All posts by Jim Zellmer

Legalizing Markets in Happiness and Well-Being

Michael Strong:

Four years ago I moved my family to Angel Fire, New Mexico, to create a charter high school. Two teachers with whom I had previously worked ten years earlier in Alaska moved to New Mexico to work at the school I was creating. By the second year of the school, we had the created the highest ranked public high school in New Mexico based on Jay Mathews’ Challenge Index. The third year, we ranked among the “Top 100 Best Public High Schools” on Newsweek’s list.
But at that point, I had been forced out by the state of New Mexico because I was not a licensed administrator. When I had moved to New Mexico charter school administrators did not need a license. But the law had changed, and I would have needed seven years’ experience as a licensed public school teacher in order to enter an administrative licensure program. Despite the fact that my work as an educator has been praised by leading educational theorists and practitioners, and despite the fact that I have achieved spectacular results, it is not legal for me to lead a charter school in New Mexico. Moreover, beyond spectacular academic results, my focus as an educator is always first and foremost on developing adolescent happiness and well-being. It is inexcusable that it is not legal for me to lead schools. We need to legalize markets in happiness and well-being.

Education Spending and Changing Revenue Sources

Sonya Hoo, Sheila Murray, Kim Rueben:

Real per capita school spending increased by about 50 percent between 1972 and 2002. Spending levels fell in the late 1970s and early 1980s, reflecting declines in student populations and funding that grew more slowly than inflation. However, those real declines were reversed by the mid-1980s.
Although school districts are the primary supplier of education services, they do not always have independent authority to set spending levels or raise revenues. The ability to set expenditure levels depends in part on the taxing authority of school districts. School districts in 36 states are designated independent, meaning they may generate their own revenues, usually by setting property tax rates. In the other states, some school districts are dependent on a city, town, or county to raise revenues. For example, most school districts in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are city- or towndependent, while districts in Maryland and North Carolina are primarily dependent on counties. Other states have a mix of both dependent and independent school districts, with dependent school districts generally found in larger cities. Most dependent school districts are on the East Coast.

Research Center to Scour States’ Data Troves

Debra Viadero:

The Urban Institute and six universities have joined forces to start a federal research center to mine the wealth of long-term data now piling up in state education databases.
The newly created Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, or CALDER, is being launched with a five-year, $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.
The job of the center, which the Urban Institute announced last week, is to tap into the trove of statistics that states are amassing through new data-collection systems that use unique “identifier” numbers so that students—and teachers—can be tracked anonymously over time as they move from classroom to classroom or district to district.
Center researchers intend to focus their efforts for now on studying issues related to teacher quality—who teaches what kinds of students, what determines quality, and how hiring, compensation, and retention policies affect student achievement.

Most States Fail Demands Set Out in Education Law

Sam Dillon:

Most states failed to meet federal requirements that all teachers be “highly qualified” in core teaching fields and that state programs for testing students be up to standards by the end of the past school year, according to the federal government.
The deadline was set by the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush’s effort to make all American students proficient in reading and math by 2014. But the Education Department found that no state had met the deadline for qualified teachers, and it gave only 10 states full approval of their testing systems.
Faced with such findings, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who took office promising flexible enforcement of the law, has toughened her stance, leaving several states in danger of losing parts of their federal aid.

One classroom, many classes

Kate Grossman:

“There are high expectations” for the top students, “and expectations that we’ll perform miracles on the low end.” — Third-grade teacher Natalie Brady
In the first six weeks of school, Leigha Groves, whose daughter is one of Brady’s top students, asks for a syllabus repeatedly and meets with Brady several times. Early on, she only saw math homework coming home and dismissed it as simple.
“When you hear the University of Chicago, you know they want the best, but it’s not a gifted program,” says Groves, a 39-year-old police officer and college grad. “I wondered where the challenge would come from.”
Her daughter, Aleigha, transferred from a gifted program at South Loop elementary. Groves also wanted her daughter with more black students.
Nicole Miller says she thinks her son is changing, for the worse

More students, fewer spaces

Megan Twohey:

Flash back 25 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and you’d find admissions standards that are sure to shock aspiring Badgers of today.
The university guaranteed admission to all high school graduates in the top half of their class. It accepted more than 80% of applicants.
“I walked upright,” Dan Conley, a 1981 graduate, said with a chuckle. “That’s how I got in.”
How times have changed.
Now students are discouraged from applying without a grade-point average from 3.5 to 3.9, an ACT score of at least 26 and a class rank in the 85th to 96th percentiles. The acceptance rate for Wisconsin residents is 65%. No student is guaranteed a spot in the freshman class, no matter how good his or her grades are.

Grammar Sheriff

Sam Whiting:

On the root of the problem:
I only learned within the last year that they stopped teaching rules of grammar in the ’60s. They taught people what to say but not why. No wonder why people make so many mistakes. They can’t go back in their minds and say, “This is transitive, this is intransitive.” It’s the “lie, lay” thing.

SPELL’s website.

Homebodies

C.W. Nevius:

When 24-year-old ________________ began dating someone new, she had to make an awkward confession. She was still living at home in Sonoma with her parents.

No problem, her new friend said. He was still living with his.

Doesn’t it seem like they all are? Who are these puzzling, 20ish tweeners who don’t want to leave home? They’re not really adults, at least by traditional standards, and they certainly aren’t kids any more.

“Community Services Levies Climb Since Caps Lifted”

Amy Hetzner:

Lawmaker requests audit as school districts across state raise taxes to support programs.
Five years after state legislators released them from state-imposed revenue caps, school districts’ community service tax levies have nearly tripled, reaching $49 million this year.
The rampant growth in these property taxes – earmarked for community-based activities – took place as the total levies for schools statewide rose by 22.7%.
That has raised concerns about school districts skating around revenue limits and has prompted one lawmaker to request an audit of the program.
State Rep. Debi Towns (R-Janesville) said she is curious why property taxes that pay for recreational and community activities offered by school districts have grown so much since the 2000-’01 school year. In that time, the number of school districts raising taxes for such services has doubled to 240.
“I’m not saying anyone’s misspending. I’m just saying the fund has grown tremendously, and the purpose never changed,” said Towns, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee. In November, Towns called for the Legislative Audit Bureau to study how select school districts use their community service levies.

The Madison School District’s Community Service “Fund 80” has grown significantly over the past few years. Lucy Mathiak summarized Fund 80’s tax and spending increases here ($8.5M in 2005/2006, up from $3.5M in 2001/2002 – Milwaukee’s 05/06 tax levy was slightly less: $8M). Carol Carstensen notes that Fund 80 is worth our support.
Much more on Fund 80 here.

SAT Group Can do Better

Karen Arenson:

The College Board should acquire better scanning software, increase training for test center personnel and make other improvements in its procedures to help prevent errors in scoring SAT exams, according to a report released yesterday.
The report, by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, was commissioned by the board after more than 5,000 SAT exams were incorrectly scored last October, some by as many as 450 points out of a possible 2,400 points. The College Board owns and manages the SAT.
The report said the board had already taken significant steps to improve scoring processes since March, when the errors were disclosed. But it said further changes could be made, like improving the manual procedures used to check whether SAT answer sheets have been scanned properly.
Gaston Caperton, the College Board president, said that he welcomed the report’s conclusions and that its recommendations were “very executable.”
But critics of the College Board questioned the independence of Booz Allen, which received $5.2 million in consulting fees from the board in the year ending June 30, 2005, according to a board filing with the Internal Revenue Service.
“This isn’t the outside independent scrutiny” that is needed, said Brad MacGowan, a college counselor in Newton, Mass.

“Is the Democratic elite turning against the teachers’ unions?”

Mickey Kaus:

Eduwonk thinks so. Some evidence (and not just from Eduwonk): 1) Democratic Governor-in-waiting Eliot Spitzer of New York has endorsed opening more independent charter schools–which are typically not unionized to the same degree as public schools–after a study showed many of them to be doing better than their traditional public competitors.** 2) Speaking at the recent fancy Aspen Institute event, former Clinton official (and now New York City schools chancellor) Joel Klein made a “case that teachers-union contracts are the main obstacle to improving urban education,” according to Mort Kondracke:

“The contract protects the interests of adults at the expense of kids,” he told a rapt audience, describing how it bars pay differentials based on student performance and service in difficult schools; makes it impossible for principals to fire underperforming teachers; and allows teachers to choose their own professional development tracks, regardless of supply-and-demand needs, such as those for more math and science teachers.

Pittsburgh Outsources Curriculum

Joanne Jacobs:

Pittsburgh has hired a private company to write a coherent curriculum for city schools, reports the Post-Gazette.
Because course content is uneven and out of sync with state standards, the Pittsburgh Public School district is paying New York-based Kaplan K12 Learning Services $8.4 million to write standardized curricula for grades six through 12.
. . . Teachers in other districts have complained that Kaplan’s detailed curriculum turned them into automatons and deprived them of time to cover material in adequate detail or help students with individual needs.
. . . Pittsburgh school officials cite an urgent need to bring coherence and rigor to what’s taught and tested in the district’s classrooms.

Interesting. Perhaps an RFP looking for different ideas might be useful. Public and private organizations could respond. One only has to look at the “Cathedral and the Bazaar” to see the power of a community vs a top down approach. Leadership, particularly that which embraces the community is critical – as Lucy Mathiak recently pointed out:

Later, she added: “I think one of the fundamental questions facing our district is whether we treat parents as resources or problems. Any parent who is concerned about safety, discipline or academic issues needs to feel confident that their concerns are going to be heard. We have to court the parents. The future of our schools depends on their confidence that we are working as partners with them.”

Here’s a parent’s perspective on curriculum and school climate. Another. A vast majority of the UW Math Department’s perspective (35 of the 37 signed this letter). Marc Eisen offers still another perspective.

Learnings Per Share

Denis Doyle:

If education is funded without measuring results decisions are based on impulse and sentiment, a risky business that. Yet if education is to be funded on results we need a high degree of social consensus on what results are desirable (and measurable).
As it happens, this sentiment does not respect party lines. Former Minnesota DFL Senator John Brandle famously said – more than 20 years ago – “there will be more dollars for education when there is more education for the dollar.”
Conceptually, the task is straightforward: identify what value schooling adds and measure it. While most people associate the value add of schooling with academic progress, there is also a social dimension, ranging from socialization to custodial care. These too can be measured.
Take year ‘round schooling as an example. Students who attend 240 days (rather than the typical US 180-day year) are likely to escape “summer learning loss.” While preliminary evidence suggests that with poor children in particular, summer learning loss is diminished significantly with year ‘round schooling, it is an empirical question. Risk-taking school districts could offer year ‘round schooling on a pilot basis and measure what happens – who enrolls, how popular is the program, and what are the results? (One prediction: working parents will love it.)
Alternately, 13 180-day years equals 2,340 days from K to graduation. Taken in 240 day installments, a typical student could graduate in 10 rather than 13 years. This too is an empirical question. Are there answers? Certainly Japanese experience suggests that there is. The Japanese school year is 240 days long and the typical graduate (after 13 years) is reputed to have completed the equivalent of two years of a good American college.
What business or industry would close for one-third of the year? What other human capital intensive activity — health care facility, for example — would shut its doors one-third of the year?

“Education Just a Click Away”

Mindy Hagen:

In South Carolina, several large school districts such as Richland 2 and Lexington 1 offered online courses. For example, Richland 2’s virtual school employed 27 teachers and had students register for a total of 559 online courses last year, said Margaret Walden, the district’s instructional technology coordinator.
Despite the efforts of individual districts, no statewide program existed to help students in rural areas keep pace.
“This levels the playing field,” Appleby said. “These online courses are available to any student in any district in the state.”
The virtual school has been able to cut down on costs by relying on the same technical software used by teachers for online professional development.
Students at Charleston high schools such Academic Magnet and North Charleston have experience with online courses, but the state’s program will expand access, district spokeswoman Mary Girault said.

Half of State Tests Don’t Draw on State Standards, AFT Study Finds

Education Week:

Only 11 states met the union’s criteria for strong standards and tests that “align” with them, it says, and 20 states “have much work to do”—beefing up their standards, matching up tests with standards, or showing what they have done online.
“The systems in those states aren’t smart enough yet to bear the weight of the accountability functions they are asked to serve,” said Antonia Cortese, the AFT’s executive vice president. As one example of such a function, she cited the “in need of improvement” label applied to schools if they don’t meet measures of adequate yearly progress, or AYP. The label triggers a series of consequences for the schools.
In their study, the AFT researchers looked for standards to be clear, explicit by grade level, and rooted in the knowledge and skills for the particular subject, as well as accessible on the Web. Similarly, documentation of the relationship between the standards and the tests had to be available online.
The researchers contend that such “transparency” helps teachers do their jobs and builds trust in the system among educators and the public.
The union, which from 1995 to 2001 published an annual report evaluating states’ academic standards, found significant progress on that front. The standards that relate to NCLB testing are more specific and more often set out by grade levels—a help to teachers and test-makers—than the across-the-board standards examined five years ago, the report says. The progress is particularly noteworthy because of the pressure on state education departments to respond quickly to the sweeping federal law’s mandates, which include annual tests in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and once in high school and, starting next year, three tests of science spread across grade levels.

Full PDF study can be found here. The report noted that only 1 to 25% of Wisconsin’s state tests aligned to “strong content standards”.

NYC: Charter Students Outperform Nearby Public Schools

Carl Campanile:

Charter schools in the city are vastly outperforming public schools in their neighborhoods, according to a bombshell state report obtained by The Post.
The just-released study by state Education Department found students in 11 of 16 city charter schools outscored kids in nearby public schools on the state’s fourth-grade English and math exams in 2005.
The academic gap widens in the upper grades, the report said, with kids in five of six upper-grade charter schools faring better on eighth-grade English and math exams.
Charters are privately managed but publicly financed schools that have more flexibility in developing a curriculum, hiring personnel and establishing work rules than traditional schools.

New York State Department of Education website.

What to do About Homework….

Dan Green:

There is an interesting post and series of comments about homework at The Daily Grind.
I agree that homework needs to be assigned every class period. But, like every teacher, I’ve struggled with how to best hold students accountable for not just completing it, but understanding it. In our freshmen math courses (Algebra 1, Numeracy), we give students full credit on an assignment if it is completed and turned in on time (we don’t assess it for correctness at all). We also don’t accept late work, unless students have an excused absence. The purpose of this is to build the ethic of doing homework and turning it in – as many students seem to come to high school with out having done much – if any – homework in the past. We are pretty successful at getting students to turn in their work by the end of freshman year. Getting them to really think about it, try hard on questions they don’t understand, and seek help when they have difficulties is another thing altogether.

Education Makes You Healthier

David Cutler & Adriana Lleras-Muney:

There is a large and persistent association between education and health. In this paper, we review what is known about this link. We first document the facts about the relationship between education and health. The education ‘gradient’ is found for both health behaviors and health status, though the former does not fully explain the latter. The effect of education increases with increasing years of education, with no evidence of a sheepskin effect. Nor are there differences between blacks and whites, or men and women. Gradients in behavior are biggest at young ages, and decline after age 50 or 60. We then consider differing reasons why education might be related to health. The obvious economic explanations – education is related to income or occupational choice – explain only a part of the education effect. We suggest that increasing levels of education lead to different thinking and decision-making patterns. The monetary value of the return to education in terms of health is perhaps half of the return to education on earnings, so policies that impact educational attainment could have a large effect on population health.

Tyler Cowen has more.

Public vs. Private School

NY Times Editorial:

The national education reform effort has long suffered from magical thinking about what it takes to improve children’s chances of learning. Instead of homing in on teacher training and high standards, things that distinguish effective schools from poor ones, many reformers have embraced the view that the public schools are irreparably broken and that students of all kinds need to be given vouchers to attend private or religious schools at public expense.
This belief, though widespread, has not held up to careful scrutiny. A growing body of work has shown that the quality of education offered to students varies widely within all school categories. The public, private, charter and religious realms all contain schools that range from good to not so good to downright horrendous.
What the emerging data show most of all is that public, private, charter and religious schools all suffer from the wide fluctuations in quality and effectiveness. Instead of arguing about the alleged superiority of one category over another, the country should stay focused on the overarching problem: on average, American schoolchildren are performing at mediocre levels in reading, math and science — wherever they attend school.

Measured Progress: A Report on the High School Reform Movement

Education Sector:

Requiring students to take greater numbers of rigorous courses that are more likely to prepare them for college does not necessarily lead to lower graders or higher dropout rates, if the courses are taught by capable teachers, the new research suggests.
Intensive “catch-up” courses help a significant percentage of students who enter high school well behind their peers reduce their chances of dropping out and get on the track to college.
But researchers have found that though creating more supportive educational environments for students is critical, doing so produces more significant improvements in student learning when combined with high expectations and rigorous instruction. Improving school climates alone is not the answer.

Parents Want Tougher Policy on Sex Offenses

Susan Troller:

Nancy Greenwald, an attorney and one of the parents involved in the complaint, urged the board to accept Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recommendation that Vazquez be fired and to turn over all relevant files to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, which has begun an investigation that could lead to the revocation of Vazquez’s teaching license.
In addition, Greenwald said, “We need you to do more. We urge you to step in and turn this administration around. From the beginning, the administration tried to push this complaint under the rug.”
Kelly Fitzgerald, PTO president at Jefferson, said in an interview after the meeting: “It has been arduous and painstaking. That it took this long for the administration to recommend removing this teacher is obscene.”
Board member Lucy Mathiak, chair of the district’s Partnerships Committee, said that supporting and enhancing relationships with parents would be a priority for her committee.
Later, she added: “I think one of the fundamental questions facing our district is whether we treat parents as resources or problems. Any parent who is concerned about safety, discipline or academic issues needs to feel confident that their concerns are going to be heard. We have to court the parents. The future of our schools depends on their confidence that we are working as partners with them.”

WKOW-TV has more:

Parent Nancy Greenwald is still troubled about what it took to get Vazquez out of the classroom.
“We found the system seriously flawed.”
Greenwald and other parents say school investigators originally failed to connect the dots of Vazquez’s alleged pattern of sexual harassment.

Sandy Cullen:

“The recommendation finally reached after 13 months included an independent investigation and an evaluation by a psychotherapist who was asked to determine whether or not Mr. Vazquez poses a danger to our children,” Greenwald said, adding that if the psychotherapist’s evaluation “is one reason for the superintendent’s recommendation, as we believe it is, then the initial dismissal of our concerns by the administration was not only wrong, it was dangerously wrong.”
“It should not take the yearlong efforts of a large group of parents that happens to include two attorneys to get the administration to do the right thing,” Greenwald said. “Students who are the victims of sexual harassment are often vulnerable, needy children with little support at home. Who’s going to protect them?”

Madison School Board Passes a New Advertising Policy

WKOW-TV:

he Madison Metro School District’s “no advertising” policy is now a thing of the past. Tonight they voted unanimously to allow some advertising at certain venues. They say in the face of limited resources and cutting programs, the district needs to find ways of generating revenue outside the taxpayer.
“The district right now has a menu of things to look at…the website…not really targeting toward kids, but targeting toward the community that would be sporting events, that would be community events that we have,” says board president Johnny Winston Jr.

Antonucci Commentary on Public vs. Private School NAEP Scores

Mike Antonucci on the recent Education Department report comparing private and public school math and reading scores:

If I read the wonderfully titled report Comparing Private Schools and Public Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling correctly, there is virtually no difference between the math and reading test scores of public and private school students when corrected for various characteristics of students, teachers and schools.
This is bad news for private schools (and when the same results exist for charters, for them as well). If you are going to sell yourself as the superior alternative to traditional public schools, you have to produce results. Reading and math scores on the NAEP tests are excellent measures of academic results, though — as my friends at NEA and AFT always tell me — not the only measures.
National Education Association President Reg Weaver was correct when he told the New York Times that had the results been different, “there would have been press conferences and glowing statements about private schools.”
Where Reg went wrong, however, was when he said that the results showed public schools were “doing an outstanding job.” Standardized test scores are the measures used by the bad guys — you know, people like me — to evaluate schools. What about all the measures the unions claim are important?
Private schools spend about two-thirds what public schools spend.

Taxes and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:

The board voted to eliminate from the school district’s 2006-’07 budget $7,000 for the association’s membership dues. It is now the only school board of the 425 boards in Wisconsin that is not a member.
Part of the reason was financial: Like most boards throughout the state, New Berlin is trying to get a handle on expenses in tough financial times and is cutting extraneous items.
But part of the reason was political: According to board Vice President Matt Thomas, the final straw for him involved a column written by Ashley and published in Wisconsin School News that bloggers were ridiculing for comparing support for the Taxpayer Protection Amendment with 1930s Germany.

Math & Science Teacher Supply & Demand

LA Times Editorial:

L.A. Unified plans to spend millions to train, recruit and keep math and science teachers, who are a hot commodity nationwide.
Recognizing the critical need to boost math and science test scores, the Los Angeles Unified School District has taken several steps — including offering bonuses — to attract and keep teachers in those fields at the district’s neediest schools.

Moving Away from Uniformity

Frederick Hess & Andrew Rotherham:

Perhaps the most encouraging trend in public education today is the growing willingness of educators and policymakers to embrace choices and customization, while turning away from the notion of one-size-fits-all corporatism that dominated 20th century school reform. In education, though, no good deed long goes unpunished. In a barely coherent 5-2 decision, Florida’s Supreme Court used recklessly broad language to overturn the state’s private school voucher program. In doing so, it set an unfortunate precedent that stretches far beyond the question of school choice.
Florida’s Opportunity Scholarship program is the oldest, and smallest, of three private-school choice plans in Florida and has been the focal point of the legal and political battle between school choice proponents and opponents in Florida. In deciding to declare the program unconstitutional, the court read the constitutional requirement that the state provide a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education” as decreeing a constitutional “uniformity” in operations. The decision was greeted with great fanfare by the National School Boards Association, the NAACP, and the teachers unions.

Rotherham has more.

Who is to Blame?

Walter Williams:

Let’s look at the recent “Nation’s Report Card,” published annually by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.
Nationally, in reading, only 13 percent of black fourth graders, and 11 percent of black eighth graders score as proficient. Twenty-nine percent achieve a score of “basic,” defined as a partial knowledge and skills needed to be proficient in the grade. Fifty-nine percent score below basic, lacking necessary knowledge and skills. It’s the same story for black eighth graders, with 40 percent scoring basic and 49 percent below basic.
In math, it’s roughly the same story. For black fourth graders, 12 percent score proficient, 47 percent score basic and 40 percent below basic. For black eighth graders, 8 percent score proficient, while 33 percent score basic and 59 percent score below basic; however, 1 percent of black fourth graders and eighth graders achieved an advanced score in math.
Teachers and politicians respond to this tragic state of affairs by saying more money is needed. The Washington, D.C., school budget is about the nation’s highest with about $15,000 per pupil. Its student/teacher ratio, at 15.2 to 1, is lower than the nation’s average. Despite this, black academic achievement in D.C. is the lowest in the nation. Reading scores for D.C.’s fourth-grade black students are: 7 percent proficient, 21 percent basic and 71 percent below basic. For eighth-graders, it’s 6 percent proficient, 33 percent basic and 58 percent below basic.

Best Practices Studies

National Center for Educational Accountability:

This report explores the possibility of reaching higher standards for all students in all schools and suggests the principles and practices for doing so. Of course, moving any school system from knowing what high-performing systems do, to doing what high-performing systems do is a complex process. Strong agreement about what high-performing systems do will begin to bring some order to that process.
One practice, which relates to the Framework theme of Curriculum and Academic Goals, is the pursuit of rigorous course content across a broad range of academic levels in high-performing schools. This includes higher expectations for the work of students characterized as “average” or “below average,” more aggressive efforts to enroll borderline students in advanced classes, and more frequent access to the school’s top teachers for average students. At Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in Florida, educators said that the “culture of high expectations is applied to students at all performance levels, not just to the academically advanced.” Students in all academic courses expect homework assignments that require approximately two hours of time each day to complete for each class.

via Joanne.

Kids Today

Stanford Alumni Magazine:

“Public vs. Private Schools: Pupils Perform Almost Equally”

Diana Jean Schemo:

The Education Department reported on Friday that children in public schools generally performed as well as or better than comparable children in private schools in reading and mathematics. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private school counterparts fared better.
The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores in 2003 from nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 530 private schools, also found that conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind public schools on eighth-grade math.
The study, carrying the imprimatur of the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department, was contracted to the Educational Testing Service and delivered to the department last year.

National Center for Education Statistics:

This study compares mean 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and mathematics scores of public and private schools in 4th and 8th grades, statistically controlling for individual student characteristics (such as gender, race/ethnicity, disability status, identification as an English language learner) and school characteristics (such as school size, location, and the composition of the student body). In grades 4 and 8, using unadjusted mean scores, students in private schools scored significantly higher than students in public schools for both reading and mathematics. But when school means were adjusted in the HLM analysis, the average for public schools was significantly higher than the average for private schools for grade 4 mathematics and not significantly different for reading. At grade 8, the average for private schools was significantly higher than the average for public schools in reading but not significantly different for mathematics. Comparisons were also carried out between types of sectarian schools. In grade 4, Catholic and Lutheran schools were compared separately to public schools. For both reading and mathematics, the results were similar to those based on all private schools. In grade 8, Catholic, Lutheran, and Conservative Christian schools were each compared to public schools. For Catholic and Lutheran schools for both reading and mathematics, the results were again similar to those based on all private schools. For Conservative Christian schools, the average adjusted school mean in reading was not significantly different from that of public schools. In mathematics, the average adjusted school mean for Conservative Christian schools was significantly lower than that of public schools.

Complete Report [680K PDF].
Leo Casey has more along with Kevin Drum.

Commentary on the New Jersey Voucher Lawsuit

Kristen Graham:

Organizers called the suit an important step in the civil-rights movement, pointing out that many students in the defendant districts are poor and minorities.
“This lawsuit today is as important as the Montgomery bus boycott of the mid-1950s,” said the Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, executive director of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, which joined in the suit. “This, too, will launch a national effort.”
Also supporting the suit are Excellent Education for Everyone, a pro-voucher group with offices in Newark and Camden; the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey; and the Alliance for School Choice, a national organization based in Phoenix.
Voucher programs have been implemented with varying success in Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. They have been unsuccessful in California, Georgia, Illinois, and New York.

Jim Wooten has more.

Court Allows District to Pay More Than Union Scale

Mike Antonucci:

The North Dakota Supreme Court let stand a ruling that the Kenmare school district could offer and pay more money to fill a speech-language pathologist position. The district’s action was the subject of a lawsuit by the Kenmare Education Association (KEA).
The union filed suit in July 2005, after a state fact-finding committee recommended the district be allowed to offer an additional $15,000 in salary to find a taker for the hard-to-fill position. The union asserted that paying a pathologist more money than was proscribed by the salary scale violated the collective bargaining agreement.
Last November, a state district court judge upheld the district’s action, prompting KEA President Donna Schmit to say, “For one individual to be allowed to negotiate up to $15,000 additional salary is wrong.”

Meadville High Commencement Speech

FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras [PDF]:

I have yet to see a “blamer” – someone who fails to stand up and take responsibility – who is truly successful or satisfied. This is because blaming, while easy, is contrary to who we are as Americans. It runs contrary to our fundamentals. As author Philip Howard put it in his book The Death of Common Sense, “taking responsibility was, of course, the basic premise of the republic.”4 And in a recently published book, America Against The World, the authors reported that in a survey of 44 nations, the United States was among the top in believing that those who fail have themselves, not society, to blame.5 These authors describe us as “a people who are more personally freewheeling, self-reliant, and adverse to government involvement” than peoples of most other nations. This tells me that taking responsibility is still fundamentally engrained in our culture and in our beings.
When you stand up and take responsibility, you will show yourself as a leader and as one who deserves respect.

High School Online Classes

Pauline Vu:

The majority of statewide virtual schools, which mostly are geared toward high school students, offer courses that supplement traditional brick-and-mortar schools. But a growing number of virtual charter schools are offering high schoolers the option of earning their diploma the digital way, without ever stepping foot in a classroom.
There are now 24 states with statewide programs that offer credit for online courses, according to John Watson, researcher for the annual Keeping Pace [PDF File] report that tracks virtual programs.
And more states are hopping on the virtual bandwagon. This year, Missouri and South Dakota enacted laws paving the way for a statewide virtual learning program. In April, Michigan made an online class a high school requirement, starting with the class of 2011. Georgia, which had its inaugural virtual education program in the last school year, enacted a new law to allow for cyber charter schools, while Illinois will open its first public virtual elementary school this fall.
The largest state programs are Utah’s Electronic High School, which opened in 1993 and taught a course to about a third of the state’s recent graduating class, and Florida Virtual School, which serves grades 6-12 and opened in 1997.
Utah’s program has more than 52,000 students. Florida’s program has 31,000 students and 65,000 course enrollments, the most in the country.
Many of the schools’ students are making up credits, trying to graduate early, or taking classes their schools don’t offer. Students in rural districts that don’t offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses, for example, can take those classes online.

The article includes links to course examples.

Pittsburgh High School Graduation Rate Study

John Engberg and Brian Gill:

Graduation and dropout rates are difficult to calculate. These difficulties arise because of both conceptual ambiguities and imperfect data. In this paper, the authors review some of these challenges, discuss how the challenges have been approached when using cross-sectional data, and describe a method that analyzes longitudinal, student-level data to provide an improved estimate of graduation and dropout rates. They then apply that method to estimate graduation and dropout rates for the Pittsburgh Public Schools district-wide and for each high school in the district.

Joe Smydo and Tim Grant have more:

City school board members angrily denounced a study that estimates 35 percent of high school students — including nearly half of all black male students — drop out of Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“It’s very incendiary to put something like this out there when there’s so much gray area and speculation,” board member Randall Taylor said at a meeting last night. “For us to tell the city we are not graduating this many students, this is devastating to the city.”

Andrew Rotherham notes that “It’s the PR, Stupid“…… “The report also offers a nice walk-through of some of the issues surrounding calculating grad rates.”

Upper Grades, Lower Reading Skills

Lori Aratani:

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based education policy research and advocacy group, estimates that as many as 6 million middle and high school students can’t read at acceptable levels. It’s an issue for students well above the bottom of the class. A report released in March that looked at the reading skills of college-bound students who took the ACT college entrance exam found that only 51 percent were prepared for college-level reading.
“That is what is the most startling and troubling,” said Cyndie Schmeiser, ACT’s senior vice president of research and development. “The literacy problem affects all groups — not exactly in the same ways, but it’s affecting all groups regardless of gender, income or race.”

Alliance for Excellent Education Adolescent Literacy Site.

Menomonee Falls Schools “Efficiency Study”

Amy Hetzner:

Among the audit’s findings:

  • With 17 administrators, the Menomonee Falls district is at the high end of comparably sized districts, which have 14.5 to 17 administrators. But its licensed teaching staff exceeded staffing at similar districts by the equivalent of 40 to 60 full-time employees in the 2005-’06 school year. In particular, specialty courses at Menomonee Falls High School often have smaller class sizes than other districts or even other district schools, Germain found. The board already is planning to reduce its staff by 10 full-time teachers in 2006-’07.
  • Departments and teachers are “pushed” to spend the money the district budget provides annually by the end of the school year. “That is, purchase orders are rushed into the Business Office during April in an attempt to spend any remaining budget dollars so that when next year’s budget is prepared their budget level is not reduced,” according to the study.
  • The district’s building structure – separate middle schools for sixth- and seventh-graders and for eighth- and ninth-graders and a 10th- through 12th-grade high school – contributes to more administrative staffing, time lost for traveling teachers and small class sizes for courses such as foreign languages.

More commentary.

Raising the Bar?

Elia Powers:

One of the largest community college systems in the country is looking into creating an honors college with free tuition and fees for high-achieving high school students who are looking to transfer to competitive four-year institutions.

Houston Community College System
administrators have discussed the possibility of starting the program by fall 2007, but the governing board has yet to formally discuss the plan, which calls for a centralization of existing university-level courses and high admissions standards.
Whereas Houston Community College accepts any Texas student with a high school diploma, the honors college would probably require students to have at least a 3.5 grade point average and an equivalent SAT score, said Maria Straus, director of learning initiatives at the college.

Schoolbooks Are Given F’s in Originality

Diana Jean Schemo:

Just how similar passages showed up in two books is a tale of how the largely obscure $4 billion a year world of elementary and high school textbook publishing often works, for these passages were not written by the named authors but by one or more uncredited writers. And while it is rare that the same language is used in different books, it is common for noted scholars to give their names to elementary and high school texts, lending prestige and marketing power, while lesser known writers have a hand in the books and their frequent revisions.
As editions pass, the names on the spine of a book may have only a distant or dated relation to the words between the covers, diluted with each successive edition, people in the industry, and even authors, say.
In the case of the two history texts, the authors appeared mortified by the similarities and said they had had nothing to do with the changes.

Soglin on Allied Drive, Gangs

Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin:

he future for Allied Drive and the City of Madison appears bleak. WMTV-15 reported two nights ago:
Allied Drive Crowds a Growing Concern for Police
Madison police say they have needed to call for backup three times within the last week due to troublesome crowds of people in the Allied Drive neighborhood. And that’s draining resources from other parts of the city.
Police report groups of 20 to 80 people shouting, sometimes pounding on squad cars while officers try to make an arrest…
This report is not from Milwaukee, or even the Town of Madison but the city of Madison, the self-avowed hotbed of progressive leadership. For those interested in verbose, lengthy analysis, go to Waxingamerica.com to any of my posts under the category of gangs.

Last Fall’s Gangs and School Violence Forum is a must watch (listen – mp3 audio). Participants included representatives from law enforcement, principals and county/state service employees.
Forum notes can be found here along with a number of background links

What Billions Can Buy

Andrew J. Coulson:

Mr. Buffett and the Gateses are not the first to invest over a billion dollars in an ambitious school reform plan. Ambassador and TV Guide mogul Walter Annenberg trod this path during the 1990s, donating $500 million of his own money and another $800 million in matching funds to the “Annenberg Challenge.”
Mr. Annenberg’s goal was to create exemplary schools and districts that would act as models for the nation. He sought not incremental change, but systemwide transformation. He didn’t get it. Though some Annenberg Challenge projects showed promise, at least for a time, their impact on the system as a whole was negligible.
Why? The Wreck of the Annenberg can be attributed to a single fundamental flaw in the ambassador’s approach: he assumed that excellence, once demonstrated, would automatically be imitated.
It is easy to see why people who have amassed riches in the private sector might assume that successful models are always mimicked on a broad scale. That is what happens in competitive markets – including competitive education markets.

More on the Annenberg Challenge.

“Competition the Cure for Health Care”

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge:

Last month HBS Working Knowledge offered an excerpt from Redefining Health Care: Creating Value-Based Competition on Results, by Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter and Elizabeth Olmsted Teisberg. The U.S. healthcare system is dysfunctional, a Rube Goldberg contraption that rewards the wrong things and doesn’t create value for the consumer. In this Q&A, Porter discusses his research.
Roger Thompson: What went wrong with the American model? On paper it looks ideal. It’s private, it’s competitive, yet it doesn’t seem to work.
Michael E. Porter: The United States has a system with the wrong kind of competition, on the wrong things. Instead, we have a zero-sum competition to restrict services, assemble bargaining power, shift the cost to others, or grab more of the revenue versus other actors in the system.
Zero-sum competition does not create value; it can actually destroy value by adding administrative costs and leads to structures involving health plans and providers and other actors, which are misaligned with patient value. In a world of zero-sum competition, for example, providers will consolidate into provider groups to gain clout against insurers. But, as we point out in our book, the provider group doesn’t create any value, but value is not created by breadth of services but excellence in particular medical conditions.

NPR’s OnPoint recently interviewed Harvard’s Michael Porter: [20MB MP3 Audio]
Health care expenses have been much discussed with respect to the Madison School District’s $332M+ budget.

Weighted Student Funding

Fordham Institute:

Everyone agrees that education funding today is a mess. Most disadvantaged students don’t receive the funding they need; red tape and overhead waste time and money; and new types of education options, like charter schools, are starved for dollars. Unfortunately, until now, so-called solutions have consisted of nothing more than soothing slogans and gimmicks.
But a broad, bipartisan coalition now urges a new method of funding our public schools–one that finally ensures the students who need the most receive it, that empowers school leaders to make key decisions, and that opens the door to public school choice. It’s a 100 percent solution to the most pressing problems in public school funding–and it’s called Weighted Student Funding.

Nancy Salvato comments on the report.

Magical Teachers Can Change People’s Lives

William Wineke:

“When I was in high school I had a teacher that really helped me,” nephew Tommy wrote. “His name is Gerald Krause. He is now retiring after 28 years of being a shop teacher at Verona High School. I know that being sappy isn’t my forte, but he has helped out our community more than most any teacher I know. He has taken the bottom 10 percent and kept them in school with his personality and flexibility of punishment.”
Well, I don’t truly believe my nephew was in the bottom 10 percent of anything, but that doesn’t make any difference.
What makes a difference is that when Tommy was a teenager and struggling with the meaning of life, he found a teacher who convinced him that he did have some skills and qualities worth developing and that he did have something to contribute in life.

Confronting the transition to high school

Ms. Cornelius:

Mr.McNamar posted some excellent points at The Daily Grind regarding the struggle of freshmen as they transition to high school, and Graycie has a thought-provoking post of her own on the same subject entitledTransition Years.

This subject has been of great interest to me, since I was a middle school teacher for many years. Anyone who has been following this blog from its inception knows that while I adore middle school kids, I am no fan of the “middle school philosophy.” I don’t think we help our kids get an education by allowing them to coast academically for several years while they try to get their heads on straight– I don’t believe that should be the primary goal of education.

Publishing Industry Statistics – Interesting Reading Numbers

Dan Poynter:

One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. Many do not even graduate from high school.
58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
42% of college graduates never read another book.
80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57% of new books are not read to completion.

A Historical Look at Student Debt

Inside Higher Ed:

The landscape for student borrowing has changed significantly in the last 15 years, in several ways: The federal government now has different rules for who can borrow (and how much debt they can take on), and, of course, the price of college has continued to shoot ever skyward. For those and other reasons, it’s difficult to fully gauge the implications for today’s borrowers of a study on student indebtedness released Wednesday by the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. But the report found that most borrowers who finished college in the early 1990s were able to manage their student loan burden without enormous strain.
The report, “Dealing With Debt: 1992-93 Bachelor’s Degree Recipients 10 Years Later,” taps into one of the government’s most vibrant databases of student outcomes, the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study, to examine the debt burdens and repayment histories of students who graduated with four-year degrees during the 1992-93 academic year.

Academic Competitiveness and National SMART Grants

US Department of Education:

To meet the growing need for improved math and science instruction, on Feb. 8, 2006 President Bush signed into law two new student grant programs–the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (National SMART Grant) Programs.
$790 million is set aside for the 2006-07 academic year for these grants, which were created by the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005. The grants will encourage students to take more challenging courses in high school–making success in college more likely, according to research–and to pursue college majors in high demand in the global economy, such as science, mathematics, technology, engineering and critical foreign languages.
Academic Competitiveness Grants will be available to students for their first and second academic years of college. National SMART Grants will be available to students for their third and fourth academic years of college.

US Dept of Education: Academic Competitiveness Grants

US Department of Education:

Participation in a rigorous secondary school program of study may qualify a postsecondary student to receive an ACG, if otherwise eligible. The Secretary recognizes at least one rigorous secondary school program of study for each state annually. States may submit proposals for recognition or may elect to accept rigorous secondary school programs of study pre-recognized by the Secretary. The following are recognized rigorous secondary school programs of study for each state for the 2006-07 award year.

Wisconsin [PDF]:

  • A set of courses similar to the State Scholars Initiative
  • Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses and test
    scores.

  • Wisconsin Coursework Requirements.
  • Wisconsin Dual Enrollment Program.

“Mentors give new teachers a real education”

Jessica Blanchard:

Scott Anstett thought his college classes and student teaching had prepared him for his first substitute-teaching job at Denny Middle School in West Seattle.
Then, on his first day of school, a couple of his rowdier students jumped out the windows of his portable classroom.
“They were going a bit nuts,” he said recently. “They knew I was a sub, so they put me to the test. … It was a culture shock.”
Anstett stuck with it, and spent four years in a string of substitute jobs in Seattle Public Schools. But he might have given up on the profession if he hadn’t landed a permanent job last fall, teaching art at Aki Kurose Middle School, and if he hadn’t met Don “Mac” MacInnes.

Clear, high goals help schools close the achievement gap

Kati Haycock, interviewed by Alan Borsuk:

Q. The gap is a huge issue in Milwaukee. What would you do if you had full power to do something about things here?
A. When we look at the districts that are making the biggest gains, in terms of both overall achievement and narrowing gaps between groups, what seems to set them apart is their focus. They have very, very clear and high goals for kids. They focus a lot on instruction.

More on Kati Haycock.

“Who’s Standing in the Schoolhouse Door, Now?”

Shavar Jeffries:

It is well beyond time for people of color to challenge vehemently the educational policies of the Democratic leadership that have failed our children for decades. Too many Democrats would prefer to deny poor folk the opportunity to make educational decisions for themselves – notwithstanding these Democrats wouldn’t permit their own children to be educated in city schools. At the same time, Democrats, by and large, continue to lord over urban school systems that have consigned generation after generation of children of color to an educational genocide that threatens the very survival of the Black community.

Foundation for Madison Public Shools

Susan Troller:

From the beginning, the independent community organization’s unusual strategy was to raise money for an endowment that will continue to provide increasing funding every year to sustain and enhance programming outside of the regular curriculum.
In addition, each school in the district currently has its own endowment of at least $10,000 that is earmarked for helping fund special events or programs. A foundation goal is to get every individual school’s endowment to $50,000, returning at least $2,500 to that school for grants each year.

More on John Taylor and the FMPS.

“Suggestions for Setting Up Your Classroom”

Ms. Cornelius“:

I feel that it is my duty as an official Wizened Veteran of the Classroom (I prefer this term to Ancient Hidebound Broad) to share the knowledge I have gained through sweat, toil, and personal peril lo, these many years, as a lion-tamer pedagogue. Several of my edusphere friends have also generously contributed their insight. This post has now become a kind of “Carnival of Classroom Survival,” in fact!
First, oh paduan, consider classroom management.
Have only the rules you are willing to consistently enforce, and consistently enforce the rules you have. Have general classroom expectations written up in a succinct style, avoiding “Don’t”s, and hand them out the first day of school. Try to keep the expectations to five.
Post the learning goal and agenda for the day on the board every day. Include homework to be assigned and due date.

NEA Convention Notes

Mike Antonucci:

Wisconsin Education Association Council President Stan Johnson agreed to shave off his moustache if his delegates raised a certain level of PAC contributions. They did, and thousands of people watched as he shaved it off. So I owe an apology to education reporters all over the country for my previous criticism of their not covering the NEA convention. With each one you miss, you show better judgment than mine.
* The shave took longer than the debate on Resolution B-10.

‘Academic Redshirting’ Is Getting a Mixed Report Card

Michelle Keller:

Many parents and educators swear by the practice of “academic redshirting” — waiting an extra year before enrolling a child in kindergarten in hopes of giving the kid more confidence, greater size or perhaps an academic edge.
But does it really work?
New research — including a federal study of 21,000 youngsters released in May — suggests that the benefits are a mixed bag, both academically and socially. As often happens with education techniques, redshirting appears to help some, harm others or have no effect at all.

Friedman on Public School Centralization and Vouchers

Bob Sipchen:

“The schooling system was in much better shape 50 years ago than it is now,” says Friedman, his voice as confident as reinforced concrete.
A big fan of freedom, Friedman objects to public schools on principle, arguing — as he says most classic liberals once did — that government involvement by nature decreases individual liberty. But it’s the decline of schooling at the practical level, especially for the poor, that seems to exasperate him.
Friedman puts much of the blame on centralization.
“When I went to elementary school, a long, long time ago in the 1920s, there were about 150,000 school districts in the United States,” he says. “Today there are fewer than 15,000, and the population is more than twice as large.”
“It’s very clear that the people who suffer most in our present system are people in the slums — blacks, Hispanics, the poor, the underclass.”
When I ask him about the “achievement gap” separating low-scoring black and Latino students from better-scoring whites and Asians, he blames my “friends in the union.”
“They are running a system that maximizes the gap in performance. . . Tell me, where is the gap between the poor and rich wider than it is in schooling? A more sensible education system, one that is based on the market, would stave off the division of this country into haves and have-nots; it would make for a more egalitarian society because you’d have more equal opportunities for education.
Jonathan Kozol, author of “Savage Inequalities” and other books of education journalism, has noted that the parents who whine that “throwing money at education” doesn’t solve the problem are usually those spending $15,000 or $30,000 a year to send their kids to private schools. I ask Friedman about the obvious implications of that.
“In the last 10 years, the amount spent per child on schooling has more than doubled after allowing for inflation. There’s been absolutely no improvement as far as I can see in the quality of education. . . . The system you have is like a sponge. It will absorb the extra money. Because the incentives are wrong.

Additional LAT comments on this article.

A better math idea? Check the numbers

Robert Miller:

He created Reasoning Mind because he had a dismal opinion of American education, from kindergarten through high school.
This Web-based math program “does not merely incorporate technology into teaching. It is based in technology and capitalizes on the power of technology to deliver information and content,” Dr. Alexander R. “Alex” Khachatryan said.
The results from a pilot program during the 2005-06 school year were impressive. At-risk students at a Houston school and advanced math students at a school in College Station were introduced to Reasoning Mind.
“At the inner-city school, the test group’s average improvement from the pre-test to the post-test was 67 percent, while the control group improved 6 percent,” Dr. Khachatryan said.
“The test group students also demonstrated extraordinary results – a 20 percent higher passing rate – on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, despite the fact that only three out of 48 problems directly checked students’ knowledge of the two math units covered by RM in the pilot,” he said.

Reasoning Mind website.

Teachers Matter

NY Times Editorial:

The U.S. Department of Education soft-pedaled the teacher quality requirement in the early years, probably because of pressure from the states. But as of this month, states and districts that wish to keep receiving federal school aid must file plans with the Department of Education explaining how they intend to reach the teacher quality goal. Meanwhile, the importance of that goal was just underscored by a nonpartisan Washington think tank, the Education Trust, in a study on the effects of teacher training and experience on student performance.
Skeptics have often expressed doubt that good teachers would make any difference in the lives of the country’s poorest students, who typically show up in first grade not at all prepared to learn. The Education Trust study, which draws on a treasure-trove of data from several states, clearly refutes this notion. The most important data set comes from Illinois, where researchers scrutinized the work and qualifications of 140,000 teachers, all of whom were assigned quality ratings based on several indicators, including where they attended college and how much experience they had.

How to Educate Young Scientists

NY Times Editorial:

The United States could easily fall from its privileged perch in the global economy unless it does something about the horrendous state of science education at both the public school and university levels. That means finding ways to enliven a dry and dispiriting style of science instruction that leads as many as half of the country’s aspiring scientists to quit the field before they leave college.
The emerging consensus among educators is that students need early, engaging experiences in the lab — and much more mentoring than most of them receive now — to maintain their interest and inspire them to take up careers in the sciences.
Some universities have already realized the need for better ways of teaching. But this means revising an incentive system that has historically rewarded scientists for making discoveries and publishing academic papers, not for nurturing the next generation of great minds.

“Why Should I Learn Math”

Dan Greene:

The average incoming level for our freshmen is around 5th grade. Our mission is to get them to a 4-year college. This requires not just development of their academic skills, but it also requires a shift in their thinking and self-perception. Our students come in with comparable literacy levels; however, in our society, it seems much clearer to people that being able to read and write is an essential skill. There are plenty of well-educated people who happily admit that they can’t do math, but none that laugh about their inability to read a book.

Madison School Board “Progress Report” Week of July 3rd

Via a Johnny Winston, Jr. email:

Welcome to the week of July 3rd edition of the Madison school board’s “Progress Report.” I hope everyone is enjoying the summer
First, upcoming business…On Monday July 10th several committees of the board are meeting: Partnerships at 5 p.m.; Finance & Operations at 6 p.m.; Communications at 7 p.m. and Long Range Planning at 8 p.m
The general meeting on July 17th will include a drama performance from youth involved in MSCR arts program
Next, a few notes on what was accomplished last month
On June 19th the board held a “brainstorming session” to discuss future district directions. This included developing agenda items for the board and committees. For the ‘06-‘07 school year, the entire board will focus on: 1) Attendance, Dropouts, Truancy and Expulsions; 2) Budget Process; 3) Math & Literacy; and 4) Equity. Many items were discussed for committee agendas and the committees themselves will prioritize them
On June 22nd the board approved a one year total package increase of 3.98% for MMSD administrators with 2.18% of that increase going to base salary. The district will investigate whether the current level of health insurance benefits can be provided at a lower cost, which would result in cost savings
Upcoming agenda items include: Food/Wellness; Animals in the Classroom; and Advertising & Sponsorship policies; and the Superintendent’s Evaluation.

Continue reading Madison School Board “Progress Report” Week of July 3rd

Teachers Selling Lesson Plans

Ben Feller:

For all those teachers who take work home at night, creating lessons they hope kids will like, the reward is a good day in class. Now there could be another payoff: cash. Teachers are selling their original lectures, course outlines and study guides to other teachers through a new Web site launched by New York entrepreneur Paul Edelman.
The site, teacherspayteachers.com, aims to be an eBay for educators. For a $29.95 yearly fee, sellers can post their work and set their prices. Buyers rate the products.

Via Tyler Cowen.

The School Testing Dodge

NY Times Editorial:

Many of the nations that have left the United States behind in math and science have ministries of education with clear mandates when it comes to educational quality control. The American system, by contrast, celebrates local autonomy for its schools. When Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, it tried to address the quality control problem through annual tests, which the states were supposed to administer in exchange for federal dollars. But things have not quite worked out as planned.
A startling new study shows that many states have a longstanding tradition of setting basement-level educational standards and misleading the public about student performance. The patterns were set long before No Child Left Behind, and it will require more than just passing a law to change them.
Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), a research institute run jointly by Stanford and the University of California, showed that in many states students who performed brilliantly on state tests scored dismally on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is currently the strongest, most well-respected test in the country.
The study analyzed state-level testing practices from 1992 to 2005. It found that many states were dumbing down their tests or shifting the proficiency targets in math and reading, creating a fraudulent appearance of progress and making it impossible to tell how well students were actually performing.

Read Wisconsin’s “Broad interpretation of how NCLB progress can be “met” through the WKCE”, Alan Borsuk’s followup article, including Wisconsin DPI comments and UW Math Professor Dick Askey’s comments on “Madison and Wisconsin Math Data, 8th Grade“.

PACE Report: Is the No Child Left Behind Act Working? “The Reliability of How States Track Achievement” [PDF]
Andrew Rotherham has more.

Sun Prairie Cuts Health Care Costs & Raises Teacher Salaries – using the same Dean Healthcare Plan

Milwaukee reporter Amy Hetzner:

A change in health insurance carriers was achieved by several Dane County school districts because of unique circumstances, said Annette Mikula, human resources director for the Sun Prairie School District.
Dean Health System already had been Sun Prairie’s point-of-service provider in a plan brokered by WEA Trust, she said. So, after WEA’s rates increased nearly 20% last year and were projected for a similar increase this year, the district negotiated a deal directly with Dean.
When the Dean plan goes into effect Sept. 1, the district’s premiums will drop enough that it can offer a starting salary $2,000 above what it paid last school year and yet the health plan will stay the same, Mikula said. Several other Dane County districts also have switched to Dean.
“I don’t see that our teachers made a concession because really the only thing that’s changing in theory is the name on the card,” she said. “But for the name on the card not to say WEA is huge.”
According to the school boards association, fringe benefits made up 34% of the average teacher’s compensation package in the 2004-’05 school year vs. 24% less than two decades before.

Sun Prairie School District website.

Jason Shephard noted earlier this year that the most recent attempt by the Madison School District to evaluate health care costs was a “Sham(e)”:

Last week, Madison Teachers Inc. announced it would not reopen contract negotiations following a hollow attempt to study health insurance alternatives.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but anyone who suggests the Joint Committee on Health Insurance Issues conducted a fair or comprehensive review needs to get checked out by a doctor.
The task force’s inaction is a victory for John Matthews, MTI’s executive director and board member Wisconsin Physicians Service.
Losers include open government, school officials, taxpayers and young teachers in need of a raise.
From its start, the task force, comprised of three members each from MTI and the district, seemed to dodge not only its mission but scrutiny.
Hoping to meet secretly until Isthmus raised legal questions, the committee convened twice for a total of four hours – one hour each for insurance companies to pitch proposals.
No discussion to compare proposals. No discussion about potential cost savings. No discussion about problems with WPS, such as the high number of complaints filed by its subscribers.

The Madison School Board recently discussed their 2006/2007 goals (my suggestsions). The Wisconsin State Journal noted that there are some early positive signs that things might change.

Milwaukee Schools Increase Low Performing School Curriculum Oversight

Alan Borsuk:

Andrekopoulos said in his speech that from about 1988 through 2000, the leadership of MPS made it a priority to decentralize control of the district, allowing many schools to operate more independently and choose approaches to education. Some schools flourished as a result, but many did not, he said, and the focus was not on student achievement.
Now, he said, the focus must be on student achievement, and the central office must make sure that good teaching is going on in schools.
“We need to move away from a system of schools to a school system,” he said, reversing one of the catch phrases that was used by advocates of decentralization – including Andrekopoulos himself, when he was principal of Fritsche Middle School.

More Discussion on Spending & Education Quality

Ryan Boots:

From time to time I’ve mentioned the disastrous Kansas City experiment, which tends to be a rallying point for those who dare to contradict the Kozol doctrine that increased spending will cure all that ails American education. Looks like somebody didn’t get the memo, because we have a Kansas City for the new millennium:

Boots references George Stratigos, President of the Marin city School District – blog.

Gregory Kane:

In the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the Black Power movement in the United States, there is no clearer indication of black power’s failure than in urban school systems like Baltimore’s that are run by Democrats. Washington, D. C. schools are some of the worst in the country. Democrats run D.C.
In the Manhattan Institute study, Baltimore’s graduation rate was 91st of the country’s 100 largest school systems. But Detroit’s — another city run by Democrats — was 98th. In both Baltimore and Detroit, most of those Democrats are black who are supposed to be exercising black power to improve conditions for black folks.

– via Rotherham.

K-12 and College Readiness

Holly K. Hacker:

Kimberly Green figured she was ready for college. And why not? She had a diploma from Duncanville High School with a B-minus average.
But then she got to Mountain View College and had to take four remedial courses, three in math and one in reading.
“I’ll admit, I was kind of down that I had to take developmental classes,” Kimberly said. It was tough enough adjusting to college without having to catch up, she said.
This isn’t to place all the blame on Duncanville; Kimberly has plenty of company. Half – yes, half – of students entering public colleges and universities in Texas need some type of remedial help, according to the state’s higher education board.

LA’s Muddled Governance

LA Times Editorial:

A.J. DUFFY’S SUPPORT OF the mayor’s plan to reorganize the management of Los Angeles’ schools hardly qualifies as news. Duffy is president of the school district’s teachers union, which would gain even more power under the plan. But Duffy did propose a novel argument Wednesday in Sacramento, testifying in support of the bill that would authorize the restructuring.
A weakened school board, as beholden to UTLA as ever, makes an ideal negotiating partner for a powerful union. A superintendent who isn’t answerable to the board gives the union enough wiggle room to continually challenge district policy. A situation in which no one is dominant provides a perfect opportunity for the strongest player to emerge as the leader of the district. And UTLA is a strong, well-financed player. No wonder Duffy likes this deal so much.

Test Scores

Thomas C. Reeves [PDF]:

In Wisconsin, as elsewhere, teachers and administrators are eager to avoid being branded deficient and suffer potential financial losses. Department of Public Instruction officials in Wisconsin reported recently that the cost of tests taken in late 2005 included a $10 million contract with CTB/McGraw Hill, a well-known testing company that designed new tests exclusively for the state. Almost half a million students took the tests, and the overall results were less than encouraging. This at a time when much money and effort have been employed to hike the quality of instruction and fend off the transfer of students to voucher schools.
Common sense and decades of teaching experience dictate at least two observations: 1) until the home life of many low-income students improves (two parents, a steady income, solid moral teaching, at least some sort of intellectual stimulation higher than MTV, including the reading of books), the young people in question cannot be expected to embrace a life of learning and begin to plan for the future;

Via WisPolitics.

University Student Reading Buddies

Reader Reed Schneider emails this:

A plan to have 40 Spring Arbor University students serve next year as “reading buddies” for struggling first-graders in Jackson Public Schools could be a win-win situation.
The Jackson school board recently cut three Reading Recovery teacher positions to help trim its $1.86 million deficit.
JPS will obtain the services of 40 people who plan to make education their future profession, at a very low cost — $1,800 to transport the Spring Arbor students to elementary buildings. The remaining cost of the $69,780 program will go toward various training programs for teachers in the district. Overall, the district will save $221,287 over the Reading Recovery program.

“I’m sure there are a couple thousand students in the UW-Madison School of Education. With numbers like that, you could save many $100,000’s by getting rid of Reading Recovery and still have two teachers for every former RR kid.”

‘Not it!’ More schools ban games at recess

Emily Bazar:

Some traditional childhood games are disappearing from school playgrounds because educators say they’re dangerous.
Elementary schools in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Spokane, Wash., banned tag at recess this year. Others, including a suburban Charleston, S.C., school, dumped contact sports such as soccer and touch football.
In other cities, including Wichita; San Jose, Calif.; Beaverton, Ore.; and Rancho Santa Fe., Calif., schools took similar actions earlier.
The bans were passed in the name of safety, but some children’s health advocates say limiting exercise and free play can inhibit a child’s development.
Groups such as the National School Boards Association don’t keep statistics on school games.
But several experts, including Donna Thompson of the National Program for Playground Safety, verify the trend. Dodge ball has been out at some schools for years, but banning games such as tag and soccer is a newer development.

Madison’s Thoreau school implemented a controversial mandatory grouping recess plan (no free play) earlier this year.

No More Teacher Ed?

Peter Wood (Provost of New York City’s Kings College):

By 2036, the forms of teacher preparation that currently prevail in Western nations will have sunk into oblivion. We will have discarded schools of education, the pedagogies they teach, and the certification apparatus that they serve. Such schools, pedagogies, and certifications have clung to life stubbornly for the better part of a century despite ample evidence of their unsuitability. Why predict that in the next 30 years they will finally follow the giant ground sloth into the La Brea tar pit of history?
In an era when jobs that require a high level of trained intelligence flow easily to India and other countries, Western countries are awakening to the awkward reality that we are not very good at basic schooling.
Mediocre teaching isn’t the only reason we aren’t very good at basic schooling. A distressingly large and growing percentage of children grow up semi-parentless; increasingly children are lost in the buzz of electronic distractions; and we preoccupy kids with group grievances at the expense of learning. Every few years our governments launch ambitious new programs of school reform, each of which seems to create a maelstrom of new kinds of educational misfeasance.
But after we have sifted and weighed all these contributory maladies, the main problem remains that we just don’t do a very good job at encouraging talented people to become teachers and equipping them along the way with the right kind of preparation. The single biggest cause of the deficiencies in our schools is the risible system by which we train teachers.

Joanne has more.

Harper Lee Surfaces on Reading

CNN:

Harper Lee, author of the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird,” has written a rare published item — a letter for Oprah Winfrey’s magazine on how she became a reader as a child in a rural, Depression-era Alabama town.
In a letter for the magazine’s July “special summer reading issue,” Lee tells of becoming a reader before first grade: She was read to by her older sisters and brother, a story a day by her mother, newspaper articles by her father. “Then, of course, it was Uncle Wiggly at bedtime.”
She also writes about the scarcity of books in the 1930s in Monroeville, where she grew up and where she lives part of each year. That deficit, combined with a lack of anything else to do — no movies for kids, no parks for games — made books especially treasured, she writes.

More on Harper Lee.

Minnesota Governor Proposes Two Years “Free” College Tuition for the Top High School Students

Patricia Lopez and Dan Wescoe:

Nearly all high school students in the top fourth of their graduating class would get free tuition at any state college or university, under a plan proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday.
An estimated 15,000 students would get two years free at the University of Minnesota or Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system schools as early as fall 2007 and could continue the free ride in their final two years by majoring in science, technology, engineering or math.
Families making as much as $150,000 in adjusted gross income would be eligible — about 93 percent of the state’s households.

For School Equality, Try Mobility

Rod Paige:

DUMB liberal ideas in education are a dime a dozen, and during my time as superintendent of Houston’s schools and as the United States secretary of education I battled against all sorts of progressivist lunacy, from whole-language reading to fuzzy math to lifetime teacher tenure. Today, however, one of the worst ideas in education is coming from conservatives: the so-called 65 percent solution.
This movement, bankrolled largely by Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock.com, wants states to mandate that 65 percent of school dollars be spent “in the classroom.” Budget items like teacher salaries would count; librarians, transportation costs and upkeep of buildings would not.
Proponents argue that this will counter wasteful spending and runaway school “overhead,” and they have convinced many voters — a Harris poll last fall put national support at more than 70 percent. Four states — Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana and Texas — have adopted 65 percent mandates and at least six more are seriously considering them.
The only drawback is that such laws won’t actually make schools any better, and could make them worse. Yes, it’s true that education financing is a mess and that billions are wasted every year. But the 65 percent solution won’t help. The most likely outcome is that school officials will learn the art of creative accounting in order to increase the percentage of money that can be deemed “classroom” expenses.

Andrew Rotherham has more:

An op-ed by Rod Paige in today’s NYT kicks off a new round of debate about student finance. Paige makes some good points, criticizes the 65 percent solution, and touts a new ecumenical manifesto about school finance organized by the Fordham Foundation and signed by a wide range of people including former Clinton WH Chief of Staff John Podesta and former NC Governor Jim Hunt. But, because the manifesto is bipartisan, or really non-partisan, it’s a shame Paige’s op-ed doesn’t have a dual byline to better frame the issue. Incidentally, hard to miss that while a few years ago few on the left wanted much to do with Fordham, that’s really changed. Sign of the changing edupolitics. (Disc. I signed.) It’s also hard to miss the enormous impact Commodore Marguerite Roza is having on this debate.

Continue reading For School Equality, Try Mobility

Math and Science Education In a Global Age: What the U.S. Can Learn from China

The Asia Society:

This report takes an incisive look at what U.S. education leaders can learn from China’s success in math and science education. From a comparative perspective, it evaluates complementary strengths and weaknesses in the two education systems. The report also outlines areas of potential collaboration so that both the U.S. and China can build and sustain excellence in math and science.

35 Page report: 267K PDF File.

The Asia Society has an extensive set of teacher and student resources.

Chinese Medicine for American Schools

Nicholas Kristof follows up Marc Eisen’s recent words on a world of competition for our children:

But the investments in China’s modernization that are most impressive of all are in human capital. The blunt fact is that many young Chinese in cities like Shanghai or Beijing get a better elementary and high school education than Americans do. That’s a reality that should embarrass us and stir us to seek lessons from China.
On this trip I brought with me a specialist on American third-grade education — my third-grade daughter. Together we sat in on third-grade classes in urban Shanghai and in a rural village near the Great Wall. In math, science and foreign languages, the Chinese students were far ahead.
My daughter was mortified when I showed a group of Shanghai teachers some of the homework she had brought along. Their verdict: first-grade level at a Shanghai school.
Granted, China’s education system has lots of problems. Universities are mostly awful, and in rural areas it’s normally impossible to hold even a primitive conversation in English with an English teacher. But kids in the good schools in Chinese cities are leaving our children in the dust.

Continue reading Chinese Medicine for American Schools

Renewed Push for the Arts in New York’s Schools

Robin Pogrebin:

Each of the 10 Regional Arts Supervisors oversees more than 100 schools, making it difficult to monitor each one closely. And with the recent establishment of about 300 “empowerment” schools that are largely independent of the Education Department, superintendents have been asked to cut their budgets in proportion to the number of schools leaving their jurisdiction. Regional arts supervisors could be a casualty.
Still, arts education advocates say the administration is moving in the right direction. They point to the beefed-up staff dedicated to arts education at the Education Department. In addition to Ms. Dunn there is now a full-time director in each of the four disciplines.
The very existence of qualified regional arts supervisors represents progress. In the past a district superintendent could appoint anybody for the position; now it requires supervisory certification and experience teaching the arts. Schools formerly could get away with spending their arts education money — known as Project Arts funds — on nonarts expenses, but now, for the first time, there is a budget code, which is being hailed as an accomplishment in and of itself. (Principals in the new empowerment schools will have greater budgetary autonomy, however, so the Education Department will not monitor their arts spending.)

Racine Health Care Costs & Teacher Layoffs

Scott Niederjohn [PDF]:

Facing a budget shortfall of $7.2 million this year, the Kenosha school district asked each of their labor groups to switch their health insurance provider from the WEA Trust to Minneapolis-based United Healthcare. The coverage offered by United Healthcare has the same benefits and cost sharing provisions as the WEA Trust plan currently used by the district’s employees. All of the labor groups within the district, except for the teacher’s union, chose to make this change and save the district over $3 million in benefit costs. Another $3 million would have been saved if the teacher’s had switched to this identical insurance plan as opposed to remaining with the union owned insurance provider.
The most remarkable part of this story is that because the teachers chose not to make this switch, the district has been forced to layoff 40 teachers to alleviate their budget shortfall.

Special ed teachers in short supply

Sarah Carr:

When it scales back in size next year, Milwaukee’s Madison High School will lose nearly 15 teaching positions: a guidance counselor, a health teacher, a physical education teacher, two social studies teachers, one art teacher and five positions in science and math, among others.
At the same time, however, Madison will gain an additional special education teacher.
The same trend is playing out in many of the city’s schools. The overall student population keeps shrinking. The administrative staff at the central office keeps shrinking. The teaching corps keeps shrinking – down 14% in four years.

Schools’ Efforts on Race Await Justices’ Ruling

Sam Dillon:

And here in Louisville, the school board uses race as a factor in a student assignment plan to keep enrollments at most schools roughly in line with the district’s overall racial composition, making this one of the most thoroughly integrated urban school systems in the nation.
As different as they are, all these approaches and many more like them could now be in jeopardy, lawyers say, because of the Supreme Court’s decision this month to review cases involving race and school assignment programs here and in Seattle.
“We’ll be watching this very closely, because whichever way the Supreme Court rules, it will certainly have an impact on our district,” said Arthur R. Culver, superintendent of schools in Champaign, Ill., where African-American students make up 36 percent of students. Under a court-supervised plan, the district keeps the proportion of black students in all schools within 15 percentage points of that average by controlling school assignments.

Inequality and the American Dream

The Economist:

That said, government should not be looking for ways to haul the rich down. Rather, it should help others, especially the extremely poor, to climb up—and that must mean education. Parts of the American system are still magnificent, such as its community colleges. But as countless international league tables show, its schools are not. Education is a political football, tossed about between Republicans who refuse to reform a locally based funding system that starves schools in poor districts, and Democrats who will never dare offend their paymasters in the teachers’ unions.
The other challenge is to create a social-welfare system that matches a global business world of fast-changing careers. No country has done this well. But the answer has to be broader than just “trade-adjustment” assistance or tax breaks for hard-hit areas. Health care, for instance, needs reform. America’s traditional way of providing it through companies is crumbling. The public pension system, too, needs an overhaul.

Continue reading Inequality and the American Dream

Brave New World: Are our kids ready to compete in the new global economy? Maybe not

Marc Eisen:

Most of us have had those eerie moments when the distant winds of globalization suddenly blow across our desks here in comfortable Madison. For parents, it can lead to an unsettling question: Will my kids have the skills, temperament and knowledge to prosper in an exceedingly competitive world?
I’m not so sure.
I’m a fan of Madison’s public schools, but I have my doubts if such preparation is high on the list of school district priorities. (I have no reason to think things are any better in the suburban schools.) Like a lot of parents, I want my kids pushed, prodded, inspired and challenged in school. Too often — in the name of equity, or progressive education, or union protectionism, or just plain cheapness — that isn’t happening.

Continue reading Brave New World: Are our kids ready to compete in the new global economy? Maybe not

Local Population Growth, Student Numbers and Budget Implications

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Imagine what would have happened if a city the size of Beloit had sprung up in Dane County over the past five years.
That’s almost what happened. Dane County’s population grew by 31,580 from 2000 to 2005, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released last week.
No other Wisconsin county gained as many people.
The population increase extended a trend. Over the past 15 years Dane County has gained 91,000 people, almost equal to the population of Kenosha, Wisconsin’s fourth largest city. Projections call for the growth to continue.

Barb Schrank:

MMSD Lost 174 Students While the Surrounding School Districts Increased by 1,462 Students Over Four School Years. Revenue Value of 1,462 Students – $13.16 Million Per Year*
MMSD reports that student population is declining. From the 2000-2001 school year through the 2003-2004 school year, MMSD lost 174 students. Did this happen in the areas surrounding MMSD? No. From the 2000-2001 through the 2003-2004 school year, the increase in non-MMSD public school student enrollment was 1,462 outside MMSD.
The property tax and state general fund revenue value of 174 students is $1.57 million per year in the 2003-2004 MMSD school year dollars (about $9,000 per student). For 1,462 students, the revenue value is $13.16 million per year. Put another way, the value of losing 174 students equals a loss of 26-30 teachers. A net increase of 1,462 students equals nearly 219 teachers. There are more subtleties to these calculations due to the convoluted nature of the revenue cap calculation, federal and state funds for ELL and special education, but the impact of losing students and not gaining any of the increase of students in the area is enormous.

What Price, Privilege? Has our overinvolved parenting style created a generation of kids with an impaired sense of self? If so, how can we work to get it back?

Madeline Levine:

Sensing their children’s vulnerabilities, parents find themselves protecting their offspring from either challenge or disappointment. Fearful that their kids will not be sturdy enough to withstand even the most mundane requirements of completing homework, meeting curfew, straightening their rooms or even showing up for dinner, discipline becomes lax, often nonexistent. While demands for outstanding academic or extracurricular performance are very high, expectations about family responsibilities are amazingly low. This kind of imbalance in expectations results in kids who regularly expect others to “take up the slack,” rather than learning how to prioritize tasks or how to manage time. Tutors, coaches, counselors and psychotherapists are all enlisted by parents to shore up performance and help ensure the kind of academic and athletic success so prized in my community. While my patients seem passive and disconnected, their parents are typically in a frenzy of worry and overinvolvement. They tend to shower their children with material goods, hoping to buy compliance with parents’ goals as well as divert attention away from their children’s unhappiness.

Edwize on the Poor Track Record of Small Learning Communities

Maisie adds notes and links to the recent Business Week interview with Bill and Melinda Gates on their Small Learning Community High School initiative (now underway at Madison’s West High chool – leading to mandatory grouping initiatives like English 10):

Business Week has a cover story this week about Bill and Melinda Gates’ small schools efforts. The story starts in Denver, where the Gates folks made a mess of breaking up that city’s lowest-performing school, “a complete failure,” in the Denver superintendent’s words. Summarizing reporters’ visits to 22 Gates-funded schools around the country, the article finds that “while the Microsoft couple indisputably merit praise for calling national attention to the dropout crisis and funding the creation of some promising schools, they deserve no better than a C when it comes to improving academic performance…Creating small schools may work sometimes, but it’s no panacea.”
The article points to some real successes. Some are in New York City, and the article says part of the reason for the success is Gates’ partnership with New Visions for Public Schools, which has been in the small-schools business a lot longer than Bill and Melinda. Mott Haven Village Prep HS [pdf] is one example. But of all the Gates schools in NYC, the report says one-third had ineffective partnerships, many have rising “social tensions,” and suspensions have triped in the new schools over the last three years to reach the system average.
We are never snippy but we told you so. The UFT’s 2005 Small Schools Task Force found too many of the Gates-funded small schools have been started with little planning, inexperienced leadership, minimal input from staff or stakeholders and no coherent vision. Some are little more than shells behind a lofty–sometimes ridiculously lofty–name.

Change

Some interesting changes in the Madison School Board’s Governance this week:

  • Renewed administrator contracts for one year rather than the customary two years. Via Sandy Cullen:

    The administration had proposed a two year wage and benefit package for administrators, but School Board President Johnny Winston Jr. said board members did not want to be locked into increases for a second year.
    The 3.98 percent increase for the 2006-07 school year – which includes a base salary increase of 2.18 percent – is equal to what teachers received last year and is the maximum allowed under the state’s Qualified Economic Offer, or QEO, Rainwater said.

    Administrator compensation and contract term been discussed previously.

  • Voted (7 – 0) to use the low bid architect for the planned Linden school (some $200K less than the Administration’s suggested award winner based on points). Construction of Linden is part of a planned November 2006 referendum.
  • Began to address health care costs – via Sandy Cullen:

    The Madison School Board on Thursday took what members hope will be a first step toward lowering health-care costs for district employees.
    In unanimously approving a 3.98 percent increase in wages and benefits for administrators for the 2006-07 school year, board members also reserved the right to make changes in health insurance providers that would offer the same level of coverage at a lower cost to the district. Cost savings would be used for salary increases for administrators and other district needs.

The Wisconsin State Journal has more:

Voters sought change in recent Madison School Board races, and they are getting the first positive stirrings of it.
There are fewer long, tedious speeches and less of the factionalism that has marred board work in past years. There is more substantial questioning and less contentiousness. Split votes don’t have to lead to finger pointing and personal attacks.
And last week the board took a first step toward lowering health care costs.
Lawrie Kobza has spearheaded the shift since her election a year back. And rookie board members Lucy Mathiak and Arlene Silveira, who took office last month, seem to be helping.

Need based School Funding Formula Disputed

Peter Gascoyne made an excellent point in recent comment regarding “No free lunch”. In other words, a change that’s positive in one area may not be all that great for others. Beverly Creamer notes that Hawaii is implementing a new Weighted Student Formula that is not without controversy:

A new controversy is shaping up over how money is divided among the state’s public schools under a formula based on student need.
Small and rural schools were expected to suffer staggering monetary losses under a new Weighted Student Formula that will take effect with the new school year July 27. And even though the losses were averted with an extra $20 million from the Legislature, the outcry over the expected impact on small and rural schools generated widespread concern.
Now, a special Department of Education committee charged with re-examining the formula has proposed a key change intended primarily to address wide discrepancies in funding between the largest and smallest schools.
Under the plan, each school would receive a base amount — or “foundation grant” — to assure that each could afford essential positions. The foundation grants would amount to about 25 percent of total school funding, leaving much less to be divided according to student need.

Addressing the “Teacher Gap”

Pauline Vu:

States have two weeks to comply with the latest requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and come up with a solution to what U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings calls teaching’s “dirty little secret”:
The disparity in teacher quality between poor, largely minority schools and their more affluent, white counterparts.
The challenge of ensuring that schools have equal numbers of good teachers will involve huge changes in the way schools recruit, train, prepare and compensate teachers, said Scott Emerick, a policy expert for the Center for Teacher Quality, a research organization based in Chapel Hill, N.C. “There’s no silver-bullet solution to do this on the cheap,” he said.
A recent Education Trust report [PDF] revealed large discrepancies in teacher qualifications in Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin between poor and rich schools, and between mostly white schools and mostly minority ones.
In Ohio’s poorest elementary schools, for example, one of every eight teachers is not considered highly qualified, but in the state’s richest schools, that number falls to one in 67 teachers. In Wisconsin, schools with the highest minority student populations have more than twice as many novice teachers as schools with the lowest numbers of minority students.

WIAA: Should Schools Be in the Athletic Business?

Rob Hernandez:

“Are we making the assumption that all districts want to have (sports)?” Dyer asked. “How widely is that (view) shared. Maybe they don’t want them. Maybe they’re becoming too much of an albatross financially. That’s a question that has to be asked.”
Afterward, Dyer predicted the question will be asked more frequently unless the WIAA and other agencies “get behind” interscholastic athletics and defend their existence.

The Madison School District’s sports budget increased from 1.4M in 2005/2006 to 1.8M in 2006/2007 – a topic discussed during recent school board budget deliberations.