Category Archives: Curriculum

Don’t expect less of low-income minority students and their families

Esther Cepeda

We’ve heard for years that when it comes to African-Americans, Hispanics and low-income minority communities in general, expectations for academic achievement are low.

Indeed, the Center for American Progress found in 2014 that 10th-grade teachers thought African-American students were 47 percent, and Hispanic students were 42 percent, less likely to graduate college than white students.

But parents and families of these students disagree. They want public schools to be rigorous and to set high expectations for their children.

According to a new nationwide survey conducted by the Leadership Conference Education Fund on the attitudes and aspirations of African-American and Hispanic parents — who were interviewed in person and via landline and cellphone, in both English and Spanish — a third of African-Americans and a quarter of Latinos do not believe that the nation’s schools are really trying to educate low-income students in their communities.

This belief goes hand in hand with these parents’ certainty that their students should be challenged more in school than they currently are to help ensure they are successful later in life.

This could be a potentially groundbreaking insight if we can get it into the heads of teachers.

You see, educators insist they have a particularly difficult time teaching low-income and minority students because these kids tend to show up in classrooms lacking the fundamentals of a stable home — reliable schedules, quiet places to study, nutritious meals, enough sleep, the ability to control impulses — that set them up for success in the classroom

If a child doesn’t do homework and does not participate constructively in class or show the adults in school respect — perhaps because the child does not have the basic routines and resources a college-educated teacher might expect at home — it becomes easy for teachers to believe that his or her parent must not care about the child’s education.

According to Wade Henderson, the Education Fund’s president, not only are minority parents (which his group calls “new majority parents,” since students of color are the new majority in schools) highly interested in their children’s education, they are “a sophisticated group of respondents who are savvy consumers of public education, want more funding for schools and more rigor for their kids.”

Interestingly, though one might have expected such a survey to confirm that African-American and Hispanic parents prioritize racial issues at school — due to news headlines about violence in schools and the school-to-prison pipeline — the parents who responded actually listed good teachers as the No. 1 important quality, by far, of a great school. Good core curricula and parental involvement rounded out the top three.

Not to say that diversity is completely unimportant to these families — it is in the eighth spot on a list of nine factors for ensuring great schools — but it certainly takes a back seat to the same qualities that white parents expect from their schools: adequate funding, low class size and high standards.

A full 90 percent of both African-American and Latino parents said that they believe expectations for low-income students should be either the same or higher than those of other students.

And both minority groups take personal responsibility quite seriously, saying that when low-income students succeed, it is mostly because of the support they receive at home. Their student’s own hard work is seen as the next biggest reason, while few parents cited schools as the driving factor in a low-income student’s success.

This is, potentially, a revelation for school systems, administrators and teachers who have for years equated poor educational outcomes for students with a lax attitude at home about academic potential.

If the results of this survey truly reflect the mindset of minority parents, then it bodes well for schools to partner with them. After all, education leaders are always talking about how crucial parents are to the task of catalyzing changes necessary to ensure low-income community schools meet their academic potential.

At a bare minimum, these findings should provide education policymakers a new lens through which to view low-income and minority students: Don’t underestimate them — and don’t expect less of their parents and families, either.

If schools endeavor to push these kids harder and expect them to achieve on par with their white peers, they are likely to find that parents, too, will rise to the challenge of helping their students succeed.

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Walton Family Foundation stepping back from Milwaukee education scene

Alan Borsuk:

But it is also important in a broader context. Walton is joining a significant list of national players who in one way or another have entered the Milwaukee scene and then departed or reduced their interest.

I came, I got involved, I got frustrated, I didn’t see much change, I moved on. That has been the summary of a parade of those who have found Milwaukee a difficult environment for change.

And there are others (the large and impressive KIPP network of charter schools comes to my mind first) that have declined even to try Milwaukee for similar reasons.

Fifteen years ago, Milwaukee was called by some “ground zero” for school reform. Now, you rarely see national attention to Milwaukee education, at least not for positive reasons. The Walton decision underscores that.

It’s a curious thing, since you would think the current political dynamics in state government would make this a time for enthusiasm among private school choice, charter schools and innovations in the structure of urban education. In some ways that’s true, but in surprising ways, it is not.

In short, I’d attribute this to the entrenched nature of the way we do things, the continuing strength of those opposed to the things Walton favors and missteps by those who favor what Walton favors.

Milwaukee was among a handful of cities targeted in recent years by Walton. Walton had a fairly short list of Milwaukee grants, but they were generally large — frequently in the mid six figures.

Lawmaker wants to bill K-12 for college remediation

Alisha Kirby:

(Tenn.) As the cost and challenge of preparing college-ready students escalates and puts new burdens on higher education – one lawmaker is proposing that districts should pay for remedial courses high school graduates must take in college.

Community colleges in Tennessee spent an estimated $18.5 million last year on remedial courses such as reading, writing and math so students could catch up before taking college-level courses.

SB 526, authored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, would require districts to reimburse colleges for the catch-up courses for students who graduated within 16 months of taking a remedial course. It excludes those who returned to college after taking time off.

Some experts say it sounds reasonable but in the end it’s more a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“At face value it’s a logical argument: The high schools are not doing their jobs, so let’s hold them accountable to make sure they do a better job,” said Bruce Vandal, vice president of advocacy group Complete College America. “But it creates a dysfunctional dynamic between K-12 and higher education that I think we’re beginning to realize is really not helpful.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t serve anybody’s purpose,” he continued. “Colleges aren’t really that excited about taking money if it means that they are disinvesting in K-12.”

The Wal-Mart-ization of higher education: How young professors are getting screwed

Keith Hoeller:

In 2009, Money Magazine published a survey titled “The 50 Best Jobs in America.” Their reporters analyzed job data and conducted an online survey of thirty-five thousand people, taking into account such factors as salaries, flexibility, benefit to society, satisfaction, stress, job security, and growth prospects. The proverbial college professor sat high on the list at No. 3, with a median salary of $70,400 for nine months’ work, top pay of $115,000, and a ten-year growth prospect of 23 percent. College teaching earned “A” grades for flexibility, benefit to society, and satisfaction, and a “B” for job stress, with 59 percent of surveyed professors reporting low stress.

While acknowledging that “competition for tenure-track positions at four-year institutions is intense,” Money claimed that graduate students with only a master’s degree could find a part-time teaching job: “You’ll find lots of available positions at community colleges and professional programs, where you can enter the professoriate as an adjunct faculty member or non-tenure-track instructor without a doctorate degree.”

Similarly, the 2000 “American Faculty Poll” conducted by the academic pension giant Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) seemed to corroborate the high job satisfaction rate for professors. “The poll found that 90 percent of the faculty members surveyed were satisfied with their career choices and would probably make the same decisions again,” reported Courtney Leatherman, in her Chronicle of Higher Education story about the survey.

Finding cheaters using multiple-choice comparisons

Jonathan Dishoff:

An interesting method by which I found out that people were cheating on my final exam.

Background

I use different versions of midterm examinations to discourage cheating in my population biology class (~200 students). When the course started, I used to do the same thing for the final exam, but it was a little more complicated, because the final exam is administered by the registrar’s office, not by me and my teaching team.

At some point, somebody advised me not to bother with versions: the registrar’s office is supposed to be professional about administration, and they usually mix people who are taking different exams in the same room, so I stopped bothering with different versions for the final exam for a year or two. I do it again now, and you’ll see why.

The incident

In the year in question, my exam was given in two separate medium-sized rooms. My class was alone in these two rooms. I received a report from the invigilators in Room 1 about suspicious behaviour. They had warned a couple of students for acting strangely, and then warned them again. They weren’t prepared to say that they were sure that the students were cheating, but wanted me to compare their answer slates. In retrospect, they should have left the students alone until they were ready to sign a complaint against them (or until they had cheated enough to have it proved against them).

The College of Lost Arts

Amy Crawford:

Every student in the college majors in building arts, but can choose one of six specializations: architectural stone, carpentry, forged architectural iron, masonry, plasterwork, or timber framing. The college seeks to combine a traditional liberal arts curriculum with intensive crafts training, often teaching disciplines like history or math by way of the latter; for example, history is taught with an architectural history focus.

“The graduate here has learned both the art and the science of preservation and new construction,” says Colby M. Broadwater III, a retired Army lieutenant general brought in as president in 2008 to apply some military discipline to the school’s finances. “How to build a business, the drawing and drafting that underlies all of it … the language, the math that supports the building functions, the science of why materials fail—all of those things wrapped into a liberal arts and science education.”

Higher Academic Achievement May Require Higher Standards

Joe Yeado:

While at the gym last week, I overheard two fathers discussing the homework their elementary and middle school children were bringing home. The general feeling was that the homework was too hard and that students were being asked to do complex tasks in earlier grades than when the dads were kids. They lamented about how things are so different today – even teaching math differently!

But with parents, educators and employers saying that students are not academically prepared, there seems to be a disconnect between what people say they want in terms of educational attainment for our schoolchildren in general and what parents want in terms of educational demands on their kids.

Of the 65 developed countries that participate in the PISA international assessment of 15 year-olds, the United States ranked 36th in math, 28th in science and 24th in reading. Making things worse, the scores for U.S. students have actually fallen in each category since the last assessment in 2009. Without changes to our current education system, our students – and our country – will likely find it more challenging to compete.

An astonishingly small number of elite universities produce an overwhelming number of America’s professors.

Joel Warner and Aaron Clauset:

While elite universities, with their deep resources and demanding coursework, surely produce great professors, the data suggest that faculty hiring isn’t a simple meritocracy. The top schools generate far more professors than even just slightly less prestigious schools. For example, in history, the top 10 schools produce three times as many future professors as those ranked 11 through 20.

One explanation for this skewed hiring system is that lower-prestige institutions are trying to emulate their high-prestige brethren. For a university, the easiest way to burnish your reputation is to hire graduates from top schools, thereby importing a bit of what made these institutions elite in the first place, while signaling to prospective students and faculty that you attract top talent.

Another factor could be that it’s not easy for schools to evaluate job applicants on merit alone, because merit can be difficult to define or measure. In the tenure system, a professor might work at the same institution for 40 years. But when hiring for tenure-track positions, schools often have to guess about lifelong productivity based on just a few years of experience. Hiring faculty is therefore a high-stakes decision; while you can always deny someone tenure, doing so means you’ve wasted years nurturing talent that you don’t want to keep. With so much uncertainty involved in the process, it may be natural to go with what seems like a safe choice: an applicant trained at a high-prestige school, even at the expense of exciting candidates from slightly less elite institutions.

Parents: not happy about something at school? Here’s how to complain

Disappointed Idealist:

ne of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was from a friend in the restaurant business. If I were planning to complain about any part of my meal or service, he said, I should wait until I had eaten all I was going to eat that night. He illustrated this warning with examples of what can happen to food prepared for awkward customers, and so I’ve followed this advice ever since. It’s a good principle: don’t complain to people on whom you’re relying – unless there’s no way they can wipe your steak on their bum or drop a bogey in your soup.

As with restaurants, so with schools. The difference with schools is that you’re likely to be stuck with them for a lot longer than one meal. So think carefully before putting on your Mr Angry face and marching into the school for a spot of ranting.

The hidden story behind the code that runs our lives

Paul Voosen:

Magic has entered our world. In the pockets of many Americans today are thin black slabs that, somehow, understand and anticipate our desires. Linked to the digital cloud and satellites beyond, churning through personal data, these machines listen and assist, decoding our language, viewing and labeling reality with their cameras. This summer, as I walked to an appointment at the University of Toronto, stepping out of my downtown hotel into brisk hints of fall, my phone already had directions at hand. I asked where to find coffee on the way. It told me. What did the machine know? How did it learn? A gap broader than any we’ve known has opened between our use of technology and our understanding of it. How did the machine work? As I would discover, no one could say for certain. But as I walked with my coffee, I was on the way to meet the man most qualified to bridge the gap between what the machine knows and what you know.

Many College Freshmen Plan for More than 4 Years of Higher Education

Sam Hayes:

of California, Los Angeles’ Higher Education Research Institute, included 135,000 first-year students from 227 schools and various backgrounds. The survey was given during the fall 2014 semester.

Many students claim that they’ll need more than four years to complete their degree because they’re ambitious or need extra help getting ready for college.

The desire to pursue a double major, take remedial courses or to pursue non-classroom experiences were among the respondents’ reasons for taking more than four years, according to the press release.

One of the most telling factors for whether a student anticipates needing more than four years was the selectivity of the school they enrolled in.

About 30% of students at the most selective public four-year institutions predicted needing more time. However, 36% of freshmen at moderately selective schools and 42% of students at the least selective schools anticipated needing additional time to complete their degrees.

Hacking Oklahoma State University’s Student ID

Sam Snelling:

In 2013 I took an Information Security class at Oklahoma State University. As a final project, we were broken into teams to find a security hole, and have a plan to theoretically exploit it.

I led this project, and in early 2014, gave a presentation to key faculty and IT security on campus. As I understand it, the final solution was to take down the website (https://app.it.okstate.edu/idcard/), and not worry about the rest. Fair enough.

Here are the contents of my final report.

Teacher prep programs need to be accountable, too

Robert Pianta:

As if on cue, teacher preparation organizations, college and university education schools, and teachers unions are protesting proposed federal regulations for assessing the quality and impact of teacher preparation programs.

Over the past month, my e-mail inbox has been filled with a stream of increasingly dire pleas to join the chorus. Delayed for more than a year by a firestorm of protest, the latest round of proposed regulations is subject to the same criticisms as the previous one. The primary complaints: The regulations are burdensome and would be expensive to implement; they devalue the work of graduates who teach in non-tested grades and subjects such as special education, music or art; and they rely on state test scores that lack validity as measures of a teacher’s impact. The newest critiques also go further, claiming that the regulations would cause teacher education programs to push graduates away from teaching in more challenging schools.

Related: When A stands for average.

To test or not to test, public education’s epic drama

Alan Borsuk:

Not long ago, some people on the left and some on the right hated tests, but they weren’t much of a force. Now, everyone hates tests — there are too many, they waste time, they don’t prove anything, they stress everyone out, they’re of low quality, they distort education, they’re being used for the wrong purposes and so on.

Which brings us to the present. Let us touch on two scenes.

One is in Wisconsin, where a new test for grade school kids, the product of one of the two consortia, will launch in March. The test has problems, by far the biggest being that Gov. Scott Walker wants to kibosh it after this year. Many school people have gone to great lengths to prepare for this test and are wondering why bother to give it if it’s going to be killed. (Good question, I must say.)

The other and actually more important scene is in Washington, where there is new interest in revamping No Child Left Behind. There are a lot of obstacles, the largest of which is intense differences over testing. How much testing, if any, should be federally required? What kinds of tests and what should be done with the results? How do you hold states accountable without (or even with) test results?

The atmosphere is filled with anger and frustration as the mountain grows of test scores that have little prospect of yielding constructive impact.

However and unfortunately, Wisconsin’s DPI has spent many, many millions on the useless WKCE.

How To Save Our Public Schools

Richard C. Morais:

Democrats and Republicans alike, he says, must first recognize that public education is a “broken, government-run monopoly serving the needs of adults at the expense of the needs of children.” The only way forward, Klein says, is to offer underprivileged families real educational choices, breaking the states’ monopoly on education and the perverse union rules strangling public education all across the nation.

Start by leaving your comfort zone and funneling capital away from your wealthy alma mater and toward the poor neighborhoods, where your generosity is truly needed. “A lot of people say to me, ‘I won’t give to public schools because I don’t think it will do anything,’ ” Klein says. He sends such skeptics to tough neighborhoods where charter schools run by the likes of KIPP, Success Academy, and Achievement First are making a real difference.

Consider a 2006 Robin Hood Foundation fund-raiser evening, where $45 million in donor support for new schools was matched by the charity’s board, raising $90 million in minutes. Klein, as the city’s chancellor, quickly agreed to kick in another $90 million from his $12 billion capital budget, and two architecturally stunning charter schools delivering quality education have since been built in blighted neighborhoods in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

“Imagine what these kids feel like, when they walk into their school and it’s the Taj Mahal? Go talk to those kids if you are looking for impact,” says Klein. That made me press him for practical help, and he promptly offered to try to organize for interested Barron’s Penta subscribers who emailed us they wanted to see such impact up close—a tour of a new charter school making a difference somewhere in the U.S. Subscribers who want a tour need only shoot us an e-mail.

Which gets us to his final point: Spend political capital, as well. Charter schools are great, Klein says, but voucher programs are the only way to quickly scale up high-quality alternatives to the busted and dangerous public schools currently entrapping our kids. Such programs allow a disadvantaged family to apply the tax-dollar equivalent of a public education—almost $20,000 a year in New York City—toward a private education of their choice.

The progressive ideas behind the lack of free speech on campus

Wendy Kaminer:

Is an academic discussion of free speech potentially traumatic? A recent panel for Smith College alumnae aimed at “challenging the ideological echo chamber” elicited this ominous “trigger/content warning” when a transcript appeared in the campus newspaper: “Racism/racial slurs, ableist slurs, antisemitic language, anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language, anti-immigrant language, sexist/misogynistic slurs, references to race-based violence, references to antisemitic violence.”

No one on this panel, in which I participated, trafficked in slurs. So what prompted the warning?

Smith President Kathleen McCartney had joked, “We’re just wild and crazy, aren’t we?” In the transcript, “crazy” was replaced by the notation: “[ableist slur].”

One of my fellow panelists mentioned that the State Department had for a time banned the words “jihad,” “Islamist” and “caliphate” — which the transcript flagged as “anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language.”

I described the case of a Brandeis professor disciplined for saying “wetback” while explaining its use as a pejorative. The word was replaced in the transcript by “[anti-Latin@/anti-immigrant slur].” Discussing the teaching of “Huckleberry Finn,” I questioned the use of euphemisms such as “the n-word” and, in doing so, uttered that forbidden word. I described what I thought was the obvious difference between quoting a word in the context of discussing language, literature or prejudice and hurling it as an epithet.

Educating school teachers (2006)

Arthur Levine (PDF):

This report, the second in a series of policy reports on the results of a four-year study of America’s education schools, focuses on the education of classroom teachers, the people who have the greatest impact on our children’s learning in school.

Teacher education has taken on a special urgency because the United States needs to raise both the quantity and quality of our teacher force. The country is experiencing an acute shortage of teachers. At the same time, we are asking teachers to increase student achievement to the highest levels in history in a new standards-based, accountability-driven system of education. To address both demands simultaneously is an enormous challenge, made even more difficult because the nation is deeply divided about how to prepare large numbers of high-quality teachers.

We don’t agree about what skills and knowledge teachers need or how and when teachers should learn them. This is the context for the second report. The first report focused on the education of school administrators.

The third report will examine the quality of education research and the preparation of the scholars and researchers who conduct it. The final report will be an overview of America’s schools of educa- tion, where the overwhelming majority of our school leaders, teachers, and scholars are educated.

“We know best”: All over America, people have put small “give one, take one” book exchanges in front of their homes. Then they were told to tear them down.

Conor Friedersdorf:

Last summer in Kansas, a 9-year-old was loving his Little Free Library until at least two residents proved that some people will complain about anything no matter how harmless and city officials pushed the boundaries of literal-mindedness:

The Leawood City Council said it had received a couple of complaints about Spencer Collins’ Little Free Library. They dubbed it an “illegal detached structure” and told the Collins’ they would face a fine if they did not remove the Little Free Library from their yard by June 19.
Scattered stories like these have appeared in various local news outlets. The L.A. Times followed up last week with a trend story that got things just about right. “Crime, homelessness and crumbling infrastructure are still a problem in almost every part of America, but two cities have recently cracked down on one of the country’s biggest problems: small-community libraries where residents can share books,” Michael Schaub wrote. “Officials in Los Angeles and Shreveport, Louisiana, have told the owners of homemade lending libraries that they’re in violation of city codes, and asked them to remove or relocate their small book collections.”

Here in Los Angeles, the weather is so lovely that it’s hard to muster the energy to be upset about anything, and a lot of people don’t even know what municipality they live in, so the defense of Little Free Libraries is mostly being undertaken by people who have them. Steve Lopez, a local columnist, wrote about one such man, an actor who is refusing to move his little library from a parkway. His column captures the absurdity of using city resources to get rid of it:

Economists say millennials should consider careers in trades

Chris Arnold:

As the economy continues to recover, economists are seeing stark differences between people with high school and college degrees. The unemployment rate is nearly twice as high for Americans with a high school diploma as for those with a four-year college degree or more.

But economists say that doesn’t mean everybody needs a four-year degree. In fact, millions of good-paying jobs are opening up in the trades. And some pay better than what the average college graduate makes.

Learning A Trade

When 18-year-old Haley Hughes graduated from high school this past summer, she had good grades; she was on the honor roll every year. So she applied to a bunch of four-year colleges and got accepted to every one of them. But she says, “I wasn’t excited about it really, I guess.”

Degrees don’t matter anymore, skills do

Miles Kimball:

Too much of our educational system, both at the K-12 level and in higher education, is built around the idea that some students are smart and others are dumb. One shining exception are the “Knowledge is Power Program” or KIPP schools. In my blog post “Magic Ingredient 1: More K-12 School” I gave this simple description of the main strategy behind KIPP schools, which do a brilliant job, even for kids from very poor backgrounds:

They motivate students by convincing them they can succeed and have a better life through working hard in school.

They keep order, so the students are not distracted from learning.

They have the students study hard for many long hours, with a long school day, a long school week (some school on Saturdays), and a long school year (school during the summer).

Meanwhile, one size fits all largely reigns in Madison.

Athletes & Rigor

Jake New:

In an endless cycle of perpetuating stereotypes, college athletes care a great deal about academics, a recent paper suggests, but some purposefully underperform academically in a misguided attempt to fit in with their teammates.

College athletes, especially those involved in big-time college sports like Division I football and basketball, tend to take easier courses and earn lower grades than nonathletes. Previous research has suggested several explanations for their underperformance, including the demanding time requirements of playing a sport, special admissions practices that enroll underprepared students and an apparent lack of motivation from athletes.

The new paper by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles and Princeton University asserts that there may be an additional explanation: athletes study less and gravitate toward easier courses because they want to better align with what they assume are the views of their peers.

One of N.J.’s Top Superintendents Explains What’s Wrong with the Opt-Out Movement

Laura Waters:

Remember, we’re arguing about standards that have been in place for five years and assessments that haven’t even been given yet. Can we wait two weeks before passing judgement?

Also in the comments section, Anne Clark, who never takes fools lightly, has her own responses to anti-testers. She notes that there was plenty of opportunity for public comment during the adoption of Common Core and PARCC, that instructional time devoted to PARCC tests is de minimus compared to traditional testing schedules, and that the movement towards uniform standards and assessments has always been bipartisan. She’s also not afraid to call out Save Our Schools-NJ, one of the primary instigators of N.J.’s hysteria:

Yet, we have no useful method to track academic progress despite the DPI’s decades long WKCE adventure.

The skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life

Sara Goo:

But we also found some interesting differences:

While all Americans were most likely to cite communication and reading skills as most important for today’s kids, women were more likely than men to say this. More women said reading skills (88%) matter compared with men (83%), and there was a similar divide on communication skills (92% vs. 88%). On the other hand, men were more likely than women to say that science and math skills were most important. Among men, 63% said science skills were important – a figure 9 percentage points higher than women who said the same. Men were also more likely than women to say that math skills were important (81% vs. 76%).

College-educated Americans were more likely to point to communication, writing, logic and science skills as important when compared with those with a high school education or less. For example, 63% of those with a college degree said science skills were most important, compared with 51% of those with a high school education or less. Some 81% of college grads said that writing skills were most important, compared with 70% among those with a high school degree or less.

Court rules against measure letting Scott Walker halt school administrative rules

Patrick Marley:

Parents of students and members of teachers unions sued Walker over the law as it applied to rules put together by the Department of Public Instruction, which is headed by Evers. Walker is a Republican and Evers is aligned with Democrats, though his post is officially nonpartisan.

The state constitution says that “the supervision of public instruction shall be vested in a state superintendent and such other officers as the Legislature shall direct.” In a 1996 case that the appeals court repeatedly cited, the state Supreme Court held that lawmakers and the governor cannot give “equal or superior authority” over public education to any other official.

The Supreme Court’s ruling found that the state constitution prevented then-Gov. Tommy Thompson from transferring powers from the Department of Public Instruction to a new Department of Education overseen by the governor’s administration.

“In sum, the Legislature has the authority to give, to not give, or to take away (the school superintendent’s) supervisory powers, including rule-making power. What the Legislature may not do is give the (superintendent) a supervisory power relating to education and then fail to maintain the (superintendent’s) supremacy with respect to that power,” Appeals Judge Gary Sherman wrote for the court in Thursday’s decision.

Yet, we have no useful method to track academic progress despite the DPI’s decades long WKCE adventure.

K-16 Governance: An Oxymoron? Wallace Hall Was Right About UT All Along

Jim Schutze:

When Hall was early on the board, the university revealed to regents there were problems with a large private endowment used to provide off-the-books six-figure “forgivable loans” to certain faculty members, out of sight of the university’s formal compensation system.

Hall wanted to know how big the forgivable loans were and who decided who got them. He wanted to know whose money it was. He was concerned there had to be legal issues with payments to public employees that were not visible to the public.

University of Texas President William Powers painted the law school slush fund as a problem only because it had caused “discord” within the faculty. He vowed to have a certain in-house lawyer get it straightened up. Hall, who thought the matter was more serious and called for a more arms-length investigation and analysis, thought Powers’ approach was too defensive. In particular, Hall didn’t want it left to the investigator Powers had assigned.

“I had issues with that,” Hall says. “I felt that was a bad, bad deal. The man’s a lawyer. He lives in Austin. The people in the foundation are his mentors, some of the best lawyers in the state. They’re wealthy. He’s not going to be in the [university] system forever. He’s going to be looking for a job one day.”
But Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and other members of the board of regents did not share Hall’s concerns. “I was overruled,” Hall says. “That’s when I first felt like, one, there’s a problem at UT, and, two, the system has set up a scheme that gives the opportunity for a less than robust investigation.”

Since then, the university’s own in-house investigation, which cleared the law school of any real wrongdoing, has been discredited and deep-sixed. The in-house lawyer who did it is no longer on the payroll. The matter has been turned over to the Texas attorney general for a fresh investigation.

The head of the law school has resigned. The president of the university has resigned. Cigarroa has resigned.

Next, Hall questioned claims the university was making about how much money it raised every year. He thought the university was puffing its numbers by counting gifts of software for much more than the software really was worth, making it look as if Powers was doing a better job of fundraising than he really was.

When Hall traveled to Washington, D.C., to consult with the national body that sets rules for this sort of thing, he was accused of ratting out the university — a charge that became part of the basis for subsequent impeachment proceedings. But Hall was right. The university had to mark down its endowment by $215 million.

The really big trouble began in 2013 when Hall said he discovered a back-door black market trade in law school admissions, by which people in positions to do favors for the university, especially key legislators, were able to get their own notably unqualified kids and the notably unqualified kids of friends into UT Law School.

Local education issues that merit attention include:

A. The Wisconsin DPI’s decades long WKCE adventure: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”… It is astonishing that we, after decades of DPI spending, have nothing useful to evaluate academic progress. A comparison with other states, including Minnesota and Massachusetts would be rather useful.

B. Susan Troller’s 2010 article: Madison school board member may seek an audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent. A look at local K-12 spending (and disclosure) practices may be useful in light of the planned April, 2015 referendum.

C. Madison’s long term disastrous reading results, despite spending double the national average per student.

D. Teacher preparation standards.

Student loan debt piles up to $1.16 trillion: NY Fed

John Schoen:

Even with an improved job market, those student loans are getting harder to keep up with.

While households are generally doing a better job making payments on their mortgages and credit cards, the delinquency rates on student loans worsened in the last three months of 2014, according a new report from the New York Federal Reserve.

“Although we’ve seen an overall improvement in delinquency rates since the Great Recession, the increasing trend in student loan balances and delinquencies is concerning,” said New York Fed researcher Donghoon Lee in a statement. “Student loan delinquencies and repayment problems appear to be reducing borrowers’ ability to form their own households.”

Delinquencies climbed in auto and student lending. Overall debt rose $117 billion in 4th quarter.

The Reading Level of the State of Union Address is in Decline

priceonomics:

“The act of the last session of Congress concerning the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain and France and their dependencies having invited in a new form a termination of their edicts against our neutral commerce, copies of the act were immediately forwarded to our ministers at London and Paris, with a view that its object might be within the early attention of the French and British Governments.”

This whopper of a sentence — 71 words, 9 of which are 10 characters or longer — is indicative of Madison’s speeches in general: complex, wordy, and Thesaurus-worthy.

By all historic accounts, Madison was lauded both for his writing skills, and eloquence. Despite being “painfully shy [and] physically frail,” his words commanded the attention of Congress and major political influencers. “If the art of persuasion includes persuasion by convincing,” once wrote Chief Justice John Marshall, “Mr. Madison was the most eloquent man I ever heard.” Before crafting his own speeches, Madison advised and heavily edited the speeches of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams — all three of whom are ranked in the top 10 here.

President Obama’s speeches, which rank lowest on the list at a grade level of 9.8, are of an entirely different nature. Take, for example, this excerpt from his recent 2015 Address:

“But tonight, we turn the page. Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before. More of our people are insured than ever before. And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost thirty years.”

QOD: A Public School Mom on the Anti-Test Movement’s Hostility Towards Data

Lynnell Mickelson:

Can we be clear? When the sole responsibility for test outcomes was on the children, there was little to no organized test resistance. But as soon as some of the responsibility shifted to the adults, oh my God! Let the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth begin. Oh, the inhumanity! Oh, the stress of “high-stakes”! Oh, the loss of childhood! Oh, the corporate conspiracy of Pearson! And so forth.

I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the anti-test movement. Some districts test too much. Endless rote test prep is dumb. Art, music and gym are all crucial and belong in the curriculum.

But the organized movement to dump standardized testing and replace it with projects or individual teacher’s tests, also strikes me as blatant attempt to dump the evidence.

Via Laura Waters.

Pro Choice: Vouchers, per student spending and achievement

The Economist:

This is not the end of the story for vouchers, however. In both Milwaukee and Washington, voucher schemes get similar results to the public schools but with much less money. Under the DC scheme, each voucher is worth $8,500 a year, compared with $17,500 to educate a child in the public school system. In Milwaukee the difference is smaller but still amounts to several thousand dollars. Another consistent finding from voucher schemes is that parents like being given a choice, which explains why vouchers, once granted, are hard to take away.

Though Milwaukee’s experience overall has been mixed it still has lessons for elsewhere. If one includes private schools, charter schools and open enrolment at public schools (which means parents may enroll their children in a school that is not in the neighbourhood where they live), around 40% of parents in Milwaukee exercise some kind of choice over their children’s education, an unusually high share. With so much competition, it is hard for any school to grow complacent. There are good public, private and charter schools and bad ones, too. Some private schools do very well with poor black and Hispanic children, others fail them and yet manage to stay in business, which suggests that even with lots of parents choosing there is a need for an authority than can close the bad schools down.

The proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

An interview with Henry Tyson.

A focus on adult employment.

Already a friend to charter schools, Wisconsin could see more growth under budget proposal; one size fits all continues in Madison

Molly Beck:

“That charter authorizer is without accountability, if you will, to the voter in any way,” she said. “And so why would we want to do that? That’s what I would like explained to me. Why would that be a good thing for the state of Wisconsin? Honestly, I can’t fathom what the justification would be other than if I’m one of the big chains (of charter schools) that wants leverage into Wisconsin.”

Madison School Board member Ed Hughes wrote against the proposal on his education blog last week, saying the proposal allows new authorizers to “operate with a free hand in the state’s largest urban areas.”

Walker included a similar proposal in his 2013-15 budget but it was pulled out. Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, also has proposed similar legislation in the past. She said in an interview Tuesday that more communities than Milwaukee and Racine should have the option of an independent charter school.

She pointed to Madison Preparatory Academy, an independent charter school proposed by the Urban League of Greater Madison geared toward low-income, minority students that was voted down by the School Board in 2011.

“In some cases there will be opportunities where school boards say, ‘No, we don’t want that,’ as Madison did, and it seems there should be another option for those families,” she said.

Related:

The proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

An interview with Henry Tyson.

A focus on adult employment.

Education at heart of Chicago mayor’s race

Stephanie Simon:

Democratic mayors and governors across the nation are increasingly standing up to their traditional allies in the teachers unions to demand huge changes in urban school districts — and labor is frantically, furiously fighting back. Local and national unions have made Emanuel a top target, pouring resources into the effort to oust him. If they succeed, they’ll gain momentum, not to mention a huge PR victory.

But if Emanuel wins despite the unions’ best efforts, analysts say it would embolden other Democratic reformers to forge ahead with a controversial agenda that includes closing struggling neighborhood schools, expanding privately run charter schools and overhauling the teaching profession by repealing tenure, trimming benefits and paying teachers in part based on how well their students score on standardized tests.

Statistics Style Guide

Style.ONS:

This style guide covers the elements of writing about statistics. It aims to make statistical content more open and understandable, based on editorial research and best practice. The standards also replace any previous standards on the intranet or in print. Originally created for the Office for National Statistics, we have worked with Government Digital Service (GDS) to produce these for all members of the Government Statistical Service (GSS). These will be reviewed regularly, and updated when new research and user feedback indicates changes need to be made.

Style.ONS contains:

Ranking the top open admission New Jersey high schools by SAT scores

Colleen O’Dea:

Today’s vo-techs now operate some of the most elite public schools in New Jersey and the nation. U.S. News and World Report ranked Biotechnology High School in Freehold, part of the Monmouth County Vocational School District, 11th best in the nation and best in New Jersey among public schools. High Technology High School in Lincroft, another MCVSD school, ranked 20th nationally. Bergen County Academies, part of the Bergen County Technical Schools district, boasts thirty-six 2015 National Merit Semifinalists in a school with about 250 students in each grade level. These schools are smaller than the typical public school and more selective, requiring entrance exams as part of a competitive application process.

So it’s not surprising that these academies had the highest total-mean-scores during the past school year on the Scholastic Aptitude Test that students take as part of the college application process. High Technology High topped the list with a mean of 2195 out of a possible 2400. (Scores are for seniors and members of the class of 2014.) Its total enrollment was just 286 students, with an enviable 11-to-1 student-teacher ratio in 2013-2014. Six other schools had mean scores higher than 2000: Academy for Mathematics, Science and Engineering in Morris County Vocational; Bergen County Academies; Biotechnology High in Monmouth; Middlesex County Vocational Academy of Math, Science and Engineering Technology; Union County Magnet High School; and Academy of Allied Health and Science in Monmouth.

Is teaching about instruction or selection?

Gary Davis:

Teaching is commonly associated with instruction, yet in evolution, immunology, and neuroscience, instructional theories are largely defunct.

We propose a co-immunity theory of teaching, where attempts by a teacher to alter student neuronal structure to accommodate cultural ideas and practices is sort of a reverse to the function of the immune system, which exists to preserve the physical self, while teaching episodes are designed to alter the mental self.

This is a theory of teaching that is based on the inter-subjective relationship between teacher and learner. This theory posits that teaching does not, as is commonly assumed, take place via instruction from teacher to students, but rather through a process of selection in the learner’s brain, stimulated by materials and activities utilized by the teacher. In this theory, the mechanism that drives the selection process in learners’ brains is co-regulated emotional signaling between teacher and learner. From this perspective, the power of formative assessment is that it intrinsically carries with it emotional aspects for both learner and teacher, in that it provides a feedback relationship between them both, and so, according to the Greenspan & Shanker theory of cognitive symbolic development, promotes cognitive development.

– See more at: http://beta.briefideas.org/ideas/b0b3c84a223e16c8f066b8770831a962#sthash.kKerYg1g.dpuf

Research results from Madison schools suggest compassion, kindness can be taught

Doug Erickson:

To do the study, the researchers secured permission from the parents of 68 Madison students during the 2012-13 school year. All were in the district’s 4K program.

Thirty children were randomly assigned to classrooms where they received twice-weekly kindness lessons for three months. Children in the control group did not receive the lessons.

The curriculum is rooted in adult mindfulness-based practices adapted to a child’s developmental ability, said Laura Pinger, the curriculum’s lead designer.

She and the other researchers are affiliated with the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, the UW-Madison effort founded by Richard Davidson, an international leader in mindfulness training.

Digitizing The Humanities

Armand Marie Leroi:

In the Republic of Learning humanities scholars often see themselves as second-class citizens. Their plaintive cries are not without cause. When universities trim budgets it is often their departments that take the hit. In the last 10 years, however, there has been one bright spot: the “digital humanities,” a vast enterprise that aims to digitize our cultural heritage, put it online for all to see, and do so with a scholarly punctilio that Google does not.

The digital humanities have captured the imaginations of funders and university administrators. They are being built by a new breed of scholar able to both investigate Cicero’s use of the word “lascivium” and code in Python. If you want to read Cicero’s letter in which lascivium appears, or the lyrics of 140,000 Dutch folk songs, now you can. Texts are living things: Digitization transforms them from caterpillars into butterflies. But the true promise of digitization is not just better websites. Rather, it is the transformation of the humanities into science.

Behind the curtain in Montgomery County Schools

Melinda Anderson and Frances Frost:

Montgomery County seems like a fairyland of affluence on the outskirts of the nation’s capital with progressive politics and world-class public schools. But pull back the curtain and the Oz-like illusion disappears. In its place, you find a suburb confronting rapidly increasing poverty with excellent public schools for some students amid the complexities of a “majority-minority” region.

As Montgomery County Public Schools navigates its way through profound change, it needs stability and perseverance. That’s why the abrupt departure of Superintendent Joshua P. Starr is a major blow and a loss for the district’s 154,000 students and for parents and teachers.

Bubbling beneath the surface are issues that rarely receive top billing in school-district politics.

350 years of publishing from the world’s oldest science journal– in pictures

Rebecca Ratcliffe:

Henry Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society and founder of the Philosophical Transactions, first published in 1665

Drawing on information gathered from the Royal Society’s meetings, his own correspondence with natural philosophers and the latest books and pamphlets, Oldenburg produced a monthly overview of all that was new in natural philosophy. He sold it for one shilling.

Transactions was initially Oldenburg’s own private venture, but it became an official Society publication in the 18th century.

High-fliers in the classroom Programmes that place bright and ambitious graduates in poor schools are spreading around the world—and show what it takes to make a difference

The Economist:

“IT’S not enough to have a dream”, reads a banner over the whiteboard in Nancy Sarmiento’s Baltimore classroom. Most of her 12-year-old pupils qualify for a free or cheap lunch. About 70% of the school’s new arrivals last September had reading and mathematical skills below the minimum expected for their grade. Americans call such schools “disadvantaged”. Whatever the label, most countries have schools where most children are from poor families, expectations are low, and teachers are hard to recruit. And in most, the falling prestige of the teaching profession makes matters worse.

But Ms Sarmiento, who graduated from a four-year biology degree course a year early, had to see off fierce competition to win her teaching spot. Teach for America (TfA), the scheme that placed her, accepts just one in six applicants. It looks for a stellar academic record and evidence of traits that distinguish the best teachers in tough schools, including leadership, resilience and motivation to help the poor. Recruits get five weeks’ training and pledge to work for two years in a disadvantaged school.

Google boss warns of ‘forgotten century’ with email and photos at risk

Ian Sample:

Cerf called for the development of “digital vellum” to preserve old software and hardware so that out-of-date files could be recovered no matter how old they are.

“When you think about the quantity of documentation from our daily lives that is captured in digital form, like our interactions by email, people’s tweets, and all of the world wide web, it’s clear that we stand to lose an awful lot of our history,” he said.

“We don’t want our digital lives to fade away. If we want to preserve them, we need to make sure that the digital objects we create today can still be rendered far into the future,” he added.

The warning highlights an irony at the heart of modern technology, where music, photos, letters and other documents are digitised in the hope of ensuring their long-term survival. But while researchers are making progress in storing digital files for centuries, the programs and hardware needed to make sense of the files are continually falling out of use.

Google, Facebook and governments are storing, mining, selling and aggregating all of this…..

The Mismeasure of Teaching Time

Samuel Abrams:

Few matters of international education policy have achieved as much consensus as the claim that teachers in U.S. public schools spend nearly twice as much time leading classes as their counterparts in such high-performing nations as Finland, Japan, and many other nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Yet this claim is far from true.

Teachers in U.S. public schools work hard, for relatively low pay, and under increasingly stressful conditions because of federally mandated high-stakes tests tying assessment of teachers to student performance on these tests.1 But they do not, as reported in detailed tables published by the OECD every year since 2000, spend so much more time instructing students than teachers in other OECD nations.2 Through regular repetition by academics and journalists, this misinformation has become conventional wisdom.

In reality, U.S. primary teachers spend about 12 percent more time leading classes than their OECD counterparts, not 50 percent; U.S. lower-secondary teachers spend about 14 percent more time, not 65 percent; and U.S. upper-secondary teachers spend about 11 percent more time, not 73 percent. In the case of Finland and Japan, in particular, the alleged differences, as will be explained, reach 110 percent.

Disabilities and online education

Tamar Lewin:

Advocates for the deaf on Thursday filed federal lawsuits against Harvard and M.I.T., saying both universities violated antidiscrimination laws by failing to provide closed captioning in their online lectures, courses, podcasts and other educational materials.

“Much of Harvard’s online content is either not captioned or is inaccurately or unintelligibly captioned, making it inaccessible for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing,” the complaint said, echoing language used in the M.I.T. complaint. “Just as buildings without ramps bar people who use wheelchairs, online content without captions excludes individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Jeff Neal, a spokesman for Harvard, said that while he could not comment on the litigation, Harvard expected the Justice Department to propose rules this year “to provide much-needed guidance in this area,” and that the university would follow whatever rules were adopted.

The social network for people who want to upload their DNA to the Internet

Daniela Hernandez:

More than three years after Clark first put her genes up on the web for all to see, roughly 1,500 others have joined her on openSNP. It isn’t the only social network out there for genetic exhibitionists. Just like someone might have profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, people are starting to upload their genetic information to multiple sites. Clark is active on Genomera, Snpedia, and Promethease — all grass-roots open-source platforms for genetic information and research. People have even uploaded their genes to the collaboration tool Github.

This all adds up to a citizen-genetics movement that is just getting started. People like Sharon Terry, an advocate for public participation in genetics research, and Melanie Swan — a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who founded DIYGenomics, an organization that organizes crowdsourced genetics research — are spurring this revolution.

“What we’re trying to do is imagine a system where the patient says, ‘I want my data. I want it open. I want researchers to work on it. I want them to share it.’ We’re trying to build this alternate universe,” said Stephen Friend, the director of Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit that champions open science.

Study: Even for college-educated blacks, road to full-time work is rocky

Lolly Bowean:

Months before he graduated from college, Jeramey Winfield was sending out resumes and applying for jobs online in Chicago.

The media studies major hoped to jump from Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire right into the Chicago workforce, in marketing or event planning, so he could get his own apartment and begin helping his family financially. But after more than a year of networking, sending out applications and asking mentors for help, Winfield still doesn’t have a full-time job. In fact, he said, he’s rarely been called back for an interview.

“I had this picture in my mind of working downtown, taking the train in and contributing to my profession,” said Winfield, who often wears dapper, fitted business suits. “I had this vision of helping my mom out, since she struggled to raise five of us. I wanted to give her some relief.”

Preparing Effective Teachers

Nicole Thorpe:

Like so many teachers, when I first entered the classroom, I believed that I would be effective. Then I met Mohammed, and Jose, and Efrain. Mohammed was defiant. He refused to do work, disrupting the learning of my other students. Most days, Jose hid under his desk. Efrain turned eleven in 4th grade because he was retained in El Salvador before coming to the U.S. and couldn’t read a word in English or Spanish. I wanted more than anything to help these students. In fact, I wasn’t helping them. I was like most first year teachers. I needed more training. I needed coaching. I needed a veteran teacher who could guide my practice.

What I felt most acutely in those first few months of teaching was that all of the students in my class would be better off it they were across the hall in Mrs. Lewis’ class. Debbie Lewis was a skilled veteran teacher. She was the kind of teacher my kids deserved.

In the beginning, I despaired of ever becoming that teacher. But slowly that year, my teaching got better. That year, Debbie talked me through every challenge I experienced in my classroom, from instructional failures to behavior issues, and helped me problem-solve so that I did better the next day. She worked with me to create a class-wide behavior system that even Mohammed wanted to follow. Together, we differentiated my lesson plans so Jose and Efrain would make progress. Debbie wasn’t the only one. Other coaches came into my classroom to equip me with skills to become more effective.

How Spelling Keeps Kids From Learning

Luba Vangelova:

Johnny in Topeka can’t read, but Janne in Helsinki is effortlessly finishing his storybooks. Such a disparity may be expected by now, but the reason might come as a surprise: It probably has much less to do with teaching style and quality than with language. Simply put, written English is great for puns but terrible for learning to read or write. It’s like making children from around the world complete an obstacle course to fully participate in society but requiring the English-speaking participants to wear blindfolds.

Adults who have already mastered written English tend to forget about its many quirks. But consider this: English has 205 ways to spell 44 sounds. And not only can the same sounds be represented in different ways, but the same letter or letter combinations can also correspond to different sounds. For example, “cat,” “kangaroo,” “chrome,” and “queue” all start with the same sound, and “eight” and “ate” sound identical. Meanwhile, “it” doesn’t sound like the first syllable of “item,” for instance, and “cough” doesn’t rhyme with either “enough,” “through,” “furlough” or “bough.” Even some identically spelled words, such as “tear,” can be pronounced differently and mean different things.

No profit left behind

Stephanie Simon:

A POLITICO investigation has found that Pearson stands to make tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas. The review also found Pearson’s contracts set forth specific performance targets — but don’t penalize the company when it fails to meet those standards. And in the higher ed realm, the contracts give Pearson extensive access to personal student data, with few constraints on how it is used.

POLITICO examined hundreds of pages of contracts, business plans and email exchanges, as well as tax filings, lobbying reports and marketing materials, in the first comprehensive look at Pearson’s business practices in the United States.

The investigation found that public officials often commit to buying from Pearson because it’s familiar, even when there’s little proof its products and services are effective.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, for instance, declined to seek competitive bids for a new student data system on the grounds that it would be “in the best interest of the public” to simply hire Pearson, which had done similar work for the state in the past. The data system was such a disaster, the department had to pay Pearson millions extra to fix it.

The issues are not only on the supply side. Wisconsin’s decade plus use of the weak and largely useless WKCE is worth a deeper dive.

Buy side issues merit equal attention.

Ms. Simon deserves applause for digging deep. It is so rare in our ever more expensive K-12 world.

Addressing the dismal state of civics education: Require citizenship test in schools

USA Today:

Jay Leno’s old Tonight Show man-on-the-street quizzes were particularly hilarious — and depressing — when he tested Americans’ knowledge of their own government.

One woman thought the colonies won their independence from Greece; a college instructor guessed that U.S. independence was won in 1922; and a man said the general who led our troops in the Revolutionary War was Winston Churchill.

Funny stuff, until you remember that these are the same citizens who elect the leaders who shape the nation’s future, if they bother to vote at all. Nor are these know-nothings outliers.

Surveys and tests repeatedly show that Americans’ knowledge of civics is pathetic. In 2010, just one in five eighth-graders tested proficient in civics on a national performance assessment — worse even than their dismal performance in reading and math.

A poll of Millennials, out last week, found that 77% of these 18- to 34-year-olds could not name even one of their home state’s U.S. senators.

A 2012 survey of adults by Xavier University found that one in three native-born citizens failed the civics portion of a test given to immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship. The pass rate for immigrants: 97.5%.

The worst of all forms of teaching, except for all the others

Bodil Isaksen:

One can easily look at the concept of a didactic lesson and tear it apart. All the pupils know and can do different things. They will all pick up new concepts at different speeds. They will all require different amounts of practice to master a new skill. Nuthall found that pupils already knew 50% of what was taught. The problem is, they all knew differing parts of the domain. It’s not like you can cull 50% of the curriculum, because different pupils didn’t know different thing.

Whenever the teacher is talking, what they’re saying will be unnecessary to a certain portion of the class. This sounds like a real problem, right? Little Jonny already understands how to add fractions. Why are we making him listen to it being explained again?

Prescription: individualised instruction and eradicating teacher talk. The drive for overwhelming differentiation and reduced explicit instruction does, in part, seem to have its roots in this noble aim not to waste pupils’ time listening to stuff that’s too hard or too easy*. All they want is for everyone to be in the goldilocks zone of optimal porridge temperature.

Problem’s Swirl Around Wisconsin’s next student test….

Erin Richards:

Costs to administer the new test have gone millions of dollars over budget. And administrators learned last week that a key technological feature of the new test — its ability to adapt to students’ individual ability levels by offering harder or easier questions as they take the exam — won’t be ready this spring.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction officials are downplaying the concerns.

“(It’s) a good test. It’s reliable,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers, while acknowledging the exam has turned out to be pricier than anticipated.

District superintendents are more critical. The timeline the Legislature approved for switching to a new exam tied to the Common Core standards this academic year has districts bearing the brunt of political and technological hangups with the test.

“If we administer this for one year only, which is likely, why are we shifting?” said Patricia Greco, superintendent of the Menomonee Falls School District. “We’re putting staff and students through a lot of change for a shift to a test that probably won’t produce the results we expected.”

The chinks in the armor of the new exam are coming to light at the same time that Walker has shifted his position on Common Core — again. Walker has had a complicated relationship with the standards, ranging from tacit early approval to an explicit call for their repeal last summer.

Now he’s eased away from throwing out the standards to booting the examination tied to them.

Wisconsin’s WKCE has long been criticized for its lack of rigor. Yet, we continue.

Was Larry Summers Right about Women in Science and Math?

Richard Bradley:

As NPR reports, a childhood friend of his, Eileen Pollack, a former scientist and now a teacher of creative writing at the University of Michigan, has written a book exploring why there are so few women in STEM fields relative to men.

After Summers’ infamous 2005 speech on the subject—a watershed in his disastrous Harvard presidency—Pollack, who knew Summers in high school, sat down to write him a long email explaining why he was wrong to suggest that women had less genetic aptitude for math and science than men do. Pollack, who says that she always considered Summers an admirer of smart women, thought he had gone very wrong on this one. The email grew into the book, The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boys Club. (The book is blurbed, by the way, by MIT prof Nancy Hopkins, who stood up and walked out of that Summers speech, one of the main reasons why it got as much attention as did.)

Pollack argues that the primary reason for the lack of women in STEM is still a lack of support from more senior figures in those fields, and from their own peers—an explanation that certainly sounds much more credible than the idea that male and female brains are hardwired differently. (As I recall, Summers also suggested that those fields are so competitive, many women would have trouble succeeding at their highest levels because of greater family obligations, whether due to choice or social mores.)

There are two models of online education

Sam Gerstanzang:

1. Preparatory knowledge, in the form of course-based video-delivered teachings: Coursera, Udacity, Thinkful, etc.

2. On demand knowledge: Wikipedia, StackOverflow, Genius, etc.

Of the two, the latter has been much more widely spread and far more influential.

What works about on demand knowledge is that it is pull based (the knowledge you need, when you need it) and comes in digestible chunks. Unlike MOOCs, which are consumed far in advance of the knowledge being applied, Wikipedia and StackOverflow are the knowledge you need, now. Humans are lazy and working ahead requires discipline and foresight, which makes on demand knowledge far more appealing to most.

Why we are saying “uh” less and ‘um’ more

Ari Daniel Shapiro:

“It does seem to be the case that ‘um’ generally signals a longer or more important pause than ‘uh’,” says Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania.

At least that’s what he thought.

Liberman has been studying these so-called “filled pauses” for almost a decade, and he has made a rather curious discovery.

“As Americans get older, they use ‘uh’ more,” he says. “And at every age, men use ‘uh’ more than women.”

If you look at “um”, exactly the opposite is true. Younger people say “um” more often than older people. And no matter the age, women say “um” more than men. Nobody, not even the linguists, were expecting this result; until they studied these hesitations, they thought it was more about the amount of time a speaker hesitates than who that speaker is.

Politics and Academics in China

Bill Bishop:

Tackling the academy was thus the next logical step. According to the January Central Committee Document, universities are to put a higher priority on teaching (research is only mentioned insofar it concerns Marxist and Socialist theory), strengthen a common ideological basis and enhance Party leadership in higher education. Political theory courses and textbooks are to be centralized, and new evaluation and performance management systems introduced, in order to standardize the curriculum. Teaching staff will be required to participate in regular ideology training and study sessions, and to spend time engaging in “social practice” outside campuses. In the weeks since this document was published, the heads of all elite education institutions have published pledges of allegiance in various Party media.

There are quite a few reasons why the academy is targeted. First, it has internationalized more than any other professional group in China. Many well-regarded Chinese professors have either been educated abroad, or have spent considerable time outside China as visiting researchers. This considerable time spent living in a different political environment has provided them with a more nuanced understanding of social and political organization in other countries than can be gained in short trips. Second, they have considerable input into policymaking processes. China’s technocratic governance mode has often valued expert input more than public participation. This, therefore, provides academics with avenues to transform imported ideas into reality. Third, “patriotic worrying” is a part of Chinese intellectual tradition, which compels academics to relentlessly search out flaws in the China of the present in order to perfect the China of the future. Fourth, as educators, they are crucial in shaping the worldview of a new generation. However, the current generation of millennials (balinghou and jiulinghou) is already seen as rebellious and hedonistic, and it seems the leadership has decided that they’d better not be further confused. Remember: political protests in China over the last century, from May Fourth to Tiananmen, have tended to originate from universities. [Editors note: Pang Xianzhi, the former Director of the CPC Central Committee Party Literature Research Center, recently said this explicitly in 关于意识形态问题的一些看法, an essay that was republished on People’s Daily Online. Pang wrote “历史经验证明,出事往往从高校而起.” ]

Thoughts on the Technical Track

Dan McKinley:

My views on the merits of having a technical track align with those of many people in our industry. Management is a different job, with different skills. They’re not necessarily more difficult skills, they’re just different. By and large they’re unrelated to the day-to-day labor of the people who build technology products.

It doesn’t make any sense to divert your technical talent into a discipline where they will need to stop doing technical work. (That’s in the event that they intend to be effective managers, which I concede might be an unrealistic expectation.)

Other people have made this case, so I’ll just proceed as if we agree that there must be a way forward for people that are great programmers other than to simply graduate into not programming at all.

It’s Etch A Sketch time in Wisconsin for education policy

Alan Borsuk:

Every two years for the last couple decades or so, the governor and Legislature pick up the state education policy Etch A Sketch, turn it over, shake it and draw a new picture. The game also goes by the name of the biennial budget process.

In days gone by, the new picture often wasn’t all that different from the old one. Some new money here, some new rules on how to spend it, some new patterns for what was expected from kids. There were sometimes bigger deals, like in the mid-90s when it was decided to hold down how much school districts could spend and how much teacher compensation could go up in exchange for the state paying more of the total bill.

With the rise of private school vouchers starting in Milwaukee, state budget season became prime time for controversy over changing the rules on money, accountability and who could participate.

Then came 2011. Whoa, what an Etch A Sketch event that was. Take the whole system of teacher unions and contracts, turn it over, shake — presto, the screen was blank. Amazing. In the new etching, school spending was cut and teachers bore the brunt by paying more for health and retirement benefits.

Do our obsessions with maths add up?

The Times of London:

Opinions differ over Alice Thomson’s belief that a good grounding in the basics is sufficient

Sir, Mathematics is not just about learning multiplication tables and algebra (“This obsession with maths doesn’t add up”, Opinion, Feb 4). Taught well, mathematics ignites curiosity and encourages confidence and creativity — the very qualities that Alice Thomson rightly points out we should nurture in Britain.

The scientific and mathematical thinking learnt in the classroom — logical and critical thinking, problem-solving — is vital in the real world and is much desired by employers. If we want an effective democratic society, people must be capable of balancing the benefits and risks of new science and be able to reason mathematically. The Royal Society

Camden Update: “Our Students Have the Potential to Change the World”

Laura Waters:

I graduated from Camden schools, and the quality of the education my children were getting has been far below what I received. I’m glad that the District is finally making some changes, and I’m glad that parents like me have more and better options to choose from.
That’s Camden parent Mary Jane Timbe, an alumna of Camden Public Schools who has a child at Mastery North Camden and another at Woodrow Wilson High School. She made that comment at Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard’s “State of the Schools” report yesterday at Woodrow Wilson High School.

Indeed, the district, New Jersey’s neediest, concurs with Ms. Timbe’s assessment. Superintendent Rouhanifard, appointed eighteen months ago when the State took over the long-failing district, noted in this most recent of his quarterly updates to the community, that “the School District is falling short. He went on to itemize the steps he will take to move the district forward, particularly at the high school level and with student and staff engagement.”

There is good news to report, although Rouhanifard was careful to note that the occasion of his update to the community “is not a celebration, but a public accounting.” Graduation rates are up 6%. Students feel significantly safer in the hallways and bathrooms. High school freshmen and sophomores are beginning to spend more time on reading and math and the district is in the midst of overhauling its vocational programs. (According to the Star Ledger, “absolutely zero high school students earned a vocational program certificate last year, despite hundreds of students enrolled in vocational education classes.”) Next week the Rouhanifard will begin a series of “Teacher Roundtables” and the week after that he’ll launch “Student Leader Roundtables” in order to enhance collaboration with stakeholders.

Chicago’s schools Hard work rewarded Rahm Emanuel’s school reforms are working

The Economist:

Some of the toughest decisions Mr Emanuel had to make in his first term concerned schools. He demanded merit pay for teachers and a longer school day (Chicago’s was only 5 hours 45 minutes) and earmarked for closure 50 half-empty schools in poor districts. Teachers went on strike for the first time in 25 years, but Mr Emanuel got the longer day and the closures went ahead in 2013. The teachers kept their seniority-based pay system.

Mr Emanuel ploughed some of the money saved by closures into charter schools, which made him even more unpopular with the teachers’ unions. But charter schools have worked well in Chicago. The Noble Network, which already runs 16 charter high schools with 10,000 pupils and plans to have 20,000 by 2020, has an attendance rate of 94% (compared with 73% for Chicago public schools) and a drop-out rate of only 0.4% (compared with 4.7%). It also gets better results on the ACT, a college-readiness test. It has an even higher percentage of minority students (98% compared with 92% at Chicago public schools), and slightly less public funding.

Calling a spade a spade: Mathematics in the new pattern of division of labour

Alexandre Borovik:

The growing disconnection of the majority of the population from mathematics is increasingly difficult to ignore.

This paper focuses on the socio-economic roots of this cultural and social phe- nomenon which are not usually mentioned in public debates. I concentrate on math- ematics education, as an important and well documented area of interaction of math- ematics with the rest of human culture.

New patterns of division of labour have dramatically changed the nature and role of mathematical skills needed for the labour force and correspondingly changed the place of mathematics in popular culture and in mainstream education. The forces that drive these changes come from the tension between the ever deepening special- isation of labour and ever increasing length of specialised learning required for jobs at the increasingly sharp cutting edge of technology.

How Elementary School Teachers’ Biases Can Discourage Girls From Math and Science

Claire Cain Miller:

We know that women are underrepresented in math and science jobs. What we don’t know is why it happens.

There are various theories, and many of them focus on childhood. Parents and toy-makers discourage girls from studying math and science. So do their teachers. Girls lack role models in those fields, and grow up believing they wouldn’t do well in them.

All these factors surely play some role. A new study points to the influence of teachers’ unconscious biases, but it also highlights how powerful a little encouragement can be. Early educational experiences have a quantifiable effect on the math and science courses the students choose later, and eventually the jobs they get and the wages they earn.

K-12 Governance Stasis

Peter Thiel:

Why has this happened? Let me give both a libertarian and a conservative answer. The libertarian answer is that we have basically outlawed everything in the world of atoms but have left the world of bits mostly unregulated. It costs $100,000 to start a computer software company; it costs $1 billion to get a new drug approved through the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore it’s not surprising that we live in a world where people start video game companies rather than work on drugs that would save people’s lives. There is an extraordinary regulatory double standard.

From a more conservative perspective, there is the sense that we have become a more risk-averse society. We have lost hope for the future. I think this has seeped in in many subtle ways.

Among both libertarians and conservatives there exists a bias that the government can’t do things. But this isn’t absolutely true. The government succeeded with the Manhattan Project in the 1940s. It succeeded with the Apollo program, putting man on the moon.

Now we’re at a point where we can’t even get a website for Obamacare.

Whatever you think of the morality of nuclear weapons, building an atomic bomb is a far harder undertaking than building a website. We should not let our ideological biases obscure the objective decline that has happened.

The Techies Who Are Hacking Education by Homeschooling Their Kids

Jason Tanz:

A couple of weeks ago, I wandered into the hills north of the UC Berkeley campus and showed up at the door of a shambling Tudor that was filled with lumber and construction equipment. Samantha Matalone Cook, a work-at-home mom in flowing black pants and a nose ring, showed me around. Cook and her family had moved into the house in April and were in the middle of an ambitious renovation. “Sorry,” Cook said, “I didn’t tell you we were in a construction zone.” A construction zone, it turns out, that doubles as a classroom.

We walked into the living room where Cook’s two sons, Parker and Simon, were sitting on the couch, silently scribbling. The boys, aged 12 and 10, had the air of young Zuckerbergs-in-training. Babyfaced and freshly scrubbed, they spoke with a somewhat awkward and adenoidal lilt and wore sweatshirts with the hoods flipped up and no shoes. The room around them was chaos—piles of art supplies were stacked around the floor and paint samples were smeared next to the doorways. The family’s two dogs, Dakota and Kaylee, wrestled loudly over a chew toy. The sound of pounding construction equipment drifted in from the basement. And yet the boys were focused on what I soon learned were math workbooks—prealgebra for Parker, a collection of monster-themed word problems for Simon.

The Cook boys are homeschooled, have been ever since their parents opted not to put them in kindergarten. Samantha’s husband Chris never liked school himself; as a boy, he preferred fiddling on his dad’s IBM PC to sitting in a classroom. After three attempts at college, he found himself unable to care about required classes like organic chemistry and dropped out to pursue a career in computers. It paid off; today he is the lead systems administrator at Pandora. Samantha is similarly independent-minded—she blogs about feminism, parenting, art technology, and education reform and has started a network of hackerspaces for kids. So when it came time to educate their own children, they weren’t in any hurry to slot them into a traditional school.

A Case for Lifelong Kindergarten

Tina Berseghian:

Could it be that the best way to learn happens in kindergarten? It’s an intriguing proposition, one that’s being explored at M.I.T. by folks like Mitch Resnick, the creator of the famous computer programming site for beginners called Scratch.

Resnick brought up the idea last week at the New York Times’ School for Tomorrow summit, and proclaimed that “schools should be on the edge of chaos,” a comment that lit up the Twitterverse.

Resnick is one of three recipients, including Robert Beichner, a physics professor at North Carolina State University, and Julie Young, president of Florida Virtual School, of the McGraw Prize in Education. The three of them worked on a paper that exemplifies how technology should work seamlessly with learning.

Education minister warns against “wrong Western values”

Xinhua:

A Chinese newspaper has published an article by the country’s education minister in which he warns of textbooks with “wrong Western values” and claims college students and teachers are targets of infiltration by “hostile forces.”

Yuan Guiren’s article was carried by Monday’s edition of China Education Daily, which is affiliated to the Ministry of Education, and comes after Yuan told college officials last week to “never let textbooks promoting Western values appear in our classes” and asked them to have more oversight of textbooks and materials directly taken from Western countries.

Teacher Evaluation Plan Draws New Support

Caroline Porter:

A coalition of teacher-preparation groups came out at the last minute to support a controversial federal plan to track how well new teachers fare as they start teaching in the classroom.

While the groups represent a small segment of the teaching profession—only about 80,000 teachers out of millions—the move sets up a showdown with traditional players in the field.

Teachers become certified in a variety of ways, often at undergraduate- and graduate-level colleges of education. Educators and administrators at such schools have raised questions about federal overreach, the practicality of trying to keep track of every teacher’s pathway after finishing training and the accuracy of relying on metrics to grade the programs.

Urban Teacher Center, Teach For America and seven additional alternative-certification programs planned to say on Monday that proposed rules by the U.S. Education Department, intended to weed out poor teacher-training programs, are essential to improving schools.

Much more, here.

A Newark Mother of Ten Children Explains Why Her Children Need Charter Schools

Laura Waters:

Shayvonne Anderson , a Newark mother of ten children who range in age from five to eighteen, explains in the Star-Ledger today why she sends her children to charter schools. Among all the complaints about charter schools from lobbying groups like NJEA, Save Our Schools-NJ, and Education Law Center – they discriminate against children with special needs, they practice a “drill and kill” pedagogy, they drain money from traditional schools — we rarely hear from parents on the ground.

Ms. Anderson skewers those complaints. At least three of her children have “unique learning needs,” yet they are well-served by several Newark Charter schools:

Testing Costs a Drop in the Bucket

Matthew M. Chingos:

The cost of standardized tests, long assailed by testing critics as too high, has resurfaced in the debate over reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act currently underway in Congress. The National Education Association (NEA) has argued that funds spent on testing could be “better spent on high-quality early childhood education, health care, after-school programs, and support services.” Recently, the New Jersey Education Association released poll results indicating that a majority of voters and parents think that “too much money is spent on testing.”

Testing critics usually point to estimates of total spending on assessments; a commonly cited figure—$1.7 billion spent by states each year—comes from a report I wrote in 2012. [1] But what these claims always miss is that, however calculated, spending on testing is barely a drop in the bucket of a public education system that spends over $600 billion per year.

If testing were eliminated entirely, what could schools do with the $1.7 billion saved? Very little, it turns out. Teacher salaries could be increased by one percent or pupil-teacher ratios could be reduced by 0.1 students. The $34 per student spent by states on federally and state-mandated tests simply isn’t very much in a system that spends about $10,000 per student. Put in the context of the NEA position, $34 per student would not buy very much early childhood education—only eight hours of preschool per student in Florida to be exact. [2]

Lessons for higher education reformers

:

In response to growing concerns about the US higher education system, policymakers have launched a range of efforts to improve the system’s quality. But this
is easier said than done. The system is populated with a diverse array of programs offered through a mix of public, nonprofit, and for-profit providers. Further- more, the outcomes that students and the public care about are frequently difficult to measure and are integrally tied to the characteristics and behavior of students themselves. All these factors confound efforts to improve quality.

In reality, however, numerous sectors suffer from these challenges in one way or another. Policymakers should, therefore, look to learn from efforts to ensure quality, accountability, and consumer protection in these other sectors. In that spirit, this paper examines four sectors that face many of these same challenges: health care (with a focus on transparency efforts), workforce development (specifically, the system’s long-standing emphasis on outcome measurement and accountability), charter schools (a model of deregula- tion and delegated oversight), and housing finance (an example of risk sharing).

Sign up now for the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies online course

Arvind Narayanan:

At Princeton I taught a course on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies during the semester that just ended. Joe Bonneau unofficially co-taught it with me. Based on student feedback and what we accomplished in the course, it was extremely successful. Next week I’ll post videos of all the final project presentations.

The course was based on a series of video lectures. We’re now offering these lectures free to the public, online, together with homeworks, programming assignments, and a textbook. We’ve heard from computer science students at various institutions as well as the Bitcoin community about the need for structured educational materials, and we’re excited to fill this need.

We’re using Piazza as our platform. Here’s the course page. To sign up, please fill out this (very short) form.

The first several book chapters are already available. The course starts February 16, and we’ll start making the videos available closer to that date (you’ll need to sign up to watch the videos). Each week there will be a Google hangout with that week’s lecturer. We’ll also answer questions on Piazza.

Plan for national UK college of teaching gains widespread support

Richatd Adams:

The creation of a national college of teaching – a long-held dream for bolstering the credibility of the teaching profession – has moved a step closer after unions and pillars of the education establishment announced they were backing a proposal.

Claim Your College, the coalition behind the plan, published a list of supporters that included the general secretaries of the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers, as well as prominent educators, schools, organisations such as UCL’s Institute of Education, and the Independent Schools Council, which represents private schools.

Celebrate statistics as a vital part of democracy

The Guardian:

From reading your editorial on the use of statistics in political debate (30 January) your readers might have come away with the impression that no numbers in the public arena can be trusted. They would be wrong. Of course statistics will be abused in the runup to an election. But the underlying quality of UK statistics (such as our census, our health statistics or even the new figures on wellbeing) is very high. And they quietly play an important role to help inform lots of day-to-day decisions: Where do we need new transport links? Who is at risk of flooding? Which medicines might work?

U.S. students improving – slowly – in math and science, but still lagging internationally

Drew Desilver:

Scientists and the general public have markedly different views on any number of topics, from evolution to climate change to genetically modified foods. But one thing both groups agree on is that science and math education in the U.S. leaves much to be desired.

In a new Pew Research Center report, only 29% of Americans rated their country’s K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) as above average or the best in the world. Scientists were even more critical: A companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that just 16% called U.S. K-12 STEM education the best or above average; 46%, in contrast, said K-12 STEM in the U.S. was below average.

Standardized test results appear to largely bear out those perceptions. While U.S. students are scoring higher on national math assessments than they did two decades ago (data from science tests are sketchier), they still rank around the middle of the pack in international comparisons, and behind many other advanced industrial nations.

Closing the math gap for boys

David Kirp:

ON a recent afternoon, the banter of boisterous adolescents at Edwin G. Foreman High School, in a poor, racially and ethnically mixed Chicago neighborhood, echoed off the corridor walls. But Room 214 was as silent as a meditation retreat. Inside, 16 ninth- and 10th-grade African-American and Latino boys were working, two-on-one, with a tutor. They’re among 1,326 boys in 12 public schools in this city who are sweating over math for an hour every day.

Kids like these fare worst on every measure of academic achievement, from test scores to graduation rates. On the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the average reading and math scores of eighth-grade black boys are barely higher than those of fourth-grade white girls, and Latino boys score only marginally better. Dropping out is a near-certain ticket to poverty, and these youngsters quit or are pushed out at a dismaying rate. Only 57 percent of young black men and 62 percent of young Latino men graduate from high school in four years, compared with 79 percent of young white men.

The teenagers in Chicago’s math-tutoring-on-steroids experiment fit this dismal profile. They were as many as seven years behind in reading and 10 in math — 16-year-olds with the skills of third graders. The previous year they missed more than a month of school, on average, and when they did make an appearance they were often banished to the school disciplinarian. Nearly a fifth of them had arrest records. Not only were they disproportionately likely to drop out, they were also prime candidates for the school-to-gang-to-prison pipeline

Can Students Have Too Much Tech?

Susan Pinker:

PRESIDENT OBAMA’s domestic agenda, which he announced in his State of the Union address this month, has a lot to like: health care, maternity leave, affordable college. But there was one thing he got wrong. As part of his promise to educate American children for an increasingly competitive world, he vowed to “protect a free and open Internet” and “extend its reach to every classroom and every community.”

More technology in the classroom has long been a policy-making panacea. But mounting evidence shows that showering students, especially those from struggling families, with networked devices will not shrink the class divide in education. If anything, it will widen it.

The Dance of the Disrupted: Observations from the education front lines

Aswath Damodaran:

Each option has its pluses and minuses. My site will include everything I offer my regular class, including emails and announcements but it is an online site without any bells and whistles. The iTunes U site is the most polished in terms of offerings, but there is no forum for interaction and requires more work if you don’t have an Apple device. Yellowdig is a new add-on to my menu and it is a site where you will be able to access the classes and material and hopefully interact with others in the class. (You will have to register on Yellowdig and it is restrictive on what email addresses it will accept.) YouTube is the least broadband-intensive forum, since the file size adjusts to your device, but you will be able to get only the class videos (and not the material).

If you are wondering why I would disrupt businesses that I am part of, I have three responses. The first is that, with four children, I am a consumer of the products/services of these businesses and I am sick and tired of paying what I do for textbooks, college tuition and minor financial services. The second is that it is so much more fun being a disruptor than the disrupted and being in a defensive posture for the rest of my life does not appeal to me. The third is that with Asia’s awakening, we face a challenge of huge numbers and the systems (education, public and financial services) as we know them don’t measure up.

Student fury over ‘impossible’ economics exam

Judith Burns:

Final year economics students at Sheffield University are furious after an exam this week contained questions they found “impossible”.

The paper, on the economics of cities, contained compulsory questions on topics they had never been taught, say the students.
More than 90% of those who took the exam have now signed an online petition demanding the university investigate.

The university said all questions were based on topics taught in the course.

But, in a tweet, one candidate complained: “Question three may as well have been in Chinese.”

Three interesting league tables from this year’s UK GCSE results

Ami Sedghi and George Arnett:

According to the latest GCSEs results tables, published by the Department of Education on Thursday, the number of English schools failing on GCSE targets has doubled in a year.

The complete tables, released by the DfE, show key stage 4 and key stage 5 results by school. We’ve taken a look at the dataset and pulled out some interesting tables which you can find below.

Best and worst local authorities for GCSE results

The Guardian’s education editor, Richard Adams writes today:

Too Much Tech?

Susan Pinker:

More technology in the classroom has long been a policy-making panacea. But mounting evidence shows that showering students, especially those from struggling families, with networked devices will not shrink the class divide in education. If anything, it will widen it.

In the early 2000s, the Duke University economists Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd tracked the academic progress of nearly one million disadvantaged middle-school students against the dates they were given networked computers. The researchers assessed the students’ math and reading skills annually for five

Thousands of early English books released online to public by Bodleian Libraries and partners

Bodleian Libraries:

Image of EEBO-TCP Michigan homepageFrom Shakespeare and Milton to little-known books about witchcraft, cookery and sword fighting, this rich data set comprises fully-searchable text files that can be read online or downloaded in a variety of formats.

This corpus of electronic texts has been created and released by the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP), an international collaboration among universities, funders and ProQuest, an information company central to global research. Previously, the texts were only available to users at academic libraries involved in the partnership but the data was released into the public domain on 1 January.
‘We are opening up these fantastic books to people who wouldn’t normally be able to access them. I’m fascinated to see what people will do with them,’ said Michael Popham, Head of Digital Collections at the Bodleian Libraries.

Members of the public, teachers and researchers around the world can now have access to thousands of transcriptions of English texts published during the first two centuries of printing in England. The corpus includes important works by literary giants like Chaucer and Bacon, but also contains many rare and little-known materials that were previously only available to those with access to special collections at academic libraries.

The text-only files are a unique resource for members of the public to browse for curious and interesting topics and titles ranging from witchcraft and homeopathy to poetry and recipes. In addition to browsing and reading text-only versions of these early English books, users of EEBO-TCP can also search the entire corpus, which contains more than two million pages and nearly a billion words. The text has been encoded with Extensible Markup Language (XML), allowing individuals to search for keywords and themes across the entire collection of works, in individual books or even within specific sections of text such as stage directions or tables of contents.

Visualisation of which parts of the multiplication table 5-8 year old students found the most difficult

Reddit:

I found it interesting that the chart is asymmetrical… They should be the same though I guess at the age where you are learning times tables you wouldn’t really grasp the symmetry of mathematical operators

That’s the first thing I noticed too. But then again when I was taught multiplication, we learned the numbers in order: our “4s” then our “5s” etc. I imagine that’s the issue. seeing 4×8 you think of your 4s, seeing 8×4 you think of your 8s and don’t know those as well. And like you said. We know they’re the same now, but we didn’t when we were 8, I think.

The Long Tail of the English Language

Words API:

In the English language, the most common words are incredibly common. Though there are at least 1 million words in the English language, “you”, “I”, and “the” account for 10% of the words we actually use. By the time you reach “is”, at number 10, you’ve covered 20%.

The top 100 most common English words account for over 50% of the words we use, which is about how many words a 2-year old know. A 3-year old would probably know most of the top 1,000 words, which covers 75%. And by the 10,000th most common word, “remorse”, you’ve covered over 88% of the words we commonly use. That leaves a lot of words you don’t hear very much.

If you put word frequency on a graph, like the one below, you quickly see an interesting distribution called the Long Tail. It happens when a small number of items account for a disproportionate number of occurrences, such as the books that Amazon sells.

Students to Receive Free Bitcoin in McGill University ‘Airdrop’

Yessi Bello Perez:

Six hundred students at Canada’s McGill University are set to receive 30 mBTC ($7) each as part of a joint initiative to promote bitcoin adoption.

The event, launched by the McGill Cryptocurrency Club and Montreal’s Bitcoin Embassy, is due to take place in the spring and is seeking donations from the public that will be held in a multisig wallet.

The McGill Cryptocurrency Club said:

“Our hope is that by running an airdrop, we will bring more students from the informational and communal fringe into the heart of the [bitcoin] community. “

College Admissions Racket: They’re Not Going to Let You In Anyway

Janet Lorin:

After losing interest in attending the University of Chicago, high school senior Sarah Schmoller didn’t bother to apply before the Jan. 1 deadline. The university, though, wouldn’t take no for an answer. Over winter break, the school offered to extend the deadline to Jan. 5 so that Schmoller could “sleep in, and eat cookie after delicious cookie” and “take these extra days to relax a bit.” When she didn’t respond, an e-mail signed by admissions director Daniel Follmer popped up in her inbox on Jan. 7, giving her two more days. “We’re Missing Your Application,” the subject line read.

This year, at least a dozen elite colleges, including Chicago, Duke, Dartmouth, and Columbia, have offered extensions of once-sacrosanct January admissions deadlines. The University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt, and Bates are among schools whose admissions deans said they were doing so for the first time, aside from individual hardship cases or such emergencies as storms and major website failures.

Is There Money to Be Made in Oil? New Grads Don’t Think So

Zain Shauk:

Six months ago, a degree in petroleum engineering was a ticket to a job with a six-figure salary. Now it’s looking like a path to the unemployment office.

The oil crash that’s forcing companies to slash billions from their budgets and cut tens of thousands of workers is derailing an industry campaign to attract top college graduates. It comes at a time when the future of drilling is increasingly tied to new technology that lets companies pull more oil and natural gas from the ground, faster and cheaper.

As Google abandons its past, Internet archivists step in to save our collective memory

Andy Baio:

Google wrote its mission statement in 1999, a year after launch, setting the course for the company’s next decade:

“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

For years, Google’s mission included the preservation of the past.

In 2001, Google made their first acquisition, the Deja archives. The largest collection of Usenet archives, Google relaunched it as Google Groups, supplemented with archived messages going back to 1981.

Change may be difficult, but One Newark plan is worthwhile

Cami Anderson:

I recently had an opportunity to engage with state legislators on a range of topics affecting students in Newark. I sincerely appreciated a forum where decorum was upheld, questions could be answered, and tough, frank dialogue could occur. Our children’s lives depend on our ability to deliver radically better results than we have to date. That requires difficult conversations and a willingness to confront dysfunctional past practices.

Change is hard. Breaking down and rebuilding a failed bureaucracy requires tough decisions – ones about which reasonable people can disagree. I left the hearing asking myself how we can move forward together to find ways to ensure equity while building excellent public schools, and how we can deepen our connection with families in Newark and those that represent them.

Newspapers Persecute Schools For Enforcing The Rules

Teaching Battleground:

I’m sure I’ve moaned about this before, but the Daily Mail often annoys me with its hypocrisy about school discipline. It seems to run two, contradictory, types of stories on school discipline. The first type is the “school discipline is not strict enough” story. Here are some examples of Daily Mail stories either calling for better discipline or reporting sympathetically on others doing so (found after Googling “Daily Mail School Discipline” and “Daily Mail Behaviour in Schools”):

More than 25% of students at Minnesota’s colleges must take remedial classes

Beth Hawkins, Tom Nehil and Alan Palazzolo:

In high school, Latasha Gandy was an academic star. She had a GPA of 4.2 and graduated second in her class from St. Paul Public Schools’ now-defunct Arlington High School.

But when Gandy went to enroll in college, she got a rude surprise. She needed to retake classes she’d aced in high school. She needed a costly year and a half of English and more than a year of math — for no credit.

“I remember feeling when I made it there like, ‘How can this happen?’ ” says Gandy. “I had all these thoughts about did I belong here? And everything I was hearing from my community about black people didn’t go to college.”

Not only would Gandy have to pay for the remedial, or “developmental,” classes, she wouldn’t get any credit. So there’d be no chance she could graduate in four years — especially problematic since she has two daughters to support.

Gandy eventually made it through, earning an associate’s degree as a paralegal at Inver Hills Community College and a B.A. in legal studies at Metropolitan State University. But at tremendous expense.

Opening the archives: a significant development

Brian Tarran:

Significance was launched in March 2004 with a clear remit: to demonstrate the importance of statistics and the contributions it makes in all areas of life. As founding editor Helen Joyce put it:

‘Significance is not intended to be a self-congratulatory advertisement for the statistician, but rather a medium for accessing a profession which much of the general public still consider dull and grey and unfathomable.’
Articles were to be written for a broad audience: not just statisticians, but anyone with an interest in the analysis and interpretation of data. Accessibility was – and still is – our watchword.

Improve Vocabulary – 5 Words

Practical Knowledge Apps:

5 Words app helps you in improving your vocabulary. The app sends you 5 new words to learn everyday. Learn new words, learn and improve your English today.

Remember….whenever you asked someone the best method to improve your vocabulary, what did they tell you? Learn 5 words a day. 5 words app send you 5 new words everyday with translation in multiple languages so that you can easily learn the new words.

Public engagement: hidden costs for research careers?

Richard Watermeyer:

It is often assumed that academics’ efforts to engage the public are inherently a good thing.

The Public Understanding of Science movement has long backed the idea that the public must be included in science governance if science is to achieve openness, transparency and accountability, and that this approach helps to preserve public trust and confidence in science, or restore it where it has been lost or fractured.

Over the years, there has been a shift in emphasis from communication and understanding to dialogue and debate, captured by the term “public engagement”. This has come to symbolise a wider shift in higher education from universities as “ivory towers” to universities as transparent, porous, public institutions. Public engagement is touted by its advocates as a means with which to mobilise and empower the public and academe through a two-way relationship of trust, respect and interdependency, leading to collaboration and even co-production. These are honourable ambitions, which the academic community would do well to be guided by.

Teacher Evaluations Still Need to Be Better

:

In the past few years, more states have incorporated student success as part of teacher evaluation systems. However, as TNTP reports on its blog, implementation is not measuring up to policy, and in most cases evaluations don’t offer enough meaningful feedback or put forth specific criteria by which to measure teachers.

Overwhelmingly positive evaluation results teachers continue to receive aren’t helping teachers, either. The primary purpose of evaluation should be to lay out clear performance standards and provide fair, accurate feedback on performance against those standards to help teachers improve. Our best teachers want that feedback. When virtually all teachers are told they don’t need to improve, no one wins.

China Communist Party magazine blasts professors who spread ‘Western values’

Minnie Chan:

The Communist party’s influential magazine Qiushi Journal yesterday lashed out at university professors for defaming China by spreading Western values, raising concerns about academic freedom on the mainland.

A commentary by Xu Lan, an official with the publicity office of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, and posted on Qiushi’s website, criticised Peking University legal professor He Weifang for defaming the mainland’s legal system through promoting “the rule of law” on Weibo.

Xu also assailed well-known painter Chen Danqing, who also uses his Weibo account to criticise the current state of civil society on the mainland while glossing over US culture. Chen appeared to be “inducing Chinese people to go to the US”, Xu wrote.

Chen, a former art lecturer at Tsinghua University, is well-known for lampooning the differences between the legal and civil systems of the mainland and Western countries.

“It will be a disaster if we fail to set up standards and a bottom line to prevent high school and university teachers spreading Western values through internet platforms to defame our communist ideology,” Xu wrote.

He Weifang said that compared with former leaders like Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, who keenly promoted the concept of rule of law and constitutional government before the party came to power in 1949 after the civil war.

The children of the rich and powerful are increasingly well suited to earning wealth and power themselves. That’s a problem

The Economist:

“MY BIG fear,” says Paul Ryan, an influential Republican congressman from Wisconsin, is that America is losing sight of the notion that “the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life.” “Opportunity,” according to Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, “is slipping away.” Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida, thinks that “each element” of the sequence that leads to success “is eroding in our country.” “Of course you have to work hard, of course you have to take responsibility,” says Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, “but we are making it so difficult for people who do those things to feel that they are going to achieve the American dream.” When discussing the chances of ordinary Americans rising to the top, politicians who agree about little else sound remarkably similar.

Before the word meritocracy was coined by Michael Young, a British sociologist and institutional entrepreneur, in the 1950s there was a different name for the notion that power, success and wealth should be distributed according to talent and diligence, rather than by accident of birth: American. For sure, America has always had rich and powerful families, from the floor of the Senate to the boardrooms of the steel industry. But it has also held more fervently than any other country the belief that all comers can penetrate that elite as long as they have talent, perseverance and gumption. At times when that has not been the case Americans have responded with authentic outrage, surmising that the people at the top are, as Nick Carraway said, “a rotten crowd”, with bootlegging Gatsby better than the whole damn bunch put together.

Testing Time: Jeb Bush’s educational experiment

Alex MacGillis:

That year, Bush found a compatible source for ideas on education when he joined the board of the Heritage Foundation, which was generating papers and proposals to break up what it viewed as the government-run monopoly of the public-school system through free-market competition, with charters and private-school vouchers. Bush found school choice philosophically appealing. “Competition means everybody gets better,” he said.

He enlisted Fair to help promote a state law authorizing charter schools, which, unlike vouchers, were gaining some Democratic supporters, including President Bill Clinton, who saw them as a way to allow educators to innovate within the public-school system. The law passed in 1996, with bipartisan support, and that year Bush and Fair founded the first charter school in the state—an elementary school in an impoverished, largely African-American section of Miami, called the Liberty City Charter School. Bush brought his mother in for classroom visits and dropped by unannounced to make sure that things were running smoothly. If he found wastepaper lying around, he’d leave it on the desk of the principal, Katrina Wilson-Davis. The message was clear, she recalls: “Just because kids are poor and at risk doesn’t mean that their environment shouldn’t be clean and orderly.”

How to Build a Better Learner

Gary Stix:

Eight-month-old Lucas Kronmiller has just had the surface of his largely hairless head fitted with a cap of 128 electrodes. A research assistant in front of him is frantically blowing bubbles to entertain him. But Lucas seems calm and content. He has, after all, come here, to the Infancy Studies Laboratory at Rutgers University, repeatedly since he was just four months old, so today is nothing unusual. He—like more than 1,000 other youngsters over the past 15 years—is helping April A. Benasich and her colleagues to find out whether, even at the earliest age, it is possible to ascertain if a child will go on to experience difficulties in language that will prove a burdensome handicap when first entering elementary school.

Benasich is one of a cadre of researchers who have been employing brain-recording techniques to understand the essential processes that underlie learning. The new science of neuroeducation seeks the answers to questions that have always perplexed cognitive psychologists and pedagogues.

How, for instance, does a newborn’s ability to process sounds and images relate to the child’s capacity to learn letters and words a few years later? What does a youngster’s ability for staying mentally focused in preschool mean for later academic success? What can educators do to foster children’s social skills—also vital in the classroom? Such studies can complement the wealth of knowledge established by psychological and educational research programs.