As readers know, one of my hobby horses is the need for early childhood education as the most cost-effective way to break the cycles of poverty in America. But the issue never gets much traction, and one reason is the perception that it's politically hopeless: Republicans would never go for such a program. My Sunday column tries to push back at the assumption that it's hopeless and notes that one of the leaders in providing pre-K in America is-not Massachusetts, not New York, not some other blue state, but reliably red Oklahoma. It's all the more surprising because Oklahoma spends less per pupil on education than almost any other state, and pays its teachers near the bottom. This is not a state that believes in lavish spending on schooling. Yet, quite remarkably, it provides universal high-quality pre-K, with a ratio of no more than 10 students per staff member, and all teachers have a college degree.
My own take is that even earlier interventions may get even more bang for the buck than pre-K for 4-year-olds, and sure enough Oklahoma also invests in those, including home visitation programs to coach parents on reading to toddlers and talking more to them. It also has some programs for kids 0 to 3 if they're from disadvantaged families. These are no silver bullet to defeat poverty-there isn't one-but there seems a recognition in Oklahoma that they work in improving school performance and life outcomes and reduce the risk that poverty will be transmitted from generation to generation. So if Oklahoma can do it, why not the rest of the country?
Bipartisan legislation is expected to be introduced this coming week in Congress to establish national support for pre-K programs, and polling shows the idea has broad support. It'll be an uphill struggle, but I'm hoping that Congress will, like Oklahoma, see that this isn't a social welfare program exactly, but an investment in our children and our future. Read the column and help spread the word about the need for this legislation!
The column: "Oklahoma! Where the Kids Learn Early"
"The aim is to break the cycle of poverty, which is about so much more than a lack of money."
Exposure to poverty in early childhood negatively affects brain development, but good-quality caregiving may help offset this effect, new research suggests. A longitudinal imaging study shows that young children exposed to poverty have smaller white and cortical gray matter as well as hippocampal and amygdala volumes, as measured during school age and early adolescence.
"These findings extend the substantial body of behavioral data demonstrating the deleterious effects of poverty on child developmental outcomes into the neurodevelopmental domain and are consistent with prior results," the investigators, with lead author Joan Luby, MD, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, write.
However, the investigators also found that the effects of poverty on hippocampal volume were influenced by caregiving and stressful life events.
The study was published online October 28 in JAMA Pediatrics.
Powerful Risk Factor
Poverty is one of the most powerful risk factors for poor developmental outcomes; a large body of research shows that children exposed to poverty have poorer cognitive outcomes and school performance and are at greater risk for antisocial behaviors and mental disorders. However, the researchers note, there are few neurobiological data in humans to inform the mechanism of these relationships.
"This represents a critical gap in the literature and an urgent national and global public health problem based on statistics that more than 1 in 5 children are now living below the poverty line in the United States alone," the authors write.
To examine the effects of poverty on childhood brain development and to understand what factors might mediate its negative impact, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine total white and cortical gray matter as well as hippocampal and amygdala volumes in 145 children aged 6 to 12 years who had been followed since preschool.
The researchers looked at caregiver support/hostility, measured observationally during the preschool period, and stressful life events, measured prospectively. The children underwent annual behavioral assessments for 3 to 6 years prior to MRI scanning and were annually assessed for 5 to 10 years following brain imaging. Household poverty was measured using the federal income-to-needs ratio.
The researchers found that poverty was associated with lower hippocampal volumes, but they also found that caregiving behaviors and stressful life events could fully mediate this negative effect.
"The finding that the effects of poverty on hippocampal development are mediated through caregiving and stressful life events further underscores the importance of high-quality early childhood caregiving, a task that can be achieved through parenting education and support, as well as through preschool programs that provide high-quality supplementary caregiving and safe haven to vulnerable young children," the investigators write.
In an accompanying editorial, Charles A. Nelson, PhD, Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in Massachusetts, notes that the findings show that early experience "weaves its way into the neural and biological infrastructure of the child in such a way as to impact development trajectories and outcomes."
"Exposure to early life adversity should be considered no less toxic than exposure to lead, alcohol or cocaine, and, as such it merits similar attention from health authorities," Dr. Nelson writes.
Motoko Rich (NYT)
Nearly two decades ago, a landmark study found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than those of less educated parents, giving them a distinct advantage in school and suggesting the need for increased investment in prekindergarten programs.
Now a follow-up study has found a language gap as early as 18 months, heightening the policy debate.
The new research by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, which was published in Developmental Science this year, showed that at 18 months children from wealthier homes could identify pictures of simple words they knew -- "dog" or "ball" -- much faster than children from low-income families. By age 2, the study found, affluent children had learned 30 percent more words in the intervening months than the children from low-income homes.
The new findings, although based on a small sample, reinforced the earlier research showing that because professional parents speak so much more to their children, the children hear 30 million more words by age 3 than children from low-income households, early literacy experts, preschool directors and pediatricians said. In the new study, the children of affluent households came from communities where the median income per capita was $69,000; the low-income children came from communities with a median income per capita of $23,900.
Since oral language and vocabulary are so connected to reading comprehension, the most disadvantaged children face increased challenges once they enter school and start learning to read.
"That gap just gets bigger and bigger," said Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, an advocate of early education for low-income children. "That gap is very real and very hard to undo."
Changes in our environment can actually transform the relation between our traits and the outside world.
We all notice that some people are smarter than others. You might naturally wonder how much these differences in intelligence depend on genes or upbringing. But that question, it turns out, is impossible to answer. That's because changes in our environment can actually transform the relationship among our traits, our upbringing and our genes.
The textbook illustration of this is a dreadful disease called PKU. Some babies have a genetic mutation that makes them unable to process an amino acid in their food, and it leads to severe mental retardation. For centuries, PKU was incurable. Genetics determined whether someone suffered from the syndrome, which gave them a low IQ. Then scientists discovered how PKU works. Now, we can immediately put babies with the mutation on a special diet. Whether a baby with PKU has a low IQ is now determined by the food they eat--by their environment.
We humans can figure out how our environment works and act to change it, as we did with PKU. So if you're trying to measure the relative influence of human nature and nurture, you have to consider not just the current environment but also all the possible environments that we can create. This doesn't just apply to obscure diseases. In the latest issue of Psychological Science, Timothy C. Bates of the University of Edinburgh and colleagues report a study of the relationship among genes, SES (socio-economic status, or how rich and educated you are) and IQ. They used statistics to analyze the differences between identical twins, who share all DNA, and fraternal twins, who share only some.
When psychologists first started studying twins, they found identical twins much more likely to have similar IQs than fraternal ones. They concluded that IQ was highly "heritable"--that is, due to genetic differences. But those were all high SES twins. Erik Turkheimer of the University of Virginia and his colleagues discovered that the picture was very different for poor, low-SES twins. For these children, there was very little difference between identical and fraternal twins: IQ was hardly heritable at all. Differences in the environment, like whether you lucked out with a good teacher, seemed to be much more important.
In the new study, the Bates team found this was even true when those children grew up. IQ was much less heritable for people who had grown up poor. This might seem paradoxical: After all, your DNA stays the same no matter how you are raised. The explanation is that IQ is influenced by education. Historically, absolute IQ scores have risen substantially as we've changed our environment so that more people go to school longer.
Richer children have similarly good educational opportunities, so genetic differences among them become more apparent. And since richer children have more educational choice, they (or their parents) can choose environments that accentuate and amplify their particular skills. A child who has genetic abilities that make her just slightly better at math may be more likely to take a math class, so she becomes even better at math.
But for poor children, haphazard differences in educational opportunity swamp genetic differences. Ending up in a terrible school or one a bit better can make a big difference. And poor children have fewer opportunities to tailor their education to their particular strengths. How your genes shape your intelligence depends on whether you live in a world with no schooling at all, a world where you need good luck to get a good education or a world with rich educational possibilities. If we could change the world for the PKU babies, we can change it for the next generation of poor children, too.
About a third of kindergartners in Madison schools miss 10 or more days of classes. And a fifth are "chronically absent," meaning they miss 18 or more days, which is at least 10 percent of the school year.
Attendance improves by fifth grade and into middle school, then falls when students reach high school.
That's why the United Way of Dane County this fall plans to emphasize in new ways the need for young parents to establish strong habits for children going to school every day (barring illness).
The effort -- dubbed "Here!" -- will stress the correlation between good attendance and academic success. It will include promotional materials at schools, follow-up calls to parents and encouragement from community leaders such as church pastors who will include the message in their sermons.
"We shouldn't be surprised that the (high school) graduation rate is about the same as the attendance rate," said Deedra Atkinson, the United Way's senior vice president of community impact and marketing.
The nonprofit, as it launches its annual fundraiser today, also is committing more attention and resources to helping high school dropouts earn diplomas and find work.
The United Way does so much good work for our community that it deserves your financial support and time. The public is welcome at today's lunch and launch of the United Way's annual Days of Caring. So far, the number of volunteers is up about 400 people from last year, to 3,500.
The group's annual fundraising goal is $18.1 million, up 3 percent from last year's total collected, said campaign chairman Doug Nelson, regional president of BMO Harris Bank.
The United Way of Dane County will host its annual Days of Caring this week, starting today with a lunch and campaign kickoff at Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The public is welcome. To donate to the nonprofit's fundraising effort go to www.unitedwaydanecounty.org or call 608-246-4350. To volunteer, visit www.volunteeryourtime.org or call 608-246-4357. Donate your time; donate your money.
Please help if you can.
I AM a proud member of a small, emerging class of minority women with careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- the STEM fields for short. As a professor at Yale University and a scientist in the field of tissue engineering, or regenerative medicine, I'm often asked how I got to where I am. I usually respond with stories of my early interest in problem-solving and puzzles.
But if I really reflect on how I, a Latina from Las Vegas, was able to become a scientist at an elite university, it wasn't my own curiosity. It was the influence of a blackjack dealer who also happens to be my mother.
My mother may not know the ins and outs of academia, but she taught me the essential ingredients needed to make it as a scientist in a white, male-dominated field.
A blackjack dealer works for tips. As you can imagine, a stodgy personality will not do well in a profession where you have to entertain a diverse clientele. My mother can interact with wealthy families from faraway continents as capably as she does with the locals.
As a professor and researcher, I interact with students and colleagues from all over the world, and I must communicate with each of them in an intellectual yet relatable manner. If I fail to do so, the far-reaching implications of my work are lost on the audience.
My mother's most powerful weapon is her sense of humor. Her smile draws customers to the table, and once they are there she can gently tease a shy person into conversation or draw guffaws from an abrasive personality with a crude joke.
Likewise, whether dealing with an egotistic colleague or an insecure or disengaged student, the ability to find common ground and laugh together is the closest thing that we in academia have to a magic bullet.
My students can easily become bored or distracted when I discuss the chemistry behind metal oxidation. However, when I relate the science to descriptions of "bling-blinging rims" on car wheels, I am guaranteed a look of shock, an outburst of laughter and enough attention to relate the basics of the oxidative process. These kinds of interactions have led to the most professionally and personally rewarding experiences I've had as a professor.
My mother never gave up. She raised my brother and me on her own. I cannot recall a time in my life when she did not work. As a single mother, she provided the only source of income to our small family. I know there were days that she wanted to walk out of the casino and never return. Anyone who has worked in the service industry for over 30 years, as she has, knows the feeling. But an overriding sense of responsibility stopped my mom from doing so. I recall asking her, after she had spent a long night bent over the blackjack table, "How do you deal with all of those personalities every day?"
"What choice do we have?" she answered, referring to our family.
Even though I love my work, there are days when I want to run out of the lab or classroom, too. While not every day at work is the best, I stay for the "we," just like my mom. I've made a commitment to myself, my employers, my students, my own family, and anyone else who relies on my accomplishments. I don't have the choice to give up because I'm not really an "I" after all.
My mother was the first innovator I knew. Considered by her friends and family to be a creative genius, she can sew, crochet, paint, cook, sculpture, and do woodworking and metalworking. As fashion trends came and went, it was impractical for my mother to purchase name-brand designer clothes that I would outgrow within a season. She made me some harem pants that would have made MC Hammer jealous!
THE ingenuity and imagination behind this talent have become extremely valuable in my approach to engineering tissues and biomedical tools. In a field where inventiveness and innovation are keys to success, reallocating existing technologies and developing highly effective, yet low-cost, solutions to biomedical problems is what I have come to do best. It's a little embarrassing now to think back on those harem pants, but I'll never regret witnessing my mom's ingenuity growing up.
Though she is not college educated and has been a blue-collar worker all of her life, my mom provided a model for much of my professional development. What are the odds?
This piece brings to mind Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's memoir, My Beloved World.
Here's a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.
Whether you think it deeply unjust, lamentable but inevitable, or obvious and unproblematic, this is hardly news. It is true in most societies and has been true in the United States for at least as long as we have thought to ask the question and had sufficient data to verify the answer.
What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.
One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.
To make this trend concrete, consider two children, one from a family with income of $165,000 and one from a family with income of $15,000. These incomes are at the 90th and 10th percentiles of the income distribution nationally, meaning that 10 percent of children today grow up in families with incomes below $15,000 and 10 percent grow up in families with incomes above $165,000.
In the 1980s, on an 800-point SAT-type test scale, the average difference in test scores between two such children would have been about 90 points; today it is 125 points. This is almost twice as large as the 70-point test score gap between white and black children. Family income is now a better predictor of children's success in school than race.
In San Francisco this week, more than 14,000 educators and education scholars have gathered for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The theme this year is familiar: Can schools provide children a way out of poverty?
If not the usual suspects, what's going on? It boils down to this: The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school.
But we need to do much more than expand and improve preschool and child care. There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and "improving teacher quality," but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children's earliest environments may be even more important. Let's invest in parents so they can better invest in their children.
Tina Rosenberg, NYT
By the time a poor child is 1 year old, she has most likely already fallen behind middle-class children in her ability to talk, understand and learn. The gap between poor children and wealthier ones widens each year, and by high school it has become a chasm. American attempts to close this gap in schools have largely failed, and a consensus is starting to build that these attempts must start long before school -- before preschool, perhaps even before birth.
There is no consensus, however, about what form these attempts should take, because there is no consensus about the problem itself. What is it about poverty that limits a child's ability to learn? Researchers have answered the question in different ways: Is it exposure to lead? Character issues like a lack of self-control or failure to think of future consequences? The effects of high levels of stress hormones? The lack of a culture of reading?
Another idea, however, is creeping into the policy debate: that the key to early learning is talking -- specifically, a child's exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better. It turns out, evidence is showing, that the much-ridiculed stream of parent-to-child baby talk -- Feel Teddy's nose! It's so soft! Cars make noise -- look, there's a yellow one! Baby feels hungry? Now Mommy is opening the refrigerator! -- is very, very important. (So put those smartphones away!)
The idea has been successfully put into practice a few times on a small scale, but it is about to get its first large-scale test, in Providence, R.I., which last month won the $5 million grand prize in Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge, beating 300 other cities for best new idea. In Providence, only one in three children enter school ready for kindergarten reading. The city already has a network of successful programs in which nurses, mentors, therapists and social workers regularly visit pregnant women, new parents and children in their homes, providing medical attention and advice, therapy, counseling and other services. Now Providence will train these home visitors to add a new service: creating family conversation.
The Providence Talks program will be based on research by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley at the University of Kansas, who in 1995 published a book, "Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children." (see here for a summary.) Hart and Risley were studying how parents of different socioeconomic backgrounds talked to their babies. Every month, the researchers visited the 42 families in the study and recorded an hour of parent-child interaction. They were looking for things like how much parents praised their children, what they talked about, whether the conversational tone was positive or negative. Then they waited till the children were 9, and examined how they were doing in school. In the meantime, they transcribed and analyzed every word on the tapes -- a process that took six years. "It wasn't until we'd collected our data that we realized that the important variable was how much talking the parents were doing," Risley told an interviewer later.
This is important stuff. Read the entire article here.
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
Educators and researchers have long recognized the importance of mastering reading by the end of third grade. Students who fail to reach this critical milestone often falter in the later grades and drop out before earning a high school diploma. Now, researchers have confirmed this link in the first national study to calculate high school graduation rates for children at different reading skill levels and with different poverty rates. Results of a longitudinal study of nearly 4,000 students find that those who don't read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers. For the worst readers, those who couldn't master even the basic skills by third grade, the rate is nearly six times greater. While these struggling readers account for about a third of the students, they represent more than three fifths of those who eventually drop out or fail to graduate on time. What's more, the study shows that poverty has a powerful influence on graduation rates. The combined effect of reading poorly and living in poverty puts these children in double jeopardy.
The study relies on a unique national database of 3,975 students born between 1979 and 1989. The children's parents were surveyed every two years to determine the family's eco- nomic status and other factors, while the children's reading progress was tracked using the Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT) Reading Recognition subtest. The database re- ports whether students have finished high school by age 19, but does not indicate whether they actually dropped out.
For purposes of this study, the researchers divided the children into three reading groups which correspond roughly to the skill levels used in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP): proficient, basic and below basic. The children were also separated into three income categories: those who have never been poor, those who spent some time in poverty and those who have lived more than half the years surveyed in poverty.
The findings include:
-- One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.
-- The rates are highest for the low, below-basic readers: 23 percent of these children drop out or fail to finish high school on time, compared to 9 percent of children with basic reading skills and 4 percent of proficient readers.
-- Overall, 22 percent of children who have lived in poverty do not graduate from high school, compared to 6 percent of those who have never been poor. This rises to 32 percent for students spending more than half of their childhood in poverty.
-- For children who were poor for at least a year and were not reading proficiently in third grade, the proportion that don't finish school rose to 26 percent. That's more than six times the rate for all proficient readers.
-- The rate was highest for poor Black and Hispanic students, at 31 and 33 percent respectively--or about eight times the rate for all proficient readers.
-- Even among poor children who were proficient readers in third grade, 11 percent still didn't finish high school. That compares to 9 percent of subpar third grade readers who have never been poor.
-- Among children who never lived in poverty, all but 2 percent of the best third- grade readers graduated from high school on time.
-- Graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students who were not proficient readers in third grade lagged far behind those for White students with the same reading skills.
Alan Schwarz and Sarah Cohen
Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These rates reflect a marked rise over the last decade and could fuel growing concern among many doctors that the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and its medication are overused in American children.
The figures showed that an estimated 6.4 million children ages 4 through 17 had received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis at some point in their lives, a 16 percent increase since 2007 and a 41 percent rise in the past decade. About two-thirds of those with a current diagnosis receive prescriptions for stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, which can drastically improve the lives of those with A.D.H.D. but can also lead to addiction, anxiety and occasionally psychosis.
"Those are astronomical numbers. I'm floored," said Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist in New Haven and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. He added, "Mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy."
Read more here.
A thoughtful (and personal) commentary here.
PROVIDENCE, R. I. -- Bloomberg Philanthropies has chosen Providence as the top winner of its Mayor Challenge.
The $5 million prize will be used to implement Mayor Angel Taveras' initiative, Providence Talks, to increase the vocabulary of young students living in low-income homes before their fourth birthday. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg previously said the challenge was launched in the fall of 2012 to inspire innovation in local government, and spread the very best ideas. Three hundred and five cities competed, and Providence was awarded the top prize because it had "the best potential to take root and spread," read challenge rules. The initiative coincides with the mayor's goal to increase reading proficiency to 70 percent for entering fourth graders by 2015. In Providence, less than half of the district's fourth-grade students scored at or above proficiency on the state reading assessment in 2011.
This initiative is based on the research done by Hart and Risley, as described in their book "Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Life of Young American Children."
THIS is America's college town par excellence. Kids from all over the world flock to Boston to learn. I have a son who is a freshman here. Last autumn, as he entered school, I listened to warnings about the dangers of binge drinking. I think they missed the point. The real epidemic involves so-called smart drugs, particularly Adderall, an amphetamine prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (A.D.H.D.) but so freely available as to be the pill to take whenever academic pressure requires pulling an all-nighter with zero procrastination to get a paper done.
"Just popped an Addie, so I'm good to go" -- this sort of pretest attitude has become pervasive. Conversations with several students suggested Adderall was always available, costing from $2 to $5 a pill. Adderall has become to college what steroids are to baseball: an illicit performance enhancer for a fiercely competitive environment. What to say to doctors to get a prescription is now so widely known among students -- "It's like my thoughts are channel-surfing and I can't stop" -- as to have become a kind of joke.
"If there are no A.D.H.D. symptoms prior to college I have a very hard time writing a prescription," Jill Kasper, a pediatrician, told me. "But if somebody wants a prescription for Adderall, they can find someone to give it to them." The problem is that Adderall is dangerous, a Class 2 controlled substance like cocaine. While it has helped countless A.D.H.D. sufferers, it can also lead down a dark road of dependency, ever higher doses, fight-or-flight anxiety levels, sleeplessness and depression.
Here, in his own words, is the Adderall story of Steven Roderick, 24, a smart, soft-spoken, lost senior studying health science at the University of Massachusetts Boston:
I started taking it my first year in college. My performance had always fluctuated a lot. It was hard to pay attention, even in classes I was interested in. I was getting D's. I felt something had to change. Adderall flies around campus. The first time I took it I wrote a paper for an astronomy class that was out of this world. I could not believe it -- I was so inspired it made me want to be a doctor! I thought -- oh my God! -- this is the whole problem. You have the ability. You are intelligent. You just don't have the link between intelligence and the capacity to be productive. The pill is the link. I felt literally unstoppable.
I went to the doctor, said I'd like to give Adderall a try. There were no diagnostic procedures. Doctors give in too easily. I did not think there could be a risk later on. I started on 20 milligrams. I went from D's and F's to straight A's. But your brain adapts, you have to increase the dose, and by 2011 I was up to 45 milligrams. In the spring of that year I started to feel Adderall was my best friend and my worst enemy at the same time. Because I could not sleep I went to see my psychopharm, and she prescribed me Ativan to sleep. That worked O.K. for a while. But I really ran into trouble last year. I was up to 65 milligrams, and then during finals went to 80, even 120, milligrams, and I was just locked into this Adderall-Ativan cycle. My doctor seemed scatterbrained. She'd prescribe something but not follow up.
It's a complicated dependency. I mean I never took Adderall to get high, never took it in a way that was not academically oriented; and I think there's a distinction between dependency and addiction, taking something for a purpose or for a rush. But I feel awful. My baseline anxiety level would be most people's highest anxiety level. The drop of a pin makes me spin around. I am living at home. My parents are clueless, and it is hard to discuss with them, although my Mom helps me now. I alternate between 'on' and 'off' states -- I come off the Adderall, take Ativan and sleep for days. I miss appointments. I know I need to go to the appointments, but I wonder if I will be functional enough.
Adderall suddenly turned its back on me. It enabled me to focus, got me to a higher place academically. But then I could no longer rely on it. I was on my own. And although I have less than three credits to go, I may have to withdraw from school because I have not been able to make it to enough classes. "Look, I am in a culture that constantly justifies the means to an end. So how do we persuade people not to take it? All you hear is how impossible it will be to get a job when you get out, and you are going more and more into debt, and you think without this I won't be top of the class. With other drugs you know you are ruining your life. But Adderall manipulates you into thinking you are doing what is needed to have a great life.
So-called "Internet addiction" is associated with increased depression and even druglike withdrawal symptoms, new research suggests.
A study of 60 adults in the United Kingdom showed that those who were classified as high Internet users had a significantly greater decrease in positive mood after logging off their computers than the participants classified as low Internet users.
"Internet addiction was [also] associated with long-standing depression, impulsive nonconformity, and autism traits," report the investigators, adding that the latter is "a novel finding."
"We were actually expecting that people who used the net a lot would display enhanced moods after use -- reflecting the positive reinforcing properties of the net," coinvestigator Phil Reed, DPhil, professor and chair in the Department of Psychology at Swansea University in the United Kingdom, told Medscape Medical News.
"So the key finding of an immediate increased negative mood, the withdrawal effect, was something of a surprise. But the more we looked into the literature, the more it seemed to fit the notion of an addictive disorder," added Dr. Reed.
He noted that the main takeaway message for clinicians is that some people may experience disruptions to their lives from excessive Internet use -- and that this can affect both their psychological and physical health.
In addition, patients "may need help exploring the reasons for this excessive use and what functions it serves in their lives."
The study was published online February 7 in PLoS One.
The Daily Beast
Recently, the Huffington Post published an article titled "I am Adam Lanza's mother" by a woman named Liza Long. The article presents a picture of a 13-year-old boy who threatened his mother, sometimes going so far as to pull a knife on her, scream obscenities at her, and leap out of cars as they're driving down the highway.
The rest of the world has reacted to the idea of such a child with horror and incomprehension. I sympathize with the horror. I can only wish that I shared the incomprehension. I understand, intimately, how Liza Long's son feels. I was like him.
Like the author of that piece, Liza Long, my mother had no idea what to do about my sudden transformation (in my case, around 16) into a borderline homicidal maniac. Like her son, I used knives to try and make my threats of violence seem more real. Like her son, I would leap out of our car in the middle of the road just to get away from my mother, over the most trivial of offenses. Like her son, I screamed obscenities at my mother shortly after moments of relative peace. And worse than this poor woman's son, whose mindset toward his peers we can only guess, I will admit that I fantasized multiple times about taking ordnance to my classmates.
By the logic which leads Liza Long to say, "I am Adam Lanza's mother," I have to say: "I was Adam Lanza."
This is a very honest, generous, and thought-provoking piece ... and one from an important source.
Not long ago few doctors - not even pediatricians - concerned themselves much with nutrition. This has changed, and dramatically: As childhood obesity gains recognition as a true health crisis, more and more doctors are publicly expressing alarm at the impact the standard American diet is having on health.
"I never saw Type 2 diabetes during my training, 20 years ago," David Ludwig, a pediatrician, told me the other day, referring to what was once called "adult-onset" diabetes, the form that is often caused by obesity. "Never. Now about a quarter of the new diabetes cases we're seeing are Type 2."
Ludwig, who is director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center in Boston, is one of three authors, all medical doctors of an essay ("Viewpoint") in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association titled "Opportunities to Reduce Childhood Hunger and Obesity."
That title that would once have been impossible, but now it's merely paradoxical. Because the situation is this: 17 percent of children in the United States are obese, 16 percent are food-insecure (this means they have inconsistent access to food), and some number, which is impossible to nail down, are both. Seven times as many poor children are obese as those who are underweight, an indication that government aid in the form of food stamps, now officially called SNAP, does a good job of addressing hunger but encourages the consumption of unhealthy calories.
Given the role that nutrition plays -- from conception onward -- in brain development, learning, etc., clearly this is an achievement gap issue.
A new study of elementary and middle school students has found that those who are the youngest in their grades score worse on standardized tests than their older classmates and are more likely to be prescribed stimulants for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The findings suggest that in a given grade, students born at the end of the calendar year may be at a distinct disadvantage. Those perceived as having academic or behavioral problems may in fact be lagging simply as a result of being forced to compete with classmates almost a full year older than them. For a child as young as 5, a span of one year can account for 20 percent of the child's age, potentially making him or her appear significantly less mature than older classmates.
The new study found that the lower the grade, the greater the disparity. For children in the fourth grade, the researchers found that those in the youngest third of their class had an 80 to 90 percent increased risk of scoring in the lowest decile on standardized tests. They were also 50 percent more likely than the oldest third of their classmates to be prescribed stimulants for A.D.H.D. The differences diminished somewhat over time, the researchers found, but continued at least through the seventh grade.
The new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, used data from Iceland, where health and academic measures are tracked nationally and stimulant prescription rates are high and on par with rates in the United States. Previous studies carried out there and in other countries have shown similar patterns, even among college students.
Helga Zoega, the lead author of the study, said she had expected there would be performance differences between students in the youngest grades, but she did not know that the differences, including the disparity in stimulant prescribing rates, would continue over time.
"We were surprised to see that," said Dr. Zoega, a postdoctoral fellow at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and an assistant professor at the University of Iceland. "It may be that the youngest kids in class are just acting according to their age. But their behavior is thought of as symptoms of something else, rather than maturity."
In the study, Dr. Zoega and her colleagues tracked over 10,000 students born in Iceland in the mid-1990s, following them from fourth through seventh grade, or roughly ages 9 to 12. Iceland has detailed national registries containing health and academic information, so the researchers were able to compare students' scores on standardized tests and look at the medications prescribed to them.
The researchers then divided the subjects based on the months in which they were born. In Iceland, children start school in September of the calendar year in which they turn 6, and the nationwide birthday cutoff in schools is Jan. 1. So the oldest third in any grade are born between January and April. The middle third are born between May and August, and the youngest third are born between September and December.
The study showed that average test scores in mathematics and language arts, which covers grammar, literature and writing, were lowest among the youngest students in each class. On standardized tests at age 9, the children that made up the youngest third ranked, on average, about 11 percentile points lower in math and roughly 10 percentile points lower in language arts than their classmates who made up the oldest third. Compared to the oldest students, the younger ones were 90 percent more likely to earn low test scores in math and 80 percent more likely to receive low test scores in language arts. By the seventh grade, the risk had diminished somewhat, but the younger children were still 60 percent more likely to receive low test scores in both subjects.
A similar pattern was seen with A.D.H.D. medication, with students in the youngest third of their grade significantly more likely to receive stimulant prescriptions than their classmates in the oldest third. Dr. Zoega found that gender had some influence as well. Over all, girls scored higher than boys on tests, and had lower rates of stimulant prescriptions. But ultimately there was still an age effect among girls for both academic performance and the use of A.D.H.D. medication.
The findings dovetail with research carried out by two economists, Kelly Bedard and Elizabeth Dhuey. In looking at fourth graders around the world, the two found that the oldest children scored up to 12 percentile points higher than the youngest children. Their work, which was described in the best-selling 2008 book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, has shown a similar pattern among college students.
"At four-year colleges in the United States," Mr. Gladwell wrote, "students belonging to the relatively youngest group in their class are underrepresented by about 11.6 percent. That initial difference in maturity doesn't go away with time. It persists. And for thousands of students, that initial disadvantage is the difference between going to college -- and having a real shot at the middle class -- and not."
Dr. Zoega said she did not want her study to be seen as an indictment against stimulants. Instead, parents and educators should consider a child's age relative to his or her classmates when looking at poor grades and at any behavioral problems.
"Don't jump to conclusions when deciding whether a child has A.D.H.D.," she said. "It could be the maturity level. Keep in mind that he or she might not be performing as well as the older kids in the class, and that should not be a surprise."
Betty Hart, whose research documenting how poor, working-class and professional parents speak to their young children helped establish the critical role that communicating with babies and toddlers has in their later development, died on Sept. 28 in Tucson. She was 85. The cause was lung cancer, said Dale Walker, a colleague and longtime friend. Dr. Hart was a graduate student at the University of Kansas in the 1960s when she began trying to help poor preschool children overcome speech and vocabulary deficits. But she and her colleagues later concluded that they had started too late in the children's lives -- that the ones they were trying to help could not simply "catch up" with extra intervention.
At the time, a prevalent view was that poor children were essentially beyond help, victims of circumstances and genetics. But Dr. Hart and some of her colleagues suspected otherwise and revisited the issue in the early 1980s, beginning research that would continue for a decade. "Rather than concede to the unmalleable forces of heredity, we decided that we would undertake research that would allow us to understand the disparate developmental trajectories we saw," she and her former graduate supervisor, Todd R. Risley, wrote in 1995 in "Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children," a book about their findings, which were reported in 1992. "We realized that if we were to understand how and when differences in developmental trajectories began, we needed to see what was happening to children at home at the very beginning of their vocabulary growth."
They began a two-and-a-half-year study of 42 families of various socioeconomic levels who had very young children. Starting when the children were between 7 and 9 months old, they recorded every word and utterance spoken to them and by them, as well as every parent-child interaction, over the course of one hour every month. It took many more years to transcribe and analyze the data, and the researchers were astonished by what they eventually found. "Simply in words heard, the average child on welfare was having half as much experience per hour (616 words per hour) as the average working-class child (1,251 words per hour) and less than one-third that of the average child in a professional family (2,153 words per hour)," Drs. Hart and Risley wrote.
"By age 4, the average child in a welfare family might have 13 million fewer words of cumulative experience than the average child in a working-class family," they added. They also found disparities in tone, in positive and negative feedback, and in other areas -- and that the disparities in speech and vocabulary acquisition persisted into school years and affected overall educational development.
"People kept thinking, 'Oh, we can catch kids up later,' and her big message was to start young and make sure the environment for young children is really rich in language," said Dr. Walker, an associate research professor at Kansas who worked with Dr. Hart and followed many of the children into their school years.
The work has become a touchstone in debates over education policy, including what kind of investments governments should make in early intervention programs. One nonprofit program whose goals are rooted in the findings is Reach Out and Read, which uses pediatric exam rooms to promote literacy for lower-income children beginning at 6 months old.
Prompted by the success of Reach Out and Read, Dr. Alan L. Mendelsohn, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Bellevue Hospital and New York University Langone Medical Center, pushed intervention even further. He created a program through Bellevue in which lower-income parents visiting doctors are filmed interacting and reading with their children and then given suggestions on how they can expand their speaking and interactions. "Hart and Risley's work really informed for me and many others the idea that maybe you could bridge the gap," Dr. Mendelsohn said, "or in jargon terms -- address the disparities."
Bettie Mackenzie Farnsworth was born on July 15, 1927, in Kerr County, Tex. (She spelled her name Betty even though it was Bettie on her birth certificate.) Her family moved to South Dakota when she was a girl, and her mother died when she was quite young, Dr. Walker said. Dr. Hart, who lived in Kansas City, Kan., graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1949, and later taught in a preschool laboratory at the University of Washington directed by Sidney W. Bijou, a psychologist who helped establish modern behavioral therapy for childhood disorders. She accepted a research position at the University of Kansas in the mid-1960s, and received her master's degree and Ph.D. there. She married John Hart in 1949; they divorced in 1961. Her three siblings are deceased, Dr. Walker said.
"Today, much of her research is being applied in many different ways," said Dr. Andrew Garner, the chairman of a work group on early brain and child development for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "I think you could also argue that the current interest in brain development and epigenetics reinforces at almost a molecular level what she had identified 20 years ago."
Not too long ago, I witnessed a child, about two months shy of 3, welcome the return of some furniture to his family's apartment with the enthusiastic declaration "Ottoman is back!" The child understood that the stout cylindrical object from which he liked to jump had a name and that its absence had been caused by a visit to someone called "an upholsterer." The upholsterer, he realized, was responsible for converting the ottoman from one color or texture to another. Here was a child whose mother had prepared him, at the very least, for a future of reading World of Interiors.
Though conceivably much more as well. Despite the Manhattan parody to which a scene like this so easily gives rise, it is difficult to overstate the advantages arrogated to a child whose parent proceeds in a near constant mode of annotation. Reflexively, the affluent, ambitious parent is always talking, pointing out, explaining: Mommy is looking for her laptop; let's put on your rain boots; that's a pigeon, a sand dune, skyscraper, a pomegranate. The child, in essence, exists in continuous receipt of dictation.
Things are very different elsewhere on the class spectrum. Earlier in the year when I met Steven F. Wilson, founder of a network of charter schools that serve poor and largely black communities in Brooklyn, I asked him what he considered the greatest challenge on the first day of kindergarten each year. He answered, without a second's hesitation: "Word deficit." As it happens, in the '80s, the psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley spent years cataloging the number of words spoken to young children in dozens of families from different socioeconomic groups, and what they found was not only a disparity in the complexity of words used, but also astonishing differences in sheer number. Children of professionals were, on average, exposed to approximately 1,500 more words hourly than children growing up in poverty. This resulted in a gap of more than 32 million words by the time the children reached the age of 4.
This issue, though seemingly crucial, has been obscured in the recently intensified debate over the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, the multiple-choice exam used as the sole metric for entrance into some of New York City's elite public high schools, including Stuyvesant and Bronx Science.
Thousands of students in the city are in the throes of preparing for the test to be administered the last weekend of this month. Two weeks ago, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, along with other organizations, filed a federal civil rights complaint challenging the single-score admissions process as perilously narrow and arguing that it negatively affected black and Hispanic children, who are grossly underrepresented in these schools, so long considered forceful agents of mobility.
As the complaint makes note, of the 967 eighth-grade students offered admission to Stuyvesant for the current school year, only 19 were black and 32 Hispanic. During the previous school year, only 3.5 percent of students at Bronx Science were black and 7.2 percent Hispanic. At Staten Island Tech, the figures were even lower. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg quickly defended the process, contending that it was so free of subjectivity that it must inherently be regarded as fair.
Others called the system Darwinian. The Education Department, required by state law to rely exclusively on the test, volunteered defensively that it offered free exam preparation to low-income students. The fact that so many children of means take costly tutorials to ready themselves for testing has always been a matter of concern to anyone hoping to see the racial imbalances redressed.
And yet, all of this focus on the test -- which examines reading comprehension, math skills, the ability to reason logically -- suggests a myopia of its own. Expanding the ranks of poor black and Hispanic children in the top high schools would seem to require infinitely more backtracking. Consider that Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Brooklyn, one of the major pipelines to top public high schools, last year had a student population that was 0.52 percent black.
As the education theorist E. D. Hirsch recently wrote in a review of Paul Tough's new book, "How Children Succeed," there is strong evidence that increasing the general knowledge and vocabulary of a child before age 6 is the single highest correlate with later success. Schools have an enormously hard time pushing through the deficiencies with which many children arrive.
According to state education data, a far higher percentage of children in New York City charter and district schools in grades three through eight score at the highest level (a four) in math than they do in what is known as English Language Arts. In the 2011-12 school year, only 3.2 percent of children in district schools scored at the four level on the end-of-year statewide English exam. (For charter schools, the figure was 1.9 percent.)
All of this would seem to argue for a system in which we spent ever more of our energies and money on early, preschool education rather than less. The city has taken the right direction with the announcement of a new preschool in Brownsville, Brooklyn, scheduled to open next year, that will start with children as young as 6 weeks old. But that's one program in a city where 7,500 children reached kindergarten this year without preschool preparation. Obviously we want equal opportunity; we also want children to know what words like "equal" and "opportunity" mean.
In the 1990s, the term "digital divide" emerged to describe technology's haves and have-nots. It inspired many efforts to get the latest computing tools into the hands of all Americans, particularly low-income families. Those efforts have indeed shrunk the divide. But they have created an unintended side effect, one that is surprising and troubling to researchers and policy makers and that the government now wants to fix.
As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show. This growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.
"I'm not antitechnology at home, but it's not a savior," said Laura Robell, the principal at Elmhurst Community Prep, a public middle school in East Oakland, Calif., who has long doubted the value of putting a computer in every home without proper oversight. "So often we have parents come up to us and say, 'I have no idea how to monitor Facebook,' " she said.
The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers. Separately, the commission will help send digital literacy trainers this fall to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Some of the financial support for this program, part of a broader initiative called Connect2Compete, comes from private companies like Best Buy and Microsoft.
These efforts complement a handful of private and state projects aimed at paying for digital trainers to teach everything from basic keyboard use and word processing to how to apply for jobs online or use filters to block children from seeing online pornography. "Digital literacy is so important," said Julius Genachowski, chairman of the commission, adding that bridging the digital divide now also means "giving parents and students the tools and know-how to use technology for education and job-skills training."
F.C.C. officials and other policy makers say they still want to get computing devices into the hands of every American. That gaps remains wide -- according to the commission, about 65 percent of all Americans have broadband access at home, but that figure is 40 percent in households with less than $20,000 in annual income. Half of all Hispanics and 41 percent of African-American homes lack broadband.
But "access is not a panacea," said Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft. "Not only does it not solve problems, it mirrors and magnifies existing problems we've been ignoring." Like other researchers and policy makers, Ms. Boyd said the initial push to close the digital divide did not anticipate how computers would be used for entertainment. "We failed to account for this ahead of the curve," she said.
A study published in 2010 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children and teenagers whose parents do not have a college degree spent 90 minutes more per day exposed to media than children from higher socioeconomic families. In 1999, the difference was just 16 minutes.
The study found that children of parents who do not have a college degree spend 11.5 hours each day exposed to media from a variety of sources, including television, computer and other gadgets. That is an increase of 4 hours and 40 minutes per day since 1999. Children of more educated parents, generally understood as a proxy for higher socioeconomic status, also largely use their devices for entertainment. In families in which a parent has a college education or an advanced degree, Kaiser found, children use 10 hours of multimedia a day, a 3.5-hour jump since 1999. (Kaiser double counts time spent multitasking. If a child spends an hour simultaneously watching TV and surfing the Internet, the researchers counted two hours.)
"Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education or meaningful content creation is minuscule compared to their use for pure entertainment," said Vicky Rideout, author of the decade-long Kaiser study. "Instead of closing the achievement gap, they're widening the time-wasting gap." Policy makers and researchers say the challenges are heightened for parents and children with fewer resources -- the very people who were supposed to be helped by closing the digital divide.
The concerns are brought to life in families like those of Markiy Cook, a thoughtful 12-year-old in Oakland who loves technology. At home, where money is tight, his family has two laptops, an Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii, and he has his own phone. He uses them mostly for Facebook, YouTube, texting and playing games. He particularly likes playing them on the weekends. "I stay up all night, until like 7 in the morning," he said, laughing sheepishly. "It's why I'm so tired on Monday." His grades are suffering. His grade-point average is barely over 1.0, putting him at the bottom of his class. He wants to be a biologist when he grows up, he said. Markiy attends Elmhurst Community Prep, located in a rough area (the school has a tribute hanging in its hallway to a 15-year-old girl recently stabbed to death by the father of her baby). Thirty-five percent of the students, like Markiy, are black, and most of the rest are Hispanic.
Alejandro Zamora, 13, an eighth grader, calls himself "a Facebook freak." His mother, Olivia Montesdeoca, said she liked the idea of him using the computer (until it recently broke) but did not have much luck getting him to use it for homework. "He'd have a fit. He'd have a tantrum," she said, adding that she really did not understand some of what he did online. "I have no idea about YouTube. I've never even heard of a webcam." Ms. Robell, the principal, said children needed to know how to use technology to compete, but her priorities for her students were more basic: "Breakfast, lunch and dinner."
Many lower-income families take great pains to manage how their children use their devices. In Boston, Amy and Randolph Ross, neither of them a college graduate -- she works in a hospital and he at a bookstore -- recently bought their twin 15-year-old girls laptop computers as a reward for good grades. The parents make sure the computers are used mostly for homework or for the girls to explore their interest as budding musicians. "If you just buy the computer and don't guide them on the computer, of course it's going to be misused," Ms. Ross said.
Her mother-in-law, Edna Ross, the matriarch of their African-American family who lives nearby in Dorchester, Mass., feels the same way. She got a new Hewlett-Packard computer last year through a project funded by the National Institutes of Health intended to provide both access and nine months of digital literacy training.
Edna Ross is strict about how her grandchildren use the computer when they visit. One of her grandsons once sneaked onto the computer and put a picture of himself on his Facebook page making an obscene gesture. She told him if he could not control himself, he could not use the computer. Training, she said, is crucial. "If you already have a child who feels like anything goes and you put a computer in his hand," she said, "he's going to do the first negative thing he can find to do when he gets on the computer."
You are cordially invited to attend the graduation ceremony for students of the UW-Madison Odyssey Project Class of 2011-2012. Project Director Emily Auerbach and Writing Coach Marshall Cook will present certificates attesting to students' successful completion of six introductory UW credits in English. UW-Madison Interim Chancellor David Ward will make congratulatory remarks.
From September to May, students in this rigorous humanities course have discussed great works of literature, American history, philosophy, and art history while developing skills in critical thinking and persuasive writing. The evening will include brief remarks or performances by each graduating student; recognition of supplemental teachers Jean Feraca, Gene Phillips, and Craig Werner; acknowledgment of Odyssey Project donors and supporters; and music and refreshments.
Web site: www.odyssey.wisc.edu
Amy and Mark Denicore are headed to a full-blown trial to defend themselves against charges that they violated Virginia law by making their kids late to elementary school too often.
The Loudoun County couple was arraigned Monday morning in juvenile and domestic relations court. Judge Pamela L. Brooks set a trial date of March 14.
The Denicores are each charged with three Class 3 misdemeanors, each of which carries a maximum fine of $500. Their three children, ages 6, 7 and 9, have been late to school almost 30 times since September. Most of their tardies were three minutes or less.
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.
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.Ideally, substantive program review in necessities such as reading and math would occur prior to the addition of new spending.
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.
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?
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.
When my daughter was 18 months old, my husband and I decided to take her on a little summer holiday. We picked a coastal town that's a few hours by train from Paris, where we were living (I'm American, he's British), and booked a hotel room with a crib. Bean, as we call her, was our only child at this point, so forgive us for thinking: How hard could it be?
We ate breakfast at the hotel, but we had to eat lunch and dinner at the little seafood restaurants around the old port. We quickly discovered that having two restaurant meals a day with a toddler deserved to be its own circle of hell.
Bean would take a brief interest in the food, but within a few minutes she was spilling salt shakers and tearing apart sugar packets. Then she demanded to be sprung from her high chair so she could dash around the restaurant and bolt dangerously toward the docks.
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.
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.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
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.
DPI.wi.gov Public school data
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.
*** 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.
Mary Kay Battaglia
We envision a writing community for students in Denver where they can enjoy writing. More often than not, schools cannot provide a place in which creativity and discovery receive one-on-one attention. Students too often view writing as yet another task for which they will be assessed and graded. We hope to help them understand that writing is a vehicle for expression and communication, for publication and storytelling.Great.
When Christopher Chamness entered the third grade last year, he began to get stomach aches before school. His mother, Edy, said the fire had gone out of a child who she said had previously gone joyfully to his classes.
One day, when he was bored in class, Christopher broke a pencil eraser off in his ear canal. It was the tipping point for Ms. Chamness, a former teacher, and she asked to observe his Austin elementary school classroom. What she saw was a "work sheet distribution center" aimed at preparing students for the yearly assessments that they begin in third grade and that school districts depend upon for their accountability ratings.
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.Pearl Chang Esau is President/CEO of Expect More Arizona.
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.
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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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.
I am running for the Madison School Board because I care about the state of our public schools and this community.The 2012 Madison School Board Contest:
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."
Seat 1 Candidates:
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
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.
The parents of 4-year-olds with fall birthdays -- not yet in the public school system -- have already come face to face with the topsy-turvy ways of Sacramento.
Take the parents of kids born in November 2007. Since 2010, they've been told their children will be too young for kindergarten in 2012 under the new cutoff date, but that they will be entitled to a spot in a new grade-level, transitional kindergarten.
Now, about seven months before the first day of school, they learn that the governor is proposing to cut the program to save $223 million.
The final decision is up to the state Legislature, but -- as we all know -- that's likely months away. So, depending on where the families live, their school district might enroll them in transitional kinder anyway, hoping for the best, or inform them the class is being canceled. My colleague at the Mercury News, Sharon Noguchi, wrote about it this week.
In a recent essay in The Times, Lawrence Summers, the former president of Harvard University, wrote about preparing American students for the future. In the essay, he said that international experience was essential, arguing that English's emergence as the global language makes the investment in other languages less essential.
lot is riding on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad's upcoming plan for improving low-income, minority student achievement.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
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.
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.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.
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.
My son says his teacher shouts a lot, especially at the naughty members of the class. Although this does not include him, he is quite sensitive and does not like this type of discipline. It is putting him off going to school. Can I broach this with the teacher, or should I just accept that this is her style of teaching?
Different teachers have different teaching styles. Some like to use a loud voice for effect or to make a particular impact. They may actually need to raise their voices on some occasions, depending on the classroom location and the environment. But if this style of interaction or discipline with the children is constant and consistent, it is usually not appropriate.
Sales manager Eric Wong Yiu-wai began to monitor the online activities of his younger son two years ago. The software he installed on his computer tracks the websites his son visits, instant messaging between him and his buddies, and the updates he posts on social networks. His phone will get instant alerts if his son uses offensive language in his posts or visits an unsavoury website. Wong says rising online perils make electronic surveillance of his 15-year-old son necessary.
"He spends a lot of time online every day. As I am working most of the time, I don't know what he is doing on the computer."
Patrick A. Hope, a 39-year-old health-care attorney and member of the Virginia House of Delegates, recently observed his daughter learning to read at Barrett Elementary School in Arlington County.
It was just an hour, he said, but "I found it incredibly rewarding to watch my child in this environment, and it gave me ideas and techniques to continue advancement at home."
So when he saw my columns about school districts discouraging such observations, he decided to do something. He added this sentence to his House Bill No. 400 on education:
"Local school boards shall adopt and implement policies to ensure that the parent or legal guardian of a student or prospective student enrolled in the school division may, subject to reasonable notice and with minimized disruption, act as an observer in the child's classroom."
THREE million children in this country take drugs for problems in focusing. Toward the end of last year, many of their parents were deeply alarmed because there was a shortage of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall that they considered absolutely essential to their children's functioning.
But are these drugs really helping children? Should we really keep expanding the number of prescriptions filled?
In 30 years there has been a twentyfold increase in the consumption of drugs for attention-deficit disorder.
As a psychologist who has been studying the development of troubled children for more than 40 years, I believe we should be asking why we rely so heavily on these drugs.
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.
Are you and your partner graduates and prepared to answer a few online questions about your children? If so, Simon Baron-Cohen would like to hear from you.
One of the country's foremost researchers into the causes of autism, Professor Baron-Cohen wants to know what kind of degree you hold. If you are both graduates in the so-called hard sciences, such as engineering and computer science, then you may end up being of particular interest. The reason is that parents who are both "systemisers", as he describes them, appear more likely to have autistic children.
Systemisers are lovers of precision, people who are good at analysing how things work and discerning patterns. Ideal material for code-breaking activities. Current thinking suggests we all sit somewhere on a scale of systemising. At one end are people who have little or no drive to be precise when confronted with structured information - political spin doctors might be an example - and at the other are hyper-systemisers, those whose obsession with analysis and dissection borders on the autistic.
A few weeks ago, my colleague Paul Schwartzman introduced readers to a group of Prince George's County residents known as "the Seat Pleasant 59." They were promised in 1988, when they were in elementary school, that their tuition would be paid if they worked hard and got into college. More than two decades later, only 11 have four-year degrees, a consequence of many bad turns, most of them related to growing up in poverty.
Some readers may conclude that most of these children were doomed from the start. Many lacked the parental support, teacher encouragement and personal resilience needed to take advantage of the offer from philanthropists Abe Pollin and Melvin Cohen. Is a tuition promise wasted on such children?
While my daughter was sitting the first exam of her life, I didn't know what to do with myself. I hovered outside the building in the same way I have done when loved ones are undergoing surgery, transferring my weight from one foot to another - cursing that I have only two - nursing the strange delusion that feeling extreme discomfort myself might just be comforting to another, through the ether. All that kept coming into my mind were her parting words to me: "'All at once' is a good alternative to 'suddenly'. And also 'without warning.'" It cannot be denied.
My anxiety was really surpassing itself. It was citrus-hued and neon-bright. All at once my ring of worries had little multi-faceted briolettes of worries suspended from them and these, in turn, had matching ear and toe rings, necklaces and bracelets. I could almost hear my nerves jangling and looked about myself anxiously as though I were an unwelcome morris dancer about to be shooed from a sophisticated urban setting. I have dispatched such rustic groovers myself with cutting remarks in my time. I regret it now, obviously.
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.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
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."
The fate of Madison Prep was discussed at a recent school board candidate forum.
A secret to widespread educational success - to borrow a football metaphor (indulge me: the World Financial Capital just beat the World Tech Capital for a rematch against Marcia & the Bradys) - is a narrow playing field. For example, certificate-based vocational schools don't grant degrees. They, nevertheless, have consistently higher rates of retention and graduation than four-year colleges or even two-year community colleges.
The logic is clear. Those on limited incomes, with domestic duties (children, a sick parent or spouse), or a full-time job, struggle to get a four-year degree. Circumstances often conspire to prevent the leisurely focus required for sustained study over long periods across many disciplines (many of which are not one's career focus, but are deemed necessary to "Civic Learning and Democratic Education," as this week's AAC&U conference makes clear). In an ideal Republic, every American would get a broad-based, four-year, liberal arts education rooted in great books shared inquiry, as offered at schools like my graduate alma mater of St. John's College Santa Fe. However, most Americans, especially in today's rough economy, just need a low-cost way to obtain the skills that will get them a fulfilling job or at least a better-paying one.
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.
"What was he thinking?" It's the familiar cry of bewildered parents trying to understand why their teenagers act the way they do.
How does the boy who can thoughtfully explain the reasons never to drink and drive end up in a drunken crash? Why does the girl who knows all about birth control find herself pregnant by a boy she doesn't even like? What happened to the gifted, imaginative child who excelled through high school but then dropped out of college, drifted from job to job and now lives in his parents' basement?
If you think of the teenage brain as a car, today's adolescents acquire an accelerator a long time before they can steer and brake.
Adolescence has always been troubled, but for reasons that are somewhat mysterious, puberty is now kicking in at an earlier and earlier age. A leading theory points to changes in energy balance as children eat more and move less.
The current version of The New Yorker has a wonderful article by Jonah Lehrer called "Groupthink" (you can see the abstract here). It does a great job of showing how creativity is a social process, cites wonderful research by Brian Uzzi showing that when people have experience working together in the past they produce more successful Broadway musicals (up to a point, too many old friends is as bad as too few), and offers research showing that groups where members engage in constructive conflict are more creative -- all themes I have talked about at various times on this blog.
I do however have a major quibble. At one point, Lehrer states flatly that brainstorming doesn't work. He later quotes creativity researcher Keith Sawyer as saying that people are more efficient at generating ideas when they work alone than in groups, something that is well-established. But that is not the same as saying there is conclusive evidence they don't work.
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.
That is a new paper of mine, you will find the link here. Here is the abstract:This paper considers an economic approach to autistic individuals, as a window for understanding autism, as a new and growing branch of neuroeconomics (how does behavior vary with neurology?), and as a foil for better understanding non-autistics and their cognitive biases. The relevant economic predictions for autistics involve greater specialization in production and consumption, lower price elasticities of supply and demand, a higher return from choosing features of their environment, less effective use of social focal points, and higher relative returns as economic growth and specialization proceed. There is also evidence that autistics are less subject to framing effects and more rational on the receiving end of ultimatum games. Considering autistics modifies some of the standard results from economic theories of the family and the economics of discrimination. Although there are likely more than seventy million autistic individuals worldwide, the topic has been understudied by economists. An economic approach also helps us see shortcomings in the "pure disorder" models of autism.
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.
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:
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
via a kind reader. It is great to see competitive races.
UPDATE 2.8.2012: A transcript is now available.
This evening, my family will sit down on the couch together to enjoy the opening episode of America's favorite spectacle of poor metacognition. Along with millions of others, including some of you, we will marvel at the sight of so many human beings eager to put their deficient cognitive skills on display for the world.
I'm talking, of course, about the season premiere of American Idol, where lousy metacognition will join lousy singing for two cringeworthy hours tonight and another hour tomorrow night, as amateur musicians audition for the opportunity to win fame, fortune, and a recording contract. The opening two episodes of each season have become notorious for featuring the worst singers who auditioned for the show, encouraging viewers to engage in some gentle schadenfreude as Idol participants make fools of themselves on national television.
Miss Dekker, who is 16 years and four months old, has cut six months off the unofficial record set in 2010 by Australian teenager Jessica Watson, who was days away from her 17th birthday when she completed her own non-stop voyage.
Dozens of people jumped and cheered as Miss Dekker stepped aboard a dock in St. Maarten and waved.
"There were moments where I was like, 'What the hell am I doing out here?,' but I never wanted to stop," she told reporters.
"It's a dream, and I wanted to do it."
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.
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.Related: Math Forum audio & video.
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.
Proposed changes in the definition of autism would sharply reduce the skyrocketing rate at which the disorder is diagnosed and might make it harder for many people who would no longer meet the criteria to get health, educational and social services, a new analysis suggests.
The definition is now being reassessed by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, which is completing work on the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the first major revision in 17 years. The D.S.M., as the manual is known, is the standard reference for mental disorders, driving research, treatment and insurance decisions. Most experts expect that the new manual will narrow the criteria for autism; the question is how sharply.
The results of the new analysis are preliminary, but they offer the most drastic estimate of how tightening the criteria for autism could affect the rate of diagnosis. For years, many experts have privately contended that the vagueness of the current criteria for autism and related disorders like Asperger syndrome was contributing to the increase in the rate of diagnoses -- which has ballooned to one child in 100, according to some estimates.
Kai Ryssdal: However students get their textbooks -- on an iPad or the old-fashioned way -- those books don't do any good unless they're actually used.
There are 37 million people in this country who've started college, who have some credits -- but never finished. When they do that, when they drop out, there are costs -- to them, and to the rest of us, in the billions of dollars, in wasted loans and grants and lost opportunities. Those costs are one reason college dropouts are starting to get more attention from the Obama administration on down.
But finding ways for people to finish their degrees might mean rethinking the way Americans go to college. Emily Hanford of American RadioWorks reports.
An extensive review of relevant research has demonstrated that the more physically active schoolchildren are, the better they do academically. Researchers analyzed 14 studies, ranging in size from as few as 50 participants to as many as 12,000.
All of the studies involved children between the ages of 6 and 18.
The most important decision you will make about your children's education is picking their school, right? That's the conventional wisdom, but it's actually wrong -- or at best it's only half-correct. Teacher effectiveness varies a lot within schools, even within good schools, which means that just choosing the right school for your kid is not a proxy for choosing great teachers. So while "school choice" is hotly debated (next week is National School Choice Week, complete with Bill Cosby's blessing and events galore,) there are few rallies being held for giving parents the right to choose a particular teacher. That's because the whole system is stacked against empowering families in this way. In fact, because of how seniority rules generally work, it's a lot more common for teachers to choose their students than for students to choose their teachers.
Just how much individual teachers matter is the big implication of an analysis of 2.5 million students and their instructors that was released in December and highlighted recently in the New York Times. The long-term, large-scale study by economists at Columbia and Harvard used two decades of data to examine differences in student outcomes (including such categories as teen pregnancy and college enrollment) and link those differences with how effective their teachers were at improving student scores on achievement tests. The headline-grabbing finding was that replacing an ineffective teacher with one of average quality would boost a single classroom's lifetime earnings by a quarter-million dollars. And that's just from one year of assigning that group of kids to an average teacher instead of a lousy one. A second study, released January 12 by the Education Trust-West, an education advocacy group in California, examined three years of data on teachers from the Los Angeles public school system and noted that low-income and minority students are twice as likely to have teachers in the bottom 25% of effectiveness. The Ed Trust study did not get as much attention as the one by the Ivy League economists, but it reached the same obvious conclusion: more effective teachers boost learning for students
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.
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.Well worth considering from a curricular, finance and social perspective.
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."
"Student responsibility is the third rail of the accountability movement." Walt Gardner
If Mr. Gardner is correct, then is that why have we decided to leave student effort and their responsibility for their own learning and academic achievement out of our considerations of the reasons for such results as the 2010 NAEP history exam, which found that fifty-five percent of our high school seniors scored Below Basic?
Japan, South Korea and Singapore are quite forthright in their views that students must work hard, even very hard, in order to do well in their studies. (see Surpassing Shanghai, Harvard 2011, edited by Marc Tucker).
For our part, just about everyone, from journalists to legislators to edupundits of all sorts and degrees, holds everyone else responsible for student academic failure here. They blame legislation, governors, school boards, superintendents, unions, teachers and all other adults working in education, but they never seem to include student responsibility and effort into their calculations.
Anyone who suggests students may have a part to play in whether they learn anything or not risk being called racists, or supporters of poverty, or prejudiced against immigrants and those whose primary language is other than English.
Immigrants have been coming to this country, learning English, and doing well since the earliest days of our country, but lately we seem to enjoy pretending that these tasks are something new and the burden must be place on all the adults in our educational systems to make things easier. They may not realize that Albert Shanker spoke only Yiddish when he entered the New York public schools, and they conveniently ignore the children of Vietnamese boat people, and many others, some of whom come to this country knowing no English and before long are valedictorians of their high school graduating classes.
Of course it is nearly impossible to create educators without compassion, sympathy, even pity as part of their make-up, but at some point making excuses for students who are not trying and making an effort to lift all responsibility from their shoulders turns out to be cruelty of another kind.
Martin Luther King never said that minority children should not be asked to take their share of the load in becoming educated citizens, just that they have a fair chance, and perhaps some extra help.
In fact, some of those who once believed that discrimination and racism could account for the failure of African-American children in our schools began before too long to have difficulty reconciling those notions with the manifest academic success of too many Asian-American children, some of whose parents had been interned in this country, some of whom came here with no knowledge of the country or the language, and often from an even longer history of oppression and discrimination behind them (e.g. the Japanese Burakumin immigrants).
It is interesting that when American black athletes achieve unprecedented success and achievement and multi-million-dollar salaries, no one rushes to explain that result as the outcome of centuries of unpaid labor, rampant racism and discrimination. For some reason it is acceptable to expect, and common to find, outstanding effort and achievement among black athletes, but it is not thought suitable to expect serious academic effort from black students in our schools.
If coaches thought all the effort in sports was their job, and expected nearly nothing from their athletes, we might see the same failure in sports that we have in academics. And we would find that most athletes were less inclined to try their hardest and to take responsibility for their effort and success in sports.
As long as we put all the onus on adults in our education systems, we deprive our students of all kinds of the challenges they need, as we try to disguise from them the fact that their achievement will always in life depend mostly on their own efforts for which they alone have to take the responsibility.
Call me names, if that makes you feel better, but all our students are waiting to be treated more like the responsible human beings they, in fact, are.
"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Throughout my years of being an educator in a traditional school setting, the most challenging aspect has been dealing with the adults, not the students. My views were often those of the minority and consistently clashed with the culture of failure that had been developed over the decades.
One opinion of mine in particular that seldom receives little to no kudos, and is often met with anger and opposition, is that our children do not need sympathy. And when it came to school work, believe me, I gave very little sympathy, if any at all.
"So harsh," one might say. Well, I have been regularly accused of being unfeeling, insensitive and even heartless. Nevertheless, my students were successful for the most part.
They passed because they knew the material, not because I felt sorry for them. In my classroom, I refused to allow feelings of sympathy to override my charge as an educator. It was my duty to educate students to the best of my ability, regardless of their race, culture, socioeconomic status or family or living situation. My standards were high, and I expected my students to rise to the occasion.
Over the past three decades the world has come to witness an ominous and entirely new form of gender discrimination: sex-selective feticide, implemented through the practice of surgical abortion with the assistance of information gained through prenatal gender determination technology. All around the world, the victims of this new practice are overwhelmingly female -- in fact, almost universally female. The practice has become so ruthlessly routine in many contemporary societies that it has impacted their very population structures, warping the balance between male and female births and consequently skewing the sex ratios for the rising generation toward a biologically unnatural excess of males. This still-growing international predilection for sex-selective abortion is by now evident in the demographic contours of dozens of countries around the globe -- and it is sufficiently severe that it has come to alter the overall sex ratio at birth of the entire planet, resulting in millions upon millions of new "missing baby girls" each year. In terms of its sheer toll in human numbers, sex-selective abortion has assumed a scale tantamount to a global war against baby girls.
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.
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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For decades, the prevailing wisdom in education was that high self-esteem would lead to high achievement. The theory led to an avalanche of daily affirmations, awards ceremonies and attendance certificates -- but few, if any, academic gains.
Now, an increasing number of teachers are weaning themselves from what some call empty praise. Drawing on psychology and brain research, these educators aim to articulate a more precise, and scientific, vocabulary for praise that will push children to work through mistakes and take on more challenging assignments. Consider teacher Shar Hellie's new approach in Montgomery County.
To get students through the shaky first steps of Spanish grammar, Hellie spent many years trying to boost their confidence. If someone couldn't answer a question easily, she would coach him, whisper the first few words, then follow up with a booming "¡Muy bien!"
Demand for remedial instruction in colleges is on the rise. About 75 percent of New York City freshmen attending community college last year needed remedial math, reading or writing courses. The organization that administers the ACT found that only one in four of 2010 high school graduates who took the ACT exam were college-ready in four key subjects areas: English, math, reading and science. Statistics like these are startling, as they not only reveal serious flaws in our educational system, but also raise questions as to how these students will fare in the future if they are lacking the knowledge and critical skills needed to succeed in college and beyond.
In her new book, "The Republic of Noise," New York City public school educator and curriculum advisor Diana Senechal argues that one reason for this problem is the students' loss of solitude: the ability to think and reflect independently on a given topic. Schools have become more concerned with the business of keeping students busy in what Senechal deems is a flawed attempt to ensure student engagement. But as a result, students are not given the time and space to devote themselves completely to the study and understanding of one specific thing. It's a need she finds reflected in our culture as a whole: We are a nation glued to smartphones and computer screens, checking email and Twitter feeds in our need to stay in some loop by reading and responding to rolling updates. Senechal is not advocating that we toss out our iPhones or unplug from social media, but rather that we think more slowly, give ourselves time for reflection -- as such practice would only serve to enhance the very conversations new media and technology make possible.
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.
Almost all of us say that as a nation we should work out our differences and unite to solve our problems. But we don't mean it.
Exhibit A is the bad blood between the National Education Association, the nation's largest teacher's union, and Teach for America, the most popular public-service option for graduates of selective colleges.
The NEA has been at odds with TFA since the teacher recruitment program began. NEA leaders dislike the idea, conceived in 1989 by 22-year-old Princeton undergraduate Wendy Kopp, of giving young people selected for academic achievement and ambition just five weeks of summer training before having them teach in some of our lowest-performing urban and rural public schools. TFA's steady growth and rising status at prestigious universities has not soothed NEA's distress.
This is both a national and a local issue. The NEA's national headquarters is in the District. One of the largest contingents of TFA teachers works in the District and Prince George's County.
ON NOVEMBER 10th South Korea went silent. Aircraft were grounded. Offices opened late. Commuters stayed off the roads. The police stood by to deal with emergencies among the students who were taking their university entrance exams that day.
Every year the country comes to a halt on the day of the exams, for it is the most important day in most South Koreans' lives. The single set of multiple-choice tests that students take that day determines their future. Those who score well can enter one of Korea's best universities, which has traditionally guaranteed them a job-for-life as a high-flying bureaucrat or desk warrior at a chaebol (conglomerate). Those who score poorly are doomed to attend a lesser university, or no university at all. They will then have to join a less prestigious firm and, since switching employers is frowned upon, may be stuck there for the rest of their lives. Ticking a few wrong boxes, then, may mean that they are permanently locked out of the upper tier of Korean society.
Making so much depend on an exam has several advantages for Korea. It is efficient: a single set of tests identifies intelligent and diligent teenagers, and launches them into society's fast stream. It is meritocratic: poor but clever Koreans can rise to the top by studying very, very hard. The exam's importance prompts children to pay attention in class and parents to hound them about their homework; and that, in turn, ensures that Korea's educational results are the envy of the world. The country is pretty much the leading nation in the scoring system run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2009 it came fourth after Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, but those are cities rather than full-sized countries.
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.Well worth reading.
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.
If affirmative action results in minority students at elite schools having much potential but weak preparation, then we may expect minority students to start off behind their majority counterparts and then catch up over time. Indeed, at the private university we analyze, the gap between white and black grade point averages falls by half between the students' freshmen and senior year. However, this convergence masks two effects. First, the variance of grades given falls across time. Hence, shrinkage in the level of the gap may not imply shrinkage in the class rank gap. Second, grading standards differ across courses in different majors. We show that controlling for these two features virtually eliminates any convergence of black/white grades. In fact, black/white gpa convergence is symptomatic of dramatic shifts by blacks from initial interest in the natural sciences, engineering, and economics to majors in the humanities and social sciences. We show that natural science, engineering, and economics courses are more difficult, associated with higher study times, and have harsher grading standards; all of which translate into students with weaker academic backgrounds being less likely to choose these majors. Indeed, we show that accounting for academic background can fully account for differences in switching behaviors across blacks and whites.
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."Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
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."
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.
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
Perhaps the most widespread peril children face isn't guns, swimming pools or speeding cars. Rather, scientists are suggesting that it may be "toxic stress" early in life, or even before birth.
This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics is issuing a landmark warning that this toxic stress can harm children for life. I'm as skeptical as anyone of headlines from new medical studies (Coffee is good for you! Coffee is bad for you!), but that's not what this is.
Rather, this is a "policy statement" from the premier association of pediatricians, based on two decades of scientific research. This has revolutionary implications for medicine and for how we can more effectively chip away at poverty and crime.
Toxic stress might arise from parental abuse of alcohol or drugs. It could occur in a home where children are threatened and beaten. It might derive from chronic neglect -- a child cries without being cuddled. Affection seems to defuse toxic stress -- keep those hugs and lullabies coming! -- suggesting that the stress emerges when a child senses persistent threats but no protector.
Cues of a hostile or indifferent environment flood an infant, or even a fetus, with stress hormones like cortisol in ways that can disrupt the body's metabolism or the architecture of the brain.
The upshot is that children are sometimes permanently undermined. Even many years later, as adults, they are more likely to suffer heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other physical ailments. They are also more likely to struggle in school, have short tempers and tangle with the law.
The crucial period seems to be from conception through early childhood. After that, the brain is less pliable and has trouble being remolded.
"You can modify behavior later, but you can't rewire disrupted brain circuits," notes Jack P. Shonkoff, a Harvard pediatrician who has been a leader in this field. "We're beginning to get a pretty compelling biological model of why kids who have experienced adversity have trouble learning."
This new research addresses an uncomfortable truth: Poverty is difficult to overcome partly because of self-destructive behaviors. Children from poor homes often shine, but others may skip school, abuse narcotics, break the law, and have trouble settling down in a marriage and a job. Then their children may replicate this pattern.
Liberals sometimes ignore these self-destructive pathologies. Conservatives sometimes rely on them to blame poverty on the poor.
The research suggests that the roots of impairment and underachievement are biologically embedded, but preventable. "This is the biology of social class disparities," Shonkoff said. "Early experiences are literally built into our bodies."
The implication is that the most cost-effective window to bring about change isn't high school or even kindergarten --although much greater efforts are needed in schools as well -- but in the early years of life, or even before birth.
"Protecting young children from adversity is a promising, science-based strategy to address many of the most persistent and costly problems facing contemporary society, including limited educational achievement, diminished economic productivity, criminality, and disparities in health," the pediatrics academy said in its policy statement.
One successful example of early intervention is home visitation by childcare experts, like those from the Nurse-Family Partnership. This organization sends nurses to visit poor, vulnerable women who are pregnant for the first time. The nurse warns against smoking and alcohol and drug abuse, and later encourages breast-feeding and good nutrition, while coaxing mothers to cuddle their children and read to them. This program continues until the child is 2.
At age 6, studies have found, these children are only one-third as likely to have behavioral or intellectual problems as others who weren't enrolled. At age 15, the children are less than half as likely to have been arrested.
Evidence of the importance of early experiences has been mounting like snowflakes in a blizzard. For example, several studies examined Dutch men and women who had been in utero during a brief famine at the end of World War II. Decades later, those "famine babies" had more trouble concentrating and more heart disease than those born before or after.
Other scholars examined children who had been badly neglected in Romanian orphanages. Those who spent more time in the orphanages had shorter telomeres, a change in chromosomes that's a marker of accelerated aging. Their brain scans also looked different.
The science is still accumulating. But a compelling message from biology is that if we want to chip away at poverty and improve educational and health outcomes, we have to start earlier. For many children, damage has been suffered before the first day of school.
As Frederick Douglass noted, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
Nicholas Kristof is a columnist for The New York Times.
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.
First there were the Little Emperors, the often chubby and spoiled first generation of children born under China's one-child policy. Now the Precious Snowflakes have emerged - a generation so coddled some cannot even tie their own shoelaces.
They are 'Precious Snowflakes', wrapped in cotton wool from day one," said Paul French, the founder of Access Asia, a China-based research company.
"Nothing is ever quite right for them. It is always either too hot or too cold and they are all hypochondriacs. They get immediately stressed out if they ever have to lift a finger," he said.
In a world of smog, toxic food and unsure medical care, middle-class Chinese parents are spending ever-larger sums of money to insulate their children from harm.
The quest to harness the power of DNA to develop personalized medicine is on the threshold of a major milestone: the $1,000 genome sequencing.
Life Technologies Corp., a Carlsbad, Calif., genomics company, plans to introduce Tuesday a machine it says will be able to map an individual's entire genetic makeup for $1,000 by the end of this year. Moreover, the machine and accompanying microchip technology, both developed by the company's Ion Torrent unit, will deliver the information in a day, the company says.
Eighteen-year-old Kayla Perkins explains the organizational system she uses in her bedroom: "I throw something on the ground and I know right where it is."
Funny, her parents, Steve and Deborah Perkins of McKinney, Texas, haven't caught on. They see only mountains of clothing on the floor, empty snack bowls under the bed and soda cups littering the tabletops. Even Kayla acknowledges that, at its worst, her room is "a mess."
The Battle of the Bedroom: Many parents can relate to this picture. Most families at some point have at least one teen or pre-teen whose room resembles a landfill. The mess can disrupt the whole household. Dirty clothes pile up, triggering early morning crises when there is nothing to wear. Soiled dishes get lost in the mess, smell bad and attract critters. Homework is lost, and valuables are ruined.
Some parents let it go, reasoning that a bedroom is private space for children to manage as they wish. Others lecture their children, offer rewards for cleaning or impose consequences when they don't. What doesn't work, parenting experts say, is relentless nagging, hollow threats or getting very angry.
Instant messages are ubiquitous and convenient, but something primal may be lost in translation.
When girls stressed by a test talked with their moms, stress hormones dropped and comfort hormones rose. When they used IM, nothing happened. By the study's neurophysiological measures, IM was barely different than not communicating at all.
"IM isn't really a substitute for in-person or over-the-phone interaction in terms of the hormones released," said anthropologist Leslie Seltzer of the University of Wisconsin, lead author of the new study. "People still need to interact the way we evolved to interact."
Parents are willing to help out, or bail out, their adult children in many circumstances.
But don't expect help if you run up your credit-card bill or want to buy a house.
A survey released by MetLife's Mature Market Institute today found that nearly half of the parents surveyed feel they have a "strong responsibility" to provide financial support for their children's higher education. They do stop short of paying 100% of college tuition if the cost is particularly high.
Only 11% feel they would have the same obligation to help their children financially if they get into debt due to overspending. About 2,100 Americans ages 21 to 65 with at least $40,000 in household income were surveyed online in June and July by Mathew Greenwald & Associates.
They have the same piercing eyes. The same color hair. One may be shy, while the other loves meeting new people. Discovering why identical twins differ--despite having the same DNA--could reveal a great deal about all of us.
Every summer, on the first weekend in August, thousands of twins converge on Twinsburg, Ohio, a small town southeast of Cleveland named by identical twin brothers nearly two centuries ago.
They come, two by two, for the Twins Days Festival, a three-day marathon of picnics, talent shows, and look-alike contests that has grown into one of the world's largest gatherings of twins.
Dave and Don Wolf of Fenton, Michigan, have been coming to the festival for years. Like most twins who attend, they enjoy spending time with each other. In fact, during the past 18 years, the 53-year-old truckers, whose identical beards reach down to their chests, have driven more than three million miles together, hauling everything from diapers to canned soup from places like Seattle, Washington, to Camden, New Jersey. While one sits at the wheel of their diesel Freightliner, the other snoozes in the bunk behind him. They listen to the same country gospel stations on satellite radio, share the same Tea Party gripes about big government, and munch on the same road diet of pepperoni, apples, and mild cheddar cheese. On their days off they go hunting or fishing together. It's a way of life that suits them.
This year, 2007, marks the marks the eighth year at which I ceased to be a tenured lecturer in the UK, what is called I think, a tenured professor in the USA. I've never worked out whether I was, in American terms, an assistant professor or an associate professor. But it really doesn't matter, because today I am neither. You see I simply walked out and quit the job. And this is my story. If there is a greater significance to it than the personal fortunes of one man, it is because my story is also the story of the decline and fall of the British university and the corruption of the academic ideal . That is why this essay carries two titles - a personal one and a social one. This is because I was privileged to be part of an historical drama. As the Chinese say, I have lived in interesting times.
Universities are extraordinary institutions. They are in fact, the last bastions of mediaevalism left in modern society outside, perhaps, the church. Like churches they attracted a certain type of person who did not share the values of the commercial world. The oldest universities date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries - hundreds of years before the invention of the printing press. In an age where books were scarce, communication was difficult and people who could read and write were almost as rare as the books, it made sense to centralise the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge. If you wanted to learn, you headed towards where the books were and the people who could read them and that meant the great universities like Paris and Oxford. Poor communication, expensive reading materials and illiteracy were the foundation blocks for the universities. If today we have excellent communications, free online information and general literacy, we also have an environment in which the universities are struggling to maintain their position. That, of course, is not an accident.
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.
Former Glades Central football coach Jessie Hester resigned Thursday as coach at Suncoast after just 10 months at the school.
Hester, 48, said the job at one of Palm Beach County's top academic public schools "wasn't the right fit" for him. The academic pressures the students faced made it difficult for the football team to practice and prepare for games, Hester said, adding that his team would go weeks without a full practice because his players had other school obligations.
The Chargers finished 4-6, missing the playoffs and tying for third in a five-team district.
"There are great, great people at the school, and great kids," Hester said, "but it was just not a good fit for me. It was too difficult to do the things I wanted to do in that situation."
It was no secret that Suncoast, with its nationally ranked academic programs and rigorous academic requirements, would be a more challenging job than Hester's previous job at his alma mater.
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.my correspondent notes:
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.
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?
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.
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.View Bloomberg Business Week's "great schools" state by state rankings, here.
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.
The first night they slept entwined on his futon, Jack Robison, 19, who had since childhood thought of himself as "not like the other humans," regarded Kirsten Lindsmith with undisguised tenderness.
She was the only girl to have ever asked questions about his obsessive interests -- chemistry, libertarian politics, the small drone aircraft he was building in his kitchen -- as though she actually cared to hear his answer. To Jack, who has a form of autism called Asperger syndrome, her mind was uncannily like his. She was also, he thought, beautiful.
So far they had only cuddled; Jack, who had dropped out of high school but was acing organic chemistry in continuing education classes, had hopes for something more. Yet when she smiled at him the next morning, her lips seeking his, he turned away.
"I don't really like kissing," he said.
We're meeting for lunch at a restaurant in Canary Wharf, where many of the major global banks are located. He is a man in his late 40s, inconspicuously dressed, and in possession of a firm handshake. He orders a Coke, and then a pasta dish he will dig in with great relish. In his volunteer email he said he was with a software firm (working in investment banking). When asked for a job description, he simply says he is a "quant".
"My parents discovered that I was of a mathematical bent aged three when I was apparently lining up my toys in order of size and then colour. I was one of these terrible, precocious kids who did their mathematics O-level aged 12. After a long academic career I ended up doing theoretical physics for my PhD, and spent a couple of years at Cern in Geneva. Many people I know from back then are still at universities, doing research and climbing the slippery slope to professorships and fellowships. They work the same astonishing long hours as I do, yet get paid a fraction and, from a purely scientific perspective, get to do some really, really interesting science. I often say (only half jokingly) that I "sold my soul" - I make a little over £200,000 a year, including my bonus.
"I am in a world of data, and I build all sorts of models for banks. For instance, one that helps a bank decide whom to lend a mortgage to. You have all this data about the person who is applying, and then the model works out the risk of lending to that person. You look at both the probability of this happening, and at the size of the loss in such an event.
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.
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.
Lower marriage rates among black women have less to do with the character of black men, and more to do with specific social characteristics that are associated with lower marriage rates among all men and women, but are more common among black people. A black woman with a postsecondary degree is more likely to be married than a white woman who dropped out of high school. A black woman with a personal annual income of more than $75,000 is more than twice as likely to be married as white women who live in poverty. White women living in New York and Los Angeles have much lower marriage rates than most black women who live in small towns.
Black and white women who are younger than 40 have higher college graduation rates, lower incarceration rates and lower mortality rates when compared to their male counterparts. However, black men on average have higher incomes than black women, and there are hundreds of thousands more black men earning $75,000 a year or more than black women. Eighty-eight percent of all married black men are married to black women, a figure that changes less than five percentage points with more education and income.
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.
Fordham's latest study, "Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? Performance Trends of Top Students," is the first to examine the performance of America's highest-achieving children over time at the individual-student level. Produced in partnership with the Northwest Evaluation Association, it finds that many high-achieving students struggle to maintain their elite performance over the years and often fail to improve their reading ability at the same rate as their average and below-average classmates. The study raises troubling questions: Is our obsession with closing achievement gaps and "leaving no child behind" coming at the expense of our "talented tenth"--and America's future international competitiveness? Read on to learn more.
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.
VIEWED superficially, the part of youth that the psychologist Jean Piaget called middle childhood looks tame and uneventful, a quiet patch of road on the otherwise hairpin highway to adulthood.
Said to begin around 5 or 6, when toddlerhood has ended and even the most protractedly breast-fed children have been weaned, and to end when the teen years commence, middle childhood certainly lacks the physical flamboyance of the epochs fore and aft: no gotcha cuteness of babydom, no secondary sexual billboards of pubescence.
Yet as new findings from neuroscience, evolutionary biology, paleontology and anthropology make clear, middle childhood is anything but a bland placeholder. To the contrary, it is a time of great cognitive creativity and ambition, when the brain has pretty much reached its adult size and can focus on threading together its private intranet service -- on forging, organizing, amplifying and annotating the tens of billions of synaptic connections that allow brain cells and brain domains to communicate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is something truly disturbing about a society that seeks to control the behavior of schoolchildren through fear and violence, a tactic that harkens back to an era of paddle-bruised behinds and ruler-slapped wrists. Yet, some American school districts are pushing the boundaries of corporal punishment even further with the use of Tasers against unruly schoolchildren.
The deployment of Tasers against "problem" students coincides with the introduction of police officers on school campuses, also known as School Resource Officers (SROs). According to the Los Angeles Times, as of 2009, the number of SROs carrying Tasers was well over 4,000.
As far back as 1988, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Congress of Parents and Teachers, American Medical Association, National Education Association, American Bar Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics recognized that inflicting pain and fear upon disobedient children is far more harmful than helpful. Yet, we continue to do it with disturbing results, despite mountains of evidence of more effective methods of discipline.
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.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
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.
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.
Robert DeCock, via email:
Parents work very hard to get their children into college, and when that work pays off, they breathe a sigh of relief. After enduring mountains of paperwork, ruthless deadlines and constant second-guessing, the elusive acceptance letter suddenly makes it all worthwhile.Robert recently contacted me via the Madison Chamber of Commerce. I've met him once and found the conversation interesting. Contact him if you'd like to attend a Pre-College workshop or have questions.
But then come the really hard questions. How are we going to pay for this? What if, after all this work, my kid doesn't do well in school? What if he doesn't graduate? What if he can't get a decent job?
The key to college success is asking all of those questions much earlier. And that means starting the planning process itself much earlier.
How early? Think middle school. Seriously.
Starting early achieves a number of significant things:
As parents, you take control of the admissions and financial aid processes, rather than those processes taking control of you.
Your child develops an early sense of purpose as it relates to college - what areas of study interest him, what colleges fit his interests and his personality, and what careers might await
You turn the tables in the admissions process. Instead of hoping that a college says "yes" to your child, the college ends up hoping that your child will say "yes" to them
That last point is important. Colleges are in search of special students - those who stand the greatest chance of success during school and after graduation. Establishing early relationships with potential colleges can put your family in the position of "seller" instead of "buyer," giving you financial leverage and negotiating power. And when that happens, aid packages can go up dramatically - sometimes by $2,000...$5,000...even $10,000 per year.
For parents, an early start in college planning often results in significant tuition savings. For students, starting early greatly improves the chances of success during the college years and the post-graduation job market.
For both of you, there's an added benefit - less stress and a more enjoyable, rewarding experience.
Robert DeCock is a Certified College Planning Specialist (CCPS) with the National Institute of Certified College Planning Specialists. DeCock runs the Quest Pre-College Planning and Financial Aid Workshops, which provide hands-on, step-by-step, proven best practices for parents who want to minimize costs and maximize their child's opportunity for success. Visit www.qcollegeprogram.com or call 608.438.2941 for more information.
Robert is holding a Pre-College Workshop is on Thursday, January 12, 5-8:00. Contact him for details.
As concerns mount over the costs and benefits of higher education, it may be worthwhile to glance at the benefits of high school education at present as well. Of course, high school costs, while high, are borne by the taxpayers in general, but it is reasonable to hope that there are sufficient benefits for such an outlay.
In fact, 30 percent of ninth-grade students do not graduate with their class, so there is a major loss right there. In addition, it appears that a large fraction of our high school graduates who go on to college leave without taking any credential or degree within eight years. On November 17, 2008, the Boston Globe reported, "About two-thirds of the city's high school graduates in 2000 who enrolled in college have failed to earn degrees, according to a first-of- its-kind study being released today."1 The fact that this is a new study shows that the days of taking not just college, but high school education for granted may be ending as well. If public high schools were preparing their graduates (the 70 percent) adequately, they should be able to read and write in college.
Alternatives to high school are coming only slowly. Charter schools, some good and some bad, are being tried. Homeschooling serves some 1.5 million students, and some edupundits (and computer salesmen) are pushing for ever more use of virtual distance learning at the high school level.
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.
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.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Kaleem Caire, via email:
Dear Madison Prep,Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
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.
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.
The Madison School Board voted early Tuesday morning against a charter school geared toward low-income minority students.Nathan Comp:
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.
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."Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
"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."
Elisabeth Krents loves eating hot fudge sundaes, reading Wilkie Collins novels and trying, often unsuccessfully, to grow tomatoes. Yet in certain living rooms, in coffee shops and on Web sites, Ms. Krents, 61, incites the kind of fear and fascination usually reserved for a head of state or an over-covered celebrity.
"When sending thank you to Babby, address envelope to 'Elisabeth Krents,' correct? And leave off 'PhD'?" one anxious parent asked on the online forum Urban Baby. "It's like Santa Claus," responded a more experienced anxious parent. "Just send it to the Babster, UES. She'll get it."
Ms. Krents, called Babby by intimates and hopeful applicants alike, is a singularly powerful New Yorker whose name inspires endless opinion -- some informed, much unsubstantiated.
As admissions director since 1996 at the Dalton School on the Upper East Side, Ms. Krents decides each year which of the city's supply of high-achieving 4-year-olds get the privilege of attending one of the nation's best-regarded kindergartens, which costs $36,970 a year. Because many people believe admission to be a golden ticket leading to the Ivy League and a successful life beyond, and because of the increasingly bad math of private-school admissions in Manhattan, a kind of Babby Krents mythology has developed in certain precincts.
Admissions directors are a feared lot in a city where 10 children often apply for a single seat. Ms. Krents is, to some extent, the queen bee, if only because she has been doing it longer than most and is doing it at Dalton. The school is among the most selective in the city, in part because many parents believe it has perfected the balance between progressive education (learning matters) and results (graduates get into top colleges).
Power brokers fear her, well-heeled mothers seek advice on how to dress for her, wads of money are spent on preparing small children to impress her -- and people, it seems, are unwilling to share their names along with their thoughts about her.
"I lived in fear of her because of all the rumors," said one Dalton mother, speaking, like more than a dozen others interviewed, on the condition of anonymity out of concern that it could affect her children, one of whom has yet to face the admissions gantlet.
Conventional wisdom has it that not scoring a face-to-face meeting with Ms. Krents is tantamount to rejection. (Not true, she said in a recent interview; it is merely a matter of scheduling.)
Some posit that calling her "Elisabeth" in the parent or child interview will alienate her. (Nonsense, she said, though only her mother, now deceased, called her that.) Summer birthdays need not apply. ("No!" she said excitedly. "The school is filled with summer birthdays!") Being rich helps. ("We look at the full pie, and that's not part of the decision.")
Ms. Krents turns out to be warm and easy to talk to; "she was perfectly lovely" is how the aforementioned fearful mother put it. She loves meeting people and hearing their stories, and she does not seem burned out from the drone of similar questions, anxieties and attempted bribes. (Recalling a vat of fudge offered by one parent, she said, "I had to turn that away with tears in my eyes.")
She is famous for remembering details about every child. Another mother recalled Ms. Krents's suggesting that her 5-year-old meet another boy with common interests; years later, they are best friends. "It's weird," the mother said. "She could see it."
For her part, Ms. Krents said of applicants, "I feel it's my role to hold their hand." Her goal in interviewing parents, as she asks them to describe their precious little ones, is to see them settle back in their seats and relax their hunched shoulders. "That's what I'm about," she said. "I want to know as much as I can about their child."
Perhaps it is her affability that feeds the "Babby" divide. Those who meet her like her. But most of their children will inevitably be rejected, so the warmth is often clouded, if not replaced, by feelings of resentment -- hence the not-nice things that proliferate on the Web and in certain kaffeeklatsches.
"It's upsetting," Ms. Krents said. "People get very disappointed when they can't have what they want."
Ms. Krents and Ellen Stein, Dalton's head of school, declined to disclose how many applications pour in each year, for fear of elevating the already-elevated anxiety.
In recent years, Ms. Krents, like many of her counterparts across the city, has been on a mission to diversify Dalton, which has only exacerbated the unfortunate odds and the attendant anxiety. Forty-seven percent of Dalton's 97 kindergartners this year are members of minority groups, a fact that has upset some families in which a parent attended the school and perhaps donated to its endowment as a kind of down payment on that golden ticket.
"It's creating resentment in the community," said one alumna, who has refused to give any more money to the school until her child is accepted. "The whole point of a legacy is that it creates a sense of longevity and community."
Victoria Goldman, an admissions consultant, put it this way: "Babby feels she's doing right by the school, but families with siblings feel outraged."
Ms. Krents, for her part, disputes the notion that legacies or siblings of current students have been disadvantaged by the push for diversity. "This is a misconception," she said, adding that siblings make up a third to a half of each class, a portion that has not changed. "First and foremost, the spots go to siblings and alumni and faculty."
The drive to diversify, Ms. Krents said, started as far back as she did, 15 years ago. She defines diversity broadly -- "racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, socioeconomic, geographic, family background, family style, gender orientation, children with physical challenges, diversity of thought, co-ed" -- and personally, having had a brother, Harold, who was blind and who became the inspiration for the Broadway play "Butterflies Are Free."
"I saw families with a lack of understanding hurt him by not letting their children play with him," she said of Harold, who died in 1987 of a brain tumor. "It's instilled in you early on."
Dalton is hardly alone in its push to look more like New York City: half of this year's kindergarten students at Ethical Culture Fieldston's lower school in the Bronx are members of minority groups, as are 65 percent of the school's pre-K students. At Trinity School, on the Upper West Side, more than 40 percent of kindergartners are nonwhite.
But Felicia Washington, an African-American mother of two Dalton graduates whose name was provided by Ms. Krents, said hers was "the only school that talked about diversity up front."
"They wanted children of color and other kids to have a more well-rounded education," recalled Ms. Washington, who also sat on Dalton's board.
Financial aid is increasing as well. Last year, Dalton granted a total of $6.5 million to about 20 percent of the student body, school officials said. That amounted to 16 percent of tuition dollars, up from 13 percent in 2005-6.
Ms. Krents herself is a Dalton legacy: she graduated in the class of 1968, though she went to Scarsdale public schools, in Westchester County, through 10th grade. Her children followed her to Dalton -- in the classes of 1997 and 2000 -- and she is currently trying to teach her months-old grandson the school song.
"He's not doing well," she said.
She studied English and fine arts at Harvard and earned a master's degree and a Ph.D. at Columbia, with a dissertation on humor development in children, including the hearing-impaired, that she defended the day she delivered her second daughter.
Ms. Krents went to work in Dalton's development office in 1990. By the time she became admissions director, Ms. Stein was running the elementary school, and they became fast friends. Today the two women swap books, interrupt each other's thoughts and frequently finish each other's sentences.
Both women said they empathized with the anxiety that parents might feel in the admissions rush -- which, for many, does not abate even after they have scored one golden ticket.
"I think I fear her more now than I did before," another Dalton mother said. "She holds my kids in the palm of her hand."
Indeed, as this reporter left her office, Ms. Krents's parting words were, "Will we see you when your daughter turns 4?"
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.
At 12:30 am on June 10, 2002, Israel Lane Joubert and his family of seven set out for a long drive home following a family reunion in Beaumont, Texas. Joubert, who had hoped to reach home in faraway Fort Worth in time to get to work by 8 am, fell asleep at the wheel, plowing the family's Chevy Suburban into the rear of a parked 18-wheeler. He survived, but his wife and five of his six children were killed.
The Joubert tragedy underscores a problem of epidemic proportions among workers who get too little sleep. In the past five years, driver fatigue has accounted for more than 1.35 million automobile accidents in the United States alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The general effect of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance is well-known: Stay awake longer than 18 consecutive hours, and your reaction speed, short-term and long-term memory, ability to focus, decision-making capacity, math processing, cognitive speed, and spatial orientation all start to suffer. Cut sleep back to five or six hours a night for several days in a row, and the accumulated sleep deficit magnifies these negative effects. (Sleep deprivation is implicated in all kinds of physical maladies, too, from high blood pressure to obesity.)
One out of every 15 high school students smokes marijuana on a near daily basis, a figure that has reached a 30-year peak even as use of alcohol, cigarettes and cocaine among teenagers continues a slow decline, according to a new government report.
The popularity of marijuana, which is now more prevalent among 10th graders than cigarette smoking, reflects what researchers and drug officials say is a growing perception among teenagers that habitual marijuana use carries little risk of harm. That perception, experts say, is fueled in part by wider familiarity with medicinal marijuana and greater ease in obtaining it.
Although it is difficult to track the numbers, "we're clearly seeing an increase in teenage marijuana use that corresponds pretty clearly in time with the increase in medical marijuana use," said Dr. Christian Thurstone, medical director of the adolescent substance abuse treatment program at Denver Health and Hospital Authority, who was not involved in the study. Medical marijuana is legal in 16 states, including Colorado, and the District of Columbia.
One drive back from Dallas on Interstate 30 is indelibly etched into my memory. I was in the center lane. And just forward of me in the right lane, a soft-top Jeep slowly started drifting across all three lanes of traffic, never slowing down. I honked my horn to alert the driver, but the Jeep left the highway and slammed into the first wooden pike in a crash barrier, throwing the vehicle's rear end so high that I thought it might flip over.
Pulling onto the shoulder 50 or so feet ahead of the Jeep, I ran back, expecting the worst. But, while the driver was certainly going to be bruised, she was actually all right. So was her dog, in the front passenger floorboard. When I asked what had happened, she said she'd leaned over to pour some water into her dog's bowl on the floorboard and just wasn't paying attention. But I'd watched this accident unfold over five to seven seconds: She didn't just lean over for a second, she was completely oblivious to her loss of control of her vehicle until it crashed. I couldn't help but notice all the prescription bottles littering the Jeep's interior; one, filled the day before, was for Valium.
Because I had my cell phone with me, I had called Arlington 911 before I ever made it to her wreck.
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.
As students gain access to sophisticated gadgets both at school and at home, educators are on the lookout for new kinds of cheating. From digitally inserting answers into soft drink labels to texting each other test answers and photos of exams, kids are finding new ways to get ahead when they haven't studied.
YouTube alone has dozens of videos that lay out step-by-step instructions: One three-minute segment shows how to digitally scan the wrapper of a soft drink bottle, then use photo editing software to erase the nutrition information and replace it with test answers or handy formulas. The video has gotten nearly 7 million hits.
Marriage rates in the US have hit an all-time low, as economic forces and social shifts have pushed couples to delay or avoid matrimony, according to an analysis of census data by the Pew Research Center.
Just 51 per cent of people over age 18 are married today, compared to 57 per cent in 2000 and 72 per cent in 1960, with trends pointing toward wedded couples becoming a social minority within a few years.
"Public attitudes about the institution of marriage are mixed," the report said. "Nearly four-in-10 Americans say marriage is becoming obsolete," yet most people who have never married say they would like to some day.
A sharp drop in marriages occurred between 2009 and 2010 when the US economy was in recession, with new nuptials declining 5 per cent. Young people, in particular, drove the rates down, as marriage rates fell 13 per cent among 18 to 24 year olds.
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."Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
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.
It's the kind of calculation that ruffles the robes of administrators at the most prestigious universities in the country. It's a blunt bottom-line approach to a postsecondary education, a show-me-the-money college survey. And it's one academic contest that the Ivies don't win.
For decades, the best-known college rankings have tried to encompass everything from alumni giving and "academic reputation" to dorm amenities. But a few years ago, SmartMoney stripped all that away in favor of a simpler benchmark. With help from PayScale, a Seattle-based compensation-data company that maintains salary profiles of 29 million workers, we collected median pay figures for two pools of each school's alums: recent grads (who've been out of school for an average of two years) and midcareer types (an average of 15 years out). For each class, we divided the median alumnus salary by tuition and fees (assuming they paid full price at then-current rates), averaged the results and, finally, converted that result to a percentage figure. The outcome: a measure of return on (tuition) investment that we've dubbed the Payback Score. For example, a hypothetical grad who spent $100,000 to attend college and now earns $150,000 a year would score 150. The higher the score, obviously, the better.
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.Also posted at the Capital Times.
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 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.
- 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.
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.
December 11, 2011Related: Who Runs the Madison Schools?
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
Amber Dias couldn't be sure what was wrong with her little boy.
Chase was a bright, loving 2 1/2-year-old. But he didn't talk much and rarely responded to his own name. He hated crowds and had a strange fascination with the underside of the family tractor.
Searching the Internet, Amber found stories about other children like Chase -- on websites devoted to autism.
"He wasn't the kid rocking in the corner, but it was just enough to scare me," recalled Dias, who lives with her husband and three children on a dairy farm in the Central Valley town of Kingsburg.
She took Chase to a psychologist in Los Angeles, who said the boy indeed had autism and urged the family to seek immediate treatment.
And no matter which way the Dec. 19 vote goes, there's no way to know now whether the school will be entirely effective.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.
"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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Kaleem Caire, via email:
December 10, 2011Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.
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.
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?
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
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!
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
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.
We were not able to get to all the audience questions at the SchoolBook community event in Brooklyn on Thursday night. Here is a sampling of 10 of them. Keep the conversation going on your school pages and with SchoolBook editors. We will do our best to get some answers for you.
Meanwhile, the video above was shown during the event at the Pratt Institute. See what the students have to say about the choice process.
What happens to students that schools don't "compete" for?
Why do all the kids have to be tutored to get into the specialized schools?
I just moved to Harlem and found out I'm in District 5 with almost no choice for middle schools. Why is this?
Why were the neighborhood schools discontinued? MetroCards and buses are very expensive.
Why don't you see which principals have success and copy their idea and fire the incompetent ones?
A nice analytic giblet from a Times profile of new Nobel economists Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims:Because of his father's College Board connections, Mr. Sims got hold of an old SAT exam, which he and Mr. Willoughby used to conduct a statistical analysis. They found that on multiple-choice questions in English and social studies, the "longer answers tended to be correct." In math, they determined that the number that was "closest to all of the other numerical choices" was probably the right one.
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.
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.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.
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.
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain
Disclaimer: I write this as a university student. Some of my points may or may not be applicable in a high school environment.
The grading system in schools and universities has a long history of opponents and criticism. I won't go into the arguments here because, quite frankly, I don't have anything new to say about it. In short: the system sucks. It encourages memorization and frenzied, last-minute studying, can be played in a variety of ways, etc. Educators can debate the alternatives and run pilot projects, and that's all well and good. But what can we - the students - do about it?
My answer: Don't Worry About It.
Of course, this could easily be interpreted as a call to rebel against the system, forget grades entirely, and party night and day. So let me expand on that:
Pick courses that interest you, and focus on learning. And don't worry about the grades - they will come with the territory.
Lanya Olmstead was born in Florida to a mother who emigrated from Taiwan and an American father of Norwegian ancestry. Ethnically, she considers herself half Taiwanese and half Norwegian. But when applying to Harvard, Olmstead checked only one box for her race: white.
"I didn't want to put 'Asian' down," Olmstead said, "because my mom told me there's discrimination against Asians in the application process."
For years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it's harder for them to gain admission to the nation's top colleges.
Studies show that Asian-Americans meet these colleges' admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6 percent representation in the U.S. population and that they often need test scores hundreds of points higher than applicants from other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of admission. Critics say these numbers, along with the fact that some top colleges with race-blind admissions have double the Asian percentage of Ivy League schools, prove the existence of discrimination.
Kaleem Caire, via email:
Fails to address core issues impacting racial achievement gap and middle class flightRelated: "They're all rich, white kids and they'll do just fine" -- NOT!.
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 email@example.com or 608-729-1235.
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 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
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.
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.
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.
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.Charlie Mas has more:
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.
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.
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.
Presidents at 36 private colleges earned more than $1 million in 2009, up from 33 the previous year, according to a study by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The annual study, using data from federal tax documents, found that the median compensation -- including salary and benefits -- was $385,909, a 2.2 percent increase from the previous year. The median base salary increased by 2.8 percent to $294,489.
The highest-paid president in 2009 was Constantine Papadakis of Drexel University. Mr. Papadakis, who died in April that year, earned $4,912,127, most of it from life insurance and previously accrued compensation paid to his widow. His base salary was $195,726.
The next three top earners -- William R. Brody of Johns Hopkins University ($3,821,886); Donald V. DeRosa of University of the Pacific ($2,357,540); and Henry S. Bienen of Northwestern University ($2,240,775) -- also left their presidencies.
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.
Paula Prosper worried that her son was not ready for the differences between his private Montessori school and the public Fairfax County seventh grade she planned to transfer him to next year.
Prosper, a teacher, asked if he and she could sit for a few hours at Longfellow Middle School "to see what happens in classes and to get a feel for the school in general." The answer was no, with explanations that made little sense.
Prosper said Longfellow's director of student services, Gail Bigio, told her "it had to do with privacy issues for the teachers -- the public employees whose salaries are paid by my tax dollars. Then she brought up immunization and likened it to the students attending the school who wish to have a visiting cousin shadow them." Longfellow Principal Carole Kihm told me Bigio did not mention teacher privacy.
The labor market continued to expand at a modest pace last month, according to today's employment report. Payroll employment increased by 120,000 jobs in November, and the fraction of Americans with a job ticked up. Including revisions to previous months, total employment was 192,000 higher in November. Private employment increased by 140,000 jobs last month while governments continued to shed jobs. While the unemployment rate jumped down to 8.6 percent, some of the reduction reflected lower labor force participation rather than increases in employment.
While overall job creation has improved slightly, many American workers continue to face serious difficulties in the labor market. These workers tend to have less formal education and/or fewer job-relevant skills. For less-educated workers, the Great Recession has only exacerbated a longer-term trend of diminished earnings and job opportunities.
We are in agreement that the achievement gaps for low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners must be eliminated. The Administration agrees that bolder steps must be taken to address these gaps. We also know that closing these gaps is not a simple task and change will not come overnight, but, the District's commitment to doing so will not waiver. We also know that to be successful in the long run, we must employ multiple strategies both within our schools and within our community. This is why the District has held interest in many of the educational strategies included in the Madison Prep's proposal like longer school days and a longer school year at an appropriately compensated level for staff, mentoring support, the proposed culture of the school and the International Baccalaureate Program.
While enthusiastic about these educational strategies, the Administration has also been clear throughout this conversation about its concern with a non-instrumentality model.
Autonomy is a notion inherent in all charter school proposals. Freedom and flexibility to do things differently are the very reasons charter schools exist. However, the non-instrumentality charter school model goes beyond freedom and flexibility to a level of separateness that the Administration cannot support.
In essence, Madison Prep's current proposal calls for the exclusion of the elected Board of Education and the District's Administration from the day-to-day operations of the school. It prevents the Board, and therefore the public, from having direct oversight of student learning conditions and teacher working conditions in a publicly-funded charter school. From our perspective, the use of public funds calls for a higher level of oversight than found in the Madison Prep proposal and for that matter in any non-instrumentality proposal.
In addition, based on the District's analysis, there is significant legal risk in entering into a non- instrumentality charter contract under our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers.
In our analysis of Madison Prep's initial instrumentality proposal, the Administration expressed concerns over the cost of the program to the District and ultimately could not recommend funding at the level proposed. Rather, the Administration proposed a funding formula tied to the District's per pupil revenues. We also offered to continue to work with Madison Prep to find ways to lower these costs. Without having those conversations, the current proposal reduces Madison Prep's costs by changing from an instrumentality to a non-instrumentality model. This means that the savings are realized directly through reductions in staff compensation and benefits to levels lower than MMSD employees. The Administration has been willing to have conversations to determine how to make an instrumentality proposal work.
In summary, this administrative analysis finds concerns with Madison Prep's non-instrumentality proposal due to the level of governance autonomy called for in the plan and due to our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers. Based on these issues, we cannot recommend to the Board that Madison Prep be approved as a non-instrumentality charter school.
We know more needs to be done as a district and a community to eliminate our achievement gaps. We must continue to identify strategies both within our schools and our larger community to eliminate achievement gaps. These discussions, with the Urban League and with our entire community, need to continue on behalf of all of our students.
In anticipation of the recommendation, Caire sent out an email Friday night to School Board members with a letter responding to concerns about the union contract issue.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
The problem concerns a "work preservation" clause in the Madison Teachers Inc. contract that requires all teaching duties in the district be performed by union teachers.
Exceptions to the clause have been made in the past, such as having private day-care centers offer 4-year-old kindergarten, but those resulted from agreements with the union. Such an agreement would nullify the current union contract under the state's new collective bargaining law, according to the district.
Caire said a recent law signed by Gov. Scott Walker could allow the district to amend its union contract. However, School Board member Ed Hughes, who is a lawyer, disagreed with Caire's interpretation.
Nerad said even if the union issue can be resolved, he still objects to the school seeking autonomy from all district policies except those related to health and safety of students.
Caire said Madison Prep's specific policies could be ironed out as part of the charter contract after the School Board approves the proposal. He plans to hold a press conference Tuesday to respond to the district's review.
"The purpose of a charter school is to free you from red tape -- not to adopt the same red tape that they have," Caire said. "We hope the board will stop looking at all of those details and start looking at why we are doing this in the first place."
The fate of Madison Prep, yea or nea, will resonate locally for years. A decisive moment for our local $372M schools.
Over the last several months it's been a pleasure to witness the easing of ill will between the leadership of NJ's primary teachers' union, NJEA, and members of Gov. Christie's educational team. After several years of bitter recrimination from both sides of the table, everyone seems to have moved on from the trauma of our botched Race To The Top application and former Comm. Bret Schundler's resignation. Sure, the sting of last Spring's health and benefits reform bills, championed by Gov. Christie, must be a sore spot for union leadership, but there appears to be a shared recognition that we should recalibrate the balance between the needs of schoolchildren and the needs of teachers. Suddenly NJ's 100-year old tenure law is on the table - a boon for both student and professionals - and Ed. Comm. Cerf 's speech at NJEA's Annual Convention earlier this month and was courteously received (except for a few nasty tweets).
So we'll hold onto the progress and roll our eyes at the retro and reactive press release just out from NJEA President Barbara Keshishian, in which she claims, in outraged tones, that NJ's alleged achievement gap among black, white, Hispanic, and poor kids is a "classic strawman" on the part of Gov. Christie and "based on a deliberate misuse of the data."
Fewer than one-third of California students who took a statewide physical fitness test this year managed to pass all six areas assessed, new results show.
State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a longtime cross-country coach who has made physical fitness a signature issue, announced the results this week as he launched a program to improve children's health. The campaign will use such celebrity athletes as NBA all-star Bill Walton and others to visit schools to urge students to drink more water, eat more fruits and vegetables and increase their exercise.
"When only 31% of children are physically fit, that's a public health challenge we can't wait to address," Torlakson said in a statement.
When the end finally came, it came fast. Spotting Steve's red BMW convertible parked in the driveway, Culver City police in tactical vests and armed with assault weapons quickly deployed, swarming the front and rear entrances. Wearing a green nylon jacket with RAID splashed across the shoulders, Sergeant Jason Sims knocked on the front door, then ordered his men to break it down with a battering ram. Inside, kids screamed, cried, or just stood there trying to wrap their heads around what they were witnessing--and what their parents were witnessing. Because this was a Thursday, this was Family Night. Expecting to endure an evening of candor with impunity--Guess what, Mother? The world doesn't revolve around you!--parents had their bean dip and decaf upended by an armed raid. Tilling the big wayward ship of their children's adolescence had left them chronically alert to trouble, but not like this.
Madison schools aren't failing, by any stretch of the imagination, for many students.Remarkable. Are there some excellent teachers in Madison? Certainly. Does Madison's Administration seek best in the world results? A look at the math task force, seemingly on hold for years, is informative. The long one size fits all battle and the talented and gifted complaint are worth contemplating.
In fact, if you're a white, middle-class family sending your children to public school here, your kids are likely getting an education that's on a par with Singapore or Finland -- among the best in the world.
However, if you're black or Latino and poor, it's an unquestionable fact that Madison schools don't as good a job helping you with your grade-point average, high school graduation, college readiness or test scores. By all these measures, the district's achievement gap between white and minority students is awful.
These facts have informed the stern (and legitimate) criticisms leveled by Urban League President Kaleem Caire and Madison Prep backers.
But they doesn't take into account some recent glimmers of hope that shouldn't be discounted or overlooked. Programs like AVID/TOPS support first-generation college-bound students in Madison public schools and are showing some successes. Four-year-old kindergarten is likely to even the playing field for the district's youngest students, giving them a leg up as they enter school. And, the data surrounding increasing numbers of kids of color participating in Advanced Placement classes is encouraging.
Stepping back from the local district and looking at education through a broader lens, it's easy to see that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have aimed to legislate, bribe and punish their way toward an unrealistic Lake Wobegon world where all the students are above average.
Could Madison be the best? Certainly. The infrastructure is present, from current spending of $14,963/student to the nearby UW-Madison, Madison College and Edgewood College backed by a supportive community.
Ideally, Madison (and Wisconsin) should have the courage to participate in global examinations (Florida Students Take Global Examinations, Wisconsin's Don't). Taxpayers and parents would then know if Troller's assertions are fact based.
Kaleem Caire, via email
December 2, 2011PDF letter:
Greetings Madison Prep.
Tomorrow afternoon, we are expecting to learn that MMSD's Administration will inform the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education that Madison Prep should not be approved. A possible reason we expect will be MMSD's concern that the current collective bargaining agreement between the District and Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) has a "work preservation clause" which the teacher's union advocated for long ago to ensure that it was the only game in town to represent public school teachers in Madison.
Below, is the cover note that I forwarded to Ed Hughes of the Board of Education and copied to a number of others, who had asked a thoughtful question about our proposal to establish Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality charter school, we hope, in fall 2012. Also see the letter attached to this email.
December 2, 2011
Attached, please find a letter that contains the answer to your question referenced in your email below. The letter contains the explanation of a path to which Madison Prep could be established as a non-instrumentality public charter school, under Wisconsin law, and in a way that would not violate the current collective bargaining agreement between MMSD and Madison Teachers Inc.
We look forward to answering any questions you or other members of the Board of Education may have.
Thank you so much and Many blessings to you and your family this holiday season.
cc: Daniel Nerad, MMSD Superintendent
Dylan Pauly, MMSD Legal Counsel
MMSD Board of Education Members
ULGM Board of Directors
Madison Prep Board of Directors
Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.
Steve Goldberg, CUNA Mutual Foundation
This letter is intended to respond to your November 78,207I email and to suggest that there is a viable option for moving forward with Urban League's proposal for the Madison Preparatory Academy ("Madison Prep") that: [i) will reduce cost; and (ii) will not sacrifice the union security provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement "Agreement" or "Contract") between the Madison Metropolitan School District ("MMSD" or "District") and Madison Teachers, Inc. ("MTI").Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Your email asks for a response to a question concerning how the school district could authorize Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality charter without thereby violating the terms of the District's Agreement with MTI. Your email references a provision in the MTI Agreement that provides "that instructional duties where the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requires that such be performed by a certifìcated teacher, shall be performed only by'teachers."' .See Article I, Section 8.3.a. In addition you note that "the term 'teacher' refers to anyone in the collective bargaining unit." See Article I, Section 8.2. You conclude your email by stating that "it appears that all teachers in MMSD schools -- including non-instrumentality charter schools - must be members of the MTI bargaining unit."
The Urban League is aware of the Agreement's language and concedes that the language, if enforceable, poses an obstacle as we look for School Board approval of the plan to open and operate a "non-instrumentality" school. Under an instrumentality charter, the employees of the charter school must be employed by the school board. Under a non-instrumentality charter, the school board may not be the employer of the charter school's staff. See S 118.40(7)(a). Thus, the statement in your email that all teachers, including those in a non-instrumentality charter school - "must be members of the MTI bargaining unit" and, presumably, employed by the school board is not permitted under Wisconsin law.
Under Wisconsin's charter school law the School Board has the exclusive authority to determine whether a school is an instrumentality or not an instrumentality of the school district. .See S 118.40(7)(a). That decision is an important decision reserved to the School Board alone. The effect of that decision drives whether teachers and staff must be, or cannot be, employees of the School Board. The language of the Contract deprives the School Board of the decision reserved to it under the statute and that language cannot be harmonized to give effect to both the statute and the Agreement. Alternatively the Contract language creates a situation whereby the School 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. In our view the law trumps the Contract in either of these situations.
The situation described above could likely only be resolved in a court of law. The Contract includes a "savings clause" that contemplates that where a court invalidates a provision in the Agreement, the invalid provision is deleted and the remainder of the contract remains intact. See Article VIII, Section E.
The Urban League is, however, mindful that litigation is both expensive and time consuming. Moreover it is clear that the Contract language will become a prohibited subject of bargaining in the near future when the current Agreement expires. Unfortunately, the children we seek to serve, do not have the time to wait for that day.
Our second purpose in writing is to make you aware of a possible solution to a major obstacle here. One of the major obstacles in moving forward has been the cost associated with an instrumentality school coupled with MTI's reluctance to work with the District in modifying the Contract to reduce costs associated with staffing and certain essential features of Madison Prep, like an extended school day, As we understand it MTI does not want to modify the Contract because such a modification would result in an earlier application of 2077 Wisconsin Act L0 to the District, members of the bargaining unit and to MTI itself.
We understand MTI's reluctance to do anything that would hasten the application of Act 10 in the school district, With the passage of 2011. Wisconsin Act 65, that concern is no longer an obstacle.
Act 65 allows the parties to a collective bargaining agreement to enter into a memorandum of understanding that would run for the remaining term of the collective bargaining agreement, for the purpose of reducing the cost of compensation or fringe benefits in the collective bargaining agreement,
The Act also provides that entering into such a memorandum would not be considered a "modification" of the collective bargaining agreement for the purposes of Act 10. Act 65 was published on November 23,2077 and took effect the following day. The law allows the parties to a collective bargaining agreement to enter into such a memorandum no later than 90 days after the effective date of the law.
The Urban League believes that Act 65 gives the Board and MTI the opportunity to make changes that will facilitate cost reductions, based in compensation and fringe benefits, to help Madison Prep move forward. And, the law allows the parties to do so in a way that does not adversely impact the teachers represented by MTI or the union security provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
For example, the parties could agree to reduce the staffing costs for Madison Prep, The parties could also agree that a longer school day would not have to cost more. And, the parties could agree that the work preservation clause referenced in the first part of this letter does not apply where the School Board has determined a charter school willbe a non-instrumentality of the District, a move that would also most certainly reduce costs. These changes would not be forced upon any existing MTI represented teacher as teachers would apply for vacancies in the school.
We hope that the School Board will give serious consideration to the opportunity presented by Act 65. 0n behalf of the Urban League of Greater Madison and Madison Preparatory Academy, we thank you for your support of Madison Prep.
The Obama administration issued new guidance Friday advising schools and colleges on how they can make race-based enrollment decisions to promote campus diversity, shortly before the Supreme Court is set to consider whether to re-examine a 2003 case holding that universities could sometimes use race in admissions decisions.
"Diverse learning environments promote development of analytical skills, dismantle stereotypes and prepare students to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a joint release by the Justice and Education departments.
The departments withdrew prior guidance from the Bush administration, which officials said was too vague to assist school administrators seeking to promote diverse student enrollment. The new guidance parses the Supreme Court's most recent rulings on student diversity to suggest policies the administration believes would not violate the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws.
Like the former Bush administration guidance, the new documents advise schools to use race-neutral policies if possible. If those prove insufficient, however, the new guidance states that a school "may consider a student's race as a 'plus factor' (among other, nonracial considerations) to achieve its compelling interests" in diversity.
It would have been understandable if President Barack Obama had ignored education in his first speech to Congress. There were other things to worry about in February 2009: an economy in free fall, health care costs threatening to bankrupt the federal government, a nation bleeding in two protracted foreign wars. Obama had said little about education on the campaign trail. Yet when he took the podium, he made a bold declaration: By 2020, America would regain its historical international lead in college attainment.
Months earlier, Bill Gates had announced a similar priority for his charitable foundation, the richest on the planet. After years of focusing on improving education for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Microsoft billionaire had set his sights on college. As would Obama, he called for a major increase in the number of adults with college degrees. Together, the most powerful man in the world and one of the richest created a rare moment of purpose and clarity in American education policy.
But effecting a major increase in college attainment is a daunting task. The percentage of American working-age adults who have graduated from college has hovered around 40 percent for years, with roughly 30 percent holding four-year degrees and another 10 percent associate's degrees. Obama and Gates were calling for a rise in the college attainment rate to nearly 60 percent in less than a generation, even though many public colleges and universities were already bursting at the seams, and cash-strapped state legislatures were handing down further punishing budget cuts.
Many people think of IQ as a genetic trait, like brown eyes or short legs: You're born with it and you're stuck with it. Now, a growing body of research is showing that a person's IQ can rise--and even fall--over the years.
Scores can change gradually or quickly, after as little as a few weeks of cognitive training, research shows. The increases are usually so incremental that they're not immediately perceptible to individuals, and the intelligence-boosting effects of cognitive training can fade after a few months.
In the latest study, 33 British students were given IQ tests and brain scans at ages 12 to 16 and again about four years later by researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London; 9% of the students showed a significant change of 15 points or more in IQ scores.
On a scale where 90 to 110 is considered average, one student's IQ rose 21 points to 128 from 107, lifting the student from the 68th percentile to the 97th compared with others the same age, says Cathy Price, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the center and co-author of the study, published last month in Nature. Another student's score skidded out of the "high average" category, to 96 from 114.
The new Brookings index on school choice is interesting and worth a look but as I go through it two things seem to jump out. First, despite the rhetoric in the public square there still isn't a great deal of real choice in education. And second, the index seems to reward places (relatively speaking) that have limited choices but still do all the things you should do (information, transportation etc...nonetheless). That's like having an incredible restaurant with easy valet parking, wonderful fresh food, great service, and lovely ambiance - but that can only seat four people a night. Nice but limited.
Lately David Foster Wallace seems to be in the air: Is his style still influencing bloggers? Is Jeffrey Eugenides' bandana-wearing depressed character in The Marriage Plot based on him? My own reasons for thinking about him are less high-flown. Like lots of other professors, I am just now sitting down to write the syllabus for a class next semester, and the extraordinary syllabuses of David Foster Wallace are in my head.
I am not generally into the reverential hush that seems to surround any mention of David Foster Wallace's name by most writers of my generation or remotely proximate to it; I am not enchanted by some fundamental childlike innocence people seem to find in him. I am suspicious generally of those sorts of hushes and enchantments, and yet I do feel in the presence of his careful crazy syllabuses something like reverence.
Wallace doesn't accept the silent social contract between students and professors: He takes apart and analyzes and makes explicit, in a way that is almost painful, all of the tiny conventional unspoken agreements usually made between professors and their students. "Even in a seminar class," his syllabus states, "it seems a little silly to require participation. Some students who are cripplingly shy, or who can't always formulate their best thoughts and questions in the rapid back-and-forth of a group discussion, are nevertheless good and serious students. On the other hand, as Prof --- points out supra, our class can't really function if there isn't student participation--it will become just me giving a half-assed ad-lib lecture for 90 minutes, which (trust me) will be horrible in all kinds of ways."
More parents are opting out of school shots for their children. In eight states now, more than one in 20 public school kindergartners aren't getting all the vaccines required for attendance, an Associated Press analysis found.
That growing trend among parents seeking vaccine exemptions has health officials worried about outbreaks of diseases that once were all but stamped out.
Take measles, for example. It can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis and death. Since 2000, one in every 250 Americans who got measles died.
The measles vaccine is so effective, 99.9% of those who get vaccinated gain immunity, said Geoffrey Swain, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and chief medical officer for the Milwaukee Health Department.
Many children cannot get the measles vaccine, though, because they aren't old enough - the first dose of vaccine is recommended between 12 and 15 months. Or, they have medical issues or families with religious beliefs that leave them unprotected and susceptible to measles through no fault of their own, Swain said.
Parents gathered in the auditorium of the Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars on Tuesday morning were not happy.
Their school, one of only three citywide gifted and talented programs in Manhattan, shares space in an East Harlem building with three middle schools. They learned recently that one of the schools, Esperanza Preparatory Academy, wants to expand to a high school, and they are concerned that the expansion will cause overcrowding and bring other problems.
Tuesday's meeting was called by the Education Department last week after parents flooded the office with calls and e-mails expressing concern about the addition of high school grades when their school has children as young as kindergarten.
Chicago Public Schools officials plan to overhaul 10 schools next year, six of which will be managed by a private organization in the latest move by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration to turn to the private sector to aid poorly performing public schools.
The proposed overhauls--commonly called turnarounds--involve the firing of existing staff and improvements to school curriculum and culture. Turnarounds are the first step in a series of school actions that include consolidating and closing underperforming schools.
A new state law requires CPS to announce all school closings and turnarounds by Thursday. There was vociferous opposition to any proposed closings at recent public hearings, which were also required by the law, even though though the list of targeted schools had not yet been released.
The elementary schools slated for turnaround are: Pablo Casals, 3501 W. Potomac Ave.; Melville W. Fuller, 4214 S. Saint Lawrence Ave.; Theodore Herzl, 3711 W. Douglas Blvd.; Marquette, 6550 S Richmond St.; Brian Piccolo, 1040 N Keeler Ave.; Amos Alonzo Stagg, 7424 S Morgan St.; Wendell Smith, 744 E 103rd St. and Carter G. Woodson South Elementary Schools, 4414 S Evans. The Chicago Vocational Career Academy, at 2100 E 87th St., and Tilden Career Community Academy, 4747 S Union Ave., high schools also are targeted for turnaround.
Jesse Yeh uses the University of California-Berkeley library instead of buying textbooks. He scrounges for free food at campus events and occasionally skips meals. He's stopped exercising and sleeps five to six hours per night so he can take 21 credits -- a course load so heavy he had to get special permission from a dean.
The only thing he won't do: take out a student loan.
"I see a lot of my friends who took out student loans, then they graduated and because of the economy right now they still couldn't find a job," said the third-year student, whose parents both lost their jobs in 2009 and who grew up in the boom-and-bust town of Victorville, Calif., on a block with several houses in foreclosure. "The debt burden is really heavy on them."
South Korean police have detained a teenager suspected of murdering his mother after she allegedly beat him with a golf club to get better school grades, in a case that has raised questions about the high-pressure nature of the country's education system.
The macabre incident has shocked the nation, with younger mothers questioning the values of previous generations who have been pushing children hard to improve their school performance.
"Children are being driven to the limit ... so many of them suffer from depression, kill themselves or commit impulsive crimes out of desperation," says Oh Sung-sook, head of the Citizens' Council for Educational Reform, an activist group.
Psychologists argue that the educational rat-race - children are routinely forced to study late into the night seven days a week and corporal punishment is still permitted - is stunting social development.
English class is about to start, and Taneli Nordberg introduces the day's guests: a row of fresh-faced university students sitting in the back of the classroom. They're training to be teachers at the University of Helsinki.
Nordberg, 31, wants the eighth-graders to become teachers for a moment.
"I want you to tell the teacher trainees something you would like them to do when teaching and something you want them to avoid doing," he explains. "In English, please."
The students tumble up to the chalkboards and start writing. Some of the advice is predictable - "not too much homework" - but much of it is insightful.
The exercise, though short and light, is something of a microcosm of the Finnish educational approach - engagement and collaboration between teacher and student, a comfortable atmosphere, and the expectation of quality in how students express themselves.
Over the past decade, students in Finland have soared on international measures of achievement. They've continued to post some of the best scores in the developed world in reading, math and science, according to a respected international exam. The country has one of the narrowest gaps in achievement between its highest and lowest-performing schools, and on average spends less per pupil than the United States.
Among the extended family I saw over the holiday was a young relative who is working as a substitute teacher in the Northeast since he can't find a full-time teaching post. He shared a story that surprised me, and I wanted to run it by folks here.
He was subbing at a low-performing high school that recently had a well-publicized stabbing. A student in his class pulled what he thought was a real gun on him, and they had a standoff for several minutes until the teen put the "gun" away and the teacher tackled him to the floor. It turned out the gun was a toy, and the student received a three-day suspension for the incident.
The substitute teacher was disappointed with the punishment, but said the school wanted to prevent another round of negative press.
Would such an incident be kept quiet in Georgia? Could it go so easily unreported under zero tolerance policies in which students can get suspended for Tweety Bird key chains?
I have been taking an Under-Graduate Course in Computer Science and Engineering(in short B.Tech CSE) in a reputed Private Engineering in India for one and half years.My college has given me 7.5 grades till now. I would rate them 5/10. I wanted to give them 2 or 3 but presence of Infrastructure and some encouraging professors saved them.
Every day when I go to college I expect to learn something new that would encourage me for research and thinking. And after coming back to my hostel room, I do have something new that make me thinking. But mind you its not because of the college or their intensive study program that I'm paying high fees for; but it is the Internet, the articles at Hacker News and Reddit and other sites that does this. Whenever I get time I tend to open these sites on my not so good Nokia touchscreen phone. It doesn't have much of features that i can boost of but it does my work. That is the state of our private Universities.
Well I agree with my college friends that most of the students that come to private universities don't want education but a degree, a campus life and guys they can hook up with. They have their contacts and their Dad's business after that. Most of the students that come here want spoon feeding. Tell them what is important and coming in exam and they will cram it, cram it so much they can recite it word to word. But still it doesn't mean professors also does spoon feeding for them and come here for high salaries, comfort and increasing their teaching experience so that later on can go to some Top Government College.
At first glance, Guo Yilei looks like a Chinese success story. Born to a poor peasant family in China's remote Gansu province, he's now a 26-year-old computer programmer in the Big Cabbage (as some call Beijing nowadays). By Chinese standards he makes decent money, more than $70 a week. When he has work, that is. It can take months to find the next job. And meanwhile, he's living in Tangjialing, a reeking slum on the city's edge where he and his girlfriend rent a 100-square-foot studio apartment for $90 a month. "When I was at school, I believed in the saying, 'Knowledge can help you turn over a new leaf,'" says Guo. "But since I've started working, I only half-believe it."
Guo and an estimated million others like him represent an unprecedented and troublesome development in China: a fast-growing white-collar underclass. Since the '90s, Chinese universities have doubled their admissions, far outpacing the job market for college grads. This year China's universities and tech institutes churned out roughly 6.3 million graduates. Many grew up in impoverished rural towns and villages and attended second- or third-tier schools in the provinces, trusting that studying hard would bring them better lives than their parents had. But when they move on and apply for jobs in Beijing or Shanghai or any of China's other booming metropolises, they get a nasty shock.
A Pivot (someone who works for Pivotal Labs) gave an excellent presentation on observational astronomy the other day. The presentation was so well done that I think it could easily inspire people to learn more about astronomy.
This is one of the questions I think about a lot. I truly believe that for education to be effective you need to tap in to intrinsic motivation. You can't rely on extrinsic motivators like grades otherwise you run the risk of losing all motivation once the extrinsic motivators are removed.
Passion is a vague term, but it's often to used to identify some subject or activity that people are strongly intrinsically motivated to do. You never hear people talk about passions rooted in the desire to get a good grade or a big bonus or the chance of promotion. People talk about being passionate about something because of the importance it plays in the world or how it makes them feel at fundamental level.
As the superintendent of the Perth Amboy school district, I am responsible for the education of more than 10,000 children.
We are fortunate to have the dedication of hundreds of committed and talented teachers and administrators who focus on education every day. But for 15 to 20 percent of each week, I shift focus from our students, who should be at the center of all we do, to certain adults who no longer have a place in our education system, yet simply can't be dismissed.
There has been much discussion about teacher evaluation and its potential to improve learning in our classrooms. This issue focuses on things like linking teacher tenure and pay to student test scores, and so-called value-added data. There are many disagreements about these measures, but I believe we can agree on the fact that there are certain teachers who just should not be working with children. We don't want teachers in our classrooms who talk explicitly about sexual acts, or who hit children, put soap in their mouths or curse at them. We certainly don't want teachers who make repeated sexual advances to other teachers, do drugs at school or fly into rages for no apparent reason. I have active cases like these, and have returned almost all of these teachers to their positions.
When the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released their 2011 results, things seemed to be working out well for Wisconsin's public schools. The state posted above average numbers in key subjects like reading and mathematics in fourth and eighth grade.Related: Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1; Thrive's "Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report"
However, a deeper look into those numbers exposes some troubling trends. Namely, Wisconsin's Hispanic students are regressing when it comes to reading in the state's classrooms.
The state's 2011 results held steady at 202 points for fourth-grade reading amongst Hispanic pupils. This was down from a score of 208 in 2007 and less than the state's score of 209 in 1992, the first iteration of the test. In eighth grade, the average score dropped from 250 to 248. This is a decrease from 1998's average of 256 - the first year the test was recorded for the group.
These results highlight a grim trend. Over the past two decades, reading achievement amongst the state's Hispanic students has regressed. While national averages have seen a growth of 5.7 percent in fourth grade reading and 5.5 percent in eighth grade reading amongst Hispanic test takers, Wisconsin has posted losses. The state's scores dropped by 3.4 percent and 2.8 percent in the two grades, respectively.
Earlier this year Wisconsin teachers and their supporters compared Wisconsin and Texas academically and claimed that Wisconsin had better achievement because it ranked higher on ACT/SAT scores. The fact that this claim ignored the ethnic composition of the states, prompted David Burge to use the National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP) to compare educational achievement within the same ethnic groups. His conclusion, based on the 2009 NAEP in Reading, Mathematics, and Science (3 subject areas times 2 grades, 4th and 8th, times 3 ethnicities, white, black, and hispanic equals 18 comparisons), was Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1.
The 2011 NAEP results are now available for Reading and
Mathematics. The updated conclusion (2 subject areas times 2 grades, 4th and 8th, times 3 ethnicities, white, black, and hispanic equals 12 comparisons) is Longhorns 12 - Badgers 0. Not only did Texas students outperform Wisconsin students in every one of the twelve ethnicity-controlled comparisons, but Texas students exceeded the national average in all 12 comparisons. Wisconsin students were above the average 3 times, below the average 8 times, and tied the average once.
[well, at least these guys don't have students reading history books, writing history papers--stuff like that!!]
What is it about academics and Lady Gaga? Last year it was a freshman writing course at the University of Virginia titled "GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity." This fall there's an upper-division sociology course at the University of South Carolina titled "Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame." Meghan Vicks, a graduate student in comparative literature at the University of Colorado, co-edits a postmodernist online journal, "Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga," in which the names "Judith Butler" and "Jean Baudrillard" drip as thickly as summer rain and the tongue-tripping sentences read like this: "And her project?--To deconstruct the very pop culture that creates and worships her, and to explore and make problematic the hackneyed image of the pop icon while flourishing in the clichéd role itself."
And now Gaga has reached the very pinnacle of academic recognition: a Harvard affiliation. On Nov. 2 she announced that she and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet Society will launch a nonprofit foundation, to be called Born This Way (after one of Gaga's songs), which will focus on mentoring teenagers and combating bullying.
What is fascinating is how, well, gaga the tenured scholars and highly placed academic administrators are for the 25-year-old singer whose main claim to fame is her rise from unknown to superstar and multiple Grammy winner in just three years. She managed this feat mostly on the basis of outré costumes and transgressive dancing--plus her world-class flair for self-promotion--rather than her ho-hum musical ability. Mathieu Deflem, the sociology professor who is teaching the Gaga course at South Carolina, for example, owns more than 300 of her records, maintains a fan website called gagafrontrow.net, and (according to a 2010 New York Times article) has attended more than 28 of her live concerts, following her from city to city around the world. Similarly, Harvard's Berkman Center is a well-funded interdisciplinary think tank whose faculty consists of prestigious professors of law, engineering, and business at Harvard (two of the biggest names are Lawrence Lessig and Charles Ogletree). But when the forthcoming Gaga-Berkman partnership went public last week, the center's mental heavyweights sounded as besotted as the teen-age girls and starstruck gays who hang onto every Gaga Twitter tweet. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson John Palfrey, a Harvard law professor who is the Berkman Center's co-director, praised as "impressive" the "research" that Gaga had done and hailed the forthcoming partnership as "a good chance for Harvard to be one University."
Gaga's faculty fans like to clothe their obsessive interest in her with a dense coat of academic-speak. Christa Romanosky, the graduate student at U.Va. who made Gaga the centerpiece of her freshman writing course last year, told the student newspaper, the Daily Cavalier, "We're exploring how identity is challenged by gender and sexuality and how Lady Gaga confronts this challenge." The reading list for Deflem's course at South Carolina includes several articles about Gaga by Victor Corona, a postdoctoral fellow in sociology at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University. Corona's writing is a kudzu-like tangle of po-mo jargon: "Gaga's hypermodern gospel of liberation hints at the irrelevance of truth or, rather, the creation of one's own truth, a performance that is relentlessly enacted until some version of it becomes true."
Yet Corona has nothing on Judith "Jack" Halberstam, English professor and director of the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California. In an essay analyzing Gaga's Grammy-nominated 2010 music video "Telephone" for Gaga Stigmata, Halberstam drops trendy poststructuralist surnames like coins into a wishing well: "[I]t is a [Michel] Foucaultian take on prison and 'technological entrapment'; here... it has been read as the channeling of [Judith] Butler's 'Lesbian Phallus'; it is obscene, murderous, cruel to animals, misogynist, man-hating, homophobic and heterophobic; and I think you could safely place it as a [Gilles] Deleuzian exploration of flow and affect not to mention an episode in Object Oriented Philosophy. So whether the philosophy in question is drawn from [Slavoj] Zizek on speed, [Avital] Ronell on crack or [Quentin] Meillassoux on ecstasy, this video obviously chains a few good ideas to a few very good bodies and puts thought into motion." Neither Halberstam nor Corona permit any negative assessments of their idol. Corona characterized a recent critical biography, Poker Face: The Rise and Rise of Lady Gaga, as "embittered."
Since Gaga's academic fan base indulges heavily in "theory," as the po-mo types like to call it, allow me to indulge in my own "theory" about why college professors and other self-proclaimed avant-garde intellectuals have taken her to their bosoms. Take note of the academic fields represented by the scholars I have quoted above: sociology (Deflem and Corona), English (Halberstam), comparative literature (Vicks), and creative writing (Romanosky). Once those were real fields, with genuine bodies of knowledge to be studied and then enlarged by their scholarly practitioners. English professors taught and wrote about the literature of English-speaking nations. Sociologists studied the writings of Emil Durkheim and C. Wright Mills and built upon their paradigms for understanding how human beings function in social groups. Instructors of freshman writing focused on teaching their students how to write, often using models of particularly effective rhetoric and style.
Now, it seems, professors and their graduate students want to do anything but teach or do research in the fields with which they are supposedly affiliated. Sociologists want to devote class time to their record collections. English professors want to gush on about music videos. Writing instructors want to immerse their students in "gender and sexuality," not the mechanics of constructing a coherent term paper. In short, professors want to teach pop culture and nothing but pop culture. Christa Romanosky, for example, was hardly unusual in turning her freshman writing class into a class about something else besides writing. The freshman writing course list for this fall at U.Va. includes sections titled "Gender in Film," "Graffiti and Remix Culture," "Cinematic Shakespeare," "Queer Studies," "Race Matters," "Pirates," and "Female Robots." Fortunately for themselves, those professors who have turned the humanities and social sciences into vehicles for indulging their hobbies have the vast and unintelligible apparatus of postmodern theory to give their fanboy preoccupations intellectual respectability. Or at least to make it look that way to outsiders--such as parents--who might wonder why they are spending up to $6,000 per course so that little Johnny or Jenna can write an essay about "Telephone."
I admit that I'm not much of a fan of Lady Gaga. I find her music monotonous, although she cleverly camouflages that defect with histrionic visuals and shocking costumes. I give her an A+, however, for brains, a sure market sense, and an entrepreneurial spirit worthy of Henry A. Ford. She has also snookered an entire generation of academics into deeming her profound. The Harvard Business School has just added Lady Gaga to its curriculum, with a case study of the decisions she and her manager made that catapulted her to fame. Now that's where Lady Gaga belongs as an object of scholarly study.
The swelling ranks of unemployed young college graduates are left with a diploma, stacks of student-loan bills and lingering questions about just how much that degree is worth.
A million dollars? Sorry, say economists, but that widely reported figure significantly overstates the boost a bachelor's degree gives to earnings over a career. The estimate isn't baseless, but it doesn't account for the cost of college, nor the opportunity cost of forgoing income during school.
Another complication: Even before stepping foot on campus, students who attend college generally have better earnings prospects than their high-school classmates who go straight to work. So any estimate of college's monetary value needs to separate out those factors.
As my previous post described, things are looking up at Leopold Elementary School. Leopold, the largest elementary school in Madison, has strong leadership and a talented and hard-working staff. Their efforts are paying positive dividends for the school's 700+ young students.While many criticize the Ted Kennedy / Bush No Child Left Behind initiative, we parents certainly have a great deal more information on our publicly financed schools than before. For that, I am thankful. I am also thankful that NCLB has, to some extent, increased attention on our schools, including curricular issues.
There's a millstone around Leopold's neck, however, and it's called No Child Left Behind. According to that much-maligned federal law, Leopold is a "School Identified for Improvement" (SIFI).
What gives? If so many signs point toward Leopold succeeding, why do the feds consider that it is falling short.
Chaos and confusion broke out early on Saturday morning as hundreds of parents knocked on the doors of the Rajagiri International School in Al Warqaa demanding a meeting with the school's management.
With more than a thousand students studying at the school, an alleged change of management has left the parents furious.
"We really don't know what's happening at the school. There is a new management and an old management and both of them are at loggerheads over the school's ownership," said a parent who did not wish to be named.
By afternoon, the number of parents had swelled up to more than 200 as the school staff hosted a parent-teacher discussion to inform parents of the developments. In a letter issued to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the school's management alleged that the school premises had been sold by the landlord to another group. "The new group has come to the school asking the senior academic and administrative staff to hand over the school documents to them. According to them, it's their school and we need to get out of the school," read the letter issued on November 10.
Washington state education officials know a lot more about your kids than they ever knew about you.
They can now track a child from kindergarten through college enrollment and soon will be able to tell you everything about every kid who has gone to school in Washington from preschool through their first job.
Everything includes every school they attended, every achievement test they passed or failed, their ethnic identity, whether they qualified for free lunch, what college they chose, if they had to take remedial courses, when they started college, and more.
Of course this information is anonymous to outside viewers, including researchers and the public, but it gives local school officials a lot to comb through to find ways to improve their preparation of students for college and the world.
There is rarely a minute when Nathaly Lopera, a high school senior, isn't working to improve herself.
Since second grade, she has taken advantage of a voluntary integration program here, leaving her home in one of the city's poorer sections before 6:30 a.m. and riding a bus over an hour to Newton, a well-to-do suburb with top-quality schools. Some nights, she has so many activities that she does not get home until 10 p.m.; often she's up past midnight studying.
"Nathaly gets so mad if she doesn't make the honor roll," says Stephanie Serrata, a classmate.
Last Wednesday, Nathaly did it again, with 5 A's and 2 B's for the first marking period.
She has excelled at Newton North High, a school with enormous resources, in part by figuring out whom to ask for help.
Of Milwaukee's 187 elementary schools, only a dozen exceeded the statewide average in reading on Wisconsin's standardized test last year, according to statistics compiled on the whole range of schools in the city by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. When it comes to math, only 22 of those schools made that grade.
Shouldn't parents have easy access to this information? Shouldn't they know which schools didn't make the grade?
We think so, and so does the MMAC.
MMAC and an array of education experts, including Howard Fuller of Marquette's Institute for the Transformation of Learning, and UW-Madison's Value-Added Research Center, are developing a community "report card" for all city schools. The "report card" would include schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system but also voucher and charter schools outside of the traditional district. While a wealth of data is available for all public schools on the state Department of Public Instruction website, creating an easily accessible, easily digestible common report makes sense to us. Look for that new "report card" sometime after the first of the year.
Life expectancy is a very important measure when we compare the health of different countries. However, students often misunderstand some of the characteristics of life expectancy. This PowerPoint presentation focuses on two of these characteristics:
Late last week I got an email from Kaleem Caire, Urban League CEO and champion of the Madison Preparatory Academy charter school proposal.I wonder if other Madison School District programs, many spending far larger sums, receive similar substantive scrutiny compared with the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school? The District's math (related math task force) and reading programs come to mind.
Caire was unhappy with the way I had characterized the latest version of the charter school proposal.
In a blog post following the Madison Prep board's decision late Wednesday to develop the proposed school as what's known as a "non-instrumentality" of the school district, I described this type of school as being "free from district oversight."
While it's true that the entire point of establishing a non-instrumentality charter school is to give the organization maximum freedom and flexibility in the way it operates on a day-to-day basis, I agree it would be more accurate to describe it as "largely free of district oversight," or "free of routine oversight by the School Board."
In his message, Caire asked me, and my fellow reporter, Matt DeFour from the Wisconsin State Journal, to correct our descriptions of the proposed school, which will be approved or denied by the Madison School Board in the coming weeks.
In his message, Caire writes, "Madison Prep will be governed by MMSD's Board of Education. In your stories today, you (or the quotes you provide) say we will not be. This continues to be a subject of public conversation and it is just not true."
Ideally, the local media might dig into curricular performance across the spectrum, over time along with related expenditures and staffing.
In my view, the widely used (at least around the world) IB approach is a good start for Madison Prep.
With college costs skyrocketing and the number of jobs for new grads on the decline, it's no wonder that students are questioning whether a degree is worth the investment. But given that the jobs of the future are projected to require some form of post-secondary education, a key question is how to provide academic knowledge and industry-specific training that will prepare students for the future. The answer might come from a throwback to the Middle Ages: apprenticeships.
Traditionally, we think of interning as the way for students to get on-the-job experience. But internships vary in quality and often aren't paid, which means that students from low-income backgrounds are unable to take advantage of the opportunity. Apprenticeships offer a new model, combining paid on-the-job training with college or trade school classes.
The demand for apprenticeships is particularly acute in the United Kingdom, where a recent BBC survey of high schoolers revealed that two-thirds say they'd forgo attending college in favor of entering an apprenticeship. Businesses there also support the apprenticeship revival. Adrian Thomas, head of resourcing for Network Rail, a company that maintains the U.K.'s rail infrastructure told The Independent that "the investment that we make in our apprentices is driven by needing people with the right skills coming in to support our maintenance teams." Thomas says organizing an apprenticeship program makes "both economic and safety sense," because without the trainees, his company would be in the position of having to look outside the country for employees, or retrain workers from other industries.
Education is as close to a secular religion as we have in the United States. In a time when Americans have lost faith in their government and economic institutions, millions of us still believe in its saving grace. National leaders, from Benjamin Rush on, oversaw plans for extending its benefits more broadly. In the 19th century, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie famously conceived of schools as ladders on which the industrious poor would ascend to a better life, and he spent a good bit of his fortune laying the foundations for such an education society. After World War II, policy makers who believed in the education gospel grew numerous enough to fill stadiums. One by one, the G.I. Bill, the Truman Commission report, and the War on Poverty singled out education as the way of national and personal advance. "The answer to all of our national problems," as Lyndon Johnson put it in 1965, "comes down to one single word: education."
The American education gospel is built around four core beliefs. First, it teaches that access to higher levels of education should be available to everyone, regardless of their background or previous academic performance. Every educational sinner should have a path to redemption. (Most of these paths now run through community colleges.) Second, the gospel teaches that opportunity for a better life is the goal of everyone and that education is the primary -- and perhaps the only -- road to opportunity. Third, it teaches that the country can solve its social problems -- drugs, crime, poverty, and the rest -- by providing more education to the poor. Education instills the knowledge, discipline, and the habits of life that lead to personal renewal and social mobility. And, finally, it teaches that higher levels of education for all will reduce social inequalities, as they will put everyone on a more equal footing. No wonder President Obama and Bill Gates want the country to double its college graduation rate over the next 10 years.
Backers of the Madison Preparatory Academy are now recommending establishing the proposed single-sex public charter school as what's known as a "non-instrumentality" of the district.Related: Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes provides his perspective on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.
Ultimately, that means the school's staff would be non-union, and the Urban League-backed charter school would have an unprecedented degree of autonomy in its operations, free from district oversight.
With the recommendation, made at a meeting Wednesday, Madison Prep supporters, the school district and the local School Board wade into uncharted waters.
Because of the change, school officials will need to revise their administrative analysis of the charter school proposal in advance of a School Board vote on whether to approve the Madison Prep plan.
Much more on Madison Prep, here.
A decade ago, a neuroscientist named Charles Nelson traveled to Bucharest to visit Romania's infamous orphanages. There, he saw a child whose brain had swelled to the size of a basketball because of an untreated infection and a malnourished one-year-old no bigger than a newborn. But what has stayed with him ever since was the eerie quiet of the infant wards. "It would be dead silent, all of [the babies] sitting on their backs and staring at the ceiling," says Nelson, who is now at Harvard. "Why cry when nobody is going to pay attention to you?"
Nelson had traveled to Romania to take part in a cutting-edge experiment. It was ten years after the fall of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, whose scheme for increasing the country's population through bans on birth control and abortion had filled state-run institutions with children their parents couldn't support. Images from the orphanages had prompted an outpouring of international aid and a rush from parents around the world to adopt the children. But ten years later, the new government remained convinced that the institutions were a good idea--and was still warehousing at least 60,000 kids, some of them born after the old regime's fall, in facilities where many received almost no meaningful human interaction. With backing from the MacArthur Foundation, and help from a sympathetic Romanian official, Nelson and colleagues from Harvard, Tulane, and the University of Maryland prevailed upon the government to allow them to remove some of the children from the orphanages and place them with foster families. Then, the researchers would observe how they fared over time in comparison with the children still in the orphanages. They would also track a third set of children, who were with their original parents, as a control group.
If you're late on your mortgage payment, you risk losing your flat. Default on your bank loan and scary collectors pay you a visit. But if you're a university graduate and bail on your student loan, you get letters in the mailbox. If you move, the government administrator may lose track of you and you'll no longer get bothersome mail.
The government has been excessively lenient in collecting student loans given by the Student Financial Assistance Agency. Up to the past academic year, about 13,000 students had failed to repay loans totalling HK$213 million. This sends a bad message to the young: be irresponsible; don't pay back money you owe.
Now officials want to take action by transferring a student defaulter's credit history to a credit reference agency. But the proposal has generated howls of protest from the usual suspects.
We're often told that young people tend to be the most tech-savvy among us. But just how savvy are they? A group of researchers led by College of Charleston business professor Bing Pan tried to find out. Specifically, Pan wanted to know how skillful young folks are at online search. His team gathered a group of college students and asked them to look up the answers to a handful of questions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the students generally relied on the web pages at the top of Google's results list.
But Pan pulled a trick: He changed the order of the results for some students. More often than not, those kids went for the bait and also used the (falsely) top-ranked pages. Pan grimly concluded that students aren't assessing information sources on their own merit--they're putting too much trust in the machine.
U.S. Senate staff members are gathering a trove of information about legal education in the U.S., including figures on law school job placement and student-loan debt, in response to questions about whether the nation's law schools have been luring students with bogus data.
The information could serve as a backdrop to hearings on legal education that U.S. senators are "strongly considering," according to a congressional staffer.
So far this year, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), has sent three letters to the American Bar Association, a section of which accredits law schools, urging the organization to do more "to increase its efforts to protect current and prospective law school students from misleading information."
In general, I agree entirely with the many commentators who have argued that the United States needs to produce more STEM graduates. But I also take note of the many people who have written to me to argue that the only truly employable STEM fields at the moment are engineering and computer science, and only certain disciplines within those. (I.e., I take the point made by many commenters that STEM graduates are not doing all that well in this economy either -- when we say STEM = employment, so commenters point out, we don't mean scientists or mathematicians as such, we mean particular fields of engineering and computer science. I can't vouch for that but do accept it.)
It's also worth keeping in mind that the United States could easily produce an excess of engineers -- yes, even engineers. The labor market of a complicated, division-of-labor society means many, many specializations, and most of them are not STEM. We need lawyers, human resources staff, janitors, communications specialists, and many things that too-reductionist a view might lead one to believe are purely frivolous intermediary occupations. Maybe they are parasitical, and maybe they will get squeezed out of existence over time. But there is a sometimes incorrect tendency these days to believe that since innovation is the heart of all increases in productivity and hence in long run growth and wealth, STEM must be responsible for it and that because STEM is the root of innovation, only STEM jobs are truly value added. I exaggerate for effect, but you see the point.
A major breakthrough in Michael Gove's education revolution will be heralded tomorrow with the launch of the first-ever 'free schools' for special needs children.pecial needs children Read more: http://www.dailym
And two of Britain's oldest football clubs, Everton and Derby County, are to open free schools for children from difficult backgrounds.
Education Secretary Mr Gove believes the latest batch of establishments will silence critics who claim they are designed to be the elitist preserve of pupils of sharp-elbowed, middle-class parents.
Parent-teacher conferences for elementary-school children are scheduled for Tuesday afternoon and evening, and for middle-school children on Wednesday. One teacher explains how his school has been able to draw parents in.
Many teachers and schools are wondering how to get more parents to come to parent-teacher meetings. At my school, the Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science, where over 90 percent of parents come to the meetings, something seems to be working well.
What is the school doing to make them want to come? First it expends serious effort. A.M.S., as we call it, took responsibility for reaching out to the parents by making visits to the home of every new student before school started. So, come parent meetings, it is the parents' turn to go out of their way to meet the teachers.
A new analysis (PDF) by the Madison school district shows that the budget submitted by the Urban League of Greater Madison for a pair of sex-segregated charter schools could potentially cost the district an additional $13 million over the schools' first five years.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
The new numbers came as a shock to Urban League president Kaleem Caire, who says that Madison Prep may pull out of a tentative agreement with Madison Teachers, Inc., that would require Madison Prep to hire mostly union staff.
"It's become clear to us that the most reasonable path to ensure the success of these kids is as a non-instrumentality," says Caire. "Others on our board want to look at a couple of other options, so we're looking at those before we make that final determination."
One of those options would be to scale back the program, including the proposed longer school days and extended school year.
A plan to move hundreds of pupils at a top international school to temporary premises inside a public housing estate has angered their well-off parents.
The Hong Kong International School proposes to demolish its lower primary school building in Repulse Bay and redevelop it into what it says will be a first-class facility.
During the three-year project - the first major redevelopment of the Repulse Bay campus since the school started in 1966 - about 500 pupils aged five to eight would be taught in a disused school building in Chai Wan, a 25-minute drive away.
The plan has ignited debate ahead of a meeting today of the Town Planning Board, which will be asked to approve it.
The Star article, "Poverty tightens its grip in cities," described a recent Brookings Institution study on the increasing concentration of poverty in cities, including Kansas City.Educational diversity is essential to progress.
Poor public schools, such as the Kansas City School District, are a major factor in creating pockets of poverty. Those with enough resources move out of underperforming districts leaving the poorest of the poor behind.
Reversing this trend requires, among other things, fixing the school district problem. A number of solutions have been proposed, most of which will be as effective as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Real change requires something more fundamental: What the left calls giving "power to the people" and what the right calls being "free to choose."
More than six million children in the U.S. fall into the "special needs" category, and their ranks are expanding. The number of those affected by one developmental disability alone--autism--grew more than 70% between 2005 and 2010.
The tax code can help--if you know where to look.
There are numerous tax breaks for education, but the most important one for many special-needs students isn't an education break per se. Instead, it falls under the medical-expense category.
Although students with disabilities have a right to a "free and appropriate" public education by law, some families opt out and others pay for a range of supplemental therapies.
The growing popularity of online public schools lets states and local school districts effectively outsource some teaching functions--to parents.
Students enrolled in an online school full-time are required to work closely with a "learning coach," usually mom or dad, to ensure that they are staying on track in their studies.
For younger students, the learning coach becomes the primary teacher. A typical first-grade language arts lesson, for instance, asks the student to brainstorm a list of words about her favorite place, then write three complete sentences. Parents go online to certify that their child has done the work and to answer questions about its quality--for instance, did the child use proper punctuation?
"It's not about just putting them in front of a computer and saying, 'Here, get this work done,'" says Allison Brown, who has three young children attending Georgia Cyber Academy, a statewide online charter school run by the private firm K12 Inc.
Wisconsin (and just about every other state) is involved in developing new state tests. That work is one of the requirements of getting a waiver and, if a bill ever emerges form Congress, it will almost certainly continue to require every state to do testing.The oft-criticized WKCE often provides grist for "successes". Sometimes, rarely, the truth about its low standards is quietly mentioned.
But the new tests aren't scheduled to be in place for three years - in the fall of 2014. So this fall and for at least the next two, Wisconsin's school children and schools will go through the elaborate process of taking a test that still gets lots of attention but seems to be less useful each year it lives on.
I remember a conversation with a well educated Madison parent earlier this year. "My child is doing well, the WKCE reports him scoring in the 95th percentile in math"......
www.wisconsin2.org is worth a visit.
Critique of the District (MMSD)
Page # 23: MPA - No College Going Culture among Madison's New Student Population
The data on student performance and course-taking patterns among students in MMSD paint a clear picture. There is not a prevalent college going culture among Black, Hispanic and some Asian student populations enrolled in MMSD. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. The majority of these students are failing to complete a rigorous curriculum that would adequately prepare them for college and 21st century jobs. Far too many are also failing to complete college requirements, such as the ACT, or failing to graduate from high school.
Page # 23: No College Going Culture among Madison's New Student Population -
MMSD has taken many steps towards ensuring college attendance eligibility and readiness for our students of color. Efforts include:
East High School became the first MMSD school to implement AVID in the 2007-2008 school year. Teens of Promise or TOPS became synonymous with AVID as the Boys and Girls Club committed to an active partnership to support our program. AVID/TOPS students are defined as:
"AVID targets students in the academic middle - B, C, and even D students - who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard. These are students who are capable of completing rigorous curriculum but are falling short of their
potential. Typically, they will be the first in their families to attend college, and many are from low-income or minority families. AVID pulls these students out of their unchallenging courses and puts them on the college track: acceleration instead of remediation."
The MMSD has 491 students currently enrolled in AVID/TOPS. Of that total, 380 or 77% of students are minority students (27% African-American, 30% Latino, 10% Asian, 10% Multiracial). 67% of MMSD AVID/TOPS students qualify for free and reduced lunch. The 2010- 2011 school year marked an important step in the District's implementation of AVID/TOPS. East High School celebrated its first cohort of AVID/TOPS graduates. East Highs AVID/TOPS class of 2011 had a 100% graduation rate and all of the students are enrolled in a 2-year or 4- year college. East High is also in the beginning stages of planning to become a national demonstration site based on the success of their program. This distinction, determined by the AVID regional site team, would allow high schools from around the country to visit East High School and learn how to plan and implement AVID programs in their schools.
MMSD has a partnership with the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) and they are conducting a controlled study of the effects of AVID/TOPS students when compared to a comparison groups of students. Early analysis of the study reveals positive gains in nearly every category studied.
AVID pilot studies are underway at two MMSD middle schools and support staff has been allocated in all eleven middle schools to begin building capacity towards a 2012-2013 AVID Middle School experience. The program design is still underway and will take form this summer when school based site teams participate in the AVID Summer Institute training.
I found this commentary on the oft criticized WKCE exams fascinating (one day, wkce results are useful, another day - this document - WKCE's low benchmark is a problem)" (page 7):
Page # 28: MPA - Student Performance Measures:
85% of Madison Prep's Scholars will score at proficient or advanced levels in reading, math, and science on criterion referenced achievement tests after three years of enrollment.
90% of Scholars will graduate on time.
100% of students will complete the SAT and ACT assessments before graduation with 75% achieving a composite score of 22 or higher on the ACT and 1100 on the SAT (composite verbal and math).
100% of students will complete a Destination Plan before graduation.
100% of graduates will qualify for admissions to a four-year college after graduation.
100% of graduates will enroll in postsecondary education after graduation.
Page # 28: Student Performance Measures - MMSD Response:
WKCE scores of proficient are not adequate to predict success for college and career readiness. Cut scores equated with advanced are needed due to the low benchmark of Wisconsin's current state assessment system. What specific steps or actions will be provided for students that are far below proficiency and/or require specialized support services to meet the rigorous requirements of IB?
No Child Left Behind requires 100% proficiency by 2014. Madison Prep must be held to the same accountability standards as MMSD.
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.
Madison School District links & notes on Madison Prep.
TJ Mertz comments, here.
Government health experts recommended Friday that all children be tested for high cholesterol before they reach puberty, in an effort to get an early start in preventing cardiovascular disease.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute said a child's first cholesterol check should occur between ages 9 and 11 and the test should be repeated between ages 17 and 21. The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the guideline.
The recommendation reflects growing evidence the biological processes that underlie heart attacks and other consequences of cardiovascular disease begin in childhood, even though manifestations of the diseases generally don't strike until middle age or later.
The guidelines also come amid broad concern about growing numbers of American children who are overweight or obese and thus potentially on course for diabetes, high blood pressure and other abnormalities. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 17% of American children are obese, triple the level three decades ago.
Tired of the constraints of the 40-hour workweek, my father, in 1972, quit his job in publishing. My parents were in their early 30s, and they had four children under 7. "But we still wanted to explore the world," my father recalled recently. They bought six one-way tickets to Europe, leaving only a laughable $3,000 to subsist on. Young and idealistic, they thought they could easily educate us along the way. "Life itself would become a portable classroom."
For the next four years, my parents embarked on an uncharted "free-form existence." We traipsed to Nerja, Spain; Dorset, England; a Midwestern farm; and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, before settling in St. Louis. My father worked on his novel. The task of teaching the children -- Mary, James, John and me -- fell to my mother.
For much of this time, I was an educational tag-along. Yet I clearly remember San Miguel, where we spent six months in 1975, when I was 4. Art class was held outside in the jardin. When we giggled and chatted among ourselves, Mom never shushed us, but calmly told us to pick a subject. Why not draw idling mariachis, or the dog drooling at a vendor's feet? she'd suggest. Or maybe the kids our age who sold gum to make ends meet? I'd invariably copy what my brothers drew, usually just a car.
Many young adults find themselves still tethered to the Bank of Mom and Dad, and that dependence is taking a toll.
Kevin Davis moved back home last December after receiving a business finance degree from the University of North Carolina. He has yet to land a full-time job.
The 25-year-old often commiserates with his father, John, an information-technology professional who was laid off as a project manager in October 2010 for the second time since 2007. "At times, it's hard for me to keep up my own spirits as well as Kevin's," admits John Davis, a resident of Winston-Salem, N.C., who currently receives unemployment insurance.
As recent college graduates scramble to find full-time jobs, numerous parents are helping their children pay bills or letting them live at home again. About 59% of parents provide or recently provided financial assistance to children aged 18 to 39 who weren't students, concluded a May survey of nearly 1,100 people by the National Endowment for Financial Education.
It's time to restructure all of our schools to become inclusive of all of our children.Cheryl M. Jorgensen, Ph.D., is a member of the affiliate faculty with the National Center on Inclusive Education at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. In 2008 she received the National Down Syndrome Congress Education Award for her leadership and pioneering research supporting the inclusion of students with Down syndrome. She has written this open letter to Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer for New York City schools.
We have reached the tipping point where it is no longer educationally or morally defensible to continue to segregate students with disabilities. We shouldn't be striving to educate children in the least restrictive environment but rather in the most inclusive one.
Inclusion is founded on social justice principles in which all students are presumed competent and welcomed as valued members of all general education classes and extra-curricular activities in their local schools -- participating and learning alongside their same-age peers in general education instruction based on the general curriculum, and experiencing meaningful social relationships.
Forget everything you may have read about coping with children's temper tantrums. Time-outs, sticker charts, television denial--for many, none of these measures will actually result in long-term behavior change, according to researchers at two academic institutions.
Instead, a set of techniques known as "parent management training" is proving so helpful to families struggling with a child's unmanageable behavior that clinicians in the U.S. and the U.K. are starting to adopt them.
Aimed at teaching parents to encourage sustained behavior change, it was developed in part at parenting research clinics at Yale University and King's College London.
Even violent tantrums, or clinging to the point of riding on a parent's leg, can be curbed, researchers say.
Peter Theron via a kind Don Severson email:
Earlier this year Wisconsin teachers and their supporters compared Wisconsin and Texas academically and claimed that Wisconsin had better achievement because it ranked higher on ACT/SAT scores. The fact that this claim ignored the ethnic composition of the states, prompted David Burge to use the National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP) to compare educational achievement within the same ethnic groups. His conclusion, based on the 2009 NAEP in Reading, Mathematics, and Science (3 subject areas times 2 grades, 4th and 8th, times 3 ethnicities, white, black, and hispanic equals 18 comparisons), was Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1.Related: Comparing Madison, Wisconsin & College Station, Texas.
The 2011 NAEP results are now available for Reading and
Mathematics. The updated conclusion (2 subject areas times 2 grades, 4th and 8th, times 3 ethnicities, white, black, and hispanic equals 12 comparisons) is Longhorns 12 - Badgers 0. Not only did Texas students outperform Wisconsin students in every one of the twelve ethnicity-controlled comparisons, but Texas students exceeded the national average in all 12 comparisons. Wisconsin students were above the average 3 times, below the average 8 times, and tied the average once.
Again, as in 2009, the achievement gaps were smaller in Texas than in Wisconsin.
2011 Data from http://nationsreportcard.gov/
2011 4th Grade Math
White students: Texas 253, Wisconsin 251 (national average 249)
Black students: Texas 232, Wisconsin 217 (national 224)
Hispanic students: Texas 235, Wisconsin 228 (national 229)
2011 8th Grade Math
White students: Texas 304, Wisconsin 295 (national 293)
Black students: Texas 277, Wisconsin 256 (national 262)
Hispanic students: Texas 283, Wisconsin 270 (national 269)
2011 4th Grade Reading
White students: Texas 233, Wisconsin 227 (national 230)
Black students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 196 (national 205)
Hispanic students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 202 (national 205)
2011 8th Grade Reading
White students: Texas 274, Wisconsin 272 (national 272)
Black students: Texas 252, Wisconsin 240 (national 248)
Hispanic students: Texas 254, Wisconsin 248 (national 251)
2009 data compiled by David Burge from NAEP
2009 4th Grade Math
White students: Texas 254, Wisconsin 250 (national average 248)
Black students: Texas 231, Wisconsin 217 (national 222)
Hispanic students: Texas 233, Wisconsin 228 (national 227)
2009 8th Grade Math
White students: Texas 301, Wisconsin 294 (national 294)
Black students: Texas 272, Wisconsin 254 (national 260)
Hispanic students: Texas 277, Wisconsin 268 (national 260)
2009 4th Grade Reading
White students: Texas 232, Wisconsin 227 (national 229)
Black students: Texas 213, Wisconsin 192 (national 204)
Hispanic students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 202 (national 204)
2009 8th Grade Reading
White students: Texas 273, Wisconsin 271 (national 271)
Black students: Texas 249, Wisconsin 238 (national 245)
Hispanic students: Texas 251, Wisconsin 250 (national 248)
2009 4th Grade Science
White students: Texas 168, Wisconsin 164 (national 162)
Black students: Texas 139, Wisconsin 121 (national 127)
Hispanic students: Wisconsin 138, Texas 136 (national 130)
2009 8th Grade Science
White students: Texas 167, Wisconsin 165 (national 161)
Black students: Texas 133, Wisconsin 120 (national 125)
Hispanic students: Texas 141, Wisconsin 134 (national 131)
Thrive released its "Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report," which compares the Madison Region to competitors Austin, TX, Des Moines, IA, and Lincoln, NE, across the major areas of People, Prosperity and Place, 3MB PDF via a kind Kaleem Caire email.
Finally, www.wisconsin2.org is worth a visit.
On a weekday evening in early spring, about 40 parents crammed into a classroom at Larchmont Charter elementary school. They perched on kindergarten chairs, or sat on the floor, or stood in the hallway, craning their necks.
Larchmont is one of the most desirable schools in Los Angeles. It's also nearly impossible to get into. At that moment, 500 kids were on the waiting list. Admission is by lottery, so it comes down to luck.
Unless you can find a way around the lottery.
That's why these parents came to Larchmont. They were looking for a way to cut to the front of the line.
School officials explained how it would work. Parents who agreed up front to make an extraordinary volunteer commitment to the school could get admissions priority. They would be called "founding parents."
Lots of kids have tried lentils. But what about Ethiopian-style lentils, accompanied by injera bread, couscous and cucumber salad?
Fourth graders in Santa Fe, N.M. prepared this lunch feast themselves as part of a nutrition education program called Cooking with Kids. And nutrition experts say programs like this one are not just about expanding timid kids' palates.
Even as home economics classes have been phased out in recent years, some schools are bringing cooking back. And a new study that evaluates cooking curriculum says these hands-on classes do more than just prepare students to cook a decent meal.
"Teachers and principals are seeing how the classroom cooking experience helps support critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills," says study author Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, a nutrition researcher at Colorado State University. The study appears this week in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
As president of the Student Congress, Jennifer Fox knew in advance that the University of Texas at Arlington was going to propose a tuition freeze for the 2012-13 academic year.
When Ms. Fox, a senior accounting major, was told of the plan by the university's president, James Spaniolo, a couple of weeks ago, "my initial reaction was shock," she says. Student leaders had assumed tuition would go up, Ms. Fox says, especially in light of state budget cuts.
Ms. Fox was not alone in her response. On Tuesday, Mr. Spaniolo presented the plan to the Tuition Review Committee, which includes students representing each of the university's colleges, as well as representatives of other groups, like faculty and alumni, and is chaired by Ms. Fox. "I think there was a little bit of surprise," Mr. Spaniolo says.
Under the plan, UT-Arlington would not raise undergraduate or graduate tuition and fees, or the price of room and board, for the coming year. Currently, undergraduate tuition and fees average $9,292 for full-time students (the price varies depending on which college students are in), and room and board costs $7,554. Nearly all of the university's students are Texas residents.
Biyan Zhou wanted to major in engineering. Her mother and her academic adviser also wanted her to major in it, given the apparent career opportunities for engineers in a tough job market.
But during her sophomore year at Carnegie Mellon University, Ms. Zhou switched her major from electrical and computer engineering to a double major in psychology and policy management. Workers who majored in psychology have median earnings that are $38,000 below those of computer engineering majors, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by Georgetown University.
"My ability level was just not there," says Ms. Zhou of her decision. She now plans to look for jobs in public relations or human resources.
Ms. Zhou's dilemma is one that educators, politicians and companies have been trying to solve for decades amid fears that U.S. science and technology training may be trailing other countries. The weak economy is putting those fears into deeper relief.
Today, I walked my first-grade son to our neighborhood public school before joining over 500 leaders converging on New York City to make tangible commitments to promote economic mobility in America at the Opportunity Nation summit. I told Matthew that people were coming virtually every sector -- business, education, non-profit and community organizations, religious institutions and the military -- to focus on how to provide him and his peers from every background a great education and a shot at the American dream. When I dropped Matthew off at his school's front door, he looked at me and warned me with a big smile not to follow him inside -- something I occasionally do partly to make him laugh and partly out of that desire to support him wherever he goes.
I didn't follow my son inside that schoolhouse door. But I have been working hard to determine what commitments I can personally make to provide our kids and all of America's children with tools they can use to create opportunity once they walk as young adults out of our sight-line into America's future.
One must know where one is in order to determine where to go and how to get there, but today's parents face significant challenges in that regard.
Children with autism appear to have bigger brains with more neurons than normal for their age, a small preliminary study affirmed.
Postmortem examinations of seven boys with autism showed 67% more neurons in the prefrontal cortex (1.94 billion), which controls social and emotional development as well as communication, compared with six controls (1.16 billion, P=0.002), Eric Courchesne, PhD, of the University of California San Diego, and colleagues found.
Autistic brains also weighed 17.6% above normal for age (P=0.001), the group reported in the Nov. 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Point out that the brains from autistic boys in this study were 17.6% above what is considered normal brain weight based on age.
Neuron counts in the autistic children should have been accompanied by brain weights of 29.4% versus the observed 17.6% enlargement, they said. "Thus, the size of the autistic brain, overlarge though it is, might actually underestimate the pathology of excess neuron numbers," the group explained.
Banning sugar-filled sodas from American schools as an effort to combat childhood obesity doesn't reduce overall consumption levels of sweetened beverages, research found.
In U.S. states that banned only soda, about 30 percent of middle-school students still purchased sugary drinks like sports and fruit beverages at school, similar to states that had no policy, according to a study released online today in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. In states that banned all sugar-sweetened beverages, students still consumed the drinks outside of school, the researchers said.
Over the past 25 years, children have gotten more of their calories from sugary beverages and consumption of the drinks has been associated with childhood obesity and weight gain, the authors said. Today's study is the first to look at whether efforts by states to curb these drinks really works, said Daniel Taber, the lead study author.
Daniel Schwartz could have attended an Ivy League school if he wanted to. He just doesn't see the value.
Mr. Schwartz, 18 years old, was accepted at Cornell University but enrolled instead at City University of New York's Macaulay Honors College, which is free.
Mr. Schwartz says his family could have afforded Cornell's tuition, with help from scholarships and loans. But he wants to be a doctor and thinks medical school, which could easily cost upward of $45,000 a year for a private institution, is a more important investment. It wasn't "worth it to spend $50,000-plus a year for a bachelor's degree," he says.
As student-loan default rates climb and college graduates fail to land jobs, an increasing number of students are betting they can get just as far with a degree from a less-expensive school as they can with a diploma from an elite school--without having to take on debt.
One of the priorities of the Department is to provide a challenging, yet customized education for Florida's students and families. To deliver this type of education system for our individual students, the Department is able to showcase a variety of school choice options offered statewide.
Florida's public schools offer a wide variety of curriculum options. Some of these aim to strengthen the availability, accessibility, and equity of educational options for parents including Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, dual enrollment and Advanced International Certification of Education, just to name a few.
While many gifted students may enroll in these options, I want to stress that any qualified student can take advantage of these options. These school choice options have demanding, personalized curriculum. I have heard many stories about students who struggled in traditional classes but excelled when they entered a more challenging program that focused on their needs and strengths.
In the opening scene of The Social Network, Jesse Eisenberg portrays a cold Mark Zuckerberg getting dumped by his girlfriend, who is exasperated by the future Facebook founder's socially oblivious and obsessive personality. Eisenberg's Zuckerberg is the stereotypical Silicon Valley geek -- brilliant with technology, pathologically bereft of social graces. Or, in the parlance of the Valley: 'on the spectrum'.
Few scientists think that the leaders of the tech world actually have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which can range from the profound social, language and behavioural problems that are characteristic of autistic disorder, to the milder Asperger's syndrome. But according to an idea that is creeping into the popular psyche, they and many others in professions such as science and engineering may display some of the characteristics of autism, and have an increased risk of having children with the full-blown disorder.
1. Guiding PrinciplesRelated: Wisconsin 25th in 2011 NAEP Reading, Comparing Rhetoric Regarding Texas (10th) & Wisconsin NAEP Scores: Texas Hispanic and African-American students rank second on eighth-grade NAEP math test, Wisconsin, Mississippi Have "Easy State K-12 Exams" - NY Times and Seidenberg endorses using the Massachusetts model exam for teachers of reading (MTEL 90), which was developed with input from reading scientists. He also supports universal assessment to identify students who are at risk, and he mentioned the Minnesota Reading Corps as a model of reading tutoring that would be good to bring to Wisconsin.
The Design Team believes that the successful development and implementation of the new performance-based evaluation system is dependent upon the following guiding principles,
which define the central focus of the entire evaluation system. The guiding principles of the educator evaluation system are:
The ultimate goal of education is student learning. Effective educators are essential to achieving that goal for all students. We believe it is imperative that students have highly effective teams of educators to support them throughout their public education. We further believe that effective practice leading to better educational achievement requires continuous improvement and monitoring.
A strong evaluation system for educators is designed to provide information that supports decisions intended to ensure continuous individual and system effectiveness. The system must be well-articulated, manageable
Among the many new program integrity rules the U.S. Education Department issued a little over a year ago was one that went relatively unnoticed at the time: a rule that defines the "last date of attendance" for students who withdraw from online programs more stringently than in the past, and differently than for students in a traditional classroom.
At the time, the rule was lost in the hubbub over state authorization rules, the definition of a "credit hour," and other, more controversial, regulations, some of which colleges challenged in Congress or in court. But before the program integrity rules took effect in July 2011 -- and even before they were published publicly, in October 2010 -- the Education Department was already using the new definition of "last date of attendance," which varied considerably from the previous version, to begin investigations and, in some cases, collect financial aid refunds for students who dropped out.
When the Education Department began using the "last day of attendance" rule to evaluate colleges in audits, it had never been publicly announced. In effect, a group of higher education associations has argued, the department was expecting institutions to play a game without knowing the rules.
American universities crowd the tops of many world rankings, and though these ratings are basically entertainment for university administrators and alumni, they do reflect certain facts. A number of American universities offer their faculty salaries and working conditions, laboratories and libraries that few institutions elsewhere can match. They spend more not only on their staff, but also on their graduate and undergraduate students, than their peers overseas. Though their fees seem enormous by European or Asian standards, they have worked hard in recent years to keep them from deterring poor students by offering more generous aid for undergraduates and by paying full fees for all doctoral students. At every level of the system, dedicated professors are setting students on fire with enthusiasm for everything from the structure of crystals to the structure of poems.
Yet American universities also attract ferocious criticism, much of it from professors and from journalists who know them well, and that's entirely reasonable too. Every coin has its other side, every virtue its corresponding vice--and practically every university its festering sores. At the most prestigious medical schools, professors publish the work of paid flacks for pharmaceutical companies under their own names. At many state universities and more than a few private ones, head football and basketball coaches earn millions and their assistants hundreds of thousands for running semiprofessional teams. Few of these teams earn much money for the universities that sponsor them, and some brutally exploit their players.
Inequality is inevitable; life is a bell curve. Such are the brute facts of biology, which can only evolve because some living things are better at reproducing than others. But not all inequality is created equal. In recent years, it's become clear that many kinds of wealth disparity are perfectly acceptable -- capitalism could not exist otherwise -- while alternate forms make us unhappy and angry.
The bad news is that American society seems to be developing the wrong kind of inequality. There is, for instance, this recent study published in Psychological Science, which found that, since the 1970s, the kind of inequality experienced by most Americans has undermined perceptions of fairness and trust, which in turn reduced self-reports of life satisfaction:
In 1932, the entire population of Scottish 11-year olds (87, 498 children) took an IQ test. Over 60 years later, psychologists Ian Deary and Lawrence Whalley tracked down about 500 of them and gave them the same test to take again. Here are the results:
Some things to note here. Firstly, the correlation is pretty high-- .66, to be exact. Those who were at the top of the pack at age 11 also tended to be at the top of the pack at age 80, and those who were at the bottom also tended to stay at the bottom. Secondly, the correlation is not perfect. A few outliers can be found. One person had an IQ of over 100 at age 11, but scored just over 60 at age 80. There are many possible reasons for this outlier, including dementia. Other folks showed IQ increases as they aged. In fact, on average, people's individual (or absolute) scores on the test taken again at age 80 was much higher (over 1 standard deviation) than their scores had been at age 11, even though the rank ordering among people stayed roughly the same.
With only 24 days remaining till the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will vote on the Madison Preparatory Academy charter and only 9 days until the MMSD administration is required to issue an analysis of their proposal (and that is assuming the analysis is issued on a Sunday, otherwise we are talking only one week), there are still many, many unanswered questions concerning the school. Too many unanswered questions.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school, here.
Where to start?
All officially submitted information (and more) can be found on the district web site (scroll down for the latest iterations, and thanks to the district public info team for doing this).
The issues around instrumentality/non instrumentality and the status of staff in relation to existing union contracts have rightfully been given much attention. It is my understanding that there has been some progress, but things seem to be somewhat stalled on those matters.
Do current schools face the same scrutiny as the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter?
Is the education bubble about to explode? Some bloggers, like Mish, tend to think so, while others, like Catherine Rampellof Economix, still see value in education. Even entrepreneurs, like Peter Thiel, recently joined in the discussion, as some entrepreneurs are offering alternatives outside of education and trying to change the current zeitgeist of "college degrees are absolutely necessary." One thing many of these individuals agree on: the cost of education is growing and it's placing an enormous burden on students.
In order to assess the value of education and its future, three areas come into immediate focus: the current attitudes about education among the Millennial generation (most of whom are being educated), the warning signs of an education bubble, and the changing attitudes toward education.
1. Develop or Revise a District Improvement PlanClusty Search: District Identified for Improvement (DIFI)
Address the fundamental teaching and learning needs of schools in the Local Education Agency (LEA), especially the academic problems o f low-achieving students.
MMSD has been identified by the State of Wisconsin as a District Identified for Improvement, or DIFI. We entered into this status based on District WKCE assessment scores. The data indicates that sub-groups of students-African American students, English Language Learner Students with Disabilities or Economically Disadvantaged -did not score high enough on the WKCE in one or more areas of reading, math or test participation to meet state criteria.
Under No Child Left Behind, 100% of students are expected to achieve proficient or advanced on the WKCE in four areas by 2014. Student performance goals have been raised every year on a regular schedule since 2001, making targets more and more difficult to reach each year. In addition to the curriculum changes being implemented, the following assessments are also new or being implemented during the 2011-12 school year (see Attachment 1):
Attached are six documents describing programs being implemented for the 2011-12 school year to address the needs of all students.
- The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Grades 3-7. MAP is incorporated into the MMSD Balanced Assessment Plan as a computer adaptive benchmark assessment tool for grades 3-7. Administration of the assessment was implemented in spring, 2011.
- Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT): Grades 2 and 5. As proposed in the Talented and Gifted Plan approved by the Board of Education in August, 2009, the district requested approval of funds to purchase and score the Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT) which was administered in February, 2011, to all second and fifth graders.
- The EPAS System: Explore Grades 8-9, Plan Grade 10, ACT Grade 11. The EPAS system provides a longitudinal, systematic approach to educational and career planning, assessment, instructional support, and evaluation. The system focuses on the integrated, higher-order thinking skills students develop in grades K-12 that are important for success both during and after high school. The EPAS system is linked to the College and Career Readiness standards so that the information gained about student performance can be used to inform instruction around those standards.
1. Strategic Plan Document: Year Three (Attachment 2)
2. Strategic Plan Summary of Three Main Focus Areas (Attachment 3)
3. Addressing the Needs of All Learners and Closing the Achievement Gap Through K-12 Alignment (Attachment 4)
4. Scope and Sequence (Attachment 5)
5. The Ideal Graduate from MMSD (Attachment 6)
6. 4K Update to BOE- Program and Sites- (Attachment 7)
Madison School District administrators aren't keeping track of the best classroom instruction. Not all principals create a culture of high expectations for all students. And teachers aren't using the same research-based methods.
Such inconsistencies across the district and within schools -- stemming from Madison's tradition of school and teacher autonomy -- are hurting student achievement, according to a district analysis required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
"There are problems within the entire system," Superintendent Dan Nerad said. "We do have good practice, but we need to be more consistent and have more fidelity to our practices."
Inconsistencies in teaching and building culture can affect low-income students, who are more likely to move from school to school, and make teacher training less effective, Nerad said.
The analysis is contained in an improvement plan the district is scheduled to discuss with the School Board on Monday and to deliver next week to the state Department of Public Instruction.
In 2010-11, a record number of students took advantage of Wisconsin's open enrollment program to attend school elsewhere than in their own district. The 34,498 participants was 8.1% higher than in 2010 and nearly five times higher than in 2001. Open enrollment numbers varied widely, with 13 districts experiencing net outflows of more than 10% of their student populations and 34 with net inflows of similar magnitude. These findings are detailed in SchoolFacts11, the annual reference book from the Wisconsin Tax- payers Alliance (WISTAX) that provides, for every school district in the state, a wide range of information on enrollment, finance, staffing, and test scores.Related: Madison School District 2009 outbound open enrollment survey. Much more, here.
In 2010-11, 4.0% of Wisconsin's public school students attended a district other than their own. Dover (26.2%) and South Shore (23.0%) both had net outflows (students leaving less those coming) of more than 20%. Eleven other districts (Florence, Mercer, Neosho, Palmyra-Eagle, Richfield, Stockbridge, Twin Lakes, Washington-Caldwell, Wheatland, Winter, and Wonewoc-Union Center) had net outflows of over 10%.
Student counts drive a District's tax and spending authority.
But today, I want to talk about higher education, where the long and steep upward climb of tuition offers at least prima facie evidence of yet another bubble. We've been willing to pay more and more for our "higher" education because it was supposed to be the guarantee of a good job upon graduation (hence a good investment of time and money) and because the government's willingness to subsidize it (thorough grants and guaranteed loans) would help insulate us from the real costs.
The Occupiers aren't the only ones wondering about the former. There are lots of reasons to ask about the value of a college education, not just in terms of the connection between credentials and the marketplace, but even in terms of the more intangible relationship between higher education and a life well-led. That latter relationship is, for me, the central concern, but in terms of the economics of higher education, it's a luxury good.
Properly understood, of course, it's a relatively cheap luxury good. You need students, professors, and great (or at least good) books. Unfortunately, however, we've lost our focus on that time-honored nexus (the first discussion of it that I can think of is in Xenophon's Memorabilia). Instead, we have professors who have science envy and need to do ground-breaking research (which means studying things that have in the past, for better or worse, been neglected and inventing new ways of looking at things, as if novelty were always a good thing). And we have students who wish to be entertained and coddled in country club-like surroundings. Finally, although I'm leaping ahead of myself a bit here, the fact that so much of this already bloated enterprise is financed by the federal government means that there are significant costs connected with regulatory compliance.
The two most common criticisms about charter schools are that A) many of them aren't that good and B) the good ones can't be replicated to serve enough kids to really make a difference. TIME got an exclusive first look at the most comprehensive evaluation of charter school networks ever, and although the study, which will be released on Nov. 4, underscores the challenge of creating quality schools, it also makes clear that it is indeed possible to build a lot of schools that are game-changers for a lot of students.
The study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education, examined networks of affiliated charter schools, which in the education world are referred to as charter school management organizations (CMOs). There are more than 130 of these non-profit networks serving about 250,000 students nationwide. I was on an advisory board for the early conception and design of this study, the goal of which was to better understand how CMOs operate and how effective they are. The study is filled with valuable data about how CMOs manage their teachers, how much funding they get and how they use it and what kinds of students they serve. But I'm focusing here on student achievement, which is, of course, the most contentious issue in the national debate about charter schools.
Charter schools, publicly financed but independently operated, have encountered fierce resistance in many suburban communities, criticized by parents and traditional educators who view them as a drain on resources.
The district, in Westchester County, sued the State Education Department and the Amani school this year, calling the approval an "arbitrary and capricious" decision, and sought to block Amani from moving forward. It has refused to turn over state, federal and local aid money to Amani, so the state has begun paying the charter directly. During the summer, district workers were sent to knock on the doors of Amani students to check that they lived in the district, a tactic that angered some parents. And in recent weeks, the district has delayed providing special education services to Amani students.
Guest Speaker Mark Seidenberg (Donald O. Hebb and Hilldale Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, UW-Madison): Professor Seidenberg gave an excellent presentation on the science of reading and why it is important to incorporate the findings of that science in teaching. Right now there is a huge disconnect between the vast, converged body of science worldwide and instructional practice. Prospective teachers are not learning about reading science in IHE's, and relying on intuition about how to teach reading is biased and can mislead. Teaching older students to read is expensive and difficult. Up-front prevention of reading failure is important, and research shows us it is possible, even for dyslexic students. This will save money, and make the road easier for students to learn and teachers to teach. Seidenberg endorses using the Massachusetts model exam for teachers of reading (MTEL 90), which was developed with input from reading scientists. He also supports universal assessment to identify students who are at risk, and he mentioned the Minnesota Reading Corps as a model of reading tutoring that would be good to bring to Wisconsin.Much more on the Read to Lead Task Force, here.
Lander: Can Seidenberg provide a few examples of things on which the Task Force could reach consensus?
Seidenberg: There is a window for teaching basic reading skills that then will allow the child to move on to comprehension. The balanced literacy concept is in conflict with best practices. Classrooms in Wisconsin are too laissez-faire, and the spiraling approach to learning does not align with science.
Michael Brickman: Brickman, the Governor's aide, cut off the discussion with Professor Seidenberg, and said he would be in touch with him later.
Nicole is a teacher's dream student. Bright, curious and hard-working, she has high expectations for herself and isn't satisfied with anything less than A grades. In fact, her mother says, she sometimes has to be told not to take school too seriously.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, here.
But when Nicole was tested in seventh grade to see if she'd qualify for an eighth-grade algebra course that would put her on track for advanced math courses in high school, her score wasn't top-notch. She assured the teacher she wanted to tackle the course anyway. He turned her down.
In fact, her score could not predict whether she'd succeed. Neither could the color of her skin.
As an African-American girl, Nicole didn't look much like the high-flying students her teacher was accustomed to teaching in his accelerated math classes at a Madison middle school. But instead of backing off, Nicole and her family challenged the recommendation. Somewhat grudgingly, her teacher allowed her in the class.
Fast forward a year: Nicole and one other student, the two top performers in the eighth-grade algebra class, were recommended for advanced math classes in high school.
It was report card pickup day at Walsh Elementary School on Wednesday, and Principal Krish Mohip was feeling a little exposed.
In addition to their children's report cards, Walsh parents were among the first in Chicago Public Schools to receive a progress report on the school itself, showing precisely how well, and in many cases how poorly, that school is keeping students on track for college.
At Walsh, a modern brick building in the city's Pilsen neighborhood, parents learned that math and reading proficiency was good in the early grades but fell off when the curriculum became more difficult in eighth grade.
But there's another culprit at work: the college admissions process itself. If you want to buy shares of stock, bid on antiques, search for a job, or look for Mr. Right in 2011, you will likely go to a marketplace driven by the electronic exchange of information. There will be quick, flexible transactions, broad access to buyers and sellers, and powerful algorithms that efficiently match supply and demand. If you are a student looking for a college or a college looking for a student, by contrast, you're stuck with an archaic, over-complicated, under-managed system that still relies on things like bus trips to airport convention centers and the physical transmission of pieces of paper. That's why under-matching is so pervasive. The higher education market only works for students who have the resources to overcome its terrible inefficiency. Everyone else is out of luck.
As a result, the odds appear to be against Jameel, who attends a 1,600-student public high school where the large majority of children qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program and the staff of three guidance counselors was cut to two last year. Determination can take you only so far if there's no one to help you find your way.
But Jameel's local school system has made one recent move that might work significantly in his favor. A few days after returning from the college fair, Jameel logged on to a new Web site that is the result of a contract between the Miami-Dade County school system and a Boston-based company called ConnectEDU. The site offered Jameel loads of information about different colleges and universities, along with strategies for filling out college applications and getting scholarships and financial aid. It was also a vessel for information about Jameel himself--his grades, courses, and activities, along with short animated quizzes designed to identify his strengths and goals. There were checklists and schedules and friendly reminders, all tailored to the personal aspirations the site had gleaned from Jameel, all focused on identifying the colleges that might meet them.
One of the great things about America, President Obama told students at the University of Colorado, is that no matter how humble your roots, you still have a shot at a great education. He also told students that his goal is to "make college more affordable." Alas, the president's prescription for making higher education affordable seems likely to yield the same results as his plan for curbing health care costs - that is, it is likely to drive prices higher than inflation.
The nation's next fiscal nightmare may well be a higher-education bubble.
Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards. As USA Today reported, America's student loan debt is expected to exceed $1 trillion this year. Rising costs have left many graduates in a deep hole. Many of last year's graduates walked away with a diploma and, on average, $24,000 in student loans. The default rate on student loans rose to 8.8 percent in 2009.
Yet I am surprised--surprised and disappointed. This is a very dangerous level of immunization--the level where herd immunity gets lost, disease reservoirs are established, and children emerge from their school to infect infants, immunocrompromised adults, and people whose vaccinations didn't take or have waned, with potentially fatal diseases.
*Note start required*I am a parent of one of the kids at the Lantau International School in Pui O and I have the strong urge to comment on the ridiculous ruling by the High Court judge (The Standard, November 1).
First does it take only one person to complain - in September 2008 - for the government to send an officer from the Environmental Protection Department to measure noise levels?
That's an absolute joke and this person must have had a "nightmare" over the past three years spending time in their bedroom waiting for the kids to make a noise during their few minutes break in the morning and at lunch time.
Editor's Note: Scroll down to the bottom to view OnlineCollege.org's infographic about rising costs and the $10,000 degree.
The latest news on Wall Street is that the occupiers want forgiveness of student debt. And while President Obama didn't meet their demands in his recent speech, he is still focusing on the same side of the equation: more money for higher education.
But down the road, the best way to deal with the high cost of college education is to reduce it! And Texas governor Rick Perry has thrown out the gauntlet by demanding that his regents come up with a plan for a $10,000 degree--not $10,000 per year but $10,000 for a full degree.
Is such a price possible? At the Pope Center, we've looked at affordability--and the innovation that will be required to get prices to that level--from many angles. My view is that extreme reductions are possible, but they may be far in the future. Meanwhile, however, you can save a lot of money if you take care.
IN LATE 1965, President Lyndon Johnson stood in the modest gymnasium of what had once been the tiny teaching college he attended in Texas and announced a programme to promote education. It was an initiative that exemplified the "Great Society" agenda of his administration: social advancement financed by a little hard cash, lots of leverage and potentially vast implicit government commitments. Those commitments are now coming due.
"Economists tell us that improvement of education has been responsible for one-fourth to one-half of the growth in our nation's economy over the past half-century," Johnson said. "We must be sure that there will be no gap between the number of jobs available and the ability of our people to perform those jobs."
To fill this gap Johnson pledged an amount that now seems trivial, $1.9m, sent from the federal government to states which could then leverage it ten-to-one to back student loans of up to $1,000 for 25,000 people. "This act", he promised, "will help young people enter business, trade, and technical schools--institutions which play a vital role in providing the skills our citizens must have to compete and contribute in our society."
Some New York City children take after-school classes in dance, pottery or softball. Once a week, Gillian and Hunter Randall add an unusual activity to the list: lessons on how to shake hands.
It's a class taught by SocialSklz:-), a company founded in 2009 to address deteriorating social skills in the age of iPhones, Twitter and Facebook friends.
"It's hard to have a real conversation anymore. And you know what? I'm guilty of it too," said the Randalls' mother, Lisa LaBarbera, noting that her 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son both have iPod touches and handheld videogame devices. "You get carpal tunnel, but you're not building those communication
Some New York City children take after-school classes in dance, pottery or softball. Once a week, Gillian and Hunter Randall add an unusual activity to the list: lessons on how to shake hands.
It's a class taught by SocialSklz:-), a company founded in 2009 to address deteriorating social skills in the age of iPhones, Twitter and Facebook friends.
"It's hard to have a real conversation anymore. And you know what? I'm guilty of it too," said the Randalls' mother, Lisa LaBarbera, noting that her 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son both have iPod touches and handheld videogame devices. "You get carpal tunnel, but you're not building those communication
The parents of three 15-year-olds who were strip-searched and jailed for three days after a trespassing charge expressed outrage Thursday during a press conference and called for the removal of Tate County Youth Court referee Leigh Ann Darby.
"If we don't stand up for our rights, no one else will," Dexter Burton of Senatobia, father of Lakiya Burton, told reporters at the Church of Christ at 401 W. Gilmore.
The three youths, who had not previously been identified because of their ages, were at the gathering with their parents and the families' attorney, J. Cliff Johnson II of Jackson. They are Larandra Wright of Southaven, and Lakiya Burton and Kevonta Mack, both of Senatobia.
Burton and Mack are 10th-graders at Senatobia High School; Wright is a 10th-grader at Southaven High. None had prior brushes with the law before they crossed a renter's yard at a duplex that faces Morgan Drive in Senatobia this summer.
Recently there has been a significant move among Chinese educators to provide better sex education to students in college, primary schools and even kindergartens.
The Ministry of Education recently issued a circular requiring colleges to make courses on reproductive physiology and sex psychology part of the standard curriculum.
This kind of education as a rule is included in courses known as physiology and hygiene in middle schools, but in actual practice some more sensitive topics are either not addressed or glossed over by instructors who consider them embarrassing and not essential.
In the past, this kind of information about sexuality was generally passed on informally outside the schools, by young people.
One of the many stated reasons for offering formal, medically accurate instruction is to protect children from sex abuse, and to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Last year, the United States reached a troubling new milestone in higher education: for the first time, total student loan debt in the United States exceeded total credit card debt. It's a development that should have come as no surprise. Over the past 15 years, the amount that students borrow to finance their postsecondary education has grown by every available measure: between 1993 and 2008, the percentage of bachelor's degree recipients who borrowed for their educations jumped from 49 percent to 66 percent, with average total debt at graduation increasing over 50 percent, from $15,149 to $24,700. Borrowing money to go to college, like borrowing money to buy houses and cars, is fast becoming a fact of American life--and so, it is turning out, is the struggle to pay it back.
Madison Preparatory Academy's educational program has been designed to be different. The eight features of the educational program will serve as a powerful mix of strategies that allow Madison Prep to fulfill its mission: to prepare students for success at a four-year college or university by instilling Excellence, Pride, Leadership and Service. By fulfilling this mission, Madison Prep will serve as a catalyst of change and opportunity for young men and women who live in a city where only 48% of African American students and 56% of Latino students graduate from high school. Madison Prep's educational program will produce students who are ready for college; who think, read, and write critically; who are culturally aware and embrace differences among all people; who give back to their communities; and who know how to work hard.Business Plan (PDF), via a kind Kaleem Caire email:
One of the most unique features of Madison Prep is the single gender approach. While single gender education has a long, successful history, there are currently no schools - public or private - in Dane County that offer single gender education. While single gender education is not right for every student, the demand demonstrated thus far by families who are interested in enrolling their children in Madison Prep shows that a significant number of parents believe their children would benefit from a single gender secondary school experience.
Madison Prep will operate two schools - a boys' school and a girls' school - in order to meet this demand as well as ensure compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The schools will be virtually identical in all aspects, from culture to curriculum, because the founders of Madison Prep know that both boys and girls need and will benefit from the other educational features of Madison Prep.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum is one of those strategies that Madison Prep's founders know will positively impact all the students the schools serve. IB is widely considered to be the highest quality curricular framework available. What makes IB particularly suitable for Madison Prep is that it can be designed around local learning standards (the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards and the Common Core State Standards) and it is inherently college preparatory. For students at Madison Prep who have special learning needs or speak English as a second language, IB is fully adaptable to their needs. Madison Prep will offer both the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the Diploma Programme (DP) to all its students.
Because IB is designed to be college preparatory, this curricular framework is an ideal foundation for the other aspects of Madison Prep's college preparatory program. Madison Prep is aiming to serve a student population of which at least 65% qualify for free or reduced lunch. This means that many of the parents of Madison Prep students will not be college educated themselves and will need the school to provide considerable support as their students embark on their journey through Madison Prep and to college.
College exposure, Destination Planning, and graduation requirements that mirror admissions requirements are some of the ways in which Madison Prep will ensure students are headed to college. Furthermore, parents' pursuit of an international education for their children is increasing rapidly around the world as they seek to foster in their children a global outlook that also expands their awareness, competence and comfort level with communicating, living, working and problem solving with and among cultures different than their own.
Harkness Teaching, the cornerstone instructional strategy for Madison Prep, will serve as an effective avenue through which students will develop the critical thinking and communication skills that IB emphasizes. Harkness Teaching, which puts teacher and students around a table rather than in theater-style classrooms, promotes student-centered learning and rigorous exchange of ideas. Disciplinary Apprenticeship, Madison Prep's approach to literacy across the curriculum, will ensure that students have the literacy skills to glean ideas and information from a variety of texts, ideas and information that they can then bring to the Harkness Table for critical analysis.
Yet to ensure that students are on track for college readiness and learning the standards set out in the curriculum, teachers will have to take a disciplined approach to data-driven instruction. Frequent, high quality assessments - aligned to the standards when possible - will serve as the basis for instructional practices. Madison Prep teachers will consistently be analyzing new data to adjust their practice as needed.
Based on current education and social conditions, the fate of young men and women of color is uncertain.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, here.
Black and Hispanic boys are grossly over-represented among youth failing to achieve academic success, are at grave risk of dropping out of school before they reach 10th grade, are disproportionately represented among adjudicated and incarcerated youth, and are far less likely than their peers in other subgroups to achieve their dreams and aspirations. Likewise, boys in general lag behind girls in most indicators of student achievement.
Research indicates that although boys of color have high aspirations for academic and career success, their underperformance in school and lack of educational attainment undermine their career pursuits and the success they desire. This misalignment of aspirations and achievement is fueled by and perpetuates a set of social conditions wherein men of color find themselves disproportionately represented among the unemployed and incarcerated. Without meaningful, targeted, and sustainable interventions and support systems, hundreds of thousands of young men of color will never realize their true potential and the cycle of high unemployment, fatherless homes, overcrowded jails, incarcerated talent, deferred dreams, and high rates of school failure will continue.
Likewise, girls of color are failing to graduate high school on-time, underperform on standardized achievement and college entrance exams and are under-enrolled in college preparatory classes in secondary school. The situation is particularly pronounced in the Madison Metropolitan School District where Black and Hispanic girls are far less likely than Asian and White girls to take a rigorous college preparatory curriculum in high school or successfully complete such courses with a grade of C or better when they do. In this regard, they mimic the course taking patterns of boys of color.
Additionally, data on ACT college entrance exam completion, graduation rates and standardized achievement tests scores provided to the Urban League of Greater Madison by the Madison Metropolitan School District show a significant gap in ACT completion, graduation rates and standardized achievement scores between students of color and their White peers.
Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men and Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Women will be established to serve as catalysts for change and opportunity among young men and women in the Greater Madison, Wisconsin area, particularly young men and women of color. It will also serve the interests of parents who desire a nurturing, college preparatory educational experience for their child.
Both schools will be administratively separate and operated by Madison Preparatory Academy, Inc. (Madison Prep), an independent 501(c)(3) established by the Urban League of Greater Madison and members of Madison Prep's inaugural board of directors.
The Urban League of Greater Madison, the "founder" of Madison Prep, understands that poverty, isolation, structural discrimination, limited access to schools and classrooms that provide academic rigor, lack of access to positive male and female role models in different career fields, limited exposure to academically successful and achievement-oriented peer groups, and limited exposure to opportunity and culture experiences outside their neighborhoods contribute to reasons why so many young men and women fail to achieve their full potential. At the same time, the Urban League and its supporters understand that these issues can be addressed by directly countering each issue with a positive, exciting, engaging, enriching, challenging, affirming and structured learning community designed to specifically address these issues.
Madison Prep will consist of two independent public charter schools - authorized by the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education - designed to serve adolescent males and females in grades 6-12 in two separate schools. Both will be open to all students residing within the boundaries of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) who apply, regardless of their previous academic performance.
Earlier this year, Dropout Nation argued that one way that school reformers -- including school choice activists and Parent Power groups -- could advance reform and expand school choice was to file lawsuits similar to school funding torts filed for the past four decades by school funding advocates. But now, it looks like Parent Power activists may be filing a lawsuit in Los Angeles on a different front: Overhauling teacher evaluations. And the Los Angeles Unified School District may be the place where the first suit is filed.
In a letter sent on behalf of some families Wednesday to L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy and the school board -- and just before the district begins negotiations with the American Federation of Teachers' City of Angels unit over a new contract -- Barnes & Thornburg's Kyle Kirwan demanded that the district "implement a comprehensive system" of evaluating teachers that ties "pupil progress" data to teacher evaluations. Kirwan and the group he represents are also asking for the district to begin evaluating all teachers "regardless of tenure status" and to reject any contract with the American Federation of Teachers local that allows for any veteran teacher with more than a decade on the job to go longer than two years without an evaluation if they haven't had one in the first place.
We represent minor-students currently residing within the boundaries of the Los Angeles Unified School District (the "District" or "LAUSD"), the parents of these students, and other adults who have paid taxes for a school system that has chronically failed to comply with California law.
Our clients seek to have the District immediately meet its obligations under the Stull Act, a forty year old law that is codified at California Education Code section 44660 et seq. (the "Stull Act").
In relevant part, the Stull Act requires that "[t]he governing board of each school district establish standards of expected pupil achievement at each grade level in each area of study."
Cal. Educ. Code § 44662(a). The Stull Act requires further that "[t]he governing board of each school district ... evaluate and assess certificated employee performance as it reasonably relates to ... [t]he progress of pupils toward the standards established pursuant to subdivision (a) and, if applicable, the state adopted academic content standards as measured by state adopted criterion referenced assessments ...." Cal. Educ. Code§ 44662(b)(l).
In the forty years since the California Legislature passed the Stull Act, the District has never evaluated its certificated personnel based upon the progress of pupils towards the standards established pursuant to Education Code section 44662(a) and, if applicable, the state adopted academic content standards as measured by the state adopted criterion referenced assessments; never reduced such evaluations to writing or added the evaluations to part of the permanent records of its certificated personnel; never reviewed with its certificated personnel the results of pupil progress as they relate to Stull Act evaluations; and never made specific recommendations on how certificated personnel with unsatisfactory ratings could improve their performance in order to achieve a higher level of pupil progress toward meeting established standards of expected pupil achievement.
I attended the talk last night by Dr. Dina Bulles put on by Wedgwood Elementary (and held at Nathan Hale High). (FYI, her name is pronounced Bree-yays.) The other SPS staff represented were the principal of Wedgwood, Chris Cronas, Ex. Director, Phil Brockman, and head of Advanced Learning, Bob Vaughn. Mr. Cronas pointed out that several Wedgwood teachers were in attendance as well. There were a large number of seats put out but the room wasn't full. My guess is it was about 60 people.
Dr. Bulles explained that in her district, Paradise Valley School district (which is just outside of Phoenix, Arizona), all of their elementary schools use cluster grouping. (Her district is about 35,000 students and there are 31 elementary schools.) She said out of those 35,000, about 5,000 student received gifted classes/services. (Help me out anyone else who attended; I thought she said towards the end that this was included high school students taking AP/IB. Is that what you heard?) She also made a startling statement that 68% of her teachers (and I believe this is in elementary) had 3 years or less of teaching experience. Wow.
I attended the talk last night by Dr. Dina Bulles put on by Wedgwood Elementary (and held at Nathan Hale High). (FYI, her name is pronounced Bree-yays.) The other SPS staff represented were the principal of Wedgwood, Chris Cronas, Ex. Director, Phil Brockman, and head of Advanced Learning, Bob Vaughn. Mr. Cronas pointed out that several Wedgwood teachers were in attendance as well. There were a large number of seats put out but the room wasn't full. My guess is it was about 60 people.Paradise Valley School District's website.
Dr. Bulles explained that in her district, Paradise Valley School district (which is just outside of Phoenix, Arizona), all of their elementary schools use cluster grouping. (Her district is about 35,000 students and there are 31 elementary schools.) She said out of those 35,000, about 5,000 student received gifted classes/services. (Help me out anyone else who attended; I thought she said towards the end that this was included high school students taking AP/IB. Is that what you heard?) She also made a startling statement that 68% of her teachers (and I believe this is in elementary) had 3 years or less of teaching experience. Wow.
What was most fascinating to me and an absolute pleasure is that here was a educator who made no apologies for wanting to serve gifted students. She gave a PowerPoint and several times talked about the need to serve these students needs as a district would any other student with a special need like ELL or Special Education. It was very refreshing and I have never, in all my years in SPS, heard any SPS principal or Board member or staff member or Superintendent speak in this manner.
She started out by showing a list from J. Skabos about differences between gifted children and bright children (and I note that she believes both groups need to be served). I couldn't find the exact list but here is link to one that is quite similar.
Scientists think they can prove that free will is an illusion. Philosophers are urging them to think again.
The experiment helped to change John-Dylan Haynes's outlook on life. In 2007, Haynes, a neuroscientist at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, put people into a brain scanner in which a display screen flashed a succession of random letters1. He told them to press a button with either their right or left index fingers whenever they felt the urge, and to remember the letter that was showing on the screen when they made the decision. The experiment used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to reveal brain activity in real time as the volunteers chose to use their right or left hands. The results were quite a surprise.
"The first thought we had was 'we have to check if this is real'," says Haynes. "We came up with more sanity checks than I've ever seen in any other study before."
The conscious decision to push the button was made about a second before the actual act, but the team discovered that a pattern of brain activity seemed to predict that decision by as many as seven seconds. Long before the subjects were even aware of making a choice, it seems, their brains had already decided.
The State of California enrolls about 10 percent of the country's full-time students attending public four-year colleges, and about 15 percent of those at public two-year colleges. So when the state's public colleges have a big tuition hike--as they did this year--it has a big impact on the average tuition increase at public colleges across the country, says a new report from the College Board.
For the fifth year in a row, the percentage increase in average published tuition and fees at public four-year colleges was higher than it was at private ones, according to the report, "Trends in College Pricing 2011." The report, released on Wednesday, examines annual changes in colleges' sticker prices, as well as the net prices students pay after grant aid and tax benefits are considered. A companion report, "Trends in Student Aid 2011," looks at the money that helps students meet those growing prices. (The pricing report looks at data through this academic year, while the student-aid report has information through 2010-11.)
For the many parents who are reeling from recent losses to their college-savings plans, insurers are pitching another option they claim can help: life insurance.
Last week, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company launched a "Kids Take Charge" marketing campaign that promotes life insurance as a way to pay for college. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America will roll out its latest campaign on life insurance as a college savings vehicle next month. Both firms join Illinois-based insurer Mutual Trust Financial Group, which this year has been promoting college savings as one of the main reasons to buy life insurance. In addition, insurance companies like National Life Group and Aviva USA have been encouraging their agents to talk about college planning and insurance with their clients.
While insurance companies have long touted whole life and universal polices as a back door way to finance college, experts say rarely have so many companies made such targeted pitches directly to parents. Why now? College savings plans have been hit hard by market losses over the past few months and low interest rates, say financial advisers, while tuition costs continue their steady rise. Insurers, they say, see a ready market in panicked parents.
This jumped out to me after watching Steve Job's 2005 Stanford graduation speech; the biggest thing to make sure not to take for granted at college is how easy it is to meet so many different & amazing people. You get 4 years to live on a student campus full of dots waiting to be connected ( in the words of Steve ) you must take advantage of every possible moment to connect dots. Especially if you want to start a startup. Looking back I wish I would have hung out a ton more in the C.S. Lab instead of doing my comp sci hw in my dorm room lounge in between switching off games of call of duty with my roommates.
I'm dying for an awesome co-founder right now!! More than anything, and it would have been awesome to be able to go to a college buddy with the same interests as I have. A college campus represents the easiest and most abundant source for finding a Co-Founder. Everything I've done until now I've done alone out of necessity b/c it's been extremely hard to find a good co-founder.
Don't take that barrier free access to tons of new friends & potential co-founders for granted!! That's my single most important advice to any college student that wants to start their own company. I took it for granted and it's making my startup career 100 times more difficult, trust me.
Only one in four students who enter high school in New York City are ready for college after four years, and less than half enroll, according to the A-through-F high school report cards released on Monday.
Those numbers, included for the first time in the report cards, confirmed what the state suggested several months ago: the city still has a long way to go to prepare students for successful experiences in college and beyond. And they were a signal that graduation rates, long used by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as a validation of his education policies, were not as meaningful as they seemed.
"There's a huge change in life chances for kids who are successful in post-secondary education," the city's chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, said. "We really have a task to prepare kids for that, and the data is one of the most motivating tools."
I will not be working in the office Thursday. I have to care for my kids, two of whom, like lots of other Wisconsin public school students, have the day off.
Why, you ask, are classes canceled on this entirely unremarkable Thursday the week before Halloween? On a day not set aside for any national holiday, nor part of any traditionally recognized vacation season, nor beset by record-breaking snowfall or some other natural cataclysm?
Well, because historically, a couple of consecutive weekdays in October have been something of a Wisconsin public schools-recognized holiday -- the traditional time for the annual convention of the statewide teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council.
I know what you're saying: "Don't be ridiculous. Teachers have two and a half months in the summer to hold their convention! Why wouldn't they have it then?"
And I hear you; an October teachers convention does defy logic. Yet, that's been the case until this year, when things managed to get even more illogical.
via a kind Larry Winkler email.
It was the kind of memo that high school students would dream of getting, if they dreamed in memos.
Lisa Waller, director of the high school at Dalton, a famously rigorous private school on the Upper East Side, sent a letter to parents this summer announcing that tests and papers would be staggered to make sure students did not become overloaded. January midterms would be pushed back two weeks so students would not have to study during vacation.
Across town at the Trinity School, another of Manhattan's elite academies, the administration has formed a task force to examine workload, and the upper school, grades 9 to 12, has been trying ways to coordinate test-taking with papers, labs and other projects.
Horace Mann School, in the Bronx, opened a tutoring center this year to help students manage their work. Hunter College High School, which has a tough admissions exam, is for the first time this year offering homework holidays, on Halloween, the Chinese New Year (Jan. 23) and a day nearer spring, March 14.
I get a ton of mail because of this blog, for the most part it is lots of fun and I really enjoy it. The thing that I don't enjoy is when people ask me if they should drop out of school or university to 'start their own business', typically accompanied by some minimal description of their circumstances.
Of course it's my own fault, putting up a guide on how to run a small software consultancy business makes it look fairly easy and exciting compared to being in school or secondary education. Another reason is that I've documented that I (successfully) dropped out of school but circumstances have changed dramatically since then.
I landed on my feet but that's absolutely no guarantee. It was blood, sweat and tears and an uncommon dose of luck. At first I worked a crappy physical job, and from there I somehow found my way into being a professional programmer which in turn led to my first business. At the time anybody that could hold a keyboard without dropping it was making money hand over fist (because microcomputers were so new there was hardly any software for it, and there were hardly any people that knew how to write such software) but it was *still* hard work.
Here's a pop quiz: What foods are best to eat before a high-stakes test? When is the best time to review the toughest material? A growing body of research on the best study techniques offers some answers.
Chiefly, testing yourself repeatedly before an exam teaches the brain to retrieve and apply knowledge from memory. The method is more effective than re-reading a textbook, says Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University. If you are facing a test on the digestive system, he says, practice explaining how it works from start to finish, rather than studying a list of its parts.
In his junior year of high school in Cary, N.C., Keenan Harrell bought test-prep books and subjected himself to a "relentless and repetitive" series of nearly 30 practice SAT college-entrance exams. "I just took it over and over again, until it became almost aggravating," he says.
An independent charter school program would expand to medium and large school districts around Wisconsin, under a bill passed Wednesday by Republicans on the Legislature's budget committee.
The proposal passed 12-3 on a party-line vote, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting against.
The bill would take an independent charter school program currently operating in only Milwaukee and Racine and extend it statewide to districts with more than 2,000 students. That would apply to roughly a quarter of the state's districts.
Republicans said it would help provide another options for students whose schools are failing them.
"The bill we are taking up today is truly something that is going to help the long-term prospects of Wisconsin," said Rep. Robin Vos (R-Burlington), a co-chairman of the committee.
But Democrats said that the program would undermine local control of schools by elected officials in favor of an unelected board. They said the proposal could also prove another financial blow to regular public schools that are losing nearly $800 million in state aid over two years as part of the state budget and having tight state caps placed on their property tax levies.
Charter schools provide plenty of compelling news. Often the coverage is of great schools producing amazing outcomes for kids. But too often the stories are more tragic or sordid. A school's governing board becomes mired in dysfunctional arguments; a school's students are performing badly on state tests for several years running; somebody absconds with money; or a student with disabilities is discouraged from enrolling in a school.
Facing these unfortunate circumstances, a person is likely to shout, "Somebody should do something!" The outraged observer is correct. Generally, the "somebody" that ought to act is a charter school authorizer. Strong charter school authorizers screen initial applicants to avoid future failures. They also implement practices that respect each school's autonomy while also protecting against abuses and ensuring that floundering schools close. Twenty years into the charter school movement, it appears that it will be difficult to hold all charter schools accountable unless we start to hold authorizers accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities.
Two out of three children in Africa are left out of secondary schoolThe complete report is available here (PDF).
Governments are struggling to meet the rising demand for secondary education, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are enough school places for just 36% of children of age to enrol, according the latest edition of the Global Education Digest.
Globally, secondary schools have been accommodating almost one hundred million more students each decade, with the total number growing by 60% between 1990 and 2009. But the supply is dwarfed by demand as more countries approach universal primary education.
In 2009, 88% of children enrolled in primary school reached the last grade of this level of education, compared to 81%. Yet, in 20 countries -- mostly in sub-Saharan Africa -- a child in the last grade of primary school has a 75% chance at best of making the transition to lower secondary school.
The path to prosperity
"There can be no escape from poverty without a vast expansion of secondary education. This is a minimum entitlement for equipping youth with the knowledge and skills they need to secure decent livelihoods in today's globalized world. It is going to take ambition and commitment to meet this challenge. But it is the only path towards prosperity," said UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova.
"An educated population is a country's greatest wealth," she added. "The inequalities signalled in this Report, especially in relation to girls' exclusion from secondary education in many countries, have enormous implications for the achievement of all the internationally agreed development goals, from child and maternal health and HIV prevention to environmental security."
In terms of enrolment, sub-Saharan Africa has made the greatest gains of all regions, with gross enrolment ratios rising from 28% to 43% for lower secondary and from 20% to 27% for upper secondary education between 1999 and 2009. Nevertheless, more than 21.6 million children of lower secondary school age remain excluded from education across the region and many will never spend a day in school.
The annual state teachers union convention that has traditionally meant a two-day school holiday at the end of October is off this year, leaving public school districts with decisions about how to schedule students and teachers.
The Wisconsin Education Association Council canceled the convention, which would have been Thursday and Friday this week, after changes in state law weakened the union and its local affiliates.
Without the certainty of having input into school calendars through the negotiations process, members could not guarantee that they could all get the days off from school, said WEAC President Mary Bell, who added that the convention was "the flagship piece of professional development that we provided for members."
Some school districts, with their calendars already set before the convention was called off, are keeping the school holiday for students but bringing teachers in for training or other activities. Others, such as Waukesha, are keeping the holiday and treating it as two unpaid days for teachers.
The Brown Deer School District scheduled classes.
The Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, Calif., is a public charter school. It must hold a random lottery when it has more applicants than vacancies. It is not supposed to be selective.
Yet somehow its average SAT score has risen to the top 10th of 1 percent nationally. Less than 10 percent of its students are from low-income families, compared with 40 percent in its city. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the school is allowed to ask (not require, it emphasizes) that every family donate $3,000 and 40 hours of volunteer time a year.
As a supporter of the charter school movement, I get grief from people who say that charters -- independent public schools using tax dollars -- are private schools in disguise. They are almost always wrong about that, but there are enough Pacific Collegiate situations to make me wonder whether the rules need revision.
Armed with tote bags for the handouts awaiting them, thousands of Chicago parents shuffled through display tables adorned with brightly colored posters as they faced the daunting task of selecting schools for their children.
For many parents, the school fair, put on by the Neighborhood Parents Network, is their first encounter with the public school system. It is timed to coincide with the opening of the district's admissions process, which ends in December. Many parents hope to place their children in the growing number of charter, magnet and selective-enrollment elementary schools."If you hang out with parents of 4-year-olds, the conversation never stops," said Christine Whitley, a Chicago Public Schools parent. "That's all they talk about: 'Where are you sending your child to school?' "
As choosing a school becomes increasingly complicated, some entrepreneurial parents, including Ms. Whitley, have started small consulting businesses aimed at helping parents navigate the admission process. But some observers have raised concerns about the potential for parents to game the system.
The district has 482 elementary schools, multiple application forms and five specialty school options in addition to the neighborhood elementary schools: gifted, classical, magnet, magnet cluster and charter. Magnet, magnet cluster and charter schools select students largely through a computerized lottery, but gifted and classical require admission tests for children at age 4 because the schools offer an accelerated curriculum.
Echo Lau drove to Whitney High School on a recent Monday evening to pick up her kids. She left with dinner.
The student parking lot at the Cerritos campus is transformed every week into a congested food truck stop as eight mobile eateries attract the business of loyal followers, parents and students.
But this isn't a typical stop for these catering trucks; this is a school fundraiser, in which a portion of the proceeds go directly to Whitney to help pay for a new multi-media center.
Outdoor food courts are popping up in the parking lots of at least a dozen high schools across Southern California with more on the way. Financially strapped public schools -- hit hard by budget cuts, new fundraising guidelines, and fewer donors -- have found a way to capitalize on the food truck craze.
The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.
But the school's chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.
Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don't mix.
This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.
Considerable research confirms the relationship between school start times, sleep deprivation, and student performance, truancy, and absenteeism, as well as depression, mood swings, impulse control, tobacco and alcohol use, impaired cognitive function and decision-making, obesity, stimulant abuse, automobile accidents, and suicide. Mounting evidence about the biology of adolescent sleep, and about the impact of later start times, shows that starting school before 8 a.m. not only undermines academic achievement but endangers health and safety. Because logistical and financial issues prevent local school systems from establishing safe and educationally defensible hours, however, federal legislation mandating start times consistent with student health and educational well-being is essential.Terra Snider:
As the parent of two former and one current Severna Park High School student, I've been living with the issue of early high school start times for years. Although the consensus of scientific opinion is that teenagers (and young adults) would be better off if school hours were better aligned with their biological clocks, the possibility of changing school hours inevitably sparks raging controversy, both here and across the country.
Changing school hours costs money, and we all know school systems don't have a lot of that on hand. It also means changing the way we do things, and most of us don't like doing that much either. On the other hand, Moses didn't come down from Mount Sinai with commandments that schools must start at 7:17 a.m. and end at 2:05 p.m.
Surely if we know students learn better, and are healthier and safer, with different hours, we should make that our number one priority. Shouldn't we?
The Severna Park High School CAC (and the now defunct countywide CAC) have been working on the issue of high school start time for years, decades even - to no avail. Many of us have become convinced that the only solution to the problem is a national mandate. That's why I created a petition on We the People on WhiteHouse.gov, a new platform that allows anyone to create and sign petitions asking the Obama Administration to take action on a range of issues.
I TYPED these words on a computer designed by Apple, co-founded by the college dropout Steve Jobs. The program I used to write it was created by Microsoft, started by the college dropouts Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
And as soon as it is published, I will share it with my friends via Twitter, co-founded by the college dropouts Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams and Biz Stone, and Facebook -- invented, among others, by the college dropouts Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, and nurtured by the degreeless Sean Parker.
American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees. But we don't have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren't traditional professionals, but start-up entrepreneurs.
Parents of infants and toddlers should limit the time their children spend in front of televisions, computers, self-described educational games and even grown-up shows playing in the background, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned on Tuesday. Video screen time provides no educational benefits for children under age 2 and leaves less room for activities that do, like interacting with other people and playing, the group said.
The recommendation, announced at the group's annual convention in Boston, is less stringent than its first such warning, in 1999, which called on parents of young children to all but ban television watching for children under 2 and to fill out a "media history" for doctor's office visits. But it also makes clear that there is no such thing as an educational program for such young children, and that leaving the TV on as background noise, as many households do, distracts both children and adults.
"We felt it was time to revisit this issue because video screens are everywhere now, and the message is much more relevant today that it was a decade ago," said Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Tex., and the lead author of the academy's policy, which appears in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics.
This summer I moved back to my boyhood house in San Mateo, California, after 48 years living elsewhere, mostly on the east coast and in China. My California-born wife and I are Golden State chauvinists of the sentimental kind. We have framed orange crate labels on our walls. We choke up when we hear "California Dreamin'" on the radio.
San Mateo looked pretty much the same. But I found I wasn't recapturing the simpler days of my youth. When I started reconnecting with favorite spots like my old high school, I encountered complexities and advances I had not expected, particularly after the many headlines about California in decline.
The little house where I grew up on Voelker Drive still has no garbage disposal, no dishwasher, and no air-conditioning. But my brother Jim, the computer teacher at Baywood Elementary School, set up a Wi-Fi system and satellite TV. I felt up-to-date until I visited my alma mater, Hillsdale High School, a sprawling campus two blocks away on Alameda de las Pulgas.
I notice that last summer Karl Smith asked "Why Are There Short People?" His logic is pretty good, except for the fact that the fitness variation seems to be much starker in males than females (there is some evidence I've seen that shorter women can be more fertile, though that's balanced by the fact that larger women seem to be able to manage gestation better). In any case, height seems to be a fitness enhancing trait which is highly heritable, and yet the variation in height remains!
Karl's readers offered some reasons. What do you think? Mind you, something which immediately comes to mind is that the logic presented for why everyone should be tall and vary only a touch is logic. Not all the assumptions need to hold. For example, has the advantage to height been invariant at all times and places? I have posited for example that the fact that humans became smaller after the Ice Age may have something to do with increased morbidity and declining mortality, where agricultural settlements "hugged" the Malthusian boundary more consistently than hunter-gatherers. In this sort of environment smaller individuals may have gained a fitness advantage because they required fewer resources to make it through the inevitable "starving times."*
Excerpt from Mikhail Zinshteyn's article:
As the Senate moves forward with Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa) bill to overhaul U.S. K-12 education, with a greater emphasis coming on the side of local control and funding flexibility, states are still shouldering federal expectations that aren't expected to go away any time soon.
Here are two education funding obligations states have to the federal government -- even as the country moves beyond NCLB -- and one way for states to increase its funding flexibility.
One obligation to have persistently earned the ire of education advocates is test funding, with repeated critiques coming down on "billions" spent on assessments and test preparation. Sure, billions are being allocated, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to overall education spending.
Before NCLB, most states already had some form of student assessment in place. The 2002 law mandated no fewer than nine grades be monitored for student proficiency and improvement -- a six grade jump from what was required previously. The costs of implementing, issuing, grading, and analyzing those assessments makes up a soupcon of total education spending.
To note; again, not hugely comprehensive but a look at what the basic history is of charter schools. I think the history can best be summed up by saying the charter schools idea started as one thing and spread, like cracks on a windshield, in all directions. This is not to say that there are not some charters that are innovative. (I still need to do research to see if I can find even one charter that reflects the earliest thinking.)
Like NCLB, where we have 50 different tests and no real way to prove how American students are doing as a whole, there is charter law in 41 states and the District of Columbia and every single law is different, the numbers of allowed charters is different, the accountability is different and yet, the movement grows. When I get to the Landscape Today, I have some thoughts on why that is (and it's not because charters do well).
2011-2012 Revised Budget 1.3MB PDF (Budget amendments document). District spending remains largely flat at $369,394,753, yet "Fund Equity", or the District's reserves, has increased to $48,324,862 from $22,769,831 in 2007 (page 24). The District's property tax "underlevy" (increases allowed under Wisconsin school revenue limits which are based on student population changes, successful referendums along with carve-outs such as Fund 80, among others) will be $13,084,310. It also appears that property taxes will be flat (page 19) after a significant 9% increase last year. Interestingly, MSCR spending is up 7.97% (page 28).
2011-2012 enrollment is 24,861. $369,394,753 planned expenditures results in per student spending of $14,858.40.
I welcome clarifications and updates to these numbers, which are interesting. We've seen a doubling of District reserves over the past few years while spending has remained relatively flat as has enrollment.
Finally, this is worth reading in light of the District's 2011-2012 numbers: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Advocates Additional Federal Tax Dollar Spending & Borrowing via President Obama's Proposed Jobs Bill.
Let's see:Related: Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Acdemy IB Charter school.
If the Madison Preparatory Academy can pull off all of that, how could it not improve the academic success of its largely black and Latino students?
- A longer school day and year, with July classes.
- Higher standards, expectations and school uniforms.
- Mandated extracurricular activities.
- Grades for parents based on their involvement at the school.
- More minority teachers as role models.
- More connections and internships with local employers.
- Millions in private fundraising.
That's the big picture view Madison should adopt as it considers the Urban League of Greater Madison's intriguing charter school request. Instead, a disproportionate amount of time and concern has been spent on a final part of the proposal:
Like making a bad bet in Vegas, taxpayers gamble hundreds of millions of dollars a year on community college students who quit as freshmen - many in California.
A new study shows that from 2004 to 2009, Americans spent nearly $4 billion on full-time students who dropped out after one year and didn't transfer.
California's first-year dropouts benefited from $480 million in tax-funded grants and allocations in that time - more than any other state - says the study, "The Hidden Costs of Community Colleges," from the nonpartisan American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C.
"I'm not in favor of pumping more money into the existing system where so many students don't succeed," said Mark Schneider, author of the report and vice president of the research group.
The 17-page report doesn't advocate cutting off dollars to schools. Instead, it urges colleges to do a better job of retaining students: making it easier for them to get the classes they need, rewarding colleges for reducing dropouts or penalizing them for failing to do so. It also encourages officials to gather better information about what's actually happening on their campuses.
Chartering and Choice as an Achievement Gap-Closing Reform
One of the greatest public education challenges in California--and the nation--is the achievement and opportunity gaps between African American students and their White and Asian peers.
The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) has an interest in understanding how the state's charter public schools can accelerate closing achievement gaps for African American students, while at the same time advancing educational innovation that improves teaching and learning for all public school students.
The Chartering and Choice as an Achievement Gap-Closing Reform report, released by CCSA in October 2011, details the performance and enrollment trends of African American students in both charter public and traditional public schools. The results show that California charter public schools are effectively accelerating the performance of African American students, and that African American students are enrolled at higher percentage in the state's charters, among other findings.
Since the inception of the Charter Schools Act in California in 1992, charter schools have become an important part of the public education system, opening their doors in both urban and rural areas, in order to provide quality educational options for families. Chartering and Choice as an Achievement Gap-Closing Reform demonstrates that as laboratories of innovation, California's highly effective charter public schools can demonstrate proven paths to success that should be replicated nationally.
"The next twenty-five years offer an opportunity to transform the way students have learned for centuries. We will be able to deliver education to students where they are, based on their specific needs, desires, and backgrounds."--Andrew S. Rosen
Imagine a university where programs are tailored to the needs of each student, the best professors are available to everyone, curriculum is relevant to the workplace - and the value of the education is demonstrable. In Change.edu, Andrew S. Rosen shows how that future is possible but in danger of being stifled by a system of incentives that emphasize prestige and tradition, rather than access and outcomes.
The U.S. higher education system has historically been considered one of the best in the world. This thought-provoking story presents the imperative for transforming that system for the 21st century and beyond. Rosen takes on the sacred cows of traditional higher education models, and calls on the country to demand the changes we need to build a qualified workforce and compete in a global economy. Change.edu is sure to open minds -- and open doors to a wealth of opportunities.
New York University pulled out of the National Merit scholarships, becoming at least the ninth school to stop funding one of the largest U.S. merit-based aid programs, because it doesn't want to reward students based on a standardized test.Related: 2011 National Merit Cut Scores
The National Merit Scholarship Corp. distributed more than $50 million to students in the 2009-2010 year based on the PSAT college entry practice exam. Most of the money comes from almost 200 colleges, including Northwestern University and University of Chicago, to fund awards of as much as $8,000 over four years. Companies such as Boeing Co. and Pfizer Inc. also sponsor the program, primarily to benefit their employees' children.
NYU's withdrawal is another blow to National Merit, already ignored by many elite colleges and a subject of a critical report by a Harvard College-chaired commission. Schools are debating how to allocate scarce financial-aid dollars as tuition costs rise and the economy remains sluggish. While high schools trumpet National Merit winners, relying heavily on a standardized test is a flawed way to evaluate students, said Shawn Abbott, assistant vice president of admissions at NYU.
National Merit hasn't collected any fees from the PSAT for the past 14 years, though it is entitled to a "nominal percent" of revenue under their contract, Kauffmann said. Instead, it has reinvested the funds into the program to keep test fees low and expand access to fee waivers, he said.
The College Board gains a marketing benefit from its association with National Merit when school districts or states consider using public funds to pay for the PSAT in 11th grade or ACT Inc.'s 10th-grade test known as PLAN, according to Bob Schaeffer, a spokesman for FairTest, a nonprofit group in Boston that works to end the misuses of standardized testing. Almost 1.3 million 10th-graders nationally took the PLAN test in the 2010-2011 academic year, according to the nonprofit ACT.
High School Students--please study less, if you can. As you should know, jobs and our economy depend on consumers buying goods and services, and the time you spend reading and writing, doing math and science problems, and the like, is simply time spent out of the economy and contributes nothing to the effort to sell products and provide jobs for the American people.
You could consider your time away from studying as part of your community service, putting the needs of the economy ahead of your own selfish desire to learn and grow by doing homework for yourself alone. By spending more time buying and using goods produced by America's workers, you are making a contribution to the community in which you live.
If you have to do three or four hours of homework a week, at least do it using a computer and software which you or your family have purchased. If you do it that way, naturally you will find it easier to play the games you have bought, spend time with social media, and to listen to the songs you paid for at the same time, and you can also surf the Web for products on which you may wish to spend more money in the future.
While in the short term you may do less well in school by combining your schoolwork with your commercial obligations, at least you will be helping to keep our economy going and providing jobs for our unemployed workers.
It is possible that when it comes time for you to look for a job, you may not have the knowledge, skills, and general educational background to qualify for the ones on offer, but that is not your problem in the present.
If you need to learn something in the future, there will always be digital learning and online classes for you to buy. There will be no need to go to the library or read on your own. We expect young people to make sacrifices and to do community service, and refraining from studying is one painless and very useful way for you to work on behalf of those in your country who need jobs now, so that our economy can get help in its recovery on the backs of those of our students who have decided to study even less than they usually do.
The main thing is not to let your schoolwork interfere with your own purchases or with influencing as much as possible the purchases of your parents and friends.
As our President has told us, we need more jobs right now, and if you spend too much time on reading books, writing term papers, and stuff like that, you will be basically just more of a drag on our economy than you should be, so please study less, or if possible, not at all, and help keep our economy growing. You will learn less, but someone somewhere in our economy will thank you for spending more time away from those old printed school books and term papers!
"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Lucy Mathiak, via a kind email:
Dear Friends,I am appreciative of Lucy's tireless and often thankless work on behalf of our students.
I am writing to thank you for your encouragement and support in my decision to seek election to the MMSD Board of Education in late fall 2005. Your help in getting elected, your support during tough times, and your help in finding solutions to problems, have made a great difference to my service on the board.
I am writing to let you know that I will not seek re-election in 2012. I continue to believe that the Board of Education is one of the most important elected positions for our community and its schools, and encourage others to step forward to serve in this capacity. MMSD is facing significant challenges, and it is more important than ever that thoughtful citizens engage in the work that will be needed to preserve the traditional strengths of our public schools while helping those schools to change in keeping with the times and the families that they serve.
At the same time, I do not view school board service as a career, and believe that turnover in membership is healthy for the organization and for the district. I have been fortunate to have had an opportunity to serve on this board, and to work with many fine community organizations in that capacity. For that I am grateful.
Again, thank you for your interest, support, and collegiality.
Lucy J. Mathiak
716 Orton Ct.
Madison, WI 53703
Madison School Board
Every organization - public or private, deteriorates. It is often easier to spend more (raise taxes), raise fees on consumers - or a "rate base", reduce curricular quality and in general go along and get along than to seek substantive improvements. Change is hard.
Yet, very few of us are willing to step into the theatre, spend time, dig deep and raise such questions. I am thankful for those, like Lucy, who do.
Her years of activism and governance have touched numerous issues, from the lack of Superintendent oversight (related: Ruth Robarts) (that's what a board does), the District's $372M+ budget priorities and transparency to substantive questions about Math, reading and the endless battle for increased rigor in the Madison Schools.
In closing, I had an opportunity to hear Peter Schneider speak during a recent Madison visit. Schneider discussed cultural differences and similarities between America and Germany. He specifically discussed the recent financial crisis. I paraphrase: "If I do not understand a financial vehicle, I buy it". "I create a financial product that no one, including me, understands, I sell it". This is "collective ignorance".
Schneider's talk reminded me of a wonderful Madison teacher's comments some years ago: "if we are doing such a great job, why do so few people vote and/or understand civic and business issues"?
What, then, is the payoff of increased rigor and the pursuit of high standards throughout an organization? Opportunity.
I recently met a technical professional who works throughout the United States from a suburban Madison home. This person is the product of a very poor single parent household. Yet, high parental standards and rigorous academic opportunities at a somewhat rural Wisconsin high school and UW-Madison led to an advanced degree and professional opportunities.
It also led to a successful citizen and taxpayer. The alternative, as discussed in my recent conversation with Madison Mayor Paul Soglin is growth in those who don't contribute, but rather increase costs on society.
Lucy will be missed.
A young and tech-savvy charter school network that's gotten attention for reducing the achievement gap in San Jose, Calif., got the green light from a Common Council committee Tuesday to bring the model to Milwaukee.
Rocketship Education, a nonprofit management company, has applied for a charter from the City of Milwaukee that would allow it to open a publicly funded school in the fall of 2013, with the eventual intent to serve up to 4,000 children in eight K-5 schools by 2017. Each school would have to show measurable progress before subsequent schools could open.
The organization, started in 2006, currently serves about 2,500 students in five San Jose area elementary schools.
A majority of members on the Steering and Rules Committee on Tuesday approved sending Rocketship's application to the full council for consideration.
Rocketship CEO and co-founder John Danner explained the organization's three areas of emphasis: engaging parents through teacher-led home visits and training them to advocate for their children; developing talent by growing a pipeline of teachers who can become school leaders; and giving all students individualized learning plans that blend six hours a day of face-to-face instruction with two hours of lab time spent working with online computer programs and low-cost tutors.
A teenager's IQ can rise or fall as many as 20 points in just a few years, a brain-scanning team found in a study published Wednesday that suggests the intelligence measure isn't as fixed as once thought.
The researchers also found that shifts in IQ scores corresponded to small physical changes in brain areas related to intellectual skills, though they weren't able to show a clear cause and effect.
Shannon Maloney had already earned a degree in mechanical engineering, but she returned to Lehigh University for a fifth year to complete a second major she knows will make her more employable:
Though philosophy is routinely dismissed and disparaged - as useless as English, as dead as Latin, as diminished as library science - more college students are getting degrees in that field than ever before.
Though the overall figures remain small, the number of four-year graduates has grown 46 percent in a decade, surpassing the growth rates of much bigger programs such as psychology and history.
When you're up for $150,000 in fees and extras for a child's private-school education, it'd be nice to know it's a good investment.
After all, a year 7 student starting next year will cost $215,000 by year 12 if school fees keep rising at an annual rate of 6 per cent.
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Could that be better spent on tutors and extensive travel to other cultures to broaden a young mind? Certainly it would be cheaper.
They might put a value on everything else but economists have a problem working out the worth of private schools, even though that's probably where many of them went.
It has become fashionable for our most selective colleges to worry about becoming as representative of American diversity as suburban country clubs.
College admissions experts conferring at the University of Southern California this year were so alarmed that they suggested our most prestigious campuses add space for another 100 students in each class and fill those slots with low-income kids.
Why are our choosiest colleges so dominated by affluent white or Asian students? The explanations are many: not enough financial aid, inadequate preparation in inner-city high schools, poor students' discomfort mixing with rich kids.
But a new study by researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Arizona suggests something different. Great high schools and families like those in the Washington area may be at fault, at least in part. In the last 32 years, low-income students have significantly raised the grades and test scores that affect college admissions, but have made little headway because students from affluent families have improved even more.
The president of a conservative group that claims the University of Wisconsin-Madison discriminates against prospective white and Asian students called on Republican Gov. Scott Walker or state lawmakers Monday to step in to end the practice.
Republicans have balked for years at what UW-Madison calls a holistic admissions policy, which calls for admissions officers to take a number of factors into consideration, including academic performance and race. GOP lawmakers believe the policy permits reverse discrimination.
The Center for Equal Opportunity in Falls Church, Va., reviewed UW-Madison admissions data from 2007 to 2008 and found black and Hispanic applicants had a better a chance of getting in than whites or Asians. Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, chairman of the Assembly's higher education committee, had the center's president, Mark Clegg, walk the panel through the report -- a move that indicates Republicans are looking at the UW System's admission policies again.
MY son, Ronan, looks at me and raises one eyebrow. His eyes are bright and focused. Ronan means "little seal" in Irish and it suits him.
I want to stop here, before the dreadful hitch: my son is 18 months old and will likely die before his third birthday. Ronan was born with Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder. He is slowly regressing into a vegetative state. He'll become paralyzed, experience seizures, lose all of his senses before he dies. There is no treatment and no cure.
How do you parent without a net, without a future, knowing that you will lose your child, bit by torturous bit?
Depressing? Sure. But not without wisdom, not without a profound understanding of the human experience or without hard-won lessons, forged through grief and helplessness and deeply committed love about how to be not just a mother or a father but how to be human.
Roll call is a thing of the past in Washington County Schools. Students now check in with finger scanning devices.Wow....
School Superintendent Sandra Cook said the old method just wasn't cutting it.
"We got to talking about attendance in our district and how it was inconsistent," said Cook.
The systems have been up and running for two months inside the schools, but since the majority of students ride the bus every day, district officials decided to move the devices there.
But the transition hasn't been easy. One of the biggest challenges they've faced is where to put the devices on the buses. State safety codes require the isles to be kept completely clear, so one of the ideas they've discussed is to put a laptop on one side of the steering wheel and the finger scan system on the other.
There is remarkably little good poetry about very small children. Maybe it's the lack of sleep that does it; for the first few months it's hard to remember to put out the bins, let alone write poems. Perhaps the first writer to make a serious attempt to evoke the world of earliest childhood was the Latin poet Statius, a contemporary of the Roman emperor Domitian (ad 81-96). In one of his most remarkable poems, Statius describes taking a newborn baby boy in his arms, "as he demanded the novel air with trembling wails". Bit by bit, he learned to interpret the child's inarticulate complaints and to soothe his "hidden wounds" (vulnera caeca). Later still, once the baby had learned to crawl, Statius would pick him up and kiss him, until bit by bit, cradled in the poet's arms, he would drop off to sleep. Statius's name was the toddler's first word, and Statius's face served as "his first plaything". How many other poets, in any language, have described the experience of having their face yanked around by a fascinated baby?
A 3-year-old is handed six sets of colorful stickers.
"You can keep all of them," he is told. "Or you can give some to a child you don't know. He doesn't have any stickers. Do you want to keep all of your stickers? Or do you want to give some to a child you don't know?"
That was the basic script for a study that took place recently in an Israeli playroom which doubled as a social-science laboratory. A child-care-professional-turned-researcher asked 136 children, aged 3 and 4 years old, to step one at a time into the playroom to shed light unwittingly on a hot topic in behavioral science: Are children altruistic?
It seems they are, and part of the explanation may be genetic, according to the study, published last month in the online scientific journal PLoS One. About two-thirds of the children chose to give one or more sets of stickers to an unknown recipient, described to them only as a child who had no stickers. There were no significant differences in generosity between boys and girls.
These days everyone is for education reform. The question is which approach is best. I favor the Steve Jobs model.
In 1984 Steve introduced the Mac with a Super Bowl ad. It ran only once. It ran for only one minute. And it shows a female athlete being chased by the helmeted police of some totalitarian regime.
At the climax, the woman rushes up to a large screen where Big Brother is giving a speech. Just as he announces, "We shall prevail," she hurls her hammer through the screen.
The modern fashion is for piling degree upon degree: MA upon BA and PhD upon MBA. And it is not easy to argue against it. If education is a good thing, more education should be an even better thing. And academic wisdom maintains that, as economies become more sophisticated and knowledge more advanced, people will have to spend longer studying. Just as industrial countries introduced universal secondary education in the 20th century, so post-industrial economies will introduce universal higher education in the 21st--followed by universal PhDs.
It is doubly hard to argue for parsimony when the economy is in recession, giving all too many people a choice between further education and the dole queue, and when the person making the case has gorged on the fruits of higher education himself. But are we to wait for the good times to return before pointing out that higher degrees are not all they are cracked up to be? And is anybody better equipped to expose the credentials racket than one who has accumulated more than enough of them?
1. Read: Any thing and Everything.
2. Write: Use new words that your learn in your writings.
3. Listen: When someone uses a word you don't understand, ask them what it means or look it up later.
4. Carry a Dictionary.
5. Watch Frasier: Get your hands on Frasier Dvds. An entertaining way to Improve Your Vocabulary.
6. Make sticky notes of new words and post them in strategic places.
7. Download a words and definitions screensaver.
I've prescribed Ritalin type drugs to children for 33 years. In the early 1990s I began feeling ethically uneasy about my professional role. I went public with my concerns in a book called "Running on Ritalin." In the process I was involuntarily enlisted into what has been called, "The Ritalin Wars," an often-polemical public debate about whether psychiatric drugs are good or bad for children.
Recently I published an article on The Huffington Post called "The United States of Adderall." I mentioned that we are 4 percent of the world's population but produce 88 percent of the world's legal amphetamine (Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, etc.) virtually all for the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. I tried to maintain a balanced view on ADHD and medication. The article generated over 200 mostly extreme comments from my point of view.
We founded the American Center for School Choice because we believe a focus on parental empowerment can contribute to a broadening and coalescing of the coalition that seeks to provide the best possible education for children. Simultaneously, empowering parents creates a common good--for the child, the parent, the family, and society.Clusty Search: John Coons.
We begin with the delicate subject of authority--that of parent or of government over the mind of the young. In our culture, authority over thought (or even behavior) has never been a popular premise for argument. But no other way exists; some adult will in fact select a preferred set of skills and values and will attempt, through schooling, to convince Johnny, Susie, Jamal, or Juanita of their truth. Authority is simply a fact.
Whether one is Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or the National Education Association, we must proceed by asking which big person will decide this issue for some little person. The fact of authority is no exit, but it is instead the necessary entrance to the debate of educators and society about content, values, money, liberty, the best interest of the child, and the common good.
Florida's unpopular tea party governor, Rick Scott, wants more of the state's youths to pick up college degrees... but only if the degrees are useful to corporations and don't teach students to question social norms. "You know what? They need to get education in areas where they can get jobs," Scott told a right-wing radio host Monday morning. He continued:
"You know, we don't need a lot more anthropologists in the state. It's a great degree if people want to get it, but we don't need them here. I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, math degrees. That's what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on. Those type of degrees. So when they get out of school, they can get a job."
It's no idle sound bite. The governor, an ex-corporate CEO with a checkered business past, is pushing a plan that would all but kill liberal arts and social sciences at the Sunshine State's public universities--and he's got support from the Legislature's psychology-hatin' GOP majority. He explained the strategy Monday in a separate interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:
University fees are set to rise in England. But do the neighbours fare any better? Jasper Rees goes on a European tour and meets the students of Generation Skint ...
From the hilltop castle which looms over Heidelberg the view is captivating. The river Neckar thrusts through forested hills. On the north side looms the Heiligenberg, up whose flank slithers the so-called Philosopher's Walk, sylvan haunt of many a strolling professor. At its foot are free-standing villas which speak discreetly of shockproof wealth. A gated bridge tiptoes over the gliding waters and leads to the old town with its elegant streets and important churches. What a gorgeous place to study.
Germany's oldest university doesn't come cheap. The cost of living is roughly €10,000 a year, not including tuition fees. Stefanie Schmidt (not her real name), a 25-year-old student with thin-framed specs and long auburn hair, is nearing the end of her studies in biology and English. Such is her parents' income that she did not qualify for a BAfÖG, or student loan, but her parents have been unable to give her further financial support, and so she has had to work. A lot.
The outbreak of scarlet fever in Hong Kong earlier this year caught the attention of specialists at the World Health Organisation. We think of scarlet fever in developed societies as a disease that was pretty well vanquished decades ago. So the emergence of a scarlet fever outbreak in a modern city like Hong Kong and in mainland China was something of an unexpected event. But more disquieting was the suggestion that the bacteria causing the disease had become resistant to certain antibiotics. Happily, the worst of the outbreak is over, but the global problem of drug resistance is definitely not.
The discovery early last century of penicillin and antimicrobial drugs changed the course of history. Science began to gain the upper hand in the war on disease, and, at last, scourges such as leprosy, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, syphilis and many more could be mastered. But now many of those miracle drugs and the generations of others that followed could finish up in the rubbish bin as increasing levels of drug resistance threaten their effectiveness.
The University of Wisconsin System is trying to help transfer students get a degree quicker and cheaper as part of its effort to increase the number of college graduates in the state.
Transferring credits from one school to another often means wasted time and money because course requirements don't match. With some 17,000 students - the equivalent of two small UW universities - transferring into and within the UW system each year, making the process more efficient could have a dramatic effect on retention and graduation rates.
Such a step might not seem like an economic driver, but boosting the percentage of Wisconsin residents who have a college degree could help lure companies to the state, system officials reason. That, in turn, could stimulate the economy.
Many college students today aren't dropped off at one school as freshmen and picked up at the same school four years later with a degree, said UW System President Kevin Reilly. It's more of a "swirl," he said, with students leaving college for a number of reasons, then returning to school somewhere else with credits to transfer.
Get ready law schools: A Senate hearing on the ABA regulation of law schools might be coming. That is the subtext of Senator Boxer's most recent letter to the ABA. It's overdue.
Law schools have demonstrated time and again that we are incapable of regulating ourselves. It started a century ago, when AALS and ABA wrote accreditation standards to keep out competition from lower cost urban law schools that educated immigrants and working class people. It was on display in 1995, when the Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust suit against the ABA, charging that legal educators had captured the accreditation process and were using it to ratchet up their wages and reduce their teaching loads. And it is happening again now--as highlighted by two recent examples.
During the early Nineties the proportion of UK graduates doubled over a very short period of time. This paper investigates the effect of the expansion on early labour market attainment, focusing on over-education. We define over-education by combining occupation codes and a self-reported measure for the appropriateness of the match between qualification and the job. We therefore define three groups of graduates: matched, apparently over-educated and genuinely over-educated; to compare pre- and post-expansion cohorts of graduates. We find the proportion of over-educated graduates has doubled, even though over-education wage penalties have remained stable. This suggests that the labour market accommodated most of the large expansion of university graduates. Apparently over-educated graduates are mostly undistinguishable from matched graduates, while genuinely over-educated graduates principally lack non-academic skills such as management and leadership. Additionally, genuine over-education increases unemployment by three months but has no impact of the number of jobs held. Individual unobserved heterogeneity differs between the three groups of graduates but controlling for it, does not alter these conclusions.
"[People] like themselves just as they are," says Marvin Minsky. "Perhaps they are not selfish enough, or imaginative or ambitious. Myself, I don't much like how people are now. We're too shallow, slow, and ignorant. I hope that our future will lead us to ideas that we can use to improve ourselves."
Marvin believes that it is important that we "understand how our minds are built, and how they support the modes of thought that we like to call emotions. Then we'll be better able to decide what we like about them, and what we don't-and bit by bit we'll rebuild ourselves."
Marvin Minsky is the leading light of AI-that is, artificial intelligence. He sees the brain as a myriad of structures. Scientists who, like Minsky, take the strong AI view believe that a computer model of the brain will be able to explain what we know of the brain's cognitive abilities. Minsky identifies consciousness with high-level, abstract thought, and believes that in principle machines can do everything a conscious human being can do.
Reclamations, a journal published by University of California students, has published a special, timely pamphlet called "Generation of Debt," on the trap of student debt in America. Young people in America are bombarded with the message that they won't find meaningful employment without a degree (and sometimes a graduate degree).
Meanwhile, universities have increased their fees to astronomical levels, far ahead of inflation, and lenders (including the universities themselves) offer easy credit to students as a means of paying these sums (for all the money they're charging, universities are also slashing wages for their staff, mostly by sticking grad students and desperate "adjuncts" into positions that used to pay professorial wages; naturally, the austerity doesn't extend to the CEO-class administrators, who draw CEO-grade pay).
The loans are backed by the government, and constitute a special form of debt that can't be discharged in bankruptcy, and that can be doubled, tripled, or increased tenfold through usury penalties for missed payments (the lenders themselves have a deplorable habit of applying these penalties even when payments are made, through "bureaucratic error" that is nearly impossible to correct).
According to statistics provided by the Oakland school district (and crunched by your devoted education reporter):
TOTAL SUSPENSIONS in 2010-11: 6,137
TOTAL DAYS OF SCHOOL MISSED: 14,533
DEFIANCE ("disruption/defy authority") was the basis for 43 percent of all suspensions.
BLACK MALES made up less than 20 percent of all students in OUSD, but received about half of the suspensions.
At least two of the schools had more suspensions than students: Barack Obama Academy and Youth Empowerment School. YES (on the King Estates campus) closed in June, and Barack Obama Academy, an alternative middle school that opened on the Toler Heights campus in 2007, is slated to merge with Community Day.
At John McDonough High School in this city's Esplanade Ridge district, the new superintendent points to a broken window boarded up with plastic. Nobody thought to fix it properly. "Why? Because these are the poor kids," says John White, who arrived in New Orleans this spring. "The message is: 'We don't care.'"
John Mac is one of the worst schools in New Orleans, which makes it one of the worst in America. It scored 30 out of 200 on a statewide performance scale when 75 counts as "failing." In a school built for 800 students, 340 are enrolled. Virtually all are African-American. A couple years ago, an armed gang burst into the cafeteria and assassinated a student.
Mr. White looks in on classrooms. In one, groups of seniors chat loudly and puzzle over a basic algebra problem. In another the teacher struggles to start a conversation about a USA Today article that few students had read. A girl in the corner sits with a jacket over her head, headphones in both ears.
Backers of the Madison Preparatory Academy and Madison School Board members appear to have ironed out some of the major wrinkles in the plans for the controversial new charter school aimed at improving the academic performance of minority students.
But the devil remains in the details, board members say. Bringing several issues into clearer focus and then getting agreement will be essential to move the project forward. A final vote by the School Board will take place before the end of the year.
Details to be examined include the fine print on a broad agreement announced last week between the Madison teachers union and organizers of the Urban League-sponsored charter school.
"There are still some tremendously big questions that haven't been answered about how this agreement would actually work," says Marj Passman, School Board vice president. "It's not clear to me that all the parties are on the same page on all the issues, large and small."
How do geniuses come up with ideas? What is common to the thinking style that produced "Mona Lisa," as well as the one that spawned the theory of relativity? What characterizes the thinking strategies of the Einsteins, Edisons, daVincis, Darwins, Picassos, Michelangelos, Galileos, Freuds, and Mozarts of history? What can we learn from them?
For years, scholars and researchers have tried to study genius by giving its vital statistics, as if piles of data somehow illuminated genius. In his 1904 study of genius, Havelock Ellis noted that most geniuses are fathered by men older than 30; had mothers younger than 25 and were usually sickly as children. Other scholars reported that many were celibate (Descartes), others were fatherless (Dickens) or motherless (Darwin). In the end, the piles of data illuminated nothing.
Academics also tried to measure the links between intelligence and genius. But intelligence is not enough. Marilyn vos Savant, whose IQ of 228 is the highest ever recorded, has not exactly contributed much to science or art. She is, instead, a question-and-answer columnist for Parade magazine. Run-of-the-mill physicists have IQs much higher than Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman, who many acknowledge to be the last great American genius (his IQ was a merely respectable 122).
Genius is not about scoring 1600 on the SATs, mastering fourteen languages at the age of seven, finishing Mensa exercises in record time, having an extraordinarily high I.Q., or even about being smart. After considerable debate initiated by J. P. Guilford, a leading psychologist who called for a scientific focus on creativity in the sixties, psychologists reached the conclusion that creativity is not the same as intelligence. An individual can be far more creative than he or she is intelligent, or far more intelligent than creative.
At the time, Julie Fitzgerald didn't know much about standardized testing or the laws in place that promote it. She just saw her young child crying.
"He was trying to do his math homework, which is a subject he usually enjoyed," she recalled. "He was really struggling, and he put his head down on the counter and started to cry. He said, 'I'm stupid.'"
Fitzgerald learned that her son, then in the second grade, had taken an assessment test that day in school and had become overwhelmed by it. A year later, she has informed Portland school officials in writing that she's opting both of her kids, students at Hall Elementary School, out of standardized testing.
She's one of few parents in Portland to take that step, but represents a local tie to a growing nationwide movement of parents dissatisfied with assessment tests mandated by state and federal education laws.
The Top 400 outcomes will and should be debated, and people will be curious about the relative place of their universities in the ranked list, as well as about the welcome improvements evident in the THE/Thomson Reuters methodology. But don't be invited into distraction and only focus on some of these questions, especially those dealing with outcomes, methods, and reactions.
Rather, we also need to ask more hard questions about power, governance, and context, not to mention interests, outcomes, and potential collateral damage to the sector (when these rankings are released and then circulate into national media outlets, and ministerial desktops). There is a political economy to world university rankings, and these schemes (all of them, not just the THE World University Rankings) are laden with power and generative of substantial impacts; impacts that the rankers themselves often do not hear about, nor feel (e.g., via the reallocation of resources).
The Chicago Teachers Union's closed-door "policy briefings" for aldermen Monday were as much about public relations as they were about school policy, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's unofficial City Council floor leader, Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th Ward) said after attending one of the three sessions.
For weeks, the union and Emanuel have been locked in a war of words over the mayor's push to immediately extend the school day by 90 minutes. On Monday, the union's leaders made their case instead to 25 of the council's 50 members, with eight other aldermen sending aides to the meetings.
"They're trying to win a little more sympathy from the public and the City Council, and this was their effort to do that," O'Connor said. "I think today was an attempt by the Chicago Teachers Union to basically say, 'We don't like to be vilified. We don't want to be in a position when people are upset with us as being an obstruction to a longer school day.'"
To attract students and families turned off by the potential for six-figure tuition bills, a growing number of private colleges are taking a page out of the retail playbook: They are cutting their prices.
Most recently, Seton Hall University announced that it would offer tuition discounts of up to 66% for academically qualified students, joining more than a dozen schools across the country that have announced similar programs in the last few months. Some schools, like Seton Hall, are offering straight-up tuition discounts for qualified students. Others are rolling out three-year degree programs that allow students to, effectively, cut their tuition bills by 25%. Still others are guaranteeing tuition won't rise while a student is in school. The most generous of the programs can whittle the price of private college -- $27,000 per year -- to less than $10,000.
Don Severson, via email:
DATE: October 3, 2011PDF Version.
TO: MMSD Board of Education
FROM: Don Severson, President, 577-0851, firstname.lastname@example.org RE: Madison Preparatory Academy Hearing
Notes: For public appearance
The actions of the past few days are stunning, but not necessarily surprising ULGM (Madison Prep) and MTI have made working 'arrangements' regarding employment of teachers and staff and working conditions, the details of which have yet to be made public.
Major issue: 'negotiations/arrangements' have been made between MP & MTI without MMSD BOE nor administration at the table--both observed and verified by parties not involved.
In other words, MTI is the de facto negotiator for the Board and NOT the elected BOE, nor specified as its representative
ACE has publicly stated its support of MP. We must now withhold affirmation of that support until and unless major, systemic changes occur in how the proposal process and plans (both academic and business) play out.
By design, default, benign neglect or/and collusion the BOE has abdicated the authority vested in it by law and the electorate of the District with regards to its fiduciary irresponsibility and lack of control for policy-making.
Lest you are OK with your past and current operating methods; have forgotten how you are demonstrating your operating methods; or don't care, you have been elected to be the leader and be in charge of this District, not MTI.
By whatever BOE action or in-action has thus far been demonstrated, the proposed operational direction of MP has been reduced to appearing and acting in the mirror image of the District. This is inappropriate to say the least. The entire purpose of a charter school is to be different and to get different results.
How is forcing MP to operate in essentially the same fashion as the District and at a cost of more money....any different from....operating the District's nearly 30 current alternative/innovative programs and services for 800 students, at millions of dollars, taking away from other students in the District? And, you can't even produce data to show what differences, if any, are being made with these students.
This current Board, and past Boards of Education have proven over and over again that spending more money and doing essentially the same things, don't get different results (speaking here essentially about the 'achievement gap' issue)
Continuing to speak bluntly, the Board's financial and academic philosophies, policies and actions are inconsistent, phony and discriminatory.
Let us be clear...
The process for consideration of the Madison Prep charter school proposal must
- be open and public
- be under the leadership of the BOE
- be accountable to the BOE and the public
- have ALL stakeholders at the same table at ALL times
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
At this time of year there is always talk of education. The autumn term has started; some children are entering school for the first time; others are making the transition from primary to secondary; young adults are being driven, with bulging bags and cases, to halls of residence by parents who may be more traumatised than they are. And this year, at least in the UK, there is more talk than ever, because education is being "shaken up" by Michael Gove, a notably driven and idealistic, and ideological, education secretary; and also by a universities minister, David Willetts, of legendary intellectual firepower. A new class of "free schools" has been created; the whole system of university education has been rethought, or at least put on a different financial footing.
Of course the idea of free schools sounds grand - but free from what? Or, more importantly, free for what? Trying to get some perspective on what this idea of freedom might mean, I found myself looking back to two inspiring experiments in education, both of which were conducted in Madrid before the Spanish Civil War.
The more famous of the two was the Residencia de Estudiantes - the arty version of an Oxbridge college at which Lorca, Buñuel, Dalí, Falla and others spent time in the 1920s and 1930s, and which served as a seedbed for much of the burgeoning artistic creativity of that brilliant, short-lived time.
But the less well-known Institución Libre de Enseñanza, or Free Institute of Education, founded in 1876 by Francisco Giner de los Ríos, is possibly more relevant to my theme. In this case the word "free" meant very specifically free from the dead hand of state and religious control. The Spanish "Glorious Revolution" of 1868 had promised a more modern, secular, scientific model of education; but the Restoration of 1874 brought back not only the Bourbons but a repressive, state-controlled education system in which the minister dictated the choice of textbooks and curriculum, and forbade the teaching of non-Catholic religious doctrine or critical political ideas.
If the FDA won't go after diet sodas for all the dangerous chemicals they contain, maybe the FTC can take action for false advertising.
There's nothing "diet" about diet sodas. After all, studies have linked them to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart problems, and more.
And now, yet another study confirms that people who drink the most diet soda have the biggest bellies.
Researchers from the University of Texas medical school examined data on 474 seniors who took part in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging, and found that the waistlines of those who drank diet soda grew 70 percent more than those who didn't drink the stuff during the average follow-up of nearly 10 years.
And the more they drank, the more they grew: The researchers say those who drank two or more diet sodas a day had five times the increase in belly size than those who drank no soda, according to the study presented at a recent American Diabetes Association meeting.
One hundred fifty-three thousand words per week. That's the difference between the 215,000 words per week that the average child in a privileged home hears and the 62,000 words per week that the average child in a family on welfare hears. I'll explain the research behind these numbers later; for now, just consider how staggering the differ- ence is. And consider the implications. Hearing language is the first step in learning to read and write and make sense of the world.
The language gap that results in the achievement gap begins at home. Schools can and should do their part to close this gap, but parents, by reading to their children and interacting with them in positive and encouraging ways, need to do their part, too.
The idea that families need to provide enriching educational activities is not new. In 1908, Edmund Burke Huey, regarded as "one of the foremost leaders" in educating children with learning disabilities,1 wrote, "The school of the future will have as one of its important duties the instruction of parents in the means of assist- ing the child's natural learning in the home."2 This insight was just one of many in his classic work The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading, a 500-page book so highly regarded that it was reprinted by the MIT Press in 1968 and again by the International Reading Association in 2009.
Since January 2007, I've attempted repeatedly and in myriad ways to persuade Spokane Public Schools' leadership to provide teachers with good math materials so that our children will gain sufficient basic math skills. It's an effort you'd think would be welcome, respected, and relatively painless. Alas.
In 2008, after repeated failed efforts to get a conversation going with the district or with the daily newspaper, I decided to take that conversation public. Thus was born my blog, Betrayed. Shortly after that, I began writing my book, Betrayed: How the Education Establishment Has Betrayed America and What You Can Do about it. The book was published in January 2011, and shortly thereafter, I worked with two professionals to hold public forums in Spokane and talk directly with the people. The district leadership does not appear to appreciate my efforts to inform the people and try to get the children the mathematics they need.
A school district's activities should be an open book to the community that pays for them. My blog, book and advocacy all required thorough and accurate information. Therefore, over these nearly five years of effort, I've had to file public records requests with the district in order to obtain pertinent information that wasn't available in any other venue. For records other than internal district communications, my searches usually went like this:
I've been something of a pessimist when it comes to the general state of public education.
But I'm coming around. I'm coming around to the view that big, important, disruptive -- and positive -- changes are coming; and they're coming faster than many might think. I've concluded that those who see online learning as a part of the solution to crumbling school budgets and lackluster student performance are right. I now believe that the education world is on the brink of a revolution that will come about not because of politics and policy, but despite them.
The potential is so compelling that if the education establishment does not encourage the move to smart online learning, parents, students, teachers and innovative administrators will lead the charge. They will engineer the shift. And they'll do it in a matter of years, not decades.
In her senior year of high school, the low-income student with the C-minus average--the one who almost dropped out--is not only looking forward to graduation, but plans to attend college. Her college counselor, her teachers, her parents, and her peers have all told her that a college degree will land her a good-paying job.
No one has told her that she must pass a college placement test before she can take college classes. No one has told her that if she fails, she must pay for remedial courses for which she will receive no credit. No one has told her that she probably lacks the aca- demic preparation to do well in remedial courses, much less col- lege courses. No one has told her that most students like her never earn a college degree.
What if, instead of hoping poorly prepared students will catch up in college, we supported them in taking rigorous courses-- even college-level courses--before they graduate from high school? What if, instead of lamenting the fact that many students struggle in transitioning from high school to college, our high school and college educators worked together to create a clear path from high school graduation to college graduation? What if:
It's 9 a.m., and the rush is on.
Buses disgorge hundreds of students at one side of Bailey Elementary School in Woodbury. On the other side, parents line up in SUVs to drop off their kids.
"Bye-bye," says Silva Theis of Woodbury, kissing her fourth-grade daughter.
In the hubbub, no one notices what's missing - the dying practice of walking to school. Of 620 students at Bailey, not one walks - not even those who live one block away.
Managers of a 6-year-old federal program think they know why.
In case you needed further proof of the American education system's failings, especially in poor and minority communities, consider the latest crime to spread across the country: educational theft. That's the charge that has landed several parents, such as Ohio's Kelley Williams-Bolar, in jail this year.
An African-American mother of two, Ms. Williams-Bolar last year used her father's address to enroll her two daughters in a better public school outside of their neighborhood. After spending nine days behind bars charged with grand theft, the single mother was convicted of two felony counts. Not only did this stain her spotless record, but it threatened her ability to earn the teacher's license she had been working on.
Ms. Williams-Bolar caught a break last month when Ohio Gov. John Kasich granted her clemency, reducing her charges to misdemeanors from felonies. His decision allows her to pursue her teacher's license, and it may provide hope to parents beyond the Buckeye State. In the last year, parents in Connecticut, Kentucky and Missouri have all been arrested--and await sentencing--for enrolling their children in better public schools outside of their districts.
You can buy a pair of jeans at Wal-Mart for $29 and one from Ralph Lauren for $98. While both cover your backside, one comes with a label of status that appeals to some and not to others. Customers -- and let's not forget that students are customers of academic services -- like choices and they usually make selections based on more than one factor, price being only one.
When my son checked into his freshman dorm, there were no lights in his room - nothing on the ceiling, walls or desk. There were two outlets: if you wanted light, Yale required you to bring your own lamp. I thought this took the parable of Plato's Cave a bit too far.
Applicants to GW look for more than overhead lights: they want living and dining choices, places to study and swim, comfortable desks and chairs, and tennis and basketball courts. Yes, they are looking for great professors but they want more than classroom life. The only way to provide more books in the library, more theaters for performances, laboratories for experiments, coffee shops for study breaks is to have the dollars to build and maintain all these things - and dollars come from tuition.
At the same time as the demand for quality services increased, so too did the cost for basic utilities: electricity, water, security, oil, insurance, personnel health and other employee benefits have all risen over the past 40 years.
Many Americans, having grown accustomed to Caesarism, probably see magnanimity in that front-page headline. Others, however, read it as redundant evidence of how distorted American governance has become. A president "gives" states a "voice" in education policy concerning kindergarten through 12th grade? How did this quintessential state and local responsibility become tethered to presidential discretion? Here is how federal power expands, even in the guise of decentralization:
Ohio Sen. Robert Taft (1889-1953) was "Mr. Republican," revered by conservatives chafing under the domination of the GOP by Eastern money that preferred moderates such as New York Gov. Tom Dewey, the GOP's 1944 and 1948 presidential nominee. In "The Roots of Modern Conservatism: Dewey, Taft, and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party," Michael Bowen, historian at Pennsylvania's Westminster College, recounts how Taft leavened his small-government orthodoxy with deviations, including federal aid to primary and secondary education.
In the 79th Congress (1945-47), Taft sponsored legislation to provide such education more than $8 billion over 25 years. The sum was huge (the 1947 federal budget was $34.5 billion), and the 25-year horizon said that federal intervention would not be temporary. Taft drafted his bill with help from the National Education Association (NEA), the teachers union that today is an appendage of the Democratic Party, except when the relationship is the other way around.
There are few sure investments in this chaotic economic climate, but on a national level, education has proven to pay off big down the road. As tight economic times have put the squeeze on education budgets here in the U.S., a new report shows the big benefits of even small investments in early education worldwide.
For every dollar invested in boosting preschool enrollment, middle- and low-income countries would see a return of some $6.40 to $17.60, according to a new analysis published September 22 in The Lancet. "Early childhood is the most effective and cost-effective time to ensure that all children develop to their full potential," noted the authors, led by Patrice Engle, of California Polytechnic State University. "The returns on investment in early child development are substantial."
Those of us who inhabit the core of the university's academic environment share the enthusiasm for measuring and evaluating the quality of our institutions, although we have less enthusiasm for the endless ranked lists that appear in popular publications.
While some dote on the U.S. News rankings, which like their BCS counterpart rely on hugely unreliable opinion surveys, we, however, prefer our own system for evaluating the Top American Research Universities that recognizes the importance of successful performance among highly competitive institutions without requiring a simple top to bottom ranking that often distorts more than it informs.
For over ten years, The Center for Measuring University Performance, now located at Arizona State University, has produced an annual report on the Top American Research Universities that uses objective data on nine measures to put universities into categories according to their performance.
Your co-signer could do you more harm than good.
Before they will lend thousands of dollars to a college-bound 18-year-old, around 80% of private lenders require a co-signer, according to the Consumer Bankers Association. Typically, that's a parent or another relative, but it can be anyone willing to take responsibility for paying back the loan. Private lenders often tout the benefit of an adult cosigner, saying that because students don't have much of a credit history, the a co-signer's good standing can help secure a lower interest rate. That's true, but it also puts the student at the mercy of the parent's credit history, which may not be so stable these days.
David Crane, the former economic adviser--at that moment rapidly receding into the distance--could itemize the result: a long list of depressing government financial statistics. The pensions of state employees ate up twice as much of the budget when Schwarzenegger left office as they had when he arrived, for instance. The officially recognized gap between what the state would owe its workers and what it had on hand to pay them was roughly $105 billion, but that, thanks to accounting gimmicks, was probably only about half the real number. "This year the state will directly spend $32 billion on employee pay and benefits, up 65 percent over the past 10 years," says Crane later. "Compare that to state spending on higher education [down 5 percent], health and human services [up just 5 percent], and parks and recreation [flat], all crowded out in large part by fast-rising employment costs." Crane is a lifelong Democrat with no particular hostility to government. But the more he looked into the details, the more shocking he found them to be. In 2010, for instance, the state spent $6 billion on fewer than 30,000 guards and other prison-system employees. A prison guard who started his career at the age of 45 could retire after five years with a pension that very nearly equaled his former salary. The head parole psychiatrist for the California prison system was the state's highest-paid public employee; in 2010 he'd made $838,706. The same fiscal year that the state spent $6 billion on prisons, it had invested just $4.7 billion in its higher education--that is, 33 campuses with 670,000 students. Over the past 30 years the state's share of the budget for the University of California has fallen from 30 percent to 11 percent, and it is about to fall a lot more. In 1980 a Cal student paid $776 a year in tuition; in 2011 he pays $13,218. Everywhere you turn, the long-term future of the state is being sacrificed.wikipedia on bread and circuses.
This same set of facts, and the narrative it suggested, would throw an ordinary man into depression. He might conclude that he lived in a society that was ungovernable. After seven years of trying and mostly failing to run California, Schwarzenegger is persuasively not depressed. "You have to realize the thing was so much fun!" he says. "We had a great time! There were times of frustration. There were times of disappointment. But if you want to live rather than just exist, you want the drama." As we roll to a stop very near the place on the beach where he began his American bodybuilding career, he says, "You have to step back and say, 'I was elected under odd circumstances. And I'm going out in odd circumstances.' You can't have it both ways. You can't be a spoiled brat."
Ten Wisconsin senators, from both parties, have joined forces to propose legislation that would require any further expansion of voucher schools to receive a full public debate.
The state's voucher program provides taxpayer funds for families to send their children to private schools. It has served low-income students in Milwaukee for about 20 years, but was expanded by Gov. Scott Walker in the state budget passed in June without public debate or other legislative action.
Also included was language allowing automatic expansion of the voucher program in the future to any school district in Wisconsin that meets certain financial and demographic criteria.
That mechanism isn't sitting well with some senators, including Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah. He introduced SB 174, which ensures that any further expansion of the voucher program would include full public debate and legislative action.
"Sen. Ellis is not an enthusiastic advocate nor is he an opponent of voucher programs. But he's long argued that policy issues should not be added into the budget process and this legislation addresses concerns about automatic expansion without proper debate," says Michael Boerger, an aide to Ellis.
For students with their sights set on a private college, the anxiety comes as a one-two punch: first from competing with thousands of others for a precious few spots, then from trying to scrape together up to $50,000 a year to foot the bill.
Starting next year, Seton Hall University will try to ease that follow-up blow for early applicants with strong academic credentials, giving them two-thirds off the regular sticker price for tuition, a discount of some $21,000. For New Jersey residents, who constitute about 70 percent of Seton Hall's undergraduates, that would make the cost equivalent to that of Rutgers University, the state's flagship public institution; for those from out of state, the private school would be much cheaper than the public one.
National experts on admissions and financial aid said the policy was the first of its kind. Seton Hall officials said they hoped it would provide clarity and certainty up front to the most desirable applicants, easing the weeks and months of stress that admitted students face as they wait to hear how much financial aid they might get from different campuses.
When Debbie Sumner Mahle, an Atlanta mother, wants to know what her sons, ages 6, 7 and 10, are working on in school, she turns on her computer and logs into NetClassroom. The portal lets her see not just their school assignments but also their attendance and grades.
More public and private school systems are wiring up data-management systems, and school work is just the tip of the iceberg. Parent-accessible websites and "learning community management systems"--or LCMSs, in the age of no jargon left behind--are increasingly handling schools' scheduling, emergency contacts, immunizations, academic assessments and even meals, with some offering a daily nutritional breakdown of lunch.
Ms. Sumner Mahle receives email reminders to place her sons' requests at orderlunches.com, which manages the meal program at their school, the Davis Academy. If she wants to work a shift as a cafeteria monitor, or bring cupcakes to a Halloween party, she signs up at volunteerspot.com.
Growing numbers of college students are in school part time, and they face increasingly long odds of ever graduating, according to a report released Tuesday.
The report, Time is the Enemy, by the nonprofit group Complete College America, includes data on full- and part-time students at public colleges and universities in 33 states, including California. It was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and others.
"There is a new generation of students who are poorer, more likely to be a minority, working and with families," said Stan Jones, the organization's president. "The graduation rates are very low, so that even though more people are going to college looking to better themselves and better their economic circumstances, those goals are not being realized because the system is failing them."
Among the report's key findings:
The Madison School District now has another justification for killing a charter school aimed at doing what the district hasn't: consistently educate minority students.TJ Mertz:
Last week, the state Department of Public Instruction said the first half of a planning grant for Madison Preparatory Academy would be released. Madison Prep would focus on low-income minority students and was originally just for boys but has since been revamped to include girls in separate classrooms.
But DPI had a catch: In order to get the rest of the grant, the school must provide scientific research that single-gender education is effective. If you're going to discriminate by gender, DPI is saying, at least have a good reason for it.
I can't help but wonder: Is this the best DPI can do?
I don't know much more than what I've read in this newspaper about how Madison Prep would organize itself, what kinds of educational approaches it would use or how capable its sponsor, the Urban League of Greater Madison, would be.
ewsletter (as of this writing PD has not taken a position on the Madison Prep proposal). I've only changed minimally for posting here; one thing I have added is some hyperlinks (but I did not link as thoroughly as I usually do), another is a small "For Further Reading" set of links at the end," and of course the song. This is intended to be a broad overview and introduction to what I think are some of the most important issues concerning the decision on the Madison Preparatory Academy presented in the context of related national issues. Issues raised in this post have been and will be treated in more depth -- and with hyperlinks -- in other posts]Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, here.
For decades free market advocates such as the Bradley Foundation, the Walton Foundation and the Koch brothers have a waged a multi-front campaign against the public sector and the idea of the common good. Public education has been one of the key battlegrounds. In the coming weeks the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will decide whether to approve a proposal for the Madison Prep Charter School. This proposal and the chief advocate for it - Kaleem Caire of the Urban League of Greater Madison - have their roots in the Bradley/Walton/Koch movement, and like much of that movement they offer false promises of educational progress in order to obscure the damage being done to every child in our public schools.
A Public Hearing on the Madison Prep proposal has been scheduled for Monday October 3, at 6:00 PM in the Doyle Building Auditorium; The Madison Prep proposal is on the agenda of the PD General Membership Meeting (Wed , 9/28 , 6:00 p.m, Hawthorne Branch Library, guests welcome).
It is no secret that top Hong Kong officials have long said "no" to the education system they govern by sending their own children to schools abroad.
But now more than half of all Hongkongers say they will follow suit, according to a recent survey.
Fifty-two per cent of parents polled said they planned to send their children abroad, according to the survey conducted by credit card company MasterCard. That contrasts with 13 per cent on the mainland and 34 per cent in Taiwan.
The very subject of giftedness is fraught with contradiction and controversy. On the one hand, we often encounter misunderstanding, envy, and perceived elitism--and on the other, admiration, dependency, and respect. Little wonder that our K-12 education system has not yet determined how best to nurture extraordinary individuals so that they can become extraordinary contributors to society--and feel rewarded in doing so. Unfortunately, it is not simply the gifted who are underserved by most of our nation's 14,000 public school systems; that group is just more acutely neglected, along with the economically less fortunate, than the nation's student population as a whole.
In the coming weeks, Madison police dogs will be able to sniff through the halls, bathrooms and parking lots of the city's middle and high schools if school principals suspect there may be illegal drugs there.
The School Board voted 5-1 Monday to allow the sweeps, which school officials say will help eliminate drug use and trafficking in schools and decrease violence. Annual evaluations will be conducted to assess the program's effectiveness.
Supporters, including Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, said it could be an effective and color-blind tool as part of a strategy to keep schools safe. The dogs would search for marijuana, heroin and cocaine.
Luis Yudice, coordinator of safety and security for the school district, said one statistic that led officials to consider these searches was the 60 percent increase in student code-of-conduct violations since 2007 occurring because of drugs.
The Global Report Card was developed by Jay P. Greene and Josh B. McGee as part of the George W. Bush Institute's Education Reform Initiative. The Bush Institute works to increase dramatically the number of American students who graduate high school ready for college or prepared for a good career by:The Best United States School Districts (2007 Math data) [PDF].
Driven by accountability and data, these initiatives challenge the status quo and lead a wide range of partners to share goals and use clear metrics tied to student achievement.
- cultivating a new generation of principals
- implementing cutting edge research
- advancing accountability
Summary of Methodology
The calculations begin by evaluating the distributions of student achievement at the state, national, and international level. To allow for direct comparisons across state and national borders, and thus testing instruments, we map all testing data to the standard normal curve using the appropriate student level mean and standard deviation. We then calculate at the lowest level of aggregation by estimating average district quality within each state. Each state's average quality is evaluated then using national testing data. And finally, the average national quality is determined using international testing data. Essentially, this re-centers our distribution of district quality based upon the relative performance of the individual state when compared to the nation as a whole as well as the relative performance of the nation when compared to our economic competitors.
For example, the average student in Scarsdale School District in Westchester County, New York scored nearly one standard deviation above the mean for New York on the state's math exam. The average student in New York scored six hundredths of a standard deviation above the national average of the NAEP exam given in the same year, and the average student in the United States scored about as far in the negative direction (-.055) from the international average on PISA. Our final index score for Scarsdale in 2007 is equal to the sum of the district, state, and national estimates (1+.06+ -.055 = 1.055). Since the final index score is expired in standard deviation units, it can easily be converted to a percentile for easy interpretation. In our example, Scarsdale would rank at the seventy seventh percentile internationally in math.
Tests used to be just for evaluating students, but now the testing of students is used to evaluate teachers and, in fact, the entire educational system. On an individual level, some students and parents have noticed a change -- more standardized tests and more classroom and homework time devoted to preparation for them.
So what exactly do test scores tell us?
Poor test scores are the initial premises in most current arguments for educational reform. At the end of last year, reading scores that showed American 15-year-olds in the middle of an international pack, led by Asian countries, prompted calls from researchers and educators for immediate action. This year two sociologists, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, showed that 45 percent of students, after two years of college, have made no significant gains on a test of critical thinking. Last week's report of falling SAT scores is the latest example.
Public and private school teachers will explore the shifting line between "mainstream" students and special education students during a two-day special education summit at The Martin Institute that begins Tuesday, Sept. 27.
The session is for special education teachers. The Wednesday session is for teachers outside the specific special education area. Both are on the Presbyterian Day School campus in East Memphis.
The summit and an 18-month focus on special education that follows arose from a series of luncheons and discussions Institute director Clif Mims had last spring with special education teachers.
The teachers and school system administrators cited "inclusion teaching" as both a trend and a challenge for all teachers.
A 3,000 plus word article by Bill Lueders in the Capital Times today questions the motives behind legislators that support the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Specifically targeted is Rep. Howard Marklein, a freshman legislator from Spring Green who had the gall to not only support school choice in Milwaukee but also to introduce legislation to improve the program.David Blaska has more.
Lueders quotes Rep. Sandy Pope-Roberts as asking: "What's in this for Howard Marklein?...If it isn't for the campaign funds, why is he doing this?"
Perhaps he is doing it because it benefits taxpayers in the 51st Assembly district. As Marklein points out to Lueders, an analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows the MPCP is a benefit to his constituents. Without the MPCP, the 15 school districts represented by Rep. Marklein would lose $1.3 million in state aid. The estimate assumes that 90% of students in the MPCP would have no choice but to return to the more expensive Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system if the MPCP was ended. The 90% figure is the number used by the official state evaluators of the MPCP and is based on evidence from choice programs around the country.
This is Take Two in a series. Take One, with a fuller introduction, can be found here. Briefly, the idea of the series is to counter anti-teacher and anti-teachers' union individuals and "reform" groups appropriation of the phrase "it is all about the kids" as a means to heap scorn and ridicule on public education and public education employees by investigating some of the actions of these individuals and groups in light of the question "is it all about the kids?" In each take, national developments are linked to local matters in relation to the Madison Prep charter school proposal.
Take Two: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words: Public Lotteries and the Exploitation of Families and Children
This interactive timeline digs deep into the Education Week archives to tell the story of U.S. education and the changing policies, theories, and perspectives that have influenced it since 1981, the year the publication began.
THOMAS NAGEL, an American philosopher, wants to know what it is like for a bat to be a bat. Ian Anderson, a Scot who performs with the band Jethro Tull, sang of a slightly less intractable difficulty: "wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick." In "School Blues" Daniel Pennac, a prize-winning French writer, describes what faces a school dunce when the teacher before him cannot recall what it felt like to be ignorant.
Mr Pennac was once such a child (he uses the French cancre, as in Cancer, the crab: a creature that scuttles sideways instead of advancing forwards). But despite becoming a teacher, he can remember what it was like not to understand lessons. The voices in his head remind him of it. They taunt him throughout his semi-autobiographical novel, which partially traces his sorry academic career as the child of high-achieving parents whose three older brothers excelled at school. Luckily for him, his parents did not let him flee the system but instead persisted in finding a teacher who would help him to succeed. The breakthrough came aged 14 when his latest tutor--"no doubt amazed by my increasingly inventive excuses as to why I hadn't done my homework"--commissioned him to write essays and then a novel.
Texas children are fat -- and getting fatter.
It is something state policy makers have known and have struggled to address for years. In the last decade, the Legislature has passed laws that set nutritional standards for school meals, required body mass index screenings for children and adolescents, and instituted physical activity requirements.
The latest effort came during this year's legislative session with a bill passed by Senator Jane Nelson, Republican of Flower Mound, that allows a deeper study of schools' fitness data.
Under the new law, researchers can access unidentified individual student data, which they say will help bolster aggregate analyses that already show correlations between physical fitness and academic performance, gang activity and absenteeism.
When Steve Jobs introduced the "Think Different" advertising campaign on his return to the helm of Apple, in 1997, the slogan was not just aimed at consumers. It was also meant to inspire those inside the struggling company to innovate for the future.
Of course, what followed is now the story of one of the most successful companies in American history: a decade when Apple transformed the music industry with the iPod, the mobile-phone industry with the iPhone, and now the publishing industry with the iPad.
Apple succeed partly because it decided to take a different path than its competitors in the tech industry, and consumers followed. The history of business is filled with similar tales. Just look at what happened to Detroit's Big Three after the arrival of Japanese automakers in the United States.
Admissions counselors like to talk about finding the right "fit" for applicants -- a great match between a student's educational and other goals and an institution's programs. But a new survey of the senior admissions officials at colleges nationwide finds that this "fit" is, from many colleges' point of view, increasingly about money. As evidence of that pressure, the survey found that:
For many colleges, a top goal of admissions directors is recruiting more students who can pay more. Among all four-year institutions, the admissions strategy judged most important over the next two or three years -- driven by high figures in the public sector -- was the recruitment of more out-of-state students (who at public institutions pay significantly more). The runner-up was the strategy of providing more aid for low- and middle-income students.
Among all sectors of higher education, there is a push to recruit more out-of-state students and international students.
To see past the distracting, dopey teenager and glimpse the adaptive adolescent within, we should look not at specific, sometimes startling, behaviors, such as skateboarding down stairways or dating fast company, but at the broader traits that underlie those acts.
Let's start with the teen's love of the thrill. We all like new and exciting things, but we never value them more highly than we do during adolescence. Here we hit a high in what behavioral scientists call sensation seeking: the hunt for the neural buzz, the jolt of the unusual or unexpected.
Seeking sensation isn't necessarily impulsive. You might plan a sensation-seeking experience--a skydive or a fast drive--quite deliberately, as my son did. Impulsivity generally drops throughout life, starting at about age 10, but this love of the thrill peaks at around age 15. And although sensation seeking can lead to dangerous behaviors, it can also generate positive ones: The urge to meet more people, for instance, can create a wider circle of friends, which generally makes us healthier, happier, safer, and more successful.
A decade ago, the No Child Left Behind Act ushered in an era of federally driven educational accountability focused on narrowing the chasms between the test scores and graduation rates of students of different incomes and races. The result was a whole new way of speaking and thinking about the issue: "Achievement gaps" became reformers' catch phrase, and closing those gaps became the goal of American education policy.
Today, the notion of "closing achievement gaps" has become synonymous with education reform. The Education Trust, perhaps the nation's most influential K-12 advocacy group, explains: "Our goal is to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement." The National Education Foundation has launched its own "Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative." The California Achievement Gap Educational Foundation was launched in 2008 to "eliminate the systemic achievement gap in California K-12 public education." Elite charter-school operator Uncommon Schools says its mission is running "outstanding urban charter public schools that close the achievement gap and prepare low-income students to graduate from college." Education Week, the newspaper of record for American education, ran 63 stories mentioning "achievement gaps" in the first six months of this year.
The No Child Left Behind Act's signal contribution has been this sustained fixation on achievement gaps -- a fixation that has been almost universally hailed as an unmitigated good. Near the end of his presidency, George W. Bush bragged that NCLB "focused the country's attention on the fact that we had an achievement gap that -- you know, white kids were reading better in the 4th grade than Latinos or African-American kids. And that's unacceptable for America." Margaret Spellings, Bush's secretary of education, said last year, "The raging fire in American education is the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their peers."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said Friday that Wisconsin will seek waivers to avoid having to meet basic elements of the federal No Child Left Behind education law at the "first possible moment."Kevin Helliker:
Evers spoke during a conference call with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan shortly after President Barack Obama announced that he was allowing states to seek the waivers.
"This is absolutely outstanding news," said Evers, who has long advocated for states to be given the ability to get out of meeting some parts of the law.
Obama is allowing states to scrap the hugely unpopular requirement that all children must show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014 if states can meet conditions designed to better prepare and test students.
Education chiefs from more than 20 states gathered at the White House on Friday morning to hear President Barack Obama formally propose relaxing certain tenets of the No Child Left Behind act for states that agree to meet a new set of standards he called more flexible.Much more on No Child Left Behind, here
In characterizing the nearly 10-year-old act as too rigid, the president appeared to strike a chord with school administrators across the country. How much enthusiasm his solution will generate remains to be seen. It calls for evaluating teachers in a way that wouldn't be legal in California, for example, a state that very much supports amending the No Child Left Behind Act.
"It's problematic," Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education, said of a condition that would require states to set specific policy on teacher evaluation, something that in California currently can be done only at the local level. To comply, he said, "we would need legislation passed."
I spoke with a local mother recently who mentioned that her child was doing great, based on the WKCE math report.
Despite a decade of technological advances that make it possible to work almost anywhere, many of the nation's most educated people continue to cluster in a handful of dominant metropolitan areas such as Boston, New York and California's Silicon Valley, according to census data released Thursday.Data Source: American Community Survey.
The upshot is that regions with the most skilled and highly paid workers continue to widen their advantages over less well-endowed locales.
"In a knowledge economy, success breeds success," said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
Of the largest 100 metropolitan areas, those with the highest percentage of college graduates in 2000 outpaced in education gains areas with lower percentages of college grads. For instance, the 10 cities with the highest share of their population holding a bachelor's degree or higher saw that share jump by an average of 4.6 percentage points over the decade, while the bottom 10 saw their share grow 3.1 percentage points.
While money does not work miracles (as the saying goes, any problem that money can solve is not a problem), it is a necessary ingredient of many solutions to our problems. Without money, many poor countries and rural communities simply cannot provide basic education to improve literacy and promote life skills, never mind consider the quality of education. Unesco, the UN cultural organisation, calls on all governments to invest in education, to provide "education for all".
Having said that, education should not be seen as just an investment business in the sense that we look for money indicators to measure performance - for example, if we invest so much in a law degree student, how much will he or she earn upon graduation - as if justice can be measured by earnings.
The 18-year-old Drexel University student in Philadelphia buys cheap tickets and takes "mileage runs" solely to build up frequent-flier account balances. Then, he cashes in the miles for expensive, far-flung journeys. Once there, he buys rail passes and catches the first train that comes along--doesn't matter where it's going--just to see some of the city. "It's hard for me to stay home. I just want to go," said Mr. Nguyen, who is from Seattle.
Mr. Nguyen is among a growing number of 20-somethings mastering the calculus of frequent-flier miles, making globe-trotting their hobby. It's a generation that has grown up with airline deregulation, discount airlines, global airline alliances and "open skies" treaties that make flying between countries easier. They're also at an age when they have time and flexible schedules. As a result, many have become ferocious travelers.
Practice makes perfect, and IXL makes math practice fun! IXL allows teachers and parents to monitor the progress of their students and motivate them through interactive games and practice questions. Widely recognized as the Web's most comprehensive math site, IXL offers a dynamic and enjoyable environment for children to practice math. Students who use IXL are succeeding like never before.
"I have a locker!"
You forget what's important when you're ten.
TW and I went to the parents' open house at The Boy's school. Now that he's in fifth grade, he's in a new building that unites the kids from the various elementary schools in the district. And yes, he gets a locker.
The principal greeted the parents, if you want to call his mumble a greeting. Honestly, one of the first principles of public speaking is "try to at least pretend to care." His entire affect conveyed that he'd rather be almost anywhere else. This did not inspire confidence. The only time he seemed to engage was when he mentioned where parents should park.
The library made me sad. TB later reported that his class took a trip there, and he was disappointed in its selection. Luckily we have a good public library in town, and I've lent TB my kindle before. At the rate he blasts through books, electronic delivery may be our only hope of keeping up.
Single-sex education is ineffective, misguided and may actually increase gender stereotyping, a paper to be published Friday asserts.
The report, "The Pseudoscience of Single Sex Schooling," to be published in Science magazine by eight social scientists who are founders of the nonprofit American Council for CoEducational Schooling, is likely to ignite a new round of debate and legal wrangling about the effects of single-sex education.
It asserts that "sex-segregated education is deeply misguided and often justified by weak, cherry-picked or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence."
In the spirit of the new school year, here's a quiz for readers: In which of the following subjects is the performance of American 12th-graders the worst? a) science, b) economics, c) history, or d) math?"Teach by Example"
With all the talk of America's very real weaknesses in the STEM subjects (science, technology, English and math), you might be surprised to learn that the answer--according to the federal government's National Assessment of Educational Progress--is neither science nor math. And despite what might be suggested by the number of underwater home loans, high-school seniors actually fare best in economics.
Which leaves history as the answer, the subject in which students perform the most poorly. It's a result that puts American employers and America's freedoms in a worrisome spot.
But why should a C grade in history matter to the C-suite? After all, if a leader can make the numbers, does it really matter if he or she can recite the birthdates of all the presidents?
Well, it's not primarily the memorized facts that have current and former CEOs like me concerned. It's the other things that subjects like history impart: critical thinking, research skills, and the ability to communicate clearly and cogently. Such skills are certainly important for those at the top, but in today's economy they are fundamental to performance at nearly every level. A failing grade in history suggests that students are not only failing to comprehend our nation's story and that of our world, but also failing to develop skills that are crucial to employment across sectors. Having traveled in 109 countries in this global economy, I have developed a considerable appreciation for the importance of knowing a country's history and politics.
The good news is that a candidate who demonstrates capabilities in critical thinking, creative problem-solving and communication has a far greater chance of being employed today than his or her counterpart without those skills. The better news is these are not skills that only a graduate education or a stint at McKinsey can confer. They are competencies that our public elementary and high schools can and should be developing through subjects like history.
Far more than simply conveying the story of a country or civilization, an education in history can create critical thinkers who can digest, analyze and synthesize information and articulate their findings. These are skills needed across a broad range of subjects and disciplines.
In fact, students who are exposed to more modern methods of history education--where critical thinking and research are emphasized--tend to perform better in math and science. As a case in point, students who participate in National History Day--actually a year-long program that gets students in grades 6-12 doing historical research--consistently outperform their peers on state standardized tests, not only in social studies but in science and math as well.
In my position as CEO of a firm employing over 80,000 engineers, I can testify that most were excellent engineers--but the factor that most distinguished those who advanced in the organization was the ability to think broadly and read and write clearly.
Now is a time to re-establish history's importance in American education. We need to take this opportunity to ensure that today's history teachers are teaching in a more enlightened fashion, going beyond rote memorization and requiring students to conduct original research, develop a viewpoint and defend it.
If the American economy is to recover from the Great Recession--and I believe it can--it will be because of a ready supply of workers with the critical thinking, creative problem-solving, technological and communications skills needed to fuel productivity and growth. The subject of history is an important part of that foundation.
Mr. Augustine, a former Under Secretary of the Army, is the retired Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin.
Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be took home the national Lane Anderson Award as the best Canadian science book for young readers at an award dinner in Toronto last night. The win was reported today by the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, Quill & Quire, the Canadian Children's Book Center and other media. It was published by Canadian publisher Kids Can Press. But it's not for lack of trying that a Canadian publisher rather than American publisher issued this book.
According to author Daniel Loxton, US publishers wouldn't touch it.
"It's important to realize that most of the publishing professionals I dealt with in the US were lovely and encouraging. They all said "no," but some recommended smaller, artier presses they felt might consider Evolution.... [S]ome of America's top children's publishing professionals rejected Evolution, some citing concerns that it was too controversial, too much of "a tough sell," or ("in today's climate") too likely to find needed distribution channels closed.... It was certainly frustrating to knock on cold doors, but I am sympathetic to publishers. [I]t's a tough time for book producers, and they need to work hard to mitigate risk. Publishers face the on the ground reality that almost half of American adults--many of them reviewers, librarians, booksellers, or teachers--believe that evolution did not happen at all.
As more Chicago public schools cash in on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's longer-day financial incentives by adding 90 minutes to their school day, the previous votes by a dozen schools to add about a half hour to the day by bringing back recess are going unnoticed.
Restoring recess is part of a broader health push by parents, advocacy groups and some city officials to bring more exercise and better nutrition to both schoolchildren and preschoolers.
Beginning in November, the city's Department of Public Health will require children who attend preschool or day care centers in Chicago to spend less time in front of television or computer screens -- 60 minutes or less -- and more time, at least an hour a day, participating in physical activity. At snack or meal time, milk cannot have a fat content higher than 1 percent, unless a child has written consent from a doctor. Only 100 percent juice can be served.
In Chicago, 22 percent of children are overweight before they enter school, more than twice the national average, according to research compiled by the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, a group of organizations and health advocates.
Money is talking a bit louder in college admissions these days, according to a survey to be released Wednesday by Inside Higher Ed, an online publication for higher education professionals.
More than half of the admissions officers at public research universities, and more than a third at four-year colleges said that they had been working harder in the past year to recruit students who need no financial aid and can pay full price, according to the survey of 462 admissions directors and enrollment managers conducted in August and early September.
Similarly, 22 percent of the admissions officials at four-year institutions said the financial downturn had led them to pay more attention in their decision to applicants' ability to pay.
Following up on my prior post, Did Illinois Inflate LSAT (168), GPA (3.81) Medians to Goose U.S. News Ranking?: Illinois today dropped this bombshell:The accurate, independently verified data for the class of 2014's Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores and grade point averages (GPA) are as follows: median LSAT, 163; median GPA, 3.70. Information originally posted on the College of Law website last month inaccurately listed the median LSAT score as 168 and the median GPA as 3.81.
The struggling Kansas City, Missouri School District was stripped of its accreditation on Tuesday, raising the possibility of student departures and a state takeover. The action follows weeks of tumult that included another round of turnover of top leadership.Former Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater formerly worked for the Kansas City School District.
Though not entirely unexpected, the move was a painful return to reality for the city after a period of optimism that difficult choices were finally being made to confront longstanding problems in the school district, most notably the closing of nearly half the schools in response to a huge budget deficit.
The Missouri Board of Education cited the continued failure to improve academic performance and the continued instability in district leadership as driving its decision. The district has been provisionally accredited for nearly a decade after a two-year period during which it was unaccredited.
"We've given Kansas City more time than maybe we should have to address the problems," said Chris L. Nicastro, the state education commissioner, who had recommended the move. "Over a sustained period of time, student performance has not met state standards."
Money & School Performance is well worth a read.
It is a rare organization that can reinvent itself, rather than continuing to atrophy.
It's time for a tuition revolt, and higher taxes aren't the answer. Students and the rest of the public are now paying for decades of mission creep and bureaucratic bloat.
The regents of the University of California met this past week to revisit an old issue they've never really dealt with well -- how to cope with erratic (and usually dwindling) state aid.
Sooner or later, they'll probably raise tuition again, as they have in the past. But for now they are quailing at a plan, offered by UC's president, to raise students' costs by at least 8%, and up to 16%, annually for the next four years. "It scares the bejesus out of folks," said one of the regents, California's Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
If the past is any guide, that horror will give way to realism. The regents will take a shot at raising more private money from corporations, foundations, rich alumni and the like. They'll come up short, if only because every other academic institution is trying to do the same thing and there's only so much money to go around.
Middle school and high school students who have not received the required whooping cough vaccine are denied attendance at some California schools. This comes as a result of a law passed last year, after a spike in potentially fatal diseases swept through schools. Last year, there were 70 reported cases for whooping cough.
This law, passed in September 2010, required all students entering grades seventh through twelfth grade to be vaccinated by the start of 2011-2012 school year. Even after a 30 day extension period before the law went into effect, students were still unable to meet the deadline for the vaccination.
The state wants to end its long-running payments for desegregation programs, but three school districts that receive the money say they need it to continue key programs. And a federal judge has accused the schools of delaying desegregation so they can keep receiving an annual infusion of $70 million.
A federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday from both sides. The judges are expected to decide eventually whether Arkansas still has to make the payments and whether two of the districts should remain under court supervision.
The schools, which serve about 50,000 students, have come a long way since 1957, when the governor and hundreds of protesters famously tried to stop the Little Rock Nine from entering Central High School. But thousands of white and black children still have to be bused to different neighborhoods every day under one of the nation's largest remaining court-ordered desegregation systems.
Now parents are worried about the schools' future, and some are considering enrolling their children elsewhere.
Peg Tyre is the author of "The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve."
THE school year is in full swing and, if you are the parent of a school-age child, you've probably figured out how to get your children up each weekday morning, dressed and out the door -- toast in hand -- in order to catch the school bus. Good for you.
If you've met and exchanged contact information with your child's homeroom teacher or gone the extra step and volunteered to become the class parent, give yourself a pat on the back. You're on your way to becoming an engaged parent -- the kind of adult, education researchers say, who helps children to be the best they can be in school.
Now, steady yourself. New legislation, called the parent trigger, which is being proposed in more than 20 states, including New York, is about to make your role as an engaged parent a lot more complicated.
Student loan defaults are rising fast, according to figures released this week by the U.S. Department of Education. While much of the press coverage focused on defaults by students attending for-profit schools, defaults at state colleges and universities went up, too. The bad job market is a big factor: Unemployment in 2010 was 10.1 percent for people between the age of 25 to 34, and those numbers are even higher when you remove people above the age of 30. At the same time, state budget cuts to higher education have led to big tuition hikes at many public colleges. California students graduated from public colleges with the least debt in the country in 2009, but tuition jumped 18 percent last year for in-state students in California and double-digit increases are projected for the next several years, as well.
Some interesting comments from reader John Kennedy (no relation, as far as I know) on the recent poll about people's reasons for going to college. He writes:There's another question in this discussion that I didn't address in previous comment. Apparently, kids going to college with no clear goal is somehow thought stupid (that's the implication). But I would ask, how many 17- or 18-year-olds have any idea about the real working world or about their own strengths and limitations? How many can think? What about having a chance to grow up a bit? This is also what college provides. OK, expensive? Do the first two years of general education at a community college, not perhaps a fine intellectual atmosphere, but possible to live at home, listen to the instructors, maybe get a clearer idea about personal and vocational possibilities.
A group of researchers said that by examining the whole genome of a family of four, they were able to make unusually specific findings, including the daughter's risk of blood clots, and suggestions for preventive care.
The study, published Thursday in the journal PLoS Genetics, was led by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., but also listed as co-authors John and Anne West, a father and daughter who were researching their own genetic make-up at home in Silicon Valley and met the Stanford team in the process. The research is part of scientists' continuing quest to extract truly useful information from the genome, a person's complete genetic code.
This is the second time a paper has been published about a family's whole genome. In the earlier paper, published last year in Science Express by a different group of researchers, the two children in the family had rare genetic conditions, and researchers were searching for the genes that caused them. The goal in the current study was to better predict the disease risk of a family and how family members might respond to medications.
Each incoming freshman at Randolph-Macon College this year was eligible to take part in a brief signing ceremony.
The new student, along with a parent and the college president, could sign a special agreement that is emerging at some colleges and universities: As long as the student keeps up with academic work and meets regularly with advisers, the college guarantees that earning a degree there will take no more than four years.
If it fails to hold up its end of the bargain -- if required classes are not available, or if advisers give poor counsel -- the college promises to cover the cost of additional tuition until the degree is completed.
Four-year degree guarantees, as they have become known, are being offered at a growing number of smaller private colleges. They work as a marketing tool, giving colleges a way to ease parents' fears that their children might enjoy college enough to stick around for five or six costly years. And they help to focus attention on the task at hand: graduating in four years.
As many students and parents struggle to make payments on their student loans, many are finding this debt comes with some serious strings attached.
After years of economic difficulty and rising college tuition, the recent news that the default rate on federal student loans has risen came as little surprise to many. Nearly one in ten federal student-loan borrowers defaulted during the two years ended Sept. 30, 2010, meaning they failed to make a payment on their loans for more than 270 days, according to the Department of Education. That's up from 7% in 2008. Much of that increase came from for-profit colleges, whose students' default rate jumped to 15% from 11.6%, but the default rate among students at public and private, four-year universities also increased.
What many people may not realize, however, when taking out a student loan is just how different it is from other kinds of debt. Credit-card debt, for example, can be wiped out in bankruptcy. Mortgages can be discharged through foreclosure. For borrowers with crippling student loan debt, financial failure offers no such fresh start. The loan still must be paid off, and often with new collection costs tacked on, making it much more expensive than before. On top of that, up to 25% of a person's wages can be deducted until the loan is paid back in full. (Private lenders must get court approval for wage garnishment and the amount they can take varies.) With federal loans, the government can also keep your federal and state income tax refunds, intercept future lottery winnings and withhold part of your Social Security payments. "Defaulting can be completely devastating to a family's finances and sense of well being," says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org and Fastweb.com.
A litany of scandals in recent years have made the corruption of college sports constant front-page news. We profess outrage each time we learn that yet another student-athlete has been taking money under the table. But the real scandal is the very structure of college sports, wherein student-athletes generate billions of dollars for universities and private companies while earning nothing for themselves. Here, a leading civil-rights historian makes the case for paying college athletes--and reveals how a spate of lawsuits working their way through the courts could destroy the NCAA.
"I'm not hiding," Sonny Vaccaro told a closed hearing at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2001. "We want to put our materials on the bodies of your athletes, and the best way to do that is buy your school. Or buy your coach."
How to Fix College Sports Vaccaro's audience, the members of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, bristled. These were eminent reformers--among them the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, two former heads of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and several university presidents and chancellors. The Knight Foundation, a nonprofit that takes an interest in college athletics as part of its concern with civic life, had tasked them with saving college sports from runaway commercialism as embodied by the likes of Vaccaro, who, since signing his pioneering shoe contract with Michael Jordan in 1984, had built sponsorship empires successively at Nike, Adidas, and Reebok. Not all the members could hide their scorn for the "sneaker pimp" of schoolyard hustle, who boasted of writing checks for millions to everybody in higher education.
For many middle school students, the words "Phys Ed" are enough to provoke fear--fear of getting dressed in the locker room, of wearing a nerdy uniform, of looking clumsy, of being picked last.
Tammy Brant, a gym teacher at Selma Middle School, in Selma, Ind., is rethinking the way schools have taught girls and boys about fitness. Instead of group calisthenics and contests that favor the most athletic kids, Ms. Brant, like many other teachers nationwide, devotes class time to fitness instruction and to games structured so that more kids can play and enjoy.
Instead of pushing everyone to hit specific performance targets, she urges them to progress toward individualized "fitness zones." She teaches the stages of a workout--warm-up, training, cool-down--and straps a heart monitor on each child. The goal is to instill healthy habits for life.
Joseph Hawkins, senior study director at the Rockville.-based research group Westat, read my recent attack on the Parent Trigger Law in California and issued a challenge:
"If we put 10 hot-shot education reporters together in a room and asked this question I think the answer would be zero: 'In the past 10 years of school reform, can you list any schools where a parent revolution took place?'"
Hawkins said he is talking about a successful parent rebellion-- "meaning that the parents were fed up with low performance and they literally took over the school and improved it--demanded that it become better."
He said "I don't think such parent 'revolutions' ever take place at all. We probably could find some schools where a group of fed-up parents started their own charter, but I'm talking about something totally different. I'm pretty sure that both us have been in those low performing schools where many parents when quizzed in depth about their school confessed their frustrations. But mounting a coup d'état? Out of the question."
The Graduate Management Admission Council's latest report on business-school applications makes for grim reading. According to its 2011 Application Trends Survey (PDF) over two-thirds of schools worldwide say that they have seen applications to their two-year full-time MBA programmes fall over the last year. Meanwhile, 57% also reported a drop in applications to one-year full-time programmes.
There may be several contributing factors. With applications at an all time high the year before (generally applications to business schools rise in tough economic times) there is an element of a return to normality. Still, this doesn't account for all of the collapse.
Dave Wilson, GMAC's president, says it may not be that there has been a shocking drop in the number of applicants, rather that each candidate is applying to fewer schools. This is interesting because one explanation could be that more students are only applying for local programmes, where there is a limited choice. If true, this fits neatly with the projections of many of those predicting tough times ahead for business schools.
A dozen students in uniforms of white-collared shirts and blue slacks looked up attentively at their sixth-grade teachers at the Brennan Rogers School on the first day of school this year.
"We will never make you do something that doesn't guide you to a purpose, we're not here to waste your time," said second-year teacher Kimberlee Henry. Her students nodded. "Everything you will do this year will prepare you for something else, giving you the skills you need to go on to high school, college, and excel at life."
The school's focus wasn't always as sharp. Brennan Rogers, which has about 360 kindergarten through eighth-graders, spent decades failing its students. Parents commonly campaigned for transfers to other schools that weren't plagued with violence and lagging from inattention.
Now, the school serves as the centerpiece of a sweeping reform effort launched three years ago by New Haven Mayor John DeStefano to turn around this inner-city district, where one in four children drops out every year and test scores have languished for decades.
Many years ago, I attended a public high school student's graduation ceremony out in what I consider the sticks.
I was amazed at the overt Christianity. There was a prayer at the beginning, and again at the end. The commencement speeches were full of references to God.
My own public high school was roughly one-third Jewish, so this wouldn't have flown. Someone would have sued, and rightfully so. A Jewish student should be able to go to his own public high school graduation without being told he needs to pray to Jesus Christ.
But out in the sticks, I guess, that sort of thing was okay.
Being a lawyer, I approached the father of the graduate, knowing he was not religious, and asked if he would like to bring a lawsuit against the school district. He said he found the ceremony offensive, but that he owns a business in that town, and he was certainly not going to bring a lawsuit just because they turned his son's graduation ceremony into a revival meeting. Fair enough. I let the matter drop.
USA Today, in the persons of reporters Marisol Bello and Greg Toppo, has a new ground-breaking report on the feeble response to standardized test-tampering in America.
Bello and former USA Today reporter Jack Gillum exposed test security problems in the D.C. schools. Now, we learn that most states are even worse than D.C. because they don't bother even to look for evidence of unusual numbers of wrong-to-right erasures.
USA Today reports that only 20 states and the District do any erasure analysis. Four others give tests online (a good way to prevent principals from changing answers after the kids go home) and so don't have erasures to check. It said five other states, including Maryland, plan to check erasures next year because of the outbreak of cheating scandals in Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia and the District. New York may do the same.
Journalists like me get into ruts. We pick one way of describing data and stick with it. I tell myself that I would confuse readers if I made changes. That might be an excuse for laziness and lack of imagination.
A habit I share with many education writers is presenting school test results one way: the percentage of students who score proficient or above. I ignore a subset of that proficient group, the percentage who achieve at the higher, advanced level.
The advanced percentages are impressive in the Washington suburbs, because they have some of the highest average family incomes in the country. The District is different. Most of its public school students are from low-income families. But I have been noticing some D.C. schools with impressive percentages of students scoring not just proficient but advanced. What would those schools look like if we reported that higher order of achievement? In the long term, don't we want as many students as possible to be learning at the advanced level?
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
Rot your kids' brains right there in their heads will he.
There's a lot of hullabaloo on the web today about a newly-published study out of the University of Virginia that shows that preschoolers who watched SpongeBob SquarePants had increased difficulty performing tasks requiring focus and self-control. The study draws the conclusion that watching a fast-paced TV show negatively affects kids' cognitive functioning for a short time after watching it.
The scientists conducting the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, took a group of 60 four-year-olds, mostly from white, middle-class families, and randomly separated the kids into three groups: one which watched a part of a SpongeBob episode, one which watched a similar amount of a Caillou episode, and one which simply did some free-drawing and watched no TV. After that phase was over, they gave the children a set of tasks to do which required what's called "executive function," a term which refers to a set of skills related to goal-directed behavior -- including attention, self-regulation, problem-solving, and ability to deal with delayed gratification. They consistently found that the kids who had watched SpongeBob did significantly worse at the tasks than the kids in either of the other groups.
The number of Arkansas students taking Advance Placements tests in math, science and English has risen 32 percent in the past five years and there has been a nearly 50 percent rise in the number of students receiving qualifying scores, state education officials heard today.
Also, the state Board of Education learned of an academic turnaround for a Fort Smith elementary which last year ranked among the lowest performing school in the state.
Tommie Sue Anthony, president of the Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Sciences, which is funded primarily through a grant from the national Math and Science Initiative, told board members that the number of students achieving scores of 3 or better on AP math, science and English scores -- the highest possible score is 5 -- increased in Arkansas by 46 percent from 2007 to 2011.
Dominic Randolph can seem a little out of place at Riverdale Country School -- which is odd, because he's the headmaster. Riverdale is one of New York City's most prestigious private schools, with a 104-year-old campus that looks down grandly on Van Cortlandt Park from the top of a steep hill in the richest part of the Bronx. On the discussion boards of UrbanBaby.com, worked-up moms from the Upper East Side argue over whether Riverdale sends enough seniors to Harvard, Yale and Princeton to be considered truly "TT" (top-tier, in UrbanBabyese), or whether it is more accurately labeled "2T" (second-tier), but it is, certainly, part of the city's private-school elite, a place members of the establishment send their kids to learn to be members of the establishment. Tuition starts at $38,500 a year, and that's for prekindergarten.
Randolph, by contrast, comes across as an iconoclast, a disrupter, even a bit of an eccentric. He dresses for work every day in a black suit with a narrow tie, and the outfit, plus his cool demeanor and sweep of graying hair, makes you wonder, when you first meet him, if he might have played sax in a ska band in the '80s. (The English accent helps.) He is a big thinker, always chasing new ideas, and a conversation with him can feel like a one-man TED conference, dotted with references to the latest work by behavioral psychologists and management gurus and design theorists. When he became headmaster in 2007, he swapped offices with his secretary, giving her the reclusive inner sanctum where previous headmasters sat and remodeling the small outer reception area into his own open-concept work space, its walls covered with whiteboard paint on which he sketches ideas and slogans. One day when I visited, one wall was bare except for a white sheet of paper. On it was printed a single black question mark.
For the headmaster of an intensely competitive school, Randolph, who is 49, is surprisingly skeptical about many of the basic elements of a contemporary high-stakes American education. He did away with Advanced Placement classes in the high school soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and to middle school are "a patently unfair system" because they evaluate students almost entirely by I.Q. "This push on tests," he told me, "is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human."
Recently I interviewed many experts to find out how they got to where they are. They ranged from world champion arm wrestlers to New York Times bestselling authors. I wanted to know what made them tick and if they were really any different from you and I.
The first thing I did was to redefine what an expert is. Often we hear the word expert and we think of one person who is unique above any other person. He or she has developed qualities and skill that surpass the average person, but that is not what it means to be an expert.
An expert is someone who has tested or tried, a person who is wise through experience.
Awesome! Sebastian Thrun of Stanford is absolutely on the right track.
Reply to him @sebastianthrun to let him know you'd like that.
And, more Stanford courses may come online in the near future.
Is your child ready for first grade? Earlier this month, Chicago Now blogger Christine Whitley reprinted a checklist from a 1979 child-rearing series designed to help a parent figure that one out. Ten out of 12 meant readiness. Can your child "draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?" Of course. Can she count "eight to ten pennies correctly?" Heck, yeah, I say for parents of kindergarteners everywhere. "Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?" Isn't that what preschool is for?
"Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend's home?"
It's amazing what a difference 30 years have made. Academically, that 1979 first grader (who also needed to be "six years, six months" old and "have two to five permanent or second teeth") would have been considered right on target to start preschool. In terms of life skills, she's heading for middle school, riding her two-wheeled bike and finding her own way home. It's not surprising that I came to this link via Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids blog. What is surprising is just how shocking a jolt it is to realize how stark the difference is between then and now.
The percentage of federal student-loan borrowers who defaulted during the two years ended last Sept. 30 rose to 8.8% from 7%, according to figures that the U.S. Department of Education released Monday.
That increase reflects the difficulty graduates are facing finding jobs amid a weak economy, particularly those who attended for-profit schools. The default rate for for-profit schools rose to 15% from 11.6%, compared with a rise to 7.2% from 6% at public institutions and a jump to 4.6% from 4% at private institutions.
Two studies released today by the Center for Equal Opportunity reveal severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with African Americans and Latinos given preference over whites and Asians.Adelaide Blanchard:
The studies are based on data supplied by the schools themselves, some of which the university had refused to turn over until a lawsuit was filed by CEO and successfully taken all the way to the state supreme court. The studies were prepared by Dr. Althea Nagai, a research fellow at CEO, and can be viewed on the organization's website, www.ceousa.org.
CEO president Roger Clegg will answer questions about the studies when they are formally released at a press conference today at 11:00 a.m. at the DoubleTree hotel in Madison--525 W. Johnson St.
The odds ratio favoring African Americans and Hispanics over whites was 576-to-1 and 504-to-1, respectively, using the SAT and class rank while controlling for other factors. Thus, the median composite SAT score for black admittees was 150 points lower than for whites and Asians, and the Latino median SAT score was 100 points lower. Using the ACT, the odds ratios climbed to 1330-to-1 and 1494-to-1, respectively, for African Americans and Hispanics over whites.
Two reports released today allege the University of Wisconsin discriminates against whites and Asian applicants and have electrified both UW administration and some student leaders.Todd Finkelmeyer:
A crowd of more than 150 students filled the Multicultural Student Center in the Red Gym on Monday after an ominous message from UW Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate Damon Williams claimed a threat had been made against the diversity efforts in the campus community.
The reports were released at midnight on Tuesday from the Center for Equal Opportunity in conjunction with a press conference CEO President Roger Clegg will hold at the Double Tree Inn at 11 a.m. today. Clegg will also be at a debate on the future of Affirmative Action at the UW Law School at 7 p.m. this evening.
Williams said the timing of the events is no coincidence.
In an interview with The Badger Herald, Clegg said the reports show how a heavy preference is given to blacks and Latinos over whites and Asians in the admissions process for undergraduate programs and in the law school.
Whites and Asians aren't getting a fair crack at being admitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab:
That's what two studies released late Monday night by the Center for Equal Opportunity indicate. The organization states in a press release accompanying the studies that there is "severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions" at Wisconsin's flagship institution of higher education.
The CEO -- a conservative think tank based out of Sterling, Va., that pushes "colorblind public policies" and backs the elimination or curtailment of existing racial preference and affirmative action programs -- reports that UW-Madison gives "African Americans and Latinos preference over whites and Asians" in admissions. The studies, which initially were embargoed until Tuesday morning, were released late Monday on the CEO website.
According to the executive summary of the report examining undergraduate admissions at UW-Madison: "In 2007 and 2008, UW admitted more than 7 out of every 10 black applicants, and more than 8 out of 10 Hispanics, versus roughly 6 in 10 Asians and whites."
The Center for Equal Opportunity and its president and general counsel, Roger Clegg, claim to advance educational opportunity by punishing colleges and universities for attempting to level a highly unequal playing field.
The CEO's name is laughable. It is the exact opposite of what the organization does. The misnomer is a deliberate deception. It is a lie so blatant that it would be considered a joke in very poor taste were it not so outrageously fallacious.
The record of CEO's lawsuits has never been in support of equality--it has always been to preserve and protect educational opportunity for those most fortunate social classes and racial/ethnic groups. There is no no record of this organization filing a lawsuit on behalf of newly emerging and underrepresented populations in higher education--it always and only files lawsuits on behalf of the already-advantaged.
The new school year begins in Seattle today, with the superintendent feeling "excited and hopeful that anything is possible" in the year ahead.
I'm not as confident, yet.
My daughter starts her junior year of high school. She's enthusiastic, optimistic and one of those students who always gets a "she's a delight to have in class" comment on her report cards. She has the school system figured out. Today she's on the team who will help incoming, possibly nervous, freshmen. Have a great day sweetie; I know you will.
This is not a routine day for my son. He's making the transition from elementary to middle school. No more bubbly fish tank in the school lobby, little kids' artwork on the walls and shock absorbing wood chips on the playground. Instead, he'll be surrounded by the echoing thud of steel locker doors slamming, the shuffle of grown up-sized tennis shoes tromping through the halls and concrete sidewalks with weeds growing through the gaps. Have a great day son; I don't know how your day will go. I can't wait to find out this afternoon.
A proposal that Milwaukee taxpayers be told on tax bills exactly how much of their money is going to private schools through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is on the fast track for school board consideration.
During a special MPS board meeting Saturday morning to discuss the district's long-range master plan for buildings, board member Larry Miller asked that his "voucher tax" transparency proposal be discussed at a school board committee meeting Tuesday, rather than wait to be introduced at the board's next regular meeting Sept. 22, and then be referred to committee for discussion at a later date.
"The urgency of this is there's a huge tax burden on the community and it's important for the community to be educated on this burden," Miller told the board Saturday morning.
The tax that MPS must levy under state law to support low-income Milwaukee students enrolled in private schools under the choice program would have ranked just behind Milwaukee Area Technical College and ahead of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District if it had been broken out, ranked, and displayed under the "Levy by Unit of Government" section of tax information sent to taxpayers in 2010, Miller said.
The cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is in hot water from a study suggesting that watching just nine minutes of that program can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds.
The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to either watch "SpongeBob," or the slower-paced PBS cartoon "Caillou" or assigned to draw pictures. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the kids took mental function tests; those who had watched "SpongeBob" did measurably worse than the others. Previous research has linked TV-watching with long-term attention problems in children, but the new study suggests more immediate problems can occur after very little exposure -- results that parents of young kids should be alert to, the study authors said.
Kids' cartoon shows typically feature about 22 minutes of action, so watching a full program "could be more detrimental," the researchers speculated, But they said more evidence is needed to confirm that.
The results should be interpreted cautiously because of the study's small size, but the data seem robust and bolster the idea that media exposure is a public health issue, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis. He is a child development specialist at Seattle Children's Hospital who wrote an editorial accompanying the study published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Christakis said parents need to realize that fast-paced programming may not be appropriate for very young children. "What kids watch matters, it's not just how much they watch," he said.
University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard, the lead author, said Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob" shouldn't be singled out. She found similar problems in kids who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming. She said parents should realize that young children are compromised in their ability to learn and use self-control immediately after watching such shows. "I wouldn't advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they're expected to pay attention and learn," she said.
Nickelodeon spokesman David Bittler disputed the findings and said "SpongeBob SquarePants" is aimed at kids aged 6-11, not 4-year-olds. "Having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show's targeted (audience), watch nine minutes of programming is questionable methodology and could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust," he said.
Lillard said 4-year-olds were chosen because that age "is the heart of the period during which you see the most development" in certain self-control abilities. Whether children of other ages would be similarly affected can't be determined from this study. Most kids were white and from middle-class or wealthy families. They were given common mental function tests after watching cartoons or drawing. The SpongeBob kids scored on average 12 points lower than the other two groups, whose scores were nearly identical.
In another test, measuring self-control and impulsiveness, kids were rated on how long they could wait before eating snacks presented when the researcher left the room. "SpongeBob" kids waited about 2 1/2 minutes on average, versus at least four minutes for the other two groups. The study has several limitations. For one thing, the kids weren't tested before they watched TV. But Lillard said none of the children had diagnosed attention problems and all got similar scores on parent evaluations of their behavior.
Online: Pediatrics: http://www.pediatrics.org
At last your time has come. Leaving behind the old world and the deep ruts you carved in the corner of that world that belonged to you, you're off to explore undiscovered countries, to join a new and ever-replenishing society of fascinating people and learned scholars and impassioned artists and driven achievers, off to a place where the world is new and so are you. Whether or not your college years will be "the best years of your life," they will almost certainly be among the most transformative.
The question is whether that transformation will be for the better. Unmoored from the people and places that once defined you, you'll feel a fluidity in your identity that's both thrilling and frightening. You may feel as though you can be anyone and become anything. I pray that you will become who you are -- the individual you most truly and deeply are, the one God dreamt of when he made you -- and not the person that you or your parents or your friends think you should be. In service to that end, I thought I would offer seven pieces of advice. Though it feels churlish to say so, I offer this advice on the basis of some personal experience -- more than many and less than some, with four undergraduate years at Stanford, three at Princeton Seminary and seven at Harvard for my Ph.D. I did a fair amount of teaching, came to know many professors well, and spent time too at universities overseas. So, on the basis of those experiences, here are my thoughts:
[Note from Laurie Rogers: Recently, results from the 2011 state standardized test scores came out, and the general impression given to the public -- for example from the state education agency (OSPI) and from media in Seattle and in Spokane -- was that improvements had been made. It's all in the definitions: How do you define "improvement"? Did some of the numbers go up? Assuredly. Did that mean that real improvments in real academic knowledge had been made? It's best to remain skeptical.
Most students in Spokane are as weak in math skill this year as they were last year. Given a proper math test that assesses for basic skills, many high schoolers still test into 4th or 5th-grade math. College remedial rates are still high. Parents are still frantic, and students are still stressed out about math. So ... what do those higher scores actually mean? I've been trying to find out. It's hard to say.
This summer, I met a principal who was recently named as the administrator of the year in her state. She was loved and adored by all, but she told me she was leaving the profession.
I screamed, "You can't leave us," and she quite bluntly replied, "Look, if I get an offer to lead a school system of orphans, I will be all over it, but I just can't deal with parents anymore; they are killing us."
Unfortunately, this sentiment seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. Today, new teachers remain in our profession an average of just 4.5 years, and many of them list "issues with parents" as one of their reasons for throwing in the towel. Word is spreading, and the more negativity teachers receive from parents, the harder it becomes to recruit the best and the brightest out of colleges.
There is a great deal of debate going on over whether or not you should go to college. Is it worth it? You will enter a difficult job market deeply in college loan debt. Despite your degree, your job prospects will be slim. And nobody can quite figure out what the future really holds for college grads' futures.
Here's another question: Why bother graduating from high school?
1. It doesn't matter.
very principal looks forward to the first day of school when students return with fresh minds eager to learn and ready to work. But as students prepare to hit the books in the next couple weeks, some of them won't have to take the bus to school, wander the halls looking for their classroom or search rows of desks to find their seat.
Virtual schooling with Wisconsin Connections Academy (WCA) allows students to receive a top-notch public education online from the comfort of their homes. Virtual education is an increasingly popular alternative to the traditional brick and mortar classroom, but many parents still don't fully understand online learning and how it works.
Virtual public schooling is not homeschooling. In fact, the two are quite different. Virtual public schools deliver public education to a student's home at no cost that combines state-certified teachers and a rigorous curriculum that correlates to state standards. At WCA, students learn at home under the guidance of a Wisconsin certified teacher. A Learning Coach, typically a parent, assists the student in day-to-day activities. Our teachers work directly with both the student and Learning Coach to develop an individual learning plan, provide instruction and evaluate assignments.
While they say that all politics is local, Colorado seems to be national news, yet again. Our state is featured prominently in Steven Brill's new book, Class Warfare, which is receiving a lot of press from national news outlets.
Weaving a narrative around the passage of Senate Bill 10-191 in Colorado, Brill tells a good story, replete with heroic figures like Senator Mike Johnston. I worked closely on SB 191 from its inception to passage, I can tell you that the on the ground details of its success are even more interesting than what's depicted in Brill's account.
Please see DFER's case study on SB 191 here for a close examination of the strategy, the broad coalition, and the bipartisan champions that helped make SB 191 a reality. Without the active support of the sophisticated coalition of political leaders on both sides of the aisle, including House sponsors Rep. Christine Scanlan and Rep. Carole Murray, non-profit organizations such as Stand for Children Colorado, civil rights groups, and business leaders that worked with the media, spoke with legislators, and reached out to their communities, the bill would not have passed. For further reading, Van Schoales, a DFER-CO Advisory Committee member, has written a review of Class Warfare: available here.
Ohio Governor John Kasich said on Wednesday that an Akron-area mother convicted of felony charges for lying about where she lived to enroll her children in a suburban school district deserves a second chance.
Kelley Williams-Bolar, 41, attracted national attention and drew the support of school-choice advocates after she was convicted and jailed for using her father's address to enroll her two daughters in the higher performing Copley Fairlawn School District instead of the Akron Public Schools.
Kasich, a Republican, reduced Williams-Bolar's two felony convictions to misdemeanors, overruling the state's parole board, which last week rejected a pardon in the case.
The next time your great idea at work elicits silence or eye rolls, you might just pity those co-workers. Fresh research indicates they don't even know what a creative idea looks like and that creativity, hailed as a positive change agent, actually makes people squirm.
"How is it that people say they want creativity but in reality often reject it?" said Jack Goncalo, ILR School assistant professor of organizational behavior and co-author of research to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science. The paper reports on two 2010 experiments at the University of Pennsylvania involving more than 200 people.
The threat of possible litigation has roiled the already turbulent waters surrounding the proposal for a single-sex Urban League charter school.Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, here.
Madison school officials began feeling skittish over recommending a $225,000 planning grant for the Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men after the state Department of Public Instruction raised concerns recently that the school doesn't meet state and federal requirements to provide gender-equal education.
Now, a new legal threat has emerged, this one from Madison Teachers Inc. Together, the two issues could cause the board to pull back from supporting the planning grant, possibly as early as Thursday.
First, some background: After DPI put the planning grant on hold, the Urban League of Greater Madison last week submitted a new proposal to simultaneously establish a separate campus for girls. Kaleem Caire, Urban League president and a driving force behind Madison Prep, wants to see the schools open next year, initially with 60 sixth-grade girls and 60 sixth-grade boys. The proposal calls for adding 120 additional sixth-graders in each of the four subsequent years. Because the proposal now envisions 600 students rather 480 as originally planned, it would require more funding from the Madison Metropolitan School District than originally planned.
The English Schools Foundation (ESF) has angered parents by introducing a fast-track system for its private school in Discovery Bay, in which parents can get priority on the waiting list by agreeing to pay HK$400,000 if their child is accepted.
The ESF started the system for "nomination rights" on Thursday and said it had been introduced for parents seeking to enrol children at Discovery College from the next academic year.
Going online to get a college degree has been championed as a cost-effective way to educate the masses and challenged as a cheapening of academia. Now, the online classroom is coming to the vaunted University of California system, making it the nation's first top-tier university to offer undergraduate credit for cyberstudies.
By dislodging education from its brick-and-mortar moorings, the University of California - short on money and space - hopes to ease the path to a diploma for students who are increasingly forced to wait for a vacant seat in a lecture hall. Especially in high-demand "gateway courses," such as chemistry, calculus and composition.
This summer, UC Berkeley tested its first pilot course: Chemistry 1A. For one student, working as a lifeguard in San Rafael, it accelerated her progress toward a joint degree in biology and economics. Another was able to live at home in Sacramento, because she registered for summer school too late to get dorm space.
Randy White of the Dallas Cowboys, star defensive tackle of the 1970s, member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame: What a joy it was to watch him play! White was a master of leverage, burst and anticipation. Today, he might not even make an NFL roster. If White got on the field, he'd be crushed.
White played defensive tackle at 257 pounds, across from centers weighing 240 or 250 pounds and guards who were considered huge if 265. Last year's Super Bowl featured defensive tackles B.J. Raji (337 pounds) and Casey Hampton (330 pounds) versus guards Chris Kemoeatu (344 pounds) and Josh Sitton (318 pounds). Either guard would have steamrolled Randy White as if he wasn't there.
As for today's biceps: Your Honor, I call to the stand America's leading expert on these matters, Mel Kiper Jr. Everyone assumes today's football players are bigger, faster and stronger than those who came before. But what does the data show? No one is better suited to answer that question than Kiper.
Far, far in the past -- about 1980 -- the United States was not obsessed with the NFL draft. Of course that's hard to imagine today. Once, bread did not come sliced. But I digress.
Yes, the US Department of Education owns guns. Its Office of the Inspector General has statutory authority to make arrests, conduct warrants, and pound open your front door. Usually if you get involved in some sort of fraud scheme related to federal student loans.
Here's a message from a recent victim:
A meeting Wednesday to discuss the minority achievement gap in the Madison district will be closed to the media, even if that means kicking School Board members out, the organizer said Monday.
The Urban League of Greater Madison invited Madison School Board members to its meeting facilitated by an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, but if four board members attend, it would be considered a quorum of the school board and need to abide by the open meetings law.
Four of the seven school board members confirmed with the State Journal Monday that they plan to attend the meeting.
"We'll have to kick one of them out," said Urban League President Kaleem Caire, laughing. "I'm serious."
MILLIONS of school-leavers in the rich world are about to bid a tearful goodbye to their parents and start a new life at university. Some are inspired by a pure love of learning. But most also believe that spending three or four years at university--and accumulating huge debts in the process--will boost their chances of landing a well-paid and secure job.
Their elders have always told them that education is the best way to equip themselves to thrive in a globalised world. Blue-collar workers will see their jobs offshored and automated, the familiar argument goes. School dropouts will have to cope with a life of cash-strapped insecurity. But the graduate elite will have the world at its feet. There is some evidence to support this view. A recent study from Georgetown University's Centre on Education and the Workforce argues that "obtaining a post-secondary credential is almost always worth it." Educational qualifications are tightly correlated with earnings: an American with a professional degree can expect to pocket $3.6m over a lifetime; one with merely a high-school diploma can expect only $1.3m. The gap between more- and less-educated earners may be widening. A study in 2002 found that someone with a bachelor's degree could expect to earn 75% more over a lifetime than someone with only a high-school diploma. Today the premium is even higher.
Housing is moving away from the dorms and cracker-box apartments of old as part of a national trend. At USC, tanning beds, hot tubs, HD televisions and a club room are all on the amenities list. But it doesn't come cheaply.
Odds are slim that the cast of "Jersey Shore" will ever enroll at USC. But if they could, TV's legendary sybarites would find that gym-tan-laundry is just the beginning at a new luxury apartment complex near campus.
Nearly every detail at West 27th Place is upmarket, from the fountains, landscaping and custom outdoor light fixtures to the granite countertops and big-screen HD television sets in every unit. There are also televisions in the well-appointed gym, along with a professional-grade Sundazzler -- a walk-in tanning booth that resembles a science-fiction movie prop.
Now that children are back in the classroom, are they really learning the lessons that will help them succeed?
Many child development experts worry that the answer may be no. They say the ever-growing emphasis on academic performance and test scores means many children aren't developing life skills like self-control, motivation, focus and resilience, which are far better predictors of long-term success than high grades. And it may be distorting their and their parents' values.
"What are we really trying to do when we think about raising kids?" asked Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, an expert in adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "We're trying to put in place the ingredients so the child is going to be a successful 35-year-old. It's not really about getting an A in algebra."
Take the question of praising a child's academic achievement. In his new book "Letting Go With Love and Confidence: Raising Responsible, Resilient, Self-Sufficient Teens in the 21st Century" (written with Susan Fitzgerald), Dr. Ginsburg draws a crucial distinction between hard work and simply getting an A or "being smart."
In one set of studies, children who solved math puzzles were praised for their intelligence or for their hard work. The first group actually did worse on subsequent tests, or took an easy way out, shunning difficult problems. The research suggests that praise for a good effort encourages harder work, while children who are consistently told they are smart do not know what to do when confronted with a difficult problem or reading assignment.
"When we focus on performance, when we say 'make sure you get A's,' we have kids who are terrified of B's," Dr. Ginsburg said. "Kids who are praised for effort, those kids learn that intelligence is something that can be built."
Academic achievement can certainly help children succeed, and for parents there can be a fine line between praising effort and praising performance. Words need to be chosen carefully: Instead of saying, "I'm so proud you got an A on your test," a better choice is "I'm so proud of you for studying so hard." Both replies rightly celebrate the A, but the second focuses on the effort that produced it, encouraging the child to keep trying in the future.
Praise outside of academics matters, too. Instead of asking your child how many points she scored on the basketball court, say, "Tell me about the game. Did you have fun? Did you play hard?"
Dr. Ginsburg notes that parents also need to teach their children that they do not have to be good at everything, and there is something to be learned when a child struggles or gets a poor grade despite studying hard.
"One of the feelings people often have is that in order to succeed, a child has to be good at absolutely everything," he said. "Human beings in the adult world are absolutely uneven, but we don't accept that in our children -- which pressures them in a way that's incredibly uncomfortable for them."
One strategy is to teach children that the differences between easy and difficult subjects can provide useful information about their goals and interests. Subjects they enjoy and excel in may become the focus of their careers. Challenging but interesting classes or sports can become hobbies. Subjects that are difficult and uninteresting are just something "you have to get past," Dr. Ginsburg said.
"We need to approach failure and difficulty and struggle as data that teach us what we should do with our lives," he said. "It's when you say to a child, 'I expect you to do well in everything,' that we're preparing them to fail."
Outside of school, parents have many opportunities to teach children about focus, self-control and critical thinking, said Ellen Galinsky, author of "Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs" and president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group in New York.
When reading to children, for example, ask them what a character is thinking or feeling. That simple exercise helps develop perspective, an important social cognition skill.
In one experiment, children are given a crayon box but discover it really contains paper clips. Then the child is asked what a friend might think is in the box. Children younger than 4 typically respond "paper clips" because that's what they know to be true. But about 4, they begin to see things from others' perspective, understanding that the packaging would mislead another person just as it misled them.
"Perspective taking helps with school readiness and literacy," Ms. Galinsky said. "The child has to understand a teacher has a different perspective, their friends have different perspectives."
In young children, playing board games or games like Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light can help develop focus and self-control.
And in older children, parents willing to put in a little extra effort can help children develop critical thinking skills rather than just answering their questions. Ms. Galinsky recalls the time her son complained about boys being portrayed more negatively than girls on television.
She suggested he conduct an experiment: collect data on positive and negative portrayals by watching different shows and keeping a record. And when her son thought his data proved his point, Ms. Galinsky challenged the television sample, noting that he had watched only shows aimed at boys.
"Rather than dismiss it, I told him it was interesting, let's make a chart," she said. "I kept pushing back and talked about how to design a really good experiment. He got really into it, and it was an example of not answering him too quickly and letting him find out himself in order to help him become a critical thinker."
Of course, parents don't have to help children set up complicated experiments every time they ask a question. But when a question arises, Ms. Galinsky said, resist the temptation to say, "Look it up." Instead, say, "Let's look it up," and guide your child in ways to get the information.
"It's not just knowing the information," she said. "It's knowing how to find the answers to the questions that is the basis of critical thinking."
Four obese children are on the brink of being permanently removed from their family by social workers after their parents failed to bring their weight under control.
In the first case of its kind, their mother and father now face what they call the 'unbearable' likelihood of never seeing them again.
Their three daughters, aged 11, seven and one, and five-year-old son, will either be 'fostered without contact' or adopted.
Torn apart: The parents, far left and right, with six of their children who they fear will be taken away from them
Torn apart: The parents, far left and right, with six of their children who they fear will be taken away from them
Either way, the family's only hope of being reunited will be if the children attempt to track down their parents when they become adults.
The couple, who have been married for nearly 20 years and are not being named to protect their children's identities, were given a 'draconian' ultimatum three years ago - as reported at the time by The Mail on Sunday.
Warned that the children must slim or be placed in care, the family spent two years living in a council-funded 'Big Brother' house in which they were constantly supervised and the food they ate monitored.
This fall more than 19 million students will enroll in the 4,000 or so degree-granting colleges and universities now operating in the United States. College enrollments have grown steadily year by year, more than doubling since 1970 and increasing by nearly one-third since the year 2000. More than 70 percent of high school graduates enroll in a community college, four-year residential college, or in one of the new online universities, though only about half of these students graduate within five years. The steady growth in enrollments is fed by the widespread belief (encouraged by college administrators) that a college degree is a requirement for entry into the world of middle-class employment. A college education is now deemed one of those prizes that, if good for a few, must therefore be good for everyone, even if no one in a position of academic authority can define what such an education is or should be. These conceptions are at the heart of the democratic revolution in higher education.
The beginning of a freshman's college experience is an exciting time. Dining halls! No bedtime! Taunting your RA! Exorbitantly expensive textbooks!
Wait, that last one is no fun at all. It's hard to make that first trip to the college bookstore for required texts without leaving with a bit of sticker shock. Why are textbooks so astonishingly expensive? Let's take a look.
Publishers would explain that textbooks are really expensive to make. Dropping over a hundred bucks for a textbook seems like an outrage when you're used to shelling out $10 or $25 for a novel, but textbooks aren't made on the same budget. Those hundreds of glossy colorful pages, complete with charts, graphs, and illustrations, cost more than putting black words on regular old white paper. The National Association of College Stores has said that roughly 33 cents of every textbook dollar goes to this sort of production cost, with another 11.8 cents of every dollar going to author royalties. Making a textbook isn't cheap.
There's certainly some validity to this explanation. Yes, those charts and diagrams are expensive to produce, and the relatively small print runs of textbooks keep publishers from enjoying the kind of economies of scale they get on a bestselling popular novel. Any economist who has a pulse (and probably some who don't) could poke holes in this argument pretty quickly, though.
The college class of 2011 just graduated into one of the worst job markets in recent history. Twenty-four percent of 2011 grads had a job offer in hand by graduation, compared with 51 percent of students graduating in the prerecession year of 2007. As these recent college grads move back in with their parents, and as student loan bills come due, many will wonder--was college worth the money?
The short answer is: probably. While studies of past recessions suggest that the unlucky Great Recession grads will do less well economically than those graduating during better times, they are still likely to earn more and have better job prospects than