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.
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.
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.
I’m glad that Ms. Beck included spending data.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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
Erin Richards covers K-12 education in urban and suburban Milwaukee, as well as state politics related to education issues.
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PolitiFact: Checking in on Scott Walker education promises
6:00 a.m. – New today from PolitiFact Wisconsin:
High school under fire for assignment on political ideology
Feb. 10, 2015 – A parent at Nathan Hale High says a teacher marked “conservative/Republican” the correct answer for the statement: “We should not help the poor, it’s a waste of money.”
Problems swirl around new state test tied to Common Core
Feb. 9, 2015 – As Gov. Scott Walker calls for scrapping a new state achievement test after just one year, the exam is coming in over budget and lacking key functionality. (4)
Rural schools get mixed bag of benefits in Walker’s budget
Feb. 8, 2015 – Leaders of financially struggling rural school districts say the governor’s proposed budget both gives relief and takes it away.
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.
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.
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.
“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 Raz-Kids.com, 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…
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.”
Ritchie’s son John, of Madison, said becoming a superintendent was important to his dad, to the point of packing up the family of seven and moving to Boulder, Colorado, during the summer of 1962 to live in an apartment while Ritchie worked on his PhD. Ritchie’s children later attended Madison schools while he was heading the Madison School District.
“You tend to be credited for all of his decisions,” John Ritchie joked.
John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., arrived in Madison to head MTI about a year after Ritchie became superintendent. Matthews described their working relationship as competitive, but ultimately became “a joy,” and one with more more problems solved than created — notably ending a two-week strike in early 1976.
“Although tempers got a bit hot, he and I were able to work to resolve issues because we had developed such an honorable working relationship,” said Matthews. “Because of that, we were able to resolve the strike and move forward without animosity between staff and management. It was because of that ability that he remained so highly respected.”
The state would convert failing public schools to independent charter schools and cut off all state payments to failing private schools for at least four years, under a draft bill offered by Assembly Republicans Wednesday.
The sweeping measure would create a new board to assign letter grades of A through F to all publicly funded schools in the state and then lay out eventual penalties for those receiving D’s and F’s. In a shift from current law, the measure would allow private schools to use a different exam from the state test to measure student learning, though it would create a process for comparing those differing tests.
Molly Beck covers the story as well.
One wonders how long term, disastrous reading results play in the governance equation?
While those ideas get batted around, here’s what’s been going on in state-run districts in other states:
The Louisiana Legislature created the Recovery School District in 2003 and gave it more latitude to reshape the landscape of schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Today the Recovery School District comprises 57 independent charter schools enrolling more than 30,000 students in New Orleans, according to the organization’s annual report.
The standardized test scores for the district rose faster than any other public school system in the state, according to results from spring 2013.
But others have questioned reports of academic improvement for children in the system.
The Achievement School District in Tennessee was created in 2010 as a result of the state’s winning application for Race to the Top federal education funds.
According to its website, the district intends to be overseeing 30 schools and about 10,000 students by 2015-’16.
The goal of the Achievement School District is to boost the state’s bottom 5% of schools into the top 25% of schools, either by running them itself, or selecting charter school management companies to do so. The Achievement School District answers to the Tennessee Department of Education.
Long term disastrous reading results surely merits more than status quo governance.
The number of Wisconsinites who received a high school equivalency certification plummeted by 92 percent this year, in part due to more rigorous standards and an increase in testing fees.
Officials say the switch to a new General Education Development test this year was necessary to better prepare graduates for today’s workforce, and that there already are signs that the downward trend in graduates is beginning to reverse.
As the year came to a close, only 912 people have graduated from Wisconsin’s GED program, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. That’s a dramatic decline from 2013, when 11,378 people got their GEDs.
Madison’s Omega School, which has provided free one-on-one GED test preparation for 42 years, saw the number of graduates drop from about 139 two years ago to 15 in 2014, executive director Oscar Mireles said. In a typical year, the school has 100 graduates, half of whom are minorities.
“Students are getting frustrated,” Mireles said. “It just appears to be more daunting and they say, ‘Why should I even try.’ That’s probably the worst aspect of the change.”
Wisconsin wasn’t alone. Many other states saw a similar drop this year in the number of people seeking high school equivalency degrees, according to GED Testing Service, which contracts with states to provide the course.
Every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., Jason Zimba begins a math tutoring session for his two young daughters with the same ritual. Claire, 4, draws on a worksheet while Abigail, 7, pulls addition problems written on strips of paper out of an old Kleenex box decorated like a piggy bank.
If she gets the answer “lickety-split,” as her dad says, she can check it off. If she doesn’t, the problem goes back in the box, to try the following week.
“I would be sleeping in if I weren’t frustrated,” Zimba says of his Saturday-morning lessons, which he teaches in his pajamas. He feels the math instruction at Abigail’s public elementary school in Manhattan is subpar — even after the school switched to the Common Core State Standards.
But Zimba, a mathematician by training, is not just any disgruntled parent. He’s one of the guys who wrote the Common Core.
And four years after signing off on the final draft of the standards, he spends his weekends trying to make up for what he considers the lackluster curriculum at his daughter’s school, and his weekdays battling the lackluster curriculum and teaching at schools around the country that are struggling to shift to the Common Core.
There is growing evidence that the corporate-sponsored education reform project is on its last legs. The crazy patchwork of half-assed solutions on offer for the past decade have one by one failed to deliver, and one by one they are falling. Can the edifice survive once its pillars of support have crumbled?
Teach For America: This project had as its central premise the idea that what was wrong with the teaching profession was that not enough really smart people were becoming teachers. So we will recruit some high flyers and fill the gaps in high needs schools. And because these folks are sooo smart, they do not need the year or two of preparation that regular old teachers needed – they could learn to crunch data, manage a class and prepare for tests in just five weeks. And if they leave after a couple of years, that’s ok too. They can transform education as the next generation of leaders and policymakers, because they will have brains that classroom experience, and TFA’s no excuses philosophy to guide them.
But this year TFA is hitting some serious headwinds. They are finding that recruitment has dropped for some reason, and the organization is even closing its New York training institute office. Perhaps students have been finding out some of the problems with the program, discovering in advance that five weeks is not adequate preparation for the challenge of teaching in a challenging school. Perhaps potential recruits have encountered TFA alums sharing their experiences, or even some of those organizing to resist the program. And word may have leaked out that TFA is not the best vehicle for those concerned with social justice – given that corps members are sometimes being used to replace veteran teachers.
We cannot pass laws that declare others “accountable” for making sure 100% of our children will be proficient and act as though we have accomplished something. It is time to go back to basic premises, and in every community, ask ourselves what we want from our schools? How can we meet the challenge of educating all our children – not leaving any behind? The answers will not come easily or cheaply. But just as a previous generation faced the challenge of the 20th century Civil Rights movement, our generation must respond.
Status quo governance has a substantial price as well – see Madison’s long term disastrous reading results -despite spending double the national average per student.
Colleges and universities increasingly rely on part-time faculty to meet instructional demands and rein in costs, but that hasn’t led to lower tuitions for students.
In this video interview, Donna Desrochers, a researcher at AIR, explains how rising benefit costs and increased hiring for other types of positions has undercut those savings and what that means for rising college tuitions. Desrochers is the co-author of the report by the Delta Cost Project at AIR called Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive? Changing Staffing and Compensation Patterns in Higher Education.
The vast majority of teachers and principals across New York got high grades for their work last year, state data showed Tuesday, prompting top education officials to call for tougher evaluations.
The release marked the first time New York City teachers received ratings under a new state-imposed system that aims to be more rigorous and objective than in the past.
State data showed 9.2% of city teachers were deemed highly effective, 82.5% were effective, 7% developing and 1.2% ineffective.
Outside the city, teachers got even better reviews, partly because each district had some leeway in setting goals for performance. Beyond city borders, about 58% were deemed highly effective. Last year was those districts’ second under new evaluation systems.
Related: When A Stands for Average.
Via Laura Waters.
The fact that only about one third of students are proficient on state tests in math and language arts was “simply unacceptable,” the letter said.
It challenged Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and outgoing Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. to answer questions about whether to lift the cap on charter schools, how to make it easier to remove ineffective teachers and how to make teacher evaluations more stringent, among other issues.
Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.
The operator of one of Milwaukee’s longest-running private voucher schools says her organization strives to give disadvantaged children the best shot they can get in life, even when they’ve been left behind by other schools.
But new documents and former employees have raised concerns about the internal workings at Ceria M. Travis Academy, a private school that’s received more than $35 million in state voucher payments through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program since 1996.
Complaints filed with the state in 2014 and obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through an open records request allege that the school has violated state law by employing people without bachelor’s degrees to teach students.
Much more on vouchers, here.
Ideally, the writer might compare outcomes and spending between voucher and traditional public schools. Voucher spending in Wisconsin is minuscule compared to the present K-12 system. Further, one would hope that all publicly funded schools face the same accountability requirements.
Finally, voucher schools often spend less than half the amount per student than traditional public schools.
One day in 1967, Bob Thompson sprayed foam on a hunk of metal in a cavernous factory south of Los Angeles. And then another day, not too long after, he sat at a long wood bar with a black-and-white television hanging over it, and he watched that hunk of metal land a man on the moon.
On July 20, 1969 — the day of the landing — Thompson sipped his Budweiser and thought about all the people who had ever stared at that moon. Kings and queens and Jesus Christ himself. He marveled at how when it came time to reach it, the job started in Downey. The bartender wept.
On a warm day, almost a half-century later, Thompson curled his mouth beneath a white beard and talked about the bar that fell to make way for a freeway, the space-age factory that closed down and the town that is still waiting for its next great economic rocket, its new starship to the middle class.
Meanwhile, Madison schools’ plan to seek additional property tax increases (2015 referendum – pdf board document) to find bricks and mortar. This proposal, rather ironically, perpetuates decades long demographic gaps.
The 19-page report from Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler comes after more than a year of study. It identifies property taxes as the top concern raised at 22 tax reform roundtables held across the state with some 500 people, but does not contain suggestions for lowering them.
“Taxes are too high and too complicated,” the report concludes. “They hinder economic growth, discourage job creation, and burden family budgets. And though we’ve made great progress in the last four years, we still have a long way to go.”
Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance president Todd Berry, who wasn’t involved in the roundtables or consulted about the report, said he was surprised there were no recommendations.
“They certainly lay out the case that the governor made when he was running four years ago,” Berry said. “But there’s no fundamental comprehensive tax reform here.”
Related: Ongoing increases in Madison’s property taxes. “Delinquencies higher than we expect”. Madison schools raise taxes 4.2%.
How many good and outstanding schools are there in England? Record levels, never been so many before. That’s the official verdict of the education watchdog Ofsted.
“The proportion of schools judged good or outstanding at their most recent inspection reached 81%.
“This is the highest proportion of good or outstanding schools there has ever been.”
But what does this 81% figure really mean? Do parents really have more than a four in five chance of getting a good or outstanding school for their children? And how has it risen so rapidly? Or is this the inspection equivalent of grade inflation?
“Outstanding” and “good” are the top two inspection grades – with “requires improvement” and “inadequate” the bottom two.
Wisconsin’s example: The WKCE disaster.
But it’s another year in which enrollment in the main body of MPS schools shrank. That carries long-term implications.
Every year for at least the past half-dozen, the percentage of Milwaukee kids who are getting publicly funded kindergarten through 12th-grade education through MPS has gone down a percentage point or two from the prior year. This year, it went down more than two points.
I wrote a story for this newspaper about seven years ago with a premise that at the time was very striking to me: A third of all Milwaukee kids getting publicly funded educations were doing so outside of the conventional public schools.
It was such a change from days not long ago when the answer was always that publicly funded education meant you went to the public schools.
Now, instead of 33%, the figure is an even more eye-catching 43%. The official figures for this fall show 56.9% of the 120,895 publicly funded students were in schools staffed by MPS teachers.
You can see the day looming (maybe four years? maybe five?) when that percentage is 50% or less.
Where are all the other kids? I use the term publicly funded because Milwaukee remains one of the nation’s biggest arenas for options in schooling. Parents can utilize public support to send kids lots of places.
This fall, 305 local union organizations representing public school teachers, support staff, and custodial workers held recertification elections in school districts across the state. Despite everything that Walker has done to undermine them, more than 90 percent of the local unions were recertified. Indeed, according to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, 97 percent of its units that sought recertification won their elections.
The numbers are even more overwhelming for American Federation of Teachers union locals in Wisconsin.
“Since recertification elections began in 2011, every AFT-Wisconsin local union that has pursued recertification has won convincingly,” notes Kim Kohlhaas, an elementary school teacher in the Superior School District who serves as president of AFT-Wisconsin.
In many school districts, the numbers were overwhelming.
In Madison, where the Madison Teachers Inc. union has played a leading role in opposing Walker’s anti-labor agenda, the pro-recertification votes have been overwhelming.
According to vote totals released by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, Madison teachers gave 88 percent support to recertification, as did 81 percent of security staff, 77 percent of support staff, 76 percent of educational assistants and 74 percent of substitute teachers.
Notably, Walker won just 52 percent of the vote in his recent re-election run. So, if the governor claims any sort of mandate, he ought to accept that MTI has a much bigger mandate.
Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.
But there’s something deeper, too. The familiar bash brothers of globalization and technology (particularly information technology) have conspired to gut middle-class jobs by sending work abroad or replacing it with automation and software. A 2013 study by David Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon Hanson found that although the computerization of certain tasks hasn’t reduced employment, it has reduced the number of decent-paying, routine-heavy jobs. Cheaper jobs have replaced them, and overall pay has declined.
Your second question might be: Why have health-care wages been the exception to the rule? One answer is that health care is, generally speaking, the exception to many rules. Demand for medical services is dominated by the government (i.e. Medicare, Medicaid, and the employer insurance tax break), which doesn’t face the same vertiginous up-and-downs as the rest of the economy. So as the Great Recession steamrolled many industries, health care, propped up by sturdy government spending, kept adding workers. What’s more, computerization and information technology have yet to work their magical price-cutting power in health care as they have in other industries, for a variety of reasons. Americans are spending four percent less on food away from home than in 2007; but we’re spending 42 percent more on health insurance. As prices have increased, so have wages for younger workers in the medical field. (Update: Some readers have made the smart suggestion that money which might have gone to higher salaries has instead gone to paying higher health insurance costs.)
Financial Status of All NEA State Affiliates. In-depth analysis will follow in the weeks to come, but for now here is the table containing total membership, total revenues, surplus or deficit status and net assets for all 52 National Education Association “state” affiliates for 2012-13
Related: $1.57M for four State Senators.
America is embroiled in an immigration debate that goes far beyond President Obama’s executive order on undocumented immigrants.
It goes to the heart of who “we” are. And it’s roiling communities across the nation.
In early November, school officials in Orinda, California, hired a private detective to determine whether a seven-year-old Latina named Vivian – whose single mother works as a live-in nanny for a family in Orinda — “resides” in the district and should therefore be allowed to attend the elementary school she’s already been attending there.
On the basis of that investigation they determined that Vivian’s legal residence is her grandmother’s home in Bay Point, California. They’ve given the seven-year-old until December 5th to leave the Orinda elementary school.
Never mind that Vivian and her mother live during the workweek at the Orinda home where Vivian’s mother is a nanny, that Vivian has her own bedroom in that home with her clothing and toys and even her own bathroom, that she and her mother stock their own shelves in the refrigerator and kitchen cupboard of that Orinda home, or that Vivian attends church with her mother in Orinda and takes gym and youth theater classes at the Orinda community center.
The point is Vivian is Latina and poor, and Orinda is white, Anglo, and wealthy.
And Orinda vigilantly protects itself from encroachments from the large and growing poor Latino and Hispanic populations living beyond its borders.
Madison has long supported wide demographic variation.
But Jeanne Williams, past president of the Wisconsin Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and chair of the educational studies department at Ripon College, said the state is already preparing to release educator preparation program report cards, in accordance with a state law passed in recent years to strengthen teacher training.
Those will report graduates’ pass rates on required licensure exams and provide data about where graduates get employed.
Williams did not agree with using test scores of students taught by the new teachers to review their programs that trained them.
She said several studies had shown that using student test data to evaluate teacher preparation programs is “not valid or reliable because of the numerous intervening variables that can affect student performance,” such as poverty, school climate and rates of teacher turnover in a school.
National Council on Teacher Quality reviews and ranks teacher preparation programs.
When A stands for average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education receive sky high grades. How smart is that?
For nearly 20 years, Darrell Eberhardt worked in an Ohio factory putting together wheelchairs, earning $18.50 an hour, enough to gain a toehold in the middle class and feel respected at work.
He is still working with his hands, assembling seats for Chevrolet Cruze cars at the Camaco auto parts factory in Lorain, Ohio, but now he makes $10.50 an hour and is barely hanging on. “I’d like to earn more,” said Mr. Eberhardt, who is 49 and went back to school a few years ago to earn an associate’s degree. “But the chances of finding something like I used to have are slim to none.”
“In my view, the rigour of the Common Core state standards must be the new minimum in classrooms,” Mr Bush said. “For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher. Be bolder. Raise standards and ask more of our students and the system, because I know they have the potential to deliver it.”
Mr Bush said the US government must make education reform a priority and, if that happens, it could make Common Core a 2016 election cycle issue. Last month, Rand Paul, Kentucky’s Republican senator, said that a supporter “doesn’t have much chance of winning in a Republican primary.”
Mr Bush pointed to Black and Hispanic American fourth graders reading two and a half grade levels below their white peers on average. He also cited the global rankings that place American students 21st in reading and 31st in mathematics.
“But if we buy the excuses, if we let kids struggle, if we herd them into failing schools, how can we expect young people to grasp those first rungs of opportunity?” Mr Bush asked. “That is why the challenge of fixing our schools must be among the most urgent of national priorities.”
With research showing language gaps between the children of affluent parents and those from low-income families emerging at an early age, educators have puzzled over how best to reach parents and guide them to do things like read to their children and talk to them regularly.
A new study shows that mobile technology may offer a cheap and effective solution. The research, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research this month, found that preschoolers whose parents received text messages with brief tips on reading to their children or helping them sound out letters and words performed better on literacy tests than children whose parents did not receive such messages.
Pediatricians are now advising parents to read daily to their children from birth. Some communities are developing academic curriculums for home visitors to share with parents of babies and toddlers, while other groups are mounting public information campaigns for parents on the importance of talking, reading and singing.
Related: Madison’s disastrous long term reading results.
Of course, public schools officials will never accept a rating system that includes a failing-grade option; some things are OK for students, but not for the people who educate them.
None of these initiatives is any older than 2011, when Republicans took over complete control of the state government, but parents have been voting against the Madison district — with their feet — since they were first allowed to in 1998.
The open enrollment program was included in the 1997 state budget bill and allows parents to enroll their children in any public school district that has the space.
In the years since, the Madison district has never seen more students coming in than going out. In the current school year, 1,203 children living within the district’s boundaries opted to go to other districts, according to a district report. Another 372 opted to come into Madison from other districts.
A 2009 survey of families who took advantage of the open enrollment program to leave Madison found that 61 percent of parents pointed to environmental problems with Madison schools as among the reasons they left. Overcrowded classrooms, bullying and poor communication were among the specific complaints.
The good: Minneapolis Public Schools want to decrease total suspensions for non-violent infractions of school rules.
The bad: The district has pledged to do this by implementing a special review system for cases where a black or Latino student is disciplined. Only minority students will enjoy this special privilege.
That seems purposefully unconstitutional—and is likely illegal, according to certain legal minds.
The new policy is the result of negotiations between MPS and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Minority students are disciplined at much higher rates than white students, and for two years the federal government has investigated whether that statistic was the result of institutional racism.
Related. Madison’s problematic discipline policy.
Studies of the charter school sector typically focus on head-to-head comparisons of charter and traditional schools at a point in time, but the expansion of parental choice and relaxation of constraints on school operations is unlikely to raise school quality overnight. Rather, the success of the reform depends in large part on whether parental choices induce improvements in the charter sector. We study quality changes among Texas charter schools between 2001 and 2011. Our results suggest that the charter sector was initially characterized by schools whose quality was highly variable and, on average, less effective than traditional public schools. However, exits from the sector, improvement of existing charter schools, and positive selection of charter management organizations that open additional schools raised average charter school effectiveness over time relative to traditional public schools. Moreover, the evidence is consistent with the belief that a reduction in student turnover as the sector matures, expansion of the share of charters that adhere to a No Excuses philosophy, and increasingly positive student selection at the times of both entry and reenrollment all contribute to the improvement of the charter sector.
For those of you who follow N.J.’s charter school wars within the circumscribed twitter universe, the last few days have been pretty hot. The backstory here is that Mark Weber (a popular anti-reform blogger known as Jersey Jazzman who studies with Bruce Baker at Rutgers) and Julia Sass Rubin (professor at Rutgers and founder of the anti-charter organization called Save Our Schools-NJ) published a report on charter school demographics, paid for by an anti-charter foundation, also based at Rutgers. The study aimed to prove that charter schools “cream off” cohorts of kids who are less impoverished, less disabled, and more fluent in English than those enrolled in traditional district schools.
The conclusions imbedded in the report have been disputed by charter school leaders. Carlos Perez, head of the N.J. Charter School Association, for example, dismissed the report as “anti-charter propaganda.” But the primary igniter of this week’s heat wave was not the report itself but Ms. Rubin’s remark, printed in the Star-Ledger, that charter schools draw a less poor and more informed group of parents because “poor families are less able to focus on the best place to educate their children.” Here’s her quote:
Why does a Rutgers University professor from one of the most affluent towns in New Jersey want to take away great schools from Camden families?
Everywhere I turn, Julia Sass Rubin seems to be talking for Camden’s poor. Just last week she told one of the state’s largest newspapers: “People in abject poverty don’t have the bandwidth to even evaluate charter schools. It’s just not going to be high on their list.”
Excuse me? That deeply offensive comment toward low-income families in Camden shows not only her complete disregard of our families, but a dangerous misunderstanding about what our families want.
Meanwhile, Madison continues with its monolithic, one size fits all K-12 governance model.
Minneapolis offers students a wide variety of choices.
Everywhere I turn, Julia Sass Rubin seems to be talking for Camden’s poor. Just last week she told one of the state’s largest newspapers: “People in abject poverty don’t have the bandwidth to even evaluate charter schools. It’s just not going to be high on their list.”
Excuse me? That deeply offensive comment toward low-income families in Camden shows not only her complete disregard of our families, but a dangerous misunderstanding about what our families want.
When foundation grants fail to achieve the objectives officials sought, philanthropists turn their backs, shrug, and walk away. They have no responsibility to districts, individual schools, teachers, students and parents for hopes raised and dashed. Donors are beyond the reach of being fired or voted out of office. Yet as anyone knows from personal experience, admitting error is crucial to insights into a problem and, ultimately invention of better ways to solve it.
For those who support philanthropic giving, this unaccountability is an exercise of personal liberty in taking actions for the public good and is in the best tradition of a democracy. Moreover, some have argued: “[S]uch virtual immunity represents foundations’ greatest strength: the freedom to take chances, to think big, to innovate, to be, in the words of the late Paul Ylvisaker of the Ford Foundation, ‘society’s passing gear.’ “ [i]
Being society’s “passing gear,” however, assumes that funders and their retinue of experts know best how to identify educational problems, sort out symptoms from fundamental causes, and adopt solutions that solve the problem. When donors bet foolishly or are simply wrong and projects and programs fail who are these funders answerable to for their errors in judgment? No one, as far as I can see.
related: “the grants made us do it “. “Small learning communities“.
New waves of Indians and Chinese are taking America’s business-school entrance exam, and that’s causing a big problem for America’s prospective M.B.A.s.
Why? The foreign students are much better at the test.
Asia-Pacific students have shown a mastery of the quantitative portion of the four-part Graduate Management Admission Test. That has skewed mean test scores upward, and vexed U.S. students, whose results are looking increasingly poor in comparison. In response, admissions officers at U.S. schools are seeking new ways of measurement, to make U.S. students look better.
Domestic candidates are “banging their heads against the wall,” said Jeremy Shinewald, founder and president of mbaMission, a New York-based M.B.A. admissions-consulting company. While U.S. scores have remained consistent over the past several years, the falling percentiles are “causing a ton of student anxiety,” he said.
we continue to play in the “C” (D?) leagues.
Madison’s disastrous reading scores.
Our strategy is no longer a laundry list of ever-changing “initiatives,” but instead a set of inter-related, long-term work aimed at eliminating the gaps in opportunity that lead to disparities in achievement.
It is directly focused on the day-to-day work of great teaching and learning. Put differently, our strategy directly impacts the daily work of teachers in a way that other efforts that have focused on the classroom periphery have not.
To be successful, this strategy requires us to continually monitor our progress, respond to issues as they arise, and manage the natural stages and pace of change.
As a district, we conduct a deep review of progress once a quarter — that first review is scheduled for this month. This process provides a space for us — school based leadership teams, central office, and board — to examine both implementation and outcomes, process concerns and questions from our staff, families and community, and to make adjustments, even major shifts in direction, if necessary.
If we use this process the way it was designed, we’ll continually identify strengths and challenges, understand root causes, collaboratively problem solve and chart our course forward.
Middle school art teacher Cynthia Bliss laced up her sneakers, grabbed a jacket and spent most of a recent Saturday asking strangers to help her oust Republican Gov. Scott Walker from office.
“We’re teachers in the area and this election is very important to us,” Bliss told one voter on the front steps of a house.
“You don’t even have to talk,” the older woman at the door replied. “We’re the choir you’re preaching to.”
Bliss, who teaches in Fort Atkinson, wrote down the answer and marched back to the sidewalk, where autumn leaves crunched underfoot. For her — and hundreds of other Wisconsin teachers — booting Walker from the Capitol has been a priority.
“If Scott Walker wins re-election, he will keep his current policies and put them on steroids,” Bliss said as she walked to the next house. “That’s not acceptable to me.”
For students from third to eighth grades, achievement has remained stagnant over the last five years. Last school year, the district had 26.9 percent of third graders ranked as proficient or above in language arts. That proficiency stayed in the low 20 percent range for grades four through seven. In eighth grade, 42.2 percent were ranked as proficient or higher in language arts and literacy.
Math scores hovered between 44 and 32 percent proficient in the 2013-2014 school year for grades three through six. For grades seven and eight, scores sank to 20 and 25 percent, respectively.
In the HSPA test given to 11th graders, there was a 71 percent proficiency in language arts and a 39 percent proficiency in math. There has been an improvement in language arts in the last four years, said Edward Ward, supervisor of instructional technology and accountability.
Johnson said her team is crafting a response by gathering information from teachers in high achieving schools in the district about their best practices and proven methods while also examining what works throughout the state and country.
Via Laura Waters.
Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.
This may be the most politically incorrect thing I’ve ever said in this space: There are positive things to say about what’s going on in standardized testing in Wisconsin.
Everybody hates testing. Kids, teachers, politicians of all stripes. Even the biggest testing advocates in the country say there is too much testing. Testing is useless. It interferes with real education. There is a lot of reason to take the criticism seriously.
But I say: Maybe there’s hope, and maybe Wisconsin is on a new and good path.
First, an anecdote: About 15 years ago, I attended the annual gathering of testing chiefs from states across the country. I remember a panel discussion in which four experts described what was wrong with the way testing was being done.
The fifth person on the panel was the education adviser to the then-governor of Indiana. His message: That’s nice, but my boss and legislature want test scores.
Guess whose viewpoint prevailed. And things got only bigger, more pervasive and more controversial. In 2002, the No Child Left Behind federal education law went on the books, with its requirement that pretty much every public schoolchild in America be tested in reading and math every year from third through eighth grade and at one grade in high school.
Wisconsin’s WKCE has long been criticized for its lack of rigor and poor timing. Yet, it continued for years…
“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.
4. America’s escalating student debt…
The stock of outstanding student debt in the US has surged to more than $1.1 trillion. This isn’t all bad news—more people are in college, which is a good thing. But some economists suggest that the burden of student debt is reshaping the spending patterns of younger Americans, prompting them to put off buying houses, cars, and much else besides.
5. …And its outlandish university tuition costs
Everyone knows that higher education is a costly undertaking in the US. But until they see this chart, it’s hard to understand exactly how expensive it is. Since 1978 college tuition costs have surged more than 1,200%, compared with an increase of 280% for overall prices, as measured by the consumer price index. For the record, US colleges counter that this measure only captures the “sticker cost,” and actually overstates the amount most students really pay because of grants and other financial breaks.
On weekday mornings, a stream of orange buses and private cars from 75 Minnesota postal codes wrap around Yinghua Academy, the first publicly funded Chinese-immersion charter school in the United States, in the middle-class neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis. Most pupils, from kindergarten to eighth grade, dash to bright-colored classrooms for the 8:45 a.m. bell, eager to begin “morning meeting,” a freewheeling conversation in colloquial Mandarin.
Meanwhile, two grades form five perfect lines in the gym for calisthenics, Chinese style. Dressed neatly in the school’s blue uniforms, the students enthusiastically count each move — “liu, qi, ba, jiu, shi.”
By 9:15, a calm sense of order pervades the school as formal instruction begins for math, reading, social studies, history and science. Instructors teach in Mandarin, often asking questions that prompt a flurry of raised hands. No one seems to speak out of turn. “We bring together both East and West traditions,” explains the academic director, Luyi Lien, who tries to balance Eastern discipline with Western fun.
Madison has largely killed off any attempt at innovative charter schools. Ironically, the Minneapolis teachers union is authorized to approve for charter schools.
More than halfway through Joel Klein’s forthcoming book on his time as the chancellor of New York City’s public schools, he zeros in on what he calls “the biggest factor in the education equation.”
It’s not classroom size, school choice or the Common Core.
It’s “teacher quality,” he writes, adding that “a great teacher can rescue a child from a life of struggle.”
We keep coming back to this. As we wrestle with the urgent, dire need to improve education — for the sake of social mobility, for the sake of our economic standing in the world — the performance of teachers inevitably draws increased scrutiny. But it remains one of the trickiest subjects to broach, a minefield of hurt feelings and vested interests.
Klein knows the minefield better than most. As chancellor from the summer of 2002 through the end of 2010, he oversaw the largest public school system in the country, and did so for longer than any other New York schools chief in half a century.
That gives him a vantage point on public education that would be foolish to ignore, and in “Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools,” which will be published next week, he reflects on what he learned and what he believes, including that poor parents, like rich ones, deserve options for their kids; that smaller schools work better than larger ones in poor communities; and that an impulse to make kids feel good sometimes gets in the way of giving them the knowledge and tools necessary for success.
“It’s not a subject, maths, it’s a language. A language, without which, we cannot communicate. The teaching of arithmetic and algebra, for example, is like teaching the grammar of this language.”
It will perhaps be unsurprising to most that Carol Vorderman, who spent 26 years as co-host on the Channel 4 quiz show Countdown, should be working towards giving schoolchildren the resources and opportunity to achieve highly in maths at primary school.
Having created The Maths Factor – an online maths school for primary age children – four years ago, Vorderman will attend the first ‘graduation day’ today, for children who have made exceptional progress through the program.
Related: Math Forum.
The New Jersey Senate Education Committee heard testimony on Sen. Teresa Ruiz’s new charter school bill on Oct. 16. One of the lobbyists there was New Jersey Education Association President Wendell Steinhauer. As he approached the podium you couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. This well-spoken and diplomatic head of New Jersey’s primary teachers’ union was in a bind, compelled to triangulate between the NJEA’s historically consistent support for these independent public schools and a swelling rebellion within union ranks demanding a more combative stance against charters.
Indeed, teacher union leaders like Steinhauer are in an increasingly difficult position. For more than a century political alliances have been easy and predictable: teacher unions were umbilically tied to the Democratic Party and, really, moderates of any ilk. But suddenly a more radical faction is forcing union leaders to shift from that safe center and, as Steinhauer did last week, testify against sensible updates to charter-school law and other reforms.
Locally, a majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.
This is an absolute blowout, with a massive amount of red on the map showing areas to which Chicago is actually losing young adults. Honestly, this only makes sense given the well known headline negative domestic migration numbers for Chicago.
I do find it interesting that there’s a strong draw from Michigan. Clearly Michigan has taken a decade plus long beating. There’s been strong net out-migration from Michigan to many other Midwestern cities during that time frame, and its the same in Cleveland, which also took an economic beating in the last decade. This is just an impression so I don’t want to overstate, but it seems to me that a disproportionate number of the stories about brain drain to Chicago give examples from Michigan. Longworth uses the examples of Detroit and Cleveland. These would appear to be the places where the argument has been truly legitimate, but that doesn’t mean you can extrapolate generally from there.
What’s more, even if a young person with a college degree does move to Chicago from somewhere else, will they stay there long term? They may circulate out back to where they came from or somewhere else after absorbing skills and experience. It’s the same with New York, DC, SF, etc. I’ve said these places should be viewed as human capital refineries, much like universities. That’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s a big plus for everybody all around. Chicago is doing fine there. But it’s a more complex talent dynamic than is generally presented, a presentation that does not seem to be backed up by the data in any case.
Related: Madison’s planned property tax increase.
Comparing Madison & College Station, TX….
Students who want to dodge the tens of thousands of euros in fees and living expenses that come with getting a degree in IT might want to consider Romania.
Landing a good job in technology often means spending several years at university, and racking up a huge bill. However, there are ways to cut the cost of education, including studying abroad. Romania, Europe’s software development powerhouse, could prove a cheaper option worth considering: fees are only a fraction of those found in the UK or US, and a student with a part-time job can break even at the end of the year. Student essentials, too, are wallet-friendly: students at Bucharest’s campus Regie can land themselves a large pizza for a mere €3, for example.
Compare and contrast to monolithic K-12 models.
But let’s just project forward. In ten years, what if we had Math 101 online, and what if it was well regarded and you got fully accredited and certified? What if we knew that we were going to have a million students per semester? And what if we knew that they were going to be paying $100 per student, right? What if we knew that we’d have $100 million of revenue from that course per semester? What production budget would we be willing to field in order to have that course?
You could literally hire James Cameron to make Math 101. Or how about, let’s study the wars of the Roman Empire by actually having a VR [virtual reality] experience walking around the battlefield, and then like flying above the battlefield. And actually the whole course is looking and saying, “Here’s all the maneuvering that took place.” Or how about re-creating original Shakespeare plays in the Globe Theatre?
And, a focus on adult employment.
While many political power brokers have quietly agreed this year’s midterms are big snooze—boring, uncreative, and largely meaningless—the teachers unions stand out as a loud, insistent counterpoint.
The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers union, is on track to spend between $40 million and $60 million this election cycle, while the smaller American Federation of Teachers (AFT) plans to pony up an additional $20 million—more than the organization has spent on any other past cycle, including high-spending presidential election years.
On several important issues, majority opinion has actually flipped over the last forty years, shifting from a majority in favor of federal dominance to a majority against it. For example, the percentage of Americans who believe that state or local government should make the major decisions on drug policy has increased from 39% in 1973 to 61% in 2013. On health care, it has risen from 40% to 62%; on environmental protection, it has gone from 36% to 56%. On prison reform, the proportion supporting state and local primacy has increased from 43% to 68%.
In both 1973 and 2013, substantial majorities favored federal primacy on national defense, Social Security, and cancer research. But in the last two cases, the minority preferring state or local control has substantially increased. Similarly, in both 1973 and 2013, large majorities favored state or local control of education, transportation, housing, and welfare policy. But on all four issues, those anti-federal government majorities have grown substantially.
Yet, our local $15k+/student annual spending remains highly centralized. Swimming against the tide…
Take yourself back to those highly emotional, patriotic months after the 9/11 attacks.
In the midst of war, terrorism, fear and mourning, one bill passed 87-10 in the Senate and by a similar margin in the House — with equal support from both sides of the aisle. It was signed into law in January 2002 by George W. Bush, with the liberal lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, by his side.
The law set a simple if daunting goal: All of the nation’s students would perform at grade level on state tests. Every single one. 100 percent. Or as the name of the law put it, there would be No Child Left Behind. Here’s the formal language:
A variety of notes and links on the planned 2015 Madison School District Property Tax Increase referendum:
Madison Schools’ PDF Slides on the proposed projects. Ironically, Madison has long supported a wide variation in low income distribution across its schools. This further expenditure sustains the substantial variation, from Hamilton’s 18% low income population to Black Hawk’s 70%.
A single data point (!) comparison of Dane County School Districts: Ideally, the District would compare per student spending, operating expenditures on facilities, staffing and achievement rather than one data point.
Where have all the students gone? Madison area school district enrollment changes: 1995-2013.
Comments on the school district’s website range from support for the project to concern about the cost and how it was decided which schools would get improvements.
One poster complained about being asked to pay more property taxes when income is not rising. A parent suggested that more space should be added now — rather than later — at west side Hamilton Middle/Van Hise Elementary School, where $2.53 million in improvements would add classrooms and a shared library, allowing current library space to be used for classrooms. Better yet, build a whole new middle school, the parent suggested.
A parent whose children attend Schenk Elementary/Whitehorse Middle school on the east side was disgusted at what were described as inconvenient, even dangerous student drop-off conditions. Another parent at Schenk said overcrowding means kids don’t eat lunch until after 1 p.m.
“It’s hard to concentrate when you’re hungry — why didn’t these schools make the list?” he asked.
Another poster took the Madison school district to task for not routinely maintaining and modernizing buildings to avoid high-ticket renovations like that planned at Mendota.
From the campaign trail:
“I had been in the private sector and I felt like half my paycheck was going to insurance.”
Middleton’s property taxes for a comparable home are 16% less than Madison’s.
Finally, a number of questions were raised about expenditures from the 2005 maintenance referendum. I’ve not seen any public information on the questions raised several years ago.
Bill Moyers on declining household income.
Last week the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) published a new study, “The Health of the Public Charter School Movement: a State-by-State Analysis.” No worries here: according to NAPCS’s data, New Jersey is in fine fettle, ranking fourth among twenty-six states. (The analyses are restricted to states that serve more than one percent of students through public charters.)
However, a closer look at our scores reveals an infirmity that belies our glowing complexion: N.J.’s charter school sector soldiers in spite of the Legislative failure to ameliorate our outdated, pockmarked charter school law. Prognosis is guarded.
NAPCS’s new report, a follow-up to its research on model public school laws, creates a rubric based on 11 factors that indicate a healthy charter school environment. These include increases in the number of children served by these independent public schools; proportional representation of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch; proportional representation of children with disabilities and English language learner status; innovative practices like extended school calendars and higher education courses; rate of charter school closures.
The status quo governance (and spending, > $15k / student or double the national average) continues despite long term disastrous reading results.
A new book out by nationally known gifted-education expert James R. Delisle, a former fifth grade special education teacher and Kent State University professor, says our schools are making war on our nation’s finest young minds by failing to fund enough programs for the gifted.
What’s the problem with that? He — and others involved with gifted education — doesn’t address what I see as the biggest problem with gifted education: its ill-considered selectivity.
After a school district has designated a certain group of students as gifted, what should it do for the children who missed being admitted by one or two IQ points, one or two votes on the selection committee or some other narrow margin in the variously complicated ways this is done?
Given the unavoidable imprecision of any selection criteria, many children being denied gifted services would be for all practical purposes identical to many of those selected. If gifted services are as necessary for the gifted as Delisle says they are, how can he deny them to children with the same capabilities and needs?
ANGUS MADDISON, who died in 2010, was among the most influential of economic historians; his book on the world economy over the past 2,000 years is a classic. Now, one of the institutions he worked for, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, has teamed up with the University of Utrecht to produce an account of the conditions of life in 25 countries since 1820. It details everything from builders’ wages in 1920s Japan to homicide rates in 19th-century Italy. It bridges the gap between Maddison’s macroeconomic panorama and microeconomic studies by historians such as Peter Laslett, author of “The World We Have Lost”, about early modern England.
For the most part, the findings confirm what is suspected, if not known in such detail. The number of years in education has increased everywhere. Average heights have risen almost everywhere (by 1.1cm more in America in 1820-1990 than in China). The purchasing power of construction workers’ wages has grown everywhere, though in Britain the rise was tenfold in 1820-2000; in Indonesia it was only twice.
There is an exception to this generalisation, though: inequality. You would expect that the world of the Qing dynasty, Tsar Nicholas I and the British East India Company would be more unequal than today’s. Yet in China, Thailand, Germany and Egypt, income inequality was about the same in 2000 as it had been in 1820. Brazil and Mexico are even more unequal than they were at the time of Simón Bolívar. Only in a few rich nations—such as France and Japan—do you find the expected long-term decline in income inequality.
What is true for individual countries is also true if you treat the world as a single nation. The study uses the Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality in which zero represents perfect equality—everyone has the same income—and 100 perfect inequality—one person has everything. The global Gini rose from 49 in 1820 to 66 in 2000. But this was not caused by widening disparities between rich and poor within countries (inequality in its usual sense). Inequality of that sort fluctuated for 130 years to 1950, before falling sharply in 1950-1980, in what the report calls an egalitarian revolution. Since 1980 it has risen again (as Thomas Piketty, a French economist, has shown), back to the level of 1820.
That implies the two-century rise in global inequality must come from elsewhere: from what is called “between-country inequality”, the gap between rich and poor nations. This gap has widened sharply. In 1820 the world’s richest country—Britain—was about five times richer than the average poor nation. Now America is about 25 times wealthier than the average poor country. The Gini coefficient for between-country inequality stood at only 16 in 1820 (ie, very low). It soared to 55 in 1950, and has been stable since. The driving force of inequality since 1820, in other words, has been industrialisation in the West.
Bill Gates had an idea. He was passionate about it, absolutely sure he had a winner. His idea? America’s high schools were too big.
When a multibillionaire gets an idea, just about everybody leans in to listen. And when that idea has to do with matters of important public policy and the billionaire is willing to back it up with hard cash, public officials tend to reach for the money with one hand and their marching orders with the other. Gates backed his small-schools initiative with enormous amounts of cash. So, without a great deal of thought, one school district after another signed on to the notion that large public high schools should be broken up and new, smaller schools should be created.
This was an inherently messy process. The smaller schools—proponents sometimes called them academies—would often be shoehorned into the premises of the larger schools, so you’d end up with two, three or more schools competing for space and resources in one building. That caused all sorts of headaches: Which schools would get to use the science labs, or the gyms? How would the cafeterias be utilized? And who was responsible for policing the brawls among students from rival schools?
But those were not Gates’s concerns. He was on a mission to transform American education, and he would start with the high schools, which he saw as an embarrassment, almost a personal affront. They were “obsolete,” he declared. “When I compare our high schools to what I see when I’m traveling abroad,” he said, “I am terrified for our workforce of tomorrow.”
There used to be a running joke in the sports world about breaking up the Yankees because they were so good. Gates felt obliged to break up America’s high schools because they were so bad. Smaller schools were supposed to attack the problems of low student achievement and high dropout rates by placing students in a more personal, easier-to-manage environment. Students, teachers and administrators would be more familiar with one another. Acts of violence and other criminal behavior would diminish as everybody got to know everybody else. Academic achievement would soar.
Related: Madison’s disastrous reading results.
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew repeated First Lady Michelle Obama’s talking points that “the US Economy is Moving Strongly in the Right Direction!” It has been six years since the Great Recession ended in June 2009.
This misleading statement will be repeated many, many times leading up to the mid-term elections in November.
Let’s review the facts.
Real median household income and average earnings growth are NOT moving strongly in the right direction. In fact, their movement is rather listless. And apartment rents are growing at a faster rate than household income.
Treasury Secretary Lew did mention the declining unemployment rate, but failed to discuss the massive dropout from the labor force that has been occurring. The labor force fell by 97,000 in the latest jobs report. Those not in the labor force increased by 315,000.
So, Mr. Lew is correct that there is improvement … in sheer numbers of jobs added, but not true about the QUALITY of jobs.
And you wonder why mortgage purchase applications are in the toilet? Hint: it ISN’T overly tight credit standards. It’s a lack of income growth and inability to meet DTI requirements.
Eight years ago, a community health report from the Fox Valley uncovered an alarming trend among local high school students: one in four reported experiencing depression, and more than one in 10 had attempted suicide.
An experiment soon followed that placed licensed therapists with expertise in children’s mental health in elementary, middle and high schools.
“We decided if students had trouble making their appointment (at community clinics), let’s bring the appointment to them,” said Mary Wisnet, one of the program’s officers.
A study using Current Population Survey data shows that, from 1996 to 2012, elementary, middle, and high school teachers earned less than other college graduates, but the gap was smaller for public school teachers and smaller still if they had union representation; moreover, the mitigating effects are stronger for female than male teachers, so the within-gender pay gaps are much larger for male teachers.
The current school choice debate has many possible consequences, not just for students, but also for teachers. Broadly speaking, schools are either publicly or privately funded. Public schools are funded by the government through federal, state, and local taxes, and most are part of a larger school system. Elected school board members and education officials implement and oversee strict rules and procedures that public schools must follow. Private schools do not receive government money and thus have to raise their own funds. Private school officials may have more leeway to run schools as they see fit, but funders and others may play a significant administrative role.
Given the proliferation in school privatization, this article analyzes the fundamental differences between the two sectors with regard to teacher staffing and pay disparities. We employ the Current Population Survey (CPS) to document differences between teachers in the two sectors with regard to unionization density, gender and race or ethnicity, educational attainment, and relative pay gaps between public and private sector teachers and between both and other college graduates.
The debate about school privatization and the push toward both publicly and privately funded charter schools should include differences in teacher staffing and relative pay by school ownership. Staffing and pay differences across type of ownership may be due to or may influence factors such as teacher cohesion and student achievement. For example, teachers may trade off between pay and safer schools or smaller class sizes. (The pupil–teacher ratio in 2010 was 16.0 for public schools and 12.2 for private schools.)1 Or it could be that lower paid teachers desire to work at higher paying schools but competition prevents them from finding such employment.
Charter school opponents were in mourning this week after they failed to derail a set of amendments to a 2012 bill called the Urban Hope Act that permits the opening of hybrid district/charter schools in Camden, Trenton, and Newark.
Save Our Schools-N.J., Education Law Center, and New Jersey Education Association had mounted a vigorous lobbying campaign against the amendments, citing the “undemocratic transfer of Camden public education to private control.”
But the campaign was fruitless; on Monday the N.J. Senate, by a vote of 32-1, approved several tweaks to Senate Bill 2264. These modest amendments extend the deadline for charter school applications by one year — from January 2015 to January 2016 — and give permission for new charter schools to use abandoned public school space that has “undergone substantial reconstruction,” in lieu of the newly-constructed facilities mandated by the 2012 law. The bill now goes before the N.J. Assembly.
It’s worth noting how the rhetoric of these school choice opponents has changed over the past two years.
Related: gubernatorial candidate and Madison school board member Mary Burke speaks out in favor of the status quo and opposes vouchers.
Splitting pupils as young as six into classes based on ability – known as streaming – makes the brightest children brighter but does little to help the rest to catch up, according to new research into schools in England.
The analysis of the progress made by 2,500 six and seven-year-olds in state primary schools in England, conducted by academics at the Institute of Education in London, found that the use of streaming appears to entrench educational disadvantage compared with the results of pupils who were taught in all-ability classes.
It’s difficult for me to imagine the frustration of not being able to read a newspaper headline or a note written by my daughter. For 800 million people illiteracy is a sad and limiting reality. Illiteracy impacts both adults and children, and doesn’t discriminate based on geography. One in ten people is illiterate, and yet the ability to communicate in writing is the entry point to education and the most basic building block that’s required for almost every skill needed to thrive in today’s world.
What’s more, most of us are now, to some extent, required to interact with technology in order to complete even the simplest of tasks, such as applying for a job. Digital interaction is no longer optional. Literacy has become something more involved than recognising and forming words on paper. The literacy of today requires a fluency with not only words, but with the very technology that carries and amplifies them.
“When you look at the data, there’s something not working, clearly,” she said. “And if you know being on track in ninth grade is key to a student’s success then it’s our obligation to change that.”
She said the district will be strengthening the quality and consistency of algebra instruction across schools so that courses in each school approach the class the same. After the district’s review of high school curriculum is complete, the ninth-grade algebra requirement and graduation requirements could change.
Like Madison, districts across the state are looking at ways to improve rates at which students pass algebra and are also developing new curriculum that includes algebraic concepts as early as kindergarten, said Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy.
Signe Carney, who has taught math at Memorial High School for 18 years, said part of the reason for the algebra failure rate is that “people are OK with saying, ‘I’m bad at math,’ and they will never say they can’t read. People think they can or can’t, and if they think they can’t, they won’t succeed.”
Another factor is that algebraic concepts build on each other, so it’s hard to catch up if students miss days, she said.
What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack & Michael Fish @ UW Center for Placement Testing.
The Delaware Department of Education says six low-income schools in Wilmington are failing, and the way to fix them is to make the more than 200 teachers reapply for their jobs – and to hire elite principals at each school who won’t have to follow most district rules while earning annual salaries of $160,000.
Mark Murphy, secretary of education, says it’s necessary for teachers to reapply for their jobs to ensure that every educator in the six “priority” schools has the commitment and skill to improve student achievement, as measured by the state’s standardized tests.
Outrage is bubbling among teachers, parents and school administrators in the schools – Bancroft Elementary, Stubbs Elementary and Bayard Middle in the Christina School District and Warner, Shortlidge and Highlands elementary schools in Red Clay School District.
They contend this is a state takeover, not a school turnaround.
The state asks that districts sign a Memorandum of Understanding by month’s end to begin establishing a plan for each school, all of which serve students who come from neighborhoods grappling with poverty.
Or be happy for the co-workers whose good work and unique skills have them moving up in the real world, where, generally speaking, good work and unique skills are and should be well-compensated?
It’s not always about us, in other words, perhaps especially in public education.
Eyster said salary schedules “are not reflective of commitment and productivity” but that the bigger question across the working world is, “can you talk about what you’re paid?”
Hopefully, we can talk about it in public education.
Because whatever the benefits of a one-size-fits-all model of compensation, they are outweighed by the benefits of compensation practices flexible enough to attract the best, most-qualified teachers.
Even better, taxpayers who see districts doing all they can to hire the best will have little excuse for underpaying them.
Black, Hispanic and low-income students, as well as students with disabilities and English language learners, show proficiencies well below those of the district as a whole, Jeff Spitzer-Resnick points out on his blog.
“While overall the Department of Public Instruction considered that MMSD ‘meets expectations,’ a closer examination of vulnerable student populations suggests many MMSD students are not receiving an education which will prepare them adequately for adulthood,” writes Spitzer-Resnick, an attorney who has blogged before about school district accountability.
Citing information from the Report Card detail available here on the DPI website, Spitzer-Resnick compares district-wide levels of proficiency in reading and math with consistently lower levels among students of color, low-income students and those with disabilities or limited English language skills.
Hardly a recent issue, unfortunately. Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.
I have been asked for my “single best idea for reforming K-12 education”. When you only have one shot, you want to make it count. So I thought I would share my idea here, in case anyone has a brighter insight.
Root cause: factory model of management
To decide what is the single best idea for reforming K-12 education, one needs to figure out what is the biggest problem that the system currently faces. To my mind, the biggest problem is a preoccupation with, and the application of, the factory model of management to education, where everything is arranged for the scalability and efficiency of “the system”, to which the students, the teachers, the parents and the administrators have to adjust. “The system” grinds forward, at ever increasing cost and declining efficiency, dispiriting students, teachers and parents alike.
Given that the factory model of management doesn’t work very well, even in the few factories that still remain in this country, or anywhere else in the workplace for that matter, we should hardly be surprised that it doesn’t work well in education either.
But given that the education system is seen to be in trouble, there is a tendency to think we need “better management” or “stronger management” or “tougher management”, where “management” is assumed to be the factory model of management. It is assumed to mean more top-down management and tighter controls, and more carrots and sticks. It is assumed to mean hammering the teachers who don’t perform and ruthlessly weeding out “the dead wood”. The thinking is embedded in Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind.
These methods are known to be failing in the private sector, because they dispirit the employees and limit their ability to contribute their imagination and creativity; they frustrate customers, and they are killing the very organizations that rely on them. So why should we expect anything different in the education sector?
Much more on a focus on adult employment, here.
According to a Teach for America website, culturally responsive teaching in math is important because “math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men.”
As reported earlier this week, Teach for America groups across the country are committing themselves to “culturally responsive teaching,” a radical pedagogy used by communist Bill Ayers and other blatant anti-American indoctrinators.
The site, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Teach for America, says that because math is seen as a domain for old, white men, many students cannot identify with it. Therefore, educators should find ways to relate math to the lives of their students.
At a New York state elementary school, teachers can use a behavior-monitoring app to compile information on which children have positive attitudes and which act out. In Georgia, some high school cafeterias are using a biometric identification system to let students pay for lunch by scanning the palms of their hands at the checkout line. And across the country, school sports teams are using social media sites for athletes to exchange contact information and game locations.
Technology companies are collecting a vast amount of data about students, touching every corner of their educational lives — with few controls on how those details are used.
The Federal Reserve Board’s newly released 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances indicates that the median family headed by someone under 35 years of age earned $35,509 in 2013 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that is 6 percent less than similar families reported in the first such survey, in 1989.
Since 1989, the Fed has conducted extensive interviews of consumers every three years. Respondents are asked about their family’s income in the previous year, as well as about wealth, debt, education and attitudes toward financial issues. The results are released by family, not by individual, so the median family income may include the income of both spouses. Single-person households are included in the family calculations.
As can be seen in the charts, younger families have fallen further and further behind older families as time has passed. Nearly a quarter-century after the first survey was taken, families headed by people over 55 generally have higher incomes, after adjusting for inflation, than their predecessors did. But those in groups under 55 generally earn less than their predecessors.
The online-learning collaborative edX, a partnership between Harvard University and MIT, is expanding its reach beyond higher education and will begin offering courses geared toward high school students.
Edx plans to unveil its first free classes for younger students Wednesday, when most of the new courses will open for enrollment. The 26 high school courses were created by 14 institutions — including MIT, Georgetown and Rice universities, the University of California Berkeley, Boston University, Wellesley College, and Weston Public High School.
The online classes, available to anyone in the world, will cover such subjects as computer science, calculus, geometry, algebra, English, physics, biology, chemistry, Spanish, French, history, statistics, and psychology.
To date, edX has offered only college-level courses. And, while a smattering of high school-level massive open online courses exist, company officials said edX is the first provider of so-called MOOCs to offer an organized set of free high school curriculums.
The political spending by the New Jersey Education Association is no secret anymore, with the latest numbers — in the tens of millions — continuing to astound.
A new report by the state’s election finance commission tallied more than $57 million spent by the teachers union on political campaigns and lobbying in the past decade and a half — more than double its nearest rival.
ELEC Spending Report
And a third of that total came last year alone for the election of the governor and the entire Legislature — more than four times the next-highest spender.
But with that money always comes the question as to whether the NJEA is getting the same political bang for its buck anymore, especially under a combative administration led by Gov. Chris Christie.
Related: WEAC: $1.57M for four Senators
Teachers are some of our most dedicated public servants. Many inspiring educators have changed lives for the better in Madison’s public schools. But their union is a horror.
Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for decades. Selfish, arrogant, and bullying, it has fostered an angry, us-versus-them hostility toward parents, taxpayers, and their elected school board.
Instead of a collaborative group of college-educated professionals eager to embrace change and challenge, Madison’s unionized public school teachers comport themselves as exploited Appalachian mine workers stuck in a 1930s time warp. For four decades, their union has been led by well-compensated executive director John A. Matthews, whom Fighting Ed Garvey once described (approvingly!) as a “throwback” to a different time.
From a June 2011 Wisconsin State Journal story:
[Then] School Board member Maya Cole criticized Matthews for harboring an “us against them” mentality at a time when the district needs more cooperation than ever to successfully educate students. “His behavior has become problematic,” Cole said.
For years, Madison’s school board has kowtowed to Matthews and MTI, which — with its dues collected by the taxpayer-financed school district — is the most powerful political force in Dane County. (The county board majority even rehearses at the union’s Willy Street offices.)
Joe Zepecki, Burke’s campaign spokesman, said in an email Wednesday that he couldn’t respond officially because Burke has made clear that her campaign and her duties as a School Board member are to be kept “strictly separate.” However, on the campaign trail, Burke says she opposes Act 10’s limits on collective bargaining but supports requiring public workers to pay more for their benefits, a key aspect of the law.
John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., said the contracts were negotiated legally and called the legal challenge “a waste of money and unnecessary stress on district employees and the community.”
The lawsuit came a day after the national leader of the country’s largest union for public workers labeled Walker its top target this fall.
“We have a score to settle with Scott Walker,” Lee Saunders, the union official, told The Washington Post on Tuesday. Saunders is the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. A spokeswoman for Saunders did not immediately return a call Wednesday.
AFSCME has seen its ranks in Wisconsin whither since Walker approved Act 10. AFSCME and other unions were instrumental in scheduling a 2012 recall election to try to oust Walker, but Walker won that election by a bigger margin than the 2010 race.
“When the union bosses say they ‘have a score to settle with Scott Walker,’ they really mean Wisconsin taxpayers because that’s who Governor Walker is protecting with his reforms,” Walker spokeswoman Alleigh Marré said in a statement.
Kenosha School District over teacher contracts after the board approved a contract with its employees.
In Madison, the School District and School Board “are forcing their teachers to abide by — and taxpayers to pay for — an illegal labor contract with terms violating Act 10 based upon unlawful collective bargaining with Madison Teachers, Inc.,” a statement from WILL said.
Blaska, a former member of the Dane County Board who blogs for InBusiness, said in addition to believing the contracts are illegal, he wanted to sue MTI because of its behavior, which he called coercive and bullyish.
“I truly believe that there’s a better model out there if the school board would grab for it,” Blaska said.
MTI executive director John Matthews said it’s not surprising the suit was filed on behalf of Blaska “given his hostile attacks on MTI over the past several years.”
“WILL certainly has the right to challenge the contracts, but I see (it as) such as a waste of money and unnecessary stress on district employees and the community,” said Matthews, adding that negotiating the contracts “was legal.”
In August, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Act 10 constitutional after MTI and others had challenged its legality. At the time, union and district officials said the contracts that were negotiated before the ruling was issued were solid going forward.
Under Act 10, unions are not allowed to bargain over anything but base wage raises, which are limited to the rate of inflation. Act 10 also prohibits union dues from being automatically deducted from members’ paychecks as well as “fair share” payments from employees who do not want to be union members.
Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said Wednesday the district has not yet received notification of the suit being filed.
“If and when we do, we’ll review with our team and the Board of Education,” she said.
School Board vice president James Howard said the board “felt we were basically in accordance with the law” when the contracts were negotiated and approved.
A lawsuit targeting the Madison School District and its teachers union is baseless, Madison School Board member and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Thursday.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the conservative nonprofit Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty on behalf of well-known blogger David Blaska alleges the school district, School Board and Madison Teachers Inc. are violating Act 10, Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s signature law that limits collective bargaining.
The union has two contracts in effect through June 2016. Burke voted for both of them.
“I don’t think there is a lot of substance to it,” Burke said of the lawsuit. “Certainly the board, when it negotiated and approved (the contracts), it was legal then and our legal counsel says nothing has changed.”
At any rate, Esenberg said, he doesn’t consult with Grebe, Walker or anyone else in deciding what cases to take on.
“The notion that we think Act 10 is a good idea because it frees the schools from the restraints of union contracts and gives individual employees the right to decide whether they want to support the activities of the union — that shouldn’t surprise anyone,” Esenberg said.
WILL is not likely to prevail in court, Marquette University Law School professor Paul Secunda told the Wisconsin State Journal. “They negotiated their current contract when the fate of Act 10 was still up in the air,” said Secunda, who also accused Esenberg of “trying to make political points.”
Esenberg contends the contract always was illegal.
The school board, district and union knew they could not negotiate anything more than wage increases based on inflation under the law, the lawsuit alleges. Despite the institute’s warnings, they began negotiations for a new 2014-15 contract in September 2013 and ratified it in October. What’s more, they began negotiating a deal for the 2015-16 school year this past May and ratified it in June, according to the lawsuit.
Both deals go beyond base wage changes to include working conditions, teacher assignments, fringe benefits, tenure and union dues deductions, the lawsuit said.
Taxpayers will be irreparably harmed if the contracts are allowed to stand because they’ll have to pay extra, the lawsuit went on to say. It demands that a Dane County judge invalidate the contracts and issue an injunction blocking them from being enforced.
“The Board and the School District unlawfully spent taxpayer funds in collectively bargaining the (contracts) and will spend substantial addition(al) taxpayer funds in implementing the (contracts),” the lawsuit said. “The (contracts) violate the public policy of Wisconsin.”
“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).
WEAC (Wisconsin Teacher Union Umbrella): 4 Senators for $1.57M.
Understanding the current union battles requires a visit to the time machine and the 2002 and the Milwaukee County Pension Scandal. Recall elections, big money, self interest and the Scott Walker’s election in what had long been a Democratic party position.
The 2000-2001 deal granted a 25% pension “bonus” for hundreds of veteran county workers. Another benefit that will be discussed at trial is the controversial “backdrop,” an option to take part of a pension payment as a lump-sum upon retirement.
Testimony should reveal more clues to the mysteries of who pushed both behind the scenes.
So what does it mean to take a “backdrop?”
“Drop” refers to Deferred Retirement Option Program. Employees who stay on after they are eligible to retire can receive both a lump-sum payout and a (somewhat reduced) monthly retirement benefit. Employees, upon leaving, reach “back” to a prior date when they could have retired. They get a lump sum equal to the total of the monthly pension benefits from that date up until their actual quitting date. The concept was not new in 2001, but Milwaukee County’s plan was distinguished because it did not limit the number of years a worker could “drop back.” In fact, retirees are routinely dropping back five years or more, with some reaching back 10 or more years.
That has allowed many workers to get lump-sum payments well into six figures.
Former deputy district attorney Jon Reddin, at age 63, collected the largest to date: $976,000, on top of monthly pension checks of $6,070 each.
And, Jason Stein:
The Newsline article by longtime legal writer Stuart Taylor Jr. alleges that Chisholm may have investigated Walker and his associates because Chisholm was upset at the way in which the governor had repealed most collective bargaining for public employees such as his wife, a union steward.
The prosecutor is quoted as saying that he heard Chisholm say that “he felt that it was his personal duty to stop Walker from treating people like this.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has requested to speak with the former prosecutor through Taylor and has not yet received an answer.
In a brief interview, Chisholm denied making those comments. In a longer statement, an attorney representing Chisholm lashed out at the article.
“The suggestion that all of those measures were taken in furtherance of John Chisholm’s (or his wife’s) personal agenda is scurrilous, desperate and just plain cheap,” attorney Samuel Leib said.
“The great irony is that Act 10 has created a marketplace for good teachers,” said Dean Bowles, a Monona Grove School Board member.
Fellow board member Peter Sobol said though the law was billed as providing budget relief for school districts and local government, it could end up being harder on budgets as districts develop compensation models that combine their desire to reward good teachers and the need to keep them. Knowing how many teachers each year will attain the leadership responsibilities and certifications that result in added pay will be difficult.
Monona Grove is developing a career ladder to replace its current salary schedule. The new model is still being drafted by a committee of district administrators, school board members and teachers, but its aim will be to reward “increased responsibility, leadership, ‘stretch assignments’ and other contributions to the district and school missions,’ ” according to the district.
“We thought we could do better,” Monona Grove School District superintendent Dan Olson said, adding that the message to parents is that with the new model, “we’ll be able to keep our good teachers.”
Bowles said the process should result in a district being a place that might not offer the highest pay in the state, but be a place teachers want to work.
“ ‘Attract and retain’ is one of the goals on that list, and in my judgment that does not boil down to” just salary, he said. “It’s also, ‘This is a place I hope you want to be,’ and our kids will benefit from it.”
Ironically, Madison rates not a mention….
Amanda Ripley talked about her book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. In her book she followed three American high-school students who each spent a year in a high-scoring foreign school system, in Finland, South Korea, and Poland.
She spoke in the Science Pavilion of the 2014 National Book Festival, which was held August 30 by the Library of Congress at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. close
Ripley mentioned that in her observation principals spend up to half their time on sports matters.
As a student in the first class of Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, Tyler Beck found himself enveloped in a nurturing environment where teachers came in early and stayed late to help tutor struggling students. There, the boys formed a brotherhood and learned affirmations that kept them pumped up to achieve.
“We were taught, ‘Each one reach one,’ and ‘It takes courage to excel.’ We all learned to help each other because we all wanted to succeed,” Beck said. “There were people who could say they’d been right where you were from and they could say they knew what your life was like.”
But four years later, at the idyllic East Coast private college to which Beck was accepted, the atmosphere was dramatically different. And even though he had earned a full academic scholarship to attend, Beck was not prepared.
Related: the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board.
In a finding sure to inflame the math wars, a team of neuroscientists has revealed the crucial role played by rote memorization in the growing brains of young math students.
Memorizing the answers to simple math problems, such as basic addition or the multiplication tables, marks a key shift in a child’s cognitive development, because it helps bridge the gap from counting on fingers to complex calculation, according to the new brain scanning research.
The progression from counting on fingers to simply remembering that, for example, six plus three equals nine, parallels physical changes in a child’s brain, in which the hippocampus, a key brain structure for memory, gradually takes over from the pre-frontal parietal cortex, an area of higher order reasoning.
Related: Math Forum.
Regent Margaret Farrow said K-12 must be a strong partner in preparing high school students for college. “We’re not, quite frankly, creating this situation we’re trying to solve.”
Starting next year, all 11th graders in Wisconsin pubic schools will be required to take the ACT college-readiness exam that universities use in their admissions process, Farrow noted. She said she’s concerned about what those test results will show.
“I think we’re doing all we can, but we need help because these are our kids,” Farrow said. “If they aren’t making it, this state and this country aren’t making it. … This is an emergency. This is a tragedy happening.”
The UW’s freshman math remediation rate of 21% is below the national average of 25% to 35%, according to Cross.
UW Regent Jose Vasquez bristled at the UW System taking on “a problem that is really our cohort’s problem,” referring to K-12. “The problem was not created by the university and I’m not convinced we can solve it within the university.”
He advocated earlier intervention in high school.
However, “it’s in all of our best interest to work together on this,” Cross said.
Related: Math Forum.
Madison’s math review task force. Have the results of the task force made a difference?
Students entering grades 6-9 in the Boston, Cambridge and Lawrence, MA area recently had an opportunity to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts thanks to a STEM Summer Institute offered by MIT’s Office of Engineering Outreach Programs.
The institute was taught by 15 instructors, mostly graduate and undergraduate students, who “worked closely with expert mentors to prepare their curricula, and academic advisors provided additional student and instructional support,” according to an MIT news release.
Middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District have become caring environments for students, but aren’t rigorous enough to prepare them for high school academic work, says Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
“We know there are quite a few things that highly effective schools do that we have not been doing in both our middle and our high schools,” Cheatham told Madison School Board members Monday during a review of a district report on coursework in the high schools.
“We haven’t established a coherent approach to instruction, as you’ve heard me say again and again, but we are making progress. We’ve all spent quality time in our middle and high school classrooms, and in middle schools in particular, we’ve made tons of progress in creating very caring environments, but the level of rigor and academic challenge isn’t where it needs to be,” Cheatham said.