Category Archives: Governance/Board Decision Making

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.

Finding cheaters using multiple-choice comparisons

Jonathan Dishoff:

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


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).

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.

Indiana School Choice Report

Indiana Department of Education (PDF):

This is the 2015 update to the Choice Scholarship Program Annual Report originally released on January 27, 2014. This version of the report includes updates for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years.
The report provides an overview of the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program, which was passed as part of House Enrolled Act 1003-2011(Public Law 92-2011) and provides Choice Scholarships to students in households that meet income and eligibility requirements. The program provides funds to assist with the payment of tuition and fees at a participating Choice School.

For the 2011-2012 school year, Choice Scholarships were limited to 7,500 students. For the 2012-2013 school year, Choice Scholarships were limited to 15,000 students. Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, the student cap was removed and Choice Scholarships were available to any student that met eligibility and income requirements. During the 2013 Session of the Indiana General Assembly, the program was further expanded to include eligibility components related to special education, siblings, and failing schools.

Information on the School Choice Program may be found in I.C. 20-51, 512 IAC 3, and 512 IAC 4 or by accessing information on the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) website at the following link

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.

Teacher Union Lobbying: “We’re saying, ‘OK. We used to have sway top down and the only way we get back there again is to educate people at the local level.’”

Molly Beck:

Either way, membership is down more than 50 percent from the union’s 98,000-member levels before Gov. Scott Walker signed his signature legislation in 2011 that significantly diminished collective bargaining rights for most public employees.

WEAC’s lobbying dollars have dropped dramatically, too.

A decade ago, WEAC spent $1.5 million on lobbying during the 2005-2006 legislative session, state records show. The next session: $1.1 million. During the two sessions leading up to the passage of Act 10, WEAC spent $2.5 million and $2.3 million, respectively.

But during the 2013-14 session, after Walker signed the bill into law, the union spent just $175,540. It was the first time in at least 10 years that the union was not among the state’s top 12 lobbying spenders, according to the Government Accountability Board.

“That has a big effect on the political landscape,” said Mike McCabe, former executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks political spending. “They often were the No. 1 lobbying spender among interest groups and they obviously don’t have the capacity to do that anymore.”

But Brey said it’s part of a strategy that WEAC was working on before Act 10. She said instead of relying on a lobbyist, the local focus is more effective because legislators have to explain their votes in their communities.
“At some point you have to look someone in the eye and explain just what you’re doing to their neighborhood public school and why,” she said.

Related: $1,570,000 for four Wisconsin Senators.

I’m glad that Ms. Beck included spending data.

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:

A quick look at Dane County, WI K-12 Budgets and Redistributed State Tax Dollars


Mahoney, director of business and technology services at the McFarland School District, said in an email to district staff that a budget deficit of between $500,000 and $1 million is likely for the next school year, which includes keeping a 3 percent wage increase and expecting a 7 percent health insurance cost increase.

I appreciate the “total spending” data included with the article, along with McFarland’s healthcare spending increase. Changes over time would be quite useful as well.

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.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Confusing Politics of Pensions and Hedge Funds

Chad Alderman:

Morgan Housel has a fantastic piece in The Motley Fool imagining a conversation between two hedge fund managers. It tells a pretty accurate, and damning, story of hedge funds’ under-performance, high fees, and general lack of transparency.

Most people, and especially most teachers, don’t personally invest in hedge funds. To them, hedge funds may be some sort of a distant and poorly understood creature of Wall Street. But one of Housel’s hedge fund managers says that, “We’re basically a conduit between public pension funds and Greenwich real estate agents.” The other fellow says “Cheers to that.”

Wait, what? Teacher pension plans are heavily invested in hedge funds? Yes, yes they are. Teacher pension plans and other public-sector pension funds have dramatically ramped up their investments in hedge funds and other forms of private equity over the last 30 years. In fact, pension funds in both the public and private sector are becoming some of the hedge fund industry’s most dependable clients!

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.

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.


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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

Contract teaching at a Canadian University

Andrew Robinson:

Today, I had a perfectly reasonable request from a student who wanted to review an exam from last term. I was unable to comply with this request because to do so would be to give my employer more of my time for free. As a dedicated teacher, I am extremely sad about this, because I would like to give my students the very best learning experience that I possibly can.

So what makes a mild-mannered Physics instructor turn into a seething rebel? The blunt answer is that I, along with many of my colleagues in Higher Education in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia are being shamelessly exploited by our employers. We do not have permanent jobs, we have to eke out an existence by patching together many temporary contracts to try and earn enough to survive on. We go by many different names — in Canada we are Contract Instructors or Sessional Lecturers. In the US, Adjunct Professors. We are highly qualified, I have a PhD, and often have experience outside academia. I have worked as a scientist or scientific programmer in the nuclear engineering industry and in the biosciences sector. This counts for little.

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.

Governance Diversity: Measure would allow tech colleges to run charter high schools

Erin Richards:

Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges could establish independent charter high schools staffed by college instructors, under a proposal being circulated by two Republican lawmakers that aims to better prepare students for the workforce.

Rep. Tom Weatherston (R-Racine) says charter high schools focused on occupational education or technology could attract students who would not otherwise be college-bound and help them attain the skills Wisconsin employers need.

His vision, outlined in a draft bill he and Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) are circulating for cosponsorship, is to allow students to attend a charter high school run by the tech college for four years, then continue in the college to earn an associate degree after just one more year.

“There are a lot of young people in my district lacking the knowledge that technical education is out there,” Weatherston said. “Especially with the current systems, they’re required to graduate high school before they can get into technical programs.”

Options already exist for Wisconsin high school students to take classes at technical colleges, though Weatherston counters that some districts don’t let students participate in them.

More broadly, the potential bill would be the latest proposal aimed at expanding public charter schools in Wisconsin that operate independently of traditional school districts — something public-school supporters have opposed.

Gov. Scott Walker’s 2015-’17 budget proposal calls for creating a different avenue to spawn more independent charter schools: a new state board that would authorize nonprofit entities to oversee such schools around the state.

He made the same proposal in his previous biennial budget.

A failed Republican-backed bill last session would have allowed all the University of Wisconsin System campuses, plus technical colleges and regional state education agencies to approve operators to open charter schools.

Generally, teachers unions and many district administrators are not on board with these ideas. That’s because independent charter schools are public schools run like small businesses, with nonunion employees that don’t answer to local school boards.

Critics say that the schools divert students, and by extension, state revenue, away from traditional public schools they would have otherwise attended.

Advocates say without so much government bureaucracy, independent charters can be more innovative than a typical public school.

While lots of districts operate their own charter schools staffed by district employees, independent charters exist only around the Milwaukee area currently.

Most answer to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee or the City of Milwaukee. State law also allows UW-Parkside to authorize charter schools.

One technical college, Milwaukee Area Technical College, can as well, but MATC has never exercised that authority.

One unusual aspect of the Weatherston-Wanggaard idea is that it would have the tech colleges run the charter high schools themselves, rather than overseeing a charter-school management company to run the potential high school.

The bill would allow instructors at the college to teach at the high school, ostensibly without a state teaching license typically required of K-12 educators.

Weatherston said tech-based charter high schools could offer programming relevant to careers such as dental hygienist or HVAC technician.

He said general education classes could have a technical career focus, such as math for bookkeeping.

“I think we should keep it broad-based and allow the market to drive what kind of curriculum they offer,” he said.

But some educators worry about autonomy.

“Communities deserve to have local control over their schools, and this proposal appears to allow high schools to be dropped into their towns without input,” Betsy Kippers, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said in a statement Tuesday.

Options already exist for high school students to take occupational or technical education classes at local colleges.

The Legislature last session also approved a new program called Course Options that lets students at all grade levels take up to two classes at a time from approved educational institutions outside their home school, at no cost.

Approved institutions include the University of Wisconsin System institutions and state technical colleges.

Waukesha County Technical College started a special program two years ago that allows local high school seniors to apply to spend a portion of their day taking credit-bearing classes in areas such as welding, metal fabrication, and printing and publishing. Students admitted to the program don’t have to pay for the college classes. State Superintendent Tony Evers is scheduled to visit that program at WCTC Dual Enrollment Academy on Wednesday.

Some districts have even started their own specialty schools to meet that niche. LakeView Technology Academy is a specialty high school in the Kenosha Unified School District that allows students to earn up to the equivalent of one year of tech college credits and one semester of engineering credits upon graduation.

About Erin Richards
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Erin Richards covers K-12 education in urban and suburban Milwaukee, as well as state politics related to education issues.

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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.

Why Scott Walker’s allegedly mistaken attempt to change the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement is an omen for big changes to higher education in America

Alia Wong:

Last Wednesday, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker released a biennium budget plan that had a strange twist nestled inside. This line item didn’t have much, if anything, to do with how he intended to spend the state’s money; it had no numbers, dollar signs, nor provisos. It did, however, deal ever-so-vaguely with Wisconsin’s economy—at least, what Walker envisioned it would look like down the line and how higher education would make that happen.

Walker proposed to rewrite the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement. He apparently wanted to strip out its frills (stuff like “extended training,” “public service,” improving “the human condition,” and “the search for truth”) and inject it with a more practical goal: meeting “the state’s workforce needs.”

Change is inevitable.

The Paradoxes of Education Reform Critics: “asymmetric incompetency”

Adam Ozimek:

There’s a lot of important, nuanced debate to be had between the most optimistic education reformers and those who are more skeptical. But I think there are many, though of course not all, on the education reform critic side who tie themselves in knots telling inconsistent stories about education in this country. So here are the most common paradoxes of that movement. This isn’t to say those who criticize some or even many aspects of education reform embody all these paradoxes, but I would argue they are relatively common. I think education reform critics spend a lot of times opposing individual policies or ideas or changes, and so it is hard to tie all of those disparate criticisms together into a coherent vision that also explains what education policy should be. These paradoxes, I would argue, identify a problem.

1. Administrators can’t be trusted with firing, but are perfect at hiring.

One of the arguments for lots of job protections in schools is that you can’t trust administrators to decide who to fire. If you give them discretion, they will fire good teachers who they don’t like, or who do anything other than toe the administration line, or for other cronyism reasons. On the other hand, we are told that firing more teachers won’t solve anything because we most teachers are good at their job or at the most just need more coaching. So while we can’t trust administrators to fire competently, we also have arrived at a place where their hiring decisions involve impeccable foresight to never make a bad hiring decision. It’s a strange paradox of asymmetric incompetency.

The Myth of Charter-School ‘Cherry Picking’

Eva Moskovitz:

There is a concept called the big lie, which holds that if you repeat a falsehood long enough and loudly enough, people will begin to believe it. Sadly, fearing the success of charter schools in New York City, the United Federation of Teachers and other education-reform opponents have been telling a big lie for years.

The UFT and its backers have kept up a steady drumbeat of false claims against charter schools in New York City: Charters cherry-pick their students, push out those who need extra support, and generally falsify their impressive results. Well, a recent report from New York City’s Independent Budget Office, a publicly funded, nonpartisan agency, proves that these accusations are false. Unfortunately, New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña is among those city officials who believe the big lie.

Uncovering Security Flaws in Digital Education Products for Schoolchildren

Natasha Singer:

“A lot of education sites have glaring security problems,” said Mr. Porterfield, the principal engineer at a software start-up in Los Altos, Calif. “A big part of the problem is that there’s not even any consensus of what ‘good security’ means for an educational website or app.”

Contacted last week by a reporter, John Campbell, the chief executive of the Cambium Learning Group, the company behind, said that his company took privacy very seriously and that the site did not store sensitive personal details like student addresses or phone numbers.

“We are confident that we have taken the necessary steps to protect all student and teacher data at all times and comply with all federal and state laws,” Mr. Campbell wrote in an emailed statement.

Many schools use Google’s cloud products. Google’s business model mines data to sell ads…

K-12 Tax, Spending & Referendum Climate: The Legacy of Debt: Interest Costs Poised to Surpass Defense and Nondefense Discretionary Spending

Josh Zumbrun:

The U.S. has come a long way since the days of trillion-dollar deficits, just a few years ago. The White House projects 2016 will have the smallest budget deficit in eight years. Yet the budgetary impact of the debt that’s been accumulated–$18 trillion in total, $13 trillion of that owed to the public–will reassert itself.

Currently, the government’s interest costs are around $200 billion a year, a sum that’s low due to the era of low interest rates.

Forecasters at the White House and Congressional Budget Office believe interest rates will gradually rise, and when that happens, the interest costs of the U.S. government are set to soar, from just over $200 billion to nearly $800 billion a year by decade’s end.

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%.

When Children With Autism Grow Up

Bob Plantenberg:

The heat that afternoon was intense. Weather maps across Iowa were deep red, and warnings flashed across the screen. A high school football player on the other side of the state had died from heat exhaustion the week before. Cornfields wilted and shrank into hills of despondent brown.

I was running late as I parked and shuffled to a dilapidated satellite classroom building. I introduced myself to a teacher sitting at a desk and told him that I was there to meet a 21-year-old man named “Scooter” — a childhood nickname, I’d later learn, that had stuck. (I’ve changed all names and some details to protect him and to comply with privacy laws.) I needed a summer job after my first year of grad school, and he needed staff.

My experience with autism had been limited to movies and anecdotes from friends who worked in “the field” — care industry shorthand for post-institutional residential and community-living nonprofits supporting people with developmental disabilities. (“We’re always looking,” the agency had said, and hired me without any sort of drug screening and a cursory, astonishingly fast background check. The drug screening was my only concern while filling out applications.)

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.

School Vouchers have new champions on the Hill

Maggie Severns:

At Republicans’ recent retreat, Messer listened to GOP strategist Alex Castellanos promote school choice as one of a handful of issues that should make up a new agenda for the party.

“I thought, oh gosh — maybe I’m onto something here,” Messer said.

School choice has always been a hard sell in Washington: GOP lawmakers from rural states and those with powerful unions don’t stand to gain much from pushing the issue. In wealthier districts, too, parents may not feel they have much to gain if they are satisfied with their well-funded public schools. Other members of Congress don’t see why it’s worth the time.

“It’s an interesting challenge: Republicans believe this will be good for vulnerable kids and kids that need help,” said Frederick Hess, education policy director at the American Enterprise Institute. “But it’s also a fact that their local superintendents, and school boards, and kids, and parents are saying, ‘We don’t think this is a good idea’ in many cases.”

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.

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.” ]

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.

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.

States weigh turning education funds over to parents

Stephanie Simon:

A radical new concept in school choice will come up for vote in at least a half-dozen states from Virginia to Oklahoma in the coming months, as lawmakers consider giving hundreds of thousands of parents the freedom to design a custom education for their children — at taxpayer expense.

Twenty-one states already subsidize tuition at private schools through vouchers or tax credits. The new programs promise far more flexibility, but critics fear they could also lead to waste or abuse as taxpayers underwrite do-it-yourself educations with few quality controls.

Called Education Savings Accounts, the programs work like this: The state deposits the funds it would have spent educating a given child in public schools into a bank account controlled by his parents. The parents can use those funds — the amount ranges from $5,000 to more than $30,000 a year — to pay for personal tutors, homeschooling workbooks, online classes, sports team fees and many types of therapy, including horseback riding lessons for children with disabilities. They can also spend the money on private school tuition or save some of it for college.

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.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The College Loan Bombshell Hidden in the Budget Obama’s new repayment program comes with a record $22 billion shortfall.

Michael Grunwald:

In obscure data tables buried deep in its 2016 budget proposal, the Obama administration revealed this week that its student loan program had a $21.8 billion shortfall last year, apparently the largest ever recorded for any government credit program.

The main cause of the shortfall was President Barack Obama’s recent efforts to provide relief for borrowers drowning in student debt, reforms that have already begun to reduce loan payments to the government. For more than two decades, budget analysts have recalculated the projected costs of about 120 credit programs every year, but they have never lowered their expectations of repayments this dramatically. The $21.8 billion revision—larger than the annual budget for NASA, or the Interior Department and EPA combined—will be tacked onto the federal deficit.

“Wow,” marveled Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Whether or not it’s good policy to help borrowers with their payments, it’s obviously costly for taxpayers.”

The 40 million Americans with student loans are now saddled with more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding debt. And with higher education costs rising much faster than inflation, the already massive program has been growing at a spectacular clip; direct government loans alone increased 44 percent over the last two years despite an aura of austerity in Washington. The Obama administration has tried to ease the burden for some borrowers by reducing their payments to 10 percent of their income and forgiving their loans after 20 years; this year, the Education Department plans to make all borrowers eligible for that “pay-as-you-earn” relief.

K-12 Tax, Spending & Referendum Climate: Global Debt has risen by $57 Trillion Since the Financial Crisis

Neil Irwin:

Here are two things we know about how debt affects the economy.

First, in the abstract it doesn’t matter. For every debtor there is a creditor, and in theory an economy should be able to hum along just fine whether a country’s citizens have a great deal of debt or none. A company’s ability to produce things depends on the workers and machines it employs, not the composition of its balance sheet, and the same can be said of nations.

Second, in practice this is completely wrong, and debt plays an outsize role in creating boom-bust cycles across the world and through history. High debt increases the amplitude of economic swings. To think of it in terms of the corporate metaphor, high reliance on borrowed money may not affect a company’s level of output in theory, but makes it a great deal more vulnerable to bankruptcy.

Political Posturing

Karen Herzog:

UW System leaders also lobbied for up to $200 million in one-time state money “until we have full tuition authority.” That would have reduced the cut to $100 million over two years, instead of the $300 million Walker will propose when he releases full details of his budget Tuesday.

In mid-November, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank contacted a top Walker donor and friend of UW-Madison to seek his help, according to an email she sent Nov. 15 to the UW System’s key communications and political strategist, Jim Villa, Vice Chancellor for University Relations.

Blank referred to the donor, Mike Shannon, as “one of our best friends and donors” and said she planned to fly with him and “other UW-Madison folks” to the Packers game the next day, adding “Scott and Tonette Walker are supposed to be along on the trip as well.”

Shannon is founder of KSL Capital Partners LLC in Denver,

and a board member for the University of Wisconsin Foundation.

“As he said to me, ‘I’ve been a really big donor to the Wi Republican party, but I’ve never asked anything of them since I live outside the state,'” Blank recounted to Villa.

In another email exchange between Villa and UW System President Ray Cross on Jan. 8, Villa outlined budget projections, the political landscape and strategies and options intended to be used as “notes for regent phone calls.”

“Our political strategies over the decade have varied in style and purpose from collaborative to hostile,” Villa said in the email. “We have tried to engage, cajole, prod, threaten, beg, and even initiate a statewide marketing effort. Yet, we have lost influence and suffered continuous budget cuts.”

Villa noted that UW over the past year had worked “to more tightly connect some aspects of the university to the state economy.” While those efforts received positive comments, he said, “when the state’s budget projections became dismal, our request to invest in and help to rebuild the economy of the state was tossed aside… We need a new strategy!”

K-12 Tax, Referendum & Spending Climate

John Judis:

Jerry is in his late 50s. He is a sales representative in Southern Maryland for a multinational corporation. He has a college degree and makes about $80,000 a year. He considers himself a “moderate Democrat.” He voted for Obama in 2008 and O’Malley in 2010. He says of Obama in 2008, “He was a breath of fresh air.” But after Obama became president, Jerry became disillusioned. He didn’t like Obama’s stimulus program. “I really think Obama messed up with all the money that we were giving out,” he said. He suspects that both Obama and O’Malley primarily gave the money to “their constituencies”—most notably, labor unions. In 2012, Jerry voted for Romney, whom he admired as a “businessman.” In 2014, he voted for Hogan. Taxes were an important reason. “Every year I seemed to pay more with Maryland state taxes,” he explained. “I am not happy with what is happening with the taxes. I don’t seem to be getting anything more from them.” Brown, he feared, would continue along the same line as O’Malley. “Hogan seemed to have the message,” he said.

Connie is in her mid-40s, a college graduate and a paralegal at a property-management firm. She lives in north Baltimore County. She was a Democrat until a month before last November’s election, and she voted for Obama in 2008 and O’Malley in 2010. In 2012, having become disillusioned with Obama, she voted for Romney. “I was disenchanted. [Obama] made a lot of promises. I have just seen our country turn around and go backwards,” she said. “I work in property management. The number of young people living on entitlement programs is overwhelming to me. I have seen it increase as never before.” Last November, she voted for Hogan. “I was upset with the number of taxes that I was being hit with as a single parent,” she explained. “We are overspending, and someone needs to get a handle on it, and perhaps a businessman was the best person to do that.” Connie supports abortion rights, but she thought Brown misrepresented Hogan’s position. “Hogan is not for repealing anything,” she said. She characterized Brown’s attempt to paint Hogan as a foe of abortion rights as a “political jab.” Hogan’s antiabortion position “didn’t bother me,” she said.

James is in his early 30s, a college graduate and a coordinator of services at a university in Southern Maryland. He lives in Howard County. He is one of the millennial voters on whom Democrats have rested their hopes. He voted for Obama twice and O’Malley in 2010, but in 2014, he backed Hogan. “I didn’t entirely like Hogan,” James said. “But I liked the idea of reining in spending.” He also thinks there was “some point” to Hogan’s attack on Brown as a tax-hiker. “The important thing with Brown is that he was likely to spend money. That would mean more taxes,” he said. James rejects the idea that Republicans are antigovernment. “Republicans are skeptical of government,” he told me.

Education minister warns against “wrong Western values”


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:

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).

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?

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.”

K-12 Tax, Spending and Referendum Climate: Middle Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up

Dionne Searcey & Robert Gebelhoff:

The middle class that President Obama identified in his State of the Union speech last week as the foundation of the American economy has been shrinking for almost half a century.

In the late 1960s, more than half of the households in the United States were squarely in the middle, earning, in today’s dollars, $35,000 to $100,000 a year. Few people noticed or cared as the size of that group began to fall, because the shift was primarily caused by more Americans climbing the economic ladder into upper-income brackets.

But since 2000, the middle-class share of households has continued to narrow, the main reason being that more people have fallen to the bottom. At the same time, fewer of those in this group fit the traditional image of a married couple with children at home, a gap increasingly filled by the elderly.

University Of Texas Looks To Limit Administrative Bloat

Tom Lindsay:

Bill McRaven, the new Chancellor of the University of Texas System, has announced his intention to take a “hard look” at administrative expenses on the System’s fifteen campuses. Given the research demonstrating the decades-long explosion in administrative personnel and expenses nationwide, McRaven’s hard look promises to expose some even-harder truths about the phenomenon commonly referred to as university “administrative bloat.”

Benjamin Ginsberg’s 2011 book on the subject, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters, came as a thunderclap to the world of higher education. Forty years ago, reports Ginsberg, “U.S. colleges employed more faculty than administrators. But today, teachers make up less than half of college employees.” “Forty years ago, the efforts of 446,830 professors were supported by 268,952 administrators and staff. Since then, the number of full-time professors increased slightly more than 50 percent, while the number of administrators and administrative staffers increased 85 percent and 240 percent, respectively.” Adjusting for inflation, from 1947 to 1995, “overall university spending increased 148 percent. Administrative spending, though, increased by a whopping 235 percent. Instructional spending, by contrast, increased only 128 percent, 20 points less than the overall rate of spending increase.” Senior administrators have done particularly well under the new regime. From 1998 to 2003, deans and vice presidents saw their salaries increase as much as 50 percent, and “by 2007, the median salary paid to a president of a doctoral degree-granting institution was $325,000.”

Doing the Math on Teacher Pensions: How to Protect Teachers and Taxpayers


Doing the Math on Teacher Pensions: How to Protect Teachers and Taxpayers challenges the claims of pension boards and other groups about the cost-effectiveness, fairness and flexibility of the traditional defined benefit pension plans still in place in 38 states. The report includes a report card on each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia with a detailed analysis of state teacher pension policies.

Also, the State Teacher Policy Dashboard has additional state specific and national overview information on pension systems.

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.

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.

Library Visit, Then Held at Gunpoint

Charles Blow:

Saturday evening, I got a call that no parent wants to get. It was my son calling from college — he’s a third-year student at Yale. He had been accosted by a campus police officer, at gunpoint!

This is how my son remembers it:

He left for the library around 5:45 p.m. to check the status of a book he had requested. The book hadn’t arrived yet, but since he was there he put in a request for some multimedia equipment for a project he was working on.

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.”

Obama goes where the money is to pay for ‘free’ education programs – your savings account.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds:

Bank robber Willie Sutton is said to have explained his career this way: “That’s where the money is.” Whether Sutton ever really said that, it’s an aphorism that, according to Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle, explains President Obama’s plans to go after middle class assets like 529 college savings plans and home appreciation.

Though millions of Americans have been putting money into “tax free” 529 plans to save for their children’s increasingly expensive college educations, President Obama would change the law so that withdrawals from the plans to fund college would be taxed as ordinary income. So while you used to be able to get a nice tax benefit by saving for college, now you’ll be shelling out to Uncle Sam every time you withdraw to pay for Junior’s dorm fees.

This doesn’t hurt the very rich — who just pay for college out of pocket — or the poor, who get financial aid, but it’s pretty rough on the middle– and upper–middle class. In a double-whammy, those withdrawals will show up as income on parents’ income tax forms, which are used to calculate financial aid, making them look richer, and hence reducing grants.

Likewise, Obama proposes to tax the appreciation on inherited homes. When you sell property at a profit, you pay capital gains on the difference between the basis (what you paid) and what you sell it for. (Obama also proposes to increase the capital gains rate). That’s not a big issue for most middle class people, because right now if your parents leave you their house, you get what’s called a “step-up” in basis.

Peshawar massacre: Pakistan replies with ‘weaponised’ teaching


Following last month’s Taliban school massacre, Pakistan is allowing teachers to carry weapons. The BBC’s Shahzeb Jillani visits a school in Peshawar where staff are now serving as armed guards.

On a cloudy morning in January, Mohammed Iqbal is conducting a rare physical fitness class inside the courtyard of Government Higher Secondary School Number 1. The sprawling campus of the all-boys school is one of the biggest and oldest government institutions in Peshawar.

The school has a large playground for sports activities. But it’s not been much in use since the Taliban massacre at the nearby Army Public School, which killed about 150 people, mostly children.

Until that atrocity, Mr Iqbal’s main job was to plan sports activities for his pupils. He now doubles as the school’s chief security officer, with a gun tucked under his long shirt.

“It’s my personal gun which I have started carrying with me to school,” he says as he pulls out a 9mm Beretta pistol.

UK Schools Green party’s education policies are outdated and ‘total madness’ – Labour

Richard Adams:

The Green party’s education policies are “total madness” and a “flashback to the 1970s” that would most hurt the disadvantaged, says shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, in a full-throated attack that suggests Labour is concerned at the Greens’ recent opinion poll improvement.

In an interview with the Guardian, Labour’s Hunt said scrutiny of the Greens’ education policies revealed them to be attempting to turn back the clock on policies such as school improvement and accountability that had proven to be successful in state schools in England.

Illinois Says Rule-Breaking Students Must Give Teachers Their Facebook Passwords

Jason Koebler:

Update, 1/22/15: The Triad district has sent out a press release with more information about when it would ask for a student’s social media password. The full​ letter suggests there has been misinformation in the press but does not refute anything Motherboard has reported. More about the letter can be found at the bottom of this post.

School districts in Illinois are telling parents that a new law may require school officials to demand the social media passwords of students if they are suspected in cyberbullying cases or are otherwise suspected of breaking school rules.

The law, which went into effect on January 1, defines cyberbullying and makes harassment on Facebook, Twitter, or via other digital means a violation of the state’s school code, even if the bullying happens outside of school hours.

A letter sent out to parents in the Triad Community Unit School District #2, a district located just over the Missouri-Illinois line near St. Louis, that was obtained by Motherboard says that school officials can demand students give them their passwords. The full letter is embedded below.

“If your child has an account on a social networking website, e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,, etc., please be aware that State law requires school authorities to notify you that your child may be asked to provide his or her password for these accounts to school officials in certain circumstances,” the letter says.

Commentary on Indefinite Tenure

Dan Subotnik:

A specter haunting the academy today is of an intellectually wizened white male professoriate refusing to step aside for au courant, energetic, ambitious, and of course diverse younger faculty. Part of a larger concern with tenure itself, the fear in question is that tenured old-timers, of which I am one, are holding fast to financial and administrative perks, limiting institutional control and stifling institutional development in the process.

Sometimes the fear is expressed openly. Intractable seniors, according to a recent, widely debated Chronicle Review post (“The Forever Professors”) often “crush the young” through their “selfish[ness].” A law school colleague argues that, having enjoyed our share of university bounty, responsible seniors should facilitate succession by quickly and gracefully exiting the stage. Such a development might be contrasted with what is actually happening today: seniors in effect extorting rich buyouts to retire.

More of the time, of course, the critique is not explicit. Yet who among us seniors has not felt the sting of “what are you still doing here, gramps” looks from junior law faculty and deans?

A visceral response to critics may be tempting here, but we must show our maturity. Beating up the young for impertinence would show both ignorance and hypocrisy. Inter-generational, oedipal struggle, we have learned, is the way of the world, and, it must be admitted, many of us felt the same way 30 years ago about our predecessors in law. They would never have gotten their jobs in the competitive environment of 1985, we self-righteously told ourselves, just like we would not get ours in today’s environment, when two good law review articles are required just for a job interview.

Education and class: America’s new aristocracy

The Economist:

WHEN the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination line up on stage for their first debate in August, there may be three contenders whose fathers also ran for president. Whoever wins may face the wife of a former president next year. It is odd that a country founded on the principle of hostility to inherited status should be so tolerant of dynasties. Because America never had kings or lords, it sometimes seems less inclined to worry about signs that its elite is calcifying.

Thomas Jefferson drew a distinction between a natural aristocracy of the virtuous and talented, which was a blessing to a nation, and an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, which would slowly strangle it. Jefferson himself was a hybrid of these two types—a brilliant lawyer who inherited 11,000 acres and 135 slaves from his father-in-law—but the distinction proved durable. When the robber barons accumulated fortunes that made European princes envious, the combination of their own philanthropy, their children’s extravagance and federal trust-busting meant that Americans never discovered what it would be like to live in a country where the elite could reliably reproduce themselves.

Now they are beginning to find out, (see article), because today’s rich increasingly pass on to their children an asset that cannot be frittered away in a few nights at a casino. It is far more useful than wealth, and invulnerable to inheritance tax. It is brains.

America is one of only three advanced countries where the government spends more on schools in rich areas than in poor ones. Its university fees have risen 17 times as fast as median incomes since 1980, partly to pay for pointless bureaucracy and flashy buildings. And many universities offer “legacy” preferences, favouring the children of alumni in admissions.

Many schools are in the grip of one of the most anti-meritocratic forces in America: the teachers’ unions, which resist any hint that good teaching should be rewarded or bad teachers fired. To fix this, and the scandal of inequitable funding, the system should become both more and less local. Per-pupil funding should be set at the state level and tilted to favour the poor. Dollars should follow pupils, through a big expansion of voucher schemes or charter schools. In this way, good schools that attract more pupils will grow; bad ones will close or be taken over. Unions and their Democratic Party allies will howl, but experiments in cities such as battered New Orleans have shown that school choice works.

Familiar themes in Madison, where one size fits all reigns, while spending double the national average per student.

Most Chicago public school students who switch schools after closing “bad schools ” chose higher performing institutions

Lauren Fitzpatrick:

Though most of the 11,000 students who were pushed out when Chicago Public Schools permanently closed their schools in 2013 ended up at schools the district deemed higher-performing, a third still landed at schools with CPS’ lowest rating.

When closing a record 50 schools, CPS promised children would end up in better schools but just 20 percent of students ended up at schools with the district’s top rating, according to a new report published Thursday by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Via Molly Beck.

Look at the UK’s free school lunch policy

Andy French:

WHILE five-year-old Lewis Heudi gets a hot school meal his older brother Sebastian does not.

Staff at Woodstock Primary School can see the situation is unfair and are trying to do something about it.

But they have missed out on Government funding that would have allowed them to build new kitchen facilities to provide hot lunches for all pupils.

The county council bid to the Department for Education for about £1.1m for six schools following the government’s free school meals scheme for infants aged four to seven.

Under the government scheme, pupils across the country aged four to seven get free school meals but Key Stage Two pupils aged seven to 11 have to pay for hot lunches.

Three schools were awarded grant funding but Woodstock Primary, in Shipton Road, was not one of them.

Why lowering (UK) tuition fees is more complicated than you think

Chris Cook:

Labour is toying with the idea of fiddling with the English university tuition fees system, but doing so may have counterintuitive effects.

Early in the parliament, Labour said their preferred policy was to introduce a £6,000 upper limit on what universities in England can charge students each year – not £9,000, as it currently stands. But they haven’t committed to it – and there are a range of good reasons why they might not.

First, it would rile the universities. Labour has sought to soothe their concerns by promising university vice-chancellors it would make up the difference in their institutions’ income.

But this is probably not a good deal for the universities, who have no guarantee that this money – which could eventually increase the usual measure of public spending by around £2bn a year – would not be taken from their other state-backed budgets. Nor do they know how it would be distributed.

Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report on the Department for UK Education financial statements 2013-14

National Audit Office:

“I recognize the importance of not placing unnecessary additional burdens on the academy sector. But the inability of the Department for Education to prepare financial statements providing a true and fair view of financial activity by its group of bodies means that it is not meeting the accountability requirements of Parliament. In particular, I believe that, if the challenge posed by consolidating the accounts of so many bodies and the fact that so many have a different reporting period is to be surmounted, the Department and Treasury need to work together to find a solution.”

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 21 January 2015

Amyas Morse, the Comptroller and Auditor General, has provided an adverse opinion on the financial statements of the Department for Education. An adverse opinion indicates that he considers the level of error and uncertainty in the statements to be both material and pervasive. He has also qualified his opinion because the Department has exceeded one of its expenditure limits authorized by Parliament.

Today’s report comments on the financial management challenges faced by the Department and the impact this has on the ability of the Department and the Treasury to discharge their accountabilities to Parliament. Since 2012-13, the Department’s group financial statements have consolidated the financial statements of academy trusts, alongside those of the Department itself, its executive agencies and NDPBs. For 2013-14, there are 2,591 bodies consolidated into the group financial statements. This includes 2,585 academy trusts operating 3,905 individual academies.

Wisconsin spent $14B on education during 2014.

Hill fight on No Child Left Behind looms

Maggie Severns:

Alexander raised eyebrows last fall when he indicated he might be willing to get rid of the law’s annual testing mandate. No Child Left Behind requires schools to test students in reading and math each year from third through eighth grades and once in high school. And students must be tested in science once each in elementary, middle and high school. The tests results are used to track student progress, school performance and though not required by NCLB, in some places the scores gauge the effect teachers have on students.

Testing has become a hot-button issue and a growing number of parents are encouraging their children to refuse to take tests. The “opt-out movement” has been attributed in part to growing pressure on schools associated with the Common Core standards and new tests based on those more challenging standards.

“There needs to be more local autonomy, and what needs to change is the culture of ‘the schools can’t be trusted,’ ” said Jia Lee, a special education teacher who will testify at a Senate hearing Wednesday on federal testing requirements. Last year, more than half of students at the small public school Lee teaches at in New York City opted out of their tests, she said.

“number of non-academic administrative and professional employees at U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled in the last 25 years”

American Institutes for Research and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting:

The number of non-academic administrative and professional employees at U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled in the last 25 years, vastly outpacing the growth in the number of students or faculty, according to an analysis of federal figures. The table is sortable and searchable. Institutions that do not appear did not exist in 1987-88, or did not report this information that year.

2015 Predictions: Competency-Based Ed To Grow, Debt Could Topple Some Schools

Dian Schaffhauser:

Online learning will grow this year, but only modestly; more colleges and universities will test out competency-based assessment; and education technology will continue expanding as an industry, driven by investment capital. Those are three of the predictions for the coming year from higher education research and advisory firm Eduventures.

“By nearly every measure, 2014 was a challenging year for higher education. Enrollments fell for the third consecutive year, funding to public institutions in 48 states remained flat or declined, operating costs rose, and we saw an unprecedented increase in federal oversight, with heightened attention paid to the issue of access and affordability,” said President and CEO Tony Friscia. In the coming year, he added, “The rhetoric of 2014 will become the reality of 2015 with the proposed reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the continued emergence of new and innovative learning models, the further expansion of the technology sector and the ongoing need to clearly demonstrate outcomes.”

For parents, now begins the anxious waiting game for college financial aid

Jeffrey Selingo:

For the many high-school seniors who already have submitted their college admissions applications, the season of waiting for an acceptance letter has begun. For their parents, there’s a different anxiety-ridden waiting game: For the financial-aid offers that will spell out just how much this is all going to cost.

Paying for college is now a lot like buying a plane ticket. You have no idea how much the person sitting next to you is paying because most schools discount their tuition to maximize their enrollment numbers and revenue. It’s no different than the airlines trying to fill as many of their seats at the highest prices.

The average discount for first-year students at private colleges is now a staggering 46 percent. But who gets a discount and how big of one a student gets is less straightforward than ever before. It used to be that colleges awarded their own aid dollars based mostly on a student’s finances: the more your family made, the more you usually paid, unless you were an exceptional student the school really wanted.

But with more and more colleges widely employing the practice of “enrollment management” during the past three decades, the distribution of financial aid has become a lot less predictable. Now everyone, regardless of income, believes they deserve some sort of financial help. Half of colleges “front-load” their aid, meaning they give more to students the first year of college than in the subsequent years, hoping an emotional attachment will keep students enrolled.

Teacher of the Year: Consider What Children Need Most When Rewriting Our Nation’s Education Law

Lee-Ann Stephens:

As federal legislators spend the next few months battling over the provisions of the education law known as No Child Left Behind, I want them to consider this:

I am a veteran teacher and I want to be accountable. I want my school to be accountable. Not for some of our students. For all of them. Not for certain grades and select years. For every year and every grade currently required.

That means we can’t abandon the federal mandate that requires all states to administer one standardized test every year for all students in grades three to eight and at least once in high school. That means we can’t walk away from teacher evaluation systems that consider, in part, how much students learn in a given year from a given teacher.

Free tuition debate will reverberate into the future

Roger Boughton:

The airwaves have been filled with stories about Congress soon to debate free education at community colleges across the nation. The Minnesota State Legislature is about to bring to the table at the Capitol a debate on free tuition at Minnesota Community Colleges. It will be an interesting debate as states have gone down this road before. California had free tuition for residents at all institutions of higher education until 1969 when the model changed to a tuition based funding model with high fees. Today there are 11 institutions of higher education in the United States that offer free tuition.

They range from the College of the Ozarks to the five academies. Other than the five academies, the colleges that are free are all private institutions, other than the community colleges of Tennessee which will offer free tuition beginning in 2015.

Why free tuition? After World War II our country had a desperate need to place millions of young men returning to the country in a meaningful experience as well as thank them for a job well done. The GI Bill was introduced to pay their tuition, fees and other expenses. We were also in the middle of a transformation from an agriculture economy to an economy producing manufacturing goods, and we needed a skilled workforce. The second transformation came when Russia sent up Sputnik. The country identified the need for counselors and math and science teachers. The National Defense Act of 1959 was born, and there were programs that paid students to major at graduate school in one of the fields listed in the Act. Students coming out of Appalachia were favored. I am a product of that era in that I lived on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwest Virginia. I received stipends to obtain a graduate degree when I was married with one child. I was certainly not able to complete a degree with a growing family and attend the University full time.

The third transformation is what we are presently going through at this point in time. We are moving from the manufacturing to the digital and information age, which requires new skills for the future. Rather than use the words of free education the language that we should be using is; building a skilled based workforce for the future, providing opportunity for our future workforce rather than a dead-end job or creating a workforce that has hope rather than despair.

An upstart charter school is challenging the status quo in Clayton County. After beating the odds to open its doors, can Utopian Academy for the Arts live up to its vision?

Rebecca Burns:

The students of Utopian Academy for the Arts are being called on the carpet. Yesterday, their middle school mischief found the classic victim: a substitute teacher. The seventh-grade science room grew so loud that the classes on either side could hear the commotion through the walls.

Today, as they do every morning, the children have assembled in the cafeteria, with its red and blue cinder block walls and folding tables arranged in long rows, Hogwarts style. The whole school is here—all 180 students. The girls from Mr. Henderson’s class. The boys from Ms. Terry’s. The girls from Mr. Moore’s. The boys from Mr. Farrior’s. It is 7:55 in the morning; the school day won’t end for another eight hours, and many students will remain on campus until 6:30 p.m. This is a charter school, so Utopian Academy plays by its own set of rules. Eight-hour school days. Classes every other Saturday. A longer school year. A tougher curriculum. Dance, music, theater, and arts for all. And a rigid code of conduct.

“Good morning,” says a man from the stage. His name is Frederick A. Birkett, and he is not smiling. Birkett looks precisely how you’d imagine a former military man who went into academia might: bow tie, spit-shined shoes, ramrod posture. Just over a year ago, Birkett was an education professor at the University of Hawaii. But then he learned about this upstart school in Clayton County, Georgia, where the school board was so dysfunctional that the entire system lost its accreditation a few years ago. Birkett had never heard of such a thing, and this is a man who knows something about schools; he’s got a master’s in education from Harvard and ran pioneering charter schools in Harlem, Boston, and Kailua, Hawaii. When it comes to charters, he literally wrote the book—Charter Schools: The Parent’s Complete Guide.

Here’s the New Way Colleges Are Predicting Student Grades

Jon Marcus:

Data algorithms cover millions of grades from thousands of students

Dupaul, the associate provost for enrollment management at Southern Methodist University, is one of a growing number of university administrators consulting the performance data of former students to predict the outcomes of current ones. The little-known effort is being quietly employed by about 125 schools around the U.S., and often includes combing years of data covering millions of grades earned by thousands of former students.

It’s the same kind of process tech behemoths like Amazon and Google employ to predict the buying behavior of consumers. And many of the universities and colleges that are applying it have seen impressive declines in the number of students who drop out, and increases in the proportion who graduate. The early returns are promising enough that it has caught the attention of the Obama Administration, which pushed for schools to make heavier use of data to improve graduation rates at a White House higher education summit last week.

The payoff for schools goes beyond graduation rates: tracking data in this way keeps tuition coming in from students who stay, and avoids the cost of recruiting new ones, which the enrollment consulting firm Noel-Levitz estimates is $2,433 per undergraduate at private and $457 at four-year public universities.

“It’s a resource issue, it’s a reputational issue, it does impact — I’ll say it — the rankings” by improving graduation rates, Dupaul says.

Standardized testing opponents find themselves on the wrong side of civil rights

Laura Waters:

On Monday U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined his wish-list for the next iteration of No Child Left Behind. It will be the seventh generation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which began in 1965.

Duncan again emphasized the administration’s support for mandatory standardized testing of children in grades three through eight.

The anti-testing cadre gave a collective hiss on the internet. Nothing new there: opposition to annual standardized student assessments is the new craze. But, remarkably, sloganeers of “toxic testing,” including teacher union leaders and suburban parents, find themselves at odds with some of America’s most prominent civil rights groups.

From a statement issued earlier this month from an umbrella group called The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights”

New Jersey Education Association’s Finances

Mike Antonucci:

Having Chris Christie as governor doesn’t seem to have affected the New Jersey Education Association’s revenues, but it certainly affected its political spending. The union sent $1 million to its candidate PAC, $5.5 million to Garden State Forward and $3 million to One New Jersey (both SuperPACs).

NJEA also spread cash to outside advocacy groups both large and small. It contributed $550,000 to the Education Law Center and $5,000 to FairTest.

NJEA executive officers do particularly well salary-wise, plus each receives an annual $1,000 in clothing allowance.

Total membership – 200,314, up 5,356

Total revenue – $126.5 million (90% came from member dues), up $2.7 million

Budget surplus – $3.2 million

Commentary on Wisconsin’s K-12 Governance model

Alan Borsuk:

So now, Walker wants to go back to letting parental choice drive quality?

There are those who agree. George Mitchell, a central and adamant figure in the history of voucher advocacy, sent me an email last week, saying, among other things:

“If there was a true open enrollment system in Wisconsin that included private and charter schools, a system that ALL parents were eligible for, a system that did not give ‘public’ schools a decided fiscal advantage, there would be an accountability revolution.

“This would require that the state provide parents with Consumer Reports-style information. The result, among other things, would be a meaningful reduction in the number of low-performing schools.”

Mitchell added, “…given the demonstrable inability of officials and experts in Madison to craft an alternative, what could go wrong in giving true parent-based accountability a try?

“Such a system would not be perfect. I only argue that it would be (far) better compared to the current system.”

There was little evidence that Republican legislative leaders were buying Walker’s idea that there was no need for bureaucrats to create steps for dealing with low success schools.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was quoted saying that passing a bill that didn’t include state-initiated ways aimed at change “would just be political theater.” Rep. Jim Steineke, majority leader of the Assembly, posted an essay online, saying, “It is unconscionable that we would look at the children left at these schools and tell them that by slapping a grade on their schools, we have somehow accomplished something.”

On the one hand, you have to ask if Walker is serious about what he said — or is he, perhaps, striking a posture that might help position him in the race for the Republican presidential nomination? If he’s serious, will he really push for no new government-based accountability steps, except something like better report cards?

Superkids K-2 Core Reading Program From Rowland Reading Foundation

Zaner-Bloser via a kind reader:

Rowland Reading Foundation, of Madison, Wisconsin, today announced the acquisition of its Superkids Reading Program by Zaner-Bloser, an educational publisher providing curricula and digital resources in literacy, language arts, writing instruction and handwriting.
The Superkids program is a rigorous phonics-based literacy curriculum that integrates reading with writing, spelling and grammar for students in kindergarten through second grade. It features a cast of characters called the Superkids whose adventures are told in its books and online materials.

The program was written by Pleasant Rowland, creator of American Girl®, and developed by Rowland Reading Foundation, whose mission is to improve reading instruction in the primary grades. In addition to its Superkids curriculum, the Foundation provides classroom coaching and professional development for teachers and conducts research into effective reading instruction.
“Teaching children how to read and to love to read has been my personal passion and the focus of my career,” said Ms. Rowland, chairman of Rowland Reading Foundation. “As I approached retirement, I wanted to find a good home for Superkids. I believe Zaner-Bloser is that good home, not only because of its long commitment to literacy for young children but, of greater importance, because the missions and values of our two organizations are so closely aligned.”

Disastrous reading results have long been a challenge in Madison.

A New Study Reveals Much About How Parents Really Choose Schools

Anya Kamanetz:

The charter school movement is built on the premise that increased competition among schools will sort the wheat from the chaff.

It seems self-evident that parents, empowered by choice, will vote with their feet for academically stronger schools. As the argument goes, the overall effect should be to improve equity as well: Lower-income parents won’t have to send their kids to an under-resourced and underperforming school just because it is the closest one to them geographically.

But an intriguing new study from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans suggests that parent choice doesn’t always work that way. Parents, especially low-income parents, actually show strong preferences for other qualities like location and extracurriculars — preferences that can outweigh academics.

The Unappreciated Success Of Charter Schools

Adam Ozimek:

I think the conventional wisdom on charter school evidence could be summed up thusly: ”some charter schools appear to do very well, but on average charters do no better and no worse than public schools”. But I would like to propose a better conventional wisdom: “some charter schools appear to do very well, and on average charters do better at educating poor students and black students”. If the same evidence existed for some policy other than charter schools, I believe this would be the conventional wisdom.

Two of the most widely cited charter studies are a 2009 and 2013 analysis of charters in 16 and 27 states respectively by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). The results that many cite are the charter schools do no better or worse than nearby public schools on average, which was the conclusion of the 2009 study. However, I think this claim really missed the bigger picture. While overall charters and public schools compare relatively closely, both the 2009 and 2013 study found that charters did better for students in poverty. In addition, performance gap is growing over time:

Pittsburgh hopes to attract more diverse group of applicants for top teaching jobs

Eleanor Chote:

As one of the ways to recruit current city teachers to the positions, the district today will host information sessions at board headquarters focused on “teachers of color,” although the session is open to all.

“This would be aligned with what we do when trying to build strong and diverse application pools,” said Jody Spolar, chief human resources officer. “If you want to advance the goal of diversity in your workplace … you have to be deliberate about making sure you have a strong applicant pool.”

Currently, 15 percent of the teaching staff are minorities while 11 percent of the career-ladder teachers are minorities. Sixty-six percent of students are minorities.

A notice about today’s session that went out to all teachers stated: “The district strives to ensure that teacher leaders are racially representative of our student population and aims to staff a strong and racially diverse cohort of Career Ladder educators for 2015-16.”