Board acknowledges the work of community and school leaders who have worked tirelessly on this issue. In particular, the United Way of Dane County has demonstrated tremendous leadership to ensure all struggling students achieve better results. The GMCC is a partner in Schools of Hope, a collaborative community initiative aimed at reducing the achievement gap. In addition, the United Way is committing more than $2 million over the next year for programs to address this issue.

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

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Find a way to make Madison Prep work

The Capital Times:

The Madison School Board Monday night needs to work out the necessary details to make the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy a reality.

There's absolutely no question that our school system, long deemed to be one of the best in the country for a vast majority of its students, is failing its African-American students and, as board member Ed Hughes recently pointed out, we need to accept that fact and be willing to give the Urban League an opportunity to show us a better way.

Still, it needs to be done carefully and not by yielding to heated tempers and ill-informed finger-pointers. This, after all, is not about conservatives vs. liberals, as some would gleefully proclaim, or even union supporters against those who believe unions lurk behind every failure in American education. It's about honest philosophical differences among well-meaning people on how best to educate our children during troubling economic times.

Yet, more importantly, despite the enormous hurdles, it has got to be about the kids and finding a way for them to succeed.

Though there are difficult issues to overcome, there's no need for the board and the Madison Prep advocates to draw lines in the sand. There surely is a middle ground that can honor the union contract, maintain a level of accountability at an acceptable cost to the taxpayers, and give the final OK to open the school.

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

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Union concerns must not derail Madison Prep

Tom Consigny:

One of the last remaining opportunities for a locally-elected government body to stop the increasing spread of the entitlement society and the dumbing down of education will occur Monday when the Madison School Board, together with their highly paid educational professionals, will determine the fate of Madison Prep Academy.

Based on news reports, the local teachers union and its always pushy head, John Matthews, oppose the venture. Why? Because the proposal advocates flexibility by hiring non-union teachers at a cost savings of millions!

To Matthews and MTI, your argument that "it's all about the kids" rings hollow and empty again.

Even though I am not a member of a minority and I dislike paying more real estate taxes for unnecessary projects, this non-union driven proposal by Kaleem Caire deserves approval for the future benefit of Madison's kids and residents.

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

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Matthews has history of anti-charter views

Peter Joyce:

It's ironic that John Matthews, executive director for Madison Teachers Inc., writes in a State Journal guest column that Madison Prep charter school could be implemented only if it was more like Nuestro Mundo.

In 2004, when Nuestro Mundo applied, Matthews didn't support the formation of a charter school. He opposed the charter despite the fact that Nuestro Mundo wanted teachers to remain in the collective bargaining agreement as members of MTI.

If the Madison School Board had listened to Matthews back in 2004, there would not be a Nuestro Mundo charter school.

Nuestro Mundo came into existence through the work of members of the community and the efforts of three Madison School District board members, Ruth Robarts, Ray Allen and Juan Jose Lopez. In spite of the many legal and economic questions, they found a way to make Nuestro Mundo a reality.

Matthews has not assisted in the formation of charter schools. Don't look to him for a balanced opinion -- he's anti-charter.

-- Peter Joyce, Madison

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

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Charter school accountability debate

Katy Murphy:

Yesterday, the California Charter Schools Association caused a stir. The pro-charter group came out with a list of 10 independently-run schools it deemed underperforming -- and encouraged their respective school districts to close them when their 5-year contracts expire!

That list included West County Community High in Richmond, as my colleague Hannah Dreier reported in today's paper. Leadership High in San Francisco was also on it.

The complete list included 31 schools, but the association only published the names of those that are nearing the end of their 5-year terms and seeking a charter renewal.

Here's the reasoning behind the mov, from the news release:

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Failure Rate of Schools Overstated, Study Says

Sam Dillon:

When the Obama administration was seeking to drum up support for its education initiatives last spring, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress that the federal law known as No Child Left Behind would label 82 percent of all the nation's public schools as failing this year. Skeptics questioned that projection, but Mr. Duncan insisted it was based on careful analysis.

President Obama repeated it in a speech three days later. "Four out of five schools will be labeled as failing," Mr. Obama said at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Va., in March. "That's an astonishing number."

Now a new study, scheduled for release on Thursday, says the administration's numbers were wildly overstated. The study, by the Center on Education Policy, a Washington research group headed by a Democratic lawyer who endorses most of the administration's education policies, says that 48 percent of the nation's 100,000 public schools were labeled as failing under the law this year.

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Virtual schools booming as states mull warnings

Ivan Moreno & Kristen Wyatt:

More schoolchildren than ever are taking their classes online, using technology to avoid long commutes to school, add courses they wouldn't otherwise be able to take -- and save their school districts money.

But as states pour money into virtual classrooms, with an estimated 200,000 virtual K-12 students in 40 states from Washington to Wisconsin, educators are raising questions about online learning. States are taking halting steps to increase oversight, but regulation isn't moving nearly as fast as the virtual school boom.

The online school debate pits traditional education backers, often teachers' unions, against lawmakers tempted by the promise of cheaper online schools and school-choice advocates who believe private companies will apply cutting-edge technology to education.

Is online education as good as face-to-face teaching.

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Do Half Of New Teachers Leave The Profession Within Five Years?

Matthew Di Carlo:

You'll often hear the argument that half or almost half of all beginning U.S. public school teachers leave the profession within five years.

The implications of this statistic are, of course, that we are losing a huge proportion of our new teachers, creating a "revolving door" of sorts, with teachers constantly leaving the profession and having to be replaced. This is costly, both financially (it is expensive to recruit and train new teachers) and in terms of productivity (we are losing teachers before they reach their peak effectiveness). And this doesn't even include teachers who stay in the profession but switch schools and/or districts (i.e., teacher mobility).*

Needless to say, some attrition is inevitable, and not all of it is necessarily harmful, Many new teachers, like all workers, leave (or are dismissed) because they are just aren't good at it - and, indeed, there is test-based evidence that novice leavers are, on average, less effective. But there are many other excellent teachers who exit due to working conditions or other negative factors that might be improved (for reviews of the literature on attrition/retention, see here and here).

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How a School District Landed at the Springfield (IL) Bargaining Table

Kristen McQueary:

As chief financial officer for one of Illinois's largest school districts, Cheryl Crates watches the money.

Early this year, she was counting on $14 million more rolling in for Community Unit District 300, after the expiration of a tax break at Sears Holdings' 800-acre headquarters in Hoffman Estates; it is the Sears corporate campus, which includes an on-site auto center, walking trails and even a hair salon for employees. When Crates met with Hoffman Estates officials in March, she learned the money might not be coming after all because the tax break might not expire.

"I cried," Crates said. "The school district has cut for the last two years. We've had no wage increases, and we were planning on that revenue to bring down our class sizes. We have one algebra class with 47 students. It was devastating."

Crates and her school district had suddenly found themselves at the epicenter of Illinois's latest political and financial crisis, described by one lawmaker as round-robin blackmail among Midwestern states. Unless Illinois agreed to extend the tax break, Sears threatened to leave. The state of Ohio, for one, dangled $400 million in tax incentives as a lure.

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Online Learning Study Summary

US Department of Education:

Online learning--for students and for teachers is one of the fastest growing trends in educational uses of technology. The National Center for Education Statistics (2008) estimated that the number of K-12 public school students enrolling in a technology-based distance education course grew by 65 percent in the two years from 2002-03 to 2004-05. On the basis of a more recent district survey, Picciano and Seaman (2009) estimated that more than a million K-12 students took online courses in school year 2007-08.

Online learning overlaps with the broader category of distance learning, which encompasses earlier technologies such as correspondence courses, educational television and videoconferencing. Earlier studies of distance learning concluded that these technologies were not significantly different from regular classroom learning in terms of effectiveness. Policy makers reasoned that if online instruction is no worse than traditional instruction in terms of student outcomes, then online education initiatives could be justified on the basis of cost efficiency or need to provide access to learners in settings where face-to-face instruction is not feasible. The question of the relative efficacy of online and face-to-face instruction needs to be revisited, however, in light of today's online learning applications, which can take advantage of a wide range of Web resources, including not only multimedia but also Web based applications and new collaboration technologies. These forms of online learning are a far cry from the televised broadcasts and videoconferencing that characterized earlier generations of distance education. Moreover, interest in hybrid approaches that blend in-class and online activities is increasing. Policy makers and practitioners want to know about the effectiveness of Internet based, interactive online learning approaches and need information about the conditions under which online learning is effective.

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More on the Turmoil at the University of Texas Law School

TaxProf:

New York Times, University of Texas President Ends Tough Year With Yet Another Battle:
[O]n Dec. 8, Mr. Powers abruptly demanded -- and received -- the resignation of Lawrence Sager as dean of the School of Law. Mr. Powers, who had formerly held the post, said the move was necessary to quell unrest among a deeply divided faculty. "You can't have a unit be productive, frankly, both on the teaching and on the research side, if there's not a sense of common enterprise," he said. "And for whatever reason, that has broken down." ...

Tensions at the law school spiked following the distribution of 75 pages of documents requested from the university by three faculty members. The records, which have since been made public online, reveal complaints about gender equity at the school and detail the use of money from the University of Texas Law School Foundation, a separate nonprofit organization, to supplement faculty salaries -- including a $500,000 "forgivable loan" made in 2009 to Mr. Sager.
Brian Leiter (Chicago), Playing the "Gender Card" at Texas:
One of the ugliest, and most unjust aspects, of recent turmoil at Texas is that allegations of gender discrimination have surfaced. "Patriotism" may still be the first refuge of scoundrels, but at least at the University of Texas School of Law, the demand for "gender equity" has taken on that role.

There are women on the Texas faculty who don't perform any institutional service or committee work, who barely publish, who publish but whose work isn't very highly regarded, and/or who are poor teachers. There are men who fit those descriptions too, unsurprisingly. And in looking over the public salary data, I am struck by how equitable the under-performing men and women are treated, with a few exceptions in both directions (and of both genders). By the way, that is what "gender equity" means: it means faculty are treated equally without regard to gender, not that women are paid as much as men, regardless of their job performance or scholarly reputation.

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December 17, 2011

Milwaukee's lessons for Madison Prep

Michael Ford:

The Madison Metropolitan School District has a problem educating minority pupils. Less than 50 percent of African-Americans graduate in four years and only 31 percent even take the ACT, an important prerequisite for admittance to four-year colleges. Yet the Madison School Board appears poised to vote down Kaleem Caire's promising proposal to educate the very demographic the district has proved incapable of reaching.

Caire's proposed school, Madison Prep, has several attributes that differentiate it from traditional MMSD schools. Among other things the school would have an extended school day and offer an International Baccalaureate program. Both features have proven track records in schools in Milwaukee.

Much has been made of the fact that there is no guarantee that Madison Prep would be successful. Well no, but the strength of the charter model is that, if the school is unsuccessful, the MMSD board is empowered to terminate its contract. Given the achievement levels of Madison's minority students, any hesitation of the board to try the innovative model is inexplicable.

Worse yet, the reasons for rejecting Madison Prep are divorced from education. The proposed school is a non-instrumentality charter, meaning the School Board authorizes the school but the school is not required to use MMSD employees, including union teachers. Madison Teachers Inc. Executive Director John Matthews finds this problematic, telling The Capital Times that the Madison Prep proposal could "easily be implemented" if it was an instrumentality school employing union teachers. Perhaps it would be easier, but it would also take away from Caire's goal of raising minority student achievement. There are key advantages to the non-instrumentality structure, most notably the ability to assemble and compensate a staff free from the pay schedule and work rules contained in the MTI contract.

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

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Poorer-performing schools less likely to get funds

Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah:

Inside Chicago Public Schools, the joke long has been that when a school gets a fresh coat of paint and new windows, you can expect the central office to shut it down and open a charter in the building.

On Thursday, as Chicago Public Schools released a detailed list of $660 million in capital construction projects for the coming year, the district's top financial officer acknowledged, for perhaps the first time, that there's a kernel of truth in that.

"If we think there's a chance that a building is going to be closed in the next five to 10 years, if we think it's unlikely it's going to continue to be a school, we're not going to invest in that building," Chief Operating Officer Tim Cawley said.

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December 16, 2011

Madison Prep Closing Argument, Part II: Yes, but with a Delay

Madison School Board Member, Ed Hughes:

I want to support the Urban League's Madison Prep charter school proposal. It is undeniable that the Madison School District has not done well by its African-American students. We need to accept that fact and be willing to step back and give our friends at the Urban League an opportunity to show us a better way.

The issue is far more complicated than this, however. There are a number of roadblocks on the path to saying yes. I discuss these issues below. Some are more of an obstacle than others.

The biggest challenge is that a vote in favor of Madison Prep as it is currently proposed amounts to a vote to violate our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers. I see no way around this. I believe in honoring the terms of our contracts with our employees. For me, this means that I have to condition my support for Madison Prep on a one-year delay in its opening.

Most other obstacles and risks can be addressed by including reasonable provisions in the charter school contract between the school district and Urban League.

One wonders what additional hurdles will appear between now and 2013, should the District follow Ed's proposal. Kaleem Caire:
For the last 16 months, we have been on an arduous journey to develop a public school that would effectively address the educational needs of children who have under-performed or failed to succeed in Madison's public schools for at least the last 40 years. If you have followed the news stories, it's not hard to see how many mountains have been erected in our way during the process.

Some days, it has felt like we're desperately looking at our children standing dangerously close to the edge of a cliff, some already fallen over while others dangling by their thumbs waiting to be rescued; but before we can get close enough to save them, we have to walk across one million razor blades and through thousands of rose bushes with our bare feet. As we make our way to them and get closer, the razor blades get sharper and the rose bushes grow more dense.

Fortunately, our Board members and team at the Urban League and Madison Preparatory Academy, and the scores of supporters who've been plowing through the fields with us for the last year believe that our children's education, their emotional, social and personal development, and their futures are far more important than any pain we might endure.

Monday's vote will certainly reflect the District's priorities.

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Group aims to recall five Oakland School District board members

Katy Murphy:

In Oakland, recall is in the air.

As some citizens collect signatures to recall Mayor Jean Quan, another group named Concerned Parents and Community Coalition is trying to oust five of the seven Oakland school board directors. It's targeting those who voted `yes' on the proposal this fall to close elementary schools: Jody London, David Kakishiba, Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Gary Yee, and Chris Dobbins.

The school board meets tonight, and members of the coalition planned to march to the district office from nearby Laney College at 4 p.m. and present the directors with intent to gather signatures for a recall. Our photographer went out there around 4:30 p.m. and found about six people, not counting reporters.

(7:15 p.m. UPDATE: More supporters have packed the board room. Board President Jody London turned off the mic after Joel Velasquez, of Concerned Parents, went over the time limit. London later called a recess as he continued to speak, with the help of supporters, in Occupy "mic-check" fashion. People then began chanting "Stop closing schools!" and "Recall!")

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New Policy Brief: The Evidence On Charter Schools And Test Scores

The Shanker Institute:

The public debate about the success and expansion of charter schools often seems to gravitate toward a tiny handful of empirical studies, when there is, in fact, a relatively well-developed literature focused on whether these schools generate larger testing gains among their students relative to their counterparts in comparable regular public schools. This brief reviews this body of evidence, with a focus on high-quality state- and district-level analyses that address, directly or indirectly, three questions:

Do charter schools produce larger testing gains overall?
What policies and practices seem to be associated with better performance?

Can charter schools expand successfully within the same location?
The available research suggests that charter schools' effects on test score gains vary by location, school/student characteristics and other factors. When there are differences, they tend to be modest. There is tentative evidence suggesting that high-performing charter schools share certain key features, especially private donations, large expansions of school time, tutoring programs and strong discipline policies. Finally, while there may be a role for state/local policies in ensuring quality as charters proliferate, scaling up proven approaches is constrained by the lack of adequate funding, and the few places where charter sectors as a whole have been shown to get very strong results seem to be those in which their presence is more limited. Overall, after more than 20 years of proliferation, charter schools face the same challenges as regular public schools in boosting student achievement, and future research should continue to focus on identifying the policies, practices and other characteristics that help explain the wide variation in their results.

Download the "Policy Brief here (PDF).

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Madison School District, Urban League Need To Come Together On Madison Prep

Derrell Connor:

The Madison Metropolitan School District's Board of Education vote on the proposed charter school, Madison Preparatory Academy, is just around the corner.

We have heard from school board members, business leaders, teachers and other members of the community. It's safe to say that this is one of the most important issues in this city's history. While I am happy that Madison is finally having the long overdue conversation about how we educate our students who are falling through the cracks, I am not happy that the Urban League of Greater Madison and the school district couldn't come together to agree on a solution. In fact, it bothers me greatly.

It is a huge mistake to have this yearlong discussion come down to a contentious school board vote on Dec. 19. Both sides needed to come together to figure out a way to make Madison Prep a reality before that meeting.

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad and various members of the school board say approving Madison Prep would violate the current contract with Madison Teachers, Inc. So, if 2012 isn't feasible, committing to a date to open Madison Prep's doors in 2013, and using the next three to six months to figure out the terms of that agreement should have been an option. But, unfortunately, that's not going to happen. Instead we have a school district and a civil rights organization arguing over ways to address the achievement gap and graduation rates. Not a good look. And the future relationship between the MMSD and the African American community could hang in the balance.

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

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Michigan House approves bill lifting caps on charter schools, but growth will come in phases

James Dickson:

The Michigan House of Representatives voted Wednesday night to approve Senate Bill 618, which will lift the state's various caps on charter schools, House sources have confirmed. If and when the bill is signed by Governor Rick Snyder, it will go into law. The bill was passed 58-49, according to the Michigan Information & Resource Service (MIRS).

SB 618 had been tie-barred to a group of other Senate bills in the so-called "parent empowerment package," which means they all would've had to pass for any to take effect. But that tie-bar was broken when the House Education Committee approved SB 618 at its Nov. 30 meeting.

Some 35 amendments were offered, according to a House source. Several were approved. Perhaps the most consequential among the amendments phases in the lifting of the cap on charter schools, allowing up to 300 to be established through the end of 2012, 500 through 2014, and starting in 2015, no cap at all.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, who represents Ann Arbor in Lansing, said that the "huge, gaping problem" in the bill, lifting the cap all at once, was addressed but he still wasn't happy with the way the bill turned out. None of the amendments proposed by Democrats passed, Irwin said; they weren't even brought to a vote.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Opinion: A California tax increase in 2012? Don't bet your 1040 on it

Garry South:

It looks like the biggest traffic jam in California next year may well be the various tax increases being pushed for the November ballot.

So far, at least five big tax measures are in play. Think Long Committee for California, a group of high-powered movers and shakers funded by billionaire Nick Berggruen, has proposed a $10 billion revenue increase by expanding the sales tax to services. A teachers' union is advocating an income tax increase on those who earn more than $1 million annually to fund schools. Environmental activists are trying to generate $1.1 billion for clean energy by taxing out-of-state businesses. Another measure would tax oil and gas generation to help pay for education and state universities.

And then there's Gov. Jerry Brown's recently announced measure to temporarily increase the sales tax and bump up income tax rates for the state's top earners. Brown had hoped to have a ballot measure last June to extend a temporary increase in income, sales and vehicle license fee rates that went into effect in 2009, but was unable to coax a single Republican legislator into voting even to put such an extension on the ballot. Hence, the tax increases have all expired.

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George W. Bush Looks Forward After No Child Left Behind

Andrew Rotherham:

George W. Bush is writing a sequel to his big education act. The No Child Left Behind law was signed almost a decade ago, with overwhelming approval from Congress (384 to 45 in the House and 91 to 8 in the Senate). Now, amid a bipartisan effort to gut its accountability measures, the former President is quietly pushing new education-reform initiatives aimed at improving and empowering school principals, who too often lack the training or authority to effectively run their schools. And once again, he's approaching this massive education problem by blurring political lines.

I was invited in my role as TIME's education columnist to sit in on a small meeting this week that Bush organized in New York City, and I was struck by the roster of advisers he had assembled to guide the George W. Bush Institute's education work. The group included some big names in the education non-profit world as well as leaders of traditional public schools and charter schools. But by my informal count, most of the 10 people around the table were Democrats, including Clinton and Obama administration alums. "He cares about education deeply, and he gets it," one staunchly Democratic education consultant, who now works with the institute, told me. The former President has already recruited officials from his administration as well as liberal stalwarts like Amy Wilkins of the Education Trust and Democratic education leaders like former North Carolina Governor James Hunt.

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Like Ivies, Berkeley Adds Aid to Draw Middle-Class Students

Jennifer Medina:

The University of California, Berkeley, announced Wednesday that it would offer far more financial aid to middle-class students starting next fall, with families earning up to $140,000 a year expected to contribute no more than 15 percent of their annual income, in what experts described as the most significant such move by a public institution.

As state budget cuts have led to rising tuition and fees at the University of California and other prestigious campuses across the nation, the middle class has increasingly been squeezed out of what was long seen as higher education's best balance between quality and affordability.

At Berkeley, officials said, the number of low-income and wealthy students has grown over the last several years, while the number from middle-class families has remained flat. That has raised concerns that some of the state's best and brightest are choosing private schools whose generous financial aid can erase differentials in sticker price or not enrolling at all. The cost of a year at Berkeley has risen sharply to $32,000.

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December 15, 2011

APPROVE MADISON PREP NON-INSTRUMENTALITY

Don Severson, via a kind email:

The Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will vote December 19, 2011, on the Madison Preparatory Academy proposal for non-instrumentality charter school authorization. Active Citizens for Education endorses and supports the approval of the proposal.

In addition to the rationale and data cited by the Urban League of Greater Madison, and significant others throughout the Madison community, supporting the curricular, instructional, parental and behavioral strategies and rigor of the school, ACE cites the following financial and accountability support for approval of the Academy as a non-instrumentality charter school.

  • Financial: Should the Board deny approval of the proposal as a non-instrumentality the District stands to lose significant means of financial support from state aids and property tax revenue. The District is allowed $10,538.54 per student enrolled in the District the 2011-12 school year. With the possibility of Madison Prep becoming a private school if denied charter school status, the 120 boys and girls would not be enrolled in MMSD; therefore the District would not be the beneficiary of the state and local revenue. The following chart shows the cumulative affect of this reduction using current dollars:
    2012-2013 6th grade 120 students @10,538.54 = $1,264,624.80
    2013-2014 2 grades 240 students @10,538.54 = $2.529,249.60
    2014-2015 3 grades 360 students @10,538.54 = $3,793,874.40
    2015-2016 4 grades 480 students @10,538.54 = $5,058,499.20
    2016-2017 5 grades 600 students @10,538.54 = $6.323.124.00
    2017-2018 6 grades 720 students @10,538.54 = $7,587,748.80
    2018-2019 7 grades 840 students @10,538.54 = $8,852,373.60
    This lost revenue does not include increases in revenue that would be generated from improved completion/graduation rates (currently in the 50% range) of Black and Hispanic students resulting from enrollees in a charter school arrangement.
  • Accountability: The MMSD Administration and Board have been demonstrating a misunderstanding of the terms 'accountability' and 'control'. The State charter school law allows for the creation of charter schools to provide learning experiences for identified student groups with innovative and results-oriented strategies, exempt from the encumbrances of many existing state and local school rules, policies and practices. Charter schools are authorized and designed to operate without the 'controls' which are the very smothering conditions causing many of the problems in our public schools. The resulting different charter school environment has been proven to provide improved academic and personal development growth for learners from the traditional school environment. Decreasing impediments and controls inhibiting learning increases the requirements for 'accountability' to achieve improved learner outcomes on the part of the charter school. Should the charter school not meet its stated and measurable goals, objectives and results then it is not accountable and therefore should be dissolved. This is the 'control' for which the Board of Education has the authority to hold a charter school accountable.

    Let us describe an analogy. Private for-profit business and not-for-profit organizations are established to provide a product and/or service to customers, members and the public. The accountability of the business or organization for its continued existence depends on providing a quality product/services that customers/members want or need. If, for whatever reasons, the business or organization does not provide the quality and service expected and the customer/member does not obtain the results/satisfaction expected, the very existence of the business/organization is jeopardized and may ultimately go 'out of business'. This scenario is also absolutely true with a charter school. It appears that the significant fears for the MMSD Administration and Board of Education to overcome for the approval of the proposed non-instrumentality Madison Prep charter school are: 1) the fear of loss of 'control' instead of accepting responsibility for 'accountability', and 2) the fear that 'some other organization' will be successful with solutions and results for a problem not addressed by themselves.

The MMSD Board of Education is urged to approve the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy non-instrumentality charter school proposal; thereby, relieving the bondage which grips students and sentences them to a future lifetime of under-performance and lack of opportunities. Thank you.

Contact: Don Severson, President, 608 577-0851, donleader@aol.com

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

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ACE Media Conference 12/15/2011 12:30p.m. Financial and Accountability Issues Facing MMSD Board of Education

Don Severson, via a kind email:

(Madison, WI) The Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will make a decision at its regular meeting December 19th regarding the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) proposal for a non-instrumentality charter school. Active Citizens for Education (ACE) has discussed several issues related to the proposal with the Board of Education, administration and with ULGM.

The Board of Education, in its deliberations, must weigh several implications and consequences for the schools, students, parents and the taxpaying public.

In its public statement, ACE will announce its position on the
financial implications of the proposal for future MMSD budgets and the taxpayers; how the issues of "control" and "accountability" relate to the authority of the Board of Education regarding approval or non-approval of the charter school proposal; and Madison Preparatory Academy over-all proposal.

The media conference will be held
December 15, 2011 (Thursday)
12:30 PM, Conference Room
Genesis Enterprise Center (GEC)
313 West Beltline Highway (off Rimrock Road to the west)

Mr. Severson will be available for questions and comments following the media conference.

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University Challenge: Slim down, focus and embrace technology: American universities need to be more businesslike

The Economist:

BARACK OBAMA invited a puzzling group of people into the White House on December 5th: university presidents. What should one make of these strange creatures? Are they chief executives or labour leaders? Heads of pre-industrial guilds or champions of one of America's most successful industries? Defenders of civilisation or merciless rack-renters?

Whatever they might be, they are at the heart of a political firestorm. Anger about the cost of college extends from the preppiest of parents to the grungiest of Occupiers. Mr Obama is trying to channel the anger, to avoid being sideswiped by it. The White House invitation complained that costs have trebled in the past three decades. Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, has urged universities to address costs with "much greater urgency".

A sense of urgency is justified: ex-students have debts approaching $1 trillion. But calm reflection is needed too. America's universities suffer from many maladies besides cost. And rising costs are often symptoms of much deeper problems: problems that were irritating during the years of affluence but which are cancerous in an age of austerity.

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Madison Superintendent Nerad to unveil plan to help low-income minority students

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said Wednesday he will unveil next month a new plan for improving the achievement of low-income minority students.

The plan will summarize the district's current efforts as well as put forth new approaches, such as a longer school year and opening magnet schools, Nerad said.

Nerad discussed the plan in a meeting with the State Journal editorial board less than a week before the School Board is to vote on Madison Preparatory Academy, a proposed charter school geared toward low-income, minority students.

Nerad said he opposes the current proposal for Madison Prep primarily because it would violate the district's contract with its teachers union, but that he agrees with the charter school's supporters in that a new approach to close the achievement gap is necessary.

"I made a purposeful decision to not bring (a plan) forward over the past several months to not cloud the discussion about Madison Prep," Nerad said. "It's caused us to take a step back and say, 'We're doing a lot of things, but what else do we need to be doing?'"

Superintendent Nerad's former District; Green Bay offers three "magnet options":

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Madison Prep: Closing Argument, Part I

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Here's a quote from an on-line comment of a Madison Prep opponent responding to one of the several op-ed pieces posted in the Cap Times in recent days: "There are barriers to students with special education needs, barriers to students with behavioral needs, and barriers to kids who rely on public transportation. These children are simply not the 'right fit'. It is Madison Prep's proposal to leave these kids in their neighborhood schools."

The notion seems to be that Madison Prep may not be welcoming for students from all points along the spectrum of educational needs, even though our neighborhood schools are obligated to serve everyone.

I think the self-selection process for Madison Prep should be taken into account in assessing how its students perform. But it does not trouble me that the school is not designed to meet the needs of all our students. No one need apply to attend and no student will be denied current services or programs if Madison Prep is authorized.

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

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On New Florida Academic Standards

Laura Isensee:

Thirteen high schools won high praise for their soaring graduation rates during the Miami-Dade School Board's last meeting for the year Wednesday.

Overall, Miami-Dade County's public schools hit their highest graduation rate ever, nearly 78 percent -- higher than Broward County's and just shy of the state's 80 percent rate.

But the celebration came with a warning: Next year could be very different.

There is a new FCAT 2.0 and, in the pipeline, a new scoring scale for that exam, plus more weight on reading and a new grading model for state-issued letter grades. Other changes in 2012: More tests will be administered via computers and new end-of-course exams will be given in geometry and biology.

"As we celebrate this year's outstanding graduation accomplishments, it's important to inform the community what's happening in Tallahassee and across our state," said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. "The new standards are going to change the game for all of us."

Parts of the new standards are still being developed. On Monday, the State Board of Education will consider proposed new scoring levels for the FCAT 2.0 and the algebra end-of-course exam.

Related: Excellence in Education explains Florida's reading reforms and compares Florida's NAEP progress with Wisconsin's at the July 29th Read to Lead task force meeting.

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Protesters Derail Chicago School Board Meeting

Rebecca Vevea:

A Chicago Board of Education meeting came to a sudden halt Wednesday when a raucous group of protesters from the Chicago Teachers Union, Occupy Chicago and other organizations erupted into a chorus of chants denouncing board members.

It was the first board meeting since Chicago Public Schools announced a series of closings, consolidations and turnarounds that could affect 21 schools on the city's South and West sides. While none of those actions were being voted on, the agenda included the approval of 12 new charter schools.

The protesters drowned out the voice of CPS chief executive Jean-Claude Brizard, who had just begun a presentation to board members. "You have failed...You have produced chaos...You should be fired" they chanted.

When they paused, board president David Vitale said he hoped they had "gotten it out of their system," which set off another round of shouting.

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December 14, 2011

Penn Professor Doug Lynch on Education

Rachael Wettenstein and Ted Bauer, via a kind email:

Welcome to the third edition of the relaunched Learning Matters podcast. In this episode, Learning Matters web producer Ted Bauer speaks with UPenn vice dean and professor Doug Lynch about various issues in education, including his business plan competition. Lynch draws pointed contrasts between corporate education and public education, and is candid about the notion of success and failure within the field. Enjoy the conversation.

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There really is no difference between men and women's math abilities

Alasdair Wilkins:

There's a longstanding myth of a gender gap between boys' and girls' math performance, suggesting some basic biological difference in how the two genders approach math. It's deeply controversial and widely discredited. And now, a new study has completely debunked it.

Until now, there was maybe a sliver of statistical data to support the existence of this gender gap -- nothing remotely convincing, mind you, but just enough that the idea couldn't be entirely dismissed out of hand. While most who studied the issue pointed for cultural or social reasons why girls might lag behind boys in math performance, there was still room for biological theories to be proposed.

The best-known of these is the "greater male variability hypothesis", which basically says ability among males varies more widely than that of females, which means you'll see more males at the extreme ends of the spectrum, good and bad. Then-Harvard president Larry Summers infamously put forward this idea back in 2005 as a way to explain the lack of great female mathematicians, and this was one of about a dozen different factors that ultimately cost him his job.

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Wis. school districts giving merit based pay trial runs

Mike Kujak:

School districts across Wisconsin have made strides toward reforming the state's teacher evaluation process by implementing new merit-based salaries for teachers under new powers provided by the budget repair legislation.

Under Gov. Scott Walker's controversial legislation, bargaining units for teachers are still able to negotiate base wages, but cannot negotiate other areas, including certain funds allocated for teacher performance. The bill now gives more authority to district leaders to make changes in working conditions, hours and compensation systems for teachers and staff.

Cedarburg School District in eastern Wisconsin is one of many schools making a move toward the merit-pay system for teachers. The district's superintendent, Daryl Herrick, said the new criteria for pay would be based on a new evaluation model.

"There would be teachers in three-year cycles," Herrick said. "There will be varied activities in the cycles where both the evaluator and the teacher provide direct observations to indicate their performance levels. We'll also have a goal-setting process in order to determine performance."

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You'd think this city would back Madison Prep plan

Chris Rickert:

Appearances suggest Madisonians would be sympathetic to Madison Preparatory Academy.

Here is a citizenry known for its progressivism, inclusiveness and embrace of the disenfranchised.

And here is a five-year educational experiment aimed at helping students of darker skin and lesser means who are sometimes only a couple of years removed from failing schools in Chicago and Milwaukee.

I guess appearances can be deceiving.

On Monday, the Madison School Board is likely to go along with district administrators' recommendation to vote down a five-year charter for Madison Prep, a project of the Urban League of Greater Madison that would aim to improve the performance and life prospects of students the district has so far failed to reach.

I suspect Madison Prep's future wouldn't be so dire if over the last year Madison's supposedly liberal power structure had been willing to take up its cause.

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

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Why I will vote against Madison Prep

Maya Cole:

My decision to vote against the Madison Prep proposal is very difficult. I pushed for the planning grant over a year ago when only one other School Board member would sponsor the proposal.

I raised many questions because of the complex scope of the Urban League's proposal for a charter school that aims to reduce the achievement gap between white and minority students. My concerns come down to this: Will this proposal be the best investment for the most students? Is this college-prep program the area of focus that would best serve the many struggling students in our district?

The fundamental conclusion I came to over the course of a year is that this proposal would put the district at risk legally and would challenge our district philosophy pertaining to special education students. Perhaps more importantly, the proposal constructs undue barriers such as mandatory information meetings, fundraising and parent contracts. These admission policies would have the effect of excluding students based on language background, prior academic performance, or parental self-selection.

My decision has nothing to do with defending the status quo or protecting the union. However, as a School Board member, parent and neighbor to many children in our district, I believe we have some of the most dedicated and knowledgeable staff in education today.

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

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December 13, 2011

Why public education finances in California are in bad shape

Matthew DeBord:

The bigger question here is whether bankruptcy would actually help any of these struggling districts. Debts could be restructured and bondholders paid off, but would the districts be in any better shape? It's not even clear to me that a higher level of state oversight would make a difference. The state might just know sooner that it has to find the money for a bailout. And with revenues falling everywhere, it would probably be impossible for the state to insist that all at-risk districts bulk-up their reserve funds.
Throwing up your hands probably isn't an option, however, when it comes to public education. But obviously in close to a fifth of the state's school districts, cost structures aren't able to cope with major budget shocks, at the state or local level. And remember, the state's population is growing -- it could hit 48 million by 2020. A well-educated workforce is something that California will urgently need to remain competitive in the 21st century. But in order to have that, the state is going to need to do something to stabilize the finances of its public education system. And before that...deal with the falling axe of the trigger cuts.

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NEA and the 2012 Elections

Mike Antonuci:

1) For NEA and Affiliates, It's Already 2012. Back in May, and again in July, there was a huge stink about NEA's decision to endorse President Obama for reelection a year earlier than usual. Despite the debate over what message the endorsement sent to the members and the White House, it was procedurally necessary, because the union could not devote money and resources to the Presidential campaign until after an endorsement - and these days waiting until July of an election year is simply too little, too late.

We now have some indications of what NEA has been doing with the additional time. To begin with, the union cleverly melded its organizing in support of Obama's latest edu-jobs legislation with organizing for Obama himself in 2012. Though the bill itself has little chance of passage, it does serve the purpose of emphasizing where the President and NEA align, rather than where they differ.

The union devoted the fall to identifying potential Obama activists from among its members in 16 states, presumably those NEA considers to be battleground states. They are: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Along with this recruiting, the union's PAC has a "Educators for Obama" web site where volunteers can sign up.

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The $19 billion question: Kalamazoo economist Tim Bartik offers 10 thoughts on reforming Michigan schools

Julie Mack:

Last week, I posted an item that asked readers for their suggestions on how to reform Michigan schools. It drew a good number of comments, and I'll be posting some of them later this week.

But today I'm offering offering more food for thought, in the form of a memo written by my good friend Tim Bartik, an economist for the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and a former school board president for Kalamazoo Public Schools. Through his work as an economist and as a school board member, Bartik is one of the best-informed people around on best-practices in education and here's what he has to say:

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Monday Map: Annual Income Lost/Gained due to Interstate Migration as a Percentage of State Income

The Tax Foundation:

This week's map takes advantage of new migration data recently released by the IRS. It shows, for the year 2009, the net annual income of all migrants to and from each state to other states, as a percentage of that state's aggregate income. (Foreign migration is deliberately excluded.) At the top of the list is Montana, where migrants, in a single year, brought with them a net income totaling more than 1% of the state's entire annual income. At the bottom is Michigan, where migrants leaving the state took with them 0.43% of Michigan's entire annual income.

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December 12, 2011

Why I Am Voting Yes on Madison Prep

Lucy Mathiak:

The Urban League's proposal to create a Madison Preparatory charter school is, at its heart, a proposal about public education in our community. Although the discussions often boil down to overly simplistic assertions about whether one position or the other is supportive of or hostile toward public education, it is not that simple. What we are facing is a larger and more fundamental question about our values when it comes to the purpose of public education and who it is supposed to serve.

I am voting "yes" because I believe that strong public education for all is the foundation for a strong society. While our schools do a very good job with many students who are white and/or living above the poverty line, the same cannot be said for students of color and/or students living in poverty. The record is most dismal for African American students.

The Madison Prep proposal is born of over 40 years of advocacy for schools that engage and hold high academic expectations for African American and other students of color. That advocacy has produced minor changes in rhetoric without changes in culture, practice, or outcome. Yes, some African American students are succeeding. But for the overwhelming majority, there are two Madison public school systems. The one where the students have a great experience and go on to top colleges, and the one that graduates only 48% of African American males.

The individual stories are heartbreaking, but the numbers underscore that individual cases add up to data that is not in keeping with our self-image as a cutting edge modern community. We ALL play a role in the problem, and we ALL must be part creating a sound, systemic, solution to our failure to educate ALL of our public school students. In the meantime, the African American community cannot wait, and the Madison Prep proposal came from that urgent, dire, need.
Our track record with students and families of color is not improving and, in some cases, is going backward rather than forward as we create more plans and PR campaigns designed to dismiss concerns about academic equality as misunderstandings. To be sure, there are excellent principals, teachers, and staff who do make a difference every day; some African American students excel each year. But overall, when presented with opportunities to change and to find the academic potential in each student, the district has failed to act and has been allowed to do so by the complicit silence of board members and the community at large.

A few turning points from the past year alone:

  • The Urban League - not MMSD administration or the board - pointed out the dismal graduation rates for African American students (48% for males)
  • Less than 5% of African American students are college ready.
  • AVID/TOPs does a terrific job with underrepresented students IF they can get in. AVID/TOPs serves 134 (2.6%) of MMSD's 4,977 African American secondary students.
  • The number of African American students entering AVID/TOPs is lower this year after MMSD administration changed the criteria for participation away from the original focus on students of color, low income, and first generation college students.
  • Of almost 300 teachers hired in 2011-12, less than 10 are African American. There are fewer African American teachers in MMSD today than there were five years ago.
  • Over 50 African Americans applied for custodian positions since January 1, 2011. 1 was hired; close to 30 custodians were hired in that time.
  • 4K - which is presented as a means to address the achievement gap - is predominantly attended by students who are not African American or low-income.
  • In June, the board approved a Parent Engagement Coordinator to help the district improve its relations with African American families. That position remains unfilled. The district has engagement coordinators working with Hmong and Latino families.
The single most serious issue this year, however, came in May when MMSD administration was informed that we are a District Identified for Improvement (DIFI) due to test scores for African American students along with students from low income families and those with learning disabilities. This puts Madison on an elite list with Madison (Milwaukee?) and Racine. The superintendent mentioned DIFI status in passing to the board, and the WI State Journal reported on the possible sanctions without using the term DIFI.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with NCLB, DIFI status is a serious matter because of the ladder of increasing sanctions that come with poor performance. In an ideal world, the district would have articulated the improvement plan required by DPI over the summer for implementation on the first day of school. Such a plan would include clear action steps, goals, and timelines to improve African American achievement. Such a plan does not exist as of mid-December 2011, and in the most recent discussion it was asserted that the improvement plan is "just paper that doesn't mean much." I would argue that, to the African American community, such a plan would mean a great deal if it was sincerely formulated and implemented.
At the same time, we have been able to come up with task forces and reports - with goals and timelines - that are devoted to Talented and Gifted Programing, Direct Language Instruction, Fine Arts Programing, and Mathematics Education to name a few.

Under the circumstances, it is hard to see why the African American community would believe that the outcomes will improve if they are 'just patient' and 'work within the existing public school structures to make things better.' Perhaps more accurately, I cannot look people in the face and ask them to hope that we will do a better job if they just give up on the vision of a school structure that does what the MMSD has failed to do for the African American community since the advocacy began some 40 years ago.

Also posted at the Capital Times.

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Unions & the Future of Our Schools: A New York Conversation with Randi Weingarten 12/14/2011 7:30p.m. EST

The JCC in Manhattan via a kind Ted Bauer email:

Join us for an evening with one of the country's most notable figures in public education. Labor lawyer, former President of the United Teachers Federation and current President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten discusses the challenging terrain of our public education system.
334 amsterdam ave at 76th st, new york, ny 10023 | 646.505.4444

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Mary Burke to run for Madison School Board

Matthew DeFour:

Burke, who made headlines recently for pledging $2.5 million to Madison Preparatory Academy, a controversial charter school proposal, plans to run for the seat being vacated by Lucy Mathiak.

Burke also served as president of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County for nine years and along with the Burke Foundation has donated about $2.6 million to the AVID/TOPS program, which has shown promising results in improving achievement among low-income, minority students.

Burke emphasized closing the district's racial achievement gap as a motivation for her decision to run.

Several others have expressed interest in running for the seat, including Joan Eggert, a Madison schools parent and reading specialist in the McFarland School District, who issued an official announcement last week.

Others who said they are considering a run include parents Jill Jokela and Mark Stokosa. Tom Farley, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 against James Howard, said Monday he is no longer interested in running and Burke's entry in the race makes him confident in that decision.

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Another Letter to the Madison School District's Board of Education on Madison Prep

750K PDF - Kaleem Caire, via email

December 11, 2011

Mr. Ed Hughes
Board of Education
Madison Metropolitan School District 545 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53713
Dear Mr. Hughes:

This letter is intended to respond to your December 4, 2011 blog post regarding the Madison Preparatory Academy initiative. Specifically, this letter is intended to address what you referred as "a fairly half-hearted argument [advanced by the Urban League] that the state statute authorizing school districts to enter into contracts for non-instrumentality charter schools trumps or pre-empts any language in collective bargaining agreements that restricts school districts along these lines." Continuing on, you wrote the following:

I say the argument is half-hearted because no authority is cited in support and itjust isn't much ofan argument. School districts aren't required to authorize non-instrumentality charter schools, and so there is no conflict with state statutesfor a school district to, in effect, agree that it would not do so. Without that kind of a direct conflict, there is no basis for arguing that the CBA language is somehow pre-empted.
We respectfully disagree with your assessment. The intent of this letter is to provide you with the authority for this position and to more fully explain the nature of our concern regarding a contract provision that appears to be illegal in this situation and in direct conflict with public policy.

Background

As you are aware, the collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA") between MMSD and MTI Iprovides "that instructional duties where the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requires that such be performed by a certificated teacher, shall be performed only by 'teachers."' See Article I, Section B.3.a. In addition, "the term 'teacher' refers to anyone in the collective bargaining unit." See Article I, Section B.2. You have previously suggested that "all teachers in MMSD schools-- including non-instrumentality charter schools- must be members of the MTI bargaining unit." As we indicated in our December 3, 2011 correspondence to you, under a non-instrumentality charter, the school board may not be the employer of the charter school's staff. See§ 118.40(7)(a).
Under Wisconsin's charter school law, the MMSD School Board (the "Board") has the exclusive authority to determine whether a school is an instrumentality or not an instrumentality of the school district. See§ 118.40(7)(a). That decisio n is an important decision reserved to the Board alone. The effect of that decision drives whether teachers and staff must be, or cannot be, employees of the Board. The language of the CBA deprives the Board ofthe decision reserved to it under the statute and that language cannot be harmonized to give effect to both the statute and the CBA. Alternatively, the CBA language creates a situation whereby the Board may exercise its statutory authority to approve a non- instrumentality charter, but it must staff the school with school district employees, a result clearly prohibited under the statute. For reasons that will be explained below, in our view, the law trumps the CBA in either of these situations.

Analysis

Under Wisconsin law, "[a]labor contract may not violate the law." Glendale Professional Policeman's Ass'n v. City ofGlendale, 83 Wis. 2d 90, 102 (Wis. 1978). City ofGlendale addressed the tension that can arise between bargained for provisions in a collective bargaining agreement and statutory language. In City of Glendale, the City argued that a provision dealing with job promotions was unenforceable because it could not be harmonized with statutory language. Specifically, the agreement in question set forth parameters for promoting employees and stated in part that openings "shall be filled by the applicant with the greatest department seniority..." City of Glendale, 83 Wis. 2d at 94. Wisconsin law provided the following:

The chiefs shall appoint subordinates subject to approval by the board. Such appointments shall be made by promotion when this can be done with advantage, otherwise from an eligible list provided by examination and approval by the board and kept on file with the clerk.
Wis. Stat.§ 62.13(4)(a).

The City contended that "the contract term governing promotions is void and unenforceable because it is contrary to sec. 62.13(4)(a), Stats." City ofGlendale, 83 Wis. 2d at 98. Ultimately, the court ruled against the City based on the following rationale:

Although sec. 62.13(4)(a), Stats., requires all subordinates to be appointed by the chief with the approval of the board, it does not, at least expressly, prohibit the chief or the board from exercising the power of promotion of a qualified person according to a set of rules for selecting one among several qualified applicants.
The factual scenario in City ofGlendale differs significantly from the present situation. In City of Glendale, the terms of the agreement did not remove the ability of the chief, with the approval of the board, to make promotions. They could still carry out their statutory duties. The agreement language simply set forth parameters that had to be followed when making promotions. Accordingly, the discretion of the chief was limited, but not eliminated. In the present scenario, the discretion of the Board to decide whether a charter school should be an instrumentality or a non-instrumentality has been effectively eliminated by the CBA language.

There is nothing in the CBA that explicitly prohibits the Board from voting for a non-instrumentality charter school. This discretion clearly lies with the Board. Pursuant to state law, instrumentality charter schools are staffed by District teachers. However, non-instrumentality charter schools cannot be staffed by District teachers. See Wis. Stat.§ 118.40. Based on your recent comments, you have taken the position that the Board cannot vote for a non-instrumentality charter school because this would conflict with the work preservation clause of the CBA. Specifically, you wrote that "given the CBA complications, I don't see how the school board can authorize a non-instrumentality Madison Prep to open its doors next fall, and I say that as one who has come to be sympathetic to the proposal." While we appreciate your sympathy, what we would like is your support. Additionally, this position creates at least two direct conflicts with the law.

First, under Wisconsin law, "the school board of the school district in which a charter school is located shall determine whether or not the charter school is an instrumentality of the school district." Wis. Stat. § 118.40(7)(a) (emphasis added.) The Board is required to make this determination. If the Board is precluded from making this decision on December 19"' based on an agreement previously reached with MTI, the Board will be unable to comply with the law. Effectively, the instrumentality/non- instrumentality decision will have been made by the Board and MTI pursuant to the terms and conditions of the CBA. However, MTI has no authority to make this determination, which creates a direct conflict with the law. Furthermore, the Board will be unable to comply with its statutory obligation due to the CBA. Based on your stated concerns regarding the alleged inability to vote for a non-instrumentality charter school, it appears highly unlikely that the Board ever intentionally ceded this level ofauthority to MTI.

Second, if the Board chose to exercise its statutorily granted authority on December 19th and voted for a non-instrumentality charter school, this would not be a violation of the CBA. Nothing in the CBA explicitly prohibits the Board from voting for a non-instrumentality charter school. At that point, to the extent that MTI chose to challenge that decision, and remember that MTI would have to choose to grieve or litigate this issue, MTI would have to try to attack the law, not the decision made by the Board. Pursuant to the law, "[i] f the school board determines that the charter school is not an instrumentality of the school district, the school board may not employ any personnel for the charter school." Wis. Stat.§ 118.40(7)(a) (emphasis added). While it has been suggested that the Board could choose to avoid the legal impasse by voting down the non-instrumentality proposal, doing so would not cure this conflict. This is particularly true if some Board members were to vote against a non-instrumentality option solely based on the CBA. In such a case, the particular Board Member's obligation to make this decision is essentially blocked. Making a decision consistent with an illegal contract provision for the purposes of minimizing the conflict does not make the provision any less illegal. "A labor contract term whereby parties agree to violate the law is void." WERC v. Teamsters Local No. 563, 75 Wis. 2d 602, 612 (Wis. 1977) (citation omitted).

Conclusion
In Wisconsin, "a labor contract term that violates public policy or a statute is void as a matter of law." Board of Education v. WERC, 52 Wis. 2d 625, 635 (Wis. 1971). Wisconsin law demonstrates that there is a public policy that promotes the creation of charter schools. Within that public policy, there is an additional public policy that promotes case-by-case decision making by a school board regarding whether a charter school will be an instrumentality or a non-instrumentality. The work preservation clause in the CBA cannot be harmonized with these underlying public policies and should not stop the creation of Madison Preparatory Academy.

The Madison Prep initiative has put between a rock and a hard place. Instrumentality status lost support because of the costs associated with employing members of MTI. Yet, we are being told that non-instrumentality status will be in conflict with the CBA and therefore cannot be approved. As discussed above, the work preservation clause is irreconcilable with Wisconsin law, and would likely be found void by acourt of law.

Accordingly, I call on you, and the rest of the Board to vote for non- instrumentality status on December 19th. In the words of Langston Hughes, "a dream deferred is a dream denied." Too many children in this district have been denied for far too long. On behalf of Madison children, families and the Boards of the Urban League and Madison Prep, I respectfully request your support.

Respectfully,


Kaleem Caire
President & CEO

cc: Dan Nerad, Superintendent
Dylan Pauly, Legal Counsel
MMSD Board ofEducation Members
ULGMand Madison Prep Board Members and Staff
Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.

Related: Who Runs the Madison Schools?

Howard Blume: New teacher contract could shut down school choice program

As schools across California bemoan increasing class sizes, the Alliance Technology and Math Science High School has boosted class size -- on purpose -- to an astonishing 48. The students work at computers most of the school day.

Next door in an identical building containing a different school, digital imaging -- in the form of animation, short films and graphics -- is used for class projects in English, math and science.

At a third school on the same Glassell Park campus, long known as Taylor Yards, high-schoolers get hands-on experience with a working solar panel.

These schools and two others coexist at the Sotomayor Learning Academies, which opened this fall under a Los Angeles school district policy called Public School Choice. The 2009 initiative, the first of its kind in the nation, has allowed groups from inside and outside the Los Angeles Unified School District to compete for the right to run dozens of new or low-performing schools.

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

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The Problem Solvers

Steve Kolowich:

As a fledgling voice of reform in higher education, Salman Khan is an oddity. He cannot name any higher education accrediting agencies off the top of his head. He advocates for competency-based credentialing, but has never heard of Western Governors University. He is capable of talking on the phone for a full hour without using the word "disruptive" once. Until recently, he was an analyst for a hedge fund.

Here is what Khan does know: algebra, statistics, trigonometry, calculus, computer science, biology, chemistry, astronomy, physics, economics, and finance -- well enough, at least, to demonstrate the concepts via brief video tutorials on Khan Academy, his free learning website. What began in 2006 as an attempt to tutor his young cousin from afar has evolved into a 2,700-video library with millions of monthly visitors.

Many have lauded Khan's natural skill as a teacher. Khan's charmingly unpolished home recordings form the public face of the organization and provide a peg for media narratives about online learning and the YouTube-ification of the textbook in an era where the rising prices and demand for higher education has collided with the Internet's culture of free.

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NAEP comparisons show key points for Milwaukee Public Schools

Alan Borsuk:

What does the Hillsborough County, Fla., school district have that Milwaukee Public Schools doesn't? What about Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in North Carolina?

Much better overall scores in reading and math, for one thing. They were at the top of the list of 21 urban school districts in results released last week as part of the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP. Milwaukee was near the bottom.

But here's something else Hillsborough County - which is the Tampa school district - has: Among its 193,000 students, 57% are from low-income homes. For Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the percentage of low-income students among its 136,000 students is 52%.

For MPS, with 80,000-plus students, the low-income rate is 83%.

Each of the four urban districts that scored the best in fourth-grade reading had a low-income rate of 61% or less. Among the four with the worst results, MPS was the lowest with its 83% rate. Detroit, with the worst scores, was listed in the NAEP report at 87%, Cleveland at 100%, and Fresno, Calif., at 93%.

Two other things:

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Wisconsin's school funding gets squeezed by Medicaid, studies show

Jason Stein:

The budget signed by Gov. Scott Walker makes some of the biggest cuts in the nation to education even as it makes one of the largest spending increases in the country in health care for the poor, two new reports show.

At the same time, Wisconsin has avoided large tax increases and ranks more toward the middle of the pack when looking at cuts to schools over the past four years and what the overall education spending in the state is.

Together, the new reports highlight a trend in Wisconsin - the priorities of holding down taxes and paying for rapidly growing Medicaid health care programs are squeezing school funding.

"You're going to see everything else in the budget under stress as long as Medicaid is growing rapidly, at least more rapidly than tax revenues," said Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

Walker and Republican lawmakers closed a $3 billion budget gap over two years by relying on cuts to schools and local governments rather than tax increases. Democrats decried the cuts as harmful to students and local services, but the governor said he had protected those services by allowing local governments to find savings from union employees' benefits.

A survey this month by the nonpartisan National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers showed that the budget as passed by Walker and GOP lawmakers made the fifth-largest cuts to state funding for education in the nation at $409 million, with Wisconsin topped only by the much larger states of New York, California, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Related: Wisconsin's debt in the top 10 amongst US States.

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal canvasses officials on ideas to boost education

Ed Anderson:

Gov. Bobby Jindal continued his push for overhauling the state's public education system, asking a handful of lawmakers and some members of the state's chief school board for their input Friday. Jindal, who has targeted "education reform" as his chief agenda item for his second term, met with several veteran and rookie lawmakers and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members behind closed doors at the Governor's Mansion for 90 minutes to get their thoughts on potential programs and legislation.

"We are open to listening to people's ideas," Jindal told reporters after the meeting. "But we will not tolerate those who defend the status quo and (want to) keep doing what we have been doing and expect different results.

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December 11, 2011

Will The Madison School Board Madison Prep IB Charter School Vote Spill over to the 2012 Spring Elections, and More?

Matthew DeFour:

And no matter which way the Dec. 19 vote goes, there's no way to know now whether the school will be entirely effective.

"This is the most difficult decision I will ever make on the School Board," said Marj Passman, who plans to vote against the proposal. "It has the potential for polarizing our community, and that's the last thing I want to happen."

The vote comes more than a year after the charter was proposed and in the wake of a School District report outlining its opposition to Madison Prep. The school would violate the district's contract with its teachers and preclude sufficient oversight of the $17.5 million in district funds the school would receive over five years, the report said.

District opposition likely will lead the board to reject the proposal, said School Board president James Howard.

"I don't see how it can pass," said Howard. He and Lucy Mathiak are the only two board members who said they will vote to approve the school.

In interviews last week, Passman, Maya Cole and Ed Hughes said they expect to vote against the proposal. Arlene Silveira and Beth Moss declined to disclose how they plan to vote.

Urban League of Greater Madison president Kaleem Caire, the lead proponent of the charter, acknowledged he doesn't have the votes. But he's engaged in a full-court press to generate public support for the proposal.

"We have a moral obligation to do whatever it takes to support our children and special interest of adults should not come before that," Caire said last week.

Two School Board seats will be on the Spring, 2012 ballot. They are currently occupied by Lucy Mathiak, who is not running again and Arlene Silveira. I suspect the outcome of this vote will drive new candidates, and perhaps, even recalls.

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The Rot Festers: Another National Research Council Report on Testing

reviewed by Richard P. Phelps, via a kind email:

In research organizations that have been "captured" by vested interests, the scholars who receive the most attention, praise, and reward are not those who conduct the most accurate or highest quality research, but those who produce results that best advance the interests of the group. Those who produce results that do not advance the interests of the group may be shunned and ostracized, even if their work is well-done and accurate.

The prevailing view among the vested interests in education does not oppose all standardized testing; it opposes testing with consequences based on the results that is also "externally administered"--i.e., testing that can be used to make judgments of educators but is out of educators' direct control. The external entity may be a higher level of government, such as the state in the case of state graduation exams, or a non-governmental entity, such as the College Board or ACT in the case of college entrance exams.

One can easily spot the moment vested interests "captured" the National Research Council's Board on Testing and Assessment (BOTA). BOTA was headed in the 1980s by a scholar with little background or expertise in testing (Wise, 1998). Perhaps not knowing who to trust at first, she put her full faith, and that of the NRC, behind the anti-high-stakes testing point of view that had come to dominate graduate schools of education. Proof of that conversion came when the NRC accepted a challenge from the U.S. Department of Labor to evaluate the predictive validity of the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB) for use in unemployment centers throughout the country.

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An Exemplary Historian: An interview with Will Fitzhugh Publisher of The Concord Review

XIAO HUA:

What inspired you to start The Concord Review?

Diane Ravitch, an American historian of education, wrote a col- umn in The New York Times in 1985 about the ignorance of his- tory among 17-year-olds in the United States, based on a study of 7,000 students. As a history teacher myself at the time, I was interested to see that what concerned me was a national problem, and I began to think about these issues. It occurred to me that if I had one or two very good students writing his- tory papers for me and perhaps my colleagues had one or two, then in 20,000 United States high schools (and more overseas) there must be a large number of high school students doing exemplary history research papers. So in1987, I established The Concord Review to provide a journal for such good work in his- tory. I sent a four-page brochure calling for papers to every high school in the United States, 3,500 high schools in Canada, and 1,500 schools overseas. The papers started coming in, and in the fall of 1988, I was able to publish the first issue of The Concord Review. Since then, we have published 89 issues.

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Teach to the Test? Most of the problems with testing have one surprising source: cheating by school administrators and teachers.

Richard P. Phelps, via a kind email:

Every year, the education magazine Phi Delta Kappan hires the Gallup Organization to survey American opinion on the public schools. Though Gallup conducts the poll, education grandees selected by the editors of the Kappan write the questions. In 2007 the poll asked, "Will the current emphasis on standardized tests encourage teachers to 'teach to the tests,' that is, concentrate on teaching their students to pass the tests rather than teaching the subject, or don't you think it will have this effect?"

The key to the question, of course, is the "rather than"--the assumption by many critics that test preparation and good teaching are mutually exclusive. In their hands, "teach to the test" has become an epithet. The very existence of content standards linked to standardized tests, in this view, narrows the curriculum and restricts the creativity of teachers--which of course it does, in the sense that teachers in standards-based systems cannot organize their instructional time in any fashion they prefer.

A more subtle critique is that teaching to the test can be good or bad. If curricula are carefully developed by educators and the test is written with curricula in mind, then teaching to the test means teaching students the knowledge and skills we agree they ought to learn--exactly what our teachers are legally and ethically obligated to do.

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Differential validity of the SAT

Steve Hsu:

In an earlier comment thread someone asked whether Asian-American college performance is commensurate with their SAT scores. If A-A SAT scores are artificially elevated by cramming then one might expect it to under-predict college GPA. (On the other hand, if Asians are more conscientious and hard working overall, one might* expect both SAT scores and college GPA to be elevated relative to other groups.) This data from the College Board shows that the validity of SAT as a predictor of college GPA is about the same for whites and Asians.


*Regarding cramming, I have yet to see any data which shows that large groups of people can significantly elevate their SAT scores through preparation. Test prep companies will claim this is possible, but detailed studies by ETS suggest otherwise. In our U Oregon data set (covering all students at the university over a 5 year period) it is quite rare to see a change of 1 population SD between max and average score for individual students who take the SAT multiple times.

(Click for larger version. FYGPA = Freshman Year GPA.)

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The Student Aid 'Myth' Myth

Neal McCluskey:

There's a very disturbing tendency among academics -- though many people in policy fights do it -- to dodge substantive debate by declaring, basically, "the other side is full of garbage so just ignore them." You probably see it most glaringly about climate change -- no one credible disagrees with Al Gore! -- but I see it far too frequently regarding the possibility that government student aid, the bulk of which comes from Washington, is a significant factor behind college price inflation.

Today, we are treated to this lame dodge in a letter to the Washington Post from Terry Hartle, Senior Vice President at the American Council on Education, arguably the most powerful of Ivory Tower advocacy groups. He writes:

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The Sun Prairie School District's Debt Position: "Unpretty"

sp-eye:

Seeing that the district is quietly working towards presenting a plan to build yet another elementary school (to the tune of $18-22M), we felt it was long overdue to take a look at our debt picture. That is what people do before planning big purchase, right????

Pick up any newspaper or magazine and it won't be long before you see what folks all over the country are doing during this 3 year (and counting) downturn in the economy. They're paying down their debt and not creating new debt. Sounds like a solid plan...right? Nope, at least not in Sun Prairie. The FTT Committee will be reviewing APL population estimates this coming Monday, and that will be the first shot fired in a battle to build an 8th elementary school. APL estimates are ALWAYS a prelude to "time to build".

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Goodbye Textbooks, Hello iPad

David Worthington:

A technology shift is underway. The PC's promise to transform how learning happens in the classroom is being realized by Apple's iPad. Students and teachers in grade school through higher education are using the iPad to augment their lessons or to replace textbooks.

The iPad is especially helpful for students with special needs. Its simplified touch interface and accessibility features help these children learn more independently; aftermarket accessories assist in making the iPad more classroom-friendly.

In March, I wrote about how my mother learned how to use her iPad for basic stuff-like checking e-mail and browsing the Web-without ever having used a PC in her life. Students at all grade levels are finding it just as easy to use.

Jennifer Kohn's third grade class at Millstone Elementary School in Millstone, NJ, mastered the iPad with minimal training. For the most part, the students didn't need to be taught how to use their apps, Kohn says.

Technology's role in schools continues to be a worthwhile discussion topic.

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Education must be relevant

Tamiko Jordan-Obregon:

It is simply time to be honest. If you are sincerely concerned about the educational problems in Milwaukee and want to see real solutions implemented, then it is time to take a look at the truth. The desire to be politically correct for some and the reluctance to accept reality for others is what has delayed real progress in Milwaukee.

So, here it is point blank:

Wisconsin - not just Milwaukee - has a problem educating African-American youths.

According to the recent test scores reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the achievement gap continues to widen. In other words, white students continue to outperform minority students, especially African-Americans. In fact, Wisconsin has the largest white-black achievement gap in the nation and continues to be the only state with a gap well above the national average.

Basically, white students have an 86% high school graduation rate, while African-American students graduate at a rate of 49%. So, quality education is not difficult to find in Wisconsin, but for some reason African-American youths are not getting it.

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Getting freshmen on track: How local high schools prepare 9th-graders for college

JM Brown:

Flor Perez, a 1995 Santa Cruz High graduate, sits inside the library of her alma mater with her 15-year-old son Alex as the two plot his path to college.

As part of a preparedness course for ninth-graders and their families, the Perezes match high school course offerings with entry requirements for four-year universities. They want to make sure Alex knows the right classes to take now to get into college after earning his diploma.

Flor wished there had been a similar program when she was growing up. Now in her 30s and expecting her third child, she's majoring in health science and nursing at San Jose State University while raising Alex and his younger brother.

"We had to see a counselor and make our own appointment," she said of her time in high school. "This workshop actually includes the parents. It allows us to make sure our kids are on track."

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December 10, 2011

Madison Public Schools: A Dream Deferred, Opportunity Denied? Will the Madison Board of Education Hear the 40-year long cries of its Parents and Community, and Put Children and Learning before Labor and Adults?

Kaleem Caire, via email:

December 10, 2011

Dear Friends & Colleagues.

For the last 16 months, we have been on an arduous journey to develop a public school that would effectively address the educational needs of children who have under-performed or failed to succeed in Madison's public schools for at least the last 40 years. If you have followed the news stories, it's not hard to see how many mountains have been erected in our way during the process.

Some days, it has felt like we're desperately looking at our children standing dangerously close to the edge of a cliff, some already fallen over while others dangling by their thumbs waiting to be rescued; but before we can get close enough to save them, we have to walk across one million razor blades and through thousands of rose bushes with our bare feet. As we make our way to them and get closer, the razor blades get sharper and the rose bushes grow more dense.

Fortunately, our Board members and team at the Urban League and Madison Preparatory Academy, and the scores of supporters who've been plowing through the fields with us for the last year believe that our children's education, their emotional, social and personal development, and their futures are far more important than any pain we might endure.

Our proposal for Madison Prep has certainly touched a nerve in Madison. But why? When we launched our efforts on the steps of West High School on August 29, 2010, we thought Madison and its school officials would heartily embrace Madison Prep.We thought they would see the school as:

(1) a promising solution to the racial achievement gap that has persisted in our city for at least 40 years;

(2) a learning laboratory for teachers and administrators who admittedly need new strategies for addressing the growing rate of underachievement, poverty and parental disengagement in our schools, and

(3) a clear sign to communities of color and the broader Greater Madison community that it was prepared to do whatever it takes to help move children forward - children for whom failure has become too commonplace and tolerated in our capital city.

Initially, the majority of Board of Education members told us they liked the idea and at the time, had no problems with us establishing Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality - and therefore, non-union, public school. At the same time, all of them asked us for help and advice on how to eliminate the achievement gap, more effectively engage parents and stimulate parent involvement, and better serve children and families of color.

Then, over the next several months as the political climate and collective bargaining in the state changed and opponents to charter schools and Madison Prep ramped up their misinformation and personal attack campaign, the focus on Madison Prep got mired in these issues.

The concern of whether or not a single-gender school would be legal under state and federal law was raised. We answered that both with a legal briefing and by modifying our proposal to establish a common girls school now rather than two years from now.

The concern of budget was raised and how much the school would cost the school district. We answered that through a $2.5 million private gift to lower the per pupil request to the district and by modifying our budget proposal to ensure Madison Prep would be as close to cost-neutral as possible. The District Administration first said they would support the school if it didn't cost the District more than $5 million above what it initially said it could spend; Madison Prep will only cost them $2.7 million.

Board of Education members also asked in March 2011 if we would consider establishing Madison Prep as an instrumentality of MMSD, where all of the staff would be employed by the district and be members of the teacher's union. We decided to work towards doing this, so long as Madison Prep could retain autonomy of governance, management and budget. Significant progress was made until the last day of negotiations when MMSD's administration informed us that they would present a counter-budget to ours in their analysis of our proposal that factored in personnel costs for an existing school versus establishing a modest budget more common to new charter schools.

We expressed our disagreement with the administration and requested that they stick with our budget for teacher salaries, which was set using MMSD's teacher salary scale for a teacher with 7 years experience and a masters degree and bench-marked against several successful charter schools. Nevertheless, MMSD argued that they were going to use the average years of experience of teachers in the district, which is 14 years with a master's degree. This drove up the costs significantly, taking teacher salaries from $47,000 to $80,000 per year and benefits from $13,500 to $25,000 per year per teacher. The administration's budget plan therefore made starting Madison Prep as an instrumentality impossible.

To resolve the issue, the Urban League and Board of Madison Prep met in November to consider the options. In doing so, we consulted with every member of MMSD's Board of Education. We also talked with parents, stakeholders and other community members as well. It was then decided that we would pursue Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality of the school district because we simply believe that our children cannot and should not have to wait.

Now, Board of Education members are saying that Madison Prep should be implemented in "a more familiar, Madison Way", as a "private school", and that we should not have autonomy even though state laws and MMSD's own charter school policy expressly allow for non-instrumentality schools to exist. There are presently more than 20 such schools in Wisconsin.

What Next?

As the mountains keep growing, the goal posts keep moving, and the razor blades and rose bushes are replenished with each step we take, we are forced to ask the question: Why has this effort, which has been more inclusive, transparent and well-planned, been made so complicated? Why have the barriers been erected when our proposal is specifically focused on what Madison needs, a school designed to eliminate the achievement gap, increase parent engagement and prepare young people for college who might not otherwise get there? Why does liberal Madison, which prides itself on racial tolerance and opposition to bigotry, have such a difficult time empowering and including people of color, particularly African Americans?

As the member of a Black family that has been in Madison since 1908, I wonder aloud why there are fewer black-owned businesses in Madison today than there were 25 years ago? There are only two known black-owned businesses with 10 or more employees in Dane County. Two!

Why can I walk into 90 percent of businesses in Madison in 2011 and struggle to find Black professionals, managers and executives or look at the boards of local companies and not see anyone who looks like me?

How should we respond when Board of Education members tell us they can't vote for Madison Prep while knowing that they have no other solutions in place to address the issues our children face? How can they say they have the answers and develop plans for our children without consulting and including us in the process? How can they have 51 black applicants for teaching positions and hire only one, and then claim that they can't find any black people to apply for jobs? How can they say, "We need more conversations" about the education of our children when we've been talking for four decades?

I have to ask the question, as uncomfortable as it may be for some to hear, "Would we have to work this hard and endure so much resistance if just 48% of white children in Madison's public schools were graduating, only 1% of white high school seniors were academically ready for college, and nearly 50% of white males between the ages of 25-29 were incarcerated, on probation or under some form of court supervision?

Is this 2011 or 1960? Should the black community, which has been in Madison for more than 100 years, not expect more?

How will the Board of Education's vote on December 19th help our children move forward? How will their decision impact systemic reform and seed strategies that show promise in improving on the following?
Half of Black and Latino children are not completing high school. Just 59% of Black and 61% of Latino students graduated on-time in 2008-09. One year later, in 2009-10, the graduation rate declined to 48% of Black and 56% of Latino students compared to 89% of white students. We are going backwards, not forwards. (Source: MMSD 2010, 2011)
Black and Latino children are not ready for college. According to makers of the ACT college entrance exam, just 20% of Madison's 378 Black seniors and 37% of 191 Latino seniors in MMSD in 2009-10 completed the ACT. Only 7% of Black and 18% of Latino seniors completing test showed they had the knowledge and skills necessary to be "ready for college". Among all MMSD seniors (those completing and not completing the test), just 1% of Black and 7% of Latino seniors were college ready
Too few Black and Latino graduates are planning to go to college. Of the 159 Latino and 288 Black students that actually graduated and received their diplomas in 2009-10, just 28% of Black and 21% of Latino students planned to attend a four-year college compared to 53% of White students. While another 25% of Black and 33% of graduates planned to attend a two-year college or vocation program (compared to 17% of White students), almost half of all of all Black and Latino graduates had no plans for continuing their education beyond high school compared to 27% of White students. (Source: DPI 2011)
Half of Black males in their formative adult years are a part of the criminal justice system. Dane County has the highest incarceration rate among young Black men in the United States: 47% between the ages of 25-29 are incarcerated, on probation or under some form of court supervision. The incarceration phenomena starts early. In 2009-10, Black youth comprised 62% of all young people held in Wisconsin's correctional system. Of the 437 total inmates held, 89% were between the ages of 15-17. In Dane County, in which Madison is situated, 49% of 549 young people held in detention by the County in 2010 were Black males, 26% were white males, 12% were black females, 6% were white females and 6% were Latino males and the average age of young people detained was 15. Additionally, Black youth comprised 54% of all 888 young people referred to the Juvenile Court System. White students comprised 31% of all referrals and Latino comprised 6%.
More importantly, will the Board of Education demonstrate the type of courage it took our elders and ancestors to challenge and change laws and contracts that enabled Jim Crow, prohibited civil rights, fair employment and Women's right to vote, and made it hard for some groups to escape the permanence of America's underclass? We know this is not an easy vote, and we appreciate their struggle, but there is a difference between what is right and what is politically convenient.

Will the Board have the courage to look in the faces of Black and Latino families in the audience, who have been waiting for solutions for so long, and tell them with their vote that they must wait that much longer?

We hope our Board of Education members recognize and utilize the tremendous power they have to give our children a hand-up. We hope they hear the collective force and harmony of our pleas, engage with our pain and optimism, and do whatever it takes to ensure that the proposal we have put before them, which comes with exceptional input and widespread support, is approved on December 19, 2011.

Madison Prep is a solution we can learn from and will benefit the hundreds of young men and women who will eventually attend.

If not Madison Prep, then what? If not now, then when?

JOIN US

SCHOOL BOARD VOTE ON MADISON PREP

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 5:00pm
Madison Metropolitan School District
Doyle Administration Building Auditorium
545 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53703
Contact: Laura DeRoche Perez, Lderoche@ulgm.org
Phone: 608-729-1230
CLICK HERE TO RSVP: TELL US YOU'LL BE THERE

Write the School Board and Tell Them to "Say 'Yes', to Madison Prep!"

Madison Prep 2012!

Onward!

Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205
www.ulgm.org


OUR RESPONSE TO MMSD'S NEW CONCERNS

Autonomy: MMSD now says they are concerned that Madison Prep will not be accountable to the public for the education it provides students and the resources it receives. Yet, they don't specify what they mean by "accountability." We would like to know how accountability works in MMSD and how this is producing high achievement among the children it serves. Further, we would like to know why Madison Prep is being treated differently than the 30 early childhood centers that are participating in the district's 4 year old kindergarten program. They all operate similar to non-instrumentality schools, have their own governing boards, operate via a renewable contract, can hire their own teachers "at their discretion" and make their own policy decisions, and have little to no oversight by the MMSD Board of Education. All 30 do not employ union teachers. Accountability in the case of 4K sites is governed by "the contract." MMSD Board members should be aware that, as with their approval of Badger Rock Middle School, the contract is supposed to be developed "after" the concept is approved on December 19. In essence, this conversation is occurring to soon, if we keep with current district practices.

Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA): MMSD and Madison Teachers, Incorporated have rejected our attorney's reading of ACT 65, which could provide a path to approval of Madison Prep without violating the CBA. Also, MTI and MMSD could approve Madison Prep per state law and decide not to pursue litigation, if they so desired. There are still avenues to pursue here and we hope MMSD's Board of Education will consider all of them before making their final decision.

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

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On Campuses, the Income Gap Widens at the Top

Jack Stripling and Andrea Fuller:

The economic divide is not confined to Wall Street and Main Street.

Within the world of private higher education, there are a handful of college presidents who earn considerably more than professors on their campuses, or gobble up a notable share of their institutions' budgetary pie, a Chronicle analysis has found. There are also significant pay gaps among presidents, 36 of whom earned more than $1-million in 2009.

A typical private-college leader made 3.7 times as much as the average full professor on his or her campus in 2009, but six presidents reviewed by The Chronicle made more than 10 times as much as their faculty colleagues, according to national faculty-salary data and the most-recent available federal-tax filings. While most colleges spent less than $5 on presidential pay for every $1,000 of their budgets, 14 of the institutions The Chronicle reviewed spent two times that.

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The Year In Research On Market-Based Education Reform: 2011 Edition

Matthew Di Carlo:

If 2010 was the year of the bombshell in research in the three "major areas" of market-based education reform - charter schools, performance pay, and value-added in evaluations - then 2011 was the year of the slow, sustained march.

Last year, the landmark Race to the Top program was accompanied by a set of extremely consequential research reports, ranging from the policy-related importance of the first experimental study of teacher-level performance pay (the POINT program in Nashville) and the preliminary report of the $45 million Measures of Effective Teaching project, to the political controversy of the Los Angeles Times' release of teachers' scores from their commissioned analysis of Los Angeles testing data.

In 2011, on the other hand, as new schools opened and states and districts went about the hard work of designing and implementing new evaluations compensation systems, the research almost seemed to adapt to the situation. There were few (if any) "milestones," but rather a steady flow of papers and reports focused on the finer-grained details of actual policy.*

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Was Gingrich Right About Putting Kids to Work?

Andrew Rotherham:

Newt Gingrich has a penchant for saying provocative and often downright crazy things. When the former House Speaker gave a lecture at Harvard last month, calling child labor laws "truly stupid" and suggesting that low-income kids should be required to do some manual labor in their schools, it was a classic Gingrich proposal: over-the-top, totally tone-deaf, and way too broad in scope. But it also was not entirely wrong. Although his specifics are often bewildering, it's hard to deny that Gingrich has a knack for spotting trends in education.

In 1994, when Gingrich was the leader of House Republicans, he suggested a radical welfare reform: to break the cycle of poverty, take poor kids away from their unwed teen mothers and put them in state-run facilities. His orphanage idea was designed to free up single parents for job training while simultaneously instilling better work habits in their children. Not surprisingly, the proposal quickly died on Capitol Hill. But in the 17 years since then, hundreds of schools have sprung up across the country that are designed to get students to spend more time on school-related activities and less time exposed to adverse influences in their neighborhoods and, yes, sometimes in their homes. These schools also have clear nonacademic curricula that focus on behavior, self-management and life skills. The goal, as described by journalist David Whitman, the current speechwriter for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism, is to use school as an anti-poverty tool by deliberately fostering a strong work ethic in students.

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December 9, 2011

Madison School District Technology Acquisition Plan and iPad Learning Initiative



Bill Smojver, Director of Technical Services:

Madison Metropolitan School District was provided an award from the Microsoft Cy Pres settlement in the Fall of 2009. Since that time the district has utilized many of these funds to prorate projects across the district in order to free up budgeted funds and to provide for more flexibility. The plan and process for these funds liquidates the General Purpose portion of the Microsoft Cy Pres funds, provides an equitable allocation per pupil to each school, and is aimed at increasing the amount of technology within our schools.

The total allocation remaining from Cy Pres revenues totals $2,755,463.11, which was the target for the technology acquisition plan. Two things happened prior to allocating funds to schools: first was to hold back $442,000 for the future purchase of iPads for our schools (at $479 per iPad this equates to a 923 iPads), and second was to hold back $200,000 necessary for increased server capacity to deal with the increase in different types of technology.

The final step was to allocate the remaining funding ($2,113,463.11) out to the schools on a per pupil basis. This was calculated at $85.09 per pupil across all schools within the district.

I found the device distribution to be quite interesting. The iPad revolution is well underway. Technology's role in schools continues to be a worthwhile discussion topic.

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Madison Teachers, Inc. on The Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School

John Matthews, Executive Director of Madison Teachers, Inc., via email:

The Urban League proposes that Madison Prep be operated as a non-instrumentality of the Madison Metropolitan School District. The Urban League's proposal is unacceptable to Madison Teachers, because it would effectively eliminate supervision and accountability of the school to the Madison School Board regarding the expenditure of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, and because it would also violate long-standing terms and conditions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Madison Metropolitan School District and MTI.

The Urban League proposes to use District funds to hire non-District teaching staff at lower salaries and benefits than called for in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. It was recently stated in a meeting between representatives of Madison Prep, the School District and MTI that the Urban League plans to hire young African-American males and asks that MTI and the District enable them to pay the teachers they hire less than their counterparts, who are employed by the District. MTI cannot agree to enable that. We believe that such is discriminatory, based both on race and gender. The MTI/MMSD Contract calls for teachers to be compensated based upon their educational achievement and their years of service. MTI and MMSD agreed in the early 1970's that the District would not enable such undermining of employment standards. The costing of the Contract salary placement was explained by both Superintendent Nerad and John Matthews. Those explanations were ignored by the Urban League in their budgeting, causing a shortfall in the proposed operational budget, according to Superintendent Nerad.

It is also distasteful to MTI that the Urban League proposes to NOT ADDITIONALLY pay their proposed new hires for working a longer day and a longer school year. Most employees in the United States receive overtime pay when working longer hours. The Urban League proposes NO additional compensation for employees working longer hours, or for the 10 additional school days in their plan.

Finally, the Urban League is incorrect in asserting that MTI and the District could modify the MMSD/MTI Contract without triggering Act 10, Governor Walker's draconian attack on teachers and other public employees. The Contract would be destroyed if MTI and the District agreed to amend it. Such is caused by Walker's Law, Act 10. MTI is not willing to inflict the devastating effects of Act 10 on its members. The Urban League states that Walker's Act 65 would enable the Contract to be amended without the horrible impact cause by Act 10. That claim is unfounded and in error.

The Madison Prep proposal could easily be implemented if it followed the Charter Plan of Wright School, Nuestro Mundo, and Badger Rock School, all of which operate as instrumentalities of the District, under its supervision and the MMSD/MTI Collective Bargaining Agreement.

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

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MTI responds on Madison Prep

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy could easily open if it followed the same model as the district's other charter schools, Madison Teachers Inc. Executive Director John Matthews said in response to yesterday's Urban League press conference.

But the current proposal is "unacceptable" to Madison teachers because it would "effectively eliminate School Board oversight of the expenditure of millions of dollars in taxpayer money" and violate the district's contract with its union, Matthews said.

Matthews initially declined to comment on Madison Prep when I contacted him yesterday, but later responded in an e-mail.

In his response, Matthews criticized Madison Prep's plan to pay its teachers lower salaries and benefits than other district teachers, and not offer overtime for working longer days.

He also said the Urban League is incorrect in asserting that the current union contract can be modified without nullifying it under the state's new collective bargaining law.

Related: Some Madison Teachers & Some Community Members (*) on the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.

Related: student learning has become focused instead on adult employment - Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman.

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The US's Education Bubble

Doug Hornig and Alex Daley:

In the world of finance, there is always talk of bubbles - mortgage bubbles, tech stock bubbles, junk bond bubbles. But bubbles don't develop only in financial markets. In recent years, there's been another one quietly inflating, not capturing the attention of most observers.

It's an education bubble - just not the one of student debt that has graced the pages of the New York Times and so many other publications in recent months.

The problem is not that we are overeducating ourselves as many would have you believe. Rather, it's that we are spending a fortune to undereducate ourselves.

The United States has always been a very educated country. But it is becoming less and less so, especially in the areas that matter to our individual and collective economic futures. Our undereducation begins with a stubbornly high dropout rate among secondary education students. About a quarter of those who begin high school don't finish.

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The Federal Role in College Pricing

Persistently rising college tuitions, high spending per student, and mounting student debt burdens have re-emerged as key issues in Washington. Secretary Arne Duncan has called on college and university officials to show more urgency in keeping down their prices and spending, the House subcommittee on postsecondary education has held another hearing to wring its hands about college unaffordability, and President Obama has now summoned a select group of college presidents and higher education thought leaders to consider what can be done.

Federal efforts in the past have focused on shining a spotlight on institutions with the highest rates of tuition growth and exhorting college officials to do more to restrain their spending growth and rein in their price increases. Recent news stories indicate that these largely symbolic approaches will continue to dominate the debate as the focus seems to be on extolling the virtues of those schools or states that freeze or reduce their tuition levels, move to three-year degrees, measure learning outcomes, or find ways to use technology to lower their costs per student and hopefully their prices.

But these efforts are unlikely to yield satisfactory results, just as previous efforts have failed to slow cost and price growth or to reduce the amount students must borrow to pay for their education and related expenses. They will continue to fail unless the aim is to reshape the relationship between governments and institutions and the rules that determine how much students can and do borrow. Federal and state officials must recognize that the signals embedded in a number of policies have contributed to the past growth in costs, prices and student debt -- and then do something about it.

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Urban League's Caire rips school district over Madison Prep opposition

Matthew DeFour:

Supporters of a controversial, single-sex charter school Thursday blasted the Madison School District for its opposition to the proposal and said the teachers union is an impediment to improving student achievement.

At a news conference, the Urban League of Greater Madison's president, Kaleem Caire, also said the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy, which would target low-income, minority students, isn't dead and called on the School Board to put "learning before labor" when it votes Dec. 19 whether to approve the charter.

"Our children aren't there to be subjects of teachers and teachers unions," Caire said. "But the decisions that have been made in the Madison Metropolitan School District for a mighty long time have been determined by adults getting what they need first before kids."

Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews declined comment Thursday.

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

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Household incomes shrink while number living in poverty increases, census survey shows

Dan Simmons:

In Dane County, median household income dropped an inflation-adjusted $64,410 in 1999 to $58,661 in 2010. In Madison, median income dropped about 8 percent to $50,508.

In the county, the rate of people living in poverty jumped from 9.4 percent to 12.2 percent. In Madison, the percentage of people in poverty jumped to 18.7 from 15.

For those younger than 18, the rise was more dramatic in Dane County: 7.2 percent at the turn of the last decade, 11.9 percent in 2010. For those younger than 18, 17.1 percent in Madison live in poverty, up from 11.4 percent in 1999.

In Dane County, 6.5 percent of households surveyed in 2010 reported an income less than $11,000, half of the federal poverty line for a family of four, defined as extreme poverty. In Madison, 9.8 percent met that standard. Both outpaced the statewide average of 5.6 percent.

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December 8, 2011

Most school employees vote to recertify unions under bargaining law

Steven Verberg:

School employees approved state certification for about 85 percent of the unions seeking the limited collective bargaining rights allowed under Wisconsin's controversial new law governing public employees, officials said Thursday.

Members of 208 local bargaining units for teachers and school support staff voted by telephone over the last two weeks, according to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, which oversaw the elections.

In November, all six state employee unions that sought official status won recertification elections.

Elections for municipal employee unions are scheduled to take place early in 2012.

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Kaleem Caire Video on Madison Prep


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

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Urban League/Madison Prep to Address Madison School District Report on Charter School

Kaleem Caire, via email:

Fails to address core issues impacting racial achievement gap and middle class flight

WHAT: The Urban League of Greater Madison and the founding Board of Madison Preparatory Academy will share their response to the Madison Metropolitan School District Administration's recommendation that the Board of Education not Support Madison Prep, and will call for immediate and wider education reforms within the Madison Metropolitan School District to address the racial achievement gap and middle-class flight and crises.

WHEN: 12:00 pm, Thursday, December 8, 2011

WHERE: Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St., Suite 200, Madison, WI 53713

WHO: Kaleem Caire, Urban League President & CEO Urban League of Greater Madison Board of Directors Madison Preparatory Academy Board of Directors Community Leaders and Parents

For more information, contact Laura DeRoche Perez, Director of School Development, Urban League of Greater Madison, at lderoche@ulgm.org or 608-729-1235.

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

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

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Our Enemy, the Book

Fellow members of the Electronic Educational Entertainment Association. My remarks will be brief, as I realize you all have texts to read, messages to tweet, and you will of course want to take photos of those around you to post on your blog.


I only want to remind you that the book is our enemy. Every minute a student spends reading a book is time taken away from purchasing and using the software and hardware the sale of which we depend on for our livelihoods.


You should keep in mind the story C.S. Lewis told of Wormwood, the sales rep for his uncle Screwtape, a district manager Below, who was panicked when his target client joined a church. What was he to do? Did this mean a lost account? Screwtape reassured him with a story from his own early days. One of his accounts went into a library, and Screwtape was not worried, but then the client picked up a book and began reading. However, then he began to think! And, in an instant, the Enemy Above was at his elbow. But Screwtape did not panic--fortunately it was lunchtime, and he managed to get his prospect up and at the door of the library. There was traffic and busyiness, and the client thought to himself, "This is real life!" And Screwtape was able to close the account.


In the early days, Progressive Educators would sometimes say to students, in effect, "step away from those books and no one gets hurt!" because they wanted students to put down their books, go out, work for social justice, and otherwise take part in "real life" rather than get into those dangerous books and start thinking for themselves, for goodness' sake!


But now we have more effective means of keeping our children in school and at home away from those books. We have Grand Theft Auto and hundreds of other games for them to play at escaping all moral codes. We have smartphones, with which they can while away the hours and the days texting and talking about themselves with their friends.


We even have "educational software" and lots of gear, like video recorders, so that students can maintain their focus on themselves, and stay away from the risks posed by books, which could very possibly lead them to think about something besides themselves. And remember, people who read books and think about something besides themselves do not make good customers. And more than anything, we want and need good customers, young people who buy our hardware and software, and who can be encouraged to stay away from the books in libraries, which are not only free, for goodness's sake, but may even lead them to think. And that will be no help at all to our bottom line. Andrew Carnegie may have been a philanthropist, but by providing free libraries he did nothing to help us sell electronic entertainment products. We must never let down our guard or reduce our advertising. Just remember every young person reading a book is a lost customer! Verbum Sap.

-----------------------------

"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®
www.tcr.org/blog

Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 5:05 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Athletic Hours Sample

I recently received a history paper submitted by a high school Junior who was kind enough
to enumerate the hours he has spent on athletics in a recent year:

Football: 13 hours a week, 13 weeks per year. (169 hours)

Basketball: 12 hours a week, 15 weeks per year. (180 hours)

Lacrosse: 12 hours a week, 15 weeks per year. (180 hours)

Summer Lacrosse: 10 hours per week, 15 weeks per year. (150 hours)

This yields a total, by my calculations, of

169 + 180 + 180 hours = 529 hours + 150 in the summer, for a new total of 679 hours.

We are told that there is no time for high school students to write serious history research papers, which they need to do to prepare themselves for college academic requirements. It seems likely that this young man will be better prepared in athletics
than in academics.

If it were considered important for all students to read history books and to write a serious history research paper, 679 hours (84 eight-hour days) might just be enough for them to manage that.

This particular young man made the time on his own to write a 28-page history research paper with a bibliography and 107 endnotes and submit it to The Concord Review, but this was not his high school requirement.



===============

"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®
www.tcr.org/blog

Posted by Will Fitzhugh at 4:19 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Some Madison Teachers & Some Community Members (*) on the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School



200K PDF File, via a kind reader.

Madison Teacher's Inc. Twitter feed can be found here.

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

* Please see TJ Mertz's comment below. A link to the document was forwarded to me via a kind reader from Madison Teachers, Inc. Twitter Feed (a "retweet" of Karen Vieth's "tweet"). Note that I enjoyed visiting with Karen during several Madison School District strategic planning meetings.

A screenshot of the link:


The outcome of the Madison Prep "question" will surely reverberate for some time.

Finally, I suspect we'll see more teacher unions thinking different, as The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has done: Minneapolis teacher's union approved to authorize charter schools.

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Over student objections, regents raise undergraduate tuition 8 percent

Paul Takahashi:

Attention Nevada college students: Your tuition is going up again next year.

The Nevada System of Higher Education's Board of Regents on Friday approved an 8 percent tuition increase for undergraduate students statewide.

Regents and institutional leaders said the permanent tuition hike would help restore some of the multimillion-dollar budget cuts to higher education in recent years.

"States are disinvesting in higher education across the country," UNLV President Neal Smatresk said. "That's the direct cause of this...We're stuck between a rock and a hard place."

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The Problem Solvers

Steve Kolowich:

As a fledgling voice of reform in higher education, Salman Khan is an oddity. He cannot name any higher education accrediting agencies off the top of his head. He advocates for competency-based credentialing, but has never heard of Western Governors University. He is capable of talking on the phone for a full hour without using the word "disruptive" once. Until recently, he was an analyst for a hedge fund.

Here is what Khan does know: algebra, statistics, trigonometry, calculus, computer science, biology, chemistry, astronomy, physics, economics, and finance -- well enough, at least, to demonstrate the concepts via brief video tutorials on Khan Academy, his free learning website. What began in 2006 as an attempt to tutor his young cousin from afar has evolved into a 2,700-video library with millions of monthly visitors.

Many have lauded Khan's natural skill as a teacher. Khan's charmingly unpolished home recordings form the public face of the organization and provide a peg for media narratives about online learning and the YouTube-ification of the textbook in an era where the rising prices and demand for higher education has collided with the Internet's culture of free.

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Chicago Public Schools enters into compact agreement with Gates Foundation

Joel Hood:

Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday became the latest large urban district to sign a compact agreement with the education-reform powerhouse Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, pledging greater cooperation and collaboration between the city's charter and traditional neighborhood schools.

The agreement allows Chicago to compete for a piece of a $40 million grant from the Gates Foundation, aimed at building relationships between charters and neighborhood schools and allow for the sharing of innovative ideas.

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China Is Poised for an I.T. Golden Age

Kai-Fu Lee:

Chinese universities graduate more than 600,000 engineering students a year. China has consistently placed at or near the top of programming competitions. And while we have not seen China become a leader in information technology and computing, I expect that this will change in the coming decade.

Since the Internet revolution of the late 1990s, many successful companies have been built by taking American ideas and localizing them for China. These companies may have "copied" from the United States at first, but they acted swiftly, focused on their customers and developed their products, adding more and more local innovations.

For example, Tencent, one of China's three Internet juggernauts, started with an instant-messaging product named QQ, which was a replica of the same system on which Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger were based. But today, QQ has evolved to become a very different product -- a combination of instant messaging, social networking, universal ID and gaming center. QQ has built the world's largest online community (about 700 million active accounts), while its American counterparts continue to build instant messaging as loss leaders.

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Why Innovation Can't Fix America's Classrooms

Marc Tucker:

Most Atlantic readers know that, although the U.S. spends more per student on K-12 education than any other nation except Luxembourg, students in a growing number of nations outperform our own. But think about this: Among the consistent top performers are not only developed nations (Japan, Finland, Canada), but developing countries and mega-cities such as South Korea, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

Even if we find a way to educate our future work force to the same standards as this latter group -- and we are a very long way from that now -- wages in the United States will continue to decline unless we outperform those countries enough to justify our higher wages. That is a very tall order.

You would think that, being far behind our competitors, we would be looking hard at how they are managing to outperform us. But many policymakers, business leaders, educators and advocates are not interested. Instead, they are confidently barreling down a path of American exceptionalism, insisting that America is so different from these other nations that we are better off embracing unique, unproven solutions that our foreign competitors find bizarre.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:47 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The courage of Kaleem Caire

Dave Cieslewicz:

Kaleem Caire has only been back in Madison for less than two years, but he sure has grabbed our attention.

Caire didn't waste any time after coming home from a successful private sector career on the East Coast to be the new president for the Urban League of Greater Madison, starting to shake up the local establishment more or less immediately upon arrival. He has been pushing a bold proposal to attack the long-standing issue of minority underachievement in the Madison public schools. His idea for the Madison Preparatory Academy was vetted well in Nathan Comp's cover story for Isthmus last week.

For well over a year now, Caire has been shuttling between the district administration, Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) union leaders, school board members, parents, editorial boards and community meetings fighting for this idea.

In response to union and district administration concerns, he changed the proposal to make the school an "instrumentality" of the district, meaning it would be under school board control and be staffed by MTI member teachers. But that proposal came in at a cost for the district of $13 million over five years. Superintendent Dan Nerad, for whom I have a lot of respect, told the League that he couldn't support anything over $5 million.

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

Why School Choice Fails

Natalie Hopkinson:

IF you want to see the direction that education reform is taking the country, pay a visit to my leafy, majority-black neighborhood in Washington. While we have lived in the same house since our 11-year-old son was born, he's been assigned to three different elementary schools as one after the other has been shuttered. Now it's time for middle school, and there's been no neighborhood option available.

Meanwhile, across Rock Creek Park in a wealthy, majority-white community, there is a sparkling new neighborhood middle school, with rugby, fencing, an international baccalaureate curriculum and all the other amenities that make people pay top dollar to live there.

Such inequities are the perverse result of a "reform" process intended to bring choice and accountability to the school system. Instead, it has destroyed community-based education for working-class families, even as it has funneled resources toward a few better-off, exclusive, institutions.

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A Degree of Practical Wisdom: The Ratio of Educational Debt to Income as a Basic Measurement of Law School Graduates' Economic Viability

Jim Chen:

This article evaluates the economic viability of a student's decision to borrow money in order to attend law school. For individuals, firms, and entire nations, the ratio of debt to income serves as a measure of economic stability. The ease with which a student can carry and retire educational debt after graduation may be the simplest measure of educational return on investment.

Mortgage lenders evaluate prospective borrowers' debt-to-income ratios. The spread between the front-end and back-end ratios in mortgage lending provides a basis for extrapolating the maximum amount of educational debt that a student should incur. Any student whose debt service exceeds the maximum permissible spread between mortgage lenders' front-end and back-end ratios will not be able to buy a house on credit.

These measures of affordability suggest that the maximum educational back-end ratio (EBER) should fall in a range between 8 and 12 percent of monthly gross income. Four percent would be even better. Other metrics of economic viability in servicing educational debt suggest that the ratio of total educational debt to annual income (EDAI) should range from an ideal 0.5 to a marginal 1.5.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:02 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

December 7, 2011

Oregon to seek powerful 'chief education officer' to revamp preschool, public schools, colleges

Betsy Hammond:

Oregon plans to recruit and hire a new "chief education officer" who will have unprecedented power over education, including control of the chancellor of higher education, the next superintendent of Oregon's public schools and the state community college commissioner.

Gov. John Kitzhaber's new overarching education board, with control over preschool through universities, unanimously endorsed the general job description for that education officer Thursday.

Kitzhaber said he hopes to have the right person in the job by April.

The chosen leader will need the vision to help Oregon streamline, improve and connect all the education programs and institutions that serve or should serve learners from birth through college, he said. He or she will also have to be an education expert, plus be able to motivate those who work in the current system to embrace change. The political challenges will be huge.

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The Power of Education Data

Anne Hyslop:

If policymakers (see Brown, Jerry) still aren't convinced that education data matters, two reports released this week demonstrate that high quality, actionable information about schools and students is vital in efforts to improve education and student outcomes.

Bill summarized the important work of the Data Quality Campaign yesterday. More states than ever are collecting the information educators and policymakers need to make informed decisions about what's working and what isn't in schools. But just because the data can be collected, it doesn't mean that states' work is complete. Data for Action 2011 identifies four challenges - turf, trust, technical issues, and time - that continue to hinder states' efforts to utilize the full potential of their data (shameless plug: you should read my report, Data That Matters, for another set of 4 Ts that all states should follow to make their data user-friendly and actionable for school leaders).

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Where Schools Fall Short

The New York Times:

Millions of students attend abysmally weak school systems that leave them unprepared for college, even as more jobs require some higher education. The states have an obligation to help these students retool.

More than 35 percent of students need remediation when they reach college, according to the federal government. A study by the organization that administers the ACT, the college entrance exam, finds that only a quarter of the 1.6 million 2011 high school graduates who took the exam met college-readiness benchmarks in English, reading, math and science.

Some students need one or two remedial courses before they can enroll in credit-bearing college classes. Others need so much remedial work that they will exhaust state and federal student aid without ever getting a degree. This is especially troubling because many of these students have passed state exams that are supposed to certify them as ready for college.

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Washington, DC School District unveils first ranking of public charter schools

Bill Turque:

The District unveiled its first rankings of public charter schools Tuesday, part of a new rating system that offers parents a broader assessment of school progress than annual standardized test results.

The new performance evaluation shows how test scores of students have grown over the last year, relative to their academic peers across the city. Schools also are assessed against a series of leading indicators and "gateway" measurements that researchers regard as predictors of future educational success. They include third-grade DC CAS reading scores, eighth-grade math scores and 11th-grade PSAT results.

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Should the MPS Levy Solely Fund the Education of MPS Students?

Mike Ford:

John Gurda wrote this weekend on the Socialist roots of the Milwaukee Public School's (MPS) Department of Recreation and Community Services. The department offers sports programs, community education, and various other activities for the Milwaukee community. Gurda argues, and I agree, that Milwaukee Recreation is an asset to the city and its residents. The question I have is should it be part of MPS?

I do not question the ability of MPS to run the department, just the rationale for having a program not directly related to the education of MPS students housed in the school district. Maybe the task of providing recreational opportunities for residents of Milwaukee would be better placed at the City or County.

Perhaps more important, Milwaukee Recreation is funded through MPS; 4.4% of the 2011 MPS tax levy ($13.3 million) was for this department. This raises a broader question, should the MPS tax levy be used to raise funds for anything beyond educating MPS pupils?

In 2011, only about 80% ($244,262,102) of the MPS levy went towards regular district operations.

Related: Madison's Fund 80.

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

Let's get together on Madison Prep

Dave Zweifel:

The debate over whether the Madison School Board should give the final OK to the Madison Preparatory Academy is getting a bit nasty.

And that should not be.

While the passion on the part of the advocates for the school, led by the energetic Urban League CEO Kaleem Caire, is perfectly understandable given our schools' dismal record on minority achievement, so is the questioning from those who aren't convinced the prep idea will solve that problem.

Now, on the eve of a vote on that final approval, is not the time to point fingers and make accusations, but to come together and reasonably find ways to overcome the obstacles and reassure those who fret about giving up duly elected officials' oversight of the school and the impact it will have on the entire district's union contracts if not done correctly.

The union problem is not the fault of the union, but stems from Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature's action to dramatically change public employee collective bargaining in Wisconsin. If the union or the School Board makes concessions for Madison Prep, the collective bargaining agreement for the entire district, which is to expire in June 2013, could be negated.

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

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

Do Teachers Really Come From The "Bottom Third" Of College Graduates?

Matthew Di Carlo:

The conventional wisdom among many education commentators is that U.S. public school teachers "come from the bottom third" of their classes. Most recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took this talking point a step further, and asserted at a press conference last week that teachers are drawn from the bottom 20 percent of graduates.

All of this is supposed to imply that the U.S. has a serious problem with the "quality" of applicants to the profession.

Despite the ubiquity of the "bottom third" and similar arguments (which are sometimes phrased as massive generalizations, with no reference to actual proportions), it's unclear how many of those who offer them know what specifically they refer to (e.g., GPA, SAT/ACT, college rank, etc.). This is especially important since so many of these measurable characteristics are not associated with future test-based effectiveness in the classroom, while those that are are only modestly so.

Still, given how often it is used, as well as the fact that it is always useful to understand and examine the characteristics of the teacher labor supply, it's worth taking a quick look at where the "bottom third" claim comes from and what it might or might not mean.

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

Online Learning, Personalized

Somini Sengupta:

Jesse Roe, a ninth-grade math teacher at a charter school here called Summit, has a peephole into the brains of each of his 38 students.

He can see that a girl sitting against the wall is zipping through geometry exercises; that a boy with long curls over his eyes is stuck on a lesson on long equations; and that another boy in the front row is getting a handle on probability.

Each student's math journey shows up instantly on the laptop Mr. Roe carries as he wanders the room. He stops at each desk, cajoles, offers tips, reassures. For an hour, this crowded, dimly lighted classroom in the hardscrabble shadow of Silicon Valley hums with the sound of fingers clicking on keyboards, pencils scratching on paper and an occasional whoop when a student scores a streak of right answers.

The software program unleashed in this classroom is the brainchild of Salman Khan, an Ivy League-trained math whiz and the son of an immigrant single mother. Mr. Khan, 35, has become something of an online sensation with his Khan Academy math and science lessons on YouTube, which has attracted up to 3.5 million viewers a month.

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

December 6, 2011

Are Charter School Unions Worth the Bargain?

Mitch Price, via a kind Deb Britt email:

About 12 percent of all charter schools have bargaining agreements. Why do charter schools unionize? What is in these charter school contracts? Can they be considered innovative or models for union reform? And how do they compare to traditional district/union teacher contracts? Center on Reinventing Public Education legal analyst Mitch Price investigated those questions in his study of charter school collective bargaining agreements.

Price examined nine charter schools unionized either by management design or by teacher vote. For comparison, he examined traditional district contracts and analyzed data from non-unionized charter schools as well. He found that the new contracts can be crafted in ways that respect the unique missions and priorities of charter schools, provide teachers with basic protections, and maintain organizational flexibility. However, while these new contracts innovate in many ways, they could go much further given the opportunity to create contracts from scratch.

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

Seattle Cluster (Spectrum) Grouping Discussion

Chris Cronas, Principal, Wedgwood Elementary

Prior to the Thanksgiving break, we administered a survey asking for feedback from families about their knowledge and thoughts on the changes we are making to the curriculum delivery model at Wedgwood. Thank you to the 259 families who responded to the survey. We have 449 students currently enrolled at Wedgwood, 185 of whom are siblings. If respondents only completed one survey per family, as requested, our sample is quite accurate.

Overall, families want more information about what cluster grouping is. This was expressed in a variety of ways by families of general education, spectrum and special education students. I will attempt to clarify what it is here and how Wedgwood staff is using this information to move forward.

For those who do not know, cluster grouping is a method of grouping gifted students (gifted being identified as students who score in the 98th - 99th percentile on a cognitive ability test) into clusters of 6 students in one classroom that also include high achievers and above average students. The remaining students would be clustered so that the highest achieving students and lowest achieving students are not in the same classroom. With that as a guide, Wedgwood is developing plans to move from having self-contained spectrum classrooms to integrated classrooms using an interpretation of this model. We are already doing this in 1st grade, albeit more heterogeneously than what the research we based our 1st grade model on suggests.

Charlie Mas has more:
Are you confused about what Wedgwood is doing with their Spectrum program? Join the club. Everyone is confused about what Wedgwood is doing with their Spectrum program. The president of the confusion club appears to be the school's principal, Chris Cronas.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:08 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Proposed Teacher Evaluation Law May Appear on Massachusetts' November Ballot

Dan Ring:

In another issue, Sam Castaneda Holdren, a spokesman for Stand for Children, said the organization collected about 100,000 voter signatures for a ballot question that would codify into law new educator-evaluation regulations approved in June by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The new state regulations call for evaluating teachers and administrators partly by the scores of their students on the MCAS statewide tests, feedback from students and parents, by state and local observations in classrooms and other measures.

The ballot question would go beyond the state regulations in some respects, said Jason Williams, executive director of Stand for Children in Massachusetts. For example, the question would mandate that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education approve evaluation plans developed through bargaining with unions in school districts if those local plans differ from a state model that will eventually be developed. Right now, the department could only review those local plans, not reject them, Williams said

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

School Choice? A Question of Time and Money

Amy Stuart Wells:

In a New York Times op-ed article on Monday, Natalie Hopkinson writes that school choice in her neighborhood in Washington has destroyed community-based education for working-class families. With New York ranked No. 1 in the nation in giving parents and students choices, according to one study last week, Amy Stuart Wells, a parent of an eighth grader and a professor at Teachers College, has her own take on New York's system.

When my son's high school choice process began last spring, I already had a full-time job. I was not looking for a second one. But as the summer turned to fall, and the high school touring and test-taking kicked into full gear, I watched as many 8th grade parents (myself included) became increasingly bleary eyed and overwhelmed.

We sought each other's empathy and commented that orchestrating our children's school choices was like a full-time job -- a second one for many of us.

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

Still Another Madison Prep Update: After all this, Is a Non-Instrumentality Simply a Non-Starter?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

The Urban League's Madison Prep proposal continues to garner attention as we draw closer to the School Board's December 19 up-or-down vote on the proposal.

This weekend the news has been the school district administration's analysis of the Urban League's current proposal for a non-instrumentality charter school (i.e., one where the teachers and other school staff would be employees of the Urban League rather than the school district and the school would be free of most administrative oversight from the district).

The analysis recommends that the School Board reject the Madison Prep proposal, for two principal reasons.

The first is that, as a matter of policy, the administration is opposed to non-instrumentality charter schools because of the lack of day-to-day oversight of their operations. The second reason is that there does not seem to be a way the school district could enter into a contract for a non-instrumentality charter school without running afoul of our collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI).

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

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

Who wants to be a teacher?

Leon Young:

America now finds itself at an interesting crossroads. Over the next few years, it is estimated that this country will need one million new teachers, as more and more baby boomers begin to retire. (A baby boomer is a person who was born during the demographic Post-War II baby boom and who grew up during the period between 1946 and 1964.)

This impending shortfall of public educators is further exacerbated by the disturbing national trend that has severely undermined job security for many public-sector employees by restricting, or outright prohibiting workers from engaging in the collective bargaining process.

As we have seen, Wisconsin has become the embarrassing leader of the political attack now being orchestrated against the poor and working-class families in this country. But vilifying teachers is nothing new for the Badger State. Former Governor and now U.S. Senate hopeful, Tommy Thompson used teachers and its union (WEAC) as convenient political scapegoats back in the 1990s. He succeeded in making the case that state property taxes were so out of whack, solely as a result of the exorbitant salaries and benefits being afforded to teachers. Talk about pure political demagoguery!

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:06 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Study Tallies a District's Return on Investment: Payoff is $1.53 for every $1 invested

Christina A. Samuels:

How much is a good school system worth?

The Virginia Beach, Va., school district believes its own system is worth about $1.53 for every $1 spent from the 70,000-student district's operating fund.

Not content with making an argument that good schools have an economic value that is unmeasurable, the district asked a university economist to calculate just what it brings both to the city and the Hampton Roads region in southeastern Virginia.

The report generated for the district, the third-largest in the state, is more than an academic exercise for James G. Merrill, the Virginia Beach superintendent. The district is one of the few in the state that receive money from local taxpayers based on a revenue-sharing formula, which is currently under fire. As the city and the school district head into budget season, Mr. Merrill said he wanted to make an argument for school funding based on business principles.

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

December 5, 2011

What's the real graduation rate in our schools?

Ericka Mellon:

Roughly one-third of students in Harris County's public schools leave without a diploma, according to a new analysis from Children at Risk.

The Houston-based research and advocacy nonprofit calculated for the first time a decade of average graduation rates for Harris County. It also calculated graduation rates for all the public high schools with available data in Harris, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller counties for the ninth-grade class of 2004-05. The rate reflects students who graduated within six years.

As the graphic below shows, the percentage of students graduating high school has increased over the decade, but black and Hispanic students and those from low-income families graduate at much lower rates than their Anglo, Asian and more affluent classmates.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Dropping cursive isn't a capital idea

Jim Stingl:

There's a debate brewing - mostly via keyboards - about whether schools still need to teach cursive writing to classrooms of digitally wired kids.

I'd be a better defender of beautifully flowing handwriting if my own hadn't deteriorated over the years to a hybrid of cursive, printing, squiggles and shorthand. My wife nudges me out of the way every time we step up to sign a guest book. My lame defense is that I'm left-handed.

Still, I'm glad I learned cursive at Our Lady of Sorrows, my Catholic elementary school where every classroom came with a strip of capital and lowercase letters above the blackboard. Even if a person doesn't write that way very often - thank-you notes and postcards come to mind - it's nice to be able to decipher other people's hen-scratching.

Wisconsin is one of more than 40 states that don't require cursive in their core curriculum standards, though the state Department of Public Instruction doesn't have any data on schools or districts that have actually dropped it in favor of spending more time on other subjects. Cursive may indeed fade away, but who wants to jump first?

What's most important, said DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper, is learning the various types of writing - persuasive, storytelling, speeches and so forth - and not whether it's written, printed or typed.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:52 AM | Comments (1) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: