Next week, Waukesha School District leaders plan to take an unusual step, one they contend is necessary after cutting $9.4 million worth of services over the past seven years: They will sit down with their teachers union to hash out a contract with help from a mediator.
What’s more unusual is the culprit that Waukesha Superintendent David Schmidt blames in part for the district’s financial woes: the state law intended to help school districts keep down teacher compensation costs.
“To some degree, we’d like to say we can control our labor costs,” Schmidt said. “The QEO makes that harder.”
Schmidt has company in other state school officials who contend the QEO, known more formally as the qualified economic offer law, has created fiscal problems for them. After 15 years with the law, considered one leg of the state’s so-called three-legged stool for school funding, calls for change are coming from many quarters.
At issue is what some have called the cap gap that exists between the roughly 2% increase in school revenue allowed annually under current law and the 3.8% boost in salaries and benefits practically guaranteed by the QEO, which says school boards can avoid arbitration if they offer teachers compensation increases in that amount.
“That’s probably the core issue right now within our system that’s causing some frustration from school district administrators,” said state Rep. Brett Davis (R-Oregon).
Although Waukesha school officials have not revealed the details of talks with the teachers union, indications are that their unusual move this year toward mediation and possible arbitration is to seek less than a 3.8% package increase for their teachers.
In addition to school leaders who complain the law’s conflict with revenue caps has forced staff cuts, teachers say the QEO increase has suppressed salaries. Critics contend it has helped educators keep inflated benefits.
To better understand the local and state implications of the obesity epidemic, we ranked the nation’s heaviest cities. In doing so, we discovered states with multiple offenders, metropolitan areas with expanding waistlines and a high representation of Southern cities. Worse yet, after claiming the title of the most sedentary city, Memphis, Tenn., has also ranked first as the country’s most obese.
Behind the Numbers
To determine which cities were the most obese, we looked at 2006 data on body mass index, or BMI, collected by the Centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which conducts phone interviews with residents of metropolitan areas about health issues, including obesity, diabetes and exercise.
In this case, participants report their height and weight, which survey analysts use to calculate a BMI. Those with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 are considered at a healthy weight, those with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight, and those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese. About 32% of the nation is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control; Memphis ranked above the national average at 34%.
A generation of experience with racial integration has taught a clear lesson: Sitting black kids next to white kids in school is not a silver bullet that zaps unequal achievement.
However, the faith that proximity leads to equal achievement remains the cargo cult of education. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court barred school assignments based on race to increase racial diversity. So school leaders immediately began considering economic integration plans instead.
Sit poor kids next to middle-class kids. That should work!
Presidential candidate John Edwards – Mr. Two Americas – has made this the core of his education proposals. He promises “a million housing vouchers” over five years to move poor kids to better schools in the `burbs plus $200 million to create magnet schools that will lure affluent kids to inner-city schools.
The magnet school scheme was tried from 1985 to 1997 in Kansas City, Mo., at a cost of $2billion. To lure suburban white students, Kansas City’s inner-city schools were equipped with lavish facilities: Indoor pools, gymnasia, high-tech science labs, computers, etc. But programs designed for the needs and interests of middle-class white suburbanites did not serve inner-city blacks. And few suburban students were willing to commute to city schools for a luxury athletic complex or a classics magnet. Test scores remained dreadful. By 1997, the district actually had a smaller percentage of white students than when the plan started.
Well, what about moving poor kids to better schools?
Much more on Kansas City here.
And somehow, in a time window one third the size that many adults take for lunch, 215 young children crowd around picnic-style tables, consume chicken nuggets — or whatever they brought from home — and hustle outside to play.
Squeezed by tight school budgets, the federal No Child Left Behind law and Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction rules on instructional time, the school lunch period isn’t what it used to be in many school districts.
ver the years,” said Frank Kelly, food services director of the Madison School District, who estimates that overall, school lunch periods in the district have been trimmed about 10 minutes over the past 10 years.
“I don’t think people are going to accept anything less than this.”
In fact, in response to complaints from parents four years ago, Madison officials eased the lunch crunch a bit for elementary students by using the last five minutes of the class period before lunch to move students to the cafeteria.
There was talk four years ago of expanding the elementary lunch period to 35 minutes. But the idea was dropped after officials estimated it might cost more than $2 million to pay teachers and lunch supervisors.
“We don’t have much flexibility in extending that,” said Sue Abplanalp, an assistant superintendent who oversees Madison’s elementary schools.
While DPI leaves it up to local officials to determine the length of lunch periods, Madison educators say they believe they attain a decent compromise by giving:
•Elementary students 20 minutes.
•Middle school students 30 to 34 minutes.
•High school students about 35 minutes (except at West High School, where most students get 55 minutes under a plan initiated last year).
Those schedules are typical of what’s found around Wisconsin, said Kelly, who has worked in food service for 31 years.
“For most of our people, it works very well,” Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater said.
The Adobe® Design Achievement Awards celebrate student achievement that reflects the powerful convergence of technology and creative arts. Winners represent work by some of the most talented and promising student graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, animators, digital filmmakers, and computer artists from the world’s top institutions of higher education.
The student finalists and winners were honored by Adobe and the community during an awards gala and gallery on August 2, 2007 in the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
Just two years after a majority of visitors to Merriam-Webster OnLine declared it to be their “Favorite Word (Not in the Dictionary),” the adjective “ginormous” (now officially defined as “extremely large: humongous”), has won a legitimate place in the 2007 copyright update of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.
Merriam-Webster updates its best-selling Collegiate® Dictionary every year with a number of new words, senses, and variants. This year, the word “ginormous” was one of approximately 100 neologisms to make the cut, while many others will stay “closely watched” by our editors for possible inclusion in future revisions. (This, of course, begs the question: so just exactly how does a word get into the Merriam-Webster dictionary?)
The Republican-run Assembly passed a budget late Tuesday that avoids tax increases by funding education, the University of Wisconsin System and local governments with much less than what Democratic legislators insist is needed to protect programs for two years.
The $56.3 billion Assembly budget, passed on a 51-44 vote, diverges from the version passed June 26 by the Democrat-led Senate in almost every area of spending.
Next, eight legislative leaders – four Republicans and four Democrats – will meet as a conference committee to negotiate a compromise two-year budget. Those talks could stretch into the fall or beyond, since Senate Democrats voted to spend $9.8 billion more than Assembly Republicans.
K-12 state spending growth: Provide $150 million in new school aid, $85 million less than what Democrats want. Current annual school aid is $4.7 billion.
“Could you repeat the question?”
In recent years, that has become the most common response to questions I pose to my law students at Georgetown University. It is usually asked while the student glances up from the laptop screen that otherwise occupies his or her field of vision. After I repeat the question, the student’s gaze as often as not returns to the computer screen, as if the answer might magically appear there. Who knows, with instant messaging, maybe it will.
Some years back, our law school, like many around the country, wired its classrooms with Internet hookups. It’s the way of the future, I was told. Now we are a wireless campus, and incoming students are required to have laptops. So my first-year students were a bit surprised when I announced at the first class this year that laptops were banned from my classroom.
I did this for two reasons, I explained. Note-taking on a laptop encourages verbatim transcription. The note-taker tends to go into stenographic mode and no longer processes information in a way that is conducive to the give and take of classroom discussion. Because taking notes the old-fashioned way, by hand, is so much slower, one actually has to listen, think and prioritize the most important themes.
Blame for the media
“Half isn’t enough,” John Matthews, the head of Madison Teachers Inc., was saying shortly after Marj Passman conceded her school board loss to Maya Cole and Beth Moss claimed victory Tuesday night at Fyfe’s.
Matthews, whose union played a key role in both candidates’ races, says Passman’s victory was needed to provide a greater push for the Legislature to increase school funding.
Dear Editor: My ten years on the Madison School Board have convinced me that the board’s highest priorities must be new ideas and new community partnerships. Maya Cole gets my vote for Seat 5 because innovation is her top priority and she has the energy to bring the community together to plan for the future.
As a community and school activist, Maya has learned to listen and build consensus. She is an independent and original thinker at a time when the board needs exactly that.
Inadequate state and federal funding for public schools and overreliance on residential property tax revenues are very significant problems. However, we cannot postpone innovation until those problems are solved.
We must start today by encouraging innovative programs, including charter schools, and enlisting business and community allies in new funding partnerships. We must evaluate curriculum in ways that are understandable and be willing to change when the student results are not as promising as we had hoped.
Together we must envision a high-achieving, stable school system in 2020. A shared vision of the future of our schools will help us agree on the changes necessary at the state and federal level as well as the changes necessary here and now.
Maya Cole understands innovation and can provide critical leadership during these difficult times. Please join me in voting for her.
Ruth Robarts, Member, Board of Education, Madison
A letter to the editor
Anita Clark, Wisconsin State Journal, writes: Thousands more voters than usual are seeking absentee ballots from the Madison city clerk’s office as Tuesday’s election approaches.
“Please don’t ruin our east side schools,” said parent Sue Arneson at Wednesday night’s hearing on closing east side schools.
Maya Cole met Chad Vader last weekend at Indie Coffee.
Channel 3000 reports on changes to School closing plans. “The Madison Metropolitan School District has changed its plans for school closings and consolidation, and some north side parents said they were caught off guard by the new plan.”
Ruth’s recent post on the Madison School District’s Student Discipline Code generated some email. There are a number of related posts available here, including the Fall, 2005 Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio / Video. Post your comments here.
|Watch this 2 hour discussion or download the 69MB video clip.|
“I want to know why these charter options exist in other parts of the state, but not in Madison,” said Christina Navaro. “Here in the shadow of this amazing university, why don’t we have the choices that will keep parents in the public school system?”
Becky Van Houten, director of the Preschool of the Arts, where Donahue had taught, tried to give a historical perspective on the importance of a Reggio education.
“The educators who created Reggio were reacting to the terrors of fascist regimes,” she said. “They wanted to educate students who would not simply go along with what they were told.”
Last night at the Hunt Institute retreat for North Carolina legislators, the former governor, Jim Hunt, handed out copies he’d underlined to everyone there, urging the legislators to “read every word.”
Schools like KIPP and Amistad [Clusty on Amistad] that succeed in educating low-income students tend to do three things well, Education Gadfly points out.
Students are required to be in school longer-much longer-than their peers in traditional public schools.
Pupils are tested, and re-tested, to measure achievement. Lesson plans, teaching strategies, even whole curricula are adjusted based on how well, or poorly, students are learning what they should. Moreover, teachers are closely monitored and constantly working to improve their skills.
Students’ behavior and values are aggressively shaped by school leaders and instructors.
What is complicated, however, is implementing these changes within today’s rule-bound, bureaucratic system, with its collective bargaining constraints, bureaucratic regulations, and the inertia of 100-plus years of public education. It’s no coincidence that all of Tough’s profiled schools are charters, and as such have the freedom to do things differently and take control of their own destinies. In turn, this greater autonomy allows them to attract many top-notch, talented, and energetic teachers who are willing to work long hours for mediocre pay because they yearn for a results-oriented, break-the-rules environment. Replicating this atmosphere in the traditional system would be hard-maybe even impossible. But expanding charter schools–and getting more good ones-is no easy feat, either.
Dennis Doyle adds a few thoughts.
WIBA’s Vicki McKenna and Active Citizens for Education’s Don Severson discussed a variety of topics today, including Judy Newman’s series on Madison’s changing economic landscape, the Madison School District’s budget process and the planned November referendum for a new far west side school, Leopold Elementary school expansion and debt consolidation. 17MB MP3 audio.
Her friend’s attention is laserlike, totally focused on her texts, even after an evening of study. “We were so bored,” Lessing says. But the friend was still “really into it. It’s annoying.”
The reason for the difference: Her pal is fueled with “smart pills” that increase her concentration, focus, wakefulness and short-term memory.
As university students all over the country emerge from final exam hell this month, the number of healthy people using bootleg pharmaceuticals of this sort seems to be soaring.
Such brand-name prescription drugs “were around in high school, but they really exploded in my third and fourth years” of college, says Katie Garrett, a 2005 University of Virginia graduate.
adison seventh-grader Isabel Jacobson proved that her bite was louder than her bark on Wednesday at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, correctly spelling affenpinscher – a breed of small dogs of European origin – on her way to advancing to the fourth round.
The bee stopped for the day in the middle of the fourth round, with Jacobson yet to spell and 46 spellers still standing.
Competition resumes this morning at 11 CDT and will be aired live on ESPN. The final rounds will be aired tonight live on ABC from 7 to 9 CDT.
National Spelling Bee website
|28 minute video excerpt of this evening’s discussion of the MMSD’s food service budget (the food service budget is evidently supposed to break even, but the operating budget has apparently been subsidizing it by several hundred thousand dollars annually).|
This sort of excellent citizen oversite is essential to any publicly financed organization, particularly one that plans to spend $332M in taxpayer funds next year and hopes to pass referenda in the near future.
Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin made a similar case today when he discussed our fair city’s water problems:
It’s funny how progressives forget their history and the reason for doing things. The idea is to have a citizen board, not a board with public employees. That is part of the checks and balances. In fact the progressive left in Madison went though considerable time over the years gradually removing city staff from committees so they would not dominate and squelch the citizens who are more likely to be ‘whistleblowers.’
In the water example, a citizen spent years chasing this issue, finally getting the attention of the traditional media and the politicians.
A number of board members have been asking many questions (the video clip will give you a nice overview of who is asking the questions and what the responses are). You can check the action out here (Each “Tab” is a question to the Administration, with their response”). For example, we learn in tab 11 2 Page PDF that the district spent a net (after 200K in gate receipts and 450K in student fees) $1,433,603 on athletics in 2005/2006 and plans to spend a net $1,803,286 in 2006/2007, a 25% increase. The overall budget will grow by more than 3%.
This is quite a change from past years, and provides some hope for the future.
“A small cadre of math specialists is helping teachers with instruction and curriculum.”
While it sounds promising that “math specialists” will be helping teachers with instruction and curriculum, the converse may be likely to occur.
In the following excerpt from “Why Johnny Can’t Calculate” (Los Angeles Times, September 26, 2005–link here), CSU-Northridge mathematics professor David Klein and high school teacher Jennifer Marple have detailed how the “experts” responsible for professional development for LAUSD often fail to deliver.
The district requires math teachers to attend in-service meetings to learn more math and better ways to teach it. No one would quarrel with those goals, but the quality of professional development programs is often so poor that they are likely to cause more harm than good.
Landmark Legal Foundation today asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate numerous activities by the National Education Association’s Wisconsin affiliate, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) that may have violated federal tax law.
WEAC made a total of $430,000 in contributions to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) that weren’t reported on WEAC’s tax returns. The DLCC is a political organization formed by the Democratic National Committee to provide funding and logistical assistance to state legislative campaigns around the country. The WEAC contributions, which were reported by the DLCC on its tax filings, were made in 2000 and 2002, and were apparently used by the DLCC to underwrite state legislative campaigns in California and elsewhere.
WEAC is a 501(c)(5) tax-exempt union under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). As a 501(c)(5), WEAC is required to report and pay federal income tax on almost any general revenue funds used for political purposes, including contributions made by the union to political organizations like the DLCC (called 527s, for the section of the IRC under which they are formed.) WEAC’s own 527, the Wisconsin Education Association Council — Political Action Committee (WEAC-PAC), also did not report the DLCC contributions in question on their tax filings.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial:
t is simply nothing short of catastrophic that so many Milwaukee youngsters are being left behind in a world in which a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma. It’s a trend that bodes ill for the region’s capacity to grow and compete.
Yes, Milwaukee again makes a list it should wish it weren’t on with a ranking that should properly make every Milwaukee Public Schools official, School Board member, teacher, parent and taxpayer intensely introspective, not to mention angry.
That’s because, whether the graduation rate is 45% – ranking it 94th among the 100 largest school districts in the country, according to the generally conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute – or 61% or 67%, what, respectively, the state and district say it is, that’s too few high schoolers graduating.
And the gap between African-American and white achievement in Wisconsin (and between boys and girls) should be topics getting more focus than they have to date. The Manhattan Institute study, released Tuesday, says Wisconsin overall enjoys an 85% graduation rate, but for African-Americans statewide, it’s 55%, the second lowest in the country.
Yes, we know all the societal factors involved in low graduation rates, mostly revolving around poverty. However, these graduation figures also point to a degree of failure in the district in dealing with these realities
“I just really hated school, and Roosevelt brought that out of me,” the 19-year-old said one spring afternoon next to an iron handrail that doubled as a launching slope. “Being told what to do and what to learn. Having to do homework. Grades. Grade levels. Everything that this school stands against.”
Justin will graduate in June from the highly unconventional Fairhaven School with a diploma that may require explanation to a college or future boss. He took no tests in his three years at the private school, received no grades and had no course requirements. But he played electric guitar, read and wrote poetry, made friends and got the last laugh on lunch. “No more tater tots!” he said.
About 50 of 122 schools in the voucher program have no form of accreditation – no organization outside the school that is giving it a stamp of approval. Although some of the unaccredited schools should be able to get accreditation, the list includes almost all the schools that raise the most doubts among knowledgeable observers.
Some of those observers will be in positions to do something because they will be involved in accreditation, and generally, they are talking a tough game: They will be insistent that voucher schools demonstrate they meet genuine standards of quality.
The new law makes that more than idle talk. While attention focused on allowing the program to grow from less than 15,000 students to 22,500, the law also makes this clear: No accreditation, no money from the state.
Sarah Carr has more.
Oprah Winfrey recently used two days of her program to highlight the crisis in American public schools, focusing attention on our appalling dropout problem. The visuals were quite stunning.
In one segment, a group of inner-city Chicago students traded places with a group of suburban students to compare facilities and curriculums. In another, a valedictorian from a rural high school told of needing remedial classes in college. Perhaps most striking of all, CNN’s Andersen Cooper toured a high school near the White House that was in a shameful state of disrepair. Pieces of the ceiling had fallen on the ground, holes in the roof let rain pour into the school, restrooms were inoperable and unlit.
Oprah deserves a good deal of credit for putting a spotlight on these problems. Public schools face a dropout problem of stunning scale. Estimates from the Manhattan Institute put the nation’s dropout rate near 30 percent, with rates much higher among low-income and minority students. Many who do graduate do so without mastering high-school level material, as evidenced not only by the need for remediation among college students, but also in the stunningly poor literacy skills of the public.
National reading tests show that 38 percent of our fourth-graders score “below basic” in reading, meaning that they have failed to gain the basic literacy skills necessary to function academically. These students will drift into middle school, and literally be unable to make heads or tails of their textbooks.
via Andrew Rotherham:
Matthew Ladner, of steak dinner fame, weighs-in in the Philly Inquirer about what the Oprah hype all means. You can disagree with Ladner’s advocacy of vouchers but he nails the macro-problem here:
Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago:
Following CPS (Chicago Public Schools) graduates from 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003, this report uses records from Chicago high schools and data from the National Student Clearinghouse to examine the college experiences of all CPS alumni who entered college in the year after they graduated high school.
The study paints a discouraging picture of college success for CPS graduates. Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of seniors state that they expect to graduate from a four-year college, only about 30 percent enroll in a four-year college within a year of graduating high school, and only 35 percent of those who enroll received a bachelor’s degree within six years. According to this report, CPS students’ low grades and test scores are keeping them from entering four-year colleges and more selective four-year colleges.
Complete study [14.9MB PDF]
Teachers are far more pessimistic than parents about getting every student to succeed in reading and math as boldly promised by the No Child Left Behind Act. That’s left a huge expectations gap between the two main sets of adults in children’s lives.
An AP-AOL Learning Services Poll found nearly eight in 10 parents are confident their local schools will have students up to state standards by the 2013-14 school year target. Yet only half of teachers are confident the kids in their schools will meet that deadline.
The finding underscores a theme in the poll. Parents and teachers often disagree on daily aspects of education, from the state of discipline to the quality of high schools.
A major reason is that adults see the children differently. Parents tend to focus on their own children, while teachers work with dozens of students from different backgrounds.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA—Does a school’s performance on California’s Academic Performance Index (API) relate to the use of a particular curriculum program? An analysis released today by EdSource from a large-scale survey of elementary schools serving similarly-challenged students suggests an answer.
School APIs are based on student test scores on the California Standards Tests, which measure how well students at the school are mastering grade level academic standards. According to many experts, California’s K-12 academic standards, adopted in the late 1990s, are among the most challenging in the nation.
The new analysis found that for English language arts, using the Open Court curriculum program school-wide did appear to make a difference in a school’s API score. Open Court appeared to be most effective when it was:
- used intensively—i.e., all teachers in the school reported using Open Court daily;
- combined with a coherent, school-wide, standards-based instructional program; and
- combined with the frequent use of student assessment data to improve instruction.
Open Court is one of two main English language arts curriculum packages currently approved by the State Board of Education in California. The new findings are the result of an extended regression analysis of survey data collected last spring from 5,500 K-5 classroom teachers in 257 schools from 145 different districts.
Joanne Jacobs has more.
Accountability is a constructive and increasingly powerful force in the education of New York City schoolchildren. It starts with report cards and runs far deeper.
Third-graders have to pass a basic skills test to be promoted to fourth grade. High school seniors cannot earn a Regents diploma without passing a series of exams. And, of course, students hoping to attend college need to take, and perform moderately well, on the SAT or ACT.
B ut while young people have been held increasingly accountable for results, adults who work in the schools have been largely shielded from such judgments. Whether students succeed or not has little or no effect on whether teachers or administrators continue to be employed or how much they are paid. Heroic educators who transform the lives of their students are not rewarded, nor are subpar educators who deprive students of future opportunities required to improve or punished.
Last month, members of the non-profit Wisconsin Academic Decathlon announced that “donor fatigue” had severely weakened program donations and that the organization would deplete its reserves to make it through this year’s State Finals. Program Director Molly Ritchie revealed that the 23-year-old extra curricular scholastic program for Wisconsin high school students might very well have to shut down. Ritchie invited a major corporate sponsor, or sponsors, to come to the rescue with a $150,000 donation.
Dependent on private funding for the last eleven years-since the elimination of their Department of Public Instruction state grant in 1995, Wisconsin has maintained a solid and competitive statewide program, third largest among 40 in the nation, faring well in national competition. For the past two decades, the state champions have placed in the top 10 nationwide, in all but two appearances, and landed the national overall title with Waukesha West’s big win in 2002. However, the program’s success alone no longer generates enough donations to cover the $220,000+ annual budget (67% of funds are secured through donations, team entrance fees bring in the rest).
Peter Gascoyne kindly covered this years event, held a few weeks ago.
In recent weeks Madison homeowners received their 2006 assessments. Most of us saw an increase in the value of our homes. What will this mean for the next property tax bill?
Last spring Grandparents United for Madison Public Schools attempted to explain that school property taxes had actually gone down for many Madison homeowners over the previous 10 years.
Now it’s time to revisit five factors that influence the school district’s role in your property tax bill.
School District tax levy: Property taxpayers fund a little less than two-thirds of the Madison School District budget, which was $321 million in 2005-06.
Rick Burke remembers looking at his elementary-school daughter’s math homework and wondering where the math was.
Like many Seattle schools, his daughter’s school was teaching “reform” math, a style that encourages students to discover math principles and derive formulas themselves. Burke, an engineer, worried that his daughter wasn’t learning basic math skills.
“It was a lot of drawing pictures and playing games,” he said. “Her whole first-grade year was pretty much a lateral move.”
So for the past few years, Burke and his wife have been tutoring their three children after school — and this fall, they plan to switch them to North Beach Elementary, which uses a more traditional approach to math.
The biggest problem is that the teachers currently in service never learned enough math to begin with, and so can’t be expected to teach what they don’t already know. We only think our teachers know math because they know just as little math as we do. If you want to know how scarily ignorant of math our teachers are, I suggest reading Liping Ma’s Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics for a start.
I’ve written about this on my own blog, and I’m not just talking out of my butt here. I’ve taught math to these potential teachers. They lack the prerequisite skills to pass a college algebra class. You can tell who in the class is in the Elementary Education program; they’re the ones sitting in the back row, getting a D on every exam because they have to use a calculator to do three times two (and they think this is normal). So when Bob Brandt of Bellevue says “How do you know three times two equals six? Any idiot knows that,” I would counter that an exceptional idiot must be teaching his kids math. We’ve raised an entire generation of teachers who don’t even know enough about math to know that they are ignorant of it.
D-Ed Reckoning touches on math as well.
Looking to give poorer students the technological muscle to scale the “digital divide,” the Milwaukee Public Schools district is turning to the promise of an emerging wireless service described as “Wi-Fi on steroids.”
Using WiMax, MPS would provide free broadband Internet service to the homes of all MPS students and staff.
The district would be one of the first public entities in the country to launch a WiMax system, using television channels that the Federal Communications Commission allocated for educational purposes. A pilot system covering roughly 5 square miles is scheduled to be operating by August 2007.
Having said all this, let me turn, now, to some of the reasons for the growing public cries for better accountability, and some of the problems I think we need to address in our system of self-regulation:
1. Even in the best-performing universities, there is still considerable room for improvement. To mention one high-visibility area, I think it is nothing short of scandalous that, in 2006, the average six-year graduation rate is only around 50 percent nationwide. Either we are doing a disservice to under-prepared or unqualified students by admitting them in the first place, or we are failing perfectly capable students by not giving them the advising and other help they need to graduate. Either way, we are wasting money and human capital inexcusably. Even at universities like mine, where the graduation rate is now 80 percent, if there are peer institutions doing better (and there are), then 80 percent should be considered unacceptably low.
Now, if we were pressured to increase that number quickly to 85 percent or 90 percent and threatened with severe sanctions for failing to do so, we could meet any established goal by lowering our graduation standards, or by fudging our numbers in plausibly defensible ways, or by doing any number of other things that would satisfy our self-interest but fail the public-interest test. Who’s to stop us? Well, I submit these are exactly the sorts of conflicts of interest the accrediting organizations should be expected to monitor and resolve in the public interest. The public interest is in a better-educated public, not in superficial compliance with some particular standard. The public relies on accreditors to keep their eye on the right ball. More generally, accrediting organizations are in an excellent — maybe even unique — position to identify best practices and transfer them from one colleges to another, improving our entire system of higher education.
Some parents say the Madison School District’s spending cuts, combined with its attempts to close the achievement gap, have reduced opportunities for higher-achieving students.
Jeff Henriques, a parent of two high-achieving students, said one of the potential consequences he sees is “bright flight” – families pulling students with higher abilities out of the district and going elsewhere because their needs aren’t being met.
One of the larger examples of this conflict is surfacing in the district’s move toward creating “heterogeneous” classes that include students of all achievement levels, eliminating classes that group students of similar achievement levels together.
Advocates of heterogeneous classes say students achieving at lower levels benefit from being in classes with their higher-achieving peers. But some parents of higher-achieving students are concerned their children won’t be fully challenged in such classes – at a time when the amount of resources going to talented and gifted, or TAG, programs is also diminishing.
Check out Part I and Part II of Cullen’s series.
Watch Professor Gamoran’s presentation, along with others related to the homogeneous / heterogeneous grouping debate here. Links and commentary and discussion on West’s English 10. Jason Shepherd took a look at these issues in his “Fate of the Schools” article.
The concept of Talent Development rests largely on two pillars. One is a special ninth-grade “academy” that focuses extra attention on freshmen, who are at the highest risk of dropping out. Once students make it to 10th grade, the odds are strong that they will graduate.
The other pillar involves a different way of scheduling classes. Known as the “four-by-four block schedule,” it breaks the school year into quarters, and the school day into four 90-minute classes. The idea is to make each course more intensive, collapsing a semester’s work into 10 weeks. It also gives students the opportunity to take more courses over a school year — 16, compared with 12 in a typical schedule. If a student flunks a class, there are more opportunities to make it up.
John Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley adopted the four-by-four schedule in 2004, along with other aspects of the Talent Development program. Last June, 92% of its ninth-graders had enough credits to move up to 10th grade, about one-third more than the previous year.
Other school districts surrounding Madison also are seeing an increase in minority and low-income students.
In Sun Prairie and Verona, the percentage of minority students is more than five times what it was in the early 1990s, while the percentage of low-income students in Verona has more than doubled. Both districts also have seen significant growth in the number of Hispanic students who are not proficient in English.
Private schools in the Madison area also are seeing increases in their percentage of minority students. In the last seven years, minority enrollment increased 54 percent at Edgewood High School, where minorities now make up nearly 12 percent of the student body. At Madison Country Day School, in the Waunakee School District, 17 percent of its 247 students are minorities, up from 15 percent in 1997.
Between 1997 and 2004, enrollment at private schools in the Madison School District increased by 400 students, according to figures compiled by the district. Edgewood spokeswoman Kate Ripple said most Madison students who enroll in the private Catholic high school do so because of its faith component.
I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas…. Soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.
—J. M. Keynes
The General Theory of Employment,
Interest, and Money
Consider the following sentence, which is one that most literate Americans can understand, but most literate British people cannot, even when they have a wide vocabulary and know the conventions of the standard language:
Jones sacrificed and knocked in a run.
Typically, a literate British person would know all the words in the sentence yet wouldn’t comprehend it. (In fairness, most Americans would be equally baffled by a sentence about the sport of cricket.)
Two articles on Proposition 82:
- Dana Hull:
It sounds like a no-brainer for advocates of early childhood education: a state ballot initiative that would offer preschool to every 4-year-old in California, free of charge to parents. What preschool wouldn’t be all for that?
But as the June 6 election approaches, an increasingly vocal number of preschools are lining up against it.
Some Montessori schools fear Proposition 82, dubbed the Preschool for All Act, would lead to state standards that could compromise their teaching methods and mixed-age classrooms. Faith-based preschools say they would be at a competitive disadvantage because the measure wouldn’t fund schools that offer religious instruction. Others worry a requirement that teachers earn a bachelor’s degree would drive them out of business.
“I am going to vote no, and I am very much in favor of universal preschool,” said Bonnie Mathisen, director of Discovery Children’s House, a Montessori school in Palo Alto. “I just feel that Prop. 82 is not the right way to go about it. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, a lot of preschools will be left out.”
- Dana Hull:
The children, ages 3 to 6, are part of a class of 28 at Casa di Mir Montessori School in Campbell. While many schools group children by age, Montessori believes children of different ages teach, help and learn from each other.
Tara started the year as a kindergartner at a local elementary school, where her parents were stunned to learn there was homework. She rebelled against its structure, and her parents struggled with what to do. In January, they enrolled Tara at Casa di Mir.
“Montessori is perfect for her,” says Haleh, Tara’s mom. “They don’t ring a bell to start class; they play a flute. She wrote a four-page journal about cats.”
- Joanne Jacobs has more
The Times is to be congratulated for its tough-love posture on No Child Left Behind legislation (editorial, April 9). Too many states shortchange too many students with “loophole” diplomas by lowering their standards on their way to the deadline of 2014 for all students being “proficient” in math and English. This inevitable fiasco could be avoided if the U.S. went to a national curriculum, with corresponding assessments and standards to be met by all students nationwide. Talk about equity and equal access for all.
Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan — the top five performers on math exams — all benefit from this standardization of what’s expected in their schools. So could the United States.
Give a kid a laptop and it might not make any difference.
That’s the message from research presented here Monday, which suggests that spending millions of dollars to bring technology into kids’ homes and schools has decidedly mixed results.
Taxpayer-supported school computer and Internet giveaways are political gold, but studies have questioned whether they actually help student achievement. This research, presented at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting, confirms skeptics’ doubts.
In one study, researchers from Syracuse and Michigan State universities examined a program that gave laptop computers to middle-school students in Ohio in 2003. Preliminary findings are mixed.
“Overall, we don’t know if it is a worthwhile investment,” says Syracuse researcher Jing Lei.
We should not spend money on these things unless and until we get the basics right (Math, reading/writing and science).
Black students in Fairfax County are consistently scoring lower on state standardized tests than African American children in Richmond, Norfolk and other comparatively poor Virginia districts, surprising Fairfax educators and forcing one of the nation’s wealthiest school systems to acknowledge shortcomings that have been masked by its overall success.
Even within Fairfax schools, black elementary school students are outperformed on reading and math tests by whites and some other students, including Hispanics, poor children and immigrants learning English.
Well worth reading.
In a move decried by some as state-sponsored segregation, the legislature voted Thursday to divide the Omaha school system into three districts — one mostly black, one predominantly white and one largely Hispanic.
tate Sen. Pat Bourne of Omaha decried the bill, saying, “We will go down in history as one of the first states in 20 years to set race relations back.”
“History will not, and should not, judge us kindly,” said state Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha.
There is no intent to create segregation,” said state Sen. Ernie Chambers (Omaha), the legislature’s only black senator and a longtime critic of the school system.
He argued that the district is already segregated, because it no longer buses students for integration and instead requires them to attend their neighborhood school.
Chambers said the schools attended largely by minorities lack the resources and well-qualified teachers provided others in the district. He said the black students he represents in north Omaha would receive a better education if they had more control over their district.
When San Diego’s school district began overhauling its science-education curriculum five years ago, it wanted to raise the performance of minority, low-income and immigrant students.
But parents in middle- and upper-income areas, where many students were already doing well, rebelled against the new curriculum, and a course called Active Physics in particular. They called it watered-down science, too skimpy on math.
A resistance movement took hold. Some teachers refused to use the new textbooks, which are peppered with cartoons. They gathered up phased-out texts to use on the sly. As controversy over the issue escalated, it played a part in an election in which the majority of the school board was replaced. Now, further curriculum changes are under consideration.
The skirmishes in the nation’s eighth-largest urban school district reflect a wider battle over how to make science classes accessible to a broader array of students while maintaining their rigor.
Amid mediocre U.S. scores on international science tests and predictions of future shortages of scientists and engineers, policy makers have begun requiring more science in schools. By 2011, 27 states will require high-school students to take at least three science courses to graduate. In 1992, only six had such requirements.
Last year, Joan Blair’s daughter enrolled at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School, the new creative and performing arts school in Silver Spring. She is learning high-school-level Spanish, ranks above grade level in math, and takes theater and arts courses that she loves. But her science and social studies classes, where students of different academic levels are grouped together, are not rigorous enough, Blair said.
“As a teacher, how are you going to meet the needs of all students if they are all mixed together?” Blair asked.
She was among the more than 100 parents, teachers and educators who filed into Francis Scott Key Middle School in Silver Spring on a recent Monday night to offer concerns and suggestions at a community outreach session aimed at helping the Montgomery County school system improve its middle schools. The event was the last of three such sessions that drew crowds of county residents and educators eager to participate in a middle school reform initiative launched last fall.
The initiative was partially prompted by a middle school audit released last year that showed a lag in achievement, particularly among African American and Hispanic students, students learning English, students with disabilities and those living in poverty. The independent audit found that county middle schools are not consistent in the application of curriculum standards, the quality of school improvement programs, teacher training opportunities and discipline procedures.
Villaraigosa’s advisors look at extending the academic year and selling the headquarters.
As Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pursues control of the Los Angeles school system, his advisors are considering wide-ranging changes that could gut the central bureaucracy, sell the district’s headquarters, keep students in class until 5 p.m. and extend the academic year to 10 1/2 months.
Like many journalists, I love to read other people’s mail. West Potomac High School parent John Dickert kindly sent me an exchange of messages with Ann Monday, assistant superintendent for instructional services for the Fairfax County public schools. Their dialogue shows why Fairfax County educators disagree with many parents over the new policy of eliminating honors courses in 11th grade and leaving students a choice of a regular class or an Advanced Placement course in humanities subjects such as history.
San Francisco is one of a handful of public school districts across the nation that mimic an education market. In these districts, the money follows the children, parents have the right to choose their children’s public schools and leave underperforming schools, and school principals and communities have the right to spend their school budgets in ways that make their schools more desirable to parents.
Thanks to weighted funding, schools get more money for harder-to-educate students. Principals decide how to allocate funds.
In San Francisco the weighted student formula gives each school a foundation allocation that covers the cost of a principal’s salary and a clerk’s salary. The rest of each school’s budget is allocated on a per student basis. There is a base amount for the “average student,” with additional money assigned based on individual student characteristics: grade level, English language skills, socioeconomic status, and special education needs.
. . . The more students a school attracts, the bigger the school’s budget. So public schools in San Francisco now have an incentive to differentiate themselves from one another. Every parent can look through an online catalog of niche schools that include Chinese, Spanish, and Tagalog language immersion schools, college preparatory schools, performing arts schools that collaborate with an urban ballet and symphony, schools specializing in math and technology, traditional neighborhood schools, and a year-round school based on multiple-intelligence theory. Each San Francisco public school is unique. The number of students, the school hours, the teaching style, and the program choices vary from site to site
Via Joanne Jacobs
New York City will give grades from A to F each year and principals at failing schools could be removed.
Today’s New York Times has an interesting article about whether the Advanced Placement program is actually worthy of its reputation.
The Advanced Placement program, administered by the College Board, began 50 years ago as a way to give a select few high school students a jump-start on college work. But in recent decades, it has morphed into something quite different – a mass program that reaches more than a million students each year and is used almost as much to impress college admissions officers and raise a school’s reputation as to get college credit. As the admissions race has hit warp speed, Advanced Placement has taken on new importance, and government officials, educators and the College Board itself have united behind a push to broaden access to A.P. courses as a matter of equity in education.
The Madison school board voted 4–3 Monday night to include additions to Leopold Elementary School in next year’s operating budget.
A final vote will come at a later meeting, but this essentially means that construction can start with our without a referendum.
Background on Leopold here. Johnny Winston, Jr., Juan Jose Lopez, Bill Keys and Shwaw Vang voted for the motion while Carol Carstensen, Lawrie Kobza and Ruth Robarts voted against it, preferring, I’m told, to consider this question with the entire 2006/2007 budget, which the board has not yet seen.
Student rep Connor Gants pointed out (he also voted for it) that the motion does not really matter as it could be changed when the 2006/2007 budget is actually approved. More on the budget, here.
Channel3000 has an update here.
Steve Barr is winning. Also, note the LA Times descriptor of charters, long at 22 words but not too shabby though it doesn’t get at the open admissions issue. Incidentally, per the posts below and the need to change public schools, this is the equation that ought to scare the teachers’ unions into moving on the issue: Steve Barr, strong union proponent, Teamster, along with a very big coalition of almost entirely minority parents is at odds with the teachers’ union and the school district in LA. You don’t need to be an ace political consultant to see the problem there…And if Barr doesn’t succeed, these guys (Clint Bolick, Ken Starr, and company) are more than willing to help out..
Shawn’s friends are not alone in their exodus. Of the 315 Shelbyville students who showed up for the first day of high school four years ago, only 215 are expected to graduate.
In today’s data-happy era of accountability, testing and No Child Left Behind, here is the most astonishing statistic in the whole field of education: an increasing number of researchers are saying that nearly one out of three public high school students won’t graduate, not just in Shelbyville but around the nation.
For Latinos and African-Americans, the rate approaches an alarming 50 percent. Virtually no community, small or large, rural or urban, has escaped the problem.
There is a small but hardy band of researchers who insist the dropout rates don’t quite approach those levels. They point to their pet surveys that suggest a rate of only 15 percent to 20 percent.
The New York City schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, is once again rethinking the nation’s largest school system.
He has hired Chris Cerf, former president of Edison Schools, the commercial manager of public schools in 25 states. He has retained Alvarez & Marsal, a consulting firm that revamped the school system in St. Louis and is rebuilding the system in New Orleans. And he has enlisted Sir Michael Barber, a former adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair of England who is now at McKinsey & Company in London.
They are evaluating everything from how textbooks and paper are bought, to how teacher training programs are chosen, to how students, teachers, principals and schools are judged. They are running focus groups of dozens of principals, and they are studying districts in England, Canada and California.
Their primary goal is to find ways to relax much of the very centralization put in place by the Bloomberg administration and give principals a far freer hand, provided the schools can meet goals for attendance, test scores, promotion rates and other criteria.
After more than three decades at IBM, Larry Leise and Susan Luerich could be planning a leisurely retirement. Instead, the married couple are headed back to college, with plans to start new careers in retirement as high school science teachers.
“Seeing the proverbial light bulb come on (in a student), there is no better feeling,” said Luerich, 54. “It’s a way to give back.”
And their bosses at IBM Corp. are only too happy to help.
Luerich and Leise, 58, are among the first batch of IBM employees taking the company up on its offer to pay for the college classes needed to leave Big Blue behind for a math or science classroom, where a shortage of qualified teachers concerns a company that thrives on high-tech innovation.
Unfortunately, it appears the controls proposed for school districts under the constitutional amendment could undo all that. Just as troubling, it also appears the amendment could seriously disequalize taxes and spending across school districts in Wisconsin – something that itself would appear to violate an existing constitutional mandate that requires school districts to be “as nearly uniform as practical.”
When the proposed amendment was introduced last month, I asked the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to analyze its effect on school levies compared to the statutory revenue controls in current law. Because the proposed constitutional limits would not be in effect until the 2009-10 fiscal year, the bureau analysis estimated the effect of the amendment if it had been in effect for the current school year rather than the current statutory controls.
According to the Fiscal Bureau analysis, “In the absence of the statutory revenue limits, the total allowable levy under the joint resolutions would have been $3.71 billion, which would have been an increase of $117.8 million compared to the actual 2005-06 levy.”
That begs the question, why would we amend the constitution to increase property taxes more than $100 million? How can that be labeled taxpayer protection?
The poll of California 9th- and 10th-graders, conducted for the James Irvine Foundation, found that six in 10 students didn’t particularly like school and weren’t motivated to succeed. But of those disaffected students, more than 90% said they would be more motivated if their school offered classes relevant to their future careers.
The poll was conducted to coincide with the launch of an Irvine Foundation center dedicated to encouraging the growth of career-oriented education in California. The foundation is spending $6 million on a new San Francisco-based center called ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career.
Washington’s African-American mayor, Anthony A. Williams, joined Republicans in supporting the program, prompted in part by a concession from Congress that pumped more money into public and charter schools. In doing so, Mr. Williams ignored the ire of fellow Democrats, labor unions and advocates of public schools.
“As mayor, if I can’t get the city together, people move out,” said Mr. Williams, who attended Catholic schools as a child. “If I can’t get the schools together, why should there be a barrier programmatically to people exercising their choice and moving their children out?”
School-choice programs have fervent opponents, and here, public school officials worry that the voucher program will diminish the importance of the neighborhood school, though the program serves only a relative few of the district’s 58,000 students. National critics of school choice like Reg Weaver, president of the country’s largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, accused voucher supporters of “exploiting the frustration of these minority parents to push for a political agenda” intended to undermine public schools.
The new TIMSS 1999 Video Study report on eighth-grade science teaching examines how students in 5 countries, including the United States, experience science as it is actually taught.
Education finance data include revenues, expenditures, debt, and assets (cash and security holdings) of elementary and secondary public school systems. These data are available in viewable tables and downloadable files. Information related to file layouts and definitions can be found in the Technical Documentation below.
Indeed, special education figures that are being used to suggest an autism explosion are faulty and confounded, said Paul Shattuck, a researcher at the university’s Waisman Center and author of the study, which appears in today’s issue of the journal Pediatrics.
From 1993 to 2003, statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education showed a 657% increase in autism across the country – an explosive jump that signaled an epidemic to many.
But Shattuck discovered that, at least in most cases, the numbers are not only misleading, they’re likely inaccurate. On one hand, they don’t support a dramatic increase in autism prevalence, but on the other, the figures could be underestimating the absolute number of children with the condition.
The Monona Grove School District referendum is just five days away, and the tension has just gotten thicker.
The issue has split the community, and now it has Monona’s Mayor and the School Board divided.
Both sides issued statements today and exchanged some heated words.
The Board accused the Mayor and Council of meddling in the District’s business, and Mayor Robb Kahl says the Board is personally attacking him.
This all started after the Mayor came out and publicly opposed the $29 million referendum, saying there’s a cheaper solution.
“When you can find a solution for about half that cost, it’s something where I don’t think I had a choice but to come out and make that known,” says Mayor Kahl.
Help me with something. What makes ed schools so special? In all seriousness are ed schools truly needed and if so, why? Why can students not have a liberal arts major and an education minor, student teach and then go into the classroom with full knowledge of the subject they are teaching. I guess a better question might be if I were to be a teacher what classes do I take as an undergrad and how many (and which) of those classes are truly meaningful and challenging? Which of the classes truly prepare me to teach?
…Just something I have wondered about — Today, it might help more people want to become teachers if they could teach something they were passionate about. Again, I do not know what classes education majors are required to take.
This is a serious question that deserves careful consideration, by people who have been in education schools and then tested out the theories taught there in the classroom. Unfortunately, serious and civil discussion is all too lacking. So let’s try. Here’s an expanded version of a comment I made:
While other public schools have named sports stadiums after major donors, New Berlin is believed to be the first Wisconsin district to actively solicit naming rights sponsors for other areas of its schools.
The InPro corporate sponsorship, which is worth $150,000 to the district, is the first of what New Berlin school officials hope will be a gravy train of private money for the Reagan school and the district’s high school additions.
Quite literally, the names of everything from conference rooms to weight rooms are for sale.
Despite nearly 30 years of improvements in U.S. children’s overall quality of life, their basic academic skills have barely budged, according to research led by a Duke University sociologist.
The “educational flatline,” as measured by scores on math and reading exams, defies researchers’ expectations, because other quality-of-life measures, such as safety and family income, have improved steadily since 1975.
More recently, even areas that had worsened in the 1970s and 1980s, such as rates of teen suicide, have improved dramatically, so researchers had expected that education improvements would soon follow. They didn’t.
2006 Child Well-Being Results.
The Educational Flatline, Causes and Results:The Education Flatline: Causes and Solutions
- The Education Flatline: Overview , by Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill
- A Short History of School Reform , by David T. Gordon
- The Role of PreK-3 in Improving School Achievement , by Gene Maeroff
- Charter Schools and No Child Left Behind: An Oncoming Collision? , by Bruno Manno and Martin West
- The Case for National Curriculum, National Standards, and National Tests , by Diane Ravitch
- If Wishes Were Horses: The Reality behind Teacher Quality Findings , by Kate Walsh
MAFAAC (the Madison Area Family Advisory/Advocacy Committee) and Communities United (a broadly-based coalition of groups and individuals representing Madison’s minority communities, and other citizens working on behalf of social justice and civil rights) held a school board candidate forum yesterday. MP3 Audio clips are avaible below:
- Opening Statements: [10.7MB mp3]
- Question 1: What do you think the causes are of the achievement gap? [7MB mp3]
- Question 2: What role do community groups play in addressing the achievement gap? [4MB mp3]
- Question 3: How would you rate the leadership of Superintendent Art Rainwater? [7.5MB mp3]
- Question 4: What are the sources of the discord, the disagreement on the board? [7.5MB mp3]
- Question 5: Barbara Golden Statement on Dissent, David (I could not catch his last name) has a question on the budget & Candidate Responses to the budget priorities. [6MB mp3]
- Question 6: Latinos Unite for Change in the Classroom. What are you going to do to support the needs of the ELL students? [3.5MB mp3]
- Question 7: The district insists that a young child go through an ESL program. The parents disagree. What is your role if someone brings you a case like this? [4.5MB mp3]
- Question 8: The chair of Communities United’s Statement and Question: What specifically would you do to insure that there is equity in the (District’s) programs. [8.5MB]
- Question 9: Audience questions regarding heterogeneous vs homogeneous classrooms; can people in the community who care about an issue like heterogeneity, get that in front of the school board? The way the board is currently comprised, the answer is no. [10.5MB mp3]
- Complete Event: 2 hours, 30 Minutes [65MB mp3]
he District of Columbia spends far more money per student in its public elementary and secondary schools each year than the tuition costs at many private elementary schools, or even college-preparatory secondary schools. Yet, District 8th-graders ranked dead last in 2005 in national reading and math tests.
Not one U.S. state can boast that a majority of the 8th-graders in its public schools last year had achieved grade-level proficiency or better in either reading or math.
How much money did your state spend per pupil while failing to adequately educate in reading and math the majority of students in its public schools? The answers are in the chart below.
Wisconsin ranked 11th in per student spending ($9,805 – Madison spends about $13,107 per student (321M budget [pdf]) / 24,490). Via Joanne, who notes that there is not much correlation between spending and NAEP test performance. UW-Madison emeritus professor Dick Askey discussed NAEP scores with respect to math performance recently.
Arthur Levine, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Several years ago, I was part of a group that a philanthropist had assembled to review his foundation’s education agenda. In the course of a two-day meeting, the conversation turned negative only once, when education schools were discussed.
The philanthropist said he had given up on education schools, preferring to work with business schools or organizations outside of colleges and universities. A former governor who was known to be a thoughtful education-policy leader chimed in, calling the flagship education school in his state largely irrelevant. A major school-system superintendent reported having told the two education schools in his area that if they were unable to turn one of his high schools around, they should go out of business. Dismissively he said that only one of the education schools was even trying. A union leader nodded in agreement, something the superintendent had rarely experienced.
This is an age of finger-pointing. As profound demographic, economic, global, and technological changes rack the country, all of our social institutions — created to serve a disappearing world — perform less well than they once did. As they try to adjust to a society in motion, they appear to be broken and unable to fix themselves. Thus we say the government is broken. The American family is broken. So it is with the education school.
The response by the public is to withdraw. As it does, we increasingly see the institution in distorted caricature, and we develop unrealistic expectations for what it should be able to accomplish. We blame the institution for all of the problems in its field and deem its inability to change willful.
After only 50 percent of Arizona’s eighth-grade public school students passed a standardized reading test, state education officials took decisive action: They made the exam easier. Last year, 71 percent of students were rated “proficient” in reading.
As students throughout the U.S. undergo the latest round of tests this month, corporate leaders including Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel Corp., and Edward Rust, chief executive officer of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., say they’re concerned about slipping standards among states. They’re exploring whether to renew a decade-old push for national tests.
George Lucas, writing about education and his Foundation (via Maya Cole’s post on Effective School Boards:
Public education is the foundation of our democracy — the stepping stones for our youth to reach their full potential. My own experience in public school was quite frustrating. I was often bored. Occasionally, I had a teacher who engaged my curiosity and motivated me to learn. Those were the teachers I really loved. I wondered, “Why can’t school be exciting all of the time?” As a father, I’ve felt the imperative to transform schooling even more urgently.
Traditional education can be extremely isolating — the curriculum is often abstract and not relevant to real life, teachers and students don’t connect with resources and experts outside of the classroom, and schools operate as if they were separate from their communities.
Project-based learning, student teams working cooperatively, students connecting with passionate experts, and broader forms of assessment can dramatically improve student learning. New digital multimedia and telecommunications can support these practices and engage our students. And well-prepared educators are critical.
Our Foundation documents and disseminates the most exciting classrooms where these innovations are taking place. By shining the spotlight on these inspiring teachers and students, we hope others will consider how their work can promote change in their own schools.
12MB mp3 audio file from today’s WIBA interview.
It’s an old truism that our strengths are our weaknesses. When a citizen runs for local office, he or she is likely to learn that in the glare and scrutiny of the campaign, the very qualities that make them an appealing candidate may cause some anguish in the tussle and turmoil of the race.
Madison School Board candidates Maya Cole and Arlene Silveira have both taken some flak: Cole for a hurtful comment that infuriated supporters of the Leopold Elementary School addition and Silveira for her business background and thoughtful style that has been occasionally characterized as too corporate.
For both, issues of personality have become a part of a race that offers significant differences in perspective on the school district as well as distinct choices of style and personality.
It’s interesting that the Cap Times raised this issue, given that Maya’s drawn quite a bit of partisan attention at recent (mostly thinly attended) candidate forums (Ideally, these things should be cordial, but that has not always been the case). A reader emailed this link to the first post failed May, 2005 Referenda Long Range Planning Committee meeting. This is the meeting where a number of people spoke, including Seat 1 candidate and very active referenda supporter (Madison Cares, a group Arlene spearheaded, spent over $40K promoting passage of the questions – fwiw, I told Carol I thought that all 3 questions would pass while she was leafletting the Farmer’s Market, up until the ballot error/reprinting problem) Arlene Silveira.
The Cap Times’ article discussed Board members behaving poorly toward one another:
She said she was surprised by the number of people who follow the School Board meetings on television, and said that some of the occasionally fractious behavior on the part of board members diminishes the group’s credibility. “That must stop,” she [Arlene] said firmly.
Certainly, this video fuels the discussion, with Arlene first up.
From my perspective, the Fitchburg school saga must include the mid-1990’s MMSD turn-down of Bill Linton’s offer of free land near Promega (Current President Carol Carstensen and incumbent Juan Jose Lopez were on the board at the time). That land became the private Eagle School. A Promega partnership may well have spawned more by today. Interestingly, I learned about this years ago, while waiting for luggage at the Dane County Airport next to then Superintendent Cheryl Wilhoyte. She seemed excited about the possibilities.
A new controversial, food policy proposal in the Madison Metropolitan School District could take food out of children’s mouths and funding for clubs, activities and supplies.
The district’s Board of Education will consider district-wide recommendations on food policy within the next few days that might include a ban on candy, soda and snack food sales during school hours, according to the student representatives to the board.
The administrator writing the final recommendations refused to reveal if a ban will be part of the proposed policy, WISC-TV reported.
Supporters of the proposal argue that the food policy is to promote healthy eating and food safety.
A ban would impact food sales in school cafeterias and vending machines, as well as fundraisers sponsored by school clubs and extracurricular activities.
UPDATE: Bill Novak has more:
The school sale of junk food, candy and sugar-filled soft drinks could be affected by food policy changes to be considered by the Madison School Board.
The School Board is expected to consider new food policy recommendations within the week.
Madison Metropolitan School District spokesman Ken Syke confirmed the food policy is on the table but wouldn’t release details on what recommendations are in the new report.
“It’s a comprehensive food policy, and many different groups weighed in on it,” Syke said. “Does it ban junk food? I can’t say.”
Seat 1 School Board Candidate Maya Cole:
Boundary changes create a larger effect on a district than the direct impact on the children and their families.
- Neighborhood schools are vital for a community.
- Transportation costs eat away at a budget.
- Kids don’t get the daily benefit from a walk to school every day.
These are a few reasons that I feel strongly that we need to support and maintain all of our neighborhood schools.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that Madison has become a growing urban school district. Our community has undergone radical transformation in the past 20 years, and any plan to address the community’s educational needs must take those changes into account.
My vision is to continue the work of the long-range planning groups and expand it to form a strategic plan along the lines of the University of Wisconsin strategic planning. Long-term goals for the district, in my opinion, should be at least ten years or more.
Espen Andersen, Associate Professor, Norwegian School of Management and Associate Editor, Ubiquity:
[The following article was written for Aftenposten, a large Norwegian newspaper. The article encourages students to choose math as a major subject in high school – not just in preparation for higher education but because having math up to maximum high school level is important in all walks of life. Note: This translation is slightly changed to have meaning outside a Norwegian context.]
Why you should choose math in high school
A recurring problem in most rich societies is that students in general do not take enough math – despite high availability of relatively well-paid jobs in fields that demand math, such as engineering, statistics, teaching and technology. Students see math as hard, boring and irrelevant, and do not respond (at least not sufficiently) to motivational factors such as easier admission to higher education or interesting and important work.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is offering a vision for troubled Allied Drive as he tries to get support for buying and redeveloping a series of worn buildings in the heart of the neighborhood.
The vision includes buying nine apartment buildings on Allied Drive and redeveloping them with condos and perhaps retail space, supporting “good landlords,” and closely monitoring the fate of a row of buildings on Carling Drive – a block off Allied Drive – with the potential of another city purchase.
Neighborhood input is important and a planning process will be completed in July, Cieslewicz stressed. But “I’d like people to be clear on what it is I’d like to accomplish.”
Madison alder Brenda Konkel has more.
The national curriculum in England is to be revised so children are taught to read primarily using the method known as synthetic phonics [Full Report 432K PDF]
In the most famous experiment, in Clackmannanshire, children taught using synthetic phonics were years ahead of their contemporaries by the time they moved on to secondary school.
The method is already endorsed by the Scottish Executive.
“Unless you can actually decode the words on the page you will not be able, obviously, to comprehend them,” Jim Rose
Critics say it might teach children to read – but not necessarily to understand what they are reading.
Bill, I heard you speak a few weeks ago at Davos, when you told a large audience that education is the biggest challenge for the future. You are right about that. You pointed to the 1,500 or so small high schools that the Gates Foundation has funded as evidence of your commitment to make a difference. If you are worried about our nation’s future competitiveness, I am not so sure you made the right investment.
Small schools are not always the best answer to low achievement. Sometimes they are, sometimes not. Poor academic results can be found in large schools and in small schools. Great academic results can be found in schools of any size. Success is the result of a solid curriculum, dedicated teachers, a strong principal and students who arrive in high school with the skills and motivation to succeed.
There is another investment that you could make that would be far more effective in raising student achievement than churning out another thousand or so small high schools. As the chief executive officer of the largest software company in the world, you have a certain competitive advantage. Your company really knows how to use advanced technology to teach people almost anything.
American students are accustomed to using computers and getting instant answers. Yet, when they open their textbooks, they find wooden prose. Instead of inspiring them to dig deeper into their studies, the textbooks more often than not simply turn them off. The medium itself is a problem, especially when compared with what they are used to doing for themselves on a computer. Textbooks have never been known for their sparkling prose, but today more than ever their obsolescence is apparent when they compete with new technologies.
Gotham Gazette’s Reading NYC Book Club met with author Samuel Freedman, New York Times education columnist, and Jessica Siegel, the teacher who is one of the subjects of “Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students and Their High School.”An edited transcript is below:
The problem is that you have this tail of this big grant from the Gates Foundation wagging this policy dog at the Department of Ed. Because Gates has a big priority to start small schools, the Department of Education is jumpstarting 50 a year, year after year. It’s just impossible to have quality opening up schools in that kind of frenetic way. It also means a lot of these schools get opened up with these ultra-niche academic orientations – sports careers or architecture – that I think are really preposterous for a ninth grader. I think what they tend to do is serve the interests of community organizations that are sponsors. These may be perfectly well-intended sponsoring groups, but that doesn’t mean that the high school as a whole is going to work with a curriculum that is defined that narrowly, especially when there is a good reason to put more emphasis on language, science, math and a lot of the core subjects.
Joanne Jacobs has more, including this”
Gotham Gazette: Jonathan Kozol recently wrote an article for Gotham Gazette Segregated Schools: Shame Of The City, in which he argued that one issue that is being ignored is racial segregation. He said that until that is confronted, other reforms will not accomplish much. What is your perspective on that?
Jessica Siegel: What is the percentage of the public schools students that are children or color? Eighty-five percent? It’s not even relevant. That’s who is in the public schools. To me it’s not an issue of segregation so much as what kind of education you are going to give to the kids there.
Samuel Freedman: I completely agree with Jessica. Kozol espouses a point of view you pick up in education schools. But it is a high-minded excuse for paralysis.
. . . It’s part of educational suicide to say now, however well intentioned you are, that until you solve poverty or segregation nothing can happen in the schools. Something has to be able to happen in the schools.
Retired University of Chicago Professor Milt Rosenberg recently hosted a discussion on the state of Americas public schools and make a case for school reform and school choice. Joseph Bast, president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, and Herbert Walberg, research professor of education and psychology at the University of Illinois Chicago along with a number of call-in teachers participated. 87 minute mp3 audio file
I was working in my room the other day during a prep period when I overheard raised voices down the hall. One of my colleagues, Mr. Spector*, was debating with a kid from his classroom. It was obvious the kid was lipping off to Mr. Spector and basically refusing to do anything but sleep in Mr. Spector’s class. When Mr. Spector insisted he remain upright, the kid took exception.
Mr. Spector is a fifty-ish second-careerist who is caring, funny, and an ultraconservative. (I forgive him and I love him anyway.) The man can squeeze a quarter so hard that snot comes out of George Washington’s nose. He tries every day to do right by his students and expects them to learn something, and that’s what matters to me.
It is recommended practice for all secondary schools to offer two curriculum levels for all core subjects at each grade, with one offering providing advanced academic coursework.
In 1998, the first year of open AP enrollment for all students, both the numbers and the diversity of students increased throughout the County. In this same year, all students taking AP courses were also required to take the end-of-course AP exams. Enrollment in AP has increased consistently with 2005 having the highest AP participation yet with 13,995 students enrolled in AP courses. . . .
FCPS is committed to providing students with challenging courses offering preparation for life in a competitive society. . . . If you have questions about particular courses or guidance policies regarding dropping and adding courses, please discuss the matter with your local guidance department and school administration.
Illinois high school dropouts may soon find themselves without a driver’s license as well as lacking a diploma.
Under legislation moving through the state Senate, dropouts would lose their driving privileges until they re-enroll or turn 18 years old.
“I think we all recognize the issue and the problem of dropout that we have in secondary education,” Sen. Frank Watson, R-Greenville, said. “This is an attempt to try to address that.”
The measure, which already has won approval in the House, would target anyone younger than 18 who is either a high school dropout or has 18 or more unexcused absences. Watson said dropouts are more likely to end up in jail, so such deterrents are needed.
Parents in Milwaukee want school vouchers and the governor’s signing up. Hear about one city’s big experiment with vouchers.
No, I’m not talking about the residents who live there, I’m talking about the City of Madison. So, we’re probably going to bid at the auction for the “Hauk Properties”. (It still needs council approval.) That is likely a very responsible decision given the alternatives. I feel comfortable with that decision. Problem is, what if we end up with the properties, then what?
The City and private property owners have a pretty long history of taking a low-income area, doing wholesale evictions for any infraction, enticing people to move with relatively low “incentives”, creating housing that people who previously lived there can’t afford or rehabbing the properties, moving people around until they get too frustrated to stay and then if they are persistent, making tenants re-apply to live in their old apartments and then denying them based on strict screening criteria. Essentially, destroying the sense of community that exists and the support networks of the people who live there.
The Madison School District has posted a schedule of budget events for the review, discussion and approval of their $321M+ (2005/2006) upcoming 2006/2007 budget. One interesting date: individual building allocations will evidently be sent April 3, 2006, one day before the spring, 2006 school board election (April 4, 2006)
Provide consultation and direction to schools in their efforts to develop and administer programs which result in achievement of all students. Provide consultation to schools in their efforts to integrate authentic multicultural education in all subject areas. Work with schools to promote teaching strategies that facilitate achievement of students from diverse backgrounds. Provide consultation to the Teaching and Learning Department to ensure the District is offering a comprehensive multicultural education. Provide consultation to staff on the selection, evaluation and use of multicultural resources.
MMSD jobs on the web, including summer school positions.
Local school boards in New Jersey, driven by stiff competition for top-flight administrators, have given them “questionable and excessive” compensation packages that cost taxpayers millions of dollars and are often hidden from public view, according to the results of a review by state officials released Monday.
The review, by the State Commission of Investigation, examined the payrolls of dozens of school districts and found that boards of education around the state have lavished officials with cars, computers, cellphones, improper pension increases and donations to tax-deferred annuities. Superintendents and other top administrators received, on average, extra compensation that was valued at slightly more than $70,000 over their base salaries, the state found.
Most everyone in the political and policy world was fixated on all the “what does it mean” questions about Sunday’s NYT Mag story on Mark Warner. But there was also some chattering about the Outlook spread on No Child Left Behind in the Wash. Post. It was well done including reactions from DC-area principals, an NCLB primer by Jay Mathews, and a map of DC-area schools (pdf) not making “adequate yearly progress” or AYP.
But despite the primer, readers might have been left wondering about these adequate yearly progress targets. That’s understandable, it’s confusing, and they’re not the result of a single calculation. Instead, it’s a multi-step process with opportunities to increase or decrease the level of difficulty at each one. It goes something like this:
First, the state chooses a test to use. This can be a pre-existing test used elsewhere, a custom-designed one based on the state’s standards, or a combination of the two. Obviously, the degree of difficulty is a big issue here.
Second, the state decides what the cut score on the test will be for a student to be “proficient” as well as “basic”, “advanced”, and any other delineations of performance the state wants to have. In other words, how many questions does a student need to answer correctly? For No Child Left Behind the most important category is proficient because that is what the law’s “adequate yearly progress” ratings are based on. There are several methods for determining cut scores. What’s most important to remember about them is that they all rely on professional judgment. There is no revealed source of truth about what a fifth-grader or a high school student needs to know and be able to do. At the risk of oversimplifying too much, the three most common methods are based on using expert judgment from a panel of experts to come up with cut scores, comparing and contrasting how various groups of test takers do on the test, and scaling the questions from easy to hard and determining various delineations for performance along the scale. Again, plenty of chances to increase or reduce the level of difficulty in this process.
But, while newspapers commonly report the percentage of students passing a test, they rarely report on what the cut scores are and when and how they are set. The composition of the professionals involved also matters a lot. Is it just K-12 teachers, or outside experts for instance representatives of higher education, too? Lack of attention to this process is unfortunate because there is plenty of opportunity for mischief and a state with a difficult test and a high cut score, say 40 out of 50, is going to have different results than a state with an easier test or a low cut scores. But, cut scores of half to 2/3 of the questions correct in order to be “proficient” are not at all uncommon. All this is public information or can be obtained through a FOIA. And it’s all extremely relevant to all this.
Dick Askey commented on test scores vis a vis local, state and national results here.
School of science, math would be 17th campus
The General Assembly will be asked to approve adding a 17th campus to North Carolina’s public-university system, and this time it’s a high school.
Trustees at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics voted unanimously Friday to integrate with the University of North Carolina system. The UNC board of governors also must approve the reorganization.
The School of Science and Mathematics, a 25-year-old residential high school in Durham, has been under the UNC system umbrella for years. But the UNC board of governors has had no direct supervision of the high school’s trustees.
The increased popularity of “school choice” and charter schools has another — often overlooked — consequence: an increased emphasis on school marketing.
“Schools find themselves in a different environment today,” said Dr. Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change in Minnesota.
“It used to be pretty cut and dried who goes to what school.
“As we’ve evolved in the last decade toward more public school choice through the charter school movement, more and more families want to learn about their options.”
Delaware is one of the nation’s leaders in school choice, according to a 2005 report released by the nonprofit Rodel Foundation of Delaware.
In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush stressed the importance of improving math education. He proposed to “train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math.”
But where will these teachers come from? And will the training of teachers be sufficient to increase the number of students choosing math and science careers? And why does all this matter?
Because mathematics is the foundation of the natural sciences. It is no coincidence that Isaac Newton, the man who formulated the law of gravitational attraction that revolutionized our understanding of the universe, was also the man who popularized the calculus. And the natural sciences, however pure, are what give us airplanes, cable TV and the Internet.
In the 2003 Program for International Student Assessment, a test that measures math literacy, American 15-year-olds performed worse than their peers in 23 countries, as well as those in Hong Kong. It’s not hard to see why. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 40 percent of the nation’s middle school math teachers do not have the equivalent of an undergraduate minor in math. The average starting salary of a teacher is only $30,000, whereas the average starting salary for a recent college graduate in computer science or engineering is $50,000.
Jonathan Farley is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, and a CISAC science fellow.
Every day, after a morning of classes at Wheaton High School, David Gonzales, a dark-haired, slightly scruffy senior, headed to Thomas Edison High School of Technology. There he donned a tool belt and goggles and went to work as part of a team of student builders who have been constructing a…
The way Kansas schools spend their public money may be just as important as how much they get, according to a study released Thursday.
Initiated last year by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, the study by the Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services is thought to be the first to analyze and compare student performance and the way schools allocate budget dollars. It was funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
The study identified 17 districts that were using their dollars most effectively in achieving high levels of student performance on assessment tests.
The surprise for lawmakers was how much these 17 spent compared with less-successful districts.
“They spent less than the state average and less than districts that didn’t perform as well,” said Jason Kingston, chief analyst on the Standard & Poor’s project.
Based on the analysis, the study concluded that it would be too costly for the state to spend its way to proficiency.