Category Archives: Uncategorized

Run for Office 2021: Madison City Council

All City of Madison Aldermanic Seats and City of Madison Municipal Judge will be up for election in 2021. Seats 1 and 2 of the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will also be on the ballot in 2021.

Recent aldermanic education rhetoric.

Key Dates:

December 1, 2020: Nomination Papers may be circulated.

December 25, 2020: Deadline for incumbents not seeking re-election to file Notice of Non-Candidacy.

January 5, 2021 All papers and forms due in City Clerk’s Office at 5 p.m.

January 8, 2021 Deadline to challenge nomination papers.

PRIMARY DATE (if needed): February 16, 2021

ELECTION DATE: April 6, 2021

School Board campaign finance information.

** Note that just one of 7 local offices were competitive on my August, 2020 ballot. The District Attorney was unopposed (the linked article appeared after the election).

America Will Sacrifice Anything for the College Experience

Ian Bogost:

American colleges botched the pandemic from the very start. Caught off guard in the spring, most of them sent everyone home in a panic, in some cases evicting students who had nowhere else to go. School leaders hemmed and hawed all summer about what to do next and how to do it. In the end, most schools reopened their campuses for the fall, and when students returned, they brought the coronavirus along with them. Come Labor Day, 19 of the nation’s 25 worst outbreaks were in college towns, including the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Iowa State in Ames, and the University of Georgia in Athens. By early October, the White House Coronavirus Task Force estimated that as many as 20 percent of all Georgia college students might have become infected.

Who’s to blame for the turmoil? College leaders desperate to enroll students or risk financial collapse; students, feeling young and invincible, who were bound to be dumb and throw parties; red-state governments and boards that pressured universities to reopen.

But ordinary Americans also bear responsibility. They didn’t just want classes to resume in person—they wanted campuses to return to normal. By one measure, more than two-thirds of students wanted to head back to their colleges. Even parents deeply worried about the safety of their kids still packed bags and road-tripped across the country to drop them off at school. When some colleges moved to Zoom, students and parents revolted. More than 100 colleges, both private (Brown, Duke) and public (Rutgers, North Carolina), have been sued for tuition refunds. You can understand why. It costs almost $60,000 per year to attend Brown, and that’s before room, board, books, and fees.

An Exam Surveillance Company Is Trying to Silence Critics With Lawsuits

Todd Feathers:

Linkletter, who has been working in the field of educational technology for 13 years, generally considers himself a proponent of software designed to improve the school experience. But what he found while researching Proctorio concerned him, along with many other educators and college students who are rebelling against Proctorio and similar algorithmic proctoring software. They argue that the tools are an unacceptable invasion of privacy and are destined to cause institutional discrimination against students who are marginalized, low-income, neurodiverse, or don’t otherwise fit the software developers’ definition of normal.

Over several days in August, Linkletter became a vociferous critic of Proctorio, tweeting out his thoughts alongside Proctorio’s training videos for instructors, which detailed how the software’s algorithms flag students for “abnormal” behavior during exams. Within a matter of hours of his tweets, the videos disappeared from YouTube—the first sign that Proctorio was paying attention to him.

Then, in early September, Linkletter got a call from a reporter at the Vancouver Sun. Proctorio was suing him for copyright infringement over the tweets. Without Linkletter knowing the case had been initiated, the Supreme Court of British Columbia had granted the company’s request for an injunction barring Linkletter from sharing what Proctorio described as confidential information about its software.

Suicides Up Nearly 100% Among Young People in Wisconsin’s Second Largest County, as Medical Experts Cite Perils of Social Isolation

Jon Miltimore:

This summer, a relative reached out to me regarding the sad story of Kodie Dutcher, a 10-year-old from Baraboo, Wisconsin who was reported missing in July.

Law enforcement officials put out an Amber Alert, and a volunteer search party was organized. Kodie’s body was found the following morning—July 7, a Tuesday—near her home. Her death was ruled a suicide by the Baraboo Police Department.

Kodie’s death shook me. I grew up in a small town not far from Baraboo and know people who live there today. It occurred to me that my own little girl, whom I still think of as a baby, is roughly the same age Kodie was when she took her life.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, but evidence suggests that few demographics are suffering more than young people. Data show they’re suffering more economically, and emerging evidence shows that many are less equipped to deal with the “collateral damage” of forced lockdowns mentally.

U.S. faculty job market tanks

Katie Langin:

The scarcity of academic jobs is a peren- nial problem for U.S. science trainees. But this year, faculty job openings at U.S. insti- tutions are down 70% compared with last year, according to an analysis of job adver- tisements on the Science Careers job board. (Science’s news team operates independently from the job board.) Only 173 U.S.-based jobs were posted from July to September, com- pared with 571 during the same period last year. Non-U.S. job postings dropped by 8%.

“It’s about double-worse than I imag- ined,” says Andrew Spaeth, an industrial chemist and co-creator of a popular online faculty job list for chemists. “I thought we’d see a hit—maybe 30%,” he says, but his site lists roughly 70% fewer openings compared with last year. An ecology and evolution job list reveals a similar drop, with 65% fewer openings this year.

The dismal numbers reflect anxiety about university finances amid the pandemic, says Robert Zemsky, a professor of educa- tion at the University of Pennsylvania who studies university finances. Big public uni- versities, in particular, are a “total mess,” he says. “They are losing enrollment, they are losing revenue, and they don’t know what to do, so they have hiring freezes every- where.” Even universities that are finan- cially stable now are concerned about the future. “Everybody is sitting on their hands and nobody wants to make bets at all right now,” he says.

In defence of knowledge

Alexander Larman:

Richard Ovenden’s new book is a passionate defence of the sanctity of knowledge expressed through literature

Here is a custom that exists, today as it did four centuries ago, that anyone who wishes to enter the Bodleian Library in Oxford as a reader is obliged to make a formal declaration of how they will and will not behave. In addition to promising that they will not remove any book, or “mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody”, it is expressly forbidden to “bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame”. The original impetus behind this was to prevent cold scholars (and dons) from creating makeshift pockets of warmth in the library’s draughty corridors, but the guiding principle has always been the preservation of its books.

Richard Ovenden has been the Bodleian’s librarian since 2014: he is in ultimate charge of the institution’s 13 million volumes and countless archives, manuscripts and printed material. He is only the twenty-fifth of Bodley’s librarians, as they are known, since 1599. Ovenden has been praised for his high-minded and forward-looking approach to the Bodleian, where he has worked since 2003; it was he, for instance, who was the recipient of Alan Bennett’s decision to donate his archive to the Bodleian in 2008.

$1.2 Billion in Property Tax Increases Up for Vote in November School Referenda (Madison, by far the largest)

Ola Lisowski:

Voters will consider nearly $1.2 billion in property tax increases in the November election, thanks to school district referenda. Taxpayers in 41 school districts across the state will consider a total of 51 questions on their ballots for projects ranging from brand new buildings, upgrades to existing facilities and permission to spend beyond state-imposed property tax protections and 

The vast majority of the referenda, totaling $925 million, would issue new debt. Twenty-one different referendum questions across the state will ask taxpayers to issue new debt for various school projects. 

According to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), 77 percent of the referenda up for vote will issue debt directly to taxpayers. Another 19 percent are non-recurring or one-time increases on district spending caps, while recurring increases to spending camps make up the remaining 4 percent.

Of the districts asking to issue new debt, the Madison Metropolitan referendum question is by far the largest. Madison voters will consider whether to issue $317 million in debt to build a new elementary school, combine Madison High East and West into a single school, among many other renovations and improvements. 

Recent reports show enrollment in the district fell by more than 1,000 students in the last year.

Much more on Madison’s substantial Fall 2020 tax & spending increase referendum, here.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

K-12 Tax, Referendum & Spending Climate: The next economic crisis: Empty retail space

Katy O’Donnell:

Because the crisis has hit some places and industries much harder than others, it’s difficult to get a clear, big picture of the market’s troubles — one reason lobbyists have struggled to convey the urgency to policymakers. Some assets have been wiped out, while others are thriving.

Hotels and retail, which together make up 40 percent of the commercial mortgage-backed securities market, have been hit the hardest. Months after lockdowns lifted, 1 out of every 2 hotel rooms remains unoccupied. Urban hotels, which have some of the largest operating costs, are faring the worst, with just 38 percent occupancy rates.

And retail, which was already struggling before Covid struck thanks to the rise of e-commerce, has seen its decline hasten. It’s not just small strip malls, either: The owner of the $1.9 billion Mall of America entered into an agreement with its special servicer in August to avoid foreclosure.

One quarter of all CMBS hotel loans are in special servicing today, compared with just 1.9 percent at the end of 2019. And 18.3 percent of retail loans are in special servicing, up from 5 percent at the end of last year.

Much more on Madison’s substantial Fall 2020 tax & spending increase referendum, here.

NU Community Not Cops calls on President Schapiro to resign following his condemnation of abolitionist protests

Isabelle Sarraf and James Pollard:

Standing outside University President Morton Schapiro’s house, students led by Northwestern Community Not Cops, a campaign demanding the abolition of University Police, called for Schapiro’s resignation Monday night.

Several hours earlier, Schapiro sent an email saying NU has no intentions to abolish UP after a week of ongoing protests led by the group.

“Your students see through you, Morton,” NU Community Not Cops said in a statement. “Black people are not safe anywhere in a world with police, including in their homes, a reality that Black students at Northwestern also contend with.” 

Over 200 students participated in the eighth straight day of action to abolish UP and invest in Black students. The group, flanked by students walking with bicycles, was trailed by 12 officers on bikes. The officers were part of the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System Mobile Field Force, a group created in 1994 to maximize “the effectiveness of initial response efforts by police when a major civil disturbance occurs.”

The Cost of the Trump and Biden Campaign Plans

CRFB:

Whoever is inaugurated on January 20, 2021, will face many fiscal challenges over his term. Under current law, trillion-dollar annual budget deficits will become the new normal, even after the current public health emergency subsides. Meanwhile, the national debt is projected to exceed the post-World War II record high over the next four-year term and reach twice the size of the economy within 30 years. Four major trust funds are also headed for insolvency, including the Highway and Medicare Hospital Insurance trust funds, within the next presidential term.

The national debt was growing rapidly before the necessary borrowing to combat the COVID-19 crisis, and this trajectory will continue after the crisis ends. Fiscal irresponsibility prior to the pandemic worsened structural deficits that were already growing due to rising health and retirement costs and insufficient revenue.

The country’s large and growing national debt threatens to slow economic growth, constrain the choices available to future policymakers, and is ultimately unsustainable. Yet neither presidential candidate has a plan to address the growth in debt. In fact, we find both candidates’ plans are likely to increase the debt.

K-12 Tax, Referendum and Spending Climate: 4 in 10 Children Live in a Household Struggling to Afford Basics

cbpp:

More than 4 in 10 children live in households that struggle to meet usual household expenses, our analysis of Census Bureau data released today finds. Along with other data showing that hardship has significantly worsened due to COVID-19 and the recession that it spurred, the figures underscore the need for policymakers to agree on a strong, bipartisan economic relief package.

An estimated 42 percent of children live in households that reported it was somewhat or very difficult to cover expenses such as food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses, or student loans, according to CBPP analysis of detailed data collected from September 16 to 28 from Census’ Household Pulse Survey. By contrast, 27 percent of adults in households without children reported that it was somewhat or very difficult to cover expenses. Between 7 and 11 million children live in a household where children didn’t eat enough because the household couldn’t afford it.

The detailed data released today allow a closer look at the hardship findings that Census released on October 7, which showed hardship rates for adults from September 16 to 28. Our new analysis focuses on children, whose hardship rates for that period are higher. Hardship can inflict lasting harm on children’s health and education, studies show.

Much more on Madison’s Fall 2020 tax & spending increase referendum, here.

In a steely anti-government polemic, Betsy DeVos says America’s public schools are designed to replace home and family

Valerie Strauss:

In 2015, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos declared that “government really sucks” — and after serving nearly four years as U.S. education secretary, she has not tempered that view one iota. She gave a speech this week at a Christian college disparaging the U.S. public education system, saying it is set up to replace the home and family.

“The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”

Civics: Civil Liberties in Times of Crisis

Marcella Alsan , Luca Braghieri, Sarah Eichmeyer, Minjeong Joyce Kim, Stefanie Stantcheva, David Y. Yang:

The respect for and protection of civil liberties are one of the fundamental roles of the state, and many consider civil liberties as sacred and “nontradable.” Using cross-country representative surveys that cover 15 countries and over 370,000 respondents, we study whether and the extent to which citizens are willing to trade off civil liberties during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the largest crises in recent history. We find four main results. First, many around the world reveal a clear willingness to trade off civil liberties for improved public health conditions. Second, consistent across countries, exposure to health risks is associated with citizens’ greater willingness to trade off civil liberties, though individuals who are more economically disadvantaged are less willing to do so. Third, attitudes concerning such trade-offs are elastic to information. Fourth, we document a gradual decline and then plateau in citizens’ overall willingness to sacrifice rights and freedom as the pandemic progresses, though the underlying correlation between individuals’ worry about health and their attitudes over the trade-offs has been remarkably constant. Our results suggest that citizens do not view civil liberties as sacred values; rather, they are willing to trade off civil liberties more or less readily, at least in the short-run, depending on their own circumstances and information.

Top Universities Took Billions in Unreported Foreign Funds, U.S. Finds

Aruna Viswanatha and Melissa Korn:

Cornell University initially failed to report to U.S. authorities more than $1.2 billion in foreign funds it has received in recent years, including $760 million related to its campus in Qatar and about $1 million in contracts from Chinese telecom company Huawei Technologies Co., the U.S. Education Department indicated in its latest report on schools and foreign contracts.

The names of Cornell and other universities are redacted in a report the department released Tuesday, but are identifiable based on other details provided in the report and related correspondence by the department with the schools.

The 34-page report provides an update to a broad investigation the Education Department undertook last year into whether U.S. universities are appropriately reporting all foreign contracts and gifts that total more than $250,000 in one year. It isn’t illegal to take such funds, but universities are obligated to disclose them under a statute that is decades old but hasn’t been vigorously enforced in past years.

Teaching white privilege as uncontested fact is illegal, minister says Kemi Badenoch

Jessica Murray:

Schools which teach pupils that “white privilege” is an uncontested fact are breaking the law, the women and equalities minister has said.

Addressing MPs during a Commons debate on Black History Month, Kemi Badenoch said the government does not want children being taught about “white privilege and their inherited racial guilt”.

“Any school which teaches these elements of political race theory as fact, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law,” she said.

She added that schools have a statutory duty to remain politically impartial and should not openly support “the anti-capitalist Black Lives Matter group”.

Badenoch was speaking in response to Labour MP Dawn Butler, who had told the Commons that black children are made to feel inferior by what they are taught in school and history “needs to be decolonised”.

“At the moment history is taught to make one group of people feel inferior and another group of people feel superior, and this has to stop,” Butler said.

10 Tips for Camping With Kids and Babies

Phil Morgan:

Taking a kid camping? Intimidating, yes—but if you equip yourself with a bit of know-how, mitigate risk, and practice overall good judgement, a night in the woods with a tot in tow is not only possible but also actually rollicking good fun.
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For years, my wife, Ella, and I wandered relentlessly. We guided whitewater rafting trips on North Carolina’s Nantahala River, camped up and down the Appalachians, and spent entire summers backpacking Latin America. When our baby boy Gabriel came along, all of that changed. We mostly stayed home “nesting,” as they call it.

Growing soft, moody, and restless, we decided it was time for our first overnight backpacking camping trip as a family. For young kids, after all, a camping trip marks the commencement of an era, the beginning of a glorious childhood spent exploring the outdoors. Here are the lessons we gleaned along the way:

K-12 Tax, Referendum & Spending Climate: 2021 City of Madison Budget Brief

Wisconsin Policy Forum:

As we noted in our first Madison budget brief last year, Wisconsin’s capital city relies heavily on a single source of revenue – local property taxes – that is limited by state law. Because of these restrictions, the proposed budget would increase 2021 property taxes on this December’s bills by one of the smallest percentages in years even as other forms of revenues — such as charges for city services, interest income, and fines — will remain depressed amid the pandemic. Add in labor contract commitments for healthy raises for police and firefighters and lagging state aid and the result is a $16.5 million potential budget gap for the coming year.

To avoid the shortfall, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway is asking the Madison city council to make some permanent spending cuts and accept some one-time measures such as furloughs and a substantial use of the city fund balance. Together, the current proposal and the city’s likely future revenues leave a high probability that a new shortfall for 2022 will appear next fall. In other closely watched areas, the city would increase rather than cut police spending and push off some capital projects such as the rollout of bus rapid transit.

A substantial Madison School District tax & spending increase referendum is on the November ballot.

PISA 2018 Results (Volume VI)

OECD, via a kind reader:

OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) examines what students know in reading, mathematics and science, and what they can do with what they know. It provides the most comprehensive and rigorous international assessment of student learning outcomes to date. Results from PISA indicate the quality and equity of learning outcomes attained around the world, and allow educators and policy makers to learn from the policies and practices applied in other countries. This is one of six volumes that present the results of the PISA 2018 survey, the seventh round of the triennial assessment. Volume VI: Are Students Ready to Thrive in an Interconnected World? explores students’ ability to examine issues of local, global and cultural significance; understand and appreciate the perspectives and worldviews of others; engage in open, appropriate and effective interactions across cultures; and take action for collective well-being and sustainable development. The volume explores students’ outcomes on the cognitive test and corresponding questionnaire in addition to their experiences of global and intercultural learning at school and beyond.

K-12 Tax, Referendum & Spending Climate: ‘This is going to be a long haul’: Local taverns close for the winter

Lindsay Christians:

“It’s not an economic environment or a political environment for a business like mine to stay open,” Warnke said. “The government can’t get its stuff together. We can’t control the pandemic, and it’s getting worse in Wisconsin. I’m looking at it, going … this might be the right time to gracefully exit, before I run out of cash.”

It’s small comfort to Warnke that he and Rockhound are not alone. Beloved breakfast spot Manna Café on the north side, elegant Graft on the Capitol Square, Charlie’s on Main in Oregon with its hidden speakeasy and the family friendly Italian spot Vin Santo in Middleton — all have been casualties of COVID-19.

Much more on Madison’s Fall 2020 tax & spending increase referendum, here.

Teen’s COVID speech lawsuit tied up in court

MD Kittle:

The lawsuit of an Oxford, Wis. teen threatened with arrest for posting on Instagram that she had COVID-19 remains mired in delays six months after her parents took the sheriff’s department to court.

Luke Berg, deputy counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), tells Empower Wisconsin that Amyiah Cohoon and her parents are still waiting for the U.S. District Court to rule.

“The case was recently re-assigned to the newly appointed Judge (Brett) Ludwig, so hopefully we’ll get a decision sooner since he has less of a backlog,” Berg said.

WILL is suing Marquette County Sheriff Joseph Konrath and Sergeant Cameron Klump, alleging they violated Amyiah Cohoon’s First Amendment rights. The Milwaukee-based public interest law firm is representing the girl and her parents, Rick and Angela Cohoon.

As Empower Wisconsin reported, on March 27 Klump threatened to cite or jail Amyiah or her parents if she did not remove the social network post indicating she was recovering from COVID-19, according to the lawsuit.

Thinking Forward: New Ideas for a New Era of Public Education

Robin Lake:

Marking CRPE’s 25th anniversary, this volume of essays rethinks foundational aspects of the current education system, from funding to accountability to equity, with an eye toward preparing every student for the future. The goal is not to propose what the education system of the future ought to look like, but to reexamine past assumptions, look for gaps in existing education policies and reforms, and offer provocative new ideas to address them.

These essays consider ways to unbundle learning. But they also focus on the rebundling, elevating concerns about social mobility, opportunity for the disadvantaged, educational coherence, and safeguards for the public interest that have always been a part of the unique lens through which CRPE views the future of public education.

Many questions—and potential risks—exist in even a gradual transition to more agile, student-centered learning systems. Yet, fundamentally rigid and inequitable structures prevent the current system from doing what is necessary to meet the needs of all students. Stagnant debates over issues that have long been the focus of education reformers—funding, parental choice, school accountability—demand an injection of fresh thinking that can awaken new political coalitions and bridge long-standing divides.

US Undergrad Student Enrollment

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

Fall 2020 Enrollment (As of Sept 24)

Enrollment picture worsens, with more colleges reporting data. Roughly one month into the fall semester, undergraduate enrollment is running 4.0 percent below last year’s level, and the upward trend for graduate enrollment has slipped to 2.7 percent. Overall postsecondary enrollment is down 3.0 percent as of September 24.

Most strikingly, first-time students are by far the biggest decline of any student group from last year (-16.1% nationwide and -22.7% at community colleges).

All student groups identified on a path of decline in the First Look report have fallen further.

End the School Shutdown

David R. Henderson and Ryan Sullivan:

Tens of millions of students started the school year completely online, including those in 13 of the 15 largest school districts in the U.S. The primary reason is concern over safety for students and staff. But recent data are shifting the discussion on school safety and infection rates of Covid-19. They argue strongly for opening K-12 schools.

Previous evidence has suggested that schools are not superspreaders. That research came from other countries (whose rates and environments are different) or very specific cases in America, such as YMCA summer camps. While this suggested little impact on infection rates from opening the schools, it was possible that the unique environment of U.S. public schools would cause different outcomes.

Teacher Union Climate Commentary

Mike Antonucci:

I provide a lot of criticism of teacher unions on this site, so in the interest of balance, here are a couple of stories from major publications portraying them in a holy light.

* “New teachers union boss fighting Trump, school reopening battles” by Nicole Gaudiano in Politico, is a profile of new National Education Association President Becky Pringle.

Pringle said a second Trump term wouldn’t stop the union’s work in states that are supportive of public education or its fight, for example, for the inclusion of ethnic studies in schools. And the union will keep pushing aggressively for safety and equity in schools during the pandemic through strikes, protests and sickouts — or by backing lawsuits, as it has in Florida, Iowa and Georgia, she said.

…Pringle’s tenure begins during a national moment of reckoning on racial justice, which is the very reason she became involved in unions.

Lily Eskelsen García, who headed the union before Pringle, said her successor “changed the conversation” within NEA around racial justice issues in education and led that work as the union’s vice president.

“As we talked about, ‘How do we get test scores up?’ And she’d say, ‘Shut up about the test scores. Why don’t these kids have the resources, the staff, the class size?’” Eskelsen García recalled.

* “The Teacher Unions Reinvigorating Progressive Politics” by Lauren Anderson in the Harvard Political Review, takes us on a slow tour of recent teacher union activism.

Wisconsin Dells School District will switch cleaning products after students report clothing damage

Erica Dynes:

Wisconsin Dells School District will switch its disinfectant to clean frequently touched surfaces to kill the COVID-19 virus after reports of damage to students’ clothing.

Buildings and Grounds Director Scott Walsh said the school district will switch from using Vital Oxide to a hydrogen peroxide based disinfectant product after reports from parents saying their childrens’ clothing have been damaged from the product. He said the high school will switch products this week while the middle and elementary school will also discontinue the use of Vital Oxide.

Walsh said he received some complaints from the high school level about damaged clothing while some have also come at the elementary school level.

“It hasn’t been a lot of complaints,” Walsh said.

Walsh believed students would sit on the treated surface before it had dried, which might have damaged clothing. The disinfectant also could have affected certain fabrics or dyes in the clothing, he said.

How does Google’s monopoly hurt you? Try these searches.

Geoffrey Fowler:

Let’s Google together. Open a Web browser and search for T-shirts. I’ll wait.

Is the first thing you see a search result? I’m not talking about the stuff labeled Ads or Maps. On my screen, the actual result is not in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh or even eighth row of stuff. It’s buried on row nine.

Googling didn’t used to require so much … scrolling. On some searches, it’s like Where’s Waldo but for information.

Without us even realizing it, the Internet’s most-used website has been getting worse. On too many queries, Google is more interested in making search lucrative than a better product for us.

There’s one reason it gets away with this, according to a recent congressional investigation: Google is so darn big. An impending antitrust lawsuit from the U.S. Justice Department is expected to make a similar point.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Civics: Why can’t we talk about the Great Barrington Declaration?

Tony Young:

You probably haven’t heard of the Great Barrington Declaration. This is a petition started by three scientists on October 4 calling for governments to adopt a policy of ‘focused protection’ when it comes to COVID-19. They believe those most at risk should be offered protection — although it shouldn’t be mandatory — and those not at risk, which is pretty much everyone under 65 without an underlying health condition, should be encouraged to return to normal. In this way, the majority will get infected and then recover, gradually building up herd immunity, and that in turn will mean the elderly and the vulnerable no longer have to hide themselves away. According to these experts, this is the tried and tested way of managing the risk posed by a new infectious disease, dating back thousands of years.

The three scientists who created it aren’t outliers or cranks, but professors at Oxford, Harvard and Stanford. And since its launch, the declaration been signed by tens of thousands of epidemiologists and public health scientists, including a Nobel Prize winner. So why haven’t you heard of it? The short answer is there’s been a well-orchestrated attempt to suppress and discredit it. I searched for it on Google last Saturday and the top link was to an article in an obscure left-wing magazine claiming the petition was the work of a ‘climate science denial network’ funded by a right-wing billionaire. The top video link was to a Channel 4 News report in which Devi Sridhar, a public health advisor to the Scottish government, denounced the declaration as not ‘scientific’. A bit rich considering Devi’s PhD is in social anthropology, whereas Sunetra Gupta, one of the petition’s authors, is a global expert on infectious diseases. In the first 10 pages of Google search results, not one took me to the actual declaration.

It is hard to find any mention of it on Reddit, the world’s best-known discussion website. The two most popular subreddits devoted to the virus — r/COVID19 and r/Coronavirus — have excised all references to it, with the moderators of the latter denouncing it as ‘spam’. A similar line has been taken by nearly all left-leaning newspapers. TheGuardian ran an article on the declaration last Saturday, but only to flag up that its more than 400,000 signatories included a handful of dubious-sounding ‘experts’, such as ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’ and ‘Prof Cominic Dummings’. Hardly surprising, given that lockdown zealots have been openly encouraging their followers on social media to sign up with fake names.

Idaho parents fight to ensure the teachers union won’t shut down schools again

Liberty Justice Center:

As the West Ada School District announced it would reopen on Wednesday, a group of parents filed a lawsuit arguing this week’s “sick out” was an illegal union strike, and that the teachers union cannot use the threat of another work stoppage to force the district to meet its demands.

“After weeks and months of preparing to return to school, the teachers union held kids’ education hostage because it was not happy with the reopening plans agreed upon by school officials and the community. Not only is this type of behavior morally reprehensible and harmful to our kids, it’s illegal,” said Dustin Hurst, vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which is supporting the parents in this lawsuit. “The teachers union must know that it cannot threaten to withhold education from our kids in order to pressure the community to meet its demands.”

The parents are represented by attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit law firm that won a pivotal Supreme Court case against the government unions in 2018.

Students from northern England facing ‘toxic attitude’ at Durham University

Nazia Parveen:

Students from northern England are being ridiculed over their accents and backgrounds at one of the country’s leading universities, and even forced out, according to a report compiled by a Durham student.

Lauren White, 20, is demanding action after interviews with fellow northern students at Durham revealed a “toxic attitude” towards them from some peers and tutors. Its vice-chancellor said her report highlighted unacceptable behaviours at odds with the university’s values and that the findings would be looked into.

Last year a freedom of information request revealed that on average 7.8% of graduates over the last five years from Durham University – one of the country’s best-rated institutions – were from the north-east England.

Two years ago, White, who grew up 15 miles from Durham and is in her third year, found herself in this minority. She said discrimination and ridiculing of her local roots began almost immediately.

“At first when they mocked and mimicked my accent, I sort of went along with it, even laughed, but then when I persistently became the butt of jokes about coalmining and started to get called feral because I was local it started to feel malicious,” she said.

Civics: What Explains Temporal and Geographic Variation in the Early US Coronavirus Pandemic?

Hunt Allcott, Levi Boxell, Jacob C. Conway, Billy A. Ferguson, Matthew Gentzkow, Benny Goldman:

We provide new evidence on the drivers of the early US coronavirus pandemic. We combine an epidemiological model of disease transmission with quasi-random variation arising from the timing of stay-at-home orders to estimate the causal roles of policy interventions and voluntary social distancing. We then relate the residual variation in disease transmission rates to observable features of cities. We estimate significant impacts of policy and social distancing responses, but we show that the magnitude of policy effects is modest, and most social distancing is driven by voluntary responses. Moreover, we show that neither policy nor rates of voluntary social distancing explain a meaningful share of geographic variation. The most important predictors of which cities were hardest hit by the pandemic are exogenous characteristics such as population and density.

K-12 Tax, Spending and Referendum Climate: 8 million Americans slipped into poverty amid coronavirus pandemic, new study says

Stefan Sykes:

The number of Americans living in poverty grew by 8 million since May, according to a Columbia University study, which found an increase in poverty rates after early coronavirus relief ended without more to follow.

Although the federal Cares Act, which gave Americans a one-time stimulus check of $1,200 and unemployed workers an extra $600 each week, was successful at offsetting growing poverty rates in the spring, the effects were short-lived, researchers found in the study published Thursday.

After aid diminished toward the end of summer, poverty rates, especially those among minorities and children, rebounded, they said.

“The Cares Act, despite its flaws, was broadly successful in preventing large increases in poverty,” said Zach Parolin, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University and one of the study’s authors.

The federal stimulus saved about 18 million Americans from poverty in April, he said, but as of September, that number is down to 4 million.

Madison has a substantial property tax & spending increase referendum on the 2020 November ballot.

[Question] Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses.

David Gross:

To be ex­plained: It feels to me that in re­cent years, peo­ple have got­ten stupi­der, or that stupid has got­ten big­ger, or that the parts of peo­ple that were always stupid have got­ten louder, or some­thing like that.

I’ve come up with a suite of hy­pothe­ses to ex­plain this (with a lit­tle help from my friends). I thought I’d throw them out here to see which ones the wise crowd here think are most likely. Bonus points if you come up with some new ones. Gold stars if you can rule some out based on ex­ist­ing data or can pro­pose tests by which they might be ren­dered more or less plau­si­ble.

The hy­pothe­ses come in two broad fam­i­lies: 1) my feel­ing that stupid is ex­pand­ing is an illu­sion or mis­per­cep­tion, and 2) stupid is ex­pand­ing and here is why:

1 I have be­come more at­tuned to stu­pidity for [rea­sons], so even though there is no more of it than usual, it stands out more to me. (Baader-Mein­hof phe­nomenon)

2 What used to look like non-stu­pidity was ac­tu­ally wide­spread con­for­mity to a com­mon menu of fool­ish­nesses. To­day the cul­tural bea­cons of re­spectable idiocy have been over­thrown and there is in­creas­ing di­ver­sity in fool­ish­ness. Diver­gent fools seem more fool­ish to each other when in fact we’re all just as stupid as we’ve always been.

Google’s Penalty Against the Online Slang Dictionary

Walter:

This website has been penalized by Google under suspicious circumstances. The penalty causes our web pages to appear at lower positions in Google’s search results than what they’ve earned on their merit. It is an intentional, hidden, manual penalty executed by Google against this site.

Publicly, the company says that websites can discover and fight these manual penalties via a tool they provide. What they don’t disclose is that Google can and does execute hidden penalties against sites. Since they’re hidden, there’s no way for site owners to respond to – or even know about – the fact that Google is intentionally limiting visitors to their sites. Websites live or die based on people visiting the site. This means that Google kills websites in private, with no recourse for the site owners. And there is no oversight or accountability.

To my knowledge, Google’s ability to destroy websites in this manner has not been disclosed before.

I was only made aware of the penalty after a whistle-blower informed me of it.

Separately, when confronted about this hidden penalty, a Google employee lied to me and to the public about it. That Google employee is Matt Cutts, the former head of the Google team that executes penalties against websites. He quietly left the company after an extended “sabbatical” and, tellingly, no one has been hired to replace him.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts use Google services, including Madison.

The Mad, Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League–Obsessed Parents

Ruth Barrett:

On paper, Sloane, a buoyant, chatty, stay-at-home mom from Fairfield County, Connecticut, seems almost unbelievably well prepared to shepherd her three daughters through the roiling world of competitive youth sports. She played tennis and ran track in high school and has an advanced degree in behavioral medicine. She wrote her master’s thesis on the connection between increased aerobic activity and attention span. She is also versed in statistics, which comes in handy when she’s analyzing her eldest daughter’s junior-squash rating—and whiteboarding the consequences if she doesn’t step up her game. “She needs at least a 5.0 rating, or she’s going to Ohio State,” Sloane told me.

She laughed: “I don’t mean to throw Ohio State under the bus. It’s an amazing school with amazing school spirit.”

But a little over a year ago, during the Fourth of July weekend, Sloane began to think that maybe it was time to call it quits. She was crouched in the vestibule of the Bay Club in Redwood City, strategizing on the phone with her husband about a “malicious refereeing” dispute that had victimized her daughter at the California Summer Gold tournament. He had his own problem. In Columbus, Ohio, at the junior-fencing nationals with the couple’s two younger girls and son, he reported that their middle daughter, a 12-year-old saber fencer, had been stabbed in the jugular during her first bout. The wound was right next to the carotid artery, and he was withdrawing her from the tournament and flying home.

She’d been hurt before while fencing—on one occasion gashed so deeply in the thigh that blood seeped through her pants—but this was the first time a blade had jabbed her in the throat. It was a Fourth of July massacre.

The pandemic has eroded democracy and respect for human rights

The Economist:

People were hungry during lockdown. So Francis Zaake, a Ugandan member of parliament, bought some rice and sugar and had it delivered to his neediest constituents. For this charitable act, he was arrested. Mr Zaake is a member of the opposition, and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has ordered that only the government may hand out food aid. Anyone else who does so can be charged with murder, Mr Museveni has threatened, since they might do it in a disorderly way, attract crowds and thereby spread the coronavirus.

Mr Zaake had been careful not to put his constituents at risk. Rather than having crowds converge on one place to pick up the food parcels, he had them delivered to people’s doors by motorbike-taxi. Nonetheless, the next day police and soldiers jumped over his fence while he was showering and broke into his house. They dragged him into a van and threw him in a cell. He says they beat, kicked and cut him, crushed his testicles, sprayed a blinding chemical into his eyes, called him a dog and told him to quit politics. He claims that one sneered: “We can do whatever we want to you or even kill you…No one will demonstrate for you because they are under lockdown.” The police say he inflicted the injuries on himself and is fishing for sympathy with foreign donors.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees). Run for office. Spring 2021 elections: Dane county executive.

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Why Are Some Bilingual People Dyslexic in English but Not Their Other Language?

Neuroscience news:

Summary: The characteristics of language structure and writing system may explain why some bilingual people are dyslexic in English, but not in their other proficient language.

Source: Brunel University

In the English-speaking world, dyslexia is a learning disorder we’re all familiar with – if we don’t have it ourselves or have a friend or family member that struggles with it, we’re likely to have known someone at school or university who found reading and writing trickier than their peers.

n fact, more than 1 in 10 people that grew up with English as their first language are said to have dyslexia, with wide consensus pointing towards a person’s genetic history as the leading cause. One, it would appear, is either born dyslexic or not.

So, how then have we ended up with the phenomenon that some people who speak both English and another language can be dyslexic in one, but not the other?

Boston parents square off over entrance exam proposal

Gal Tziperman:

Those were the dueling messages traded Sunday by parents, alumni, and others who made clear where they stand on a controversial proposal to eliminate for the next school year the test students must pass to enter one of Boston’s three prestigious exam schools.

A working group appointed by School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius recommended this month suspending the test for the 2021-2022 school year for Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group noted that the test would be difficult to administer safely during the pandemic under public health guidelines, and that the COVID-19 crisis has already made day-to-day life more difficult for families who are low-income, Black, or Latino.

Vote NO! for better schools; Referendums should have Price Tags….


Madison LaFollette High School Saturday, 17 October 2020.

2020 Madison School District Tax & Spending Increase Referendum: David Blaska:

Another election is approaching, which means the Madison school district has its hands out for more money. Time to do like Sister Mary Rosaria and slap that hand with a steel-edge ruler!

The Madison Metropolitan School District seeks a one-time infusion of $317 million to fix stuff, buy a new boiler, etc. (Let’s hope they get a Menard’s BIG® card for savings on gasoline at Kwik Trip.) Got to think spending on bricks and mortar will be a hard sell when buildings have been empty since March and won’t fill back up until after Christmas — if then! Distance learning, home schooling — once the hobgoblin of the teachers union — is now the new normal. And can’t MMSD ever schedule maintenance?!

former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz:

But here’s the thing. Unless you’ve been following this stuff closely, you would have no idea what this actually means for your tax bill. The referendum questions include only the gross dollar amounts, but no information about what it will cost the average homeowner.

If both referendums are approved, taxes on the average $311,000 home would go up a whopping $470 or so when the new spending is fully implemented in a few years. If every voter knew that it would make it a tougher sell, which is why, I suspect, that information isn’t on the ballot.

Almost $500 is a lot to ask for in any year, but in the context of COVID-induced furloughs, pay reductions and outright job losses this may be an even harder sell than usual. Nonetheless, more information is always better. The Legislature loves to mess around in local government and shortchange local control in counter-productive ways. But one thing they should do is mandate that all referendum questions include information on the impact to the tax bill on the average home in the community.

…..

Finally, they’ve made so little progress on the racial achievement gap that in August a group of Black leaders came out against the referendums to send a message. They note that 90% of Black students cannot read or do math at grade level. In their statement they write, “We have not been presented with evidence that links additional public expenditures with increasing the academic performance of African American students. More of the same for African American students is unacceptable.”

Much more on the 2020 tax & spending increase referendum, here.

A presenter [org chart] further mentioned that Madison spends about $1 per square foot in annual budget maintenance while Milwaukee is about $2. – October 2019 presentation. Milwaukee taxpayers plan to spend $1.2B for 75,234 students, or $15,950 per student, about 16% less than Madison.

The outcome of this substantial tax & spending increase referendum may be informative vis a vis civic awareness, governance and the stomach for the present system. Madison taxpayers have long supported far above average K-12 spending and taxes, while tolerating disastrous reading results.

The Madison School District recently sought a waiver for the State of Wisconsin’s civic education requirement.

I wonder what the implications of a reduction in Madison’s property tax base might be for this referendum – and homeowners? More.

“I’ve heard parents say that they feel like their children have wilted,”

David Wahlberg:

Suicides are up in Dane County this year compared to last year, especially among youth and young adults, with mental health providers seeing a link to COVID-19 and a related uptick in treatment for depression.

The county had 57 suicides this year as of last week, more than the total of 54 for all of last year, according to preliminary data collected by Journey Mental Health Center, said Hannah Flanagan, its director of emergency services .

Among people age 24 and younger, 15 suicides were reported as of mid-September, up from eight for all of last year. Suicides are also up for ages 25 to 38, according to this year’s unofficial data, Flanagan said.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees). Run for office. Spring 2021 elections: Dane county executive.

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

The World Henry Ford Made

Justin Vassallo:

Forging Global Fordism: Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and the Contest over the Industrial Order

Stefan J. Link

Princeton University Press, $39.95 (cloth)

The utopian ideal of globalization has imploded over the past decade. Rising demand in Western countries for greater state control over the economy reflects a range of grievances, from a chronic shortage of well-compensated work to a sense of national decline. In the United States, the dearth of domestic supply chains exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened alarm over the acute infrastructural weaknesses decades of outsourced production have created. Post-industrial society, rather than an advanced stage of shared affluence, is not only more unequal but fundamentally insecure. Rich but increasingly oligarchic countries are experiencing what we might call, following scholars of democratization, a dramatic “de-consolidation” of development.

K-12 Tax, Referendum and Spending Climate: California Exodus: An online industry seizes COVID-19 to sell the Red State Dream

Lauren Hepler:

Exit California is emblematic of a growing number of online relocation companies marketed heavily on social media. They target prospective transplants who skew white, right and over age 30, though renters post alongside members in the market for million-dollar houses. Between photos of tidy brick facades, crystal-clear pools and recommended moving truck routes, the Facebook pages revolve around ominous articles about Black Lives Matter protests, crime, immigration and, of late, pandemic shutdowns. 

Prospective movers who click through to the website can pick a state — Arizona, Idaho, Tennessee, Texas — and see financial incentives to use selected realtors, mortgage lenders or other service providers. Beyond the mechanics of buying a house, the online groups are a platform for places to pitch fed-up Californians who don’t know where to start. 

“There’s a fair percentage of them that don’t know where they wanna go,” said Scott Fuller, an Arizona transplant and real estate investor who started LeavingTheBayArea.com and LeavingSoCal.com three years ago. “They just know they want to go somewhere else.” 

Where are All the Successful Rationalists?

Applied divinity studies:

It’s been 13 years since Yudkowsky published the sequences, and 11 years since he wrote “Rationality is Systematized Winning“.

So where are all the winners?

The people that jump to mind are Nick Bostrom (Oxford Professor of Philosophy, author), Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld (run OpenPhil and GiveWell, directing ~300M in annual donations) and Will MacAskill (Oxford Professor of Philosophy, author).

But somehow that feels like cheating. We know rationalism is a good meme, so it doesn’t seem fair to cite people whose accomplishments are largely built off of convincing someone else that rationalism is important. They’re successful, but at a meta-level, only in the same way Steve Bannon is successful, and to a much lesser extent.

By comparison, Miyamoto Musashi, who Yudkowsky quotes extensively in the post, and who coined the phrase “the Ichi school is the spirit of winning”, appears to have been one of the greatest swordsmen of his era. According to Wikipedia, he:

  • Fought duels against the most famous schools in Kyoto, and never lost
  • Defeated an “adept” at age 13
  • Was granted the title “Unrivaled Under Heaven” by the shogun at 21
  • Single handedly ended the Yoshioka School by defeating 3 masters, and then a 70 person ambush of followers

San Diego Unified School District Changes Grading System to ‘Combat Racism

Alexis Rivas:

Students will no longer be graded based on a yearly average, or on how late they turn in assignments. Those are just some of the major grading changes approved this week by California’s second-largest school district.

The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) is overhauling the way it grades students. Board members say the changes are part of a larger effort to combat racism.

“This is part of our honest reckoning as a school district,” says SDUSD Vice President Richard Barrera. “If we’re actually going to be an anti-racist school district, we have to confront practices like this that have gone on for years and years.”

The taxpayer supported Madison school district has also implemented grading changes.

RUN FOR OFFICE – 2021 SPRING ELECTIONS: MADISON SCHOOL BOARD SEAT 2

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

2017: West High Reading interventionist teacher’s remarks to the school board on madison’s disastrous reading results

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21 [May, 2020]

Property taxes up 37% from 2012 – 2021.

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21
1. 4K-12 enrollment: -1.6% (decrease) from 2014-15 to projected 2020-21
2. Total district staffing FTE: -2.9% (decrease) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
3. Total expenditures (excluding construction fund): +15.9% +17.0% (increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
4. Total expenditures per pupil: +17.8% +19.0%(increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
5. CPI change: +10.0% (increase) from January 2014 to January 2020
6. Bond rating (Moody’s): two downgrades (from Aaa to Aa2) from 2014 to 2020
Sources:
1. DPI WISEdash for 2014-15 enrollment; district budget book for projected 2020-21 enrollment
2. & 3.: District budget books
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics (https://www.bls.gov/data/)
5. Moody’s (https://www.moodys.com/)

Madison School Board.

Run for local office details.

Key Dates:

December 1, 2020: Nomination Papers may be circulated.

December 25, 2020: Deadline for incumbents not seeking re-election to file Notice of Non-Candidacy.

January 5, 2021 All papers and forms due in City Clerk’s Office at 5 p.m.

January 8, 2021 Deadline to challenge nomination papers.

PRIMARY DATE (if needed): February 16, 2021

ELECTION DATE: April 6, 2021

School Board campaign finance information.

** Note that just one of 7 local offices were competitive on my August, 2020 ballot. The District Attorney was unopposed (the linked article appeared after the election).

Beware the Casual Polymath

Applied divinity studies:

We live in times of great disaggregation, and yet, seem to learn increasingly from generalists.

In the past, an expert in one field of Psychology might have been forced to teach a broad survey class. Today, you could have each lecture delivered by the world’s leading expert.

Outside of academia, you might follow one writer’s account to learn about SaaS pricing, another to understand the intricacies of the electoral college, and yet another to understand personal finance. In economic terms, content disaggregation enabled by digital platforms ought to create efficiencies through intellectual hyper-specialization.

Instead, we have the endless hellscape of the casual polymath. A newsletter about venture capital will find time to opine on herd immunity. The tech blog you visit to learn about data science is also your source of financial strategies for early retirement. The Twitter account you followed to understand politics now seems more focused on their mindfulness practice. We have maxed out variety of interests within people, at the cost of diversity across them.

It’s not difficult to imagine how this happened. The flip side of disaggregation is that each would-be expert is able to read broadly as well. The world of atomized content through hyper-specialization isn’t a stable equilibrium. We are all casual polymaths now.

As romantic as the idea seems, I worry it’s grossly suboptimal. Sure, there are cases where combining ideas from disparate fields can lead to new insight, but today’s generalists are not curating a portfolio of skills so much as they are stumbling about. Behavioral Econ is the love child of economics and psychology, early AI researchers maintained a serious interest in cognitive science. What exactly are your cursory interests in space exploration, meta-science and bayesian statistics preparing you for?

Civics: Amazon Prime Cancels Shelby Steele

David Harsanyi:

Though most of the focus is on Twitter’s White Knighting of Joe Biden, it’s also worth noting that many other voices are inhibited by Big Tech because they fail to conform to leftist orthodoxy.

Just today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Shelby Steele’s documentary What Killed Michael Brown?, which explores race relations in the United States, has been rejected because it “doesn’t meet Prime Video’s content quality expectations.” Amazon claims the documentary, which Steele made with his son Eli, isn’t “eligible for publishing” and that they “will not be accepting resubmission of this title and this decision may not be appealed.”

Shelby is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a well-regarded intellectual who has been writing on race in America for decades. Steele received a National Humanities Medal and won a National Book Critics Circle Award for his essay collection The Content of Our Character. In the same year, he produced an Emmy-Award winning documentary “Seven Days in Bensonhurst,” about Yusef Hawkins, a black teenager who was murdered by a white mob in 1989.

I don’t mention Shelby’s impressive resume as an appeal to authority. I mention it to put all of this in perspective. Here are some of the non-fiction efforts that apparently do meet Amazon’s “quality expectations”:

West Ada cancels school Monday after more than 650 teachers call out sick

CBS2:

Hundreds of teachers are taking a sick day for Monday, according to the West Ada School District, one day after the board voted in favor of a hybrid schedule.

A spokeswoman for the district says out of 2,145 classroom teachers, 652 have taken a sick day for Monday.

The sick calls leave approximately 500 positions unfilled, the district’s superintendent, Dr. Mary Ann Ranells, said in a letter to parents.

“Principals, administration, teachers and staff worked hard to cover the absences, but unfortunately, we cannot,” the letter said. “With safety in mind, and due to supervision concerns, we are regretfully unable to hold school Monday.

The district will “reassess the situation” on Monday, the letter said.

Related: Frustrated Middleton-Cross Plains parent group calls (school board) recall effort a ‘last resort’.

Recall Mount Horeb School Board Member Leah Lipska.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees). Run for office. Spring 2021 elections: Dane county executive.

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Students at Ohio charter schools show greater academic gains, report finds

Catherine Candisky:

A new report found many Ohio students attending charter schools had larger gains on achievement tests, better attendance and fewer disciplinary incidents compared to their peers enrolled in traditional public schools.

Black, low achieving, and urban students at the tax-funded, privately operated and tuition-free schools benefitted most, according to the analysis by Ohio State political science professor Stephane Lavertu, “The Impact of Ohio Charter Schools on Student Outcomes, 2016-2019.”

Columbus charter schools, the report found, academically outperformed those in other urban areas.

“It’s approximately as if a student had an extra year of learning by 8th grade if they attended a charter school for all those grades, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, about 35 to 40 days of learning per year.” Lavertu told reporters during a conference call.

California teacher unions fight calls to reopen schools

Howard Blume and Laura Newberry:

As parents express widespread dissatisfaction with distance learning, two influential California teachers unions are pushing against growing momentum to reopen schools in many communities, saying that campuses are not yet safe enough amid the pandemic.

Leaders with the California Teachers Assn., with 300,000 members, and United Teachers Los Angeles, representing 30,000 in the state’s largest school district, said that districts do not have the resources to provide the level of protection they say is needed to bring teachers and children together in classrooms.

Related: Frustrated Middleton-Cross Plains parent group calls (school board) recall effort a ‘last resort’.

Recall Mount Horeb School Board Member Leah Lipska.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees). Run for office. Spring 2021 elections: Dane county executive.

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Your Technology Is Tracking You. Take These Steps For Better Online Privacy

Laurel Wamsley:

Before I became a reporter at NPR, I worked for a few years at tech companies.

One of the companies was in the marketing technology business — the industry that’s devoted in part to tracking people and merging their information, so they can be advertised to more effectively.

That tracking happens in multiple senses: physical tracking, because we carry our phones everywhere we go. And virtual tracking, of all the places we go online.

The more I understood how my information was being collected, shared and sold, the more I wanted to protect my privacy. But it’s still hard to know which of my efforts is actually effective and which is a waste of time.

So I reached out to experts in digital security and privacy to find out what they do to protect their stuff – and what they recommend most to us regular folks.

The level of debate in this country

Andres Fonseca:

There’s a lot to unpack. Grade levels haven’t strictly decreased: 2008 saw a level of debate not seen in 20 years. The decline isn’t recent: there is a drastic difference between pre- and post- Reagan debates. Only 8 (of 33) debates saw a republican speak at a higher grade level than their opponent. The highest score went to a peanut farmer and Naval Academy graduate, the lowest to a billionaire and Wharton School graduate.

Context

Perhaps it’s been a while since you were in the grade levels reached by these transcripts and aren’t sure what Donald Trump’s 3.69 or Joe Biden’s 4.51 should remind you of. Think “Charlotte’s Web”(3.44) and “The Outsiders” (4.25). When you see Jimmy Carter’s 12.4, think “A Brief History Of Time” (11.88). When you see that half of all debate performances are below 7.8, think “To Kill A Mockingbird” (8.01).

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Students Are Rebelling Against Eye-Tracking Exam Surveillance Tools

Todd Feathers:

As a privacy-minded computer science student preparing to start his first year at Miami University, Erik Johnson was concerned this fall when he learned that two of his professors would require him to use the digital proctoring software Proctorio for their classes. The software turns students’ computers into powerful invigilators—webcams monitor eye and head movements, microphones record noise in the room, and algorithms log how often a test taker moves their mouse, scrolls up and down on a page, and pushes keys. The software flags any behavior its algorithm deems suspicious for later viewing by the class instructor.

In the end, Johnson never had to use Proctorio. Not long after he began airing his concerns on Twitter and posted a simple analysis of the software’s code on Pastebin, he discovered that his IP address was banned from accessing the company’s services. He also received a direct message from Proctorio’s CEO, Mike Olsen, who demanded that he take the Pastebin posts down, according to a copy of the message Johnson shared with Motherboard. Johnson refused to do so, and is now waiting to see if Proctorio will follow up with more concrete legal action, as it has done to other critics in recent weeks.

“If my professors weren’t flexible, I’d be completely unable to take exams,” Johnson said. “It’s insane to think that a company [or] CEO can affect my academic career just for raising concerns.”

Influential literacy expert Lucy Calkins is changing her views

Emily Hanford:

The author of one of the nation’s most influential and widely used curriculum for teaching reading is beginning to change her views. 

The group headed by Lucy Calkins, a leading figure in the long-running fight over how best to teach children to read, is admitting that its materials need to be changed to align with scientific research. In an internal document obtained by APM Reports, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, where Calkins has served as founding director for more than 30 years, says it has been poring over the work of reading researchers and has determined that aspects of its approach need “rebalancing.” 

Calkins’ changing views could shift the way millions of children are taught to read. Her curriculum is the third most widely used core reading program in the nation, according to a 2019 Education Week survey. In addition, her group at Columbia works with teachers in at least 30 countries, including Mexico, Singapore and Japan.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Civics: Facebook and Twitter Cross a Line Far More Dangerous Than What They Censor

Glenn Greenwald:

The New York Post is one of the country’s oldest and largest newspapers. Founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton, only three U.S. newspapers are more widely circulated. Ever since it was purchased in 1976 by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, it has been known — like most Murdoch-owned papers — for right-wing tabloid sensationalism, albeit one that has some real reporters and editors and is capable of reliable journalism.

On Wednesday morning, the paper published on its cover what it heralded as a “blockbuster” scoop: “smoking gun” evidence, in its words, in the form of emails purportedly showing that Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, traded on his father’s position by securing favors from the then-Vice President to benefit the Ukranian energy company Burisma, which paid the supremely unqualified Hunter $50,000 each month to sit on its Board. While the Biden campaign denies that any such meetings or favors ever occurred, neither the campaign nor Hunter, at least as of now, has denied the authenticity of the emails.

The Post’s hyping of the story as some cataclysmic bombshell was overblown. While these emails, if authenticated, provide some new details and corroboration, the broad outlines of this story have long been known: Hunter was paid a very large monthly sum by Burisma at the same time that his father was quite active in using the force of the U.S. Government to influence Ukraine’s internal affairs.  

Along with emails relating to Burisma, the New York Post also gratuitously published several photographs of Hunter, who has spoken openly and commendably of his past struggles with substance abuse, in what appeared to various states of drug use. There was no conceivable public interest in publishing those, and every reason not to.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Facebook (and Instagram) services, including Madison.

San Francisco Mayor Urges Opening Schools

Related: Frustrated Middleton-Cross Plains parent group calls (school board) recall effort a ‘last resort’.

Recall Mount Horeb School Board Member Leah Lipska.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees). Run for office. Spring 2021 elections: Dane county executive.

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Wisconsin public school enrollments see biggest drop in decades in first count since COVID-19, adding to budget challenges

Annysa Johnson, Samantha West and Alec Johnson:

Enrollment in Wisconsin public schools fell by 3% this year, the largest dip in decades, and private schools that accept taxpayer-funded vouchers saw an increase, though not as much as last year.

In all, according to new data released Thursday by the state Department of Public Instruction, public schools enrolled 818,922 full-time equivalent students in the current school year, down more than 25,000 students, based on the headcount taken in late September. Private voucher schools added 2,577 students for a total of 45,954.

Because school funding is tied to enrollment, the shifts will be costly for many districts around the state at a time when they are spending millions more on expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic. In all, nearly a third of the state’s 421 public districts will see a decline in their state aid totaling more than $23 million this year, losses that will continue because schools are funded in part on a three-year rolling average.

“There will be significant, long-term structural effects on school districts’ finances,” said Dan Rossmiller of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. 

K-12 Tax, Referendum and budget climate: Madison School District enrollment drops by more than 1,000 students

A substantial 2020 tax and spending increase referendum is on Madison school district voter ballots this fall.

K-12 Tax, Spending & Referendum climate: San Francisco’s political leadership has squandered a fortune.

Philip Sprincin:

What has San Francisco done with this wealth? Not much. The Municipal Transportation Agency (“Muni”), which runs the busses and metro, has struggled with failure after failure this year. The housing shortage in the city is so bad that it is driving people to live in cars and even boats. Homelessness is up 14 percent in the past 6 years. Dirty streets, with needles and worse on the sidewalks, were an issue in last year’s mayoral race. A city seemingly rich enough to pave its roads with gold finds them covered in trash.

San Francisco has squandered its fortune. Proclaiming itself a “Transit First” city, density and geography make it one of the U.S. cities best suited for public transport. The city could have used its $23 billion excess to build dozens of miles of subway. Instead, it dug just 1.6 miles of the Central Subway, still not open. San Francisco did build a downtown train station, the Salesforce Transit Center, billed as the “Grand Central of the West”—except that it didn’t fund a tunnel to the station, so no trains go there yet, only busses.

San Francisco politicians also claim to care about affordable housing. Even at the inflated rate to build such housing in the Bay Area—up to $700,000 per unit—$23 billion could have built 33,000 units in the past 20 years. The total number of subsidized units in the city was only about 33,000 in 2018, and just 3,741 of them came from city programs like public housing or the mayor’s office. The rest came from federal, state, or private investment.

Lilley: Murphy’s Pension Payment Is “Throwing Good Money After Bad.”

Laura Waters:

This isn’t new news but it’s also not good news.  Pew Charitable Trusts updated its pension study to include 2018 data, and NJ comes in dead last among the 50 states.  NJ only has 38 cents set aside for each dollar it owes.  That means that 62 cents of every dollar owed is an unfunded liability – a debt that the state owes to retirees that will have to be paid off.

Even broke IL comes in better than NJ.  The national funding average is 70.7%, so NJ is a huge outlier when it comes to fiscal irresponsibility.  All of this shows why Gov. Murphy’s making a record $4.7 billion payment into NJ’s broken and unreformed pension system is throwing $4.7 billion of good money after bad.  The governor is borrowing $4.5 billion to help him make this payment, which only increases NJ’s overall debt load, but $4.7 billion is still only 78% of the required payment, so NJ’s unfunded pension liabilities will also increase.  What a waste of money that is much needed elsewhere during these COVID-stressed times!  

Writing teachers: Standard English is racist

Joanne Jacobs:

In the name of “linguistic justice,” college writing instructors have agreed that teachers should “stop using academic language and standard English as the accepted communicative norm,” writes Matthew Stewart, associate professor of humanities and rhetoric at Boston University, on the Martin Center blog.

The executive committee of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the largest and most important association of college-level writing teachers, has approved “demands” by six professors, writes Stewart. CCCC is closely associated with the National Council of Teachers of English, an even larger group predominantly made up of middle and high school teachers.

The CCCC statement, written in academic/woke English with a “cain’t” here and a “respeck” there, includes:

Teachers (must) develop and teach Black Linguistic Consciousness that works to decolonize the mind (and/or) language, unlearn white supremacy, and unravel anti-Black linguistic racism!

. . . teachers STOP telling Black students that they have to ‘learn standard English to be successful because that’s just the way it is in the real world.’ No, that’s not just the way it is; that’s anti-Black linguistic racism.

In short, writes Stewart, the CCCC has declared that teaching black students standard English is racist and therefore “destructive and injurious.”

Frustrated Middleton-Cross Plains parent group calls (school board) recall effort a ‘last resort’

Elizabeth Beyer:

She said the curriculum offered to students was not intended to be delivered digitally and her children now have online meetings with their teachers for five hours each week compared to 30 hours of live teaching prior to the pandemic.

“We need to give parents options so those who feel safe sending their children to the school should have that option, teachers who feel they can teach in the classrooms better than they can virtually should have that option, and the school board has not given us that option,” she said.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees). Run for office. Spring 2021 elections: Dane county executive.

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Expanding One City charter school moves into new south Madison space

Scott Girard:

The leadership of the Madison charter school signed the lease Aug. 28 after a search for new space, and D’Abell recalled the busy weekend of preparing the building while also communicating with parents about where the year would begin.

“We didn’t know where we were going to be,” D’Abell said during a recent interview in his office. “We looked at potentially having school in Penn Park, at least when it was still warm, and having tents. We looked at mobile classrooms.”

One City first opened in 2015 offering preschool and 4- and 5-year-old kindergarten. It now has students from age 2 through second grade, split between two sites. The new Coyier Lane building is set up for 101 students in grades K-2, with 40 of them learning remotely.

For D’Abell’s first year on the job, a new building combined with setting up instruction during a pandemic has kept him busy.

Wisconsin DPI releases fall student count and revenue limit information

WDPI:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction today released information on fall student counts and school district revenue limits for the 2020-2021 school year.

Wisconsin school districts, independent charter schools, and private school parental choice programs reported overall slowdowns or declines in enrollment, particularly in 4K. Districts also reported summer school participation declined by more than half between 2019 and 2020. The data published is unaudited and is based off of enrollment counts performed on Sept. 18, 2020, the third Friday of September, and reported to the DPI.

The student count data includes unduplicated(1) headcounts and membership FTE (full-time equivalent). Headcount is the number of students enrolled for instruction in a given school or district on the count date. Membership is a full-time equivalent value used for school finance purposes, where students in preschool special education, 4K, and part-time kindergarten are counted as less than 1.0 FTE. Membership for school districts reflects residency, not enrollment; a student in the open enrollment program is included in the headcount for the district they attend, but the membership for the district where they reside. District membership also includes an addition of summer school FTE(2).

Madison’s enrollment drops by more than 1000 students.

Poor numerical literacy linked to greater susceptibility to Covid-19 fake news

Natalie Grover:

People with poor numerical literacy are more likely to believe Covid-19 misinformation, according to a survey conducted in five countries.

Researchers at Cambridge University said the findings suggested improving people’s analytical skills could help turn the tide against an epidemic of “fake news” surrounding the health crisis.

Five national surveys – reflecting national quotas for age and gender – were conducted this year to evaluate susceptibility to coronavirus-related misinformation and its influence on key health-related behaviours.

The study found the most consistent predictor of decreased susceptibility to misinformation about Covid-19 was numerical literacy – the ability to digest and apply quantitative information broadly.

People in Ireland, Spain, Mexico, the US and the UK took part in the study. Their numerical literacy levels were calculated on the basis of three different numeracy tests.

Participants were presented with nine statements about Covid-19, some false (for example, 5G networks may be making us more susceptible to the coronavirus) and some true (for instance, people with diabetes are at higher risk of complications from coronavirus).

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Civics: Yelp’s anti-racist social credit nightmare

Melissa Chen:

It’s seven in the evening and you’re working late. You’re interrupted by the soft rumble of hunger pangs, an unmistakable reminder that you haven’t eaten dinner yet. There’s this newish fusion restaurant a couple of blocks away that you’ve been wanting to try, but haven’t had the chance to. Every time you’ve walked past, it’s buzzing with activity. So you look the restaurant up on Yelp to see if it’s worth your time and money. You launch the app and search, only to be hit with an alert emblazoned with an ominously large exclamation point:

‘Business Accused of Racist Behavior’

The R word. It’s the new scarlet letter. You’re so taken aback that you almost forget that you’re hungry. Your mind races to find a possible explanation. Could it be that the staff racially profiled a diner? Perhaps, like Starbucks, the staff allegedly denied bathroom access to a non-customer who happened to be black? Then you remember that these days, fusion cuisine itself is often a flashpoint in debates about cultural appropriation. Maybe the restaurant is just racist by virtue of its existence?

Who knows. Luckily, Yelp has kindly provided a link to a news article where you can learn about the incident. Another stomach grumble urges you to stick to your original mission to find sustenance quickly. You’ll do the research later. Instead you order takeout from somewhere that’s familiar, consistent and fast. You’ve seen ads promoting the Travis Scott meal at McDonald’s and he just won BET’s rapper of the year so there’s no way you’re making a racist dining decision. McDonald’s it is.

Effect of school closures on mortality from coronavirus disease 2019: old and new predictions

School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3FD, UK:

Objective To replicate and analyse the information available to UK policymakers when the lockdown decision was taken in March 2020 in the United Kingdom.

Design Independent calculations using the CovidSim code, which implements Imperial College London’s individual based model, with data available in March 2020 applied to the coronavirus disease 2019 (covid-19) epidemic.

Setting Simulations considering the spread of covid-19 in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Population About 70 million simulated people matched as closely as possible to actual UK demographics, geography, and social behaviours.

Main outcome measures Replication of summary data on the covid-19 epidemic reported to the UK government Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), and a detailed study of unpublished results, especially the effect of school closures.

The Teachers Union’s Tiny New Enemy

Eliot Kaufman:

Why is the elephant afraid of the mouse? Your child’s teacher may not know, but his union does. In September the National Education Association, America’s largest labor union, produced an internal “opposition report” on Prenda, a tiny Arizona-based “microschool” provider. I obtained a copy of the document, which picks apart Prenda’s vulnerabilities but also offers a warning: “The Opposition Report has documented widespread support for micro-schools.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is expected to receive a presentation about Prenda on Thursday at a charter school in Phoenix.

Midway between home schools and private schools, microschools bring together a small group of students, five to 10 a school at Prenda, usually at a private residence. Instruction is handled by an education-service provider like Prenda.

Madison’s Cost To Service State Facilities Is Growing, As State Financial Support Stagnates

Jonah Chester:

The cost Wisconsin’s cities incur from maintaining and serving state facilities have steadily climbed since the mid-1980s. But, for the past ten years, reimbursements on those costs from the state government have remained the same, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

The result is an ever-increasing financial burden on cities, forcing them to shoulder service costs for the state’s buildings. That impact is especially high in Madison — which, as the state capitol, has a disproportionately high number of state facilities to maintain.

For more, WORT Producer Jonah Chester spoke with Mark Sommerhauser, a policy researcher with the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

Civics: Graduates of Elite Universities Dominate the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, Study Finds

Zaid Jilani:

Following the 2016 election, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet reflected on his industry’s coverage of the country. “If I have a mea culpa for journalists and journalism, it’s that we’ve got to do a much better job of being on the road, out in the country, talking to different kinds of people than we talk to — especially if you happen to be a New York-based news organization — and remind ourselves that New York is not the real world,” he said.

It has been a longstanding criticism of the news media that at least some portions of it are too culturally and socially insular. A recent study published in the Journal of Expertise adds some data points to that thesis.

Authors Jonathan Wai, a research fellow at Geisinger Health System at the Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute, and Kaja Perina, the editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, collected a sample of 1,979 employees working at two of America’s most prominent and influential newspapers, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, during 2016.

They set out with a simple question: How many of those employees attended elite schools for college (if they attended college)? The researchers sought to address the question of whether journalism, at the highest level, “is a profession only of the culturally elite,” or it is also “a profession of the cognitively elite.”  They did not have access to individual employees’ SAT scores or academic performance, so, pulling information from staffers’ LinkedIn profiles, they looked at schools as a proxy for cognitive ability — with the assumption that highly selective schools mostly admit people with very high academic achievement.

There are, of course, problems with using SAT scores to define a “cognitive elite.” Factors such as race and class have been shown to affect performance on standardized tests, as well as admissions to elite schools.

Elite Lowell High School admissions would become a lottery under new San Francisco district proposal

Jill Tucker:

San Francisco school officials dropped a bombshell proposal Friday, recommending that admissions to the academically exclusive Lowell High School be subject to random lottery for the fall, meaning all entering freshmen would have equal odds of getting in regardless of grades or test scores.

District officials told The Chronicle that the recommendation is yet more fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Lowell generally admits students based on a score that takes into account grade-point average and test results while setting aside a limited number of spots for qualified students from underrepresented schools. But Lowell continues to be largely white and Asian, with few other people of color.

The school has long been at the center of a debate about elitism and equal opportunity, and its admission process has been under scrutiny in the past. Though the new proposal was not driven by a push to increase diversity, that could be an outcome.

Officials said the new policy is needed because there is no way to adequately assess students for admission given the lack of letter grades from the spring semester, when the district used pass/fail grades after schools closed, and the district’s inability to administer standardized tests during the pandemic.

Surplus Property Law Results in Just One Vacant Milwaukee School

WILL:

WILL Policy Brief revisits how state law was thwarted by local actors for the last five years

The News: A new Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) policy brief reveals how a state law passed in 2015 intended to make vacant Milwaukee schools available to charter and private schools has been thwarted by local actors. Empty Handed: How Milwaukee Thwarted a State Law Meant to Help Schools reveals that just one vacant Milwaukee school was sold to a Milwaukee charter school in the last five years despite the intent of a state law intended to facilitate sales.

The Quote: Director of Education Policy Libby Sobic said, “This is a story of hard lessons. Good intentions were thwarted by a lack of taxpayer accountability at the local level. And a state law intended to help meet the high demand for school facilities has resulted in just one sale to a charter school. The problems haven’t gone away and it’s time to develop new solutions.”

Diving Deeper: In 2015, state lawmakers were fed up with repeated stories from Milwaukee where thriving charter and private schools couldn’t purchase vacant Milwaukee school buildings. A Surplus Property Law, supported by Sen. Alberta Darling and then-Rep. Dale Kooyenga, was added to the state budget and a new process was established that required the City of Milwaukee to facilitate the sale of dozens of empty former public school buildings.

But by 2020, just one Milwaukee charter school had purchased a vacant school despite interest by local school leaders. What happened? Director of Education Policy Libby Sobic takes a deep dive into the sordid history of vacant schools in Milwaukee in Empty Handed: How Milwaukee Thwarted a State Law Meant to Help Schools. This important policy brief reveals:

Civics: How a Road Trip Through America’s Battlegrounds Revealed a Nation Plagued by Misinformation

Charlotte Alter:

A lifetime ago, on Sept. 14, Greg Vanlandeghem sat outside a café in Holly, Mich., and explained to me that he planned to vote for the President’s re-election because he saw the race as a contest between two bad options. “We’ve got a guy trying not to die,” he told me, “and we’ve got Trump.”

The candidate Vanlandeghem described as “trying not to die” was Joe Biden, the 77-year-old former Vice President, who’s been dogged by right-wing attacks on his mental acuity. But now, the “guy trying not to die” might well be the 74-year-old President, who was being treated with supplemental oxygen and a battery of drugs after , a lethal virus that can cause everything from pneumonia to strokes to neurological impairment. Vanlandeghem, a 37-year-old home builder, is a social and fiscal conservative, but he didn’t vote for Trump four years ago and considers the President a “buffoon.” If anyone’s mind was going to be changed by , I thought perhaps it might be him.

Vanlandeghem was unfazed. “I think it’s unfortunate,” he said, after I called him back to ask his opinion on the latest updates. “But it’s something that a vast majority of the population is going to come down with at one point or another.” He still isn’t considering voting for Biden.

I wasn’t surprised. Once again, history was unfolding in Washington; once again, voters seemed to be reacting with a collective shrug. If there is one constant in this extraordinary presidential election, it’s that every time the political class declares that a news event will permanently reshape the race, it usually seems to evaporate into the ether. The President could be impeached for abuse of power, publicly muster white supremacists, tear-gas peaceful protesters for a photo op, pay less than his employees in taxes, declare that he’d refuse to accept the results of the election, hold a possible superspreader event at the White House–and millions of Americans will ignore it. To half of us, all this is an outrage; to the other half, none of it matters.

How voters are processing Trump’s behavior at this fractured moment may be the most important question of the 2020 election. But it’s a tricky one to answer in the midst of a pandemic that has turned the campaign into one interminable Zoom call. It’s hard to get a read on a race that has limited travel for both candidates and reporters, a contest with countless polls but few insights, lots of speeches but few crowds, plenty of talking heads but few ordinary voices. So in September, after recovering from COVID-19 myself, I spent three weeks driving across the battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, trying to get a fix on what’s happening between the ears of the people most likely to determine the winner on Nov. 3.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Civics: The New York Times Guild Once Again Demands Censorship Of Colleagues

Glenn Greenwald:

THE NEW YORK TIMES GUILD, the union of employees of the Paper of Record, tweeted a condemnation on Sunday of one of their own colleagues, op-ed columnist Bret Stephens. Their denunciation was marred by humiliating typos and even more so by creepy and authoritarian censorship demands and petulant appeals to management for enforcement of company “rules” against other journalists. To say that this is bizarre behavior from a union of journalists, of all people, is to woefully understate the case.

What angered the union today was an op-ed by Stephens on Friday which voiced numerous criticisms of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning “1619 Project,” published last year by the New York Times Magazine and spearheaded by reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones. One of the Project’s principal arguments was expressed by a now-silently-deleted sentence that introduced it: “that the country’s true birth date” is not 1776, as has long been widely believed, but rather late 1619, when, the article claims, the first African slaves arrived on U.S. soil.

Despite its Pulitzer, the “1619 Project” has become a hotly contested political and academic controversy, with the Trump administration seeking to block attempts to integrate its assertions into school curriculums, while numerous scholars of history accuse it of radically distorting historical fact, with some, such as Brown University’s Glenn Loury, calling on the Pulitzer Board to revoke its award. Scholars have also vocally criticized the Times for stealth edits of the article’s key claims long after publication, without even noting to readers that it made these substantive changes let alone explaining why it made them.

The Gap: Where Machine Learning Education Falls Short

The Gradient:

As the field of machine learning has become ever more popular, a litany of online courses has emerged claiming to teach the skills necessary to “build a career in AI”. But before signing up for such a course, you should know whether the skills acquired will directly allow you to apply machine learning better. These questions are not limited to online courses but rather encompass machine learning classes that have begun to fill lecture halls at many universities. Are these classes that students flock towards actually helping them achieve their practical goals?

The Current State of Machine Learning Education

Having taken the main slate of the seminal machine learning courses at one of the top universities for AI, I have found a general guideline most classes follow. First, they tend to start with linear classifiers and introduce the concepts of both regression and classification along with the concepts of loss functions and optimization. Afterward, a week or two is spent on honing the skill of backpropagation after which they dive into neural networks fully. If the course focuses on deep learning, it tends to spend the majority of the remaining time diving extensively into the different forms of neural networks (RNN, LSTMs, CNNs, etc) and about recently published seminal architectures (ResNet, BERT, etc). If the course instead focuses on more general machine learning principles, it introduces other avenues such as unsupervised and reinforcement learning.

Thus we see that the key topics covered in these courses can be distilled into the following: an overview of supervised learning, a brief introduction to the mathematical foundations underlying supervised learning and neural networks, and then either an introduction to deep learning methodologies or to other areas of machine learning.

Lord Nelson’s heroic status under review in scheme to re-evaluate UK’s ‘barbaric history’

Brian McGleenon:

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The admiral was not an admirer of abolitionist William Wilberforce. Before his death, Lord Nelson wrote that William Wilberforce and his cause were “damnable”. He added in a letter that “I have ever been and shall die a firm friend to our present colonial system”.

These are the controversial views that will be held to account by the National Maritime Museum’s re-evaluation of Lord Nelson’s display.

He also said that he was “taught to appreciate the value of our West India possessions”, where slaves toiled in plantations. He died two years before the abolition of slavery.

The admiral who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar has many of his personal effects stored and on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

AI cameras introduced in London to monitor social distancing and lockdown restrictions

April Roach:

Artificial Intelligence cameras are being used in London and other cities in the UK to monitor social distancing.

The sensors were initially developed by Vivacity to track the flow of traffic, cyclists and pedestrians and monitor how roads are being used.

But when the country went into lockdown in March, Vivacity added on an extra feature to the AI scanners so it could register the distance between pedestrians. This data is shared in a monthly report with the Government.

Vivacity Labs said they have more than 1,000 sensors installed across the UK, in cities including London, Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge and Nottingham.

Madison police tell UW-Madison students they could be fined at least $376 for attending indoor gatherings of more than 10 people

Addison Lathers:

To thwart the continued transmission of COVID-19, the Madison Police Department began instituting measures to limit social gatherings in the downtown area with the support of UW-Madison leadership. 

In a letter sent to downtown apartment buildings, Madison Police Department Acting Chief Victor Wahl said students attending gatherings may be fined a minimum of $376 for “permit[ting] a health nuisance.”

To avoid a fine, indoor gatherings must be limited to 10 people or less and outdoor gatherings to 25 people or less. 

The “final warning” sent to residents specifically referenced any gatherings related to the start of UW-Madison’s football season and the annual Freakfest Halloween celebration, which was recently-cancelled. Deputy Mayor Katie Crawley confirmed Tuesday night there would be no festival due to public health guidelines.

As the Governor and the Mayor Disagree, NYC Parents and Educators Search for Clear Guidance on In-Person Schooling

Zoe Kirsch:

For Brooklyn parent Priscilla Santos, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Tuesday announcement that he was releasing his own plan for temporary New York City COVID-related school closures dispelled any lingering remnants of faith she had in political leadership after a bleak, confusing summer.

Santos is the special education representative for her district’s Community Education Council in Coney Island. Her children, ages 12 and 14, attend Mark Twain I.S. 239 for the Gifted and Talented, where they study media and art. The area where her family resides is currently marked yellow on the governor’s map, signaling that school closures could happen there, if neighborhood positivity rates worsen.

Meanwhile, the blocks around nearby Brighton Beach Avenue and the famed amusement park are marked orange. The confounding boundary between Santos’s zip code and the “hotter” neighboring ones cut right through some streets and buildings, she noticed.

The advocate and mother knows the value of virus containment measures firsthand: her community was among those hit hardest when the pandemic overtook the city this spring. Still, she’s troubled by the way officials have laid everything out.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees). Run for office. Spring 2021 elections: Dane county executive.

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 

Channel3000:

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Samantha Bee’s Opposition to School Choice is Wrong and Hypocritical.

Erika Sanzi:

Samantha Bee decided to go on the attack against school choice this week during her show, Full Frontal. Based on the first clip she played during her school choice rant, it was clear that the president’s support for parents having educational options for their children has really gotten under her skin. And she’s not alone—if the Trump administration has shown us one thing, it is that even when he’s right on an issue, his most passionate opponents won’t admit it. They do not subscribe to the “even a broken clock is right twice a day” philosophy.

But Samantha Bee is a hypocrite on this issue. She does not send her own children to their zip code assigned school. She made a choice to get them into a school that is so selective with its admissions, it keeps the “holistic” admission criterion under wraps. According to NYC education consultant Alina Adams, “they have their completely own independent rubric which they don’t have to release or justify. Nobody knows how kids get into that school.” But whatever it is, somehow her children along with the children of Cynthia Nixon and Louis C.K. managed to crack the admission code and secure one of 55 spots. 350 children applied.

Now, Samantha would likely defend her uninformed and inaccurate commentary by saying that she at least sends her kids to a “public” school. But that would ring really hollow because she indicts charter schools in her meant-to-be-funny diatribe and they too are public. And while she waxes poetic about how there is so much more oversight in traditional public schools and not in charter schools or private schools, she seems to forget that the admissions process of her own kids’ schools is literally a secret. She belittles and mocks Florida for its schools—guess she missed the memo that Florida was the only state to show significant improvement in math at both grade levels and in 8th grade reading on the most recent NAEP testing. It was also clear from her error laden monologue that she does not know that Florida has school choice programs specifically designed to serve students with special needs.

Staffing Wisconsin schools is a ‘nightmare’ amid teacher unease, substitute shortage and quarantines

Samantha West and Annysa Johnson:

What had been a relaxing Sunday away from the stress of leading Wisconsin’s fourth-largest school district through a pandemic quickly turned chaotic when, late that night, Green Bay Superintendent Steve Murley’s phone rang.

A food service staff member had tested positive for COVID-19. But that didn’t equate to just one absence that would easily be filled. It meant the majority of food service staff at that school would need to quarantine for the next two weeks. 

Who was going to cook and deliver the food that thousands of students and families were counting on the next day?

“At one point, we were thinking the administrative team would need to be there, driving delivery trucks and cooking food, and we were preparing to do that,” Murley said.

DC Education Reform Ten Years After, Part 2: Test Cheats

Richard P Phelps:

Ten years ago, I worked as the Director of Assessments for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). For temporal context, I arrived after the first of the infamous test cheating scandals and left just before the incident that spawned a second. Indeed, I filled a new position created to both manage test security and design an expanded testing program. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray, who opposed an expanded testing program, defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary. My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as Chancellor.

The recurring test cheating scandals of the Rhee-Henderson years may seem extraordinary but, in fairness, DCPS was more likely than the average US school district to be caught because it received a much higher degree of scrutiny. Given how tests are typically administered in this country, the incidence of cheating is likely far greater than news accounts suggest, for several reasons:

· in most cases, those who administer tests—schoolteachers and administrators—have an interest in their results;

· test security protocols are numerous and complicated yet, nonetheless, the responsibility of non-expert ordinary school personnel, guaranteeing their inconsistent application across schools and over time;

· after-the-fact statistical analyses are not legal proof—the odds of a certain amount of wrong-to-right erasures in a single classroom on a paper-and-pencil test being coincidental may be a thousand to one, but one-in-a-thousand is still legally plausible; and

· after-the-fact investigations based on interviews are time-consuming, scattershot, and uneven.

Still, there were measures that the Rhee-Henderson administrations could have adopted to substantially reduce the incidence of cheating, but they chose none that might have been effective. Rather, they dug in their heels, insisted that only a few schools had issues, which they thoroughly resolved, and repeatedly denied any systematic problem.

Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years After, Part 1: The Grand Tour

Richard P Phelps:

Ten years ago, I worked as the Director of Assessments for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as Chancellor. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary.

My primary task was to design an expansion of that testing program that served the IMPACT teacher evaluation system to include all core subjects and all grade levels. Despite its fame (or infamy), the test score aspect of the IMPACT program affected only 13% of teachers, those teaching either reading or math in grades four through eight. Only those subjects and grade levels included the requisite pre- and post-tests required for teacher “value added” measurements (VAM). Not included were most subjects (e.g., science, social studies, art, music, physical education), grades kindergarten to two, and high school.

Chancellor Rhee wanted many more teachers included. So, I designed a system that would cover more than half the DCPS teacher force, from kindergarten through high school. You haven’t heard about it because it never happened. The newly elected Vincent Gray had promised during his mayoral campaign to reduce the amount of testing; the proposed expansion would have increased it fourfold.

VAM affected teachers’ jobs. A low value-added score could lead to termination; a high score, to promotion and a cash bonus. VAM as it was then structured was obviously, glaringly flawed,[1] as anyone with a strong background in educational testing could have seen. Unfortunately, among the many new central office hires from the elite of ed reform circles, none had such a background.

Mount Horeb School board narrowly votes down proposal to allow K-2 students back

Mount Horeb Mail:

The Mount Horeb Area Board of Education voted Monday night against a proposal that would have allowed some K-2 students to return to local classrooms. The decision came after hours of testimony and discussion, during which nearly every parent who spoke – some through tears – pleaded with the board to allow in-person learning to resume. At the same meeting, the board reviewed surveys that showed most teachers are not comfortable allowing children to return, and many would consider taking leave through the federal CARES Act if they did so.

Near the end of the meeting, board supervisors Rod Hise, Jeff Hanna and Dani Michels voted in a favor of a motion, which was made my Michels, to allow K-2 students to return at the start of the second quarter. Supervisors Leah Lipska, Kimberly Sailor, Jessica Arrigoni and Diana Rothamer voted against the plan, saying they will not support a return to the classroom until positive cases of the COVID-19 virus across Dane County are less than half of what they are right now.

Public Health of Madison & Dane County’s current recommendations allow K-2 students return to the classroom, but a plan previously approved by the local school board sets markers – including positive tests and multiple other factors – for a return that have not yet been met.

At the heart of the debate, was disagreement over which is more harmful: the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus or requiring young children to learn almost entirely on a screen, from home.

Recall Mount Horeb School Board Member Leah Lipska

recalllipska.org:

People are asking “Why Leah? Why not all the board members who voted No?”

Ms. Lipska failed to fulfill her duty as an elected official to represent the will of the constituents who voted for her. This is evidenced by numerous personal correspondence with a small group who pushed for 100% virtual.

Although other school board members voted for 100% virtual, Ms. Lipska is different because there is written evidence of lack of transparency on her part by engaging in behind the scenes and informal discussions and collusion with a small group in support of their agenda for 100% virtual. A proper forum for these discussions would have been at school board meetings, which many parents and teachers participated in. Alternatively, this group of people could have written a letter to ALL school board members (which several teachers and parents did.)

Ms. Lipska only engaged in discussions with people who wanted 100% virtual. At no point did she encourage people who wanted in person classes to join her or speak at school board meetings. She only encouraged those who wanted 100% virtual. In addition, she completely stopped correspondence after one person clarified she didn’t want all virtual.

Ms. Lipska is on public record as asking the experts (PHMDC) if it’s safe for k-2 to go back to school, in which they told her straight away that it was, and she still voted No.

Leah Lipska on Facebook

Run for Office – 2021 Spring Elections: Madison School Board Seat 1

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

2017: West High Reading interventionist teacher’s remarks to the school board on madison’s disastrous reading results

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21 [May, 2020]

Property taxes up 37% from 2012 – 2021.

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21
1. 4K-12 enrollment: -1.6% (decrease) from 2014-15 to projected 2020-21
2. Total district staffing FTE: -2.9% (decrease) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
3. Total expenditures (excluding construction fund): +15.9% +17.0% (increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
4. Total expenditures per pupil: +17.8% +19.0%(increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
5. CPI change: +10.0% (increase) from January 2014 to January 2020
6. Bond rating (Moody’s): two downgrades (from Aaa to Aa2) from 2014 to 2020
Sources:
1. DPI WISEdash for 2014-15 enrollment; district budget book for projected 2020-21 enrollment
2. & 3.: District budget books
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics (https://www.bls.gov/data/)
5. Moody’s (https://www.moodys.com/)

Madison School Board.

Run for local office details.

Key Dates:

December 1, 2020: Nomination Papers may be circulated.

December 25, 2020: Deadline for incumbents not seeking re-election to file Notice of Non-Candidacy.

January 5, 2021 All papers and forms due in City Clerk’s Office at 5 p.m.

January 8, 2021 Deadline to challenge nomination papers.

PRIMARY DATE (if needed): February 16, 2021

ELECTION DATE: April 6, 2021

School Board campaign finance information.

** Note that just one of 7 local offices were competitive on my August, 2020 ballot. The District Attorney was unopposed (the linked article appeared after the election).

Miami does more with less (about half of Madison’s per student spending)

Joanne Jacobs:

Public-school enrollment grew by 16 percent from 1994 to 2017, the number of teachers by  28 percent and the number of all other staff grew 51 percent, according to Ben Scafidi of Kennesaw State. The “staffing surge” has inflated school budgets.

But not in Miami-Dade, the fourth-largest district in the U.S., writes Michael Q. McShane  in Education Next. By adding teachers, but not administrators, Miami schools are doing more with less.

Miami spends $9,240 per student per year, compared to more than $13,400 in Chicago, which has a similar cost of living, writes McShane. Yet, “compared with other large cities, Miami-Dade tends to end up near the top.”

How? In Miami-Dade, from 1994 to 2017, the number of students rose 16 percent, the number of teachers 35 percent, and the number all other staff 18 percent, Scafidi’s research shows.

McShane credits Alberto Carvalho, who became superintendent in 2008, for cutting administrative staff by 55 percent. Former educators moved to schools to work directly with students; others were laid off.

Latest Madison school district tax and spending data.

Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science

Hillel Ofik:

Contemporary Islam is not known for its engagement in the modern scientific project. But it is heir to a legendary “Golden Age” of Arabic science frequently invoked by commentators hoping to make Muslims and Westerners more respectful and understanding of each other. President Obama, for instance, in his June 4, 2009 speech in Cairo, praised Muslims for their historical scientific and intellectual contributions to civilization:

It was Islam that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed.

Such tributes to the Arab world’s era of scientific achievement are generally made in service of a broader political point, as they usually precede discussion of the region’s contemporary problems. They serve as an implicit exhortation: the great age of Arab science demonstrates that there is no categorical or congenital barrier to tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and advancement in the Islamic Middle East.

The Cost of the Trump and Biden Campaign Plans

crfb.org

Whoever is inaugurated on January 20, 2021, will face many fiscal challenges over his term. Under current law, trillion-dollar annual budget deficits will become the new normal, even after the current public health emergency subsides. Meanwhile, the national debt is projected to exceed the post-World War II record high over the next four-year term and reach twice the size of the economy within 30 years. Four major trust funds are also headed for insolvency, including the Highway and Medicare Hospital Insurance trust funds, within the next presidential term.

The national debt was growing rapidly before the necessary borrowing to combat the COVID-19 crisis, and this trajectory will continue after the crisis ends. Fiscal irresponsibility prior to the pandemic worsened structural deficits that were already growing due to rising health and retirement costs and insufficient revenue.

The country’s large and growing national debt threatens to slow economic growth, constrain the choices available to future policymakers, and is ultimately unsustainable. Yet neither presidential candidate has a plan to address the growth in debt. In fact, we find both candidates’ plans are likely to increase the debt.

Another victory from my efforts to advance civil rights and challenge systemic sexism in higher education

Mark Perry:

I was informed last Friday by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that another of my (now) 231 complaints (probably the most ever filed by a single individual) alleging Title IX violations in higher education has been successfully resolved in my favor. That brings the total number of Title IX complaints to date that have been resolved in my favor to 27 and there are more than 80 ongoing OCR investigations based on my complaints that I expect to also be successfully resolved in my favor (given the clarity of Title IX above and the clear violations of that law). Successful resolutions are illegal Title IX violations involving sex-specific female-only programs that are corrected with one of three outcomes: 1) the discriminatory program is discontinued, 2) the discriminatory female-only program is offset with an equivalent male-only program, or 3) the discriminatory female-only program is converted to a program open to all genders.

Diversity Work, Interrupted

Colleen Flaherty:

Two campuses are halting diversity efforts in relation to the White House’s recent executive order against “divisive concepts” in federally funded programs.

In a campus memo, the University of Iowa’s interim associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, Liz Tovar, said, “Let us state unequivocally that diversity, equity and inclusion remain as core values within our institution.” However, she continued, “after consulting with multiple entities, and given the seriousness of the penalties for non-compliance with the order, which include the loss of federal funding, we are recommending that all units temporarily pause for a two-week period.”

John A. Logan College in Illinois also suspended diversity events, including a Hispanic Heritage Month talk planned for next week.

In contrast, the University of Michigan’s president and provost released a statement in response to the order recommitting the campus to diversity, equity and inclusion work. “The educational efforts this order seeks to prohibit are critical to much-needed action to create equitable economic and social opportunities for all members of society,” they said, “to confront our blind spots; and to encourage us all to be better teachers, scholars and citizens.”

The executive order, released Sept. 22, invokes the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. and describes the “fundamental premises underpinning our Republic” as follows: “All individuals are created equal and should be allowed an equal opportunity under the law to pursue happiness and prosper based on individual merit.”

Civics: Pulitzer Board Must Revoke Nikole Hannah-Jones’ Prize

Peter Wood

We call on the Pulitzer Prize Board to rescind the 2020 Prize for Commentary awarded to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her lead essay in “The 1619 Project.” That essay was entitled, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written.” But it turns out the article itself was false when written, making a large claim that protecting the institution of slavery was a primary motive for the American Revolution, a claim for which there is simply no evidence.

We call on the Pulitzer Prize Board to rescind the 2020 Prize for Commentary awarded to Nikole Hannah-Jones for her lead essay in “The 1619 Project.”

When the Board announced the prize on May 4, 2020, it praised Hannah-Jones for “a sweeping, deeply reported and personal essay for the ground-breaking 1619 Project, which seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America’s story, prompting public conversation about the nation’s founding and evolution.” Note well the last five words. Clearly the award was meant not merely to honor this one isolated essay, but the Project as a whole, with its framing contention that the year 1619, the date when some twenty Africans arrived at Jamestown, ought to be regarded as the nation’s “true founding,” supplanting the long-honored date of July 4, 1776, which marked the emergence of the United States as an independent nation.

Beginning almost immediately after its publication, though, the essay and the Project ran into controversy. It has been subjected to searching criticism by many of the foremost historians of our time and by the Times’ own fact checker. The scrutiny has left the essay discredited, so much so that the Times has felt the need to go back and change a crucial passage in it, softening but not eliminating its unsupported assertion about slavery and the Revolution.

Civics: Predictive policing algorithms are racist. They need to be dismantled.

Will Douglas Heaven:

Yeshimabeit Milner was in high school the first time she saw kids she knew getting handcuffed and stuffed into police cars. It was February 29, 2008, and the principal of a nearby school in Miami, with a majority Haitian and African-American population, had put one of his students in a chokehold. The next day several dozen kids staged a peaceful demonstration. It didn’t go well.

That night, Miami’s NBC 6 News at Six kicked off with a segment called “Chaos on Campus.” (There’s a clip on YouTube.) “Tensions run high at Edison Senior High after a fight for rights ends in a battle with the law,” the broadcast said. Cut to blurry phone footage of screaming teenagers: “The chaos you see is an all-out brawl inside the school’s cafeteria.”

Students told reporters that police hit them with batons, threw them on the floor, and pushed them up against walls. The police claimed they were the ones getting attacked—“with water bottles, soda pops, milk, and so on”—and called for emergency backup. Around 25 students were arrested, and many were charged with multiple crimes, including resisting arrest with violence. Milner remembers watching on TV and seeing kids she’d gone to elementary school with being taken into custody. “It was so crazy,” she says. 

The Importance of Waiting: 4-H Teaches That Some Things Can’t Be Rushed

Jennifer Shike:

Waiting is a hard lesson to learn. It’s a lesson that seems more elusive than ever in our instant gratification world. I appreciate that 4-H has taught our kids the importance of waiting and observing what they learn through that time.

Whether it’s waiting on a garden to grow or feeding an animal to market weight, 4-H has taught our kids that you can’t rush some things, but the end result is worth the wait. They discover the joy of expectation, of hope for what’s to come. 

I think that’s one of the understated benefits of 4-H. 

West Virginia teachers union seeks to toss school virus map

John Raby:

A West Virginia teachers union on Monday filed a legal challenge to the state’s color-coded map that determines whether counties can hold in-person public school classes and athletic competitions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The West Virginia Education Association said the filing in Kanawha County Circuit Court seeks to replace the school reentry map that has undergone multiple changes by Republican Gov. Jim Justice and state officials with one compiled by independent health experts.

The map uses five colors ranging from green to red to determine a county’s public school status, depending on the local spread of virus cases. But critics, including the WVEA, said the sheer number of changes to the map has been confusing.

“Our members have watched the constant manipulation of the map,” union President Dale Lee said in a statement. “As each rendition failed to provide the desired results sought by our state leaders, additional changes were made.”

A Failed Experiment The lockdowns must end.

John Tierney:

Lockdowns are typically portrayed as prudent precautions against Covid-19, but they are surely the most risky experiment ever conducted on the public. From the start, researchers have warned that lockdowns could prove far deadlier than the coronavirus. People who lose their jobs or businesses are more prone to fatal drug overdoses and suicide, and evidence already exists that many more will die from cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, and tuberculosis and other diseases because the lockdown prevented their ailments from being diagnosed early and treated properly.

Yet politicians and public-health officials conducting this unprecedented experiment have paid little attention to these risks. In their initial rush to lock down society, they insisted that there was no time for such analysis—and besides, these were just temporary measures to “flatten the curve” so as not to overwhelm hospitals. But since that danger passed, the lockdown enforcers have found one reason after another to persevere with closures, bans, quarantines, curfews, and other mandates. Anthony Fauci, the White House advisor, recently said that even if a vaccine arrives soon, he does not expect a return to normality before late next year.

He and politicians like New York governor Andrew Cuomo and British prime minister Boris Johnson profess to be following “the science,” but no ethical scientist would conduct such a risky experiment without carefully considering the dangers and monitoring the results. After doing so, a group of leading researchers this week called for an end to the experiment. In a joint statement, the Great Barrington Declaration, they predicted that continued lockdowns will lead to “excess mortality in years to come” and warned of “irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.”

While the economic and social costs have been enormous, it’s not clear that the lockdowns have brought significant health benefits beyond what was achieved by people’s voluntary social distancing and other actions. Some researchers have credited lockdowns with slowing the pandemic, but they’ve relied on mathematical models with assumptions about people’s behavior and the virus’s tendency to spread—the kinds of models and assumptions that previously produced wild overestimates of how many people would die during the pandemic. Other researchers have sought more direct evidence, looking at mortality patterns. They have detected little impact.

Justice Department Sues Yale University for Illegal Discrimination Practices in Undergraduate Admissions

US Justice Department:

The Justice Department today filed suit against Yale University for race and national origin discrimination. The complaint alleges that Yale discriminated against applicants to Yale College on the grounds of race and national origin, and that Yale’s discrimination imposes undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavored applicants, including in particular most Asian and White applicants.

The complaint also alleges that Yale injures applicants and students because Yale’s race discrimination relies upon and reinforces damaging race-based stereotypes, including in particular such stereotypes against Yale’s racially-favored applicants. And, the complaint alleges that Yale engages in racial balancing by, among other things, keeping the annual percentage of African-American admitted applicants to within one percentage point of the previous year’s admitted class as reflected in U.S. Department of Education data. The complaint alleges similar racial balancing about Asian-American applicants.   

The department’s complaint alleges that Yale’s race and national origin discrimination violate Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The lawsuit is the result of a multi-year investigation into allegations of illegal discrimination contained in a complaint filed by Asian American groups concerning Yale’s conduct.   

The Great Barrington Declaration and Its Critics

Jenin Younes:

Early this week, three of the world’s top epidemiologists published the Great Barrington Declaration, a short treatise that advocates a controversial approach to managing the coronavirus pandemic. Professors Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University argue that societies across the globe should reopen immediately and completely.

Instead of observing measures designed to slow the spread of the virus, the young and healthy should resume normal activity in order to incur herd immunity and thereby protect those vulnerable to severe illness. The authors urge the adoption of this strategy, which they call “Focused Protection,” in light of increasing evidence that “current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. . . Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.”