All posts by Will Fitzhugh

WILL to Wisconsin DPI: Open Enrollment Process May Violate ADA, State Law

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, via a kind reader:

Today, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty sent a letter to Superintendent Evers of the Department of Public Instruction, raising serious concerns about whether the DPI is misapplying the open enrollment laws in a way that discriminates against students with disabilities in violation of state law as well as Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Explained CJ Szafir, WILL Education Policy Director, “Every school year, hundreds of students with disabilities are denied the right to open enroll by their school district. When parents appeal the decision, records and interviews with parents have shown that the DPI is not protecting the rights of those students but is instead approving the rejections without conducting the analysis that it is legally required. The whole process leaves parents frustrated, and trapped in a school district that does not serve the needs of their child.”
The purpose of Wisconsin’s open enrollment program is to allow parents to choose a school district for their child other than the school district where they reside. But, students with disabilities have their applications for open enrollment rejected at a much higher rate than those without a disability. A major cause of this disparity is the resident school district claiming that they would incur an “undue financial burden” if the child leaves the school district.

“Learning Styles” FAQ; Well Worth Reading…..

Daniel Willingham:

When I was first getting into education research (about 2005) I was surprised to find how many people–teachers and others–assumed that there was scientific evidence supporting learning styles. In 2009 I made a 7 minute video arguing that this evidence is lacking. (You can see the video here). In 2010, with Cedar Riener, I wrote an article for Change magazine on the topic.
Mostly because of the video I get a lot of emails about learning styles, so I thought it might be useful to post Frequently Asked Questions, along with my answers.
How can you not believe that that people learn differently? Isn’t it obvious?
People do learn differently, but I think it is very important to say exactly how they learn differently, and focus our attention on those differences that really matter. If learning styles were obviously right it would be easy to observe evidence for them in experiments. Yet there is no supporting evidence. There are differences among kids that both seem obvious to us and for which evidence is easily obtained in experiments, e.g., that people differ in their interests, that students vary in how much they think of schoolwork as part of their identity (“I’m the kind of kid who works hard in school”) and that kids differ in what they already know at the start of a lesson. All three of these have sizable, easily observed effects on learning. I think that often when people believe that they observe obvious evidence for learning styles, they are mistaking it for ability.
That sounds like an unimportant difference in semantics. What does it matter?
The idea that people differ in ability is not controversial–everyone agrees with that. Some people are good at dealing with space, some people have a good ear for music, etc. So the idea of “style” really ought to mean something different. If it just means ability, there’s not much point in adding the new term. (Some of the other style distinctions could be matters of ability too: some people might be good at keeping track of details, whereas others are good at grasping the big picture. I don’t know if they’ve been studied that way.)

You never did math in high school

Jeremy Kun:

As a teacher I encounter all of the typical kinds of students. There’s one kind of student I routinely encounter, usually in a freshman calculus course, that really boils my blood: the failing student who “has always been good at math.”
Oh it’s so annoying! And it’s even worse to hear because the stuff we teach in calculus isn’t really math either. The irony is so thick in the air when a student says it I’m surprised I don’t cough. Invariably, they never actually understood the “math” they were always so good at.
Of course, the problem is deeper than a handful of students who accidentally say ironically stupid things. The problem is that American high school students are taught something named “math” for four years which is not even close to math.

Kenosha schools, teachers union at odds over deducting union dues

Erin Richards:

The Kenosha teachers union says dues automatically will be deducted from teacher paychecks starting later this month — a move that critics call a blatant violation of a 2011 law limiting collective bargaining.
But a leading Kenosha Unified School District administrator said Tuesday that’s not true — the district will only deduct dues of employees who wish to be union members and have signed a voluntary wage deduction form.
The contradictory messages are the latest of several confusing developments in the state’s third largest school district. They stem from a collective bargaining agreement the School Board signed with the teachers union in November, despite the collective bargaining limits for public workers known as Act 10. The legality of that contract is being challenged in a lawsuit by a former and current Kenosha teacher and two conservative groups.
“We are an enigma,” Kristi Lacroix, a former Kenosha teacher involved in the lawsuit, said of the district.

Pricing Study: Machine Scoring of Student Essays

Barry Topol, John Olson, and Ed Roeber (PDF):

Education experts agree that the next generation of assessments (such as those being developed by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in response to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS)) need to do a better job of measuring deeper learning to determine if students are acquiring those skills critical to success in the 21st century.
Existing assessments tend to emphasize “bubble in” multiple choice type questions because they are easier, more timely and cheaper to score. However, multiple choice questions do not provide as good a measure of critical thinking skills as performance type questions, in which students are asked to read a passage or passages and present an argument based on synthesizing the information they have read. The answers to these performance type questions tend to be scored by humans, which is a time intensive and expensive process.
While some discussion about finding ways to increase the amount of
money spent on state assessment systems overall has begun, at least for the near future, states only appear to be able to spend roughly what they spend today for new summative assessments. Therefore, the question is, can the next generation of assessments be designed to better measure student critical thinking skills while costing roughly the same amount as states spend today (about $25 per student)?

Consultant: Madison schools should use its mission to recruit minority teachers

Pat Schneider:

The Madison Metropolitan School District has an image problem with teachers of color, says a consultant who recommends using the district’s mission of creating an environment where all students thrive to recruit a more diverse workforce.
The number of minority teachers in the district, while growing, is not keeping pace with the growing proportion of minority students, consultant Monica Rosen told Madison School Board members Monday.
“You’ll never catch up at the rate you’re going. I think there needs to be something more aggressive,” said Rosen, a partner in the national firm Cross & Joftus.
The gap between the number of students of color and the number of teachers of color has been brought into sharp focus as the school district works to close a persistent academic achievement gap between students of color and their white classmates.
A leader in the African-American community in November filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, charging that the district was discriminating against people of color in its hiring.
And nearly all the school district personnel interviewed as part of Cross & Joftus’ review mentioned their own concerns about the lack of diversity among school district staff, Rosen reported.

Teaching Kids to Quit

Noah Berlatsky:

My son has been doing martial arts for a couple of years now. He likes it for the most part–he just graduated to a level where he gets to learn how to fight with sticks, which is, he thinks, pretty great. So I was a little surprised when, chatting with him about it the other day, he informed me with some deliberation that he figured he would quit at some point. “I’ll get bored,” he said. “I’ll definitely quit eventually.”
There’s no need to borrow trouble, so I didn’t push him on it. But I know that, after all the work he’s put into it, if he comes to me some day and says he wants to quit, I will look him in the eye and say something along the lines of, “Okay. If that’s what you want, we’ll quit.”
Probably a lot of folks think that’s not the best tack to take–even as I type I can see the silent, judgy pursing of lips. I’ve talked about this here before in terms of adults quitting the workforce, but the stigma against quitting can be even more iron-bound with kids. American parents (or at least middle-class American parents) frown on giving up willy-nilly just because you’re bored. How will you ever overcome hardship if you just give up when the going gets hard? we ask. As Delia Lloyd says in a recent piece at Brain, Child, “There’s a real value in old-fashioned perseverance. And with all the talk of ‘life skills’ these days, I don’t think it’s a bad idea for children to start learning the value of commitment early on, even when they find something onerous.”

Which middle class, which squeeze? ‘From a global perspective, the middle class is increasing – not shrinking – and boosting growth’

Gillian Tett:

Are you middle class? A decade ago, that question was of greatest interest to sociologists – or snobs. Now it is political dynamite.
Last month the Pew Research Center released a survey which showed that the proportion of Americans who consider themselves “middle class” has been shrinking sharply, as median incomes have stalled. Back in 2008, or just as the financial crisis hit, the ratio apparently stood at 53 per cent. Now it is just 44 per cent.
And that is not because Americans are rising in self-confidence: just 15 per cent define themselves as upper class, down from 21 per cent in 2008. The real problem is that two-thirds of Americans think (quite correctly) that the gap between rich and poor is widening – and that they themselves are sinking: 40 per cent of people now define themselves as lower class, compared with 25 per cent previously.
This is startling. It helps to explain why the phrase “middle class” is now creating such political anxiety. When Barack Obama presented his recent State of the Union address, for example, he billed it as “a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class”. And it is not just an American problem. In the UK, David Cameron keeps tossing the “m” word around, following in the wake of Ed Miliband, who recently insisted: “I know our country cannot succeed and become collectively better off without a strong and vibrant middle class . . . [we must] rebuild our middle class.”

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? SENIORITY

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter, via a kind Jeannie Kamholtz email (PDF):

Rights granted to an employee by the Union’s Contract are among the most important conditions of one’s employment. Those represented by MTI, in each of MTI’s five bargaining units, have numerous protections based on SENIORITY. Whether it is protection from involuntary transfer, being declared “surplus” or above staff requirements, or layoff, SENIORITY is the factor that limits and controls management’s action. Because of SENIORITY rights guaranteed by the Union’s Contract, the employer cannot pick the junior employee simply because he/she is paid less.
Making such judgments based on one’s SENIORITY may seem like common sense and basic human decency, but it is MTI’s Contract that assures it. Governor Walker’s Act 10 destroys these protections. MTI is working to preserve them.

From student teacher to experienced principal, Dahmen made Memorial his 40-year home

Doug Erickson:

Bruce Dahmen, the steady-handed principal of Madison Memorial High School, began every school day in the commons area, coffee cup in hand, greeting students. He’d stick around long enough to gently quiz the latecomers.
“What’s going on in your life?” he’d ask them. “Is there anything we can do to help you?”
Dahmen, who died Tuesday at age 61, treated every student as worthy of attention and respect, colleagues and friends said. It was a trait that endeared him to an age group not always enthralled with authority figures.
“Mr. Dahmen had this quote, ‘Make good decisions,’ and as high-schoolers, you wouldn’t believe in a million years we’d actually listen to an administrator,” said senior Jeremy Gartland, 17. “But we did, because we knew he wasn’t scolding us. He genuinely cared for us.”
Dahmen understood Memorial like few others — he started his career there as a student teacher in 1974 and never left. He served as a father figure to many students, and it was in that role that he and his wife, Peggi, an administrative assistant at Memorial, found themselves in Knoxville, Tenn., on Tuesday.

Post navigation Vergara trial: Tears fall over challenges of minority students

Vanessa Romo:

In an abbreviated day of testimony in the trial Vergara v. CA, a suit that is challenging teacher dismissal laws in California, Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu heard from two witnesses who described their personal disappointments with California’s public education system and the laws regulating teacher employment.
Testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs, Kareem Weaver, an award winning teacher and principal from the Oakland Unified School District, talked about his belief that minority students can ill afford exposure to grossly ineffective teachers.
An African-American who grew up in the Bay Area and was raised by a drug addicted father, Weaver broke down in tears, recounting the challenges he sees minority students facing.
“Low-income students of color are the most vulnerable population,” he said, before putting his face in his hands.
He told the court how many minority students grow up on a “razor-thin margin of error,” where educational experience can make a huge difference.
“It either props them up or blows them down,” he said, adding that the slightest external factor can “determine how you will engage with learning for the rest of your life.” And having a high quality teacher, he said, can be pivotal.
Weaver’s testimony was so impassioned, plaintiffs’ attorney Marcellus McRae, who was questioning him, also became emotional. At one point, McRae stepped into an alcove just off the court room to regain his composure.

Can We Halt Administrative Bloat?

Benjamin Ginsberg:

In 2011, I published The Fall of the Faculty pointing to the problem of accelerating administrative bloat at America’s colleges and universities. The book’s reception exceeded my expectations with professors throughout the United States (as well as Canada and Europe) writing to me with stories of mismanagement, administrative incompetence, bureaucratic waste and fraud and the sheer arrogance and stupidity of their administrators. Many letter writers declared that I must have done my research on their campuses since everything I described had happened there. Others declared that my examples were not extreme enough and offered stories from their own schools that often topped mine.
Everywhere, it seems, legions of administrators are engaged in strategic planning, endlessly rewriting the school mission statement, and “rebranding” their campus. All these activities waste enormous amounts of time, require hiring thousands of new deanlets and, more often than not, involve the services of expensive consultants. This rebranding business is so foolish that it is difficult even to caricature. With the help of consultants, the University of Chicago School of Medicine rebranded itself “Chicago Medicine,” while my own university’s medical school rebranded itself “Hopkins Medicine.” I hope these new brands came with consultants’ warranties. I have a feeling that the next group of administrators will want to introduce their own brands after, that is, rewriting their schools’ mission statement.
– See more at:

Scholarship winner aspires to teach others

Pamela Cotant:

Nathan Altmann, who earned a scholarship recognizing his perseverance, plans to become a high school teacher in hopes of inspiring other students.
The Sun Prairie High School senior was one of 10 Wisconsin students to receive a 2014 Horatio Alger State Scholarship, which recognizes students who exhibit commitment to continuing their education and serving their communities in the face of adversity. Another area winner is Mary Caroline Tilton of Beaver Dam, who attends Pius XI High School in Milwaukee.
Nathan plans to use the scholarship toward his effort to obtain a degree in music education from UW-Eau Claire and become a high school band teacher.

Doing Higher Ed Right Increasing education funding! Hiring full-time professors! Are these places for real?

Rebecca Schuman:

Seems sometimes like every week is a bad week for higher education. Last week was no different: First came news of the University of Akron threatening to shutter 55 degree programs–you know, frivolous ones, like elementary education–broken on the heels of comments by the school’s vice provost, Rex Ramsier, that if his institution stopped using underpaid adjunct labor, it would have to raise tuition 40 percent.
Meanwhile, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that Ramsier, his six-figure salary, and the adjuncts he loves to impugn are business as usual. According to the report, since 1987, the number of administrators and other nonteaching employees at colleges nationwide more than doubled, “vastly outpacing” growth of not just faculty, but students. So, another week, another set of woes about which I can cry foul, and then get a bunch of condescending responses about supply and demand, as if I have never heard of such a thing.

In fight against homelessness, let’s zero in on children

Danny Westneat:

The good news first: There are no more kids living at Seattle’s shantytown, the Nickelsville encampment in the Central Area.
“We got the last ones out, finally,” says the woman who set up the camp on South Jackson Street, Sharon Lee of the Low Income Housing Institute.
When she opened the temporary camp, Lee figured it would draw mostly single adults — “hardy people” who are used to camping outside. But she was bowled over when up to 15 kids, some as young as 3, were living there at one time in the fall.
The homeless newspaper Real Change dubbed it “Nickelsville Elementary.” I wrote in December about how kids living in unheated shacks was apparently now accepted in Seattle because a school bus stopped there each day, as if it were just another cul-de-sac.
Plenty of people offered to help with clothing or supplies, which was much appreciated. But it wasn’t what these kids needed most: a heated place to sleep.

Seattle Council Starts to Move on Universal Pre-K

Erica Barnett:

The city council hosted national experts on pre-kindergarten education this morning, getting an earful about the benefits of universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. The council’s Education and Governance committee, headed up by council president Tim Burgess, is looking at options to pay for a voluntary universal pre-K program for Seattle kids; it’s unclear whether funding that program would require a ballot measure or if it could be paid for through the city’s general fund.
Burgess predicts paying for preschool for all (or at least many–the program will be voluntary) of the city’s 12,000-plus three- and four-year-olds, only about two-thirds of whom are currently in preschool, will require a ballot initiative (Seattle’s preferred way of paying for critical needs like parks, libraries, early-childhood education, and now, possibly, preschool).
“It is a significant amount of money,” Burgess says, although he adds that he doesn’t know exactly how much. “One question is, could we start in year one or year two with just general fund money?”
Dr. Hiro Yoshikawa, from NYU, pointed to a study of universally available preschool in Tulsa, OK that showed that the city saved $3 for every dollar it spent on preschool–a program NPR’s show Planet Money highlighted in its show “Why Preschool Can Save the World” last year.
“When you look at that facts in every city in the U.S. and then you look at the powerful combination of the neuroscientific and the economic evidence that brain architecture is built in the first years of life… if you don’t build the foundational skills in the first years of entry, you lose the ability of children to obtain basic skills,” Yoshikawa said.
Among the researchers’ conclusions:

Lessons in success from Eton and the Tiger Mother

Lucy Kellaway:

Ten days ago my husband went to a reunion at Eton College for the leavers of 1974. About 150 men crowded into the 15th-century chapel to belt out a quick “Praise my Soul the King of Heaven” before settling down to eat, drink and reminisce about schoolboy pranks while quietly trying to work out who had done best in the 40 years since then.
Afterwards he made two observations. The first was how good they all looked. These men, blessed by breeding, education and money, still look at 57 and 58 easily recognisable as their teenage selves.
The second was how relatively undistinguished their careers had turned out to be. Apart from one senior politician and one former newspaper editor, they were a middling group of lawyers, property investors and fund managers, rich by national standards, but disappointing if you consider their start in life. They arrived at that school at 13, clever and mostly from wealthy families, to spend five years wearing tailcoats and becoming members of one of the world’s most elite networks. Yet there they were, in their prime, and it had amounted to not very much at all.
His observation turns on its head the usual complaint about Eton – that it is an exclusive club of men who run the country. It is true there is currently a trinity of Etonians in power, as prime minister, mayor of London and Archbishop of Canterbury. But they are the exceptions to a more surprising rule that Eton is a club of men born to do great things but who increasingly fail to do anything much at all.

Running in Place: Low-Income Students and the Dynamics of Higher Education Stratification

Michael Bastedo & Ozan Jaquette:

The increasing concentration of wealthy students at highly selective colleges is widely perceived, but few analyses examine the underlying dynamics of higher education stratification over time. To examine these dynamics, the authors build an analysis data set of four cohorts from 1972 to 2004. They find that low-income students have made substantial gains in their academic course achievements since the 1970s. Nonetheless, wealthier students have made even stronger gains in achievement over the same period, in both courses and test scores, ensuring a competitive advantage in the market for selective college admissions. Thus, even if low-income students were “perfectly matched” to institutions consistent with their academic achievements, the stratification order would remain largely unchanged. The authors consider organizational and policy interventions that may reverse these trends


John Cochrane:

Yet, for the moment, the market price is “free.” That leads to a bit of conundrum — big expensive ongoing fixed costs to produce something that we give away? How will we “monetize” it? What will the economic model be, and how will moocs change the higher education market?
The grumpy response to moocs: When Gutenberg invented moveable type, universities reacted in horror. “They’ll just read the textbook. Nobody will come to lectures anymore!” It didn’t happen. Why should we worry now?
As Alex pointed out, there is a good analogy between textbook publishing and mooc creation — high fixed, low marginal cost (now zero for textbooks too). It leads to superstars with established brand names taking over the market, and Alex speculated that publishers will know how to recover costs.
A lot of mooc is, in fact, a modern textbook — because the twitter generation does not read. Forcing my campus students to watch the lecture videos and answer some simple quiz questions, covering the basic expository material, before coming to class — all checked and graded electronically — worked wonders to produce well prepared students and a brilliant level of discussion. Several students commented that the video lectures were better than the real thing, because they could stop and rewind as necessary. The “flipped classroom” model works.

Many people shouldn’t go to college

David Will:

It’s time for a large number of Americans to hear what might seem like a harsh message: A degree from a four-year university might not be for you. Popular culture would cast this frank assessment as elitist. But that’s a toxic myth that needs to vanish because the stakes are too high. A new study by Young Invincibles, a think tank geared toward issues facing young Americans, estimates that high youth unemployment costs the government about $25 billion in lost tax revenue. All the while, there are three million jobs that employers can’t fill because too many workers lack the requisite skills.
Policymakers and university administrators have admirably worked to expand access to college over the past several decades. In terms of enrollment rates, their efforts have been successful — matriculation increased by thirty seven percent between 2000 and 2010. So, the good news is that we’re getting young adults on campus. But we are profoundly failing them as a country after that; America’s graduation rate sits at an abysmal 53 percent, including community colleges. This disparity betrays a critical disconnect, one not discussed often enough — that a large swath of those lured to college should never have attended.

The Calculus Trap

Richard Rusczyk:

You love math and want to learn more. But you’re in ninth grade and you’ve already taken nearly all the math classes your school offers. They were all pretty easy for you and you’re ready for a greater challenge. What now? You’ll probably go to the local community college or university and take the next class in the core college curriculum. Chances are, you’ve just stepped in the calculus trap.
For an avid student with great skill in mathematics, rushing through the standard curriculum is not the best answer. That student who breezed unchallenged through algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, will breeze through calculus, too. This is not to say that high school students should not learn calculus – they should. But more importantly, the gifted, interested student should be exposed to mathematics outside the core curriculum, because the standard curriculum is not designed for the top students. This is even, if not especially, true for the core calculus curriculum found at most high schools, community colleges, and universities.
Developing a broader understanding of mathematics and problem solving forms a foundation upon which knowledge of advanced mathematical and scientific concepts can be built. Curricular classes do not prepare students for the leap from the usual ‘one step and done’ problems to multi-step, multi-discipline problems they will face later on. That transition is smoothed by exposing students to complex problems in simpler areas of study, such as basic number theory or geometry, rather than giving them their first taste of complicated arguments when they’re learning a more advanced subject like group theory or the calculus of complex variables. The primary difference is that the curricular education is designed to give students many tools to apply to straightforward specific problems. Rather than learning more and more tools, avid students are better off learning how to take tools they have and apply them to complex problems. Then later, when they learn the more advanced tools of curricular education, applying them to even more complicated problems will come more easily.

Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less

Peter Gray:

I’m a research bio-psychologist with a PhD, so I’ve done lots of school. I’m a pretty good problem-solver, in my work and in the rest of my life, but that has little to do with the schooling I’ve had. I studied algebra, trig, calculus and various other maths in school, but I can’t recall ever facing a problem – even in my scientific research – that required those skills. What maths I’ve used was highly specialised and, as with most scientists, I learnt it on the job.
The real problems I’ve faced in life include physical ones (such as how to operate a newfangled machine at work or unblock the toilet at home), social ones (how to get that perfect woman to be interested in me), moral ones (whether to give a passing grade to a student, for effort, though he failed all the tests), and emotional ones (coping with grief when my first wife died or keeping my head when I fell through the ice while pond skating). Most problems in life cannot be solved with formulae or memorised answers of the type learnt in school. They require the judgement, wisdom and creative ability that come from life experiences. For children, those experiences are embedded in play.

Who is really ‘worst’ in education?

Kim Metcalf:

A child who grows up in Nevada has less chance for adult success than a child growing up anywhere else in the United States.
Let that sink in for a moment. Of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the average (actually median) child whose family has chosen to live in Nevada has less chance of future success than the child of a family living anywhere else in the country — less chance than a child in Mississippi or Alabama or inner city Washington, D.C.
Of 51 places in the country to raise a child, Nevada comes in at 51st. This is the conclusion of “Quality Counts,” a national study conducted by Education Week and released recently. Just after the Sun printed its piece on the report, headlined “Report says Nevada schools again worst in nation for giving children a chance for success” (Jan. 9), I began receiving questions from disturbed educators, policymakers, parents, journalists and others about the study. How bad must the quality of education in Nevada really be? What should CCSD do to improve these horrible results? What could the College of Education do to address the poor chances of success for Nevada’s children? Most cogently: What does the report really tell us and what needs to be done?

Test every school getting public money

Wisconsin State Journal:

The school accountability bill still boils down to what Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said last fall:
“If you get a check, you get a checkup,” the chairman of the Senate Education Committee succinctly stated.
It’s taken awhile, but consensus on this point has emerged at the state Capitol.
Gov. Scott Walker has expressed similar sentiments for a long time. So did Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, last week during a meeting with the State Journal editorial board.
So let’s get it done.
Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, appears to have the simplest idea that’s easiest to pass. He plans to introduce a bill this week to ensure all traditional public, charter and private voucher schools are reporting student information to the state, including results of a new state test in spring 2015.
Farrow is willing to add consequences for low-performing schools through subsequent legislation next session. That would be in time for state report cards in 2015, which seems reasonable.

Permission to Fail: MFAs aren’t a problem: it’s artists being content with what they know

Barry Schwabsky:

I once had this girlfriend who was an artist. We used to go to galleries and see shows together. Sometimes when she looked at a piece she would say, “Oh, that’s something I did in art school.” After a while it dawned on me that a lot of what she dismissed as student exercises–gambits she figured she’d outgrown–were things I liked. I started to think that she had inadvertently taught me, if not a definition of good art, then at least a kind of rule of thumb for identifying it in the field: if you make art in ways that other artists would have considered disposable exercises–Wittgensteinian ladders to be tossed aside once ascended–then you are getting somewhere with your art.
Later, I came to realize that I shouldn’t have been surprised how much “real” art has in common with art school exercises. As the art historian Howard Singerman pointed out in his invaluable and deeply humane book, Art Subjects: Making Artists in the American University (1999), the purpose of the contemporary art school is not so much to teach students how to make art as to show them how to be artists. Singerman, who went to art school himself before changing direction and opting for the life of a scholar, recalls that “in one assignment we were asked to invent an artist of another type than we imagined ourselves to be–since we were to know ourselves as types–and then to produce an oeuvre, to make slides and do the talk, to model a speech or slouch.” Fernando Pessoa meets Lee Strasberg: that assignment stands in for all others insofar as each of them requires the student to take a certain distance from her presumably naïve pre-art-school self and any unexamined sense of an artist’s life. “Whatever has called a student to enter the department,” Singerman points out, be it a “love of past art, an excitement about the process of creation, a desire for personal growth, the ability to draw,” the instruction the student receives is intended to demonstrate that none of these are sufficient or possibly even necessary to being an artist. “Among the tasks of the university program in art is to separate its artists and the art world in which they will operate from ‘amateurs’ or ‘Sunday painters,’ as well as from a definition of the artist grounded in manual skill, tortured genius, or recreational pleasure.”

Why We Homeschool

Sippican Cottage:

My wife and I teach our children at home. My wife does 99 percent of it. I teach the kids music as best I can. We’ve had good success with it. Our older son is now college age. He’s not attending college. He doesn’t want to become anything that requires credentials that are the result of attending college — you know: doctor, lawyer, engineer. He wants to be a musician of some stripe. You can go to college to be a music teacher in a public school, or play in a symphony orchestra, but other than that, a diploma is superfluous. You just have to know how to play. He’s like a monk right now. He doesn’t do anything except work on music and shovel the driveway. No college would be as intensive.
The little one is just ten. He doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. I’m still trying to decide what to do with mine, so I don’t judge. He’s recently become enamored of the idea of opening up his own restaurant. He says he wants to call it “The Meat Shelter.” Catchy, that; but there’s something about it that makes me wonder if he might abandon that line of thinking before he starts shaving. Little boys are interested in all sorts of things.
He already plays the drums. He plays the drums like an adult. He plays the drums for money. He and his brother call themselves Unorganized Hancock. They are very likely the most famous persons currently residing in the town we live in, but no one here knows that. You can watch the boys playing Crooked Teeth at the New Musical Express website if you like. They’ve sold copies, on two continents, of music they composed and recorded themselves, which makes them INTERNATIONAL RECORDING ARTISTS. Snicker.

Has Media Ignored Sex Abuse In School?

Tom Hoopes:

John Karr isn’t a priest. He’s a teacher.
Most teachers are dedicated, hard-working people who wouldn’t dream of hurting a child. The same is true of priests.
If the suspect in the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey were a priest, there would be a fresh outcry about a decades-long cover-up in the Catholic Church. Commentators from Left and Right would rightly unite in decrying the crisis and the entrenched complacency that led to it. Catholic pundits would take a special relish in pointing out that they agree: The Church had better get its act together.
Any institution that has allowed children to be harmed by predators deserves to be taken to task for it. No institution should get a pass. And no profession should get a pass. Not preachers, not priests — not even teachers.
Especially not teachers. And yet …

Tennessee Weighs The Cost Of A Free College Education

Blake Farmer:

Pretty soon, going to community college in Tennessee may become absolutely free. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled the proposal in his annual State of the State address this week.
Haslam is trying to lift Tennessee’s ranking as one of the least-educated states. Less than a third of residents have even a two-year degree. But a community college free-for-all has been tried elsewhere, though not sustained, and there’s always a nagging question.
“So I know you’re wondering,” Haslam said. “How do we pay for this?”
Haslam told state lawmakers he’ll tap into a mound of excess cash generated by the state’s lottery. Roughly $300 million would go into an endowment. The returns would pay to send high school seniors without other scholarships to community college.
“Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future? Priceless,” he said to a round of applause. It’s an effective one-liner that’s been praised by education leaders and students.

Detailed data on Advanced Placement pass rates, race, and gender for 2013


The following file has 3 sheets with detailed data by race and gender. The first sheet is from 2006 to 2013 for selected states. The second sheet is the race and gender information for every state for 2013. The third sheet is the race and gender information for every state for 2012.
This data was compiled from the data from the College Board at and

Is Math a Young Man’s Game?

Jordan Ellenberg:

Last month at MIT, mathematician Grigori Perelman delivered a series of lectures with the innocuous title “Ricci Flow and Geometrization of Three-Manifolds.” In the unassuming social universe of mathematics, the equally apt title “I Claim To Be the Winner of a Million-Dollar Prize” would have been considered a bit much. Perelman claims to have proved Thurston’s geometrization conjecture, a daring assertion about three-dimensional spaces that implies, among other things, the truth of the century-old Poincaré conjecture. And it’s the Poincaré conjecture that, courtesy of the Clay Foundation, carries a million-dollar bounty. If Perelman is correct–and many in the field would bet his way–he’s made a major and unexpected breakthrough, brilliantly using the tools of one field to attack a problem in another.
There’s only one problem with this story. Perelman is almost 40 years old.
In most people’s minds, a 40-year-old man is as likely to be a productive mathematician as he is to be a major league center fielder or an interesting rock musician. Mathematical progress is supposed to occur not through decades of experience and toil but all at once, in a numinous blaze, to a born genius. Think of the young John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, discovering the Nash equilibrium in a smoky bar where his less precocious classmates think they’re just picking up coeds, or the aged mathematician in Proof who “revolutionized the field twice before he was twenty-two.”
It’s not hard to see where the stereotype comes from; the history of mathematics is strewn with brilliant young corpses. Evariste Galois, Gotthold Eisenstein, and Niels Abel–mathematicians of such rare importance that their names, like Kafka’s, have become adjectives–were all dead by 30. Galois laid down the foundations of modern algebra as a teenager, with enough spare time left over to become a well-known political radical, serve a nine-month jail sentence, and launch an affair with the prison medic’s daughter; in connection with this last, he was killed in a duel at the age of 21. The British number theorist G.H. Hardy, in A Mathematician’s Apology, one of the most widely read books about the nature and practice of mathematics, famously wrote: “No mathematician should ever allow himself to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man’s game.”

New Evidence: There is No Science-Education Crisis

Nora Caplan-Bricker:

It’s common knowledge that the United States is miles behind other developed countries in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, and that our economy suffers from, as Bill Gates has put it, “a severe shortfall of scientists and engineers with expertise to develop the next generation of breakthroughs.” And we also know that the humanities are in a downward slide, in part because they’ve been eclipsed by the dire need to focus on STEM. In the towers of higher education and the annals of our culture, we debate which discipline needs our hand-wringing the most.
If a recent feature in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ magazine, Spectrum, is to be believed, there’s no debate to be had: “The STEM Crisis Is a Myth” advances a convincing case that the U.S. is graduating more than enough scientists and mathematicians to satisfy the demands of its workforce. If this is true, it undermines the arms-race rhetoric pouring out of universities–and, more importantly, out of the federal government–about STEM education. In a speech this April, President Barack Obama said our future depends on “lifting up these subjects for the respect that they deserve,” and his proposed 2014 budget pledged another $3.1 billion to STEM schooling. If the sciences are not “in crisis,” but are in fact doing just fine, it begs the question: Why are we spending so much to revive them?

Wisconsin Republicans conflicted over passing school accountability bill this session

Matthew DeFour:

Assembly lawmakers want to change report cards for public, charter and private voucher schools and force poorly performing public schools to close or convert to charter schools.
They also want to create a politically appointed council to advise the Department of Public Instruction on the best formula for determining report card scores.
The nine-member council would be led by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The governor, Senate president and Assembly speaker would each appoint two members and the Assembly and Senate minority leaders would each appoint one member, none of whom would be legislators.
But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Friday there isn’t support for such sweeping reforms of the accountability system this session, though there may be support for a narrower bill being developed by Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee.
Farrow said he plans to introduce a bill next week that would ensure all public, charter and private voucher schools are reporting student information to the state, including results of a new state test in spring 2015.
Farrow said he wants to seek input from interested groups about possible changes to the accountability system, including consequences for low-performing schools, that could be enacted next session in time for the report card in fall 2015.

‘Our Schools!’ slogan reflects rejuvenated Milwaukee teachers union

Alan Borsuk:

“Our Schools! Our Solutions!”
In eye-catching orange and white, banners and buttons proclaiming that slogan have been showing up in the last several weeks, generally in the hands or on the clothes of members and allies of the Milwaukee teachers union.
It is their four-word proclamation of opposition to plans floated (but so far, not going forward) in Milwaukee and Madison that would make it likely that some low-performing schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system would be turned over to non-MPS charter school operators.
I find the slogan intriguing on several levels.
Level One: It is part of the energetic work leaders of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and the Wisconsin Education Association Council, which has been involved in the campaign, are doing to try to remain relevant. Act 10, the 2011 legislation spurred by Gov. Scott Walker, stripped public employee unions of almost all their power over money and benefits, work conditions and school policies.
What’s left? That’s a challenging question for union leaders. Membership has fallen, political influence has fallen. Leaders of many school districts statewide are working with what remains of unions in more cooperative ways than I expected three years ago, but it is clear who has the upper hand.
In Milwaukee, the MTEA has reduced its staff and spending, but remains visible, active, and, in some cases, influential. The majority of the School Board is generally inclined toward the union.

How the left’s embrace of busing hurt the cause of integration

Tanner Colby

“There is no place in the movement for the white liberal. He is our affliction.”–James Baldwin
Five years ago, while fervently supporting the candidacy of the man who would become America’s first black president, I came to the realization that I didn’t actually know any black people. Most of the people I did know (i.e., other white people) didn’t know many black people either. One, maybe two, was the norm. I asked one white guy I knew if he had any black friends, and he replied, “You mean ones that aren’t on television?”
I wanted to know why integration–actual, genuine integration–had failed so spectacularly. The result of that curiosity, published a little more than a year ago, was Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America, which traced the history of the color line back through all the places I have lived and chronicled the various efforts to erase it: school busing, affirmative action, fair housing, etc. Recently, I celebrated my one-year anniversary as an official participant in the National Conversation About Race–writing bits for Slate, speaking at colleges, and sitting on panels moderated by Soledad O’Brien (which is how you really know you’ve made it).
As good as liberal policies on race sound in speeches, many of them don’t hold up in the real world.
When I started the book, after eight miserable years of George W. Bush and the euphoria of the Yes We Can crusade, I’d been driven pretty far left on the political spectrum. Taking on the issue of race, you’d think I’d have kept heading in that direction. But the more I read and researched, the more I went out and talked to people, I found that a funny thing was happening: I was becoming more conservative.

Madison’s education academics get involved in the argument over education reform; What is the Track Record of ties between the Ed School and the MMSD?

Pat Schneider:

“I’m an academic,” says Slekar, a Pittsburgh-area native whose mother and grandmother were elementary school teachers and who was a classroom teacher himself before earning a Ph.D. in curriculum from University of Maryland.
“I understand scholarship, I understand evidence, I understand the role of higher education in society,” he says. “When initiatives come through, if we have solid evidence that something is not a good idea, it’s really my job to come out and say that.”
Michael Apple, an internationally recognized education theorist and professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison agrees. In the face of conservative state legislators’ push to privatize public education, “it is part of my civic responsibility to say what is happening,” says Apple.
“In a society that sees corporations as having all the rights of people, by and large education is a private good, not a public good,” he says. “I need to defend the very idea of public schools.”
Both Apple and Julie Underwood, dean of the School of Education at UW-Madison, share Slekar’s concern over the systematic privatization of education and recognize a role for scholars in the public debate about it.

A wide-ranging, animated, sometimes loud conversation with Slekar includes familiar controversies hotly debated around the country and in the Wisconsin Capitol, like high-stakes testing, vouchers and Common Core standards. The evidence, Slekar says flatly, shows that none of it will work to improve student learning.
The reform initiatives are instead part of a corporate takeover of public education masquerading as reform that will harm low-income and minority students before spreading to the suburbs, says Slekar, in what he calls the civil rights issue of our time.
A 30-year attack has worked to erode the legitimacy of the public education system. And teachers are taking much of the blame for the stark findings of the data now pulled from classrooms, he says.
“We’re absolutely horrible at educating poor minority kids,” says Slekar. “We absolutely know that.”
But neither the so-called reformers, nor many more casual observers, want to talk about the real reason for the disparities in achievement, Slekar says, which is poverty.
“That’s not an excuse, it’s a diagnosis,” he says, quoting John Kuhn, a firebrand Texas superintendent and activist who, at a 2011 rally, suggested that instead of performance-based salaries for teachers, the nation institute merit pay for members of Congress.

Local Education school academics have long had interactions with the Madison School District. Former Superintendent Art Rainwater works in the UW-Madison School of Education.

Further, this 122 page pdf (3.9mb) includes contracts (not sure if it is complete) between the UW-Madison School of Education and the Madison School District between 2004 and 2008. Has this relationship improved achievement?
Related: Deja Vu? Education Experts to Review the Madison School District and When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

The Myth of “Public” Schools

Matthew Yglesias:

This disturbing article about a rich neighborhood of Baton Rouge, La., that wants to secede so it won’t have to share school funding with poorer neighborhoods reminds me of one of my great frustrations with the K-12 education policy debate–the terminology of “public schools.”
The way the word is used a school is “public” if it is owned by a government entity and thus part of the public sector. But a public school is by no means a school that’s open to the public in the sense that anyone can go there. Here in the District of Columbia anyone who wants to wander into a public park is free to do so (that’s what makes it public) but to send your kid to a good “public” elementary school in Ward 3 you have to live there. And thanks to exclusionary zoning, in practice if you want to live in Ward 3 you have to be rich. It wouldn’t be legal to respond to the very high price of land in the area by building homes on small lots, or building tall buildings full of small affordable apartments.
Since D.C. doesn’t have Louisiana’s political culture, Ward 3 generally doesn’t have a problem with its tax dollars subsidizing the schools in Wards 5, 7, and 8, but if you proposed randomly assigning students to schools to produce integrated instructional environments, you’d have an epic battle on your hands.

Madison has long supported a wide variation in school demographics. The chart above, created from 2013-2014 Madison School District middle school demographic data, illustrates the present reality, with the largest middle school – near west side Hamilton – also featuring the smallest percentage low income population.

Careful, California voters, your wishes are under attack

Jennifer Gratz:

Since the passage of Proposition 209, California’s public colleges and universities have embraced real diversity on campus through race-neutral alternatives, such as accepting the top percentage of students at all high schools, using socioeconomic consideration in admissions, adding mentorship and outreach to underperforming schools, dropping legacy preferences and expanding need-based scholarships.
Although the share of underrepresented minorities in the UC system dropped from 20% before the ban to 18.6% in 1997, by 2008 it had rebounded to 25%, with an 18% rise in graduation rates among minorities. The numbers at the elite UC Berkeley and UCLA campuses have not fully recovered to pre-Proposition 209 numbers, but they have made considerable progress. Moreover, both were listed in U.S. News & World Report’s Economic Diversity Among the Top 25 Ranked Schools for the 2011-12 year, with the highest percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell grants.
This is precisely the kind of diversity improvement the court said in Fisher would preclude the reintroduction of race preferences.
My involvement with the issue of affirmative action began as a 19-year-old student when I sued the University of Michigan for using different admissions standards based on an applicant’s race. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in my favor in its 2003 Gratz vs. Bollinger decision, but it allowed more nuanced forms of racial policies to continue in a companion case. This split decision moved me to follow California’s example and spearhead a constitutional amendment similar to Proposition 209 in Michigan, which voters approved 58% to 42% in 2006. Since California’s bold step toward equal treatment, seven states have followed its lead.
The proposed changes for California are profound. Disguised as calls for equalizing opportunities and increasing diversity for better learning, these changes are a clear assault on equal protection in California. We are all individuals, with unique dreams, goals and experiences. Racial preferences empower government officials to divide us into categories, giving special treatment to some while discriminating against others, all on the basis of skin color or ethnicity. This is not how a civil society should treat its citizens.
There is no doubt that affirmative action policies began with the best of intentions: for people to be treated without regard to race. But they have turned into policies that instead encourage administrators and politicians to treat people differently based on skin color, creating new injustices with new victims. Treating people differently to make up for inequalities or create diversity only reinforces inequality and deepens racial division.

An Overview of the Madison School District’s Staff Allocation Process for 2014-15

Madison Metropolitan School District 2013-2014 Budget Update 2 (PDF):

The allocation formulas and processes which determine school based staffing are proving to be one of the most important aspects of our zero-based budget process. During the past two months, we have documented current practice and created a ‘design team’ to review and propose ways to modify staff allocation practices. These efforts are helping to build a more unified ownership of the staff allocation process and better alignment between budget processes and instructional priorities.
The staff allocation process, indeed the budget development process as a whole, can be one of those invisible but rigid structures which make it hard for schools to align resources to best impact student learning. Consider the table below, which reports MMSD’s actual 2013-14 allocation of teaching staff at the elementary level:

A Solution for Bad Teaching

Adam Grant

IT’S no secret that tenured professors cause problems in universities. Some choose to rest on their laurels, allowing their productivity to dwindle. Others develop tunnel vision about research, inflicting misery on students who suffer through their classes.
Despite these costs, tenure may be a necessary evil: It offers job security and intellectual freedom in exchange for lower pay than other occupations that require advanced degrees.
Instead of abolishing tenure, what if we restructured it? The heart of the problem is that we’ve combined two separate skill sets into a single job. We ask researchers to teach, and teachers to do research, even though these two capabilities have surprisingly little to do with each other. In a comprehensive analysis of data on more than half a million professors, the education experts John Hattie and Herbert Marsh found that “the relationship between teaching and research is zero.” In all fields and all kinds of colleges, there was little connection between research productivity and teaching ratings by students and peers.

The Aggregate Effect of School Choice: Evidence From a Two State Expiriment in India

Karthik Muralidharan & Venkatesh Sundararaman (PDF):

We find that private school teachers have lower levels of formal education and training than public-school teachers, and are paid much lower salaries. On the other hand, private schools have a longer school day, a longer school year, smaller class sizes, lower teacher absence, higher teaching activity, and better school hygiene. After two and four years of the program, we find no difference between the test scores of lottery winners and losers on math and Telugu (native language). However, private schools spend significantly less instructional time on these subjects, and use the extra time to teach more English, Science, Social Studies, and Hindi. Averaged across all subjects, lottery winners score 0.13 σhigher, and students who attend private schools score 0.23 σhigher. We find no evidence of spillovers on public-school students who do not apply for the voucher, or on students who start out in private schools to begin with, suggesting that the program had no adverse effects on these groups. Finally, the mean cost per student in the private schools in our sample is less than a third of the cost in public schools.
Our results suggest that private schools in this setting deliver (slightly) better test score gains than their public counterparts, and do so at substantially lower costs per student.

Baby boomers have blighted their children’s prospects

Mark Mazower:

Throughout the developed world, record levels of youth unemployment are spreading feelings of hopelessness across an entire generation. Yet what is striking is that policy makers hardly seem to care.
It is only part of the answer to observe that not everyone is suffering equally: for much of wealthy northern Europe, for instance, it hardly registers. And although it is true that in some of the badly affected countries the figures have been pretty high for several decades now, the crisis has made them much worse. The real problem is not economic; it is political. An epoch of some two centuries is ending, and the young are the main losers.
The rise of modern states coincided with a valorisation of youth. Napoleon marked the change. After him, age came to be associated with the ancien regime, youth with the hope of something better. Scarcely out of university, the great Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz, wrote his “Ode to Youth” in 1820, perhaps the best-known expression of this attitude. Founded a decade later, Giuseppe Mazzini’s Young Italy generated endless spin-offs – there was a Young Germany and a Young Poland, not to mention Young Ottomans and later Young Turks. A radical umbrella group, Young Europe, briefly brought many of them together, turning the name of the continent into the emblem of a fairer, more peaceful and more brotherly age ahead. The contrast is striking with what Europe has now come to stand for – a vision dreamt up by old men, now out of touch and increasingly out of mind.

French researchers test autism drug in children

Karen Weintraub:

French researchers are testing a drug they hope will flip a chemical switch in the brains of children with autism.
If the switch isn’t flipped at birth, the brain remains overexcited and becomes vulnerable to injury – and that’s what a group of French researchers think happens in the brains of babies who go on to develop autism, according to a paper published today in the journal Science.
They hope that a drug they are testing in European children will make a crucial difference, allowing brain networks to develop more typically, said lead researcher Yehezkel Ben-Ari of the French Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, in Marseille, France.
Autism is a spectrum of social and communication differences and repetitive behaviors; symptoms range from social awkwardness to behavior problems and an inability to speak. The seeds of autism are believed to be laid during early pregnancy, from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
The new paper showed that in rats and mice with a rodent form of autism the brain chemical GABA didn’t make its normal switch from stimulating electrical activity in the brain to tamping it down. When their pregnant mothers were given the drug, bumetanide, a generic diuretic long used to treat high blood pressure, the switch happened – and the rodents didn’t show autistic behaviors.

Academic publishing No peeking… A publishing giant goes after the authors of its journals’ papers

The Economist:

ONCE upon a time, it was common for scientists to receive letters from researchers working in other institutions, asking for reprints of papers they had published. It was the usual practice in those days for journal publishers to furnish authors with a couple of dozen such reprints, precisely for this purpose–but, if these had run out, a quick visit to the photocopier kept the wheels of scientific discourse turning, and though it was technically a violation of copyright, no one much minded.
Then, the world wide web was invented–initially, as it happens, with the intention of making it easier for scientists to share their results–and everything changed. Now, any scientist worth his grant has a website, and that site will often let the casual visitor download copies of its owner’s work. And, though it has taken a while, some publishers have decided they do mind about this–indeed one, Elsevier, based in the Netherlands, has been fighting back. It is using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), an American law that lets copyright holders demand the removal of anything posted online without their permission, to require individual scientists to eliminate from their websites papers published in its journals. In doing so it has stirred a hornets’ nest.

So how are college graduates really doing? A few schools are willing to tell us

Liz Willien:

A word rarely uttered on college tours sits atop the website of St. Olaf, a small liberal-arts college south of Minneapolis with an annual estimated cost of $51,860.
Next to clickable categories about arts and athletics appears the unlikely word “outcomes.”
And if you click on the word, a headline materializes promising “The Return on Investing in a St. Olaf Education.”
A few more clicks and you can learn what becomes of graduates after four years on its sylvan campus along the Cannon River. For example: Where will a St. Olaf education lead? Then there is “What Happens After Graduation: Recent Alumni Data,” along with retention and graduation rates, and “evidence of learning.”
This new level of candor sounds like an answer to growing concerns of parents, politicians, and foundations concerned about the value for money of a higher education–and of students worried about finding jobs and repaying college loans.
And it’s part of a new wave in higher education.
Concerns that the rising costs are leaving too many behind are increasingly accompanied by fears that today’s college graduates lack sufficient workforce skills–or that they aren’t learning enough.

ACT Report Reveals New STEM Gap: Untapped Pool of STEM-Interested Students

A new report from ACT reveals an untapped pool of students who have an interest in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) but are not planning to pursue a STEM career as they prepare for the future. The data point to a gap between interests and intentions that, if addressed, could help put more students on the path to STEM careers.
“The good news is that student interest in STEM is high overall,” said Jon Erickson, ACT president of education and career solutions. “The bad news is that a sizable number of students may not be connecting the dots between their innate interests and a potential STEM-related career.”
The ACT national and state report series, The Condition of STEM 2013, examines the expressed and measured interests of high school graduates in the class of 2013 who took the ACT® college readiness exam. Expressed interest is when students say they intend to pursue a particular major or occupation. Measured interest, in contrast, is derived from students’ responses to the ACT Interest Inventory, a battery of questions that measures preferences for different types of work tasks.

With hostility over, parent-trigger school strives to improve

Natasha Lindstrom:

Chrissy Guzman chucked the old bottle of paint across the classroom, aiming for the large trash bin that the custodian had wheeled in earlier that summer day.
As she and fellow parent volunteer Lori Yuan cleared out the PTA meeting room, the two mothers vented their frustration over the looming takeover of the district-owned campus by an outside charter operator. They lamented losing their neighborhood school, Desert Trails Elementary School, to a controversial education law they’d fought so hard against: the so-called parent trigger.
Guzman tossed another bottle toward the garbage — only this time the lid flew off midair, splattering paint all over.

Education or Reputation? A Look at America’s Top-Ranked Liberal Arts Colleges

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

The residential liberal arts college is a distinctively American tradition, and for generations its distinguishing feature has been the broad, yet rigorous intellectual experience in the arts and sciences that it required of all students. Studies have demonstrated the success of individuals in a wide variety of roles whose college education was in the liberal arts rather than a narrower technical field. As early as 1956, Bell Laboratories began scientifically tracking the career progress of staff with different academic preparation. Over a 20-year period with the company, liberal arts majors progressed more rapidly and in greater percentage than other staff. Bell’s report, released in 1981, concluded:

[T]here is no reason for liberal arts majors to lack confidence in approaching business careers. The humanities and social science majors in particular continue to make a strong showing in managerial skills and have experienced considerable business success. We hope and expect this to continue.

And a recent study commissioned by the Association of American Colleges and Universities also supports the marketplace competitiveness of liberal arts majors.2
The economic reality of the 21st century is that the skills, knowledge, and intellectual agility that come from a solid liberal arts education are more valuable than ever. The Bureau of Labor Statistics now reports that the average person born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 11.3 different jobs between the ages of 18 and 46 alone. In a recent survey, 93% of employers asserted that mastery of a range of skills that are traditionally associated with the liberal arts was more important than the college major.3
Yet students have been migrating from arts, humanities and social sciences to fields that seem to promise easier paths to employment, like communications and business. And some governors and schools are taking a narrow and rigidly vocational view of higher education–one that steers students toward high-demand majors and preprofessional programs at the expense of a wider liberal arts background.4

Wanted: Ideas to Teach Teenagers About Money

Veronica Dagher:

What’s the best way to teach good financial habits to disadvantaged high-schoolers?
Well, what about holding a game night at which teens and their parents scramble to pay hypothetical bills with make-believe dollars?
Or maybe the students could stay on a college campus for two weeks where they would compete for financial security in a simulated economy.
These were two of 73 ideas submitted to a Fidelity Investments competition that challenged nonprofits, think tanks and individuals to come up with an effective means of teaching low-income teenagers the financial skills they need in today’s economy. Fidelity says the winning idea will be tested in a pilot program that will receive as much as $100,000 in funding plus support from Fidelity volunteers.
It’s no secret that many Americans are woefully ignorant of such financial basics as living within a budget and planning for retirement. For young Americans who face a challenging job market and are starting out with more debt than the previous two generations, it’s a handicap that is particularly acute.

Interview: John Hennessy, president of Stanford University

Andrew Hill & Richard Waters:

The enthusiasm was sincere. But the ad hoc appearance as a humanities lecturer also supported his strong commitment to cross-disciplinary work and his defence of the virtues of a broad liberal arts education.
“Just as we wouldn’t want a student in engineering to graduate never having read a Shakespeare play . . . .we also don’t want a student graduating in history or English literature who doesn’t know something about technology,” he says, in his office in a corner of Stanford’s Main Quad.
The book-lined room is itself a small shrine to the university’s scope: his scientific medals sit near a wig given to him by US Supreme Court justice (and alumna) Sandra Day O’Connor; a low-cost infant-warmer developed by the university’s social entrepreneurs; and a pair of sneakers decorated with pictures of Stanford.
From outside, though, the fight to maintain Stanford’s breadth may look like an uphill battle, led by the wrong person. Many students see Stanford as a springboard into Silicon Valley and Prof Hennessy, himself a founder of two technology companies, is an example of precisely the sort of success to which they aspire.

The Student-Led Backlash Against New Orleans’s Charter Schools

Meredith Simons, via a kind Caroline Zellmer message:

Collegiate Academies is seen by many as the crown jewel of the New Orleans charter school system, which is itself believed to be a national model for urban education. The charter operator’s flagship school, Sci Academy, boasts the best test scores of any open-enrollment high school in the city’s Recovery School District. In 2010, Oprah cut the school a $1 million check.
But this past November, a chain of events started that calls into question whether Collegiate Academies–and other New Orleans charters with similar models–will be able to maintain their success long-term.
First, students at Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School, another New Orleans school, staged a sit-in after a beloved teacher was abruptly fired. The protest shut down junior classes for a day and got the following school day canceled while administrators decided how to respond. Leaders at Clark’s charter operator, Firstline Schools, met with angry students and parents, agreed to give students a voice in hiring decisions, and reassigned the school’s principal to the network office.

2 education reforms lawmakers must support

John Graham, Pat Barnes & Peter Hayes:

Over the past few years, many entities, including The Arizona Republic, along with business and education leaders, have called for significant reforms to our K-12 education system. Central to any reform effort is the development of a quality accountability infrastructure.
Prominently featured in Gov. Jan Brewer’s fiscal 2015 budget are resources dedicated to the ongoing development and implementation of the Arizona Education Learning and Accountability System, or AELAS, and the development of a new assessment to measure student progress under Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards. Appropriations such as these will establish the cornerstone for even greater reforms.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal deserves much credit for highlighting the need for a strong student/school data system. He has spent countless hours educating policy makers on why better data is at the heart of education reform.
Without solid measures to understand how well our districts, public and charter schools, and even individual teachers are progressing, how can we justify spending hundreds of millions of additional taxpayer dollars on the myriad of programs and funding formulas that make up the K-12 structure?
The governor has requested a modest one-time state appropriation of $16.5 million, which complements prior appropriations and other funds available to the Arizona Department of Education, to complete Huppenthal’s vital work.

PreK research districts should know

Daniel Willingham:

Last week Dave Grissmer and I published an op-ed on universal pre-k. We didn’t take it as controversial that government support for pre-K access is a good idea. As Gail Collins noted, when President Obama mentioned early education in his State of the Union address, it was one of the few times John Boehner clapped. Even better, there are good data indicating that, on average, state programs help kids get ready to learn math and to read in Kindergarten (e.g., Gormley et al, 2005; Magnuson et al, 2007).
Dave and I pointed out that the means do show gains, but state programs vary in their effectiveness. It’s not the case that any old preschool is worth doing, and that’s why everyone always says that preschool must be “high quality.” But exactly how to ensure high quality is not so obvious.
One suggestion we made was made was to capitalize on what is already known. The Department of Education has funded preK research for decades. Dave and I merely claimed that it had yielded useful information. Let me give an example here of the sort of thing we had in mind.

Students call for low-cost textbook alternatives

Jessie Opien

Student members of the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are urging universities to provide low-cost “open” alternatives to textbooks, citing the high cost of current options.
A survey, conducted by student PIRG groups throughout the country during the fall of 2013, showed that 65 percent of college students have decided not to buy a college textbook because of its high price. Nearly half of students said that textbook costs influenced how many courses, or which courses, they took.
According to the report, the average college student spends $1,200 per year on textbooks and supplies, and textbook prices have increased by 82 percent over the past decade.
The rate of increase in the amount students spend on books and supplies has slowed some in the last several years, the study said, crediting in part the increased availability of rentals, used books and e-books.

Christie Mess Does Major Damage to Education Reform Efforts

Laura Waters:

How can we calibrate the damage done to education reform in New Jersey these past few weeks?
Quick recap: First, Gov. Chris Christie’s political leverage takes a big hit as he runs heads first into the Bridgegate imbroglio. On Saturday national papers were plastered with the Nixonian allegation that “His Fleeceness” knew about the Fort Lee lane closures while they were happening.
Christie-haters, including those who yearn for a return to the glory days of charter-free school districts and profligate school-funding formulas, buzz with glee.
Next, there’s Newark, New Jersey’s hotbed for educational equity, which recently lost ardent school reformer Cory Booker to the logjam that is Washington, D.C. On Tuesday night at First Avenue School, state-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson walked off the stage while 500 enraged residents and school employees jeered at her “One Newark” plan, which involves expanding school choice and charter schools, and consolidating traditional schools with declining enrollment.
Meanwhile, Newark mayoral-frontrunner Ras Baraka has found a handy wedge issue to differentiate himself from more moderate candidates. Baraka, who doubles as principal of Newark Central High School and South Ward Councilman (he’s on leave from his administrative duties while he campaigns), is blazingly antireform and has compared efforts to upgrade Newark’s bleak school system to “the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.”

Addressing Student Debt in Wisconsin

Sara Goldrick-Rab:

On Wednesday morning at 10 am, a bill titled the “Higher Education, Lower Debt Act” will receive a hearing before the Wisconsin Legislature’s Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges.
I have spent the last decade studying the impacts of higher education financing on current, prospective, and former students throughout Wisconsin and nationwide. In the most relevant effort, the Wisconsin Scholars Longitudinal Study, my team and I tracked a cohort of 3,000 Pell Grant recipients through the state’s public 2-year and 4-year colleges. We carefully surveyed and interviewed them repeatedly to understand how college costs affected decision-making, stress and health and, of course, their education. When some left school without degrees, we continued to talk with them, learning about how debt has affected their post-college lives. We witnessed the challenges that rising debt brings to them and their families, and are deeply empathetic to the crisis that confronts them now.
In addition, I have also been very involved with policy debates at both the state and national level about what to do to make the situation better, improving our economy and collective health and well-being. Last spring, I testified to the United States Senate on the challenge of college affordability. These discussions are fraught with disagreements about right and wrong, and are further confused by the relative lack of empirical data indicating both the effects of debt and delineating the effective pathways forward. People on both the Left and Right are struggling to find good ideas that are also politically feasible. Over the last 18 months, I worked through these challenges with my friend Andrew Kelly of the American Enterprise Institute, not because he and I agree on everything (I’m on the far Left most of the time, and he’s more towards the Right), but because we share a commitment to doing something effective for students, rather than something that is merely (or solely) ideological. In a forthcoming book from Harvard Education Press, due out next year, we describe a range of approaches to achieving greater college affordability through innovations in college financing. We recently hosted an event in Wisconsin, which can be viewed on Wisconsin Eye.

No class today, no ruling class tomorrow. Lessons of the student strike

Oliver Twister:

This is an analysis of the 1970 US-wide, spontaneous student strike by council communist group Root and Branch. As the current situation in California ripens the strategic lessons that Root and Branch attempted to outline could be useful.
The student upheaval of May, 1970 marks a decisive change in the development of American social forces. It is essential to understand what happened, so that when the movement opens up again, tens of thousands of people will know how to push it still further.
The May movement was no mere protest against the invasion of Cambodia. The Cambodian action was the pre-text for action because it embodies everything that the students have learned to hate: the making of life-and-death decisions by a handful of men at the top; deceit; imperialism; racism; violence. The students’ instinctive reaction was to seize the only locus of power available to them, their universities, and to fight — with force if necessary — against the police, National Guard, and other instruments of state violence which tried to break them.
In the midst of the strike, a U.S. Congressman said that there must be a conspiracy behind the student actions, for how else could hundreds of thousands of students conduct the same kinds of struggle around the same basic demands on hundreds of different campuse

“I feel like I was set up to fail”: Inside a for-profit college nightmare

Adam Rust:

Jaqueta Cherry did not have a glittering GPA or a résumé loaded with internships and varsity letters. She dropped out of high school at age 17. But last fall, right after she received a general equivalency diploma, for-profit colleges and universities besieged her with offers of admission. Admissions officers told her that she could start right away. They said she could get a degree that would help her land a professional job working in computers. Hoping to escape from a future of dead-end jobs, she enrolled in a two-year associate’s program at Everest University Online.
But a year later, she has failed or dropped out of six courses at two different schools. She has never earned a single credit hour. Despite attending Everest University Online and then later the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online, she still cannot find a “salary job.” But now she has thousands of dollars in outstanding federal student loans. And she’s not the only one.
Jaqueta embarked on her college career after seeing Everest’s advertisements on television and on the Internet. This was not an accident, though, because the schools had discovered her first.
Like many others, Jaqueta had an important asset: She was eligible for a federal student loan. It is impossible to talk about for-profit education without mentioning how the availability of federal loans affects the process.
The lack of wealth among many students in their classrooms means that a higher share can qualify for need-based student aid. More than 60 percent of students at for-profits receive need-based Pell Grants. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says that 96 percent took out student loans — twice as often as was the case with students in traditional four-year public institutions and more than seven times the rate of students at community colleges

SB286 – Corporate Education Thievery Disguised as “Accountability”

Madison Teachers, Inc:

The Republican controlled State Senate Education Committee was forced to retract SB 286, a bill that would give away public assets to corporate run charter schools, because there was not enough votes for the bill in its current form. Objections came for both public school and voucher school supports. The bill would use high-stakes, standardized test scores, create an A-F grading system and then turn over the public school building and assets of ‘F’ rated schools to private or charter voucher school management. It even goes so far as to mandate that some percentage of schools be labeled as failing each year. It is a terrible idea with disastrous consequences for public education.
While the bill also would have required Voucher schools to have some accountability criteria, the standards are different and the consequences for failure nowhere near as punitive. If a voucher school fails using the same or similar criteria to the public school, they just can’t accept any new voucher students. They will continue to receive tax-dollars and their assets will not be seized by the state. The corporate reform interests who would benefit from this treatment object to any accountability or consequences for voucher schools, which is a significant reason why Olsen was forced to retract the bill after it had originally been scheduled for a vote on January 30. Governor Walker and his special interest cronies have waded into the discussion, demanding revisions that favor their interests. This bill is not likely to go away quietly.

Disobedience & Miseducation: Occupy and the Academy

Adam Morris:

THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT, while fading from the popular press, is perhaps only now being thoroughly metabolized in the fussier corners of academic thought. This seems fitting when we consider Hegel’s philosophy of history, which helps legitimate the university’s function as a sacred space for slow and deliberate contemplation and academic freedom. Hegel would have it that phenomena such as Occupy are only fully understood when they have worked through their formative contradictions, dissipated their energies, and reached their conclusion. The owl of Minerva flies at night, in other words, but Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience tolls not the witching hour of the Occupy movement so much as the doldrums of mid-afternoon.
We are still far from the historical perspective required to properly absorb the world-historical commotion that was, and still is, the Occupy movement. W.J.T. Mitchell admits as much: he starts with the disclaimer that these essays, which were originally published together in Critical Inquiry in mid-2012, attempt to explain a movement “still in process and whose outcome is unclear.” Subsequent events have justified this caution. While in the summer of 2012 it made sense for Mitchell to claim that “everyone agrees that Occupy Wall Street changed the conversation in the mass media from deficit reduction to economic inequality and joblessness,” this view already requires revision in the wake of October’s Tea Party tantrum over Obamacare and ensuing shutdown of the federal government, which cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.

Ink on Paper: Some Notes on Note-taking

Wray Herbert:

I went to college long before the era of laptops, so I learned to take notes the old-fashioned way: ink on paper. But that does not mean my note-taking system was simple. Indeed it was an intricate hieroglyphic language, in which asterisks and underscoring and check marks and exclamation points all had precise meaning, if only to me.
It’s a lost art. Many college students have some kind of electronic note-taking device nowadays, and most will swear by them. And really, only a Luddite would cling to pen and notebook in the 21st century. Typing is faster than longhand, producing more legible and more thorough notes for study later on.

5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make With iPads (And How To Correct Them)

Tom Daccord:

Over the last few years K-12 schools and districts across the country have been investing heavily in iPads for classroom use.
EdTechTeacher has been leading iPad professional development at many of these schools and we’ve seen firsthand how they approach iPad integration.
While we’ve witnessed many effective approaches to incorporating iPads successfully in the classroom, we’re struck by the common mistakes many schools are making with iPads, mistakes that are in some cases crippling the success of these initiatives. We’re sharing these common challenges with you, so your school doesn’t have to make them.

New Push to Protect Au Pairs as U.S. Program Is Reviewed

Miriam Jordan:

The federal program that brings foreign au pairs to the U.S. will come under review this year, as the State Department weighs better monitoring and other protections for the mostly young females who provide child care to American families.
Nearly 14,000 foreigners–typically young women from Europe, Latin America and Asia–came to the U.S. in 2012 to work as au pairs, traveling on visas designed to promote educational and cultural exchange. Au pairs are supposed to provide 45 hours of child-care-related work each week for a stipend and an educational allowance, as well as room and board and meals.
But there have been a spate of complaints from au pairs who say they quit after being overworked or otherwise mistreated. One au pair from Thailand said she had to carry heavy furniture and provide her own meals. An au pair from Brazil returned home last summer after she worked far longer hours than she expected. In 2011, a German woman sued the father of her Oregon host family and an au pair agency in state court over alleged sexual advances that he made toward her, according to court records. Both cases were settled on undisclosed terms without the father admitting or denying wrongdoing.

UW chemistry student wins prestigious Churchill scholarship

Bill Novak:

A senior chemistry student at UW-Madison has been selected as one of 14 Americans to win a Churchill scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships in higher education.
Green Bay native Joshua Shutter will be heading to the University of Cambridge in England to pursue a master of philosophy in chemistry degree, according to a news release from the university.
With the Churchill scholarship awarded to a UW-Madison student, the university is one of only four American universities to have Churchill, Rhodes and Marshall scholars in the same year. The other three are Harvard, Princeton and Georgia Tech.
“The potential to perform research alongside esteemed faculty was one of the primary reasons why I chose to attend UW-Madison,” Shutter said in the news release.
“Overall, the ability to perform research early on in my undergraduate career both motivated me and opened a variety of opportunities, from NASA to the Churchill scholarship, that would have seemed unimaginable to me four years ago.”

Better Schools, Fewer Dollars We can improve education without busting the budget.

Marcus Winters:

Here’s what looks like a policy dilemma. To attain the economic growth that it desperately needs, the United States must improve its schools and train a workforce capable of competing in the global economy. Economists Eric Hanushek, Dean Jamison, Eliot Jamison, and Ludger Woessmann estimate that improving student achievement by half of one standard deviation–roughly the current difference between the United States and Finland–would increase U.S. GDP growth by about a full percentage point annually. Yet states and the federal government face severe budgetary constraints these days; how are policymakers supposed to improve student achievement while reducing school funding?
In reality, that task is far from impossible. The story of American education over the last three decades is one not of insufficient funds but of inefficient schools. Billions of new dollars have gone into the system, to little effect. Luckily, Americans are starting to recognize that we can improve schooling without paying an additional dime. In fact, by unleashing the power of educational choice, we might even save money while getting better results and helping the economy’s long-term prospects.
Over the last four decades, public education spending has increased rapidly in the United States. According to the Department of Education, public schools spent, on average, $12,922 per pupil in 2008, the most recent year for which data are available. Adjusting for inflation, that’s more than double the $6,402 per student that public schools spent in 1975.
Despite that doubling of funds, just about every measure of educational outcomes has remained stagnant since 1975, though some have finally begun to inch upward over the last few years. Student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)–the only consistently observed measure of student math and reading achievement over the period–have remained relatively flat since the mid-1970s. High school graduation rates haven’t budged much over the last 40 years, either.

Local Public School Finance in a Time of Institutional Change

Sean Corcoran, Thomas Romer & Howard Rosenthal (PDF):

The operation and financing of primary and secondary public schools in the US is highly decentralized. Most of the budget of each of the 13,000+ school districts comes from a combination of local and state revenues. State constitutions and statutes determine the degree of local district autonomy and scope of taxing power.
As part of an ongoing project on the political economy of education finance, this paper reports on some developments in school spending in one state during a time when some of the state’s constitutional rules governing local school district taxing powers changed. In part, the paper provides a replication of tests of a model of bureaucratic agenda-setting in the financing of elementary and secondary public education. In that agenda-setting model, a budget-maximizing agenda setter makes a proposal for a locally funded operating levy that must be approved by a referendum. In the basic model, the referendum is modeled as an ultimatum game where the agenda setter makes a take-it-or leave-it proposal to some pivotal voter. If a majority of the electorate rejects the proposal, the levy is an exogenously specified reversion level. The optimal, budget-maximizing proposal makes the pivotal voter indifferent between the proposal and the

Who’s the Boss?

Timothy Burke:

In the current wave of online ill-will between contingent and tenure-track faculty (which of course most faculty in either group will never see, know about or care about), one of the common sentiments that produces some modest degree of agreement is, “Blame the administrators”.
The common refrain, echoing the arguments of Benjamin Ginsberg’s Fall of the Faculty, goes something like this:
1) Faculty used to be firmly in control of most of the business of academic institutions.
2) Administrators took that control away from them.
3) Then administrators made more administrators and fewer faculty, and made most of the faculty contingent employees. Why? Because they’re bad, because they could, because they hate truth and justice, because they’re neoliberal capitalists.
4) And so here we are. We should retake governance, fire most of the administrators, and rehire most faculty as tenure-track faculty.
This at least is Ginsberg’s take. Every once in a while in Fall, he pauses to consider what the faculty role in the history of administrative growth might be, every once in a while he considers the role of federal and state regulations, every once in a while he thinks about larger trends in employment and the economy. But for the most part, he views faculty as having little or no role in the growth of administration and the rise of contingent labor, he almost never asks whether students played a part, treats academia as a self-contained institution that explains itself, and largely sees administrators, particularly the “deanlets” that he views with special contempt, as the deliberate and programmatic agents of the marginalization of the faculty.

The Other Domain: Oakland’s Parallel Public/Private Worlds. Update

Jaime Omar Yassin:

There are two public/private worlds in Oakland existing in parallel to one another. Mostly white, fairly affluent people live in one, where they are focused on issues of expression and personal privacy–especially in cyberspace. The privacy battlefield of this group is theoretical. While there is much generalized surveillance it is not yet directed at this demographic in any copious way, and much of the focus is preventative to avoid a reality suggested by everyone’s favorite rhetorical device, George Orwell’s 1984. Oakland’s other world is populated by mostly Black, Asian and Latino people in the city’s poor and of color neighborhoods. Privacy in that world has an entirely different set of parameters and connotations.
What is it like to have your every move in public surveilled? Many speakers on DAC, which appeared as the last item on the public safety agenda, mused on the idea with various projections. But the OPD report-back portion of the night’s meeting that filled up the first half of the night already gave some clue, though it passed almost without comment by city official or public citizen. Ceasefire was mentioned again and again by police captains reporting back on successes. Success in the case of Ceasefire is reached through questionable policing tactics meant to assure affluent voters that the police are taking their crime-fears seriously, while addressing the race-based economic inequalities that make liberals uncomfortable.

Prosecutors Are Failing the Victims of Florida’s Notorious Reform School

Tim Wu:

This week, the remains of fifty-five bodies were found in unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Florida School for Boys, in the panhandle town of Marianna. The reformatory school, which was operated by the state of Florida, and which closed in 2011, was notorious for its mistreatment of its students. In 1968, Florida’s governor at the time, Claude Kirk, said of the school, “Somebody should have blown the whistle a long time ago.” There have long been allegations of beatings, torture, and sexual abuse there; it now appears that some students were killed. The total number of bodies buried at the school has not been determined, but the forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, the leader of the exhumation effort, which has been under way since September 2013, has said that it may exceed a hundred.
Some of the children died natural deaths, but the sheer number of bodies suggests that there may have been many killings, a possibility buttressed by eyewitness accounts. Yet Florida’s prosecutors have yet to file a single criminal charge, or even open a criminal investigation. To pass over crimes of this magnitude without investigation seems the very definition of injustice.

Commentary on Alternative Teacher Licensing Models

Madison Teachers, Inc. eNewsletter, via a kind Jeannie Kamholtz email (PDF)::

In a recent post on her blog, Diane Ravitch shared concerns about alternative routes to certification; in particular Teach for America (TFA). Her post centered on a parent’s letter to Senator Tom Harkin after her daughter had a bad experience with TFA. Ravitch posted two responses: Harkin’s actual response to the parent; and a mock response crafted by Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, University of Texas. Harkin serves as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and as Chair of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. While Harkin “read” his constituent’s letter, it is apparent he did not incorporate Close reading strategies; his mind was made up. Harkin has supported funding for TFA and even tried to weaken the definition of “highly qualified”, so as to include teachers in training (thus enabling TFA teachers to be assigned to schools). Dr. Heilig points out several of the issues with TFA, primarily the turnover rate of the teachers in this program, which our federal government funds. He also notes that while these “teachers” don’t meet the standards of highly qualified, they are the teachers being disproportionately assigned to schools serving poor and minority children. Heilig also exposes the fact that TFA has access to and direct influence over the legislative process, as they provide cost-free education staffers for legislators on the Education and Workforce Committee. TFA lobbyists working inside the Capitol? No wonder Teach for America has been able to extend its reach so efficiently into so many districts around the country.

Charter High Schools Increase Earnings and Educational Achievement

Alex Taborrock:

Private and charter schools appear to have significant but modest effects on test scores but much larger effects on educational attainment and even on long-run earnings. A new working paper from Booker, Sass, Gill and Zimmer and associated brief from Mathematica Policy Research finds that charter schools raise high school graduation, college enrollment and college persistence rates by ~7 to 13%. Moreover, the income of former charter school students when measured at 23-25 years old is 12.7% higher than similar students. Similar in this context is measured by students who were in charter schools in grade 8 but who then switched to a traditional high school-in many ways this is a conservative comparison group since any non-random switchers would presumably switch to a better school (other controls are also included).
The effect of charters on graduation rates is consistent with a larger literature finding that Catholic schools increase graduation rates (e.g. here’s and here). I am also not surprised that charters increase earnings but the earnings gain is surprisingly large; especially so when we consider that the gain appears just as large among charter and non-charter students both of whom attended college (i.e. the gain is not just through the college attendance effect).

Children to take school tests aged 4

Greg Hurst:

Children aged four will be expected to sit tests within weeks of starting primary school under controversial plans to be announced by the Government.
The Times has been told that “baseline” tests to measure each child’s level of development are to be moved from the age of seven to the beginning of the reception year. Ministers have decided that they will go ahead after consulting on proposals over the summer and autumn.

Thoughts on Children

Andrew Solomon:

Parenthood as we know it — predicated on the unconditional exaltation of our children — is no more than 70 years old, and it has gone through radical readjustments over the past two generations. As children went from helping on the farm to being the focus of relentless cosseting, they shifted “from being our employees to our bosses,” Jennifer Senior observes in her trenchant and engrossing first book, “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.” Senior, a contributing editor at New York magazine, examines what it means to be a parent, through interviews with a handful of families who are neither typical nor extraordinary. These are snapshots, not longitudinal documentaries, but in the way of good snapshots, they tell more than one might notice at first glance, and they allow for cautious universalizing. She supplements these vignettes with extremely impressive research, weaving in insights from philosophy, psychology and an occasionally overwhelming mélange of social science reports.

The surprising reason college grads can’t get a job

Eric Pianin

Nearly everyone agrees that recent college graduates are having an inordinately tough time finding work almost five years after the end of the Great Recession. Young people aged 18 to 34 have struggled with double-digit unemployment and account for half of the 10.9 million unemployed Americans, according to government figures.
Now a new study shows there is widespread disagreement between business leaders and young adults and their families over the root causes of this problem, beyond the obvious problem of a sluggish recovery.
Nearly three-quarters of hiring managers complain that millennials — even those with college degrees — aren’t prepared for the job market and lack an adequate “work ethic,” according to a survey from Bentley University, a private business school in Waltham, Mass.

Education Bureau rapped over Cantonese ‘not an official language’ gaffe

Johnny Tam and Stuart Lau:

An article on the Education Bureau’s website claiming “Cantonese is not an official language” has been removed after criticism.
The article was posted on the website’s Language Learning Support section on January 24.
It aimed to promote the importance of bilingualism and trilingualism as the city “develops alongside the rapidly growing China” and “the daily usage of Mandarin [in Hong Kong] becomes common”.
It said: “Although the Basic Law stipulates that Chinese and English are the two official languages in Hong Kong, nearly 97 per cent of the local population learn Cantonese (a Chinese dialect that is not an official language) as their commonly used daily language.”
The article was removed yesterday. The webpage is now “being updated”.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said the bureau had “done wrong” because it was not its business to define what language was official. But he commended it for quickly removing the article and apologising.

Positive parenting Attempts to go where calm and reasonableness fear to tread


IN THE old days parents followed a simple rule: spare the rod and spoil the child. These days less violent forms of discipline are favoured. Supernanny, a television toddler-tamer, recommends the “naughty step”, to which ill-behaved brats are temporarily banished. Yet even this is too harsh, some psychologists say. Putting Howling Henry on the naughty step may interrupt his tantrum; but advocates of “positive discipline” say it does nothing to encourage him to solve his own problems (and thus build character).
Some even suggest it may be psychologically damaging.
Positive discipline, which is becoming a grassroots fashion in America, aims to teach children self-control and empathy. Rather than screaming at them to pick up the toys they have strewn on the floor, parents or teachers ask them to suggest their own way of tackling the problem. Adults are encouraged to think harder about the causes of bad behaviour. Families meet regularly to discuss all of the above.

London Academy of Excellence offers hopes for free school programme

Richard Adams:

In Michael Gove and Andrew Adonis’s wildest dreams, the academies and free schools their policies ushered into being would be filled with bright students in spotless classrooms, being encouraged to apply to top universities.
When the failures of the Al-Madinah and Discovery free schools dominated the headlines last year, that vision seemed the stuff of a madman’s hallucination. But not in Stratford, where in the shadow of the deconstruction of the 2012 Olympic venue the free school project finally had a gold medal winner in the London Academy of Excellence.
On Monday Gove will give his stamp of approval by delivering a speech on education reform at the LAE’s unprepossessing home, a 1980s former council office block near Stratford tube station. But the reform Gove is most likely to trumpet is that of LAE itself. A sixth form college funded under the free school programme that opened two years ago, LAE had kept a low profile, thanks in the main to its unfashionable location in Newham. But it made headlines in January with the announcement that six of its first cohort of students had been offered places at Oxford and Cambridge.
Robert Wilne, LAE’s energetic headmaster, says the school should be judged not on its success at Oxbridge entry but on the route its students took to get there.

School ditches rules and loses bullies

One News:

Ripping up the playground rulebook is having incredible effects on children at an Auckland school.
Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.
The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.
Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.
“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age

Clay Shirky:

Interest in using the internet to slash the price of higher education is being driven in part by hope for new methods of teaching, but also by frustration with the existing system. The biggest threat those of us working in colleges and universities face isn’t video lectures or online tests. It’s the fact that we live in institutions perfectly adapted to an environment that no longer exists.
In the first half of the 20th century, higher education was a luxury and a rarity in the U.S. Only 5% or so of adults, overwhelmingly drawn from well-off families, had attended college. That changed with the end of WWII. Waves of discharged soldiers subsidized by the GI Bill, joined by the children of the expanding middle class, wanted or needed a college degree. From 1945 to 1975, the number of undergraduates increased five-fold, and graduate students nine-fold. PhDs graduating one year got jobs teaching the ever-larger cohort of freshman arriving the next.
This growth was enthusiastically subsidized. Between 1960 and 1975, states more than doubled their rate of appropriations for higher education, from four dollars per thousand in state revenue to ten. Post-secondary education extended its previous mission–liberal arts education for elites–to include both more basic research from faculty and more job-specific training for students. Federal research grants quadrupled; at the same time, a Bachelor’s degree became an entry-level certificate for an increasing number of jobs.

12 thoughts on a fractious week for Wisconsin’s education scene

Alan Borsuk:

Whatever appeared to be coming together a week ago seemed to be reduced to splinters in the last few days when it came to pursuit of ideas for low performing schools in Milwaukee.
I think it’s contagious and my brain has splintered into thoughts about the fairly tumultuous recent developments. So instead of a single column, I offer fragments.
Fragment 1: Last week was a good one for fans of the status quo. Plans for Republicans in the Legislature to push through new and fairly dramatic steps came to a halt when the lead author said he couldn’t get enough votes.
Milwaukee School Board members went through much rhetoric on what to do in meetings two weeks in a row — and sent the whole issue back to committee. Maybe doing nothing is better than doing the things being suggested. In any case, “doing nothing” is ahead at the moment.
Fragment 2: It’s all about counting to 17. There’s a big roster of education ideas up for action in the Legislature — school accountability, including public and voucher schools; charter school expansion statewide; dealing with the future of the Common Core initiative.
But if 17 of the 18 Republican state senators don’t agree to get behind any of these, nothing will result, at least this year. So far, no one has counted to 17 on any of these fronts. What could change that? Maybe concerted involvement by Gov. Scott Walker. Maybe not. The Senate Republicans are not easy to unite.
Fragment 3: The hostility was strong in the large audiences at the two recent meetings of Milwaukee School Board members focused on low performing schools.
Much of it was aimed at anything to do with charter schools. At one point, mention by Superintendent Gregory Thornton of Teach for America, City Year and especially Schools That Can Milwaukee drew audible rumbling from the crowd.
These organizations are controversial to some folks, but I think they each are bringing positive, good energy and commitment to helping kids in Milwaukee. It’s one thing to disagree on approaches. It’s another to add so much anger to the environment.

A former University of North Carolina dean recalls athletes unable to do college-level work

Dan Kane:

A former interim dean of UNC-Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences has sent a letter to Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Jim Dean, challenging their claims that the university was not admitting athletes unable to read at a high-school level.
Madeline Levine, a highly honored professor emeritus, said that as a dean, she was made aware of instances in which the university has admitted athletes with substantial academic challenges, including one she suspected was “functionally illiterate” during her tenure.
Levine also accused the university of resisting efforts to get to the bottom of a long-running academic fraud scandal that is drawing sustained national attention since it made The New York Times’ front page on New Year’s Day. She said Dean took the wrong tack two weeks ago in publicly lambasting whistle-blower Mary Willingham, a former learning specialist in the athletes’ tutoring program. Willingham said her research found that more than half of 183 athletes specially tested for learning deficiencies over an eight-year period could not read at a high-school level.
“Mary Willingham was courageous in speaking out about her experience as a reading specialist and academic counselor for such students,” Levine wrote. “It is appalling that the highest officials at UNC – before it became clear that attacking a whistle-blower is not a smart PR move – mounted a concerted public attack on the accuracy of Ms. Willingham’s statistical analysis and, by implication, against her personally, while steadfastly refusing to engage with the core issue that concerns her: the exploitation of student-athletes and the concomitant abuse of the academic values by which a great university should live.”

Madison’s Nuestro Mundo Charter Contract Revisions

The Madison School District (PDF):

More rigorous and frequent reviews of progress (3.02, 4.04, 24)
Modify student achievement goals and include more robust measures of student performance (4.01, 4.02, 4.03, Appendix 1)
Clarify the admissions process, which is expressly aligned to the process used for other DLI programs (7.04)

Nuestro Mundo generally operates within the traditional District structures. Two proposed charter schools that largely wished to operate in a more independent manner – to varying degrees -, The Studio School and the Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School were rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board.

Confessions of a Freshman in a Foreign Land

After a month, I drop out of Mumbai University. There is no particular reason, more of an aimless slide. Having told my parents that I’d try India before deciding about going abroad, I now accept an offer from Claremont McKenna–an American College comprised of words I mispronounce, the ‘Mck’ coming out as the ‘muck’ of muck and slime, rather than the ‘mec’ of McDonalds. The fee transfer is a family event. The four of us walk to the bank, each clutching assigned documents. Fifty thousand dollars–a sum so new, so gigantic, that the clerk who processes the transaction and I both roll our eyes. Once it’s paid, Claremont begins sending me emails: housing form, dining form, health form, orientation package. I reply vaguely, and then go about preparations in a daze, as if buying clothes and packing suitcases for someone else.
Then there is the matter of goodbyes. I am expected to throw a farewell party, and I do. The formality done, I provide my friends with a false (early) departure date so as to have a few weeks to myself. Not that anyone is harassing me. Lying and laying low just seem like the thing to do. The situation with my family is more difficult (though of course I myself don’t realize this just yet.) My older sister Shirya is giving up on me. I didn’t write to her from boarding school. It’s unlikely that I will from the States. My mother, who blindly loves me, finds this period especially hard. We spend a lot of time together: at the passport office, at the American consulate, in line outside the American consulate, at shopping malls, at foreign exchange bureaus and, of course, in the car–but our interaction is dead. She might as well be a chauffeur. My father claims to “know what was going on in [my] head,” because he is my father. Whether he really does, (I hope he doesn’t) or is given to psychoanalyzing, or has just taken it upon himself to keep things together, I don’t know. But he, more than the others, excuses my crankiness and lets me be.
As the date of departure approaches, I go further adrift, smoking openly in the building lobby, skipping meals without explanation, and even walking out on my grandparents when they arrive for a farewell visit. I listen to music until my head aches.

Madison School District’s Talented & Gifted Plan 3 Pager (TAG)

Madison School District (205K PDF):

The BOARD is committed to providing a strong instructional program that results in student growth for all students, including advanced learners. The BOARD recognizes that many advanced learners have unique academic and social-emotional needs that may require additional supports or interventions beyond the strong core instruction that is provided within a general education classroom if they are to achieve growth in their identified domain(s). The BOARD further recognizes the need to create systems for identifying, monitoring and serving advanced learners that are culturally responsive and sensitive to the needs and experiences of students with the potential for high performance but who are underperforming and students from underrepresented groups. The BOARD is committed to engaging the parents and guardians of advanced learners through outreach to, communication with and the inclusion of parents and guardians in education decisions that affect their students. In order to actualize these commitments for all students, all schools must, through professional collaboration and with the input from parents and guardians, appropriately identify and serve all advanced learners, including students from underrepresented groups, students who evidence high potential but are underperforming and twice exceptional learners, using the identification, monitoring and intervention systems set forth in the BOARD-approved Talented and Gifted Plan.
A. Differentiated Instruction – A best practice for all instructional staff across all grade levels and subjects that involves modifying the classroom curriculum, instructional model and/or expected evidence of learning to meet unique student needs within the classroom.
B. Advanced Learner – A student who demonstrates high performance capability or the potential for high performance in one or more of the following domains and requires enrichment and/or intervention beyond differentiated core instruction. The domains are general intellectual, creativity, specific academic, leadership and visual and performing arts.
C. Interventions – Research-based instructional practices and programs used systematically to provide support to students who exceed academic or behavioral benchmarks or who evidence high potential but have not yet demonstrated high performance. Interventions, which are provided in addition to or in replacement of differentiated, grade-level core instruction, are used to systematically provide an enhanced opportunity to learn, scaffold learning for students whose mastery of skills or content are below what is expected and/or provide a faster pace of learning.

Much more on the talented & gifted program, here and a parental complaint.

Education programs take on Madison’s achievement gap

Rachel Schulze:

Rose Yang, a senior at UW-Madison, is starting to consider plans for graduate school. After she earns her bachelor’s in social welfare, she wants to complete a master’s and become a social worker.
“I want to help students very similar to myself, who didn’t have opportunities–or didn’t feel like they had the chance to go to college,” Yang said, reflecting on her experience growing up in a low-income household in Madison. “I want to be that person who helps advocate for students like me at one point to get to college.”
While the Madison Metropolitan School District’s 2011-12 graduation rate was 74.6 percent overall, the figure hides disparites. For white students the graduation rate was 86.7 percent, but it was lower for all other races: 80.8 percent among Asians, 63.2 among Hispanics, and 53.1 among blacks. The rate for economically disadvantaged students was 55.4 percent.
Disparity in Madison received fresh attention in October when the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families released the “Race to Equity” report. The document outlined disparity between blacks and whites in Dane County, focusing on differing outcomes in education, employment and arrest rates as well as other areas.
“I think that was a real litmus test that people in our communities were surprised by those numbers,” said Madeline Hafner, executive of the Minority Student Achievement Network, a Madison-based national coalition of school districts aiming to reduce their levels educational disparity.

Wisconsin Public school open enrollment starts Feb. 3


Wisconsin’s public school open enrollment application period will start in February for the 2014-15 school year, according to a release.
The program allows parents an opportunity to send their children to any public school district in the state, officials said. The enrollment period runs from Feb. 3 to April 30.
Children in the state are usually assigned to public school districts based on the location of their parents’ home, according to the release. The open enrollment application period is the only tuition-free opportunity for most parents to apply for their children to attend a public school in a school district other than the one they live in.
The program is an inter-district choice program that started in the 1998-99 school year, according to the release. Wisconsin is among 12 states with inter-district open enrollment.
“Wisconsin is among a number of states nationwide that offer public school open enrollment across school districts. The state’s long-running program supports parental involvement and shared responsibility for educating children,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said in the release.

Much more on open enrollment, here.

Youth Participation Weakens in Basketball, Football, Baseball, Soccer

Ryan Wallerson:

If there’s an unofficial national day for America’s sports passion, it is Super Bowl Sunday, and one of the largest U.S. television audiences of 2014 is expected to watch the Seattle Seahawks face the Denver Broncos.
But ahead of this weekend’s spectacle in New Jersey, there is some sobering news about the country’s most-popular team sports: Fewer children are playing them.
Combined participation in the four most-popular U.S. team sports–basketball, soccer, baseball and football–fell among boys and girls aged 6 through 17 by roughly 4% from 2008 to 2012, according to an examination of data from youth leagues, school-sports groups and industry associations.

It All Started With a 12-Year-Old Cousin

Claudia Dreifus:

In 2008, Salman Khan, then a young hedge-fund analyst with a master’s in computer science from M.I.T., started the Khan Academy, offering free online courses mainly in the STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Today the free electronic schoolhouse reaches more than 10 million users around the world, with more than 5,000 courses, and the approach has been widely admired and copied. I spoke with Mr. Khan, 37, for more than two hours, in person and by telephone. What follows is a condensed and edited version of our conversations.
Q. How did the Kahn Academy begin?
A. In 2004, my 12-year-old cousin Nadia visited with my wife and me in Boston. She’s from New Orleans, where I grew up.
It turned out Nadia was having trouble in math. She was getting tracked into a slower math class. I don’t think she or her parents realized the repercussions if she’d stayed on the slower track. I said, “I want to work with you, if you are willing.” When Nadia went home, we began tutoring by telephone.

‘We struggle’: Local African-American leaders say they are ‘desperate’ to save their children

Capital Times:

On a recent afternoon, the Rev. Alex Gee, pastor of Fountain of Life Covenant Church on Madison’s south side, facilitated a candid conversation with local African-American leaders on the realities facing blacks in Madison. The gathering was sparked by Gee’s powerful personal essay, “Justified Anger,” which ran in The Capital Times in December and generated enormous response. In it, Gee laid bare his frustrations with Madison — a city that prides itself on fair-mindedness — for its collective indifference toward the struggles of the African-American community here. A group of Cap Times staffers observed the meeting but did not participate. What follows is an edited transcript of the discussion.
Statistics on black student achievement in Wisconsin are grim: According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the achievement gap between whites and blacks in Wisconsin is the widest in the nation. Eighth-grade reading scores for black students here are the worst in the nation; black students’ fourth-grade reading scores were the second-worst. At the same time, there are few minority teachers in Madison schools.
Rev. Lilada Gee: When I walk up to the schools and I see these huge banners — “School of Excellence” — I’m thinking, “OK. So if you can hide behind those laurels that you’re a school of excellence, where is your challenge to face the fact that that is not true for all of your children? When you have that big banner outside of your school and you’ve got the thumbs up, do you even look at the issues that there are these racial inequities that are going on, that there are droves of these black students that are not succeeding?”
I think that is kind of a metaphor of Madison. So much looks good on the outside, and they get so caught up at what looks good on the outside, that they don’t have to go in deeper.

Technology and wealth inequality

Sam Altman:

Thanks to technology, people can create more wealth now than ever before, and in twenty years they’ll be able to create more wealth than they can today. Even though this leads to more total wealth, it skews it toward fewer people. This disparity has probably been growing since the beginning of technology, in the broadest sense of the word.
Technology makes wealth inequality worse by giving people leverage and compounding differences in ability and amount of work. It also often replaces human jobs with machines. A long time ago, differences in ability and work ethic had a linear effect on wealth; now it’s exponential. [1] Technology leads to increasing wealth inequality for lots of other reasons, too–for example, it makes it much easier to reach large audiences all at once, and a great product can be sold immediately worldwide instead of in just one area.

“Share this with all the schools, please”

Glennon Doyle Melton via a kind reader:

A few weeks ago, I went into Chase’s class for tutoring.
I’d emailed Chase’s teacher one evening and said, “Chase keeps telling me that this stuff you’re sending home is math – but I’m not sure I believe him. Help, please.” She emailed right back and said, “No problem! I can tutor Chase after school anytime.” And I said, “No, not him. Me. He gets it. Help me.” And that’s how I ended up standing at a chalkboard in an empty fifth grade classroom staring at rows of shapes that Chase’s teacher kept referring to as “numbers.”
I stood a little shakily at the chalkboard while Chase’s teacher sat behind me, perched on her desk, using a soothing voice to try to help me understand the “new way we teach long division.” Luckily for me, I didn’t have to unlearn much because I never really understood the “old way we taught long division.” It took me a solid hour to complete one problem, but l could tell that Chase’s teacher liked me anyway. She used to work with NASA, so obviously we have a whole lot in common.
Afterwards, we sat for a few minutes and talked about teaching children and what a sacred trust and responsibility it is. We agreed that subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger community – and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals who are Kind and Brave above all.
And then she told me this.
Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

Milwaukee To Grow Urban Farming Skills

Erin Richards:

Odell Chalmers, a senior at Bradley Tech High School, dreams of starting a nonprofit that would grow vegetables inside blighted homes in Milwaukee.
The homes would have a purpose, he reasons, and neighbors could learn how to build and maintain aquaponics units, or self-contained ecosystems where plants grow in water fertilized by fish waste.
Chalmers’ vision may be idealistic, but it’s rooted in a passion spurred by exposure to aquaponics and hydroponics — cultivating plants in water — in school.
Milwaukee Public Schools received a $98,000 grant Wednesday from AT&T and the National Education Association Foundation to encourage more of that thinking, with the grant funds used to expand the district’s aquaponics offerings to 18, up from a dozen.
More teachers in the region and nationwide are trying to tap their students into the farm-to-table food movement and urban agriculture, creating partnerships with local farms, agriculture experts or college horticulture teachers to get students involved in aquaponics or hydroponics.

Columbus Children Falling Through the Cracks

Paul Hill, via a kind Deb Britt email:

The recent news out of Columbus–that 17 of the 75 local charter schools had closed in the past year–is bad in so many ways. It throws up a big obstacle for reformers in that city, in Cleveland, and elsewhere who need to use chartering as a policy to create good options for all families. It buttresses opponents’ arguments that charter operators don’t know what they are doing. And it gives the press a field day reporting on how much public money was wasted.
But that’s not nearly the worst. The closure of these schools puts hundreds of children back at the tender mercies of a public school district that has failed students and defrauded the public about school performance and spending.
These children might be better off out of the failed charter schools than in them. But they are caught in a no-man’s land. No charter school or authorizer is responsible to provide something better for these kids. Charter schools and authorizers have the luxury of defining whom they will be responsible for; kids who don’t get into charter schools or are pushed out of them for some reason are no longer the school’s–or the sector’s–responsibility.

Wisconsin rated D+ in NCTQ State Teacher Policy Yearbook 2013

National Council on Teacher Quality (PDF):

1. The state should require teacher candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses reading, writing and mathematics skills as a criterion for admission to teacher preparation programs.
2. All preparation programs in a state should use a common admissions test to facilitate program comparison, and the test should allow comparison of applicants to the general college-going population. The selection of applicants should be limited to the top half of that population.
Wisconsin requires that approved undergraduate teacher preparation programs only accept teacher can- didates who have passed a basic skills test, the Praxis I. Although the state sets the minimum score for this test, it is normed just to the prospective teacher population. The state also allows teacher preparation programs to exempt candidates who demonstrate equivalent performance on a college entrance exam.
Wisconsin also requires a 2.5 GPA for admission to an undergraduate program.
To promote diversity, Wisconsin allows programs to admit up to 10 percent of the total number of students admitted who have not passed the basic skills test.
Require all teacher candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses reading, writing and mathematics skills as a criterion for admission to teacher preparation programs.
Even though the state’s policy that permits programs to admit up to 10 percent of students who have not passed the basic skills test is part of a laudable goal to promote diversity, allowing this exemption is risky because of the low bar set by the Praxis I (see next recommendation).
Require preparation programs to use a common test normed to the general college-bound population.
Wisconsin should require an assessment that demonstrates that candidates are academically com- petitive with all peers, regardless of their intended profession. Requiring a common test normed to the general college population would allow for the selection of applicants in the top half of their class, as well as facilitate program comparison.
Consider requiring candidates to pass subject-matter tests as a condition of admission into teacher programs.
In addition to ensuring that programs require a measure of academic performance for admission, Wisconsin might also want to consider requiring content testing prior to program admission as opposed to at the point of program completion. Program candidates are likely to have completed coursework that covers related test content in the prerequisite classes required for program admis- sion. Thus, it would be sensible to have candidates take content tests while this knowledge is fresh rather than wait two years to fulfill the requirement, and candidates lacking sufficient expertise would be able to remedy deficits prior to entering formal preparation.
For admission to teacher preparation programs, Rhode Island and Delaware require a test of academic proficiency normed to the general college- bound population rather than a test that is normed just to prospective teachers. Delaware also requires teacher candidates to have a 3.0 GPA or be in the top 50th percentile for general education coursework completed. Rhode Island also requires an average cohort GPA of 3.0, and beginning in 2016, the cohort mean score on nationally-normed tests such as the ACT, SAT or GRE must be in the top 50th percentile. In 2020, the requirement for the mean test score will increase from the top half to the top third.

via a kind Wisconsin Reading Coalition email:

After receiving a grade of D in 2009 and 2001, Wisconsin has risen to a D+ on the 2013 State Teacher Policy Yearbook released by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
In the area of producing effective teachers of reading, Wisconsin received a bump up for requiring a rigorous test on the science of reading. The Foundations of Reading exam will be required beginning January 31, 2014.
Ironically, Wisconsin also scored low for not requiring teacher preparation programs to prepare candidates in the science of reading instruction. We hope that will change through the revision of the content guidelines related to elementary licensure during a comprehensive review process that is underway at DPI this winter and spring.

Book: The Myth of Achievement Tests

University of Chicago Press:

Achievement tests play an important role in modern societies. They are used to evaluate schools, to assign students to tracks within schools, and to identify weaknesses in student knowledge. The GED is an achievement test used to grant the status of high school graduate to anyone who passes it. GED recipients currently account for 12 percent of all high school credentials issued each year in the United States. But do achievement tests predict success in life?
The Myth of Achievement Tests shows that achievement tests like the GED fail to measure important life skills. James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Tim Kautz, and a group of scholars offer an in-depth exploration of how the GED came to be used throughout the United States and why our reliance on it is dangerous. Drawing on decades of research, the authors show that, while GED recipients score as well on achievement tests as high school graduates who do not enroll in college, high school graduates vastly outperform GED recipients in terms of their earnings, employment opportunities, educational attainment, and health. The authors show that the differences in success between GED recipients and high school graduates are driven by character skills. Achievement tests like the GED do not adequately capture character skills like conscientiousness, perseverance, sociability, and curiosity. These skills are important in predicting a variety of life outcomes. They can be measured, and they can be taught.

Why Camden’s school turn-around plan is getting a better reception than the one in Newark

Laura Waters:

This is not Jersey’s best week. Revelations from Bridgegate, along with the peculiar backroom statecraft that spawned the scandal over the Hudson, seem to splatter daily across the front page. Jon Stewart and Jimmy Fallon get a second Christmas while Chris Christie appears pale and oddly flat.
As I’m writing this, the Bergen Record breaks the story that the Governor’s brother Todd bought and sold properties near the PATH station in Harrison which, coincidentally, had been just been awarded renovation funding to the tasty tune of $256 million.
And here’s another fresh Jersey lowlight: in Newark Tuesday night, state-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson was booed off the stage during a rancorous meeting where 500 people, including the president of the American Federation of Teachers, reacted with disdain to her “One Newark” plan that would restructure the city’s school system. This plan includes universal enrollment procedures for both charters and traditional schools, expansion of charter schools, and closings of poorly-utilized school buildings.

A Tale of Two (Charter) Cities

Robin Lake, via a kind Deb Britt email:

I spent the beginning of last week in Detroit, a city that spawned one of the nation’s early charter laws, now home to one of the most unregulated charter sectors I have seen. I believe that Detroit families are better off as a result of choice. There are some very strong schools that wouldn’t exist otherwise, and the school district, whose performance has been dismal for decades, is trying to find a way to compete with charters. But while Detroit charter schools slightly outperform district-run schools (according to CREDOs study), that is saying very little. Most of these schools are doing nothing to change the life trajectory of Detroit’s children.
Of course, given that I’ve studied charter schools for nearly 20 years, I know that there are many low-performing ones. But it was disturbing to hear firsthand about parents’ unfulfilled struggles to get their kids a good education and civic leaders’ futile efforts to get control of quality.
There are dozens of Detroit charter schools that should probably be closed immediately. Competition for students is so vicious that schools are reportedly bribing parents with iPads and cash to drive up enrollment. Yet despite all of this competition, charter school quality is stagnant, and more charters are being approved every year by university and community college sponsors who operate outside the city and with little or no accountability for their actions. I heard from parents who do feel empowered, but are having a horrible time navigating their choices and figuring out how to enroll in schools. I heard about schools that closed midyear, leaving families to fend for themselves. I heard about schools that didn’t offer any counseling or special education services to students who come from severely distressed neighborhoods.

New short film exposes Milwaukee schools’ efforts to block high-performing competitors

Ben Velderman:

Hundreds of Milwaukee families have discovered in recent years that having a school voucher doesn’t mean much if your private school of choice doesn’t have the classroom space to accommodate additional children.
In Bad Faith screen grab topSuch is the case for the city’s St. Marcus Lutheran School. The high-performing private school has a long waiting list for any available seats that open up, and it’s not difficult to understand why. By virtually all measures, St. Marcus Lutheran is outperforming Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) – its government-run counterpart – by a wide margin. The most telling statistic is probably the schools’ graduation rates: St. Marcus succeeds in getting a diploma into the hands of 96 percent of its students, compared to MPS’ dismal 65 percent graduation rate.
If families who qualify for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program could flee their neighborhood government school, many of them obviously would. More than 25,000 students already have fled the district, which has caused MPS’ enrollment to crater. The attendance drop, in turn, has led to a surplus of school buildings the downsized district no longer needs.
But MPS leaders don’t want alternative schools using the empty buildings.
MPS officials believe that St. Marcus Lutheran and other high-quality voucher and charter schools pose an existential threat to the district, which is why they’ve devised a very clever plan to block the schools’ size and future growth by denying them access to the city’s vacant and unused school buildings

Hildegard Solzbacher brought Montessori way of teaching to Milwaukee

Jan Uebelherr:

Hildegard Solzbacher was a charismatic speaker, a true believer in the child-centered Montessori way of teaching. She founded Milwaukee Montessori School and New World Montessori, and trained others in the Montessori method, in which children learn at their own rate.
Despite her inspiring lectures, there was a point where students became frustrated with her.
“What do you do about discipline?” they would ask. “How do you handle a misbehaving child?”
“She would say, ‘Well, that really never happened to me,'” said Priscilla Bovee, head of New World Montessori in River Hills.
Her students could see why that was the case
“She had a beautiful way with people,” Bovee said. “And children, of course, are just smaller people.”
Solzbacher, who introduced the Montessori way to Milwaukee and trained teachers worldwide, died Jan. 25 of natural causes at Community Memorial Hospital in Menomonee Falls. She was 83.
Solzbacher grew up in Bad Honnef, a small town in Germany, the youngest of 13 children.