All posts by Jim Zellmer

Baraboo Referendum Loss (2nd Round) Notes

Christina Beam:

Supporters of a five-year, $7.5 million school referendum — who appeared to have made no headway in their campaign since the same referendum question failed six months ago — were devastated by Tuesday night’s defeat.
When the same referendum was on the ballot April 4, voters rejected it by 64 votes, or 1 percent. Last week, with only 11 fewer voters weighing in, the measure failed by about 2 percent, or 135 votes.
“Obviously, we need to be doing something different than what we are because we’re not connecting with people we need to connect with,” School Board President Kevin Vodak said.


The Madison School District has a three part (one question) referendum on this November’s ballot (11/7).

Hands-on Science Brings Deforest Teacher Kudos

Ellen Williams-Masson:

The mock forensics exercise is one of many hands-on approaches that fifth-grade science teacher Anne Tredinnick uses to illustrate the scientific method and share a love of science with her pupils.
Tredinnick has been named the Middle School Teacher of the Year by the Department of Public Instruction and is under consideration to be Wisconsin’s representative in the National Teacher of the Year program.
A state selection committee picks four educators from a pool of 86 Herb Kohl Education Foundation teacher fellows for the Teacher of the Year awards, choosing representatives from elementary school, middle school, high school and special services. The other three teachers selected are Terry Kaldhusdal of Oconomowoc for the elementary level, Carl Hader of Grafton for the high school level, and Rebecca Marine of Menomonie for special services.

Hope after Katrina: New Orleans Public Schools

Kathryn Newmark & Veronique De Rugy:

According to the plan’s “educational network model,” the school system would include a mix of charter, contract, and system-run schools, organized in small “networks” of similar schools. The Algiers Charter School Association, for example, could be one network within the larger school system.
All schools will have considerable autonomy—including control over staffing, the authority to set their own budgets, and the freedom to offer extended school days or longer school years—but will be held accountable for results, and funds will follow students as they choose the schools that best meet their needs. A network manager will provide support and accountability for each network of schools. A “lean” district office will focus on policymaking instead of top-down operational decisions, including a small “strategy group” that will set learning standards and ensure the equitable allocation of resources, but will not mandate teaching methods or control school spending. The other major component of the district organization will be a new central support-services office that will provide optional assistance to help schools obtain services such as food preparation and transportation. One superintendent will direct the network managers, strategy group, and services office and report to the school board, whose role will be oversight, not execution.
The plan explicitly rejects an all-charter-school system, but preserves many of the advantages of such a system, such as flexibility and decentralization. The plan also provides enough structure and support to help school leaders be successful without impinging on their autonomy. In fact, it seems that, within this framework, even the system-run schools will be indistinguishable from charter schools.

Joanne has more.

Schoolmates Made Fun Of Boys Charged in Plot

Kari Lydersen:

Shawn R. Sturtz and William C. Cornell were inseparable, according to friends and acquaintances at Green Bay East High School. They ate lunch together, played with Yu-Gi-Oh game cards during class and played video games after school.
They shared some other things: At 300 pounds each, the two 17-year-old boys felt the verbal barbs and bullying of classmates, and, according to police, each had a fascination with the 1999 attack at Columbine High School near Denver.
Authorities here say that over the past two years, the pair plotted in secret to carry out their own version of the Columbine attack. They stockpiled guns and ammunition and mixed homemade explosives and napalm in Cornell’s large, yellow Victorian house in a leafy neighborhood a few blocks from the high school.
Last week, Sturtz proposed carrying out the plan, which involved shooting guns and setting off explosives in the school while blocking the exits with burning napalm, according to John P. Zakowski, Brown County district attorney.

More here.

Schools fight cheaters who use tech tools

Sharon Noguchi:

The Advanced Placement government assignment over the summer was to read and analyze political commentator Chris Matthews’ book “Hardball.” So four friends at American High School in Fremont did what they say everyone else was doing: divvied up the 13 questions about the book and exchanged answers via e-mail. They each altered the text slightly, then handed in their individual papers.
The students call it collaboration. The teachers call it cheating.
As technology makes it easier than ever to cheat, educators are combating the intractable problem on at least three fronts: setting clear standards, using technology to fight back, and talking with students and parents about ethics and pressure.
Many students use e-mail to share work and program iPods and cell phones to cheat in class in new ways. On the flip side, schools can hire services that use computers to scan essays for plagiarism; one leading service claims its business is doubling every year.
Throughout the South Bay and across the Peninsula, schools are banning electronic devices and stiffening penalties. Turning around attitudes is more challenging.

Maria Glod posts a related article: “Students Rebel Against Database Designed to Thwart Plagiarists”.

Robarts Confirms She Won’t Seek Re-Election

Andy Hall (who’s been busy this week):

Madison School Board member Ruth Robarts confirmed Friday that she won’t seek re-election, ending her sometimes-stormy tenure that over the past decade earned her praise for being a watchdog but also the label of “public enemy No. 1.”
“It is primarily for personal reasons. A decade is a long time to meet every single Monday night,” Robarts said.
Also, she said, governments benefit from the energy of newcomers.

Ruth announced her intention to not seek re-election in Jason Shephard’s spring 2006 article: “The Fate of the Schools“. Ruth has done a tremendous service for the community via her strong, independent voice on the Board. She will be missed. Ruth was instrumental in getting this site rolling.
Johnny Winston, Jr. confirmed that “he’ll be in their swinging” next April. Check out these video interviews of Ruth, Johnny and others in the April, 2004 election.

6 city students get perfect ACT score

Andy Hall:

They began by seeking balance, and wound up finding perfection.
An unprecedented six Madison School District students attained a perfect score on recent ACT college entrance exams, district officials said Friday.
Just 11 Wisconsin students received a score of 36, the top possible mark, out of 45,500 tested in April and June.
During that period, 178 of 837,000 students nationwide received a perfect composite score in the assessment of English, mathematics, reading and science skills.
“I want to start by saying, ‘Wow!’ ” Pam Nash, the assistant superintendent overseeing Madison’s middle and high schools, told the students, their parents and educators Friday at a celebration at West High School.

More on the ACT scores here and here.
The Badger Herald has more:

Though Nash argued the quality of Madison’s public high schools contributed to the scores, she added natural talent, intelligence and hard work from the six students was also crucial to their success.
“Reading is important, and Madison emphasizes that,” Nash said. “But the kids themselves … chose the academic route.”
But Poppe, a Madison West senior surprised with the outcome of the test, attributes his perfect score to a healthy breakfast and a little practice.
“I did one of the practice tests and made sure to get a good breakfast,” he said. “I think a lot of the classes I took earlier in high school helped, but I think some people are more comfortable in a testing environment.”

Freshman Closed Campus: Praise & Scorn at East

Andy Hall:

Chiengkham Thao says it’s working.
Anna Toman and Moises Diaz think it’s got problems.
They and the 420 or so members of their Madison East High School freshman class find themselves part of a grand experiment — the first Madison high school in at least a dozen years to close its campus.
The school’s 1,400 older students still are allowed to lounge outside during their 30-minute lunch break.
Better yet, they’re able to jump into cars for a dash from 2222 E. Washington Ave. to Burger King, McDonald’s or Taco Bell.
But for East’s freshmen, there’s one choice for lunch — the cafeteria — as school officials attempt to reduce the school’s truancy rate.

Accountant pays district for Audit Error

Mike Johnson & Kay Nolan:

By the time Virchow Krause & Co.’s accounting error was discovered, the mistake had been repeated and the deficit had ballooned to $2.7 million in fall 2004, prompting a downgrading of the district’s bond rating and budget freezes, district officials said.
The firm discovered the error during a 2004 audit and reported it to the district. After about 1 1/2 years of negotiations, Virchow Krause agreed to pay the district $275,000 and to forgive $15,476 owed to the firm by the district. The School Board approved the settlement agreement late Tuesday.

“MBA Students Likely to Cheat”

Sharda Prashad:

Who says cheaters never prosper?
MBA students in Canada and the United States are more likely to cheat than students in other disciplines because they believe it is how the business world operates — and because they believe their peers cheat, according to a new study.
The study found that 56 per cent of graduate business students admitted to cheating in the last year, compared with 47 per cent of non-business students. More than 5,000 MBA students from 11 graduate business schools in Canada and 21 schools in the U.S. took part.
Jim Fisher, vice-dean of MBA programs at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, said he wasn’t surprised by the results, since MBA students are highly competitive and have a high need for achievement. “There is a propensity for those types of behaviour.”

Wingra School Receives Anonymous Donation up to $5M

Susan Troller:

Anonymous donors have pledged up to $5 million to a private school group to purchase and preserve Dudgeon School on Monroe Street.
The plan initially gives $1 million to Wingra School to purchase and begin renovations on the building it has rented for 34 years. The building is owned by the city of Madison, and its sale price is $750,000.
Up to $4 million more would be available as part of a matching contribution program spanning 10 years, and is designed to help preserve and upgrade the building for its continued use as an education center in the neighborhood.
The gift comes with a set of conditions that must be fulfilled to help preserve the building’s historic presence and personality. Those conditions include keeping the former public school as a neighborhood polling place and ensuring that the grounds in front of and behind the building remain open to the public as a neighborhood athletic field and playground.

More from Dean Mosiman, Channel3000 and NBC15.

DPI’s Burmaster Proposes Teacher Bonuses

Alan Borsuk:

State schools Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster proposed Thursday that Wisconsin provide $5,000 annual bonuses to highly qualified teachers to teach in high-needs schools such as most of those in the Milwaukee Public Schools.
Burmaster also said the next state budget should include $1.6 million for pilot projects in Milwaukee schools that want to extend the school year beyond the conventional 180 days a year; $1 million in grants for arts programs in MPS schools; and significant property tax relief for city of Milwaukee residents through changes in how the voucher school program is funded.
In unveiling her proposals for the two-year state budget that will take effect July 1, Burmaster said Wisconsin should stick to funding two-thirds of the cost of general operation of schools throughout the state, a step that would require an additional $588 million over the two-year period. The state is providing about $5.9 billion in local school aid this year; continuing at the two-thirds level would present a major challenge to an already-stressed budget

Major Changes Needed to Boost K-8 Science Achievement

The National Academies:

Improving science education in kindergarten through eighth grade will require major changes in how science is taught in America’s classrooms, as well as shifts in commonly held views of what young children know and how they learn, says a new report from the National Research Council. After decades of education reform efforts that have produced only modest gains in science performance, the need for change is clear. And the issue takes on even greater significance with the looming mandate of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which says that states must measure students’ annual progress in science beginning in 2007.
Being proficient in science means that students must both understand scientific ideas and demonstrate a firm grasp of scientific practices. The report emphasizes that doing science entails much more than reciting facts or being able to design experiments. In addition, the next generation of science standards and curricula at the national and state levels should be centered on a few core ideas and should expand on them each year, at increasing levels of complexity, across grades K-8. Today’s standards are still too broad, resulting in superficial coverage of science that fails to link concepts or develop them over successive grades, the report says. Teachers also need more opportunities to learn how to teach science as an integrated whole — and to diverse student populations.

Alberta’s Booming Schools

The Economist:

Many educators acknowledge that over the past 30 years Alberta has quietly built the finest public education system in Canada. The curriculum has been revised, stressing core subjects (English, science, mathematics), school facilities and the training of teachers have been improved, clear achievement goals have been set and a rigorous province-wide testing programme for grades three (aged 7-8), six (10-11), nine (13-14) and twelve (16-17) has been established to ensure they are met.
It is all paying off. Alberta’s students regularly outshine those from other Canadian provinces: in 2004 national tests, Alberta’s 13- and 16-year-olds ranked first in mathematics and science, and third in writing. And in international tests they rank alongside the best in the world: in the OECD’s 2003 PISA study, the province’s 15-year-olds scored among the top four of 40 countries in mathematics, reading and science (see table).

Notes & Links on MTI – WEAC Relations

A reader involved in these issues sent this link [strong language warning] [Mike Antonucci’s website]:

WEAC felt MTI had overstepped its authority and, in an effort to punish MTI, unilaterally terminated the 1978 affiliation agreement. MTI claimed WEAC could not take such action, and sought arbitration. WEAC resisted, and MTI sued WEAC to compel arbitration. After losing in county court, MTI won its point in state and federal appeals courts.
From July 18-20, 2006 – more than five years after the SCEA incident – attorneys for MTI and WEAC crossed swords in front of arbitrator Peter Feuille of the University of Illinois. EIA has obtained a copy of the transcript, and the proceedings not only provided a detailed and enlightening look at the history and internal politics of WEAC, but supplied yet more evidence that the bonds of unionism are sometimes composed of dollar bills, and little else.

MTI’s website | WEAC. Alan Borsuk has more.

Yale University to post courses on Web for free


Yale University said on Wednesday it will offer digital videos of some courses on the Internet for free, along with transcripts in several languages, in an effort to make the elite private school more accessible.
While Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others already offer course material online without charge, Yale is the first to focus on free video lectures, the New Haven, Connecticut-based school said.
The 18-month pilot project will provide videos, syllabi and transcripts for seven courses beginning in the 2007 academic year. They include “Introduction to the Old Testament,” “Fundamentals of Physics” and “Introduction to Political Philosophy.”

Issue Data On School Incidents, Report Says

Lori Aratani & Ernesto Londono:

In a 77-page report [5.2MB PDF]commissioned by the Montgomery County Council, the Office of Legislative Oversight examined the school system’s method for tracking fights, bomb threats and other serious incidents. It found that although the district has tracked the incidents since 1973, the figures are not released publicly and the information is not detailed enough to allow school officials to identify trends or even the number of times a student has been in trouble.
The report also said that by November, the school system, police department and state’s attorney’s office should develop guidelines for what types of incidents school officials must report to authorities.
Police officers and prosecutors are seeking the guidelines because they believe principals sometimes deal with criminal activity internally. But negotiations over the guidelines have been contentious, and reaching an agreement has been difficult, said council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), chairman of the council’s public safety committee.

Markets in everything: unhealthy school dinners

New Economist:

he parents claim they are taking action because pupils are turning up their noses at what they describe as “overpriced, low-fat rubbish”.
Four of them are using a supermarket trolley to make daily runs with fish and chips, pies, burgers, sandwiches and fizzy drinks from local takeaways.
Staff at Rawmarsh Comprehensive School, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, have called in environmental health and education officials. They are looking into whether the women are allowed to sell food without an operating licence and whether they are covered by food hygiene regulations.

Artists Working in Education

Molly Snyder Edler:

Artists Working in Education (AWE) presents “A Celebration of Children’s Art,” a collection of work created this summer by kids who participated in AWE’s Truck Studio Program.
“A Celebration of Children’s Art” hangs in the Milwaukee City Hall Rotunda, Sept. 19 through Oct. 6. There is an opening reception on Tuesday, Sept. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St.
The exhibit features paintings, collages, plaster casts and fiber arts pieces made by four to 14-year-olds who were instructed by professional artists, art teachers and college-level art students through the Truck Studio Program.
“All of the work is created by children in Milwaukee’s most challenged neighborhoods,” says Sally Salkowski Witte, AWE executive director. “To me, it’s entirely appropriate that their artwork is positioned, at least for a short time, where those who have a great deal of power to make a difference will pass by every day.”

Artists Working in Education website.

Five truths I’ve learned from five weeks of teaching

Elliot H (a 4th grade teacher in Phoenix):

Since I finally have a moment to pause and reflect, I thought I would use one of my infrequent posts to put down some of the things I’ve discovered thus far. In no particular order…
1. The achievement gap is very, very real. Most of my fourth graders don’t know the meaning of simple words like “show” and “pair.” Most can’t do their 2s times-tables. Most read at least a grade level behind. Most have writing skills that could charitably be called atrocious. It’s a miracle that so many of them can find Arizona on a map, because they certainly can’t find anything else (but, to be fair, 7th graders were placing “Europe” in Oregon and “Greenland” in Montana).
Then there’s the one non-special ed. nine-year-old who I last week taught to read the word “the.”
It’s not that they can’t do it. My kids are a bright, energetic, inquistive bunch. Nor is it that they have no prior knowledge — it’s just floating around in shards, unconnected to anything meaningful. I have to ask this question, though: If thirty students have gone through 4 years of many different schools and understand so little, isn’t that a sign that something has gone horribly wrong?

“In Many Classrooms, Honors in Name Only”

Jay Matthews:

During a visit in March to an honors sophomore English class in an impoverished area of Connecticut, Robyn R. Jackson heard the teacher declare proudly that her students were reading difficult texts. But Jackson noticed that their only review of those books was a set of work sheets that required little thought or analysis.
Jackson, an educational consultant and former Gaithersburg High School English teacher, sought an explanation from a school district official. He sighed and told her, “We have a lot of work to do to help teachers understand what true rigor is.”
In an American education system full of plans for better high schools, more and more courses have impressive labels, such as “honors,” “advanced,” “college prep” and “Advanced Placement.” But many researchers and educators say the teaching often does not match the title.

Brett has more:

One of the biggest misperceptions among the public is that NCLB sets high academic standards for students and schools, and punishes those who do not meet them. In reality, NCLB does not set any standards, nor does it specify which tests are used to measure student outcomes against those standards. Rather, it only tells the states that they must set their own academic standards, and that they must select the tests used to measure student achievement. (See here for a good overview of the law.)

“Like Lambs to the Slaughter…”

Zachary Norris:

Like the teacher on the show, I was greeted by a dysfunctional buzzer upon arrival at my school. A fitting symbol of the system’s disarray, they were desperately in need of teachers and couldn’t let me in once I got there. Many of my peers in the program were “surplussed,” bouncing around from school to school until the district administrators decided where our services could be put to best use. Upon arrival at my school, I was placed in a classroom that had not been cleaned by the previous year’s teacher, who I later learned was a first-year teacher that had quit in February. It is common in Baltimore for rookie teachers to quit during the school year. In fact, in my first year in Baltimore, only two out of the six first-years who started the year at my school actually finished. The result of this trend was a staff crunch, and my classroom role swelled at times to above forty students (ranging in age form 3rd to 6th grade, with up to 16 IEP students). It is criminal.
Speaking of criminal, how much of the City’s budget is spent on pointless professional development programs like the one shown on The Wire’s season premiere? Educational consultants with six-figure salaries rattle off clever acronyms like IALAC (I Am Loved And Competent) in steamy August auditoriums and cafeterias. I mean really, how many teachers actually use that stuff? I know I never did. As the frustration of the teachers builds to a crescendo, the professional development meeting devolves into a gripe session about the student population and the hopelessness of their situation. This in itself is destructive, perpetuating negative stereotypes of students and lending to the apathy of teachers. So in the end, the good intentions of administrative policies turn into a completely destructive activity. Welcome to education in Baltimore.

Matthew Yglesias adds:

But what would it mean — what could it mean — to close the achievement gap between high- and low-SES students in American schools? For a whole variety of reasons, this just doesn’t seem like it’s going to be possible. At the outer limit, more prosperous parents are always going to be able to re-open the gap by investing even more resources in their kids’ education. An education and child development arms race to the top might not be a bad thing, but it wouldn’t close any socioeconomic gaps. To do that, you actually need to tackle inequality itself. In the context of a reasonably egalitarian society, a well-functioning school system shouldn’t exhibit massive achievement gaps, but in the context of a wildly inegalitarian one there’s no way the school system can singlehandedly set everything back to zero.

Math Organization Attempts to Bring Focus to Subject

Sean Cavanagh:

More than 15 years after its publication of influential national standards in mathematics, a leading professional organization has unveiled new, more focused guidelines that describe the crucial skills and content students should master in that subject in elementary and middle school.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics last week released “Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten Through Grade 8 Mathematics,” a document that supporters hope will encourage the polyglot factions of state and local school officials, textbook publishers, and teachers to set clearer, more common goals for math learning.
While the report is being published by the NCTM, it was reviewed by numerous math experts from across the country, some of whom have strongly disagreed with the organization’s past positions on essential skills. The new document reflects an attempt to overcome those conflicts and focus on a number of crucial, agreed-upon concepts.
“I would hope that this has a large impact, because I believe it gets it right,” said R. James Milgram, a Stanford University mathematics professor and a critic of the math organization’s previously issued national standards. He was one of 14 individuals who provided an outside, formal review of the document. “I would like to hope that this represents a new era of cooperation,” he added. “I hope that what this represents is an end to the math wars.”

Much more here and here.

Equity Policy Discussions

Susan Troller:

Deciding which schools should get how many staff members and other resources is a hot topic, and Madison School Board members are tussling over it now.
A majority of board members asked on Monday night to continue the discussion at next week’s meeting, despite board President Johnny Winston Jr.’s reluctance to put the issue on the Sept. 25 agenda.
Winston said the equity issue, which has to do with the fair allocation of resources to students and schools, was too broad to be hurried into discussion. He also said it has the potential to be very divisive. When equity formulas are put in place, some schools gain and some schools lose resources, based on the unique needs of their students.
“It’s a very complex issue,” Winston said.
He is concerned that the board could make hasty changes in how the district’s existing policy is applied, creating “ramifications we don’t fully understand,” he said in an interview today. The district and its financial situation were very different more than a decade ago when the current equity policy was put in place, he said.

Discussion audio and video are available here.

Civic Involvement Tied to Education

Amy Goldstein:

High school dropouts are significantly less likely than better-educated Americans to vote, trust government, do volunteer work, or go to church, according to a new report that reveals a widening gap in “civic health” between the nation’s upper and lower classes.
The report, a portrait of civic life in the United States, finds that Americans’ disengagement from their communities during the past few decades has been particularly dramatic among adults who have the least education. Among people who lack a high school diploma, the percentage who have voted plummeted from 1976 to 2004 to 31 percent — half the 62 percent of college graduates who voted in 2004.
The class divide is the most striking finding of the report, prepared by leading social scientists and released yesterday by the National Conference on Citizenship, a nonprofit organization created by Congress. “High school dropouts are . . . nearly voiceless in a system that fails them,” said John Bridgeland, a former domestic policy adviser to President Bush who is chief executive officer of Civic Enterprises and leads the conference’s advisory board.

Full Report: [630K PDF]

Teaching Math, Singapore Style

NY Times Editorial:

The countries that outperform the United States in math and science education have some things in common. They set national priorities for what public school children should learn and when. They also spend a lot of energy ensuring that every school has a high-quality curriculum that is harnessed to clearly articulated national goals. This country, by contrast, has a wildly uneven system of standards and tests that varies from place to place. We are also notoriously susceptible to educational fads.
One of the most infamous fads took root in the late 1980’s, when many schools moved away from traditional mathematics instruction, which required drills and problem solving. The new system, sometimes derided as “fuzzy math,’’ allowed children to wander through problems in a random way without ever learning basic multiplication or division. As a result, mastery of high-level math and science was unlikely. The new math curriculum was a mile wide and an inch deep, as the saying goes, touching on dozens of topics each year.

Much more, here.

“Teacher Education Is Out of Step with Realities of Classrooms”

Arthur Levine:

most education schools are engaged in a “pursuit of irrelevance,” with curriculums in disarray and faculty disconnected from classrooms and colleagues. These schools have “not kept pace with changing demographics, technology, global competition, and pressures to raise student achievement,” the study says.
A majority of teacher education alumni (61 percent) reported that schools of education did not prepare graduates well to cope with the realities of today’s classrooms, according to a national survey conducted for the study. School principals also gave teacher education programs low grades, with fewer than one-third of those surveyed reporting that schools of education prepare teachers very well or moderately well to address the needs of students with disabilities (30 percent), a diverse cultural background (28 percent) or limited English proficiency (16 percent).

Full Report. Joanne has more.

UW System Campus Admission Advice

Megan Twohey:

Tuesday’s meeting also included campus-specific admissions advice:

  • Madison: For the second year, applicants must take and submit the writing portion of the ACT. Postponed applicants – those who are neither admitted nor denied admission in the initial review process – should submit the supplemental application. The university expects to use its waiting list more often because it is finding it increasingly difficult to predict whether accepted students will enroll.
  • Eau Claire: Space is tight in the nursing program, so students should make sure to apply on time. Decisions aren’t made on a case-by-case basis. Students in the nursing program must meet or exceed the minimum requirements, including having taken high school chemistry and biology.

November 7, 2006 Referendum & Election Page Update

I’ve updated the election page with information and links regarding the November 7, 2006 selection.
Links include the Madison School District’s information page, boundary changes and the open government complaint documents (and District Attorney Brian Blanchard’s recent response) related to the School Board’s closed meetings over the Linden Park land purchase. A motion to make the deal public (before the final Board vote) failed on a 3-3 vote – Shwaw Vang was absent (Shwaw’s seat is up for election in April, 2007). Supporting open government were Carol Carstensen, Lawrie Kobza and Ruth Robarts (Ruth’s seat is up for election in April, 2007. She is not seeking re-election).
Supporting a closed approach (and prevailing) were Bill Keys (did not seek re-election, replaced by Arlene Silveira who defeated Maya Cole by 70 out of 33,000+ votes in one of the closest local elections in years – having said that, Arlene, in the words of a friend “has been a good addition to the board”), Juan Jose Lopez (defeated by Lucy Mathiak) and Johnny Winston, Jr. (Johnny’s seat is up in April, 2007. I assume he’s running, but if Mayor Dave seeks the County Executive seat, perhaps Johnny will give that position a run and face former School Board member Ray Allen?). Art Rainwater is correct when he said that education is inherently political.

Opting Out of Private School

Nancy Keates:

It’s the lurking fear of every private-school parent: The kid next door is getting just as good an education at the public school — free of charge.
Ben and Courtney Nields of Norwalk, Conn., agonized over the issue last year when they moved their daughter Annie from the New Canaan Country School, set on a 72-acre campus, to a public school for first grade. The move was primarily economic — they have twins entering kindergarten this year and faced tuition bills of $22,500 per child.
“It was like taking your child out of the Garden of Eden,” says Mrs. Nields. But Annie thrived at the school. Her confidence grew and the teacher, say the Nieldses, was phenomenal.
Across the country, some schools and education professionals report a growing movement from private to public. Among the possible reasons: Private-school tuition has grown sharply, while some colleges are boosting the number of students they take from public schools. New studies have suggested that public-school students often tested as well or better than their private school peers. And increasingly, public schools are enriching their programs by holding the same kinds of fund-raisers often associated with private schools, such as auctions and capital campaigns.
“But lately there’s strong anecdotal evidence of frequent movement from private schools to public schools. There are more choices for parents now.”
Some public schools are actively recruiting private-school students. At Torrey Pines Elementary in La Jolla, Calif., Principal Jim Solo began holding monthly tours and meetings for private-school families four years ago. Many students had left for private or charter schools. While he says it was not a main motivator, having students return to the school increased state funding, as the district is paid on a per-pupil basis.

Locally, I’ve seen movement both ways. A number of parents have left over curriculum and climate issues while others have jumped back in because the public schools offer services or curriculum not available in the private school world. Homeschooling is another growing factor.

“Promoting the End of Social Promotion”

Jay Greene and Marcus Winters:

Should the grade-level a student is in be based entirely on how old he is or at least partially on how skilled he is? This is the fundamental question underlying the debate over social promotion — the practice of moving students to the next grade regardless of whether they have acquired the minimal skills covered in the previous grade. Advocates of social promotion suggest that it is best to group students by age rather than by skill. Students who are held back a grade are separated from their age-peers and, the argument goes, this social disruption harms them academically. Opponents of social promotion favor requiring students to demonstrate minimal skills on a standardized test before they receive automatic promotion to the next grade.
Until now the bulk of the research favored social promotion. Most studies found that students who were retained tended to fare less well academically than demographically similar students who were promoted. The problem with this previous research is that it was never entirely clear whether retained students did worse because they were retained or because whatever caused them to be retained led to worse outcomes. This is especially a problem because these previous studies examined retention based on educator discretion. If teachers decide that one student should be retained while another demographically similar student should be promoted, they probably know something about those students that suggests that the promoted student has better prospects than the retained student. When researchers match students on recorded demographic factors they cannot observe or control statistically for what a teacher saw that led that teacher to promote one student while retaining the other.

The complete report is available here.

Technology: “It Can Do More Harm Than Good”

Ryan Boots:

I’ve been something of a cheerleader on the use of new media in the classroom, principally in the form of digital textbooks.  But similar to what we’ve already seen with the calculator, such technology has the potential to inflict damage in the classroom.

Exhibit A: Right Wing Prof flipped his lid a couple of days ago over a math lesson titled "Making Money from Lemons" (produced by Microsoft no less–oh, the irony).  Just one problem: the lesson didn’t actually involve any, you know, math.  Just a bunch of mouse clicks that an orangutan could be trained to perform. 

Exhibit B: Educomputer vendor Steve Hargadon did an interview with author Larry Cuban on his 2001 book "Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom".  I highly recommend all of Hargadon’s post, but I find this paragraph particularly important:

Studio School Update

Susan Troller:

The backers of the Studio School were given permission by the Madison school board last year to pursue the planning grant.
Donahue said the proposed Studio School will focus on providing a school-wide, arts rich curriculum for elementary school students. It would be chartered with the Madison school district in a way similar to the district’s very successful dual immersion Spanish language school, Nuestro Mundo Inc., or its other charter school, Wright Middle School. Both schools focus on issues of multi-culturalism and integrating social action into the curriculum.

More on the Studio School.

North Carolina & Math Standards

Todd Silberman:

Despite North Carolina students’ steady improvement in reading and math, their performance on state end-of-grade tests has been far better than on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In fact, North Carolina stands out because of the wide gap between results on the state and national tests.
In 2005, about 84 percent of North Carolina eighth-graders earned proficient or better scores on state math tests; 32 percent were proficient or advanced on the national math test. Only West Virginia showed a sharper difference.
“When you see the huge disparity that you do between proficiency levels [on state and national tests], at least part of it is about rigor,” said Ross Weiner, policy director for the Education Trust, a Washington group that advocates for poor and minority students. “North Carolina has a bigger difference than most other states. That raises questions about expectations and whether North Carolina’s standards are high enough to demonstrate that students are learning what they need to know.”

More on “how states inflate their progress under No Child Left Behind“.

The End of Cupcake Days

Eric Zorn:

There were some two dozen of us in the 4th grade classroom at parent orientation night this week, and not one of us looked the least bit disappointed when the teacher, Mrs. Rand, announced “absolutely no cupcakes this year!”
She’d done the math. Naturally. And she figured that if every child had a little birthday party — where a parent brings in treats, drinks, maybe goodie bags — she’d lose roughly 10 hours of total classroom instruction time over the course of the year.
Parents have done the math too. The one responsible for buying the treats (usually the mother and usually cupcakes) and making sure they get to school at the right time and that kids with dietary restrictions are provided with edible options also loses an hour or so.

All Kindergartners Need to Know….

Kate Grossman:

The state laid out Tuesday what it wants every kindergarten student to know, an exhaustive list that includes everything from writing letters and identifying shapes to understanding that hurting others is wrong and the value of a sense of humor.
Illinois has had broad learning goals for all students since 1997 but until now hadn’t specified what that meant for kindergarten students. Specific goals for clusters of other grades and preschoolers already have been established.
The 172 new “benchmarks,” or skills, cover language arts, math, science, social science, physical development and health, fine arts, foreign language and social/emotional developme

Math Wars Earthquake

Tamar Lewin:

In a major shift from its influential recommendations 17 years ago, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics yesterday issued a report urging that math teaching in kindergarten through eighth grade focus on a few basic skills.
If the report, “Curriculum Focal Points,” has anywhere near the impact of the council’s 1989 report, it could signal a profound change in the teaching of math in American schools. It could also help end the math curriculum struggles that for the last two decades have set progressive educators and their liberal supporters against conservatives and many mathematicians.
At a time when most states call for dozens of math topics to be addressed in each grade, the new report sets forth just three basic skills for each level. In fourth grade, for example, the report recommends that the curriculum should center on the “quick recall” of multiplication and division, the area of two-dimensional shapes and an understanding of decimals. It stopped short of a call for memorization of basic math facts.
The 1989 report is widely seen as an important factor nudging the nation away from rote learning and toward a constructivist approach playing down memorization in favor of having children find their own approaches to problems, and write about their reasoning.
“It was incredibly influential,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., a Department of Education official in the Reagan administration. “More than half the states explicitly acknowledged it in devising their own standards. This report is a major turnaround.”

Lewin’s article references a 2005 document: “10 myths of NCTM (Fuzzy) Math“.
NCTM source materials and related links here.

Enrollment projection errors create school turmoil

Susan Troller:

But because the projected enrollment numbers don’t match the actual numbers of students at Stephens this year, one grades 2-3 classroom is being dropped, with students assigned to other classrooms and Bazan’s job at Stephens eliminated.
The same scenario is playing out at five other elementary schools where teachers and sections are being eliminated due to smaller than expected student populations, district spokesman Ken Syke said. Meanwhile, nine elementary schools are over projected enrollments and will be adding sections to address bursting-at-the-seams populations.
The district will add 10 classes at these schools to add capacity. Four teachers will be hired, in addition to shifting teachers from the under-enrolled schools.
Schools where classes are being eliminated include Crestwood, Falk, Kennedy, Randall, Schenk and Stephens. Schools that are adding teachers include Glendale, Hawthorne, Lake View, Mendota, Marquette, Muir, Sandburg, Thoreau and Leopold. Two teachers will be added at Leopold, which had a particularly large increase in students.

The Not-So-Public Part of the Public Schools: Lack of Accountability

Samuel Freedman:

WHEN Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel I. Klein gained unprecedented power over the vast archipelago of public education in New York more than four years ago, they were the beneficiaries of three beliefs widely held in the city.
The first was that the system of decentralized control, ended after 35 years by the State Legislature in June 2002, had been a misadventure of bureaucratic inefficiency, academic inconsistency and persistent corruption.
The second was that the education program advocated by Mr. Bloomberg’s predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, with its emphasis on steering public money into vouchers for private schools, was too radical for New York.
The final factor was that Mr. Bloomberg, astride a personal fortune, and Mr. Klein, an anti-trust lawyer in the Clinton administration, were so independent and incorruptible they could be trusted to run a system with more than a million students and a budget well into the billions with few, if any, of the traditional forms of government or community oversight.

Facebook & Privacy

Danah Boyd:

Facebook implemented a new feature called “News Feeds” that displays every action you take on the site to your friends. You see who added who, who commented where, who removed their relationship status, who joined what group, etc. This is on your front page when you login to Facebook. This upset many Facebook members who responded with outrage. Groups emerged out of protest. Students Against Facebook News Feeds is the largest with over 700,000 members. Facebook issued various press statements that nothing was going to change. On September 5, Mark Zuckerberg (the founder) told everyone to calm down. They didn’t. On September 8, he apologized and offered privacy options as an olive branch. Zuckerberg invited everyone to join him live on the Free Flow of Information on the Internet group where hundreds of messages wizzed by in the hour making it hard to follow any thread; the goal was for Facebook to explain its decision. In short, they explained that this is to help people keep tabs on their friends but only their friends and all of this information is public anyhow.

Texas Gives Teachers in 76 Schools $7M in Bonuses

Ericka Mellon:

Some critics of merit pay argue it puts too much emphasis on standardized tests, but Perry and Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley defended the state’s plan for compensating teachers who prove themselves.
“When you reward excellence, excellence becomes the standard,” Perry said Tuesday at Oleson Elementary in the Aldine Independent School District.
Eleven schools in Houston ISD and two schools in North Forest ISD also are expecting the staff bonuses. Schools had to give at least 75 percent of the bonus money to teachers, but they could include others.
Perry said the bonuses could be as large as $10,000. At Oleson Elementary, the figure was much lower. Some at the campus received $2,800 while others earned $1,100 based on the school’s formula, said Principal Cassandra Cosby.

Failure to Understand Science is a National Security Issue

Charles Anderson:

A hint of the politicians’ dilemma was buried in a May 10 New York Times-CBS News poll about the performance of U.S. elected officials on a host of policy issues.
Not surprisingly, neither President Bush nor Congress earned high marks. What startled me, though, was the response to this question: “Regardless of how you usually vote, do you think the Republican Party or the Democratic Party is more likely to see to it that gasoline prices are low?”
Fifty-seven percent of the respondents said that the Democrats could keep prices low. Another 14 percent chose the Republicans or both parties. Seventy-one percent of Americans, in other words, see the price of gas as a political issue. This is tantamount to living in a fantasy world and ignoring both the economic law of supply and demand and the accumulating environmental damage caused by our fossil-fuel-dependent economy.
It’s not surprising that many politicians choose to respond to numbers like these with stopgap measures that delay the inevitable reckoning, hoping that something will come up in the meantime. But the root of the problem stretches beyond Washington to an electorate that can’t evaluate science-based statements. It’s time, then, for a sea change in science education in our nation’s schools.
Imagine how politicians would act differently if the public were more knowledgeable about ideas currently considered too arcane for political debate—fossil-fuel supply chains; hidden costs not included in the price we pay for a product; and the chemistry of tailpipe emissions.
That scenario remains imaginary for now, since, by every indication, the public is ill-equipped to evaluate arguments based on such ideas. Adults and children know that pollution is bad for the environment and that trees are good, but they have no idea why experts see the price of gasoline as connected to housing policies, ethanol production, or plug-in hybrids.

Elections, Referendums, School Boards and Administrators

Aaron Bensonhaver:

Phil Hartley, legal counsel for the school boards association, said one area that school board members and superintendents often get into trouble is in supporting a referendum or candidate.
Hartley said either can support such situations on their own time, but must be careful not to use tax money, including being on the clock while campaigning, while working for the cause.
He said using tax money to encourage people to vote is OK, but doing so to encourage people to vote a certain way can get systems into trouble, which usually amounts to fines of $1,000-$10,000, depending on the number of violations of the Ethics and Government Act, which is also the law that requires candidates to disclose contributions they have received.

Continue reading Elections, Referendums, School Boards and Administrators

Schools Active Year Round

Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater:

Twenty-two year old Louisa Brayton stepped before her class of 12 students to begin the first day of school. It was not only her first day but also the first day for all of her students and more importantly the first day of school in Madison Wisconsin. It’s March, 1838 and school will be in session for only two months.
How times have changed! School now operates all year.
After school ended last June, over 4,000 children continued in school for the following six weeks. Some attended because they needed extended time to learn and to reach a level where they will be successful next year; others took courses to extend their knowledge in their area of interest. Many of the students who attended our morning summer program continued at school in the afternoon in recreation programs conducted by our own Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR) department.

Return to Basics in Teaching Math

Critics of “Fuzzy” Methods Cheer Educators’ Findings; Drills Without Calculators. Taking Cues from Singapore.
John Hechinger:

The nation’s math teachers, on the front lines of a 17-year curriculum war, are getting some new marching orders: Make sure students learn the basics.
In a report to be released today, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which represents 100,000 educators from prekindergarten through college, will give ammunition to traditionalists who believe schools should focus heavily and early on teaching such fundamentals as multiplication tables and long division.
The council’s advice is striking because in 1989 it touched off the so-called math wars by promoting open-ended problem solving over drilling. Back then, it recommended that students as young as those in kindergarten use calculators in class.
Those recommendations horrified many educators, especially college math professors alarmed by a rising tide of freshmen needing remediation. The council’s 1989 report influenced textbooks and led to what are commonly called “reform math” programs, which are used in school systems across the country.
Francis Fennell, the council’s president, says the latest guidelines move closer to the curriculum of Asian countries such as Singapore, whose students tend to perform better on international tests. There, children focus intensely on a relative handful of topics, such as multiplication, division and algebra, then practice by solving increasingly difficult word and other problems. That contrasts sharply with the U.S. approach, which the report noted has long been described as “a mile wide and an inch deep.”
If school systems adopt the math council’s new approach, their classes might resemble those at Garfield Elementary School in Revere, Mass., just north of Boston. Three-quarters of Garfield’s students receive free and reduced lunches, and many are the children of recent immigrants from such countries as Brazil, Cambodia and El Salvador.
Three years ago, Garfield started using Singapore Math, a curriculum modeled on that country’s official program and now used in about 300 school systems in the U.S. Many school systems and parents regard Singapore Math as an antidote for “reform math” programs that arose from the math council’s earlier recommendations.
The Singapore Math curriculum differs sharply from reform math programs, which often ask students to “discover” on their own the way to perform multiplication and division and other operations, and have come to be known as “constructivist” math.


Strong parent and teacher views on the MMSD’s math strategy may well spill over to non-support for referendums and incumbent board members, particularly in light of increasing UW Math Department activism on this vital matter.

High School Dropouts Face Steep Costs

Ben Feller:

Dropping out of high school has its costs around the globe, but nowhere steeper than in the United States.
Adults who don’t finish high school in the U.S. earn 65 percent of what people who have high school degrees make, according to a new report comparing industrialized nations. No other country had such a severe income gap.
Adults without a high school diploma typically make about 80 percent of the salaries earned by high school graduates in nations across Asia, Europe and elsewhere. Countries such as Finland, Belgium, Germany and Sweden have the smallest gaps in earnings between dropouts and graduates.
The figures come from “Education at a Glance,” an annual study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The report, released Tuesday, aims to help leaders see how their nations stack up.

Working in Schools May Reduce Senior’s Property Taxes

Katharine Goodloe:

Seniors citizens in Germantown may soon be able to get a discount on their property taxes – by working in schools throughout the year to earn it.
The district is considering adopting a program, popular in several Wisconsin districts, that places seniors in school-based roles, then issues them a check to be applied toward their property tax bill.
Richmond Elementary in Waukesha County adopted the program eight years ago, and seniors there can work up to 78 hours a year for $5.50 an hour. They must be age 62 or older, and at the end of the year a two-party check is issued to the senior and to the county treasurer to be applied to their property tax bill.
“Everybody I talk to, I tell them what I’m doing and they can’t believe I’m getting money off my property taxes for doing this,” said Lois Fast, 78, one of the school’s seven volunteers in the Senior Citizen Tax Exchange Program, or STEP.

Per Pupil Spending Parity

Sara Neufeld:

The city spends the equivalent of about $11,000 per child in its regular public schools.
Charter schools in the city receive $5,859 per child in cash and the rest in services that the school system provides, such as special education and food.
Two city charter schools, City Neighbors and Patterson Park Public, appealed that formula to the state school board in 2005, saying it limited their ability to choose how to provide services.
The state school board ruled in the charter schools’ favor, and the city school system appealed that decision in court.
“All we’re asking for is parity,” said Bobbi Macdonald, president of the City Neighbors board. “We’re not asking for anyone to spend more money on charter school kids.”

Via Joanne.

How Lowering the Bar Helps Colleges Prosper

Daniel Golden:

Twice a year, after reviewing applicants to Duke University, Jean Scott lugged a cardboard box to the office of President Terry Sanford. Together, Ms. Scott, director of undergraduate admissions from 1980 to 1986, and Mr. Sanford pored over its contents: applications from candidates she wanted to reject but who were on his list for consideration because their parents might bolster the university’s endowment. Ms. Scott won some battles, lost others and occasionally they compromised; an applicant might be required to go elsewhere before being taken as a transfer.
“There was more of this input at Duke than at any other institution I ever worked for,” says Ms. Scott, now president of Marietta College in Ohio. “I would have been very pleased to have the best class as determined by the admissions office, but the world isn’t like that.”
Over more than 20 years, Duke transformed itself from a Southern school to a premier national institution with the help of a winning strategy: targeting rich students whose families could help build up its endowment. At the same time, and in a similar way, Brown University, eager to shed its label as one of the weakest schools in the Ivy League, bolstered its reputation by recruiting kids with famous parents. While celebrities don’t often contribute financially, they generate invaluable publicity.

On Homework: Busy Work

Ben Wildavsky:

Perhaps homework really is out of control in certain (generally affluent) schools and districts. But that would be a far narrower problem than the national epidemic these authors describe. Their books are best understood as part of a broader ideological struggle over the direction of American education. From his approving invocation of Noam Chomsky to his denunciation of testing and other accountability-based reforms, it’s clear that Kohn sees homework as just one more instrument of social control. Even the valid points he makes (for instance, that the correlation between homework and academic achievement in some grades doesn’t necessarily imply causation) are undercut by his tendentious approach. There’s no small irony in a professional provocateur like Kohn accusing respected researchers of being “polemicists” who cherry-pick studies to buttress their preexisting views. Bennett and Kalish, though less overtly political, are just as apt to cast children in the role of an oppressed class.
It’s a shame these volumes aren’t more credible. Averages notwithstanding, some kids certainly do get buried in assignments of dubious worth — and in those cases Bennett and Kalish’s lobbying tips could prove useful. Similarly, Kohn’s insistence that schools justify both the quantity and quality of the work they’re assigning is perfectly reasonable. But in the absence of more persuasive evidence that American kids are plagued by excessive, rather than insufficient, academic rigor — homework included — parents and policymakers should look elsewhere for a nuanced and reliable guide to this eminently worthy subject. ·

Mississippi Free School Fruit Pilot Program


Results of a pilot program in Mississippi hints that distributing apples, oranges and other fresh fruit free of charge at school may be an effective part of a comprehensive program aimed at improving students’ eating habits.
During the 2004-2005 school year as part of the Mississippi Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program, 25 secondary schools gave out free fresh fruit and vegetables during the school day and provided nutrition education to promote and support the program.
Initial results based on 851 participating students in grades 5, 8, and 10 from 5 schools suggest that the program significantly increased the variety of fruit and vegetables tried by the students in all three grades.
The program appeared to be most effective among students in grades 8 and 10, report Doris J. Schneider from the Child Nutrition Program, Mississippi Department of Education and colleagues in the current issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hundreds of kids flock to state’s new online schools

Linda Shaw:

Washington’s two newest online schools didn’t know how many students to expect when they announced they would open their virtual doors this fall. Leaders cautiously hoped for 250, maybe 300 as a start.
They were low — way low. As school starts, the two public schools are happily struggling to handle double and triple that number.
Insight School of Washington, the state’s first fully online high school, stopped accepting students after 650, and has 1,000 more who’ve expressed interest. The Washington Virtual Academy, a K-8 based in Steilacoom, has 652 students registered, and another 500 in the application pipeline.
It’s another spurt in the growth of online learning in Washington state, where more than 9,000 students took one or more online classes last year.
Going to school via computer is “not for most kids,” said Bill Finkbeiner, executive director of Insight School, a partnership between a Portland company and the small Quillayute Valley School District in Forks. “Most students are going to do better in traditional high schools. But there are a significant percentage of students who don’t fit in to a regular high school and, for many of them, this is a good option.”

Advice for (School) Administrators

Ms. Cornelius:

A while back, a friend asked me what advice I would give administrators, since we were discusing advice to new teachers. After having gotten through the first few weeks of school, I am riled up enough now that I’m going to pick up that challenge. So here we go: advice for vice principals, principals, assistant superintendents, superintendents, and any other person who gets to dip their toes into actual policy-making for the educational world.

Outsourcing Homework

Charles McGrath:

For $9.95 a page she can obtain an “A-grade” paper that is fashioned to order and “completely non-plagiarized.” This last detail is important. Thanks to search engines like Google, college instructors have become adept at spotting those shop-worn, downloadable papers that circulate freely on the Web, and can even finger passages that have been ripped off from standard texts and reference works.
A grade-conscious student these days seems to need a custom job, and to judge from the number of services on the Internet, there must be virtual mills somewhere employing armies of diligent scholars who grind away so that credit-card-equipped undergrads can enjoy more carefree time together.

America on the cusp of education renaissance

Matthew Ladner:

In the past, a lack of data enabled stagnation. Armchair observations of real-estate agents were often the most sophisticated opinions regarding the quality of local schools. Today, online services like provide a mountain of comparative testing and parental review data in a few short clicks.
New technologies and practices, such as self-paced computer-based instruction and data-based merit pay for instructors, hold enormous promise which has only begun to be explored. That said, disadvantaged children in KIPP Academy schools, among others, have achieved phenomenal academic results not with new technologies, but rather with old-fashioned “time on task” hard work and extended school days.
In short, we now have the primordial soup of a market for schools.

Via Joanne.
No doubt. I’ve mentioned before that Milwaukee, over the next few decades (despite stops and starts) will have a far richer K-12 climate than Madison. Madison has the resources and community to step things up – I hope we do so (does it have the leadership?).

Madison Teen Gets Perfect SAT Score

Doug Erickson:

e represented Wisconsin in the National Spelling Bee. Now Robert Marsland III has another claim to fame.
The Madison high school senior earned a perfect score on the SAT college entrance exam, a feat all the more impressive because the test was revamped and expanded this year, with a writing essay added.
Last year, 1,050 students got a perfect 1600 score, according to the College Board, which administers the test. This year, just 238 students earned the new perfect score of 2400.

“Candy isn’t Dandy in Madison Schools”

Susan Lampert Smith:

Expect details of the Madison School District plan in the coming week. Here’s what my sticky fingers were able to pry out of Mary Gulbrandsen, student services director:
Soda pop has already vanished from Madison school vending machines. Candy is no longer sold in school, and in two years, no school group will be allowed to sell candy for fundraising.
(Horde your hockey team candy bars – soon you can sell them on eBay as collectors’ items!)

Reality Doesn’t Meet the Ambitions Of Many Teens

Elizabeth Agnvall:

As parents and guidance counselors encourage high school students beginning the new school year to pursue their dreams, a new study suggests that many of them are setting their sights too high.
Researchers at Florida State University (FSU) studied teens’ educational and occupational plans between 1976 and 2000 and found a widening gap between what teens believe they will do after graduation and their actual achievements, a problem that the study’s authors say can lead to wasted resources, anxiety and distress.
“High school students’ plans for what they will achieve are increasingly distant from what’s likely,” said lead author John Reynolds. The FSU sociology professor said other studies have shown a disconnect between students’ goals and their achievements, but this one shows that the gap has grown in the past 30 years.

The Hidden Cost of Curriculum Narrowing

Craig Jerald [PDF]:

in March, The New York Times published a major education story under the headline “Schools Cut Back Subjects To Push reading and Math.” The article claimed that “thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math requirements laid out in No Child left Behind […] by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.”1 The headline appeared “above the fold” in the Sunday edition of the Times, the most valuable and influential real estate in american print journalism.
Predictably, the rest of the media quickly picked up the story in a series of ripples extending outward to other newspapers and magazines to radio and finally to television, cycling back to newspapers in the form of outraged editorials. By the time the story hit the late-night talk shows and drive-time airwaves, commentators had begun to express near hysterical dismay that social studies, science, and the arts were all but disappearing from american schools.
Not so fast. as often happens when complex educational issues encounter the popular media, the extent of the problem was blown out of proportion. The original study on which the Times based its story had actually found that about one third of districts reported that their elementary schools had reduced social studies and science “somewhat” or “to a great extent,” and about one fifth said the same of art and music.

More about the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. Via Rotherham.

Schools Find Free Veggies a Hard Sell

Mike Stobbe:

Bad news – but probably no surprise to parents – when it comes to young children and vegetables: A government study showed fifth-graders became less willing to try vegetables and fruits when more were offered as free school snacks.
Older kids in the same study upped the amount of fruit they ate, but there was no change in their vegetable consumption.
The study results are somewhat disappointing for champions of getting more fresh produce into school lunchrooms.

Teacher Blogs

Maria Sacchetti:

One Needham teacher gushed about the time a student worried that Australia would fall off the planet — and how that led to a lesson on gravity. A Brookline teacher banned the word “stuff” from her fourth-graders’ vocabulary. A young teacher, also from Needham, got personal, thanking parents for their support after her husband died.
Meet the newest group of bloggers drawing audiences online: teachers.
Teacher-generated blogs have been increasingly popping up from Needham to Martha’s Vineyard, many in the past year. Teachers at all grade levels reveal glimpses of themselves as well as the magical moments — and at times, difficult ones — that can happen in a classroom. Parents, in turn, scour the blogs, post comments, or borrow snippets to use as dinner conversation with their children.
As students head back to school this week, teachers are again typing dispatches during breaks at school, or from home in their pajamas.

Philadelphia Opens High Tech School

Jon Hurdle:

Philadelphia on Thursday opened a public high school where students work on wireless laptops, teachers eschew traditional subjects for real-world topics and parents can track their child’s work on the Internet.
Called “The School of the Future” and created with help from software giant Microsoft, it is believed to be the first in the world to combine innovative teaching methods with the latest technology, all housed in an environmentally friendly building.
The school, which cost the school district $63 million to build, is free and has no entrance exams. The 170 students in the inaugural ninth-grade class were selected by lottery from 1,500 applicants.

Joanne says it’s New Tech with the same old curriculum.

Madison School District Progress Report

Via a Johnny Winston, Jr. email:

Welcome back to school! I hope you had a wonderful summer. On August 28th the Madison school board approved plans Plan CP2a and Plan CP3a relative to boundary changes that will be necessary if the November 7th referendum to construct an elementary school on the Linden Park site passes or fails. The plan will need to be adjusted depending on enrollment. The board also passed a resolution to place $291,983.75 of the Leopold addition/remodeling monies in the contingency fund of the 2006-07 budget if the referendum passes less the expenses incurred relative to the initial financing of the project
On August 21st, Partnerships, Performance and Achievement and Human Resources convened. The Partnerships Committee (Lucy Mathiak, Chair) discussed strengthening partnerships with parents and caregivers and is working to develop a standard process for administering grants to community partners. Performance and Achievement (Shwaw Vang, Chair) had a presentation on the English-as-a-Second Language Program. Human Resources (Ruth Robarts, Chair) discussed committee goals and activities for 2006-07
On August 14th the board approved a policy that allows animals to be used in the classroom by teachers in their educational curriculum but also protects students that have allergies or other safety concerns. Questions about the November referendum were discussed and an additional JV soccer program at West High school was approved. This team is funded entirely by parents and student fees. The Finance and Operations Committee (Lawrie Kobza, Chair) met to discuss concepts and categories of a document called the People’s Budget that would be easier to read and understand. Lastly, three citizens were appointed to the newly created Communications Committee (Arlene Silveira, Chair): Deb Gurke, Tim Saterfield and Wayne Strong

Continue reading Madison School District Progress Report

Report Finds U.S. Students Lagging in Finishing College

Tamar Lewin:

The United States, long the world leader in higher education, has fallen behind other nations in its college enrollment and completion rates, as the affordability of American colleges and universities has declined, according to a new report.
The study, from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, found that although the United States still leads the world in the proportion of 35- to 64-year-olds with college degrees, it ranks seventh among developed nations for 25- to 34-year-olds. On rates of college completion, the United States is in the lower half of developed nations.
“Completion is the Achilles’ heel of American higher education,’’ said Patrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in San Jose, Calif., and Washington.

Wisconsin’s “Report Card” [200K PDF]: Preparation: B+, Participation A-, Affordability: F, Completion: A, Benefits: B- and Learning: I. 2004 Report Card.

“How We Dummies Succeed”

Robert Samuelson:

If you’re looking for the action in education, forget the Ivy League. Talk instead to Anthony Zeiss, president of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. It has six campuses and 70,000 students taking classes in everything from remedial English to computer networking. With about 12 million students, the nation’s 1,200 community colleges help answer this riddle: Why do Americans do so badly on international educational comparisons and yet support an advanced economy?
At this back-to-school moment, the riddle is worth pondering. Those dismal comparisons aren’t new. In 1970, tests of high school seniors in seven industrial countries found that Americans ranked last in math and science. Today’s young Americans sometimes do well on these international tests, but U.S. rankings drop as students get older. Here’s a 2003 study of 15-year-olds in 39 countries: In math, 23 countries did better; in science, 18. Or consider a 2003 study of adults 16 to 65 in six advanced nations: Americans ranked fifth in both literacy and math.

Learning to Teach Math

“John Dewey”:

I am in a class in which the teacher is, shall we say, an adherent of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and its standards. In fact, the NCTM standards and our understanding of same make up a portion of the syllabus. Our first assignment is a comparison of those standards with the math standards for the state in which we reside for a particular “content standard”, grade level, and “process standard. The content standard describes what students are supposed to learn. The process standard describes how they are supposed to learn it. I got assigned Geometry/11th grade/representation. “What is ‘representation’?” I hear you asking. Expressing things in different ways, I think. You can use a graph to express a function, or a table of values, or a formula, for example. Which one is best to analyze the problem at hand, I think is what they’re getting at but they go on and on in the standards, bringing in all sorts of ways to show things which might be good things to mention as an aside, but to devote so much class time to it supplants the basics that they are supposed to be learning. (And which educationists think is mundane, and mind numbing.)

Joanne has more. John Dewey background.

The Ed School Disease, Part Two

Jay Matthews:

I read Stanford University educational historian David F. Labaree’s new book, “The Trouble With Ed Schools,” shortly after last week’s column scorching those same education schools. You would think his wonderfully insightful book, which is even harder on ed schools than I was, would make me feel good. Here is a distinguished education school professor who knows that world so well, and he is validating my opinions.
Instead, the book made me ashamed of myself. It was similar to the feeling of loathsome guilt I had when I was eight years old and beat up a five-year-old with a lisp next door who had annoyed me for reasons I no longer recall. Labaree succeeds in making American education schools such objects of pity, suffering from decades of low status and professional abuse, that you want to give the next ed school professor you meet a big hug and promise to bake her a plate of cookies.
That is not the worst part. In last week’s online column, and in a column in The Washington Post Magazine Aug. 6, I fussed over the failure of education schools to pass on tips from the real world of expert teachers working in inner city schools. I cited several methods used by famous teachers who have raised student achievement significantly. I decried the response from many ed school people: We can’t teach that until we subject it to thorough research.
But Labaree has gone a long way toward convincing me that ed schools are doing no such thing. He concludes, after an exhaustive examination of the birth and evolution of teacher training in the United States, that education schools have about as much impact on what happens in U.S. classrooms as my beloved but woeful Washington Nationals are having this season on the pennant race.
Teachers in training, he shows, are far more influenced by their memories of how their own school teachers behaved, and by orders and advice they get from supervisors and colleagues in the schools that eventually employ them. Rookie teachers are happy for the credential they get from ed schools that allow them to start earning a paycheck, but they don’t use very much of what they learn there, Labaree says.
At the heart of the book is a Frankie and Johnnie romance between two losers, ed schools and child-centered progressive education. Labaree notes several books that have decried the effect on public schools of progressive education, including the thoughts of theorist John Dewey. Then he asks a simple question: What evidence is there that many classroom teachers are actually doing anything that Dewey would want them to do? As the faculty lounge saying goes, Dewey advocates are supposed to act like a guide on the side, letting each student follow his or her natural instincts and curiosity, rather than a sage on the stage, dispensing wisdom which everyone must write down and memorize.

Fear is Shaping Our Children

Patricia Pearson:

The helmet perfectly symbolizes childhood today. Nothing is safe, kids should be wary of everything, pass the Ritalin. This phenomenon would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.
“Summertime,” goes that wonderful old song by the Gershwins, “and the livin’ is easy.”
Well, it used to be, anyway. This past one seemed fraught with peril, as they usually do, these days, for parents. Allergies, skin cancer, air pollution, injuries, drownings, heat stroke, West Nile virus … oh my.
Gone are the golden afternoons of my own childhood, when I left the house without a hat, or sun screen, to noodle about on my bike (without a helmet) and play hide-and-seek in the bushes (without benefit of mosquito repellant or pedophile spray) and invariably stayed out until supper (which consisted of fattening foods).
Now, my children cannot exit my home from May through October unless they are dressed in the equivalent of a hazmat suit.

Stereotypes and the Achievement Gap

Richard Monastersky:

In a striking experiment about stereotypes and academic achievement, African-American seventh graders performed better in school months after they were asked to spend 15 minutes thinking about their identity and values.
The results of the study, published in today’s issue of the journal Science, demonstrate how racial stereotypes can adversely affect minority students and how simple interventions can partly counteract those stresses, researchers said on Thursday. . . .

MPS Often Lacks Librarians

Alan Borsuk:

If your children are elementary school students in Milwaukee Public Schools, there’s a strong chance that Lisa Chatman or Mildred McDowell will be their librarian this year.
Don’t expect Chatman or McDowell to read stories to your kids. Don’t expect them to check out books, keep the shelves orderly or choose new books or other materials to purchase. In fact, don’t expect Chatman or McDowell to set foot in the building more than occasionally.
That’s because Chatman and McDowell work in central administration. To meet state regulations, they are listed officially as the certified supervising librarians at more than 60 elementary schools this year. But the hands-on work in the libraries will be done by paraprofessionals, aides, teachers or volunteers, often with limited hours and limited background in library work.

Education in Medieval Britain

The Economist:

FEW children, in the developed world, spend their summer holidays bringing in the harvest. Yet the timing of the summer break dates from the days when child labour was too valuable to lose in the vital final weeks of the growing season. The roots of modern education, in Britain and elsewhere, lie in the half-hidden world of ancient schools.
Nicholas Orme’s previous book, a definitive history of English medieval childhood, disproved the notion that previous generations treated children as miniature adults. This one explodes some pervasive myths about their education. First, there was quite a lot of teaching available: it was not just confined to the rich and priestly. There were hundreds of schools in England, some in monasteries and cathedrals, others founded with individual charitable endowments, often with a large bunch of private pupils paying modest fees.

Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England by Nicholas Orme.

Continue reading Education in Medieval Britain

Movement toward “Small Learning Communities” Slowing?


Hopes were high in this blue-collar town when Lebanon High was broken up into four smaller schools-within-a-school to try to reduce the dropout rate.
At the time, in 2004, the small-schools movement was growing across the country, and it had a powerful backer in Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
But just two years later, criticism from parents and educators has put the future of small schools in jeopardy across the country.
“We made a mistake trying to push autonomy really hard, and the community blew back at us,” said Mark Whitson, a journalism teacher at Lebanon High School. “Parents want us to slow our pace of change until they know what we are doing.”
The small-schools concept calls for dividing large high schools into groups of about 300 students with similar academic interests. (Lebanon was divided into “academies” devoted to communications; farming, natural resources, and health; arts, business, community and family affairs; and engineering and other technical fields.)
The groups then take classes together for four years, with the same teachers. Proponents say students learn more because they and their teachers get to know one another better.

Joanne has more.

Chief Proposes Year-Round Classes to Aid Ailing Programs

V. Dion Haynes:

D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey is proposing year-round classes at five mainly low-achieving schools in an effort to give students more time in the classroom by shortening the long summer break.
The proposal, which is the school system’s first attempt to adjust the traditional calendar, will probably ignite a local and nationwide debate: Education experts extol the benefits of a year-round calendar, citing studies that show significant knowledge loss over the summer, but many parents argue that children need downtime.

The High Price of Easy Homework

Valerie Ulene:

Two weeks ago, Kerry and Lee Schmelzer left their Montana dream home and relocated to a rental in Reno. Pulling up stakes wasn’t easy, but, they ultimately decided, it had to be done. Their 13-year-old daughter, Emma, needed a new school.
For years, the Schmelzers had struggled to challenge Emma academically at their local public schools. Although some years were better than others, they believed Emma wasn’t getting what she needed. “She learned a lot of things,” says her mom, Kerry. “But she learned them really, really quickly. She spent most of her time waiting around for her classmates to catch up.” In spite of skipping two grades by the ninth grade, Emma remained well ahead of her peers at school, and the family agreed that they needed to make a change.
Last week, Emma began attending the Davidson Academy, a school for profoundly gifted students.
In many respects, Emma’s story is not unusual. The needs of many gifted children are largely overlooked, some educational experts say. Not only does this practice prevent these students from reaching their full academic potential, but it has other surprisingly serious consequences for them as well.
“There is a pervasive myth that gifted kids will be fine on their own,” says Jane Clarenbach, director of public education at the National Assn. for Gifted Children. “I think it’s simply an excuse not to deliver the necessary services.”

Teachers in the Most Challenging Classrooms

Noah Mackert:

I teach a group of South Bronx sixth graders with reading and emotional disabilities. One day last year, I was having them write essays. Most everyone selects a topic — bring the troops home, stop pollution, don’t demolish Yankee Stadium — and most everyone gets to work. Katherine, on the other hand, pulls a Mickey Mouse bandanna over her hair, which violates the school’s dress code, and slumps in her chair.
I sit down next to her. What does she care about? Cats. What is she angry about? She doesn’t know. Then I have an idea. It’s my job to know what she’s been through; I ask her to tell me about when she was in foster care.
“They shouldn’t take kids away from their parents,” she says.

National School Testing Urged

Jay Matthews:

Many states, including Maryland and Virginia, are reporting student proficiency rates so much higher than what the most respected national measure has found that several influential education experts are calling for a move toward a national testing system.
A recent study by Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, found that states regularly inflate student achievement. In 12 states studied, the percentage of fourth-graders proficient in reading climbed by nearly two percentage points a year, on average.

Kevin Carey [Ed Sector, Hot Air: How States Inflate Their Educational Progress Under NCLB] and the Fordham Foundation have criticized Wisconsin’s state standards.
Andrew Rotherham has more:

Sherman Dorn weighs-in on Jay Mathews much chattered about Sunday front page Washington Post splash on national standards. Sherman raises the issue of cut scores on tests. This recent ES Explainer looks at that issue, which doesn’t get the attention it should.

What I think is unfortunate is that Mathews’ article has set off something of a false debate, namely about whether all these people who support using NAEP as a national test are right or wrong. Thing is, the Fordham report (pdf) looked at a multiple routes to national standards including my favored route of common standards developed by the states themselves. I actually think using the NAEP for this is a lousy idea and that the states are not going to enforce anyone else’s standards anyway, hell they mostly won’t enforce their own now under No Child. Worth reading the entire report not just the clips.

At 2-Year Colleges, Students Eager but Unready

Diana Schemo:

At first, Michael Walton, starting at community college here, was sure that there was some mistake. Having done so well in high school in West Virginia that he graduated a year and a half early, how could he need remedial math?
Eighteen and temperamental, Mickey, as everyone calls him, hounded the dean, insisting that she take another look at his placement exam. The dean stood firm. Mr. Walton’s anger grew. He took the exam a second time. Same result.
“I flipped out big time,’’ Mr. Walton said.
Because he had no trouble balancing his checkbook, he took himself for a math wiz. But he could barely remember the Pythagorean theorem and had trouble applying sine, cosine and tangent to figure out angles on the geometry questions.
Mr. Walton is not unusual. As the new school year begins, the nation’s 1,200 community colleges are being deluged with hundreds of thousands of students unprepared for college-level work.
According to scores on the 2006 ACT college entrance exam, 21 percent of students applying to four-year institutions are ready for college-level work in all four areas tested, reading, writing, math and biology.
For many students, the outlook does not improve after college. The Pew Charitable Trusts recently found that three-quarters of community college graduates were not literate enough to handle everyday tasks like comparing viewpoints in newspaper editorials or calculating the cost of food items per ounce.
“It’s the math that’s killing us,’’ Dr. McKusik said.
The sheer numbers of enrollees like Mr. Walton who have to take make-up math is overwhelming, with 8,000 last year among the nearly 30,000 degree-seeking students systemwide. Not all those students come directly from high school. Many have taken off a few years and may have forgotten what they learned, Dr. McKusik said.

Notes and links on math curriculum.

On Grade Inflation

Erin O’Connor:

As part of University of Colorado president Hank Brown’s decision to tackle the tough issue of grade inflation, CU regent Tom Lucero is inviting members of the public to contribute their thoughts on the subject:

Even cum laude graduates sometimes lack the skills needed to succeed in today’s workplace. This can prove to be an expensive and frustrating problem for new employers who must allocate the time and resources to adequately train new-hires.

I would like to invite you to participate in a discussion about grade inflation and its impact on the quality of our college graduates.

–What influence does grade inflation have on individuals, society and the economy?

–What are your experiences with the caliber of work from recent college graduates?

–What measures can be taken to better prepare students for life in the real world?

We are beginning a debate at the University of Colorado about the important issue of grade inflation. Please send your comments and thoughts to

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni took up grade inflation in its 2003 report, Degraded Currency: The Problem of Grade Inflation. It’s a good starting point for anyone interested in thinking about the issue.

Are out-of-state students crowding out in-staters?

Mary Beth Marklein:

For Virginia native Max Wilson, getting into the University of Vermont, his top choice, practically was easier than driving up to start his freshman year. Not only was he accepted early, he was admitted into the honors college, which landed him in a brand-new dorm — “an awesome perk,” he says.
Compare that with Steve Connor, whose family lives just 45 miles or so from campus, in East Montpelier. With his solid grades and extracurriculars, everyone thought he was a shoo-in. Yet Connor was one of 92 Vermont applicants placed on a waiting list, a first for the university. Only after weeks of uncertainty did he finally learn he was admitted for the fall.
Sparsely populated states and those with tight higher education budgets always have relied on non-residents and the higher tuition payments they bring to help sustain their public universities. Tiny Vermont falls into both categories.


Chocolate & Zucchini:

Cantine is French for school cafeteria*, and it is hard to find a grown-up that doesn’t have a story or two to recount about his cantine days. These memories are often a mix of the bitter (the food was less than stellar, and the atmosphere was one of constant struggle for social survival) and the sweet (petit-suisse fights were fun, and if you knew what strings to pull, you could lay your hands on an extra serving of fries — du rab de frites), but in both cases, they are an integral part of how personalities and palates were formed.
A book called Cantines came out yesterday in France, based on these very premises. Food writers Sébastien Demorand and Emmanuel Rubin have selected sixty dishes that used to be were served, with varying degrees of gastronomic success, at school cafeterias when we were kids — from friand au fromage (a puff pastry envelope with a creamy cheese filling) to petit salé aux lentilles (salted pork and lentils), by way of macédoine de légumes (a mayo-laden salad of peas, potatoes, and carrots) and hachis parmentier (a sort of shepherd’s pie).

How did this St. Paul 18-year-old ace the SAT and ACT?

Tad Vezner:

arents and teachers call him St. Paul’s low-key whiz kid. Jake Heichert grew up spurning studying, sleeping through the occasional exam — and, most recently, earning a rare pair of perfect scores on the ACT and SAT.
Last week, his family sat around their living room, wondering how it all happened.
Rich and Susan Heichert’s only child received a 2400 on his SAT college assessment test in May. In February he scored a 36 on his ACT. He earned perfect 5s on his Advanced Placement tests in chemistry, U.S. history, and government and politics.
Oh, and calculus, Jake added. Almost forgot.
His parents searched for an explanation.
“Do you study, Jake?” Susan asked.
“We’ve never seen it,” Rich added.
“They told us he might have a learning disability,” Susan said of the day Jake was born, oxygen deprived.

Via Ed Gadfly.

Standard & Poor’s Recognizes 20 Wisconsin Schools for Narrowing Achievement Gaps (including Madison’s Cherokee and Black Hawk)

Standard & Poors “School Matters”:

Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services today announced it has identified 20 Wisconsin schools that have significantly narrowed the achievement gap between higher- and lower-performing student groups during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years. This is the first year Standard & Poor’s conducted an achievement gap analysis in Wisconsin.
The 20 schools are located in 19 school districts throughout the state. One school district–Madison Metropolitan School District–has two schools that have significantly narrowed at least one achievement gap between student groups. And one of those two schools, was able to narrow the gap among multiple student groups.
Of the 20 Wisconsin schools that have narrowed the achievement gap, one school is recognized for reducing its black-white gap, two schools for narrowing the gap between Hispanic and white students, and 17 schools are recognized for narrowing the gap between economically-disadvantaged students and all students.
Brown Deer Middle School in the Brown Deer School District was the only school recognized for narrowing the achievement gap between its black and white students.
Two schools: Preble High School in the Green Bay Area School District and Cherokee High School in the Madison Metropolitan School District are recognized for narrowing the gap between Hispanic and white students.


  • Summary Findings 108K PDF

  • Wisconsin Schools home page on S & P’s School Matters site.
  • Susan Troller:

    Black Hawk Middle School and Cherokee Middle School were hailed along with 18 other Wisconsin schools for significantly narrowing achievement gaps between groups of students in different demographic groups.
    Madison was the only district to have two schools cited for progress in this area, which has drawn increased scrutiny and concern among educators and parents nationwide over the past decade. In addition, Cherokee was the only school that was able to narrow the gap among multiple student groups.
    “This is a great boost for our staff as we go back to school next week,” Cherokee Principal Karen Seno said. “It’s an absolute recognition of their professionalism, commitment and the effectiveness of their practices.”

Saying No to School Laptops

Jessica Vascellaro:

Ms. Adam is part of a backlash against programs that equip every student in a classroom with a computer. A few years ago, such programs, which aim to better engage and train students by giving them round-the-clock computer access, were introduced in schools across the country — often with encouragement from the large computer makers, such as Apple and Dell Inc., that win the contracts. But now, some parents and educators are having second thoughts over higher-than-anticipated costs and the potential for inappropriate use by kids. At the same time, there is a sense that the vaunted benefits of constant computer access remain unproven. The programs are increasingly under attack — and in a few cases are crumbling.

Millions on The Breakfast Table

Roger Thurow:

Twenty-nine million children, most from low-income families, eat federally funded lunch in school. But only nine million eat school breakfast. To federal and state officials, that gap is a big reason for the persistence of childhood hunger in America.
To entrepreneur Gary Davis, it’s also a business opportunity. Those 20 million unserved breakfasts translate into nearly $2 billion in federal money that could be claimed from school-feeding programs, but has been left on the table each year. In the summer of 2004 Mr. Davis wondered: What if he could get all the children who eat lunch in school to eat breakfast, too?
His answer: a grab-and-go meal of cereal, crackers and fruit juice, in small boxes that could be distributed on buses, in the cafeteria or in the first-period classroom. He launched his product at the beginning of last school year, and by the end, he says he was selling three million of them a month.
Long-neglected, school breakfast is becoming a sought-after market for business. At the same time, that business is driving participation in an underused government social program. Earlier this month, Kellogg Co. began selling its own breakfast-in-a-box to schools, which includes cereal, a Pop-Tart or graham crackers, and juice. Tyson Foods Inc. is adapting its popular lunchtime chicken nuggets and patties into smaller sizes for breakfast. Scores of other companies also are pitching breakfast items to schools.

A Better Breakfast Can Boost a Child’s Brainpower

Allison Aubrey

Attention, children: Do not skip breakfast — or your grades could pay a price.
Evidence suggests that eating breakfast really does help kids learn. After fasting all night, a developing body (and brain) needs a fresh supply of glucose — or blood sugar. That’s the brain’s basic fuel.
“Without glucose,” explains Terrill Bravender, professor of pediatrics at Duke University, “our brain simply doesn’t operate as well. People have difficulty understanding new information, [they have a] problem with visual and spatial understanding, and they don’t remember things as well.”

Spellings on “Tweaking NCLB”

Lois Romano:

Saying that the federal government has “done about as much” as it can in many ways, Spellings noted that states need to do much of the remaining work on NCLB in order to meet the goal of reading proficiency by 2014.
“They have made a lot of progress on standards, measurement, data and focusing on teachers’ credentials,” she said, adding that there is still work to be done involving school structure. Among areas for focus, she cited how courses are allocated, the use of personnel and academic rigor.
“There are a lot of issues that relate to the grown-ups and that is the next big thing. I mean, how is Joel Klein going to do school restructuring in low-performing schools?” she said, referring to the chancellor of New York City schools.

Maryland Teacher Merit Pay

John Wagner:

“Merit pay is obviously something that has been very controversial around the country,” Ehrlich acknowledged to the board, calling his plan “a step in that direction.”
Ehrlich and his aides provided few details yesterday about the scope of the proposed program, saying much remains to be worked out. Ehrlich said he would leave it to local jurisdictions to decide whether to participate.

Phil M and TeacherL recently had a fascinating dialogue regarding merit pay.

Fall Referendum Climate: Local Property Taxes & Income Growth

Voters evaluating the Madison School District’s November referendum (construct a new far west side elementary school, expand Leopold Elementary and refinance District debt) have much to consider. Phil Brinkman added to the mix Sunday noting that “total property taxes paid have grown at a faster pace than income”.
A few days later, the US Census Bureau notes that Wisconsin’s median household income declined by $2,226 to $45,956 in 2004/2005. [Dane County data can be viewed here: 2005 | 2004 ] Bill Glauber, Katherine Skiba and Mike Johnson:

Some said it was a statistical blip in the way the census came up with the new figures of income averaged over two years.
“These numbers are always noisy, and you can get big changes from year to year,” said Laura Dresser of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy.
David Newby, head of the state’s AFL-CIO, didn’t make much of the new numbers, either.
“My hunch is (wages) have been pretty stagnant,” he said. “We have not seen major swings.”
Others, though, seized on the data as significant. This is, after all, a big election year, with big stakes, including control of Congress and control of the governor’s mansion in Madison.
U.S. Rep. Mark Green of Green Bay, the Republican candidate for governor, said in a statement that the data showed that “Wisconsin’s families saw just about the biggest drop in their income in the entire country.”
However, Matt Canter, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, said the census information “is totally inconsistent with other current indicators,” adding that the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows an increase in average wages.

The complete census report can be found here 3.1MB PDF:

This report presents data on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States based on information collected in the 2006 and earlier Annual Social and Economic Supplements (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Real median household income increased between 2004 and 2005.2 Both the number of people in poverty and the poverty rate were not statistically different between 2004 and 2005. The number of people with health insurance coverage increased, while the percentage of people with health insurance coverage decreased between 2004 and 2005. Both the number and the percentage of people without health insurance coverage increased between 2004 and 2005. These results were not uniform across demographic groups. For example, the poverty rate for non-Hispanic Whites decreased, while the overall rate was statistically unchanged.
This report has three main sections – income, poverty, and health insurance coverage. Each one presents estimates by characteristics such as race, Hispanic origin, nativity, and region. Other topics include earnings of year round, full-time workers; poverty among families; and health insurance coverage of children. This report also contains data by metropolitan area status, which were not included last year due to the transition from a 1990-based sample design to a 2000-based sample design.

I’m certain there will be plenty of discussion on the state household income decline.

Do PTA’s Matter?

Steve Barr:

I want to use today’s post to ask all you eduwonkers a serious question. Do PTA’s matter? I know they matter at local schools where parents rally around a school. I mean, do they matter in a systematic change kind of way. Can any real change happen in this country without a pure, loud, parent revolt? In my experience building charter high schools in the highest need areas in Los Angeles where dropout rates can hit 70%, I can’t find a PTA. These are areas where generations have dropped out. In Los Angeles the PTA seems to be against everything. Is it that way across the country? Is it the way they are funded? Do they attract the same people who use to dominate student government? In response to this we bring you the Los Angeles Parents Union.

Help for the Child Who Says No to School

Jane Brody:

James, a tall, bright, personable 12-year-old, had been successful socially, athletically and scholastically all through elementary school.
But everything fell apart when he had to move on to a large centralized middle school. Never a morning person, James now had to get up at 6 a.m. instead of 7:30 to catch the bus. Once at school, he had trouble finding his way around and arrived late for many of his classes. Rather than asking for reasons, which included being bullied and hit by several older boys, his teachers simply gave him late marks and detention.
James’s grades plummeted, and his feelings about school crashed with them. He couldn’t sleep at night. He started missing school a few days a week, then found himself unable to go at all. His parents were understanding and spoke to school authorities about his problems, but nothing anyone did seemed to make things better, not even disconnecting the television and computer to reduce the “rewards” of staying home.

Involving Families in High School and College Expectations

Jennifer Dounay [PDF]:

he numbers are astonishing and unfortunately all too familiar – while four in five high school students expect to complete a college degree, fewer than a third will actually emerge from the high-school-to-college pipeline with a baccalaureate six years after high school graduation. A growing number of parents see a college degree as absolutely necessary for their child’s success, and more students believe that they will attain this goal. But the sad fact is that only one in three will complete a college degree. This policy brief examines the troubling gap between educational aspirations, what students (and parents) need to do to achieve those expectations, and what states are doing to better communicate to students and parents the importance of being academically prepared for college and the steps to take to achieve that level of preparation.
Students (and their parents) expect they’ll finish high school and go to college
Most high school students today (and their parents) believe they should – and will – graduate from high school and complete some form of postsecondary education. As the graph below makes clear, this expectation has been rising since 1980 for every racial and socioeconomic group.